At The Movies

Toy Story 3

Directed by Lee Unkrich
Review by Tony Sheppard

With live actors, telling stories over time either requires replacements or the characters have to age as the actors age. This can work in conjunction with the story, as in the cast of “Harry Potter,” who have aged vaguely in step with the characters from the books. Or it can change the character significantly, as when Indiana Jones reappears as a senior citizen and the action shifts to a younger sidekick.

In animation and comic strips, this is a conscious choice – characters don’t have to age. The “Peanuts” kids were stuck in time, whereas the kids in “For Better or Worse” grew up and moved out of the house. Even Shrek recently suffered through a midlife crisis in the franchise-reviving “Shrek Forever After.” Pixar has definitely gone the latter route with the “Toy Story” franchise. This latest chapter asks the question of what happens to a footlocker full of toys when their owner-kid is old enough to go to college.  

It’s a poignant story told from the toys’ perspective, and it’s almost pitch perfect in its delivery. The toys are loyal to Andy. But they’re also at their own most self-actualized when being played with and bringing joy to a child, and Andy isn’t a cowboy and spaceman-loving child anymore. Perhaps the local daycare center, complete with its eager, playful kids, might represent greener pastures for long-ignored toys?

In an odd coincidence, it’s similar to a film that we have just accepted for the 11th Annual Sacramento Film & Music Festival, in which an imaginary friend gives tips at a conference for other imaginary friends about what to do when one’s kid doesn’t believe in them anymore.

The animation is as good as we have come to expect from Pixar. Most of the familiar toys are joined by two new collections that they encounter in their adventures, including a clothes-horse Ken doll, living alone in the dream house. We attended a 3D screening, which was equally well done without being overly exploitative of the effect.  

It’s hard not to like this one and if you’d enjoy watching it at a deeper level, there’s a site that has a list of the insider content that Pixar likes to build into their films, such as batteries from “Buy’n’Large,” the planet-destroying conglomerate from “Wall-E.” With or without the trivia, it’s well worth watching.
For more insider content, visit:

Sacramento French Film Festival

By Malcolm Maclachlan
The Ninth Annual Sacramento French Film Festival begins its second weekend at the Crest Theater (1013 K St.) on Saturday. Highlights include a pair of classics (“The Sicilian Clan,” 1969, Saturday 26th at 1:20pm & Sunday 27th and 10:15am; “Man Bites Dog,” 1992, Saturday midnight movie) and new hits (“The French Kissers,” 2009, Saturday at 7:05 p.m., think “Superbad” in French). The emphasis this weekend will be more on crime and sex.
Not so last weekend, when the theme was more focused on economic issues and the financial crisis. It’s interesting seeing perspectives from across the Atlantic – perhaps because in France, it’s not an insult to call someone a socialist.

As opposed to the U.S., where most people who toss the term around aim at people who would be members of center-right parties in Europe, in France you’re likely to encounter real socialists. Meanwhile, corporate executives who complain they get a bad rap in American movies and television would probably cringe to see these films, where the violent deaths of financiers are played for comedy without the slightest regret or irony.

These French sensibilities were on full display in “Louise-Michel,” named for a famed androgynous French anarchist from the 19th Century. The first thing you’ll probably notice, once both are introduced, is that the two leads are pretty unattractive, even by the standards of normal people – something I personally found kind of refreshing.  

The film concerns laid-off garment factory worker Louise and Michel, the hit-man she and her coworkers hire to off their boss. Their adventures carry them up the corporate ladder as they incompetently leave a trail of dead managers in their wake. An American film would try to show some sort of remorse, if not by the characters then in the way the director portrays them. Not so here. The pair joyfully execute their targets, and occasionally their underlings, and were never really asked to judge or feel sorry for anyone.

It makes for uncomfortable viewing, reminiscent of the shock value often displayed in the films of the Second New Wave in French film in the 1960s. Despite picking up some festival awards, “Louise-Michel” is not a great film, and the audience seemed to be all over the map in terms of their opinions. But it is refreshing to watch a film which gleefully offends and isn’t really trying to be liked. The short film shown beforehand – a French Film Festival tradition that I quite like – had an even more surreal take on the same idea.

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