Toy Story 3 Review

Toy Story 3 movie posterSynopsis
Andy (John Morris (voice)) is preparing to leave for college and must choose what to do with his toys. He decides to keep Woody (Tom Hanks (voice)) and put the rest in the attic. However, the toys are mistakenly delivered to Sunnyside Daycare. Thinking that Andy was throwing them out, Buzz (Tim Allen (voice)), Jessie (Joan Cusack (voice)), and the rest of the gang choose to stay at Sunnyside where the will be played with everyday. They soon discover than Sunnyside isn’t as cheerful as they thought and try to return home.

Review
When I heard Pixar was making a third Toy Story film, I was filled with excitement. I had grown up with Woody, Buzz, Rex, Hamm, Mr. Potato Head and the rest of the gang. And Andy was about to head off to college, an experience I went through a few years earlier. Basically, I had been waiting 11 years for this moment. But the question was could Pixar deliver a third fantastic outing with these characters? You bet they can!

One thing I think is interesting about all three of the Toy Story movies is that Andy doesn’t appear much in any of the films, but he is the heart and soul of them. Everything the toys do is for Andy. Why does Woody need to get back to Andy’s house after getting lost? To be there for Andy. Why does Buzz want to rescue Woody from Al? So he’s there for Andy. Why does Buzz tell Woody going into a museum is a terrible idea? Because Andy can’t play with him behind glass. Why does Woody want the other toys back home instead of at Sunnyside Daycare? To be there for Andy when he needs them. Why doesn’t Woody want to stay with Bonnie even though Andy doesn’t play with anymore? To be there for Andy. I didn’t realize how this ran through all the movies. Like, I understood it was there, but not how prominent Andy is despite his limited presence until watching them so close together.

Another thing I noticed from watching all the films together is that each movie builds on the theme of the movie preceding it. I also mentioned this in my review of Toy Story 2. Toy Story was about building friendship, Toy Story 2 was about accepting that everything has an end and to be there for your friends while it lasts. Now, Toy Story 3 is about letting go. The message has grown up with the franchise’s audience.

Pixar single-handedly created the computer animated film with Toy Story in 1995. In the fifteen years since, it has come along way. One of the benefits of revisiting these characters and this world is it acts as a great measuring tool to see how far computer animation has come in that time. Toy Story 3 is absolutely stunningly gorgeous. The animation is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was a decade and a half earlier. Everything is so colorful and full of life. The daycare especially with all its colorful walls, paintings, and furniture. Even the dark contrasts, such as the toy’s gambling area inside the vending machine or rainy scene with Lotso, which are up there with How to Train Your Dragon. It’s breathtaking to think how far animation has come and that it still is only going to get better.

You’ve done all this reading and I haven’t even gotten into talking about the film itself yet. Sunnyside Daycare is one of the most unique places created in the Toy Story universe. There are so many toys it’s ridiculous. Lots-O-Huggins Bear, voiced by Ned Beatty, may be my favorite Toy Story villain. I think his motivations were deeper than Stinky Pete’s from the previous film. Although he did feel similar to Pete in that he hid his true self under a fun, happy visage. His inner circle were all unique, too. The popular Ken, a stretchy octopus, and a few others for muscle round out the group.

Bonnie’s toys were all enjoyable as well. I found it hilarious that Jeff Garlin voiced the unicorn Buttercup. His voice isn’t what I would expect to come out of the mouth of a unicorn, which may be why it works so well. Timothy Dalton was the perfect fit for the Shakespearean Mr. Pricklepants. Another favorite of mine was Kristen Schaal as Trixie, another dinosaur toy. She was so full of energy and spunk.

The story feels like a natural progression of Woody and Buzz’s journey. We all have been through (or will go through) a time when we have to let something, or someone, go that we dearly love. In typical Pixar fashion, this was handled with care and in a way that all audiences, young and old, could understand. For many of the kids who grew up with Toy Story and Toy Story 2, and the parents forced to watch them too, the ending was very powerful, not leaving a single eye dry. It was an organic and very fitting conclusion to the characters’ story arc.

I think the only knock I have against this film is that the ending gets very dark. I had the same problem with Up, except that was in the beginning. It just wasn’t a place I expected the movie to go and took me out of it for a little while.

Toy Story 3 perfectly closes the story of Woody and Buzz. There are a ton of fun, new characters and places. Every time I go into a Pixar movie, I expect to be torn apart emotionally. There have bee many tear jerking moments that have happened because of Pixar, but the final scene between Andy and Bonnie hit me the hardest. The Toy Story series is such an emotional journey and I’m proud to say I’ve been there very step of the way.

Rating
4.5/5

Also read my reviews for Toy Story and Toy Story 2.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Lee Unkrich – Director / Story
John Lasseter – Story
Andrew Stanton – Story
Michael Arndt – Screenplay
Randy Newman – Composer

Tom Hanks – Woody (voice)
Tim Allen – Buzz Lightyear (voice)
Joan Cusack – Jessie (voice)
Don Rickles – Mr. Potato Head (voice)
Wallace Shawn – Rex (voice)
John Ratzenberger – Hamm (voice)
Estelle Harris – Mrs. Potato Head (voice)
Blake Clark – Slinky Dog (voice)
Jodi Benson – Barbie (voice)
Ned Beatty – Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear (voice)
Michael Keaton – Ken (voice)
John Morris – Andy (voice)
Laurie Metcalf – Andy’s Mom (voice)
Beatrice Miller – Molly (voice)
Emily Hahn – Bonnie (voice)
Lori Alan – Bonnie’s Mom (voice)
Teddy Newton – Chatter Telephon (voice)
Timothy Dalton – Mr. Pricklepants (voice)
Kristen Schaal – Trixie (voice)
Jeff Garlin – Buttercup (voice)
Bonnie Hunt – Dolly (voice)
Bud Luckey – Chuckles (voice)
Charlie Bright – Pea-in-a-Pod / Young Andy (voice)
Amber Kroner – Pea-in-a-Pod (voice)
Brianna Maiwand – Pea-in-a-Pod (voice)
John Cygan – Twitch (voice)
Whoopi Goldberg – Stretch (voice)
Jack Angel – Chunk (voice)
Jan Rabson – Sparks (voice)
Richard Kind – Bookworm (voice)
R. Lee Ermey – Sarge (voice)

Advertisements

RoboCop Review

RoboCop (2014) movie posterSynopsis
In 2028, OmniCorp, lead by CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton), has revolutionized security around the world but has had difficulty bringing their products to the United States. When Detective Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is seriously injured by a car bomb, OmniCorp takes the opportunity to create a product the people can get behind and transform Murphy into the cyborg RoboCop. What OmniCorp didn’t plan for was the strength of the human element still left inside Murphy.

Review
Remakes/reboots can be difficult to tackle. They can be done in one of two main ways: simply telling the same story but with a new cast or tell a whole new story using old characters. RoboCop does the latter and does so surprisingly well. There have been many remakes of iconic 1980s movies over the last several years, most have which have been sub-par. So imagine my surprise when I actually enjoyed it! RoboCop manages to pay homage to the 1987 original, but still offers a fresh and updated take on the character.

One of the appeals of the original RoboCop was its exaggerated violence. Not just the violence itself but the fact there was so much that the film became a dark satire. This movie moves away from that and instead become more politically driven. The ethics of transplanting a human consciousness into a machine is a central theme here. It gets touched on a little in the original, more so in RoboCop 2, but it takes a backseat to the violence.

The pacing is drastically different, too. One of my biggest knocks against the 1987 RoboCop is we don’t get to spend much time with Murphy as a person since he transforms into RoboCop fairly quickly. However, this time we see Murphy interacting with his family and his partner, Jack Lewis (Michael K. Williams). I felt this was a stronger lead up to his transformation because allowed us to get to know Murphy before the whole “Am I Alex Murphy or am I RoboCop?” dilemma came into play.

Speaking of pacing, there was also much more time spent on his training than before. This RoboCop doesn’t start patrolling the streets until halfway through the movie. We get to see Alex adjust to his new status rather than just jumping head first into it. Again, this gives us more time to empathize with Murphy and what has happened to him.

RoboCop’s color scheme has been changed, and I actually like the new black color. His design is also much sleeker. Peter Weller’s RoboCop was very clunky, but Kinnaman’s can actually move and run. I think I am in the minority, but I like the new look better than the original. The original’s shiny gray metallic color scheme does make an appearance. There are also several other callbacks to the original RoboCop that I noticed, like the ED-209 looks identical to the one that stood outside OCP headquarters and the RoboCop theme could be heard (but I wish it was used more, the theme is pretty iconic). I was going to list all the references I picked out but there were so many I’m not even going to attempt it.

Micheal Keaton plays a good villain, but I’m not sure about how I feel about Raymond Sellars. For most of the film he seems like he is just a CEO who wants to make his company money, even if that means moving into morally gray areas. But in the final scenes he is all of a sudden supposed to be this bad guy who doesn’t have a conscious. It would have been better if we saw that side of him throughout the whole movie rather than just the end. Otherwise, his character at the end seems out of place compared to the rest of the film.

Honestly, I went into the theater fully expecting to be disappointed when I left. However, RoboCop is one of the better remakes/reboots I have seen in a long time. Part of its success stems from its ability to craft a new story while still paying tribute to the original. Rather than focus on over-the-top violence, this movie is concentrates more on ethics. The story gives us almost half of the movie to get to know Murphy and empathize with his situation. Sellars’ actions at the end of the film don’t fit well with his actions during the rest of the movie. I’m not much of a fan of remakes/reboots, but if more movies handles them the same way as RoboCop, maybe they would actually be something to look forward to.

Rating
3.5/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Jose Padilha – Director
Joshua Zetumer – Screenplay
Pedro Bromfman – Composer

Joel Kinnaman – Alex Murphy/RoboCop
Gary Oldman – Dr. Dennett Norton
Michael Keaton – Raymond Sellars
Abbie Cornish – Clara Murphy
Jackie Earle Haley – Rick Mattox
Michael K. Williams – Jack Lewis
Jennifer Ehle – Liz Kline
Jay Baruchel – Tom Pope
Marianne Jean-Baptiste – Chief Karen Dean
Samuel L. Jackson – Pat Novak
Aimee Garcia – Jae Kim
Douglas Urbanski – Mayor Durant
John Paul Ruttan – David Murphy
Patrick Garrow – Antoine Vallon
K.C. Collins – Andre Daniels
Daniel Kash – John Lake
Zach Grenier – Senator Hubert Dreyfuss

The Lego Movie Review

The Lego Movie movie posterSynopsis
Emmet (Chris Pratt) is just an ordinary guy but all that changes when he stumbles upon the Piece of Resistance after following Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) through a mysterious hole. She informs him that he is The Special mentioned in a prophecy and takes him to meet Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), an old wizard. Together they embark on a quest to gather the MasterBuilders to stop Lord Business (Will Farrell) and put an end to his dastardly plan.

Review
The Lego Movie is the movie I have been waiting for ever since I was a kid. One of my biggest fears was that I overhyped this movie for myself after I saw the trailers. Honestly, I can say I have never been more excited for a movie in my life. I mean I was even more excited for this than I was for Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith or Marvel’s The Avengers, and that’s saying a lot. Thankfully, The Lego Movie was everything I hoped it would be and I left the theater very satisfied.

This movie is straight from a child’s imagination. By that I mean everything is made from legos and I mean everything. If there was a puff of smoke, it was legos shaped and moving like smoke. If there was water, it was legos shaped and moving like waves. On top of that there were many characters from different universes interacting together, such as city figures, pirates, the wild west, and DC characters. It reminded me a lot of the opening to Toy Story 3 where there were no rules and anybody could be a part of the story. And there were other objects that were included too, like a laser pointer, nail polish remover or a band-aid. Whenever these items appeared, they were all sized relative to the lego figures. It was very meta.

The voice actors in The Lego Movie knock it out of the park. The core cast of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, and Morgan Freeman all do well, but my favorites would have to be Liam Neeson as Bad Cop/Good Cop and Charlie Day as Benny, the 1980-something space guy. I didn’t realize Neeson did both Bad Cop and Good Cop and Day has such an energy that is hard for others to pull off. Will Ferrell really gets into the part of Lord Business. There are a ton of cameos as well, including Anthony Daniels and Billy Dee Williams reprising their roles as C-3PO and Lando Calrissian, Jake Johnson (Barry), Jonah Hill (Green Lantern), Channing Tatum (Superman), Cobie Smulders (Wonder Woman), Shaquille O’Neal (himself), Keegan-Michael Key (Foreman Jim) and several others.

The animation of The Lego Movie is beautiful. Animal Logic, the studio responsible for the CGI, made the pieces look photoreal. The models were so lifelike I was under the impression it was stop motion for the longest time. Characters and locations did incorporated a mix of real lego sets along with the special effects to add in the extra sense of realism.

Normally an animated movie like this has more of a younger audience in mind, but there was more adult humor than I expected. There is plenty here for the younger crowd, such as the characters and action, but several of the characters’ relations and jokes are geared toward the older crowd. I suppose WB understood parents would get dragged to seeing The Lego Movie so they at least made it worth their while. In any case, no matter how old you are there is something here you will enjoy.

Emmet’s journey should be very familiar. It is much like Luke’s from Star Wars or, well, pretty much any protagonist’s that goes on some kind of trek for something. Basically what I’m saying is it has been done over and over before. So at this point, I look more at what happens along the way rather than the journey itself. In a way, the end of Emmet’s quest if fairly predictable. However, there is an unanticipated element to the ending which makes the entire journey worth more than it initially lets on.

I have been waiting my entire childhood for The Lego Movie. It has great voice actors with even better cameos and photoreal animation that had me questioning whether or not it was stop-motion. But its greatest strength is the expansive universe that duplicates the feeling that anything can happen, the same idea that fuels the imagination and what makes legos themselves so enjoyable. Although the journey may be familiar, the destination has some added bonuses that bring out the imaginative side in everyone.

Rating
5/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Phil Lord – Director/Story/Screenplay
Christopher Miller – Director/Story/Screenplay
Dan Hageman – Story
Kevin Hageman – Story
Mark Mothersbaugh – Composer

Chris Pratt – Emmet Brickowoski
Elizabeth Banks – Wyldstyle
Morgan Freeman – Vitruvius
Will Arnett – Batman
Will Ferrell – Lord Business/President Business
Liam Neeson – Bad Cop/Good Cop/Pa Cop
Charlie Day – Benny
Alison Brie – Unikitty
Nick Offerman – Metal Beard
David Burrows – Octan Robot

Million Dollar Baby Review

Million Dollar Baby movie posterSynopsis
Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) is a veteran boxing trainer who has never had a boxer in a title match.  He isn’t fond of training women, either. But when his best friend, Eddie Dupris (Morgan Freeman), insists on training the persistent Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank), Frankie takes her under his wing. Working together, Frankie and Maggie work towards their dreams of a championship, forging an unbreakable bond in the process.

Review
Every once in a while a movie comes along that leaves an impression on you long after the credits have rolled. For me that was Million Dollar Baby. I first saw this more recently, even though it came out way back in 2004. It’s too bad I didn’t see it sooner because I had no idea what I was missing.

Million Dollar Baby is a movie about boxing, but it doesn’t follow the conventions of other boxing movies, or at least the last act doesn’t. This film starts off like similar movies, showing the rise of the boxer, their training, and some of their matches. But something happens that catches you (or at least me) by surprise and really changes the tone of the whole movie. It’s in these final thirty minutes or so that have some of the best character moments in the entire film.

Easily the strongest aspect of this film is how well the characters are fleshed out. Over the course of the movie, we learn a great deal about Frankie, Maggie, and Eddie. And not just their backstories, but who they are as people and the motivations behind their actions. By the end of the Million Dollar Baby, I felt a relationship with the characters that I don’t usually get when watching a movie.

There is not one bad performance in this movie. Eastwood is normally known for more action-oriented roles, but he does phenomenal in this quieter role. He just seems to get better and better as he’s grown older. Freeman is always great in any role he plays and I am a fan of a Freeman voiceover. The biggest surprise was Swank. Granted, I haven’t seen very many of her movies, but after watching this one, I look forward to watching her again. Even the lesser seen supporting cast, like Anthony Mackie and Jay Baruchel were great.

I have mentioned before how much a good score can add to a movie. Usually it’s very big and dramatic, but the score of Million Dollar baby is much more subdued and simple. The score, surprisingly composed by Eastwood, is still dramatic, but in a different fashion. It consists mostly of a single acoustic guitar or piano that is very much in line with the feel of the movie but it is every bit as emotional as the full orchestral scores.

Cinematography isn’t something I normally bring up, but I would have a hard time talking about this movie with discussing about the cinematography. There is a great use of shadows and lighting. During the boxing matches, the camera gets close to the action, but too close that you can’t see much. It’s really great work that I think few movies can compare to.

I missed Million Dollar Baby when it was released in 2004 and when I finally did see it, I regretted not seeing it sooner. The characterization is brilliantly written and it’s easy to become invested in the characters and their struggles. It is hard to pick a stand out performance because every actor was fantastic, even the supporting cast. A simple but fitting score and top notch cinematography enhance the experience even further. If you want a movie that has great acting, excellent characterization, and superb cinematography, then Million Dollar Baby is the movie for you.

Rating
5/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Clint Eastwood – Director
Paul Haggis – Screenplay
F.X. Toole – Stories from Rope Burns
Clint Eastwood – Composer

Clint Eastwood – Frankie Dunn
Hilary Swank – Maggie Fitzgerald
Morgan Freeman – Eddie Dupris
Anthony Mackie – Shawrelle Berry
Jay Baruchel – Danger Barch
Brian F. O’Byrne – Father Horvak
Margo Martindale – Earline Fitzgerald
Michael Pena – Omar

Jack Reacher Review

Jack Reacher movie posterSynopsis
When a sniper kills five random people, the police investigation quickly leads to Army veteran James Barr (Joseph Sikora). But Barr insists he is innocent and tells the District Attorney, Alex Rodin (Richard Jenkins), to bring in Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) to investigate the case. When Reacher finally arrives, he agrees to help Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike), Barr’s defense attorney, find out the truth about the murders. After looking at the evidence, Reacher comes to one conclusion: Barr is innocent.

Review
Jack Reacher is based on the book One Shot, written by Lee Childs and the ninth novel in the Jack Reacher series. I haven’t read any of the Jack Reacher novels (Or heard of them until this movie honestly), so I have no idea how it compares to the source material. As a film, however, Jack Reacher had the potential to be a great thriller, but instead it drags its feet and takes its time to get to the climax, and has a difficult time keeping my attention.

Tom Cruise plays the part of Jack Reacher well. I have seen quite a bit of comparisons between Cruise’s Reacher and his book counterpart. My Grandpa has read Childs’ novels and explained to me that Reacher was a guy who sticks out of the crowd but looks like someone you don’t really want to pick a fight with. Or according to the internet, a blonde haired, 6’5” man who is built like a brick house. This is a stark contrast to Cruise’s dark haired, shorter build. But to be honest, I think Cruise’s smaller, less intimidating stature fits the ghost persona described in the movie perfectly. Reacher as an average-sized man can blend in anywhere much easier than a taller-than-normal man can.

We quickly learn who Reacher is within the first few minutes in a quick expose from David Oyelowo’s Detective Emerson. He explains who Reacher is and a little bit of his motive. Then the rest of the movie is used to show why this guy is such a bad-ass. At first I thought this was an indication that the whole movie would move along quickly, but it was a mistake to think that. More on that in just a moment.

There were a few good action sequences throughout the movie, particularly a car chase about two-thirds through the film. However, the final fight, the action sequence that is supposed the be the biggest scene, felt lackluster. The lead-in sequence was pretty cool, but there wasn’t much to the fight itself. But I guess since it was billed as more of a thriller than an action movie that isn’t too surprising.

I felt there was a lot of unnecessary plot that could have been removed. The film tries to stretch out the investigation and final reveal to keep the viewers invested. By doing so, it adds many extra elements that make the plot needlessly bloated. Jack Reacher has a run time of little over two hours, and most of that time feels like it is dragging on. If this movie was closer to an hour and a half or so, it most likely would have been more engaging.

Jack Reacher could have been a fantastic thriller, but instead took way too long to build up to the underwhelming final scenes. There were several plot elements that could have been removed, helping the movie to move along quicker. However, I did enjoy Cruise as Jack Reacher, as he fits into the idea the character is a ghost more than his book version. For all its faults, Jack Reacher is a decent thriller that isn’t a bad way to spend two hours.

Rating
3/5

Review requested by JavaGirl. Check out her amazing blog at JavaGirl’s Life.

The Incredibles Review

The Incredibles movie posterSynopsis
Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson) was once the superhero Mr. Incredible and is having trouble settling down into an ordinary life with his wife Helen (Holly Hunter) and children, Dash (Spencer Fox), Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Jack Jack (Eli Fucile, Maeve Andrews). When an opportunity comes along that allows Bob to put on the suit again, he takes it. But when a mistake from his past catches up to him, his entire family must suit up to help him.

Review
Without a doubt, Pixar tells some of the best stories about family and friendship out there. Pixar once again outdid themselves with The Incredibles. They crafted a narrative that can be appreciated by all age levels and has something for everyone. It’s not very often a studio known for movies geared towards a younger audience can successfully create a story centered around a midlife crisis, but Pixar managed to pull it off.

First thing I noticed was the fantastic music. It was very jazzy, a genre you don’t see very often in movies nowadays, and reminiscent of spy movies like James Bond or Mission Impossible. When done right, the music can add a whole other dynamic to a movie, and Michael Giacchino’s score is a perfect fit. It complements the feel of the film appropriately and raises the film to a whole new level.

Pixar did excellent job casting the voices of the characters. Craig T. Nelson fills the voice of Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible perfectly. The same goes for Holly Hunter as Helen/Elastigirl. Probably my favorite casting though is Samuel L. Jackson as Lucius Best/Frozone, one of the few superheroes Bob keeps in contact with after retiring his mask. A close second is director Brad Bird as Edna Mode, a superhero costume designer. He brings a certain energy to the character that the animation can’t portray. Sarah Vowell Violet Parr is the only one I don’t care for. Her voice is very gratey and sometime downright annoying.

As I mentioned before, the story is phenomenal. The Incredibles has a much more mature tone than previous Pixar films. It still has an appeal to the younger audience, but the focus of the story is on Bob and his relationship with his family, particularly his wife. There are many one-liners that younger viewers may not catch that are specifically focused towards the older audience. It’s easy to understand Bob’s desire to return to the “glory days” and relive his youth once more. And there is something amusing about watching a superhero go through a midlife crisis.

I wasn’t blown away by the animation, but that doesn’t mean this movie doesn’t look good. There are a wide range of environments, from the city to a jungle island and several places in between, and they are vibrant and each have a distinct feel. It looks great, but compared to Pixar’s other films, such as Toy Story or Finding Nemo, it just isn’t anything over spectacular. However, I was impressed with the effects on the superhero suits. They had a nice texture that looked like real fabric, almost like velvet. Also, the character models are very exaggerated. I like it because each character is unique, but and the same time I don’t because they seem overemphasized, drawing too much attention to their caricatured features.

No matter how old you are, there is something in The Incredibles for you. A superhero going through a midlife crisis makes for some wonderful story moments and the Parr family dynamic feels organic and real. Although the animation may be too exaggerated for my liking, the excellent voice cast and jazz score, along with the incredible story, propel The Incredibles to heights rarely seen in a more mature animated feature.

Rating
5/5