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  • It's rare when I'm surprised by an independent film. Inside Out surprises and delivers the goods. Without giving away the plot, the most genius part of the movie is how everything comes together in the end with subtlety, without being underhanded or over the top. After you see the ending, and the reality hits you like a ton of bricks, you want to watch it again. Being a big fan of thrillers, I am often the one to figure out a film's ending, but I was completely taken by surprise with this one as I found myself thinking "I should have seen that coming," yet I did not. The film has dynamic characters played by veteran actors. Eriq La Salle plays an interesting villain, while Steven Weber portrays the quirky guy next door, both portrayed very well.

    I'm sure I'll rent this film again.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I'm sure the story that David Ogden came up with in his head was pretty good, but a whole lot must have been lost when he tried to take that story out of his head and put it on the screen. Inside Out isn't smart or realistic enough to make it as a serious drama, but it's not trashy or exploitive enough to qualify as entertaining crap. This film is trapped in The Phantom Zone of Lameness.

    The underlying theme of this movie is that life in upper-middle class suburbia isn't as perfect as it seems, which may have been a provocative concept back in 1985. The story is about a strange man with a secret who moves into the cul de sac and upends the lives of all of his neighbors, who then turn out to have deep dark secrets of their own. But not only is the storytelling in this film dumber and more ham handed that what you see on Desperate Housewives, it isn't even up to the standards of an episode of Knots Landing.

    Norman (Steven Weber) is the anal retentive, conspiracy minded husband to Maria (Nia Peeples) and father to Obert (Tyler Posey). Maria is a thoroughly generic, long suffering wife character. Obert, which is a name only an idiot celebrity would give their child, is supposed to be a disturbed kid. But other than looking sullen and really not wanting to take a swimming lesson, he never does anything disturbing. Maria's best friend in the neighborhood is Tyne (Kate Walsh), a thoroughly generic best friend character, who happens to be divorced from Frank (Russell Wong). The movie never bothers to explain why Tyne and Frank are still living in the same neighborhood if they're divorced, but this movie never explains very much of its plot. There's not much to Frank's character, except he partners up with Norman to spy on their new strange neighbor. Oh, and Frank has a gambling problem with the story alludes to in painfully obvious ways. George (Joe Hart) and Shirley (Roberta E. Bassin) are an older fat couple. George has to deal with an abusive boss in a wheelchair and Shirley is a compliant mouse. Frankly, if they had cut these two characters out of the whole story it could only have improved things. The strange new neighbor is Dr. Peoples (Eriq La Salle). While he's supposed to be the mysterious outsider who threatens the supposed tranquility of Norman and the others, the most noteworthy thing about Dr. Peoples is his bizarre fashion sense. He shows up for a kid's birthday party in a tuxedo and with a cane. In another scene, he's even more inexplicable dressed like an urban cowboy. Later on, for the climax of the plot, he's wearing some Hugh Hefner-like pajamas. It's kind of hard to take him seriously as the heavy in the story when you can't help wonder why his momma dresses him so funny.

    The gist of the story is that Norman and Frank suspect Dr. Peoples of doing terrible things, but instead of calling the cops like normal people, they investigate Peoples on their own. It's supposed to be about how Norman and Frank are the good guys but Dr. Peoples turns the tables on them and forces them into extreme and reckless behavior that destroys their lives while Dr. Peoples makes everyone think he's the good guy. Then there's supposed to be the big twist at the end where we find out Dr. Peoples' real agenda and the audience is meant to be blown away with Norman and the rest of the neighborhood not being the folks we were led to believe they were.

    There are just so many silly, nonsensical and just plain stupid things that happen along the way, however, that you can't take anything seriously. But the movie also isn't over the top or sensationalistic enough to make you stop caring about it not making sense. We're repeatedly told that Obert is deeply screwed up, but he never does anything the least bit crazy or shocking. The violence in the film never amounts to more than a couple of fist fights. There's one nude scene that's so hard to make out I can't understand why it's in the movie. There aren't even any screaming fights between Norman and Maria or anyone.

    Another huge problem is that Norman is the main character and he's not likable. The movie doesn't try and make you dislike him, but it does nothing to make you like or identify with him. Before you can care about what happens to a character, you have to care about the character. Steven Weber does okay with a role that has no depth written into it, but even he can't pull it off when Norman shaves his head in some sort of Taxi Driverish mental breakdown montage.

    Inside Out is a melodrama, but writer/director David Ogden clearly deceived himself into thinking it was a drama. So he doesn't bother to put in any of the visceral thrills that make melodramas worthwhile, yet he obviously doesn't appreciate that this movie has none of the intelligence and genuine emotion that makes dramas worthwhile. That's The Phantom Zone of Lameness and I don't think even a nuclear explosion in space could set this movie free.
  • I watch a lot of DVDs of the kind where the box pretty much screams, "I'm low-budget crap! Don't rent me!" (More accurately, I usually have them playing on the computer while I'm eating and doing something else on the computer at the same time.) You know, the kind where, at best, there's a quote from the Ponca City Gazette on the cover. So my expectations are pretty low, but sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised.

    Is this one of those times? Well, it's slow moving, it has that low-budget claustrophobia induced by there only being a minimal number of sets, and I'm not sure if the story makes any sense. And I'm not about to watch it again to figure that out.

    But it was better than I expected, and I give extra points for the trailer and box not giving everything away. So, grading on the curve, I give it a decent rating. You should probably give it more of a chance than it looks like it deserves. Is that a ringing endorsement, or what? - Tom
  • Warning: Spoilers
    We see a man scrubbing out a modern sink that doesn't need scrubbing, and cleaning the glass of a mirror that doesn't need cleaning. He eats dinner with his wife and young son and nobody speaks. He and his house and neighborhood are scrupulously tidy. The residents cheerfully greet one another and say, "Neighbor." All the middle-class homes are very much alike -- without character, without soul. The husbands drive Beamers to work. The wives drive modern VW Beetles. The little community is nestled in a cul de sac in the peaceful and verbena-scented California hills. When a newly arrived resident makes too much noise at night, another gently reminds him, "Ahh, we have a rule around here. Silence after seven." I wouldn't live there for one hundred billion dollars.

    That new neighbor is an interesting guy, Erique La Salle. He's tall, deep voiced, soft spoken, and black. His race is never mentioned but it ought to be because it becomes part of all the white men's fantasies about blacks being better sex partners than they themselves, and it's not long before the chief conspiracy theorist, Weber as an airline pilot, begins enlisting the others in spying on the black guy.

    They buy sophisticated surveillance equipment to do it but nothing much comes of that technology. Mostly they creep up on La Salle's lawn after dark and listen through a basement window of frosted glass as a woman screams while being beaten, or another ululates her orgasm. La Salle, it turns out, is a psychiatrist -- first in his class at Harvard Medical School. In movies like this, you're nobody unless you're first in your class at Harvard. However, he's been stripped of his license to practice because he was using unorthodox methods. He has no wife or children, and he rarely goes out of his way to be friendly, except to Weber's young son.

    It sounds engaging, doesn't it? It was written and directed by David Ogden. The problem is that it no sooner establishes an interesting introduction -- mysterious black man with shady past moves into immaculate white neighborhood and appears to be engaging in sexual acts in his basement, perhaps with some of the neighborhood wives -- than the structure begins to shiver and weave, as might one of those sterile frame houses with the welcome mat, during an earthquake. At the climax, the entire plot implodes and buries everyone in a debris heap full of plasterboard, vinyl and tattered reproductions of Mark Rothko, leaving nothing behind other than a mammoth cauliflower cloud of dust and a handful of puzzled coyotes.

    It gets points for not being a slasher movie, mechanical thriller, or soap opera, and also for being willing to deal with such a colorless milieu. The performances are up to professional snuff too. "No problema," as these people might say.

    But the plot is just plain silly, and it get some details wrong in the most obvious fashion. Here's the director's idea of shocking you, a sophisticated viewer, full of good taste and savoir faire. Weber, the pilot, appears to be going round the bend with his paranoid ideation. So he shaves his head. We know he's shaving his head because we see him doing it. Cut to Weber sitting in front of a mirror, his head wrapped in a towel. Slowly, deliberately, Weber unwraps his nude head, while you, the presumed dummy, gasp in anticipation and tingle all over. Then -- THE NAKED HEAD. On top of that, the director has Weber stare at an angle into the mirror, so that instead of looking at his own image he's clearly looking at the camera. I thought that imbecile trick had died years ago and am so sick of it that -- quick, hand me his razor, I'm going to cut my throat.

    I don't want to go on with deconstructing this offal. But, okay, if you're newly arrived in a neighborhood, you're a shrink, you genuinely care about people, and are desperate to help those who need it, do you establish rapport by mowing your lawn with a tractor at two in the morning? If you have graduated from Harvard Medical School -- with or without a license to practice -- do you need to change your first name legally to "Doctor" in order to be addressed as "doctor"? No, you don't. Michael Creighton graduated from medical school and never practiced. In certain limited professional settings, like classrooms, I was addressed as "doctor" although I never had a license to do anything but drive a car. Well -- once a motorcycle.

    If you were, say, a ten-year-old boy, would you open the family safe and examine its contents, including the loaded pistol, and then, finding some offensive documents, shoot the papers full of holes with real bullets? You see what I mean? And there's worse that I haven't even mentioned. You know, if you're just going to give up and throw credibility out the window, that's not necessarily bad. Edgar Allan Poe did it all the time. But if you wanted to save this movie from the vortex of the absurd, you could at least have shown some extensive footage of Kate Walsh making love to another lady. What the heck. If the horse is not quite dead, why stop flogging it?
  • payasoingenioso21 January 2021
    7/10
    Drama
    This is a twisted drama.

    The plausibility is low, but the characters are almost developed.

    I like Eriq La Salle; so, I watched until the end.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    . . . upper middle class white family men and want to see them being harassed into paranoid buffoons by mysterious bow-tie-wearing black guys representing some ideal of Malcom X's Nation of Islam correcting their sorry ways (which I've identified and labeled as the "HUMCWFM&W2STBHIPBBMB-T-WBGRSIOMXNOICTSW" sub-sub-genre). I don't waste my time enlightening about films here for which there already are 15 comments posted by the time I watch the movie, because A)someone who thinks like me has always been among the first 15 posters (so far, at least), B)films in this category are usually low-budget direct-to-video genre crap being overly praised by fanboy dittoheads, or C)rarely one of these flicks is an excellent genre-buster being reamed by these same groupthink sheep. For this reason, I did not post for the more-frequently-rented SUBLIME, because it already had 33 posts by this week. Therefore, I will finish with a comparison and contrast of SUBLIME, which some will prefer to INSIDE OUT, others will shun, and a few will incorporate (with my talking points) into their own high school or college English comp A-B-A-B compare\contrast papers.

    Like INSIDE OUT, SUBLIME (113-minute 2006 feature directed by Tony Krantz, who packaged TWIN PEAKS as an agent and produced TV's Jack Bauer gore-fest "24") could be an episode of a show called WHITE GUYS GONE WILD. SUBLIME is a sort-of horror movie (somewhat in COMA's medical sub-genre) with a twist ending; INSIDE OUT is a quasi-thriller with a twist ending--but very little action (if the backers paid more than $100,000 in production costs, they got rooked and should call in an accountant). Both movies probably are sleep inducing for the first half, without any features enhanceable by substance abuse, so they must be viewed sober. The second half of each effort goes off the reservation with only-in-the-movies absurdities. In fact, SUBLIME should have a BLACK BOX WARNING against watching within six months of any upcoming elective medical procedure for you or a loved one. In the director's comment extra, Krantz actually boasts that he named his quiet white guy family man "George" as a stand-in for U.S.President George W. Bush--and, by extension, the "American Everyman," to use his term--so he could have George tortured in every imaginable way by Mr. Bow-tie--whom Krantz has named "Mandingo"(!), representing THE WORLD as well (except for Europe, for which George's America-hating brother Billy stands in, according to Krantz). SUBLIME probably has a bigger budget than INSIDE OUT (Krantz says "star" white guy Tom Cavanagh is just as worthy as "Tom Hanks or Jimmy Stewart," and "star" black guy Lawrence Hilton Jacobs is just as adept as "Laurence Fishburne or Samuel L. Jackson," so I assume he paid them a ton!), but I did not underrate it with a 5 out of 10. (In the interest of full disclosure, anybody who makes racial designations based on looks would tag Krantz as a white guy.) On the other hand, INSIDE OUT is more entertaining and less off-putting than that other HUMCWFM&W2STBHIPBBMB-T-WBGRSIOMXNOICTSW sub-sub-genre offering of 2005-2006, and certainly deserves 7 out of 10. To sum up, the loyalty of the main character's wife comes into question during some point in each of these movies. The relationship between father and kid(s) is strained in each movie. SUBLIME features a black male nurse with questionable motives; INSIDE OUT plays off a black male psychiatrist/next-door neighbor with suspect goals. Most any good American of every race will find SUBLIME racially offensive, while most Americans of every race will find INSIDE OUT to be a GRAN TORINO-type film with its heart in the right place.