Tag Archives: Rashida Jones

Inside Out (2015)

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In a weird way, the premise of “Inside Out” is kind of unnerving. Beings inside your mind that click on the control panel to trigger your emotions? Whatever happened to good old free will? It’s kind of a psychological dystopia for tweens (though in a universe where my emotions were living creatures who controlled most aspects of myself, they’d probably be doing a better job than I’m doing now- how’s that for unnerving?)

Take away the disturbing social and psychological implications of this deconstruction of free will (!), and you’ve got a typically delightful, touching Pixar film. The basic plot centers around Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias,) an eleven-year-old daughter of supportive, hockey-crazy parents (Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan) who is going through some tough life changes.

Her dad is having ever-present but obliquely mentioned financial problems, and her parents move her from her much-loved home in Minnesota to a small, shabby San Francisco pad. Luckily (?), the celebrity-voiced personifications of Riley’s feelings are there to help. Joy (Amy Poehler) runs the show, and under her watchful eye everything is mostly fun and pleasant, though  when Sadness (Phyllis Smith) interferes Riley’s mood transitions, predictably, from sunny to gloomy.

Anger (Lewis Black) fumes and rages while flames literally leap from his crimson head while Fear (Bill Hader) timidly and neurotically weighs the possible risk in any given situation. Disgust (Mindy Kaling) is kind of the queen bee of the group, adding a dose of much-needed snark.

Riley’s feelings are kind of a dysfunctional little family held together by the same circumstances (i.e. they inhabit the same brain,) but Joy fails to recognize that melancholy can a valuable, even healthy part of the spectrum that makes up the self until she and Sadness are inadvertently cast into the outskirts of the mind and Riley suffers a kind of an emotional shut-down.

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Tender and funny, “Inside Out” didn’t hit me in the feels as much as “Up,” an earlier effort and a personal favorite of mine, but it is an enjoyably creative adventure through an eleven-year-old girl’s mind. If the visuals of the dreamscape that Riley’s emotions inhabit was half as fun to create as they were to watch, then they must not have felt much like work at all as much as a veritable artist’s playground.

Aesthetically, Pixar studios has done it again. “Inside Out” looks gorgeous, both within Riley’s mind and out on the streets, school, and hockey rink she inhabits. “Inside Out”‘s success both visually and in terms of storytelling and pathos prove that filmmaker Pete Docter’s mastery of the craft in “Up” was not a fluke. There’s a lot of psychological jokes that most kids (and maybe certain adults) won’t get but there’s a distinct lack of the thinly veiled sexual humor that Dreamworks flaunts like a Harvard degree.

“Inside Out” has a pensive, melancholic quality that captures the insecurity and fragile uncertainty of adolescence which might go right over little kids’ heads, but they’ll be sure to enjoy the bright visuals and buoyant humor. Parents are likely to empathize with Riley’s parents’ financial and familial struggles without their woes overwhelming the picture.

A few parts of the film seem to drag along a little longer than they should, such as the abstraction sequence, but overall “Inside Out”is an outstanding film the young at heart or those who remember being young, when setbacks felt like crushing failures that seemed like they couldn’t be assuaged or mended with time, and life was made up by the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. This juxtaposition of jubilation and misery, through a child’s innocent eyes, is what makes “Inside Out” a truly singular experience.

Inside-Out

 

 

Cuban Fury (2014)

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I’ve never been a big fan of Nick Frost. I think he’s mildly amusing at best, painfully average at worst, but the premise of “Cuban Fury” seemed cute and charming enough, so I watched it one night, despite the fact that the movie got very average critical reception. Screw the critics! What do they know? Well, in the case of “Cuban Fury,” they hit it right on the head. The movie is, as promised, cliched, unexciting, and featuring rather flat characters who are more caricature than person.

That’s what bothers me. At the very least, shouldn’t caricatures be over-the-top and engagingly outrageous? Instead they are dull and lifeless. I like Chris O’Dowd, but his antagonist, Drew, spends so much time being ridiculously chauvinistic and nasty that he fails to be much of anything else. No redeeming features, no vulnerable moments, just pure ugly, misogynistic assholery. It makes you wonder why Bruce (Nick Frost) gives Drew the time of day, when Drew’s entire purpose in life is to steal Bruce’s love interest and make Bruce feel like a fat, unlovable loser.

Here’s the plot (it’s a dancing underdog story, but “Billy Elliot” it’s not)- As an adolescent, Bruce Garrett was one of the most promising Salsa dancers, but he was attacked and insulted by some boys on the night of a defining performance and, just like that, ceased to be a dancer. Years later, Bruce is a washed up office drone, shy and unsure of himself, when he meets the beautiful (and salsa-dancing!) Julia (Rashida Jones) and decides to take up the dance again to impress her.

Alas, here comes co-worker and resident dickhead Drew to serves as a foil to good-guy Bruce, simply because the movie apparently needs an antagonist. That said, he’s not a very good one. Drew’s main function is to say outrageously sexist and conceited things in Chris O’Dowd’s lovely Irish accent. There’s no real human dimension to the character, though on the other hand, he’s not really evil either. He’s pretty much just there, which might be enough for the undiscriminating viewer, but made me go “What the fuck? Really?”

On the other hand Nick Frost, who I’ve always found underwhelming, proves to be doubly underwhelming in a lame comedy (instead of say, the hilarious “Shaun of the Dead.”) “Cuban Fury” just doesn’t have that many laughs to its name. Equally infuriating is that they put the amazing actress Olivia Colman (“Tyrannosaur,” “Broadchurch”) in the film as a second thought as Bruce Garrett’s fucking advice-spouting bartender sister. Olivia deserves a main role, and if not that, at least a juicy slice of the screen time. Here she is given a dull role where she exists only to advise Bruce on how best to get the girl.

Rashida Jones is very cute and everything, but I don’t find her particularly compelling. That’s not to say she’s a bad actress, but she doesn’t have a whole lot of screen presence. And what’s with the scene where Bruce says something to Drew like “I may not be as good-looking as you, but at least I have heart?” Thank you, “Cuban Fury,” for stating the message behind the movie with absolutely no subtlety or nuance whatsoever.

The movie also stars Ian McShane and Kayvan Novak, who try their best to bring a little life into the flat proceedings. Otherwise, it’s business as usual, with a not-so-winsome underdog and a big dancing contest that *GASP* could change everything for our hero. I guess the way I’m going on I sound like I hate this movie. I don’t. It’s utterly mediocre, which doesn’t warrant hatred; it warrants apathy, and apathy is the road I shall take. I don’t care about this uninspiring, unimpessive, unoriginal movie. And ultimately, neither should you.

Cuban Fury Screenshot