Tag Archives: Tom Hanks

Toy Story 4

22 Jun

‘Toy Story 4’: These may well be the end tines for Pixar series, but Forky just adds to the fun

 

Image result for toy story 4

The odd ones are the exceptional ones. I’m not taking about the quirky potpourri of personality in Andy’s toy chest (because they are all pretty odd and exceptional), I’m talking about the prime-numbered chapters in the long-running Pixar franchise. As is, it’s hard to believe it was nearly a quarter-century ago that “Toy Story” (1995) hit screens and defined a new generation of animation – pretty much becoming the impetus for the Best Animated Feature award initiated by the Oscars in 2001. The smart, simple tale of a cowboy doll jealous of a spaceman figurine new to a young boy’s toy collection, and its moral of friendship and support, hit with all ages. The olio of characters was as bright and infectious as their wondrous 3D rendering. Woody and Buzz were an instant thing. Of course, having a talented voice pool led by Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and Don Rickles didn’t hurt. “Toy Story 2” (1999), in which the crew had to band together to rescue Woody (Hanks) from a toy collection was a fair, pat followup; “Toy Story 3” (2010), which rightly notched that animation Academy Award, went to some dark places as Andy headed off to college, dealing with mature themes of separation and the despair of realizing you’re not needed anymore.

Toys, we learn in “Toy Story 4,” have a job that is pretty much what you’d expect: making your kid feel happy and secure. We catch up with Woody and Buzz Lightyear (Allen) now in the service of Bonnie, the girl who was gifted Andy’s lot at the end of “3.” Shy and demurring, Bonnie’s about to enter kindergarten and is somewhat terrified at the prospect, but before school starts her family heads out on a cross-country RV trip with much of the toy chest bunch in tow. New to the crew is Forky (Tony Hale), a kindergarten orientation creation – a spork with glued-on facial features, popsicle stick feet and a pipe cleaner twisted around the midsection for arms. Because of where he comes from, the plastic friend made of disparate materials is imbued with an innate affinity for trash (the “trash” mantra is up there with “claw” or “Groot”) and spends much of the film dumpster-diving or flying out the window of the RV. Mission one for Woody & Co., adhering to their job description, is to keep Bonnie’s new favorite in her stead even if Woody has to stay up all night tossing the Frankensteinian craft creation back into bed next to its creator after back-flipping into the nearby waste bucket.

Other smartly woven subplots have Woody separated from Bo Peep (Annie Potts) – I forgot that she was porcelain – and a segue to a thrift store where a life-sized doll named Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) and her phalanx of Jerry Mahoney-styled goons hold nefarious plans for Woody. Then there’s new adds Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves), a Canadian Evel Knievel-like action figure, and two bickering fluff toys (voiced by Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key) who deliver as a goofy Greek chorus, a role Rickles used to provide as Mr. Potato Head (the comedian passed in 2017, and is used in small, archived metes here).

Allegedly “4” is the last chapter in the “Toy Story” canon. The third film seemed like the perfect concluding point, but “4,” directed by Josh Cooley, goes in a slightly new direction while hitting all the right notes. With Bonnie and a new set of friends, the series seems ripe for a spinoff. No matter – young kids going to this without seeing the previous films will likely be hooked, and want to see the full set after. To any parent rolling your eyes: Just go with it. There’s plenty of mature witticisms, and the subtle life lessons are a win for all.

Sully

15 Sep

In his career as a filmmaker, Clint Eastwood has done it all – taken on the war epic (“Flags of Our Fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima”), rebranded his Western roots (“Unforgiven” and “Pale Rider”), roiled in the tough cop genre (“Sudden Impact” and “The Gauntlet”) and even dipped his toe in chick-flick territory (“The Bridges of Madison County”). For the 86-year-old, who thankfully did not speak to an empty chair at the GOP convention in Cleveland this summer, not all of these amazingly broad endeavors have panned out (“J. Edgar” and “The Changeling,” to name two), but at such a late stage it’s remarkable how measurably Eastwood has grown in his craft, illustrating a greater appreciation for time, space and setting, and most affectingly so when the sense of character is deeply felt and intimate.

090916i-sully“Million Dollar Baby” and “Invictus” were two such inwardly wound gems, and Eastwood’s latest, “Sully,” marks another fully palpable portrait of human determination that’s more interested in the human condition and compassion than heroics. Don’t get me wrong – there’s plenty of heroics in “Sully.” After all, the film is branded after the man who executed the “Miracle on the Hudson”; if you were asleep in 2009 in the wake of the economic meltdown, when good news was hard to come by, that was when Sully (aka Chesley Sullenberger) gave the nation something to cheer about, putting down a badly damaged jet on the Hudson River, saving the 155 lives aboard and avoiding incalculable collateral damage should a return to LaGuardia fail.  Continue reading

Bridge of Spies

16 Oct

James Donovan (Tom Hanks) must go to great lengths to rescue U2 pilot Francis Gary Powers from Soviet Russia

Courtesy of Dreamworks Pictures

James Donovan (Tom Hanks) must go to great lengths to rescue U2 pilot Francis Gary Powers from Soviet Russia

When people think about the body of work Steven Spielberg has put out over his illustriously long and celebrated career, most gravitate towards the fantastical fantasies imbued with childlike wonderment (ET and Close Encounters of the Third Kind) or the satiating swashbuckling adventures (Raiders of the Lost Ark andJurassic Park). Before all that however, Spielberg minted the blockbuster with Jaws and later, with stark, visceral effect, crafted the preeminent cinematic portrait of the Holocaust (Schindler’s List), a film which still resonates as an exposed nerve. Recently, the solemn lessons of history, more so than adolescent curiosity or high adventure, have become the inspiration for Spielberg’s creative vision.

Spielberg’s last history lesson, Lincoln, was a plumbing of a stout character standing tall and resolute in the face of grave opposition and the tenuous society hanging underneath. The director’s latest,Bridge of Spies, follows the same blueprint, but unlike Abraham Lincoln, few have ever heard of James Donovan, an insurance attorney from Brooklyn, N.Y. More relevant from the history-book perspective perhaps is Francis Gary Powers, the U2 pilot shot down over Soviet airspace and taken prisoner in 1960. Continue reading