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Toy Story 3

Babies often receive teddy bears as first toys, although being a more temperamental toddler I was given a plush lion.  That became one of my early best friends and I took it everywhere.  Like many children with toys, I formed an emotional attachment to it as it was one of the first things spurning my imagination.  That’s one of the central themes of Toy Story 3 as it shows how a toy only becomes exciting as a child’s creativity allows. 

With their now teenaged owner Andy moving to college, his toys - including Buzz Lightyear and Woody - are hopeful they’ll find someplace in his new life.  To their dismay they are accidentally put out for rubbish collection and think Andy has abandoned them.  Although Woody knows this isn’t the case, the others decide to create new horizons by going to the Sunnyside Daycare Centre.  Hearing of its delights, they soon receive a shock when boisterous children and other toys make their lives intolerable.  Plotting their escape and return to Andy, Woody and the gang make a desperate last stand for the good of their fellow manufactured marvels. 

Toy Story 3 is a worthy addition to the charming series as it successfully compliments its predecessors with its focus on change and growing up.  It’s a natural progression in its overall scheme rather than a re-boot as the human characters are just as important as the toys they play with.  What’s amazing is how the animation is no longer the important selling point but its stories as they’re full of the rare innocence elevating other animated classics.  There’s no deep seated cynicism attached - just a good natured adventure filled with characters who come to joyful life. 

It isn’t difficult to like Buzz Lightyear and co. given how beautifully rendered they are.  Every scene is vibrant with colour and movement adding the elements needed to make them feel like real people.  The fast paced screenplay helps enormously as each sequence logically flows into the next.  There’s never a frame wasted with the production team appearing in their element as they continually craft more wild scenarios.  It’s a fun film filled with plenty of heart and befits the ‘all ages’ tag comfortably without sinking into sugary sweetness.  

I still have my toy lion, now looking a bit frayed but always there to remind of the early creativity which gave me lots of child-hood pleasure.  Toy Story 3 should do the same as its fine escapist fare should effectively capture the thoughts of young and old alike. 

Rating out of 10:  8 

The Karate Kid

In Hollywood nothing is final as seemingly buried franchises arise to further haunt movie screens.  Although it’s always welcome seeing old favourites return there is such a thing as overkill as the current batch of 80’s influenced films attest.  The Karate Kid is the latest from this recycled production line as it gives the series a glossy make-over.  Unfortunately the ghost of the original looms large with this humdrum remake failing to hold a candle to its predecessor. 

Moving to China with his mother, 12 year old Dre (Jaden Smith) has a difficult time settling in.  Harassed by bullies and disliking the foreign environment, he wishes he was back home in Detroit.  This becomes acute after many run-ins with local boy Cheng (Zhenwei Wang) - a kung-fu prodigy.  Noticing these confrontations is Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), a maintenance man working in Dre’s apartment block.  Harbouring burdens of his own, Han attempts to instil discipline in Dre by teaching him kung-fu.  Eventually placed in a tournament against Cheng, Dre has to overcome his fears and earn the right to be called a kung-fu champion. 

 

Directed with a heavy-handiness by Harald Zwart, The Karate Kid unfairly trades on the name of the 80’s classic. ‘The Kung-Fu Kid’ is a better description as Japanese Karate has little to do with Chinese Kung-Fu.  Actually the title non-Western territories will know it by, the marketing team seem more interested in using an established brand name to make more dollars.  The Chinese locations are stunningly photographed though, even if proceedings turn into a long travelogue.  This rush to the next location shot pushes the story towards a predictable conclusion with its basic coming of age tale adhered to without much enthusiasm.

 

Much of the original’s gritty flavour is lost in the narrative transportation to China.  Gone is urban environment in which the previous characters lived where its disorder made a fine contrast to the analytical fighting style used.  The Chinese setting takes this away, as its ordered society lessens the feelings of continual danger. Chan’s casting is also a problem as he doesn’t have the acting abilities needed to be convincing.  Smith is adequate although tries a little too hard to convey the teenage angst driving his many thoughts. He more than equips himself in the fight scenes however, with these becoming the best sections of a rather dull movie. 

 

 

Although its action sequences are great and has amazing cinematography, The Karate Kid lacks genuine soul.  Like most recent remakes it’s made a lot of cash meaning it may yet overtake the original’s three sequels in number.  Hopefully it’ll run out of juice by then, as too much nostalgia can often be too much to take. 

Rating out of 10:  5