Monday, June 24, 2019

[Review] Toy Story 4

I always thought that Toy Story 3 was a fitting conclusion to Pixar’s most beloved film franchise, so when I heard there would be a fourth one I was a bit worried that it would be stretching the series into the unwanted section. But brush off the dust bunnies and put in your battery pack because Toy Story 4 is a fun box of giggles and heart, and I’m glad it’s been passed down to us.

When we catch up with Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and company, they’re living their best toy life with their newfound owner, Bonnie. But Woody finds himself in a diminishing role, and his future is put into question when he ends up in an antique store during a road trip before Bonnie’s first day of kindergarten. 

Toy Story 4 packs in the usual comedy and clever gags, but it runs on poignant emotion and genuine sentimentality. It’s the type of sentimentally that tugs at your heartstrings and winds up your memories, making you reflect on your own childhood and the items you held dear, as well as the Toy Story series itself. It’s very sweet, and it’s very cute. It also holds Woody’s finest moments, as he becomes an unsung guardian angel-esque character for Bonnie (the kindergarten orientation scene may have yanked a few tears out of me.)

And while Woody is the heart and the glue that holds everything together, the newer characters provide some hilarious highlights. There’s Forky (Tony Hale), the result of a kindergarten craft project that comes to life. He’s nervous, timid, fragile, and he feels most comfortable in the trashcan — lets just say he hasn’t yet realized his full potential. And then there’s Duke Kaboom (Keanu Reeves), an eccentric daredevil that has been rejected due to his failure to take off. Like, Forky, it’s a character that is as funny as it is sympathetic, and Keanu steals the show with his voice work. We really are in the year of Keanu, aren’t we?

Toy Story 4 is all about loyalty and friendship, being wanted, searching for belonging, finding purpose, and even making the decision to move on. So if this is indeed the final film, the Toy Story series has given us laughter and tears and joy to infinity and beyond. 

* 9/10 *

Thursday, June 6, 2019

[Review] Always Be My Maybe

Netflix’s new romantic comedy Always Be My Maybe (a pun-y reference to the great Mariah Carey ballad) shines bright as a funny, enjoyable, and sweet watch-at-home treat for the early summer.

Ali Wong and Randall Park lead the way as Sasha and Marcus, a pair of childhood friends (well, a little more than just friends) who reconnect 15 years after a falling out. It turns out that they’ve taken vastly different paths in life. Sasha is a wealthy celebrity chef, while Marcus still lives with his dad and plays in a crappy local band. It’s safe to say a lot has changed. But is there still a spark between them? Maybe.

This thing is light, pleasant, and refreshing — like lemon pudding in movie form. And even though it follows a familiar rom-com recipe, it has just enough flavor to stand out and form its own unique identity. It’s also just so dang likable and full of irresistible charm. The script (which is also co-written by Ali Wong and Randall Park) is a superb one. The dialogue is swirled with clever and comical wit, and at the center is a filling of thoughtful substance when it comes to heritage and culture, authenticity and success, love and projection. Director Nahnatchka Khan lends genuine warmth and tenderness to it all, as well as a notable embrace of humor and absurdity. 

Wong and Park demonstrate a delightful chemistry, and they both give sharp performances as well-drawn characters. But the highlight is a surprisingly off-the-wall cameo from the legendary Keanu Reeves — as himself. I won’t give too much away, but he’s absolutely hysterical here and will have you laughing until your stomach hurts. It truly goes down as one of the best cameos in movie history. It’s a sight to behold and cherish and rewatch over and over again.

So next time you’re scrolling through Netflix’s menu, throw this one on for dessert. 

( 8/10 )