Good movies followed by mediocre second efforts are all too common in Hollywood. New films in a series rarely capture the magic of the original. But the Pixar studio has raised the bar for sequels to a new level with the extraordinary triumph of "Toy Story 3."
Of course we have Woody, Buzz, Jesse, the Potato Heads and the rest of the familiar toy box gang. They are joined by the legendary Barbie and Ken and a host of new playmates. As expected, there's tons of rollicking special effects and boisterous fun. But touching emotions and deeply felt themes from real life elevate this story to a higher plane.
Young Andy, the owner of the toys, is now grown up and heading to college. What to do with his old collection of pals starts the plot rolling. Deciding which toys to save or give away creates the tension that leads to unexpected adventures. Viewers of all ages will laugh and cry, smile and sigh in equal measure.
Poignant issues of growing up, leaving home and realizing the end of childhood come into play at the end of this remarkable tale. You don't need to bring a kid to enjoy "Toy Story 3." A lock to be nominated at Oscar time, it's one of the very best pictures of the year.
'Bone' bleak but satisfying
Summer's here and with it a crop of big budget movies. But tucked away among the toys and ogres is a small gem, "Winter's Bone," a bleak but stunningly well-made film that won deserving raves at Sundance this year.
Ree Dolly is 17, a girl who's had to grow up before her time taking care of her younger siblings and mentally vacant mother on a hardscrabble farm in the Ozarks. They have no money and no food except for an occasional squirrel and the kindness of neighbors.
Her father, Jessup, who was jailed for cooking meth, has skipped bail and Ree must find him within the week before the family loses their home that he put up as bond. Her desperation forces her to risk her own life, even at the hands of kin, to try and keep her family together.
Nineteen-year-old Jennifer Lawrence gives a powerful, flinty performance as Ree, who is knowing beyond her years. When her dream of a better life in the army is shattered, her stoic mask drops away for the briefest of moments, and the effect is crushing.
Ree's uncle Teardrop is chillingly portrayed by John Hawkes and he makes you apprehensive whenever onscreen.
"Winter's Bone" is not a happy tale, but it does have a superhero.
JOHN DEPKO is a Costa Mesa resident and a senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office.