Toy Story 2 (1999) Film Review

It’s a few years post Toy Story and everyone in Andy’s Room get along just fine. But Andy’s getting a bit older and doesn’t really play with them so much, and when an error is made during a yard sale, Woody (Tom Hanks)ends up in the hands of the evil toy collector, Al (Wayne Knight) and Buzz (Tim Allen) leads the other toys on a rescue mission. But Woody meets a few new friends in captivity and learns of his past as a cartoon series.

So, it’s another great film about friendship and loyalty and the greater good. I felt a bit sad for poor old Al, because it seems that he is just a lonely, fat, lazy man who runs a successful toy business but who has spent years collecting classic toys with the hope of hitting it rich – and isn’t that the American dream? Imagine the story told from his point of view: after years of searching, he finds a toy in a yard sale that is damaged and poorly cared for – a toy that has been carelessly left on the ground. He saves it, has it fixed by a professional, and is going to put it into the hands of a rich, Japanese collector, who will treat it with respect and ensure it is always taken care of. Suddenly, the doll goes missing, as do his hopes and dreams, and poor Al is left looking as though he is delusional, doubting his own sanity. Not such a nice film now, hey?

Toy Story 2 was nominated for an Oscar for Best Music, Original Song for When She Loved Me by Randy Newman.

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Toy Story (1995) Film Review

Ah, Toy Story. How magnificent. Based in the room/world of young boy, Andy (John Morris), Toy Story sees Andy’s favourite toy, cowboy Woody (Tom Hanks) and his other faves Mr Potato Head (the late, great Don Rickles), Slinky Dog (Jim Varney), Rex (Wallace Shawn), Hamm (John Ratzenberger) and Bo Peep (Annie Potts) fearing for the worst as Andy gets a new toy for his birthday – a Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), the exciting new astronaut toy. Will jealousy win? Can they find a way for all the toys to co-exist?

It’s so good. Despite my usual complaint that there are nowhere near enough female characters (Bo Peep is the love interest, there’s the annoying little sister character, and mom. Why Slinky Dog or Rex or Hamm couldn’t have been female – yes, it would be a shame to lose those characters as we know and love them, but could have actually been good…). It’s a great story, well written, fabulous characters, and just so much fun.

Toy Story was nominated for Oscars for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Best Music (Original Song) You’ve got a Friend in Me, Randy Newman, and Best Music, Original Musical or Comedy Score. It won an award for Executive Producer John Lasseter for the development and inspired application of techniques that have made possible the first feature-length computer-animated film.

 

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The Help by Kathryn Stockett – Audio Book Review

Read by Jenna Lamia, Bahni Turpin, Octavia Spencer, Cassandra Campbell

I’ve avoided audio books for the longest time, because when I drive or walk or whatever, I tend to listen to podcasts on my tiny little old iPod nano. But recently when about to leave work for my usually forty minutes drive home and heard that there were accidents everywhere and it was likely to take me a lot longer to get home, and my iPod nano was flat. Boo. But, thanks to a lot of advertising my audible on many of the podcasts, I knew what to do. I downloaded the app and headed to the audible store. Just because it came up early on and I’ve been meaning to read it for ages. One thing I have found in general about audio books is that listening to them is quite different to listening to podcasts, for some reason. Often, I’ll be listening to podcasts and find myself drifting in and out of concentration, and have to flick to music. But audiobooks hold my attention for much longer. Interesting.

So, The Help. The book is written from several perspectives – from Skeeter, the white woman who wants to be a writer, who sees the society and the segregation around her differently to her peers and family, who starts to write a book telling the stories of the African American women who take care of the houses and children of the rich, white woman; then there are a couple of the maids, Aibileen and Minny, who are faced with these horrible women who are happy to let black women raise their children but refuse to share a toilet. I recall that I found the film of The Help to be quite light – yes, it was dealing with serious issues, but it was kind of fun and entertaining. I found the book far more intense, giving a greater sense of how potentially dangerous the actions of these women could potentially be. The reading was wonderful, especially having different voices for the different characters. It was certainly a great introduction to audio books.

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Arrival (2016) Film Review

Twelve alien spaceships appear and are hovering in various locations around the world. Countries are working together on how to communicate with these strange creatures and among them are a high-level linguistics professor, Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner). Over a series of long, drawn out sessions, they establish some kind of communication, but does it mean what they think it means?

I kind of get why people might like this, but I was bored. It was sooooooo slow, and while there was some beauty in the filming, I just didn’t get it. Plus, it has a ‘twist’ – at least, I think it was a twist. For me, however, I had no engagement with any of the characters; I didn’t care about the aliens or why they were there. I was somewhat intrigued by the concept of what a world does when aliens are hanging about and what we might actually do to attempt communication – in fact, the more I think about this, the more fascinated I am. I think it’s because so much sci fi have some kind of auto translating thing to avoid the whole concept of cross species communication.

Arrival won the Oscar for Best Achievement in Sound Editing and was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Achievement in Directing (Denis Villeneuve), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Film Editing, Best Achievement in Sound Mixing and Best Achievement in Production Design.

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Hacksaw Ridge (2016) Film Review

 

Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) is a young man who, despite the example set by his alcoholic, abusive father (Hugo Weaving) whose life was ruined in WW1, signs up for WW2. However, he refuses to carry a gun – he has volunteered to be an unarmed medic, to spend his time in the field saving the injured soldiers. Based on a true story, Doss is treated like a freak by most of the army including his immediate superior, Sgt Howell (Vince Vaughn) – until he proves his worth.

I quite liked the idea, it really is a good story. I’m not quite sure why Doss had to come across as a bit of a fool – his character had a bit of a Forest Gump feel to him, and I feel as though that took away a lot from his stance. There is a whole section at the start which had stuff from his childhood that I feel was really unnecessary – almost as if it was just filling up space to make it a longer, weightier film. For me, it really got good once they were fighting. That was very impressive.

Hacksaw Ridge won Oscars for Best Achievement in Film Editing and Best Achievement in Sound Mixing and was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Andrew Garfield), Best Achievement in Directing (Mel Gibson) and Best Achievement in Sound Editing.

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Jane the Virgin – TV Review

Based on the famous telenovelas of Latin America, Jane the Virgin follows Jane   (Gina Rodriguez), a virgin who is accidentally inseminated by the doctor who should be doing a pap smear. What are she and her fiancé, Michael (Brett Dier) going to do – especially when she starts to have feelings for the biological father, Rafael (Justin Baldoni)? Then her grandmother (Ivonne Coll) has to deal with seeing her daughter, Xiomara (Andrea Navedo) reconnect with Jane’s father, telenovela superstar Rogelio (Jaime Camil). But the doctor who inseminated her was Rafael’s sister, and was supposed to be inseminating Rafael’s wife who had stolen the last sample of Rafael’s frozen semen after he had cancer… and then it gets complicated.

What is great is that the characters are great. They have real good sides and bad sides, but they don’t seem too over the top – and then there are the ones who are over the top! Oh, they are so much fun! My favourite will always be Rogelio – so magnificently ridiculous and gorgeous and funny and – he’s great. Love him. In fact, I think he is really the reason I watch it. What’s not great – well, isn’t it just making fun of a person for their religion and beliefs, and saying that sure, you can believe in saving yourself for marriage but we’ll all laugh at you? Isn’t it, at the heart of it, just a bit nasty? Yet… no. I don’t know. Just enjoy it.

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Suicide Squad (2016) Film Review

Aliens have appeared and been fought off by Superman. Only, now Superman’s nicked off. How can the world protect themselves agains the bad guys? Get worse guys. A whole bunch of dodgy folk with talents or some kind of mutant skills, stick a bomb in their necks and threaten to blow them up if they do the wrong thing. But then, when things don’t go so smoothly, what happens then?

It was great. Top characters (most notably Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn and Jared Leto as The Joker), a decent story, some fantastic special effects and you’ve got a good film. Better than good, actually. A lot better. I’m being far too casual, it’s ace shouty blow ‘em uppy, fun times.

Suicide Squad won an Oscar for Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling.

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