OscaRank: Toy Story 3 (or Lotso’s List)

The Toy Box got a little bigger.

What does it take to get nominated for Best Oscar?

Answer: A movie loosely allegorical to the Holocaust disguised as a kid’s story about toys trying to escape the confines of a daycare ruled over by an evil dictator. The Academy eats stories like this like breakfast mimosas. To all those children who rewatch this movie years down the road and realize this, I sincerely apologize on their behalf for tainting a piece of your childhood.

Toy Story 3 picks up roughly 12 or 13 years after Toy Story 2. The whole gang is back: Woody, Buzz, Jesse, Rex, Ham, Slinky (now replaced by Jim Varney quasi-imitator, Blake Clark), Mr. and Mrs. Potatohead, Barbie and the Planet Pizza Aliens (“The CLAW”) are all there. Their young protege, Andy, is about to move away to college and the toys are all dealing possible with retirement to the attic, trash or elsewhere. The movie takes them elsewhere. The Sunnyside Daycare centre…where things aren’t as sunny as they seem.

Lotso, the giant pink teddy bear (voiced by Ned Beatty), is easily one of the most evil characters to grace a silver screen. I’m sure Darth Vader used him as a cuddle toy when he was Anakin…or Hannibal chopped up a Cabbage Patch Doll to feed Lotso when he was a wee-one. Yet truthfully, Lotso became more of a byproduct of his upbringing than an actual devil-teddy spawn. And Lotso’s “muscle” is a creepy baby that you or your sister may have played with…a melancholic character who’s good deep down but doing Lotso’s evil-bidding because they’ve been together so long. The pair, along with their “hench-toys” rule over Sunnyside with a plush fist (including vocal talents of Whoopi Goldberg and Michael Keaton) . Some of the images are those of horror movies. The blank stares. The screaming cymbal monkey.

SPOILERY! CLICK WITH EXTREME CAUTION!

Besides the villains, we’re introduced to newer friends. Most notable are the Shakespearean hedgehog Mr. Pricklepants (Timothy Dalton), the worn out Daycare veteran, Chatter Phone (Teddy Newton), the sad clown Chuckles (Bud Lackey) and the down-to-earth Dolly (Bonnie Hunt).

And unlike any of the previous movies in this trilogy, some parts of Toy Story 3 are truly terrifying and you feel for the lives of the toys we all grew up with and loved. I’ve watched this movie a couple times since it’s come out and the climax still brings me to tears…but maybe I’m a softy. And the heroes are sometimes the most unlikely.

If only Best Actor nominations included animated characters, Woody should’ve been there. Tom Hanks’ vocal dexterity is mostly to thank for this. Together they should’ve been jointly nominated. Woody ranks right up there with Hanks’ Forrest Gump as one of his best performances in his career. Also, if I was caught in a tight situation, Woody would be the first character I’d call on.

Our heroes deal with harrowing situations with humour, goodness and innocence. They are a blend of child-like adulthood…sort of like Forrest Gump. They live and breath the mantra “No Toy Left Behind” even if it means they all go down together. Through thick and thin.

Yes, there’s a Lotso Third Reich feel to this (pun intended)…but Woody’s purity of heart shines throughout and because of this, I’d recommend this movie to anyone of any age. These adult themes are too complex (and ancient and subtle) for younger audiences. So there’s no fear to bring any lil’ ones.

Toy Story 3 is a movie about growing up and moving on. Things don’t have to end. They just sometimes need to change. Andy needs to go to college. Woody and his pals need to accept that they need to move on as well. Where do they move on to? I’ll let you watch the movie to see.

This is the best of the three folks! It’s a shoe-in for Best Animated feature and probably the best animated movie to be up for Best Picture ever. If you liked the first two, take some time out and watch Toy Story 3.

9.6 Ken costumes out of 10

 

The plot of Toy Story 4.

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Toy Story 2 Vs The Rankatron

One of these guys just farted...

Way back in the mid-90’s there was this animated blockbuster by this little known company called Pixar. This company accumulated vocal talent with enough star-power that usually is used to cover up a weak script.

(NOTE: I call this the “Star to Script Ratio”. Basically the greater number of famous actors in an animated film, the worse the movie/script is. This is often true of live action movies but not always.)

But this movie…Toy Story…bucked that trend by hiring Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, Jim “Hey Vern It’s Ernest” Varney, John “Cliff Claven” Ratzenberger and Wallace “Princess Bride” Shawn to voice all the main characters. Not only did Pixar have a bonifide hit, this movie put them on the map from then until present day always producing amazing movies (Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo, WALL-E and Cars…to name a few…).

They followed up Toy Story three years later with Toy Story 2…and the subject of this ranking.

Bringing back all the main cast and adding to it Kelsey Grammar, Joan Cusack and Wayne “Newman!” Knight, Pixar not only met the expectations of the first movie but exceeded it. Instead of simply focusing on how toys live in a kid’s world (like in the first movie), Toy Story 2 introduces the notion that hits home in the recent Toy Story 3 flick about what happens when the kid grows up.

Some Stats:

  • Not originally intendeded for theaters. This was supposed to be a straight to video 60-minute sequel but Disney has so impressed with Pixar’s work, they asked for a full 90-minute film.
  • Pixar refused to release a movie based on the story they had unless the movie could be completely redone. Disney wanted to do it “as is” as they were under contract and didn’t believe there was enough time before the release date to retool the picture.
  • In efforts to save the project with a shoddy script intended for only video, Pixar rewrote the entire script over a weekend and completed the entire movie in nine-months…which is insanely fast for any animation studio even by today’s standards. End result is what we have today.
  • Second highest grossing animated movie of all time (as of 1999) behind The Lion King.
  • Highest rated film on Rottentomatoes.com. (In fact, all three movies of the trilogy are the highest rated animated movies on the list.)
  • This movie marked the last role played by Jim Varney (as Slinky) before he passed away in 2000

Now that we’re all brought up to speed, let me start with this. The movie IS enjoyable and just as cute as I remember. I also remember laughing a lot more. Does this mean that the humour is any less silly? Or has my taste changed in the 15 years since I last partook in a Toy Story jaunt?

I don’t think so. I saw Toy Story 3 this past year and laughed, cried and reminisced as much as I remembered doing at the first two movies. What’s changed is that I knew what to expect and the jokes don’t have the same oomph as when seen/heard the first time.

So minus this small “best-before” exception, Toy Story 2 still holds up as a very clever and well-thought out narrative with enough character to make you care about what’s happening. (Afterall, you can’t spell character without C-A-R-E.)

Re-watching Woody, Buzz and Company’s second adventuring so close after watching the third makes me appreciate what Pixar has done. They’ve made iconic characters that will resonate far beyond the Incredibles, the WALL-Es or the Lion Kings. Will we ever forget 80 years down the road who Buzz Lightyear was? Or Woody? Or Mr. Potatohead?

I think it speak volumes on these characters that they still resonate on some level to people 15 years older and children nowadays who weren’t born when the first ones came out.

Maybe in another 10 years there’ll be a fourth…or maybe not.

And somewhere throughout this weaving post, I’ve commented on the entire trilogy as if it were one movie. Perhaps it’s because they are so entwined to each other that it would be almost too painful to separate. So allow me to step back a moment…

…Toy Story 2 can and does stand on it’s own. You don’t even need to watch the original to get to know everyone. This sequel also does something sequels rarely do: surpass the appeal of the original (as did the third one surpassed both of them…stop it! That’s a different movie…geesh…).

So go and revisit with some old friends from Toy Story 2. If you haven’t seen it before, you may find it just as good as the newest one. If you have seen it before, you’ll still enjoy the romp…and go “OOOOOOOOOOOOO”.

7.6 Barbies out of 10

I can't beat that caption no matter how hard I tried.


RETRO-RANK: The Twelve Flicks of Christmas

Originally Posted December 4, 2008

With only one month left before Christmas, I felt that it was now safe to share this oldie but goodie. Like the animated How The Grinch Stole Christmas, this one seems to get better with time and is one of my faves. So throw another log on the fire, make that nog a little stronger (you can still smell the nutmeg over the rum!), and find your most cozy position because Christmas movies get the full Rankatron treatment.

A friend of mine had asked me a few weeks ago, “Why don’t you rank up a list of best Christmas Movies of all time?”
I thunk to myself…yeah…why not?

Compiling and deliberating on this festive flick list took a lot of time, sacrificed candy canes, and soul searching.

The next question was: Should I include all those TV specials with the actual movies?

Those great and awesome stop-motion classics like Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, or The Year Without Santa. How about the cartoons we all grew up with? Dr. Seuss’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas, or A Charlie Brown Christmas (poor tree!). Or what about A Muppet’s Family Christmas where all the Muppets hooked up with the Fraggles and the Sesame Street gang at Fozzy’s mom’s house for some festive joy? Or the more recent Shrek the Halls or Colbert Christmas? Or the entertainingly offensive South Park offering Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo?

No…I’ve decided, much like how Santa rules with a velvet red gloved iron fist over the North Pole, to make this list purely movies…ones that have hit theatres at one point and have grown fond in our hearts as we grow older.

Also, as one caveat, I would like to say that I have not seen every Christmas movie in history. So people who will jump on me and say: “Where’s Babes in Toyland???” or “You didn’t include Bad Santa???” or, “Hey, I expected to see Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s To Grandma’s House We Go!”. To them, I say I’m only one man with one pen and one blog. If I do see them between now and then, I will be sure to see if they fit anywhere on this list. So get off my backs, Humbugs! 😛

So here are the TWELVE FLICKS OF CHRISTMAS all Ranked Up (and click on the titles for the trailers and other stuff!):

12. DIE HARD (1988) 7.5 Yippee-ki-ya-yay’s out of 10

Did I mention that this was my list and I’ve got Authorial Dictatorship of this? Besides, name one review that isn’t based on opinion. Regardless, this movie wouldn’t normally be considered a typical Holiday movie but it makes the list because it takes place over the Christmas Season. It’s a kick-ass action movie wrapped up in a gift with a Bruce Willis nougat centre. The original and still the best of the Die Hard series. Not only does this movie hold up after 20 years as an action movie, it actually makes you feel good at the end…and isn’t that what Christmas movies are all about?

11. THE SANTA CLAUSE (1994) – 7.8 Chubby Fat Suits out of 10

Many years ago, during the height of Tim Allen’s popularity, he made this: his first big screen flick. And with the exception of TOY STORY, probably his best. For the uninitiated, Tim Allen takes over as Santa Claus due to a “clause” at the North Pole which states that if the original Santa can no longer do his duties, the first to find him must take over. So Santa happens to slip off Allen’s roof and dies. A dark beginning but the movie does pick up from there with nutcracking laughter and festive cheer as Allen stumbles through a world that he hasn’t believed in since he was a kid. Well, believe in me when I say that it’s worthwhile to sit down and watch this on a nice holiday afternoon.

10. POLAR EXPRESS (2004) – 8 Golden Tickets out of 10

A train that magically rides anywhere and picks up kids…really? That you can really ski down on its roof while it goes down a hill…really? That can somehow lose control and pick up speed on an ice lake and manage to get back on a track perfectly while the ice cracks behind it…really really? Really. The magic about this movie isn’t its fantastically unrealistic sequences (really what movie isn’t unrealistic to some degree). The magic is in the characters as a boy learns to believe in Santa again thanks to a friendly conductor and a cast of wacky friends. This is a classic animated flick that holds up better than the previews give it credit for. Worth the watch. Really.

9. HOME ALONE (1990) – 8 Joe Pesci burning scalps out of 10

So a kid is left home alone for the Holidays while his parents and his Mormon-sized family shuttle off on a plane for Paris. This movie is an ultimate dream-come-true for any kid needing to get away from his family and the ultimate horror movie for any parent. Kevin (MacKaulay Culkin) fends off hunger, loneliness, and the dumbest thieves in the history of cinema in a rollicking sleigh ride for the Holidays. Like DIE HARD, HOME ALONE makes pain funny on Christmas. A nice movie with fun action.

8. THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993) – 8.2 spooky Santa’s out of 10

Back in 1993, Tim Burton introduced us to the dark morbid world of Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King. A world where Jack wants to spruce up Halloweentown and decides that kidnapping Santa would be the best way to figure it out. The cult flick is filled with catchy songs like “What’s This?” that will make you root for Jack as he uncovers the true meaning of the Holidays. If you’ve ever been curious over who’d win in a battle between Halloween and Christmas, sit down and watch this during that cold transition month called November.

7. SCROOGED (1988) – 8.5 spiked eggnogs out of 10

Remember that wonderful Dicken’s classic “A Christmas Carol”? Ever wonder what it would be like in the mind of Bill Murray? If you said “anal-rentative spirits, antlers stapled to mice heads, nuclear explosions, a zombie ex-boss, and Bobcat Goldthwaite carrying a shotgun”, you’d be exactly right. Not only would this movie make you laugh, its light-hearted horror makes you truly feel for Bill Murray’s character even though you think he deserves everything coming to him. Only weakness to this film is the gratuitous yet all too forced singing ending. But I can let it pass.

6. THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL (1992) – 8.7 Cheeses for your Meeses out of 10

The last truly good Muppets Movie and a classic of a classic retold through the eyes of a weirdo named Gonzo and his rat buddy, Rizzo. Kermit and friends try to make ends meet at Christmas while Michael Caine’s Scrooge survives the onslaught of three creepy Muppet ghosts, one of which is probably the single best muppet ever created to this day. We’ve got Muppet comedy that will beckon you back to childhood, an album of some of the best Muppet tunes since THE MUPPET MOVIE, and a warm Fozzy feeling at the end. Sniff…

5. A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1951) – 9 tombstones out of 10

Yes, I know I did three versions of the Christmas Carol back to back to back but this is THE definitive version of the story. Alastair Sim shall always and forever be Ebeneezer Scrooge no matter how many other versions come afterwards. Whether you’re watching the original black and white version or the remastered in Technicolour version, you’ll feel the spirit of Christmas flowing through you like a nice festive version of ale. For those of you playing a drinking game at home: version.

4. MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1947) -9.3 beard tugs out of 10

I wish more court cases where decided by people’s opinions being mailed via US Postal Service. Think of the OJ trial back in ’95…imagine if the prosecutor, realizing that he has no way to truly win the case received millions of letters all addressed to OJ saying that they know he’s guilty, and imagine the judge saying “Well, if the US Postal Service thinks he’s guilty, then I say he’s guilty,” then we wouldn’t have the second OJ trial today. But I don’t need the US Postal Service to confirm that I’m a guilty sucker for this movie. Right up to the end where you see ol’ Kris Kringle’s cane leaning against a wall in that empty house. You’re left knowing without a doubt that this is a special movie for all ages.

3. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946) – 9.5 bailout loans out of 10

This Christmas movie about a banker losing money and faith in life right after the end of the Great Depression speaks volumes in today’s current economic climate. Mark my words, when we see the light of day at the end of this recession, there’s going to be a remake of this movie starring Jim Carrey. A remake of this movie has him all over it. Seriously. The brilliance of this movie is it’s simple story of love, life, and finding true happyness. I swear if Jimmy Stewart came to my door with his puppy dog eyes, I’d give him my home to save his business. A story of how bad things happen to good people and how good people find the strength and faith to carry on. This movie is a must-see at least once a year.

2. NATIONAL LAMPOONS CHRISTMAS VACATION (1989) – 9.8 shorted light circuits out of 10

For as long as I can remember, this here has been my favourite Holiday movie of all time. Chevy’s in his prime, the soundtrack is awesome, the action is hilarious, and you get Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Juliette Lewis, Randy Quaid, and Doris Roberts before they were famous. On any given scene, I could walk in and know exactly where we are in the movie and most often what the next line is going to be. And this movie is one of my staples. It’s over-the-top kitschy humour is what makes this movie so worthwhile and brings me coming back and begging for more dried turkey. And if there’s one scene that sums up this movie, it’s this one. Do yourself a favour and watch it before you end up in the nut house!

But regardless how good this movie is…this one trumps all…

1. A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983) – 10 Red Ryder BB Guns out of 10

I only saw this movie for the first time a couple years ago. I don’t know why it took me so long to see this movie. My friends all have said that this was their favourite Christmas movie. “Better than Christmas Vacation??? Nothing’s better than Christmas Vacation! How can a movie where the trailer looks this cheesy (click here) be any good!!!!” I thought with absurd wonder.

Well, in the past couple years, this movie has grown on me and has tied for Christmas Vacation. The reason I place it above Vacation is simply because this IS the perfect Holiday movie. Fraught with Wonder Years-esque dialogue before there was a Wonder Years, filled with the sweaty, smelly, gritty Christmas cheer that we all experience this time of year at the malls, and teeming with child-like wonder, all Christmas movies should be seen through a child’s eyes like this one. There is no single bad scene and they’re all incredibly quotable:

RALPHIE NARRATING (on seeing he just got a pink bunny pyjamas from his Aunt): Aunt Clara had for years labored under the delusion that I was not only perpetually 4 years old, but also a girl.

And if all that doesn’t sway you, I’ll let Siskel and Ebert try to bring it on home.

Well, that’s it! My top 12 Christmas Movies of all time!!!!

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy Freakin’ New Year…

…awww, heck…one more Ralphie clip for the road: Fa-Ra-Ra-Ra-Ra!!!!