Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Movie Reviews: Inception, Toy Story 3 and More

Hey guys, don't look now, but summer is still going and that means one thing: it's hotter than the devil's toenail. But that, in turn, means a second thing: there's no place better to get out of that heat than at your local, fully air-conditioned movie theater. I myself, as it happens, have been spending some time in those glorious bastions of the American way, so much, in fact, that I've been tardy in actually reporting my findings to you, my eager minions. I mean, readers. So, just as I did yesterday when I cleared out a giant slush pile of comics with brief reviews bordering on the perfunctory, today i will be offering mini-reviews of some of the movies I've seen so far this summer than otherwise have fallen through my reviewing crack. Which, these days, is the least sweaty crack around.

And with that mental image worming it's way into your wincing brain, let's go to the movies, internet style!


Okay, so I've already posted the link to my mind-bending Inception article for moviefone, which addresses the mind-bending theories of the ending, and ending that will quite literally bend your very mind. But that wasn't really a review. And the funny thing is, I didn't actually think the movie was that difficult to follow; yes, you had to pay attention, but I'm not sure when paying attention to what you're doing suddenly became the benchmark for intellectual rigor.

Actually, I thought the film was just easy enough to follow and just action-packed enough to make it a mainstream blockbuster instead of an arthouse experiment. Which is good because, as it happens, I like blockbusters, particularly the rare kind that doesn't dumb things down to the point of drooling idiocy (see: Transformers). Inception was smart without being impenetrable and had a lot of cool sci-fi theories and effects. Plus, it had one of the coolest set-pieces of the last ten years, the awesome rolling-gravity fight scene featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as an ass-kicking ninja version of Fred Astaire.

I did think the film bogged down ever so slightly towards the end, mainly because, once they were operating on four levels of reality simultaneously, director Christopher Nolan had to cut back and forth a little too much in order to maintain the audience's sense of relative time between the different planes of reality. This made it easier to follow but also longer and a little slower than it could have been. But that's pretty much nitpicking. The ending was pitch perfect in every way and for my money, this was the movie of the year.

My Grades: All A's across the board, with an A+++ for Gordon-Levitt's fight scene.

Toy Story 3D

Okay, disclaimer time: I think Toy Story 2 is one of the most perfect movies ever made. So I went into Toy Story 3D assuming that no matter how good it was, it was really unlikely it could ever match the dominant uber-glory of Toy Story 2. And... I was right.

But that's not to say that Toy Story 3D wasn't really good; it was. It had all the elements we've come to expect from Pixar -- incredible animation, humor, action and heartfelt emotion rarely captured in live action movies even by the best casts. Still, it did feel just a little bit rote, coming after Toy Story 2. It's not the fault of Pixar but rather an unavoidable side effect of being the third movie in a well known and already beloved franchise.

I did think the movie was maybe a bit too intense for young kids, particularly the high-octane ending, but my main issue with the movie was simply that the short before it, Day & Night, ended up being the most memorable part of the film. I sense Oscar nods for both, with Toy Story 3 possibly getting nominations in both the animated and best picture fields. but what i really wanted was for this to be the greatest movie of all time and in that respect, I'm sorry to say, it fell a bit short.

My Grades: A solid A, but I was hoping for an A+ just because I am a demanding jerk. Day & Night gets an A++ and is a shoo-in to win animated short -- at least, it would be if the people who voted for that sort of thing weren't a bunch of weirdos.

Despicable Me

Now, here's an interesting movie. Following in the tradition of The Incredibles, this is a comic book movie disguised as animation. The story follows Gru (not Groo, though I had a hard time with that for much of the movie), a supervillain who decides to steal the moon essentially because he wants to prove he's still got the mojo. He ends up adopting a gorup of young girls as part of his scheme and thereby gains redemption, love, etc.

Which, whatever. But it is interesting in that, unlike actual, live action superhero movies based on known properties, Despicable Me has the brains to realize that it doesn't need to try and justify the existence of these characters, because the audience is already familiar enough with superhero tropes to get it without having it all spelled out. Live action films, even now, a decade or more into the big superhero trend, still seem to think they just have to tell an origin story every single time in order to explain how something as silly as a superhero could possibly exist in the "real" world. Maybe this is just a difference in perception between animation and live action, but I think it's totally unnecessary at this point and basically leads to a lot of subpar superhero films wasting precious time on tedious origin stories instead of telling a real tale.

Such as the one in Despicable Me.

My Grades: I liked it. Slight, but entertaining. It should probably get an A-, but I'm going to give it a B+ instead just because. Worth seeing.

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I agree 100% with your assessment of "Toy Story 3" not being up to "TS2"'s par, and for what reasons. I also agree with much of what you say of "Despicable Me." (For my part, I assumed "Grue" because of Zork, the adventure game from the ... Oh, never mind.)

Anyway: I'm wondering why you made no mention of the 3-D aspects/ elements of both "Despicable Me" and "TS3." I saw both in 3D, and if one has seen either of these films in that... medium? ... I think it's worth mentioning. At least to THIS viewer, 3-D did somewhat affect my opinions of the films. Your thoughts?

Honestly, I didn't think the 3D in either film was central to the viewing experience. The only part of either that stuck out to me in terms of 3D was the roller coaster ride in Despicable Me and I suspect most of the oomph from that sequence was the whooshing camera motion rather than the 3D itself, though the 3D helped some. So for me, while the 3D was cool, I don't think it really mattered in terms of my reviews one way or the other.