On DVD & Blu-Ray: November 3, 2015

In the latest from Pixar they delve deep into the limbic system and develop the group of forebrain structures into something of an imagination land of their own, completely powered by personified emotions that manage our most treasured possessions-our memories. While the limbic system includes a number of sections of the brain including the hypothalamus, the amygdala, and the hippocampus what is more important is that these hard to pronounce names are what allow the human brain to develop and exercise such abilities as motivation, emotion, learning and again, memory. That Pixar, including director Pete Docter (Up) and his team of writers and animators, have been able to create a world out of this cerebral cortex (that actually grows thicker as you learn to use it) is the first of many accomplishments with Inside Out. That they are able to somehow use this platform as a way to dissect and discuss the passage of time, the stages of life and the love a child has for life and in turn the parents who love that child is pretty incredible. This also puts them in a prime position to explore the type of territory they are best known for. Eliciting emotion is a difficult task for any piece of celluloid, but especially when the characters and situations intended to elicit those emotions are created from scratch. So, what makes the studio as a whole so capable of doing this time and time again? The answer seems to be in that it’s very keen on how these thoughts are presented. Sure, the characters are of an extremely cute quality with their variety of bright colors and distinctive voices provided by a talented cast, but that these characters hold the power of the mind so precious to their imaginary hearts forces the audience to take the most minor of events that affect them as tragedies in our own hearts as well. This, combined with the fact the film deals (again) with the inevitable changes of life that come with growing up and how hard those changes can be to accept and adapt to allow for Inside Out to settle firmly into the ranks of Pixar’s most celebrated, even if it’s not it’s best. Full review here. B

It was something of a surprise this new sequel in the Vacation series that also intends to serve as something of a reboot or re-make, but isn't really, included the line from the trailer about how this Vacation will indeed stand on it's own. It seemed a piece of dialogue specifically designed for the marketing campaign so as to let audiences know the movie itself was aware of what it represented and the pressures it might face in convincing audiences it was worthy of the challenge. This line, when given in the trailer, almost made the film more endearing (hey, it knows it has a lot of work to do), but the fact they included it in the final product gave an entirely different impression-one of desperation even. Maybe desperation is the wrong word, maybe a lack of confidence is a better way to put it. The statement itself wants to impose a sense of confidence though, a bold statement of this particular film being it's own thing and being successful on it's own terms whether there was an original or not. Of course, if this were a world where the original Vacation didn't exist we would have (a slightly altered) We're the Millers and that would be it. Instead, as brand recognition and nostalgia are at an all time high thanks to social media and our heightened sense of self-awareness it would be wrong to not try and capitalize on every big brand of generations past. And thus, we have what is essentially a remake (but it's a sequel!) of/to the original film where Stu from the Hangover movies plays a grown-up Rusty with call backs aplenty just in case you didn't get that this was in the same timeline as the 1983 film, but that it's still supposed to stand on it's own. These call-backs are of course intended to make audiences familiar with the 1983 version recognize the correlation and laugh while those who aren't will hopefully just laugh because...the comedy is timeless? All of these particulars don't really matter though as this is little more than a ninety-minute comedy made to make audiences chuckle. When taken on such simple terms, it does it's job well enough. My qualm is why couldn't we do something with these actors/directors/writers that maybe didn't rely on tapping into nostalgia? If we keep re-making and re-visiting old properties what are future generations going to reboot or re-make? Or even worse, be able to call their own? Full review here. C

In the first frame of The End of the Tour, the new film from director James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now), we glimpse Jesse Eisenberg's David Lipsky sitting on a couch with his laptop and his dog. It is a simple setting, one we don't think much of upon initially seeing. In fact, if you know anything about the film prior to seeing it you know Eisenberg's character is a writer and therefore this setting is somewhat expected. As we better acquaint ourselves with David Lipsky over the next hour and forty-five minutes though, we learn more about him, about his time with author David Foster Wallace (played here by Jason Segel) and that first frame becomes all the more telling. The End of the Tour is, on the surface, a road movie about one writer doing a profile on another writer, but more than that it is a film of conversation and constant introspection. It's almost exhausting to constantly think in the way our two main characters presented here do, throwing out ideas and immediately reassessing those ideas or deep-diving further to find the root of where such ideas come from. The talking. It can be a bit much, it can feel overbearing even, but it ultimately captures so much of the soul that it can't help but feel soothing at the same time. It's strange, to be sure, but it makes perfect sense, especially when it's so elegantly and perfectly phrased in Wallace speak. Wallace speaks a lot in this film iteration of Lipsky's book, Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, that was published two years after Wallace committed suicide. While much of the dialogue feels like a culmination of Wallace's philosophy or his verbal dissertation on the complex and mundane aspects of life and how they're one in the same it somehow manages to also be a genuine portrait of a conflicted mind. It should be noted up front that Wallace's trust has come out against Tour outright, but regardless of what is accurate and what is not (this is a movie, after all) The End of the Tour is still an insightful portrait not only of the male mind, but of the messiness of life and all the bullshit one has to sift through in order to even catch a glimpse of something real. Full review here. A

The Final Girls is one of those movies people who love movies could likely watch over and over again. I say this because I've watched it twice already and enjoyed it even more the second time around. Everything about the film is calculated to perfection when considering the genre it is both lampooning and writing a love letter to. Here, writers M.A. Fortin and Joshua John Miller use this self-aware technique not to make fun of the actions of their own movie, but more to examine the staples of nostalgia and how what eventually become these staples begin as innocent, unintentional marks of the decade from which a movie is born. We're unaware of the tropes being created by the countless super hero blockbusters of our current cinematic landscape, but in twenty years there is no doubt the twenty-somethings will find a strange comfort in movies that attempt to recreate the tone and energy of what we can't see in front of us right now. It's an interesting experiment and one that pays off in spades for a certain type of audience member. Lucky for me, I feel a part of the generation that will get the most out of this take on the slasher film that was born out of the 80's horror boom. There are two kinds of spoofs: ones where the characters and genre trappings are exaggerated for mere comical effect and then the ones that mean to point out the aspects that, while admittedly being horrible, also make the characters and genre so endearing. What The Final Girls clearly intends to do is show us why these 80's films about teens dying horribly gruesome deaths have become so endearing to the current generation. The answer is we find a kind of solace in the likes of Freddy Krueger, Jason Vorhees, Leatherface and Michael Myers that wasn't available in the elaborate mind of Jigsaw or the allusive Paranormal Activity villains. It's an atmosphere that feels foreign to the smart phone era and is a reminder of what the world was like when we were innocent while still appealing to our now adult nature with it's horror aspects. The Final Girls capitalizes on each of these components to play perfectly into everything a certain set of audience members need to feel fully enraptured not only in the events taking place in the film, but our own thought processes about such films. Full review here. B+

1 comment:

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