Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Play time

I've been in Maryland on vacation and also entertaining guests. So I haven't had much of a chance to watch movies or blog about them. But enough about me.

While in Maryland I saw a few movies in part and one movie in its entirety. That movie was Toy Story 3. I paid the $30 for Dan and I to see it in IMAX 3D, and I was impressed. I haven't seen a 3D movie worth the admission price since Up. The 3D is done well, not gimmicky, and moves smoothly.
As for story and acting, I had assumed that the Toy Story franchise would have lost some steam in the third installment, but I was pleasantly surprised.
The best part about this movie is that it breaks away from the previous two movies' plot of "toys attempting to get home have crazy adventure". Granted, there's still a crazy adventure and they are trying to get home, but this film is darker and more mature than the previous two. Here, the toys don't know if they have a home to get back to. Andy is all grown up and going off to college. Like Andy, the toys must go beyond the safety of Andy's bedroom to find their rightful place in the world. It's refreshing, provocative, and surprisingly mature.
All of the Toy Story movies wax philosophical about what a toy is. A source of fun, a comfort, a loyal friend- but 3 raises the question of what should happen when an owner out-grows their toys? Woody and the other toys have so strongly identified as "Andy's toys" that they struggle finding a new purpose for themselves now that their time with Andy is at an end. This is where the story gets dark, but this is a Disney flick, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel. A few moments are so poignant that you forget you're watching animated plastic playthings.
Visually, it's all so colorful and stunning. The humans are cartoonish but believable. The environments are rich and deeply detailed. *SPOILER* The dump scenes are particularly lifelike and breathtakingly beautiful simply because we know every grimy speck of dirt and the hellfire of the incinerator were created with incredibly attention to detail.

The performances are strong, as always. It makes you wonder why Tim Allen doesn't do more, and why Tom Hanks hasn't starred in a comedy for so long. Michael Keaton is amazing as Ken. Ah. Maz. Ing. If I had to pick a stand-out performance in this strong ensemble, its Keaton all the way. He steals every scene he's in. Hollywood, give us more Michael Keaton. We thank you in advance. And if Barbie sounds familiar to you it's because Jodi Benson also voiced The Little Mermaid, Ariel.

I also saw parts of Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, which was so incoherent and unwatchable that I was glad that I didn't pay to see it. And I'm not linking to it either. If you want to seek out this movie, suit yourself, but I won't help you.
Seriously, Jerry Bruckheimer, how do you screw up two movies about robots from space that turn into cars and airplanes and shoot at each other? Robots are awesome. Space is awesome. Cars and airplanes are generally awesome. Shoot outs are awesome. I thought it would be impossible to take such an awesome concept and make it suck.. But you did. How? You stick Shania TheBeef in there as some meaningless wimpy meat-bag that we're supposed to care about, and make the far-more-interesting, inter-planetary, laser-shooting, sentient robots secondary characters. If I have to choose between robots from space that turn into cars and airplanes and some twerpy privileged suburban white kid, I'm going to choose the robots and hope they vaporize that kid and his silly first-world, cry-baby problems. The franchise is called "Transformers" not "Awkward Adolescent White Boy". We're there for the robots. We don't need a human to identify with, especially if that human is going to be so unforgivably vanilla. The robots are sentient beings, we're supposed to identify with them! That's the magic of Transformers: Robots with souls and emotions that we sympathize and empathize with who just happen to also wield incredible powers! Like Superman, but made of metal. Would they make a Superman movie and have the main protagonist be someone other than Superman? You have entirely missed the point of the original cartoon series!
Stay the hell away from Thundercats, Jerry Bruckheimer!

Then, as if to remind me what a real movie is like, Heartbreak Ridge was on AMC. Clint Eastwood as a hard-drinking, war-hardened drill sergeant, a troop of rag-tag marine recruits in ridiculously short-shorts, and the tale of how he whips them into shape just in time for them all to be put on the front lines. What's not to like? It's like Stripes meets Full Metal Jacket. Watch this movie. Key scene: Eastwood kicking the crap out of a guy twice his size.

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