See what movies are good and not so good... Reviews are from the perspective of a ToonTown guy and select reviewers. There are hundreds of collectible posters available thru ToonTownReviews! Click on any of the images to order safely and securely! (This is the sister site of 'OZ - The 'Other' Side of the Rainbow) ***If there is a copyright issue, please email me by clicking on 'Email ToonTownReviews!' in the Links section and I will provide credit, change it to a link, or remove the post.***


Monday, July 09, 2012

Posting has ended

I have decided to stop posting to ToonTownReviews. I just do not have the time. Site will remain up for reference purposes until Blogger says/does otherwise. I am quite busy with 'OZ" - The 'Other' Side of The Rainbow. Please visit my site!


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Friday, January 13, 2012

We're Baaaaack!

Hello fellow movie lovers! Just a quick note to tell you we're back and ready to post some new reviews! Any suggestions, click on "Email ToonTownReviews" and let us know what ya wanna see here!


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Green Lantern

Featured Reviewer: The Hollywood Reporter

Starring: Ryan Reynolds ... Hal Jordan / Green Lantern

Blake Lively ... Carol Ferris

Peter Sarsgaard ... Hector Hammond

Mark Strong ... Sinestro

Tim Robbins ... Hammond

Jay O. Sanders ... Carl Ferris

Taika Waititi ... Tom Kalmaku

Angela Bassett ... Doctor Waller

Mike Doyle ... Jack Jordan

Nick Jandl ... Jim Jordan

Dylan James ... Jason Jordan

Gattlin Griffith ... Young Hal

Jon Tenney ... Martin Jordan

Leanne Cochran ... Janice Jordan

Temuera Morrison ... Abin Sur

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Green Lantern - Click here to buy this poster
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Synopsis: Millions of years before the Earth was formed, a group of beings called the Guardians of the Universe used the green essence of willpower to create an intergalactic police force called the Green Lantern Corps. They split the universe into 3,600 sectors, with one Green Lantern per sector. One such Green Lantern, Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison) of Sector 2814, defeated the fear-essence being Parallax (voiced by Clancy Brown) and imprisoned him in the Lost Sector on the ruined planet Ryut. However, in the present day, Parallax escapes from his prison. Six months later, after killing four Green Lanterns and destroying two planets, Parallax attacks Sector 2814 and mortally wounds Abin Sur, who escapes and crash-lands on Earth. The dying Abin Sur commands his ring to find a worthy successor on the planet.

Ferris Aircraft test pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is chosen by the ring and transported to the crash site, where Abin Sur appoints him a Green Lantern, by telling him to take the lantern and speak the oath. At home he says the oath of the Green Lanterns while under trance from the glow of the lantern. After he gets attacked while leaving a bar Jordan swings to punch one of his attackers, letting out a huge fist of green energy, afterwards Jordan is whisked away to the Green Lantern Corps home planet of Oa, where he meets and trains with Tomar-Re (voiced by Geoffrey Rush) and Kilowog (voiced by Michael Clarke Duncan). He encounters Corps leader Sinestro (Mark Strong), who is not pleased that a human which is primitive compared to other species has become a Green Lantern. With Sinestro seeing him as unfit and fearful, Jordan quits and returns to Earth, keeping the power ring and lantern.

Meanwhile, after being summoned by his father Senator Robert Hammond (Tim Robbins) to a secret government facility, scientist Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) performs an autopsy on Abin Sur's body. A piece of Parallax inside the corpse inserts itself inside Hammond, mutating the scientist and giving him telepathy and telekinetic powers, at the cost of his sanity. After discovering that he was only chosen due to his father's influence, Hammond resentfully attempts to kill his father by telekinetically sabotaging his helicopter at a party. However, Jordan uses his ring to save the senator and the party guests, including his childhood sweetheart, Ferris manager and fellow test pilot Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), who later recognizes Jordan under the suit and mask. Shortly afterward, Jordan encounters Hammond, who succeeds in his second attempt to kill his father by burning him alive. Both Jordan and Hammond realize Parallax is on his way to Earth.

Back on Oa, the Guardians tell Sinestro that Parallax was once one of their own, until he desired to control the yellow essence of fear, only to become the embodiment of fear itself. Believing the only means to fight fear is by fear itself, Sinestro requests for the Guardians to forge a ring of the same yellow power, preparing to concede Earth's destruction to Parallax in order to protect Oa. However, Jordan appears and tells Sinestro not to use the yellow ring and for the Corps to help him protect his planet from Parallax's imminent invasion. They deny his request, but allow Jordan to return and protect his home planet.

Upon returning to Earth, Jordan saves Ferris from being injected with Parallax's essence by Hammond. Parallax then arrives, consuming Hector's life force for failing to kill Jordan, and then wreaking havoc on Coast City. Jordan lures Parallax away from Earth and toward the Sun, using the Sun's gravity to pull and disintegrate the entity. He loses consciousness after the battle, but is saved by Sinestro, Kilowog, and Tomar-Re. Later the entire Green Lantern Corps congratulates him for his bravery. Sinestro tells Jordan he now bears the responsibility of protecting his sector as a Green Lantern. Sometime later when he is alone, Sinestro, still in possession of the yellow ring, places it on his finger, causing his green suit to change to yellow along with his eyes.

Review: by: The Hollywood Reporter
The latest superhero movie, Warner Bros.' reinterpretation of the comic book character, stars Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively and Peter Sarsgaard.
At least for some members of the public, Green Lantern will prompt the question of how many more comics-based superheroes with awesome powers and responsibilities we really need. Dramatically tart in certain scenes but more often just spinning its wheels doing variations on similar moments from previous episodes in the lives of likewise endowed relatives in the DC and Marvel universes, Warner Bros.' attempt to launch a major new fantasy action hero franchise serves up all the requisite elements with enough self-deprecating humor to suggest it doesn't take itself too seriously. But familiarity may begin to breed creeping signs of contempt, if not in immediate negative box office results then in a general fatigue with such enterprises that's bound to set in sooner or later.

Known to multiple generations of comic book fans through various incarnations that have sprung up since 1940, Green Lantern possesses powers that would be the envy of many another hero, including virtually infinite strength to unleash and ward off destruction, as well as the ability to propel himself quickly into the deep reaches of space and back. He's also accoutered in a uniform distinctly less cool than Batman's and less emblematic than Superman's, a skin-tight green affair with a matching mask that, here at least, he can remove simply by wishing it away when his girlfriend prefers to look him in the eyes without laughing. Simply put, it's an outfit you really can't get away with unless you're as good looking as Ryan Reynolds.

Not uncharacteristically, the future Green Lantern suffered a terrible tragedy in his youth; his beloved test pilot father went up in flames before his very eyes. Courting the same fate himself, little Hal Jordan also grew up to become a dauntless airman, a mad daredevil whose abiding policy with both plane crashes and with women is to be able to walk away from them. Twice burned in this regard has been Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), a fellow flier and aviation heiress who nonetheless has eyes only for the reckless cad.

But it's for his apparent lack of fear that Hal is chosen by the guardians of an ancient and very distant civilization to join the ultra-elite Green Lantern Corps., a group so exclusive that no human has ever before been invited into it. The script by the quartet of Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim and Michael Goldberg is heavy on exposition, for the benefit of the uncomprehending Hal as well as for the audience, which cannot be expected to know much about this second-tier DC figure.

In fact, the backdrop is not uninteresting. The universe, according to this gospel, is made up of 3,600 sectors, with the oldest and most advanced is to be found on Oa, an intergalactic outpost where wrinkled, Yoda-like sages have long reigned over a select group of diverse aliens dedicated to boldly repulsing evil wherever it asserts itself.

But when a renegade Corps leader decides to embrace fear and become the arch-villain Parallax (the boom-boxy voice of Clancy Brown), humanity is alerted by the arrival on Earth of emissary Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison), a purple-skinned fellow who, before expiring, passes off his green ring and empowering lantern to the unsuspecting Hal. He's a reluctant hero, to be sure, who, after a rough training mission to Oa, is only convinced to take up the cause against the imminent Parallax by the immensely impressed Carol.

Not quite doing for an untested superhero what he did for James Bond in Casino Royale, director Martin Campbell seems to most relish the amusing character of Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), a brilliant nerdy scientist enlisted by the government to examine Abin Sur's corpse. Thrilled by the privilege, he is unwittingly contaminated by the exposure and quickly transformed into a mind-reading Elephant Man lookalike with a zealous propensity for the dark side and a score to settle with his bigshot politician dad (Tim Robbins). Sarsgaard has great fun with the role in a performance that increasingly seems like a sly imitation of John Malkovich at his most arch.

But the real threat is Parallax, who eventually attacks Earth in the visually disarming form of a billowing, shape-changing, fire-breathing, octopus-like brown cloud. Faced with such an opponent, Hal packs away his misgivings once and for all to embrace his new powers and cleverly lure Parallax to the one place that might doom him.

To be sure, there is enough going on here to keep fans' 3D glasses glued to their heads: In Oa, there is a whole new planet to explore (even if parts of it disconcertingly resemble a darker version of the ugly set for How the Grinch Stole Christmas), the actors are mostly well cast and effective enough and the action comes on frequently, if not always convincingly; the hero's way of rescuing a large outdoor gathering from an out-of-control helicopter looks hokey and Carol's last-second saving the day in a climactic emergency is flat-out ridiculous.

Now more than ever resembling the circa 1965 Warren Beatty, Reynolds passes muster as a bad boy with greatness thrust upon him and future installments, should they follow, will not need to indulge his prolonged vacillations about accepting his new role in life. And speaking of sequels, an end credits insert plainly reveals which noble character becomes a villain in the next episode.


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Monday, February 21, 2011

I Love You Phillip Morris

Guest Reviewer: Colin,

Starring: Jim Carrey ... Steven Russell

Ewan McGregor ... Phillip Morris

Leslie Mann ... Debbie

Rodrigo Santoro ... Jimmy

Antoni Corone ... Lindholm

Brennan Brown ... Larry Birkheim

I Love You Phillip Morris I Love You Phillip Morris
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Synopsis: Steven Russell is happily married to Debbie, and a member of the local police force when a car accident provokes a dramatic reassessment of his life. Steven becomes open about his homosexuality and decides to live life to the fullest - even if it means breaking the law. Steven's new, extravagant lifestyle involves cons and fraud and, eventually, a stay in the State Penitentiary where he meets sensitive, soft-spoken Phillip Morris. His devotion to freeing Phillip from jail and building the perfect life together prompts Steven to attempt and often succeed at one impossible con after another. Written by The Film Catalogue

Review: by: Colin, Film Junk

The battle to bring I Love You, Phillip Morris to the screen was a curious one. Originally set to bow in early 2010, the film was shelved for six months by its distributors. A vague legal battle postponed the second scheduled release last summer, and the film finally limped to my local art house in December. There was widespread speculation that one of the reasons for its initial delay was — how should I put this — its gayness.

Honestly, that was one of the primary reasons I was interested in seeing this docudrama, which casts Ewan McGregor and Jim Carrey as penal lovers (pardon my French). Distinctly different actors, the idea of the pair performing together proved an interesting proposition, especially if the tone required Carrey to display a modicum of gravity. Unfortunately, a modicum is about all we get.

Instead, Carrey and the film deliver a caricatural portrayal of homosexuality in a bizarre dramatic farce that struggles with an unfocused story and amorphous style. Phillip Morris leans toward comedy, and does feature some very funny moments, but the drama sticks out like a sore thumb. McGregor is naturally empathetic as the title character, but Carrey is the protagonist. Enter Steven Russell, a Catch Me if You Can-esque con man, whose corporate hijinks, subsequent jailing, and repeated successful prison breaks provide the film’s narrative backbone.

Like many biopics, Phillip Morris struggles structurally. Unlike Aaron Sorkin’s brilliant Social Network screenplay, Morris is more or less a laundry list of notable events rather than a properly paced story. A cloying title card during the film’s opening reads: “This really happened. It really did,” and I’m forced to assume its proud adherence to actual events is in large part the problem. The first act, ostensibly about Russell’s life as a straight man, has nothing to do with the love story to come. That Russell lived a lie for decades prior is interesting biographically, but completely inconsequential to the story at hand.

It’s no coincidence then that things pick up when Russell lands himself in jail. It’s the real start of the movie. Regrettably however, the problems with the first act are echoed throughout, and by the 90-minute mark it’s still not clear where Phillip Morris will end. I’m not usually one to play the rigid structuralist, but in this case, there’s no denying its importance. I Love You Phillip Morris is a plodding, messy film.

But it isn’t a complete loss, either. The core relationship between Carrey and McGregor is as interesting as I had hoped. Though Carrey’s performance matches the atonality of the film — bridging mortal revelations with his signature dopey shtick — he does manage to sell the relationship dynamic during its surprisingly brief duration onscreen. McGregor is terrific as always, bringing vibrant life to a character that might otherwise have been a blank slate. It’s just a shame that his performance is wasted on as mediocre a film as I Love You, Phillip Morris.

Uneven, but well acted and occasionally amusing, the directorial debut of the screenwriting duo behind Bad Santa shows promise but lacks polish. In hindsight, the content probably wasn’t the primary concern in its distributors delaying its release — after all, it boils its gayness down to comfortable stereotypes. More likely, the advertising battle was fought over how to sell the story rather than how to sell the characters’ lifestyle. “This really happened,” killed the movie. It really did. — Colin


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Saturday, January 22, 2011

The King's Speech

Guest reviewer: Matt Stevens, E! Online

Starring: Colin Firth ... King George VI
Helena Bonham Carter ... Queen Elizabeth
Derek Jacobi ... Archbishop Cosmo Lang
Robert Portal ... Equerry
Richard Dixon ... Private Secretary
Paul Trussell ... Driver for The House of Windsor
Adrian Scarborough ... BBC Radio Announcer
Andrew Havill ... Robert Wood
Charles Armstrong ... BBC Technician
Roger Hammond ... Dr. Blandine Bentham
Geoffrey Rush ... Lionel Logue
Calum Gittins ... Laurie Logue
Jennifer Ehle ... Myrtle Logue
Dominic Applewhite ... Valentine Logue
Ben Wimsett ... Anthony Logue

Synopsis: In the mid 1930s, King George V of England is concerned about the immediate future of the British monarchy. His eldest son David, first in line for the throne, is in a relationship with American divorcée Wallis Simpson. Marriage to a divorcée and being King of England (and thus head of the Church of England) is incompatible. And King George V's second son, Albert (or Bertie as he is called by family), second in line for the throne, speaks with a stammer, something he's had since he was a child. Although a bright and temperamental man, Bertie, because of his stammer, does not capture the confidence of the public, which is paramount if Britain does enter into war against Hitler's regime. As King George V states about living in a communications age, a king can no longer get by in life solely by looking good in a regal uniform and knowing how to battle riding a horse. Elizabeth, Bertie's loving wife, wants to help her husband gain confidence solely in his increasing need to speak at public functions, regardless of if he becomes king or not. She finds an unconventional Australian raised speech therapist named Lionel Logue to help assist in curing Bertie's stammer, with no one, even Lionel's family, knowing he has this job with the royal highness. Lionel and Bertie's relationship is often an antagonistic one as Lionel feels the need for the two to be equals during their sessions, with Lionel even calling him Bertie instead of your royal highness, which doesn't sit well with him, as he is not used to such dealings with a commoner. Lionel does in time become Bertie's confidante and friend, especially from Lionel's side as he tries to determine the psychological issues behind the speech impediment. An issue with Lionel, which he does not hide but also does not fully disclose, may threaten their relationship altogether, which may be especially problematic as a still stammering Bertie ultimately becomes King George VI and as Britain enters into war with Germany. Written by Huggo

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Review: Review by Matt Stevens, E! Online

You wouldn't guess a radio-address could be as rousing and nail-biting as a climactic boxing match or a karate competition, but beneath all the manners and monarchs, Speech is a classic—and expertly crafted—underdog fight story. It's Rocky with royalty.

Plagued with a stammer since childhood, Prince Albert (Firth) has long lived in the shadow of his older brother Edward (Guy Pearce) and tyrannical father, King George V. After Albert's unsuccessful visits to physicians, his wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) convinces him to see an eccentric speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush).

Like any good trainer, this vocal coach has rigid rules and unconventional methods, including singing, dancing and spewing profanity. Albert initially protests but begins to make progress, especially as he explores the psychological reasons for his disorder.

When George V dies in 1936 and Edward abdicates the throne to marry an American (scandal!), Albert is suddenly crowned King George VI. With England on the brink of war and in desperate need of a commanding leader, the new king must overcome his fears and his tied tongue to deliver a radio address that will rally the nation.

Far from a boring Brit drama or stuffy period piece, this immensely satisfying film sparkles with wit and charm. Despite the play-like nature of the script, director Tom Hooper keeps Speech flowing, with lyrical editing and sumptuous classical music underscoring an offbeat visual style.

But the real pleasure is watching Firth and Rush, both at the top of their game, circle and spar and eventually strip away their differences—the pic pokes good fun at class distinction—to reveal their common humanity and form an unlikely bond.

Supporting players are also stellar, notably Carter and Derek Jacobi as the unctuous archbishop.

The 180—a Second Opinion: Timothy Spall's broad portrayal of Winston Churchill strikes a false note in an otherwise pitch-perfect cast.


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Thursday, November 04, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

Guest reviewer, Kyle,

Starring: Emma Watson ... Hermione Granger
Daniel Radcliffe ... Harry Potter
Helena Bonham Carter ... Bellatrix Lestrange
Ralph Fiennes ... Lord Voldemort
Clémence Poésy ... Fleur Delacour
Tom Felton ... Draco Malfoy
Bonnie Wright ... Ginny Weasley
Rhys Ifans ... Xenophilius Lovegood
Alan Rickman ... Severus Snape
Rupert Grint ... Ron Weasley
Bill Nighy ... Rufus Scrimgeour
Michael Gambon ... Albus Dumbledore
Jason Isaacs ... Lucius Malfoy
John Hurt ... Mr. Ollivander
Miranda Richardson ... Rita Skeeter

Synopsis: This synopsis may contain spoilers
This is the first of the two last movies for the entire series, corresponding to the first half of book 7. In this one, Harry, Ron, and Hermione go on the trek that Dumbledore sent them on to find and destroy all of the lost Horcruxes, but it won't be easy.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione are fugitives from the law when the Death Eaters have taken over the Ministry of Magic and there is a 10,000 galleon price for anyone who turns in Harry to the Death Eaters so Voldemort can kill him. The Dark Lord told all Death Eaters not to kill Harry because he wants Harry for himself.

Harry doesn't know what the horcruxes look like, where they are, and he doesn't have any means of destroying them. While Harry is on this quest, he keeps having little glimpses into Voldemorts mind and he sees that The Dark Lord is also on a quest, but Voldemort's quest is to find a wand that Harry has never heard of, and when Harry investigates this a bit, his leads take him to a mysterious story about "The Deathly Hallows". So, while Harry is looking for the Horcruxes and learning more about "The Deathly Hallows", he finds himself in more danger that he's ever been in before. And when danger calls, people die... and in the last thriller of the Harry Potter series, fight breaks out and a lot of people die, and you will be in tears during every minute of this movie only to be in even more tears when it's over.


by Kyle,

Warner Bros. Pictures held a test screening for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 today in Chicago, Illinois and scooper 'Kyle' was in attendance. You can read his thoughts below!

I was lucky enough to get invited to a secret test screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I at the AMC River East in Chicago this afternoon. We weren't told what movie we would be seeing until seconds before it started, but my friends and I suspected that it may be Harry Potter due to the Warner Bros signs and the intense security. When producer David Heyman walked in, I was pretty sure what it would be. Director David Yates was also in attendance, and spent some time talking with fans outside the theatre after the film.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I is a great continuation of the series, thematically and visually in line with films 5 and 6. Though it is a fast-paced film, with several nice setpieces and much-improved performances from the young cast, it does suffer from two major problems. First, it faithfully adapts the seventh book, including the book's own problems. The "camping in the wilderness" scenes become quite repetitive, and the attempts at drama/angst amongst the trio during these scenes comes off as tired. Also, the scenes involving the locket horcrux causing its wearer to be angry/aggressive are far too reminiscent of Lord of the Rings. All three young stars acquit themselves admirably, however, doing the best they can with the material. Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe, in particular, are quite good. The second problem with the film, and this may be fixed by the time the final cut is released, is the editing. Some scenes feel utterly rushed and incoherent (Godric's Hollow, for example). Others go on for far too long (Ron becomes jealous, etc.). There are several flashes / dream sequences that demonstrate Voldemort's search for the Elder Wand. These are bizarrely edited and poorly executed. Luckily, they are just a small fraction of the film.

Despite these issues, this was a quality film on par with films 5 and 6, both of which I quite enjoyed. As with those films, the cinematography is beautiful. There are several creative and dramatic shots throughout the film, so that even if one gets bored, you could just stare in awe at the scenery. The beginning of the film is also quite exciting, including some hilarious scenes with multiple "Harry"s, and a series of great action sequences. The visual effects were not completely finished in these sequences, but I imagine it was quite close to what the final version will be. Another effective sequence involves the trio escaping to a small cafe in London, and a resulting fight that involves wands and spells but feels more like a shootout.

The film ends at a very appropriate spot, and though not exactly a "cliffhanger", left me greatly anticipating Part II.

At the end of the film, we all filled out lengthy questionnaires regarding our opinion of the film overall (I gave it 4/5), as well as our likes/dislikes with the performances, scenes, and other aspects.

Though I will reserve final judgement until after seeing Part II, this is overall an effective and exciting, if not perfect, continuation of the series that struggles with some of the same problems as the final book, but mostly overcomes them through excellent technical aspects and performances.

Read more: Fan Review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 -


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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Toy Story 3 (D)

Guest reviewer: Matt Goldberg,

Toy Story 3
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Starring: Tom Hanks ... Woody (voice)

Tim Allen ... Buzz Lightyear (voice)

Joan Cusack ... Jessie (voice)

Ned Beatty ... Lotso (voice)

Don Rickles ... Mr. Potato Head (voice)

Michael Keaton ... Ken (voice)

Wallace Shawn ... Rex (voice)

John Ratzenberger ... Hamm (voice)

Estelle Harris ... Mrs. Potato Head (voice)

John Morris ... Andy (voice)

Jodi Benson ... Barbie (voice)

Emily Hahn ... Bonnie (voice)

Laurie Metcalf ... Andy's Mom (voice)

Blake Clark ... Slinky Dog (voice)

Teddy Newton ... Chatter Telephone (voice)

Toy Story 3 Toy Story 3
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Synopsis: Warning! This synopsis may contain spoilers

Andy Davis (John Morris) is now 17 years old, and is heading off to college in a few days. However, the fact that Andy has grown from a young boy to a teenager has not been lost on a select few: his toys.

Several of them hold out hope that Andy will play with them at least once before he leaves, but those hopes are soon dashed. As the toys take stock of how many are left, and those that they have lost over the years, their attention is drawn to the last of the Army Men: Sarge (R. Lee Ermey), and two paratroopers. Fearful of being thrown away, they leap out the window into the world beyond, their parachutes taking them who knows where.

This idea soon fills the heads of the remaining toys: Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie, Bullseye, Mr. Potato Head, Mrs. Potato Head, 3 alien squeak toys from Pizza Planet, Slinky Dog, Rex, and Hamm the Piggy Bank.

Several are of the persuasion that Sarge is right, and they'll be tossed out soon, but Woody (Tom Hanks) believes that Andy wouldn't do this, and figures he'll store them in the attic...maybe one day to be played with again when Andy has kids of his own.

The toys' 'staff meeting' is cut short when Andy returns to his room with his mom (Laurie Metcalf) in tow. With only a few days left until he leaves, Andy has not cleaned up his room. Andy's mom is also having Molly (Beatrice Miller) clean her room as well, and tells the two to throw out what they don't want, store extra items in the attic, or donate items to Sunnyside Daycare. From Andy's room, the toys watch as Molly throws her Barbie doll (Jodi Benson) in the donations box, along with some other toys.

Andy finally takes out a black trash bag, and begins to put his old toys into it. When he finally gets to Woody and Buzz (Tim Allen), he hesitates, before putting Woody in a box marked 'College,' and tossing Buzz in the black trash bag. Inside, the toys think they are going to be thrown away, and Woody watches as Andy leaves the room. His panic turns to relief as he sees Andy open the attic door. However, before Andy can go up, he helps Molly move the donations box downstairs. The lapse causes the attic door to close, and Andy's Mom soon after finds the trash bag with the toys. Thinking Andy just left trash laying around, she takes it with another bag to the curb.

Woody looks down the street in horror as the garbage truck slowly makes its way to the curb. Woody jumps out the window, and slides down a pipe to the front lawn...only to see the trash bags thrown into the garbage truck and crushed! Shortly thereafter, Woody notices a recycling bin walking towards the garage. Following it, he is relieved to see that his friends escaped. However, they are now all convinced that Andy meant to throw them away.

Woody tries to explain what really happened, but most of them just feel that he is in denial. Jessie (Joan Cusack) soon notices the box of donations to Sunnyside Daycare, and proposes that they all go there. Everyone eagerly jumps in, except for Woody, who demands that they all return to Andy's room right away. Before he can say anymore, the trunk to the family mini-van closes, and Andy's mom takes the box to Sunnyside. Inside, the other toys find Barbie, distraught and heart-broken that Molly threw her away.

After arriving at Sunnyside, Andy's mom brings the toys in to the front desk. A family friend is working the desk, with her little daughter Bonnie (Emily Hahn) close by. The toys are then taken to the Butterfly Room. Looking through the handle-hole in the box, the toys are excited to see a group of children happily playing with the toys in the room.

After the recess bell sounds and the kids leave the room, the toys eagerly escape from the box, only to meet a very friendly group of toys, excited to see them. The group is soon joined by a strawberry-scented bear named Lotso (Ned Beatty), who soon calls his associate Ken (Michael Keaton) to escort the group around, showing them what Sunnyside has to offer. However, during the course of their tour, Ken soon becomes smitten with Barbie...who soon finds herself drawn to him as well.

Lotso explains that the toys are taken care of, and that due to a neverending supply of kids coming and going, the toys will never be without someone to play with them. Andy's toys eagerly accompany Lotso over to the Caterpillar Room, where he then leaves them to experience their first playtime at Sunnyside. However, Ken and Barbie appear to have gotten along quite well, and Barbie (at the insistence from the group upon seeing her so happy) eagerly goes back with Ken and Lotso to the Butterfly Room.

Woody explains that while Sunnyside does seem great, he strongly believes they should go back to Andy. Woody asks Buzz to come back, but Buzz refuses, saying they should stick together. Realizing that the others won't accompany him, Woody sneaks out of Sunnyside, but not before accidentally losing his hat. In the process, the little girl named Bonnie finds him, and takes him home with her.

Back in the Caterpillar Room, recess ends, and the toys get their first playtime...only to find the room filled with noisy screaming toddlers, each of them rambunctious and not as 'delicate' as Andy was. Once the daycare closes, the toys feel there has been some mistake and that they should be in the Butterfly Room instead. Buzz manages to get out of the room, intending to talk to Lotso. However, once outside, his attention is drawn to Ken and several other toys going inside a vending machine.

Buzz follows them, but is caught by a sleepy-eyed doll named Big Baby. Ken and the others take Buzz to the daycare's library and tie him up. Suddenly, Lotso comes across the other toys, and demands that they let Buzz go. Buzz thanks Lotso for helping him out, and makes his request for himself and the other toys to be transferred. Lotso admires Buzz's initiative, but is only willing to consider to have him join the Butterfly Room inhabitants. When Buzz refuses, Lotso orders Buzz held down, and manages to procure a Buzz Lightyear instruction manual from the library. Using it, the group of toys sets Buzz to "demo" mode, putting him back in his deluded space-ranger mode.

Lotso, his compatriots, and Buzz return to the Caterpillar Room, where Buzz subdues his friends, and places them in prison-like storage cages. Lotso then explains how the daycare is run: all newcomers start in the Caterpillar Room. If they survive, they move up to the Butterfly Room.

To set an example about what happens to troublemakers, Lotso has Big Baby take Mr Potato Head out to the playground, and stuff him in "The Box" (a sandbox). Also as a warning, Lotso produces Woody's hat, although he doesn't explain what happened to the toys' friend. Barbie finds out about this shortly, and angrily rebukes Ken. Refusing to be a part of Lotso's plan, she is imprisoned as well.

During the toys' day at Sunnyside, Woody has been in Bonnie's house, being used as part of her imaginative fun and games. During her playtime, Woody grows excited to be part of a real playtime again, but longs to get back to Andy.

Once the household is asleep, Bonnie's toys help Woody access the family computer. Woody is relieved to find that Andy's house is only a few blocks away. He thanks the toys and tells them that if Bonnie ever outgrows them, they should go to Sunnyside. However, the name causes the toys to look on in fear. The toys explain that Lotso is responsible, and one of Bonnie's toys named Chuckles (Bud Luckey) begins to tell a story.

Lotso, Chuckles, and Big Baby were once owned by a little girl named Daisy. Of the three, she loved Lotso the most. However, one day at a rest stop, the three toys were accidentally left behind. The three eventually made it back to Daisy's house. Lotso and Chuckles managed to look in her window...only to see that Lotso had been replaced. Upon seeing this, something changed inside Lotso, and he declared they had all been replaced (even though there was only proof that he had been replaced). Big Baby wanted to still go back, but Lotso just yelled "She doesn't love you no more," and tore off a necklace around Baby's neck: a plastic heart that said "I belong to Daisy." Secretly, Chuckles kept it.

The three toys went from place-to-place, until finally finding Sunnyside. Lotso took over, and set up his system by which almost any new toy would not survive under the strenuous conditions of the toddlers. Chuckles explains that he eventually was broken at Sunnyside, and Bonnie took him in and repaired him. Realizing the danger his friends are in, Woody decides to break back into the daycare and rescue them.

The next day, Woody manages to sneak into the daycare, and move through the ceiling tiles. Finding his way into a hidden area of the Caterpillar Room, he chances upon a Fisher-Price Chatter Telephone (Teddy Newton). The telephone tells Woody that he should have stayed gone, and that there's no way that he and his friends can get out. Woody thanks him for the concern, but says they have to try. The Chatter Telephone then explains what Woody and his friends will be up against: Lotso's minions manning search lights on the playground, trucks patrolling the halls and the playground, an 8-foot high cinderblock wall, and a cymbal-clanging monkey that monitors the security cameras in the building.

The telephone tells Woody that the only other way out is through a garbage chute across the playground.

Once the toddlers have gone to recess, Woody joins his friends, who tell him about Buzz having been reset, and how they want to get back to Andy. Woody then sets his plan into action. Later that evening, the group springs into action: Mr. Potato Head creates a scene to get put in the box again, this time as a way to get outside and report for the group. Barbie pleads with Ken that she can't take being imprisoned, and Ken lets her out. He takes her back to his dreamhouse, where Barbie quickly subdues him, and using one of his outfits as a disguise, manages to infiltrate the daycare library to find the instruction manual for Buzz. Woody and Slinky Dog manage to infiltrate the main security room, and take down the cymbal-clanging monkey. Rex and Hamm start a fight to distract Buzz, allowing Jessie to escape, and trap Buzz under a plastic tub.

The toys then regroup, and set about trying to get Buzz back to normal. However, a mistake in resetting Buzz sets him to speak and act in Spanish. With little time left, the group decides to worry about fixing him later, and quickly set out to get to the garbage chute.

The gang gets to the end of the chute before plummeting into the dumpster...only to find Lotso, Ken, and his associates waiting (along with the chatter telephone, now broken by the bad toys). Lotso offers the toys a choice: either end up in the dumpster, or return to the daycare. Jessie and Barbie both decry what Lotso has done to the daycare, and even Ken soon turns against Lotso.

The eagerness of the group and Woody to return to Andy incites Lotso to declare that love doesn't exist. It is then that Woody mentions Daisy, and produces the tag that Chuckles had kept. Big Baby sees the tag, and Lotso declares that she didn't love them and replaced them. Woody reminds Lotso that it was only him she replaced. This revelation causes Big Baby to reach for the tag, before Lotso destroys, it, yelling at Big Baby for being stupid and believing that Daisy loved him. Big Baby, feeling betrayed, then throws Lotso in the dumpster, slamming the lid and blowing a raspberry at him.

The other toys begin to run across the lid, before one of the Pizza Planet aliens' feet gets stuck in the lid. Woody goes to help him, only to have Lotso grab his hand. The others rush to help Woody, but just then, a dump truck pulls up, and dumps the contents (including Andy's toys) into the collecting bin in the back. Barbie and Ken, who were not on the dumpster's lid, can only watch as their friends are taken from them.

Inside the dumpster, more trash is emptied onto the group, before a TV set falls on Buzz...which manages to set him back to his proper self. However, before the toys can rejoice, the truck arrives at the Tri-County landfill. As the gang moves about, they are shocked when a bulldozer scoops up the three Pizza Planet aliens, carrying them away! The remaining toys are then shoveled by another machine onto a moving conveyor belt, headed towards a large shredding machine. The toys manage to stave off being shredded by grabbing onto metal objects that are being magnetized to an overhead track. Woody and Buzz even manage to save Lotso, who thanks them.

Once they make it through, they find themselves on another conveyor belt, heading towards what looks like daylight. However, as they draw closer, they soon realize it's a large pit that empties into a fiery incinerator. The toys begin to try to outrun their fiery fate, when Lotso notices an emergency stop switch. He motions for the others to help him, and they help hoist him up to stop the machine. However, once reaching the button, Lotso just smirks at Woody, muttering "Where's your boy now, Sheriff?' and running off.

The toys are soon unable to keep running, and tumble into the pit. They attempt to try and climb out, but there appears to be no escape. With no hope left, the toys all join hands, willing to stay together to the very end.

Suddenly, a blue light appears overhead, and a giant claw falls down, scooping up the group. As they wonder how their rescue was possible, the enormous claw swings by the glass case of the machine, where the three Pizza Planet aliens are. Once the group gets out, they thank their saviors, and wonder what became of Lotso.

Unknown to them, Lotso is found by another garbageman at the dump. Remembering having a Lots-a-Huggin Bear as a kid, he then ties Lotso to the grille of his dump truck as he heads off for duty.

Andy's toys find the dump truck that services Andy's neighborhood and manage to get back in time before Andy leaves for college. After cleaning themselves up, they sneak back into the house, finding Andy's room cleaned out, except for some minimal items, and two boxes: one marked 'College,' the other 'Attic.'

Woody's friends pile into the 'Attic' box, and say their goodbyes. Hearing Andy and his mom approaching, Woody hops in the 'College' box. As they enter Andy's room, his mother is hit with the sad reality that her son is going away. Andy tells her that even though he'll be gone, he'll still care about her.

Toy Story 3 Toy Story 3
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Hearing this, Woody realizes that Andy can still care for him and the other toys: an example of true love, in that you never forget those you really love. As Andy is distracted by his sister Molly and his dog Buster, Woody quickly grabs a Post-It note and a marker, writing down Bonnie's street address, before hopping in the 'Attic' box.

Andy returns to the room, and sees the note on the 'Attic' box, thinking that his mom wrote it. Andy takes the box to the address and sees Bonnie playing in her family's front yard with the same quirky imagination that he had.

Andy then gets out of the car with his box. As Bonnie sees him approach, she stops her game and calls for her mom. Bonnie's mom recognizes Andy, who then explains that he has some toys for Bonnie. Andy then introduces each of his toys, telling Bonnie a little bit about each of them: Jessie loves little critters, and Bullseye is her favorite 'critter.' Mr. and Mrs Potato Head are madly in love.The three green aliens come from a strange place called Pizza Planet. Hamm will save your money, but is also 'The Evil Dr Porkchop.' Rex is a fearsome predator. Slinky is as loyal as they come for a dog. Buzz Lightyear is a cool space ranger who flies, shoots lasers, and protects the galaxy from the Evil Emperor Zurg.

With each toy revealed, Bonnie gets more and more brave, until after Buzz, she peeks into the box and sees Woody. Andy has no knowledge of how Woody got in there, but is surprised when Bonnie calls him 'my cowboy doll,' and quotes one of Woody's lines: "There's a snake in my boot!"

Andy sees Bonnie looking at Woody, and explains to her how important Woody is to him: how long he's had him, and how brave Woody can be. However, he explains to Bonnie that she can have Woody, if she promises to take good care of him, and the other toys. When she quietly nods an affirmative, Andy suddenly begins to pretend-play with her, and the two are having an imaginative time interacting with their toys. Secretly, Andy's toys are overjoyed at their last playtime with him.

Finally, Andy gets into his car, as Bonnie gathers her old and new toys on the porch. As she holds Woody and Buzz in her little arms, she makes Woody wave goodbye. This causes Andy to give a sad but calming smile. "Thanks, guys," he whispers, as he drives off.

After Andy leaves, Bonnie's mom takes her inside for lunch, leaving the toys on the porch, watching Andy's car fade into the distance down the street. "So long, partner," says Woody.

Woody smiles at the other toys, reaffirming that Andy did care for them, and care for them enough to leave them with another child who will take care of them and give them many playtimes to come. Woody then begins to introduce his friends to Bonnie's other toys.

Some time afterward, the toys find a note in Bonnie's backpack from Ken. In the time since Lotso has been gone, Ken and Barbie have worked to abolish the unfair system that ran Sunnyside, and now the toys have an equal opportunity to move between the Caterpillar and Butterfly rooms. The toys at Sunnyside now enjoy their time there, and soon after, Sarge and his two paratroopers arrive, with both Ken and Barbie welcoming them.

Review: by Matt Goldberg,

After the more outside-the-box family films of Ratatouille, WALL-E, and Up, Pixar is going back inside the toy box with Toy Story 3. There’s nothing wrong with being inside the box when there are lots of toys, loads of fun, and plenty of jokes. It’s wonderful to see Woody, Buzz, and the gang team up for another adventure (even if it’s the same rescue/escape narrative structure of the first two films). But Toy Story 3 is so eager to entertain, that it almost never takes a moment to breathe. Instead, it’s a movie that’s a roller coaster in the best sense of the term. Set in the mold of a prison break movie, Toy Story 3 may not break with convention or out from under the shadow of the first two films, but it’s a welcome break from this dreary summer.

When we last left Andy’s toys at the end of Toy Story 2, they had accepted that they would stick with Andy for as long as he needed them. But as Andy has grown up, he hasn’t needed them very much and they’ve sat crammed inside his toy box waiting for the chance to be played with again. Believing that they’re about to be thrown away, the toys choose to go to Sunnyside Daycare Center even though Woody tries to explain they were meant for the attic and not the city dump. However, the rest of Andy’s toys think they’ve found paradise with Sunnyside and its happy inhabitants. But they soon learn that they’ve been tricked into being toddler-fodder for a younger age group who don’t so much play with toys as much as come up with creative ways to destroy them. Seeing that Sunnyside isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, the group tries to leave but that pink, stuffed bear named Lotso (Ned Beatty) isn’t going to let them. And there you have the set up for your prison-break movie.

With all that set-up, you can probably guess that Toy Story 3 is a little slow to start even though the intro is a thrilling set piece comprised of what Andy imagined when he was playing with the toys as a kid. Once the group reaches Sunnyside, the film kicks into high gear and almost never slows down. The movie is Pixar’s most visually impressive to date, not just in the character detail and their movements, but the number of locations they cover and the amount of objects filling the frame. Toy Story 3 is a movie people will go back to on Blu-ray and go frame-by-frame to find all the little easter eggs. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are actual easter eggs in some of these shots.

While Toy Story 3 boasts a cast of new characters, there are really only two major ones: Lotso and Ken (Michael Keaton). Lotso presents a new dynamic as a Toy Story villain since he’s the first one who’s also a toy. But the toy who steals the show is Ken. Just watching the character walk is hilarious, but Keaton’s performance adds such a terrific façade of charm. Ken is constantly trying to convince others that he’s not a girl’s toy…even though his yellow-and-purple dream home is filled with various outfits that he loves. And credit to Pixar for not going the easy route and just making Ken-is-closeted jokes.

Andy’s toys go through their elaborate escape, I found that while I was having fun, but I also wanted the movie to take a moment and have a character feel something. There’s not really a moment of melancholy like when Buzz realizes he can’t fly out the window in the first Toy Story or the “When She Loved Me” montage in Toy Story 2. That’s not to say that Toy Story 3 is heartless. As it winds to a close, you’ll find your heart strings being pulled apart as you cry into your 3D glasses (the 3D, by the way, looks good—it’s not distracting and adds a nice clarity and depth of field).

Toy Story 3 may not be as good as the first two films, but it’s still a fantastic ride and a nice send-off to the seminal films that took Pixar to a place where the studio had the freedom to make movies like Ratatoutille, WALL-E, and Up. Going back to the toys that started it all, Pixar and director Lee Unkrich have created a movie with exhilarating action, sharp writing, and it’s a bright spot in a disappointing summer. And when it comes time to hit viewers with the emotional punch, Toy Story 3 packs a wallop that will have you in tears by the end.

Rating: B+


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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The A-Team

Guest Reviewer: NIX, Beyond Hollywood

Liam Neeson ... Hannibal

Bradley Cooper ... Face

Jessica Biel ... Charissa Sosa

Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson ... B.A. Baracus

Sharlto Copley ... Murdock

Patrick Wilson ... Lynch

Gerald McRaney ... Gen. Russell Morrison

Henry Czerny ... Director McCready

Yul Vazquez ... Gen. Javier Tuco

Brian Bloom ... Pike

Maury Sterling ... Gammons

Terry Chen ... Ravech

Omari Hardwick ... Chopshop Jay

David Hugghins ... Oskar Shunt

Jacob Blair ... Agent Blair

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Synopsis: WARNING! Contains Spoilers!

The film opens in Mexico, with Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith held captive by two corrupt Mexican officers, working for the renegade General Tuco. Hannibal escapes after being left to be fed on by two guard dogs, and sets out to rescue his comrade-in-arms Templeton "Faceman" Peck, who is himself held captive by Tuco at Tuco's private ranch, where Face had seduced the General's wife. Hannibal makes it to the ranch in time to save Face from a grisly demise, after enlisting disgraced Ranger Bosco B.A. Baracus, driving to the rescue in B.A.'s souped-up GMC Vandura van. With the three men now on the run from the enraged Tuco, they stop in at a nearby Army hospital, to recruit the services of insane pilot H.M. "Howling Mad" Murdock. In a medical chopper, they engage Tuco in a vicious aerial dogfight, which results in B.A.'s permanent fear of flying, and ends when they manage to lure Tuco's chopper into American airspace, where it's destroyed by a U.S. F-22 Raptor - the capstone to an elaborate plan put together by Hannibal.

The film then moves forward "eight years and eighty successful missions later", where the team - now a highly-regarded, elite combat unit - is stationed in Iraq. Hannibal is contacted by CIA Agent Lynch, who reveals that Iraqi insurgents are in possession of U.S. treasury plates being used to manufacture counterfeit currency. Lynch wants Hannibal and his team to steal the plates and over 1 billion dollars in counterfeit cash that's due to be moved out of Baghdad. At the same time, DCIS Captain Charissa Sosa arrives on the scene, warning her ex-lover Face, whom along with the rest of team she has disdain for, to stay away from the plates and out of Baghdad. Against the advice of his commanding officer, General Morrison, Hannibal agrees to steal the plates, albeit in an unofficial "Black Ops" mission. The mission is successful, but when the team returns to base to meet their commanding officer, both the shipping container carrying the money and Morrison's Humvee are destroyed by men from the private security firm Black Forest (a fictionalized version of Blackwater), led by the ruthless Brock Pike. With Morrison the only proof that they were, in fact, acting on the U.S.'s behalf, the team is arrested, tried, dishonorably discharged and sentenced to ten years in federal prison.

Six months later, a still-incarcerated Hannibal is visited by Lynch once more, who reveals that Pike may be trying to sell the plates with the help of a mysterious Arab backer. Hannibal, who has been tracking Pike on his own, strikes up a deal with Lynch: clean records for himself and his team, in return for the plates. Lynch agrees, and Hannibal escapes prison with the help of a drug-soaked cigar that makes him appear dead. Hannibal then breaks out Face (pretending to be a removal man and stealing the tanning bed Face is in), B.A. (by ripping off the door of the prison bus transporting him) and Murdock (through distracting the German V.A. hospital in which he's committed with a 3D movie). By now, Sosa, who holds a grudge against the team for disregarding her warnings to stay away from Baghdad and getting her demoted to Lieutenant, is hot on the team's trail, and under the belief that the team is working with Pike, she tries to head them off before they leave Germany in a military Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft. The plane is destroyed by two remote-piloted drone fighters, but the team manages to escape inside the body of a tank on parachutes, which they "fly" by shooting rounds off and stalling their momentum.

They track Pike, in the company of the mystery Arab, and launch an offensive in which they manage to reclaim the plates and kidnap the Arab at the same time. With the exception of Hannibal, the team is shocked to learn that the "Arab" is actually General Morrison, who worked with Lynch and Pike to steal the plates, but then teamed up with Pike to double-cross Lynch and fake his own death. When Lynch learns that the team has Morrison in their possession, he orders an air strike to eliminate them all in one fell swoop. The team barely manages to escape, and Morrison is killed.

Realizing that their backs are to a wall, Face hatches a plan. Hannibal arranges to meet Sosa (knowing her phone lines are tapped by Lynch) on board a cargo ship at a downtown dock, saying he'll hand over Morrison and the plates in exchange for his freedom. Face then calls her on a second, untapped phone he had previously given her. Lynch reenlists Pike, and sets up a trap for Hannibal and company at the docks. This has been anticipated by Face, who sets off an elaborate series of diversions to split Lynch's team up, and more importantly, get Lynch directly involved. The plan nearly goes awry when Pike fires a rocket at the ship, nearly destroying it, but he's eventually killed by B.A. Lynch tracks down Hannibal and a hooded "Morrison", and shoots "Morrison" in the head before engaging Hannibal in a vicious fistfight. Hannibal soon gets the upper hand until Lynch grabs a hold of his gun, however the container they are in is lifted- revealing Sosa and dozens of Federal agents with guns drawn. "Morrison" is revealed to be Murdock in a melted-Kevlar helmet. Lynch is taken into custody by the CIA, but contrary to what they were expecting, the A-Team is once again arrested by the military, this time for escaping incarceration. Sosa promises to do all she can to set them free, before kissing Face goodbye as he is led into a prison van. In the van, the team laments their misfortune, but Hannibal seems optimistic, and defers to Face, who reveals a key in his mouth presumably obtained from Sosa's kiss. Face then utters Hannibal's catch-phrase: "I love it when a plan comes together".

The film ends with a recital of the opening narration from the original television series.

Review: by NIX, Beyond Hollywood

Like the ‘80s action-adventure show that it’s based on, “Narc” director Joe Carnahan’s 2010 big-screen adaptation of “The A-Team” is big-time fun for those who realize that a movie based on a ‘80s action-adventure show should not be taken too seriously. And so, when Hannibal’s outrageously complicated plans go down like clockwork, and the bad guys can’t hit the broad side of a barn unless the plot needs them to, you just smile and go with it, because to do otherwise would be to spend the film’s nearly two hours bitching and moaning about how that was impossible, no, that was even more impossible than the last, etc. And really, why punish yourself when it’s so unnecessary?

As with the TV show, “The A-Team” chronicles the exploits of four highly trained Army Rangers, specialists in getting things done in the most ridiculous way possible. (As a character declares, these guys “specialize in the ridiculous.” Oh, truer words…) When they are framed for a crime they did not commit, the men must go on the run to clear their names. But wait! That’s about 40 minutes into our tale. When we first meet them, they have not become the A-team yet. In the beginning, there was only mastermind Hannibal (Liam Neeson), on an operation with his trusted sidekick Faceman (Bradley Cooper) in Mexico. There, they meet the Mohawk-sporting B.A. Baracus (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson), a fellow Ranger doing, well, criminal things in Mexico. It’s never really clear what he’s doing that has him fleeing from Mexican cops. Before the First Act is over, the trio crosses paths with the appropriately named Howling Mad Murdock (Sharlto Copley). And the rest, as they say, is history.

Fast-forward eight years later, and the gang are doing their thing in Iraq, and have been for the last eight years of the war. They’ve become close now, or as close as the script by Carnahan, Brian Blooms, and Skip Woods manages to get across. (Word is, there were at least a dozen or so screenwriters working on the script over the years. Yikes.) Things start to go wrong for our badasses when shady CIA dude Lynch (Patrick Wilson) recruits them for a mission that everyone, including Army Intelligence Captain Charisa Sosa (Jessica Biel, whose character also happens to be Faceman’s former squeeze, natch) tells them to stay away. But our boys are feeling their oats, and they accomplish the mission in style – only to find themselves framed for the murder of a trusted General (Gerald McRaney) and the theft of some fancy schmancy money prints or such. You know, the McGuffin. Suffice to say, the boys go on the run to clear their names, and much shit is blown up along the way.

If you’re a fan of the ‘80s action-adventure show, then the movie version should more than meet your expectations. It’s appropriately outrageous in every way, stuff blows up quite often and loudly, and all the iconic images and phrases from the show sneak appearances here and there. (At one point Hannibal even whips out a Ruger Mini-14, the TV show’s trademark assault rifle.) Director Joe Carnahan obviously had no intention of shitting all over the show, and it shows, from the casting (Neeson and Copley, in particular, are dead ringers for their TV counterparts) to all the little hints and winks that he manages to throw in. Unfortunately, B.A.’s van gets a criminally short appearance before it is pancaked, and although news had original castmembers Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz (the original Faceman and Murdock) making appearances, I honestly didn’t glimpse them in the movie. Too bad Carnahan couldn’t have given them bigger roles instead of blink-and-you’ll-miss cameos. Don’t they deserve that much, if not more?

The action comes pretty fast and furious, and the film itself is separated into a seemingly endless string of action set pieces, opening in Mexico and finishing up in a Los Angeles dock. I can safely say that you will never be bored by the film. Plus, there are plenty of excuses to pay attention aside from the action. Jessica Biel is excellent as the persistent Army babe chasing our heroes, and “Watchmen’s” Patrick Wilson seems to be channeling a less evil (though admittedly still pretty evil) version of Jason Patric’s “Max” character from “The Losers”. Wilson has a ball, as does co-star/co-writer Brian Bloom, playing a spirited mercenary named Pike. And hey, if amusing supporting characters (and a smoking hot Jessica Biel) doesn’t keep you awake, you can always chuckle at UFC fighter Quinton “Rampage” Jackson trying his darnedest to act. Let’s just say there’s a reason the guy started his career beating people up and not in community theater.

Like “The Losers”, a film that owes more than a little inspiration to “The A-Team”, Joe Carnahan’s film rocks the joint if you allow it to. Oh sure, it’s all very absurd and impossible and devoid of any real-world logic, and for some reason the script decides it would like Hannibal to start handling over the reins to Faceman (Really, guys? Already? The first movie? Couldn’t we get one whole movie where Hannibal is Top Dog before he starts passing the torch?), but if you stick with it, and you accept it at face value, “The A-Team” might just be the most fun you’ll have at the theaters this year. Or at the very least, you’ll feel like you got your money’s worth, which in my book is the same thing.

Added: According to Internet reports, there is a bonus for those who can sit through the 10-15 minutes of end credits. Alas, I did not know this at the time.


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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Shrek Forever After

Guest Reviewer: Amy Biancolli, Hearst Movie Writer


Shrek Masterprint
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Starring: Mike Myers ... Shrek (voice)

Eddie Murphy ... Donkey (voice)

Cameron Diaz ... Princess Fiona (voice)

Antonio Banderas ... Puss in Boots (voice)

Julie Andrews ... Queen (voice)

Jon Hamm ... Brogan (voice)

John Cleese ... King Harold (voice)

Craig Robinson ... Cookie (voice)

Walt Dohrn ... Rumpelstiltskin / Priest / Krekraw Ogre (voice)

Jane Lynch ... Gretched (voice)

Lake Bell ... Patrol Witch / Wagon Witch #2 (voice)

Kathy Griffin ... Dancing Witch / Wagon Witch #1 (voice)

Mary Kay Place ... Guard Witch (voice)

Kristen Schaal ... Pumpkin Witch / Palace Witch (voice)

Meredith Vieira ... Broomsy Witch (voice)

Synopsis: After challenging an evil dragon, rescuing a beautiful princess and saving your in-laws' kingdom, what's an ogre to do? Well, if you're Shrek, you suddenly wind up a domesticated family man. Instead of scaring villagers away like he used to, a reluctant Shrek now agrees to autograph pitch forks. What's happened to this ogre's roar? Longing for the days when he felt like a "real ogre," Shrek is duped into signing a pact with the smooth-talking dealmaker, Rumpelstiltskin. Shrek suddenly finds himself in a twisted, alternate version of Far Far Away, where ogres are hunted, Rumpelstiltskin is king and Shrek and Fiona have never met. Now, it's up to Shrek to undo all he's done in the hopes of saving his friends, restoring his world and reclaiming his one True Love.

Review: by Amy Biancolli, Hearst Movie Writer

Not so very long ago there lived a mighty ogre in a sour mood. He had every reason to be happy, having made a snug home for himself with his adoring ogress wife and their three cooing ogrettes.

Yet he felt dissatisfied. As sometimes happens with domesticated animated ogres, he had a midlife crisis and foolishly made a deal with a short, vindictive wizard known as Rumpelstiltskin, agreeing to swap one day from his infancy for one day of feeling like a monster again - shrieking, thudding around, watching the children scatter.

But in the land of milk and franchises, nothing ever goes according to plan. Especially not for Shrek (Mike Myers), he of the cushiony build and Scottish accent, whose rumbling return in the fourth and final film to bear his name - and the first in 3-D - takes him to much drearier places than he'd ever been before. "Shrek Forever After" wanders far away from the infectious and propulsive zing that we've come to expect the past nine years.

"Shrek Forever After" thrusts our hero into a gloomy-tunes alternate universe where Rumpelstiltskin is an ogre-oppressing despot and Fiona (Cameron Diaz) won't give Shrek the time of day. There isn't much sweetness and light in the resultant film, and not many belly laughs - although Shrek does meet up with alternate versions of his old friends Puss (now bootless and fat, but voiced with the usual grandiloquence by Antonio Banderas) and Donkey (still Eddie Murphy, still belting out mediocre pop songs).

This being DreamWorks, the computer animation is dynamic and imaginative, no less so for being cast in duskier hues. But the plot cuts closer to dystopian sci-fi than buoyant family cartoon, and Shrek is dragging around some awfully heavy psychological baggage for an ogre.

Rumpelstiltskin, on the other hand, is a joy to behold, a totalitarian psychoneurotic gnome for the ages. Voiced by Walt Dohrn like Jason Lee on helium, he sports the shoes of Aladdin and the head of an ignited road flare. Watching anyone on a quest for world domination is always a swell time at the multiplex, and this guy's no exception; unfortunately for Shrek, he eats the movie.

Shrek 2

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From the start, the "Shrek" films have had a deconstructive agenda: In mashing together bits of fables and spitting them out as humor, they've applied a self-aware and thoroughly modern irony to age-old folktales that plumb the human psyche's darkest urges. They're Grimm by definition. But this one is grimmer than usual.

-- Advisory: Mild action, some rude humor and brief language.


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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Alice in Wonderland (In Disney Digital 3D)

Featured reviewer Paul Young,

Alice In Wonderland

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22 in. x 34 in.

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Starring: Mia Wasikowska ... Alice

Johnny Depp ... Mad Hatter

Helena Bonham Carter ... Red Queen

Anne Hathaway ... White Queen

Crispin Glover ... Stayne

Matt Lucas ... Tweedledee / Tweedledum

Stephen Fry ... Cheshire Cat (voice)

Michael Sheen ... White Rabbit (voice)

Alan Rickman ... Blue Caterpillar (voice)

Barbara Windsor ... Dormouse (voice)

Paul Whitehouse ... March Hare (voice)

Timothy Spall ... Bayard (voice)

Marton Csokas ... Charles Kingsleigh

Tim Pigott-Smith ... Lord Ascot

Synopsis: Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska) is the daughter of Charles Kingsleigh (Marton Csokas), a wealthy man who planned to find profitable shipping routes through the world in the 19th century. When she tells him of her adventures in Wonderland (later to be revealed as 'Underland'), he declares her mad, but that all the best people are. However, many years afterward, Charles has passed away, and Alice misses his playful attitude.

Now feeling trapped in a world of proper etiquette for one such as herself, Alice is taken to a garden party, where it is hoped that she will accept a marriage proposal from Hamish (Leo Bill), the son of one of her father's business partners. However, Alice soon grows distracted seeing a rabbit with a waistcoat nearby, and rushes after the strange creature.

Following it, she finds her way to the trunk of an old tree some ways off, and falls down a hole. The hole leads her to a strange room, of which she finds a key, as well as a drink that makes her smaller, and a cake that increases her size. After getting the key and shrinking down to use a small door, she soon finds herself in an enormous garden area.

Soon after, she comes across the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen), as well as the Dormouse (Barbara Windsor), a Dodo bird (Michael Gough), and the Tweedles (Matt Lucas). The White Rabbit explains that is sure he has found the right Alice this time, while the Dormouse believes he is mistaken. Alice explains that her name is Alice, but feels they are looking for another "Alice." They take her to Abosolom the Caterpillar (Alan Rickman), who consults a scroll, which contains details regarding the history of Wonderland, from it's birth onward. The scroll claims that on the Frabjous Day, Alice will return to slay the Jabberwocky. Alice sees this, and adamants that she is not the person in the scroll, when a commotion breaks out, and the Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover) appears, along with some red-carded soldiers and a creature called a Bandersnatch. Everyone scatters, as the Knave takes the scroll, and captures the Dodo bird. Alice, when confronted with the Bandersnatch, stands her ground, convinced that it is just a dream. However, the creature scratches her, and Alice takes off running, but not before the Dormouse plucks out one of the creature's eyes.

Some ways off, Alice encounters the Tweedles again, who attempt to help her, but are soon captured by a giant bird that takes them to the Red Queen's castle. At the castle, the Knave of Hearts informs the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) about the scroll, and the prophecy of Alice killing the Jabberwocky (of which she possesses). The Red Queen orders Alice to be found, and the Knave utilizes a bloodhound named Bayard (Timothy Spall) to track her down, promising freedom for Bayard's wife and pups (a lie, meant as a way to get the dog to help the Red Queen).

Meanwhile, Alice encounters the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry), who leads her to the Mad Hatter's place, where she encounters the Dormouse again, as well as the March Hare (Paul Whitehouse). The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) is pleased to see Alice, and is in rapture over the coming Frabjous day in which she will slay the Jabberwocky. Alice again insists she is not 'that Alice,' when the Knave of Hearts and Bayard close in. The Hatter stuffs Alice into a teapot, to hide her from the Knave. In secret, the Dormouse scolds the dog for bringing the Knave there, but Bayard explains why he came. He then attempts to lead the Knave off in a different direction.

After they have left, the Hatter walks Alice through the nearby woods, where they come across the burned ruins of a small village. The Hatter then explains to Alice about how in the time she was gone, the Red Queen has taken over Wonderland, banishing the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) to her own domain, and taking her vorpal sword.

As they talk, the Knave again approaches, and the Hatter places Alice on his hat, and flings it across a river, giving himself up to the Knave, who takes him to the Red Queen. Later on, Bayard finds the hat and Alice. Alice manages to convince Bayard to take her to the Red Queen's castle, to rescue the Hatter. Along with the hat, they find their way there, where Alice encounters the White Rabbit assisting with a game of croquet with the Red Queen. Alice requests to be made larger (she is still the size of a gerbil), and the rabbit gives her a cake. However, she eats too much and ends up almost 10 feet tall, disrupting the croquet game. The Queen does not recognize Alice, who says she is 'Um' from Umbridge, and wishes to help the Queen. The Queen, impressed by the size of Alice's head, declares her to be made part of her royal court.

The Hatter is brought before the Queen and Alice, and is at first intended to be beheaded. However, the Hatter manages to stall for time, by requesting that he make the Queen a hat for her enormous head. Flattered by the attention, she gives into this request. Alice soon after finds out that the vorpal sword is on the grounds of the castle, but is locked away in a chest in the quarters of the Bandersnatch. After procuring the plucked eye from the Dormouse (who has broken into the castle to free the Hatter), Alice manages to return the eye to the creature. This allows her to gain access to the sword. Alice goes to the Hatter's room, and finds the Dormouse there. However, the Knave of Hearts shows up shortly, and when the Dormouse lets slip Alice's true name, he attempts to kill her. Alice manages to escape into the courtyard, where the Bandersnatch helps her escape from the castle. Bayard also accompanies her, as they head for the White Queen's castle.

The Red Queen then orders that the Hatter and the Dormouse be executed the next day. However, the Cheshire Cat uses his trickery to take on the guise of the Hatter, and allows the Hatter, Dormouse, the White Rabbit, the Tweedles, and Bayard's family to escape. They all soon meet up at the White Queen's castle, where the Queen has used her potions knowledge to shrink Alice to normal size.

Alice In Wonderland - Red Queen

Alice In Wonderland - Red Queen Stand Up
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Alice In Wonderland - Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum
Alice In Wonderland - Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum Stand Up
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Alice In Wonderland - Mad Hatter

Alice In Wonderland - Mad Hatter Stand Up
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The next day then dawns...the Frabjous day. Almost everyone is willing to take up arms for the White Queen. However, she hopes that Alice will fulfill the prophecy, but Alice rushes off to the Queen's garden, still upset over everyone pushing her into this task. It is there she encounters Absolom, cocooning himself. It is here that Absolom explains to Alice how she had been to Wonderland before, and suddenly, it all comes back to her, that what she thought originally was a dream was real. After her revelation, Alice dons the armor prepared for her by the White Queen, and takes up the vorpal sword.

Both the White Queen and the Red Queen meet on a checkerboard field. Both Queens meet first, with the White Queen asking her sister to not do battle, but the Red Queen refuses to give into the pacification of her sister's plea. The White Queen brings forth Alice as their 'champion,' as the Red Queen' summons the Jabberwocky. As Alice faces off with the creature, the rest of the armies go to war. Alice plays a mind-game with herself, talking of 6 impossible things, as it is claimed her father would do before breakfast. In her mind-game, she manages to find the strength to slay the Jabberwocky. The Red Queen demands that her subjects kill Alice, but as the White Queen's champion has slayed that of the Red Queen, the Red Queen's subjects will no longer follow her commands.

The White Queen orders the Red Queen banished to the Outlands, for the crimes that she has committed (due to a the White Queen's vow not to harm a living creature, she will not kill her sister), with noone to offer her sympathy. The Knave of Hearts is also chained to her, as punishment as well. However, the thought of being alone with the Queen causes him to try to kill her, before his dagger is taken from him by the Hatter.

After the Red Queen and the Knave are taken away, the White Queen's army rejoices, with the Hatter doing a Fudderwupping dance, much to the delight of everyone. The White Queen then collects some of the Jabberwocky's blood, and gives it to Alice. The blood of the Jabberwocky allows Alice to return to her world, and she returns to the Garden Party.

Alice then explains to Hamish that she cannot accept his proposal, as well as speaks her mind to a number of different relatives and acquaintances. Her forthright attitude catches the eye of Hamish's father, and soon, the two discuss plans to expand the shipping routes to China, a land that has not yet been opened to the west.

Alice is then made an apprentice to the company, and sets off with a crew to open the shipping route to China, aboard a ship titled "Wonder". The last thing shown is a bright blue butterfly, none other than Abosolom.

Review: by Paul Young,

Is Tim Burton's take on Alice in Wonderland something not to be missed on the big screen? Or just another movie to watch on DVD? Here's the scoop.

Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is a wonderfully spun tale that delves deeper into the fantasy aspect of the story than any of its predecessors; however, the use of 3D is distracting at best and horrible at worst.

Let me start by saying that I’m a big fan of almost everything that involves Tim Burton
and Johnny Depp. Burton has a dark, almost “Poe” like story telling ability that I really enjoy – and I don’t think there is any actor alive today that can rival the ability Depp has in bringing a unique quality to each character he plays.

For this review first I’ll discuss the story of the film, and then I’ll address the use of 3D – and how it did or did not help the film.

For those that may not already know, this version of Alice in Wonderland is not the same as the animated story Disney produced in 1951, but it does use the same characters. In this version, we are introduced to Alice when she is only 6 and is having nightmares of a strange world filled with talking caterpillars, dodo birds and other strange beasts. Her father assures her it’s all just a dream.

Fast forward 14 years and little Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is all grown up and about to receive a marriage proposal from Hamish Ascot, who will eventually be Lord Ascot. That doesn’t matter to Alice, who is always daydreaming and wants more out of life than just status. The story takes a familiar twist at this point when Alice begins seeing a White Rabbit while walking through the garden with her future mother-in-law. Just as Hamish proposes to Alice in front of four or five dozen strangers, she gets distracted and takes off after the White Rabbit and inevitably falls down the rabbit hole.

After a visually interesting “Drink Me,” “Eat Me” scene, Alice is once again introduced to the world of Wonderland (or Underland as the Hatter tells us later). I say once again, because this is Alice’s second trip to the fantasy world although she has no recollection of it other than from her dreams. In Lewis Carroll’s sequel to Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass, Alice does meet the Red and White Queens but she is still a young child. What writer Linda Woolverton has done here is masterfully mix Carroll’s poems from both stories into an altogether different work of art.

After falling through the hole, Alice meets the Tweedle brothers, the Dormouse, and the White Rabbit, who take her to meet Hans Gruber the Blue Caterpillar. They have doubts that she is the “real” Alice and hope the hookah smoking insect can shed some light on the truth. Alice firmly believes she is in a dream and therefore can not be the Alice they are waiting for. Their Alice is supposed to defeat the Jabberwocky, the Red Queen’s champion, and bring about Frabjous Day.

One problem, the Red Queen, played by the beautiful Helena Bonham Carter, has attacked her sister the White Queen, played oddly by Anne Hathaway, and killed her husband the Red King and now has (W)Underland completely under her fearsome rule. In fact, our first encounter with the Red Queen involves a frog, some missing tarts and the familiar phrase, “OFF WITH HIS HEAD!”

Carter is obviously having a lot of fun in her big-headed role and it shows. She’s compelling to watch the entire time she’s on screen but maybe that’s just because of her oversized noggin. The size of her head becomes a humorous center piece for a few sight gags later in the film.

With the defeat of her sister, the Red Queen now has the Vorpal Blade, the only sword that can kill the Jabberwocky, and has the deadly Bandersnatch guarding it. If Alice is to defeat the Jabberwocky she is going to need help. So our intrepid young heroine meets the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry), who takes her to a loopy band of misfit warriors having tea in the middle of the woods. The Dormouse, the March Hare and the Mad Hatter are all sworn enemies of the Red Queen and friends of Alice and will do what is necessary to assist her in her journey.

I’ve got to address Depp’s performance as the Hatter. His ability to go from a sane, focus-driven Scotsman to an over-the-top, off his rocker hatter is fantastic. He steals every scene he is in including the final massive battle scene where he shows up wearing a kilt and brandishing a giant claymore. I’ve never thought of the Mad Hatter as a fighting type hero character but I certainly do now.

While assisting Alice, the Hatter gets captured by the Red Queen and her right hand man Stayne (Crispin Glover). I could be wrong but I think Burton may have used some stop-motion animation for Stayne’s body and imposed his regular sized head on it. The effect is beyond creepy to look at. Alice decides to help free her friend from the Red Queen’s castle, steal back the Vorpal Blade and escape to the White Queen’s new fortress. She manages all but the freeing of the Hatter, which I won’t spoil for you as far as how it happens.

All this leads up to the massive chess piece guards versus playing card guards with everyone getting in on the fighting action. Does Alice defeat the Jabberwocky? Will the Red Queen’s reign come to an end? Will Alice accept Hamish’s marriage proposal? You’ll need to watch the film to get the answer to those questions.

So after all that – was it any good?

A few things did bother me about the film. First, Danny Elfman’s score, while extremely dark and beautiful, felt rehashed. I could easily associate main parts of the soundtrack with other films he has scored and none of the songs particularly stuck out in my mind.

Secondly, anyone paying the extra money to watch Alice in Wonderland in 3D hoping to have a similar 3D experience as they did with Avatar will be sorely disappointed. While I didn’t love Avatar, I did find myself appreciating what Cameron had done with the finely planned out 3D filming process – as opposed to the path Burton choose of converting the film to 3D in post-production. There is a big difference in how it is used, and in my opinion tight frame, close-up head shots should never be shot in 3D. However, the large wide frame scenery shots look great.

Ultimately, the 3D fails to impress in Alice in Wonderland and certain 3D parts of the film, such as Alice falling down the rabbit hole, are completely unwatchable. The digital effects guys throw so much debris towards the audience and Burton films the scene so close up that everything blurs together in a mass of unintelligible imagery. I hope that other studios are taking note of this and realize that if they must make a 3D film, then it needs to be done during the shooting process and not done as an afterthought.

As a quick side note – during the Hatter’s Futterwacken Dance, I quickly recognized the limber leg skills of David “Elsewhere” Bernal. A young guy that became an internet phenomenon several years ago before the word “viral” was even associated with You Tube. You can check out his famous video HERE (Video removed to due to infringement).

Overall, the story for Alice in Wonderland was great, and although it may be a tad too dark and Burton-esque for children under 9, it’s sure to impress fans of the fairytale genre. Alice in Wonderland the 3D experience, however, is not worth the extra money. If you want to go see this, I recommend you watch the regular old 2D version.


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