“Toy Story 3” review

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I can say without exaggeration that I have waited 11 years to see “Toy Story 3”. With “Toy Story” being the very first film I’d ever seen, “Toy Story 2” being the first film I viewed in a theater, and the countless times I’ve watched each since then, it’s safe to say that they are amongst my favorite films of all time. With this, my expectations and hopes for “Toy Story 3” were simply put, astronomical. Which makes me incredibly ecstatic to write to you and say and “Toy Story 3” is not only a fitting end to such a great trilogy, it just may be the finest out of all three.

(If you haven’t seen either of the Toy Story films, the following paragraph will baffle you.)

The film reunites Woody, Buzz, Slinky, Hamm, and the majority of all the characters whom we know and love from the first two “Toy Story” installments. Since 11 years have passed since “Toy Story 2” came out, 11 years have passed in the Toy Story universe, and Andy is now 18 and off to college. Uncertain about what to do with all his old toys, he puts them in a box that will send them to the attic but a mix-up sends them to Sunnyside Day Care, a place that seems like a paradise (The toys will get played with again! Endless batteries for them! A spa for toys!), yet is soon revealed to be something of a prison, run by a bear named Lotso. The film revolves around the toys trying to break out of Sunnyside, and make it back to Andy’s home before he departs for college.

Perhaps the film’s greatest pleasure is simply watching these characters interacting once again, it’s pretty astounding to consider that watching “Toy Story 3” feels like seeing old friends for the first time in a very long while. This is something of a testament to the bond that we’ve developed with these characters over the course of the first two installments in the “Toy Story” franchise, and adds a layer of bittersweetness to the film, considering that we know this is the last time we will see these characters.

Now considering that the primary characters from “Toy Story 1 & 2” return for this film, it goes without saying that the original voice cast returns as well. Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, etc., and all turn in their finest voice work for the series. Also, several new additions to the cast are made, such as Ned Beatty, Bonnie Hunt, and Michael Keaton. All of these characters are more than welcome, and Keaton in particular as Ken (a love interest for Barbie) is hysterical.

One of the greatest things about the films of Pixar (and by extension, “Toy Story 3”), is its blend of several different tones and genres. For example, “Toy Story 3” contains better, more inventive action sequences, than most action films in the last decade. That said, it’s also one of the most gut-bustingly hilarious films this side of “The Hangover”. And yet despite these qualities, by the film’s end I wasn’t merely tearing up, but literally sobbing. To watch “Toy Story 3” is to go through several strong emotions, you may be laughing hysterically one minute and sobbing with equal vigor the next. That Pixar can wring such strong emotional reactions from an audience in a film about talking toys is simply astounding.

I have contemplated for a few days, searching, trying to find a single fault with this film. And you know what? I simply can’t. This just may be the finest film of 2010 so far. Pixar has done it once more.

4

“The A-Team” review

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The A-Team was a popular (at its peak, it attracted around 40 million viewers) television show in the 1980s that revolved around four men who were constantly on the run from the government for a crime they didn’t commit. Enter its contemporary re-imagining, named (get this) “The A-Team”. It stars Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley and Quinton Jackson as the four men, and the plot remains essentially the same although obviously the time setting has been shifted to modern times, not the ’80s in which the original show took place.

Regardless, the original TV show was about big, grand, cartoonish, over-the-top action, and that’s pretty much also the primary focus of this 2010 remake. The four principal actors (Neeson, Copley, Cooper and Jackson) never once take their roles seriously, and subsequently are a total blast to watch. Neeson and Copley in particular really ham it up, adding a layer of sheer craziness to the film. Also, it’s really hard not to admire just how over-the-top the film often goes. Most action films try to keep at least one foot dipped in the pond that is realism, but the “A-Team” absconds entirely from even the slight trace of reality.

The aspects about this particular film that bugged me are mostly technical. For one: The visual effects in this film are absolutely awful. One particular shot late in the film where hundreds of crates collapse unto each other would look more fitting in a Nintendo 64 game than a $120-million-dollar action film. Another thing about the film that was absolutely wretched was the cinematography. In recent films like “Cloverfield” and the Bourne series, filmmakers have used a handheld camera to add an element of instability and shakiness (hence the term, “Shaky-cam”). Director Joe Carnahan employs “Shaky-cam” here, and the results are disastrous. The action sequences are often impossible to follow, simply because the camera is constantly shaking and the editing is far too quick. This unfortunately ruins a pretty massive chunk of the film, considering how action-centric the film is.

Overall, the “A-Team” is grand, dumb action. Considering that recently, Hollywood has tried (and mostly failed) to gravitate towards more adult, mature action films, it is pretty cool to see something of a tribute to the frivolously violent action flicks of 1980s. That said, “The A-Team” is executed pretty poorly, with terrible visual effects, as well as unintelligible cinematography and editing. It’s a shame that some hilariously outlandish performances and action sequences had to be buried underneath this problems.

2