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

[#2018oscardeathrace] The Post (2017)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, Matthew Rhys

Screenplay: Liz Hannah, Josh Singer

116 mins. Rated PG-13 for language and brief war violence.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Motion Picture of the Year [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role [Meryl Streep] [Pending]

 

Only Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan, The BFG) could accomplish The Post in the time that he did. The film went through Production, Post-Production, and Release just in the Post-Production of his Ready Player One, the other film he was working on. Not only that, but to have that film go on to be nominated for Best Picture is exemplary.

The Post is the story of Kay Graham (Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady, Florence Foster Jenkins), the owner and publisher of The Washington Post, and Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump, Toy Story 3), the editor-in-chief as they come to a decision on how to proceed with the publishing of sensitive materials pertaining to a cover-up spanning four U.S. Presidents. As the weight of the decision falls on Kay, she is met with arguments on both sides and mounting tensions that could send multiple colleagues to prison for treason or ruin The Post’s reputation permanently.

For the most part, The Post is exactly what it needs to be, and it works very well. I really like the usage of Nixon’s actual audio in his portrayal. I loved how it leads right up to the opening of All the President’s Men, which almost makes The Post an unofficial prequel.

But the best part of The Post is its performances. Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks are amazing, but its supporting players are equally strong. I would have loved to see Bob Odenkirk (Girlfriend’s Day, TV’s Better Call Saul) nab an Oscar nomination for his work as Ben Bagdikian. The same should be said of Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek, Batman: Gotham by Gaslight) as Robert McNamara.

The script is mostly strong and Spielberg has restrained and calm direction to give the floor to his performers which works. One sequence that doesn’t work is the opening. The film begins in Vietnam with an action sequence that feels very out of place. Perhaps it would work better somewhere else in the film as a flashback because it feels unneeded and very disconnected from the rest of the film.

Overall, The Post is a fine film and very important to the political landscape we are currently in. Is it a Best Picture? I’m not so sure. That being said, Spielberg’s film is very worthy of a lot of its credit. This is a need-to-see film.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, click here.

For my review of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, click here.

For my review of Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[#2018oscardeathrace] Lady Bird (2017)

Director: Greta Gerwig

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothee Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Stephen Henderson, Lois Smith

Screenplay: Greta Gerwig

94 mins. Rated R for language, sexual content, brief graphic nudity and teen partying.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Picture [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Director [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Actress [Saoirse Ronan] [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Supporting Actress [Laurie Metcalf] [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Original Screenplay [Pending]

 

I’ll be real here. I had no idea what Lady Bird was about. In fact, a small part of me thought it was a biopic about a certain famous First Lady. I had seen none of the promotional material, had heard nothing but the fact that it was a great movie. I’ve seen it twice now, and my opinion hasn’t changed.

Lady Bird McPherson (Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn, Loving Vincent) is a rebellious youth experiencing her senior year in Catholic high school in 2002 Sacramento, California. The loose narrative follows Lady Bird’s senior year while exploring her strained relationship with mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf, Scream 2, Toy Story 3), father Larry (Tracy Letts, The Big Short, The Post), and best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising). Lady Bird is a little lost in her life. Her attempts at romantic relationships aren’t turning out how she plans, she is receiving a lot of rejection letters from colleges, and the lies she is spinning to make new friends are about to unravel at the seams in this coming-of-age tale.

Lady Bird is an absolute delight. It’s not too often that I sit in the theater with a big damn joyful grin spread across my face for 90 minutes, but that’s what Lady Bird did to me. I found it to be one of the sweetest and emotionally-strong experiences I’ve had at the movies in a long time, and it’s filled with terrific performances. I loved Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) and Timothee Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name, Hostiles) as Danny and Kyle, two of the potential love interests in Lady Bird’s life.

Greta Gerwig (Nights and Weekends) wrote and directed this deeply personal tale of youth so well that I found pieces of my own experience all over the film. I saw pieces of my fiancé’s life in the film. I saw pieces of my friends’ life in the film. Gerwig doesn’t judge Lady Bird or condemn her for her bad experiences. In fact, she celebrates them. It’s a celebration of bad choices and learning, one that mothers and daughters should experience together.

Lady Bird is a perfect film. There isn’t a single thing I would change about it. I wanted to watch it immediately after finishing the film, and even now, I could sit through it again. This coming from writer/director Gerwig on her first solo outing behind the camera is excellent, and it makes her a force to be reckoned with as her career continues.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 20 – Monsters University (2013)

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Director: Dan Scanlon

Cast: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Helen Mirren

Screenplay: Daniel Gerson, Robert L. Baird, Dan Scanlon

104 mins. Rated G.

 

Pixar sequels scare me. I wasn’t a big fan of Toy Story 2. I hated Cars 2. Toy Story 3 was great, but it felt like the exception that proved the rule. When Pixar announced that my favorite property Monsters, Inc. was getting a prequel, I was both shocked and intrigued by the concept. When I discovered that we would be seeing the story of Mike and Sully meeting in college, I was still very confused. Then, I saw it…

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In Monsters University, we get another look into the unique universe that Pixar created where monsters exist and get energy from the screams of children, where a young monster named Mike Wazowski (TV’s The Comedians, When Harry Met Sally…) experiences disapproval by his peers in his attempts to become a professional scarer. But he finds a new rival in fellow student Sully (John Goodman, TV’s Roseanne, The Gambler). When both students are kicked out of the scaring program, they decide to join Oozma Kappa, a failing fraternity, in an effort to win the Annual Scare Games and earn their way back into the scaring program, proving to their judgmental Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren, The Queen, Woman in Gold) that they have what it takes.

Pixar has great timing. Releasing Monsters University at a time when fans of the original film are entering the college portion of their lives is perfection, much in the same way they did with Toy Story 3 a few years previously. Great working of their audience.

The voicework here is phenomenal, getting great work from the veterans as well as new additions Helen Mirren and Nathan Fillion. Charlie Day absolutely steals his scenes.

"MONSTERS UNIVERSITY" (Pictured) SULLEY amongst other MU monsters. ©2013 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Monsters University is a perfect prequel, rarely feeling the need to fall back on referencing the original. For the most part, it blazes a new trail and knows it doesn’t have to embrace a cliché finale.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

For my review of Pete Docter’s Monsters, Inc., click here.

[Oscar Madness] How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

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Director: Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders

Cast: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig

Screenplay: William Davies, Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders

98 mins. Rated PG for sequences of intense action and some scary images, and brief mild language.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score

 

How to Train Your Dragon was doomed in the Oscar race by the basic fact that it was nominated next to Toy Story 3. Damn comparative Oscars!

How to Train Your Dragon movie image

How to Train Your Dragon is the story of Hiccup (Jay Baruchel, TV’s Man Seeking Woman, Million Dollar Baby), a Viking who cannot live up to the image his father Stoick (Gerard Butler, 300, Olympus Has Fallen) has built up. He can’t win over the love of Astrid (America Ferrera, TV’s Ugly Betty, Cesar Chavez). He has no friends, until a rare shot during a dragon raid on his home island of Berk causes him to meet a Night Fury dragon he calls Toothless. The bond they create begins to change the way Hiccup sees dragons and their motives for attacking.

The voice work here is nice, but not great. The big flaw of the voices is that we have Vikings that don’t sound like Vikings. The performers are comedic nonetheless.

The story, although vastly different from the one in Cressida Cowell’s book of the same name, but the changes all seek to create a more compelling story, and they do.

The animation is gorgeous and the characters well-designed. Sometimes, in movies with monsters or aliens, the characters and species don’t feel different, but in How to Train Your Dragon, they are dynamically different. Toothless’ design, based on cats, dogs, and horses, is quirky and cute.

Lastly, the music is everything I wanted it to be. It engaged me and kept me involved throughout and it’s the kind you keep humming after you leave the theater.

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How to Train Your Dragon isn’t the strongest Dreamworks Animation film and it definitely wasn’t stealing the Best Animated Feature Oscar from Toy Story 3, but it is still a pretty strong piece of animation that compels audiences of all ages and is well worth a viewing.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[12 Days of Christmas] On the Fourth Day… The Santa Clause (1994)

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Director: John Pasquin

Cast: Tim Allen, Judge Reinhold, Eric Lloyd, Wendy Crewson, David Krumholtz, Peter Boyle

Screenplay: Leo Benvenuti, Steve Rudnick

97 mins. Rated PG for a few crude moments.

 

Killing Santa is kind of morbid. Very few can get through an event like that and still be likable. Scott Calvin (Tim Allen, TV’s Home Improvement, Toy Story 3) tries his best to overcome that nasty hurdle. That is, until he discovers The Santa Clause, a decree that if Santa is killed, one must take up the red coat and beard and continue the job. While this news excites Scott’s son Charlie (Eric Lloyd, Batman & Robin, Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2), it certainly frightens Scott as well as his ex-wife Laura (Wendy Crewson, Air Force One, Antiviral) and her new husband Neil (Judge Reinhold, Beverly Hills Cop, Dr. Dolittle: Million Dollar Mutts), who both believe that Scott is losing his grip on reality in order to make his son believe in Santa. As Scott continues his transformation into St. Nick in time for the next Christmas Eve, he must come to grips with this new reality and try to salvage his life as Scott Calvin with his life as Kris Kringle.

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The Santa Clause is very much a nice piece of cheese. I end up watching it every year around this time because it’s just a lot of fun. Tim Allen has a lot of fun with this role, keeping it all light-hearted even though the film itself could come off rather morbid. The supporting characters in Crewson and Reinhold ride the line of asshole vs. caring human nicely. Eric Lloyd doesn’t provide much, but his career proves that enough.

The screenplay is rather fun, though the film has definitely aged. It looks aged, but it still is a treat to watch. This Disney film is quite imaginative while also being slightly more grounded than it needed to be. Most of all, The Santa Clause is a movie about responsibility. It’s about taking up your baggage and understanding that the person you need to be may not be the person you wanted to be.

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Worth a couple laughs indeed.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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