I’ve sort of taken a hiatus from writing for a few weeks because I’ve been feeling extremely under the weather lately, and haven’t had motivation to write much of anything, but I’m feeling a little better today, and I’ve seen a few new movies, so maybe it will feel good to do a few quick write ups! Here goes!
Disney/Pixar’s latest attempt to make children laugh and grown ups cry is about the inner workings of a young girl named Riley, and the five main emotions that help her through life; Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Sadness (Phyllis from The Office), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Anger (Lewis Black). It’s probably more clever than anything else, and a lot of work and imagination went into visualizing all of these abstract concepts of the human brain. So I guess they accomplished their goal of making it simple enough to work in a children’s film.
As usual, it’s full of all of the trademark Pixar humor blended with a purely concentrated sadness that they spend 75 minutes working up towards, making the punch in the gut feel all the more impactful. There was definitely a scene that made my eyes water up, and still makes me sad to think about it even now. There were probably a couple of these scenes overall, but one in particular (that I won’t spoil) really got to me. I think if you’ve ever been forced to move away from your friends and school when you were a kid (I wasn’t), this movie would have even more of an impact on you.
The voice acting was pretty spot on, and the character dynamics were funny (even if Fear and Disgust felt like tacked on comic relief background characters), but I suppose the character design was a little lackluster. Well, I liked how if you looked close enough, the emotions were made up of thousands of tiny particles that were always moving (I’m not trying to bash the artistry of the animation), but I’m merely saying characters like Joy and Disgust and most of the human characters were *in a vague way* pretty generic looking. Almost Dreamworks-like.
I wasn’t really sure how many kids are going to come away liking this movie, because I thought it was kind of a deep, kind of dark, weird roller coaster of a film; but the two kids who exited the theater at the same time as we did were apparently pretty sold on it. So what do I know?
On a final note, the short film before the feature about the two volcanoes trying to have sex was really cute.
8 out 10
Love & Mercy
Admittedly, I’m not a huge Beach Boys fan. I like a bunch of their stuff; Pet Sounds for example is obviously good, “Feel Flows” is a terrific (and probably my favorite) song (of theirs), and my friends and I have been known to break out a rousingly drunk a capella “Barbara Ann” at parties if the mood feels right (haha, we’re genuinely annoying people). But I never really ventured too much outside those lines to explore what they’ve got going on. So a biopic of Brian Wilson appealed to me from merely a standpoint of intrigue. AND LEARNING! Always good to learn about a fellow crazy person. Gives me a better idea of where I fall on the crazy spectrum in comparison. The Pixar version of Love & Mercy would have left Sadness and Fear in control of Wilson’s head for most of the movie.
I guess the problem here is that while they at least *attempted* to not make a standard biopic by having the film take place in two different time periods with two different actors playing Wilson (Paul Dano as young Brian in the 60s, John Cusack as old[er] Brian in the 80s), it still fell into most of the potholes that standard biopic fare tends to. Not enough to sink it entirely, but it didn’t really ever fully win me over. Biopics tend to rely heavily on the performances of the actors impersonating them, and Dano, Cusack, Elizabeth Banks, and Paul Giamatti all do great jobs at keeping it entertaining. Between this, San Andreas, and the upcoming N.W.A. biopic (yes, I’m excited for that), Giamatti is a having a pretty good year for being a frantic side character.
I also got to learn about what a huge asshole Mike Love is through this movie as well. When I was watching this film, and Love came on the screen, I was almost always immediately like “Wow, this guy sucks!” And sure enough if you simply Google “Mike Love”, literally the *third* link that shows up is a Vice article titled “Mike Love Is Kind Of An Asshole“, which is actually a pretty funny read.
7 out of 10
I really liked Dope. I wasn’t even really in the mood to laugh that much the night I saw it, and it still got a few hearty chuckles out of me. It’s probably not my place to reduce a movie down to race (even though the movie is heavily about what it’s like to not quite be “black enough” for the main character’s environment), but it was an engrossing representation of an experience that I’ll never know, filtered through an indie comedy sensibility that even a 30-year-old suburban white dude like me can attach to. It’s like Friday meets Superbad! (whoa, I almost punched myself in the face right there)
Maybe it dragged a little bit, and felt way longer than it actually was, but the plot is crazy and constantly shifting to new things to keep it interesting. It’s fast paced, and shot and edited well. And all of the actors seemed like they put all their chips in for their roles. I’m sure the dude who played the main character (Shameik Moore) will become a rising star in the future.
It kind of takes a huge serious shift at the end, with lots of direct-to-camera messages, but they were important to listen to. If that was your biggest gripe with the movie, then you may have possibly missed the point. It’s a good R-rated comedy that felt hip, and relevant, and stylish, and for the most part, original. Even if the characters are kind of a composite of nostalgic references. But what isn’t nowadays…?
8.5 out of 10