Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Toy Story 3: The perfect end to a fantastic trilogy

Pixar is known to not do sequels unless the creators themselves are confident that they can reproduce the same quality. In fact, they stuck up their fingers to Disney, who really wanted to milk the popularity of the original film with a second and third film. There were false starts, and fights over who was in control. Pixar studios, though legitimately bought and owned by Disney have maintained their own autonomy and continued to produce films that have not experienced failures. I've not seen Cars or The Incredibles (yet! don't hurt me!) but I'm not oblivious to their success.

After Up and Wall-e, there was the worry amongst some that Pixar wouldn't be able to make this 'threequal'' match up. But that worry is gallons of water under the bridge.

The Plot

Barring some of the love interests and extra toys from the previous two films, either cause of voice actor deaths or for whatever reason, all the main characters were there and sporting their familiar voices. However their environment is about to change; Andy is 17. He's got weird music posters covering the nostalgic cloudy sky wallpaper, and a mobile phone, and the dog, Buster, is oooooold and fat. Molly has an iPod and is a sulky little sister. Mum has a sensible hair cut and is a good head shorter than Andy. The toys have been in the toy box for years, and are getting anxious as Andy prepares to go to college.

After a mix-up, the toys are donated to the local day care centre, which is a magical looking world, perfect for play-longing toys such as these. However one day in the day care with under 3s and their view of the day care is quite altered. As is the behaviour of the toys that allocated them to the under 3s room.
It is a prison run by the at-first cuddly Care Bear that smells of Strawberries, Lotso.

Woody helps to save the day, with twists and turns in his way, as he and the other toys make their way back to Andy, whom they realise didn't mean to donate them in the first place.

The Effects, Delivery and Script

I saw it in 3D. Had to, what with it being the final film and promised to be amazing. And it was. Ok, it'll probably be just as good in 2D, but with some of the effects, it was really worth seeing at least once in it's 3D glory. I genuinely winced when the toys got battered or splattered by toddlers, or when Woody fell from a hang glider.

It's delivery was perfect, and there was nothing forced or ''it's the last film'' feeling as the actors, creators and characters all went through their experiences. There were inter-trilogy jokes and references, and I was grateful I'd watched the first two films last night, since I'm sure some of them I wouldn't have remembered. The start of the film witnesses a very similar play of Andy in the first film, but pre-Buzz, Mrs Potato Head, Pizza Planet Aliens, Bullseye and Jessie. The words were otherwise pretty much identical, with the Dog-with-an-in-built-force-field and the Dinosaur that eats forcefield dog, and One-Eyed Bart and Evil Porkchop. Instead, though, of the hands directing this scene in the Grand Canyon, we had the amazing film-style scenery and effects, as imagined by Andy as he directed the exchange.  Buzz even warns the newly donated toys to be wary, as the day care toys "might be jealous of new toys".
They mention Bo Peep (no longer there) and Etch, and Wheezy. The aliens also maintain their reverence of The Claw, and their eternal gratefulness to Mr Potato Head, who saved their lives.

The script was humourous and touching. There was enough of it to go on so that the action scenes did not appear to be packed in, using the fondness of the previous two films to carry it through to a block buster hit.

And what scenes there were. It was amazing, and I personally particularly enjoyed 'The Great Escape' from Sunnyside - no, it wasn't like that old war film, fortunately. It was more like Mission Impossible, but with more gags and less dynamite and Tom Cruise. It is somewhat amazing that they executed the feat on such limited plan time.

Overall Impression

It was fun, nostalgic and funny. It contained romance, danger, conviction and even an Hispanic moment.
It was well worth seeing, if you liked the first two films, and definitely suited for anybody of any age. Though I guess maybe some of those under 10s might have found one or two scenes a little disturbing.

By the way, watch out for the Easter Eggs - one is a Totoro, symbolising Disney's relations with Studio Ghibli, and also Pixar founder John Lasseter's personal friendship with Hayao Miyazaki.
But there are many more, which can be spoiled here.

'The time has come,' the Walrus said, 'to talk of many things.'

Of films -- and gigs -- and research -- of cabbages -- and kings.

This summer is supposed to be about work: dissertation work. But naturally, that's not really happening. Although I do have here open in front of me my specially assigned notebook for my dissertation, some written bullet points and a copy of the Life of St. Macrina by St. Gregory of Nyssa. And what a complicated git he is. He can't write it like a normal biography. Oh, no. He has to write about each person without properly indicating of whom he is talking, and he doesn't seem interested in the bigger picture. And I'm only on page 3 of a 64-page narrative. And the book itself is only 16.5 cm tall, so really, that's not a lot to read. Particularly since he paragraphs with double spacing, and uses headings and titles of sections of her life and afterlife (she isn't a saint for nothing - she did things whilst dead, too).

But I have to do resting, too. Otherwise my brain isn't fully recovered, is it? I have done quite a lot of resting, I guess. I've almost finished an embroidery picture my mother started for my grandmother when she (mother) was ill. She got a fair way through it, and I just have to do the outlining now.

I've been to Bournemouth for a week, even though The Boyfriend is currently working 9-5 Monday - Friday. It was nice, though. Largely. I just vegetated and did useful things around the house alternately, and went out shopping when I could be bothered. I caught the sun a bit, whilst it was out, too.

I've also played a lot of games. Well. Two. I started Miles Edgeworth: Ace Attorney - Investigations around the 9th of July and finished it around the 14th. You might think that took a long time, but I also watched a lot of t.v. and played Mini Ninjas around it, as well as having to eat and sleep.
If you've not played any of the Ace Attorney series, it's pretty much this: in each game, there are a series of crimes, which all turn out to be linked by a common person or event or theme, and by the end of it all, or just before the final case, you should be going "ooooooh... now that I think about it, it's quite obvious". This one does not take place in a court room, ever, unfortunately, but that doesn't make it any less fun. Or addictive. By the ''end'' of the final case, you (or at least I was) are screaming and cursing the damn villain for incessently lying. Not just to start with. Even AFTER you present a lot of what is considered to the normal breed of villain pretty solid evidence. A good game is supposed to get you that involved, right?

Mini Ninjas is actually rather fun. I only paid £3 for a second hand copy, but I'd have paid maybe up to £15 for it, if I'd seen the demo or played it somewhere else first. I only got it because it was so dirt cheap. Apparently, it was £45 on release, which I think is waaaaaay too expensive, but there you go. It's a bit basic with the button smashing and general level event repetitiveness, but it gives you something to do, and the music and scenery is quite delightful. Yes, delightful. It's not amazing, but then it's not supposed to be. The panda bears, if you've played it or are going to, are not the greatest piece of graphic art in history. In fact they look rather stoned. But then, I think pandas are a bit slow on the uptake. Which is why they are so very endangered.

I'm going to see Toy Story 3 today, with my grandparents. As the Radio Times pointed out, the idea that cartoon films or television series is just for children is a relatively modern idea; when Bambi was released in the cinema, my mother went to see it, and she was 18. And she wasn't the oldest member of the audience. The writer of Toy Story 3 claims he doesn't make Pixar films 'for children'. He makes them 'suitable' for children - these films have undertones and highlights that allow parents to enjoy them just as much, and I wager that if those of you that feel so ''grown up'' that you don't watch any of your past television or film cartoon favourites any more did watch one or two episodes or films, you'd see something else about the film you just simply wouldn't have taken in when you were 10.
Or you just laugh at the sheer silliness and simplicity of it. Plus the nostalgia can be really great.

And this summer I am seeing two bands play - the first is Ska band Sonic Boom Six. The boyfriend got me listening to them, because he wants to see them the weekend after his birthday in August. Since I'm conveniently visiting him that weekend, he's getting me to go. It's £7 and only in Poole, so I'm not too anxious about going to that. Should be fun, too. I guess. But if he tries to get me to skank, which he knows I can't, I'll probably nut him :)

(<------Aww look at Greg Graffin trying to look cool)
And, more importantly for The Boyfriend, I'm seeing Bad Religion at the O2 in London. It's his all-time favourite band, and I quite enjoy some of their music too. They've not been to England in over a decade, so of course he begged me to go with him, since nobody else would. And my brother, who through me being influenced by The Boyfriend is coming too, since he really likes them too. It should be a huge show, and since I'm not an overly huge fan of large amounts of people, I'm a little more nervous about that. As well as the fact I'd like to hang around at the end, buy some merchandise, maybe, get something signed if I can, but we need to be back in time for a coach to take us back to Cambridge so that our grandmother can come and get us from town. I would rather just pay extra and get a shared room in a hostel somewhere, but I don't think the grandparents are overly keen on that idea. If I didn't have my brother coming, I might have been able to swing it, but as it is. Ah well. I'll just have to find out when, approximately, it is to end, and when the next coach home is and whether I can afford to miss one in favour of a slightly later one. Depends when it gets us home, since it's unfair to keep her up and waiting into the small hours of the night. Even if she did offer.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Shrek: Forever After

For those of you that rather enjoyed Shrek and Shrek 2, and then felt thoroughly let down by the utter dud that Shrek the Third was, you'll be pleased to know that the final instalment is NOT like Shrek 3.

Overall moral of the film: Be grateful for what you've got.

Plain and simple, and easy to fill out an enjoyable storyline as Shrek realises this moral when he's been duped by the legendary Rumpelstiltskin. You'd think Shrek'd have heard of this tricky little pixy, but no, apparently he was the only person that didn't quite click when he heard the name, so desperate was he to experience just one day that wasn't the mundane married life in which he was beloved by all - even the villagers that once chased him with pitch forks. The audience knows, whilst Shrek doesn't, that lil' Rumpel has a score to settle with him for indirectly costing him his own dream.
So Shrek makes a deal to swap a day he couldn't remember from his childhood for a day wherein he was a 'real' ogre again. Of course he didn't specify which, and so the alternate universe is a stark contrast from the flourishing kingdom of Far Far Away that he knew and, he realises, loved.

Whilst Shrek learns this valuable lesson of life (and that ogres can blow through their ears like bugles), he sees what life would be like without him - Fiona is an embittered warrior fighting for the freedom of ogres, Puss is a retired pampered fatcat, and donkey is a donkey. He still talks, but he does what donkeys do: pulls carts, gets hit with a whip and generally abused.
Rumpelstiltskin, through his deal, has acquired what he wanted all along, from before Shrek rescued Fiona out of the blue: the kingdom of Far Far Away for himself, which is run by him and his enormous hoard of witches.

The ending is rather touching, as Shrek tells the alternate-universe Fiona that he enjoyed falling in love with her all over again, before everyone else realises that he'd succeeded (of course!) in breaking the contract signed with Rumpelstiltskin, spiriting them all away back to just before Shrek had stormed off to see Rumpel in the first place.

The film is funny, fairly fast-moving and colourful. It isn't perhaps quite the greatness of the first two, but I'd still consider it the rightful Shrek 3 (yes, I have disowned that poor version from 2007) and buy it on DVD. Maybe.

The credits end with a pretty montage of the first and second films in a platform-style 3Dness. Aw. End of an era this film is.

"'Once upon a time' is timeless" Entry I

I've got a set of books all published by Simon Pulse, but written by various authors, with versions of popular fairytales revamped. They're great - they've been written in ways I'd not thought of before, and even though they're tales one grows up with, they're recognisable but different enough to make you not quite know what's happening next.

The majority of the books are set in a sort of medieval-Renaissance-y world, but where magic thrives. There are kings and queens and castles, but of this set I own so far, Snow is the only one with definite country landmarks, though Beauty Sleep and Before Midnight have French phrases in it occasionally, indicating a European-style land.

Narrated by Aurore herself, we learn that what has been told of her story has not always been entirely correct - there are no fairies in her world, (it's too magical for them) and she was not cursed by a bad fairy. She was however cursed to prick her finger and die, which was then softened by a lady-in-waiting of her mother to merely sleeping for 100 years. As her 16th birthday passes and nothing happens, great imbalances of nature occur, forcing Aurore to take matters into her own hands, seeking adventure and a way to save her kingdom, perferably without having to prick her finger. There are false herrings, new worlds and there is a strange time lapse in the book that makes it not only an interesting adaptation of the ancient fairytale, but also an enjoyable one that keeps you guessing (or at least go "oohh....") until the final 'aw' moment of the last chapter.
Here Cameron Dokey has decided to revisit the French roots of the book, restoring Cinderella to Cendrillon. Her father, Etienne de Brabant, rejects her after the unfortunate events of her birth, resulting in her wishing for a mother,  and sisters to love her. Whilst there are elements of the classical tale, it too has a warmer character, mixed with court intrigue and a conspiracy that unfolds at the ball. The book also restores Button, as Raoul, though the happy ending does not come from where you expect it. There too is magic, but only of a limited kind - there are pumpkins but not quite in the same fairy-godmother design. Unfortunately there are no talking mice. =P

Inspired by friends of Cameron Dokey that have alopecia, Rapunzel tells the tale of how the fairytale we all know of came about - although the Rapunzel in this book is bald. The start of the tale is quite as we know it, though the sympathy is very much for the sorceress. She is not however put into a tower. That comes later, and in a pleasant twist of storytelling. The Rupunzel from the start of this story, and the girl that becomes Rupunzel at the end are intrinsically linked by fate, and by the love of the sorceress who was being punished for a wrong many many years before. There is a tower, and there is a prince. But there is also a separate storyline which weaves into the original fairytale successfully, reshaping the necessity to have long golden hair to be a beautiful person.

The Little Mermaid, but still completely different. Not written by Cameron Dokey, this author still manages to change and expand the story. Fortunately though, it's a happier ending than the original =P If you wanted a sad ending, I guess I still felt a bit sad that Pearl, the main character, didn't end up with the person I'd hoped she might for a good 3/4s of the book. Although the conspiracy storyline felt a little bumbled, it did not spoil the otherwise enjoyable read. I think it's probably better than the Disney version.
There is a theme of kindred spirits and true love throughout this book, as Pearl, who does not remember her life before the age of 4, when she was found by a fisherman and his wife, tries to find her true home - on land and at sea.

Snow White, but lacking the 7 dwarves. It is set in the scientifically budding London, back in the days when poor houses existed, freak shows, and women were good for one thing: marrying equal or above their station, and having babies to inherit land or to marry off. Snow, or Jessica as we learn her real name to be, is not a Princess, just a noble's daughter. And she was not always treated like a lowly skivvy by her step-mother. The mirror doesn't talk - that's just Disney's innovation, anyway. The people she lives with in London when she runs away from her rural Wales estate are not dwarves, but they do have to live a secretive lifestyle. I thought their link to Snow was pretty obvious, personally, but it seemed to take a while for the characters to put two and two together, particularly the child-hood friend of Snow, who was forced to help with the step-mother's crazed experiments. I rather enjoyed it. True, Snow was a bit more helpless than she could have been, but then she was also restricted by societies laws, so I suppose allowances can be made. =P

I have received a few more of the stories in this set of publications, and will probably comment on them in the future.