Movie Review: Inside Out

Originally posted on Geeks and Geeklets

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Title: Inside Out

Director: Pete Docter, Ronnie Del Carmen

Release Date: June 19, 2015

Genre: Adventure, Comedy

MPAA Rating: PG

Running Time: 95 minutes

Starring:

  • Amy Poehler
  • Phyllis Smith
  • Bill Hader
  • Lewis Black
  • Mindy Kaling
  • Richard Kind

Kid Friendly Rating: A few moments may be scary for some children, but mostly the movie is firmly in imagination-land. There are some sad scenes, but that’s sort of the point. Recommended 6+. Click here for the Parent Rating Guide!

Personal Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

Reilly is an eleven-year-old girl whose life is upturned when her parents move from Minnesota to San Francisco for a new job opportunity. While she tries to make the best of the situation, the stressful situation combined with her developing emotional maturity quickly sour on Reilly, and she is left feeling lost and out of place.

Inside Reilly’s mind, Joy is the leader of Reilly’s five key emotions, also including Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust. Together, Reilly’s emotions work in “headquarters” to guide Reilly through her day-to-day life. In the midst of the tumultuous changes in Reilly’s life, Joy and Sadness suddenly find themselves sucked out of headquarters and lost in the vast stacks of Reilly’s memory banks. Together, they work to find their way back to headquarters to help Fear, Anger, and Disgust, who are floundering with Reilly in their absence.

Pictures:

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Memorable Quotes:

  • Congratulations San Francisco, you’ve ruined pizza! First the Hawaiians, and now YOU!
  • All these facts and opinions look the same. I can’t tell them apart.
  • Your dad’s under a lot of pressure, but if you and I can keep smiling, it would be a big help. We can do that for him. Right?
  • Things couldn’t be better. After all, Riley’s twelve now. What could happen?

Fun Fact:

According to director Pete Docter, each emotion is based on a shape: Joy is based on a star, Sadness is a teardrop, Anger is a fire brick, Fear is a raw nerve, and Disgust is broccoli.

Final Thoughts:

This movie has quickly become one of my 2.5-year-old daughter’s favorites, probably due mostly to the beautiful artwork, physical comedy, and superb voice acting by the lead characters. However, the thoughtfully written and layered innuendo which has become something of a trademark of Pixar movies ensures that there is something here to enjoy for every age group. Older audience members may find the movie somewhat more emotional than the kiddos, because there is a lot of wistful nostalgia regarding the process of growing up and maturing emotionally. There are a few laugh-out-loud situations that I don’t want to spoil, but suffice to say the actors were well-cast for their comedic roles.

If there is one real drawback to the movie, it is that there is not a ton of educational value. The various areas of the brain are cleverly plotted, but don’t offer a lot of insight on brain functions or psychology, but, perhaps this is really not the appropriate venue for those topics. On the other hand, there is one central lesson; the idea that as we get older, our emotions become less clear, and opinions about what once was simply good-or-bad, true-or-false, tasty-or-gross, may end up somewhere in the middle. And this lesson may hit home stronger with growing children than some denser educational content, anyway.

Movie Review: Spirited Away

(Originally posted on Geeks and Geeklets)

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Title: Spirited Away

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Release Date: July 7, 2001

Genre: Animation, Fantasy, Adventure

MPAA Rating: PG

Running Time: 125 minutes

Starring:

● Daveigh Chase

● Suzanne Pleshette

● Jason Marsden

Kid Friendly Rating: 9+. The movie features several spooky monsters and storylines, and some characters smoke and drink ambiguous substances. Click here for the Parent Rating Guide!

Personal Rating: 5/5

Synopsis: Ten-year-old Chihiro and her family are on their way to a new home and a new life, when Chihiro’s father spots a potential shortcut through a wooded lane. The family arrives at a mysterious dark tunnel in the road, and Chihiro’s parents decide to take a walk to see what lies at the other end. They discover what looks like an abandoned theme park in the middle of a grassy meadow. When Chihiro’s parents smell fresh food, the hunger from a long car ride sets in and gets the best of them, and they go off in search of the source, against Chihiro’s protestations.

Chihiro is unable to persuade her parents to leave, and when sun sets, she finds herself trapped in a resort populated by spirits who come from near and far to seek refuge. Chihiro meets a boy named Haku, who offers to help Chihiro find safety in the resort. Chihiro soon sets off on a quest to meet the leader of the resort and find freedom both for herself and her parents.

Pictures:

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Memorable Quotes:

Aogaeru: Welcome the rich man, he’s hard for you to miss. His butt keeps getting bigger, so there’s plenty there to kiss!

Zeniba: We’re identical twins and exact opposites.

Final Thoughts:

What a strange and wonderful movie! This movie has been on my must-see list for so long. It’s been around since 2001, so perhaps many people are already familiar with it, but it seems almost like Disney is content to just let it sit on the shelf for English-speaking audiences to discover on their own. With a two-year-old running around and my Netflix queue looking slim, I figured it was finally time to give it a chance.

The story shares quite a bit with Louis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. It is full of all manner of silly and sometimes scary creatures, humorous moments, and sticky situations for the young protagonist. Chihiro starts out as a very restless and scared little girl, but you can see and feel her maturing and growing in confidence through each of her escapades.

My wife and I were both excited to find a great new movie to watch, but best of all, our daughter watched with rapt attention for a good hour! Granted, she was also tired, but this never happens!

Bottom line, this is the best kind of kid friendly movie: one the kids love, and the adults will like, too.

Movie Review: The Book of Life

Originally posted on Geeks and Geeklets

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Title: The Book of Life

Director: Jorge R. Gutierrez

Release Date: October 17, 2014

Genre: Animation, Fantasy, Adventure, Comedy

MPAA Rating: PG

Running Time: 95 minutes

Starring:

● Diego Luna

● Zoe Saldana

● Channing Tatum

Kid Friendly Rating: A good Disney analog is the animated Hercules (1997). The film delves significantly into death and the underworld, but it is presented in a firmly fantastical manner. Light romance does not venture beyond courtship and tasteful kissing. Some dark monsters and violence may be scary for young children. Click here for the Parent Rating Guide!

Personal Rating: 3.5/5

Synopsis: The story begins with a children’s museum tour. At the museum, the tour guide tells the children a story from The Book of Life, a book that allegedly contains all stories that have ever been told. This story focuses on the mythical town of San Angel in Mexico. San Angel is celebrating The Day of the Dead, a day on which those who have been lost are fondly remembered. Observing the festival are La Muerte, kind ruler of The Land of the Remembered, and Xibalba, cynical ruler of The Land of the Forgotten. La Muerte and Xibalba observe two young boys, Malolo and Joaquin, striving for the attention of their young female friend, Maria. La Muerte and Xibalba decide to set a wager, each betting that one of the boys will marry Maria. If Malolo succeeds, Xibalba with cease meddling in the affairs of humans. If Joaquin succeeds, La Muerte will exchange rulership of the realms with Xibalba. The movie skips forward several years, when the three children reunite as young adults struggling under the weight of their parents’ expectations. After Malolo and Joaquin resume their good-natured rivalry for Maria’s affection, Xibalba’s continued meddling sets matters on a crash course.

Pictures:

0500_0100_0144_beauty5K_v001 Xibalba (voiced by Ron Perlman), who rules The Land of the Forgotten, makes a fateful bet with his estranged wife La Muerte (voiced by Kate del Castillo), who oversees The Land of the Remembered.

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Memorable Quotes:

La Muerte: The world keeps spinning, and the tales keep turning, and people come and people go, but they’re never forgotten. And the one truth we know, it held true one more time… That love, true love, the really, really good kind of love never dies.

Joaquin: Those are some big shadows we live under, hey buddy?

Fun Fact:

Ron Perlman, who voices Xibalba, is a veteran of several of producer Guillermo del Toro’s films, including Hellboy, Pacific Rim, and Cronos

Final Thoughts:

I’ve been intrigued by this movie since I first saw Guillermo del Toro’s name attached to it, and I don’t feel let down. This movie is a fun change from your typical animated fare. The animation style is unusual, but arresting. The immersion in Mexican culture also feels fresh, although perhaps not surprising given del Toro’s and Gutierrez’s roots as Mexican nationals. Parents will find that the movie touches upon several positive themes, including honesty, what it means to be courageous, and being true to oneself. The movie also does not shy away from more complicated topics, like family dynamics and the sometimes gray areas between good and evil. A bit of slapstick humor and dry wit helps lighten some of the dramatic and ominous overtones. The plot is a bit complicated, particularly in the beginning, so it may be better suited for adults (or children with patient parents), but as the story goes along it becomes easier to follow.  The adults in the room may also enjoy some Mexican-influenced versions of pop favorites like Radiohead’s “Creep” or Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend.” I think it’s a great change of pace for a family movie night.