Toy Story 3 by Shawn Bourdo
I'm taking this category to mean - a movie that I was a huge fan of last summer. Since we're knee deep in the Summer of 2011 - it's hard to think back just a mere 12 months ago to that fateful Summer of 2010. It wasn't nearly as great as the Summer of 2009 that gave us The Hangover, Up, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and Star Trek. The summer was much less hyped and that's kinda appreciated. Early in the summer I enjoyed but was underwhelmed by Iron Man 2. The sequel that wouldn't disappoint and was easily the runaway hit of the summer (until Inception gave it a run for the money at the end of the summer) was Toy Story 3.
It was my most anticipated Pixar movie...maybe ever. The whole Pixar universe started with Toy Story in 1995 and I was hooked from the first scene. I was impressed with the way they found a story to keep the momentum moving forward in Toy Story 2. Pixar had come so far by 2011 that I knew never to doubt their ability to tell a great story - the previous year's Up had showed that to me. I didn't even imagine what they were going to do with this one.
Andy's seventeen and off to college. Pixar found a way to create a new world for the toys at the DayCare ("I don't think those were Lincoln Logs") - introduce us to some great new characters (thank you, Ken) - and yet find a way to recall and build upon storylines from the first two films. The original showed us how two different toys could find a way to get along and both be loved by Andy. The second film dealt with the toys fear of Andy outgrowing them and wanting to find new owners. But they learned the lesson that even after Andy was gone they would have each other. This third movie takes us to the brink of death - the incinerator - and it brings us back. The toys are given a new life by Andy. Their salvation is bittersweet. Like Andy's childhood - he isn't completely leaving it behind - he's giving it away for safekeeping. We all experience that fear that we've had to leave our childhood behind but we end up just giving it (like a box of toys) to our own children for safekeeping. It's their destiny.
These were films about some very special toys and like any great series we're invested completely. When Andy gives his toys to Bonnie - it feels like a death in part but even more we're so proud of the man that little Andy has become. The thrill and wonder of the films isn't over - it's in the safekeeping of our kids. And the tears flow. In only the best way that a movie can do that - in a way that Pixar seems to be able to do to me. And it made the whole Summer of 2011 moviegoing worth it. Now, you have to promise to take good care of them.
Red Riding Trilogy (2009) by Dusty Somers
Airing on British television in 2009, but not released in the U.S. until 2010, the three Red Riding Hood Films -- 1974, 1980 and 1983 -- comprise a dense, sprawling neo-noir saga that looks into the blackest parts of the human soul without blinking. Shot on three separate formats (16mm, 35mm and digital using the Red One) and employing distinct visual styles, the three films coalesce to tell a gripping, complicated and morally ambiguous story of corruption and serial murder.
The different angles each film takes while looking at the decades-spanning tale are constantly forcing the viewer to reevaluate characters and previous assumptions. Based on the series of novels by David Peace, the Red Riding Trilogy was one of my favorite discoveries of 2010.
Inception by Amanda Salazar
I am still quite obsessed with this film; I really enjoyed the original story idea and execution of it. The film that I most enjoyed around this time last year is Chris Nolan's Inception. It is a bit complicated to explain but it is about a team of people that can enter the human mind through their dreams. Here, in different levels of dreams they can gather or even implant information and a team is sent to the deepest and hardest part of the mind to try to implant the most basic and difficult idea, known as an inception.
Nolan took on a difficult task, trying to not only conceptually but visually engage the audience and he succeeded brilliantly. In the first act, we were just learning about what this world is made of and then the audience is taken to the different levels of the mind, dream after dream. Carefully we follow each level and become a part of this puzzle, struggling to not get lost in the dream.
What I enjoy most about this film is that the directer believes in the intelligence of his audience and we as a viewer are conscious of the fact that we must believe our storyteller. It is a beautiful tradeoff, making it the first film last year that made me believe in original storytelling again.
P.S. Before you leave a comment about the release date, I attended an early industry screening.
Toy Story 3 by El Bicho
When a studio delivers a third installment in a series, it's often more focused on making money rather than making the movie, but the folks at Pixar honor their legacy and reveal respect for their audience with the outstanding Toy Story 3, which will not only be talked about as one of the best films of 2010, but as part of one of the best film trilogies ever created.
With Andy off to college, the toys end up at Sunnyside Daycare. The place appears to be a toy's dream because new children replace the ones who outgrow the place, yet, it turns out to be nightmare. The film contains amazing sequences filled with action, humor, and suspense as the toys find themselves going from the frying pan almost literally into the fire. However, what is most engaging is the film's conclusion, which exudes such unadulterated joy it will tug at your heartstrings, so keep something handy to wipe away the tears.
Toy Story 3 works so well is because the creative team gets so many things right. The story is a natural progression of events in the characters' lives as opposed to feeling like a forced reunion. Even though they are toys, the audience has grown to care very much about these characters over the series in part because the actors do such an excellent job bringing them to life. Much of the humor, which is very clever and unexpected, comes out of the characters and the situations, particularly the transformations of Buzz and Mr. Potato Head. The emotions evoked are true as the story deals with love, family, and separation, and at no time feels manipulative.