A SPOILER Filled Review of Toy Story 4

I’m serious. I decided to shove spoilers all over this review post, so if you haven’t seen it yet and want to not know things, then you better click to another blog post like maybe this post about my new book or this post about Bernie Sanders or this random post about books I like

I warned you.

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What I Really Liked

There are three things I loved about this movie. The first is the humor. Toy Story 4 is not the best in the franchise (that would be Toy Story 2) but TS4 might well be the funniest. I laughed out loud, which is rare for me, several times during the movie. The sight gags are amazing. Another thing I loved was the visual look of Forky. He has a certain Claymation appearance that tickled my nostalgia bone. The last thing I really loved was Bonnie’s poor dad. I felt for him, because his troubles, though exaggerated for effect, are all too real.

What I Liked

I liked they brought Bo Peep back.

I liked the idea of a road trip.

I liked the mannequins. I really loved the mannequins in the antique shop. Seriously, Toy Story 4 at times is a horror movie. I liked that.

I liked that at the end Woody, for the first time in his existence perhaps, was able to be himself and not be responsible for anyone else. He is the leader who steps down to be with his family. The pastor who retires. The parent when the kids all finally grow up and leave home. He can relax with the little shepherd girl who has his heart.

I liked the emotions the film evoked. These are real emotions of love, purpose, abandonment, friendship, and loyalty. Take tissues with you.

What I Didn’t Like

I didn’t like the over-arching plot. It was paper thin, predictable, and to be honest boring. The plot held zero tension for me.

Though it was good to see Bo Peep, I didn’t like that they turned her into Rey from Star Wars. Seriously. She is a scavenger with a staff who is a great fighter and clever schemer. Mind you, I’m not upset that she is a strong woman–I like that part. What I don’t like is how much she reminded me of Rey. I think Bo Peep could have been more interesting as Ridley from Aliens 2 or perhaps Sarah Connor. Or Captain Janeway.

I didn’t like there was no short film in front of this movie. It made the running time of the movie seem brief.

What I Really Didn’t Like

There are two things I very much did not like about this movie. Keep in mind, it doesn’t mean I hate the movie, I just hate these two aspects of it.

The first thing I hated was the goodbye at the end. Buzz Lightyear and Woody are life-long friends. The movies occur in real time with us, which means they’ve been friends since 1995. For almost twenty-five years they’ve known each other. Their goodbye was terribly anticlimactic and far too brief. Yes, it was the emotional moment in the movie and many people will weep as they pull out a tissue, but let’s be honest that is because we the audience are providing the emotion here. The film cuts it short. This should have been even more of a gut punch. I can even see a montage of their greatest moments running. How awesome would something like that have been. Put that together with the way in which all the other toys — toys we are led to assume Woody has led and nurtured from the beginning because Woody was Andy’s original toy and they barely even say by-by. This bothered me.

The second, and from a story-tellers perspective the most bothersome, was the minimizing of the other characters. Buzz Lightyear not only has almost no presence in the film, he actually somehow becomes dumber. Buzz in TS 2 and TS 3 was bright, alert, and very aware of his place in the universe. This Buzz seems to not know what the young Buzz knew.

But Jessie? Poor Jessie. I think she has a total of two lines in the whole movie. All of the other characters are likewise moved aside.

The moviemakers dedicate this film solely to Woody. Even Bo Peep exist only as the fulfillment of Woody’s transition. Gabby Gabby and Forky make meaningful transitions, but both of these are viewed as Woody’s accomplishment, not their own discovery.

Overall

Overall, this is a great movie. My ranking of the franchise is 2, 3, 1, and 4. However, the nihilistic Forky is worth the price of admission and the mannequins are worth the popcorn and soda. You will love the movie. However, it could have been better. I think it could have been a lot better. It is safe for your whole crew, although Forky’s fatalism might cause some discussions later when you’re eating supper at Pizza Planet.

 

STAR TREK BEYOND–REVIEW

beyondLast night my wife and I went out and watched the new Star Trek film with some great friends that go way back to college. I was fairly nerding out, because I wore my LLAP–Live Long and Prosper–shirt.

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I’m the one in the cool shirt #LLAP

 

Only mild spoilers follow–but nothing significant.

First Take

On first take, the movie was fun. If you like Star Trek, you’ll at least like this movie. It wasn’t the greatest, it wasn’t the smartest, it wasn’t the best plot, but it was Star Trek. In fact, it was super Star Trekky. My friend and I had the same observation leaving. We both felt like it was an episode of TOS (The Original Series) on steroids. In fact, no Star Trek fan would have been surprised by any of the material in the movie, but would have loved every bit of it as familiar, like a comfortable pair of jeans, or an old friend.

The acting, as always, was great. I am really digging the ensemble cast. Anton Yelchin will be greatly missed in the future. Karl Urban has nailed Dr. McCoy. I am certain DeForest Kelley is smiling, as is Leonard Nimoy.

Idris Elba’s talent, though, was mostly wasted. As is typical in Trek films, the bad guy is usually just too much of a cliche to be much of a real character. The only exception, of course, is Ricardo Montalban. And the Borg Queen.

The only technical thing that bothered me was the blurriness of the Justin Lin action sequences. At times it was difficult to discern exactly what was going on.

Second Take

I turn to my 16 year old sprout for analysis. She and the older sprout saw the film in a different theater from us. The first thing she said to me was, “It reminded me of Insurrection.”

She’s right. The crew on a planet. Something about stopping aging, and a doomsday weapon.  Yeah, that’s Insurrection alright.

I also spotted a lot of Star Trek: Enterprise in there, too. Enterprise was the worst of all the TV shows, but in the Kelvin Timeline (which started with the JJ Abrams reboot) the only television show still active is the Scott Bakula led Enterprise. There were so many references to that failed endeavor–the ship, the Xindi, MACO, and the jumpsuits–all come flooding back. Scotty even shouts at one point something about, “Polarizing the hull plating.”  Really?

Really?

The sad thing is, as much as I disliked Enterprise, there was great satisfaction in seeing all of that. It was the first of the reboots that really deals faithfully with the universe we Star Trek fans love so much. Now all I’m waiting for is a movie that features Voyager references or a very angry Benjamin Sisko.

Third Take

I tried to stay away from reviews, because I don’t like spoilers. The thing I heard the most was about the Sulu character’s sexuality.  Spoiler–he is gay. I didn’t think this was a big deal, and it wasn’t really a big deal in the movie. It reflects what we might expect in the Roddenberry view of the future. Anyone upset about a gay Sulu or troubled by that needs to remember all the aliens Kirk and Riker bedded. Does anyone remember the opening sequences of Star Trek Into Darkness where Kirk is in bed with two aliens that have feline tails? If differing sexuality troubles you, I suggest you steer clear of Star Trek. In contrast, there was almost no actual sex or romance in this film–in contrast to so many of the others.

The reference to Beastie Boys as ‘classical music’ was hilarious and typical Star Trek, which is always trying to shove contemporary elements, like Nazis, the US space program, or Roswell into the plot. Besides, one of the coolest Sci-Fi things ever was the use of “All Along The Watchtower” in the Battlestar Galactica series.

I hated the motorbike, though. Hated. It. Completely.

Final Take

If you like Star Trek, I think you’ll love it. There are tons of Easter eggs for you. If you like Sci-Fi in general, you’ll like it. If you like space movies, you’ll like it. If you’re looking for something like Wrath of Khan or The Voyage Home, you’ll be disappointed.