Editor’s note: A Jacksonville resident has been reviewing movies for friends for several years and has offered to share his thoughts with Daily Progress readers. His reviews come in personal letters to his nicknamed friend, Spud Nut. Our reviewer is Tater Tot, so consequently, the movies get ratings based on potatoes.

Spud Nut,

Toy Story 3 (rated G, 102 minutes, in 3-D) will undoubtedly win this year’s Academy Award for the best animated movie, and most deservedly so.  Once again the Disney Pixar studio has set the standard for story and graphic designs.  Despite my usual objections to sequels (except for the James Bond series), the superb Toy Story films  begun in 1995 have peaked in this continuation of the tales about  Woody the Cowboy doll, Buzz Lightyear the space ranger, and the other childhood toys that once brought joy and happiness to a young man named Andy when he was a boy.  You and I should be most pleased that our namesakes, the Potato Heads, have key supporting roles in this lovely story.  Alas, Andy has grown up and must leave behind his childish possessions as he departs from home to attend college.   This transition results in either storing his play things in the attic or giving them away to a day care center.  Either way, the toys just want to be needed and used like always.   Unfortunately, not everyone takes proper care of their property.  Thus, the toys must escape from their mistreatment.  Even then, there remains the poignant issue of how to find their place in life.  The ending is very touching and will remind old and young alike that caring and sharing are essential for growing up and become more mature.  Treat yourself soon to this four potato rated jewel, because such gems appear only a few times each year.

Just as I had to waive my reservation about sequels with Toy Story 3, I also have to relent about my usual objections to so many movie remakes after viewing The Karate Kid (rated PG, 140 minutes).   Jaden Smith, son of actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, must move at age 12 to Beijing when his mother’s job is transferred to China.  Upon arrival he meets and is beaten up by the local bullies.  He must eventually face down his adversaries; but only after he learns to defend himself through Kung Fu training provided by Jackie Chan.  This picture was filmed on location and could easily be a Travel Channel program about Oriental culture and geography.  This updated adaptation of the familiar story about the conflicts facing an outsider gives Jackie Chan a dramatic role that is both entertaining and inspiring.  On screen, Jaden Smith has to demonstrate exceptional athletic prowess to perform the demanding feats necessary for his character’s role.  After the climatic bouts in a fighting tournament, you’ll remember afterwards that Jaden’s success started with “picking up his coat’ and culminated with learning to focus like the lady staring at a cobra.  The relationship between Chan and Smith seems genuine and real, which is why this story works so well.  This feature has earned a three potato rating, whether or not you have ever seen Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita in the 1984 original version of The Karate Kid.

Splice (rated R, 104 minutes) is a high concept horror film with low box office appeal.  Adrian Brody and Sarah Polley are two genetic scientists who have experimented with cloning donor life forms that results in a hybrid human/animal female organism whom they name Dren.  She grows and matures rapidly developing unusual features and abilities - like fish lungs, a spiked tail, and bat wings when provoked.  The bio-ethics of manipulating nature are lively issues of today.  The script addresses the dangers of venturing into the creation of life much like the Frankenstein story did ages ago.   For added spice, the director includes vivid scenes of inter-specie mating that further complicate finding a solution for the problems science has created.   This feature will have a short run in our town and few people will miss it when it is gone.  Nevertheless, I give it a two plus rating for what used to be called a “B” level picture show because of its original theme and new scary threats designed to give us a cheap thrill at the theater.

Tater Tot

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