Sean K. Cureton

Archive for June, 2010|Monthly archive page

A Sequel Done Right

In Movie Reviews: 2010 on June 22, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Toy Story 3

Directed by Lee Unkrich

4 out of 4 stars

Fifteen years ago, in 1995, an animated film came out that was one of the most praised films of its kind. This film was entitled Toy Story. Set in an average American suburban home, this film followed the lives of a child’s set of toys. The child, named Andy, is a typical American child with a great abundance of imagination. This imagination allows him to put such life into his own toys, that the imagined personalities that he gives them almost exactly mirrors the toys real personalities when Andy is not around, for in the imaginary world of Toy Story, a children’s toys come to life when their owners are not around, and converse and debate amongst themselves over how best to keep their child happy. In other words, the love the child feels for his own toys is echoed in the love the toys feel for their owner.

This film was one of the first pictures put out by Disney in conjunction with the CGI animation studio called Pixar. Since the success of Toy Story, Disney and Pixar have put out numerous successful computer animated films in cooperation with each other, most notably such titles as Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and most recently, the oscar winning picture Up. Overall, Disney and Pixar jointly have produced some of the best animated films in the world for the past fifteen years, and it all started with their 1995 classic, Toy Story.

Now, fifteen years after the original, and eleven years after the 1999 sequel Toy Story 2, Disney and Pixar have released another installment in the classic franchise with the 2010 release of Toy Story 3. Despite the fact that this a third installment in a movie franchise, which usually is an ill omen (Spy Kids 3 anyone?), Toy Story 3 succeeds. Disney and Pixar have not only created another installment in an already successful franchise, but have provided an ending to their first big hit that is poignant, heart-warming, and hilarious all at the same time. Not only that, but Toy Story 3 is able to bring back all of the elements that made the original so great, and in the process, provide the sequel that Toy Story 2 was not.

At the beginning of the film, we find Woody, Buzz, and the Gang in danger of being given away by a 17 year old Andy. Andy is about to go away for college for the first time, and is contemplating what to do with all his old toys. Finally, he decides to keep them all. Unfortunately, his mother takes the toys to a day care center by accident to give them away. The rest of the film deals with the toys trying to escape the day care, and make their way back to Andy.

Most of the characters from the first two films are back in this film, with the exception of a few who have already been given away (most notably, and sadly, Bo Peep and RC). But the film makes up for the characters that are left out with new characters, such as Ken voiced hysterically by Michael Keaton and Chuckles a sad clown doll.

Overall, this film succeeds where the first sequel failed, and is able to remind those who were around to see the original when it first came out in theatres why we love the series so much, and for those of us who saw the original when we were young (myself included) why it had such an effect on our childhood. Toy Story 3 is a sequel which successfully ends a series that has been a staple in animated feature films since its release in 1995, and satisfies the desires of the fans of the original film. Not only that, but Toy Story 3 is by far the best film that has come out so far this year that I have seen. Come Oscar time, I have no doubt that this film will be in the running for Best Animated Picture, and may even be nominated for Best Picture.

A Story Book Ending

In Movie Reviews: 2010 on June 1, 2010 at 8:57 pm

Shrek Forever After

Directed by Mike Mitchell

3 out of 4 stars

With all of the kid friendly movie franchises that have been created in the past 10 years, none of them have come close to being quite as original, heartfelt, and genuinely funny as the Shrek series. Starting in 2001 with the original simply titled Shrek, this series has run miles around any other animated feature that has been created for the younger audiences of moviegoers. With a cast of characters that has been consistently entertaining and genuinely likable, this series has been able to produce three movies that have not failed to impress its fans. While Shrek the Third, which came out in 2007, was certainly not anywhere near as good as its two predecessors in the series, even this film was better than most of the drivel that has passed as family entertainment in the movie industry recently. All in all, the Shrek series has been a welcome addition to the oeuvre of the family-friendly film catalog.

The fourth, and supposedly final, installment in this series, entitled Shrek Forever After, lives up to the spirit of the original film and proves to be much better than the aforementioned third installment from 2007. Where the third film went wrong in recycling the villain from the second film, the new film brings in an entirely new cast of characters with a villain who is on par with Lord Farquad from the first installment. Rumpelstilitskin, the villain in this installment, is consistently entertaining, funny, and original. The freshness of the plot in this film, which resolves around a deal made by Shrek for one day in his old life, which results in his having to woo Fiona all over again in a universe where Shrek was never born, is absolutely delightful.

The other major plus to this sequel in the series is how true the film is to the spirit of the first film and how well it maintains the individual spirits of the characters introduced in previous films. Donkey is his usual hyperactive self, and is just as funny as usual. Puss in Boots, who made his first appearance in the series in the 2004 release Shrek 2, makes a great appearance as a much fatter version of himself. And all of the other characters also reprise their roles of the previous films to much comedic success. In particular, the characters of the Three Little Pigs are especially funny in this installment.

In conclusion, Shrek Forever After may very well be the best of the sequels in a family-friendly series that has never failed to please. While maintaining the spirit of its predecessors, this film also offers a fresh environment and story that is a welcome and entertaining change from the last sequel. Even if you didn’t particularly enjoy the previous sequels to the original from 2001, this film really delivers, and is a fitting end to a fantastic series.