Girl Crush: Elizabeth Banks

Elizabeth Banks at the 2009 Golden Globes

You might not know her name, but if you have a taste for comedy then you should recognize Elizabeth Banks. She was born in Massachusetts in 1974 and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania. (Banks and Tina Fey single-handedly prove that you can brains, beauty, and a sense of humor.) After bit parts in movies like Spider-Man, Catch Me If You Can, and Seabiscuit, Banks’ breakout role was in the 2005 hit The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Since then, Banks has appeared in numerous movies, including Invincible; Definitely, Maybe; Zack and Miri Make a Porno; and Role Models. She also had a guest stint on Scrubs. Banks has mastered the role of the spunky and bubbly girlfriend. She has shown her strengths as a dramatic actress in the biopic W., in which she played former First Lady Laura Bush, and the upcoming The Next Three Days, opposite Russell Crowe.

The reason I’m currently obsessed with Elizabeth Banks? Her guest role on one of my favorite shows, 30 Rock. She was originally slated to appear in four episodes this season, but she has already appeared nine times and by the looks of the season finale (which I finally finished watching on Hulu) she’ll be back. Banks plays Avery Jessup, one of Jack Donaghy’s (Alec Baldwin) many girlfriends. Avery, who is a conservative talk show host, stands out from the other female characters on the show. Jenna is dramatic, Cerie is sweet but shallow, and Liz is, well, Liz, but Avery is strong, smart, and confident. Banks is a great addition to 30 Rock, even if it’s just a guest stint.

So basically, Elizabeth Banks is pretty awesome. She’s talented, hilarious, and sexy. She’s one of today’s most promising actresses, and I can’t wait to see her career skyrocket.

What do you think? Do you love Elizabeth Banks too?

~ Sarah

Movie Review: Toy Story 3

I’ve practically had a life-long love affair with Pixar. Audiences have come to expect amazing things from the iconic movie studio-their newest release, Toy Story 3, is no exception.

For those you didn’t make it to the theater this weekend (I suspect a lot of you did- the movie made $110 million last weekend), Toy Story 3 centers around Andy leaving to college. He decides to bring his favorite toy, Woody (Tom Hanks), to college with him, but he packs up the rest of the toys for the attic.

Due to a serious mix-up by Andy’s mom, the toys suspect they are being trashed. They make a break for it, and sneak into a box of donations headed to Sunnyside Daycare. Woody witnesses the whole thing, and he joins his friends for the trip to the daycare. Even though Sunnyside seems like paradise for toys, Woody feels its best to return to Andy. The rest of the toys, however, feel neglected and choose to stay at the daycare, so Woody leaves them behind. Yes, even his sidekick, Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen).

I absolutely loved Toy Story 3. After reading plenty of reviews- including one that labelled the movie “an instant classic”– I certainly went into the theater with expectations. I have no idea how, but after all these years Pixar keeps matching- if not exceeding- moviegoers’ expectations. At times it was absolutely hilarious- Spanish Buzz anyone? The toys are as witty and fresh as ever. At times though, the movie did get very dark. Pixar movies, and Disney in general, tend to have bleak moments throughout, and these were certainly present in Toy Story 3. Still, I would say the overall feel of the film was a whimsical one.

Toy Story 3 was very touching. It didn’t take long for me to get emotional- I started tearing up in the first five minutes. But I wasn’t the only one. There were probably as many adults as kids watching the movie, and most people are emotionally invested in the characters. Like I wrote last week, the  Toy Story movies are wonderful because we can all relate to it. Since this movie is (presumably) the end of the franchise, it serves as a “very poignant reminder that my childhood is over, never to return again” as my friend Damian said.

The special thing about Toy Story, as great and hysterical the plot lines are, is how human the characters are. They were inspired by Americana and now they’re part of our culture. The characters are why we go back to these movies, just like the younger kids now and even future generations. (See, I’m getting sentimental just writing this!) So why it may be end of the Toy Story for us, Woody, Buzz, Jessie and company will continue to live on. And that’s why Toy Story 3 has been the best movie of the year.

~ Sarah

P.S. What do you think? Have you seen Toy Story 3? What were your favorite parts? Are you seeing it again?

You’ve Got a Friend in Me

Today’s the day my generation has been waiting for: the release of Disney-Pixar’s Toy Story 3. If you haven’t been looking forward to watching the conclusion to the Toy Story franchise, then I’m not sure you had a childhood, honestly.

It all started back in 1995:

Seeing as I was five at the time, I didn’t realize what a landmark Toy Story was. It was the first feature film released to only use CGI. Perhaps most importantly, it was the first film by the critically-acclaimed studio Pixar. Over the last fifteen years, it’s hard to find a movie studio that has been as successful as Pixar. The company has already won 22 Academy Awards. And just think of the film classics they have brought to audiences:

Toy Story, 1995
A Bug's Life, 1998
Toy Story 2, 1998
Monsters, Inc., 2001
Finding Nemo, 2003
The Incredibles, 2004
Cars, 2006
Ratatouille, 2007
WALL-E, 2008
Up, 2009

And finally:

Toy Story 3, 2010

So many memories! I honestly can tell you about the first time I saw so many of these movies. Who can forget the Finding Nemo phenomenon? I think my favorite Pixar movie has to be WALL-E, but the opening scenes of Up were absolutely beautiful. Pixar has made us laugh, cry, and laugh again over the years: their movies are masterpieces. The studio has made going to the movies fun again.

Toy Story holds a special place in my heart. It’s one of the first movies I vividly remember seeing. (The others were all Disney too, of course.) I’m also around the same age as Andy; we kind of grew up together, in the cinematic sense. And the story is universal, the close bond between young child and toy. It’s so much more though: the Toy Story films have been about growing up. It’s a journey we all inevitably have to go on.

I cannot wait to go to the movies tomorrow-I’m going to make it an event. What about you guys? Are you excited to finally see Toy Story 3? What’s your favorite Pixar movie?

~ Sarah