Inside Out, or Why I Should Never Have Kids

Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) is an 11 year old girl living in Minnesota with her parents (Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan). She is a normal girl who enjoys hockey, spending time with her friends and having fun with her family. All that changes when they move to San Francisco, and Riley finds herself having to deal with some unfamiliar emotions and situations. Most of this plays out in her head, where Riley is operated by her five core emotions, Joy (Amy Poehler), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Fear (Bill Hader) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). However, when Joy tries to prevent Sadness from interfering with Riley’s memories, the two find themselves lost in Riley’s long term memory, leaving Anger, Disgust and Fear at the helm.
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Superman The Movie

On the planet Krypton, the elders have disrupted the planet’s core and caused it to begin to erupt. Everyone on the planet is doomed, except for a small, barely explained plot contrivance that allows one newborn baby to be launched in a pod and sent to another planet that will be hospitable to him, but where the atmosphere and density are different enough to provide him with extraordinary powers. Krypton explodes, but the baby arrives safely on Earth, where he lives his life as a loner, the last of his kind… wait a minute, didn’t I write this the other week? Hmmmm. Anyway, Kal-El…Earth…Smallville…the Kents…Metropolis…Lois Lane…Daily Planet…Kryptonite…Laser vision…flying…Superman.1025_clark2 Continue reading

Brave

Brave marks something of unchartered territory for animation powerhouse Pixar. It’s their first fairytale,, the first set in the past, the first to use magic, and the first to feature a female lead, in Kelly Macdonald’s Princess Merida. It’s also the Pixar film that I’ve waited the longest to see since it’s cinema release, seeing as it came out here over a month ago, but I only saw it yesterday because of the frankly outrageous 3D scheduling of my cinema (as always, fuck 3D). 

The long delay has added to my already high level of anticipation for the film, seeing as I started reading reviews of my American and New Zealander counterparts months ago when the film was released over there (seriously, why such a long wait for us Brits? Sort it out), and my deep love of most things Pixar (Cars? meh) meant that this film was going to have to do a lot to satisfy me. And unfortunately, it didn’t.
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Combat Academy

George Clooney strikes again. Looking up his C.V., I’ve got at most four more films I have immediate access to until I get to one that’s even half decent (From Dusk Till Dawn), and that’s skipping six I can’t find yet! My god his early career was appalling. And then straight after Dusk I’ve got the one-two double punch of One Fine Day and Batman and Robin. I am really beginning to regret this decision, but its too late now.

Anyway, Combat Academy. In case you hadn’t guessed from the title and the 1986 release date, this is an attempt at a rip-off of the hugely popular Police Academy, down to copying the poster style and title typography, but this time set around a military school. However, the key area they failed to take inspiration from is in the use of colourful, quirky characters, engaging yet entertaining performances, and the inclusion of actual jokes. There’s even a commanding officer with a tank-bound pet. They can’t even blame it on coincidence either, as director Neal Israel was on script duty for Police Academy.


Two high school pranksters, Perry and Max (Wallace Langham and Keith Gordon) are kicked out of school on the first day back from summer vacation, and are sentenced to spending a year at Kirkwood Military Academy, due to having 238 separate acts of hijinks each on their permanent records. Two hundred and thirty eight. I’m pretty sure some point before the 50th time he found a herd of pigs in the library their headmaster would have instilled some discipline, contacted the authorities or just flat out killed the little shits. Anyway, the kids’ parents are disappointed in their kids (Perry’s dad is John Ratzenberger! Hell yes!) and don’t mind too much to see them be sent off to learn a few lessons in obedience, but the guys themselves are less than happy with the situation. However, seeing as Max at least is one of the least likable leads I’ve ever watched in a film, I had to agree with the parents. Max is a dick. Plain and simple. He incessantly causes havoc around himself purely for kicks, and doesn’t give a moment’s thought to repercussions to himself or those around him, particularly the stuttering, nervous Perry whom he drags down with him wherever he goes. And Keith Gordon is certainly no Steve Guttenberg, and his overuse of obnoxious, predictable and hokey one-liners just makes him all the more detestable. Perry on the other hand is somewhat likable, but is such a wet fish that he fails to register.

The two rub their commanding officers, George Clooney and Kevin Haley, up the wrong way early on, but by this point I’d stopped paying too much attention to the meagre plot – there’s a thief in the academy, some visiting Russian cadets, Perry falls in love and Max is trying to pull a Mahoney and get himself kicked out – and focused instead on the terrible performances on display here, particularly from Kevin Haley, who is possibly the most wooden an actor I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t help that he’s partnered up with Clooney for several scenes, but still. In fact, none of the actors seems to be in the same film as one another, at least in the sense that for the entire 96 minute runtime there isn’t a drop of chemistry between any of them, including the two leads who have apparently been best friends for over a decade.

The closest the film comes to a comical character is in the academy’s science teacher Col. Long (Richard Moll), who aims for eccentric but overshoots to certifiable. Amongst the rest of the cast, look out for Danny Nucci (Titanic‘s Fabrizzio), Elya Baskin (Spiderman‘s landlord) and Sherman Hemsley (George Jefferson). Of the leads, Keith Gordon went on to become a TV director, working on the likes of Dexter and House, whilst Wallace Langham played Kirby, the guy who signed in the Hooper family at the pageant in Little Miss Sunshine.

Elsewhere, the film suffers from an outrageous 80s soundtrack and the worst effects shot in any film, ever, when Max attempts to show off some kind of stunt during a paintball match that probably was supposed to involve him throwing his gun high in the air and catching it again, but which he clearly fumbled so they used the footage of him throwing it, then played it backwards for 2 seconds to make it look as though he caught the gun again. Did director Neal Israel, who directed the Tom Hanks classic Bachelor Party, really think he was going to get away with that? Not on my watch, bucko.

There are plenty of missed opportunities for comedy to be mined too. Firstly, the pranks the pair pull are all either incredibly tired or have no resounding effect on anything – lockers explode whilst people standing nearby remain oblivious, and switching the signs on the restrooms is just hokey, pre-teen nonsense. 
So, is there any reason at all to watch this film? If so, I can’t think of it. It is entirely devoid of anything approaching humour, features some very heavy handling of moral issues – Clooney’s Major Biff Woods (yes, that’s his name) just wants to please his Daddy – suffers from a hastily tied up resolution via an out of character rousing speech, hideous acting and completely and utterly fails to be comparable to even Police Academy 7: Mission to Moscow.

Choose life, 1/10

Guaranteed Happiness: Wall-E

Welcome to the first post in my new semi-regular feature, Guaranteed Happiness. I’ve discovered that a lot of the films I’ve watched recently haven’t necessarily dealt with very happy subjects, and this has been getting me down a bit. Now and then, I’d quite like to watch a happy film, or one that’s uplifting and ensures that I’ll have a big stupid grin on my face for at least 80% of it, and definitely at the end. After all, I’d much rather write about a film I’m passionate about, and I tend to have more to say about films that make me smile than those that make me suicidal. Praise should be aimed squarely between the shoulders of my girlfriend then, for sticking on Pixar’s gem Wall-E when I was in a decidedly cranky mood a little while ago. The aim was for me to sit down and write some posts, which to be honest I was in no mood to do after a fairly crappy day at work and having to shell out over a considerable amount of cash to fix my bike, yet as soon as the film began all thoughts of blogging and even glancing at my laptop screen were out the window.So, why do I love Wall-E? The simple answer is robots. It’ll come as no surprise to regular readers that a film featuring robots (or dinosaurs, time travel or Stephen Tobolowsky) will immediately be watched with heightened levels of glee. And the fact that it’s made by Pixar, a company that has made some of my favourite films to date, and is where I’d be willing to sell several members of my immediate family to work at, then so much the better.This is my favourite Pixar film, which is definitely saying something. I adore the Toy Story trilogy (especially, predictably, Rex), but there’s something about Wall-E‘s simplicity, its pared down scope and focus on telling a straightforward story in new, interesting, and above all, beautiful ways.

The plot is basic: in the not-too-distant future, the human race has polluted and destroyed the world so much that life has become unsustainable, and the only hope lies in the Axiom, a titanic spaceship resplendent with every luxurious convenience to fulfil any desire. Earth has been abandoned and left to the robots, who spend the next few hundred years tidying the place up. Wall-E, our intrepid hero, is the last surviving ‘bot, and he spends his days making and stacking little cubes of garbage into towering skyscrapers of trash, accompanied by his only friend, a cockroach. One day, a ship descends from the heavens, carrying EVE, a futuristic, high tech reconnaissance droid, and Wall-E is instantly smitten.

The tale of a schlubby, down-on-his-luck guy falling in love with an out-of-his-league wonder girl is hardly new, but as far as I know this is the first time it’s been told almost entirely wordlessly, and about mechanical beings. A certain amount of disbelief needs to be suspended to watch the film – the robots seem to have far more personality than they should have been implanted with in the factory – but this results in one of the most well-rounded characters in all of Pixar’s history. Wall-E (which stands for Waste Allocated Load Lifter – Earth Class, something I know from memory) has a love for all things quirky, unusual or fascinating, be it a Rubik’s cube, egg whisk or an old VHS of Hello Dolly!, and watching him investigate the functions of each item – wearing a bra like sunglasses, accidentally erupting a fire extinguisher – are a joy to behold. As are his attempts to woo the evidently disinterest EVE (whose acronym would be a spoiler). The couple’s dates are more moving and say far more than any scene of dialogue could.

It’s almost impossible to narrow the film down to my favourite scene, but I’d probably say EVE and Wall-E’s space flight. It’s nothing short of a work of art, as the two bots fly a merry courtship dance around one another, set to Thomas Newman’s beautiful score. In fact, every scene between just those two, all almost entirely devoid of dialogue, are so very easily lost in. Their relationship feels natural and real, and if anything the films is at a detriment as the plot moves away from Earth, and the story looks past our central couple.

There’s a few messages hidden not too deeply in the film – stop fucking up the Earth, grow your own food, get off your arse and exercise – but to be fair these are all fairly good messages, when compared to the standard Disney fare of wait for a handsome prince to come and rescue you. Wall-E’s messages are ones I personally agree with (“even if I don’t necessarily live by them,” he says, patting the spare tyre around his midriff) so I don’t really mind such unsubtle preaching in a film, especially one as entertaining as this.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’d have loved nothing more than to have been part of the character design team on this film. Wall-E himself has been so carefully thought out with regard to how he works and fits together. I may have appreciated this more than most, being a mechanical engineer by trade, but I think everyone should be impressed by the level of detail. Apparently the design team at Pixar meticulously analysed various machines, working out which ones were ‘male’ and which were ‘female’, and what characteristics defined these genders. Wall-E has clearly been inspired by more clunkier, mechanical machinery, as seen in factories and assembly lines, whilst the sleek, white plastic of EVE is straight out of an Apple store.

As you’ve probably realised, I love this film. The Wall-E poster, a giant pair of his eyes looking inquisitively out of the frame, justifiably hangs in in my lounge, yet I think it almost qualifies as one of the ‘other’ Pixar films that isn’t about toys, fish or superheroes. From the small details – sci-fi queen Sigourney Weaver voicing the Axiom’s tannoy – to the fully realised plot and the brilliance of casting Ben Burtt, the voice of R2D2, as Wall-E, I cannot fault this film in the least, and nor would I want to. And I’d still be trying to get Randy Newman’s closing credits song out of my head if it wasn’t so bloody good.

Choose film 10/10

Toy Story Trilogy

Today’s volatile weather conditions allowed for a productive afternoon film-wise, as a planned bike ride along the beaches of Bournemouth was cut short by sporadic torrential downpours, meaning I crossed a trilogy off the list; Toy Story 1-3.

Watching the original Toy Story, the first feature-length motion picture created entirely using computer animation, always send me back to my childhood, aged 8 years old, sat in the cinema watching in wide-eyed wonder as the pixels were brought to life before me, with my Dad sound asleep in the next seat. It’s one of my earliest film-related memories (my earliest cinema experience that I know of was the Lion King, but that’s another post).
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