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Toy Story

October 17, 2013

This is Halloween (TV): Toy Story of Terror

DEVILISHLY

Toy Story of Terror – Devilishly

The one thing you can count on with Pixar is that you always get quality.  Despite some of their weaker efforts (“Cars” “Cars 2” to a lesser extent, “Brave”) there always seems to be a silver lining to anything Pixar creates.  I may not like “Cars” but I can respect that it looks gorgeous.  Sorry “Cars” fans, I just don’t find fart jokes spun by a redneck comedian to be very funny.

While most Pixar fare is made for the big screen, and evokes such emotion and heart, its nice to see that Disney/Pixar (yes, I’ll give Disney their due) created something for the Halloween season, and it very well might be the best thing you’ll see this Fall.  This of course is the devilishly clever “Toy Story of Terror” a spooky mini adventure starring all of your favorite “Toy Story” pals.

The writers at Pixar have to be some of the best writers in the world.  They know how to perfectly cater to fans of Disney while at the same time sneaking in little odes and jabs to other films and their appropriate genres and fans.  They just get it, simple as that.  “Terror” begins at some point after “Toy Story 3” ends.  Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the crew are in the care of Bonnie as they head to some undisclosed location on a dark and stormy night.  After a flat tire, Bonnie, her mother, and the toys settle into a roadside motel while they wait for the tow truck in the morning.  Needless to say, hi-jinks and close-calls ensue and of course there is a happy ending.  Like most Pixar films, its not the story that’s always compelling, its the actual journey.

What I respect the most is that all the voices from the previous “Story” films return, including Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, and Joan Cusack, but there are also a few extra treats along the way, including Ken Marino, or as I like to refer to him as, Louie, the “I WANNA DIP BY BALLS IN IT” guy.

Along with Ken Marino, what would a “Toy Story” be without some new characters, and the best has to be Combat Carl, voiced by Carl Weathers.  This character is so perfect and I love the subtle reference to “Predator” thrown in as Combat Carl is missing a hand.  Those are the things that make me love Pixar.  Who would throw in a “Predator” reference into a TV show made for children?

Timothy Dalton is also great as Mr. Pricklepants, who’s essentially Randy from the “Scream” series.  He calls out horror movie cliches at every turn and it’s wonderful to see it done in a Shakespearean way.  The more I think about “Terror” is that the animation is for the kids, while the dialogue is made for adults who love horror and action films.  Maybe Shane Black ghostwrote this entire special?

Bottom line, “Toy Story of Terror” is a wonder to behold.  The story is perfect for the time allotted, the introduction of new toys now looking for their owner adds a great side story to the entire “Toy Story” mythology, and Pixar and Disney spare no expense to create a standalone story that rivals anything in the Pixar catalog.  Hopefully this tradition continues and becomes this generation’s “Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin.”

Fun Fact:  Everyone knows that the Cowboy Woody doll is pretty sought after in the “Toy Story” universe.  You’ll notice that the $2,000 winning bid was from Al McWhiggin of Al’s Toy Barn.

August 5, 2012

Brave

UNWORTHY

Now, Pixar has never made a bad movie. (Ahem.)  Like I said, Pixar has rarely made a bad movie. (AHEM!)  Damn you written inner monologue!  Fine!  Pixar more times than not makes good movies.  Monster’s Inc, A Bugs Life, Finding Nemo, Toy Story Trilogy, Up, Wall-E and my personal favorite The Incredibles.  They are animated films that bring something for the kids aching to see them and also the parents forced to bring them.  They’re smart.  They’re funny.  They’re poignant.  They’re worthy entertainment.  The lastest Pixar film Brave, however, falls short of this.

Brave got a lot of attention as being the first Pixar film with a strong female lead.  This got my attention even though I didn’t see the big deal.  It isn’t like females in previous Pixar films were worthless background noise.  ElastiGirl from The Incredibles might be one of the strongest animated female characters in film history.  After seeing Brave, a very misleading title by the way, I would not place Princess Merida anywhere in Helen Parr’s league.

What if I told you a tomboyish princess, who trained to be an archer/warrior her entire life, was opposed to her prissy mother’s demands to marry her off to the suitors of rival kingdoms?  Still with me right?  Now, what if I told you her refusal to marry plunged her kingdom into war?  Awesome!   Then what if the princess and her mother are sent away by the king for their own safety?  Uh oh!  Then what if they were ambushed and attacked by men from a rival kingdom?  Oh Sh*t!  But what if the princess, escapes with her mother?  Wow!  What if the princess used every bit of the skills she’d learned from her warrior father to travel across the dangerous countryside back home?  Nice!  What if, while avoiding capture and surviving the elements, the princess proves to her mother that there are things a woman can aspire to be other than a stuffy aristocrat.  A woman can actually aspire to be “Brave”.  You’d want to see that right?  So would I.  Too bad that isn’t what this film is about.

Sure Princess Merida is being forced into marriage.  But instead of the story going the way you want it to, it changes into a silly body transformation comedy no better than that Tim Allen Shaggy Dog remake.  Don’t look forward to seeing Princess Merida using that bow in the above picture in any meaningful way.  It doesn’t make a bit of difference in this film’s story.  She could have been awesome with a boomerang or slingshot and it would not make a bit of difference in this film.  Merida is also NOT A STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER.  She is a whiny, petulant, prideful child that makes a decision that could only be described as DUMB.  At no point did I see her as brave.  The brave thing to do would be to confront the issues she had with her mother head on.  Instead, she avoids doing the brave thing pretty much for this entire movie.

Think my version of what I hoped Brave to be is too adult?  Then let me remind you that the beginning of Up centers around infertility and a subsequent psychological breakdown.  The Incredibles deals with the issues of a midlife crisis, infidelity and McCarthyism.  A Bug’s Life is literally a remake of the Magnificent Seven/Seven Samurai.  Wall-E is set during a post apocalyptic future.  And Toy Story 3….oh boy…Toy Story 3 was a few frames away from being the ballsiest allegory for mortality ever.  A Scottish female version of Rescue Dawn is not too much to ask for.

Brave also has an OVERLY PREACHY message about fate that would be lost on a child and insult the intelligence of an adult.   A message narrated to us just so they could tie it back to the, again, misleading title.  The film should be called Pride if anything.  It is the only thing I see at work in the main character.   This could have been a film that might have set an example as to how to make a movie with a strong female lead.  However, it comes across more like a medieval episode of That’s So Raven.  (Yes, I’ve seen it.  Don’t judge me.)  A film UNWORTHY to be under the Pixar banner.  I expect this from Disney Studios but not these guys.  Brave it…then tell me I’m wrong.

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