Sunday, June 20, 2010

Movie Review: Toy Story 3

It seems almost pointless to mention that Toy Story 3 was a fantastic movie: Pixar is, after all, in the business of producing fantastic movies.  There's little indication they still remember how to make movies that are anything less than fantastic.

Even so, Toy Story 3 was something of an ambitious undertaking, because it was fundamentally unnecessary.  Toy Story 2 had already taken the series in a darker direction, exploring issues of abandonment and obsession.  They'd addressed the idea that Andy would move on one day, that nothing lasts forever.  Was there really value in confronting that day?

It turns out there was, because Pixar perceived a rare opportunity.  Toy Story 3 isn't about abandonment, loss, or death, though all of these concepts are incorporated into the film.  This isn't merely another movie about accepting change or growing up: that happened between movies.

Toy Story 3 is about saying good-bye.  It's hard to watch the last few scenes without thinking about the end of The House on Pooh Corner.

We should mention a few additional things about Toy Story 3.  The first is that there are several moments in the movie young children may find difficult.  Pixar does not shy away from dark moments, and this is no exception.  The film goes to some dark places, from a daycare run with Nazi-like precision to what can only be described as the gates of Hell itself.  This movie is perfect for those who grew-up with the franchise, but it might be a bit grown-up for those who didn't.

The new characters here are, by and large, excellent.  Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear fills the Prospector's shoes nicely, and Ken captures the essence of the toy line to a degree that's astonishing.  In addition, we were pleasantly surprised to see a plush version of Miyazaki's Totoro appear in a minor role.

It should also be noted that the last third of Toy Story 3 is vastly superior to the rest.  While the movie is always good, it starts a little slow and picks up momentum as it moves along.  The only other critique we have is more directed at the series as a whole: despite his symbolic and emotional importance, Andy was given very little screen time in any of the three films.  We've been told several times that he's a great kid, but we never really got a chance to know him as a character.

Against almost any movie - live action or animated - produced by any company other than Pixar, Toy Story 3 would be almost beyond reproach.  But ours is a relative scale, and as such we must consider Toy Story against the best.  So, against the likes of Finding Nemo or The Incredibles, Toy Story 3 earns 4 out of 5 possible stars.  If it weren't for the somewhat slow first half, the movie might have had a chance at the full 5.

While it's not essential you see it in 3D, the added depth did enhance the film.  We doubt we'd have been any less impressed with the 2D version - after all, Pixar's greatest strength lies in their ability to tell a story - but it's still worth a few extra bucks for the experience.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Futures Market 2010, Part 3

Last year, it took four installments to complete the summer.  This year, we are wrapping up our prognostication after a mere three.

Yet somehow, against reason or logic, we are looking at the same number of films: twenty.  Is this indicative of some unrecognized law of nature; a conservation of movies, perhaps?  Or have we merely spent less time looking at each film?

Such investigation will need wait for another day.  It is time to proceed:

Inception (July 16)
Estimated Tomatometer: 80%
While the earliest teaser offered no context or information, the trailer provided the concept and genre.  This is, it seems, a science fiction movie positing technology which can be used to enter dreams.

Will it be good?  There are few guarantees in film, and this is not one of them.  However, we would describe its chances as far better than average.

With science fiction, one is better off listening to word of mouth than critics, anyway.  As a whole, they have a tendency of entirely missing the point when wandering from the fields they know into the geeklands.  If we hear good things from those we trust, we will likely go.  If not, we may wait for DVD.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice (July 16)
Estimated Tomatometer: 65%
To us, this looks like it will be an okay movie, perhaps even crossing the threshold into pretty good or decent.  There is a chance - a faint chance, but a chance nonetheless - it may be better, but we will speak no more of such fringe possibilities for fear of setting unrealistic expectations.

There's little to be gained by belaboring the point that the existence of this movie is bewildering, to say the least.  We can only pretend to imagine the series of discussions and corporate decisions that had to be made and signed off on before this could be moved into production.

Nevertheless, there are too many interesting effects and amusing moments in the trailer to dismiss the movie yet.

Beastly (July 30)
Estimated Tomatometer: 38%
The trailer for this movie suggests it may be - to our knowledge - the first major film derivative of the Twilight Saga.  A modern adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, it looks, well, awful, and we expect the critics will respond accordingly.  On the other hand, Neil Patrick Harris appears in the movie, so perhaps it won't be all bad.

Unless we hear that it's far different than we anticipate, it's highly unlikely we'll bother seeing it.

The Expendables (August 13)
Estimated Tomatometer: 75%
This may not be a remake, but it's certainly a tribute to the 1980's action movie.  Assuming this is at least decent, we expect the majority of critics will appreciate where it's coming from and give it a pass.  Even so, it's not exactly our cup of tea, and we'll likely skip it unless we hear it's better than we're anticipating.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World (August 13)
Estimated Tomatometer: 75%
In The Middle Room, we tend to lean towards comic books chronicling the exploits of superheroes.  Those other books seldom capture our interest.

That doesn't mean we don't respect them.

We've heard, from those who would know, that Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World is one of the best series out there.  Perhaps, one day, we'll track this down.  Until then, there is little question that the trailer looks amazing.  After being disappointed by Kick Ass! we're hesitant to become too excited.  But it's hard to avoid when the trailer looks this good.

Piranha 3D (August 27)
Estimated Tomatometer: 35%
We have no real interest in this, but felt it deserved inclusion.  To their credit, the trailers do a fair job of conveying the utter absurdity of this remake.  We've no idea whether this will be, in its own way, good, though we find it unlikely whatever merits are present will be appreciated by the critics.

And summer shall end, though the movies will not.  No, if Plato is to be believed, the movie, the blockbuster, exists independently of mankind's simplistic attempts to reflect its perfect form upon the movie screen.  And if one of us should ever break free our shackles and wander out of the theater into the realm of ideals and gaze upon the true summer movie in all its glory, how then would we describe it to those still sitting in the theater staring at projections upon the screen?

And would they even listen, or merely shush us for talking during their show?