Friday, April 19, 2024

Tag: Pixar

Joy Review – 4.5 out of 5 Stars

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David O. Russell is a very divisive filmmaker. For every person like me who considered American Hustle this brilliant, energetic experience, there was someone who found the movie sloppy, arrogant and generic. These people aren’t necessarily wrong but his latest movie Joy (seemingly his most polarizing movie to date) made me realize something. I love David O. Russell’s direction for a lot of the reasons people hate him. Joy isn’t as outstanding as Silver Linings Playbook or American Hustle, but it has David O. Russell doing everything he does best and he still delivers one hell of a movie. Joy is a clever and ambitious glimpse into a low income, single mother’s determination to follow her dreams and rise to the top in late 20th century America.

Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence) is a brilliant, imaginative young woman living a nightmarish life in New York in the late 1980’s. Her dreams of inventing things were put on hold for a variety of reasons. Her divorced mother (Virginia Madsen) and father (Robert De Niro) both live in her house and she constantly has to take care of them. Her marriage with a failed singer named Tony (Édgar Ramírez) led to two kids and a separation and now her ex-husband and there kids also live in this house. And I haven’t even mentioned her awful job at an airport where she isn’t respected by her boss or the customers. This endless chaos has seemingly put an end to the hopes she had when she was just a little girl. But a random accident and a bad dream leads to Joy creating an exciting new product called the Miracle Mop. Using only her smarts and her invention, she must battle a storm of issues including a psychotic step sister, a corrupt building company and Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper), the arrogant head of the QVC network which ends up making her product famous.

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One of the things I love about David O. Russell is how much liveliness there is to his storytelling. American Hustle is a movie where something is always happening and you have to be alert the entire time to learn more about the characters and follow the story. There’s an eccentricity and a confidence to it that you don’t see in a lot of writers these days. With Joy, he brings his form of storytelling to even louder and more intense levels. People might complain that its story is sloppy and noisy and unpleasant. To this criticism I have to say, well yeah…that’s the point.
Joy is supposed to be drowning in her life. She has to deal with all of these problems and she never gets any moments of alone time or peace of mind. Jennifer Lawrence’s excellent performance gives us a woman with a confident exterior who is secretly dying inside. There’s a terrific moment when she’s fighting with Tony and there’s a split second where you can see her rise to level of horror and panic that she rarely shows. When she creates the Miracle Mop, she has even more issues to deal with and it’s only when she has successfully made sure that her product is safe that she can finally rest.

Joy is a claustrophobic, chaotic experience because it’s meant to play as an escape story. But it’s not an escape story like Gravity where an astronaut must escape certain death in space, it’s about the escape of a single mother from the expectations and the limits society has put around her for her entire life. Her father puts down everything she does and her mother wastes her life away watching soap operas on her TV. Neil talks down to her and doesn’t respect the work she puts into the things she does. The movie traps you into this awful life she leads and you feel her desperation and the loud, unstoppable noise she has to live with. This makes you want to see her get out and break free and become her own person. The uneasiness you feel in her suburban life makes it’s that much more rewarding when you see her end up conquering her fears. That’s why the movie is quick and feels like all of these sub-plots are just about to fall in on each other.

My favorite moment in the movie comes near the end of the story when it looks like Joy has finally broken through with The Miracle Mop. She walks down the sidewalk and comes across this small toy shop. She doesn’t go inside but she looks into it through a window. Inside she sees this model train set that seems to contain the ideal, perfect little neighborhood. She also notices that inside this toy store is a happy family with two loving parents and a young girl. She can’t reach out and touch these things because again, it’s blocked by a window. And then she stops looking into the toy story and she looks up and sees a machine on top of her that creates artificial snow. As she looks up, the snow from this machine reaches her face and she seems to be completely calm.

It seems like such a random moment but I think it beautifully summarizes an important message in the film. Joy can’t have that perfect, ordinary life that’s in the window. She doesn’t have ordinary parents, an ordinary marriage or an ordinary neighborhood to live in. This lifestyle will always be out of reach for her. But yet, maybe what she has is even better. The comfort she has is from something that she made. Her peace of mind can come from the fact that she has done something with her life that has affected a lot of people and made her a very powerful person. In the end, Joy’s moment of clarity comes from the power of human ingenuity rather than the dependence of the perfect ordinary family inside the toy store. The anger, the frustration with her family will always be a problem for her but it doesn’t have to be something that bothers her and it doesn’t have to be something that she has to seek the approval of anymore. She can give her own children a different life that’s free from the hardships she herself faced. Joy is a movie about becoming something that no one ever believed in or supported besides you.

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All of the other lovely things you would expect from David O. Russell also make an appearance here. The movie has an amazing cast and Russell once again proves himself as perhaps being the best director working today when it comes to getting great performances out of his actors. As I already mentioned, Lawrence is wonderful as Joy and she gives her best performance here since Silver Linings Playbook. Robert De Niro, Edgar Ramirez and Bradley Cooper all make their characters very entertaining and memorable. Elisabeth Röhm is also playing a great villain in the few scenes she’s in as Joy’s manipulative step-sister who’s always resentful of what Joy has been able to accomplish. Other than Lawrence, I think the big stand out here would probably be Diane Ladd as Joy’s grandmother. Through thick and thin, she seems to be one of the few people who is always on Joy’s side and her narration in the film carries a lot of weight and significance.

The production design and costume design do a great job of bringing you back to that time in the late 80’s to early 90’s, especially in the scenes that take place at the QVC network. The cinematography is beautiful and Russell brings to Joy the grainy, 70’s look that also made American Hustle look stunning and unique. The visuals in his films always remind me of what you would expect in an old Altman or Scorsese movie. And at this point, it seems unnecessary to point how excellent the soundtracks are in his films. There’s a moment in the movie where Joy faces a tragic event in her family and the song Expecting to Fly by Buffalo Springfield is used perfectly. David O. Russell is an extremely confident director and no matter what movie you watch from him, you know that you’re going to get this beautiful looking world that contains a distinct voice. When you watch one of his movies, you know that you will be getting something that looks like someone has put their blood, sweat and tears into it. That’s a surprising rarity with recent dramas like Spotlight that really could’ve been directed by anyone.

More than American Hustle or Silver Linings Playbook, I can understand why people wouldn’t like this movie. The way the story is told is very bizarre and some of the characters could use a bit more development like her best friend/ex-husband Tony or Joy’s kids. But for all of its flaws and scratches, I unapologetically adored Joy. The film is incredibly made, excellently acted and it has one of the strongest character arcs of the year in its title character. The movie celebrates a woman who escapes from the certainty and the ugliness of her life to find a bright future in her own dreams and ideas. The cuts and the frantic nature of this world is what makes it human and David O. Russell has a clear talent for making situations and characters that feel alive and kicking. When we get to the last scene of Joy walking down the street with her shades on with seemingly endless confidence on her face, it makes you want to burst from your seat in well…joy.

Rating:(4.5/5)

Review by: Ryan M.

Release Date: 12/25/2015

Rating: PG-13

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Édgar Ramírez, Diane Ladd, Virginia Madsen, Isabella Rossellini, Dascha Polanco, Elisabeth Röhm and Susan Lucci

Directed by: David O. Russell

Screenplay by: David O. Russell and Annie Mumolo

Good Dinosaur, The (2015)

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Title: The Good Dinosaur
Rating: PG
Directed by: Peter Sohn
Written by: Peter Sohn, Erik Benson, Meg LeFauve, Kelsey Mann and Bob Peterson
Starring: Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand and Maleah Nipay-Padilla
Release Date: 11/25/2015
Running Time: 100 minutes

Official Site
IMDb

An epic journey into the world of dinosaurs where an Apatosaurus named Arlo makes an unlikely human friend.


What did you think of this film?

During Credits? No

After Credits? No

Note: The Pixar short before the main flick is called Sanjay’s Super Team.


Inside Out Review – 4.5 out of 5 Stars

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It’s been a while since we’ve gotten a genuinely great original idea from Pixar, the once unarguable masters of animation. There was a time from the mid-nineties to the late two thousands where there was nothing in animation that could match the sheer power of their work in full length and short films. The Toy Story trilogy is one of the most critically acclaimed movie series of all time and films like Up, WALL-E and Finding Nemo in particular are considered some of the best films of the millennium so far. With this, it’s unfortunate to see how the quality has dropped over the past couple of years for Pixar. Cars 2 was universally panned and I even put the stale, boring mess that is Brave as one of my worst films of 2012. I personally thought Monsters University was really entertaining but it was far from the quality we had seen from Pixar at its best. A lot has changed for the studio since they released Toy Story 3 back in 2010. Laika Entertainment, DreamWorks, Disney and Blue Cloud Studios no longer make it feel like there’s a drought of bad animated movies. There are even plenty of great animated shows on television for everyone to watch. It’s hard to say that Pixar has the reign it had five years ago.

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There are times however, when a film comes along and it changes everything. The term “return to form” has been used on everything from albums to books to television shows to in this case movies. Something comes along after a long time that is filled with such ambition and such wonder that it almost makes you forget everything that has been happening poorly for a while. If Inside Out isn’t a return to form, I don’t know what is. The film is perhaps the most brilliant idea Pixar has ever come up with and it’s easily one of their best films to date. Inside Out manages to be both a personal, intimate look into the life of a child as well as an epic, fantastical journey through a land of endless imagination and possibilities.

The basic premise of Inside Out is that inside the head of every single person there are these emotions that are controlling every move we make. That doesn’t sound unique but what I really mean is that these emotions are literally controlling you. The film turns the emotions Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) into these little creatures that are constantly controlling your every move and deciding how you’re going to react through this giant control panel that they have. These particular emotions are controlling Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), an eleven year old girl living in Minnesota. When Riley’s family moves to New York City, her emotions are forced to adapt and respond to the new changes within her life. To make things worse, an accident causes Joy and Sadness to get lost and they have to find a way to journey through all the different places of her mind to get back to the control panel.

One of the most surprising and impressive things about Inside Out was the films ability to bring this idea to life without it feeling like a total train wreck. The human mind is a crazy and unpredictable place that has no real certainties about it. Trying to make a straightforward world out of it could be confusing and sloppy if done incorrectly. The film that comes to mind for me was the also animated Rise of the Guardians. This film featured an ambitious concept but it took everything so literally and it spent so much time trying to present itself as this serious, perfectly constructed thing that it ended up feeling poorly crafted and confusing the more you thought about how everything was supposed to work.

Luckily, this movie manages to do things in a way that feels complex without it ever feeling too convoluted. Part of the greatness of this film is that it never gets caught up in the different rules and reasons for this land that the audience is in. Director and writer Pete Doctor realizes how abstract the concept is and he embraces it for that without trying to tie it down to any absolute explanations. The world he creates is massive and filled with all these different little quirks but it’s never sloppy because there’s still that sense that everything here isn’t supposed to be dissected and perfectly structured like Interstellar or Looper, the film instead tries to create this dreamlike look into the mind of Riley that allows you to stop asking how everything works and instead look at how accurately all of these different places are a part of her psyche whether it be her nightmares, her memories or her hopes among other things. In that way, the world is less science fiction and more psychological and in doing so it’s more Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind than Interstellar.

The films giant theme above all else is that the mind is this changing, expanding thing that is filled with darkness and happiness and old and new and it can be ultimately this beautiful, beautiful thing. It’s a vast point but it allows for Inside Out to say a lot of different things about a lot of different subjects. For example, the way the film discusses our memories is strange and in a way touching. To this world, we are filled with these core memories that largely influence us as well as these smaller, more inane memories that happen to us in our daily lives. There’s a great running joke where the emotions keep accidently playing this memory of a terrible, catchy jingle for a gum commercial. There’s also a point where along the journey back home, Joy and Sadness meet Bing Bong, an old imaginary friend of Riley from when she much younger. He’s trying to find importance to Riley again and he teams up with them in their quest as he realizes how all of the dreams and moments she had with him are being lost and long forgotten. A moment where he attempts to make a difference again ends up being the most powerful moment of the whole movie and it provides something that audiences will be thinking about for a while.

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A lot of the film is talking about what it is that we remember and how these things impact us emotionally and how all these things that we reflect on and allow to influence us are in a constant state of movement. People we once thought were are best friends can change in a second. Items we used to hold dearly can totally lose their value to us and these tiny, meaningless bits of nonsense that keep coming up in our heads at random moments. Though the story ends up being about how beautiful we can be, there’s also a tragedy to the character of Bing Bong (Richard Kind) and how all of these dreams we have can disappear so subtly until we don’t even remember these things that once meant the world to us. The film isn’t afraid to present us as we are and that really comes into play when the movie talks about the way we remember things and the way we use these memories in our daily life.

The memory isn’t the only thing that’s expressed in this fascinating and quirky new light. There’s a film studio in her head that shoots the dreams she has. At one point, Joy and Sadness use Riley’s memory of a clown as a way to cause a nightmare that will make her up so that they can transport to other areas of her mind. In a hilarious scene, Joy makes this bridge out of the clones of Riley’s vision of a perfect boyfriend. This one time, the other emotions also come up with this plan to get Riley to move back to Minnesota and once they plant it in her head, they can’t stop her from doing it. There are these different worlds that are made up from the different areas of Riley’s brain and they collapse and rebuild as she gets older. The way the emotions are from person to person are different and they change and grow up with the person as time goes by. During the credits, we even get these funny glimpses into the emotions of a cat and a dog. There are countless of these comments and ideas that the film makes throughout and for once in a long time, the studio seems at their most alert and awake, building this abstract world that ends up being this total commentary for the different little things that happen within us throughout all of our lives.

And while on the subject, this is possibly the most visually inventive movie Pixar has made to date and the work done here genuinely makes me wish animation was taken seriously in the best director category. People toss aside many studio films as being light and forgettable as a work of art. Sometimes a film will come along like this or Gravity or Mad Max: Fury Road that reminds you of the incredible things that can happen if you were to give a director tons of money to bring their dreams to the largest level possible. The 3D that this film has actually uses it to dive you deeper into this world rather than to present it to you as a stupid gimmick. This is a stunning looking movie that has so much different places for the audiences to look at and the way all of these different ideas are shown are so detailed and creative and I’m truly worried right now that I won’t be able to get to all of the greatness of this film in one review. What Pete Doctor did in creating this place to such a degree at least deserves to be noted in the best director category during Oscar season.

As you might expect, the other main focus of the film besides memories is also on our emotions. The brilliant thing is that we spend much more time with the emotions than with the actual person and yet the emotions are so well crafted that you still feel that by the end you have learned quite a bit about her. Her anger and her fears and her joy act very mature and professional like they’re running this factory but what they’re talking about and the things they are focusing on still feels so childlike and true of the thoughts of her age. They decide every single move she makes and they build on these memories she has and the way she feels when she remembers them.

I want to talk about the great things this film does is the relationship between Joy and Sadness both on a dialogue level and on a psychological level. The relationship between the two of them is funny and charming as these two widely different things have to deal with their widely different way of looking at life. Phyllis Smith and Amy Poehler are great in their parts as they get to play to their acting talents whether it is in Poehler’s eccentricity and quirkiness or Smith’s shyness and mopiness. Throughout the film, Joy sees sadness as something that needs to be avoided and needs to be kept in the background away from the other emotions. In a key moment later on, Joy reflects on a core memory and sees the impact that both Joy and Sadness had on it. She realizes that the both of them play an equal part in what makes her human. In the end, it isn’t joy that saves the day but sadness that saves the day and allows for Riley to get cope with her problems.

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The climax of the film isn’t some big action scene but rather the confrontation between Riley and her parents and the ultimate acceptance of the importance of sadness in life. This is something vital that is generally not reflected on in most movies and most aspects of our culture. To some, the main goal of everything is to be constantly happy all the time, that’s the big win and sadness is something that you must destroy. Fear is something inside of you that must be gotten rid of for joy. Everyone must be a winner and you have to avoid experiences that will cause anything other than happiness as much as possible. This is a dangerous and simply unrealistic perspective to have and it’s important for everyone to understand the importance of all of these other feelings. You can’t just feel one all the time, you have to embrace life for what it is and you have to know that is okay to be sad or angry or scared because all of these things are important in guiding us through are challenges.

In terms of problems I might’ve had with the movie, I wish Disgust could’ve been given more screen time. She never gets as much seems as the other characters and comes off as less important. But that’s such a small gripe even Disgust gets a scene where the value is proven as she influences another emotion in doing something.

This might be one of the most challenging movies I’ve ever had to review. There’s so much that happens and there’s so much that can be discussed and so much that can be analyzed that I plan to immediately rewatch it when it comes to theaters. Inside Out is beautiful looking detailed and deeply layered exploration through the mind of a human being. There so many great little things that are in this movie that are worth being presented that I couldn’t even go into full detail about. For example, they couldn’t have had more perfect casting for Anger than Lewis Black. Pixar might not be the kings of animation that they used to be, but with Inside Out they move themselves back to the top shelf.

Rating:(4.5/5)

Review by: Ryan M.

Release Date: 6/19/2015

Rating: PG

Cast: Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Phyllis Smith, Mindy Kaling, Richard Kind and Kaitlyn Dias

Directed by: Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen

Screenplay by: Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley

Inside Out (2015)*

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Title: Inside Out (aka. Inside Out 3D)
Rating: PG
Director: Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen
Writer: Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley
Stars: Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Phyllis Smith, Mindy Kaling, Richard Kind and Kaitlyn Dias
Release Date: 6/19/2015
Running Time: 94 minutes

Official Site
IMDb

After young Riley is uprooted from her Midwest life and moved to San Francisco, her emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness – conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school.


What did you think of this film?

During Credits? Yes

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Dedication: “this film is dedicated to our kids. please don’t grow up. ever.”

Special thanks to Ryan M. for this submission

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Monsters University (2013)*

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TITLE: Monsters University (aka. Monsters University 3D)

RELEASE DATE: 6/21/2013

RATING: G

A look at the relationship between Mike and Sulley during their days at Monsters University — when they weren’t necessarily the best of friends.

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During Credits? Yes

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Finding Nemo (2003)*

TITLE: Finding Nemo (aka Finding Nemo 3D)

RELEASE DATE: 5/30/2003

RATING: G

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During Credits? Yes

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NOTE: Dedicated to Glenn McQueen (animator) 1960-2002.


Brave (2012)*

TITLE: Brave

RELEASE DATE: 6/22/2012

RATING: PG

Determined to make her own path in life, Princess Merida defies a custom that brings chaos to her kingdom. Granted one wish, Merida must rely on her bravery and her archery skills to undo a beastly curse.

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NOTE: Dedicated with love and gratitude to Steve Jobs.  Our partner, mentor and friend.

Special thanks to Dave for this submission


WALL-E (2008)*

TITLE: WALL·E

RELEASE DATE: 6/27/2008

RATING: G

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During Credits? Yes

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Up (2009)*

TITLE: Up

RELEASE DATE: 5/29/2009

RATING: PG

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During Credits? Yes

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Toy Story 2 (1999)*

TITLE: Toy Story 2

RELEASE DATE: 11/24/1999

RATING: G

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During Credits? Yes

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After Credits? No

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Special thanks to Tom for this submission


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