San Francisco

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.

November 6, 2014

Zodiac (2007)

PACING

Zodiac – Pacing

There are certain films you see once, and they quickly dissolve from your mind. Not because they are bad by any means, its usually, at least for me, that they are so massive, engrossing, or emotionally investing that my body’s automatic response is to forget about them. The best example I can think of at this time is “Inception.” While visually stunning, the film as a whole is still very hard to wrap my head around and I’ve avoided watching it ever since seeing it in the theater. Again, it’s not because I don’t like it, and hell, who knows, maybe if I saw the film again, I wouldn’t like it, especially since it doesn’t have an end credit sequence……anyway. This brings me to “Zodiac” probably one of the most slept films in David Fincher’s filmography. It’s taut, gritty, and paced to perfection with the addition of great acting performances and a truly engrossing story that you nearly forget it based on an actual unsolved case.

“Zodiac” tells the true story of the Zodiac murders that took place across Northern, and possibly South California between 1966 and 1972. Shortly after a unsolved murder in 1969 in Vallejo, CA, a letter is sent to the San Francisco Chronicle which details the crime and claims that another murder was also committed nearly a year prior by someone calling themselves “Zodiac.” Spanning the course of nearly 25 years, “Zodiac” recounts the effort of journalist Paul Avery, cartoonist Robert Graysmith, and SFPD Inspector,  Dave Toschi, as their lives intersect closely with possible suspects, and the obsession to catch Zodiac that nearly destroys their lives.

Throughout high school and college, I had an obsession with true crime and serial killers. I wanted to know the stories behind the crimes and what really made people tick. Some of the most infamous murderers of all time seem like something out of a movie, which makes the most sense why some of the most unnerving horror and suspense films have been based on serial killers like Ed Gein, Albert Fish, and Dennis Lynn Rader, the BTK Killer. However, if you look at the glut of direct-to-DVD and made-for-TV films about serial killers most of them are, for lack of a better term, lackluster, to say the least. At first glance, you might almost think that “Zodiac” might have the same fate, but there is pedigree to spare.

It’s easy to forget that this is even a David Fincher film. Taking into account how diversified his filmography is, “Zodiac” seems like the start of a new Fincher direction. Moving away from dark, gritty horror/suspense films such as “Se7ev” and “The Game,” “Zodiac” was at the time his most mature effort to date, not mention his longest film up to that point, clocking in at 157 minutes (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” would top it the following year with a run-time of 166 minutes). While some might see the long run-time as a negative, I thought it gave Fincher enough time to introduce characters, detail the crimes, and get the point across that obsession; either good or bad, corrupts and destroys nearly everything.

While “Zodiac” could be considered the beginning of a new Fincher era, this film was also a breeding ground for what we could expect from Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Ruffalo. And of course the renaissance of Robert Downey, Jr., who only a year later would become Tony Stark. While the film is called “Zodiac” the infamous murderer is pretty much a plot point or a foil to the actors. We are witness to his murder spree, but it’s the emotion and the portrayals by Downey, Jr., Gyllenhaal, and Ruffalo that drive the film from beginning to end. Fincher is also able to create a giant puzzle where it’s the job of the audience of what to believe and reach their own conclusion. Unlike other killers throughout history, the Zodiac Killer was never caught, which creates a true mystery film where there is no right or wrong answer as to who is the true culprit in the crimes.

While “Zodiac” didn’t really get it’s due in the theater, if you are a fan of true crime, or simply great direction by a master who is dedicated to all of the little details that make a film special, than this film is for you. It features an engrossing story, fine performances, and it delivers where other films about serial killers fall short.

Fun Fact: Over the past 100 years, there have been nearly 20 reported serial killers in the state of California.

February 2, 2014

Simplistic TV: Looking

DIFFERENT

Looking – Different

HBO has a long history of inclusion with the gay community.  From shows like “Six Feet Under” and “True Blood,” to taking on the AIDS crisis with films like “And the Band Played On,” and “Angels in America.”  Home Box Office has always been one of those networks with their fingers on the pulse of what was happening in the world, not to mention being incredibly tolerant.

With that being said, it’s no surprise, and probably long overdue, that they have decided to create a show like “Looking.”  Since the fall of DOMA, and more states becoming more accepting of those in the LGBT community, it made sense to create a show like “Looking,” which deals with gay issues in a mature way.  It’s different but at the same time it’s reminiscent of shows like “Girls” and “Sex in the City.”  Think of it as “Sex in the City Goes Fabulous.”

“Looking” follows three gay 30-somethings in San Francisco post-DOMA.  All three friends are your typical characters; Patrick is looking for love after being dumped, Dom is a bear on the prowl after his breakup, and Agustin is trying to finally get serious with his partner.  It’s a lot of the same, but like I said, it’s different.  Much like films like “Cruising” and “Interior: Leather Bar,” HBO is taking a much more mature approach when it comes to the gay community.

What sets “Looking” apart is the way it depicts gay men in this day and age.  Sorry to say it, especially for you Bible-thumpers out there, but they are a lot like us.  The have jobs, engage in meaningless talk, deal with real issues, and last but not least, they aren’t caricatures that we always like to depict in the media.

Back in the early 1990s we had Rickie Vasquez on “My So Called Life” as the poster boy for the gay community, but gay pride and gay rights have come a long way since 1994.  “Looking” depicts a look into the lives of people who, unfortunately, disgust so many.  True, “Looking” will not be for everyone, but it’s a show that is necessary for this day and age.  Gay Rights is the new Civil Rights Movement, and seeing people in a normal light is necessary to increase awareness and inclusion.

Overall, “Looking” has potential to be a watershed moment for TV, and with the backing of HBO it should succeed in an environment that is becoming younger and far more tolerant.  The timing could not have been better.

Fun Fact:  DOMA, aka, The Defense of Marriage Act, was written into law in 1996, but Section Three of the law was deemed unconstitutional in 2013 with the case, The United States vs. Windsor.

Welcome to the new home of SimplisticReviews.net - We're currently still working on the site. You might notice a few issues, please be patient with us. Thanks! (Store also in testing — no orders shall be fulfilled.)
Scroll to top