Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Tomorrowland (2015)

Tomorrowland is of course a section of the Disney theme parks that used to depict what the future could like like. However as we eventually caught up to there predictions they had to redesign it. It now shows what people from the very distant past thought the future would like like that we now live in. Personally I liked the change, it was charming seeing what people though we could have. What the future could have been. When they announced a movie about Tomorrowland, I was simply confused. Would it show the possible future we missed like at the attraction, or a new future similar to most other science fiction stories? The end result was something I didn't really expect, and it held true to what I felt the attraction represents. It also gave us a pretty cool story that reminded me of something else entirely.

Bioshock is a video game franchise that is know for its science fiction stories and mediocre gameplay. In the first game you find yourself stranded in a futuristic city that is under water. They collected the best and brightest to build a perfect society. Sadly when you get there it is destroyed. The other games are similar, you get a brief glimpse of what could have been before being shown the truth. Tomorrowland starts out in a very similar way. I spent the first 20 minutes or so just thinking about how much like Bioshock it really was. I loved that aspect of it, I just wish they had kept the story dark in tone.

The movie starts with young Frank Walker trying to win 50$ with his almost functioning jet pack. He is turned away but he makes a good impression on a young girl named Athena and she gives him a pin and some very specific instructions. As he follows her and some other individuals onto the "It's a Small World" ride the pin is scanned and his boat is detoured underground to dark room with only a booth in it. The booth transports him into the future, or another world entirely and we are given our first look at this utopia that the best have created. This whole sequence was really the best part of the film for me. It was serious, but still fun. And everything about it felt familiar in a good way. The rest of the film takes place in our time and deals primarily with Casey Newton played by Britt Robertson.

Newton is a optimist, it is her defining characteristic. She is caught breaking into a NASA facility and is tossed in jail. Her father bails her out, and in her belongings is a pin. She does not know how it got there, and when she goes to touch it, she is transported to a field she does not recognize. This is where the main story kicks off. We find out her position in the real world is relative to the other world she is visiting. It was actually kind of neat seeing her maneuvering around the current world and then popping back and forth to see where she was in the other. It was a small attention to detail I really appreciated, until a few minutes later when they decided to drop it to make things easier. The actual story is her trying to figure out how to get to that world. In that quest she makes contact with a now older Frank Walker played by George Clooney. My wife swears he has never done a bad film, she also refuses to watch Return of the Killer Tomatoes with me. Walker has some sort of countdown going on, and refuses to talk about it. It is easy to see where this is going, and they of course have to stop it.

The movie had a very interesting story, I really liked the idea of it. The reveal at the end was well played to, however it was a Disney film and as such it was never able to fully explore the dark subject matter it was trying to utilize. It didn't come off as so much a missed opportunity, as it still did very well with what it had. But it just made me think about the Bioshock games and how great they did with the same story and set up. If you don't have anything else to compare it to, you would probably enjoy what they were serving you.

The effects were good, the future sequences made great use of this. Everything from the robots, to the rockets, the towers, they all looked fantastic. Yes they had the same issue the hobbit films had when they animated people, where they made them to cartoonish in their movements. There are multiple jet pack portions which looked awful because of this as well as a few scenes with the Athena character. However overall, I was very happy with how the movie looked and felt. The actual "Tomorrowland" was well done to. We got a version of it thought up as how they pictured it would look as well as the actual cookie cutter future we have come to expect. I thought it was a nice touch that they included the first version as it is what the theme park attraction is all about. While that is where the similarities end, seeing them incorporate the Disney stuff was kind of neat.

The ending was nice, I liked what they were trying to do with it. And it fit the overall theme of the movie which was never give up and believe that anything is possible. It was also the weakest part of the film because of this. It was to convenient and really never went into how it all worked. I wanted to see more of what the big event was, and how everything ended up working out how it did. It seemed like they gave us a cool start to a story, then showed the middle part. Then left the ending out, and instead simply gave us the last few pages to read and try to piece together.

The movie focused on the story of Newton and not Walker. But all the details we were given about Walker made me feel like that would have been the stronger experience. Without going into spoilers, we are given a very bare bones version of his story, and it plays heavily into Newton's. But his seems more compelling, and given the extra details I think the ending would have worked better. Walker has far more info then the viewer does and his story would have answered the questions I still had after the credits rolled. That is not to say this is a bad movie, but it was not the movie I wanted it to be. I mentioned the starting segment was my favorite part, I just wish they would have continued from there.

Good effects, a entertaining story, George Clooney and Hugh Laurie. Yes I had some issues with it, but I still enjoyed it. A good rental, but I would not buy it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Inside Out (2015)

Inside out is a movie about a young girl who is forced to move away from her home for some reason we never really understand. Her family moves into a new house far away from her old friends and hobbies. She is having trouble coping and becomes increasingly frustrated by this. The gimmick though is that the movie takes place mostly inside her head. Each person has 5 little creatures that represent various emotions that control how we feel at any given time. Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust. They can manipulate their person and try to steer them towards the emotion they feel is appropriate at that time. They can also show them past memories or even change how that person perceives a memory if they want. Basically they control that person and manipulate them as they see fit.

Joy and Sadness are removed from the control center and spend the majority of the movie trying to make it back there. Riley, their person, has lost her core memories which make up her personality. Joy and Sadness are in possession of them and are trying to return them in hopes that it will “fix” Riley and her current issues.

The movie itself is more of a comedy thought it does tend to deal with rather heavy situations. At one point the girl tries to run away for example, and they have a re-occurring joke about a dog dying. Trying to mix the dark humor into the movie was not a horrible idea, one of their main characters is perpetually depressed after all. However the execution of it was a miss for me. The joke about the dead dog for example, I didn’t care for it. Yes it made sense given the context, but that doesn’t make it enjoyable. We are presented with an imaginary friend at one point we are supposed to care about. But we see him kill another imaginary character as a gag. There is even a scene in the end where Joy uses dozens of imaginary characters as a ladder while sentencing each and every one of them to their deaths. The logic was they were all willing to die for Riley, so why not allow them to if it benefited her. The movie constantly tries to get you to care about these characters, but then it gives you reason to dislike them. The comedy fell flat, and with the majority of the characters being unlikable, I had trouble find something to enjoy in this one.

I did enjoy a few of the emotions, Anger, Fear, and Disgust were all entertaining for the most part. They also had the smaller roles so that may be why. I also liked the various creature that populated the rest of Riley’s head. There was a scene where somebody forced her to listen to a commercial jingle over and over again. It kept popping up during the movie and it was the only thing to make me constantly laugh. It was a shame the rest of the movie tried too hard to be so unique or it could have all been enjoyable. We had prolonged scenes dealing with abstract thought, or simply showing how random a 11 year olds thoughts are. They bogged the film down and added in very large boring spans of time. The animation was decent, but the overall design of the characters and sets left a lot to be desired.

Everybody told me how amazing this movie was when it came out. After seeing it I can see the potential for that, but it failed to deliver that type of experience. The characters were interesting, as was the story. But they were all very annoying and just unlikable. Sadness was the only real likable one of the main group, but that wasn’t enough to carry the film either. I expected better from Pixar, this one was very disappointing. I couldn’t even recommend renting it after my viewing. Just pass on it and move on.