Toy Commercial Tuesday: Toy Story Of Terror Spots

Over on PopPoppa.com I gave a glowing review of Toy Story Of Terror. It’s highly recommended if you or yours are big Toy Story fans. In addition to the Halloween special, there’s also a trio of shorts and three commercials based on the characters appearing in the title story. Above you can see the Combat Carl PSA which obviously isn’t a toy commercial, but does share the spirit of the G.I. Joe ones from days of yore. The Blu-ray also includes spots for Old Timer and Transitron that will make fogies like myself smile with nostalgic glee.

Revisiting The Incredibles (2004)

the incredibles poster My folks came in for a visit this weekend and after watching a few of Lu’s favorite movies, my dad put on Pixar’s The Incredibles. After the difficulty I’ve had showing my daughter Wall-E and Cars, I thought this might be a lost cause, but she was into it, so we wound up watching the whole, nearly two hour movie. I’d seen this flick maybe once before when it came out in 2004 and have fond memories of playing the video game with my wife when we were newlyweds, but aside from that, only remembered the basics: after being retired by the government, a superhero comes out of retirement to face an evil guy on an island. He can’t handle it on his own, so his superpowered wife and kids come to help save the day.

The first thing to hit me while watching this movie is how freaking dark it is. The script gets into some really heavy areas like Mr. Incredible getting sued by a guy he saved who was trying to commit suicide. The deaths of dozens of other heroes at the hands of the movie’s villain as a way of testing his killer robot also get mentioned several times. These deaths or near-deaths might not hit as hard as Nemo’s mom in Finding Nemo or Carl’s wife in Up, but there are a heckuva lot more of them.

There’s also Elastigirl/Helen’s fear that her husband Mr. Incredible/Bob is cheating on her, something their kids, at least older daughter Violet, pick up on. As it turns out, Bob’s been playing hero for what he thinks is a super secret branch of the government trying to build some kind of powerful attack robot, but there’s definitely some romantic tension between him and go-between Mirage. Anyway, as it turns out, Mr. Incredible’s actually just one of a number of heroes brought in by the villain Syndrome to test his killer robots against. Each hero either defeats the robot, offering more data to build a better one, or gets killed in the process. When he’s got it right where he wants it, Syndrome wants to release it on a big city and then swoop in to save it, using a remote to shut it down and look like a hero.

All in all it’s a well put together film with strong family ties and various characters offering emotional relationships to form with the audience. You might not be the middle aged person wanting to relive the glory days, but maybe you’re the repressed youngster who wants to let lose or the teenager who wants to figure out the world or the one trying to hold the family together. Add in healthy doses of superhero fun — from the look at Edna’s costume-testing system to seeing each Incredible use their powers — and there’s a lot to love about this movie. As a long time James Bond fan, I also appreciated the many Bond villain nods that came from seeing Syndrome’s various villainous lairs.

And yet, I don’t know if I love The Incredibles. After watching with my wife and parents, they were totally into it and I was the one voice of dissent, noting the similarities to existing comic book teams, characters and stories. It was a silly discussion to kick off with non-comic fans because I couldn’t possibly make them understand where I’m coming from without laying down lots of evidence that they probably wouldn’t care about anyway. The best I could do was saying to my dad, “What would you think if another band put together a great pop record that actually borrowed a lot of hooks from The Beatles.” It’s not the best analogy and I’m probably confusing terminology, but it works to an extent.

The main problem I have with the film comes from the power sets and how they relate to the Fantastic Four. Sure, Mr. Incredible isn’t rocky, but otherwise he’s The Thing. They also swapped out Human Torch for the Flash, but the main aspect that bothers me comes with Violet’s powers. Sure, it makes sense that the shy teenager can turn invisible, but why does she also have force field powers? Those aren’t organically linked abilities, but were put together for the character Sue Storm by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. It’s not like having super speed and the ability to vibrate through things because you can shake your molecules. Those both come from the ability to move quickly. Invisibility and force field projection aren’t related making Violet’s powers a direct lift from Invisible Woman/Girl.

To a lesser extent, you’ve also got elements of Watchmen in there as well with the government outlawing superheroes, a theme that had been played with throughout comic book history. I guess what bums me out about The Incredibles is that it could have been more original. Writer/director Brad Bird could have done a lot more to make a completely new story, but by compounding various elements that comic book fans are already familiar with, it kind of bogs things down. Sure, I’d compare any original superhero fiction to my internal library of comic knowledge, but this one hit off so many notes from things I’ve read and seen before that it can somehow overshadow the general feeling of fun that came from the film.

Incredibles poster 2At the moment, I’m feeling more positive about the movie. Seeing Mrs. Incredible use her stretch-y powers on screen was a real treat, the kind of thing I haven’t seen so much done with since the old school Plastic Man cartoon. I also really enjoyed how the Incredibles used their powers together. There’s a more seamless nature to the way husband and wife play off of one another’s abilities — which not only refers to their past as heroes, but also the bonds that form through marriage — while the kids need a little more coaching as they learn how to use their own abilities to stay alive. Combining powers has always been a favorite aspect of team comic books for me, so I enjoyed scenes where Mrs. Incredible turned into a boat and Dash kicked them towards shore at super speed or Violet made a ball and Dash ran them around hamster-style.

If I could just forget about all the comics I’ve read, I’d be fully in love with The Incredibles. Since that’s not happening without a head injury at this point, I guess I’ll remain on the fence with this one.

Drive In Double Feature: Monsters University (2013) & Iron Man 3 (2013)

monsters university We’re pretty lucky to live in an area with not one, but three drive-in movie theaters that are less than an hour away. We usually go to the Warwick, but they’ve had some pretty strange pairings this year. I’m still not sure why they didn’t go with an Iron Man 3/Star Trek Into Darkness combo, but that’s neither here not there. As the parents of a 2-year-old without a regular babysitter, we’re pretty limited in our movie-going options, so we like to have at least one film that Lu will kinda-sorta like. So, when we saw that Hyde Park had Monsters University paired up with Iron Man 3, we figured it’d make for a pretty good outing.

Lu and I actually have never seen Monsters Inc., but we did both see the show at Disney World based on the film. Even so, I’d say we both enjoyed the experience. Lu loves pretty much anything that’s big and bright and I thought the movie was a fun, kid friendly version of the kinds of college flicks I’ve loved since I was a kid myself.

The film follows Mike (Billy Crystal), a young monster who wants to be a scarer who winds up getting in to the number one school for such things, Monsters University. There, the overachieving bookworm meets Sulley (the glorious John Goodman), another scaring student who’s the latest in a long line of scarers. The problem? Mike isn’t actually scary and Sulley relies too much on his family name. The two wind up in the same geeky fraternity which allows them to compete in the Scare Games. Thanks to a deal made with the dean (Helen Mirren!), if they win the Games, she will let them  back into the scare program. From there they have to join forces, become friends and learn to work together.

I like everything from Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds to PCU and Pitch Perfect, all of which either influenced or are somewhat similar to this movie, so it’s right there in my wheelhouse. Even though I haven’t seen the original, I didn’t feel lost when it came to this movie which was nice. I didn’t realize that one of the villains from the original was also in this one, but my wife told me about it on the way home, so I was in on the joke after the fact. I’d say this works extremely well as a stand alone film and a prequel because it does actually make me want to see how these characters act as adults. Time to move that flick to the top of the ol’ Netflix Queue!

iron man 3 Much as I wound up liking Monsters University, Iron Man 3 was the movie I was more excited about. Movies like this which are big on the geek radar can get a little tiresome to folks like myself who cover them on the interwebs. Even though I probably wrote a dozen or two stories about this film for Spinoff, I still enjoyed it and — more surprisingly — was still in the dark on a lot of the major plot points. It helped that I avoided every tweet and conversation about the film after it came out.

So, the story this time around is that Tony Stark’s going down a fairly dark path. He’s pretty disturbed after the events of The Avengers which saw him possibly destroy an entire world/army/dimension. He’s building all kinds of armors, but there’s a more physical threat gunning for him: The Mandarin. An international terrorist played by Ben Kingsley, the Mandarin has plenty of shady people working for him like Guy Pearce, but more importantly, his people have been imbued with Extremis, a techno-organic program that can rewrite a person’s DNA, making them a fire-breathing, superpowered menaces. They blow up Tony’s house which sends him out on his own without a suit to figure out what’s up with the Mandarin and spoilerific things ensue.

I’m not going to get into specific spoilers just yet, but I do want to talk about the ending of the film. Like I said, I went in relatively spoiler free, but I did figure that the extra armors Tony built would come into play during the film and boy do they. It’s so rad seeing Tony running around a giant structure, hopping in and out of different suits and fighting off bad guys. It’s the kind of thing that Joss Whedon did really well with the final battle scene in Avengers and something director Shane Black followed up on pretty well in this film.

Okay now it’s time to get into SPOILERS. Consider yourself WARNED. Man, I really liked what they did with the Mandarin in this movie even though the reveal feels a bit like the one used in Batman Begins with Ra’s al Ghul. In this case it helped that they got such a weighty actor and had him turn in first, a scary performance and second, a hilarious one. Going for the complete personality switch is what sets this apart and makes for a great moment. This was the element of the film I was most surprised hadn’t been spoiled for me yet. Then you’ve got the ending which certainly leaves Tony Stark in an interesting place in the Marvel Studios Universe. He’s still got that big brain of his, but he doesn’t have the ARC reactor which powers his suit. It’s the kind of move that would last for maybe a few years in the comics before something else would pop up and he’d have to, I don’t know, have his heart get blown up again or something. But, since we’re dealing with a film universe — even a shared  one — they get to play with the elements and the players a bit more. The real world side of things is that RDJ might not want to play Iron Man much longer — Tony Stark seems less taxing — and it might make sense within this new world to go a different route and have someone else fill in inside the suit. Of course, since the Extremis now exists in the movie-verse, it’s within reason that Tony will find himself in a situation where he needs to inject himself, this becoming Iron Man Version 2.0. There’s a lot of possibilities and it will be interesting to see where things go with the character from here.

As you can probably tell, I enjoyed the movie. It wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely a fun viewing experience. I also really liked the kid who played Harley and think he needs to be in a kids-dealing-with-craziness movie like The Goonies. At this point, I’m a general fan of the Marvel Studios films. Avengers is rad, I dig the Iron Man flicks and Captain America, Thor was okay and I haven’t seen Incredible Hulk in a long time, but didn’t like it at the time. I’m curious about the Thor and Cap sequels, but am far more interested in Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man and the other flicks starring new characters. Let’s see what they can do with some new old characters.

Just Watched Toy Story 3 (2010)

This is the conversation I have with the missus every single time a Pixar movies comes out.

HER: Hey that new Pixar movie’s out.

ME: Eh.

Weeks pass.

HER: Let’s go see that new Pixar movie.

ME: Fine.

We see the movie.

ME: HOLY SHIT THAT WAS AMAZING, WHY DIDN’T WE SEE THIS SOONER.

She glowers at me, deservedly so.

I’m not sure what it is about these movies that I always forget how damn good they are when the next one comes out. I remember begrudgingly going to see Finding Nemo with some friends when I was visiting Columbus one time and coming out loving it. Same goes for Wall*E, though I think I was more interested in that one cause it had robots. Another reason I wasn’t really excited about Toy Story 3 is that I don’t think I’ve seen the second one all the way through. All I remembered was that they added the girl cowboy and the horse.

But, damnitall if Toy Story 3 isn’t one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time. Yes, best MOVIES, not best CGI movies. It’s that good. The thing that Pixar does better than anyone else in the movie making industry is taking the time to perfect the scripts. This one took something like two and a half years between script and storyboarding. That’s a lot of time to perfect a script and I’d say this one is as close to perfect as they come. Not a moment is wasted. And even when there seems to be a moment that IS wasted, you find out by the end it isn’t, so stop being such a negative Nancy.

For the record, we saw the 3D version. I’m not sure if it’s really necessary. It looked much better than Alice In Wonderland did, but it didn’t really add a whole lot aside from depth of field. I still think the Disney 3D is better than any of the other ones out there, including whatever Avatar used.

As you probably know by now, the story follows Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, Hamm, Rex and the gang (paired down over the years between the second and third installments thanks to yard sales) as they deal with Andy going away to college. They end up on all kinds of crazy adventures which take some of them to a brand new house with a brand new kid and others getting the stuffing knocked out of them as the new bloods in a daycare ruled with an iron fist by a cuddly-looking teddy bear. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but the new toy characters both at the house and the daycare are a nice addition to the cast of characters without taking anything away from our heroes.

For those of you who might be thinking “But this is just a kid’s movie and I hear the ending is really sad, I don’t want to see it,” I say “See it anyway!” Yes, the ending is sad, but it’s a good kind of sad. Plus, there’s a ton of action in the last act of the movie that reminded me of how Peter Jackson’s King Kong didn’t let up for like 30 minutes (there’s the dinosaur stampede, then the bugs, then King Kong fighting T-Rexes, possibly not in that order, but it’s all intense). There’s also a great deal of comedy in the film that had me laughing out loud in spite of myself.

Oh, also, as far as I could tell the moral of the movie is “Never, ever get rid of your toys,” but the missus begs to differ. I think it’s because she’s sick of my He-Man, Ninja Turtles and Transformers toys taking up space in the storage unit.

Toy Story 3’s Twitch

I’m not a huge fan of Toy Story. I don’t have anything particularly against it, but it just never hooked me and I haven’t seen the second one all the way through yet. That being said, seeing the Toy Story 3 trailer–and the Tron Legacy one–in 3D before Alice In Wonderland was probably my favorite aspect of that viewing experience. It actually has a very horror movie feel to it, with Andy’s toys ending up in some kind of daycare center against their will, with the seemingly nice toys who were there before them turning evil and not wanting them to leave. I can get behind that. I can also get behind this dude named Twitch who seems modeled after my beloved He-Man and the Masters of the Universe character Buzz Off (thanks to He-Man.org for the rad picture below).

I can’t remember from the trailer what role Twitch might play in the movie, but I’m excited to find out.

Up, Up and Well…Up

To say the missus was excited to finally watch Up is what we refer to as an understatement. Two weeks ago she asked me to put the DVD to the top of our Netflix Queue and I did. Then she repeatedly asked me about for the next two weeks, not knowing that the movie wasn’t coming out til this week. I actually got an email sent to me on Monday saying it had been sent out so we could watch it on Tuesday, which we did.

And it was great. I know I’m not rocking anyone’s world by saying that a Pixar movie that everyone in the world loved is good, but I think it might be my favorite Pixar movie. That being said, I don’t know if I’ll ever watch it again. This movie gets seriously sad you guys. The opening montage with Carl and Ellie was both beautiful and heartbreaking. Seriously, it hit me in the gut. Of course, this is a huge testament to how amazing the Pixar crew is at making these films. I can’t remember feeling this way about anyone in a movie in a long time, whether starring people real or animated. Maybe ever. You’ll want to give your lady or fella a hug

From there the movie made me laugh, feel tense and almost cry again later. Jerks. But seriously, this is a fantastic movie, but I’d probably watch Wall*E again before this because I don’t like feeling super sad, which is the same reason I don’t watch Finding Nemo on my own. Though those lobsters with the Boston accents are hilarious (“It was dahk, like WICKED dahk.”) Hehe.