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?

Movie Review: Get Him to the Greek

Last weekend, persuaded by above-average reviews and a recommendation from my friend Jaime, I saw Get Him to the Greek, directed by Nicholas Stoller and produced by one Judd Apatow. Yeah, I know it’s the kind of blasé summer movie I complained about in my last review. I have to admit, though, I occasionally enjoy those frat-boy movies; I even own Knocked Up on DVD (with matching coasters!). And so when I headed to the movies, I hoped that Get Him to the Greek would prove to be another enjoyable comedy.

Get Him to the Greek is a spin-off/sequel of sorts for the 2008 comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall. The movie stars Jonah Hill (Funny People) as Aaron Green, an ambitious intern at a record company. One day the head of the label, Sergio (Sean “Diddy” Combs, A Raisin in the Sun), puts Aaron in charge of escorting rock star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand, reprising his role from Forgetting Sarah Marshall) from London to L.A.

Aaron, a huge fan of Aldous Snow, is thrilled at the opportunity and leaves for London immediately. Snow, however, has been at a low point in his career since the release of his infamous single “African Child”. He’s turned to drugs, alcohol, and may or may not be facing an existential crisis. Basically, it won’t be an easy task for the straight-laced Aaron to get Aldous Snow to his 10th anniversary concert at the Greek Theater.

I really wanted to like Get Him to the Greek, really. And some parts of it are absolutely hilarious (like the video I linked to above). This is one of those things I never thought I would write, but Diddy was great as Sergio. He had some of the movie’s best lines (“Do you have any ideas how many Air Jordans six black kids wear?”) but I kind of feel he was playing an over-the-top version of himself. I can’t complain about Hill and Brand’s performances either. I thought Rose Byrne (Damages, 28 Weeks Later) was a standout though, as Aldous’ ex-girlfriend, pop-star Jackie Q. I first noticed her in Troy, opposite Brad Pitt, and I’m glad she can do comedies as well as dramas.

So, despite the good performances, why didn’t I like the movie? Honestly, a lot of the humor just wasn’t for me. Maybe it’s a guy thing, but I can only take so many jokes about drugs/sex/vomit. Perhaps that’s why I found the tone to be really uneven- alternately funny and dull. Plus, like so many Apatow-produced movies, it dragged on just a bit too long. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but there are two particular plot points that were very out of place. As a whole, Get Him to the Greek just didn’t work for me. Aldous Snow says “When the world slips you a Jeffrey, stroke the furry wall” but I rather not.

Have you seen Get Him to the Greek? What do you think?

~ Sarah

Movie Review: Letters to Juliet

Ah, summer movie season. It’s full of blockbusters, frat-boy comedies, and rom-coms. Granted, I’m generalizing, but summer movies tend to get old quickly. I’ve browsed IMDB’s Summer Movie Guide and there’s not much to look forward to, unless there’s some surprise, well-reviewed hit. It hasn’t even been a week since Memorial Day- I’m not sure I’ll make it to August.

This is why my friend Daniela and I were in a bit of a dilemma yesterday, when we finally made a trip to the theater. We debated between Prince of Persia and Sex & the City. Both got terrible reviews, so we ended up buying tickets for Letters to Juliet. (Side note: I was absolutely shocked when my ticket only cost six bucks. How awesome.)

Letters to Juliet stars Amanda Seyfried as Sophie. She travels to Verona with her fiancé Victor (Gael García Bernal) on a “pre-honeymoon”. Sounds like a fairy-tale already, right? But Victor, who is opening a restaurant, begins to neglect Sophie as he meets with suppliers. Sophie is left to explore Verona when she meets the “secretaries of Juliet”. These women spend their days answering letters women left at Juliet’s courtyard, all asking for advice when it comes to love. Sophie joins them and soon finds a long-lost letter dating back fifty years. Since she can’t bear to leave the letter unanswered, Sophie writes back.

A few days later, the woman who wrote the original letter, Claire (Vanessa Redgrave), arrives in Verona inspired to search for the lover she left decades ago. After a chance encounter, Sophie joins Claire and her handsome yet pompous nephew Charlie (Christopher Egan) on their sojourn through the Italian countryside. And really, I can stop describing the plot now because the trailer gives away everything.

Despite its predictability, I found Letters to Juliet to be such a pleasant film. Even though all the leads are pretty much stock characters, the actors all give solid performances. Seyfried has come a long way from her Mean Girls days- she’s transforming into one of Hollywood’s brightest young actresses. Redgrave is just radiant- absolutely stunning. She approaches her role with such passion, her Claire becomes the star of the show. The cinematography is gorgeous: Italy is splashed with sunlight, and it helps the movie’s vibe enormously.

Although Letters to Juliet was marketed as a romantic-comedy, it’s refreshing in many ways. It’s light on the comedy (nearly no slapstick, thank goodness), with just the right amount of romance. I did tear up occasionally but it was no tearjerker like The Notebook. It was great to see a romance set outside of New York City (for the most part) because compared to the usual, glossy chick flicks, Letters to Juliet feels intimate and sincere. The movie doesn’t revolve around the relationship between Sophie and Charlie, leaving room to for audiences to connect with Claire’s story. And her story is a great one, even if it is a modern fairy-tale.

This may seem like a non-sequitur, but the movie made me ridiculously hungry. Just the sight of gelato- Italy itself is mouth-watering. And you know those never-ending bread sticks at Olive Garden? They may not be real Italian or all that filling, but are still incredibly delicious, warm, and real. Well, that’s Letters to Juliet. Bon appetit.