Opening this weekend in theatres, Tom Hanks and Tim Allen return for Pixar’s lively Toy Story 3; and Josh Brolin restlessly wanders the wild west with Megan Fox in the popcorn adventure, Jonah Hex.
Quick, name the last decent Disney sequel that came out in theatres. If you’re coming up blank, it’s probably because there are hardly any worth naming, aside from Fantasia 2000.
Pixar on the other hand seems to have no problem with sequels, at least if you take Toy Story 2 and now Toy Story 3 as any indication. The epic film company has made a name for itself as one of the most reliable film studios of the last twenty years, and their latest movie just proves they can deliver a solid sequel for their parent company, even when it’s perhaps not altogether necessary.
Toy Story 3 revisits the gang, including Woody, Buzz, and Hamm, as their owner Andy is about to head off to college.
Sitting in their toy chest, the gang is getting a little worried because Andy never plays with them anymore, and they expect that once he leaves, they’ll end up either in the attic, gathering dust, or even worse, in the garbage.
Picking Woody out to take with him to college, Andy decides to put all of the toys in the attic, but thanks to a mixup the toys almost end up in a trash can. Not realizing that Andy meant to keep them, the toys unanimously decide to put themselves in a box destined for donation to a local pre-school where they hope they might actually find children who want to play with them again.
Little do the toys realize though that they’re headed for a prison-like new home ruled over by the pink teddy bear Lotso, voiced by Ned Beatty, and his gang of plastic cohorts. When Woody stumbles on the truth, it will be up to him to break in and save his friends before Andy heads off to college.
Thanks to the wonderful voice performances by Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, as Woody and Buzz, not to mention the entire cast which also includes Michael Keaton as the hilariously effeminate Ken doll, Toy Story 3 is a magical film. Pixar has once again created something truly special for this 3D film, which uses the technology so well, you almost don’t realize you’re watching something in 3D. For me, that’s a complement because the 3D is immersive, rather than feeling like a cheap entertainment ride, or a gimmick.
Pixar breathes complete life into these characters, making every single toy and person matter to the story, right down to the characters who only appear for a few moments. They also manage to make this story, which could have been a throwaway at best, moving, action-packed, funny, and heart-wrenching. They push your buttons throughout the film, but never in a way that feels contrived as much as it just feels heart-felt and realistic.
The first half of the film is admittedly a slow build, but it happily doesn’t drag anywhere, and the second half of the movie absolutely flies. All of that setup is tantamount to riding a rollercoaster that has to climb the hill before it can take off, a process that’s necessary, but the whole story process doesn’t seem quite as effortless as we’ve seen in previous Pixar films.
Thanks to all of that setup, the film ends perfectly though, climaxing with a powerful scene that might be considered a little intense for some children, but still felt right to me. There were also very few dry eyes in the house thanks to the moving finale that probably left me, and probably most of the adults in the audience, remembering some of their favorite childhood toys and memories.
Toy Story 3 blew me away, left me wanting more, and was a clear audience-pleaser, but even while I’m rating it near-perfect, I can’t help but feel like this was an unnecessary sequel perpetrated by Disney for dollar signs. Pixar made an incredible film regardless, but I’m hoping the next film is a more creative effort.
What is there to say about a film that pretty much sums itself up with its trailer?
Jonah Hex is the latest comic book adaptation that frankly gives most of the other adaptations a bad name. For every Dark Knight, there’s a Punisher, a Spawn, or a Jonah Hex, and it’s no fault to the source material. Jonah Hex is simply a lazy adaptation that could have been a lot better, with the right team and motivation.
Directed by Jimmy Hayward, who previously co-directed Horton Hears a Who!, the story follows Josh Brolin as the cursed former soldier, Jonah Hex, who had to watch as his family was killed before his eyes by the scoundrel Quentin Turnbull, played by a sneering John Malkovich. Barely surviving with his life, the incident left him able to speak to the dead and survive almost any wound. Now, Jonah discovers that the man who he once thought was dead is planning to destroy the capitol on the night America celebrates it’s 100th anniversary.
Briefly teamed up with his prostitute girlfriend, Lilah, played by Megan Fox, the enraged Jonah packs as much firepower as he can onto his horse and sets off to make amends for a lifetime of pain that has left him warped and almost as bad as the man he’s trying to kill.
Taking a page from the abhorrent Wild, Wild West, Jonah Hex is set in an alternate-reality America where these average men can get their hands on strange technology that puts most modern weapons to shame. That’s not such a bad thing though, as it gives the film a level of cool that works in its favour. As a summer popcorn film, that’s a must, but the film needed more than just cool ideas. It needed a better script.
And that’s where Jonah Hex falls apart. Written by Brian Taylor and Mark Neveldine, the guys who wrote and directed the Crank films, Jonah Hex is a badly written mess that starts out well enough and ends ridiculously.
Taking a mere five minutes to build the character’s back story, Jonah Hex at least starts off with a bang before it falters into a lame subplot about some really old-school terrorists who still harbour a grudge after the south lost the American revolution. That concept feels incredibly cheap the way it plays out, and Malkovich’s villainy is more of the same for an actor who has fallen into a groove that is getting really old.
Taylor and Neveldine have the bones of something cool here, but their dialogue is, once again, a total joke. That worked for a film like Crank, but by the end of Jonah Hex it’s hard not to laugh at every other line that Brolin spits out, most of which are not meant to be as funny as they sound.
All of that said, I liked parts of Jonah Hex. It’s a bad film wrapped around a cool character that Brolin does a decent job of realizing, despite the faults of the script and direction. This is a popcorn film that satisfies most of the summer blockbuster requirements, but fails to be much more than a film teenagers are going to line up for and then forget by the first week of July.
For me, Jonah Hex is most notable because it’s another example of how badly DC comic book characters are generally rendered on screen. Hopefully they can turn that around at some point and maybe revisit this character who deserves at least one more shot, even if it is just between the eyes.