Tag Archives: Toy Story

Counting Down Cinema’s Best Trilogies

The third Hunger Games installment is set to smash box office records this week. It’s part of that rare brotherhood of series where the sequel is stronger than the original, like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. We’re eager to see what they can do with #3, which got us to thinking about our favorite trilogies. Today we are counting down the best trilogies in film.

10. Dead Trilogy

George A. Romero may have gone to the well a few too many times, but the first three installments of his Dead series – Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead – were groundbreaking achievements that created the pattern for all future zombie films. Packed with social commentary as well as bloody entrails, they are as weirdly compelling today as they were when they were first released.

9. Back to the Future

Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd head to the 1950s, back to the Eighties, back to the Fifties, and eventually to the Wild West in a charming, funny, nostalgic time travel fantasy.

8. Evil Dead

Truth be told, the 2013 reboot is a worthy addition to the franchise. But it’s Bruce Campbell and the 1981 goretastic Stoogesque original, its 1987 reboot/sequel, and the epic third installment Army of Darkness that create the three headed monster we love.

7. Godfather Trilogy

Honestly, this is here on the merit of the first two films alone. Though the third installment is not the debacle it is often labeled, it is certainly comparatively weak. But since I and II are among the greatest American films ever made, we’ll let that slide.

6. Dollar Trilogy

Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly stole from Kurosawa, established Clint Eastwood, and changed the landscape of the American Western. Morally complicated and full of violence, Leone’s trilogy is a landmark in cinema – American, Italian or otherwise.

5. Vengeance Trilogy

Korean filmmaking genius/madman Chan-wook Park unleashed three riveting, bizarre tales of vengeance beginning in 2002 with Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, the unnervingly merciful tale of kidnapping, compassion and revenge. He followed it the next year with his masterpiece, Oldboy, a revenge fable so bizarre it defies simple summarization. He capped the trilogy in 2005 with Lady Vengeance, another twisted and human tale of vengeance and unattainable redemption.

4. Star Wars

If a trilogy ever had as much impact as the first three Star Wars films, we don’t know of it. Yes, there are weaknesses in Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi (Ewoks, for example), but it’s a galaxy we’d return to regardless of its distance.

3. Lord of the Rings

Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy is a majestic, gorgeously filmed and beautifully crafted nerdgasm. Scary, heroic and genuinely epic, it’s a fantasy world that offsets the magic with enough authenticity to give the trilogy compelling urgency. Jackson’s vision is magnificent. (But enough already, please?)

2. Dark Knight

Christopher Nolan recast superheroes with his dark, brooding Batman Begins. Provocatively written and fascinatingly cast, the film spun into the superior sequel The Dark Knight, proving that a superhero movie could be among the very best films made in any year. Then he capped it with The Dark Knight Rises and the kind of excitement, revisiting of themes and satisfying closure required of a genuine cinematic trilogy. Nicely done!

1. Toy Story

When Pixar unleashed Toy Story in 1995, the world changed for animation, family entertainment, and movies on the whole. What a glorious achievement – too good for a sequel. And yet John Lasseter revisited Buzz, Woody and gang in ’99 with new buddies and a toy-centric plot that was as riveting as the first film. And then, showing true genius, Lasseter returned to Andy’s house in maybe the most honest and heartbreaking coming of age film ever digitally created. Tell us you didn’t cry during Toy Story 3 and we’ll label you a sociopath.

Outtakes: “Our Son Turns 21” Movie Marathon!

Donovan Riley turns 21 today.  Well, that can’t even be correct. Wait…March 12…it is! Against all logic, it is actually our boy’s 21st birthday. Holy cow! Well, while we sob quietly, enjoy a list of our fictitious DRW Turns 21 Movie Marathon, where we offer a quick glimpse at how those 21 years were spent.


The Lion King (1994)

Not even two years old, Riley would see the trailer on TV and shout “Rawr!” at the screen, so we figured The Lion King would be a fine choice for his first big screen adventure.  Is 18 months too young for a theatrical experience? Maybe for the rest of the audience, but we were ready to challenge them. That’s the kind of parents we are. Turns out, he was all about it, and it set the stage for the game-changer to come next.



Toy Story (1995)

It’s hard to put into words how much the original Toy Story changed our world. Beyond the multiple viewings, toys, bedsheets, posters, etc., Buzz, Woody and company were ever-present in our young boy’s mind.  It was a great movie, so we really didn’t mind the infatuation. He was moved, and he wanted to preach the gospel…which he frequently did by approaching random strangers in Kroger or Target with a simple query, “Have you seen THE SHOW?”



Pokemon: The Movie (1999)

We went from a classic to an…ugh. Our parental love was tested by these films, which we were lucky to escape without suffering a seizure. But how the boy loved them! Tears in his eyes when Charizard’s head got caught in that log. Not only did we sit through these god-awful films, we braved the warring hordes on Tuesday nights at Burger King, when new movie tie-in toys were released. No offense, Pikachu, but we’d like to strangle you with our bare hands. Pika! Pika!



Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)

Always an advanced reader, Riley devoured the Harry Potter books, and was once interviewed on TV at a midnight release party for a new installment. Indeed, his life had a weird parallel to Harry’s, what with that lightning bolt scar he got when he defeated an evil warlock….wait. That’s not right. No, it’s because Riley began kindergarten the year the first HP book was published, and graduated from high school the same year the final l(and best) film was released. It was like he followed Harry through Hogwarts. He liked to think so, anyway, and to honor his hero, he would re-read every installment just before the next was released, and then stay awake until he finished whichever new adventure had just come out. (More fine parenting.) To say the least, the debut of the first film in the series was a pretty big deal. Not a great movie, but a big deal.


Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

The boy was 9. We took him to an afternoon screening. He’s been buckling swash ever since.


That Thing You Do! (1996)

Listed out of sequence because he didn’t discover it until years after its release, this film is one that found regular rotation on HBO one summer, and it had a devoted audience of at least two for each screening. George and Riley can quote every line from the film, and will forever refer to character actor Bill Cobbs as “Del Paxton” no matter what beer ad or TV movie he stars in.

Ocean’s 11 (2001)

The boy loves a good con movie, and that may have started here. Danny Ocean and his smooth criminals charmed and delighted the would-be con man who, luckily, decided to pursue other career avenues. (We were pretty relieved when he gave up that short-lived dream to be a magician and a card shark as well.)


Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003)

Riley did not stumble upon this Robert Rodrigues gem until it was available on cable, and  then he had to beg to see it because of its R rating. Our rule was that he had to watch any R-rated film alongside his mom, which will seriously squelch a young boy’s interest. But together we watched Johnny Depp chew scenery, lose eyeballs, and look awesome. Families bond in different ways. Besides, it’s too late not to notify children’s services.


Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)

Discovered one night in a Florida Keys hotel room, this Brangelina Spy v Spy action flick became a constant companion during that particular vacation. You know a kid likes a movie when he’ll choose it over Shark Week and the Little League World Series.

There Will Be Blood (2007)

Proof positive that the boy grew up OK, shortly after leaving home and moving to LA to become an actor himself, he changed his FB background to reflect his newest favorite film, the flawless Paul Thomas Anderson epic There Will Be Blood. Say what you will about our sketchy parenting, this suggests that he turned out A-OK.


We can’t wait to be watching him on the big screen. Riley, we love you and we are so proud of you!  Happy, happy, happy birthday!!!


Disney Misfires without Pixar

Disney’s Planes

by Hope Madden

The tortoise and hare fable meets Top Gun in Disney’s blandly watchable gear-head adventure Planes.

Dusty the crop duster (Dane Cook) wants to fly a prestigious, international air race. His opponents mock and underestimate him, he’s afraid of heights, and he faces a coaching crisis at the worst moment. The odds he must overcome – how can he do it?!

The uninspired waste of time comes courtesy of director Klay Hall (Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure) and screenwriter Jeffrey Howard, who boasts a slew of Tinkerbell-related work. Boast may not be the right word. Together they spawn an uninspired derivative of a familiar concept.

Back in 2006, Pixar released its weakest product to that date, Cars. It was a middling effort – not a bad premise, decent cast, pleasant enough to look at. The reason it felt so disappointing was that it came from the animation genius factory that had already brought us two Toy Stories and found Nemo.

By the time the vehicular mediocrity of Cars 2 arrived, Pixar had exploded with classics WALL-E, Up, and Toy Story 3, and the auto sequel could not help but suffer by comparison.

Disney’s making the connection to the Pixar flick as obvious as possible without actually cribbing characters. Too bad, though, because while Cars is hardly a stellar work, a familiar face to spy in a crowd might have given this flick a glimmer of excitement. (Credit the filmmakers for including the voices of Val Kilmer and Anthony Edwards just as Dusty finds himself in the danger zone.)

No real laughs, no memorable characters, no novelty, not enough conflict, no interesting villains – basically, Planes offers nothing we’ve come to expect from an industry revolutionized by Pixar. Disney should try seeing Pixar’s work as an inspiration for unique work rather than an opportunity to cash in.