Saturday, June 20, 2015
The story is literally one of varying moods and perspectives; Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) is a young girl with five emotions controlling and representing her mind. These include the vibrant Joy (Amy Poehler), hysterical Anger (Lewis Black), sassy Disgust (Mindy Kaling), frantic Fear (Bill Hader) and moody Sadness (Phyllis Smith). Joy reigns bright as Riley's dominant emotion until her parents announce they're moving to San Francisco (from Minnesota). The shift in environment brings numerous challenges, many of them internal, thus resulting in a quest riddled with, well, emotion.
Carrying more weight than visuals is the film's poignancy. Pixar are no stranger to making us feel for their characters through their empathetic struggles; Inside Out replicates this in spades. The choice to emphasize inner turmoil is rarely done in cinema, primarily due to inherent limitations (almost all book adaptations suffer this). However, Pixar have worked around said dilemma with such finesse that viewers can only be drawn in to this fresh yet familiar world. Truth is, Pixar are the perfect company to produce a project such as this, since childrens' imaginations run so wild. Yet this does eventually hit a decline for us all, and Inside Out begs us to take another look at the inevitable struggle.
Friday, June 12, 2015
Now, in the 14 years since Jurassic Park 3, production and crediting issues served as the breadcrumbs leading to the awkwardly titled Jurassic World. We can almost immediately sense a lack of concern in the script, with the premise of how another park got opened being utterly skimmed over. Amidst business jargon, we learn that public demands are nearly insatiable, resulting in the creation of one Indominus Rex, a genetic mutiny waiting to happen. This new dino baddie may sound similar to Jurassic Park 3's Spinosaurus in premise, which it might as well be. Indominus is actually kept obscured for its first few scenes, making for a welcome attempt at build-up that never actually pays off. Jurassic World tries to be brisk on the pacing and is reluctant to put its main characters in harm's way. Neither struggle nor terror are properly realized, leading to a lack of investment and, ultimately, moments of drag from the attempt to zip through scenes.
What about the action and spectacle then? It's sufficient to a point, one that likely won't take long to pass. Jurassic Park 3's over-reliance on CGI, both up-close and afar, leaks and spreads throughout Jurassic World. If animatronics were used, they're far from convincing. Playing up Hollywood's CGI overload, Jurassic World has a highly saturated, strangely contrasted look to its color palette; everything is vibrant, washed out and like to play a part in how well this installment will age (poorly). Many shots are borrowed to the point of stealing from previous films, including runaway shots from Jurassic Park 3. It gets to the point where throwbacks become a crutch for the movie to sit on, as if each one will pardon the tired shortcomings. Another surprising issue is the misuse of music, which would have you believe landscapes should draw more awe than dinosaurs. Remember some of the high points from the trailers and how the music swelled? Don't expect the movie to replicate that.
Sunday, May 24, 2015
After a wonderfully visual opening, Tomorrowland diverts its attention to Casey (Britt Robertson), an unusually intuitive talker whose ambition is trumped only by her constant questions. Through a healthy dose of shenanigans, she comes into contact with bitter-to-the-end Frank (George Clooney), being a reluctant semi-leader of sorts when his ideas aren't too pessimistic. The two lead a familiar ironic-yet-complementary combination to reach Tomorrowland, uncover its secrets and even have a chance to change the world.
Thursday, May 7, 2015
Things are immediately and consistently pleasing, with the first half establishing the various shades Haven employs. "Fallen Star" and "Veil of Elysium" both showcase a melodic-on-melancholic angle that will be familiar to longtime fans. However, what makes these (and all other) moments on Haven feel fresh in their familiarity is the fact Kamelot haven't sounded this comfortable and lively for a long time. Silverthorn didn't necessarily lack high points, but it had an overall compressed feeling, like it had a restraining order. Haven isn't so hindered, which primarily shows thanks to the production, this time realizing and enhancing Kamelot's long-lost vigor. No one will claim Haven as the next Black Halo (or even Epica), but this is easily the catchiest Kamelot have been in over a decade.
Take the intoxicating "Insomnia," for instance; first impressions are modest, but it quickly turns into a repeat button's newfound lover. This is also one of the album's heavier moments, alongside the frantic "Revolution" and crescendoing "Liar Liar (Wasteland Monarchy)." A similar structure adorns "Under Grey Skies," one of two included ballads, which is key to its benefit. Another factor is the expected inclusion of female vocals (this time Charlotte Wessels of Delain) and a subtle contribution from Troy Donockley (Nightwish). Silverthorn's "Song for Jolee," by comparison, was a troublesome drag comparable to waiting in line at an amusement park.
Less emphasized, however, is the air of progression Silverthorn neared suggesting for the future. "Citizen Zero" rings similar to "Prodigal Son" with its dark atmosphere and stiffly played chorus. It reminds us of Silverthorn's burdening shortcomings, all while pointing to Poetry for the Poisoned's grievances. Some listener's may appreciate it after multiple listens, yet both exemplify a lack of instant gratification that Kamelot are routinely known for. There's potential in running with a more challenging sound and structure, but at this point it'd be at the expense of numerous fans.
This brings us to the predicament Haven sees Kamelot in as a whole: a lack of evolution. Improvements to the production (highs have room to shine again) and a subsequent sense of freedom are welcome, but these are mere spices sprinkled atop an undercooked steak. Silverthorn wasn't a "fun" album in the way Khan-era Kamelot was, but there was always a lingering sense of newfound ambition. Haven, conversely, favors tradition, which leads to many enjoyable moments, yet they typically flatten out when viewed objectively.
The biggest pressing concern for Kamelot has become how much staying power they'll have if they continue their current path. Silverthorn saw them tiptoe into a different-yet-familiar body of water; Haven demonstrates that they've regained comfort, now they just need to find the current and glide with it in grace.
Saturday, May 2, 2015
Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World were essentially blips on an otherwise crystal-sharp radar, primarily thanks to Captain America: The Winter Solder and last year's little surprise, Guardians of the Galaxy. Subsequently, audiences are approaching the next Avengers installment, Age of Ultron, with hype rushing aplenty. Can the grandeur and memorability of Marvel's collective greatest be recaptured--even surpassed, or has a wall suddenly protruded before the rushing current?
Age of Ultron goes utterly gung-ho from the get-go. Action is the first card of choice, showcasing each player we've come to know and love. Forgo, however, is a single attempt to cover loose ends between the last Marvel installments and this--you'll wonder where to start. Comic book fans may be less confused, but all others are like to be as lost as Thor in his cinematic debut. From there, the story struggles to trickle its way to a cohesive introduction, making it immediately clear where the priorities (didn't) rest. Essentially, Tony Stark creates an advanced AI (Ultron) intending to protect the world and prevent a grim vision from seeing fruition. Sounds simple, but since this is Hollywood, things go bad…fast. James Spader is the man behind Marvel's latest baddie, and what's surprising is the level of sarcasm instilled in his character. The more you listen to him, the more you see him as a spitting shadow of Tony Stark. In fact, he acts more like the Tony we've come to enjoy than Tony himself, who has far fewer low-blow remarks than before.
All of this may sound par for the course, but Age of Ultron plays out in such a way that you feel a need to pay attention. Then, when you comprehend what's going on, you often find it's sillily joke-riddled. It may sound counterintuitive, but Age of Ultron demands attentiveness while begging we don't think too critically all the while. For instance, two characters show a sporadic connection, and while the play-up is fun and cute, the moment one throws thought into the mix (considering previous Marvel projects), the entire scenario just doesn't mesh. What's more is we get a formal introduction of sorts to Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, but saying they're introduced is like saying Hawkeye was fully fleshed out in the first Avengers. But don't worry, he gets the majority of individual character development here.