Thursday, July 15, 2010

Movie Review-Toy Story 3

To listen to the radio version, please click here.

If you are like me, movies can be so mighty they change you. Movies so memorable, so cool, so unexpected, so moral, you walk out of the theater a different person than who walked in; hopefully a better person. Movies are powerful in that way. Perhaps more than radio, books, or television, movies are the common medium of our culture, our country. This can be for better, but often is for worse. Impressionable minds can learn all sorts of ways to blow things up and beat up the bad guys, but very little about how to form lasting love and friendships. So it is a great delight to tell you to go see Toy Story 3.

I have no criticisms. How could I? Disney-Pixar once again hit it out of the park. Best movie of the year? Sure. Another example of animation for kids being a better film for adults? Absolutely. Pixar focuses on timeless, classic story telling, on universal themes like the joy and pain of childhood’s journey into adulthood, and preserving the innocence of children. But above all, Toy Story 3 is about the importance of loyalty to friends. And it’s smart enough to be funny, exciting, and entertaining with blessedly little irony. This film is kind. And really, how many movies are “kind” these days?

Tom Hanks is back as Woody, and Tim Allen is back as Buzz Lightyear. Ned Beatty joins the cast; good to see he is still alive. John Ratzenberg, Michael Keaton, Bonnie Hunt, and even Whoopi Goldberg get in on the fun. And why not? Why wouldn’t you want to be part of the best movie so far this year? If Toy Story 3 is overlooked by the Academy like they’ve done with so many previous Pixar films, I will threaten to throw something really hard, but then won’t, and will seethe for a long while.

This movie belongs with Old Yeller, Watership Down, Where the Red Fern Grow, and E.T., as classic gut wrenching, tear jerking, moral movies that imprint their timeless lessons like cattle brands on the brains of children. This is for the better. Toy Story 3 ought to be required viewing for our jaded, seen-it-all, youth.

But don’t skip this one because you’re not a kid. That’s no excuse. The elderly couple in front of me joined the end chorus of sniffles; a lot of sniffles. The last 15 minutes delivered an emotional wallop something like Andre the Giant smacking you with a two by four to the gut while simultaneously winning the California state lottery and having your childhood dog fly into your lap with angel wings.

Okay, so I’m going to man-up here. True story: It's the end of Toy Story 3, and yeah, I too was on the verge of tears. To deflect an embarrassing display of manly waterworks I whispered to my 4 year old Carmen in fatherly concern, "does this make you sad?" Carmen looks at me with her wide sky blue eyes, "No, dad, it's just a movie."

Toy Story 3 is playing at Gross Alaska Theater Glacier Cinemas this weekend. This is Clint Farr, schooled by his four year old, at the movies.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Movie Review-Looking for Eric

To listen to the radio version, please click here.

“Looking for Eric”. What a nice small adult movie. It’s tough to say that about Hollywood films these days. “What a nice small adult movie.” But it seems just what the English and French specialize. So thank you, Goldtown Nickelodeon, for bringing these foreign films, these nice small adult movies, to Juneau. It’s a nice break from the bombardment of two hours of violence and vapid one-liners from Hollywood’s normally nonsensical summer fair.

Imagine a nice small adult movie about a man you know. Decent and hard working but stuck in a rut. His teen sons are becoming strangers. His first love haunts him. His cowardice saddles him with a sense of helplessness in trying to put life’s pieces back together. Then imagine, one night as he indulges a little escapism with “Mary Jane”, Michael Jordan shows up in his bedroom to give him a philosophical pep talk. But because this isn’t a USA film, (we don’t make films like this), the sport isn’t basketball, it’s soccer. And the star isn’t Jordan but Eric Cantona, a Frenchman who played brilliantly for Manchester United.

The film’s story is straight of the “you need to be a little crazy to keep from going insane” plot line. Eric our protagonist strikes up regular conversations with Eric the footballer, workouts with him, even cheers him on when his imaginary friend plays an imaginary trumpet. And it’s okay. The tension of the film is not born from this imagined interaction. Indeed, his imaginary relationship with the star footballer ends up being very healthy – outside of inhaling of course.

If you regularly patronize our beloved Goldtown Nickelodeon, you may remember director Ken Loach’s “The Wind that Shakes the Barley”, or, as I like to call it, “The Breeze that Quakes the Quinoa”. Director Loach has a sensitive hand with the small but important conflicts real people face. He elicits good performances from his actors which is important in this film because, as I imagine would be the case with Michael Jordan, Eric Cantona is not a good actor. But he’s intelligently used as a sage and his French accent is so thick you can barely understand him anyway which sort of adds to his whole spectral shtick.

And speaking of accents, as happens in English movies about the working class, when the actors get excited, they’re indecipherable. But my wife tells me I’m not good at understanding accented English anyways so perhaps I’m not the best judge here. Not that it really matters, the story is well told and straightforward so if you miss a word here or there, no big deal.

The films primary conflict is effective and there is a palpable sense of danger. But the movie isn’t perfect. Though the ending honors friendships, your mates, it strains credulity in what is otherwise a very “real” film. It sort of ties up things a little too neatly. But hey, this film is better than most of the summer schlock out there, so if you’re up for a nice small adult movie that doesn’t give you a headache or queasy stomach, I can’t recommend “Looking for Eric” enough.

“Looking for Eric” plays at our beloved Goldtown Nickelodeon this weekend July 1 through 3rd, Nickelodeon’s closed on the fourth, and apparently there is a special showing on July 5th - according to their website. This is Clint Farr, Alone at the Movies.