Film Review: Toy Story 4, the “worst” of the bunch

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Until Friday, I firmly put Toy Story as a top 5 trilogy.  As you sit and stare at that last statement in mild shock while trying to process if this is a valid point, I’ll make it easy for you.  Top 5 trilogies (meaning ALL THREE are nothing below fantastic) are:

  1. Star Wars
  2. Dark Knight.  Yes, some of you may not have liked DKR as much but it’s good enough.
  3. Indiana Jones (no one counts the 4th, just like no one counts Godfather 3 as a film.)
  4. Toy Story
  5. Back to the Future. BTTF3 isn’t as bad as some make it out to be and can we please get over the flying train?  He made a Delorean go back in time as well as fly, why the hell can’t he get a train?  Some of you will want to argue LOTR but that 2nd film was just 3 plus hours of WALKING.

Toy Story 1-3 are so goddamn good, I can’t even pick out an order how good they are.  Gun to my head, I pick 3, 1, 2.  3 is first only because it got such a reaction out of the audience and it has to be one of the best finales to a series.  I teared up like I was 6 years old (or even at my current age) again, watching ET and bawling when the flowers die or when ET goes home.  What about Kevin Costner having a catch with his dad in Field of Dreams?  Or when Arnold drops into the molten steel in Terminator 2.  Don’t you dare posture and say that didn’t get you.  Hell, even Rocky 2 gets me when he yells, “Yo Adrian, I did it.”

Toy Story 3 PERFECTLY wrapped everything up with people saying, “there’s no better way to close this out and I hope they don’t reopen the franchise and taint the series.  So imagine my tepid dismay as well as mild happiness when they announce that Buzz, Woody, Ham, the Potato Heads, and the rest of the gang would be returning this summer.  The preview wasn’t really grabbing me but in Pixar, not God, I trust.

We open with Bonnie playing with most of her toys, except Woody, before her first day in kindergarten.  Woody wants to make sure everything goes right (and also to maybe get some one on one play time) and shanghais a ride in her backpack.  He witnesses Bonnie getting her arts and crafts on where out of a few pipe cleaners and googly eyes, a new friend is born.  Forky is just what he sounds like and Bonnie loves him.  But Forky wants to be in the trash more than Bonnie’s toy and Woody tries to convince him that a toy is the life to lead.

Bonnie’s parents declare that it’s the time for a road trip in an RV, which sounds more like something outlawed in the Geneva convention than a vacation.  Camping, vacation for poor people.  Bonnie grabs all of her toys and away we go.  However, Forky feels there’s no better time to do his best Johnny Knoxville impression and jump out of moving RV.  Woody plays the role of Bam Margera and follows suit because he wants to get him back to Bonnie.  Buzz and the other toys run interference while Woody runs his mission.

Woody and Forky reunite with Bo Peep, who hasn’t lost her sheep but has a few new uninteresting friends tagging along with her.  They run into Gabby Gabby, voiced by Christina Hendricks, who runs the roost at a local antiques store.  GG turns out to be quite the naughty girl, as she wants Woody’s voice box as hers was faulty.  Hence why she’s never been selected by a child.  <insert easy boob joke here> But if Gabby had Christina’s cup size, even I would’ve pocketed my masculinity and bought that doll.

Some of the new characters are fun, especially Bunny and Ducky, voice by Key and Peele.     They TRULY steal the show.  Some of the new characters don’t hit the mark, like Bonnie’s originally owned toys and Giggle McDimples.  I wasn’t as crazy as Duke Kaboom, a Canadian motorcycle stunt rider, voiced by Keanu Reeves.  One of the problems with this is that the new film screwed with the perfect formula by the other films, not enough integration with the original characters.  And the biggest crime is a major lack of Buzz Lightyear.  The dynamic duo of Buzz and Woody is sorely missed and rumor has it that the reason for the reduced role of Buzz is because of Tim Allen’s politics.  IF that is the case, that’s truly sad that people can’t look beyond their opinions.  IF it’s because Tim Allen is a raging asshole, well then shame on him.

But to be perfectly frank with you, I didn’t have the same emotions with this one as I have with the previous 3.  There weren’t as many LOL moments.  I read that while Allen and Hanks broke down reading the last scene.  And I was all prepared to lose my shit again at the end of this film like I did with 3.  The problem of course, is facing a bar that’s set INSANELY high.  But although the ending does make that emotional turn, it didn’t grab me.  I was fine with it but it didn’t hit me near as hard as I expected.  Is this a good film?  Yes.  Do I hope they  they end this series to as not to tarnish its near pristine reputation?  Desperately.  You’ll like this, just not NEAR as much as the others.

I give it a 7 out of 10.  And stay for the credits, there are a few scenes worth checking out.

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Film Reviews: Dunkirk, Atomic Blonde, and Spiderman: Homecoming

We’re almost at the end of summer and before you know it, certain things are going to happen.  They’re going to yank my favorite beer, Sam Adams Summer Ale off the shelves by the second week of August and replace it with GARBAGE Octoberfest.  A full month and a half before the actual Octoberfest and no one, repeat NO ONE, likes this beer.  It will also be time for me to take the annual trip for me to go Vegas for week 1 of the NFL.  And of course, it’s going to be soon enough when Hollywood drops a plate of continuous garbage into the theaters until November.  I did catch a few new films and I’m more than happy to tell you about them.

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Let’s be honest, it’s John Williams (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jaws) and then everyone else for film scoring.  But Hans Zimmer (Batman trilogy, Inception, Lion King) is a SOLID number 2.  I went to see Hans Zimmer at Radio City last week.  He played for 3 hours and all of the hits.  If you don’t know him, he’ll be on the Mt Rushmore of cinematic composers.   Being Zimmer is Nolan’s go-to guy for film score, he also does the latest Nolan joint.     As I’ve said before, no one bats 1.000, not even Babe Ruth. But Hans Zimmer is perfect in previous attempts and this is no exception.  Zimmer does such a job that it will be a bigger fix than the 1919 Black Sox if he doesn’t get the Oscar this year.  The score AND sound make will send shivers up your b-hole and if doesn’t, you ain’t alive.  

Now let’s talk about the actual film.  Nolan tells 4 different stories at the same time with some familiar faces from previous Nolan films, Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy.   The story of Dunkirk is the Brits and French (further perpetuating stereotypes) have been pushed to the shores by the Nazis (pre-USA intervention) and are looking to retreat via the sea.  But those pesky Krauts drop bombs and send torpedoes (actual torpedoes, not Sofia Vergara’s luscious cans) on the British naval ships that attempt to bring the soldiers back.  Harry Styles (of One Direction fame; note that not one of their songs is on my phone.  Not even as a guilty pleasure) plays the son of a former British soldier that takes his boys toward Dunkirk toward the rescue effort.  

There are problems with this film.  One, with the exception of Styles, his brother, and father off to help the stranded; there aren’t any characters that you feel any relationship with.  Cillian plays a pilot that is shot down and rescued by Styles’s father but you don’t get a feel for his character.  Same goes for fellow flyboy Tom Hardy.  Another group of soldiers that are holed up in a ship are another group you feel nothing for.  Secondly, there is no need for the roundabout fashion in which Nolan tells the story.  Some people complained that it was difficult to follow; I didn’t feel like it was but there were a few moments where you have to mentally jump back and forth.  Lastly, this film is 110 minutes but I felt it DRAGGED at times.  My friend Ryan made a great point about not having any relationship with the characters; being that this films was simply about survival and didn’t need to be a nationalistic film with sentimentality.  Fair points but this film didn’t grab me.

I just didn’t feel that invested in the story nor the characters.  However, it is beautifully shot and as I previously said, the score adds fantastic gravitas to the moments.  The dogfight scenes are amazing.   And this is also EXACTLY what I said about Nolan’s previous film, Interstellar.  Is Dunkirk as bad as I thought Interstellar was?  No, but it’s also not much better.  I think this is the film that may get Oscar noms when virtually every other Nolan film should have been honored.  Why?  Because it deals with history and we all know that as well as social issues are cheese in the mouse trap to get nominations.  Here’s something else about Interstellar that applies here: If you have any desire to see this, make sure you see it in the theater.  Because seeing it at home won’t give you the experience and you’ll dislike it even more if you’re watching on anything less than a big screen and 4dx sound.

I give it a 5.5 out of 10

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Atomic Blonde has been garnering comparisons to John Wick.  Yes, the fight scenes were choreographed by the same guy.  But it’s definitely not 2 hours of ass kicking, gun-fu.     There’s a story line here, much more involved than a guy hunting down the Russian mafia who killed his wife and dog.  And I loved John Wick and liked John Wick 2.  But this is deeper.  

Let’s go back to November 1989, a few days before the Berlin Wall comes down.  Charlize Theron (never on anyone’s top 10 hot list but she should be) is an MI-6 operative who is sent to Berlin to find out why her fellow compatriot was gunned down by a Russian assassin while hiding a list of agent code names as well as their real names.  And the game is afoot the second she touches down in Berlin; as she uses her stiletto shoe to thwart attackers in a moving car.  James McAvoy (Professor X in the recent X-Men films as well as the schizophrenic in that AWFUL film, Split) is a man who can get his hands on anything on the black market and his especially interested in getting that list or the man who memorized that list.  

The action scenes aren’t as many as Wick but they’re really good.  There’s one scene where Theron fights off 4 attackers in a continuous shot.  The camera work is amazing, you get a “Bourne Ultimatum” feel with some of these sequences.  And as an added bonus, you also get some quick shots of Charlize Theron’s boobs when she submerges in ice baths.  There’s even a lesbian sex scene with her and a French spy.  An enthusiastic thumbs up from this reviewer.  Lastly, you’ll totally dig the 80’s soundtrack playing throughout the film as well as footage from news organizations covering the events leading up to and the destruction of the Berlin Wall.

This film was a pleasant surprise on many levels and it’s a little more than just a typical summer action blockbuster.  It didn’t make big money on opening weekend but doesn’t that mean the audiences guessed right by passing on it.  It’s quite enjoyable with a few nice twists and Theron proves that women can kick ass without it being a forced feminism agenda.  You hear me, female Ghostbusters reboot?

I give it a 7/10

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Last and certainly not last, I saw Spiderman: Homecoming a few weeks ago but was lazy and never wrote the review.  This is the best Spiderman film of all time.  Tom Holland crushes it as Peter Parker, he gives the role a lot more fun as well as that nerdy aspect to it. It also doesn’t hurt having Downey Jr in it a few times, reprising his role as Tony Stark/Iron Man who gives Parker an upgraded suit.  And let’s not forget Michael Keaton who is having a resurgence for the ages.  I liked Birdman, LOVED the Founder, and he’s fantastic as the Vulture.  This film doesn’t miss on any aspect and has a fantastic twist in the third act with one of Peter’s classmates.  I eagerly anticipate anything Spiderman in the future as Holland did a great job of erasing any memory of Andrew Garfield and also nicely scrubbed Spiderman 3 from my cerebellum.  

I give this an 8.5/10