Toy Story 4 (2019)

Director: Josh Cooley

Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Madeleine McGraw, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Jay Hernandez, Lori Alan, Joan Cusack

Screenplay: Andrew Stanton, Stephany Folsom

100 mins. Rated G.

IMDb Top 250: #132 (as of 7/9/2019)

 

We didn’t need a Toy Story 4. That’s what I kept saying. We just didn’t need it. Toy Story 3 was a great ending to a solid trilogy and we didn’t need to muddy the waters with another installment almost destined to be terrible. We trusted Pixar not to ruin this one, and our trust in them was worth it.

It’s been two years since Andy gave his toys over to Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw, American Sniper, Ant-Man and the Wasp) and departed for college, and the toys have been on a great many adventures since then. Andy’s favorite toy Sheriff Woody (Tom Hanks, Cast Away, The Post) is struggling, though, as he has been seemingly forgotten by Bonnie when playtime occurs, but he remains vigilant in his duties to protect her, so when she becomes nervous at kindergarten orientation and makes a new toy, Forky (Tony Hale, Batman Ninja, TV’s Arrested Development), out of some trash and crafting supplies, Woody takes it upon himself to teach Forky how to be the best toy he can be. During this time, Bonnie and her family are on a vacation in the RV, and at one of the stops, Woody spots a lamp at an antique store that he believes may belong to Bo Peep (Annie Potts, Ghostbusters, TV’s Young Sheldon), a toy that one belonged to Andy’s sister, one that he cared for very deeply. Woody and Forky also come across the menacing Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks, Ginger & Rosa, TV’s Good Girls), a defective antique toy who wants Woody’s voice box for her own. Now, Woody must return Forky to Bonnie without getting caught by Gabby Gabby, and he is also forced to confront his own wants in the process.

Let’s cover the purpose of Toy Story 4, because if there was one criticism in just about any fan’s mind as they enter the theater, it’s the question of WHY? Why Toy Story 4? Well, I will say this. I think Toy Story 4 is the second-best film in the series behind the third film. That being said, I think Toy Story 4’s ending is so much better than the third film. It leaves up in a very satisfying place and works very well in questioning everything that came before. It’s a film that looks at the toys we have and asks a lot of questions.

This is very much Woody’s story, and he goes on it mostly without the help of the other toys, encountering lots of new characters in the process. While Toy Story 3 is the ending of the story in relation to Andy, Toy Story 4 takes a good hard look at Woody, a toy that has always been in service of his human, but he is confronted with the very real idea that he may not be Bonnie’s favorite toy. His character arc, especially in relation to Forky’s existential crisis of self, is very well-layered and something I’ve always wanted more out of.

The new characters are so wonderful as well. Keegan-Michael Key (Keanu, TV’s Friends from College) and Jordan Peele (Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, TV’s The Twilight Zone) appear together as Ducky and Bunny, two sentient toys made sown-together at the hands, and they are an absolute delight. Key and Peele use the classic comedic timing and chemistry that they’ve been known for to make this the funniest of the Toy Story movies. They had me in stitches, never once ruining the scene by trying to hard.

Then, there’s Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves, The Matrix, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum), a Canadian daredevil toy with a motorcycle capable of performing incredible stunts, or at least, that’s what the commercials had said. I love all the character Reeves packed into such a limited screen time. He worked tirelessly on embodying his character with the director, and it shows in the work. His is a similar character to the one that Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen, El Camino Christmas, TV’s Home Improvement) was in the first film: a toy that is coming to terms with its limits. He is broken on the inside because he was never able to meet the expectations of his commercial.

The only real flaw I had with Toy Story 4 is that I believe that Gabby Gabby is probably the worst villain of the entire franchise. It sounds like I may be in the minority on this one, but I’m going to speak my reasons and let them stand. I never found Gabby Gabby as a villain to be very menacing. Yes, she’s a little creepy and her henchmen ventriloquist dummies are certainly frightening and strange enough, but I never really saw her as villainous in the way that I saw, say, Lotso from Toy Story 3. Maybe it’s just me, but I felt like she was antagonistic but never villainous.

Toy Story 4 also feels, at times, like a big game of I Spy. The antique store, where a good portion of the film is set, is chock full of Easter Eggs and references to other Pixar films, to Toy Story films, and to other pop culturally iconic movies, most notably The Shining, which has always had a somewhat odd connection to the Toy Story franchise. Then, there’s voice cameos galore, many of which I didn’t catch until someone told me about them after the film ended. It’s just a celebration of so much magic that Disney and Pixar can craft.

Toy Story 4 is the perfect true finale to the franchise, one I hope they actually keep to, and I absolutely adored this movie. It’s the ending that feels most earned, not just throughout this installment, but through the entire series. It’s a powerful finale that will drive many to tears, this writer included. I really enjoyed it.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Jack Frost (1998)

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Director: Troy Miller

Cast: Michael Keaton, Kelly Preston, Joseph Cross, Mark Addy, Henry Rollins

Screenplay: Mark Steven Johnson, Steve Bloom, Jonathan Roberts, Jeff Cesario

101 mins. Rated PG for mild language.

 

Hey everyone, another year, another 12 Days of Christmas! I’m glad you joined me on this ride again. Let’s begin by looking back on a film that I initially didn’t care for but wanted to revisit: Jack Frost.

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No, I’m not talking about the horror film, but yes, one day I’ll show you that. This is the Michael Keaton (Birdman, Spotlight) film.

From director Troy Miller (TV’s Arrested Development, Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd) comes the story of a musician named Jack Frost (Keaton) who hasn’t been able to juggle his personal life with that of his family, including wife Gabby (Kelly Preston, Jerry Maguire, Casino Jack) and son Charlie (Joseph Cross, Lincoln, Milk). Then, one fateful snowy night, Jack is involved in an accident while driving home to set things straight with his family and dies. Yeah, you heard right, he dies. Deadzo. Then, the following year, as the Frost family struggles to cope with the anniversary of Jack’s death, something magical happens. We don’t really know what, but the important thing is that Jack Frost comes back in the form of a wise-cracking pun-filled living snowman. Jack has little time to set his affairs in order and right the wrongs of his life, so with help from his son Charlie, Jack sets out to prove he’s the “coolest” dad ever (hot damn, even I can’t believe I just wrote that).

On second viewing of Jack Frost, I was sad to find that my initial thoughts on the film hadn’t changed. I felt this strange feeling of disappointment that so much could go wrong here. I happen to think that Michael Keaton is one of the greatest and yet underappreciated actors currently working (and I love that he received such notoriety for last year’s Birdman), but I don’t think he had much to work with here. The script is so poorly written, giving way for too much fluff in a film that should be a dad trying to right his wrongs. For one thing, a ball is dropped by never letting Jack interact with his wife. Being a man back from the great beyond, I would want to see my wife, tell her I love her, and give everything I could to make her understand that I’m okay up there, but Jack doesn’t get to do that. Instead, he has a snowball fight, and a sledding scene, which could be fun, but give me something here.

I didn’t have a lot of problems performance-wise because I don’t think the fault can be placed on the performers. This script is riddled with disappointment.

And don’t tell me that the film is meant to be a heart-warming tale of a father and son, because I see what it wants to be and raise it a level by asking why the story exists. What’s the why here? Why did Jack come back? Why as a snowman? And why not let him have the chance to do something about this? This story seems like the biggest fudge-up in existence and makes whoever or whatever is responsible for Jack’s return seem like a jerk.

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In the end, I had a lot of questions hanging after finishing the film even on the second view. The visual effects were pretty good for the time and haven’t aged that poorly, but under better scribes and the work of a better director, this story could have given our actors a playground to explore, but instead, we get a botched attempt at schmaltzy sentimentality that fails to connect to viewers.

 

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 12 Days of Christmas, click here.

[12 Days of Christmas] On the Ninth Day… [Take 5] Christmas Episodes!

Hey everyone, today we are looking at 5 Christmas Episodes and whether they are worth your half-hour! Let’s begin!

Take 5 Christmas Episodes

Family Guy “A Very Special Family Guy Freakin’ Christmas”

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It is Christmastime in Quahog and Lois (Alex Borstein, TV’s MadTV, A Million Ways to Die in the West) is dedicated to getting her family the perfect Christmas. It doesn’t go over well when Peter (Seth MacFarlane, TV’s Robot Chicken, Ted) drops off the family’s gifts at the donation for in-need families, Stewie takes his roll as Baby Jesus in the Nativity scene too far, and Brian burns the turkey. Lois has to come to terms with an imperfect Christmas for the Griffin family.

I like this special. The call-outs to other stranger Christmas specials are quite interesting, as seen with Kiss Saves Santa. I also happen to think a lot like Lois here. I want the perfect Christmas for my family and it never actually happens the way I want. It is a cute little detour for the Griffins, made before the series cancellation and long before the onset raunchiness began.

Community “Comparative Religion”

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As Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown, TV’s Pound Puppies, (500) Days of Summer) tries to keep the peace and the holidays in check, Jeff Winger (Joel McHale, TV’s The Soup, A Merry Friggin’ Christmas) decides that Christmas is the right time to fight the school bully.

As far as Christmas episodes go, this one is more forgettable. A fine episode, to be sure, but not a regular yearly tradition. Wait until Season 2’s special.

Arrested Development “In God We Trust”

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It is time for the yearly Christmas “Living Classics Pageant” in which famous artworks are reenacted for the public. George Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor, TV’s Transparent, The Hangover) always plays God and Buster (Tony Hale, TV’s Veep, Stranger Than Fiction) always plays Adam in The Creation of Adam, but with George Sr. in jail, the family needs to front the money to get him out for the day, but is he just trying to escape?

This is a classic episode for fans of Arrested Development. For all others, this episode has too many intersecting plotlines from previous episodes.

Spongebob Squarepants “Christmas Who?”

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Spongebob hasn’t heard of Christmas. Until Now. Now he wants it more than even, but unfortunately Squidward has become a certifiable Grinch. What is Spongebob going to do?

I love this episode. Not only does it have a catchy song to accompany it, but it has a nice lesson about what’s important to others. Watch this one!

The Office “Christmas Party”

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When Michael Scott (Steve Carell, Crazy Stupid Love, Foxcatcher) decides to break the rules to Secret Santa, he has to fix the situation by breaking the rules again: by breaking corporate’s policy of no alcohol at the Christmas party.

Another great episode! We have all has that boss, and we have all had that Christmas party, and we have all received that gift.

Take-Aways:

The real winners here are Spongebob Squarepants and The Office, not to mention Family Guy. The other two episodes are great for fans only. What’s your favorite Christmas episode? Let me know!

Horrible Bosses (2011)

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Director: Seth Gordon

Cast: Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, Kevin Spacey, Donald Sutherland, Jamie Foxx

Screenplay: Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein

98 mins. Rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language and some drug material.

 

I usually find one great comedy every year. 2011’s Horrible Bosses was a great comedy. My review for Horrible Bosses here.

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Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman, TV’s Arrested Development, This is Where I Leave You) has been working his butt off for a promotion, but his boss Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey, TV’s House of Cards, American Beauty) seems not to notice or care. Dale Arbus (Charlie Day, TV’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Lego Movie) is trying to be the best fiancé he can be, but his boss Julia (Jennifer Aniston, TV’s Friends, Cake) wants to ruin it be forcing Dale into a sexual relationship through blackmail. Then there’s Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis, We’re the Millers, Drinking Buddies), who is all set up to take over his boss’s position when he retires. Unfortunately, Kurt’s boss Jack Pellitt (Donald Sutherland, The Italian Job, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1) dies, and his son Bobby (Colin Farrell, Total Recall, Winter’s Tale) takes over instead. Now, these three have no choice but to get the help from Mothafucka Jones (Jamie Foxx, Django Unchained, Annie) to kill their horrible bosses in this dark comedy gem.

I love this movie. Most films don’t try the black comedy anymore and even fewer actually succeed as perfectly as Horrible Bosses did. I also found the story to have plenty of twists and turns to it, enough so to keep me enthused even without the laughs, but then add in the genius of Bateman, Day, and Sudeikis as the everymen along with the strong performances of Spacey, Aniston, and Farrell as the “horrible bosses” and you have a great time at the movies. Director Seth Gordon (Identity Thief, Freakonomics) handles this crew nicely and gives each equal laughs and equal screentime to boot.

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All in all, you see a movie like Horrible Bosses for laughs, and it has plenty. It isn’t a perfect film, but it is about as close to genius comedy as one can get.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

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Director: Jonathan Liebesman

Cast: Megan Fox, Alan Ritchson, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszak, Noel Fisher, Will Arnett, Danny Woodburn, William Fichter, Johnny Knoxville, Tony Shalhoub

Screenplay: John Applebaum, Andre Nemec, Evan Daugherty

101 mins.  Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence.

 

 

The Ninja Turtles are back! Go Ninja Go Ninja Go!, and while they may not be the same Teenage Mutants that we knew from previous installments, and they may not be as good yet, fans who are willing to jump in and evolve with the franchise will find some thrills here.

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This year’s TMNT sees our fabled turtles meeting up with April O’Neil (Megan Fox, Transformers, This is 40) and her partner Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett, TV’s Bojack Horseman, The Lego Movie) to stop an evil corporate tycoon (William Fichter, The Dark Knight, Elysium) allied with the vicious Shredder from unleashing a fatal toxin the general public. Pretty normal fare, I know that, and it isn’t all winners, so let’s break it down.

Megan Fox is just terrible. She is the worst April O’Neil I have ever seen, and it isn’t particularly difficult as far as roles go. Luckily she has some solid help from the always wonderful Will Arnett as Vernon, the video guy that wants in April’s jumpsuit. Arnett is the absolute saving grace performer here, as he gives nods to his other likable roles (did anybody else see him make the parmesan mustard sandwich from Arrested Development?) and provides us with exactly what this picture sometimes lacked: levity.

My only other major character qualm is in the form of the ruthless Shredder, a very underdeveloped monstrosity who serves only as the “final boss” of this video game of a film. In the inevitable sequel, I want more Shredder. I want to know Shredder like I did in the live-action 90s predecessor.

The turtles are much more developed individuals, and I can see the similarities between this incarnation and the 2003 animated series. I like that we see some more fleshed out characters, the animosity and rivalry between Leonardo and Raphael, the often giggle-able Michelangelo, and the kooky and odd machine-freak Donatello.

The major win here is the effects. I know watching the trailer made my stomach churn as I imagined really badly animated turtles, but thankfully, some solid fixing up before the release made this an extravaganza.

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Well, this incarnation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles wasn’t perfect by any means, but I would disagree with former Turtle performer Robbie Rist, who at one time claimed that Michael Bay was sodomizing the characters (please South Park, do not dig too deeply into this). I think that these are turtles with room to grow and develop further, and to be honest, I didn’t really find them cringe-worthy (a fear I had previously held). This movie is fun. I already hear rumblings of a sequel and I hope that the creative team is willing to take time to listen to the feedback they received for this initial outing and use it to make the second installment worthy of the TMNT moniker. For now though, I had a lot of fun at the theater, and if you see this film willing to actually give it a go, I think you will be presently surprised.

 

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Did you enjoy some ninja pizza or did your enjoyment vanish quickly without trace? Let me know!

 

For my review of Jonathan Liebesman’s Darkness Falls, click here.

The Nut Job (2014)

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Director: Peter Lepeniotis

Cast: Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Gabriel Iglesias, Jeff Dunham, Liam Neeson, Katherine Heigl

Screenplay: Lorne Cameron, Peter Lepeniotis

85 mins. Rated PG for mild action and rude humor.

 

The Nut Job tells the tale of Surly, a squirrel who gets exiled from his city park home and plans a nut heist with his animal friends to earn his way back. That’s about it. This film is literally even more disappointing than the trailer revealed. As far as plot goes, I enjoyed it the first time I watched it, when it was called Over the Hedge. I struggled to not grab my phone and live-tweet the boredom throughout all 85 minutes.

Will Arnett (TV’s Arrested Development, The Lego Movie) is Surly, the squirrel (see, they rhyme).

The animation here is low-bar and kind of offensive to the eyes. The constant replaying of Psy’s Gangnam Style makes me hate music. The finale literally ruins the cheesy wonder of the song. Many of the characters are difficult to differentiate from one another.

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I feel like I can’t say any more about this bad bad movie except that there will likely be a sequel in two years…ugh.

 

1/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

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