October 2009 Reviews
By Shawn McKenzie 10/2/2009
Here are my reviews of the movies that were released in October of 2009. Check back later as the month progresses for more reviews.
I’m not going to rehash the story of Sheriff Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks)…the de facto leader of a group of toys owned by eight-year-old boy Andy Davis (voiced by John Morris)…and Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen), Andy’s new toy who threatens to become Andy’s favorite. I can tell you that both movies in this double feature (which plays in theaters for two weeks only) hold up really well after 14 years, and they are still two of my favorite animated features of all time. This review is mainly what I thought about the 3D aspect of the movies. The 1995 original…which was the first feature-length computer-animated movie…was a visual masterpiece. Its 1999 sequel…originally meant for direct-to-video status that actually ended up grossing more than the original…looked more impressive than its predecessor (especially in the opening battle scene between Buzz and Emperor Zurg, voiced by Andrew Stanton…which turned out to be just a video game that Rex, voiced by Wallace Shawn, was playing.) Neither of them really wowed me in the 3D department though. Just like Disney’s yearly attempt to bring back Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas in 3D, it didn’t give me the added thrill of that third dimension. It’s possibly because the Toy Story movies and Nightmare weren’t originally filmed with the intention of making a 3D version (you would have to completely redo the entire movie in order to achieve that.) The reason this recent trend of animated (Monsters vs. Aliens, Up, Partly Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) and non-animated (My Bloody Valentine, The Final Destination, X Games: The Movie) 3D movies look so good is because they were originally filmed with the intention of making them in 3D. When you redo an old movie, it’s not as impressive. Like I said…the movies themselves are great, and being that they are 81 minutes and 92 minutes respectively, so they won’t completely lose a kid’s attention…I recommend them. Don’t go specifically for the 3D aspect though…go just because it’s cool to see them on the big screen again. Woody and Buzz will be back again though next summer in Toy Story 3…and this chapter should look better than the first two because it was filmed with the 3D aspect in mind.
The 3D aspect:
Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) just can’t catch a break. He is a Jewish professor of physics living in the suburbs of Minneapolis/St. Paul in 1967, and he is hoping that his tenure will be arriving soon. Meanwhile, everything else in his life is a mess. His kids are screwed up. His teenage daughter Sarah (Jessica McManus) is stealing from his wallet to save up for a nose job. His 13-year-old son Danny (Aaron Wolff) is complaining about poor reception for his favorite TV show “F Troop”…all the while practicing for his upcoming bar mitzvah and stealing the money that Sarah stole to pay back Mike Fagle (Jon Kaminski Jr.), a large local drug dealer who also attends his school. Larry’s unemployed brother, Arthur (Richard Kind)…who has to drain his neck cyst daily (to the disgust of Sarah, who feels that he is hogging the bathroom)…lives on Larry’s couch and has a gambling problem. His neighbor, Mr. Brandt (Peter Breitmayer), illegally mows across the property line…and another neighbor, Mrs. Samsky (Amy Landecker), smokes pot and sunbathes in the nude. The problems have also been extended to his work. One of his students, Korean-born Clive Park (David Kang), is trying to bribe him for a passing grade…seriously affecting his possible tenure. If that wasn’t bad enough…Larry’s wife, Judith (Sari Lennick), wants a “get” (a spiritual Jewish divorce) from Larry so that she can marry their friend, Sy Abelman (Fred Melamed.) She also wants Larry to move out and live in a nearby motel so that Sy can move in…even though Sy has his own house already. He seek legal advice from divorce lawyer Don Milgram (Adam Arkin), and spiritual advice from various rabbis (played by George Wyner, Simon Helberg, and Alan Mandell)…all of which don’t give him the answer that he is seeking. I’ve been a fan of the Coen Brothers for a long time…but not all of them reach me. This is probably the most personal movie of their career…which makes sense, since they were members of a Jewish academic family in the largely Jewish suburb of St Louis Park, Minnesota. It’s not because I’m not Jewish that I wasn’t too crazy about the movie. It’s because the movie was a little disjointed. A pre-credits scene portrays a Jewish couple (Yelena Shmulenson and Allen Lewis Rickman) in 19th Century Europe being visited by a wandering spirit, or “dybbuk” (played by Fyvush Finkel.) We then go into the movie, and by the end, there is no resolution. Having scenes that have nothing to do with a movie and the inability to end a movie irk me. Otherwise, there was some funny parts…so it wasn’t one of the worst movies of the year (or even the worst Coen Brothers movie of their careers.) I do appear to be in the minority, because my fellow critics love it…but I need a complete movie to be fully entertained, and the Coen Brothers have done that for me in the past. Just not here though.
Prompted by his 5-year-old daughter Lola’s question to him, “Daddy, how come I don’t have good hair?,” comedian and actor Chris Rock made this documentary exploring the $9 billion black hair care industry. He goes to beauty salons and barbershops to ask them about the need for black women (and some men) to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on weaves to achieve “good hair.” He visits scientific laboratories to learn the science behind dangerous chemical relaxers that straighten hair. He goes to India, where many of the hair weaves worn by African American women actually come from (more than 10 million people cut their hair off as an offering to the Hindu gods; human hair is India’s second biggest export after software.) Throughout the movie, he repeatedly revisits the annual Bronner Brothers Hair Show in Atlanta where contestants such as Derek J, Jason Griggers (the only white contestant), Freddie J, Kevin Kirk, and Tonya Crumel compete in the Hair Battle Royale Competition. He interviews several female celebrities, such as Kerry Washington, Eve, Meagan Good, Sarah Jones, Nia Long, Raven-Symoné, Salt-n-Pepa, and Maya Angelou; and some male celebrities, including Ice-T and Al Sharpton, to find out why they felt the need to have “good hair.” While this movie does have laughs (especially since the documentarian is a comedian), it is not necessarily a comedy. Think of it like a Michael Moore movie…a movie that entertains and educates (minus Moore’s convenient attempt to “forget” some facts in his documentaries.) As a white male, I can’t identify with the subject matter, but I did learn a lot of things about black hair that I didn’t know before. I would say that this is the most entertaining documentary of 2009 (so far), and I would love to see Rock get an Oscar nomination for it.
SEE THIS MOVIE!
Catch this movie at the theater if you can...
Wait until it comes out on video...
Wait until it plays on HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc...
Demand your money back, even if you saw it for free!