Toy Story 4 (2019)

Director: Josh Cooley Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Tony Hale, Annie Potts, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves

As Bonnie starts kindergarten, Woody tries his upmost to protect   new friend Forky, a spork toy handmade by Bonnie herself on her first day. As the gang sets off on a road trip, Woody’s task becomes harder until he finds himself lost in an unfamiliar town, racing to get back to the others before they leave him behind. On the way, he meets some new friends, new enemies, and some old familiar faces too.

While a fourth Toy Story film may not have been totally necessary or even highly desired by many fans, I cannot stress enough that this instalment is 100% worth a watch. The third film sort of ties up the over-arching storyline, but this one builds on it well and works well as a continuation of that plot. Basically, in case you were wondering about whether you should bother with this film or not: you should.

I found this one to be the funniest of all four Toy Story movies. Forky is hilarious and it’s great to see a slightly different type of toy and how they made him into a character. Buzz has the best lines, and while he’s not in the film as much as I’d like (it’s heavily weighted towards Woody), he pretty much makes every scene he’s in. Keanu Reeves also makes an appearance- well, his voice does- as new friend Duke Caboom, who also has some of the most hysterical moments. I think I laughed out loud along with the rest of the cinema probably a good dozen times.

As I mentioned, the movie is pretty heavily weighted towards Woody and the rest of the original gang aren’t in it too much. I would have liked to see more of Woody and Buzz’s friendship, which, ultimately, is kind of the whole concept of the Toy Story franchise. More of the originals- Rex, Slinky et al- would also have played to my deep-seated nostalgia. The new characters are great though, and they all come together at the end in a satisfying way. With the new faces, they all have substantial background stories which are woven in satisfactorily, so they fit in well and don’t feel like random additions to an already large set of characters. As for the plot itself, it’s a lovely adventure with moments of comedy, sadness, suspense, action as well as a couple of good jump scares (the antiques store is creeeeepy). It all flows at a good pace with pretty much no lulls, and it all wraps up well in the end with no plot holes that I can think of.

The million dollar question is: will there be a fifth Toy Story? My two cents would be that while it’s not necessary, I didn’t think this one was necessary either but I loved it nonetheless. If they do make another one I’m confident it’ll be brilliant, just like all the others. I feel like Toy Story never needs much plugging, but I would 100% recommend this as one of those films you’ll come out of just thinking “yes, that was great”.

5 stars

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The Favourite (2018)

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos Cast: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Nicholas Hoult, James Smith

Queen Anne is on the throne while her friend Lady Sarah, wife to the Prime Minister, runs the country behind the scenes. Lady Sarah’s cousin Abigail arrives from the countryside looking for work, and soon becomes a rival for Anne’s attentions.

As most Oscar films seem to be nowadays, this one ticks both boxes of weird and intense. This is not to say it’s not enjoyable though- much of the film is comedic, which helps to add to the absurdness of the situations that arise. It’s strange, but the fact that it’s funny makes it more accessible to wider audiences. Olivia Colman nails the eccentric and deluded Queen Anne, while Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz both play manipulative and conniving characters who have equal elements of heroic and despicable.

My surprise favourite character was Nicholas Hoult, who plays Harley, the Leader of the Opposition. I say surprise because I didn’t know he was even in it before I watched it, rather than surprise at his comedic ability. The first thing I saw him is was About a Boy, so we know he plays strange comedic parts well. As a side note, I also really enjoyed the history playing out in the background, with the war against the French and early 1700s Parliament.

The film is set in England in the early 1700s, so one of the things I enjoyed most about it was the costumes and sets (for which it has been nominated and Oscar). The women’s dresses are great to look at, while the men’s costumes are used to play a part in the story themselves as they are so ridiculous.

I liked this film more than I thought I would, as it’s intense and a bit psychological as the women go head to head, but the comedy throughout makes this bearable. It’s not suitable for children but I think it would reach wide audiences, so I would recommend giving it a go and seeing what you think afterwards. I don’t feel a particular desire to watch it again (at least not for several years) but I’m pleased I’ve seen it.

4 stars

The Disaster Artist (2017)

Director: James Franco Cast: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Ari Graynor, Josh Hutcherson

The true story of what happened during the creation of cult favourite movie The Room by Tommy Wiseau. Tommy and Greg meet at an acting class in San Francisco, and quickly become friends after Tommy’s positive, can-do attitude to life spurs on Greg to pursue his dream of an acting career in LA. When they move to LA and neither of their careers really takes off, Tommy writes a screenplay and casts himself and Greg in the star roles. However, Tommy’s not a regular director and the film takes some strange turns.

After I sat through The Room late last year, for on reason or another I never made it to the cinema to watch The Disaster Artist, simply through my own general incompetence. It’s been a long wait but I’ve finally watched it- and as hoped I thought it was great. I thought it would just be a good laugh, finding out what happened behind the scenes, but actually the film has a strong plot of its own and it totally changed my perception of the characters. Yes, Tommy Wiseau is a massive weirdo and kind of a dick, but I actually really admired his outlook on life. He doesn’t care what other people think; he believes that if he works for his dream he can achieve it; he pushes Greg to be his best; and he works hard on a project he’s passionate about. Yes, the result was The Room, and although it’s not what Tommy had in mind, it’s a cult favourite that tonnes of people have seen, and the film mentions at the end that thanks to its cult status and appearance at midnight screenings for fans, the film has actually finally made a profit.

James Franco is a divisive actor and to be honest really has been in some crap films, but he’s perfect in this. He plays Tommy (ironically both directing and playing the lead role, just like Wiseau IRL), and his mannerisms and accent are so accurate that it’s hard to tell it’s not actually him. There’s a final scene after the credits in which the real Tommy Wiseau meets the character played by Franco, and you can hardly tell which is which. Dave Franco as Greg is fairly standard as Greg doesn’t really have any stand-out characteristics, but I thought Josh Hutcherson as Denny was hilarious and Zac Efron’s cameo also made me laugh just because he was so weird. James Franco won a Golden Globe for this, which I think is very fitting because I feel like Tommy has had the last laugh over the Hollywood that rejected him.

While there are a fair number of in-jokes shared by those who’ve seen The Room, I don’t think you necessarily have to have seen it to enjoy The Disaster Artist. As I’ve mentioned, the behind-the-scenes is a great story in itself that I think many would appreciate.

4 stars

Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)

Director: Barry Levinson Cast: Robin Williams, Forest Whitaker, Bruno Kirby, Tung Thanh Tran, Robert Wuhl, Chintara Sukapatana

Radio DJ Adrian Cronauer is shipped into Vietnam to take over a slot on the Armed Forces Radio. He quickly starts to make his mark, however, while popular with the regular troops, it doesn’t go down well with his superiors.

Although I love Vietnam War classics like Apocalypse Now, generally speaking it’s a genre that is pretty hard-going (understandably). Good Morning, Vietnam however makes for much lighter viewing while still making its point. From the outset, I was laughing out loud: the first scene in which Robin Williams’ character appears on the radio is brilliant, and it’s joke after joke with barely pausing for breath. Robin Williams is ideal for the role, as he perfectly fits the character of weird and totally in his own world without caring what other people think. A lot of it is also pretty politically incorrect, which is certainly refreshing in this day and age. The 60s pop soundtrack is also great, and I like the way it forms part of the story as it’s used as a contrast against the boring approved radio station music.

The film is really funny and I laughed a lot, but it also has its serious parts. The plot surrounding the radio station is that the news is massively filtered and censored so that the troops don’t hear about anything bad going on- particularly with relation to the likelihood of the war dragging on, which in hindsight we know it most definitely did- and Cronauer struggles with not being allowed to tell the truth. There’s a very sad scene where he’s driving about the town and they meet a bunch of soldiers about to head out to where the war is properly taking place, and while Cronauer is entertaining them there’s a look on his face that he knows they’re probably not coming back.

The one downside, and it’s not a major downside, is the plot with Cronauer and his Vietnamese friends. I just found it unconvincing, and the climax of the storyline revolves around this (without wanting to give away any spoilers) but it’s not particularly hard-hitting simply because I was unconvinced by it. Reading that back it doesn’t make much sense, but probably will if you watch it! Overall though I did enjoy the way it portrayed the tragedy and ridiculousness of the war and a lot of parts were very moving.

This is a great film and is light enough but while still having a strong message. It’s probably not suitable for kids (a fair amount of strong language and violence) but as far as war movies go it’s not bad at all, so I think a lot of people would enjoy it.

4 stars