- You’ve come a long way, computer animation.
Toy Story 3: There isn’t much to say in previewing Toy Story 3, because the chances that it’ll be less than excellent are almost nil. Pixar’s worst movie ever is Cars, a perfectly charming and funny little cartoon that beats most DreamWorks movies handily, and one of their best is, hey, Toy Story 2. If a movie will most likely fall somewhere between Cars and Toy Story 2 on the quality spectrum, it’s pretty much all set. The real question is whether Toy Story 3 will become the best three-quel of all time! I’d make a case for Toy Story 2 being the best sequel (yeah yeah, Godfather II, but The Godfather is a little bit better, while Toy Story 2 is clearly superior to the first movie) (also, I kind of like it more than Godfather II itself), and the competition for best number three isn’t quite so fierce, so this is an achievable goal. Toy Story 3, meet your only real competition: Return of the Jedi (get over the Ewok thing, this movie is completely awesome); for that matter, Revenge of the Sith (I won’t even get into the stuff you need to get over, but this movie is also pretty great); Back to the Future Part III (less pure fun than its predecessors but surprising gravitas, plus it’s a Back to the Future western, which is just a wonderfully strange idea); Army of Darkness (definitely has the best dialogue of any Evil Dead movie); and Once Upon a Time in Mexico (which rules, and also stands in for the fact that I haven’t seen all of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly yet, but assume it’s a contender for this award). If you’d like to make a case for another in the comments, though, I’m all ears. [2046. -Ed.]
Jonah Hex: Early word on Jonah Hex was so negative-to-nonexistent that the lack of a trailer until about seven weeks before the movie’s release seemed like a sure sign that Warner Brothers might boot the movie off of its long-planned June 18th premiere into the fall (where horror is thought to play better) or the winter (where genre programmers go to rot, or in the case of Ghost Rider, which this movie vaguely resembles, reap over $100 million). But in an act of refreshing defiance, Warner is going ahead and releasing their recut eighty-minute comics-based supernatural western opposite what will probably be the biggest hit of the year. I figure the least I can do is go see this movie and, given the lack of a drive-in within the immediate area, I suppose I’ll be seeing it in a real theater. Honestly, I don’t think it looks all that bad. Rushed and gutted, maybe, but a lot of genre movies could benefit from getting in and out in eighty minutes. At one point, Jonah Hex was adapted by Neveldine and Taylor, the dynamic duo behind the Crank movies. They’ve retained credit but I doubt the PG-13 result has much of their pulpy, disreputable-gamer attitude. Regardless, the movie has more going for it than any number of summer spectaculars: a resurgent Josh Brolin in a leading role; Megan Fox playing a gun-toting hooker while trying to do an accent (whatever transpires, this performance will almost certainly be more fun than, say, Jessica Biel’s in The A-Team); novelty, in that hardly anyone makes westerns anymore, let alone big-budget action-heavy westerns; support from John Malkovich and Will Arnett; and the aforementioned brevity. I also haven’t read the comic book, so I have no inkling of whether this material has potential; I only have a slight inkling that this character isn’t the Saint of Killers from Preacher, or Jonah Hex, Hellblazer. Once I’ve dried my eyes after Toy Story 3, I’ll be gunning for you, Jonah Hex, whoever you are. Oddly, director Jimmy Hayward worked as a Pixar animator for years before branching out to direct Horton Hears a Who! and then this movie where Megan Fox plays a gun-toting hooker.
Cyrus: On paper, Cyrus sounds like several Judd Apatow arrested-development comedies on shuffle: John C. Reilly plays an awkward, divorced (from Catherine Keener) sad-sack who finds his promising romance with seemingly out-of-his-league Molly (Marisa Tomei) hitting a roadblock in the form of her twenty-one-year-old son Cyrus (Jonah Hill), who still lives at home. So: there’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Step Brothers right up front, there’s a bunch of Apatow cast members swapping roles, and there’s even comedy vet Matt Walsh on hand to glower with disgust at Reilly’s neediness. But this is a Duplass Brothers movie, which means the off-script stuff isn’t just riffs, but most of the dialogue, and, like The Puffy Chair and Baghead, the characters are sincere and human (Apatow’s often are too, of course, but their wisecracks put up a decent shield). Occasionally, Cyrus, like their other movies, flirts with slightness; it goes about its awkwardness with such humanity that it threatens to turn cuddly (that’s where those Apatow wisecrack-shields come in handy sometimes). But the Duplasses stay focused on the excellent performers: Marisa Tomei’s expressive face, Jonah Hill’s dialed-down creepiness, and Reilly doing what turns out to be sort of a variation on his lonely cop from Magnolia. Though the Duplass Brothers are the first mumblecore filmmakers to cross into movie star territory, Cyrus maintains the intimacy of a smartly written play.
The Killer Inside Me: For awhile, I was digging on Michael Winterbottom’s BBC-Soderbergh productivity and genre-hopping, though our own Nicolas Rapold sees that as more of a liability. But I wrote a positive review of 9 Songs for this very publication, and I have no problem with journeyman directors dabbling in comedy and sci-fi and porn, especially if the movies come out at a quick clip. I’m more uneasy about Killer sounding like thin stew for an actual feature film, pretty much confirmed by Rapold’s review. I’m not sure if I want to see a face-smashing simulation unless it’s part of something a bit more substantial. Strange that Winterbottom has made me downright reluctant to go see something starring Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba, and Bill Pullman.