“Inside Out”: A Colorful Trip Through the Mind

Anger, Disgust, Joy, Fear, and Sadness from

Anger, Disgust, Joy, Fear, and Sadness from “Inside Out”

In 1995, Disney/PIXAR made Toy Story. It became the first feature-length computer animated film following a group of toys coming to life. Not only that, it also became a massive hit, which led to making two sequels. The toys have gone on some wild adventures, but they had never went to the dark side until years later in Toy Story 3, where they end up in a daycare center that feels more like a prison. Eventually, they end up on an exhilarating escape from the daycare back to Andy’s house before he leaves for college. There has never been an ending that tugged hard on the heartstrings.

John Lasseter and his wonderful team are known to create some imaginative ideas. They brought us through the grass in A Bug’s Life. They showed the friendlier side of monsters in Monsters, Inc. and Monsters University. They brought us under the sea in Finding Nemo, and will bring us back next year in Finding Dory. They made every characters cars in the fun albeit formulaic Cars, followed by a disappointing caper in its sequel. They brought a talented rat-chef in a restaurant serving good French cuisine in Ratatouille. They made a strong Scottish princess chose her fate in Brave. They even satirized the superhero genre in The Incredibles.

After 30 years of making short films and feature films, 2015 will be the first time for PIXAR to release two movies in the same year. The first is Inside Out, and the next will be The Good Dinosaur (will be released this Thanksgiving). Following three disappointments, PIXAR finds its mojo in Inside Out. It truly gives the audience what they want: something original, ambitious, imaginative, relatable, funny, and heartfelt. Seeing it three times in theaters makes it something special.

It’s hard to deal with many changes in life. For 11-year-old Riley Anderson (Kaitlyn Dias), she would never leave Minnesota.

Riley from "Inside Out"

Riley from “Inside Out”

We go inside her mind where her emotions are in Headquarters using a control panel to guide her actions. Joy (Amy Poehler) has been the leader of Headquarters from the beginning. It’s her job to keep Riley the happy-go-lucky girl she has always been. Later, new emotions are formed:

  • Disgust (Mindy Kaling), who is charge of preventing Riley from getting “poisoned; both physically and socially”.
  • Anger (Lewis Black) reads newspapers with headlines referring to Riley’s day (“First Day of School”, “No Dessert!”, and so on), and is in charge of making everything fair for her.
  • Fear (Bill Hader) is in charge of keeping her safe.
  • And lastly, Sadness (Phyllis Smith) is the one who can’t control Riley, at first, because the other emotions want her to stay away from sadness.

Every day, new memories–formed in colored orbs–are created and organized. The most important ones, called “core memories”, are formed to build islands that define Riley’s personality. For instance, Riley loves playing hockey. Ever since she scored her first goal, the Hockey Island was built. “What could happen?” Joy asks the audience as Riley turns 11.

*sniff* Riley and her parent sharing a hug.

*sniff* Riley and her parents sharing a hug.

It ends up being that Riley and her parents (Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan) are moving to San Francisco. Since her father got a new job, Riley tries to get used to living in a new city. The emotions try to deal with her situation. But when a conflict arises between Joy and Sadness, they end up getting sucked through a vacuum and into “Long-Term Memory”. They leaves the three others in charge.

There has never been a movie so ingenious in its storytelling; going back and forth from the HQ to Riley. Writer/director Pete Docter got the idea for Inside Out from his daughter. According to an interview from the Washington Post, she used to have this happy, goofy spirit. But [at 11] she began to move toward being more quiet and more reclusive. Parents feel emotional reflecting the past as they stare on into the present. “Watching my daughter made me sad,” Docter said. “As a parent, I was playing and being a part of that ‘pretend-play.’ And that was going away. That was a big part of the film.”

Indeed it was! After Riley’s first day of school, her parents ask how her day went. With Joy and Sadness not in HQ, the only thing she can do is become frustrated with them. As she storms up to room, they realize there she is changing.

Meanwhile, Joy and Sadness are in this humongous labyrinth trying to make their way back to HQ. They come across

"I'm positive you can get lost in there."

“I’m positive that you’ll get lost in there.”

Bing-Bong (Richard Kind), Riley’s colorfully eccentric imaginary friend from toddlerhood (and one of the most lovable characters in a PIXAR movie) who has a cotton-candy body, part cat, part elephant, and part dolphin. He agrees to guide their way through short-cuts such as the “Abstract Thought” and “Imagination Land”. They end up catching the “Train of Thought”. You can’t help but smile and often get teary-eyed as they interact with one another due to excellent writing. In one emotional scene, Sadness feels sympathy for Bing-Bong as his spaceship wagon that he and Riley use that runs on star-power goes into an abyss where old memories are vacuumed up by Mind Workers and eventually fade. They wanted to go to the moon. He realizes that Riley is all grown up. As he says his last goodbye, later on, he tells Joy, “Take her to the moon” after helping her getting out of the dump with his wagon (Man–the feels).

"Crying helps me slow down and obsess over the weight of life's problems."

“Crying helps me slow down and obsess over the weight of life’s problems.”

On the other hand, Sadness comes out more as the hero. Earlier, as Riley is at her new school, she introduces herself to the class. She reminisces her life back in Minnesota, and a happy memory appears in HQ of her playing hockey. Then, Sadness touches the orb which turns the happy memory blue. Riley begins to cry knowing how hard it is to move from one place to another. Later, in Long-Term memory, she discusses about one of the memories involving Riley’s parents cheering her up after losing a hockey game. Her teammates come and cheer her up. As Joy is in the dump, he understands why the memory was blue. So she can be consoled. The moral of the story is you can’t have Joy without a little Sadness. This happens again when Riley comes back home in tears saying she misses Minnesota after changing her mind of getting off the bus (a plan that Anger comes up with). By the end, Riley accepts who she is despite how tough it is growing up.

Inside Out is a movie that kids and adults would discuss about for many generations. To be honest, I think the movie would be appreciated more by adults, especially those who have gone through the tough times in their life. Like with every PIXAR movie, they would like to go back to see what they missed, especially Easter eggs (try to find Nemo). The metaphors and the gorgeous animation make the movie a feast for the ears and the eyes. I’m glad Bill Hader is getting more attention after being a cast member on Saturday Night Live. Starring alongside Poehler, another SNL alumnus, I can’t think of better casting. During the end credits, we ask: What is going on inside our heads?

2015 Summer Movie Review: Inside Out

The emotions in Disney/PIXAR's latest feature

The emotions in Disney/PIXAR’s latest feature “Inside Out”

I’m glad you’re back, PIXAR. After three disappointing films–Cars 2, Brave, and Monsters University–we finally get something original, ambitious and creative from this wonderful company. Not only is Inside Out the best PIXAR movie since Toy Story 3, it’s also one of the absolute best films so far this year and this decade. I’m surprised how mature it handles the theme of what is happening in our mind and accepting who we are especially when going through the different changes in life. It has enough laughs and tearjerking moments, the animation is beautiful, the voice-casting is pitch perfect, and it has a great message for kids and adults. It’s rare for someone like me to choke up while seeing a movie in the theater. Inside Out is one of those movies. Hell, I even got teary-eyed during the short film Lava, which follows a volcano trying to find love by singing a song out of it. Along with Geri’s Game and Day and Night, this is the best of the PIXAR shorts. I can’t recommend Inside Out more highly!


Read “Great Movie” essay for Inside Out here

2015 Summer Movie Review: Jurassic World

Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) starts up his motorcycle in "Jurassic World"

Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) starts up his motorcycle in “Jurassic World”

In 1993, Steven Spielberg made two of the greatest movies of all-time: Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List. Particularly, Jurassic Park became a milestone in special effects. With its careful use of CGI animation and animatronics, every shot made every genetically engineered dinosaurs look real. The special effects hold up to this day. Featuring the wonder and suspense, John Williams’ masterful score, awesome characters, and an effective theme involving nature being controlled by humans. After two sequels, The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III, Spielberg returns as the executive producer of the long-awaited reboot Jurassic World.

Is it a masterpiece compared to Jurassic Park? Absolutely not!

Is it a good movie? You damn right it is!

Isla Nublar is home to the newly renovated Jurassic World, the dinosaur theme park that is open to the public. As the brothers, Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins), leave, their mother Karen (Judy Greer) gives a word of advice to them: “If something chases you, run.” They discover the countless attractions Jurassic World has to offer, including a Mosasaurus, a giant crocodile-like creature who will jump out of her pool to snatch sharks, and cause humongous splash on spectators (Shamu on steroids, to say the least). Meanwhile, the park manager Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) creates a new attraction to increase the number of visitors. The Indominus Rex, bigger than the Tyrannosaurus Rex, is the most intelligent of the dinosaurs. However, she is a mean, not-so-green, killing machine. As she escapes, this leads ex-Navy man and Velociraptor whisperer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to save the day.

Seeing this movie made me reminisce about learning dinosaurs in the first grade, and hearing those catchy dinosaur songs every day during a cold winter. Kids loves dinosaurs. Seeing Jurassic World on the big screen made me feel like a kid. And making me believe that the dinosaurs looked real despite the obvious CGI. I totally regret missing out on watching Jurassic Park as a kid.

What director Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guranteed) does with Jurassic World is paying tribute to the original film. For instance, there is a slow-build-up leading towards the suspenseful second act. There are several Easter eggs that put a smile on my face. It’s refreshing to hear John Williams’ stunning theme music while walking out of the theater. With the original glorifying the way we look at CGI, this movie never fails to look visually dazzling. There is an amusing cameo that you have to see for yourselves (revealing it would ruin the surprise).

What’s not to like about Chris Pratt? After his breakout role in last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy, he has proved that he can be an exceptional action hero. He’s charismatic, strong, and funny as hell. This movie is no exception. He has some solid chemistry with co-star Bryce Dallas Howard. However, the stale writing and supporting characters (notably the first half) prevent Jurassic World from being terrific. The movie hits full throttle during the second half. You are in for a ride!


2015 Summer Movie Preview: June

The summer movie season is off to a fairly decent start. Even though there have been some complete failures (Aloha, Hot Pursuit), there have been some that either met (The Avengers: Age of Ultron; even though some people were disappointed with it) or exceeded everyone’s expectations (Mad Max: Fury Road). The month of June doesn’t have a lot that I’m excited for. Who knows? Maybe there would be some pleasant surprises throughout the month as well as the rest of the summer. Let’s talk about the movies that are coming out this month.

June 5

entourageEntourage (in theaters today) – I have never watched the HBO show. Seeing so many celebrity cameos from the preview looks like it would be okay for a few chuckles. I understand fans of the show are going to like or hate this movie. For a non-fan like me, I think it would be best to watch the show. Despite the negative reception, I’m not going to skip this movie. I’ll eventually watch the show and make an opinion when I end up seeing the movie.

spySpy – Melissa McCarthy returns with director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat) to give what the audience wants. It looks like this movie has it all: action, laughs, and of course, Melissa McCarthy. She is the master of improvising and making people laugh. Her performance in The Heat, alongside Sandra Bullock, had everyone in stitches. I don’t think she’s an awful actress, but it seems like she’s playing the same character over and over again. I wouldn’t be surprised if this would become a hit. I might see it for Jason Statham and Jude Law.

insidious_chapter_threeInsidious: Chapter 3 – Damn, how many movies are we going to get? What is this going to become? Paranormal Activity? I haven’t seen the Insidious movies, but I’ve heard the first one was pretty decent, and the second one sucked. This one doesn’t look scary at all.

love_and_mercyLove and Mercy – Brian Wilson had a devastating life. He decided to stop touring and write music after having a panic attack. In the 1980s, he’s a confused middle-aged man. As a fan of The Beach Boys, I cannot wait for this! Paul Dano and John Cusack are the perfect choices to play Brian Wilson (not to mention Wilson being satisfied after seeing the movie). I love how Paul Dano gets physically tortured in every single movie (from There Will Be Blood to Prisoners to 12 Years a Slave). This time, in Love and Mercy, he’s getting mentally tortured. Time to get out the tissue box.

June 12

jurassic_worldJurassic World – Jurassic Park is one of my all-time favorite movies. It has the wonder, the suspense, and it became an early milestone of bringing dinosaurs to life by using state-of-the-art CGI. Since 1993, they still hold up to this day. 22 years later, we get a reboot of this wonderful movie. What can be more exciting than Chris Pratt riding on his motor-scooter with a group of velociraptors? My inner child cannot wait any longer for June 12th!

me_and_earl_and_the_dying_girlMe and Earl and the Dying Girl – This smash hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival looks like it’s reminiscent to the films of Wes Anderson. A quirky comedy-drama about a teenage filmmaker who befriends a girl with leukemia. Words cannot describe on how stoked I am for this!! It looks funny and sad. My most anticipated movie for the month.

June 19

inside_outInside Out – PIXAR has made several imaginative animated films for kids and adults. They introduced a world of toys coming to life, showed the nice side of monsters, brought us under the sea, and even made a house fly. With Inside Out, PIXAR brings us inside the central nervous system and how our emotions are being controlled. After the solid but disappointing Monsters University, it looks like PIXAR is back to bring us the funny and emotional. If it stars two SNL alumni, Amy Poehler and Bill Hader, that gives two more good reasons to look forward to this.

dopeDope – Produced by Pharrell Williams, it follows an African-American high school senior living on the dangerous streets of Inglewood, California who dreams of going to Harvard. He goes on an adventure with his friends, one of them played by Tony Revolori (The Grand Budapest Hotel), and they try not to get in trouble. This is another hit at Sundance that looks offbeat and moving.

infinitely_polar_bearInfinitely Polar Bear – It’s refreshing to see Mark Ruffalo getting mad without turning into a green monster. In Infinitely Polar Bear, he plays a father with bipolar disorder learning the responsibilities of taking care of his two daughters. This looks like a very funny and touching outlook how one guy tries to do what is best, despite his condition.

manglehornManglehorn – Al Pacino is one of my favorite actors. I’m glad he came back this year! Directed by David Gordon Green, who gave us small independent films (George Washington, Snow Angels, Prince Avalanche, Joe) and mainstream comedies (Pineapple Express, Your Highness, The Sitter), he directs – what looks like – a deep character study about a lonely, sarcastic man working as a locksmith after losing the woman of his dreams. This is a very different role for Pacino (in a good way). Despite the mixed reception from last year’s Venice Film Festival, I’m quite looking forward to seeing how he holds up with Green in the director’s chair.

June 26

ted_twoTed 2 – Directed by Seth MacFarlane. Skipping this one for sure. Moving right along.

maxMax – From the director of Remember the Titans, this looks like a sentimental but heartwarming story of a dog who helped Marines in Afghanistan, and is adopted by a family in the States. This might be good, but I’m pretty sure my father, who was former soldier of the Army National Guard, would like to see it.

batkid_beginsBatkid Begins – It’s rare to get excited for a documentary. Seeing the preview, I was hooked. Following a kid diagnosed with leukemia who wishes to be Batman. Everyone from all over the world has been passing the story like a virus, and they root for him. Please take my money!!

Most Anticipated: Batkid Begins, Inside Out, Jurassic World, Love and Mercy, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Least Anticipated: Insdious: Chapter 3, Ted 2

I hope you enjoyed reading on what my thoughts are on several movies for the month of June. Tell me in the comments below on what your most anticipated movies are. Stay tuned for a movie preview for the month of July at the end of the month. Take care.

2015 Summer Movie Review: San Andreas

The Rock faces against a new opponent: An earthquake hitting California

The Rock faces against a new opponent: An earthquake hitting California

It’s impossible not to love Dwayne Johnson. He has it all: massive biceps, a mile-long smile, a wonderful sense of humor, and a tough attitude. When he is the main star, he gives what the audience wants. Even though he can choose the strangest roles (Tooth Fairy), action films (Fast and Furious) is what he comes across best. San Andreas, the latest disaster flick, is no exception. Even though there are a lot of problems, I’m surprised how much I enjoyed the movie. It knows what it wants to be, and it delivers.

Johnson plays Ray Gaines, a helicopter pilot for the Los Angeles Fire Department. He and his wife Emma (Carla Gugino) recently filed for divorce. His daughter Blake (Alexandra Dedarrio, Percy Jackson) is in college who is going have a job in a high-rise building that his mother’s boyfriend Daniel (Ioan Gruffudd) developed in Downtown San Francisco. Meanwhile, a Caltech seismologist (Paul Giamatti) and his colleague create a breakthrough where they can predict an earthquake. When a 7.1 magnitude earthquake hits the Hoover Dam, it starts to connect with the San Andreas Fault, causing a 9.1 earthquake. Ray saves his ex-wife in a restaurant in L.A., and they go to San Francisco to save their daughter.

San Andreas is your typical summer action flick. Loaded with CGI, some cheesy one-liners, a star-studded cast but limited character development. Director Brad Peyton is aware on how stupid the movie is, but he can create a better-looking disaster movie than Roland Emmerich or Michael Bay. The scene where a tsunami hits San Francisco is one of the most jaw-dropping special effects sequences of the year. Even though The Rock does a good job, I think the scene-stealer is Paul Giamatti, who gives some interesting scientific knowledge on earthquakes. The moral of the story is always listen to seismologists.


2015 Summer Movie Review: Aloha

Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone try their best in Cameron Crowe's

Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone try their best in Cameron Crowe’s “Aloha”

If you hire A-list actors and your movie has a great soundtrack, it must be Cameron Crowe. He’s the director who made the famous Tom Cruise say the most famous line, “Show me the money!” in Jerry Maguire, and eventually collaborated with him again in the enigmatic Vanilla Sky. This decade, he made Matt Damon and his family live on a zoo in the decent albeit likeable We Bought a Zoo. In his latest, Aloha, he captures his actors going on vacation in Hawaii. It’s refreshing to have a movie without any overblown effects every once in a while. Unfortunately, it’s not the case with this movie. I don’t know what the hell Cameron Crowe was thinking.

Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) is a military contractor who used to work in Afghanistan. He’s now working for a wealthy industrialist (Bill Murray). His task is to launch a satellite into space. He immediately becomes attracted to a fast-talking, energetic Air Force pilot Allison Ng (Emma Stone), who is one-quarter Hawaiian (don’t ask). However, Gilcrest tries to reconnect with his old girlfriend (Rachel McAdams), but she’s married to a mute Air Force pilot (John Krasinski), who Gilcrest has an amusing conversation with near the end of the movie with their thoughts and gestures.

One of the biggest problems with Aloha is the direction. It has no idea what it wants to be. It goes from being a “romance” between Cooper and Stone to a family drama with Cooper getting along with one of McAdams’ children who has an obsession with Hawaiian Gods and carrying a video camera. Then, there’s a subplot with a satellite launch. If the actors share no chemistry whatsoever, that’s also a major problem. It’s not funny, not romantic, and not surprising. Thank God this movie flopped.


2015 Summer Movie Review: Far from the Madding Crowd

Bathsheba (Carey Mulligan) attracts three men in a movie far from becoming a Victorian-themed version of "The Bachelorette"

Bathsheba (Carey Mulligan) attracts three men in a movie that is far from being a Victorian-themed version of “The Bachelorette”

Since its publication in 1874, Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd has become widely-known as his most iconic novel about love. The main character, Bathsheba Everdene (not related to Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games, as a matter of fact), attracts three men in 19th-century England. With a plot that throws every soap opera out of the water, several film adaptations have brought it to life, including a 1967 version starring Julie Christie and Terence Stamp. For someone who has never read the book, this version directed by Thomas Vinterberg (The Hunt) will forever be in my memory.

Here, Carey Mulligan (An Education, 2013 version of The Great Gatsby) plays the farm owner Bathsheba, who lives on a farm in Dorset. The movie opens with her [symbolically] riding her horse through the fields as Craig Armstrong’s fabulous score plays in the background. She catches her eye on Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), a hard-working sheep farmer with two sheepdogs. When he asks to marry her, Bathsheba refuses not because she hates him. But because she is too independent for him.

She becomes attracted to another man. His name is William Boldwood (Michael Sheen), a wealthy landowner and the most mature of the three. Bathsheba sends him a valentine as a joke. Their attraction, however, fires up when they perform a duet of “Let No Man Steal Your Thyme” during a dinner party in one of the most beautiful scenes of the movie. Her third bachelor, Sgt. Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge), has never seen a woman as beautiful as Bathsheba. He invites her to the woods to show off his sword-fighting skills. But, there’s a problem: Troy is a gambler, and cares more for Fanny Robbin (Juno Temple), a former lover of his. Between these three men, Bathsheba’s pride must come into play when she ends up with one of them.

After collaborating with 2012’s The Hunt, Vinterberg and cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen capture the beauty in Far from the Madding Crowd with its use of close-ups and vast widescreen shots of rural England. Most of the scenes are shot outside with natural lighting. The period-correct sets and costumes make it all the more exquisite. Even though everyone did an astounding job, Mulligan’s performance is one for the ages. The best love affair in recent memory!