Inside Out - Review

PG  |   |  Animation, Comedy, Drama
Review - Matt Mungle

Synopsis: After young Riley is uprooted from her Midwest life and moved to San Francisco, her emotions - Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) - conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school.

Review: The creative minds over at Pixar have decided to take on the human psyche in the new animated family comedy, INSIDE OUT.  It is a hilarious look at the thoughts and emotions that we take for granted every second. They spared no detail when it comes to how our brains compute, decipher and store data. It is this attention to the specifics that make this, like every other Pixar film, stand out.

It wasn't enough that they had to examine the layers human emotion, but to do it in the mind of an adolescent young girl? That's some serious layers. Even though the film is about Riley and they are her emotions the story still is generic enough that we can all relate and laugh at the possibilities outlined in this one. Terms like "train of thought" and "long term memory" take on animated life. As Joy and Sadness butt heads and eventually have to team up to help Riley overcome her new season in life we get to see the ins and outs of Riley's mind.

The film has lots of laughs but also conveys a lot of emotion. Literally. We see Riley struggle with many new changes and each of them take a toll on her memory banks and "islands". Friends, family, hobbies; all take a hit as she adjust to her life in San Francisco. The 5 emotions seamlessly help her navigate uncharted waters. Joy is the one who tries the hardest to keep Riley in good spirits. It will make you pause and think about how emotions drive our daily decisions.  We can let fear, anger and sadness be our driving force or allow Joy to stay behind the wheel.

All of the voices will be recognizable to adults (especially fans of The Office and SNL) which always makes the film a bit more engaging. Also there are plenty of jokes and site gags that will be lost on young movie goers. Us older audience members will appreciate how they handle memory loss and adult decision making. We truly are very funny creatures of habit. The pre teens have a lot of visual imagery to process and enjoy. The characters are cute and emotive. The story line sweet and endearing. All of this make it a perfectly balanced film for the entire family. But would you expect anything less from Pixar?

INSIDE OUT is rated PG for mild thematic elements and some action. There are some edge of your seat moments and intense situations.  I was often holding my breath or tearing up. Then a moment later I was busting out laughing. I give it 3.75 out of 5 fear and loathing in San Fran. It isn't the best Pixar film ever but certainly one of the most clever.


I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story - Review

90 min  |  Documentary, Biography, Drama
Review - Matt Mungle

Releasing theatrically in select theaters June 19, 2015, currently on demand and iTunes

Synopsisor 45 years, Caroll Spinney has been beloved by generations of children as the man behind Sesame Street's Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch - and at 80 years old, he has no intention of stopping. A loving portrait of the man in the yellow suit, I AM BIG BIRD features extraordinary footage of Spinney's earliest collaborations with Jim Henson as it traces his journey from bullied child to childhood icon. And as the yellow feathers give way to grey hair, it is the man, not the puppet, who will steal your heart.

Review: Spoiler alert! Big Bird is not a real bird but there is actually a man inside there! The Sesame Street icon has become so endearing and so grafted into our lives that often we forget that he is a character. And there is no doubt that Spinney would have it no other way. He has given his entire life to bringing joy to countless  people in all countries. Big Bird is a one of a kind spirit and this documentary shows how genuine the spirit behind the bird is as well. 

The film offers rare behind the scene footage of both Sesame Street and Caroll's transformation into the yellow suit. There are numerous shots of Jim Henson, Frank Oz and all the Sesame Street cast. Heartfelt interviews show just how loved Spinney is and how much those around him are touched by his sincerity and dedication to the craft.

It is a strong reminder of just how emotionally in-tune Big Bird is to our own feelings. There are touching moments of Spinney interacting with children and reflecting on Jim Henson's passing. Plus we get the humor of Oscar the Grouch and how he balances both sides of Caroll. Family, friends, and co-workers all chime in with candid clips and interviews. Fans of puppetry will appreciate the inner workings of getting something as large as Big Bird to live and breathe. It truly is an ordeal and one that the 80 year old Spinney keeps right on doing. 

Big Bird was famous enough to get a few of his own full length features and the documentary also takes us behind the scenes of those shoots as well. With every new clip you see more and more how much our society loves and acknowledges Big Bird. Talk Shows, SNL, politicians, movies; all at one time or another have crossed paths with the big yellow guy. 

I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story truly is a wonderful, emotional, and fascinating look at one of the most well known Sesame Street characters. You will be moved to tears one moment and bust out laughing the next. But the mainly you will be touched and inspired by the man inside; the soul of the big bird. I give it 4 out of 5 beaks. I will never look at Big Bird the same and in fact will cherish him even more. 


New Blu-ray and DVD Releases - Tuesday June 16, 2015

Jimmy Conlon has tried hard to put his past behind him. He spent most of his life working for the mob as a hit man, a line of work that has left him with few friends, an estranged family and a police investigation always at his back. Jimmy just wants to move on, but when his son shows up as a potential target, he has no choice but to act. To save his son's life, Jimmy puts everything on the line and tries to do the right thing for the first time and maybe the last time in his life.

On the day of his birth, a robot named Chappie is kidnapped by two thieves and taken back to live with their dysfunctional band of misfits. Adopted into this odd family, Chappie grows to be gifted; a prodigy in his own right, and extremely bright with a thirst for living. However, as Chappie gets older, he begins to wonder why he is different from his neglectful parents; and their nefarious needs. Showing more humanity than the human company that surrounds him, Chappie becomes defiant, developing a knock-out personality that will eventually lead him to a higher purpose and happier place.

Madame Bovary - Review

R  |  118 min  |  Drama
Review - Matt Mungle


Synopsis: Set in Normandy, France, Madame Bovary is Gustave Flaubert's classic story of Emma Bovary (Mia Wasikowska), a young beauty who impulsively marries small-town doctor, Charles Bovary (Henry Lloyd-Hughes), to leave her father's pig farm far behind. But after being introduced to the glamorous world of high society, she soon becomes bored with her stodgy husband and mundane life, and seeks prestige and excitement outside the bonds of marriage.

Review: Wasikowska has spent much of her career wearing a corset and period dress. Here she has perfected the mannerisms and frail demeanor while keeping a strong inner strength and brooding eye. Her character is one of horrible ill content and Mia drapes herself in it like a fine veil. She pouts and fusses her way through this one well enough; her physical emoting outshining the moments of dialogue. Luckily she is immersed in this well crafted story and surrounded by a noble cast. These elements help her to rise above and succeed in the title role.

The story was written in the mid 1800's by Gustave Flaubert and immediately met with scandal and outrage. This of course helped catapult it to instant notoriety.  This current rendition captures the area of northern France perfectly. The style and cinematography are exquisite. The costume design is a character all its own and deserves recognition. Period pieces are not rare and can be hit or miss. This one hits more than it misses. Some may say it is hard to mess up a story that is as solid as this so granted it is the character of Emma that pulls you in and keeps you engaged.

Henry Lloyd-Hughes, Paul Giamatti, and Rhys Ifans lead the pack of supporting actors. Each is spot on and more than capable of bringing the conversations and personalities of that era to life. Ezra Miller and Logan Marshall-Green play the love interests of Emma. They are there mainly as a rung for her to advance and serve the purpose. For those who would never consider cracking the spine of the book this is a wonderful way to meet and experience Flaubert's characters.

The self inflicted tragedy of Emma's world is very dramatic and you can't help but pity and ridicule her at the same time. She is a young woman caught up in a world she has envisioned from a young age. The Marquis sums up Emma perfectly when he tells her, "you are standing under an apple tree wanting to smell oranges." It is a destructive nature that comes from never being satisfied or content.

Madame Bovary is rated R for some sexuality/nudity. They could have altered the camera angle in a few scenes and gotten by with a PG-13. There is no harsh language or violent content and the themes, though adult, are handled with a  1800's sophistication. I give it 3.75 out of 5 fine linens. I am a big fan of Mia Wasikowska but often wondered if she bit off a bit more than she could chew in this one. Though capturing the spirit of Emma I am not sure she had complete control of the dialogue.