June 18, 2019 Podcast

Welcome to this week’s podcast (which is happening on a Tuesday rather than Thursday this week).

New in Theaters

Reviews

Toy Story 4 (spoiler-free; also check out the spoiler-free written review on my blog)

Classic Cinema Corner

Listen to the podcast below or subscribe to the podcast on Apple iTunes. Have fun at the movies this week and thanks again for tuning in.

Review: “Toy Story 4”

Woody gets reunited with Bo Peep and has to make some serious decisions about how he wants to live his life in Pixar Animation Studios’ brilliant and beautiful Toy Story 4.

Forky (voiced by Tony Hale) and Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) in TOY STORY 4 (©️ Disney/Pixar)

The film’s main storyline picks up basically right where we left the toys after 2010’s Toy Story 3: Andy has gone off to college and Woody (again voiced by Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (again voiced by Tim Allen), and all of Andy’s other toys now belong to a young girl named Bonnie. Woody and the gang now all play second fiddle to Bonnie’s existing toys. In fact, Woody gets played with less and less as Bonnie is preferring other toys over him.

When Bonnie reluctantly goes to her orientation day of kindergarten, she ends up making a rudimentary toy out of a plastic “spork” and names him “Forky.” Forky (voiced by Tony Hale) instantly becomes Bonnie’s favorite toy; however, Forky isn’t quite sure that he wants to be a toy or that he wants to stay in Bonnie’s room so he keeps throwing himself in whatever garbage container he can find. Because of Bonnie’s devotion to him and because Woody needs something to do since he’s not needed as much, Woody makes it his primary job to keep Forky safe for Bonnie.

The toys are back, this time on an RV adventure with Bonnie and her family in TOY STORY 4 (©️ Disney/Pixar)

Things really start to get interesting when Bonnie and her parents rent an RV and take a road trip during the last week of summer before school starts. At one point along the highway, Forky decides to throw himself away outside a window, so Woody feels compelled to follow him with a plan to meet back up with the gang at an RV campground a few miles down the road where the family is planning to stop for the night.

The delightful and thought-provoking adventure comedy that follows focuses mostly on the character arc of our favorite toy sheriff, Woody. Through an interesting series of events, Woody gets reunited with his former love, Bo Peep (voiced again by Annie Potts), who has made a new life for herself independent of any human child (or any human for that matter). Also in Woody’s path is a defective talking doll named Gabby Gabby (voiced by Christina Hendricks) who thinks that Woody has what it takes for her to get repaired and, therefore, wanted by a human child.

While he has to continue to save Forky from himself and his surroundings, Woody also is faced with some difficult questions about what the purpose of his life is (I’ll keep this review spoiler free…). Needless to say, the conclusions are satisfying and surprising.

Gabby Gabby (voiced by Christina Hendricks) and one of her dummy henchmen meet Woody in TOY STORY 4 (©️ Disney/Pixar)

All of the living character voices have returned from the previous Toy Story films (the film has a dedication to actor Don Rickles, the voice of Mr. Potato Head, who passed away in 2017). New to the cast are the carnival plush toys Ducky and Bunny, voiced by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, and Canadian stunt motorcyclist Duke Caboom, voiced by Keanu Reeves, who steals the show.

Director Josh Cooley and team have created another outstanding animated comedy and a worthy addition to the storied Toy Story films. Probably what I loved the most about this film is its intelligent script and Pixar’s exacting commitment to story, as has been the case with the three previous Toy Story films, too. While I wasn’t sure that we needed another Toy Story after the extremely satisfying and emotional ending to Toy Story 3, this new adventure with the Toy Story gang is so entertaining and so much fun, it made me question why I questioned the Pixar folks in the first place.

Bo Peep (Annie Potts), Woody (Tom Hanks) , Buzz Lightyear (Tim Alen), Ducky (Keegan-Michael Key), and Bunny (Jordan Peele) on an adventure in TOY STOYY 4 (©️ Disney/Pixar)

Leave it to the magicians at Pixar to create not only a very interesting continuation to the storyline and ideas from the previous Toy Story films, but to also create a film with so much heart and humor and with so much gorgeous animation that it takes your breath away.

Bo Peep (Annie Potts) in TOY STORY 4 (©️ Disney/Pixar)

Toy Story 4 is rated G by the Motion Picture Association of America.

My score: 5 out of 5

Make sure to check out the all of the cool Toy Story 4 posters from Poster Posse, too.

Images ©️ Disney/Pixar

June 13, 2019 Podcast

Welcome to this week’s podcast!

New in Theaters

Classic Cinema Corner

If you haven’t seen it in a while, I’d recommend checking out Walt Disney Animation Studios’ perennial classic Cinderella (1950). The film is being added to the prestigious U.S Library of Congress National Film Registry this year. It’s also being “released” from the proverbial “Disney Vault” on digital platforms on June 18 and on Blu-ray on June 25.

On the big screen, make sure to check out the baseball and Father’s Day classic Field of Dreams (1989), which is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Part of this year’s TCM Big Screen Classics series, it will be wonderful to see this film with a beautiful digital print and in a theater with a bunch of crying dudes (myself included). The film will be screened on Sunday, June 16 and Tuesday, June 18. Check fathomevents.com/tcm for a screening near you. The film is also available on digital platforms and Blu-ray.

Listen to the podcast below or subscribe to the podcast on Apple iTunes. Have fun at the movies this week and thanks again for tuning in.

June 6, 2019 Podcast

Welcome to this week’s podcast!

New in Theaters

Classic Cinema Corner

The Essentials is back on TCM! Set your DVR on Saturday nights for some interesting films and discussion from TCM primetime host Ben Mankiewicz and producer/director Ava DuVernay. More details are available at essentials.tcm.com.

My TCM Essentials viewing project continues (link to the Jeremy Arnold book is here; link to my original blog post is here). Make sure to check out Preston Sturges’ unique and delightful screwball comedy The Lady Eve (Paramount, 1941). I rented it on iTunes/Apple TV.

Listen to the podcast below or subscribe to the podcast on Apple iTunes. Have fun at the movies this week and thanks again for tuning in.

May 30, 2019 Podcast

Welcome to this week’s podcast!

New in Theaters

Reviews

Disney’s remake of Aladdin (2019)

Classic Cinema Corner

Little Shop of Horrors – The Director’s Cut (1986)

Listen to the podcast below or subscribe to the podcast on Apple iTunes. Have fun at the movies this week and thanks again for tuning in.

Review: “Aladdin” (2019)

The Walt Disney Studios’ latest remake is a live-action/photorealstic CGI retelling of their 1992 animated hit musical Aladdin.

Thankfully, the storyline and the music in this remake remain mostly the same as the beloved 1992 original. Aladdin, played by Mena Massoud, is still a “diamond in the rough”—an orphaned “street rat” who is much more of a man than his appearance and situation shows. Upon the fateful meeting in the town’s marketplace with the kingdom’s princess, Jasmine, played by Naomi Scott, who has disguised herself to get a break from her trapped life in the gilt cage of the palace, the two form an instant connection. However, the laws of the kingdom of Agrabah where they live require the princess to marry a prince, and Jasmine has many princely suitors who are vying for her hand.

Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) and Aladdin (Mena Massoud) meet in the Agrabah marketplace in Disney’s ALADDIN (2019).

Enter the Genie, who in this version is played by a CGI-concoction of the actor and rapper Will Smith. After Aladdin gets trapped in the Cave of Wonders (again, very similar to the 1992 original), he becomes the master of the lamp and Genie grants him three wishes. So, of course, Aladdin wishes to be made a prince in order to have a chance with the Princess Jasmine. However, the sultan’s duplicitous vizier Jafar, played by Marwan Kenzari, has other things in mind for this new prince who appears to have won over the Princess’ heart.

Will Smith in full CGI-mode as the Genie in Disney’s ALADDIN (2019).

The new script for the film, co-written by John August and the film’s director Guy Ritchie, makes a few modifications and most of them work. The animal sidekicks remain—Abu the monkey, Rajah the tiger, and Iago the parrot—but instead are photorealistic CGI creations. Iago undergoes the most drastic character change of being truly just a parrot rather than the wise-cracking comic relief from the original, and the results are mixed. A more defined emphasis on Jasmine’s abilities and independent attitude is underlined with some added dialogue as well as a new song for the film written by Alan Menken and collaborators Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (composers of the music for the Broadway hit musical Dear Evan Hansen and the musical film The Greatest Showman).

Will Smith stepped into absolutely impossible shoes trying to reprise actor Robin Williams’ and animator Eric Goldberg’s performances as the Genie. Smith tries very hard to make the role his own and I felt like he succeeded part of the time. I think the CGI artists are partly to blame here, since trying to make the Genie be as manic and shapeshifting as in the 1992 film (not to mention all of the blue skin and altered head and body features, too) works better in a 2D/traditional animation aesthetic than in a style rooted in realism that is used in all of these “live-action” remakes.

L-R: Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), Jasmine (Naomi Scott), and Sultan (Navid Negahban) argue over Jasmine’s future in Disney’s ALADDIN (2019).

Director Guy Ritchie adds his usual stylistic flair, but I was surprised that his usual camera and editing tricks were somewhat understated for this film. The production values are high, as is the case in all of these Disney remakes, with beautiful cinematography, sets, and costumes. Probably the most appealing thing about this film, other than being able to hear Alan Menken’s wonderful music again, is the overall chemistry with the actors. The casting choices were solid (the CGI performance of Will Smith’s Genie notwithstanding) and the actors were all appealing in their attractiveness and abilities. Particularly, Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott as Aladdin and Jasmine have the sort of on-screen spark and rapport that makes going to the movies so fun.

Overall, Aladdin is an entertaining retelling of a story that didn’t need to be retold. If you don’t plan to make it to the theater to see this one, the 1992 animated feature you’ve already got in your home movie library is really the only version you need.

Aladdin is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for “some action/peril.”

My score: 3 out of 5 stars

As an added bonus, here’s the IMAX poster.

©️ Disney and IMAX

All images ©️ Disney