Tag Archives: Pixar

Toy Story 4 – Review

When Toy Story 4 was announced, there were a fair few grumbles from folk who had grown up with the series (myself included.) Toy Story 3 was the perfect finale – saying goodbye to our old friends with all the tears in the whole wide world fall down our cheeks. With a nod of his hat and a big ole; “So long partner,” we’d put our toys to bed so to speak. Chapter closed, franchised finished, and toys treasured.

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The resurrection of the franchise a seven or so years later seemed unnecessary. In spite of this, Toy Story 4 came out of the holster packing a huge, big question that has loomed over the franchise: What makes a toy – a toy?

This all rested on the pipe-cleaner shoulders of an animated spork named Forky. Set not long after the events of 3, this latest entry sees Woody newly abandoned in the wardrobe, no longer picked by Bonnie to play.  Determined to show that he is still a toy that matters, Woody sneaks into a Kindergarten Orientation day where Bonnie builds a new friend – the aforementioned Forky. However, Forky is meant to be trash so he is constantly trying to run away from the girl. Woody tries to save the day but an old familiar face could change his perspective on his purpose as a toy…

With Toy Story 4, Pixar have yet again shown how exquisite their animation is. Progressing over these past few decades, the studio have perfected every single detail. From the rendering on the hair to the glassy-eyed reflections in dolls, the scenes and the toys are impeccable drawn. It’s a wonder of colour and adventure.

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However, this latest instalment is a disappointment. The whole story and script feels borrowed from the other entries. Since Toy Story 2, the plot has gone like so: Woody finds himself in a place he’s never been before, a friendly/familiar face convinces him that this life is better than being with his child, and a character who starts of pretty amicable turns into a villain. Woody has a revelation and the fate of the toys are at his whim. There’s new hilarious characters voiced by actors who were huge in the eighties and nineties, there is a threat of death (or whatever death toys can have in a movie such as this,) and, badabing badaboom, you have  Toy Story film. The entire fourth movie feels so exhausting and there isn’t the same connection as the previous entries.

The introduction of Forky is exciting. Voiced by Arrested Development’s Tony Hale, Forky is definitely a personification of a whole world of adults who believe themselves as “trash.”  Not only that, but his existential crisis was a big draw and offered so many questions: Why are the toys sentient and what does it mean to be alive? These questions are brushed over in the first third, creating a muddled second and third one where the different points of views are confused together. It’s frustrating because there are strong ones too; Woody’s own conflict verses Forky’s huge debate added with an old friend in new circumstances. On their own, they make for riveting stuff but they never quite gel with one another.

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Sure, Toy Story 4 tugged at the heart strings and you’ll be hard pushed to find folk with a dry eye at the finale. There’s also new voice-work from Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Keanu Reeves, and Christine Hendricks (whose quasi-villain is creepy enough to be threatening, especially with her helper ventriloquist dolls.) The film has some great comedy in it too such and it’s worth sticking around to the end of the credits for the best payoff in the whole series.

But Toy Story 4 isn’t as impressive as the other outings. It’s like going on an incredible holiday with your best friends. It is such a good time that you want to replicate that magic the next year, and the next, and the next. At some point, it is going to get weary and you are going to become a little bit more jaded about your favourite holiday.

There is great, crowd-pleasing stuff here. Unfortunately, the rest is just fluff.


Toy Story 4 is out in cinemas now. 

Incredibles 2 – Review

Pixar has had a pretty shaky history of sequels. Their results have wavered. On the bad side are movies such as Monsters University and Cars 2 which have been mediocre productions. On the great, fantastic side we have the Toy Story Trilogy. Pixar always seem better at creating standalone features and any progress seemed to fail with average results.

So when they announced a follow-up to the super-hero animation Incredible , there was trepidation alongside the jubilation; will it ever live up to the original?

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Despite being 14 years since the first outing, Incredibles 2 picks up where we left off. After a school outing, a supervillain named The Underminer threatens to take over the city. The family of superheroes spring into action to stop him but their heroics come at a price; powered people are still outlawed and the government are already persecuting The Parrs. However, they are approached by a billionaire marketing manager who wants to bring supers back into the limelight, starting with sending Elastigirl on daring missions. Leaving Bob (or Mr Incredibles) to look after the family, the new dynamics put strain on the family. And what’s more, having superheroes back at the forefront could bring along more dangers…Can The Incredibles save the day once more.

With many people practically begging for a sequel to this powered animation from Pixar, there has been so much hype around the movie. Sadly, the movie doesn’t quite reach the stellar heights of the first film and there are plot redundancies and repetitive story-telling.

Incredibles 2 contains some great animated sequences here, particularly with the introduction of new superheroes such as Voyd or He-Lectrix showcasing some brand new astonishing talents. The action is terrific work, making you entirely excited throughout them. There’s also the funnier and more tender sequences with Bob looking after the family. Though he struggles to get used to his new place as a “homemaker,” it’s sweet to see him really try so Helen can succeed. There’s also funnier moments with Jack-Jack as he discovers his multitude of powers, offering some hilarious battles of will (particularly with a rogue raccoon.)

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It’s the story that is really lacking here. The overly familiar plot doesn’t string the above great components well enough together. There are times where the humour or interactions fall flat and you can find your mind-wondering more often than you’d like. It’s not that Incredibles 2 isn’t good, it just isn’t great or phenomenal and marks yet another somewhat lapse in Pixar’s sequel history.

Of course the voice-acting those pretty well, though Samuel L. Jackson is definitely underused here. Also, inconsequential sidebar, his infamous wife? Her one and only line is in the trailer and it’s a shame they didn’t truly monopolise on her cult fame just a little bit more.

With these disappointments in mind, Incredibles 2 does well enough to be an entertaining romp that will take your mind off falling about politics and losing some sporting games. Fun for all the family, Incredibles 2 is a good weekend summer treat.


Incredibles 2 is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now!
To celebrate, check out this deleted scene!

 

Half the Picture – Sundance London Review

For the last three years, I have taken Women in Media’s 52 films challenge, watching (at least) fifty-two films directed or co-directed by women per year. Although not the point, I made the challenge harder for myself by focusing on new releases only, watched where possible in a screening room with other people. If I just focused on what was released in UK cinemas only, where, for example, some 821 films were released in 2016, I would not complete the challenge. Indeed, it is only possible to complete it by going to film festivals or attending one-off screenings – the quest has so far taken me to Berlin, Prague, Stockholm, Leiden, Haugesund and Toronto.

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I look forward to the year when there is gender parity behind the camera, when the challenge is no longer necessary. As Amy Adrion’s documentary, Half the Picture demonstrates, we are a long way off, as evidenced by the institutional poor support given to women directors in Hollywood. Adrion interviewed a wide range of working – in some cases non-working – directors to give a flavour of what the issues are. The results are alarming.

It is impossible not to be angered by Pixar’s treatment of Brenda Chapman, who was fired from the 2012 box-office hit, Brave only to see the story suggestions that the studio initially questioned being restored to the film. Picking up the Oscar for Best Animated Film, she was told not to leave remarks to her replacement, Mark Andrews, but paid tribute to her daughter nevertheless. As a foot note, Chapman has been announced as the director of the live action fantasy drama, Come Away, which top-lines Angelina Jolie and David Oyelowo.

Then there was the treatment by Lorne Michaels of Penelope Spheeris, who was not allowed to make films on Saturday Night Live, was eventually given the gig of helming the box-office hit, Wayne’s World but was passed over for the sequel – the latter was a flop, she rasps, unable to suppress her relish. Although Spheeris got other studio assignments – The Beverly Hillbillies, The Little Rascals and Black Sheep starring the late Chris Farley – she got fed up with the interference and the ‘bullshit’. Now, like Barbra Streisand (not interviewed here) she has given up filmmaking altogether and instead designs houses. As a second foot note, one of Spheeris’ later films, The Kid & I about a teenager with cerebral palsy (Eric Gores) who loves action films and wants to appear in one, sounds generally interesting. Tom Arnold wrote and appears in the film and Spheeris plays herself as the director of the film-within-a-film.

Adrion’s interviewees include Rosanna Arquette, Patricia Riggen, Patricia Cardoso, Catherine Hardwicke, Lena Dunham, Miranda July, Ava DuVernay, Sam Taylor-Johnson, Jill Soloway, Karyn Kusama, Gina Prince-Blythewood as well as the prolific British Oscar nominated documentarian Lucy Walker who was accused of not directing her films. (‘Would they say that to a man?’) Kimberley Peirce describes how, when she proposed the film, Stop-Loss, she was asked whether she could handle action sequences with four cameras and ‘what qualified her to make the film?’  Significantly, neither Kathryn Bigalow, the only female recipient of the Best Director Oscar (for The Hurt Locker) nor Wonder Woman’s director Patty Jenkins was interviewed.

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The documentary builds to a lawsuit brought in 2015 by director Maria Giese (When Saturday Comes) against Hollywood through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, assisted by the American Civil Liberties Union. Giese’s – and many others – argument is that Hollywood studios use mentoring programmes as a smokescreen for not offering women the opportunity to be included in short lists for big budget projects. It took women within the industry like Ava DuVernay and Jill Soloway to change the way women were hired. While the show reels submitted by women cinematographers looked less impressive than those offered by their male counterparts, this was because they had less to work with – one light and a bounce board. It is only through positive discrimination – hiring in spite of the lack of credits – that some producers challenge prejudice.

One of the best interviewees is Miranda July, who put her own directing career on hold to look after her child while her husband Mike Mills went off to direct 20th Century Women. July describes how she set up in 1995 the ‘Big Miss Moviola’ compilation tape, inviting women filmmakers to submit one short and $5 (together with a personal statement); in return they would receive a videotape with that short and nine others; threatened with a legal suit, she changed the name of the scheme to ‘Joanie 4 Jackie’. Submissions included Dulcie Clarkson’s ‘How the Miracle of Masturbation Saved Me from Becoming a Teenage Space Alien’; most of films were from women in college or college graduates. July handed the scheme to others in 2003 as she prepared her debut feature, Me and You and Everyone We Know and saw the scheme made redundant in 2009 with the advent of YouTube. July also describes how her second feature, The Future, featured European actors in supporting roles to justify the financial support from Germany.

Adrion ends her film on an optimistic note, but the reality is that the lawsuit is making slow progress and 2018 has seen fewer studio films directed by women than ever. I counted four: A Wrinkle in Time (Disney), Blockers (Universal), The Spy Who Dumped Me (Lionsgate) and The Darkest Minds (20th Century Fox). Whilst Sony has acquired Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale, a period revenge drama starring Sam Claflin and Amma Asante’s Where Hands Touch, starring George McKay as a son of a high-ranking SS officer who has a relationship with a biracial girl, Leyna (Amandla Stenberg), neither film has a release date. Television and streaming services offer the best employment opportunities for women directors until a director like Patty Jenkins can prove once again, that women directors can deliver big box office.

Finding Dory – Brand New Clip!

Pixar definitely is one of the best cinematic studios who have given us so much because they adore telling stories. This year is no different, with the incredible Inside Out hitting us right in the feels and the roaring spectacle of The Good Dinosaur stomping back into our worlds. Although, there has been fair few sequels recently, their originality is back and making us all feel gooey inside. However, there is one movie sequel we can’t completely wait for and that’s….erm….oh…we forget….

FINDING DORY!

That’s it.

Anyway, the film is set six months after the first movie where Dory suddenly remembers all about her childhood and sets off to find her estranged family with the help of Marlin and Nemo. On the way, she meets creatures Baily, a white beluga whale, Destiny, a whale shark, and Hank the octopus, who all become her guide…

With the tagline “She just kept swimming” (which we can’t help hear in Samuel Jackson’s voice) and the return of Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, and the introduction of Ty Burrell (everyone’s favourite Dad actor), our blue little forgetful pal is here to happily tantalise and excite us, Finding Dory could be this years best film to take us into the depths of comedy and make many waves.

Also – this clips is all about baby Dory.

BABY DORY!


FINDING DORY IS OUT 27th JULY