Monday, June 28, 2010

Movie Review: Toy Story 3 - A-

Who's In It: Woody, Buzz, Hamm, basically anything from your toy box as a kid except Star Wars figures.

What It's About: Andy is growing up and heading to college. The toys are mistakenly donated to a daycare. Hilarity ensues.

What I Was Expecting: It's Pixar. They STILL have yet to make a bad movie 15 years running. And, as usual, the trailer made the movie look stupid, but I was not going to fall for it this time.

What I Got: For the first hour, I thought they blew it. I didn't laugh once. I thought it was too self-referential. Recycling jokes constantly from the previous Toy Story films. It doesn't work on Family Guy and it really doesn't work here. The entire opening is a rehash of the beginning of the first Toy Story. Maybe I was different as a kid, but when I was playing make believe, I varied the stories. I digress. About halfway through the movie, something just clicks. It gets a lot funnier. It's exciting. And it's as emotional as any of the Pixar films. I will admit, by the end, tears were streaming down my face. A beautiful ending to the series.

Grade: A-

Oscar Potential: I don't think it will keep up Pixar's streak of doing well outside of the Animation category, but it would be nice to see a Toy Story movie win there. The category did not exist yet for parts 1 & 2.

Five Random Thoughts:

1. It's obvious they are trying to avoid using Slink too much (previously voiced by the late Jim Varney). But whoever is doing the voice is doing a great job.

2. HEY! It's Michael Keaton! Where on earth has HE been?

3. Lottso is the worst villain in the series. And in the end, not all that necessary.

4. Wow! Did NOT recognize Whoopi Goldberg's voice in this. Such a memorable character, I don't even recall who "Stretch" was.

5. I do not see what benefit this movie would have in 3-D. Just see the 2-D version, your brain thinks it's 3-D anyway.

Trailer Park:

Mega Mind: A very funny trailer about an evil mastermind. They WISELY leave off the actual premise of the movie, thus, not giving it all away. Smart, smart move. (Note: the premise is great comedy fodder, but probably better if you don't see it coming.)

Despicable Me: A very funny trailer about an evil mastermind. (Didn't I just say this?) It looks less funny with each trailer. Here's to hoping.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: And the winner of worst movie title of the year is.... No. Let's not pick on this one. Disney will look like a genius for ditching this franchise. I thought the end of the trailer was cute. "Directed by Michael Apted". I don't think many in the Narnia crowd has seen any of the "7 Up" films. His biggest box office hit was "The World Is Not Enough", one of the worst in the Bond franchise. "Directed by Michael Apted" means nothing to this series' core audience. Or any audience for that matter. Maybe if "Gorillas in the Mist" is your favorite movie of all time.
The Smurfs: It's just a teaser trailer. Not much to see really. Thought the mash-up of the Smurfs theme with Tone-Loc's "Wild Thing" was amusing.
Secretariat: Ummm. Okay. It will be hard to separate this film from "Seabiscuit".
Tangled: Hand drawn animation? How novel. Tangled is the story of Rapunzel with a twist (and not just of the hair). An amusing trailer, if a little one-note in its humor. But, I said the same thing about "The Princess and the Frog", which was terrific.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Martin Scorsese Film Festival

For the last 12 years, a friend of mine has argued that Martin Scorsese is our greatest living director. I've changed my counterargument from time to time. For a long time, I argued Spielberg was the greatest, but he's had a mediocre run for most of the last decade. You can make a surprisingly strong case for Clint Eastwood. I think Danny Boyle has entered the argument. The Coen Brothers, for sure. Ang Lee. There are others who I will counter with on occasion, but his answer has always been pat: Martin Scorsese.

I never understood exactly why film buffs love Scorsese so much. Raging Bull is a classic. So is Goodfellas. I'll grant you Taxi Driver. If I'd seen it in its era, I might have liked it more, but now, it's been imitated so much, it's hard to appreciate. Same for Mean Streets. And then.....

I just conceded to four movies considered to be great; two of which, I don't particularly like. Scorsese has been making films for more than 40 years! That's one great film every ten years. Not a great track record for someone who's made 20-plus films. Spielberg made Jaws, Close Encounters, Raiders and E.T. in a span of 8 years. And that's an era that probably won't be considered his best!

Besides the four I mentioned, I've only seen New York, New York, The Color of Money, Cape Fear, Casino, Bringing Out the Dead, Gangs of New York, The Aviator and the Departed. So, of Scorsese's 21 non-documentary features, I've seen 12.

There are elements I find common in almost all of Scorsese's films. For one, Master Martin cannot seem to make a film less than two hours. Even when the film doesn't have enough story to warrant it. The hyperkinetic feel, with the tracking shots and zooms on faces, are there whether the movie requires it or not. Again, there's a lot of his movies I haven't seen yet. Maybe I missed something.

And so, the film festival was born. I decided to watch them in no particular order.

Day 1: Kundun

This is the kind of film Scorsese was born NOT to make. You don't make a movie about the freaking Dalai Lama with the feel of a movie about Henry Hill. It was like he was trying to build a sense of urgency in a film that had none. Nor needed it. Scorsese's style actually got in the way.

Day 2: The Age of Innocence

I'd tried watching this movie in the 90s. Fell asleep. Tried watching it for this blog. Fell asleep. Tried a third time. Stayed awake. It's one of Scorsese's more unusual efforts. Unlike his other movies which have loads of physical violence, the violence in Age is emotional. A very good movie, but his style doesn't work in the early scenes. And there are moments when explaining New York society that feel ripped right out of other Scorsese movies. At least in those cases, it works well, even if it's apparent that he's stealing from himself.

Next up.... Day 3: After Hours