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Inside Out •••••

Inside_Out_(2015_film)_posterStarring: Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Lewis Black
Director: Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen
Screenplay: Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen
Animation/Comedy/Drama, Rated: PG
Running Time: 94 minutes
Release Date: June 19, 2015


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(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Well, Greg, it’s time to review the heroes in Pixar’s latest release, Inside Out.

I’m turned inside out with anticipation. Let’s recap.

We meet Riley Anderson (Kaitlyn Dias), an 11-year-old girl whose family is moving from Minnesota to San Francisco. We also meet various components of Riley’s internal emotional state. There is Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling).

We’re shown around the landscape that is her brain. There are the core islands of family, friends, goofiness, and her favorite pastime – hockey. Each memory is a tiny orb that is colored by whatever emotion Riley was feeling when the memory happens. Joy is the predominant emotion and basically runs the show. But Sadness wants to take over when Riley is having trouble in her new situation. Riley misses her friends and house back in Minnesota.

So, Sadness gets into all the memories and starts to color them blue. Joy wants Riley’s memories to be happy so she attempts to stop Sadness and they are both whisked away from “head” quarters into Riley’s memory storage bank leaving Fear, Anger, and Disgust to fend for themselves and color all of Riley’s memories. Now it’s up to Joy to return the core memories to Riley’s frontal cortex and restore Riley’s happy feelings.

Greg, Pixar has done it again. This film studio’s ability to craft wonderful and moving hero stories that appeal to audiences of all ages is unmatched in the movie industry. With Inside Out, Pixar has especially grabbed my attention because it portrays the conflicting psychological makeup of the average human being. As a psychologist, I believe that Pixar’s rendition of people’s psyche rings true. We are presented with five conflicting emotional states that compete with long-term memories, imaginary friends, dream states, trains of thought, and executive functioning.

The visual depictions of all these mental processes are innovative and amusing. Moreover, the resolution of Riley’s internal conflict is deeply moving and reveals some fundamental truths about how we deal with life’s ups and downs. Inside Out tells a simple story about average people encountering a common situation. Yet the simplicity of the movie’s premise belies its intelligent handling of the way we struggle to resolve our human pain and difficulty.

As a military brat who moved on average every 18 months, I empathized with Riley’s emotions over moving away from a home she loved. Writer and director Peter Docter didn’t miss a beat. The story moves along at a rapid pace and exposes a lot of the inner workings of our minds. The conflict between the different emotions was hilarious not only for the excellent voice acting, but also because it was so relatable for anyone who was eleven years old at some time.

I was struck by the diversity of the ensemble cast featuring different emotional elements bouncing off each other in a manner reminiscent of John Hughes’ Breakfast Club. Yet the hero story focuses on Riley as a lone hero engaged in an inner war with herself. Imbedded within this lone hero journey is a buddy hero story involving Joy and Sadness. As with most buddy duos, Joy and Sadness do not get along at first. Soon they realize that they need each other and forge an unshakable bond that is essential for Riley to grow in her maturity. In total, we have a complex hero story with at least three layers, and Pixar masterfully manages to weave these layers together into a beautiful, coherent whole.

I agree Scott. One thing I noticed about this ensemble is that there is a clear leader. Joy is not quite the protagonist, but she is the mastermind of this group. We also get a glimpse into the minds of other characters. They also had the same five-emotional ensemble, but different emotions would be the leader.

There is a wonderful cast of supporting players. There’s Bing Bong – the part cat, part elephant, part cotton candy imaginary friend who cries hard candies. And the cleaning crew who dispose of unused memories. We meet the guards of the unconscious who aren’t too bright. And there was a wonderful use of the “Reality Distortion Lens” (an homage to Steve Jobs) by the minions who managed Riley’s dreams.

Inside Out is one of the year’s best films. We are treated to a unique and clever glimpse into the inner workings of the human psyche, bolstered by an entertaining dialogue, creative visuals, and an intelligent view of how human growth occurs. I laughed, I cried, and I heartily recommend that this movie be nominated to our Reel Heroes Hall of Fame. Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), I award Inside Out a rating of 5 Reels out of 5.

The hero story was a complex tale of a child’s lone journey represented by her internal mental turmoil, particularly her two primary emotions of Joy and Sadness in battle (and in ultimate union) with each other. I’ve never seen a more psychologically rich and interesting hero’s journey. Our primary emotional hero mastermind, Joy, receives crucial mentoring from Bing Bong and her parents. There is a rewarding transformation in Riley, made possible by inner-struggle, perseverance, and assistance from others. So many of the elements of the classic hero’s journey are represented well here. Again, my rating is a full 5 Heroes out of 5.

Greg, you captured the strength of the supporting cast very effectively. All the characters are impeccably drawn and know their place within the structure of the story. Riley’s family, her emotional elements, and the other minor characters all produce a movie experience that dazzles and shines in every possible way. I award the cast a full 5 out of 5 rating points.

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As much as I hate the phrase, Inside Out is an instant classic. At Agile Writers the first step in writing a novel is defining the demographic the story is aimed at. Pixar obviously aims its movies at children, but creates a tapestry rich enough to engage viewers of all ages. That’s no mean feat. Inside Out hits it mark on so many levels. This is a story of a young girl ripped away from an ideal life and how she handles it. But it’s also a coming of age story. We watch her internal world crumble as she leaves behind childish things and takes a big step towards adulthood. I give Inside Out 5 out of 5 Reels.

When Pixar announced this project a few years back, I was skeptical. The idea that you could tell a story about something as amorphous as emotions is fraught with peril. But Pete Docter pulled it off. By limiting the scope to 5 primary emotions, with one of them as the leader, Docter reigned in what could have been an overwhelming project. Joy is wonderful as the leader of this ensemble. Aside from being ever-optimistic, she’s also a leader. It’s wonderful to see a hero for young women who takes charge (and isn’t labeled as ‘bossy’). I give Joy and her troupe 5 out of 5 Heroes.

The supporting players were so varied and entertaining as well. Although the parents play a small role in the film, they were loving and supportive. The mentor/sidekick character of Bing Bong helped Joy maneuver the special world of the brain’s memory system. The other secondary characters were more than mere walk-ons. They were clearly defined with specific roles in the functioning of Riley’s thoughts. I give the supporting cast 5 out of 5 Cast points.

I second your nomination for this film to enter our Reel Heroes Hall of Fame. It’s been a long time since we allowed a film in. And for good reason. A filmmaker has to really hit one out of the park to set itself above all the others. And Inside Out definitely cleared the fence of quality.

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Jurassic World •••1/2

Jurassic_World_posterStarring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Screenplay: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver
Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 124 minutes
Release Date: June 12, 2015


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Head for the hills, Scott – the dinosaurs are back

(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

And this time they’re a World of trouble. Let’s recap.

We’re introduced to a cherubic boy, Gray (Ty Simpkins), and his older brother Zach (Nick Robinson). They’re on their way to Jurassic World, a theme park with real dinosaurs. They are to be met by their Aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) who runs the entire park. But she’s far too busy with, you know, running the park to attend to their needs. So she assigns an underling to babysit them. But it isn’t long (actually it really is a long time) before the big bad Indominasaur gets loose and the boys are first on the dinner menu.

Meanwhile, head of security Vic Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio), who plans to use the raptors as a military weapon, now wants to use them to stop the Indominasaur from eating the 20,000 paying customers on the island. The raptors’ trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) opposes the idea but is kept busy trying to rescue the two boys. To help him understand the Indominasaur, Grady wants to know which dinosaurs’ DNA was combined to engineer the beast, but no one, including park geneticist Henry Wu (BD Wong), will tell him.

Jurassic World is the fourth in the Jurassic Park series. And it is arguably as good as the first. And why not? It’s essentially the same plot as the first. The movie has the same message as Jurassic Park as well: don’t mess with Mother Nature. The modern CGI and animatronics in this film made it worth the $11 I paid for admission. While I didn’t pay for the 3D version, I can see why people would.

As popular as this film is (it is the highest grossing film in history), I was troubled with the long setup. The director spent a leisurely amount of time introducing all the characters before anything exciting happens. Usually the “inciting incident” happens in the first 10 minutes of the film. But the escape of the Indominasaurus doesn’t happen for at least 30 minutes in. It took a long time to get to the action, but when it did, the action was fast and furious.

Jurassic World pretty much gives viewers everything they could possibly want in a movie about dinosaurs run amok. There is a genetically engineered dinosaur that is bigger and badder than any dinosaur that ever lived. There are vulnerable children whom you know will be chased and nearly eaten. There is a love story that you know will be in peril thanks to the big bad beast. There is a park executive who is over-confident about park security. Yes, all the pieces are in place and used to great effect.

Jurassic World is a movie that works despite its predictability because it gives us characters that we care about and a dinosaur that’s unlike anything anyone has ever seen. In our new book Reel Heroes: Volume 2, we discuss a type of villain who is shrouded in mystery. The Indominasaur is just such a villain. We aren’t privy to its breeding background until late in the film at a pivotal moment when it’s true insidious power is revealed. The mysterious evil origins and unprecedented intelligence of this animal makes it a formidable adversary for our heroes.

As impressed as I was with the special effects, I was nonplussed by the story. It was a thinly veiled reimagining of the first installment – which in turn was a thinly veiled retelling of Jaws. Even the park manager explains how this film works when she says (of the park, not the movie) “Customers want bigger, louder, more teeth.” And that is what we got.

And the hero’s journey is hard to decipher. Was this Owen Grady’s story? Or was it Claire’s. Owen doesn’t grow in the story, but Claire grows from a frosty corporate stiff into a domesticated woman ready to lay down her life for her children and her man. Or is it a buddy story of two lost lovers who come together in the face of a common foe? Then again, it might be the story of redemption for the park owner Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) who gives his life saving the park customers. It’s hard to focus on any one story as there are so many threads in play.

Greg, I categorize the heroes in this film as a family ensemble, with Aunt Claire and boyfriend Owen playing the parent figures to the two nephew boys Zach and Gray. All four of these family members share roughly equal screen time and go on their own hero journeys. All four of them transform in different ways. Claire evolves from a cold, bottom-line executive to a moving, feeling human who can empathize with the dinosaurs and care about the children. Owen discovers that he is capable of loving Claire. The boys experience a coming-of-age journey in which they have to grow up quickly and develop resourcefulness and courage.

Besides the Indominasaur, the primary villain in the film is Hoskins, who cares about nothing except using the dinosaurs to eat people in America’s wars in the middle-east. Hoskins is a lone villain with plenty of military minions at his disposal. He is fun to loathe because he treats everyone around him, humans and dinosaurs alike, as objects that he can manipulate to serve his interests.

I think I detect a new type of secondary character in this film, Scott. That of the “endangered mass.” The 20,000 customers of the park are in peril, and it is our heroes’ goal to save them all. We’ve seen this in other films this summer: San Andreas, for example.

There were a few noteworthy secondary characters. Jake Johnson puts in a nice performance as Lowry – the geeky guy who believes in the purity of the original dinosaurs. Then there’s his female counterpart who is equally geeky but less committed to the dream. The boys’ mother puts in a motherly performance to contrast with Claire’s cool demeanor.

Jurassic World is a world of fun. Besides providing us with a good characters and plenty of people being chewed to bits, the movie delivers an important message about hubris. Jurassic World shows us the dangers associated with underestimating the power of nature and the foolishness of placing profit over the humane treatment of animals. Yes, these themes are familiar and the film is predictable but I enjoyed this bone-crunching adventure very much. I’ll award Jurassic World 4 Reels out of 5.

The family hero ensemble is put together quite effectively and undergoes at least two meaningful transformations. It was gratifying to see Claire transform into a character who shows ample strength and courage. She saves Owen’s life at least once, and morphs into a caring Aunt. The two kids show us some impressive grit and courage, too. Not all the elements of the hero’s journey are present but enough are there to make me happy. I give this family group 3 Heroes out of 5.

I have to admit, I loved the Indominasaur. This beast is a smart, enigmatic behemoth. The movie does a good job of withholding its lethal pedigree until the very end at a key moment. Hoskins is a nasty villain who abuses and misuses the dinosaurs in ways that leave us longing for him to receive his comeuppance (which he does). These two villains are fun to fear and revile. The rest of the cast shines, too, in their limited supporting roles. Overall I give the secondary cast a rating of 4 out of 5.

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As usual, I wasn’t as enamoured of this film as you were, Scott. Jurassic World is a retread of retreads. We’ve seen all of this before. The special effects were impressive, but the story has become hackneyed. I can only muster 3 out of 5 Reels for Jurassic World.

I like your assessment of the family hero structure in this film. But I think it was much more a dual buddy arrangement. There was the romantic buddy story with Owen and Claire, and the brother buddy story between Gray and Zach. In the first pairing, Claire becomes less frosty as she admits she cares for Owen and her nephews. In the second, Zach becomes more adult as he takes responsibility for his brother’s well-being. It’s an interesting structure, especially as the stories combine in the end to resemble the family hero structure. I give this hero ensemble 4 out of 5 Heroes.

As we’ve already noticed, we’re treated to a bunch of good secondary characters in Jurassic World. Almost too many to count, really. But they were all used to good effect. I give the supporting cast 4 out of 5 Cast points.

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Spy ••••

Spy2015_TeaserPosterStarring: Melissa McCarthyRose ByrneJude Law
Director: Paul Feig
Screenplay: Paul Feig
Action/Comedy/Crime, Rated: R
Running Time: 120 minutes
Release Date: June 5, 2015


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I spy with my little eye, a movie about a female spy.

(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

No lie, our latest movie is Spy, starring the multi-talented Melissa McCarthy. Let’s recap.

We’re introduced to Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) who works for the CIA as an agent. But she’s not a field agent – she’s relegated to the vermin-infested basement of Langley.  She supports bigger-than-life spy Bradley Fine (Jude Law) by watching him on satellite feeds and gives him pointers in his earpiece. Cooper is secretly in love with Fine and is despondent when Fine is killed on her watch.

The CIA needs to know the location of a nuclear bomb, but a huge security breach has exposed the identities of all active agents. Cooper volunteers to tail Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) who knows the whereabouts of the bomb. Agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham) vehemently objects to Cooper’s involvement but is overruled by CIA chief Elaine Crocker (Allison Janney). Cooper earns Rayna’s trust by saving her life, and with help from her CIA buddy Nancy (Miranda Hart), Cooper ends up being more than any of the bad guys can handle.

Scott, I was prepared for this to be another poop-fart-puke fest with a lot of swearing and embarrassing stereotypes. Instead, we got a hilarious stereotype-breaking poop-fart-puke fest with a lot of swearing. I was pleasantly surprised. Melissa McCarthy delivers a very layered portrayal of a woman who is at first marginalized and later emerges as confident and in control. Spy was a welcome change from such movies as 2013’s The Heat where McCarthy is played strictly for yucks. In this film, she becomes a comedic feminist hero.

One could say that Spy has all of the comedic elements of The Heat but with a more intelligent and progressive portrayal of women in the heroic role. Like you, Greg, I expected Spy to be the kind of movie that would require me to turn off my brain and enjoy some silly slapstick humor. But Spy is much more than a fun romp – although it is that for sure. This movie is about the successful empowerment of women in roles traditionally assigned to men.

Every woman character in Spy is more competent than she seems to be, and every male character is less competent than he seems to be. And yet this role reversal isn’t as insulting to men as it is designed to honor the capabilities of women. Susan Cooper is a woman who starts out lacking self-confidence but when thrown into the fire she turns out to be just as kick-ass as James Bond and Indiana Jones combined. In keeping with the classic hero journey, she receives help along the way from sidekicks and mentors. The hero transformation is fun and rewarding to witness.

Susan Cooper is truly a transformed lone hero. She starts out the film grovelling at Fine’s feet. She’d do anything for him and has a secret love for him. When he goes missing, she attempts to volunteer for the assignment but is laughed at by her male counterparts. Gradually, as Cooper enters and masters the special world of the field agent, she becomes more and more competent. In the end she saves the day and realizes that she doesn’t need Fine or any man. She is fully self-actualized. A true hero’s journey.

The supporting cast in Spy is a joy to watch, too. Agent Rick Ford plays a key role as the representative of the old male mentality in the CIA. He is insulting to Cooper and overstates his accomplishments and abilities to an absurd degree. The falseness of his bravado is revealed in humorous and humiliating ways, and Cooper ends up saving his sorry ass more than a few times. The main villain, Rayna, is ruthless and greedy in ways that are the equal of any male villain in the James Bond canon. Cooper’s sidekick, Nancy, actually goes on her own transformative hero journey as well.

Spy is a fun and funny parody of spy films – a sugar-coated feminist romp. I laughed out loud and cheered for Cooper. While it had a few moments of gross-out humor, they were easily overshadowed by clever writing and deft acting by McCarthy. I am happy to award 4 out of 5 Reels for Spy.

Melissa McCarthy outdoes herself as she transforms from a mousy, insecure analyst into a fully realized field agent. What could have been a movie about the humiliation of a woman in a man’s world turns into a celebration of growth. I give Susan Cooper 5 out of 5 Heroes.

I’m in full agreement with you on the supporting cast, Scott. The men were all played for yucks and the women were mainly played for competence. I especially liked Allison Janney as Crocker – Cooper’s boss. Statham’s character was a true clown. I give the supporting cast 4 out of 5 Cast points.

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Spy surprised me by being much more than a comedy and satire of the spy movie genre. This movie turns gender roles on their head by portraying subjugated women as highly skilled, crafty, and competent CIA operatives. We learn that underestimating women spies is a bad idea for both our country and for the men who dare to keep women in their metaphorical (and in this movie, literal) basements. For a fun and thought-provoking two hours of entertainment, I award this movie 4 Reels out of 5.

The hero journey appears here in full form. Cooper goes the complete journey and has assistance from a worthy and also underestimated sidekick and a mentor CIA boss who has faith in Cooper’s abilities. She finds her self-confidence and proves that she – and many other women – are worthy of achieving great things if given the chance. I’m happy to award Cooper 4 Heroes out of 5 here.

The oppositional characters are entertaining to watch and appear in two forms. First, Cooper is opposed by her own male colleague, Rick Ford, who comes across as a fool in the way that he overestimates his own abilities and undervalues women. Second, Cooper encounters a formidable foe in Rayna. We don’t know much about Ford or Rayna other than they represent roadblocks for Cooper’s heroism. Still, they are a worthy pair of oppositional characters. The rest of the supporting cast shines, too. Like you, I’ll award the cast a rating of 4 out of 5, Greg.

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Aloha •••

Aloha_posterStarring: Bradley Cooper, Rachel McAdams, Emma Stone
Director: Cameron Crowe
Screenplay: Cameron Crowe
Comedy/Drama/Romance, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 105 minutes
Release Date: May 29, 2015


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Well, Scott it seems Aloha isn’t just another way to say Goodbye.

(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

It must be another way to say marquis cast, too. Let’s recap.

We’re introduced to Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) who is a former Air Force pilot turned defense contractor. He was wounded in Afghanistan and now works for Carson Welch (Bill Murray) – a shady billionaire who is looking to take over the space program. Gilcrest has come to Hawaii to oversee the launching of Welch’s latest satellite in conjunction with the Air Force. He bumps into his ex-girlfriend Tracy (Rachel McAdams) who has married heck-of-a-nice-guy John “Woody” Woodside (John Krasinski). Meanwhile, exceptionally perky fighter pilot Captain Allison Ng (Emma Stone) is put in charge of supervising Gilcrest.

Gilcrest’s job is to secure permission from the King of the Hawaiian nation (Dennis Bumpy Kanahele) to allow some native burial land to be relocated so that Welch can launch his satellite. Captain Ng’s background in the spiritual importance of the issue proves invaluable in helping Gilcrest sway the King. Gilcrest finds himself not only falling for Ng but also rekindling his connection with Tracy. He also learns of a secret payload aboard the satellite that looks ominously like massive weaponry. Ng becomes upset when she discovers the secret, and Gilcrest must choose between completing his mission or doing the right thing.

Scott, I was very concerned about the ambitions of this film when I saw the stellar cast. When you have that many egos in the room at the same time, something is bound to go wrong. I was right, but for the wrong reason. This was a team of talented actors wasted on a script that was just too ridiculous to make sense. The story meandered from Hawaiian indigent rights, to military overreach, to the loss of the space program to the private sector all while trying to work in a romance and reconciliation. It was too much to pack into a 105-minute film.

On top of that, it has an incredible case of the cutes. Rachel McAdams’ character Tracy was facing some really tough choices. She had an old flame who had come to town, she was having marital problems with an incommunicative husband, and she was dealing with the paternity of her eldest child. Yet, McAdams never stops smiling from opening scene to credits. Emma Stone’s Captain Ng was so incredibly perky I wondered if she weren’t a teenager. She’s a fighter pilot for Pete’s sake. And a Captain at that – which is usually someone in their mid thirties. It was hard to know just how seriously to take this film.

In our first Reel Heroes book, we describe the tendency of movies crammed with multiple stars to be destined to failure. This movie certainly had that potential and a case could be made that this film under-performed, given that most of the all-star cast members are in their prime. As you point out, the plot is a little strange and overly complicated, plus there are a few too many characters. Director Cameron Crowe tries to do a lot here and he has all the talent and resources in the world at his disposal, but the whole doesn’t quite match up to the parts.

Yet, having said that, this film appealed to me. Aloha is a movie with a lot of heart. For me, the three female lead characters steal the show. First, Emma Stone’s wholesome sex appeal shines through in her performance as Captain Ng. Admittedly, Stone doesn’t strike me as a fighter pilot at all but she tugged at my heartstrings. The character of Tracy is a sympathetic figure as she is trapped in a bad marriage and desperately longs for a man like Gilcrest. Then we have Tracy’s daughter, Grace, played beautifully by Danielle Rose Russell, who is on the cusp of womanhood and who develops a wonderful awareness of her true ancestry. These three women characters not only saved Aloha from being a dud but carried it emotionally.

The hero of the story is Brian Gilcrest. He is the lead character in an ensemble and a love triangle. He’s got all the traits of a good hero – he’s a good guy who is trying hard to do his best. He has some sympathetic characteristics – among them he is a war veteran and is overcoming his war wounds. So we’re pulling for this guy.

The secondary characters include Captain Ng and Tracy, who Scott has already described. Other notables are Bill Murray’s Carson Welch (patterned apparently after Elon Musk of Space-X fame). This character is shadowy and looks to be a dark mentor. He is leading Gilcrest down a path of corruption and evil. There’s also Woody who is the strong silent type. He is the competition for Gilcrest’s alpha male status (does that make Woody the “beta male?”). Alec Baldwin has a fleeting role in this film as a general who yells a lot. I think he is the polar opposite of the dark mentor. He represents Gilcrest’s past – a past when Gilcrest was a military man in good standing.

Good synopsis of the relational structure of the cast, Greg. As you note, Gilcrest is a worthy hero figure who is pulled in many directions and must overcome his emotions and the evil Carson Welch in order to do the right thing. He has help from Ng and General Dixon, but mostly Ng, without whom Gilcrest would be lost professionally, romantically, and ethically. You’re right that Welch is a dark mentor who leads Gilcrest down an ominous path, much like Terence Fletcher led Andrew Nieman to ruin in the 2014 movie, Whiplash.

In movies featuring dark mentors, the hero often must overcome selfish greed to break free from the grip of the mentor. In Whiplash, Nieman has to let go of blind ambition to regain a sense of self-preservation to break free. In Aloha, Gilcrest must let go of his almost pathological need to rehabilitate his image with the Air Force. Only in this way can he break free from Welch.

Aloha isn’t a great movie. It has a confusing plot with side dishes of military, political, and historical controversy. We’re never clear on what Gilcrest wants from Tracy. And he is trying to avoid Captain Ng. We don’t much care about anyone in this movie and nobody really seems to be having much drama. It was really hard to get invested in the story. I give Aloha just 2 out of 5 Reels.

The hero of the story seems to have it all. Gilcrest is a decent guy with a few problems that he has to work out. He has a clear goal (launch the satellite) and a missing inner quality (unrequited love for Tracy). But the internal conflict appears to be about following the corrupting influence of Welch or the innocence of Ng. I can’t summon more than 2 Heroes out of 5 for Gilcrest.

The ensemble cast never really gels. Tracy (the old flame) is too happy for someone in a bad relationship. Ng (the new obsession) is too perky to be believable. Welch never appears evil enough to rise to the level of a villain. General Dixon isn’t on-screen enough to operate as a positive mentor. The King of the island appears as the innocent native. Woody is the stoic representation of what Gilcrest could have had. The ingredients are all there, but there is just not a decent stew to be made. I give the supporting cast just 2 out of 5 Cast points.

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Greg, my mind agrees with you but my heart was won over by this movie. You and I have both said that the whole of the film doesn’t match the parts, and even knowing that I found myself charmed by Captain Ng, empathizing with Tracy, and moved by young Grace’s coming of age. Aloha is not a great movie, but if you are a fan of the members of this all-star cast, you just might be satisfied by this film the way that I was. I’m semi-embarrassed to give Aloha 4 Reels out of 5.

The hero story was similar to that of Whiplash in that our hero is being driven to destruction by a dark mentor on a power trip. What makes Whiplash a better film is its simplicity compared to the rather complex clunkiness of Aloha. Still, Bradley Cooper does a fine job as our hero Gilcrest, who traverses the hero’s journey in fine fashion. I’m happy to award him 3 Heroes out of 5.

As I’ve said, the three main women characters tugged at my heart and carried this film in a big way. Emma Stone may not be believable as a part-Asian fighter pilot, but her screen presence is powerful as always. The characters of Tracy and Rachel are warm, wonderful figures whom we root for, and even the male cast (e.g., the King and Woody) are wise, warm, likeable figures. In a role that’s unusual for him, Bill Murray’s eccentric and malevolent Welch character charmed me, too. This supporting cast is the star of the film. I give them a rating of 4 out of 5.

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