Animation particularly when it comes out of the Disney/Pixar stable is one of those areas of filmmaking that regularly inspires the phrase "They don't make them like they used to." In the case of Toy Story 3 however it's more accurate to say "They have never made them like this." It's certainly not unheard of for an animated film to be good for a Pixar film to be great or for the third film in a trilogy to be outstanding (though that's the rarest of the three) but in the case of Lee Unkrich's film the sheer degree at which it exceeds at all three is not just rare it's unprecedented.
Eleven years have elapsed since Woody (Tom Hanks) Buzz (Tim Allen) and all of Andy's favorite playthings had their last adventure -- rather 11 years have elapsed since Andy stopped playing with his toys. Buoyed by Woody's never-failing devotion the gang is all optimistic that Andy will elect to bring them with him to his first year of college but as that fateful empty-nest day approaches it becomes clearer and clearer that the only toy that will be making the trek to school is Woody. The rest are all by a series of unfortunate events consigned to live out their remaining days at Sunnyside daycare. Things are actually looking up for the neglected entertainers until they realize just how careless the ankle-biters are when it comes to playing with toys.
Unfortunately there is no escape in sight for the lovable personalities Pixar has been refining for over a decade. Lotso Huggin' Bear (Ned Beatty) runs a tight ship at Sunnyside; the new toys are just going to have to be sacrificed to the aggressive toddlers so the old veterans can have a relaxing time with their more mature counterparts. Eventually Woody catches wind of what kind of life his old pals are being forced to live and Toy Story 3 quite brilliantly becomes a riff on classic prison escape movies as Woody seeks to breach Lotso's security measures and bring his bunch back to Andy where they belong. And while this on-the-run chunk of the film is some of the most thrilling material Pixar has ever delivered it's also some of the most touching.
Unlike most sequels not a moment of Toy Story 3 feels artificial. There's no sense that Pixar decided to make a third film because it knew that the box office would gladly support another entry; no sense that this is a cash grab (unlike a certain green ogre's most recent trip to the big screen). All of those typical sequel pitfalls are carefully avoided by a swelling sense of finality. Toy Story 3 isn't just another adventure with these characters -- there is in fact no doubt that this is their final adventure their final hoorah together. Director Lee Unkrich and screenwriter Michael Arndt meticulously lead the audience along with bated breath the entire time culminating in a life-or-death scenario for the toys that is more heartfelt and genuine than most live-action films can ever muster.
It's astonishing how the creative team at Pixar can make you forget that what you're watching is all a bunch of digital wizardry. Maybe it's the 3D this time around maybe it's that this is the studio's most accomplished technical feat to date (there are single shots at a landfill that pack in richer detail than the entirety of the pioneering first film) that makes Toy Story 3 such an immersive experience. Or maybe it's simply because Pixar treats its property which is ostensibly for children with the utmost sincerity. The result is an overwhelming success the rare kind of film that were it a human being would be your best friend.
One could reasonably make the case that Toy Story 3 is the single best animated film ever made. I wouldn't outright agree with such grandiose claims but it's certainly not a baseless proposition that you'd be laughed at for bringing up. However with part three now tucked under Pixar's belt one could present an even better case that Toy Story is the best film trilogy ever made -- a claim I am far more comfortable signing on the dotted line for.
Unlike a certain star/co-writer/producer’s namesake sitcom Bee Movie is not about nothing. When we first meet Barry B. Benson (voice of Jerry Seinfeld) he is about to graduate to a full-blown honey-making bumblebee—class of 9:15! But he soon learns that the nectar of bees’ labor isn’t doing all the good he’d always imagined. For his first venture out of the hive Barry hitches a ride with the “pollen jocks” to do some work on a sunflower. Entranced by what he thinks is a flower Barry buzzes his way down and grabs hold—only to discover that it is a tennis ball to which he is now stuck. After being catapulted to freedom from the ball’s fuzz and ricocheting throughout all of Manhattan he winds up in an apartment belonging to Vanessa (voice of Renee Zellweger) and her boyfriend Ken (voice of Patrick Warburton). Vanessa saves Barry from Ken’s wrath which leads to a long-lasting friendship between them even though Barry committed the sin of talking to a human. However Barry’s eyes become wide open to her fellow humans’ frivolous extraction and usage of honey and vows to sue humankind—and he wins. But the victory becomes bittersweet and a hard-learned lesson for Barry on how honey in a way makes the world go ‘round. Man this Seinfeld guy really has some friends in high places! Seemingly his whole Hollywood Rolodex laid down some vocals for Bee Movie even though you’ll only recognize the ones who "play" themselves—and of course Chris Rock. The comic and Seinfeld crony whose high voice and energy are perfect for animation is probably the best of the bunch playing a mosquito in peril named Mooseblood. But the A-list voices don’t end there: Matthew Broderick Oprah Larry Miller Megan Mullally Rip Torn and Michael Richards are among the heard but not seen while Sting Ray Liotta and Larry King hilariously poke fun at their flesh-and-blood selves. Seinfeld himself however is often hit-or-miss as the animated protagonist. He’s funniest when going on a somewhat tangential rant as Barry tends to do but delivering straight lines and tangibility his target audience can relate to are a bit of a stretch. Zellweger’s acting style while great in live action is even less fit for animation. As Barry’s friend with hints of bee-human romance she is rather bland and even seems out of sync at times with her character’s expressions. Perhaps we’ve just been spoiled by the Ratatouilles of the animated-film world but Bee Movie has nothing on the field’s leaders. You’d expect a little something more from Seinfeld who co-wrote (with Spike Feresten Barry Marder and Andy Robin) produced and altogether shepherded Bee—maybe a “What’s the deal with…?” nod to his stand-up faithful or more making-a-fuss-over-nothing rants or just overall edgier comedy—but he goes straight for the tyke demographic and his style doesn’t quite seem to be on children’s wavelength. It’s often funny with occasionally sharp jibes on the animal kingdom (is there any other kind of premise for an animated movie these days?) but rarely witty. And when the movie takes a Happy Feet-like preachy twist towards the end it’ll be too sappy-sweet for even the ones in your lap. Visually directors Steve Hickner and Simon Smith’s movie doesn’t really approach Pixar’s work but they make up for it with fun rollercoaster routes through the skies and skyscrapers of Manhattan. All in all Bee Movie’s large team of writers and directors scrape together enough for kids to enjoy but kids these days have come to expect more than just “enough” from their animated movies.
The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences announced nominations for the 56th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards today from the Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre in North Hollywood, Calif.
As expected, the unusual suspects received the most nominations. HBO's mob drama The Sopranos led the pack with 20 nods, including a nomination for best drama. HBO's now-defunct series Sex and the City, meanwhile, was the most-nominated sitcom, with nods in 11 categories, including best comedy series.
The late John Ritter, who died Sept. 11, 2003, received a nomination for best comedy actor for 8 Simple Rules.
New shows and exclusions, however, added some excitement to an otherwise predictable slate of nominees. Most notably, NBC heavy hitters Friends and Frasier failed to receive nods for best comedy series, despite it being each show's final season. Fox's Arrested Development, however, beat out the two powerhouse sitcoms to grab a best comedy nomination.
The 56th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, hosted by Garry Shandling, will be broadcast live on ABC from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sept. 19. For a complete list of nominees, please visit Emmys.com. Nominees in the top categories follow:
Outstanding Drama Series
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Joan of Arcadia
The West Wing
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
James Spader as Alan Shore, The Practice
James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, The Sopranos
Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer, 24
Martin Sheen as President Josiah Bartlet, The West Wing
Anthony LaPaglia as Jack Malone, Without a Trace
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Jennifer Garner as Sydney Bristow, Alias
Amber Tamblyn as Joan Girardi, Joan of Arcadia
Mariska Hargitay as Detective Olivia Benson, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Edie Falco as Carmela Soprano, The Sopranos
Allison Janney as C.J. Cregg, The West Wing
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Victor Garber as Agent Jack Bristow, Alias
Brad Dourif as Doc Cochran, Deadwood
Michael Imperioli as Christopher Moltisanti, The Sopranos
Steve Buscemi as Tony Blundett, The Sopranos
John Spencer as Leo McGarry, The West Wing
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Robin Weigert as Calamity Jane, Deadwood
Tyne Daly as Maxine Gray, Judging Amy
Drea de Matteo as Adriana La Cerva, The Sopranos
Janel Moloney as Donna Moss, The West Wing
Stockard Channing as Dr. Abigail Bartlet, The West Wing
Outstanding Comedy Series
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Everybody Loves Raymond
Sex and the City
Will & Grace
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Larry David as Himself, Curb Your Enthusiasm
John Ritter as Paul Hennessy, 8 Simple Rules
Kelsey Grammer as Frasier Crane, Frasier
Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani, Friends
Tony Shalhoub as Adrian Monk, Monk
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Patricia Heaton as Debra Barone, Everybody Loves Raymond
Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green, Friends
Bonnie Hunt as Bonnie Malloy, Life with Bonnie
Jane Kaczmarek as Lois, Malcolm in the Middle
Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Jeffrey Tambor as George Bluth, Sr., Arrested Development
Brad Garrett as Robert Barone, Everybody Loves Raymond
Peter Boyle as Frank Barone, Everybody Loves Raymond
David Hyde Pierce as Niles Crane, Frasier
Sean Hayes as Jack, Will & Grace
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Doris Roberts as Marie Barone, Everybody Loves Raymond
Kim Cattrall as Samantha Jones, Sex and the City
Kristin Davis as Charlotte York, Sex and the City
Cynthia Nixon as Miranda Hobbes, Sex and the City
Megan Mullally as Karen, Will & Grace
Bobby Garfield (David Morse) returns to his small hometown to attend the funeral of his childhood friend and remembers the fateful summer in 1960 when his whole world changed. The story flashes back to when 11-year-old Bobby (Anton Yelchin) and his best friends Carol (Mika Boorem) and Sully-John (Will Rothhaar) capture the pure joy of youthfulness. When a mysterious stranger named Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins) moves upstairs and starts to pay attention to Bobby the boy suddenly realizes what's truly missing from his life--the love of a parent. Bobby's mother Liz (Hope Davis) is embittered by the death of Bobby's father and shows little compassion for her son's growing needs. Ted fills a void with the boy opening his eyes to the world around him and helps Bobby come to terms with his real feelings for Carol--and his mother. But Ted also has some deep dark secrets of his own and Bobby tries hard to stop danger from reaching the old man.
The performances make the film especially in the genuine camaraderie of the kids. Yelchin Boorem and Rothhaar never deliver a false move with an easiness that makes us believe we are simply watching three 11-year-old children grow up together. Yelchin in particular is able to get right to the heart of this young boy who misses his father and clings to the only adult who will listen. And his scenes with Boorem simply break your heart. (Davis) does an admirable job playing a part none too sympathetic. She manages to show a woman whose been beaten down but who does truly love her son in her own way. Morse too is one of those character actors you can plug in any movie and get a performance worth noting. In Hearts you want to see more of him. Of course the film shines brightest when Hopkins is on the screen. It may not be an Oscar-caliber performance but the actor is unparalleled in bringing a character to life--showing the subtleties of an old man looking for some peace in his life.
If you are expecting the Stephen King novel you may be disappointed. Screenwriter William Goldman and director Scott Hicks (Shine) deftly extracted the King formula of telling a story through a child's eye and explaining how the relationships formed as a child shaped the adult later. Hicks did an amazing job with his young actors especially Yelchin and Boorem. But where the novel continued into a supernatural theme explaining Brautigan's fear of being captured by "low men in yellow coats" (a reference to King's The Dark Tower series) the movie downplayed the mystical elements instead giving real explanations for Brautigan's man-on-the-run. That was the one problem with Hearts--we needed more danger. Introducing men from another dimension may not have been the way to go but had there been more tension the film would have resonated more especially when Bobby risked his own safety to save Ted.