There aren’t a whole lot of great Part 3s out there — the third movie tends to be the point where the wheels come off the franchise in question — but of those that earn mention, Toy Story 3 has earned a place among them. Pixar’s banner property finds an entirely new dilemma for its cast of sentient playthings, as Andy prepares for college and the remaining toys in his collection have to grapple with the prospect of becoming owner-less. Smart, funny, touching and surprisingly scary at times, it remains one of the very best films in the studio’s absurdly impressive canon. It opened today in 2010.
Further back, we find Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, another story of characters grappling with their own mortality. William Holden leads an aging band of outlaws in the final days of the Old West, looking for one last robbery before retiring. Its violence was considered shocking at the time and still has the power to shake you, as does the nihilism creeping quietly beneath the protagonists’ dilemma. It opened today in 1969.
We’ll close with Batman Returns, Tim Burton’s second foray to Gotham City and one of the more fascinating entries in superhero adaptations. Most of it is a dreadful mess, with an incoherent plot, too many villains and Burton’s familiar bugaboo of out-of-control production design confounding it at every turn. But it does feature the delicious Michelle Pfeiffer as a most unique Catwoman, as well as Burton’s unique Gothic sensibilities shading her adversarial romance with the Caped Crusader. And it’s developed a cult following among those who appreciate the bizarre. Batman Returns opened today in 1992.