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Inside Out (2015)
Tears of Joy
Before I start, I will say this; I'm writing this after coming back from a second viewing of Inside Out. Both viewings were out of choice. That's not a unique thing, but I very rarely watch films more than once at the cinema, mainly because life is short, or rather, life is too quick for me. But there's two main reasons why people watch some films more than once at the cinema, especially where I come from; either the film was interesting, detailed, or multi-layered and needs to be seen again to sink in properly, or, it was really, really good.
In this case, for me, it's the latter. That's not to say that the film isn't interesting, detailed or multi-layered, but the reason that was repeating in my head to see it again was 'it's really, really good.' But is it? Yes, yes of course it is... Speaking with a bunch of friends with whom I saw it the first time, a risky phrase was unanimously agreed upon, which was that we 'trust the Pixar team to do the right thing.' Needless (totally needless) to say that expectations were high, and frankly, they were surpassed.
Even though the film is what we come to expect from Pixar (the universal moral themes, the perfect balance between comedy and sadness, and visually stunning animation and action sequences), I didn't feel that I had seen it all before, and neither was it repetitive nor 'ordinary'. The film hits all the high notes, with perfect intonation, and with discipline and passion. As touched on before, the balance between humour and sadness is strong and impressive; the amount of emotions that the film displays and takes us through is varied and immersive, yet not overwhelming. The film executes such clever ideas with simplicity and ease, leaving us to feel for the characters rather than worry about the 'science' of it all, or even being worried about 'not getting it'.
The animation is constantly eye-drawing and detailed; the characters' glistening skin is particularly wondrous. And what great characters they are. Riley is brilliantly sympathetic throughout, even with her difficult mood swings, and the supporting characters are perfectly entertaining. One might think that the superficial nature of the characters (Anger is angry, Fear is always scared etc.) would become old quickly, however the fun never diminishes, thanks to a witty script, expressive animation, and very strong voice performances from the entire cast.
However, to top all this off, the real gem comes from the character of Joy, surely a strong contender in the list of Pixar's greatest characters. Even though we are inside the head of Riley for the majority of the film, and the events that drive the movie are essentially her reactions to her new world (moving from Minnesota to San Francisco), the story is Joy's. Being probably the most flawed character in the film (paradoxically, maybe), it's her journey we care about the most, and she ends up being the most in-depth character in the film, occasionally questioning her actions in the first half (well, the cynics will be), and becoming the most sympathetic by the end. Amy Poehler's outstanding performance makes Joy simultaneously the strongest and weakest character in the film (emotionally, that is).
After all of this, the freshness of the ideas, the simplified neuroscience, the technical brilliance (saying that, Giacchino's score is probably the most subtle thing in the film, exquisitely putting the finishing touches on the most emotional scenes), fleshed out characters and universal themes, all of this comes together simply to entertain us, to let us escape, and to release us emotionally, which it does by making us laugh and cry in an even and fair manner.
And you will laugh. And you will cry. And it is fun to do so. Thank god we're living in a time when Pixar is making these films.
Jurassic World (2015)
Let's start by saying that, it's not a Jurassic Park film. A terrible cliché, but a series/sequel will always be compared to its predecessor(s), whether consciously or subconsciously. So let's get that out of the way first. The reputation of the first film is so positive, this film will always have had mixed reaction. However, relating to this issue, the main response from people seems to be this; it doesn't matter.
People I spoke to tried to go in to a screening without having any expectations, and this is obviously the best way to treat the film. What you get is a popcorn movie with big dinosaurs, but wasn't that what the first film was? Well, let's come back to that in a bit. The main dinosaur antagonist in Jurassic World is well designed, and suitable scary and loud. The initial carnage scenes in which it makes itself known (the dinosaur) are well paced, violent, and probably some of the most gripping scenes, setting the tone for the rest of the film. However, that tone hardly changes, and when it does, it gets more ridiculous than scary or tense, something that the first film excelled at (Though, it's strange to say the Jurassic Park 'excels' at things, because, you know, Steven Spielberg and all).
The action sequences are, expectedly, the film's strengths. Some of the individual sequences are very good, including the one mentioned in the previous paragraph, and one involving the main protagonist, played by Chris Pratt, zooming into the deep forest on a motorcycle, surrounded by a team of raptors (as seen on the trailer). However, others are absolutely ridiculous, in a kind of, "this is absolutely ridiculous" way. The finale is laughable, though still somewhat entertaining.
There's not much point in speaking about the plot, as it's sort of irrelevant (and incredibly hole-y), and the characters, well, there aren't any (the best 'characters' are easily Pratt's gang of raptors, led by the more-charismatic-than-anyone-on-screen, 'Blue'). As we know, Pratt is an entertaining performer, but here, it feels that his talents have been wasted. I would have personally liked to have seen more 'cheekiness' and more one-liners from him, but he can only work with what he's given. In relation to this, some of the dialogue scenes so corny and ridiculous (there's that word again), that you just wish it was Jurassic Park.
...OK, so I guess it is difficult to talk about Jurassic World without frequently relating it to the first film. And it's this reason as to why I was slightly disappointed by it. It's fun, sure, it's loud, it's big, it's great to look at (most of the time), it's fast. But it's not (as) scary (as the first), and, unlike the first, it's not smart. It's dumb. Dumb fun, but dumb nonetheless. Going back to what I said about it being a popcorn movie, which was also the idea for the creation of the first film, is where the problem lies. The first film has a reputation as one of the greatest popcorn movies, but it's smart. It has a minimalist, yet classic adventure plot. It has characters; it has people you care about. I know it's difficult to come out with such gold as Spielberg and crew did, because, you know, it's Spielberg and all, but why couldn't it be smart as well as fun? Why couldn't we have a great time as well as caring about the characters? There's plenty of proof out there that films can be all these things.
Yeah, I know, they shouldn't replicate any of the previous films, and they should make it their own. But simply by dumbing it down? Is that the main thing that summer blockbusters should be nowadays, as opposed to the days of the first film?
But maybe I'm out of touch.