Monthly Archives: July 2015

Review – INSIDE OUT

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Voice cast: Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Phyllis Smith, Mindy Kaling, Lewis Black
Directed by: Pete Docter
Cert: Gen Running Time 102 mins

If there were such a thing as the happiest place on Earth one imagines it would be Pixar Animation Studios. That it should create something that brings so much joy to millions of people is reason enough but it’s the years spent lovingly creating that joy that make it truly special. The Pixar formula has never been one of instant gratification but crafting movies that aim not only for our hearts but our minds too with movies that stay with the viewer, young or old, long after they have left the cinema. Happy memories to be stored forever in our memory banks.

With Inside Out they have truly surpassed themselves. Nostalgically reminiscent of ‘The Numskulls’ cartoon strip, (published originally in The Beezer in the 1960s), Inside Out runs on a similar notion of having tiny people in our heads controlling, not so much everything we do, but our key emotions.

Taking part largely in the mind of 11 year old Riley, the film carefully navigates us through her mind and the emotions that control her actions, Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). For much of her childhood, Joy has been to the forefront but when Riley and her parents move to San Francisco, Riley struggles emotionally causing Sadness to take over. Inside her head, Joy will need Sadness’ help to regain control as Riley’s core happy memories are threatened with extinction.

It’s a simple enough premise but it’s put together with such a thoughtful script that enlightens rather than manipulates. It’s also cute as be-damned with beautifully drawn characters, the emotions having an almost soft and fuzzy Muppet-like exterior. The cast all deliver brilliantly with Amy Poehler in effervescent form as Joy and great chuckles provided by hot-headed Anger and boot-quaking Fear.

Along with being hugely entertaining Inside Out opens a whole new dialogue is how we can discuss emotions and stress with our children. Watching it makes you realise how we are at the mercy of our emotions and how coping with life and its surprises is a constant test when one emotion overpowers the others. It doesn’t shy away from the fact that life is difficult sometimes and writer/director Pete Docter brings his own emotional signature to all his work. From the themes of loss and loneliness in UP to the very makings of happiness in Inside Out, he always manages to make us look at our own life and how we live it. And we are the better for it! Genius.

Watch out too for the extremely cute short film LAVA playing in front. It’s a dreamy little Hawaiian themed tale of a lonely volcano that will make you smile.

*****

Review – SONG OF THE SEA

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Voice cast: Brendan Gleeson, Lucy O’Connell, David Rawle, Fionnula Flanagan, Lisa Hannigan, Pat Short, Jon Kenny
Directed by: Tomm Moore
Cert: PG Running Time: 93 minutes

It’s not often you sit in a darkened cinema and stare in genuine awe at the artistic beauty of what’s been rendered for your entertainment. What’s rare is precious and Song of the Sea is like a rare ocean pearl, its swirling beauty drawing you in and enveloping you in its whimsical magic. Its Oscar nomination in February for Best Animated Feature was truly deserved and once again put the work of director Tomm Moore and the team at Kilkenny based Cartoon Saloon onto the world stage (they were also nominated in 2009 for The Secret of Kells).

The film’s visual style may take a bow to Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki but the seeds of it are cultivated by the lyrical beauty of our fair Isle, it’s Celtic artistry and folklore turning it into something truly standalone and seldom seen. Moore’s vision is breath-taking at times but what’s great about Song of the Sea is that it has the story to back it up and entertain the young audience it seeks.

Taking inspiration from the mythological Selkies of Irish folklore, who live as seals in the sea but become humans on land, the story centres on Saoirse (Lucy O’Connell) who discovers on her 6th birthday that she is a Selkie. Having lost her mother the day she was born, she lives on a remote island in a lighthouse with her father Conor (voiced by Brendan Gleeson) and her older brother Ben (voiced by Moone Boy’s David Rawle).

The stunning animation and excellent voice work draw you in and you can’t help but be moved as the film doesn’t shy away from loss and grief. Gleeson in particular delivers a haunted vocal performance and the scene of his character sitting alone in a bar on the anniversary of the loss of his wife will break your heart. It’s not afraid to go to darker places in order to discover the light making the emotional impact all the more powerful. It’s also perfectly cast with additional support from the great Fionnula Flanagan, Pat Short, Lisa Hannigan and Jon Kenny.

As the two children’s adventure takes them inland and further away from the sea, I did feel the hypnosis fade a little, as the characters are literally wrapped up in the mysticism of the tale but it recovers its enchantment again as the finale takes hold.

Watching it with my six year old, she was enthralled by the characters, bewitched by the ancient folklore and the music (composed by Bruno Coulais and Kila) had her singing on the way home. A happy customer indeed! Bring the little ones and be enchanted.

 

 

Review – MAGIC MIKE XXL

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Starring: Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Adam Rodriguez, Kevin Nash, Jada Pinkett Smith, Amber Heard, Elizabeth Banks
Directed by: Gregory Jacobs
Cert: 16 Running Time: 115 mins

When Magic Mike was released in 2012, Channing Tatum’s thong busting moves kinda passed me by which means I wasn’t exactly shaking my dollar bills in the air at the news that the boys were returning, and without the now Oscar carrying Matthew McConaughey.

So I’ve come to the Magic Mike XXL experience like a shy bride-to-be on her hen night. Part excited at the prospect of being excited and part dreading it, that I’m going to be subjected to some cheesy guy in a thong, rubbing me up the wrong way. And like a hired ‘male entertainer’ (the guys’ choice of career title), they have done both. The film is sexy in small doses, courtesy of Channing Tatum and also very cheesy exposing the goofy, silly side there is to such ‘entertaining’ which left me feeling like putting my money back into my purse and looking sheepishly for the nearest exit. There is much to feast your eyes on here but for every toned ab and flexed pec there’s just a sense that a little less cheese and a bit more oomph is needed to bring them to life.

Picking up three years after the first film, Mike (Tatum) for reasons we don’t really care about decides to re-join the boys on a road trip to the annual Stripper Convention in Myrtle Beach. The boys have all plans for their futures away from the scene and are giving the business one last hip thrust before they go their separate ways. It’s difficult to say if the campness of the group is intentional (as a newbie I guess I’m missing the gist of its predecessor) but there are times when their road trip is more Priscilla-like and all they’re missing for world domination is a little drag.

Richie’s (Joe Manganiello’s) much touted scene in the store is played for comedy with the boys cheering him on at the window as he tries to make the checkout girl smile, making something that looks sexy in snippets actually seem pretty ridiculous and you wonder why she’s not calling the cops on him. It’s also very difficult to believe that a guy who looks like that has confidence issues on his ability to make a woman smile. Isn’t he a stripper?

That said the film is not without its moments. The script written by original scribe Reid Carolin feels authentic and the guys have a bromance going on that is believable and funny. Tatum steals the scenes when he gets to show off what he can do and while I’d pretty much written him off as a lunkhead he’s a great dancer and has the moves to back up his name. He also has great chemistry with Jada Pinkett Smith, an old flame he visits along the way and she brings it (as she did in TV’s Gotham) with her charisma, exuding more sexuality in her key scenes than most of the guys put together. Elizabeth Banks too makes a great cameo (though I’d have loved to hear her Pitch Perfect character critique the boys’ show) and Amber Heard makes the best of a role that is underwritten. In one of the best lines, she sarcastically says ‘Any God worth believing, sends you a guy in a thong when you’re in need’. As pick me ups go, a trip to Magic Mike XXL might be just the ticket but you’re gonna need some nachos to go with all that cheese.

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