Tag Archives: Amy Poehler

Inside Out

Inside Out is beautiful.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

inside outI’ve sat here for the last three hours trying to figure out how to start this review.  See, Inside Out is a fantastic movie – that much is not up for debate.  It’s not only the best Pixar movie released this decade, it might genuinely be the best thing that they have ever done.  It’s certainly their most emotional and their most emotionally honest, no surprise given that the film’s director and main creative force is Up and Monsters, Inc. director Pete Docter whose work is characterised by emotional honesty and an uncanny ability to zero in exactly on everyone’s weak-spots.  This is quite possibly the best film that I have seen all year, and if it hasn’t bested Mad Max: Fury Road then it is right up there.

It’s also a film that gains a lot of its power from my own emotional baggage.  This is a film that is fantastic as a movie in many objective ways, but it’s also a film that connected with me so thoroughly, so totally, and so attuned to myself that my opinions and thoughts on it are mostly informed by that fact.  In other words: this film is amazing by itself, but it is transcendental to me because of my various issues and experiences.  So, to properly explain that, I would have to talk about this film and myself in-depth for a very prolonged stretch of time: both no-nos in the world of film reviewing.

Therefore, you can expect this review to be much less in-depth, and much shorter, than my other animation reviews because I’m going to stick to surface-level criticism and analysis.  By which I mean, why the film is a fantastic film.  For those of you who do care about why I love the film as much as I do, there will be a spoiler-filled and very personal post on my own new website – callumpetch.com, tell your friends – later in the week where I will engage in all of the writer no-nos in an attempt to properly explain how the film connected with me and why I put it right up there with Fury Road.  That all OK?  If not, too bad, I’m the one writing this stuff.

So, Inside Out.  Now, normally when we label an animated feature as small-scale, what we mean is that the main cast is smaller than usual and that the stakes are slightly more personal than usual.  Look at something like Big Hero 6.  Most of that movie pivots around Hiro and Baymax, and the main stakes come from Hiro working through his grief.  However, the film still has a rather large secondary cast, the stakes outside of Hiro’s emotional state are much wider-reaching, and the film still has multiple large-scale action beats and setpieces.  In a way, Big Hero 6 is a small-scale film, but in many respects it’s not that much different from your standard big studio animated movies nowadays, that often trade more and more on bigness.

Not so with Inside Out.  Pete Docter’s newest masterpiece commits completely to that small-scale, utilising it to wrestle with big concepts and never once succumbing to the requirements of The Big Studio Animated Family Feature Factory.  Throughout Inside Out, the stakes remain deeply personal and the events on screen reflect it.  When 11 year-old Riley Anderson (Kaitlyn Dias) finds herself uprooted without warning from her lovely home and life in Minnesota to inner-San Francisco by her parents, her emotions, led by Joy (Amy Poehler), try and help her adjust to this change.  Things swiftly go wrong, however, when Sadness (Phyllis Smith) accidentally turns a joyous core memory sad and, in the chaos, she and Joy are ejected from Riley’s headquarters with all of the core memories.  Dumped into Long-Term Memory, the pair have to make their way back whilst Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Fear (Bill Hader) attempt to perform damage control since Riley can no longer feel Joy or Sadness.

Essentially, the stakes are purely about whether Riley can avoid emotionally shutting down now that she’s been forced away by circumstances beyond her control from her enjoyable life.  There is no villain, no purposefully antagonistic force – one would think that Anger or Disgust would work to make Riley’s life hell but, in reality, they’re just trying their best to stand in for Joy – and there is no one major specific event that brings this issue to light.  It’s all the little things – the disappointment in a new house, the loneliness that comes from not knowing anyone, the discovery that your friends’ lives don’t stop once you leave them, finding out that your new nearby pizza place makes garbage food – that slowly break someone down as they struggle to adjust.  How someone who has spent most of the best moments of their life feeling happy struggles to understand that feeling sad and showing that you feel sad are not bad things.

Those are the stakes, that’s the scale, and Inside Out commits completely to them.  There’s no giant threatening outside force, there’s no big action-packed finale.  This is a quiet melancholy tale about emotional maturation, and specifically the emotional maturation of a young girl as represented via a look at her cute and often funny little emotions.  The film is funny – it has many gut-busters and ends on what will quite frankly be the funniest gag I see in any film this year – and it has many utterly inspired scenarios and usages for its central conceit of a glimpse into one’s brain, but it is primarily this low-key story about a serious subject and it never once contradicts or downplays that in favour of big setpiece sequences or excess melodrama.

Instead, the film hits upon something real and never loses sight of that kind of honesty.  It never pulls its punches, never sugarcoats anything, and that leads to some of the most emotionally affecting sequences in Pixar’s history.  Because they’re working so close to reality, and only very slightly dressing it up with distancing parallels – like how Monsters, Inc. uses monsters and scaring as a parallel for our natural resources, or (more relatedly) how Toy Story uses the toys we played with as a kid to look at growing up – there ends up being this unavoidable directness with how it handles these vital sequences, and the fact that it never plays a single one of these as anything other than these quiet moments of important realisation and self-improvement adds to that.  The most drastic action that Riley takes is still befitting that intimate feel, raising the stakes but not in an excessively dramatic way.

And that abounds throughout.  From the way that Joy and the others treat Sadness because they don’t understand her necessity, to the way that the film is always on Sadness’ side even when it’s mining her for quality jokes, to the way that the film keeps its focus locked firmly on Riley and her headspace – it only steps into the heads of other characters once during the movie itself, before using that idea during the credits for a series of rapid-fire gags to send the audience home happy – to the way that the film is able to take advantage of things like how Riley’s dreams are made but doesn’t outstay its welcome in them.  Every aspect of this film has clearly been carefully deliberated on to achieve that balance between realistic and distancing buffer, fun joy and heartbreaking sadness.  It’s a perfectly melancholy movie whose tight personal view is never once sacrificed for any reason.

That’s why Inside Out works.  There’s also some outstanding voice work – especially from Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith – some gorgeous animation, and another brilliant score by Michael Giacchino (who just always seems to create his best work when associated with Pixar), but those are really by-products of Pete Docter nailing that scale and tone.  By remaining small-scale throughout, by remaining openly emotional throughout, and by remaining honest and upfront about the subject that it is handling throughout (because it would have been so easy to put in some kind of antagonistic force in order dilute the emotional potency), he and the entire team at Pixar have created one truly mesmerising piece of cinema.

This is the kind of film that puts most grown-up dramas about emotional wellbeing to shame, this is the kind of film that proves what animation is capable of, this is either the best or the second-best film that I have seen all year.  Inside Out is not optional.  This is mandatory viewing.  Go and see this movie right the hell now.

Callum Petch is waking up feeling good and limber.  He now writes primarily for his own website, callumpetch.com.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

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US Box Office Report: 03/07/15 – 05/07/15

Terminator: Genisys’ order to “Come with [it] if [we] want to live” is studiously ignored, Magic Mike XXL only ends up in a light shower of dollars, they tried to make people watch Amy and people said “Yes, yes, yes”, and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

Ah, 4th of July weekend!  The five-day stretch where everybody, in their great patriotic American duty, travels down to the cinemas to watch the latest wares that Hollywood has to peddle!  Past years have seen films like Despicable Me 2, The Amazing Spider-Man, various Transformers movies, a Twilight instalment, and (obviously) Independence Day launch in this lucrative and prestigious slot in order to help fuel that great American past-time: ignoring your families and friends by sitting down and shutting up for two and a bit hours!  And, sure, last year was kind of a major disappointment, but those movies weren’t going to set any box offices on fire, anyway.  This year had two supposedly highly anticipated sequels to beloved franchises, plus the continuing success of two of the strongest box office holdovers to come along in an age!  Everything was going to be peaches and cream, right?

Well, not exactly.  If you’re a holdover, this weekend was pretty great for you, at least.  In the three-day statistics (which are the only numbers that matter in this house), Jurassic World grabbed a hold of that number one slot for the fourth straight week in a row with just under $30.9 million, whilst Inside Out just cannot seal the deal with $30.1 million for second place.  Of course, with numbers that close, things could switch when actuals come in, and Inside Out apparently won the five-day weekend quite handily if we looked at things like that, so this isn’t exactly information that is going to send Pixar executives in existential crises about whether their time is really up or not.  After all, it’s neck-and-neck with Jurassic World and has been for three straight weeks.  That’s like if I lasted 12 rounds against Brock Lesnar.  Sure, I didn’t win, but I got some good hits in as he was treating my body like a Stretch Armstrong!

Good News, folks!  Terminator: Mega Drive is a failure!  For an expensive blockbuster with a beloved franchise attached to it and the intention of starting a brand new trilogy from it (like every single blockbuster ever nowadays), it did appallingly!  Over the five-day weekend, the film could only manage $44 million, whilst the three-day weekend cut that down to just $28 million!  To make matters even better, it was crushed by Jurassic World, another expensive blockbuster with a beloved franchise attached to it, in proof positive that people will skip your film if it as utter miserable shit as Terminator: CD is!  Also in Good News: in the land of limited releases, Amy, the Amy Winehouse documentary directed by Asif Kapida (the man responsible for 2011’s excellent Senna), got off to a fantastic start with $220,000 from 6 screens for a $37,000 per screen average.

Bad News, folks!  Magic Mike XXL has crashed and burned!  Perhaps forever cautioning Hollywood studios from making movies solely for the female or homosexual gaze, XXL could only scrape together $26 million from the five-day weekend, and $11 million from the three-day weekend.  Who knows why this happened?  Maybe everybody saw the trailer to this one, remembered the trailer to the first Magic Mike and went, “Oh, no!  I’m not falling for that again!”  Maybe certain prospective audience members didn’t have anyone to go with and felt too ashamed to go alone?  Maybe everybody who saw it the first time was in too much pleasure to risk going back for seconds, or incapable of communicating to their friends just how brilliant the film is?  Or maybe, just maybe, it could have something to do with the fact that THE MOVIE OPENED ON A WEDNESDAY, YOU BLITHERING IMBECILES!  Why would you do that?!  Do you hate making money?  Do you?


terminator genisys

Much like Judgement Day and Jai Courtney’s inexplicable leading man career, this Full List cannot be stopped.  It can only be delayed for a short period.

Box Office Results: Friday 3rd July 2015 – Sunday 5th July 2015

1] Jurassic World

$30,900,000 / $558,137,000

Good lord, this might actually reach $2 billion.  It’ll at least get close enough that it’ll cross that threshold when its inevitable re-release comes along in a few years’ time, and maybe even dethrone Avatar at that point, too.  This is mind-blowing to me.  In fact, everything about everything that isn’t to do with the film itself is mind-blowing to me: the rampant mega-success with the public, the extreme vitriol with which it’s been received by everybody I know and follow on Twitter, with many all but claiming its success to be an indicator of the death of cinema with the general public.  I don’t get that, but nor do I get the earth-shattering success it’s been having.  I stand by my review but… it’s a fun dinosaur movie that’s honestly kinda terrible.  It’s not brilliant and it’s not an abomination.  Can somebody please fill me in on how both sides got to their respective stations?  I’m confused, and I don’t like not understanding people, it’s one of the many reasons why I’m so miserable all the time.

2] Inside Out

$30,105,000 / $246,160,000

Have I ever mentioned that I love Amy Poehler?  Because I do, and I think that she’s amazing, and that this train of praise and adoration that she’s currently on is more than deserved.  Seriously, she’s wonderful and I admire the ever-loving heck out of her.

3] Terminator: 32x

$28,700,000 / $44,156,000 / NEW

I hate this movie.  I hate this movie with a burning passion.  I hate its simultaneously needlessly complex and nowhere-near-as-clever-and-complex-as-it-thinks-it-is plot.  I hate its dreadful special effects.  I hate how I was not once scared or intimidated by a skinless Terminator.  I hate its insipid exposition-heavy and grade-school level dialogue.  I hate how dreadful absolutely everybody is in this movie despite many people showing that they are far better actors and actresses elsewhere.  I hate the fact that it restages so many moments from the first two Terminator films and expects easy nostalgia points for doing so under the untrue guise of “subversion”.  I hate its utterly pathetic excuse of a Sarah Connor.  I hate its awful action scenes.  I hate how it won’t even reach for being obviously and extravagantly bad, instead just settling for mediocrity and expecting everyone to not get angered enough to take it to task for that.  I hate the fact that it was fucking right about doing that and that everyone is letting this one pass with a shrug of their shoulders instead of the righteous fury it deserves.  I hate it I hate it I hate hate hate hate hate hate hate it!

I don’t hate Terminator: Jaguar as much as I hate Entourage, but I hate it more than Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, and the fact that 2015 Film is trying so very hard to keep Paul Blart from the Top 5 of my Bottom Films of 2015 list is a genuine thing that we should be concerned about.

4] Magic Mike XXL

$11,600,000 / $26,656,000 / NEW

In complete contrast to Terminator: Dreamcast, I adore Magic Mike XXL, as my super peppy review helpfully demonstrates.  It is a thing of wondrous majestic beauty, especially in the way that it is super progressive in all of these brilliantly quiet ways whilst still being nearly two hours of blatant wonderful fan-service.  I really cannot stop thinking about this movie, and I’m probably going to see it again next week.  I might even see if Lucy’s up for coming again, although I get the feeling that that first time was enough for her.  You seriously should have heard her when Backstreet Boys started on the soundtrack, it was magnificent and I was feeling exactly the same as her!

5] Ted 2

$11,000,000 / $58,334,000

Well, in four days’ time, I guess I’ll find out if my fondness for Seth MacFarlane has to once again be affixed with a giant specific asterisk and hidden from sight unless directly brought up.  At least we still have American Dad! and his excellent voice acting.  Those can’t ever be taken away from me.

6] Max

$6,610,000 / $25,349,000

Oh.  I guess the fact that this is apparently rubbish has cut those seemingly long legs short after all.  Or maybe we all saw Marley & Me and are now automatically sceptical about any film with a dog because we don’t want to cry when something bad happens to it.  Either works.

7] Spy

$5,500,000 / $97,846,000

Ex-Disney CEO and Professional Tit Michael Eisner stated his belief, at the Aspen Ideas Festival (which is a real thing and I can’t believe that either) on Thursday, that “the hardest artist to find is a beautiful, funny woman.”  Prefacing the following with an acknowledgement that “I am going to get in trouble, I know this goes online”, which should be as clear an indicator as humanly possible to stop talking, he believes that “usually, unbelievably beautiful women… are not funny.”

I don’t think I need to add anything more to that.  Although I will say that I bet that Eisner’s wife is just thrilled to know that her husband finds her either ugly or a humourless shrill.

8] San Andreas

$3,030,000 / $147,373,000

How many of you spent your 4th of July watching Independence Day?  Come on, don’t be shy!  It’s good to remind yourself of how much dumb, slightly guilty fun that movie is before the sequel comes along and is inevitably terrible!

9] Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

$1,320,000 / $4,004,000

God, this is like my own personal version of the monster from It Follows.  It’s coming, it can’t be stopped, there is no way of getting away from it, and it will get me.  Urgh.  I just want to get this over with, already, please.  Films that are clearly going to be terrible but that I have to see anyway are the worst.

As for It Follows, it is pencilled in for October 31st.  I’ll explain more closer to the time.

10] Dope

$1,098,000 / $14,104,000

You people disgust me.

Dropped Out: Insidious Chapter 3, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Avengers: Age of Ultron

Callum Petch knows when to go out and when to stay in.  Listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio (site link) and follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

100 Greatest TV Episodes: Win, Lose, or Draw (s4 ep22)

(This article features a television episode not yet broadcast in the UK. It contains spoilers.)

knope 2012By Kelly

So I just googled Plato and Aristotle’s theories on comedy (I go HARD every night, you guys). According to Plato, comedy is a little bit malicious. Its characters are ignorant and foolish and hampered by delusions of grandeur. According to Aristotle, comedy is ridiculous and ugly, its characters “lower types.”

Nice try, philosophy, but (K)nope.

Parks and Recreation makes its own rules every day, reimagining the comedy landscape as a place where good things happen to good people. These characters love and support each other. They know themselves and chase their own ambitions, which are great and worthy and never taken lightly. So much of what makes this show different is in the way it lets people grow over time. You can’t see all of that in one episode. But if you could, “Win, Lose, or Draw” would be that episode.

To start with, it’s a brilliant little study in the absurdities of the government process. Leslie Knope, Deputy Director of the Pawnee Parks Department, has run a hard-fought campaign for City Council against “legendarily stupid” golden boy Bobby Newport (played by Paul Rudd. PAUL. RUDD). This should be no contest; Leslie’s worked her whole life for this. Bobby’s only there because his dad runs the biggest corporation in town. He doesn’t even want the job, and he wouldn’t know what to do if he got it. Still, thanks to his campaign manager’s manipulations, Bobby could easily win this thing. Pawnee is a hot mess—case in point: in the event of an exact tie, the woman is thrown in jail—but sometimes it’s also frighteningly true to life. Tampering with voting machines, anyone?

And yet despite everything, the show itself isn’t cynical toward public service. When Leslie selects her own name on the ballot, fulfilling a lifelong dream and achieving one of her all-time happiest moments, we all get to pause and enjoy it with her. From the way she’s fighting back tears, it’s clear that the vote is its own kind of victory. Hard work is its own reward, and at the end of the day, even an imperfect democratic process is still pretty darn amazing—win, lose, or draw.

Spoiler alert: Leslie does win. But this episode works because we don’t feel like she has to. She already had her big moment in the voting booth, and it’s easy to imagine Leslie picking herself up and finding a silver lining. A loss would be better for Ron, because the man hates change. He still gets his milk delivered by horse. A loss would free Chris to date Ann. And of course, since Jerry forgot to vote, a one-vote loss would be hilariously poetic. There’s more than one person to consider here. No one achieves anything alone. That’s the Parks and Rec motto.

It’s fitting, then, that “Win, Lose, or Draw” is peppered with great relationship moments, as the whole team comes together for the big day. Ann helps Leslie keep her mind off of the election. Ron knows right where to find her when she goes missing. Ben holds her hand and writes her victory speech—and just her victory speech, because he never believed she’d need anything else (awww!). In return, Leslie tells Ben to take his dream job in DC. She puts a Washington Monument figurine in their very special box, and she lets him go.

It wouldn’t be the quintessential Parks and Rec episode without that box, would it? I keep all of my Leslie and Ben feelings in there. It’s where they put the things they sacrifice for each other. As Ron so adorably reminds his deputy, love isn’t about personal glory; it’s about unconditional support. Ben and Leslie probably have that embroidered on a pillow somewhere, because it’s just how they roll. They build each other up, and they’re not the only ones. When April makes a huge mistake in the office, Andy’s right there beside her, hiding under the table and planning a possible escape. In return, April helps Andy figure out his dream job. “Catch Your Dreams” really is this campaign’s theme song, in more ways than one.

But maybe the most remarkable thing about this episode is that it gives us all of those big happy tears and still manages to be absolutely hilarious. If you think sentimentality stands in the way of laughter, try watching this show cut from Leslie’s emotional victory hug to Bobby Newport’s concession speech (“Honestly, I’ve never been more relieved in my entire life”). There is genius everywhere here: Paul Rudd giggles at a boom mic, Jean-Ralphio shows up long enough to sing about insurance fraud, Ben tries an awkward non sequitur about jeans, Leslie is tempted by Joe Biden’s home phone number, and Adam Scott literally wipes his drink off of his tongue, which might be the hardest I will ever laugh about anything in my life, and I’m fine with that.

“Win, Lose, or Draw” wins. On all counts. Care to join me in some victory waffles?

Kelly is an aspiring television writer who’s currently trying Brooklyn on for size. Find her online at TVmouse, where cheese is strongly encouraged.