Tag Archives: Disney

Inside Out | Review | Film

Inside OutInside Out PosterIt’s hard to ignore the voices inside your head, whether you’re struggling to not to laugh as your dad asks you what an Instagram is for the 18th time, or trying to resist procrastinating on a Friday afternoon. Inside Out dives into your brain head first to explain some of those moments where you just don’t know what to feel.

Riley is an 11-year-old American teen who has it all, great family, great hockey team and a great house. Of course everything changes when the family have to move and this sends Riley’s emotions into overdrive, which is where we meet Joy, Anger, Disgust, Sadness and Fear.

Like all Pixar films, the characters look incredible, the level of visual detail as they build this imaginary world in Riley’s head is astonishing, right down to the speckled, brightly-coloured outlines and other-wordly edge to the characters themselves.

Inside OutWhile the plot centres on Riley, it’s really Joy who is the main character here. It would have been easy to go for very basic emotional choices to describe the range of emotions in people, but going for Joy rather than Happiness immediately brings more depth to the character itself and makes her more relatable. Everyone knows someone who tries to see the sunny side of everything, and you immediately see them in this character.

Looking pretty isn’t enough to make Inside Out a good film though, and fortunately the Pixar gang also offer both a plot and a character arc which delivering the full spectrum of emotions (literally and figuratively, which is rather appropriate) without being obvious.

The cast work really well together, and no one outshines the rest or is so much of a talking point to make the others irrelevant. Parks and Recreation‘s Amy Poehler is passionate and likeable as Joy, while Phyllis Smith’s Sadness balances her out perfectly. Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Fear (Bill Hader) and Anger (Lewis Black) all make a solid impression when the trio are left to their own devices and really it’s the human characters (as usual, you could say for Pixar) who come off as a bit dull.

The concept of Inside Out alone is enough to warrant your attention but as soon as it has it it will hook you in for good, and that’s a good thing. Once again Pixar, specifically Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen, who also directed, have created an entire world we never knew existed and as soon as you see it it makes perfect sense. It almost goes without saying at this point, but the film is fun for adults and children, and proves that there are plenty of good ideas left out there.

Rating: 5/5

James Michael Parry

Guardians of the Galaxy | Review | Film

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The one thing most people seem to know about Guardians of the Galaxy is that it has a talking raccoon in it. After two hours of interstellar fun and games I can officially confirm that yes, there is indeed a talking raccoon in it. If you needed more than a semi live-action, feature length version of 1980s cartoon The Raccoons then you’ll be happy to hear that Guardians has a lot more to offer.

Guardians of the Galaxy poster

First of all the style of the film is definitely lighthearted, a clear and obvious departure from some of the superhero flicks of late – more similar to the likes of Kick-Ass and Scott Pilgrim vs The World – which makes for a refreshing watch without worrying about which character is going to turn out to be evil later on. In fact the plot is remarkably simple, almost to a fault, but serves as a device to bring this band of misfits together. Any film which begins with the main character dancing under a huge, glowing version of its logo knows exactly what it is.

All fun and games

You can't help but have fun with Peter Quill (Chris Pratt)
You can’t help but have fun with Peter Quill (Chris Pratt)

Self awareness is, in fact, one of the film’s strongest points, often throwing in 1980s pop culture references which remain just as well-known today almost to make a point. Our hero Peter Quill (The Lego Movie’s Chris Pratt), known as Starlord…by only himself, is a notable thief who gets caught up in something bigger – imagine a more childish Han Solo and you’re almost there. His inevitable incarceration calls him to join forces with his former enemies and so the games begin.

You could call the guardians the ‘B squad’ Avengers, but that would be selling them short as in fact they are very far removed from the power, might and glory of superhero status, rather doing the right thing even though no one expects anything of them in the first place – just the opposite in fact. Groot, notable for being a giant humanoid tree, has a delightfully sweet demeanour and this plays well against Rocket the Raccoons wise-cracking (courtesy Bradley Cooper).

Zoe Saldana, who plays token female character Gamora, is perhaps the most disappointing of the quintet, not showing the sort of variety we have seen from her as Uhura but retaining the childish female stereotype aspects in places, admittedly used to great effect at one point in particular.

The final character of the group is Drax, played by former wrestler Dave Bautista, who at first comes across as a one-note brute, but is soon gifted with some excellent one-liners in his own right.

More than just a pretty (furry) face

The space battles in the film almost take you by surprise
The space battles in the film almost take you by surprise

The visual effects are stunning in the sense that you barely notice them. There are few moments where you feel your eyes adjusting into ‘visual effects mode’, instead they are slipped in to the story and action sequences naturally. Particularly the look and feel of CGI characters Groot and Rocket, of which the latter really gets top marks for fur effects.

There is a certain beauty to the use of music in the film, all of which comes from a mix tape given to Starlord when he began his journey across the stars, and as such has not only an 80s vibe (something which follows through the whole film) but a consistency, keeping the film grounded and relatable while out-of-this-world madness and excitement happen on screen.

Small but perfectly formed

The ties to the existing Marvel films are passing at the most
The ties to the existing Marvel films are passing at the most

As a Marvel film, certain expectations have been built up over the past few years as its film universe has grown, but this film proudly stands alone with only a passing connection to the events of other films. In a way that’s the most refreshing thing about watching it – being able to enjoy the experience without thinking about the impact it will have on something else.

So, it might not be a perfect film, but it is the most entertaining and fulfilling cinema experience of the year so far, and suitable for all ages…for the most part anyway. Guardians is exciting, funny and just easy to watch, something has been lost in the convoluted cross-pollination of Marvel films and this title reminds us why we liked them in the first place – they are damn good fun.

Rating: 5/5

James Michael Parry

Oz, The Great and Powerful | Review | Film

Oz, the Great and Powerful"Everyone knows the story of The Wizard of Oz. Whether it’s fond childhood memories from watching it at Christmas time with family on TV or recently discovering the classic tale, there’s no denying its status as a pillar of cinema.

A film with heart

From these nostalgic beginnings comes a prequel story about the man who shares his name with the wonderful world of Oz. Far from a great and powerful wizard, Oz’s story begins in the circus as we are introduced to the man behind the legend. In this case, that man is James Franco.

This black and white introductory sequence (in the now almost unheard of not widescreen format) is the strongest hark back to its predecessor…which is actually a sequel…and the tone fits alongside it neatly. The film feels like it belongs in that world, rather than just being a shameless cash-grab or spin-off.

Zach Braff of Scrubs fame stars as a (not evil) flying monkey
Zach Braff of Scrubs fame stars as a (not evil) flying monkey

A film with brains

Following a formula can often spell disaster for a film, but in this case, it’s where Oz is aware of its own shortcomings that it earns the most respect.

In one scene where townspeople are ripe to burst into song, Franco shuts them down with a word and his cheesiest grin, perhaps reflecting the attitude to characters bursting into song on celluloid. Elsewhere the parallels between the characters of Oz and their real-world counterparts are sometimes subtle, using imagery as well as choice words or phrases to make connections.

The cast tick all the boxes, no one personality dominates and they all fit together to cover the spectrum of good, evil and something inbetween. Rachel Weisz and Zach Braff are the big names other than Franco himself, and do themselves justice here.

There’s the odd moment where you have to suspend disbelief, but with the film being set in a magical land (which may or may not all be in Oz’s head) these moments don’t always come where you might expect them.

A film with courage?

Going up against a legacy is bold, but the film shys away from really making the story its own. There isn’t a lot going on here, aside from the age-old struggle of good vs evil and right vs wrong, and at times this can cause the plot to drag.

Not that the film itself seems too bloated. At over two hours it just about gets away with its run time without grinding to a halt at any point, which is a testament to both the group of writers who wove the narrative together and veteran director Sam Raimi who made the magic happen.

The visual effects look incredibly vivid and saturated, in a fairly trademark Disney way, but the excess of CGI (albeit well done) gives the film a somewhat cartoony feel at times, which is a shame after the simple, bare bones realism of the opening – or as real as you can get when you are dealing with a magician.

Raimi’s history with Franco (in the original Spider-Man trilogy) must have helped bring the film together, and Franco brings more depth to Oz than you might expect at first glance.

Really though, the credit can be shared equally around the cast and crew for their collaborative effort on a film which might not be great and powerful, but has moments of wonder which are more than enough for a family day out.

Rating: 3/5

James Michael Parry

Wreck-It Ralph Review | Film | This Is Entertainment

Wreck-It RalphBeing compared to Toy Story is no bad thing, and in a sense you could simplify the plot of Wreck-It Ralph to ‘Toy Story, but with games’, but that sells it about as short as Sarah Silverman’s diminutive character Vanellope Von Schweetz.

The film uses the past 30 years of computer games as its playground, with anyone who has even a passing appreciation for games able to find something to latch onto, whether it’s as obscure as a sound effect from Metal Gear Solid or as plain as the unassuming paddles from arcade classic Pong.

The smashing together of the old and new is what makes the film so special. On the one hand you have traditional 8-bit graphics and music, seen from the players’ point of view as they enjoy titles like Tapper or Space Invaders, and the gaming world, which is rendered in the glorious high-def CGI which will convince Pixar fans this is one of their films.

In fact it was produced by Disney itself and directed by Rich Moore, a veteran of Futurama and The Simpsons, and if you listen closely you’ll notice a few familiar voices he has brought along for the ride.

The titular Ralph is a nice guy stuck in a bad guy’s skin, complete with comically oversized hands, and longs for fulfilment in his monotonous life. The beauty of the concept is that children and adults alike can relate to feeling stuck in a rut, whether it’s just being sick of school on a Friday afternoon, or feel like the world is against you as plans continuously fall through at work.

John C. Reilly plays the role to a tee, with Sarah Silverman providing excellent ingredients for double-act moments, and surprisingly there are moments where you begin to tear up as difficult choices have to be made. Alan Tudyk (Firefly, Death at a Funeral) channels the Mad Hatter, with a dash of Tigger, to create giggling eccentric King Candy as the film’s antagonist, and is endlessly entertaining. The rest of the supporting cast perform well but don’t stand out so much, particularly with all the cameos wrestling for your attention.

The plot is as straightforward as you might expect from a Disney flick, but with equal parts action and heart, and plenty to keep you engaged for the almost two-hour run time.

Disney are clearly at the top of their game once again with this effort, with the visuals alone a step up from 2010’s Tangled. This film carries the sort of weight you would expect from a series a few iterations down the line, so you can expect sequels to follow.

The team unashamedly throw in product placements left, right and centre, but due to the nature of the world they inhabit, they don’t feel out of place or forced at any point.

In all, this film is made for gamers, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t consider yourself in that geeky camp. There is more than enough to appreciate with identifiable characters and familiar concepts, beautifully realised with style.

Rating: 5/5

James Michael Parry

Film: Review – I Am Number Four

Like teenagers the world over, I Am Number Four is a film which just tries to fit in. Alex ‘Stormbreaker‘ Pettyfer plays high school student John Smith, who is really an alien dubbed ‘Number Four’.

Following a frantic chase sequence which shows us the demise of Number Three, Number Four sets the scene with Pettyfer’s calm voiceover explaining that he and eight others are aliens who escaped from the planet Lorien as new-borns. Undesirables the Mogadorians were invading the planet and have now found the nine on Earth and have set about killing them in a ritualistic but necessary fashion – numerical order.

The film is based on the first novel of a six book series aimed at the Twilight saga audience, but unusually the back story is vague compared to other Stephanie Meyer’s vampire story, or J.K. Rowlings muggle on wizard universe. Add to that the cartoonish nature of baddies the Mogadorians, who look like an animalistic ancestor of Eric Bana’s Romulan leader Nero from the latest Star Trek film, and things begin to look a little undercooked.

Enter Glee star Dianna Agron as kooky love interest Sarah Hart, who brings everyman John out of his shell with her love of photography. Though the short run time keeps an uncomfortably fast pace, Agron and Pettyfer convince as they deal with changes far more unusual than the average teen.

Aside from some symbolic scars on his leg, Number Four looks like an average teenager. All that changes with Number Four’s coming-of-age as his ‘Legacy’, or superpower, gives him the (often uncontrollable) ability to shoot light from his hands, in a bizarre cross between Xmen‘s Cyclops and Iron Man, and as his new-found confidence grows so do his powers.

Number Four’s mentor and protector Henri (Timothy Olyphant) keeps things grounded with a great balance beween matter-of-fact humour and stern-faced words of wisdom, but the fun really begins with the arrival of Number Six, Teresa Palmer, previously seen in December Boys and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

Her teleportation powers and knife skills instantly add an element of ‘cool’ to proceedings, and Producer Michael Bay’s action streak shines through with a colossal explosion almost the second she appears.

Number Four’s situation becomes increasingly frantic as he battles to deal with his new found power while trying to keep Harri happy and Sarah safe.

The film builds to a crescendo of action as the two alien factions face off in an American football stadium, unfamiliar territory for Director DJ Caruso, previously responsible for the sublime Disturbia and frantic Eagle Eye. With action-man Bay behind him though, Caruso delivers an action spectacle more than adequate to keep the kids entertained.

The twenty year-old Brit Pettyfer holds things together fairly comfortably in what could be the first of six films, but with such expectation you can’t help but wonder if the film is just a bit too close to the norm to bring audiences back.

 

Rating: 3/5

James Michael Parry