Random collection of 2015 films: Inside Out, Jurassic World, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Woman in Gold, Minions

Inside Out

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Rating: Severe

Director: Pete Docter
Cast: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Richard Kind, Lewis Black, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling, Kaitlyn Dias, Diane Lane, Kyle Maclachlan

Spoiler alert in effect.

Going into this movie, I had relatively high expectations since I had heard amazingly good reviews from other people. I felt this is one of Pixar’s better movies, but perhaps not the best (I’ve always got a soft spot for Up in my heart). However, it does get bonus points for being the first animated movie that made me cry in the cinemas. The film’s success lies in part with the subject matter. It explores the interesting concept of the feelings of feelings. That is, how would Happy, Sad or Anger react and interact with each other. It gives a visual interpretation of what is going on in our minds and how we react and feel and remember. In that sense, it is a really unique movie.

There’s Imagination Land, Abstract Thought and Long-Term Memory which in my opinion, were really awesome concepts to look at. It’s a way of rationalising and making sense of the abstract state of our minds and how we function and how memories make up our personality and who we are. And Pixar manages to do all this in a funny and imaginative way.

The different emotions all have their own personalities. I actually found Joy a little annoying and controlling at times, and I think this is because it’s often forced upon Reilly that she has to be happy all the time because she believes this is what her parents expect from her. The message is that being sad is alright and you don’t have to be happy all the time. In fact, in order to be happy, sometimes you need to experience some sadness, and a lot of fond memories you have are in fact a mixture of both joy and sadness. I think that this is an important message to not only children, but to everyone. These days, people cover up their emotions and hide away any “unattractive” emotions that may make them seem undesirable or too emotional. But no one can feel happy all the time and you will actually be more happier if you don’t suppress your emotions, whether that be sadness, anger, fear or disgust. While the message is spot-on, I felt at times it was lacking in engagement and my mind wandered off. But I will give credit to it for making me cry when Reilly got home after running away and cried in her parent’s arms. Not sure why, but I think I could relate to that feeling of just wanting to be comforted and accepted by those who love you.

P.S. The short before it was nowhere near as good as ones I’ve seen before (e.g. Feast and Paperman). It’s two volcanoes singing about love. “I lava you”. Cringe.

Jurassic World

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Rating: Mild

Director: Colin Trevorrow
Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson

It’s been a long time since I’ve watched any of the previous Jurassic Park movies. They were of course iconic movies and ones that I grew up with. Watching it as a child, I don’t think I was as scared of it as I was when I grew up, as weird as that sounds. The dinosaurs themselves weren’t as scary as the actual suspense and tension of not knowing when and where the dinosaurs would turn up. And this was the same with Jurassic World. Although the new hybrid dinosaur (Indominus Rex) looked pretty scary in and by itself.

To be honest, this wasn’t as good as the original Jurassic Park, but then again, few sequels ever match their predecessors. In particular, why would you create a new hybrid dinosaur made up of T-Rex and other creatures’ DNA when you bloody know that just a normal dinosaur could kill hundreds of people? I guess the intention of this was to create discussion about the commercialism of our world, how ethical and social implications are disregarded in favour of money and greed, and the need to satisfy the never-ending and ever-growing hunger of society to see bigger and better things. People are always craving for more and this fuels corporations to use less ethical methods to satisfy this demand.

In terms of the actual plot though, it makes for a somewhat enjoyable watch. It’s tense and funny at the right times, with Bryce Dallas Howard providing perfect comedic relief when necessary as the bumbling and career-focused aunt who irresponsibly leaves her two nephews with all-access passes and an incompetent “babysitter” in the middle of the dinosaur park with a fricking T-rex hybrid on the loose. Perfect combination. I also like the brotherly love that develops throughout the film (although that could just be survival instinct too) and the loosening up of Bryce’s character. I felt Chris Pratt gave a solid performance, but often felt a bit dull and lacking emotion (although great eye candy!)

The ending is the weirdest part of the film in my opinion. Opening the T-Rex’s enclosure, hoping it will somehow know to attack the Indominus Rex (even though they share the same DNA/blood) and teaming up with one of the velociraptors and the sea dinosaur to finally kill it, seems a bit far-fetched. Now they have a T-Rex on the loose and for some reason, it doesn’t attack the main characters. I came away with a strong hope that nobody ever decides to bring dinosaurs back to life. Ever.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

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Rating: Mild

Director: John Madden
Cast: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup

As a sequel, this lacked the originality and charisma of the first one. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as funny and moving as its predecessors and the storyline just wasn’t as engaging or complex. Even with its attempt to bring new life to the film through the introduction of  Richard Gere’s character, it just lacked the punch and spirit of the first movie. I think this time round, it was far too predictable and there was a lack of character development. But to its credit, it still had the same familiar charm and warmth as the first, which is what attracted me to this movie to begin with. The acting was great as always, especially Dev Patel and Maggie Smith. They are the heart and soul of the film, providing comedic relief in their ways; Dev being hyper-enthusiastic and more than occasionally stubborn, and Maggie being bitingly sarcastic yet strangely endearing at the same time.

My recommendation would be to watch this if you really liked the first one, but on its own, it’s forgettable and probably worth skipping. But definitely watch the first one. That was such a funny, relaxing and thoughtful movie. Don’t be put off by the relatively older cast members. It’s definitely not an “old people” movie, because it has so much charm and fun that anyone can enjoy it and relate.

Woman in Gold

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Rating: Mild

Director: Simon Curtis
Cast: Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, Daniel Bruhl, Katie Holmes

So this is one of those movies based on a true story. It’s an enjoyable one to watch, with solid acting and the right amount of humour at the right time. While it presents a serious and emotional story of a woman seeking a painting which rightfully belongs to her family and which represents sentimental value, it has enough comedic relief to prevent it from becoming overtly stressful and tense. The development of the mis-match relationship between Ryan Reynold’s and Helen Mirren’s characters is endearing, an emotional rollercoaster and done expertly to just have the right balance of awkwardness and connection. This is what perhaps made the movie much more enjoyable than what it would have been.

It of course also presented the very harrowing tale of life during World War II in Vienna and how so many families were humiliated and robbed of their possessions. This movie drives home the message to never give up on what you believe is right. The battle was not just to get the physical painting, but the message that would be sent out to the wider community if the painting was returned. It was all in the principle of it, and not the materiality, which is an interesting issue to explore in this day and age, when people are obsessed with material wealth and forget about the intrinsic value of things. While it does present important issues, it’s not a remarkable film. Nothing really stands out as being truly original or unique and so quietly becomes forgotten over time. Good film, but not great.

Minions

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Rating: Mild

Director: Pierre Coffin & Kyle Balda
Cast: Pierre Coffin, Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney

After falling in love with Minions from the first two Despicable Me films, I watched this solely because of the yellow cuties and had little concern about the actual plot. So I was pretty surprised that the plot was pretty decent. The 3 main minions, Kevin, Stuart and Bob, are unbelievably funny and adorable and it’s definitely packed with lots of humour that will keep you laughing for most of the film.

It’s a bit of a silly plot, where the 3 unlikely heroes have to collectively save the minion population by finding the biggest and baddest villain to serve. You don’t really walk away thinking about it. It’s just one of those happy, funny, cute, mindless animated movies to watch. It has some good messages about teamwork, friendship and being brave enough to do something about your situation. But this gets easily lost in the midst of cuteness and stupidness and silliness of the whole premise. Perhaps one of the biggest drawbacks is the fact that minions don’t speak English, so half the movie must be interpreted through body language and gibberish. Which is ok if you love minions, but perhaps less bearable if you were dragged along to watch. Definitely a good one to bring little kids along. They’ll love it, trust me.

Discussion questions:
1. What were your favourite films of 2015?

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