0937: Toy Story 3 (2010)

Toy Story 3.jpg

Rating: 9/10

Well, it finally happened. The technology caught up to the awesomeness of the Toy Story franchise. From it’s action-packed opening, to it’s more grown-up plot about letting go, to it making me ask questions like, “Do toys have sex with each other when we aren’t looking? How do they even do it? Wait, can toys have babies? How does a toy give birth?” etc. Toy Story 3 is a movie you’ll never forget! Okay, I said it, where’s my royalty check, Disney? What do you mean the check is void because I’m writing down everything I’m saying? No I didn’t read the bylaws! Oh well, guess I’ll have to try to sell out at a later date.

Aside from that pending lawsuit, this movie starts off feeling like it’s just stealing the plot of the first film, except as a group of toys getting lost from Andy, instead of just Buzz and Woody, and they all have to find their way back. But then it flips it on its head at the start of the second act, and instead of an Odyssey/Toy Story 1 ripoff, we’re treated to a dark, broody, prison break movie that’s fun for the whole family!

This movie has this odd mix of combining pretty much every genre and movie-stylings you could think of, a noir-detective talking-telephone, a rather sweet romance between, of all people, Barbie and Ken, and a whole society of toys that kind of gives off a creepy cult vibe. Really it’s a bunch of  genres that probably shouldn’t go so well together, especially considering how it’s also supposed to be a kids movie and all. But really it becomes one of the best Pixar movies to date by fluently blending these conflicting plots to something that definitely belongs among its predecessors.

There’s one glaring problem in the film and it goes by the name of Deus Ex Machina. For those who don’t know, it’s what happens when a writer writes themselves into a corner and doesn’t know how to get the characters out of it so they just pull something out of their ass. Here, they even have lighting effects to give you the impression that God is doing for a moment before you’re like “oooohh, that’s what happened.” But it’s still a big ol’ Deus Ex Machina glaring you in the face, one of the biggest amateurish mistakes any writer can make, and Pixar knows better. I think it would have been fine if it were something smaller plot wise (I mean everyone needs a Deus Ex Machina everyone once in a while) but being that it’s during the biggest (and darkest) moment in the whole film, I can’t really let it slide.

SCORING:

+10: What a great movie to add to the Toy Story canon.

-1: A big ol’ Deus Ex Machina slapping me in the face

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0936: Toy Story 2 (1999)

Toy Story 2.jpg

Rating: 9/10

Ah, Toy Story 2, the movie that asked the question: Can Disney force Pixar to poop out a sequel of its most profitable product that’s just as good as the original? Then answers it as Hells Yeah! It’s Pixar! Anyway, this movie is a really great follow-up to the original and, as I’ve been assured by random conspiracy theorists on the internet, is also correct predictive programming that Disney would one day acquire the Star Wars Universe! So you can also look for all the coded illuminati messages throughout as you watch it! Don’t you get it? Buzz Lightyear? Buzz has a Double-ZZ?! ZZ=22, 2+2 is 4, 4×4 is 16, 16+1 flipped upside down is 911! Don’t you get it? It’s so obvious now!

Aside from that totally factual information, this movie does a really good job of taking western tropes, kids movie tropes, and combining them with the stylings of Pixar and their trademark visual comedy. Also, this movie has some of the best referential comedy I’ve seen in any movie. I especially love the visuals of Jurassic Park thrown in randomly when Rex falls out of Barbies dream van, and many more!

I have to say, Joan Crawford as Jessie really steals the show of every scene she’s in. She’s not a funny character by any means, but unlike most of the other toys, she’s one of the few characters that feels real and even more human than most actual humans. I really feel for her character and for her storyline throughout.

My complaints: the storyline with Rex trying to beat a final boss in a video game is blatantly shoe-horned in there. I feel like someone at Disney was like “but all the kids are playing these dang-fangled videor-games! By jove, we’ve got to get some of that action!” And ordered, through the power of Satan, that Pixar force the simplest video game related plotline they could of Rex wanting to beat a boss and can’t do it. I guess the “climax,” if you can even call it that, of this storyline is decent but I know Pixar can make anything interesting. Doing something like this just doesn’t feel very Pixar.

The other complaint I had was the transition into the third act feels really hastily brushed over, minor spoilers: Jessie and the Prospector have convinced Woody to not go back to Andy and go to the museum. Jessie is traumatized by her last owner growing too old for toys, but then, all of a sudden, Woody changes his mind, and tells Jessie that she should come with him back to Andy anyway and she’s all like, sure whatever. And then— wait what? What was all that set up with her for without some kind of emotional climax or something? Sigh…

Why you should watch it before you die: If you liked the first one, then you’ll love this one. What else should I say? I mean, it’s a sequel. I assume you watched the first one first. Who the hell watches the second movie before the first? Really? Seriously? What the hell?

SCORING:

+10: Great kids movie, like most Pixar flicks

-1: Weird Rex storyline that isn’t that funny and doesn’t really fit with the rest of it

-1: Clunky transition into third act

+1: Joan Cusack’s performance

0935: Toy Story (1995)

Toy Story.jpg

Rating: 8.5/10

Ah, the movie that put Pixar on the map. And then everything they made after that was the next best kids movie ever! Well, at least until they made Cars… but I think that was made on a bet. Anyway, this is the first of their best-kids-movies-ever with a great story, amazing animation, and some of the best visual comedy in any movie.

I think it’s great that movies like this can be made. As kids, I think most people who had a toy probably wondered what it would be like if those toys were actually alive and what they would do while people weren’t watching them. This movie brings that idea to life. I guess the name should imply that. Well whatever.

I like the adventure in this movie, showing a fish-out-of-water character and the established favorite toy go on an adventure and learn a bit about themselves and each other in the process. It’s more or less The Odyssey but in toy form and modern day, and a buddy film as worst enemies become best friends for who knows how many sequels to come.

There’s a few things to complain about with this one though, first off the first act is just a bit long. I do like seeing how the life of a toy is like before the adventure begins but how long this movie meanders on the birthday party is a bit ridiculous before Buzz is introduced and the story really starts. Also, it could have been a single scene of Andy’s mom bringing home a new toy from the store and we would have gotten the exact same amoundt of information. It does have a cool bit with the Army guys but they could have done that with discovering what toy Andy’s mom brought home.

Also, the transition into the 2nd act, when Woody, in a fit of jealousy, shoves Buzz out of the window, is the biggest thing he’d ever done that goes against his character. True, he was trying to just shove him off the desk but Woody, in every other instance of every other scene in every other movie (and this one) is the most level headed and quickest thinking of the characters. I mean, he’s a cowboy and jealousy, at least not jealousy so petty, just isn’t part of being a cowboy. I guess it does set certain things up for later, like all the other toys being suspicious of him, but a movie should have consistent characters along with telling a well-crafted story. This isn’t too much to ask. And this feels like a case of people around the writers room not having a good reason to get Buzz out of the house so someone shouts “Just have Woody push him out the window!” and that’s what they went with. I mean, like I said, it does set up things for later in terms of this movie and having the side story of Woody and Buzz having to resolve their differences, and I know we, as an audience, don’t know what kind of person Woody is yet, but that doesn’t mean he’s a different person, you know? It would have made more sense, I think, to have another toy, who’s secretly evil or something, to frame Woody for doing it, or Rex could have done it by accident but it made it look like Woody did it. Both of these didn’t need much in extra story or scenes and kept the characters consistent.

This doesn’t lose points but some of the visual effects are a bit dated but not enough that’ll you’ll notice more than a couple of times. It was 1995 though, so you’ll have to forgive it.

Why you should watch it before you die: Outside of that, everything else is great with some of the best visual comedy in any Pixar film.

SCORING:

+10: a great kids movie and start to Pixar’s career as feature-length-film animators

-0.5: first act a bit too long

-1: Woody goes against his character for plot reasons

My List: The Incredibles (2004)

The Incredibles

Rating: 10+/10

This movie is not only a great homage to superheroes and the comics of the 1960s but it’s one of the best superhero movies ever made (in 2004, I would have considered it the best superhero movie). It has quick character development, I like the use of the news to indicate long passages of time. I like that in every scene it tells a lot by telling only a little. This is something that’s exceptionally well-written, voice-acted, and animated and it’s so good they make it look like they’re not even trying. They make it look easy, this is how you make a movie. It’s so simple.

It’s kind of interesting really, after watching so many random films, watching this is like a splash of cold water in my face. You know what makes a scene good? If you have the scene itself tell it’s own story. It has a beginning, middle, and end, and you could watch JUST THAT SCENE and get a sense of a complete story. Do you know how hard this is for a screenwriter to do? It’s super simple and easy! And yet I find myself seeing all kinds of movies that can’t even give me a normal sense of having a beginning, middle, and end…

I don’t want to start ranting about other movies, I’m too busy jerking off the Incredibles. Wait, that came out wrong. I meant to say that I’m too busy “having sex” with the “Incredible family,” and I’m giving them all my “STDs.” Which is a term I made up for Superhero-Talking-points-and-Descriptoview (Descriptive-Review, I heard it was a good name by my Analrapist (Analyst-Therapist) Tobias).

I like how this movie combines it’s story about superheroes with the tropes of a marriage where all the spice has gone out of it. But then it’s put back in when everyone starts being superheroes again, and then a few twists later it becomes an action-packed, thrill ride with a considerably greater amount of death than you’d probably expect in a kid’s movie.

I wonder if this movie had anything to do with Disney buying Marvel? It kind of feels like a precursor to their Marvel franchise, and it’s probably the best Fantastic Four movie we’ll ever get despite not actually starring them. Also they replaced Human Torch with the Flash, but he’s better so I’m cool with it.

Why you should watch it before you die: If you like superheroes at all, this is highly recommend.

+10: Great superhero movie that feels more realistic than every other superhero movie despite being animated, also with higher stakes despite being a kid’s movie.

++: This movie would be another I consider perfect, I don’t know if there should be something special I should say when that happens? Or some kind of ceremony? But really I just think that every single movie should be perfect. I mean, it’s so easy. Just make a movie that’s entertaining throughout without any mistakes. Come on! It’s super simple right? Right?

0263: The Big Sky (1952)

The Big Sky

Rating: 6.5/10

You know what I like about voice-over narration? It gives your movie a chance to convey a lot of information really fast. Say you want to start your movie in the second act (essentially), then you can use VO to describe what happened in the “first act” that you missed, or you can use a text scrawl like in Star Wars. In either case, you shouldn’t use a text scrawl, then VO, then have the slow-ass first act that proves you didn’t need VO or a text scrawl. Also, pick either VO or text scrawl, not both. Never use both.

Anyway, for some reason, purely because of the title, I thought this would be about pilots, maybe in WWII or around that time. Instead it’s a Western. That’s not really a problem, though if you know about westerns of this time, or you’ve ever seen Bonanza or similar shows, you’d probably recognize the style and tropes immediately. This isn’t the Spaghetti Western from twenty years later filled with realistic violence, rape, or all sorts of other nasty stuff. This is an old-school western where first and foremost we’re shown that cowboys were heroes. They protected the people around them and only resorted to violence if they had to. It’s interesting watching something like this now, where the antihero is what most people look up to and wish to be, one reason why noirs were so popular just before this era was all the heroes were just as bad or worse than the villains and it reflected the world during the Great Depression where everything was dark and gloomy. Here, at the age of American Idealism, we wanted to watch more heroic types, people who were basically Jesus but not scared to shoot somebody in the face every once in a while (as long as they deserved it of course).

Westerns themselves, much like noir, kind of faded out of existence, though every once in a while a really good one will get made, like Unforgiven or Django Unchained. But I think what happened at this time period was everyone just got tired of the whole thing. They explored every aspect they could in the genre without getting more realistic, and that’s why it became popular again when spaghetti westerns started getting made and they showed things that were closer to how things were back then.

Well, that’s your history lesson for the day. More complaints: the VO narration throughout the movie just confuses me, you could cut all of it and it wouldn’t change anything about the movie. It just explains things that are unimportant or come up later in character dialogue so it’s really unimportant.

Another thing that bugs me about this movie is that everything is just soooooo cliche of cowboy movies of this era, and I haven’t even seen that many 50s westerns, but it has pretty much everything you would expect from a movie like this: Cowboys sitting around a campfire talking about the past, a song sung in a bar about drinking, American Indians are involved and people only refer to them as “Injun” and are generally racist towards them. I’m sure people are just like “that’s just how things were” yet there isn’t a black person in the entire movie, if you want to talk about how things were… Anyway, the cliches throughout the film make me just want to start laughing despite it trying to be entirely serious. I’m sure at the time it wasn’t cliche at all, more a case of Hollywood saying, “If you’re going to make a Western you have to have a *BLANK* scene!” over and over again, but that’s exactly what makes it cliche and why so many genres keep “dying” according, again, to Hollywood. Anyway, I can’t really blame this movie entirely for the death of the American Western, but I know it didn’t help anything.

As a final complaint, this movie is so slow-paced I kept finding myself drifting away from it mentally, only to “come back” and see that I hadn’t missed anything.

The movie does get more exciting about 45 minutes in when Kirk Douglas’ character needs a finger amputated and there’s actual conflict in the story. It’s still fairly cliche after that but the cliches start to work for the story a bit better than they do in the first half of the film. Indicating to me that this is probably when the movie should have started, or even ten minutes before this scene just to set things up a little bit, but pretty much nothing happens before this, not in terms of plot, conflict, or character development.

I did just hate on this movie a lot, but by the end I thought it was fairly enjoyable. I like that it’s a Western but takes place on the American Frontier rather than the old west. I like the acting throughout, though I wish there was more women and maybe some African Americans but whatever, it was the fifties, they didn’t know any better.

Why you should watch it before you die: If you’ve never seen a western from this time period before you could watch this one and get a general sense of the whole genre, or if you’re just a fan of old-timey cowboy movies I would recommend it.

SCORING:

+7: Pretty good cowboy flick

-1: Pointless VO narration

-1: Useless first-act

+1.5: Good acting and decent story after 1st-act

0042: The Docks of New York (1928)

The Docks of New York.jpg

Rating: 8/10

You ever find yourself watching a foreign film and your brain kind of forgets that the whole thing is in another language? That happened to me here with this silent film and I kept forgetting that it was completely silent. This movie was made while we were transition from the silent era into solely making “talkies.” They aren’t out the door yet when this was made, and it was done so with a lot of modern techniques that makes it feel like it was made ten years later. This comes from its cinematography, the use of camera angles and lighting makes the movie seem much more modern than it is.

This movie is about 1 hour 15 minutes long and it uses it’s time wisely. If I were teaching a class, I’d use this as an example of a movie that is perfectly paced. It’s neither a fast pace nor one that’s too slow. But it does do enough in each scene to convey it’s ideas or develope it’s characters to then bring us into the next scene and next part of the story. Being that most films I see have at least some pacing issues (and there’s really no excuse for it) watching a movie with really good pacing throughout is very refreshing, for me anyway. Maybe that has something to do with forcing myself to watching random movies on a random list all the time, but at the same time I never know when I’m going to find a hidden gem like this, or Modern Times, or Me and My Gal, or something I haven’t even seen yet! Oh I’m so excited! And will be until I watch another Dangerous Liaisons or Red Psalm. Damn, now I’m sad again, and that just makes me ANGRY!

Oh, unrelated to anything, but something I’ve noticed is that if a movie on this list is more recent and I’ve never heard of it before then I usually don’t like it, but earlier movies that I equally didn’t know about is usually good. Though maybe that shows just how ignorant I am of the movies from older than about 50 years ago…Wait, what was I talking about? Oh right! This review!

Okay, this movie had a simple story, with some great acting. The story is about Bill Roberts, played by the 1928 version of John Wayne, George Bancroft, who saves Mae, played by Betty Compson, after she falls from the docks into the ocean and almost drowns. What follows is a somewhat comedic and somewhat dramatic, kind of romantic movie that’s both funny and sweet and well-acted and just a good film all around. You might consider it an early rom-com, and I wouldn’t disagree with you. This movie does a really good job of telling the story it has, despite being somewhat simple and maybe a bit cliche. Oh, speaking of cliches, this movie loses points for ending in a courtroom. I don’t know who said at what point that “if you’re making a film, you’ve got to end it in a courtroom Johnnie!” but it’s a super-cliche I’ve noticed of many films between a certain era. Maybe 30s-50s ish? Being this is just before that I’m going to strongly suspect this was somehow the start of all that.

Why you should watch it before you die: It’s a movie with a lot of heart and though it tells a simple story, it tells it so well you won’t even notice you’re watching a silent film.

SCORING:

+7.5: Really good early rom-com

+1.5: Good cinematography and lighting effects

+1: great acting

-2: Being the start of a cliche (probably) that doesn’t even make sense. I mean, why does the movie have to end in a courtroom? Is the judge supposed to represent God and this is something super deep I’m just not getting? Or was it some kind of US law that said if you show anyone commit a crime in your movie they have to be punished? If so, why do they only get punished at the end of the movie? I don’t get it…

0778: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Ferris Bueller's Day Off.jpg

Rating: 8.5/10

Nothing says 80s cinema like John Hughes, though he might be a bit more well-known for making somewhat cheesy romances, he also made a fair amount of comedies almost all of which helped make the movies of the 80s and early 90s what they were.

Here we have one of Matthew Broderick’s most famous roles, Ferris Bueller, a kind of class clown who decides he’s going to take a sick day, and then goes through a series of increasingly crazy events in order to make the most of it.

The story is tight, the pacing is good (outside of a few places), and the comedy is smart and hilarious. This movie has something for everyone and can probably be watched by all ages. They also use a lot of good music, both of the time period and an awesome original score, is used well to influence the scenes and enhance the comedy. I also really like the dynamic going throughout the movie of showing what’s happening at the school with the principal who believes that Ferris is his rival and just how far he’ll go to prove he’s, once again, just skipping school.

There isn’t a whole lot of problems with this movie. There’s a few bits that I felt could have been trimmed, or maybe removed altogether. There’s a couple scenes involving Cameron, Ferris’ best friend, and how he doesn’t like his father, and then they explain that a few times in a few separate scenes. I feel the same way about the scenes involving Ferris’ sister, Jeanie, and how much she hates Ferris, even going so far as to use voiceover narration of her thoughts, but it doesn’t tell us anything new and neither of these things are really that funny. Sometimes it’s okay to reiterate something in a movie, like when you get sidetracked on a secondary plotline and need to let people know that the main plot is still happening, or when you need to let people know about somebody’s character arc when you haven’t even seen them since the beginning of the film. And maybe 3 or 4 other reasons,  but the way they do it here, the scenes being so close together in both the Cameron-hates-his-father and Jeanie-hates-her-brother storylines that it just feels like redundant information that makes the scenes useless.

My other complaint is simple, it loses the already loose plot for a bit in the second act. It doesn’t quite fall into my 2nd-act doldrums though as it is still fairly entertaining.

SCORING:

+9: Great story and comedy as only John Hughes could do

+1: Awesome use of music throughout

-1: a few redundant and unnecessary scenes

-0.5: Loses the plot just a bit