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 Review: John Wick 3 Parabellum

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Everyone’s favorite unemotional, ass kicker, Keanu Reeves, is back.  Let’s face it, Keanu Reeves is like staring at your 4th cousin’s hot ass, a guilty pleasure.  And we all know he’s limited in his acting range.  But expecting more out of him is like complaining that Greyhound buses are filled with people who think cruise ships or Jimmy Buffet resorts are high end vacations.  You know what you’re getting into.  And I’m fully on board the USS Johnny Utah.  The Matrix.  Point Break.  And more recently, the John Wick series.  I didn’t see the first film until it went on video after many people saw it and said it’s not a dopey B film.  It was a new type of action film: continuous shooting with no edits during action scenes.  It also introduced us to a new term, gun-fu.  Gun-fu is defined as close quarters martial arts fights using guns instead of traditional weapons.  These films have also ushered in innovative ways of taking out bad guys, including using a pencil as a weapon.  In this latest edition, he uses a large book to take a bad guy in the library.  The only thing missing as he bashed his head in with the novel is a pithy sign off line like, “Reading is fundamental, BITCH!”  Again, this isn’t the Godfather but it sure as hell entertaining.

The film opens up moments after the 2nd film, where Winston (Ian McShane) has declared him ex-communcado.  Wick is racing against the clock before the hour he has been given by Winston is up and that’s when the contract on Wick’s life begins.  In the first 5 minutes, there is a spectacular knife fight in Chinatown.  And that’s why these films are great; they make no bones about these being high octane films with a surprising, above average plots.  Besides the hit men out for John Wick; the High Table has sent out the Adjudicator, (Asia Kate Dillon).  She is not happy with those who have provided Wick help, (the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) and Winston) when he broke the rules at the end of John Wick 2.  Which is  So Wick has to deal with assassins and the Adjudicator’s hit squad of sushi chefs who are also a vicious ninja hit squad.  Yep, imaginations must have run wild in the writer’s room.  But not as wild as Bill DeBlasio thinking he has a shot to win the Democratic presidential nomination.  HAHAHAHAHH  Sorry, I had to wipe tears of laughter from my eyes.

Wick uses his last ace in his sleeve when he visits Anjelica Huston at her school of ballerinas/assassins to get him out of the country and to Casablanca.  That’s where we meet Sofia (Halle Berry) and her 2 killer dogs.  BTW, let’s acknowledge that Halle Berry looks AMAZING at 50+ and she shows off her fighting chops quite nicely.  This film is just a treasure trove of fantastic action sequences: Wick chased on a bike by katana carrying bikers, Wick being chased while on a horse by attackers, and the final gunfight just to name a few.  And let’s not fail to mention Zero (Mark Dascascos), the leader of the aforementioned Adjudicator’s hit squad.  His fan boy crush on Wick while giving the fights of his life.  He brings a whole new class of “villain” that’s well received.  And the final battle between the two is fantastic, especially the way the scene was shot and lit.  It really makes one appreciate how filmmaking can continue to ascend; even in a wham-bam ass kicking film that’s more than a guilty pleasure.  If you like the first 2 JW films, there’s no doubt you’ll love the 3rd.  And yes, he even sneaks in a direct line from the Matrix.  This fan-boy had a big ‘ol smile on his face when that happened.

John Wick: Parabellum is an 8/10.

4 Film reviews: Logan, Get Out, John Wick 2, and the Founder

2016 was an AWFUL year for films.  I was hoping 2017 would have started out fresh and wow, has it ever.  I’ve got 4 reviews for you and it’s been too damn long and my apologies for not getting these out faster.

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First one is the final installment of Wolverine simply titled, “Logan.”  Hugh Jackman gets into ripped shit shape and straps on the adamantium for the last time.  This one takes place in the future and Wolvie is looking OLD.  He’s even having problems healing himself.  Hell, he’s even taken up being an Uber driver.  You think he looks bad?  Wait till you see Professor X, he looks like a mummy in a wheelchair.  Mutants are all but extinct.  So Logan is keeping Professor X hidden as the government put out an APB on him because Xavier’s uncontrolled mind powers have caused a few problems, including the Westchester incident.  Unfortunately, we don’t get a chance to see or hear more about it…unless they broke it down when I ran into the bathroom for 2 minutes.

Logan is approached by a Mexican woman who asks that she takes care of her daughter who turns out to be, surprise, a mutant.  Immediately, a security force wants her back and Wolverine is none too obliging.  X-23 is the mutant in question and she’s a Wolverine clone, amongst other mutants.  So of course, Xavier and Wolverine take on the challenge of getting her to safety.

The first 2 standalone Wolverine films are trash.  Xmen Origins and the Wolverine were major disappointments.  They were goofy (in a bad way, not like how Deadpool pulled it off masterfully), anti-climatic, and you left just not giving a shit what happened for 2 hours.  Logan is not disappointing for many reasons.  One: This is R-rated and you can take a good guess why.  Jackman slices and dices like OJ did Nicole Brown Simpson one fateful night in 1994.  You see limbs, heads, and dignity get sliced off with geysers of blood…as it should have been.  The other X-Men/Wolverine films were PG-13 so they were cautious about keeping the gore to a dull, singular spray of blood here and there.  Not Logan, they’re not shy about showing it all.  Secondly: this film is DARK, just as the way it should have been.  You feel for Jackman’s descent into loneliness as he attempts to patch all inward holes with drugs and alcohol.  You feel for him as he takes care of a degenerating Xavier.  You feel for him as he adopts the undesirability of protecting X-23.  One of the few knocks of this film is that I felt it did drag toward the end and could have cut out 10 minutes or so.

Third time’s the charm as they close out the Wolverine with class and sadness.

I give this a 7/10

Next up is the surprise hit of the year thus far, “Get Out.”  Jordan Peele of “Key and Peele” fame as well as infamy for “Keanu” (what a piece of cold dogshit that was) creates his directorial debut.  Get Out is the story of a interracial couple that visit the white woman’s parents’ house in upstate NY.  Chris, the lead character, has trepidation while meeting her parents (Allison Williams, the only attractive one in the show, Girls) that go over the top to prove that they’re not racist.  Katherine Keener plays Williams’s mother who is a hypnotist that can cure Chris’s penchant for smoking.  After tricking him into temporary hypnosis, he begins to notice things aren’t what they seem with the family as well as their friends.

And that’s all I’m going to tell you about this because the payoffs for this film are too great.  You can see Peele guiding the audience down a usual path in the first act but the 2nd and 3rd act are where his writing and directing skyrocket into the stratosphere.  This isn’t your typical thriller with cheap jump cuts with sound effects to scare the audience, this is much more than that.  You’ll thoroughly enjoy the ride as well as Chris’s best friend who is a TSA agent that fills his head with ideas about crazy white people.

This is easily one of the best thrillers I’ve seen and one of the smartest written films I’ve seen in a LONG time.  The hype is well deserved and this is hopefully just the beginning of a long, successful storyteller and director.

I give this a 9 out of 10

One of the surprise films of the last few years was “John Wick.”  When I saw the preview, I thought what most people did and that was, “Who gives a shit, it looks like every generic action film in the last decade.”  Well, this turned out to be a pleasant hit and a cult classic.  Keanu is back as the Russian hit man with little to say and a lot of ass whooping to do.  The film with him getting back his car that got his wife and dog killed in the first one.  Then, he’s called back out of retirement (again) when a favor is called in by your typical scumbag.  Keanu does it and of course, is double crossed and then has every hit man (and lady) hunting him down in NYC.  The only type of person NOT trying to kill him was a hipster on a unicycle.

This film seems to have coined the phrase, “Gung Fu,” which is the combination of kung fu and gun play and there is plenty of it here.  Plenty of solid action with a decent plot and they beautifully tee up John Wick 3.  If you like the first one, you’ll like the second one, maybe just a little less.

I give it 6.5 out of 10.

Last and certainly not least, is a holdover from 2016.  Michael Keaton plays Ray Kroc, one of the all time most recognized and reviled businessmen in this country.  The Founder chronicles how Kroc goes into business with the McDonald brothers, who created a workflow to get burgers to customers in less than 2 minutes, and then takes over by franchising their operation.  This film was completely shut out of the Oscars and what a joke that was.  Keaton MASTERFULLY plays the hero and the villain.  One moment, you’re rooting for Kroc to take McDonald’s to the promised land.  The next, you’re aghast he strips the McDonald’s brothers of their rights and profits.  Keaton should’ve been nominated as should have this film…and they both would have won in my book.  I only saw Arrival of the nominated films as of posting time of the article but I’ve yet to hear how Moonlight or the others could knock this off the perch.

I give this an 8.5 out of 10.