Inside Out: Pixar Is Back In Fine Form!

What better place to be on a sweltering hot summer evening than a movie theatre. Our Movie Dude Toth made the right choice and spent an evening in the theatre watching Inside Out; here are his thoughts on Pixar’s latest work.

Hey, it’s the Movie Dude Toth daring Pixar to “hit me with your best shot!”  Anton Ego quoted Pat Benatar in the Pixar classic Ratatouille, and now I’m quoting Anton Ego from that classic master chef rat movie.

In the film, the dry and vampiric critic Ego, is daring the new chef to wow him with a new food item that is still amazing and will garner good reviews. Well Pixar has accomplished something similar to this feat with the movie Inside Out.

I will explain in a minute but let me sum it up by saying that Inside Out is a special film that fits easily among Pixar’s best films including Monsters Inc., Up, Wall-E, Finding Nemo, Ratatouille, Toy Story and The Incredibles.

Director Pete Docter made the movie Up, and he is once again able to juggle some very funny scenes with scenes that will undoubtedly tug at your heart strings. A well written script, stellar voice cast, inventive/ beautiful animation, and emotional concepts grounded in logic make Inside Out a must see summer film!

Let’s start with the cast, Amy Poehler is excellent as Joy who is kind of the self-appointed emotion who is in the driver’s seat inside 11 year old Riley’s mind.

Lewis Black absolutely kills it as Anger, who is ready to swear up a storm at a moment’s notice. Bill Hader is also very good as Fear, who has enough neuroses for all of the other emotions and then some.

I love The Mindy Project so I was very happy to find out that Mindy Kaling provides the voice of Disgust who keeps Riley safe from broccoli and bad fashion.

Finally Phyllis Smith from the American version of The Office plays Sadness who plays a very important role in the film.

The chemistry between the five emotions is really great and you can tell that the actors spent some quality time together talking and joking around.

The plot is not of great importance in a film like this, but the attention to detail and the intelligent script shows that a lot can be done with very little.

A seemingly everyday circumstance in someone’s life like moving from one city to another is all the plot needed to make a film full of emotion, adventure, and amazing insight.

As usual this will be a spoiler free review, and with Inside Out there are a lot of surprises that deserve to be discovered on your first viewing. I can say that I have revisited this film more than once this summer, and that is a sure sign of a good to great film!

There is something about the way that the Pixar team is able to get to the core emotions felt by people who are about to start a new phase of life that is amazing.

In Up, it was about an older person coming to terms with what life was really about by discovering what his beloved partner valued most in the world. In the Toy Story series, it was about what it means to be a child and then how that slowly changes into adolescence and eventually young adulthood, brilliantly told from the perspective of many toys. Inside Out is also exploring these themes but this time from the unique perspective inside the mind of an 11, soon to be 12 year old girl.

Inside Out’s plot deals with important memories the movie’s characters refer to as core memories. This is a very important idea that some psychologists refer to as long term memory. The long term memories that some believe influence many of the decisions we make later in life are what these “core memories” refer too.

Now there are many different theories on the human psyche and why people act the way they do, but the one offered in the movie is logical and based on some fact. The film’s directors, producers, and actors consulted with neurological experts to make sure that the film’s plot had some basis in reality. Children and adults (at least open minded ones) will be able to learn something from watching this movie.

I believe that Inside Out is one of Pixar’s best movies and it has obviously connected with many people based on the box office numbers. My only wish is that movies like this could connect with as many folks as more typical big summer fare like Jurassic World.

Is it too much too ask for escapist entertainment to be a bit more thought provoking? I think not and believe that movies aimed at the whole family need to be held to higher standards.

Inside Out meets the higher standards with an intelligent script that has something to say about our human condition. It also manages to be very entertaining for children and adults.

The humour in the script and the perfect delivery of the lines by the cast had me laughing aloud many times during the film. The strong emotional connection established by Riley’s emotions, in this case, also made the film surprisingly deep and had me choked up several times especially during the movie’s final 30 minutes.

If you don’t get a chance to see this at the theatres (it is still playing I believe), make sure you see it when it comes out on Blu-Ray/DVD/On Demand/Download. Inside Out is a wonderful film to experience and should not be missed!

Avengers: Age of Ultron the Best Marvel Movie Yet!

Hey there, it’s The Movie Dude Toth back with another spellbinding review. Sorry for the long absence but work (those darned kids) and home (those darned kids) got in the way. I actually do have another review on the way of the latest Bill Murray vehicle.

Anyhow to the matter at hand….I said it in the title and I stand behind it! Joss Whedon has managed to make the best Marvel film to date with Avengers: Age of Ultron.

You may be saying: why do you say this? How are you an expert on movies anyways? Well, gather close and pull out a piece of paper and a pencil cause “I’m about to take you to school!” (Thank you Dr. Evil :))

Before I begin, I’ll preface my praise with the disclaimer that I am a Marvel fan but a very picky one at that. Here is how I rank the Marvel films to date:

  1. Age of Ultron
  2. Iron Man
  3. Guardians of Peace (oops sorry Sony hackers), I meant to say – Guardians of the Galaxy
  4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  5. The Avengers
  6. Captain America: The First Avenger
  7. Iron Man 3
  8. Thor: The Dark World
  9. Thor
  10. The Incredible Hulk
  11. Iron Man 2

When I saw the first Iron Man back in May 2008 I knew that I had just seen something really special. It captivated me in a way that only the best movies I have seen in my lifetime can. I knew I had to see it again immediately.

I felt the same way walking out of Ultron.

This is the point in the Marvel films that I have been waiting for. There is no introduction or flashback to catch moviegoers up on what they missed. The movie jumps right into the action showing us what the Avengers can do as a team. This is perhaps the best action sequence in the film.

Some critics have complained that because the best action sequence is at the beginning, that the rest of the movie is a let down.

To quote Tony Stark: “I respectfully disagree.” My appetite was whetted for more from that point on. I saw Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Hulk, Hawkeye, and SHIELD operatives working in unison to take down some people.

I will try to make this review spoiler free hence the “some people” description of who the Avengers were attacking.

As a studio, Marvel is slowly achieving many comic book fans’ dreams by making a cohesive universe for their characters to play in. All the potential of Tony Stark and his capabilities that were brought up in the first Iron Man have come to fruition in Ultron literally and figuratively.

He realizes that someday a threat will come from our world or some other world that the Avengers will not be able to deal with. So what does he do?

With the help of another brilliant scientific mind and something else (no spoilers allowed), he creates the Ultron program to bring about world peace.

If you have seen even a single trailer then you will know that Ultron turns out to be Stark’s own Frankenstein monster. The rest of the film involves the Avengers trying to find a way to stop Ultron.

There is also some great character development amidst all the heroic fighting. Black Widow and Bruce Banner (aka the Hulk) have a lot of personal demons to fight before they can really help in the battle against Ultron.

Hawkeye is given a great back story and adds a lot of humanity to the fantastical proceedings. Scarlett Johansson and Mark Ruffalo have a nice chemistry together. Jeremy Renner is given more of a chance to shine here because he is not possessed by Loki the entire time as in the first Avengers.

James Spader does a great job as the voice of Ultron. He is snarky, angry, bitter, jealous, and dangerous all within the span of 30 seconds sometimes. I laughed out loud at several of his lines including this exchange with his creator where Stark asks Ultron what a rare element called vibranium is for and without missing a beat Ultron says: “I’m glad you asked that, because I wanted to take this time to explain my evil plan…”

Even though some of the subject matter is dark, I was laughing throughout Ultron and appreciated all the one liners and witty banter between hero and hero and from heroes to villains. In saying all this, the action sequences are nothing to snooze at.

I saw new and exciting action sequences that I had not seen before on film. The action was framed in a different way and was superior to the first Avengers film. There were some ideas that I had seen before in other superhero films but they were approached in a fresh way that made them seem more original.

There is a fight between two Avengers that is huge and city shaking. As I mentioned, the opening sequence is amazing and the finale achieves a certain kind of “lift-off”.

There is a mid-movie chase sequence involving a semi-trailer, motorcycle, and supersonic jet that is also eye-popping. Of course all of this would not matter at all if the stakes weren’t so high.

How does a movie raise the stakes so that the audience really cares about what is happening to the characters? Well in the Marvel Cinematic Universe they have nine other films that have developed the characters and story arcs.

Also, in Age of Ultron the writers have accomplished this by continuing to develop their characters in interesting ways.

There are new characters introduced that are a bit strange, but because the whole movie feels like you are flipping through the pages of a comic book these new people do not seem so out of place.

Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth and Samuel L. Jackson continue to give great performances even though they are not given as much individual story time.

It is also interesting to note that the value of each human life is of great importance to all of the heroes. They are willing to sacrifice their lives to save the lives of others, and this is made very clear in the final action sequence of the film.

Avengers: Age of Ultron continues the Marvel tradition of making movies that are fun and intelligent. Unlike other big special effects blockbusters (looking at you Transformers!), Ultron shows that all those computer generated pixels on screen can make you feel thrilled and captivated.

Many strong performances anchored by a solid screenplay and excellent special effects helped to transport me away from my seat and into the movie. Is there any more I could ask from a summer blockbuster?

If you are a Marvel fan, run out and see this on the biggest screen you can find.

If you are a casual moviegoer, you could do a lot worse than seeing Ultron and will no doubt find yourself having a lot of fun with these modern day versions of mythical heroes trying to save the world.