Thursday 27 October 2016

Movie Reviews: Inside Out, You're Ugly Too & Eden

Inside Out
Inside Out
Aidan Gillan plays a troubled ex-con who is forced to take care of his niece in You're Ugly Too

Inside Out is the feel-good hit of the summer, You're Ugly Too has its moments while Eden doesn't quite live up to that title

Inside Out

Animation/Comedy. Voiced by Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Phyllis Smith, Richard Kind, Mindy Kaling, Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan, Lewis Black, Kaitlyn Dias. Directors: Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen. Cert: PG

Before we start, I may as well cut to the chase: everything you have read about Inside Out is entirely true. All summer long, we’ve heard lofty exclamations that this sequel and that blockbuster is the best of the summer. But Inside Out is one of the few films that genuinely makes good on those claims.

Pixar has long asked the big questions in life, like ‘what if toys had feelings?’. Or ‘what if bugs had feelings?’ Inside Out goes one further: ‘what if feelings had feelings?’.

The premise of the story isn’t about a superhero saving humanity; it’s about a young girl, Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) who has been forced to move to San Francisco and blend in at a new school.

So far, so pedestrian. But rather, we see the action unfold from a neat vantage point: inside 12-year-old Riley’s head. A number of emotions — Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bil Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) — are running the proverbial show in there.

Because Riley is a happy-go-lucky child, the ebullient and effervescent Joy is the primary captain of the ship. If Riley suffers any kind of hiccup or distress, Joy steps in to quieten down or appease the other, more ‘negative’ emotions. Their collective job, under Joy’s watch, is to create lovely, positive memories for Riley’s subconscious.

Off the happy memories go, shiny and bright yellow globules, to the long-term memory bank. But life on the outside is tough for Riley as she makes new friends and fits in with a new school. Sadness — a bumbling, self-sorry creature — is starting to assert herself. And that’s a problem.

After a frankly incredible start — director Pete Docter is the man behind the Oscar-winning Up — Inside Out finds its groove and eventually veers off into rather serious territory.

Riley is a girl on the brink of adolescence, and like in Toy Story 3, the audience is left reminded of a sad home truth… that childhood doesn’t last forever.

Psychologists were consulted for this story, and it shows. Rather brilliantly, Inside Out takes on something as complex and baffling as human psychology and existentialism, and makes it simple and understandable. This isn’t as pretentious as it sounds.

A colleague in the US brought his six-year-old daughter to a screening, and she gleefully lapped up the lot, emotional intelligence and all.

Frankly, it should be shown in primary schools forever as a gateway into tricky conversations about sadness, loss and emotions.

But it’s the summertime now, and most kids don’t want metaphysical life lessons; they want the thrill of an entertaining ride.

The good news is that, even under its intense emotional core, Inside Out is a sheer delight.

We don’t need earthquakes and dinosaurs for a good time… in fact, sometimes getting through life as a 12-year-old is an earthquake enough.

Kids and adults alike will even warm to Sadness. And really, how often in life can you say that?

Rating *****



You’re Ugly Too

You’re Ugly Too.jpg  

Comedy/Drama. Starring Aidan Gillen, Lauren Kinsella, Jesse Morris, George Pistereanu, Erika Sainte. Director: Mark Noonan. Cert: 15A

And so from one pre-teen girl to another… this time, however, of an entirely different stripe. Stacey (Lauren Kinsella) is 11 going on 22. As well she might be, for she has already gone through a lot in her short life.

With her parents dead (her mother has died only a few weeks previously), it’s up to her uncle Will (Aidan Gillen), freshly released from the clink on a sort of compassionate leave, to take care of her. Will is really no-one’s idea of ideal parent material, prison or not. Still, it’s not for want of trying on his part, and the pair form an uneasy, occasionally affectionate bond.

It’s Will’s job to prove to the corrections department that he is a fit enough guardian for sassy Stacey. The plot thickens a little when the pair meet Emilie (Erika Sainte) in the caravan park they live in. She lives with her husband (George Pistereanu) a couple of caravans down, and seeks shelter one night in Will’s caravan.

Emilie starts to tutor Stacey, while Stacey, in turn, starts to tutor the rusty Will in the art of wooing women. That particular storyline, which ends up veering off the plantation entirely, evokes Shades of Once: a tentative nearly-romance with an exotic stranger that ultimately — spoiler alert — comes to very little.

Will’s release from prison also calls to mind a French film from 2008: I’ve Loved You For So Long. Will is having a tough time readjusting to life on the outside, and as the film unfolds, we find out exactly what he went down for. Alas, this rather neat bait and switch is too little, too late.

You’re Ugly Too is billed as a comedy, but its action is so bleak, flat and steady that the comedy tries very hard, and in vain, to poke through. This is director Mark Noonan’s feature debut, and while You’re Ugly Too is a rather fine achievement for a newcomer, Noonan’s lack of experience occasionally shows.

Lauren Kinsella is clearly a very talented and watchable young actress, but a more experienced director would perhaps have allowed her to inhabit the character of pained Stacey more. Directors like Jim Sheridan have taken on similar, pre-teen centred projects (like In America) and injected them with some vital whimsy and charm, juicing young actors to the very bone to get a core-shaking performance.

Aidan Gillen, meanwhile, gets the tone just right with a character that is both world-weary and wary.

Alas, the stakes are never quite raised high enough in the story for either Gillen or Kinsella to really spread their wings.

Rating ***




Drama. Starring Felix de Givry, Pauline Etienne, Vincent Macaigne, Hugo Conzelmann, Zita Hanrot, Roman Kolinka. Director: Mia Hansen-Love.

Cert: 15A

The dance underground in early-90s Paris was a thing to behold; sex, drugs and endless good music are the cornerstones of a young life spent fully… but are they any good on film?

Under Mia Hansen-Love’s camera, the answer is ‘mais oui’. So few films have explored the complexity of the modern dance music scene, probably because it would entail looking at a lot of dudes peering into laptops.

1999’s Human Traffic and 2000’s Go managed to capture the energy of the pre-millennial rave scene, but it’s been seemingly out of bounds for directors… until now.

It’s 1992, and Stan (Hugo Conzelmann) and Paul (Felix de Givry) are attempting to get their club night off the ground in Paris. They try and try and try to get their duo, Cheers, off the ground.

Despite the seemingly fertile scene, Cheers can’t get a decent break. Meanwhile, another French duo, Daft Punk (Vincent Lacoste and Arnaud Azoulay), are raising through the ranks, eventually becoming global dance superstars.

Failure in the face of someone else’s success is always a great story, but there are a few pieces missing from Eden’s puzzle.

Stan and Paul are barely likeable, much less relatable, and the action centres all too readily on the pulsing music of the time.

If you go see Eden in the nostalgic spirit in which it’s intended, you’re much more likely to have a good time. Sit back and let those 90s anthems wash over you.

Rating: ***

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