Toy Story 4 (2019)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Toy Story 4 (2019) from Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios
Rated G. Animated, Comedy, Action, Family Film
Academy Award: Best Animated Feature Film

Description (from the film case): Pixar Animation Studios proudly presents the adventure of a lifetime! When Woody, Buzz and the gang join Bonnie on a road trip with her new craft-project-turned-toy, Forky, the innocent little spork’s hilarious antics launch Woody on a wild quest filled with unexpected new characters—and one long-lost friend!

My thoughts: “To infinity…” “…and beyond.”

I’ve been following the Toy Story story and characters for a quarter of a century. And I’ve been nervous every time a sequel has come out, as second and third movies can be notorious for taking a good thing downhill and making you wish folks would’ve just left the original awesomeness alone.

Could filmmakers maintain this particular awesomeness for a fourth whole movie? Well. Turns out, they’ve done just that.

I mean, I could go on in detail about the amazing detail of the art and animation, the wonderful character development, the hilarity (and downright creepiness, sometimes) and action and relatability of it all. But what may get me most is that the Toy Story movies are just that: a story. Not just a nice little amusing tale, but a story of depth and heart, of excitement and nostalgia. Imaginative and highly accessible genius coming to life onscreen—four movies in a row.

Outstanding!

Whether or not you’ve been here the whole quarter of a century, be sure to watch the movies in order, if you can.

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Klaus (2019)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Klaus (2019) from The SPA Studios
Rated PG. Animated, Christmas, Comedy, Family Film

Description (from Netflix): A selfish postman and a reclusive toymaker form an unlikely friendship, delivering joy to a cold, dark town that desperately needs it.

My thoughts: I heard a little positive buzz via Twitter about the return of 2D animation for Christmas, and being the lover of holiday flicks that I am, I decided to check this movie out. It had an entertaining enough start for me, and I settled in to watch something with middling but adequately fun humor. You know, mild amusement wrapped in about an hour and a half of holiday spirit.

I had no idea I would eventually laugh out loud as much as I did, or that I’d wind up with tears running down my face at more than one point in the movie. And at the last moment of the last scene that punctuates it all, I threw my hands straight up in the air, feeling as oddly triumphant as I was thoroughly touched.

Yes, this movie is fun and funny, cute and Christmassy, but it’s also a rather brilliant work of storytelling, adding clever and imaginative details and twists to bring a legend to life, so that even though you already know what’s going to happen at times, the story as a whole is fresh and refreshing.

I wouldn’t expect everyone to wind up weeping as I did, but don’t prejudge or dismiss this as “just a kid’s cartoon” or “only a Christmas comedy.” It’s an entertaining and beautifully developed story of friendship and family, love and loss, discovery and growth, risk and adventure, reconciliation and redemption. It has to go on my list of all-time favorite Christmas movies.

And yes—I do dig the wonderful 2D animation!

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The Out-of-Towners (1970)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

The Out-of-Towners (1970) from Paramount Pictures
Rated G. (I personally would have rated it PG for brief, mild language, but that’s me.) Comedy, Family Appropriate

Description (from the film case): Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis are perfectly matched as the hapless Kellermans of Twin Oaks, Ohio, in Neil Simon’s tumultuous comedy hit. The top candidate for a prestigious promotion at his company’s corporate headquarters in New York City, George (Lemmon), accompanied by his wife Gwen (Dennis), is all set to take a bite out of The Big Apple—only to quickly discover that The Big Apple can bite back! Their dream trip to the big city turns into a nightmare of diverted flights, forfeited reservations, missed trains, sinister strangers, paralyzing strikes, lost luggage…and uproarious laughs for all who experience this hilarious screen classic…

My thoughts: When I’m really in the mood for humor, I tend to reach for some of the clean, old-fashioned stuff.

This film is a ridiculously good time. It’s not even like I’m laughing hysterically through it whenever I watch it, as the movie doesn’t hit me on a hysterical level. Don’t get me wrong—it’s super funny. But it’s an easier kind of funny, where I don’t have to be rolling on the floor to still be thoroughly amused and entertained.

But don’t get me wrong x2—by “easier,” I don’t mean the film is flat, simplistic, or predictable stuff you can turn on while you’re busy scrolling through your phone. If you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss the little stuff that’s a part of this movie’s genius.

And that genius really shines in the last few minutes, when such a real moment hits spot-on and brings it all together, in case you didn’t know you weren’t watching just a bunch of fluff the whole time. It’s a fun film that means something.

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Marry Me for Christmas (2013)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Marry Me for Christmas (2013) from Swirl Films
Rated G. Comedy, Romance, Christmas, African American Actors

My thoughts: It’s time to go home for the holidays, and Marci’s (Malinda Williams) family will have all their usual, nosy questions about her love life. So what’s this successful–and single–businesswoman supposed to do? Well, there’s always the possibility of finally bringing a fiancé home! Even if he happens to be a fake one.

Now this was a fun one to watch. I liked the story better than I liked some of the acting, though even that acting isn’t too bad, and I came to appreciate Marci more as the movie went on.

I can do my share of good ol’ Christmas corny, though some parts here move a bit past corny into contrived. But what I enjoyed most was that, even if some of the story’s developments are too “all of a sudden” in an underdeveloped kind of way, the movie has twists I didn’t expect in what could have easily been a more predictable holiday flick.

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