Toy Story 4 (2019)

I don’t care about this movie. I don’t care that it’s missing one of the main voice actors to him sadly passing on. I don’t care that it seems like a cash-grab. And I don’t care that it kind of overrides the perfect ending of Toy Story 3. I don’t care about any of this, because I fucking loved this movie. I loved this movie from the opening scene, a flashback to between Toy Story 2 and 3 that makes a nice change of pace for these films, normally they end with you crying, this film starts with it. From the moment this film opens it grabs you by the heart and never lets go, culminating in what I believe is one of the great closers of all time when it comes to movie series. The others felt like potentially they could have ended the series, this feels like it has to, there’s no way to continue it in a satisfactory way.

I did think that of the third film at the time, but looking back that was possibly a bit naive to assume that just because Andy (and the audience) held Woody in high esteem, that Bonnie would too. I’ve seen some weird reviews of this film calling Bonnie a bitch because she doesn’t play with Woody, which is strange because, you know, she’s a child, and children sometimes get bored of certain toys. I think that’s why it’s weird when people call Sid from the first movie a psychopath because he mutilated toys, forgetting that just because we know they’re alive, doesn’t mean he does. If Pixar made a movie called Lettuce, about sentient salad, would that mean the people in the film who ate it are evil? No, they’re just hungry.

They’re not the only weird reviews, I’ve also seen some really weird reviews saying things like “I didn’t like it”. Which is unfathomable to me. If you liked the first 3 (i.e. are you a human?), then you’ll like this one too. It’s not wildly different, but it’s also not the same. It’s the kind of film only Pixar would make. It plays with expectations brilliantly, setting up expected villains only to pull the rug away from their villainess. Before that, they do seem genuinely creepy and it made me think I really want a Pixar horror film.

Onto the best thing about this film: it looks SUPERB. You kind of forget it’s animated after a while, there are so many things going in the background, nothing exciting, but it really helps build the fact that this is reality. The performances are good, but most of the actors have been playing these characters for decades, so that’s to be expected. The new ones hold their weight too. Keanu Reeves slots into this universe brilliantly, as do Key And Peele. Christina Hendricks is one of the best additions though, not as comedic as the other two but responsible for a lot of the emotional depth this film has. The true new MVP though? Tony Hale, in the wrong hands this character would be annoying as hell. If you gave this role to a comedy actor known best for madcap fast-speaking (Kevin Hart, Jim Carrey etc) then it would have been too much, it wouldn’t have seemed real. Hale plays him with just the right vulnerability, but also the comedic chops to make repeated suicide attempts in a kids movie socially acceptable

So in summary, go see this film, in fact I’m disappointed you haven’t already. Yeah it’s almost 2 hours long, but it really doesn’t feel like it, it flies by.

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The Incredibles 2 (2018)

Fourteen years. Fourteen long years we waited for this. Cinema has changed, animation has changed, yet this film is set the day after the first one, so the characters haven’t changed. And I don’t care, this film was superb and I loved it.

The first one was Incredible, and this one was Incredible two (I’m so sorry). Everything about this film just works beautifully, the voice-work, the way it looks, the story, it all interacts with each other in the most wonderful way.

It picks up almost immediately after the first one ends, starting with a fight with the villain that turned up at the end of it. The action scene that that causes lets you know what kind of film it’s going to be: bombastic fun that looks INCREDIBLE (although let’s face it, with Pixar, you always KNOW it’s going to look great). The story is serviceable, it doesn’t come anywhere near the depth of Toy Story 3, or the heart of Finding Dory, but that doesn’t actually matter. You’re not sitting there thinking “well this story is pedestrian” because the way the film is done you don’t really care, you’re just sitting there amazed at what you see unveiling in front of you. It does what it needs to do, and it does it well. That’s not to say it’s a simple movie, it’s probably the only mass-market animated movie this year that has dealt with the themes this does. Themes of masculinity and feeling worthless because you’re not the one the family depends on, the emasculation that can cause.

There was a worry when the initial trailer came out that the film would focus too much on Jack-Jack, pushing him from background character to the main one, making him as insufferable as minions became. We really should have trusted Pixar more. They use him well, using him as an excuse for some amazing visual slapstick gags. More about the visuals; these films have their own visual style, it’s not just the animation. The architecture is a kind of future-past hybrid that just works beautifully and helps create a universe which is both retro and timeless.

Yes, the reveal of the villain is kind of obvious, but I’d rather a films twist was obvious than if it made no sense. And you don’t really sit there and analyze the story of this, you sit back and let it take over you. Pixar movies really are great, they’re the only studio for whom I eagerly look forward to almost anything (cars excluded) they do. Even the films which are thought of as bland, are only seen as such compared to the excellent standard they normally produce (seriously, give Brave a rewatch, it’s actually REALLY good). This is Pixar at their best, but if they make me wait fourteen years for another one, I will be pissed off.

The Shape Of Water (2017)

Don’t watch this film! I mean it, do not watch this film. It’s one of those films that’s actually impossible to sit down and watch. You do not watch this, you absorb it. You sit back and let it take over every single ounce of your being. You sit there and marvel at the beauty you see before you, this is cinema as art, and is one of the most awe-inspiring things you’ll see all year. Guillermo Del Toro should now be given free reign to make whatever film he wants. Actually, I’d love to see him do an episode of Doctor Who or Black Mirror. Every shot looks like a watercolour painting, full of the majesty of colours and wonder. The music too is superb, you won’t leave the cinema humming the melodies or anything, but it enhances every single scene it’s in, it really compliments the images to the point where it almost seems like the scenes were made to match up with the music, as opposed to the scene coming first and music being decided later.

It’s not just behind the scenes though, the people in front of camera help make this brilliant. Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones deserve every accolade thrown their way. They’re mute characters who have to lead the film, that’s not easy. It could be argued that it’s slightly easier for Sally Hawkins as she at least gets sign language to utilise, but that’s like saying it’s easier to run a marathon with one leg than no legs. It still takes remarkable skill from her. Ordinarily this would be the best performance I see all year, but unfortunately for her, Three Billboards also exists. It’s a shame that both existed in the same year as it meant one had to lose out on deserved awards. Doug Jones is also pretty darn great in this, doing sooooo much with body language that you kind of don’t realise he’s not speaking, he doesn’t need to.

The supporting cast also pulls their weight, obviously since Richard Jenkins got nominated for best supporting actor. Michael Shannon also deserves praise. His character is utterly reprehensible, partly due to the writing, but also due to how he plays it. He completely loses himself in the character, holding absolutely nothing back.

My main issue with this film? It’s really hard to criticise. It’s all so beautiful, everyone is so great, and the story is so heart-warming and emotional, it ties all the loose ends up but also leaves room for different interpretations and questions about the characters. That’s why this review has been so hard to write, it’s difficult to make “this film is amazing!” into a compelling piece of writing. That’s my opinion though, others think differently. Not many others though, mainly Rex Reed from the New York Observer. Who wrote (and I won’t link to it, I don’t want to increase his views):

“This horror film masquerading as a fairy tale is about a mute woman who cleans toilets, scrubs floors and falls in love with a monster from beneath the sea. The pathetic girl is played by the wonderful British actress Sally Hawkins, who specializes in defective creatures herself.”

A few points: 1) it’s not a horror film. At all, it’s a fantasy film. It may use a few horror tropes and conventions, but it’s still at its heart a fantasy film, albeit one aimed at adults.

2) “pathetic girl”. Fuck you. Fuck you in the ear. She’s not pathetic, and if you think that then I worry for you.

3) “defective creatures”. Ok, this is just a horribly offensive comment. Just because someone is mute does not make them a defective creature you ableist asswipe.

The review only goes downhill from there, referring to Get Out as “overrated piece of junk” and getting the director’s name wrong. Look, I know Benicio Del Toro is a good actor, but he’s not a director. Yes, they have similar names, but you can’t call yourself a film reviewer if you can’t distinguish between the two. It would be like getting Billie Joe Armstrong and Billie Jean King confused. I find negative reviews fascinating when they’ve clearly not actually watched the film. The best example of this was Toy Story 3 where the reviewer seemed to only watch the opening 5 minutes, getting the villain wrong, the story wrong, and his final mark wrong. Don’t be like that guy, don’t be wrong. Buy a ticket to Shape Of Water and revel in its greatness, you’ll thank me.