Inside Out (2015) Film Review


What a charming way to depict human emotions = a series of emotions inside the brain that drive the person to do what they do. Not an original concept (come on, don’t lie. You liked Herman’s Head back in the nineties, didn’t you?) but beautifully played out for the kids. Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) has moved with her family, about to start at a new school and finding things tough. Inside her head, she has Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), Sadness (Phyllis Smith) and, leading them all, Joy (Amy Poehler). Joy is freaking out, because Sadness keeps touching ‘core memories’ and turning them sad, and Joy wants Riley to be happy all the time. An accident happens, and Joy and Sadness are ejected from the control room and need to figure out how to get back. Meanwhile, Riley is all over the shop, her emotions going crazy.

Having been told how wonderful this film was, I went in fearful that it would not live up to my expectations. And, in all honesty, I didn’t love it. I wonder had I seen it early if I would have loved it more. I just found Joy so frigging annoying, and wanted desperately for her to fail. Perhaps the little Lewis Black in my brain needs to back off a bit. Having said that, it’s a great film, and I can see why so many parents have enjoyed taking their kids to it.

Inside Out won a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture (Animated) and was nominated for Oscars for Best Animated Feature Film of the Year and Best Writing, Original Screenplay, and BAFTAs for Best Orignal Screenplay and Best Animated Film.

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The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009) Film Review


Walter (Denzel Washington) is a man working for the transit authority who has been busted down to controller when a train is taken over by Ryder (John Travolta) and his crew. What do they want? Will the innocent live or die?

This is your pretty standard eighties action film with a train, only somehow it was twenty years too late (perhaps I should be watching the original from 1974?). It’s ace and there’s all kinds of running and shooting and fun times. Oh, but John Travolta? I don’t know, I’m usually a fan, and I like it when he’s a bad guy, but he just didn’t do it for me in this one.



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Where She Went by Gayle Forman – Book Review



The sequel to If I Stay, Where She Went is told from the perspective of Adam, the boyfriend left behind by Mia. But (spoiler alert to If I Stay), he was not left behind when she chose to pass away in her coma, but rather when Mia recovered, she took her position at Julliard and let their relationship end. Adam has now become a rock star, but suffers from anxiety and is all but estranged from his band and even himself. When he gets to see Mia again three years after her accident, they finally get to resolve issues.

It was going to be pretty darned hard for Gayle Forman to top If I Stay. I didn’t want to know whether Mia lived or died, and I didn’t care to know how Adam felt. But, Forman drew me in. The idea of the anxious rocker seemed a bit blah blah at first, but then I started to think: what of the people left behind? Touch wood I have never been through the types of trauma from If I Stay, but what do you do? If you are in a relationship with someone when they have a massive crisis like this, can it be maintained afterwards? Or is it doomed? So MANY questions!

In the end, I loved it. I found the last twenty or so pages a bit of a convenient fix, but not unrealistic. Ultimately, it was satisfying and I know I will be recommending these books to YA readers in the future.

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If I Stay by Gayle Forman – Book Review


Mia is seventeen, a cello virtuoso living in small town Oregon when the care she is travelling in with her parents and younger brother is involved in a car accident, leaving only her alive. As her body fights for its life, Mia’s spirit watches her boyfriend, her friends and family grieve and travels through her past. It seems the question of whether she lives or dies is up to her.

I cried a lot while reading this book. I am a book crier anyhow – I loves me a good cry! But really, look at that premise. It would take a pretty awful writer to use that premise and not squeeze a few tears out of me. Gayle Forman has created lovely characters – people who are like people we know, are like people we want in our lives – and then put us into a terrible position – do we hang on to them or let them go? I also love an ambiguous ending – although with a sequel, it wasn’t that much of a stretch to see where the story ended up. It’s certainly written of a YA audience, but I know if this book had been around when I was in my early teens, I’d have never stopped reading it!

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The Fighter (2010) Film Review


Oh, these films that I avoid watching because I think they are one thing, then I watch and discover with glee that they are something totally different, totally better… This is one of those guys.

The basic story, based on true events, is of two boxing brothers – Micky (Mark Wahlberg) and Dicky (Christian Bale). Micky is on the up-and-up, being trained by his brother. His brother, meanwhile, is living off his one great success in the ring, and tells everyone that the camera crew that are following him are documenting his comeback. In reality, the documentary is about life on crack, as Dicky is an addict. They have a close family with a dominant mother, a submissive father and seven opinionated sisters who don’t seem to do much more than hang around the house a lot. And then in comes Charlotte (Amy Adams), a bar tender who starts a relationship with Micky and clashes with the family.

So, my preconception was that it was another boxing film and I’ve seen enough of those. Though, to be fair, there is something about boxing films that so often works. I don’t know why; I don’t like watching boxing or any of those kinds of fighting sports. (I also don’t really like watching any sport… but anyhow) This is a great film. It’s surprisingly funny but also has parts that are completely depressing. I’m not a massive fan of Christian Bale – I find him quite intense and a little scary, to be honest. But he is fabulous in this – just amazing.

The Fighter won Oscars for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Christian Bale) and Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Melissa Leo) and was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Amy Adams), Best Achievement in Directing (David O. Russell), Best Achievement in Film Editing and Best Writing, Original Screenplay (Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, Keith Dorrington).

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The Lobster (2015) Film Review


It’s an alternative world, where if you become single (even through death or divorce), you are taken to a hotel where you are stripped, put into identical clothes and you have forty-five days to find love or you are turned into an animal (to give you a second go at finding love). The only way you can give yourself a greater chance is if, during the hunt, you bag one or more ‘loners’ – single people who live and thrive in the woods. David (Colin Farrell) ends up at the hotel with his dog/brother, but decides to take an alternative path.

This is an insane, strange, mysterious, hilarious, fantastic, strange, wonderful, awful, amazing, strange film. I totally loved it, but there are many reasons I couldn’t see it again. The performances were all so strange and controlled but utterly perfect, and Colin Farrell in particular was amazing. I don’t know exactly who I’d recommend this to, but I’d certainly recommend watching it like I did, at an outdoor screening like Shadow Electric at the Abbottsford Convent in Melbourne, with an audience who enjoy laughing aloud.

The Lobster was nominated for a BAFTA for Best British Film.



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St. Vincent (2014) Film Review


Vincent (Bill Murray) is a drunken misanthrope who has a mysterious relationship with a pregnant prostitute (played by Naomi Watts) and spends most of his time gambling, drinking or yelling at people. Then Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) moves in next door with her small child, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher). She’s going through a nasty divorce and has to work crazy hours to keep things together for them. Somehow, Vincent ends up looking after Oliver and Oliver sees a lot more in him than most.

It’s not a new idea – a kid being looked after by someone who is perhaps not the most traditional or appropriate fit but getting a lot of good out of it… but this is such a beautiful telling of it. Bill Murray, as always, is just wonderful, but it is the way they all work together that makes it work. And Melissa McCarthy – this is what you should always do. Yes, you are good at the over-the-top comedy and the crazy characters, but it is this heartfelt yet snippy character that has totally won me over to the McCarthy camp. So, so good.

St. Vincent was nominated for Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical and Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical (Bill Murray).

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