Toy Story 3 It’s been a remarkably strong few months in the cinema. I started to suspect that as I emerged from Toy Story, for my money the strongest entry in the series and quite possibly a goodbye to Pixar as we know it. (I never exercised my theory in the below review, but looking at the schedule – Cars 2 next, then splintering off into a mix of unnecessary sequelitis, unpromising fantasy fiilms and even live-action – it seems like the beloved company is undergoing something of a sea change, and that we stood, in the brief moment between Up and this, at their high watermark. It feels like that beautiful ‘wave speech’ from Fear & Loathing.) “Because Pixar have discovered the magical formula, now. The film consistently pulls on a visceral emotional response. Sometimes that’s laughter, or warm nostalgia. Sometimes it’s pure, big, colourful spectacle. Often it’s trying to make you cry.” The review is the second part of a double-feature. Keeping the original confusion alive, it’s probably best to read the Inception half first. Inception Inception consumed the public consciousness for a good month or so. It’s settled down now, but I suspect, if picked at, those wounds will prove easy to reopen. I talked about it at length, because it’s Inception and that’s just what you do, here. “It’s a film about films, just in the sense that it’s such a shining example of a film that understands films. Inception’s basic premise, and the early reveals, are based around the most obvious narrative cliche in the world: …and it was all a dream. The twist becomes not oh it was all a dream but rather, already knowing that’s in the deck, will they play that card? And where?” I would have liked to see it twice, in this year of double-dip cinema (Scott Pilgrim and Toy Story so far, undoubtedly going to see The Social Network again). My opinions never got tested, and I missed the chance to wail along with that score. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World The film I had to see twice: “The hits that it lands are truly triumphant, though. The thing that struck me most second time was the music. It’s brilliant, and brilliantly used, and Edgar Wright’s description of the film as a musical with punches rings really true.” It didn’t occur to me either time, but Scott Pilgrim is a pop-song of a film. Catchy bits get stuck in your head. It doesn’t necessarily make 100% sense, but when it catches you, and you’re dancing frantically in the moment, it’s all you need. And like any pop song, it needs to be heard more than once. Otherwise how would you know when to dance? The Expendables See, here’s the problem with The Expendables: I wanted it to be one thing, though I knew it would never be that thing. Given its unique selling point is ‘we have all the action stars’, I hoped for a reflection on the genre and its heroes. Whenever the film lagged (and during a lot of the dialogue-heavy segments, or the exposition stuff, it really lagged), I couldn’t help but figure out how that film would work. Jason Statham the representative of the Modern Action Hero, against the ridiculous colossi of Stallone & Schwarzenegger? Each character an amalgam of the characters that actor had played? I wanted something simultaenously less serious and more intelligent. A post-modern wink of an action film. What I got instead, though, was occasional brilliance. A feeling augmented by the company and mindset I saw it in : we were the people laughing hardest in the cinema, perhaps the only people. The violence is ridiculous, and set up like a well-told, but silly joke. The opening scene drags on too long, trying to pile on tension and real-world allusions. And then, BAM, the first shot is fired and a man is ripped in half, his torso flying across the screen followed by flowing red ribbons. The four of us laughed uncontrollable squealing, ribcage-rattling laughs. Crap dialogue. Rubbish attempts at emotion. Ultra-violence. It was the best comedy I’ve seen this year. When the lights went up, a couple sat in front of us turned round and smiled what I think was a sincere smile. The film that could have been… this was our only shot at it. And that beautiful, strange film can never exist. But I did get to see a man take another man’s head off with a throwing knife. Shrek Forever After Provider of undoubtedly the biggest face-palm moment of my blogging year, when I accidentally linked to the review in my Summer Without Games article (the most popular post this humble website’s ever had) instead of the intended Mario Galaxy, presumably confusing the hell out of hundreds of readers. Sorry guys! “Being honest, I didn’t really want to like Shrek Forever After, or Shrek The Final Chapter, or whatever the hell it’s calling itself. I’d heard bad things; I automatically mistrust franchises that stretch beyond trilogies, and I oppose Dreamworks’ animated films on principle. In return, Shrek did its very best to make this easy for me.” That’s how the review in question starts. The rest is here. Panique au Village Or, if I’m being a little less precious, A Town Called Panic. Absolutely the purest cinema experience I’ve had all year. Decided arbitrarily to go and see it based on a convenient showing time and use of the words ‘parachuting cows’ in the synopsis. It didn’t fail to live up to that promise. Full of wonky DIY inventiveness, the film is the greatest fountain of ideas I’ve experienced since Mario Galaxy 2. It’s lovingly, obviously crafted in that Aardman way: you can almost see the hands moving the little plastic indians and animals around the screen. The film’s a PG but I couldn’t help but feel like a naughty child who’d snuck into a grown-up’s screening: not quite knowing what they were seeing, but loving every […]
Being honest, I didn’t really want to like Shrek Forever After, or Shrek The Final Chapter, or whatever the hell it’s calling itself. I’d heard bad things; I automatically mistrust franchises that stretch beyond trilogies, and I oppose Dreamworks’ animated films on principle. In return, Shrek (oh, let’s dispense with the niceties…) 4 did its very best to make this easy for me: it wasn’t funny; the story used unnecessary creaking machinations to get going; it was more hole than plot. And, yet … I got engrossed. Shrek 4 starts with a genuinely clever Groundhog Day-esque use of the full premise: both Shrek as a comfortable middle-age husband, and the fantasy world. It’s a nice use of magical metaphor for the midlife crisis, and it sets up the idea of the film very neatly. It’s then quickly abandoned and forgotten about for the duration of the film in a way that suggests the screenplay needed an extra 15 minutes adding on. And so the aforementioned creaking plot machinations begin, to push on the big sweeping story. It’s just bad craft. In a summer where the competition is Toy Story 3, that’s inexcusable. And, yet … I just couldn’t help myself. I’d suspect it’s nostalgia for familiar characters, but I’ve never really liked the Shrek films all that much. It actually succeeds in toning down the pop-culture, elbow-in-the-ribs jokes-for-the-parents and slapstick-and-silly-songs-for-the-kids approach to humour that the first Shrek was noted for. The approach that was extracted and exaggerated for the subsequent sequels and the other Dreamworks animated films, and that I find so tacky. Which leaves room for the emotional hooks. It didn’t compare with Toy Story‘s constant crescendos in your chest, but not being funny was actually helpful. They were never good at mixing emotion and jokes the effortless way Pixar do. The attempts at humour don’t get too intrusive, leaving room to get caught up in the relationships and the ticking countdown at the heart of the film. Maybe, the lesson here is that I just can’t immunise myself against that particular scored, animated-character sentiment. Or maybe Shrek 4 is actually, finally, a little grown-up.