Random Thoughts on Pixar’s Inside Out

Pixar’s latest summer spectacular, Inside Out, is a very good movie, but not among the company’s best. Like previous Pete Docter Pixar films, Inside Out is quite clever and full of heart. It’s a simultaneously cute and heady story of what goes on inside a young girl’s head as she deals with stress of moving from suburban Minnesota to San Francisco. Moviegoers get to watch anthropomorphic versions of the girl’s emotions — Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger, and Fear — working together in her head. Naturally, things get fouled up, the emotions go through struggles, and everyone reaches a new understanding during the denouement.

First off, I’m going to admit that I probably enjoyed the movie more than many people will, simply because I’m a huge Pete Docter fan. I loved his work in Monsters Inc. and Up. Docter co-wrote and co-directed Inside Out. Secondly, I’m rooting for the movie to do well because Ronaldo Del Carmen is the other co-director; I have to support the work of my fellow Filipino-Americans. Thirdly, since the movie takes place in San Francisco, some of the scenes touched a place in my heart, bringing up fond memories of a city I lived in for many years. With all of that in mind, Inside Out is at the top of Pixar’s second echelon of movies for me. However, I completely understand anyone that rates it as middle of the pack.

Like most good Pixar movies, Inside Out is enjoyable for children and adults. It has plenty of visual gags and slapstick humor for youngsters, but also has several smartly written scenes. After the screening, my friend Paul said that this is one of the smartest Pixar movies to date and I totally agree. Emotions can be complex and intricate, and Inside Out had lots of fun playing with how human brains function. From cherished childhood memories to jingles that get stuck in your head, Inside Out handles the brain in a very clever way.

In a recent Google Hangout, a few of you RPadholics said that Inside Out was Pixar’s version of Herman’s Head. While several of the concepts are similar, the Pixar movie is much smarter and emotionally deeper than the Fox sitcom. Frankly, comparing Inside Out to Herman’s Head is more than a little bit insulting to Pixar. I mean…it’s Fox.

Anyway, the main conflict of the movie has Joy and Sadness getting separated from the other emotions. The pair go on a journey through other parts of the girl’s head, desperately trying to get back to headquarters so that they can restore emotional balance. The main problem I had with Inside Out is that the journey seems too long. There isn’t a single part of the quest that I disliked or would have cut entirely, but the whole thing could have felt tighter.

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The actors and actresses that play the emotions are the best parts of Inside Out. Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith are perfect as Joy and Sadness, respectively. Mindy Kaling is great as Disgust and Bill Hader is lots of fun as Fear. My favorite was Anger, played by Lewis Black; let’s face it, the guy lives to play angry. An honorable mention goes to Richard Kind as Bing Bong, the girl’s imaginary friend. A forgotten remnant of the girl’s childhood, Bing Bong has a scene that will leave many moviegoers in tears.

The way the various internal characters work with and against each other is a fun take on emotions. While neuroscientists will probably disagree with Pixar’s take on how the human brain functions, it makes for an entertaining plot device. Personally, I believe that emotions are complex chemical reactions that happen in your brain; I don’t believe that there’s anything spiritual or magical about them. However, I’m also a man with borderline ridiculous emotions, so anthropomorphic characters playing around in heads is a plausible (enough) explanation. For some people, the plot device of Inside Out will be a fun exercise in examining the sometimes inexplicable intricacies of emotions.

With a runtime of 94 minutes, Inside Out isn’t very long, but it feels like a loose 94 minutes. The movie is an entertaining and emotional ride, but there are several parts of the film that feel close to going off the rails. Better editing and tighter writing would have made the journey smoother. Nonetheless, Inside Out is a very good Pixar movie that’s shy of being among the greats. Keep in mind that my opinion is in the context of the high bar Pixar has set.

As an added bonus, Inside Out viewers also get to watch the delightfully charming and exquisitely animated “Lava” short movie. As a fan of ukulele-based music, I loved it. It’s a shame that Hawaiian legend Iz passed away. A singing island with a sweet voice was meant to be played by an island of a man with a sweet voice.

If you’ve seen Inside Out, let’s compare notes (please!). Kindly share your thoughts on Pixar’s latest movie in the comments section. For another take on the movie, be sure to check out this fine review on PaulSemel.com.

Coffee Talk #655: E3 2015 — So Wha’tcha Want?!?

E3 2015 is next week! It kind of crept on me there — totally forgot it was this close. As always, I’m excited to see lots of great games, watch the console manufacturers try to outdo each other, and catch up with longtime videogame industry friends. This year, I’ll have a bunch more “me” time at the show. At E3 2014 I made the mistake of working for two companies that wanted full-time efforts out of one person. While I enjoyed the show, it was tiring and I didn’t have the exploration time that I love (I also missed my annual Hooter’s lunch with my dear friend, AIAS Debby). E3 2015 will be different! I have some light freelance work and a bunch of meetings, but will certainly have lots of time to check out games.

Hooters with @debbychen, an E3 tradition. #e32013 #losangeles #chickenwings

A photo posted by Raymond Padilla (@rpadtv) on

I tried to load up as many E3 2015 meetings as I could on Tuesday (day one of the show). In years past, some of the best games I’ve seen were ones that I looked at because friends and respected colleagues told me to check them out. Bumping into someone between appointments and asking, “So what have you seen that’s cool?” has lead to some amazing revelations. I’ll rely heavily on that technique at E3 2015.

Some of my industry friends have been making fun of me and asking, “So? What indie game are you going to fall in love with this year?” Yeah, yeah, yeah — that’s totally deserved after being smitten with games like JourneyThe Unfinished Swan and Sound Shapes during previous E3 shows. While I’m looking forward to the spectacle of big-budget games and the unique charm of indies, the game I’m looking forward to the most doesn’t fit into either category — Sword Coast Legends. As a huge mark for the Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale games, I can’t wait to learn more about this one.

As longtime RPadholics, I want to know what you want me to check out on your behalf. If I have access to the game and time allows, you’ll get your own personal preview. Please leave a comment below and let me know what you’d like me to check out at E3 2015.

Vaping Diaries #317: VLS Vector RDA & Box Mod Prototype Interview (Vape Summit)

Vapour Lifestyle had a trio of fascinating products at Vape Summit III. Following up on the success of the Vulcan RDA — one of my favorites of 2014 — is the Vector RDA. This atomizer retains some of the best features of its forerunner, while adding several exciting new ones. VLS also had a pair of proof-of-concept box mod prototypes at the show, hinting on things to come. I chatted with VLS head of marketing and product development James Ting to learn more about the Vector RDA and the box mod prototypes.

Like the Vulcan RDA, the Vector RDA uses deep under-passing juice wells, allowing for great juice capacity. It also uses a familiar three-post design. That’s pretty much where the similarities end. The posts on the Vector RDA are beefier and use hex screws. The center post has a smart design that prevents spinning. Airflow on the Vector RDA is handled in a completely different way than how its forerunner managed it; the Vector RDA takes in air through the top of the atomizer. Up to eight holes can be opened up for maximum airflow, while a simple twist of the top cap changes the airflow. The built-in drip tip has a removable mesh screen for spit-back protection, but can easily be removed for rinsing or taken off permanently if you prefer maximum airflow. In the short time I’ve spent with the Vector RDA, it seems like another winner from VLS — an affordable atomizer with novel features and a great price.

As I mentioned in the intro, VLS had a pair of proof-of-concept box mod prototypes. The boxes were 3D-printed designs made to give people an idea of what’s possibly coming next from VLS. One of the box mods had a metal frame that resembled a “Z” and the other one had a frame that resembled an “X.” Check out the video below to see what these form factors look like. As someone that’s completely bored with C-frame mods, it was nice to see VLS showing off some original designs. James mentioned that VLS is interested in using Yihi SX350 chips for these box mods.

Since the company started, VLS has strived to offer high-quality vaping products that are easily attainable. From what the company had on display at Vape Summit III, it looks like 2015 will be another successful year for VLS. The Vector RDA is already a hot product and the box mod prototypes really stand out. Check out the video below for all the details.

Vaping Diaries #316: Steam Crave Aromamizer RDA Interview (Vape Summit)

Steam Crave’s Aromamizer RDA is a unique atomizer aimed at flavor chasers. The atomizer uses cyclonic action that not only intensifies flavor, but also offers convenience. Since the Aromamizer RDA doesn’t use traditional side holes, it’s pretty much leak proof (unless you’re vaping upside down or in zero gravity). The Aromamizer RDA comes in two styles — round and hexagonal. The round model looks great on tube mods, while the hexagonal model looks sharp on box mods. In the interview below, Steam Crave consultant Barry Tang goes through the features of the Aromamizer RDA.

I’ve been using the Aromamizer RDA for a few weeks and I’m impressed with what it offers for the price. As a flavor guy, I appreciate that this atomizer was made with flavor enhancement in mind. That said, it’s no slouch when it comes to the cloud department. Sure, you’re not going to win any cloud competitions with this atomizer, but the Aromamizer RDA can generate some decent clouds. Barry was quick to point out that as far as flavor atties go, the Aromamizer RDA puts out the biggest clouds in his experience. Keep in mind that Barry isn’t just a consultant for Steam Crave, but widely known in the vaping community for his excellent Pegasus Vapor Academy work. He chooses his words carefully.

In addition to talking about the Aromamizer RDA, Barry told me about some upcoming tanks from Steam Crave. One model will be a rebuildable tank atomizer, while the other will use replaceable coils. I’m curious to see how these Steam Crave tanks will perform. The Aromamizer RDA offers nice performance for a low price; if the tanks offer a similar experience then vapers should definitely keep their eyes peeled for them. To learn more about the Aromamizer RDA, check out my Vape Summit III chat with Barry below.

Coffee Talk #654: Excited and Scared For Big Trouble in Little China Starring The Rock

Big Trouble in Little China is one of my all-time favorite movies (I’m talking top three). As a lifelong fan of pro-wrestling, I vowed to support any movie Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is involved with. When the rumor of The Rock starring in a remake of Big Trouble in Little China broke, I was immensely excited…and more than a little bit scared. On paper, it should be a movie that I love, but John Carpenter’s 1986 classic has elements that I expect a 2015 movie studio to completely miss.

You see, I have no doubt that The Rock would be brilliant as a modern day Jack Burton. Kurt Russell was fantastic in that role, playing the overconfident (wannabe) hero that thinks way too highly of his abilities and completely overestimates his prowess with the ladies. While I don’t think The Rock would be able to achieve the mesmerizingly charming dopiness that Russell pulled off, he’d be able to bring more physicality to the role, allowing the movie’s action to reach new heights (for the Jack Burton character, anyway).

The reason why Jack Burton is such a wonderful character is that he absolutely thinks he’s the hero, but is most certainly not. The true hero of Big Trouble in Little China is Wang Chi, subtly and expertly played by Dennis Dun. Dun’s Wang Chi has a quiet confidence; he’s much more capable than Jack Burton could ever be, but you’ll never hear him brag about that fact.

Should the Big Trouble in Little China remake happen, I completely expect Hollywood to fail in the casting of Wang Chi. I expect the studio to cast someone that’s too pretty and too willing to take a back seat to The Rock. With the way Hollywood has been casting Asian-Americans lately, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Wang Chi rewritten as 1/8th Chinese so that some caucasian pretty boy can play the role. As much as Jack Burton’s character made the original Big Trouble in Little China, Wang Chi was equally vital to the mix. The two characters and two actors complemented each other perfectly, in a way that few pairs in other buddy movies ever have.

So while I’m terribly excited for a Big Trouble in Little China remake starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, I’m going to temper my expectations. I fully expect The Rock to make a kick-ass Jack Burton, but I’m worried about what Hollywood will do with Wang Chi. I fear that the new version of the character will lack the strength the original had and I fear that he won’t be the true hero of the story.

What do you guys and gals think? Are you amped for a Big Trouble in Little China remake? Any casting ideas for Wang Chi? Kindly share all your thoughts in the comments section, lest you be doomed to the hell of the upside down sinners. (The Chinese have a lot of hells.)

Vaping Diaries #315: Bay City Vapor Nami RDA & E-Liquid Interview

One of my favorite mod makers in the world, Bay City Vapor’s James Livingston had a lot going on at Vape Summit III. James launched a new line of vaping e-liquids at the show and unveiled the Nami RDA. Since I last chatted with James on camera, Bay City Vapor released the Assassin Mod. In the Vape Summit III interview below, James spoke about all three products.

Getting the oldest out of the way, the Assassin Mod is an inexpensive mechanical with an MSRP of $49.99. Don’t let the low price fool you, as the Assassin has many features found in mods costing more than twice the price. James detailed the Assassin’s features during our chat.

Perhaps the most exciting product Bay City Vapor had at Vape Summit III, the Nami RDA is a unique atomizer that offers a crazy amount of versatility. The cool thing about the Nami RDA is that it allows users to manipulate the airflow going into and out of the atomizer. As a flavor fiend, I was particularly enamored by the potential of creating dense vapor for some fantastic flavor. The four-post deck, which I unfortunately wasn’t allowed to film at this time, allows for a wide variety of builds too. The Nami RDA is ready for bottom-feeding mods and doesn’t require a separate post for squonking. Simply removing a screw from the center post allows the atomizer to work with bottom-feeding mods. Honestly, I’m too dumb to properly explain the Nami RDAs numerous features and recommend listening to James explain it below.

Last, but certainly not least is Bay City Vapor’s new juice line. Named after various surf spots, the line is launching with five dessert flavors. 56th Street is a strawberry cake. James was quick to point out that it’s not a strawberry cheesecake e-liquid (a common flavor in Southern California), but a moist yellow cake flavor with strawberry. Black’s Beach is a cheesecake that allows you to taste the graham cracker crust and some caramel in the background. Mavericks is a triple-C — a creamy caramel custard. Scripps is a sugar cookie and praline blend. Finally, Trestles taste just like Rice Krispies Treats. I vaped at least a milliliter of each of these flavors and, as a dessert vape fan, am digging all of them. I haven’t vaped enough to pick a favorite, but I have a feeling that it’s going to be tough to choose one from this delicious line of e-liquids.

Anyway, that’s enough from me. Check out my chat with James to learn more about the Nami RDA, the new e-liquids, and the Assassin Mod.

Rocket League Preview (PS4, PC)

Rocket League has a premise that’s so preposterous that is must be fun — cars playing soccer. If that’s not enough to get your attention then how about ridiculously acrobatic cars playing a physics-enhanced death-match version of soccer? Okay, fine then. Let’s add Sweet Tooth from Twisted Metal to the mix! That dude brings an absurd amount of fun to any party he’s invited to and he aims to amp up this game. From the brief time I spent checking out Rocket League, I found it to be a game that’s pure fun, whether you’re playing it alone (good) or playing it as a party game (better).

Let’s get some of the official particulars out of the way. Rocket League is being developed by Psyonix, a company known for creating Unreal Tournament 2004, ARC Squadron, and Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars (Rocket League’s forerunner). The game will be available for PlayStation 4 and Windows PC on July 7, 2015. In addition to playing against Rocket League’s AI, the game supports up to four players in split-screen mode and up to eight players in online mode, with drop-in drop-out gameplay.

After a quick demo and some gameplay, the aspect of Rocket League that I enjoyed the most was its feel. The game is flat-out fun. I loved the silly premise of cars playing soccer. Rocket League’s physics are extremely enjoyable, so much so that driving around and seeing what the cars could do was as much fun as competing in a match. I would say that the physics are accurate, but I have no idea of what the physics of driving up walls and on arena ceilings is actually like (I’ve lived a limited life, sorry). Where I think the game will really excel is as a party game; sure, solo and online play should be lots of fun, but I can easily picture having a blast playing Rocket League with several buddies on a couch.

Driving in Rocket League is much more than crashing into a giant ball and trying to get it into a net. The game’s cars are capable of outlandish maneuvers that will have you soaring through the air and performing acrobatic stunts. The cars can drive on walls, execute bicycle kicks, double jump, perform wicked power brake moves, and more. In the time I spent playing Rocket League, I found the driving to be insanely fun.

As you play Rocket League, you’ll unlock features. The developers were keen on going heavy with unlockables, so as to keep players coming back for more. I was told that Rocket League is loaded with Easter eggs, to the point that players should discover something new every time they play the game.

When playing against AI-controlled characters in Rocket League, Psyonix hopes to offer an experience that’s lifelike. From what I was told, the AI shouldn’t fall into predictable patterns. Sometimes the game will go at you aggressively and other times the game will emphasize defense. Psyonix’s goal for the Rocket League AI is to make it feel like you’re competing against an actual person.

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Like many car-based games, Rocket League offers lots of customizability. Players can choose from up to ten body styles — buggies, trucks, a Batmobile-like vehicle, RC cars, sports cars, and muscle cars. Paint color, paint type, wheels, tires, decals, exhaust trail colors, and more can be customized. I was shown some cool customizations, like sparkle exhausts and rainbow exhausts. I was told that other exhaust types include money and grass, while various paint types like glossy and metallic will be included.

Of course if you want to go with a pre-made vehicle, Rocket League should have some cars you’ll immediately recognize. Sweet Tooth of Twisted Metal fame will be exclusive to the PlayStation 4 version of Rocket League. You can see Sweet Tooth in action in the video embedded below and check out several screens of the iconic ice cream truck in the screenshot gallery above.

Other Rocket League features include extensive stat tracking, a robust replay editor that takes advantage of PlayStation Share Play, season mode, and (for your trophy whores out there) platinum trophies. At a glance, Rocket League appears to be a complete game. While I’m fairly sure that it will be entertaining as a multiplayer game, I haven’t seen enough to say if the single-player mode will have much longevity. Details on the game’s season mode will be revealed at E3 2015, so hopefully that’ll give me more of an idea of the single-player fun. For now, check out the Rocket League media in this story and kindly let me know what you think of the game in the comments section.

Vaping Diaries #314: Vigilante Juice Co Interview (Vape Summit)

I first met Vigilante Juice Co at ECC 2014 and was immediately enamored by the company’s e-liquids. Vigilante Juice Co — and its offshoot Twig and Berries line — offers some delicious and complex juices that are right in my wheelhouse. Initially focusing on layered dessert flavors, I’m a big fan of the company’s juices. Back at ECC 2014, I chatted with company co-owner Russ Scarbrough to learn about the company and some of its flavors. At Vape Summit III, I caught up with his partner in crime (vigilantism?) Ashley West to get an update on the company and learn about some new offerings.

Ashley told me about two new e-liquids in the Vigilante Juice Co and Twig and Berries arsenal — Poison Apple and My Own Summer. Poison Apple is a confectionary treat of apple and salted caramel, while My Own Summer is a melange of mango and green tea. The former was released in Fall 2014 (after my initial meeting with the company) and tastes like a wonderful autumn treat. The latter is a brighter and more refreshing blend that’s perfect for summertime. Being a Los Angeles resident, seasons have no meaning, so both of these juices are great for me year round. (And to be honest, I’m pretty much a sucker for anything with salted caramel.)

While the company has attained an ardent following with its dessert blends, Ashley told me that Vigilante Juice Co’s next few flavors will likely emphasize fruit flavors, rounding out the company’s offerings. If My Own Summer is any indication of what Vigilante Juice Co can do with fruit, then I expect more delightful, layered, and complex e-liquids from the company. I can’t wait to see what these guys and gals do next! For more information on My Own Summer and Poison Apple, as well as hints on the future of Vigilante Juice Co and Twig and Berries, check out the video interview below.

Vaping Diaries #313: Fumi Vapor Gang Mod Interview

Combining vaping and street art, Fumi Vapor aims to make a splash with a stylish approach. The company is launching with the radically different Gang Mod, which resembles brass knuckles, and four flavors of vaping e-liquids. All of the Fumi Vapor launch products feature street art from a Japanese designer. I recently caught up with Fumi Vapor vice president Joseph Brown to learn about the company’s mission, the Gang Mod, and the four launch flavors in the company’s e-juice line.

The Fumi Vapor Gang Mod demands attention. For a company that combines style with vaping, a mod that resembles brass knuckles was a great way to start. Love it or hate it, people will talk about the Gang Mod and associate it with Fumi Vapor. The mod is a great conversation starter that will help the company’s brand recognition. Underneath the striking design of the Gang Mod is a variable-wattage chip made by Kamry. In the interview below, Joseph goes over the Gang Mod’s features and artwork.

Joseph also spoke about Fumi Vapor’s four launch e-liquids. Since the company is based in Los Angeles and works with Japanese artists, the four flavors are based on locations that reflect Fumi Vapor’s international nature — DTLA (downtown Los Angeles), Hollywood, Venice Beach, and Tokyo. DTLA is a coke-on-the-rocks e-liquid. Hollywood is a mix of mango, guava, and melon (MGM, get it?!?). Venice Beach is a blueberry ice flavor. Lastly, Tokyo is a mix of honey and melon. These Fumi Vapor e-liquids come in bottle that feature stylish street art.

With its distinct mod and flashy e-liquid bottles, Fumi Vapor is attempting to be a “vaping lifestyle” company. It’s certainly off to an interesting start and there are even bigger things coming later in the year from the company. Joseph teased that Fumi Vapor will have several more mods and e-juice flavors later in 2015.

I’m very curious to see how Fumi Vapor will be received in the vaping world. The company has style, which is of course subjective, and is aggressively going after the top reviewers in the business. At the very least, I expect Fumi Vapor to grab lots of attention. What the company will do with that attention is intriguing. For now, get to know Fumi Vapor better by watching the video below.

Vaping Diaries #312: Pro-Wrestler Willie Mack Talks Vaping

The last interview RPadholic N8R and I filmed at Vape Summit III was one of my favorites — a conversation with outstanding pro-wrestler and avid vaper Willie Mack. I first met Willie Mack at an IMProof rally in Los Angeles last year and have been anxious to get him on camera ever since. It’s funny that we’re both in Los Angeles, but only managed to connect in Las Vegas. Ha! Logistical curiosities aside, Willie Mack is known for his awesome combination of dynamic moves and power moves. If you haven’t seen him work then I highly recommend searching for his matches on YouTube. The dude can flat-out go!

In our chat below, Willie Mack talks about moving from Blu e-cigs to enthusiast vaper hardware. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Filipinos got him into hardcore vaping. (If you’re not familiar with the SoCal vaping scene, there are a ton of Filipino vapers.) His current setup of choice is a Sigelei box mod, a Plume Veil atomizer, and a glass atty cap. Willie Mack also spoke about the types of vaping e-liquids he enjoys. He’s a longtime fan of ube e-juice and has recently gotten into strawberry cheesecake e-liquids.

While Willie Mack has always had strong cardio, he said that switching from smoking to vaping has helped his wind. Since he’s always vaping in the locker room, many of the boys have wondered what he’s puffing on. He has gotten several pro-wrestlers to make the switch to vaping. Willie Mack noted that fellow pro-wrestlers Rey Mysterio, Jr., Konnan, and Mike Modest are vapers.

Lastly, I approached Willie Mack about being his manager. The gimmick would be that I’d sneak him a stacked 26650 mod or something while the referee wasn’t looking. I think you should bug him on Instagram and Twitter to make this idea a reality (please!). It’s awesome that a great pro-wrestler and all around cool guy like Willie Mack is a vaper. Get to know him a bit better by watching our chat below.