Toy Story 4 (2019)

toy story 4 poster

When Bonnie – new owner of Woody, Buzz et al – makes herself a new toy to help with the first day of kindergarten, the gang end up spork-sitting the new guy, Forky. Traumatised with finding himself ‘alive’, he’s not so keen on sticking around which is a problem given how attached Bonnie has become. Keeping the two together becomes Woody’s new purpose, just as he’s struggling to adjust to no longer being the favourite, the toy in charge.

I neither dislike nor adore the Toy Story series. They’re sweet, they’re fun, but somehow they just don’t grab me the way they seem to affect others, or the way I loved the How To Train Your Dragon trilogy. As a result, I only saw TS3 last week, knowing I was going to this. And I was pleasantly surprised: it was lovely. It also felt like a fitting end to a series – so quite why we needed a fourth, I wasn’t sure.

Biggest praise, then, that this doesn’t ruin the whole series. It’s tough not to get drawn into the ‘lives’ of these toys, they are just so well realised. I mean, you know things are going to work out – it’s a ‘U’ rating! – but the tension gets you, and the emotion feels oddly genuine. And no spoiler, but I think this is definitely an ending, which stops it feeling pointless, even if it wasn’t strictly necessary.

I have just one complaint, and that’s around the baddie’s story. I can’t help but think that the kind of nasty, entitled behaviour displayed, the emotional manipulation, should never, ever be shown as being rewarded. It’s a poor message to send to kids, and the whole “Oh, but I never had the advantages you did so I deserve it” isn’t improving the matter. I was thoroughly disturbed to have all of this in a kids’ flick, to be honest. I mean, it was funny in Guardians of the Galaxy when Rocket asked, “But what if I want it more than the person who has it?” but here it’s just not amusing.

Sadly that really did spoil the whole thing for me a bit, and points off for that – although I suppose you could argue that it’s just the pure niceness of our regular cast that helps everyone, but still – big ick for me, personally.

Aside from that, though, it’s sweet and lovely, and a decent epilogue to the original trilogy rather than an essential piece of the story. It’s nice to see the old characters again, even if most only really get cameo-level roles in a busy cast roster. Newcomers like Duke Caboom (I failed to spot the voicing was Keanu Reeves!) add humour to avoid total saccharine levels, too.

If it doesn’t quite live up to the highs of the previous movies, well – that was always going to be a tough job. Kids will undoubtedly love it, and fans of the series will find a lot to enjoy.

Released: 21st June 2019
Viewed: 21st June 2019
Running time: 100 minutes
Rated: U

My rating: 7/10

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The Lego Movie 2 (2019)

lego movie 2 poster

Five years have passed since the events of the first Lego Movie. But, the arrival of the Duplons from the Sis-tar system (geddit?) have left the formerly awesome world a wreck. Instead of a neat orderly town, we’re into Apocalyse-ville, and what can only be Mad Max Fury Road minifigs, I reckon!

With ‘Armomageddon’ looming, can Emmet save Lucy and the others from the Queen of the Sis-tar system? Can Emmet ever be as cool as new friend, Rex Dangervest? Will everything ever be awesome again?!?!?!

For the first five or so minutes of this, I thought “Oh no, I have made a terrible mistake!” So a lot of my review has to be coloured by sheer relief that it got a fair bit better! 😉

There is actually a solid moral to this story, which I won’t spoil, but along the way the in-jokes aren’t half bad. I – and the two other adults in the screening, I reckon! – laughed out loud at a Radiohead joke. Showing our age 😉 Other swipes include the fact that Disney/Marvel wouldn’t get involved this time, so we’re missing a host of characters that cameo’d in the first. Many of the jokes are at Chris Pratt’s other roles. It’s even self aware enough to poke fun at the fact that Emmet was the ‘hero’ of the first movie, despite Wyldstyle doing all the actual heroics…!

I rather liked the songs here – a good part of the movie’s humour from the lyrics – although ironically “This song’s gonna get stuck inside your head” didn’t manage to oust the remix of Everything is Awesome – or, not awesome, now, which is quite frankly a bit more valid to life than I was expecting from a movie like this!

It’s not a must-see, in my view, but a better sequel to a daft yet cult movie than I was expecting – especially in those opening few minutes 😉

Released: 8th February 2019
Viewed: 23rd March 2019
Running time: 107 minutes
Rated: U

My rating: 7/10

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)

How to Train Your Dragon 3 poster

The How to Train Your Dragon series has possibly my favourite animated character ever in Toothless the Dragon. His half-dog/cat type behaviour backed up by y’know, fire breathing, is just adorable. The humour in the rest of the set up, from Hiccup the very non-Viking-y brainiac chief’s son, the often dozy dragon riders with all their amusing foibles, not to mention an absolutely fab vocal cast, all make these films very worth watching, whatever your age.

With a third instalment, largely I tend to just hope it won’t tarnish the memory. I wasn’t expecting this to possibly be the best movie of the three!

One strength is how well the story continues with events, rather than just being A.N. Other adventure. We’ve seen Hiccup and Toothless meeting for the first time, we’ve followed the Vikings go from dragon-haters to dragon riders. And we’ve seen Hiccup grow up a little, not least as the mantle of chief is thrust upon him.

It makes sense, from the previous two stories, to open with Berk now a dragon haven but also drawing all the wrong kind of attention from those who still haven’t embraced the new human-dragon partnership model. And so the adventure here starts very logically, with Hiccup looking for a way to protect his new friends – even if that means chasing the impossible trying to find a mythical Hidden World.

I absolutely loved this film, even more than expected. I thought a bit of cute would suit a Friday night, but instead I was deeply moved at some parts, laughed out loud at others, and was overall impressed with the action. This is a fantastic animation, and a nigh-on perfect ending to the trilogy.

Toothless is still very much my favourite 🙂

Released: 1st February 2019
Viewed: 1st February 2019
Running time: 104 minutes
Rated: PG

My rating: 9/10

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

into the spider verse poster

Spider-Man has never been my favourite super hero. In fact, it’s probably telling that I own all the Marvel movies except Homecoming. I dunno, maybe it’s the teenage thing, or my lack of love for arachnids, or – probably – that we’ve heard the same story again and again and again: poor Uncle Ben, with great power, yadda yadda.

One of the smartest moves this new movie makes is poking gentle fun at this repetition of the origin story. It also has a fabulous animation style that harks back to the comic books source, and looks amazing. Add in a ton of action, plenty of humour (Peter Porker?!), and plenty of emotion in the story line, and by jove this is the best Spider-Man movie ever! 🙂

When Wilson Fisk – aka the Kingpin – builds a dimensional portal, he plans to bring his dead family through. Of course, things don’t go to plan and instead we end up with multiple Spider-People. From Peter B Parker, a washed-up, older Spider-Man, to Spider-Gwen, a black and white retro Spider-Man Noir (voiced by Nicholas Cage)… and that pig. And an anime version! My only vague confusion was that we start out in a universe with two Spider-Men: Peter Parker, and the newcomer, Miles Margoles. Miles has issues in his life, sure, but he’s more interesting and less whiny than previous origin-story incarnations, and I liked him as the main character.

Most of all, though, I loved the animation style. It takes a moment to realise that the blurry backgrounds are aping the comic books, but it’s a nicely fresh thing to see on the big screen. It also matches the multi-dimensional madness that the story lands up in.

I might be converted to not being so meh about Spider-Man!

Released: 12th December 2018
Viewed: 28th December 2018
Running time: 117 minutes
Rated: PG

My rating: 8.5/10

Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)

ralph breaks the internet poster

Several years have passed since the events of Wreck It Ralph (2012), and the title character is happy in his routine of working in his game and hanging out in the Tapper bar room with his best friend, Vanellope. She, however, is finding the repetition a little stifling – so when the arcade gets wifi, the chance of an adventure in the internet is a welcome adventure. What could possibly go wrong?!

I thoroughly enjoyed this sequel – possibly more than the original. The story follows well, but what really lifted it for me was the pop culture nods, from social media to Disney’s greatest. The scenes in the Disney online experience tickled me immensely – from the Princesses as seen in the trailer, to Stormtrooper guards, and omg Groot…! 🙂

The actual story, about clingy friendships and learning to let go, is more than adequate as an underpinning to the real fun of seeing Ralph join in with meme culture. Recommended slice of family fun.

Released: 30th November 2018
Viewed: 21st December 2018
Running time: 112 minutes
Rated: PG

My rating: 8/10

Incredibles 2 (2018)

incredibles 2 poster

Fourteen years after the first movie – beloved by many, although I was just “Yeah, that was fun” (and as such am a bit hazy on the details!) – the Parr family are back. Even more in hiding than the first film, things are not going so well for them, until a billionaire tycoon throws his money behind a scheme to bring Supers back into legality. The only thing is, he wants Elastigirl aka mom Helen to be the face of the campaign, leaving Mr Incredible aka dad Bob, literally holding the baby.

The gender-switch roles is probably what brings this movie into reasonable modern times, and it’s pretty funny to watch Bob struggle and pretty ace to see the mother rekindling her sense of worth outside that role. From a cartoon. However, the real joy – for me, at least – was the scenes of baby Jack-Jack finally finding his powers, as teased in the post-credit scene from the original movie.

I also think Edna Mode is one of my all-time favourite animated characters, so was a little disappointed that she’s in this so briefly – with some fabulous scenes with Jack-Jack, though, so all is forgiven 🙂 Likewise, the Samuel L Jackson voiced Frozone could have been in it more for my liking.

Since the release of The Incredibles back in 2004, there has been an absolute explosion of superheroes at the cinema, in live action format. So, does Incredibles 2 still have a place? Well, yes: it was a lot of fun, and makes some relevant points without trying too hard. That said, there’s nothing desperately new or fresh about the story line, which doesn’t stray too far from the original overall. It must be impossible to come up with novel ideas for superpowers these days, too.

Overall this is a decent movie with plenty of fun to be had. The kids can love it, the grown ups can too, and it both stands alone and makes for a sequel that was actually worth making. Recommended.

Released: 13th July 2018
Viewed: 13th July 2018
Running time: 118 minutes
Rated: PG

My rating: 8/10

Despicable Me 3 (2017)

Gru (Steve Carell) might have sorted out his family life over the previous two installments, with Lucy (Kristen Wiig) now step-mom to the ‘gurrrrls’ (girls, Margo, Edith, and Agnes), but work isn’t going so well – the pair have just been fired from the Anti Villain League for failing to capture 80s child TV star turned baddy, Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker).

Gru then discovers he has a long-lost twin brother, Dru. Dru is desperate for his sibling to show him the dark side of villainy – something Gru has, of course, put behind him (much to the displeasure of the Minions, who walk out in disgust). However, what better opportunity to steal back the diamond Bratt has already stolen – and use it to get his job back.

I do love the Minions movies. This one has been getting mixed feedback, but I liked it better than the middle installment if not quite so much as the original. I think what worked well for me was all the 1980s references from the Bratt character, still stuck in the era of his glory days. I was just in the right mood for a Michael Jackson-themed ‘dance fight’, and all the cheesy hits of the day.

And, of course, the Minions! Their subplot had me in stitches, again with a bit of a dance theme at one point – but I will say no more 😉 The other subplot, with Lucy learning how to be a mom, is a lot weaker, but I did think added a little warmth to the movie.

Overall: lots of daft fun, and I’d happily watch it again – my measure for animated movies. Banana! 🙂

Released: 30th June 2017
Viewed: 10th July 2017
Running time: 90 minutes
Rated: U

My rating: 7.5/10