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Recommendation: Toy Story 3 – The Denver Edition

July 8, 2010

This blog’s been quiet for the last few months because my husband and I found out his job was being transferred to Colorado and we didn’t have time to do much more than pack and try to save money. As you might imagine, seeing movies (at home or in theatres) and writing about them was right out.

But now we’re here, settling into our new lives, and thought going to the movies would be a good break from unpacking and organizing our new place. We’ve been excited to go see Toy Story 3 since we saw the first preview, almost a year ago, and I have to say, it was well worth the wait.

Title: Toy Story 3 (Check out the Previews)

Summary: We’re back with our good pals Woody, Buzz and the rest of the Toy Story gang, but it’s many years later and Andy’s grown up and about to go off to college, and he’s not taking his toys with him. Worried about their future and whether or not Andy will throw them away, the toys decide to be donated to the local Daycare, which seems like a wonderful place on the surface, but things are not always what they seem.

Genre: action, animation, comedy, sincere and heart-warming, uplifting

Audience: Anyone. Like all of Pixar’s movies, there’s something for everyone, whether you’re 8 or 80. The only people I would caution against seeing the movie are those who don’t like to cry at movies. Like the rest of the Pixar collection, there is bitter in the sweet, which makes the sweet all the more enjoyable, but the bitter is still there.

Occasion: hanging out with friends, need an emotional boost, spending time with kids, want to laugh, want to cry

Watch every minute? Probably not necessary (which is good when kids are involved, because you just never know), but like all Pixar movies it’s chock full of little jokes and clues, so it bears watching several times.

Big Screen vs. Small Screen: Either. This movie happens to be in 3D and was originally designed for 3D (instead of retro-fitted), so if it’s in your budget to see it in 3D, I highly recommend it.

Why I liked it: I love Pixar. Which should come as no surprise to anyone who’s been here more than once. ^_^ But part of the reason I liked this movie enough to recommend it here is because, even though it’s the third in a series, it’s still just as amazing and well thought out as any of Pixar’s other movies. It wasn’t just created as a way to get extra revenue in the door (which is the reason behind most sequels), but also because they had more story that they wanted to tell, just like in Toy Story 2 (which I also recommend).

So, Toy Story 3 is not only a good sequel but it’s also just a plain good movie. It’s complex and full of all the emotions you want in a good movie. It’s happy and sad; it’s laugh out loud funny and edge of the seat intense; you believe in the characters and the story they’re telling. I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried at the end. I will stand by my judgment that the movie is, on the whole, uplifting. But in every beginning there is an ending, and that ending can be heartbreakingly sad.

What’s really great about it is it deals (in a meta way) with a lot of the things that the kids who watched the first Toy Story are going through right now: leaving home to go to college, saying good bye to friends, family, and toys, and so forth. I think that’s a really great way to round out the story of the characters we met and fell in love with in 1995.

“Own it” vs. “Once is enough”:I want to own this movie. I want to own all of Pixar’s movies, and I someday will. Pixar is an investment worth making.

If you liked… You’ll also enjoy…: Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Finding Nemo, Wall-E, Up, The Lion King, Over the Hedge, How to Train Your Dragon, Bolt, etc. ^_^


Recommendation: Bolt

April 20, 2010

Bolt is one of those animate “kids” movies that I thoroughly enjoy and highly recommend. It’s not quite at the level of Pixar, but it’s still pretty high up there.

Title: Bolt

Summary: Bolt (v. John Travolta) is a superhero (dog). He has super-strength, super-speed, (super) laser vision, and a devastating super-bark. On TV. What he doesn’t know is that he’s a TV star, filming a show in Hollywood, CA, and none of his powers are real. In a similar vein a The Truman Show (but without all of the philosophical implications), Bolt has been raised to believe that the world of the TV show is real, and he has super powers.

So, when the Green-eyed Man (the villain) captures Penny (his person; v. Miley Cyrus) and the episode ends on a cliffhanger, all Bolt knows is that his person is missing, in the hands of the enemy, and he has to get her back. He escapes from his trailer, and runs off in search of Penny… and in the process he inadvertently knocks himself unconscious and getting himself shipped to New York City. The real-world is quite a shock to him, and while he works his way across the country to find Penny and get her back, he learns a lot lessons about being a dog, friendship, and what it really means to be a hero.

Genre: animation, action, comedy, sappy but awesome, sincere and heart-warming, uplifting

Audience: Anyone who likes dogs, animated movies, or laughing. Should probably have a healthy tolerance for the silly, since most people think this movie is a little silly.

Occasion: Great to watch if you need an emotional boost. The perfect movie to watch with the kids, because it teaches a lot of good lessons and is entertaining for both you and them. Great to watch by yourself if you need a pick-me-up or want to laugh. Could be good to watch with friends if you have some friends who appreciate fun, silly, awesome animated movies.

Watch every minute? Probably not necessary, but if you don’t watch every minute, I recommend watching it a second time, because there are some gems stuck in the script that you’ll want to catch.

Big Screen vs. Small Screen: Any.

Why I liked it: This movie makes me deliriously happy. If you think I’m kidding, you probably don’t know me personally. My husband’s favorite way to tell me he loves me is to say, “You’re ridiculous.” Okay, but why does the movie make me happy?

Because it’s funny. The dialogue is great, especially once Bolt gets out into the “real” world an he’s faced with the “loss” of his powers and trying to make his way without them. Rhino, the Hamster (v. Mark Walton), steals the show with his great lines and accidental wisdom. There are many moments through out the show where, despite having seen it several times, I still cackle uproariously. Or giggle incessantly. Or just grin until my face hurts.

Because it tugs at the heart-strings. The story of Mittens (v. Suzie Essman), who Bolt takes prisoner because she’s a cat, and therefore a minion of the Green-eyed Man, and Bolt’s devotion to his person, and watching Mittens teach Bolt all about being a dog… it’s all just so good.

“Own it” vs. “Once is enough”: I don’t own it yet, which is so sad. I had to wait until it came out on the movie channels in order to see it again. Fortunately, once they start showing a movie on those channels (I watched it a few weeks ago), they play them for several weeks, so I get to watch it several more times before I really have to think about buying it.

If you liked… You’ll also enjoy…: Up, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, How to Train Your Dragon, Toy Story, etc.

Recommendation: How to Train Your Dragon (The 1-year Anniversary Edition)

March 29, 2010

Yesterday was my husband’s and my one-year anniversary. Because we are huge movie fans, part of our plan for the day was to take in two movies, which we hadn’t been able to see previously because of our different work schedules.

We also went to dinner and exchanged presents and all the usual anniversary stuff, but you’re not here to hear about that, you’re here to hear about movies.

There were four movies that we were seriously considering:

  • Alice in Wonderland – Ben (the husband) has read mixed reviews (I don’t read reviews, more on that tomorrow) and thought maybe we could wait to see it.
  • RepoMen – Ben’s sister wants to take him to see it for his birthday (which was actually a week ago), so that’s out.
  • The Ghost Writer – Ben really wanted to see this one; I hadn’t heard much about it.
  • How to Train Your Dragon – This was my pick, because it looked like it was going to be adorable, if not good, and I’m always a fan of animated.

I actually only learned of our options after we were at the theatre. When the day started, I had no idea what we were going to go see (I love surprises), but I suspected How to Train Your Dragon would be on the list, because Ben knew how much I really wanted to see it.

So today, I’m going to recommend How to Train You Dragon. Wednesday I’ll talk about The Ghost Writer (preliminary recommendation: see it, it’s brilliant).

Title: How to Train Your Dragon

Summary:Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is a scrawny, misunderstood lad living in a village. In itself, this would be a rather unremarkable setting for a story, but he happens to be a scrawny, misunderstood viking, and the village happens to be on an remote island whose primary pests are dragons. Every viking in the village has a role, and it revolves around killing dragons and defending the village. Hiccup, however, is unable to take his rightful place because he is too small to be of any use. He has all sorts of ideas, and inventions, for helping with the battle, but no one will give him a shot.

Genre: uplifting, sincere and heart-warming, overcoming hardships/adversity, fantasy, comedy, action

Audience: I suspect that the only people who would not like this movie are people who are opposed to all thing animated, people who are opposed to all things fantasy, and people who pride themselves on their discerning taste in film. (It’s not going to win any Oscars, but that doesn’t make it a bad movie, just not a great one.)

Occasion: Hanging out with friends, need an emotional boost, spending time with kids, want to laugh.

Watch every minute? This is really a rather fun, silly movie, so it’s probably not necessary to watch the whole thing with rapt attention. There are some neat little details, etc. thrown in here and there, which always is nice for the re-watch value (very, very important in movies targeted primarily at kids)

Big Screen vs. Small Screen:Any. And while it was originally shown in 3-D, we didn’t end up watching it in 3-D, and thought it was just fine.

Why I liked it:First of all, Hiccup is just my kind of hero. He’s a smart, funny, bitingly ironic underdog with a heart of gold. Yes, I know, it’s a very popular archetype… except for the bitingly ironic part. I swear half of the lines that made me laugh out loud were so dry that I bet they flew right over the heads of the kids watching the movie, but the adults all guffawed right along with me.

I will admit that I was a little turned off from the character design when I first saw the preview, especially for the dragons. I am a firm believer that dragons should be stately, gorgeous creatures. (This may have something to do with the fact that I read-until-the-bindings-wore-out Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon Riders of Pern series when I was younger. Maybe.) However, the character design really grew on me after a while, and it doesn’t detract from the movie.

Another great reason to see this movie is the talented cast they got to do the voices: Jay Baruchel (famously from Tropic Thunder), Gerard Butler (I liked him best in P.S., I Love You, which I plan to recommend soon), Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera (of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants fame), Jonah Hill (from pretty much every recent comedy, including Superbad and Knocked Up, although I liked him best in Accepted), and Christopher Mintz-Plasse (best well-known as McLovin from Superbad , but also in Role Models (read my recommendation)).

“Own it” vs. “Once is enough”:Most people will probably be fine watching this movie just the once. It’s good, and it’s funny, but it’s not great (like Wall-E, or Up). However, those will kids who will end up owning the movie and therefore watching it over, and over, and over again… won’t want to kill themselves, which is always nice. ^_^

If you liked… You’ll also enjoy…: Meet the Robinsons, Robots, Ice Age, Shrek, Monsters vs. Aliens, Bolt, Over the Hedge, and Chicken Little.

Recommendation: Enchanted

March 25, 2010

When I first saw the preview for Enchanted, I was immediately aware of two things: I really wanted to see it, and I would probably never convince my husband to go see it with me in theatres. I would have to gather a good group of my (probably female) friends to see it with me.

Gathering friends to go see a movie is much harder now than when I was in college, because we all have jobs, and families, and, you know, lives, so I kept not seeing it and not seeing it. And I kept hearing more and more awesome things about it. My favorite story of how awesome Enchanted is came from a co-worker at the time, who went to see it with her friends. They went in the afternoon one day, and almost without exception, the other people in the theatres were young fathers with their children.

My co-worker guessed that the young father’s wives had dropped the fathers off with their children at the movie theatre and said, “Go, keep them occupied while I do more Christmas shopping.” Or, perhaps, “Dear lord, get this young ones out of my hair for two hours so I can have some me time.” Either way.

What are young father’s going to take their children to but the latest Disney movie. The thing that my co-worker thought was so funny, however, was that the fathers were laughing twice as hard at the movie as their children (Duh. Keep an eye out for my upcoming post on why animated movies and other “children’s” movies aren’t really for children at all.), and far more than my friend would have thought.

After hearing that, I knew I had to go see the movie as soon as possible.

Title: Enchanted

Summary: Enchanted starts out like any other classic Disney princess story: animated, a book telling the story of the story, a maiden in the forest (Giselle, played by Amy Adams), talking animals, a young prince (Edward, played by James Marsden), an evil step-mother, etc. It doesn’t take long for the prince to meet the forest maiden and decide that they are to be married. The evil step-mother, however, will not have her crown taken from her so soon, so she sends Giselle, to New York City, a “place where ‘Happy Ever After’ never happens.” At first glance it seems the evil step-mother is right. The only friendly person Giselle meets on her first day in New York is Robert (Patrick Dempsey), and he was being ironic. No one, not even cynical, sour Robert, can help but be charmed by Giselle, who waits patiently for her prince to come rescue her, while getting a lesson in the occasional harshness of “real life.”

Genre: Musical, Animation, Comedy, Fantasy, Homage, Sappy But Awesome, Sincere and Heart-warming, urban fairy tale

Audience: Anyone. Seriously. I haven’t met a single person who didn’t find some enjoyment in the movie. Especially children and parents of young children, but really anyone.

Occasion: Spending time with kids, need an emotional boost, want to laugh, hanging out with friends

Watch every minute? You’ll laugh harder the first time if you watch every minute, but it’s not necessary. I’m not entirely sure it’s possible to catch all the jokes the first time around. The movie certainly merits re-watching. There’s a ton of detail and hidden information packed into this movie. If you don’t believe me, check out the Wikipedia entry on the subject.

Big Screen vs. Small Screen: Great on the big screen, if you can get it, but any screen will do.

Why I liked it: Anyone who’s ever done musical theatre (and possibly anyone who’s ever watched a Disney movie) has wondered what it would be like if people in the “real” world ever broke out into song and dance like they do in the movies and musicals. Buffy did a play on the idea in one of their later seasons, and I know my friends and I have had a conversation about it more than once.

Well, Enchanted takes that idea and runs with it, and it’s hilarious. Instead of cute, furry forest animals answering Giselle’s song, she gets cockroaches, rats, and pigeons. When Giselle and Robert are walking through Central Park and Giselle starts singing, the street musicians star to play along and Robert asks, “How do they know this song? I don’t know this song.” The movie satirizes our lives, and your typical Disney princess movies, while also paying homage to them. It’s great fun. I challenge you to watch it and not be smiling by the end of it.

“Own it” vs. “Once is enough”: I’m really not sure why I have this category some days, because it seems like everything I recommend I also feel people should own. Perhaps in the future I’ll get rid of it as redundant, but for now, I will say that I think this one’s a keeper. Especially if you have young children, who will undoubtedly be amused by the songs and the antics of Giselle’s chipmunk friend Pip. And hey, you might not even hate having to watch or listen to it over and over again with them.

If you liked… You’ll also enjoy…: Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Princess and the Frog, The Emperor’s New Groove, Mary Poppins… pretty much anything Disney has put out, really.

Recommendation: Up

February 25, 2010

It’s hard for me to believe that I haven’t recommended this movie here yet, because I’ve been talking it up all over the place in the “real world.”

If you’ve been following this blog at all, you’ll know that I love Pixar’s movies. Ever since they first came out with Toy Story, I’ve been enamored of the work that they’ve done, and it’s wonderful to have high quality animated movies out there, so that when I admit that I really enjoy animated movies, people don’t look at me like I’m crazy. (Okay, they still do, but not because I like animated movies.)

Basically, I think Pixar can do no wrong, and thus far, they’ve proved me right. Every new release they put out there is just as good, if not better, than their last movie.

Title: Up

Summary: A little boy who loves the idea of adventuring, falls in love with a little girl who feels the same way. They have a dream of going on an adventure together and along the way, life happens. They get married, and grow old together. And then the unthinkable happens, and he’s left alone. The world is changing around him and so he decides to have one last hurrah, and fulfill a promise that he made to his wife, even if she can only go with him in spirit.

Genre: animation, comedy, action, sincere and heart-warming, uplifting

Audience: Anyone. Seriously. Unless, like one my friends, you can’t handle sad things in movies, then you should be warned that I cried about fifteen minutes in, and it was very sad. But that’s totally not a good reason not to see this movie, because after that it gets AMAZING, and incredibly uplifting. Promise. The movie’s called “Up” for heaven’s sake.

Occasion: Need an emotional boost, Want to laugh, Wand to laugh, Hanging out with friends, Spending time with kids

Watch every minute? Probably, if you’re only going to watch it once. But I don’t know anyone who’s been able to resist watching it again.

Big Screen vs. Small Screen: Whatever you’ve got.

Why I liked it: Because it’s a Pixar movie, and Pixar is brilliant. Oh, right, that’s not a good enough reason for you to want to see it, that’s just a good enough reason for me to want to see it.

I like this movie because it’s happy and sad and funny and goofy and just fun. I like this movie because you get to watch characters interact with each other and learn from each other and grow into more exciting versions of themselves. I like this movie because it’s cute and anyone can enjoy it because of all the many layers that Pixar always puts in it’s movies. I don’t care if you’re two or twenty-two, eight, eighteen, or eighty, you will find something to enjoy in this movie.

“Own it” vs. “Once is enough”: I am going to own all of Pixar’s movies, just because they’re all amazing, and I want to share them with everyone. I highly recommend owning this one, too, but you’ll have to decide once you’ve seen it. I can bet you’ll want to see it again, in any case.

If you liked… You’ll also enjoy…: Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, (pretty much anything Pixar, really), Enchanted, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Recommendation: Avatar

January 28, 2010

Okay, so I wrote a few weeks ago that everyone should go see Avatar, and I totally still think that.

But what I maybe didn’t write is that everyone should go see Avatar, right now, while it’s still in theatres, in 3D. Around here, it’s down to three showings on weekends, and two during the week, which means it may not be in theatres too much longer. And it’s a movie that you really shouldn’t miss in theatres.

“Okay, but seriously,” you say. “Why should I spend my hard earned money on a silly sci-fi movie about a race of giant blue aliens and the Earthlings who are trying to colonize their planet?” (Which is totally what the movie’s about, if you’ve been living under a rock the last few months.)

If you haven’t seen the preview, check it out.

The first reason you should see it in theatres is the same reason I think everyone should see action-y movies in theatres, because watching it on the big screen, with a bunch of other people, is what action-y movies are all about. They’re just not as cool on the small screen.

So there’s that aspect of it, and maybe I’ve convinced you to think about going to see it at the local cineplex. But once you get there, you have a choice of seeing it in 2D or 3D, and I am adamant that everyone should see it in 3D.

And you might want to argue, “Why should I see it in 3D? The 2D version is less expensive, and 3D is just a gimmick, right?”

Wrong. Okay, not wrong about the less expensive thing, because the 2D version is less expensive, but wrong about the ‘gimmick’ thing.

Let me see if I can put it into perspective for you. Thirty years ago (forty, twenty, I don’t know when the first 3D movie came out. Wikipedia could tell you) 3D was a gimmick. You had to wear these goofy cardboard blue and red glasses, and it was just silly, and sometimes, lame.

And even if you’ve seen a movie since they came out with the new 3D, the “Real-D” as they’re calling it, most of them, up until this point, have also been kind of gimmicky, with things popping out of the screen at you, just ’cause they can, or whatever.

But Avatar, directed by the brilliant James Cameron (you may not like or enjoy the types of movies he makes (Titanic, Aliens, True Lies, etc.), but you can’t argue that he’s not brilliant), was created for 3D technology. James Cameron wanted to prove that you could make a serious, non-gimmicky movie using 3D technology. And he did, and it is AWESOME. He also set out to revolutionize the use of live action with computer generated graphics, and succeeded admirably.

The bottom line? You should see Avatar in theatres, in 3D because, unless you have several thousand dollars to drop on the first 3D TVs that they’re going to be putting out in the next few years, you will never be able to replicate the experience at home, and it is an experience worth having.

Even if you only go out to the movies once every two years, you should take the time and see Avatar, because it’s that cool, and that revolutionary, and that just plain awesome, and it will never be the same at home.

Recommendation: French Kiss

January 21, 2010

I was talking with my sister-in-law the other day (she’s about seven years younger than I am) and I made a reference to French Kiss. I think the line was, “My ass is twitching, you people make my ass twitch,” and yes, it was germane to conversation. Did she laugh? Did she glare at me for quoting yet another movie line?


She stared at me blankly and said, “What?”

I know that she is a child of the new millennium, but I thought everyone had seen French Kiss. I mean, come on! Kevin Kline, Meg Ryan, romantic comedy, how could you go wrong? My husband, who thinks I’m a dork but loves me anyway, informed me that this movie is not as well-watched as I seem to think it is. Which is a crying shame, if you ask me.

So I’m recommending it. For immediate consumption, if possible. It’s amazing, and delicious. Well, probably not delicious. But the popcorn you enjoy with it certainly will be.

Title: French Kiss

Summary: Meg Ryan’s finace… okay, obviously the character’s name isn’t Meg Ryan. Kate is her character. Kate is a slightly neurotic, lactose intolerant history teacher with a fear of flying. For many reasons (all of which you will learn if you watch the film), Kate decides not go with her fiance on his business trip to France. But when he calls her to tell her that he’s fallen in love with another woman (“…a French godDESS, that’s French for goddess, Kate”), she gets on a plane and gets ready to go over there and win him back. Which, of course, is where she meets Luc Teyssier (played by the ever charming Kevin Klein), who typifies the American image of the Frenchman.

Genre: romantic comedy, comedy, nineties, sappy but awesome

Audience: I sincerely believe that this is one of the great romantic comedies, like When Harry Met Sally, or Sleepless in Seattle, or Love Actually, that all people of both genders will enjoy. Assuming they enjoy romantic comedies even a little bit. But, if you want the safe bet, I would say your best group of girlfriends, or your mom and sisters. Can’t go wrong there.

Occasion: Great party movie, especially if people have seen it before, because it can play in the background. Great movie for a girls night in, or if you just want something to relax to on the couch after a long day with a glass (or bottle, who’s to judge?) of wine.

Watch every minute? Not necessary. If you get up to pee, I’d pause it, but it’s not so complicated you’ll lose the storyline if you don’t.

Big Screen vs. Small Screen: Small’s fine.

Why I liked it: First and foremost, Meg Ryan and Kevin Klein are two of my favorite actors, so I almost had to like this movie. Secondly, I think the story is great, and I love Kate’s character arch, and how she and Luc surprise each other through out the film by being completely not who the other thought they were, and being totally perfect after all.

“Own it” vs. “Once is enough”: Own it. If you see it once, and like it even a little, own it, because you’ll want to watch it again.

If you liked… : Sleepless in Seattle, The Holiday, When Harry Met Sally, Ever After, You’ve Got Mail, Love Actually, pretty much everything Meg Ryan’s done is good.