Review – GLOW – Season 3

‘A new city to wrestle with’

The Glorious Ladies of Wrestling are back! And this time, they’re doing it live in Vegas. The women are living together in the Fan-Tan, an off-Strip hotel and casino – the perfect excuse for one-nights stands with hot valets. They’re out of inspiration and this is affecting their performances on stage. Season 3 starts fresh and there’s a lot going on. Are you ready to rumble?

GLOW has been booked for another couple of months and since the show is mostly the same every night, these ladies can focus more on their daily life. Sheila (Gayle Rankin) takes an acting class, Cherry (Sydelle Noel) is trying to get pregnant with husband Keith (Bashir Salahuddin), newlyweds Bash (Chris Lowell) and Rhonda (Kate Nash) are having some honeymoon difficulties and Sam (Marc Maron) is working on a new movie script. We also get introduced to a couple new characters. First up is Sandy Devereaux St. Clair (Geena Davis) who runs The Fan-Tan. Davis is clearly having a great time and has a few surprises up her sleeve. Another new character is dragqueen Bobby (Kevin Cahoon) who inspires a few of our ladies to step outside of their “comfort zone”.

This new season flies by. It’s fun and entertaining like the second season, but it’s more character focused than the previous seasons. While I thought the first season was a bit of a chore to get through, the second one was very enjoyable. This new setting and focus on the characters flips the tables once again and although I feel they missed a few marks on more of the ensemble work they had going on in the second season, I can confidently say this was my favourite season so far. Creators Carly Mensch and Liz Flahive try something different and it shows through their writing. There are scenes that are very experimental and genuine surprises to witness in a show that’s been going for three seasons. They tackle some racial discussions with Jenny (Ellen Wong) and focus more on Yolanda (Shakira Barrera) and Arthie’s (Sunita Mani) developing relationship.

Season three also feels more human and the emotions run high at times. It discusses topics that were taboo in the ’80s, especially when there wasn’t a way to show this on television. Some of these subjects are still very relevant in 2019. GLOW is a show about female wrestlers and their bodies are being shown on screen in front of an audience, women come in different sizes and shapes. These actors perform their own stunts in front of the camera and season 3 makes the way women get judged on appearances, a key plot arc. There is a lot more nudity than what we’ve seen so far, and this isn’t just shown in a sexual way. I felt like it was very tasteful and artistic how these characters embarrass themselves in front of each other or are just casually walking around naked in between wrestling matches. 

The acting is on another level. Betty Gilpin, just nominated for an Emmy for season two, is marvellous. She struggles as a divorced mom juggling a professional career and trying to be closer to her son, being so far away from him. You can tell the cast have embraced these characters they play and do it so naturally, it almost seems as if you’re watching real footage of the original Glorious Ladies of Wrestling.

The spotlights in the ring might hide the struggle these ladies are going through, but GLOW Season Three is top shelf glorious that never stops sparkling. 

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Originally posted on Novastreamnetwork.com

Review – Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan

‘A true story of ordinary boys who become extraordinary men.’

Luke Bracey is Sergeant Bob Buick

Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan tells the story of a group of Australian troops in Vietnam. It’s 1966, Major Smith (Travis Fimmel) is tired of taking care of (mostly) teenage soldiers, and requests to be transferred. His officer (Richard Roxburgh) denies this request and sends him into the jungle looking for the enemy. This leads them to the abandoned village of Long Tan, where his platoon gets split up into two groups: one led by Smith himself, the other led by Sergeant Buick (Luke Bracey). Not long after, Buick finds himself under fire, left with a broken radio.

Director Kriv Stenders knows how to direct action scenes and to be honest, the cinematography (Ben Nott), editing (Veronika Jenet) and sound design are exquisite for an Australian film. We jump from one team to another with smooth overlapping and beautiful slomo imagery of guns going off and enemies blasting into the air, while shirtless artillerymen back at basecamp have to make life defining decisions within seconds that could kill their fellow mates.

The scale of the film reminded me of other Hollywood war films, but knowing this was all filmed in Queensland, Australia, it kind of takes the magic out of the spectacle. The actual battle took place at a rubber plantation and the locations used to replicate this, could definitely stand in as the true Long Tan. Some digital effects look choppy with choppers dropping supplies down in the dense jungle of Vietnam and missiles flying through the sky to blow up enemy soldiers.

The story is filled with nothing but been-there-done-that characters, which you see in every cliche-ridden war film. This is where Danger Close could’ve been a standout, but they only focused on the visuals. Travis Fimmel acting like a deranged viking in the opening sequence of the film, didn’t help either to set the tone. Luckily he seems to get it together, since he’s still the main character, but is never the standout of this band of brothers. However, Daniel Webber (who plays private Paul Large) is the one to watch. His acting chops could pave the way to a more international career on the silver screen. If it wasn’t for his clearly “tearjerker” storyline, he could’ve been the true frontrunner of Australian stardom. But for now, he does a bang up job.

Screenwriter Stuart Beattie decided to stay accurate to the real Battle of Long Tan, by writing a sequence into the story where popular Aussie singers Little Pattie (Emmy Dougall) and Col Joye (Geoffrey Winter) give a small concert before everyone flees to join the battle. I don’t think this was necessary in the already lengthy 118 minutes runtime, but I guess you can’t just have almost two hours of machine guns and death, without a little useless breather in the middle.

The ending of the film comes as a relief, to the endless jeopardy these men have been in, losing friends at such a young age, just starting to live their lives and lost forever. The names and age of every Australian soldier who’s lost their life roll over the screen without a sound, as if the Vietnam war wasn’t controversial enough as it was. In all credit, films like these keep the memory alive of historical events, so younger generations don’t forget the horrors of the past.

⭐⭐⭐

first published on Novastreamnetwork.com

Review – The Boys – Season 1

Jack Quaid is Hughie Campbell

Everywhere you look these days, it’s all about superheroes – tv, cinema, comics, toys, cosplay… Every person on the planet has heard of Batman or Spider-Man, these fictional vigilantes are so embedded into pop culture that it’s hard to think of a world without these characters. Some websites and fan fiction even show we’re at the brink of worshipping these “gods”. When one of these superhero films becomes the highest grossing film at the box office and we get conventions dedicated to these group of talented individuals, that’s where The Boys would step in to shake things up. What would a universe with superheroes actually look like in this day and age?

The Boys is one of the most relevant TV series made in a while. Seth RogenEric Kripke (Supernatural) and Evan Goldberg created the series, which was originally a comic series written by Darick Robertson and Garth Ennis. These “supes” (short for superheroes) have publicists who write apologies for the multiple mistakes these caped crusaders make, and believe me, there’s plenty of those. Accidentally running through normal citizens or not caring enough to save a by terrorists taken over plane, these situations are daily business and some of them are even set up by media outlets to raise their social media following. They look like your usual superheroes, fake and all smiles in your face, but when you look beneath the surface this group of entitled brats are nothing but monsters with too much power.

When the ordinary Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid) loses his girlfriend in a very bloody way in the hands of speedy superhero A-Train (Jessie Usher), this shakes up his simple life and attracts the attention of Billy Butcher (Karl Urban). Billy used to lead a squad, “The Boys”, to keep an eye on these out-of-control superheroes. While this all develops, the cheerful and starry-eyed Starlight (Erin Moriarty) gets recruited by The Seven, the world’s most famous superhero team. Her team members are the fishy The Deep (Chace Crawford), silent killer Black Noir (Nathan Mitchell), femme fatale Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott), the invisible Translucent (Alex Hassell) and their leader Homelander (Antony Starr), who looks a lot like the grown up version we recently witnessed in Superman-goes-bad film Brightburn.

Billy’s band of misfits fell apart when his wife tragically passed away after a range of personal events. He’s ready to bring the Boys back together, to fight evil and to expose the biggest conspiracy that could end the world of “supes” once and for all. Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso) and Frenchie (Tomer Capon) need little convincing to come back from retirement, but soon find a new member in force-to-reckon-with The Female (Karen Fukuhara). The Boys isn’t just a superhero-tale, it’s comedy is so dark and realistic, Marvel Studios could never show this true side of what their heroes are up to behind closed doors. Eyes getting lasered out of skulls, superhero-orgies and lots of guts flying everywhere. Nothing is too crazy for this team.

The world we live in is ruled by pompous people as authority figures, with too much money and time on their hands. Every day we wake up with another celebrity scandal or politician screwing things up. This is exactly what the writers of the show wanted to stay true to, and used this idea but replaced it with superheroes and put them in a position that makes them almost untouchable. Almost I said, because this is about fighting back at those who lost touch with the real world.

The cast is phenomenal. Antony Starr as borderline psychopath Homelander makes your blood boil, while Erin Moriarty is bright and bubbly kicking ass and standing up for herself as Starlight. Karl Urban stands out as Billy Butcher, shooting at everyone who blinks at him and shouting every cuss word you could possibly imagine, while talking about the Spice Girls *chef’s kiss*. Not to forget Oscar-nominated Elisabeth Shue, who plays the icy and mysterious Madelyn Stillwell, Senior Vice President of Superhero Management at Vought. Her character rules the world with Homelander, smiling at the faces of helpless victims.

The Boys is awesome, explosive, gruesome fun that punches you in the gut when you least expect it. Just when you think you’ve seen the craziest stuff happening on screen, just wait until you watch the next episode. Good news, The Boys has been renewed for a second season, so why haven’t you watched it yet?

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Originally posted on novastreamnetwork.com

Review – Crawl

“Apex predator all day.”

Barry Pepper and Kaya Scodelario

Alexandre Aja is back! The French director best known for his gloriously gory remake of The Hills Have Eyes, is delivering another creature feature, after trying out this genre with a bit more humour back in 2010 by remaking PiranhaCrawl is nothing like Piranha 3D. It’s a viciously claustrophobic thriller, full of surprises.

Competitive swimmer Haley Keller (Kaya Scodelario), just finished training at a Florida University, gets a concerned call from her sister, not knowing a hurricane shifted its route and is headed for their hometown. Worrying, but not very concerned, about her semi-estranged father (Barry Pepper), she decides to check in on him. Arriving at his place, she finds dog Sugar all by herself and decides to go look for her dad. After being told to flee the area by concerned police officers, she ignores the warning and goes to her childhood home where she soon crawls underneath the house to find her father unconscious, with a deadly alligator blocking their way out.

Most of the film takes place in the crawlspace underneath the house, as Haley and her handyman dad manoeuvre themselves into dark corners where the hungry gator can’t get into. But time is running out fast in swampy Florida with water levels rising, and trying to stay ahead of the cellar getting flooded. This is where the film is at its strongest and intense with some seriously graphic scenes, one including a wrench. Aja knows just how to use this compact location with bricks, pipes and rat traps as unexpected weapons against the big bad. Haley crawls and swims through mud and faeces to outsmart her enemy. This is just asking for infections – if she survives…

Running just under 90 minutes, the pace is just right to establish the daughter-father relationship between Haley and Dave, without going off the rails by boring the audience – the main focus is still alligators chasing after humans. Don’t worry, the dialogue is supposed to be a little bit cheesy and the dry sense of humour helps us remind that this is supposed to be a fun little genre flick to pass the time. Scodelario and Pepper deliver above average performances, which is, when you see the film, impressive to say the least. They’re acting in the water for almost the entire film and that needs to be applauded.

While being stuck down there, figuring out how they’ll ever escape the luring looks of the menacing predator, they try to get people’s attention on the outside. A “clawful” of supporting characters basically get used as bait to divert attention of our main father/daughter-duo. This makes for great gory action sequences that will make you jump out of your seat.

The entire first act forebodes what is yet to come, but what mostly stands out is Maxime Alexandre‘s cinematography. Especially his underwater shots and the way scriptwriters Michael and Shawn Rasmussen use the storm as an additional important character, is just phenomenal. It delivers an extra sense of tension and heightens the despair on survival. Our main characters have to work with the storm or die in the jaws of these prehistoric reptiles.

You could say Crawl does for alligators what Jaws did for sharks. The alligators are all CGI, but the CGI looks very realistic. Big expensive blockbusters, take notes – apparently this film was only made on a $17 million budget and that’s impressive. The darker scenes make these creatures even scarier, especially when they move so smoothly in the water to jump out and chew limbs off. Aja guarantees for some bloody bone crushing scenes, without utilising jump scares for the sake of cheap thrills.

This is the northern hemispheric summer blockbuster we’ve been waiting for and saves these dull months, from being completely boring. Go see it on the largest screen with the biggest crowd possible. Crawl sinks its teeth into you and doesn’t let go.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Originally published on novastreamnetwork.com

Review – Booksmart

“Nobody knows we’re fun.” – Molly

Beanie Feldstein, Kaitlyn Dever and Jessica Williams in Booksmart

A coming of age comedy about girls/women, written by women, directed by a woman and starring two talented women. To the guys out there questioning if this is something they should check out, I shout: FUCK YEAH! I’ve seen some critics calling this a “female version” of Superbad, but Booksmart is a comedic classic in the making that doesn’t need to be compared to anything else. It stands on its own just fine and with pride.

Two high school besties are ready to show their classmates they’re more than just smart boring nerds who are all about grades and getting into college. Molly (Beanie Feldstein), prepping to become the Supreme Court’s youngest justice ever, and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever), who’s too afraid to challenge herself. And after being out for the last two years, she still hasn’t kissed a girl. Molly will do anything to change their image and that is gonna get both of them in the most insane situations, the night before graduation.

Thinking they couldn’t get into those elite universities if they’d party all through high school, Molly gets the shock of a lifetime when she finds out that her group of energetic partying classmates got accepted to a wide range of highly regarded universities, just like she did. The graduation party to be, is that of Nick’s (Mason Gooding), vice president and senior chick-magnet. And to Amy’s surprise, Ryan (Victoria Ruesga), an androgynous skater girl who Amy has been crushing on for ages, will also be attending. It doesn’t take long for Molly to convince her bestie to embark on an adventure that will change their young lives forever.

The road to the party doesn’t come without challenges. They get to spend time with supporting characters that at first hand look like unnecessary screen fillers. But even these additional scenes are full of life, and flesh out characters that usually get pushed aside. The most interesting of the bunch are by far awkward rich duo Jared (Skyler Gisondo) and Gigi (Billie Lourd). Jared thinks he can buy people’s attention and Gigi gets all clingy when crowning herself as Amy’s new best friend, popping up at the most unexpected times and places, “jumpscaring” our two heroines. Just to be clear, there is no weak character in the entire ensemble. Everyone is here to leave a mark and I’m so excited to see a cast this talented. The energy and realness they exude is so infectious, you can’t help but applaud and laugh at the sheer brilliance they bring to each one of their performances.

Feldstein and Dever must be best friends off screen, because the chemistry they share on screen is unreal. The compliments they throw at each other are funny in their own way and their comedic timing is off the charts. Stars in the making. Feldstein reminds me of Emma Stone starting her career in comedies such as Easy A, shooting her into stardom by getting nominated for a Golden Globe, later winning an Oscar for a musical (La La Land).

Where other female driven comedies tried to be just funny and very “girly“, this story shows a different side and that women act out just as much a guys do, if not more. A high school comedy for millennials, in which anxiety and expectations are put at the forefront and dealt with in the most realistic way possible. This makes Booksmart stand out from other comedies that take place in high school.

The screenwriters did a great job to let our two leading ladies have some time of their own to explore who they are as individuals and deal with their insecurities and fears in the final act. You can tell this is when first time director Olivia Wilde is having a blast, playing with different styles of techniques and blending genres. She knows how to pull these genre bending scenes off and still push it to a next level with every scene passing, surprising us with joke after bold joke, with unexpected empowering effects. This is also the moment where Molly and Amy’s friendship gets tested and defines how strong they really are as BFF’s.

Booksmart will be remembered years from now, it feels and looks like a classic and I haven’t enjoyed a film this much in quite a while. Noticing how much my emotions shifted during certain scenes on a rewatch, really confirmed to me how strong the writing and performances in this film are and deserves more than just praise. It deserves to be seen and acknowledged as a game changer for the genre. Respect.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Review – Stuber

“It’s going down tonight.” – Leon

Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista

Dolph Lundgren and Sarah Connor-jokes aside, Stuber is nothing more than a rehash of Schwarzenegger action comedies we’ve seen in the ’90s. Formula filmmaking you can predict before it even happens, with violence that tries to shock but mostly just interrupts whatever is really going on on screen.

The film already starts in the worst way possible, shakycam. Because everyone loves this so much, they’ll use this in almost every action scene to make sure you get a headache while watching this and forget about the awful jokes. L.A.P.D. partners Vic (Dave Bautista) and Sarah (Karen Gillan), who also seem to be great friends, are discussing if Vic’s grown daughter (Natalie Morales) is having anal sex, while chasing Oka Teijo (Iko Uwais), a drug dealer. After an unfortunate conclusion to this chase, everything suddenly becomes more personal for Vic.

Kumail Nanjiani plays Stu. Who drives an Uber after work. That’s where the title comes from sigh. Anyway, he works a day job in some sort of Walmart where his childish boss loves to treat him like a punching bag. Stu is also starting a small business with his best friend Becca (Betty Gilpin), who he has had a crush on since college, but doesn’t have the balls to tell her and so he joins her dream to start a spin-cycle business, called Spinster, to underline his feminine side to audiences even more. When picking up Vic, who’s just had laser surgery and crashed his car while in pursuit of Teijo, the duo goes on a drive around Los Angeles, visiting male strip clubs – because a large penis is still the gag of the century – and stereotypical gang hideouts filled with Latino gangsters in a suburban part of the city. And the most unbelievable part of it all, Stu is going along with all of this because he’s so desperate for a perfect rating from his clearly demented passenger.

Stu cries over not being able to get his longtime crush Becca’s attention. Lots of people in my half full screening, found his overacted ASMR-voice and screaming the funniest thing ever, while I just got more and more annoyed at it. Stu is also opposed to violence. On the other hand, we get Vic, the hypermasculine, clumsy cop who bumps into everything that’s on his path because of his fading eyesight. This attempt for laughs gets old very fast. But as things go, coupling these two very different men, is apparently the best thing they could think of while writing the script.

Watching a cast, who has been doing fine for the last couple of years – both critically and commercially, acting this poorly is a serious slap in the face. The way they deliver scriptwriter Trippy Clancy’s lines, is both unfunny and probably read a lot better on paper than translating it to the big screen. I hope they get back to what they were doing with their careers, and stop paying attention to car crashes like this.

As buddy-movies go, Stu and Vic get to know each other better and start to get along in their own quirky ways, with Vic embracing his sensitive side and Stu realising that it’s okay to be ultra-violent when showing off your masculinity.

Michael Dowse’s Uber commercial Stuber is an uninspired slog from the very first scene. The entire film feels out of date by at least a decade. Who knew physical comedy was still a thing in 2019? If you’re still holding on to Jim Carrey’s career from the ’90s (don’t get me wrong, I grew up with his films and loved them – but that sort of comedy died with his career – until he reinvented himself), then you’ll love everything Stuber delivers for 90 minutes. For me, this was like dying and being stuck in purgatory. Ironically, I’d give Stu one star on Uber, just like I’m doing with this film.

Originally published on novastreamnetwork.com

Review – Parasite

“If I had all this I would be kinder.” – Chung-sook

After winning the Palme d’Or in Cannes, the French Oscars let’s say, Sydney Film Festival was quick to reel in that line and get Parasite to screen at multiple sold out venues around the city. At the end of the festival, the film got awarded the biggest price (Best Film) and distributor Madman Entertainment decided to ride that wave of interest in the film, releasing this Korean dark comedic masterpiece just a week later in Australian cinemas.

Ki-woo (Choi Woo-sick) is a young man with not much to look forward to. He basically lives in a basement apartment with his scruffy dad Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho), snappy mother Chung-sook (Hyae Jin Chang) and his clever sister Ki-jung (Park So-dam). Their tiny confined home feels too small to live in with four adults. They use free wi-fi from their neighbours and try to make some easy money by folding boxes for a pizza delivery company, until Ki-woo’s friend offers him to take over a student to tutor.

Faking a university diploma and a shameless backstory, Ki-woo introduces himself to a rich family in a dream house with the most well maintained lawn you’ve ever seen. Here he becomes the tutor to Da-hye (Ziso Jung), daughter of wealthy CEO Mr. Park (Lee Sun-kyun) and his emotionally unstable wife Yeon-kyo (Jo Yeo-jeong). Everything seems to go just as planned, until the almost perfectly executed plan starts to unravel more and more out of control.

Scriptwriters Bong Joon-ho (who also directed) and Han Jin-won have so many twists up their sleeves to make this the most entertaining and well-written film you’ll see this year. Every line gets delivered so smoothly, as if it seems like these characters are real people who are living through this story, with Jung Jae-il‘s classical score, masterfully playing in the background. The cinematography by Hong Kyung-pyo differentiates itself from a more realistic gritty style in the basement apartment, to a more dreamlike perfectly slick style when focusing on our wealthy characters. This point of view makes us look at these two very contrasting groups of people in a different way, to make it even clearer that they don’t belong in the same world. Class systems have never looked more down to earth yet perfect before.

Though Bong wants you to feel for both parties, the lines will blur at certain points and make your sympathy for anyone bounce back and forth with feverish consequences. Everyone has a sense of selfishness to them when it comes to goals, but being nice doesn’t take that much effort. The film focuses on poverty, desperation and what we are willing to do to take what should be ours. Tension between upperclass elegance and underground threat has never been more in your face. Bong (Okja) always loves to blur the lines of genre and he makes sure he hits every step on the staircase, to succeed in his efforts.

Parasite is a mite that doesn’t discriminate and will get under every moviegoer’s skin, no matter what background you come from. The power of this story, is found in the way comedy and drama rub each other in just the right way to spark a bit of thriller, that flips over into pure horror when despair and hate meet each other. This is one infestation you can’t get rid off.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Review – Yesterday

Everyone in the World Has Forgotten the Beatles. Everyone Except Jack….

Himesh Patel and Lily James

What if a global power outage caused you to get hit by a bus in the dark, and you wake up discovering there’s no sign of anything The Beatles have ever accomplished? 

There was a time when Danny Boyle was a director who’s projects were considered edgy and each one of them had their own style. What if just like in Yesterday, he all of a sudden forgot about his previous work and decided to work with screenwriter Richard Curtis (Love, Actually) to make the most dull film we’ve ever seen of him? Well, that scenario doesn’t seem too crazy..

“Yesterday” stars Himesh Patel (Eastenders) and the usually very energetic Lily James (Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again) to play a struggling singer-songwriter and his manager/love interest – yet Patel’s character is completely clueless to the moves she makes. 

Jack Malik (Patel) is ready to give up his dying career as a wannabe singer, when he gets knocked down by a bus in the middle of a global electricity outage. He wakes up in the hospital and soon finds out nobody has ever heard of the legendary band The Beatles (as well as some other brands/objects, which is clearly a perfect opportunity for the filmmakers to incorporate plenty of product placement.. Michael Bay would be proud.).

When Jack sees an opportunity to make bank, he knows just the way how to get people’s attention by writing down the lyrics of every song The Beatles have ever released – at least the ones he can remember. He claims to be the sole writer of these songs and after appearing on a morning show on local television, he gets discovered by Ed Sheeran and invited to accompany him on his upcoming world tour as the singer’s opening act. When Sheeran’s crazed agent Hannah (Kate McKinnon) approaches the rising superstar to sign him to her label, he has no idea where this rapidly progressing voyage will take him.

Not only will he discover how fame can blind you from what’s right in front of you, he will also learn the true meaning of the phrase “the grass isn’t always greener on the other side”. Girl-next-door Elly (James) was his rock from day one. Seeing her being pushed aside by his own greediness makes him realise what he’s really been missing in life: love. The film is supposed to be a very British romantic comedy with a highly original concept that leans towards fantasy. 

Yesterday could’ve been the sweet antidote in a world filled with sequels and blockbusters, but nothing is more unsatisfying than to see a well-accomplished director as Boyle screw it all up. The direction is all over the place with inter-titles and unbelievable scenes that won’t fly in the world we live in right now. It is too realistic to be set in a fantasy world and the film never pulls you in completely. Even the funny one liners and McKinnon’s delightful comedic punches as a stereotypical Hollywood agent, can’t save how ordinary “Yesterday” feels. And if you’re really here for the music, I have to disappoint you. The few music montages are not even worth the admission, since most of the performances get cut short. Just let it be.

⭐⭐

Originally published on novastreamnetwork.com

Review – Toy Story 4

Yes I Can-ada!” – Duke Caboom

The announcement of a fourth Toy Story chapter, felt like an easy cash grab for Disney, after the huge success that was the concluding Toy Story 3. After seeing the first trailer and synopsis, I still wasn’t sure if this was gonna work. So being a bit cautious of seeing these beloved characters coming back nine years after we said goodbye to Andy, I can say – no need to be afraid. The toys are dusted off and look better than ever!

The film opens with a flashback to a rainy night where our toys are still happily living with Andy. Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) and Bo Peep (Annie Potts) are getting ready to rescue RC-racer – a radio-controlled toy car – that’s been stuck in a gutter and is about to be dragged into the sewers, if not saved in time. This is an exciting opening to get you right into the story and remind you of the bond these toys have with each other. “No toy gets left behind“, like Woody would say multiple times throughout this franchise. This scene also shows how close Woody and Bo’s relationship just was, which gets torn apart moments later when the lamp that houses her and her sheep is given away.

Almost a decade later, after Andy has passed his beloved toys to young Bonnie, we see her playing with all of them, although Woody gets pushed aside more often as time passes. He gets left in the closet with some of her baby toys. But when Bonnie has to attend her orientation day for kindergarten, Woody sees an opportunity to sneak into her backpack to look after the nervous girl. In class, a selfish kid grabs Bonnie’s art supplies and drops some in a bin, where Woody jumps in to save some of it – along with bits of rubbish – which leads to Bonnie creating Forky (soon discovered to be a toy, voiced by Tony Hale), a spork with popsicle-stick feet, googly eyes and pipe-cleaner arms. The family has a new member.

Bonnie adores Forky, but having an existential crisis, this spork knows it’s trash and feels like his only destination is the trash can, his safe haven. Woody, so longing for a purpose, takes it upon himself to keep rescuing and returning Forky, which will only get harder when Bonnie and her parents embark on a road trip in an RV. A journey on which we will meet carnival toys (Ducky and Bunny – voiced by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele), a Canadian stunt-motocross action figure (Keanu Reeves as Duke Caboom – the coolest and most breathtaking toy ever created) and a manipulative vintage doll (Christina Hendricks as Gabby Gabby) who’s stuck living in an antique store, ready to do whatever’s needed to live a blissful life. 

The emotions run high, with stunning animation and imagery all around. New characters that will win over your heart and make you laugh out loud with the funniest one liners. Did I really expect anything less, after three exceptionally strong films in this franchise?! Shame on me.

Toy Story 4 is an adventure full of subtle messages and metaphors, that carries on the legacy of its original trilogy. Disney/Pixar has done it again – a sequel that not only works as an ending, but also as a new beginning. When we get to chapter 5 (because let’s be real, this is gonna kill it at the worldwide box office), these characters will have seen so much more than just the walls of Andy/Bonnie’s room and have experienced what “letting go” really means.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Review – I Am Mother

She’ll keep you safe.

Hilary Swank is Woman

In I Am Mother, we find ourselves in a dystopian world where all human life has been wiped out. It’s Day 1 and Daughter (Clara Rugaard) is born from a frozen embryo. 6,000 days later, she’s a young woman taking personality exams and is training to be a doctor. A robot (made by the amazing Weta Workshop) voiced by Rose Byrne is her Mother. She can show a wide range of believable emotions and can move just like humans do.

The production design is the film’s highest selling point, with its Apple-ish slickness. Its scenario isn’t that groundbreaking, but it’s the way it’s executed that makes this an interesting watch. At some point, Daughter goes on a little stroll through the big bunker and decides to open the locked vault doors out of curiosity. She hears cries for help and a lost Woman (Hilary Swank) seems to have been shot and in need of care. Daughter lets her in, and soon finds out she doesn’t really like droids, in a violent show-off. Daughter finds herself caught in the middle of two worlds – will she stay loyal to her protector or is she too intrigued by the unknown and ready to throw everything she knows overboard?

Science-fiction has never looked better and that’s mainly because of Mother. The attention to detail is praiseworthy, as is its sound design. You can’t help but look at every corner just to see something new and innovative. Even the make up department deserves a high five. Clara Rugaard who plays Daughter, outshines Hilary Swank with ease. Her acting seems effortless and natural, reminiscent of Hailee Steinfeld.

I Am Mother is mostly about what it means to be good. It tries to show us how AI might try to understand kindness in a world where people only seem to want more and push themselves into extinction. Swank’s character tries to make Daughter question herself and her beliefs and shows just how powerful an outsider can be that gives you another look at life. The film is also about parenting and how every parent can fail at what they think is best for their child.

Australian director Grant Sputore‘s debut film gives us a dramatised look at humans and our love-hate relationship with artificial intelligence. Its thriller aspect on a mysterious apocalyptic event makes it all the more interesting, when figuring out what Mother’s actual intentions are.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Original review published on novastreamnetwork.com