Pixar

June 20, 2015

Inside Out (2015)

WEEPY

Inside Out – Weepy

So this past week Justin, DJ, and I put our top five Pixar films up over on Letterboxd. Most of our picks overlapped as we all seem to have the same sensibilities when it comes to Pixar Films. “Car” is trash, “Brave” is overrated, and both “The Incredibles” and “Toy Story 3” all have special places in our hearts. Of course we all know where this is going; now where does “Inside Out” fit into that list. Well, for me, it’s a tough call. And I’ll just put it out there; this film made me weep…..in public…..in front of my wife…..TWICE! What other Pixar film has done that to me so far? We’ll let’s get into it.

“Inside Out” is a story so relateable, it’s scary. It’s the story of an 11-year old girl named Riley, who is uprooted from her home in Minnesota and relocates to San Francisco. That’s pretty much the story, on the surface, but of course what would a Pixar film be without something magical. Inside Riley’s head resides her emotions, namely Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear, and Sadness. While all five of these emotions try to work in tandem of course hijinks pop up and we end up going on an adventure that follows Joy and Sadness as they try to cope with Riley.

This might not be the best synopsis, but it’s the best I can do without giving up too much of the story and of course the adventure.

There are a few nitpicks I have to get out of the way first. One, and this is a quibble, this isn’t a film for kids. While it’s colorful and vibrant, the pace is frenetic, and unless you are of age to appreciate what is going on inside Riley’s head and/or have gone though something similar, the story will be lost on younger kids. Which again, is fine by me. Let the kid’s have the colors, I’ll take everything else.

Two, while Amy Poehler and Lewis Black are great as Joy and Anger, respectively, I feel like the rest of the cast gets lost in the shuffle. Fear, voiced by Bill Hader, seems underutilized, and Disgust, voiced by Mindy Kaling is just kind of there.

So, this is where things get heavy. This film is heartbreaking. Not only is it personal, but it’s just so damn on the nose. We’ve had our spats with our parents, we’ve been angry with friends, we’ve had to deal with being the new kid in school. There isn’t a thing in this film that you can’t find some level ground with, and it’s just so beautiful. The ideas are simple, but so very effective, especially the 3rd act which will rip your soul apart.

Pete Docter, who was also the madman behind “Up” and “Monsters, Inc.” knows how to just get under your skin enough to make your rethink your childhood and adulthood, but he also knows how to make a film with pathos, heart, and plenty of smarts. The idea, which is so simple, that you need sadness to make your appreciate the joy in your life is maniacally effective and will reduce you to a wad of bubblegum.

All in all, “Inside Out” not only lives up to the hype it’s getting, but it far exceeds anything else that Pixar has made on an emotional level. For a film based on raw emotion, I don’t think many films really come close.

Fun Fact: During Riley’s first dream sequence about her new house, you can hear the Haunted Mansion ride music in the background. The more you know.

October 17, 2013

This is Halloween (TV): Toy Story of Terror

DEVILISHLY

Toy Story of Terror – Devilishly

The one thing you can count on with Pixar is that you always get quality.  Despite some of their weaker efforts (“Cars” “Cars 2” to a lesser extent, “Brave”) there always seems to be a silver lining to anything Pixar creates.  I may not like “Cars” but I can respect that it looks gorgeous.  Sorry “Cars” fans, I just don’t find fart jokes spun by a redneck comedian to be very funny.

While most Pixar fare is made for the big screen, and evokes such emotion and heart, its nice to see that Disney/Pixar (yes, I’ll give Disney their due) created something for the Halloween season, and it very well might be the best thing you’ll see this Fall.  This of course is the devilishly clever “Toy Story of Terror” a spooky mini adventure starring all of your favorite “Toy Story” pals.

The writers at Pixar have to be some of the best writers in the world.  They know how to perfectly cater to fans of Disney while at the same time sneaking in little odes and jabs to other films and their appropriate genres and fans.  They just get it, simple as that.  “Terror” begins at some point after “Toy Story 3” ends.  Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the crew are in the care of Bonnie as they head to some undisclosed location on a dark and stormy night.  After a flat tire, Bonnie, her mother, and the toys settle into a roadside motel while they wait for the tow truck in the morning.  Needless to say, hi-jinks and close-calls ensue and of course there is a happy ending.  Like most Pixar films, its not the story that’s always compelling, its the actual journey.

What I respect the most is that all the voices from the previous “Story” films return, including Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, and Joan Cusack, but there are also a few extra treats along the way, including Ken Marino, or as I like to refer to him as, Louie, the “I WANNA DIP BY BALLS IN IT” guy.

Along with Ken Marino, what would a “Toy Story” be without some new characters, and the best has to be Combat Carl, voiced by Carl Weathers.  This character is so perfect and I love the subtle reference to “Predator” thrown in as Combat Carl is missing a hand.  Those are the things that make me love Pixar.  Who would throw in a “Predator” reference into a TV show made for children?

Timothy Dalton is also great as Mr. Pricklepants, who’s essentially Randy from the “Scream” series.  He calls out horror movie cliches at every turn and it’s wonderful to see it done in a Shakespearean way.  The more I think about “Terror” is that the animation is for the kids, while the dialogue is made for adults who love horror and action films.  Maybe Shane Black ghostwrote this entire special?

Bottom line, “Toy Story of Terror” is a wonder to behold.  The story is perfect for the time allotted, the introduction of new toys now looking for their owner adds a great side story to the entire “Toy Story” mythology, and Pixar and Disney spare no expense to create a standalone story that rivals anything in the Pixar catalog.  Hopefully this tradition continues and becomes this generation’s “Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin.”

Fun Fact:  Everyone knows that the Cowboy Woody doll is pretty sought after in the “Toy Story” universe.  You’ll notice that the $2,000 winning bid was from Al McWhiggin of Al’s Toy Barn.

August 5, 2012

Brave

UNWORTHY

Now, Pixar has never made a bad movie. (Ahem.)  Like I said, Pixar has rarely made a bad movie. (AHEM!)  Damn you written inner monologue!  Fine!  Pixar more times than not makes good movies.  Monster’s Inc, A Bugs Life, Finding Nemo, Toy Story Trilogy, Up, Wall-E and my personal favorite The Incredibles.  They are animated films that bring something for the kids aching to see them and also the parents forced to bring them.  They’re smart.  They’re funny.  They’re poignant.  They’re worthy entertainment.  The lastest Pixar film Brave, however, falls short of this.

Brave got a lot of attention as being the first Pixar film with a strong female lead.  This got my attention even though I didn’t see the big deal.  It isn’t like females in previous Pixar films were worthless background noise.  ElastiGirl from The Incredibles might be one of the strongest animated female characters in film history.  After seeing Brave, a very misleading title by the way, I would not place Princess Merida anywhere in Helen Parr’s league.

What if I told you a tomboyish princess, who trained to be an archer/warrior her entire life, was opposed to her prissy mother’s demands to marry her off to the suitors of rival kingdoms?  Still with me right?  Now, what if I told you her refusal to marry plunged her kingdom into war?  Awesome!   Then what if the princess and her mother are sent away by the king for their own safety?  Uh oh!  Then what if they were ambushed and attacked by men from a rival kingdom?  Oh Sh*t!  But what if the princess, escapes with her mother?  Wow!  What if the princess used every bit of the skills she’d learned from her warrior father to travel across the dangerous countryside back home?  Nice!  What if, while avoiding capture and surviving the elements, the princess proves to her mother that there are things a woman can aspire to be other than a stuffy aristocrat.  A woman can actually aspire to be “Brave”.  You’d want to see that right?  So would I.  Too bad that isn’t what this film is about.

Sure Princess Merida is being forced into marriage.  But instead of the story going the way you want it to, it changes into a silly body transformation comedy no better than that Tim Allen Shaggy Dog remake.  Don’t look forward to seeing Princess Merida using that bow in the above picture in any meaningful way.  It doesn’t make a bit of difference in this film’s story.  She could have been awesome with a boomerang or slingshot and it would not make a bit of difference in this film.  Merida is also NOT A STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER.  She is a whiny, petulant, prideful child that makes a decision that could only be described as DUMB.  At no point did I see her as brave.  The brave thing to do would be to confront the issues she had with her mother head on.  Instead, she avoids doing the brave thing pretty much for this entire movie.

Think my version of what I hoped Brave to be is too adult?  Then let me remind you that the beginning of Up centers around infertility and a subsequent psychological breakdown.  The Incredibles deals with the issues of a midlife crisis, infidelity and McCarthyism.  A Bug’s Life is literally a remake of the Magnificent Seven/Seven Samurai.  Wall-E is set during a post apocalyptic future.  And Toy Story 3….oh boy…Toy Story 3 was a few frames away from being the ballsiest allegory for mortality ever.  A Scottish female version of Rescue Dawn is not too much to ask for.

Brave also has an OVERLY PREACHY message about fate that would be lost on a child and insult the intelligence of an adult.   A message narrated to us just so they could tie it back to the, again, misleading title.  The film should be called Pride if anything.  It is the only thing I see at work in the main character.   This could have been a film that might have set an example as to how to make a movie with a strong female lead.  However, it comes across more like a medieval episode of That’s So Raven.  (Yes, I’ve seen it.  Don’t judge me.)  A film UNWORTHY to be under the Pixar banner.  I expect this from Disney Studios but not these guys.  Brave it…then tell me I’m wrong.

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