Inside Out

Inside_Out_2015_film_posterI have come to expect great things from Pixar; I think everyone has. All of their films have been amazing, from Toy Story to Ratatouille, each Pixar movie has entertained and delighted. That isn’t to say that some films weren’t better than others. Wall-E isn’t exactly the kind of film you watch over and over again, but you can’t call any of their movies bad. That’s a lot of pressure for an animation studio as it churns out its latest movie. But once again, Pixar comes through with Inside Out.

Inside Out is about the emotions inside of your head that make you who you are–Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear. These little guys control your feelings and actions; they are what make you tick. This story focuses on Riley, a twelve year old girl from Minnesota, and the emotions in her head. Riley is a happy kid who loves her family and playing hockey. Riley’s family moves to San Francisco, which, as you can imagine, really sends the emotions of a 12-year-old spinning. Amidst the chaos inside Riley’s head, Joy and Sadness get separated from headquarters and lost in long term memory with Riley’s core memories–the memories that shape her personality. Now, Joy and Sadness must work together to get back to headquarters before it’s too late for Riley.

As expected of any Pixar movie, Inside Out is very funny. The whole theater I was in was laughing out loud, kids and adults. It’s very fun, but also pulls on the emotional heart strings. The voice acting is very good, starring Amy Poehler as Joy, Phyllis Smith as Sadness, Mindy Kahing as Disgust, Lewis Black as Anger, and Bill Hader as Fear. Every character is entertaining, and it’s very funny to get a look at the emotions in other people’s heads (stay for the first few minutes of the credits). And much of the humor is very clever, so it will entertain adults as well as children.

Inside Out - Emotion Poster Collaboration

The only thing I didn’t like was one of the characters who helps Joy and Sadness, Riley’s childhood imaginary friend Bing Bong. I understood the purpose his character served in the plot, but he was too, too weird–like a pink cotton candy elephant. Even in the fun, imaginative world of Riley’s head, he didn’t fit with the rest of the characters. I’m sure the kids in the theater liked him, but I thought he was too weird and discolored the flavor of the middle part of the film.

But Inside Out isn’t just a funny children’s film. As also expected from Pixar films, it had an important message. The message may surprise children, but probably not adults. The message was that sadness has a place in our lives. While we want children, and adults, to be happy all the time and not suffer the pain of feeling sad, sadness is a part of life. And even though it hurts, it serves a good and noble purpose. It makes us sympathetic to others, empathetic to others. Because we have felt sadness, we can comfort those who are sad. Sadness also lets others know we need help, so they can comfort us. It can bring people together as much as joy can.

sadnessjoyLife is a mixture of every kind of emotion–joy, anger, fear, disgust, and sadness. They all serve a purpose. Inside Out is a must-see movie for children and adults.

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An Ember In The Ashes

emberAs Emily can attest, I am a huge fan of any book with a Roman feel to it. I love historical fiction set in the Roman Empire, but I also love new worlds that are influenced by Roman culture, like Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Curse. However, even more exciting than a world based on Roman times is a world that blends Roman culture with Eastern culture in one epic tale.

Sabba Tahir’s book An Ember In The Ashes follows two main protagonists. On one hand, there is Laia. Laia is part of a family and people group at the bottom of the social pecking order. Her parents, famous revolutionaries, are both dead, and she lives with her older brother and grandparents. But when her brother is arrested and her grandparents killed, she agrees to become a spy in order to save her brother. She’s sent to spy on the leader of a prestigious military school by posing as a slave. As a slave, she’s abused and beaten and almost killed several times, but her love for her brother and her determination to save him keep her going despite all risks.

Then there is Elias. Elias is one of the top students at said military school. His mother is the woman abusing and beating Lia, though their relationship is anything but loving. Elias is troubled by the ways of the world, having more compassion and morality than his peers. He wants to escape the torture and evil that is this empire, but instead he gets roped into competing to be its next emperor. Meanwhile, he’s also trying to sort out his feelings for Lia and his best friend/fellow student/fellow competitor Helene.

Sabaa Tahir

Sabaa Tahir

There are so many aspects about this book that I adored. Laia and Elias are both great narrators, and the supporting characters (even the bad ones) are great. The drama between all the characters really sucks you in as a reader. I couldn’t put this book down. It was refreshing to have a new spin on the traditional love triangle, where the boy is confused over his feelings for two girls. Though, Lia also had feelings for two different boys. But I enjoyed a circumstance where the boy had to figure out how he felt about two girls rather than one girl who had two boys pining after her.

I like that Laia is strong, but also weak in some aspects. She is very human, afraid of scary things but willing to face them for her brother’s sake. I like that Helene is a total badass, a strong girl in the midst of a sea of boys, but she’s not just strong. She has feelings and emotions like a girl, and is sometimes weak as well. I think that’s one of the key aspects to creating human characters. People are strong and brave, but we also have weakness and get scared.

And, as I hinted at earlier, the world building is incredible. The school and characters in/from the school have a very Roman feel, but the mythology is very Eastern. And with the competitions to be emperor, this was everything I wanted The Hunger Games books to be. Tahir blends these two cultures to create a new and interested setting for her story. She’s totally drawn me in, and I cannot wait for book 2!!!