Inside Out (2015)

What a good day it is when a new Pixar movie comes out. The Ministry and I have been salivating over this trailer since seeing it for the first time maybe six months ago so the anticipation level was high.

Here is a terrible picture of me going to see Inside Out. You can't tell because of the scary clown face effect, but in this picture I'm really excited about seeing Inside Out .

Here is a terrible picture of me going to see Inside Out. You can’t tell because of the scary clown face effect, but in this picture I’m really excited about seeing Inside Out .

In case you have been living under a rock, this is a movie about a Riley, an 11-year-old girl who has always been happy and well-adjusted but is teetering on the edge of puberty when her parents uproot the family from its idyllic suburban neighbourhood and move to a grubby inner-city apartment because the dad’s job requires it.

At first they try to make the best of it, but the moving van fails to show up and cracks begin to appear in this previously close family unit.

The viewer not only sees the real action of what’s happening to Riley and her family, like they would in any animated movie, but also has a unique insight into Riley’s mind. The control room is operated various base emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Sadness and Disgust – who govern her responses to situations and all work in harmony to keep her safe, well and rounded-out, personality-wise. Around the control room is the rest of her inner world, including a land of imagination, long term memory storage vaults and a dream land. An all-important storage facility for core memories powers various islands that make Riley who she is – Family Island, Hockey Island, Honesty Island, Friendship Island and of course a Train of Thought running through it all.

The shock to the system of the move causes the whole system to tremble. Sadness starts acting out, touching stuff she shouldn’t. Internal infrastructure begins to collapse and Riley becomes sullen, withdrawn and depressed. Her parents are at a loss.

What they can’t see is that Joy, played, well, joyfully, by Amy Poehler, has left the control room to try to sort things out and get Riley back to normal. She’s Riley’s best hope to recover, but that means Riley’s left in the care of some highly unsuitable emotions.

Complex, right? And pretty heavy. But you’ll be glad to know they don’t get bogged down in explaining all this. It just happens. In the words of writing experts everywhere, they don’t tell – they show. The whole system is such an imaginative wonderland, so bright and gorgeous and humorous, that it’s not a chore to work all this out.

The messages about depression and personality and dealing with crises are meaningful, not preachy or forced. The movie is about a kid and any kid you took to see it would love it, but at the same time many of the jokes would go straight over kids’ heads. This is real insight, incredibly relatable, and it rings very true to me. As the Ministry said, it sweeps you up.

The voice casting was great, with a special stroke of genius putting Richard Kind (in lots of stuff, but I’ll always remember him as Mark from Mad About You) as Riley’s imaginary friend Bing Bong.

This is an incredibly funny, clever, innovative and profound movie. It breaks new ground.

We walked out exhilarated, our words falling over each other, telling each other what bits we loved – an all-too-rare cinema experience. Do it. Do it now!

Here is a terrible picture of me going to see Inside Out. You can't tell because of the scary clown face effect, but in this picture I'm really excited about seeing Inside Out .

Here is a terrible picture of me going to see Inside Out. You can’t tell because of the scary clown face effect, but in this picture I’m really excited about seeing Inside Out .

Maleficent (2014)

6.5/10

As a die-hard Sleeping Beauty fan – it’s my favourite Disney movie – and a firm believer that it is the scariest Disney classic, needless to say I’ve been excited about Maleficent. Also a little nervous and possessive.

Proof of the old-school-ness of my love.

Proof of the old-school-ness of my love.

So I’m a little confused by my ambivalence after watching Maleficent, a tales that imagines another side of the story told about this truly nasty villain.

Maleficent: an honestly badass villain.

Maleficent: an honestly badass villain.

It’s one of the odder emotional arcs I’ve been through, watching a movie I’ve had a lot riding on –suspicious about how pretty it all seemed starting out, excited as Maleficent dropped her curse and got her evil on, then madly disappointed with how things went after that. Half an hour in I was sure I hated it. I thought, this is doing Wicked, but a pretty crap job of it, without any of Wicked’s subtlety or charm.

Then I worked out where they were heading with the storyline, and grudgingly managed to give it another chance.

It had some jarring bits of humour – cute, endearing, but nevertheless out of place with the gravity I craved. It had some clunky scripting, especially around the all-important curse scene.

There was some poor characterisation. King Stefan was laughable (Sharlto Copley, not given much to work with). The fairies were weird and  cringeworthy, though I did like the choice of Umbridge – Imelda Staunton will forever be Umbridge to me – as Merryweather, or Knotgrass, as they pointlessly changed it to. Aurora (Elle Fanning) was so insipid the Ministry and I wanted to slap her every time she gave that gormless smile.

Apart from all that, the look was down pat. The scenery was spectacular. And Angelina Jolie as Maleficent is jaw-dropping. Mesmerising, really, you just want to drink her in. She’s utterly believable and true to the original in every moment, while adding her own humanity to it, which is the whole point.  Plus, she looks great with horns.

This movie was all about the women, which was refreshing. It’s nice to have the handsome prince be the completely irrelevant, token character for a change.

There’s also a nice little twist, which I shan’t, obviously, spoil.

Overall, I’m happy enough, if I try to forget about what they did with my beloved Flora, Fauna and Merryweather.

Special mention goes to Lana Del Ray for her beautiful, creepy rendition of Once Upon a Dream played in the credits. Now THIS had the gravity I craved.

 

Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Feel as though I have been staring at a computer screen since I was born, but I shall drag my burning eyes to the screen one last time for the sake of my followers, who no doubt are avidly waiting for every post.
So, here’s one I prepared earlier.
But you’re not going to get much fire or brimstone, I’m just going to waffle about something I love.
It makes me happy just thinking about this movie. It’s one of my favourite Disney movies, and that’s a hard choice to make. I’m just going to go ahead and say the spoilers. Everyone knows the story.
It’s got that beautiful old-style Disney animation, before things got all cute and rounded (and the newer style is damn cute, don’t get me wrong). It’s all angular and very unrealistic. The knight’s faces look as though they’ve been carved out of a tree stump, the horses’ legs are so skinny they actually disappear between their pointy fetlocks and their knees, and Maleficent looked exactly like a dragon long before she turned into one.
And no dragon-lover could be disappointed with the dragon she eventually does turn into. Even the Ministry, famous for his dragon-love, had no complaints (or, didn’t dare to voice them in the face of my overwhelming enthusiasm).
Anyway, it’s just gorgeous. The colours are gorgeous. The shapes are gorgeous. Even the gargoyles are gorgeous. And it’s not simplistic. I can’t quite describe what they do with the illustrations of the fairies’ gifts, but it’s unusual and gives you funny feelings. Sorry. I did say I was tired.
Even given what I said about the animation being the style it was before it got cute, it’s still adorable. It has a fat king and a thin king. It has rabbits who dance in boots, and three squabbling fairies. It is so cute it’s quite amazing that it manages to be so hellishly scary.
Menace pervades the entire movie (with the possible exception of the scene with the dancing rabbits). Maleficent is terrifying to look at and to listen to, especially since she is immediately shown as someone ready to sentence another to death over not being invited to their birthday party.
Apart from Maleficent, the Tchaikovsky score, taken from the ballet, is the other major factor that makes this film so dreadfully creepy. Sorry I can’t link to a convenient YouTube, but since childhood I have not shaken off the dread that steals over me when Maleficent’s yellow eyes appear in the fireplace and lure the transfixed Aurora upstairs to this simple, but utterly eerie, piece of music.
You couldn’t fault the action of the climax … though, I must note, the Prince would have been hard pressed to do all that hacking of bushes, evading of guards and killing of dragons without those handy fairies.
Finally, of all the fairy-tale Disney endings, this one is about as fairy-tale as you can get. Aurora ends up waltzing in a cloud wearing a ballgown that changes from pink to blue, for crying out loud. It’s a little girl’s wet dream (appropriate? Whatever) and it’s awesome.
Do yourself a favour, and watch the movie.

Turbo blog

Those with short attention spans rejoice! I’m low on time this week, so I’m keeping it snappy with a handful of snippets.

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  • 3rd Rock from the Sun (1990s)

Working through it all over again. As good as ever. Pluses: baby Joseph Joseph Joseph.

  • movie: Kid (Disney schmaltz), 2000

Watchable, harmless couch fluff. Pluses: Bruce Willis being suave, and a funny fat kid.

  • Stranger than Fiction (2006)

Funny and clever. Win. Have never liked Will Ferrell but he does a great job in this. Win. Also, movie has Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman. Win, win, win. Also, is about literature and baked goods. ALL THE WINS.

  • Hope Springs (2012)

Entirely watchable, but don’t bother seeing it at the movies. Funny but cringey. Would be worthless without Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones (who plays his usual crusty old bugger with an intimacy problem).

  • Easy A (2010)

I know, I’m so behind the rest of the world. Fun, with racy dialogue and a Mean Girls-ish flavour. Highlights: Emma Stone is nice to look at, and one of her adorably dotty parents is Stanley Tucci who even The Lovely Bones couldn’t stop me trusting.

  • Body Melt (1993)

My partner – let’s call him the Ministry of Magic – had a birthday so watched this as a gift to him, cause he’s been talking about it for ages. Worth watching just to see various Blue Heelers cast members and Harold from Neighbours being younger, but still wobbly-jowled. Also, of course, for the bodies melting. Would make a great drinking game.

Toy Story 3 (2010)

                           

Toy Story 3 had a lot riding on it: certainly the affection of myself and my entire age group, who basically grew up alongside Andy and had very high expectations born of the high quality of the first first two movies. A trilogy or series comes with a guarantee of a loyal crowd at the box office, but this is balanced by the responsibility to get things right. Filmmakers can, and often do, ignore that responsibility at their peril.

Even outside this personal attachment to the series, anyone who watches this movie will relate to the central idea. Everyone has had to struggle with the changing significance of a beloved childhood toy. Do you keep it? Give it away? Throw it out? Surely not!

We all need to see this struggle faithfully represented.

Andy, now 17, knows he can’t take his toys to college. He also can’t face the dustbin, so he chooses the attic.

Of course the toys never make it to the attic and are pitched out by his well-meaning mother. Hilarity and confusion ensue. Woody knows there’s been a mistake and is desperate to make it back to Andy; the rest of the toys pity him as deluded and try to embrace a new life in a daycare centre.

The structure and pace are faultless, an assault on the attention span. Although it is incredibly fast-paced, it sustains attention with the feeling of the whole story being one scene that just keeps extending relentlessly into the next catastrophe. I’ll wager kids would be as glued to their seats as I was. If something can go wrong, it most certainly will (and has, RIGHT NOW!)

This escalates until the climax, which is almost amusingly epic. Yet you care so much about these toys you won’t laugh.

You just perch on the edge of your seat, entranced by a fabulous use of scale that shows just how vulnerable these tiny beings are; how much they love each other and will stick together until the bitter end.

The animation is spot on and endlessly impressive, particularly the scenes at the children’s playrooms, which glow with colour, life, cuteness and creativity. The care and appreciation that’s gone into the movement of a bunch of toys and dolls has an almost uncannily beautiful result. But it’s nothing nothing less than they deserve. They have a grace, humanity and momentum that’s vintage Pixar.

Andy is done as you would wish. His appearance, movements and speech are all pitch-perfect 17-year-old, as is his confusion about the best final resting place of the relics of his childhood.

This movie never hits a wrong note. It’s hilarious without being heartless, and touching without being sickly. Somehow, the makers managed to find a perfect ending for the series and please all parties. Everyone gets a good deal. You won’t have to hate Andy, and neither will his toys.

At its heart is an honest recognition of an emotional truth – how attached human beings can become to objects. If you put the time into it, it is in many ways alive and worthy of your love. Anyway, that’s how I justify crying like a little girl at the end.