Thursday, July 9, 2015

Moonlight Movie Reviews - Terminator Genisys, Inside Out, and a few classics at the Drafthouse (part 2)

I haven't gone back to check, but I think I may have completely forgotten to mention one part of Terminator Genisys that completely blew me away with its special effects! There's this part where they recreate some of the original film using CGI to make a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, and I gotta say, that was the most impressive, most real CGI I've ever seen! The first time I've seen a human-looking CGI character that looked 100% real! That's it, they can do anything now!

Well, I hope most of you had a good holiday weekend and a good week. Things were an emotional roller coaster here, with some of the highest highs and lowest lows possible, but hopefully, we can persevere through even the worst things with love. This next film discussion is long overdue for a number of reasons, but I did see it a second time during the wait, so at least there's that. Oh, and it comes with a short...

Yep, I saw the new PIXAR film, Inside Out, on its release day, and I just didn't get a chance to review it then. Saw it again on Friday, but a lot of stuff happening this weekend meant still more of a wait to post this. At least though, here we are, and I'll try not to draw it out, since most of you have probably seen this one already. Unfortunately, I didn't get any great Drafthouse preshow screen grabs. I barely made it in time for the coming attractions the first time I saw it. I just caught a very wee bit of Cranium Command clips and Gerald McBoing Boing. Since I only got a few stills from Boing Boing, I figure there's not much point in posting them. I wish I'd gotten some Cranium Command pics! That EPCOT Center attraction was CERTAINLY the inspiration for this film (I think the director even worked on that attraction, if I'm remembering right), and it was the highlight of the Wonders of Life pavilion at EPCOT too. God, I miss 80's EPCOT Futureworld. But that's a rant I've probably made before. I might write a whole article on it someday though, if I haven't already. What an unappreciated and downright magical place that was! Even Figment's ride pales in comparison these days to his original... BRING BACK THE DREAMFINDER!!!

*ahem* Anyways, um, oh yeah, well, before I talk about the movie "Inside Out", let me speak briefly on the PIXAR short that preceded it, "Lava". 

The character you see in the image above is the lead in PIXAR's animated short, "Lava", which precedes screenings of "Inside Out". If you like Hawaiian ukulele songs, then this short is perfect for you. Reminiscent of some of the old Disney musical package film segments, this entire short's animation illustrates the song that makes up almost all the audio. I'm pretty sure I could have worded that better. Whatever, you get what I mean. The short is basically a Hawaiian ukulele song with animated visuals. It's the story of this volcano singing about his dream to find someone to "Lava". And, no, he doesn't mean someone to burn alive with his molten secretions from the top of his head. This short is sweet and soothing, and also very sad for a while, until the predictable but beautiful ending. Yeah, it's 100% predictable, but if you are charmed enough by the tune and the cute imagery, you won't care. As for me, heck, it made me cry both times I saw it. But then, I relate a lot to the main character. The second time I saw this, actually, I was taken by someone I've adored for years now, but she liked Disney's "Feast" short better, ha. So, I guess "Lava" won't win everyone over, but I really loved it.

Up next was the feature attraction, Disney - PIXAR's "Inside Out".

Above are the stars of "Inside Out": Fear, Disgust, Joy, Sadness, and Anger. Quite the cast of characters, with Amy Poehler really running the show as Joy, even if Lewis Black steals all the scenes he's in as Anger. I personally have never been a fan of Lewis Black. I don't like his anger shtick in live action. I think the stuff he does with his hands and fingers to emphasize his anger looks really stupid and unnatural, and it makes me not buy it. In animation, however, yeah, Lewis Black was born for animation, and born for this role! A lot of people's favorite character though, is sadness, that blue girl in the big glasses on the floor there. I find her a little annoying, though I love the overall role she has in the film and the significance of it. She's voiced by Phyllis Smith of "The Office". Bill Hader of SNL fame plays fear, a character who... kinda only has one memorable scene, though it's a funny one. And Mindy Kaling is Disgust. Never was a fan of her, but she does a great job here, as does everyone, including one of the most unforgettable characters in the film, Bing Bong, the imaginary friend played perfectly by PIXAR veteran Richard Kind.

In fact, Bing Bong has one of the most touching moments in the film, and it's really the scene that wakes you up to how mature this film really is. See, Inside Out is mostly set inside the mind of an 11-year-old girl named Riley who has just moved to San Francisco from her beloved home in Minnesota. We witness her emotions, the previously mentioned character, developing in her from birth to present day, and how they have to deal with the sudden chain of events that correspond with things going somewhat haywire inside "Headquarters" when Sadness gets a little too touchy-feely with Riley's memories for Joy's taste. In fact, their world starts to fall apart around them, and Joy ventures out to try and save Riley's happiest memories before all the joy is gone from her life. Sadness accompanies her, but this of course leaves Riley with only Fear, Anger and Disgust to carry her through her new surroundings.

On her journey to rescue some of Riley's core memories from the Memory Dump, Joy encounters Bing Bong, Riley's nearly forgotten imaginary friend, who is basically made of cotton candy and animal parts. He then joins Joy and Sadness, attempting to help them on their quest. There is no running villain through the course of this film, just conflicting emotions and unpleasant circumstances. It's pretty refreshing. But then, PIXAR films usually are.

In the end, "Inside Out" is a very mature and bittersweet coming of age tale. It's entirely a PIXAR film (complete with the bulk of it being about an odd couple on a journey to get back to where they belong), but it leaves you with feelings you more often get from a Ghibli film. And in case you're not familiar with Studio Ghibli, that's a very good thing. I have to say, I was incredibly impressed by "Inside Out" on the whole, because, as often is the case, the teaser trailer for this was awful to me. I have loved almost every PIXAR film (I have warmed up to the Cars films, but I still only just "like" them), but the teasers are often just terrible. The teaser for Inside Out, in my opinion, was the worst yet. Ironic, considering it is one of their best films yet. Many folks are saying it is their best film. Hmm, I can see where they're coming from, but I think they're purely judging it on the maturity level in those cases. For me,.... well, it's too tough a decision. I don't even want to think about it. Wall-E is amazing, and Ratatouille is painfully underrated. There's a lot there for a Disney fan to catch. It's basically the PIXAR story. And the Toy Story films, oh, how I love them. Stop me, before I mention more!

"Inside Out" definitely is excellent though. There's not much else to say. It's funny, it's sad, it's joyful, it's incredibly smart, so much smarter than it looks at first sight, it's got that excellent PIXAR animation and casting, this is a movie you can't go wrong with. So, all that's left to say is, what can I put on my shelf to commemorate this awesome film?! Well, I searched around, compared the options, and this is what I'm hoping to land sooner rather than later:
Yeah, it's the Disney store figure set. I need to go see if my local Disney Store has any in stock! I went right after seeing the film, but no dice. I'll check again sometime this weekend. I do wish, however, that a couple of the nonessential characters had instead been figures of characters the volcanoes from Lava. I really liked that one too!

Okay, I'll return with part 3 later to talk about some special Drafthouse screenings I attended over the past few weeks! Later!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Moonlight Movie Reviews - Terminator Genisys, Inside Out, and a few classics at the Drafthouse (Part 1)

Time for more "so late they're practically pointless" movie reviews!

Incidentally, I've considered doing video reviews in my car with whomever I'm with immediately after seeing films. Do you guys think that would just come off like too much of a Cinema Snob ripoff? It's just that it would definitely be more timely and authentic. Having to write them usually means I end up posting super late like this. I saw "Inside Out" on opening night, and I'm barely gonna talk about it! Well, let me know on that. First though, I'm gonna talk about the new Terminator, which I saw the night before it's release date. Yeah, late on this one too, but I had a good reason that night that I'll keep to myself. My sister had a lot to say about this one though, and we talked about it in the car at length. She's a pretty huge fan of the first two films (though mainly of the original Kyle Reese). And, yeah, if you are somewhat new, in real life I have two sisters (I'm the middle child), one of which I'm roommates with, but in the Moonlight Motel comic strip, I don't have siblings. It just makes more sense with the inheritance setup that will get explained more in our first graphic novel, but I digress...  On to the movies!

Yep, saw the new Terminator last Thursday. Nope, I did not see the previous one. How many have there been? I saw the first three, I know that. Enjoyed them all, but my fave is the original. I saw this at the Alamo Drafthouse, of course, Lakeline in this case. Got to try some of their Caesar Salad with added chicken, and man, it was good. Didn't order it, but finished my sister's. I've been broke for two weeks cause of rent. It's really hurting my self esteem... and my stomach... I need to make more money. Sally Struthers, help me! Oh, um, here are some Drafthouse preshow samplings. Funny stuff!

Ha ha, good stuff. Especially that last one.
That was like a workout show or something!
Now, on to the serious business...

That's the new Sarah Connor, who's actually supposed to be the old Sarah Connor, as this is one of those sequel/remake/retcon type things. It's also the girl from Game of Thrones, and I call her that because I don't watch Game of Thrones, I watch Once Upon a Time. Wanna fight about it? I also watch Walking Dead, so shut the hell up. Anyway, having seen this, I'm officially ready to dive into Game of Thrones. This Sarah Connor is mad hot!

Anywho, as I mentioned, this is a sequel/remake/retcon kinda deal, much like the new Star Trek flicks (can they pull that sort of thing off WITHOUT time travel?), and honestly, I prefer that to a straight up remake. Call it a new timeline, a parallel dimension, or anything that loosely connects it to the originals and keeps them somehow alive within the current franchise. That's if you absolutely suck at making straight up sequels. This franchise, however, was all about time travel, so it was perfect for this sorta thing. The original film was about a killer robot called a Terminator that was sent from the future by the machines that had taken over the world to kill Sarah Connor, the mother of the future resistance leader, John Connor. To protect her, John sent his best friend and soldier, Kyle Reese, who turns out to be John's father in one of those time travel paradoxes that makes zero sense logically. This time around, the machines are ahead of the game, and we get to see a total rehash of the beginning of that first film, this time with more robots popping up left and right! Then, we get to the twist. Things have changed, and Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), is not the same person, because the past has been changed, and this Sarah Connor has been raised most of her life by a reprogrammed T-800 Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenneger) she calls Pops. Also, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) is way more ripped and pretty (oy, typical; yeah, Sarah's hot, but she also has a good resemblance to the original, just in a modern and much hotter way). Anyway, the main baddie of the film soon turns up, and the big twist (not really a spoiler, but a twist) is that it's John Connor (Jason Clarke, Kyle and Sarah's son from the future, who has been transformed by the machines through some new nanotechnology they use in this one. The whole bunch meets up 2017, where the goal is, of course, to prevent Skynet from taking over the world!

"Terminator: Genisys" is nonstop sci-fi action, amazing effects, great nostalgia, and foxy stars. So why am I hearing that it's a flop? Well, I don't really know, because I enjoyed this one a lot. It's not perfect, but I enjoyed it a lot. Would I have enjoyed it less if Sarah Connor had been cast differently, probably, but I think I still would have at least liked it. The plot may not be the most original thing in the world, but this was hardly about the plot, it was about the action and effects (aaannd the nostalgia), and making John Connor the villain, ya gotta admit, was pretty clever.

Probably the biggest complaint about the film that I've heard is over the lack of chemistry between Sarah and Kyle, and a general dislike of the Kyle casting. It's tree, the pair doesn't have the best chemistry. But, honestly, I've seen waaay worse. I didn't find it flat out unbelievable. The way they commit to each other in the end is a bit over the top, particularly on Sarah's part, as you really don't get a sense that they've completely fallen in love or anything. It's true, this Kyle is not the actor Michael Biehn was in the first film, who totally made it believable (with Linda Hamilton's help), but seriously, he's not that terrible and I think a lot of the problem is similar to what makes 70's and 80's horror films work so well over current ones. You can use good looking people as your leads, but if they look like underwear models, it loses some of the believability. As for anything else bad about the film, the only other thing that bothered me, personally, was the whole thing about who gave Kyle Reese the info to go to 2017, which came to him as a childhood memory. In the end, they imply he did it himself, but, again, this paradox makes no sense, and in an even more annoying way than the whole thing about being John's dad. Oh, and who sent the guardian Terminator to take care of Sarah Connor! This is never explained that I can remember. I suppose that was being saved for a future installment though... I wonder if that will still happen, since this film could potentially not turn a profit, which I still say is a shame.

So, some folks were really bugged by the whole Kyle Reese thing; the casting, the romance, etc..., but I was okay with it, even if it wasn't the best. I mean, it wasn't enough to ruin the movie for me. The effects were awesome (the young Arnold in the beginning, that was AMAZING!), Schwarzenegger was just fantastic, and the pops aspect of the story was really funny and sweet, and it added a lot for me. Oh, and J.K. Simmons is in this! And he was awesome, as usual! I didn't have any issues with Jason Clarke, though some felt he was miscast, and I'm not sure why (except that he doesn't look like Christian Bale, ha). Matt Smith plays a repeatedly brief but crucial role as well, but the presence of a doctor (as a villain, no-less) does seem to disturb Whovians.

Whoa, I just remembered there was a Terminator TV series with (yowza) Summer Glau. I wonder if that's part of the film's continuity or what. I wonder if it's any good or even still on! Anyway, as for Genisys,  I do very much recommend this one if you like the franchise and dig nonstop action. No, it's not as excellent a film as the original by any means. It's a popcorn action/sci-fi film that is a great addition to the franchise though, and just a fun time at the movies. Check it out!

And I'll be back in a little bit with part two, featuring Inside Out (and Lava)!