Friday, June 21, 2019

Toy Story 4

Toy Story 4 is more than sufficiently entertaining, but it doesn't cover much ground that we haven't seen before.  What is different is the introduction of the character "Forky", which is a toy made from recycled trash.  Forky suddenly comes alive and is not very comfortable with his new existence as a toy.  He thinks that he is trash, which technically he is.  This raises uncomfortable questions about how life works in the Toy Story universe, such as why are the toys alive at all?  Strangely enough, the movie even asks that question, without giving us an answer.  Is the film trying to get us to think about something?  We could raise this line of thinking to a much higher existential level and wonder why we exist at all?

In the first film, we accepted that the toys are alive as part of the magic.  The Toy Story movie was a new technology that felt magical.  Toy Story 4 is darker, similar to the third film, so somehow the magic isn't quite the same anymore.

Part of the problem is that the story is just not as strong.  The first film gave us great character development that came out of a conflict that really seemed to matter and was resolved in a very satisfying way.  Here, not so much. The movie is mostly an action film with a touch of character development on the side.  Fortunately, the movie also knows how to touch our hearts, but again, this not that different from what we have seen before. 

It feels like the movies have run their course because they have already done everything that they can do.  Despite this, the ending leaves open some questions about what is going to happen to these characters that may require yet another movie to resolve.

Rating:  B.

Sunday, June 2, 2019


Rocketman is probably the best movie that I will see this year.  It starts with Elton John checking himself into rehab around 1990, whereupon the film shortly breaks into song.  This is surprising, but it seems appropriate, if not downright brilliant, that a biopic about a musician should be a musical.  The movie has a habit of breaking into elaborate musical numbers when you least expect it, like when Elton John tries to kill himself.  However, for a musician as flashy as Elton John, this is the perfect way to tell the story.  I just kept thinking about how brilliant this all was.

In rehab, Elton John tells everyone just how very screwed up he is, and then he recounts the story of his life telling how he got that way.  This is where the movie shines, showing his boyhood living in public housing and his troubled relationship with an uncaring father and somewhat distant mother.  The young Reginald Dwight (his real name) quickly learns that he has a talent for the piano and is showing great musical prowess by his teens.  In the 1960's he struggled to make a living as a musician, but things begin to improve when he meets and teams up with Bernie Taupin, who was his lifelong collaborator and wrote most of the lyrics to Elton John's songs.   However, in 1970 he makes an appearance at the famous West Hollywood nightclub, the Troubadour, which he was almost too nervous to do.  There Elton becomes a huge hit and his career immediately takes off.  

All this success doesn't make Elton John any less screwed up.  His drug and alcohol problems get worse until finally, his close friends are urging him to get help.

The movie doesn't shy away from Elton John's homosexuality, depicting his relationship with his lover and manager John Reid.

My one complaint is that the end of the movie shows Elton John doing a music video post-rehab.  The movie plays loose with the facts, because the music video, "I'm still standing", is actually from 1983.  The only problem here is that the music video looks fuzzy like we are watching it on a television set.  This takes us out of the moment.

The film fails to tell us very much about Elton John post-rehab.  It is like the rest of his life is encapsulated into a minute of text and pictures at the end of the movie.  This misses out on possible dramatic moments showing how much better his life was after recovery.

Prior to the fuzzy music video, I was going to give the movie an "A+", because it is that brilliant.  In addition, the film could have given us more, if not a great deal more, about Elton John's life.  It is not like his life ended when he got out of rehab.

Rating:  A

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Kathy Kennedy says STAR WARS can't be the MCU...but she's wrong

I don't like the Carie-Poppins comparisons. People complained so much that I watched the scene in Marry Poppins and they look nothing alike. I like that Leia can use the Force to save herself, showing that she has Force powers. What bothered me is the apparent lack of airlock or force field, which I'm sure was there, but the movie doesn't make that obvious.

Follow me on this: The Last Jedi has a number of scenes that take us out of the moment because those scenes were different, or overdid the humor. There are consistency problems, where the movie tries to redefine Star Wars for a new generation. There are also a handful of plot holes and a couple of scenes of bad dialog. However, between these moments, which are all brief, is a very entertaining story that I like very much. I have seen the movie four times and I really enjoy it. I also don't mind the humor, because I was laughing out loud the first time I saw the movie. On repeat viewings, the humor lacks most of the surprise effect, but these scenes go by quickly. 

I know that people didn't like the way Luke was handled, but I have a completely different take on this. I don't think that you can disrespect a fictional character. What you can do is give the audience something different than what they wanted or expected. It is not the story I would have preferred, but if they gave me exactly what I was expecting then it would risk being boring. The story of Luke as given is entertaining. I feel that this is not our story to tell; we aren't the writers. We don't get to decide what the story of Luke should be.

It is not my favorite Star Wars movie. It is close to the bottom. I actually like Solo less. Solo is not a bad movie, but there is a shortage of likable characters and the movie feels very ordinary, like a recycled western. The ending is overly convoluted and the Han Solo character is too altruistic.