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Column Fri Oct 02 2009

Zombieland, Whip It, Paranormal Activity, Capitalism: A Love Story, Big Fan, The Boys Are Back and Toy Story & Toy Story 2 in 3D


There are two things you need to do before seeing Zombieland for the first of what will inevitably be many times. The first thing is to erase the memory of Shaun of the Dead, if only for the 90-minute duration of this film. Despite both works being very funny, bloody and full of zombies, they are two very different creatures. Zombieland is not the American version of Shaun — it's certainly not trying to be — and any comparisons between the two are foolish and lazy. The second thing you need to do is stay as far away from any cast list you might have access to for this film. If you've already seen a reference to a certain extended cameo in this film, they you've ruined one of the truly great sequences in any film of 2009 for yourself. Maybe you stumbled upon it by accident, who knows. But going in not knowing gave me one of the true joys of going to a movie this year. And here's the thing, somebody actually told me about the appearance, and I just plain forgot. Thank god for that. My point is, go into Zombieland pure and with a head just empty enough to truly appreciate what director Ruben Fleischer and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have carefully constructed — a film that appears to be all about the fun-filled world of the zombie Apocalypse but has a little something for your mind and soul as well. You will laugh, without a doubt, but you're also going to feel something for these characters and their individual situations.

Our unlikely hero is named Columbus, played by Jesse Eisenberg (The Squid and the Whale and Adventureland), an actor who is growing on me by leaps and bounds as the years go on almost as much for his film choices as for his range. People have joked that he's the guy filmmakers get when Michael Cera is unavailable, and while they have a similar understated, under-the-breath delivery, Eisenberg has been gutsier in his choices of roles. After the screening of Zombieland at Fantastic Fest last week, someone said that the film felt like Woody Allen vs. the zombies, and that's a great way to look at it. Columbus (all of the characters' names are taken from where they hail from) is neurotic and perhaps in possession of a little OCD on top of that. He keeps an expansive list of zombie rules that have kept him alive despite his less-than-heroic or -aggressive demeanor. He's stayed alive this long because he's an intelligent, quick-on-his-feet scaredy cat. We get a little back story on Columbus, including how he killed his first zombie, but really director Fleischer isn't concerned with how this all began. He just drops us on the middle of the action, and it's our job to keep up.

Columbus meets Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson cut loose from a comet), the closest thing this world apparently has to an expert zombie killer. Every object in a room is a potential killing implement to him, and every kill deserves a punchline and is a possible entry in his ongoing "Zombie Kill of the Week" list. His truck is loaded with weapons, and his only real mission is find his favorite snack cake, the elusive Twinkie. It's a running joke that I thought I'd get sick up in about five minutes, but the Twinkie-related humor is genius. Tallahassee comes across as a fairly one-dimensional character at first, but that never bothered me because he was so much fun. But as we get inside his mind a bit, we realize the bravado is masking some pretty substantial pain.

The boys pair up, and between Columbus' rules and Tallahassee's guts, they make a terrific team that will clearly ride out this bit of awfulness that has taken over the planet. They nearly meet their match in the form of young women, Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin in her best role since Little Miss Sunshine), who manage to con the boys out of their weapons and transportation. Eventually the four decide that sticking together makes more sense, and they decide to head west where legend has it there's a place that is zombie free. But Wichita has slightly different plans about holding to her promise to take Little Rock to an amusement park on the coast just to remember what it's like to have a little fun.

One of things I admire most about Zombieland (and there are many to choose from) is that it makes it clear from the start that it's going to be a hardcore, blood-and-guts, hard-R zombie flick (for those keeping score, the film features fast-moving zombies). As any film about the walking dead ought to, it comes up with some great creative kills. The movie keeps the laughs coming but never forgets that this is a story concerning a world overrun by death and the threat of dying. The zombies here are not comic relief; they are a real threat for which humor is a release valve for an unbelievable amount of tension. I don't mean to make the film sound existential and deep — at its core, Zombieland is a total blast — but it's not a vapid exercise in splatter and gore effects. I grew to really care and worry about these characters, and this will be one of the rare opportunities that I'd be willing to sign a petition to make a sequel happen. I'm desperate to know what happens to these folks after the movie ends.

Zombieland works as a comedy because it delivers characters and terrifying situations that make us feel we have a stake in the survival of these four individuals. They are a perfect cross section of the human race (or maybe more like the American race), and them getting through this means we probably could too. But more than anything else, the film made my heart race as an action-horror-comedy that delivers on all three fronts. If you were as worried as I was that the pitch for Zombieland seemed too good to be true, consider this your official reason to stop fretting and enjoy the insanity and savor that Twinkie, because you never know when you might eat your last.

Whip It

Sometimes you go to a film for deep and meaningful insight and sometimes you go to have fun — and every so often you get a whole lot of entertainment value out of a film that actually makes your heart swell and puts a big old dopey grin on your face as you watch gorgeous women wail on each other in a roller rink. Pain does indeed make some people beautiful. Whip It is more than just the directorial debut from actress Drew Barrymore (who has a supporting role in the film as a member of the Hurl Scouts roller derby franchise of Austin, Texas), this is a really sweet coming-of-age story about a high school girl whose entire world is in upheaval and isn't certain she has the strength to come out the other side in one piece. Of course, joining a roller derby club would probably help to toughen her up quite a bit.

In her best role since Juno, Ellen Page plays Bliss Cavendar, growing up in the nowhere town of Bodeen, Texas. Her mother (Marcia Gay Harden) thinks the path to her daughter's success and happiness is the pageant world, but Bliss is frustrated with both the events and the other girls in them. Bliss is one of those girls who knows she's bigger than the town she grew up in or her job at the wonderfully appointed Oink Joint. During a road trip to Austin, she meets a couple members of the Hurl Scouts and is compelled to take in a derby match (emceed by Jimmy Fallon). She is transfixed by the event and meets some of the players afterward, who encourage her to strap on a pair of skates and try out for the team. Although she hasn't worn skates since she was a pre-teen, Bliss seems to have a natural ability, and soon, she's on the team under her new name, Babe Ruthless.

There is so much to enjoy about Whip It. The nuclear energy that seems to radiate off the players is infectious. Along with Barrymore, other team members include rapper Eve, Death Proof star (and Kill Bill stuntwoman) Zoe Bell, Juliette Lewis, Ari Graynor, and Kristen Wiig. Wiig was a big surprise for me in this film, because I'm so used to seeing her in supporting roles in what seems like a dozen films a year where she comes in, is wildly funny, and then drops in from time to time to keep being funny. She remains the best thing on "SNL," but Whip It makes what I would consider to be her dramatic debut and maybe the most developed character outside of Bliss. She gives a maternal, caring, big sister aspect to Maggie Mayhem, who takes Bliss under her wing and reveals things about her personal life that might surprise you. The film kind of belongs to her.

The other more obvious draw to Whip It are the matches themselves, which huge sections of the film are devoted to. They are brutal and exciting, and Barrymore does a great job laying out the basic ground rules of derby play. There may have been stunt doubles for a few of the more bone-breaking plays, but most of the time it's quite clear that the actresses themselves are taking the hits. One other secret weapon of Whip It is Andrew Wilson (brother of Luke and Owen), who is the film's true comic relief as the team coach. He comes up with a genuinely sure-fire playbook that nobody seems to want to follow, until the team members decide they want to win. I don't know if I can quite put it into words, but to me, he is everything I love about Austin — laid back but intensely passionate about his work, dripping with sarcasm, and completely lovable.

There's a lot about Whip It that is unfortunately predictable. As nicely played as the mother-daughter conflict is between two very strong actresses, you also know exactly where it's going and when it's going to get there. Less predictable of Daniel Stern as Bliss's dad, who pops in for comic relief around the house, but is never really developed. There's also a romance subplot between Bliss and a musician (Landon Pigg), but I hated the dude and the story doesn't really go anywhere. The entire storyline could have been excised and no one would have missed it. Fortunately the pluses far outweigh the minuses in this film, and in the end, my simple assessment of the film is that I had a great time taking this journey with Bliss and the team. Whip It isn't meant to be over-analyzed, and picking it apart just feels pointless. I'm fully aware it's not a perfect film, but for some reason it just hit me the right way at the right moments, and seeing sexy ladies kicking the crap out of each other is damn sexy and exciting.

Go to Ain't It Cool News to read my exclusive interview with Whip It director and co-star Drew Barrymore.

Paranormal Activity

So Paramount Pictures has an interesting marketing strategy (more on that later) for its latest horror offering, and if it were a less worthy film, I might find it annoying. But this is no ordinary scare film. It's screening at the AMC River East theater tonight (Friday) at midnight. If there are tickets still available, you should go. Here's my review...

So I woke up this morning after my first full day of Fantastic Fest 2009, and I noticed something when I looked in the mirror. I had a small scratch on my left temple, just above my eyebrow. I didn't give it much thought at first, but I'm usually aware when I have even the smallest injury to my person. Last night, I ended the day watching a midnight showing of Paranormal Activity, and no, I'm not going to launch into a story about how I believe some unseen entity scratched me in my sleep. But after collecting my thoughts on writing this review, it hit me that I knew exactly what that mark on my head was.

I spent about 90 percent of the movie with my left hand kind of cupped around my left eye (not covering it, just kind of framing it on one side) and somehow the not-very-long nail on my middle finger kept digging into my forehead, eventually leaving a mark. When I got back to my room after the movie, I immediately crashed. I still get exhausted on travel days, so I'm not even sure I saw myself in the mirror before zonking out. But having assessed the damage and determined its cause, all I could think of was, "Wow, that's how worked up that movie made me." You have to understand, most horror films don't scare me. I still jump at loud noises in movies, as I do in life, but that's not the same thing. I can't remember the last time I was this genuinely anxious (as in full of anxiety) while watching a movie. I'm not the kind of person who ever screams during a scary movie, but I found myself whispering "Oh no" more than once last night. I knew what I was watching wasn't real, but that didn't seem to make a difference.

By now, you probably know the story of Paranormal Activity if you really want to. It's not complicated. A young unmarried couple who have recently moved in together begin having strange things happen in their new home — small things moving, lights on and off, noises in the night — and they decide to document the going on and present them to an expert in such phenomena. The film takes on the guise of "found footage" — the only thing we see on screen appears to be shot by one member of the couple. I never bought that, as the story progresses, this was found footage, but it really doesn't matter. There are just a few too many ultra-convenient things that happen right on cue. As the pair attempt to uncover what exactly is happening to them, Katie (Katie Featherston) reveals a few things about her past that help to explain most of the occurrences. Boyfriend Micah (Micah Sloat) is supportive at first and attempts to take the lead on ridding their lives of this major problem. But things like a found photo, a web site that documents an almost identical event many years earlier, and one or two other coincidences don't really add to the reality of the situation. Still, as I said, it doesn't matter for one very simple reason — a camera placed in the corner of the room every night, chronicling the couple sleeping.

We return to this shot throughout Paranormal Activity. We see the entire bed on the right side of the screen and down a short hallway, illuminated by a bathroom light at the other end. The stair leading down to the living room are just outside the open bedroom door, but they are in total darkness. And every time we see this shot, with a helpful timecode in the corner, we stop breathing and we want it to be over as soon as possible. There is absolutely nothing scarier than real darkness. Not this blue-light crap that Hollywood horror films pass off as the dark of night, but real blackness in which you cannot see a thing. When Micah and Katie go in search of a strange thud in the night, the only light source is coming from the camera. Just beyond the light is... well, it could be anything. There's one shot where Micah thinks he's alone upstairs with the camera, and he whips around to find Katie simply standing there behind him. But because she literally came out of the dark, it fucked my shit up and gave me my biggest scare of the film.

A few minor elements didn't work for me. The visit from the psychic is pure exposition — this might be a ghost or a demon; don't antagonize it; don't try to communicate with it. All of these things the couple (primarily Micah) do, of course, because nothing else seems to work. Still, I found myself getting increasingly frustrated with Micah's behavior. At times, he takes the experiences quite seriously; other times he jokes with the unseen being in an "Is that all you got?" alpha-male kind of posturing. It's obnoxious more than anything else. Again, these minor infractions all kind of vanish from memory when writer-director Oren Peli returns to that static camera shot in the bedroom and we begin to hear a low-level hum that tells us something — big or small, but always fucking creepy — is about to happen.

The slow-burn pacing of Paranormal Activity is what absolutely sealed the deal for me. This film is patient even when we're clamoring for more. Peli knows exactly what he's doing and he slowly spoon-feeds us tasty morsels of terror. After each bedroom situation, we feel we've survived an ordeal, even when very little has happened. And, holy Christ, are we happy when the film cuts to the daylight hours... until even the daylight ceases to give us salvation. So here's my pitch to those of you who have seen the film or those of you who are eager to see it play near you. Contact Paramount Pictures and demand that they open this thing. Yes, it's a marketing scheme, because I can't imagine Paramount won't release this freaky bit of perfection. If they don't release it, I'm making a citizen's arrest in protest. Prepare yourself for something that actually lives up to the advance word, and prepare yourself for assloads of people who pretend Paranormal Activity didn't scare them. Well, those folks are all liars.

Capitalism: A Love Story

For the most part, I'm an unapologetic fan of the way Michael Moore makes movies, even when I don't agree with his methods or opinions. And while Capitalism — his look at the origins of the current banking and stock market crisis — has some of his finest individual moments, it feels like Moore is casting his net too wide, almost forcing puzzle pieces together that don't fit. That said, I feel I learned more from this film than any other of Moore's efforts, and it's a much-needed education that infuriated me as much as it informed.

The director provides a nice balance of specific implications of a wrecked economy, while telling the big-picture story of how banks and investment firms bought their way into Congress and the President Bush's heart and sparked a regulation wave that took very little time to eliminate our budget surplus and put our nation trillions of dollars in the hole. Moore goes back to his hometown of Flint, Michigan, to offer proof that it is possible to make a bad situation worse. Probably the film's finest sequence doesn't feature Moore at all, as he shows a Chicago factory whose fired workers staged a sit-in demonstration until the bank that foreclosed on their employer agreed to pay wages owed. The workers' cause was even championed by newly sworn-in President Obama, and the bank eventually did the right thing. Moore must have had a second-unit crew film that sequence because he doesn't appear on camera at all. I guarantee the workers' plight will make you tear up. But for every solid moment like that, there are stories that focus on such things as the sickeningly low pay that commercial airline pilots make. Yes, it's a terrible situation and, yes, it's a classic example of corporate greed, but it's a problem that has been on the boards long before the current financial crisis, and it doesn't really belong in this movie.

Sure, there's plenty of Moore's trademark stunts. He shows up to the headquarters of companies bailed out by the government with money bag in hand looking to collect taxpayer dollars and make a citizen's arrest. He unspools crime scene tape around entire blocks of Wall Street. He approaches members of Congress for interviews as they leave the office. It's good for a few laughs, but it feels like he's strictly going for laughs and not for any real change. It's one of Moore's tricks that I've grown slightly tired of. Still, it's better that the filmmaker resorts to a few tricks to make his point than to have no point at all. Moore makes an interesting case for a socialist economy in a democratic nation. It's a scary thought, but is it scarier than losing your job or your house or your money? That's what Moore wants us to think about and debate, and in the end, his films are deliberately inflammatory. I firmly believe his primary goal has always been to spark debate and not necessarily convert anyone to his way of thinking. And one that front, Capitalism is a sweeping success. And if he updated and re-released Sicko next week, it would fit right in with today's health-care frenzied society. So, see the film whether you buy into Moore's politics or not, and then do everything you can to find someone to talk about it with. That's the point. Don't be afraid to learn or even have your opinion changed. It's been known to happen, even in America.

Big Fan

Profiles of the pathetic often make for some of the most compelling films. Such works made up a huge number of classic works in the late 1960s and 1970s, and something of a low-level comeback seems to be in the works. These are films about folks who quite frankly don't often appear on screen, and certainly not in films that cost more than $20 million. Writer Robert D. Siegel told us the story of wrestler Randy "The Ram" in Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler last year, and the movie haunts me to this day. But The Ram is someone we not only never see on the big screen, but we're not 100 percent we want to (in theory). Having seen the film about four times now, I'm still pretty sure I'd never want to meet Randy in real life, but it's fascinating to dip into his life when everything must change for better or worse. Now Siegel has written and directed another work, Big Fan, which looks at the sports world from the other side of the mirror, from the often-lonely existence of a fanatic follower of a particular franchise.

The great comedian Patton Oswalt plays Paul Aufiero, a mid-30s parking garage attendant (he calls it a career), who has a passion for the New York Giants that he has somehow cultivated from the parking lot of Giants Stadium (for home games) and with his friend Sal's (Kevin Corrigan) living room (for away games). Paul still lives with his mother (Marcia Jean Kurtz) and spends his evenings doing two things: calling in to a sports-radio talk show and masturbating with an alarming dispassion. Watching Paul spend hours scripting his calls isn't nearly as sad as the cliche-riddled rants he comes up with each night. What's worse is that he's not even allowed to voice his rants as loud as he'd like because his mother's bedroom is right next to his, and she often yells at him to keep it down.

Paul's life changes one night when he spots his absolute favorite Giants player, a linebacker named Quantrell Bishop, at a gas station. Paul and Sal decide to follow Bishop in hopes of meeting him. But when Paul finally gets up the nerve to approach the player and his posse at a strip club, and accidentally lets on that he's been following Bishop, the player gets enraged and beats the living crap out of his biggest fan. The incident sparks a transformative wave through both men's lives. Bishop is suspended until an investigation is completed, and Paul must decide whether to put his beloved favorite player in jail and hurt his Giants (something every Giants fan seems happy to see him do), or let the beating be forgotten and put Bishop back in the line up. Paul's decision and what results may genuinely surprise you.

Siegel doesn't turn Big Fan into a feel-good endeavor where player and fan reconcile, not does he play much of his story for laughs. Oswalt's performance is definitely on the dramatic side, and it's clear that his world is somewhat shattered after the beating. I've read some reviews that have referred to this movie as a dark comedy, and while there are certainly portions of the film that get laughs, I didn't see this as any type of comedy. This is a profile about a man who is stuck, and even the thought of getting unstuck (his more successful family members have decent jobs waiting to give him) sends him into an angry panic. The Giants are the thing that holds his world together, even though he can't afford to attend games, and his insight into the game amounts to little more than being a glorified verbal cheerleader and excuse maker when the team plays poorly. As someone whose acting career seems in full swing now (from TV appearances on "Dollhouse" and "United States of Tara," as well as a juicy supporting part in The Informant!), Oswalt is a marvel here, and when he puts on that Giants jersey to go sit and drink beer in folding chairs in the cold at the Meadowlands, we know exactly who Paul is. There's a quite desperation in his eyes most of time, punctuated by nerves and panic just before he calls into the chat show. As soon as his rant is done, he calls Sal for the post-call recap.

Siegel has a real gift for capturing these marginalized people, and how they interact with the real world. Paul is clearly miserable whenever he has to get together with his lawyer brother in their palatial home. I don't think it's because he dislikes them, but he's all too aware that any such gathering will turn into their mother praising the brother, following by a group verbal stoning of Paul's miserable life and job. The other bane of Paul's existence is the largely unseen but often heard Philadelphia Phil (Michael Rappaport), Paul's mean-spirited rival on the talk radio airwaves. The two exchange digs at each other's teams (never at the same time), and eventually meet under bizarre circumstances that need to remain a secret.

Big Fan has a couple of strange endings that I'm not sure audiences are going to like, but they seem absolutely necessary in bringing Paul's existence into perspective. Siegel isn't afraid of big emotional climaxes, but he doesn't necessarily think they're important or critical to tell these stories. His assumption that people like Paul don't have too many life-changing revelations is absolutely correct, but that doesn't mean that our feelings about him don't change. He's a small man, with small dreams and a small life. He's neither happy nor unhappy, but there is something in his world that gives him joy. You can't help but feel pity for someone whose entire world is wrapped up in a sports team, but at the same time, at least for three hours a week, that person is energized and passionate about something. I guess that has to count for something. And the fact that Siegel and Oswalt have captured that with such chilling accuracy is astonishing to me. Big Fan is a powerhouse achievement in a tiny package. It opens today at the Music Box Theatre.

After the 7:20pm showing tonight, Oct. 2 at the Music Box, writer-director Robert Siegel will be doing a post-screening Q&A, moderated by yours truly. Following the 9:40pm showing, both Siegel and Patton Oswalt will appear to answer audience questions. Oswalt has a stand-up gig that night, so he'll be coming straight from that event to the Music Box Theatre. You can order tickets for either showing in advance, and I fully expect these to sell out, so get your tickets now.

The Boys Are Back

There are well-intentioned films that you often just watch, tolerate their "feel-good" nature, and move on. But I want to tell you about another type of "deeply moving" work. There's this Australian film by director Scott Hicks (Shine) called The Boys Are Back, and I fucking hated this movie and every character in it. And what's worse are the claims that this film is based on a true story, which means I'm hating actual people and not just characters. The Boys Are Back is the story of a terrible father who, after his wife's sudden and tragic death, decides to just let his two children do whatever they want as a means of raising them. Clive Owen, in easily the worst role of his career, plays George Warr, a sports writer who spent days on end away from home when his wife was alive, and who now much actually raise his 6-year-old son (Nicholas McAnulty) when she's gone. Here's the first problem I have with the movie. The way this kid plays this role, I'm pretty sure he's playing it as either high-functioning retarded or someone with autism, but he didn't bother to tell anyone he was going to do that. People react to him like he's got his senses about him, which he clearly doesn't. If this were my son and he behaved this way, I'd throw him from a helicopter at maximum altitude.

George's other son (from his first marriage) is a teenager (George Mackay) who has been living with his mother and is a bit horrified when he arrives at dad's house to discover the state of things. The house is a wreck and anything goes. He starts out being miserable, but it doesn't take him long to get into the hedonistic swing of things. Everyone who comes to visit this band of merry men is appalled, as was I. But I didn't despite The Boys Are Back because it's a prime example of bad parenting. No, I hated it because it sucks on every conceivable level, beginning with the fact that it's entirely predictable. Let's see: George is forced by his boss to cover an overseas tennis match. He can't find a babysitter for the kids. The oldest promises he can take care of things. Is there even the slightest chance things might go wrong? You have three guesses and none of them count.

Even Clive Owen's performance seems off, as if he's not buying into his character's child-rearing philosophy or his asinine behavior. And quite frankly, I don't enjoy watching Owen much when he's smiling all the time. This guy has played some of the great brooding characters in the last 10 years or so, what the hell is he doing in this dumb-shit movie? Even when George gets a shot at a new love in his life, he botches that as well because he's a tool. The bottom line is I found the entire experience of watching The Boys Are Back excruciating, and in all likelihood, you will as well. If you want to prove me wrong, the film opens today at the Landmark Century Center Cinema. Knock yourself out.

Toy Story & Toy Story 2 in 3-D

I thought I new the Toy Story movies inside and out. The fully-loaded DVD box set has been watched many times in my household. All of my friends with kids have introduced their offspring to the films as being two of the greatest films about friendship, childhood, and the power of cooperation ever made. Director and Pixar co-founder John Lasseter's uncanny ability to tap into my guilt at throwing away or otherwise shelving old and beaten-up childhood playthings was one of the most primal emotions I've ever felt watching a movie. Plus the voice actors in the films are beyond perfect. Tom Hanks as Woody and Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear are only the tip of the iceberg. And I challenge any right-thinking human being to make it through "When She Loved Me" in Toy Story 2 without getting a little misty.

It's no secret that Toy Story 3 is hitting screens on June 18, 2010, and it'll be in glorious 3-D. So for many of you, I'm guessing that this limited-run 3-D double-feature of Toy Story and Toy Story 2 seems obligatory and optional. I'm here to tell you how wrong you are. One of the most enjoyable parts of watching the first two films on DVD (or the collection of Pixar shorts) is marveling at how far Pixar's animation has come with its more recent films. I remember watching Toy Story 2 for the first time and thinking how poorly rendered the human characters were, despite how lifelike the toys appeared. But one of the joys of seeing the first two films at Fantastic Fest last weekend was that the animation looks so much better and more realistic than I'd remembered. It's very clear that the sound has been souped up, and it's a wonderful improvement, but seeing the colors and surreal quality of the Toy Story world thanks to a flawless 3-D transfer really shocked me into a full-on giddy state.

For those who take in the double feature, you get some really fun Intermission entertainment that I don't want to spoil, and there's a cute introductory card that tells you exactly when to put on your 3-D glasses. But honestly, just hearing Jim Varney, Don Rickles, R. Lee Ermey, Joan Cusack, Annie Potts, John Ratzenberger, Wallace Shawn, Estelle Harris, and all the rest of the gang. Each one of them adds to the comedy and the emotional resonance of the entire Toy Story experience. I'd also forgotten just how sadistic the next door neighbor kid Sid really is, and all of the outright bizarre creatures he creates from different pieces of his dismantled toys. It was clear that that segment of the film was freaking out some of the kids in my audience, and I was loving the Tim Burton-ish nature of the whole thing.

And as an older, wiser gentleman, I can look at these toys as a cross section of paranoia. They are all desperately afraid of young Andy getting tired with them and forgetting them or getting rid of them. It's a horrible, death row-like way to live, yet they make it look like a party. Only Pixar! I know how easy it is to simply review the Toy Story world at home, but I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't I implore you to check out these two exquisite films on the big screen in 3-D. It truly is a rediscovery. I didn't think it was humanly possible for me to love these movies any more than I already did, but that's exactly what I feel after seeing them this go 'round. Take the time to see the Toy Story movies again for the very first time.

GB store

Jennifer / October 3, 2009 1:00 AM

Another movie that is coming out that offers a clean alternative is ‘’Paranormal.’’ Below is some additional information about this new thriller!!

Paranormal, the latest supernatural thriller from Cross Shadow Productions, (the
creators of the approved, best-selling BMG releases: Pray and Pray 2:
The Woods) will be available in stores nationwide January 26th 2010. The 2009 Mrs. America is starring in it.

See more information and trailers at:

Following the success of family-friendly suspense/thriller The Exorcism of Emily
Rose (Sony Pictures), comes a riveting supernatural thriller in the vein of the hit
SyFy television series, Ghost Hunters and Frank Peretti's House (Roadside
Attractions / Lionsgate).

Paranormal follows best-selling, self-made novelist Greg Evans struggling through the worst case of writer's block in his award-winning career. In a desperate search for
inspiration, Greg quickly finds himself immersed in a world he is not prepared to face.
Turning to a group of paranormal investigators, Greg and the ghost hunting team search for proof and answers, yet are unaware they are about to have an experience of a
lifetime! None will leave the way they came. Paranormal will peel back the supernatural curtain to reveal how The TRUTH will EXPOSE the darkness!

GB store

Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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Not If But When
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Site of Big Shoulders
Sixty Inches From Center
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What's Going On?
What to Wear During an Orange Alert?
You, Me, Them, Everybody
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A/C is the arts and culture section of Gapers Block, covering the many forms of expression on display in Chicago. More...
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Editor: Nancy Bishop,
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