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Toy Story 3 (spoiler-free review)

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Nathan Strum

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In a word - perfect.

 

While Toy Story 3 was in production, a friend of mine at Pixar (who was sworn to secrecy) would only describe it as "like visiting with old friends". I have to agree with that sentiment. I was concerned that Pixar had an uphill battle in making a worthy sequel to two of the best-loved animated films ever, and the commercials that they've been showing didn't really alleviate those concerns. However, this is easily my favorite of the three. The sense of adventure in this film surpasses the previous two. There are a lot more unknown factors at work in this movie that have never been dealt with in the series before, which makes it more uncertain for the characters, and more engaging for the audience. There are also some of the funniest Toy Story moments in this movie - ever.

 

The commercials, mercifully, haven't really spoiled anything (yet). But if I were you, I'd take no chances, and go see the movie before they let something critical slip out. There's a lot more to this movie than you'd suspect from the commercials, and quite a few things I wasn't expecting at all. They went places I wasn't anticipating, and there were twists I didn't see coming (although there were some things you could kind-of predict, but never quite knew how they were going to get where they needed to).

 

Toy Story 3 felt exactly like it should. Like these are characters we've spent years with (because we have) and who have spent years together. Time hasn't always been kind, but it's all dealt with honestly. There are some tense moments in the film, which some critics have derided as "dark". Nonsense. These moments are essential to the emotional core of the characters and the story, and are more than counterbalanced by the funny and heartwarming moments in the film - and there are plenty of those. (Favorite moment: Mr. Potato Head's mission.) This was the perfect film to wrap up the Toy Story trilogy. Very emotionally satisfying, and extremely entertaining. Well worth the ridiculous amount of money I paid.

 

The short that precedes it - Day and Night - is brilliant. It's very different for Pixar, and shows them being willing to take risks for the sake of making the kind of films they want to make. The only negative is the narration, which isn't really necessary. It seemed a little heavy-handed, and the visuals got the message across just fine without it.

 

I saw it at a packed 10:05 PM showing in 3-D (stereoscopic, that is). The 3-D worked very well, especially in the short film where it was one of the cleverest uses of 3-D I've seen. During Toy Story 3, after awhile, I basically stopped noticing it, which I think is the best thing that can be said about it. It became non-obtrusive.

 

The same can't be said though about the rest of the evening. First, the screen was dirty. This is especially noticeable when watching something in 3-D, since the crud is always hanging in space, in the same location, no matter what else is on screen. After awhile, I could mostly ignore it. Worse though, was the endless string of commercials they run while you're waiting for the movie to start. There had to be a half-dozen or so just for product tie-ins to Toy Story 3. Come on... I'm already paying $16 + snacks to see the movie! Leave me alone for a few minutes, can't you? Then, when the commercials ended, they had you put on your 3-D glasses. Great! Time for trailers, right? Nope. First they had 3-D commercials!! We had to sit through even more commercials, before we could even get to the trailers! I lost count of how many trailers there were. I do remember three things though: 1) there was no trailer for Tron: Legacy :sad: 2) Despicable Me looks hilarious, and 3) the Smurfs movie looks like it will be the worst film in the history of everything.

 

Anyway, I highly recommend Toy Story 3. It's a real treat to visit with these old friends again.

 

11/10

 

(Okay... that's cheating slightly. But I really did have that good of a time.)

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Agreed, it was perfect. I don't think there was a dry eye in the theater.

 

The short was really cool too.

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good, I thought it was gonna be another of those pos movies that get money just by boasting the name of good movies.

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Hmm... with both your and Howard Tayler's thumbs ups, I'm changing my mind about seeing it this weekend.

 

(Ramble on) It's strange. I used to be a major movie goer. I enjoyed seeing films in the theater. But I find I have little interest in seeing movies on the big screen. And it's not like I have transitioned to watching them on the "small screen" instead, although I do watch them more there. But I don't have this overwhelming desire to watch most movies.

 

Unfortunately, TS3 has fallen victim to this malady. I know it's going to be a "good movie" - it's Pixar. (Although the aren't batting 1.000 anymore IMHO.) And I'm glad to hear it's going to be a better movie than just a three-quel (which is what the trailers led me to believe). But I'm not chomping at the bit, looking forward to when the lights dim. (Ramble off)

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I don't see many movies anymore either. It's just too expensive, and it's often more of a chore than what the end result is worth.

 

I was debating seeing Toy Story 3 right up until the moment I paid for the ticket. Even before I sat down in the theater and was waiting in line with the rest of the audience, I was having some second thoughts. But in the end, I'm really glad I went to go see it.

 

I hadn't seen a film in the theaters since Avatar (and I only saw that because I was on vacation and was looking for something to go do with a couple of friends of mine), and have skipped seeing several films that in years past I would have gone to: How to Train Your Dragon, Iron Man 2, etc.

 

At the moment, my only "must see" film for the rest of this year is Tron: Legacy. Despicable Me looks like a lot of fun... but I don't think it looks like $16.50 + snacks worth-of-fun.

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I got the Blu-Ray of Toy Story 3 for Christmas, and just watched it last night - absolutely beautiful picture. DVDs can't even come close to touching that.

 

I also got Disney's WoW calibration Blu-Ray disc. Well-worth getting for setting up a home theater. It has some of the best calibration instructions and patterns I've seen on a disc like this (ranging from dirt-simple to advanced).

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Not sure, I haven't used DVE since the laserdisc days. :) I've been using Avia for DVD and Spears & Munsil for Blu-Ray (that's what we have at work). Since I didn't have my own disc at home, I went with WoW since one of the other techs at work really liked it.

 

WoW has some really nice black and white level test patterns with very fine adjustability, and also some good patterns for testing scaling artifacts, overscan cutoff, viewing angle and so forth. There are some good evaluation tools in there, besides just the adjustment test patterns. I haven't gotten into its audio section yet. It's also really approachable for people not as familiar with home theater calibration, and has optimized patterns for different display types (CRT, LCD, Plasma, projection, etc).

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The extra test patterns sound useful, especially when it comes time to replace my current set. I've had my HDTV for 9 1/2 years (bought it summer of 2001 - time sure does fly). It predates HDMI, only scales 480 sources (and won't accept 720 sources, so those must be externally scaled).

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The scaling test patterns are really interesting. Most new HDTVs seem to scale the image slightly by default, in order to cut off overscan artifacts from broadcast TV. You can really see the effect of that with the WoW disc. (I've got scaling shut off for my Blu-Ray input, so it's a true 1:1 image.)

 

I'll probably get one of the WoW discs at work, since I want to see what its projector calibration tools can do. I know we're already mangling the signal there though - we have to keystone the images to fit our screens. We weren't quite able to hang them all at exactly the right heights.

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Are those 1080 or 720 sets? I know most 720 sets have to scale everything, including 720p signals, because most of them use 1366x768 panels. That always struck me as odd.

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1080. I've installed a half-dozen HDTVs, and they all do that. Usually, it's buried in an obscure menu item somewhere. They blow up the image just slightly, but then you're no longer getting true 1:1 pixels from the original source. On broadcast (cable, satellite, etc) the image is so compressed anyway, it doesn't matter. Plus, some older material that's scaled up improperly will show time code above the picture, or will be otherwise improperly cropped. So the TV manufacturers scale up by default since Joe Consumer doesn't want to see that. For my U-Verse input in fact, I leave the scaling turned on. But for Blu-Ray, I turned it off. (The inputs are individually adjustable, which has good and bad points. The good point, is you can customize each one based on your source. The bad point, is that you have to adjust each input individually. :) You can't just copy-paste settings from one input to another.)

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For my Tosh XF I have scaling turned off for HD sources (PS3/Blu-Ray and OTA) and I occasionally see a line or two of VBI junk. I'd have it off for all sources but it won't let me for SD. The funny one was one the NFL games this past weekend where some of the cameras had the VBI junk while others didn't.

 

The thing which annoys me is the NTSC didn't add 2 bits to the VBI data for SD and ATSC to indicate to an HDTV how to upscale SD and for converters to downgrade HDTV to SD.

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The frightening thing is, I actually understood all of that. :P

 

I've often found myself in conversations with people at work using mostly acronyms. People look at you like you're speaking Esperanto. :)

 

Is your SD input analog (presumably)? I've yet to find an HDTV that lets you change how it scales an analog source.

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Is your SD input analog (presumably)? I've yet to find an HDTV that lets you change how it scales an analog source.
Yep (S-Video). I can select various levels and ratios of stretch, but I can't turn off overscan entirely.

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I will have to watch it again. I loved Toy Story and Toy Story 2; they are indeed two of my favourite animated movies of all time. However, I didn't enjoy Toy Story 3.

 

It's been so long, that the details are blurred in my mind, but I recall I either walked out of the theater, or had rented it on Netflix and stopped it half-way and returned it. Either way, I didn't watch the movie to the end.

 

All I remember is a feeling of unease, a bit of anger, and some disappointment. For some reason, what sticks in my mind is that it all felt like a cash-grab -- like a not-so-subtle attempt at advertising and merchandising upcoming toys.

 

You know how some of those Disney princess musicals feel like they were designed as just a feature-length advertising for a soundtrack disc? Well, Toy Story 3 felt precisely like a feature-length advertising for toys and merch. No heart, no soul, crap jokes, and lots and lots of new and wonderful toys for the kids to gawk at and beg their parents to get them.

 

Honestly, that's what I remember feeling -- and that came from someone not half as cynical as that sounds, who loves Pixar's work, and who owns most of Pixar's movies in DVD (I rematch them every so often). I could have been completely wrong; perhaps I was in a bad mood, or maybe it was late, or whatever. All I know is that it was so gut-wrenching disappointing I could not continue watching and walked out (or stopped the DVD player).

 

(That no small act for me, for I tend to stick it out to the end. After all, I did sit through the entire Star Wars prequel trilogy and the two Matrix sequels... That should say something about my determination to give a movie every possible chance.)

 

Like I said at the top of this post, perhaps it's worth a re-watch with fresh eyes... Reading your review (and having read several of them in the past week or so), I can't imagine being so utterly and diametrically far away from your own point of view -- at least not when the theme, style, and context is so coincidental between us (at least from what I've read of your blog).

 

I'll take a chance and try to watch it again. What the heck, it's been over seven years.

 

-dZ.

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I tend to review these movies right after seeing them in the theaters, so the reviews may be skewed more positively depending on that experience. Over time, my opinions of films tends to be tempered somewhat. For Toy Story 3 - I'm not sure I've ever re-watched the whole thing in its entirety. I've just seen it in chunks on TV. So while the theatrical experience may have been great, it hasn't really stuck with me as being that impactful.

 

I think it's still a good film with some fun moments, but I also don't think it was necessary to make it. And now they're doing Toy Story 4. So we'll see how that turns out...

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