Toy Story 3

"Try And Spot Whoopie Goldberg's Character, Go On!"

The Academy may as well not open the voting for ‘Best Animated Picture’ this year, nothing is going to stop that little gold man from joining Buzz and Woody’s gang after what Pixar have pulled off with Toy Story 3. Never before has there been a trilogy of films where each subsequent picture is as good as, or better than the original. What’s even more amazing is that this feat has been accomplished by not only a series of ‘kids movies’, but also a series that started with an experiment in a new way of making films. Let us never forget that the original Toy Story was the very first full length computer animated film. This is essentially to Pixar what Snow White was to Disney as a whole, or The Jazz Singer to all of Hollywood. It changed the game in terms of what could be achieved. Had those had sequels, maybe they could have managed to be of this consistent level of quality, but somehow I doubt it. In the Toy Story franchise, Pixar have that rarest of things, true movie magic.

Let me slow down before this turns into a love letter to Pixar and the Toy Story franchise as a whole. We are here to talk Toy Story 3, the final piece in the Toy Story puzzle. It’s been 11 years since the last Toy Story film, so where are we now? Well, it’s been 11 years for the toys too, and as is the way with the species we call human, we grow up. Andy, the owner of the titular toys, has done just the same. He’s 17 and getting ready to head off the university. The toys we knew and loved in the first few films have dwindle in number until only a core group remain. This sets up the big question that spurs on the entire narrative of the film, “what happens when an owner outgrows their toys?” What this sparks off is a movie that, surprisingly, plays out like the wittiest, most emotional prison escape movie you have ever seen.

Even though we’ve lost some friends along the way, there are a bunch of new toys to meet that fill out a great ensemble cast. On the one hand, Ned Beatty puts in a powerful turn as ‘Lots-O’-Hugging Bear’, whereas Timothy Dalton’s role as “Mr. Pricklepants” is minor, but is also an example of the spot on casting done for this film. Hell, they’ve got Whoopie Goldberg cast so perfectly as, wait for it, a stretchy purple octopus that you would never know her from the character itself. The new face that stole the film for me was Michael Keaton’s superb Ken. You’ll know why when you see it.

Trust me, you will want to see it. If you are a kid, you will love it. If you are an adult, you will love it. However, I myself am particularly lucky. I am truly the perfect age group for this film. I grew up with the original films, and as Andy is leaving for University in the film, that process is still fresh in my mind from going through it myself. If you are aged 16-20, and enjoyed the original Toy Story movies, I can honestly think of no better film for you right now. Actually, that statement is true for every moviegoer. What Pixar excel at is making movies for everyone’s inner child, and the Toy Story series is the one that has done this the most thoroughly. At some point in your life, you have played with toys. That’s what makes Toy Story. Look at that sentence again. That past tense going on there? That’s exactly what Toy Story 3 is all about. Toys don’t get played with forever.

Movie franchises don’t last forever either, and thank god that this one has gone out with a bang. Toy Story 3 is an emotional rollercoaster. It’s hilarious, but in a way that no-one will have a joke pitched too low, or fly over their heads. It’s terrifying too, in a way that mainstream animated films haven’t been for a long time. What really makes Toy Story 3 is how heartfelt and cathartic it is. Toy Story 3 is the only film I can remember ever to make me cry.

Go see it now, for the sake of all your old toys.

10/10

Standout Scene:

Mr. Potato Head’s new look

Willy for Artist of the Year 2009

"The Big Prize"

It’s inevitable that in a review of the year, I would have to pick an artist to stand above all the others to stand up as the best thing 2009 had to offer. Maybe they summed up everything that made 2009 the year that it was. Maybe they just had loads of great songs. Maybe they had something special about them. Or maybe, they’re Lady Gaga.

Lady Gaga

2009 always stuck me as a year with very little identity of it’s own. We are switching decades, and so it’s a year of transition, looking back to previous eras to work out where to go next. In this way, is there any other artist who could sum up 2009 than the eclectic madness of Lady Gaga? Queen of “so bad it’s good”, Gaga flits between disco, euro-pop, ballads and hip-hop without missing a beat with production values through the roof. Insane costumes, incomprehensible music videos, complete lack of shame. I don’t now if she’s really that crazy, or as I like to think, she’s developed her persona as a big postmodern commentary on the music industry. Whatever the truth is, she’s immensely enjoyable and for the first time in a long while, I’m paying attention to the pop industry again. Also, a total of 7 weeks at No.1 with 3 hit singles isn’t bad either.

Honorable Mention: Mumford and Sons

Willy for Album of the Year 2009

The album format was once seen as a dying art, with singles seen as the way forward. This idea was given even more creedence with the rise of digital downloads, allowing people to easily cherry pick their chosen songs from albums and ignore the deeper cuts or intended order. However, this shift seems to be turning with the fall of the physical single, and bands being more adventurous with their album releases and concepts. This years Willy for Album of the Year goes to a band who are bringing the once unpopular idea of the concept idea back to the mainstream. And the award goes to…

21st Century Breakdown by Green Day

Building on 2004’s seminal American Idiot, 2009 brought about the classic rock influenced, pop punk, concept album wonder that was 21st Century Breakdown. Though with less of a plot than their previous release and possibly weaker singles, this was a far more cohesive album in this reviewer’s opinion, and is one that is designed to be listened to in once sitting, rather than cherry picked from. Songs flowing seamlessly into each other at points, the final track referencing the opening and many more touches like this make this a true representation of the album experience. While¬†there may be argument over whether¬†Green Day are punks any more, it matters little when they can produce albums like this.

Honorable Mention: Them Crooked Vultures- Self Titled

Willy for Free Download of the Year 2009

Everyone loves free music. With record labels faltering and wondering how to get people caring about their music, many labels and bands are taking it upon themselves to give away the recordings for free, hoping to entice people to buy their other songs or to convince them to pay to see them live. It ends up as a good deal for them, and a great deal for us, so it’s becoming all the more common. iTunes give out free songs every week, bands drop down full albums and others give away their new singles for gratis. With all this variety, it’s hard to choose, but the Willy for Free Download of the Year 2009 goes to…

Tales From The Grave In Space by Gama Bomb

A full album of tongue in cheek metal is a wonderful to be given free. Especially when it’s this fun to listen to! But why be happy with a short summary here, when you can check out my review and link to your own copy!

Honorable Mention: Song for a Son by Smashing Pumpkins

Willy for Live Artist Of The Year 2009

Live Music. The way it is truly meant to be heard. A great studio album is a brilliant thing, but it is only when a band can pull off that sound and atmosphere live that you know they are truly a good band. A band becomes a great live band when they can add something more when you see them in person. This years Willy for Live Artist goes to…

Green Day

One of the leaders of the 90s pop punk movement, singing songs about masturbation and being an outsider, Green Day had pretty humble beginnings for stadium filling rockers. But that’s what they have become, a true stadium band, following in the footsteps of bands such as Queen, The Who and Guns n’ Roses without a hint of irony. Being able to replicate their new high production sound live is impressive enough, but when combined with a killer stage show, they make most other live bands look like they aren’t trying. Audience participation, video screens creating a plethora of stage scenery and enough pyrotechnics to shame a metal band. What’s not to love?

Honorable mention: Muse

Willy for New Artist of the Year 2009

Every year we get an influx of brand new artists and bands, giving amazing new music to the world in a way that hopefully no-one will have heard before. New music can be an interesting category, because it can mean a variety of different things. It could mean a band who only started playing this year, or it could be a band who came to fame this year. It could even be a supergroup formed this year. For the 2009 Willy for New Artist of the Year, I have chosen a group from this second category. The award goes to…

White Lies

Kings of doom laden indie rock, White Lies came to fame in 2009 with the release of their wonderful “To Lose My Life” album. Despite forming in 2007 under the name Fear Of Flying, it wasn’t until the change to the White Lies moniker that they garnered success. Eloquent lyrics and a heavy atmosphere are what set White Lies apart from the pack, getting gloom back to to top of the charts for the first time since the goths of the 80s. Aren’t we glad they did?

Honorable Mention: Them Crooked Vultures

The Willies 2009- Review Of The Year

"I Only Wish I Could Give All The Winners One Of These"

Hello, and welcome to my (admittedly belated) musical review of 2009.

2009 seems to be best summed up as a year of nostalgia. More than any other year in the Noughties, 2009 seemed to be heavily harking back to the 1980s. Synths were making a comeback in all forms of music. 80s stars were hitting the limelight once again, for a variety of reasons from comebacks to deaths. In general, people seemed to wish they were still wearing leg warmers and listening to New Wave in a club somewhere. Maybe we just wanted to be happy in the economic downturn, and with the proliferation of songs telling us to dance appearing in the charts, I think this is a definite possibility.

2009 was the year artists such as Florence and The Machine, Lady Gaga and Susan Boyle came to prominence, showing the power of both originality and the industry’s influence. It was a year of comebacks too, with Blink 182 and Blur reforming, and The Beatles getting a new lease of life through remastered albums and their own video game. As with ever year, the music industry also lost some key bands and musicians to both break-ups and deaths. Oasis finally snapped, as did Chas and Dave. The world also lost the legendary Michael Jackson, and fan favourite drummer ‘The Rev’ of Avenged Sevenfold.

Despite these sad moments, 2009 was a year I think we should all look back on fondly, and so I present to you my awards for the year. Awards which I have dubbed “The Willies”. So without further ado, here are the categories for the First Annual Willy Music Awards:

New Artist of the Year

Live Artist of the Year

Free Download of the Year

Music Video of the Year

Album of the Year

Single of the Year

Overall Artist of the Year