Friday, June 26, 2015

Movie Review: "Big Game"

If you've ever wanted to see Samuel L. Jackson as the President of the United States, then the Finnish-produced action throwback, Big Game, will be worth your time.  Intentionally over-the-top, Big Game follows the story of a 13-year-old boy named Oskari, who embarks on a rite of passage in the Finnish wilderness to spend the night alone and kill an animal, but his rite of passage gets turned upside down when Air Force One is shot down by bad guys and Oskari finds the President, protecting him with only a bow-and-arrow from the villains.  There is a lot of suspension of disbelief that has to happen here to enjoy this film, but if you can suspend your disbelief you will have fun.  While the movie starts to wrap itself up just as it feels like everything is heating up, the banter between Oskari and the President is so enjoyable you'll be willing to forgive any shortcomings of the film.

I give Big Game a 7 out of 10!

Movie Review: "Max"

Max very well might be this generation's Rin Tin Tin, both are German Shepherds and both are the heroes of their respective stories.  The titular Max starts out as a military dog in Afghanistan, but when his military handler dies, he returns to the States with dog PTSD to be cared for by the handler's family in Texas, and in particular their teenage son, Justin, who Max bonds with.  This is a classic boy and dog story with a military angle to it that helps to differentiate it from the rest of the pack, with Justin and Max eventually embarking upon an adventure of sorts that requires all of Max's incomparable skills to save the day.  This is the kind of family movie that isn't made anymore, it's clean cut and old-fashioned, and while it has some plot holes, there aren't many movies that you can take the whole family to anymore and that's why Max is special.

I give Max an 8 out of 10!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Movie Review: "Inside Out"

It's funny how people still seem surprised when Pixar does something the likes of which have never been seen before.  They do a couple of sequels/prequels, take a year off, and everyone talks as if they are running out of ideas, but their new film, Inside Out, is the perfect example of why that was just foolish talk.

Inside Out is perhaps the most inventive movie I have ever seen, and that is saying a lot.  The whole concept of the movie is what happens inside your head, personifying your five core emotions of Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Anger, as cartoon characters.  Where ordinarily the human character would be the star of the movie, here, 12-year-old Riley, is the setting of the film.  While we do experience Riley's difficult move to San Francisco with her parents, almost everything is seen through the lens of the emotions operating the control center in Riley's head.  Pixar could have stopped there and this film would be different than any other, but they then start to delve into areas such as the subconscious or abstract thought (all to funny but psychologically factual results I might add), and turn the film into the smallest, most intimate epic that has ever existed in movie history.

It would be very easy for me to give away the whole movie here, because there are so many good moments in Inside Out, but I will refrain from doing so because this is as emotionally rich a movie as Pixar has ever made, and a movie about emotion deserves to have its emotional experience preserved.  What I will say is that only the filmmakers at Pixar could take an idea like this and make it so easy to relate to, and yet also so complex if you're willing to read between the lines.  The fact that they make each emotion an individual three-dimensional character and not just a caricature of what their core emotion is, is one of the most impressive things this movie does, and it really ties into the theme of the movie.  No person is all one emotion all the time, you often need a balance of your emotions to properly navigate life, and that is what Joy in particular has to learn before the end of her journey in Inside Out.  In truth, this movie kind of has everything I want out of a movie, and while every Pixar movie is always good, this one has one of Pixar's greatest secret weapons at the helm, director Pete Docter.

Pete Docter is one of the few directors in the world of movies that I can honestly say has never made anything less than a perfect film.  He directed Monsters, Inc., Up, and now has directed Inside Out.  Any one man that can direct those three movies deserves Oscar recognition of the directing variety.  It really is quite funny when you watch all of the Pixar movies, if you pay attention, you can kind of see the directorial hands at work.  I know they always talk about their team based approach, but there is always a leader of that team.  If you watch a John Lasseter movie it's usually more child-like than other Pixar films.  You watch an Andrew Stanton movie it's usually full of big, cerebral ideas on top of its emotional narrative.  You watch a Brad Bird movie and it's usually the funniest of the bunch.  When you watch a Pete Docter movie, you usually are punched in the gut by the raw emotion on display.  That is what sets Docter and his movies apart from other Pixar movies, that ability to really get at the core emotional ideas of the narrative.  I guess you can say it's because to Docter, movies are personal.  I know he said that this movie was inspired by his own daughter and the changes her personality started going through as she was leaving childhood behind, causing him to wonder what was going on inside of her head.  In short, it's for reasons like that, that we need more directors like Docter in both animation and live action.

So what more can I say about Inside Out to make you go see it?  It's beautifully animated, the voice talent all do excellent work, composer Michael Giacchino has written an almost Mario-infused score that is beautiful and ethereal, and the movie is just funny and emotional (pardon the pun) all in one brief 90-minute timeframe.  Inside Out is worthy of being considered one of Pixar's best, and that is saying something.

I give Inside Out a 10 out of 10!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Movie Review: "Jurassic World"

Jurassic World is yet another attempt at recapturing the magic of the original Jurassic Park, and while the plot has a great many holes in it, you still have fun with this movie thanks to the likability of its cast.  The park has now officially opened to the public and guess what, it all goes wrong when the Jurassic World scientists create a genetic hybrid dinosaur to try and up ticket sales.  Simply put, Jurassic World is a nice afternoon at the movies, but it is lacking in the scares, memorable moments, and most importantly, heart, that made the first movie such a worldwide phenomenon.

I give Jurassic World a 7 out of 10!