FlixChatter Review: FINCH (2021)

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Films set in apocalyptic setting is quite popular in Hollywood and in FINCH we’ve got Tom Hanks in the title role as practically the last man on earth. He seems to be quite chirpy given living in a post-apocalyptic earth that has devastated the world’s civilization. He’s singing along to his favorite song as he and his dog-like robot Dewey, which is tasked to collect things when they scour abandoned warehouses or stores etc. searching for food and supplies. Within just a few minutes, we get an idea just how hazardous life has become for humans that he has to wear a protective UV suit and helmet to be outside. The air and atmosphere has become toxic and the suit also protects him against extreme heat.

As if that isn’t perilous enough, he also have to deal with unpredictable dust storms that could come at any moment. The opening scene shows Finch barely escaping the storm as he rides his truck to get home safely. The key to dystopian sci-fi movies is in world-building, that the filmmakers have to convince us of the treacherous condition at the end of the world. Director Miguel Sapochnik (most notably known for directing Game of Thrones’ penultimate sixth episode Battle of the Bastards), working on a script by Craig Luck and Ivor Powell does that effectively and in an engaging way.

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When Finch reaches his makeshift home that resembles a lab in an abandoned warehouse, he’s greeted by his dog, an adorable brown Irish Terrier mix he named Goodyear. It’s quite an unusual name for a dog but later we learn more about how he first saw his beloved furry friend. The dust storm convinces Finch that he can’t stay in his home and must get to a safer location in order to survive. Well, his science & engineering skills has definitely come in handy for Finch, as he’s able to create these robots and other tools to help him survive the apocalypse. 

In many humans + robots movie, we usually just accept that the robots already exist, but I love that we’re shown how Finch builds his droid and his euphoric excitement when his creation finally does what he intends it to do. Jeff, voiced by Caleb Landry Jones, is absolutely delightful right from the start. The scenes when he first utter a word, answers Finch’s questions and learn to walk, etc. is wonderfully staged. The moment the robot comes up with a name for himself is both funny and moving, there’s something so earnest in Jeff’s child-like behavior that’s so endearing. 

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The second and third act is basically a road movie where Finch, Jeff and Goodyear travel together in a specifically-equipped RV to leave their home in St. Louis to San Francisco. What is in SF is explained later in the movie, but it’s not really important as I was already invested in their journey. Now, this is not a thriller or sci-fi horror, so people expecting some violent attacks or action-packed fight scenes with fellow earth survivors (or worse, aliens) will be disappointed. There is only one scary incident at an abandoned supermarket that’s told in flashback, which explains Goodyear’s origin story, but the gruesome bit is never shown. I actually like the fact that Finch is more of an existential drama and a story about relationships and what is meaningful to us in life.

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Despite the inherently distressing end-of-the-world topic and Finch’s terminal illness, the film’s tone is pretty light with plenty of humorous moments throughout the journey. The banters between Finch and Jeff are amusing but also reminds us what it means to be human. Jeff’s antics also provide levity and laugh-out-loud moments even when you know the droid is misbehaving. Despite looking very much like a droid with skeletal machinery, there are times where I wanted to give Jeff a hug given how human-like he’s become. The environmental message about global warming and taking care of our earth before it’s too late is obvious but also feels organic to the characters’ journey instead of being forced down our throats. One particular scene towards the end certainly makes me appreciate just being able to be outside and breathe fresh air without having to wear any protective gear.

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Hanks proves once again that he is such a charismatic actor that he could hold the audience’s interest all by himself.  I think a film like this definitely has to have an actor who is immensely watchable. At the same time, given the inherent similarities to the one-man-show of Castaway, I wonder what it would be like if they had cast a different actor with similar charisma and an every-man quality, perhaps Ben Mendelsohn? 

As Jeff the droid, Caleb Landry Jones is astounding. Hanks revealed in a recent interview that on top of providing the voice work, Landry Jones actually performed a lot of Jeff’s movements, wearing a robot suit which is then replaced with CGI. Jeff is definitely one my favorite movie robots now. The friendship that forms between Jeff and Finch are wonderful to watch. The dog takes a while to trust Jeff, but the eventual bonding moments are endearing.

Overall FINCH is quite a moving and heartfelt sci-fi drama that got me tearing up a few times.  For a film with such a dire subject matter, it ends with an uplifting and hopeful note that leaves a sweet, instead of bitter, after taste.

4/5 stars


Have you seen FINCH? I’d love to hear what you think!

Happy Fall! 🍂 My Favorite Autumn Scenes in YOU’VE GOT MAIL

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Happy First Day of Autumn, everyone!

I almost forgot about today, even though I had planned on doing a post on Autumn Equinox, which happens to be on Sept. 22. (it’s afternoon here in US Central Time as I’m writing this).

Nora Ephron’s YOU’VE GOT MAIL is one of my all time favorite rom-coms ever and it remains timeless even though the technology is long been outdated. I still get a giggle listening to the loud sound of modem as the characters try to go online, I’m old enough to still remember those times… fun times, NOT! 😀

There are SO many wonderful scenes I adore in this movie… I’ve highlighted my favorite Thanksgiving and Christmas scenes…

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… but for some reason I have not highlighted the wonderful Fall scenes. There’s nothing more enchanting than Autumn in New York City… I was lucky enough to visit NYC in the Fall and it’s spectacular! The Fall foliage is just sooo gorgeous and the streets just look magical with the changing leaf colors.

I love how Ephron highlights the beauty of the city in these two scenes, shot by DP John Lindley. This particular scene shows the serendipitous encounter as the two protagonists Meg Ryan + Tom Hanks walk to work in the morning and pass each other on the street without realizing it. The choice of song of Dreams by The Cranberries makes it even more perfect!


I also love this whimsical scene of Hanks’ Joe Fox hanging out with his unconventional American family (these two kids aren’t his niece and nephews, they’re his aunt and brother, ahah!). Ryan’s Kathleen’s book store is absolutely the cutest, decorated with Fall leaves on the window. I love that the entire film was shot on various location in Manhattan, this one looks like somewhere in the Upper West Side.

Ahhh… Autumn is in the air… the temps is actually very Fall-like here in Minnesota already, and it’s so welcomed after such a sweltering hot Summer.


Hope you enjoy these Fall scene spotlight. Which are some of YOUR favorite movie Fall scenes?

The Flix List: List of Misfires from big-name stars/filmmakers that I enjoyed

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Many film fans get excited when a film with big named stars or director or both are attached to a project. We assume that the film will be great and studio executives thinks it will be a box office gold and/or Oscar contender during the awards season. Unfortunately, most films with an all-starred cast or famed directors tends to disappoint and forgotten once it hits theaters. Below are some of the misfire films that included big named stars and/or directors and I really enjoyed all of them. By no means that I think these are great films, I do think they’re above average that has potential to be great films.

1. The Counselor (2013)

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When this film was announced, it was met with excitement by many film fans (including yours truly) since it’s the first script written by famed author Cormac McCarthy and Ridley Scott quickly signed on to direct it. The news got even better when the all-star cast was announced. How can a film that stars Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz and Javier Bardem and a talented director like Ridley Scott fail? The studio thought this was going to be an Oscar contender, so they opened the film in the prime award season in the fall of 2013, but it was met with dismal reviews and failed at the box office.



So, what went wrong with this film? I think the script is the main problem here. McCarthy is a great novel writer but his screenplay for this film needed a lot of revisions. The dialogs were spoken like something from his novels and while it worked in the printed form, it needed some revisions to make it work as a screenplay. I’m quite surprised that Ridley Scott shot the film with this script. I don’t think it’s a bad movie but with a refined script, it could’ve been something special. I still enjoyed the heck out of this film though.

2. ALIEN 3 (1992)

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I was hesitant to include this one since David Fincher was still a young and upcoming director when he made this film. And because of this film’s failure, it almost destroys his career in Hollywood. But he bounced back a few years later with SE7EN and he’s been an A-list director ever since, so I think it’s fair to include it here. This film has a long development history, there were many versions of the scripts that were pitched, and a lot of directors were considered to take on the project.

Fox scheduled the film to open in the summer of 1992 and put a pressure on the film’s producers to get the film made or risk it being cancelled. The producers needed someone to come in and just make the approved script comes to life and decided to hire a young no-name director. Fincher at the time has been directing popular music videos for famous singers such as Madonna and George Michael. You can read more about behind the scenes making of this film here. While this film didn’t come close to the first two films, it’s still a visual feast that would’ve been great had Fincher was able to make it the way he envisioned it.

3. Meet Joe Black (1998)

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Brad Pitt became a super star in the 1990s thanks to hits like Se7en, The Legends of the Falls, Interview with the Vampire and 12 Monkeys. Hoping to cash in on his minted super star status, Universal Studios decided to cast him in a big budget romantic drama (reportedly this film cost around $90mil), alongside another big star at the time, Anthony Hopkins. The studio even believed it’s going to be an Oscar contender by opening it in the prime awards month of November. It was directed by Martin Brest, whose previous films including Beverly Hills Cop, Midnight Run and Scent of a Woman were box office hits and well received by critics.

Unfortunately, the film was met with terrible reviews, and it became one of the biggest bombs of that year. I took my then girlfriend to see it since she’s a big Brad Pitt fan, she fell asleep halfway through, but I totally dug the film. I still think it’s one of the best romantic dramas that I’ve ever seen. I do think that it’s way too long and the ending was kind of weak. But I enjoyed the performances by the actors, the score by Thomas Newman and the beautiful production design.

4. The Bonfire of Vanities (1990)

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Based on a popular book and starring 3 of the biggest movie stars at the time and a hot director behind the cameras. This film was supposed to be slam dunk hit for the studio. Tom Hanks was on a roll with hits like Big and Turner & Hooch. Bruce Willis just came off of the Die Hard hits and Melanie Griffith struck gold with Working Girl. I was too young to remember much about this film when it came out, but I do remember seeing tons and tons of commercials promoting it. Warner Bros. thought that it was going to be a box office gold and Oscar contender by opening it on Christmas week. Just like every other film on this list, it was met with terrible reviews and became one of the biggest box bombs of the 90s.

Because of its reputation, I didn’t see this film until I was in college and to my surprise, I really enjoyed it.

The film has some issues of course, mainly Willis. He’s total miscast here, and you can tell he’s way out of his elements in that role. Hanks and Griffith on the hand, I thought they were great in their respective roles. Hanks and Willis were able to recover their career after this film’s failure. Even director Brian De Palma bounced back a few years later with Mission: Impossible. The only career casualty here is Melanie Griffith. While she headlined a lot of films in the 90s, she never regains her box office star status after this film.

5. The Last Action Hero (1993)

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Arnold Schwarzenegger was on top of the world in the late 80s and early 90s. With four box office hits in a row, Twins, Total Recall, Kindergarten Cop and T2: Judgement Day, everyone predicted that his next film will be a massive hit. It was announced that his next big film will be called Last Action Hero and John McTiernan, director of Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October, has signed on to direct the picture. Since T2 was still in everyone’s mind, many of us were excited for this film and with McTiernan behind the cameras, what could go wrong right?

Well sadly, a lot of things went wrong with this film.

It was advertised as a straight up action/adventure but when people saw it, the film turned out to be an action/comedy. Worst was that McTiernan just don’t have the chops to do comedy. The action scenes were great but when it comes comedic tone, everything fell flat. I still enjoyed the film, but I was let down when I saw in theater. Apparently, the screenplay was written for Steven Spielberg, and he was interested in directing it. But then he read a script for another film that came out in same summer of 1993, Jurassic Park and took that job instead. Maybe the film would’ve worked better with Spielberg at the helms. Sadly, we will never know. Along with Waterworld, this film became one of the biggest box office disasters of the 1990s.

6. The Devil’s Own (1997)

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Brad Pitt has starred in a lot of misfires in his career, and I have three of them on my list here. This project started out as a mid-size budget production, but its budget ballooned up to over $100mil by the time the production wrapped. According to many reports, Pitt loved the script so much that he personally pitched it to the studio, and they agreed to put it into production. Then Harrison Ford got a hold of the script and wants to be in it. Apparently, his role in the script was a secondary character but the studio demanded a rewrite so Ford can be the lead. Of course, this made Brad Pitt very angry, he assumes he’s going to be the only big star in the film. 

Around this time, Ford was still a major box office draw, and his star power outshines the younger Pitt. Pitt apparently was so pissed that he wanted to leave the film during the shoot but was threatened with a lawsuit by the studio, so he stayed.

Originally the film was supposed to open in the awards season of 1996 but got push to spring of 1997. Once it finally opened, it was dead on arrival. The bad press surrounding the production of the film were all over the internet and the film itself wasn’t that great. The main problem with the film is that it couldn’t decide if it’s supposed to be drama or action and they tried to have it both ways. I still think it’s a decent thriller and I’ve enjoyed it even more when I watched it again in later years.

7. The Midnight Sky (2020)

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The most recent film on the list and my personal disappointment of last year. I reviewed the film back in the winter, you can read here. Based on an excellent novel called Good Morning, Midnight. When the film version was announced, I was very excited, although I was skeptical when George Clooney was going to direct it along with being the lead. But he did direct some good movies in the past so I thought it could work. Even Netflix put a lot of trust in Clooney but giving him over $100mil to make the film and scheduled it to come out during the awards season last year.

Unfortunately, they miss an opportunity on making a great space adventure with this one. I’ve said many times, a more well-seasoned and talented director should’ve been hired to helm this picture. There are enough ingredients for this one to be a special picture, but Clooney just couldn’t deliver.

– Post by Ted Saydalavong


Those are some of the misfires that I enjoyed; do you have any other films that you would add to this list? 

FlixChatter Review: NEWS OF THE WORLD (2020)

First, a confession: I’m not a big fan of Westerns. Yes, there have been some Western movies I liked, most notably The Big Country, The Magnificent Seven, 3:10 To Yuma, The Dark Valley (this last one is an Austrian Western!). But when I received a screener of this one, I was intrigued because of Tom Hanks in the lead role, and later I learned it’s his first Western.

Well, his first foray into the genre proved to be more of a drama than a shoot-em-up action, which I actually prefer. The film is set five years after the end of the Civil War in the late 1800s, a turbulent, dark period in America. Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Hanks) is a Civil War veteran who now works as a news reader, traveling from town to town and charging a dime per person to read aloud from newspapers. Honestly I didn’t even know such a profession exist before I watched this movie. But what perfect casting, who doesn’t want Mr. Hanks to read news to you in the only way he can.

Capt. Kidd is about to move to another town after he read the news when he came across an overturned wagon, a lynched black man and a young white girl dressed in Native American clothing. He soon realized she’s a German native who had been taken by the Kiowa tribe and able to speak the language. It’s upon meeting the 10-year-old Johanna (German actress Helena Zengel) that the adventure began, as Kidd reluctantly agreed to deliver the girl to the only family she has left. But the hundreds-mile journey to San Antonio proved to be a rough and dangerous one, but provided ample time for the two of them to slowly bond.

I quite love a road movie when it’s done well and News of The World is a road-Western that makes the most of the two strong characters. Even though it’s mostly the two of them on screen for long periods of time, it’s never boring to me. There are a few shoot-em-ups up on a treacherous mountain region when the two were pursued by ex-Confederate soldiers-turned-hoodlums who wanted to purchase Johanna. The wilderness shootout was perhaps one of the few tense scenes in the film that’s also a key bonding moment for Kidd and Johanna. They also face more danger in their next stop when they encounter a radical gang who turns out to be in control of a small mining town. The gang leader obviously wants to keep outsiders out and feels threatened when Kidd disobeyed his orders to only read the news from his own ‘approved’ paper.

The quieter moments prove to be the most emotionally moving, such as when the two were trapped in a ferocious dust storm. The storm itself was remarkably filmed as it felt quite real, but it’s the moment when Kidd thought he’d lose Johanna forever that’s truly memorable. It’s a genuinely surprising moment that got me teared up, and the two actors’ performance truly brought the beautiful moment to life. Which brings me to the major strength of the film, which is the synergy between these two unlikely pairing. Hanks has always been a reliable actor, but it’s the now 12-year-old Zengel that’s the biggest surprise. She’s not only captivating to watch but she’s also able to match Hanks’ intensity and her taciturn role require her to act with her eyes and mannerism, which she pulled off beautifully.

It’s quite a departure for Paul Greengrass (who worked with Hanks in Captain Phillips) who’s known for his hand-held camera style in his action films. I’d say it’s a pretty restrained direction that works well for the story. There are slow moments in the movie, but it never felt tedious, which is a testament to the solid script Greengrass co-wrote with Luke Davies. Working with DP Dariusz Wolski, it’s a stunning film visually that made me wish I had seen this on the big screen. I also like James Newton Howard‘s reflective music that complements the vast open spaces of the American west.

This movie boasts one of the most memorable finale that closes the chapter of the two characters wonderfully. The themes of identity and sense of belonging, especially in regards to Johanna, are explored well here. It doesn’t pass judgment in regards to her dark past and how she ended up being a lost girl, but I feel like it presents the reality of that time period in an authentic way. I also love that in the end, that sense of belonging isn’t just confined to Johanna, but also to Capt. Kidd, and that’s what makes the ending so special.

Have you seen NEWS OF THE WORLD? Well, what did you think?

Thursday Movie Picks 2021: Oscar Winners Edition – Best Picture

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy first full week of 2021! It’s also the first TMP of the week. The Thursday Movie Picks blogathon was spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… Oscar Winners Edition – Best Picture.

Well, Oscar nominations isn’t coming out until March 15 this year, but naturally Oscar talks have already begun and film fans are likely making their predictions already. For this Best Picture edition however, I thought I’d take a walk down memory lane and pick from three different genres released in three different decades. I’m also picking those that I actually enjoy watching more than once.

In any case, here are my three picks:

The Sound of Music – 1965

Directed by Robert Wise

I’ve mentioned this a few times on this blog that this is one of the three VHS my late mother brought home from a European trip when I was in my early teens, which also marks my introduction to big Hollywood movies. The other two are also Oscar Best Picture winners: Gone with the Wind and My Fair Lady. 

I’ve since watched The Sound of Music at least a dozen times. I know a few of the songs by heart to this day, and there’s such a timeless quality to the story and obviously the music. Irwin Kostal also won an Oscar for Best Music in this movie, his second one after scoring West Side Story a few years prior. Well, both of the lead actors are still working today. In fact, it’s quite amusing to hear Dame Julie Andrews’ voice in Bridgerton series as Lady Whistledown.

Fun Trivia:

Christopher Plummer accidentally said the word “Captain” to Julie Andrews during the argument scene. Despite the error, producer and director Robert Wise thought it was that amusing, and liked it so much, he kept it in the movie.


Forrest Gump (1994)

Directed by Robert Zemeckis

I actually haven’t seen this one in a while but I’ve definitely seen it at least 2-3 times. It’s crazy that this movie is 26 years old already and Tom Hanks is still one of the best and most prolific actors working today. This is easily one of Hanks’ most memorable performance even in his illustrious career filled with indelible characters. It’s also one of the most quotable movies, some hilarious and some profound. It’s nice to see a character like Forrest Gump being such a popular icon… an earnest, good-to-the-bone human being that’s lacking any kind of malice, you could say he’s the modern day George Bailey.

Fun Trivia:
Tom Hanks signed onto this film after an hour and a half of reading the script, but agreed to take the role only on the condition that the film was historically accurate. He initially wanted to ease Forrest’s pronounced Southern accent, but was eventually persuaded by Robert Zemeckis to portray the heavy accent stressed in the novel, and he patterned his accent after Michael Conner Humphreys (young Forrest), who actually spoke that way.


The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Directed by Peter Jackson

It’s quite rare for a big franchise film to get an Oscar nomination and this one won 11 Oscars, rivaling Titanic and Ben-Hur, the latter is one of my all time favorites. I actually think The Two Towers is as good if not better, which was also nominated for Oscar’s Best Picture. The Battle of Helm’s Deep is perhaps one of the most amazing battle scenes ever filmed. But of course, The Return of the King is a spectacular end to the trilogy, with Aragorn leading the forces of good against Sauron’s evil army. This was the first fantasy film to ever win Best Picture. It’s still a rarity for fantasy films to nab the award, though The Shape of Water did win Best Picture in 2017.

Fun Trivia:

The last shot of principal photography was when the newly-crowned Aragorn bows to the four Hobbits. Although Viggo Mortensen did not need to be on-set for that day, he nevertheless insisted on attending. He didn’t have a crown (it wasn’t necessary, he wasn’t being filmed), so he fashioned one out of paper. With each successive take, the crown was becoming more ornate and sillier as crew members kept decorating it, so the four actors playing the Hobbits often had difficulty suppressing their giggles.


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of them?

FlixChatter Review: TOY STORY 4 (2019)

When Pixar Animation Studios released the animated feature Toy Story on November 22, 1995, it probably could not have imagined in its wildest dreams that the animation studio would be acquired by Walt Disney Studios, and would be releasing its fourth Toy Story movie, Toy Story 4, after the first three films received universal acclaim from critics and fans alike and made close to 2 billion dollars in the worldwide box office. Fortunately for Pixar President Jim Morris, and Pixar Chief Creative Officer (and Minnesota native) Pete Docter, all of these things did come true, and the release of the last Toy Story film, Toy Story 4, could not have come at a more perfect time.

Pixar has become synonymous with genuinely heartfelt, often hilarious, high-quality animated entertainment. And Toy Story 4 delivers just that for the Disney-owned animation studio. It’s a sequel to the massively successful Toy Story 3 movie of 2010, following the adventures of Sheriff Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen), among other toys who reside with their human child owners, and try to bring them as much joy and laughter as possible.

While we did not review any of the previous Toy Story movies here, back in 2016 blog owner Ruth Maramis did a weekend roundup after having just watched The Secret Life Of Pets and re-watched Toy Story 3, where she said she was “blown away by how good and emotionally-compelling it was. It’s definitely much more than just a fun, feel-good kids movie. The Toy Story trilogy still reign supreme as the best animated movies ever, it won’t be a hyperbole to call it Pixar’s masterpiece.” Well I have good news for you, Ruth! Toy Story is no longer a trilogy but rather a list of feature film series with four entries (and probably one of – if not the – best four animated feature film series) and its will most definitely NOT be a hyperbole to call the Toy Story franchise Pixar’s masterpiece. In fact, Toy Story 4 could be considered the crown jewel of the franchise because it manages to maintain its superb animation qualities and the emotional complexities of its predecessors, while adding a major element of humor to its repertoire.

Ducky & Bunny – voiced by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele

By adding the strong comedic writing style of Rashida Jones, among other writers, Director Josh Cooley added new toy characters such as Ducky and Bunny (voiced respectively by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele) to a freshen up the animated toys used in the franchise. These two – a duck named Ducky and a rabbit named Bunny – make friends with Buzz Lightyear after he finds himself as a prize in a carnival booth. They exist simply for being plush toy prizes, and not belonging to any child. They long for the chance to escape their monotonous existence on the wall of a carnival booth someday and get the shot at an exciting life, belonging to a child, and of being a part of a family of toys. These are just two of the new and exciting toys in Toy Story 4, but probably the most ordinary yet magical new toys is Forky (voiced by Tony Hale). Forky was created by new child Bonnie (voiced by Madeleine McGraw) when she goes to kindergarten for an orientation. Bonnie instantly falls in love with Forky and it is the only toy she can ever think of when she wants a friend. But Forky… well Forky is much interested in the simpler life, one where he is quite simply trash. He was made from trash, and feels most comfortable when in the trash can. In fact, Woody spends the majority of the first half of the movie trying to keep Forky from ditching Bonnie for a less exiting existence in the trash. But by doing so, Woody also finds meaning to his own existence and understands that not all toys are meant to belong to just one single child.

One of the most exiting toys that I’m sure will be talked about long after Toy Story 4 finishes its theatrical run is named Duke Caboom and he’s voiced by Keanu Reeves. Duke Caboom may just be a Canadian daredevil toy with a white outfit, a mustache, and a toy motorcycle. But Duke Caboom is also a major hero, where he risks everything just so the toys he just met could be saved.  You see, Duke suffers from low self-esteem due to believing that he let down his previous owner (a Canadian child), unable to do the stunts that his commercial ads had promised. His current state is that of being confined to the shelved as an antique, but his backstory is equally tragic. When Woody and Bo Peep (voice by Annie Potts) meet Duke in pinball machine inside the spooky antique shop, the daredevil openly pines for what he once lived and lost. He tells them “You have a kid? I had a kid. I let him down!” You see, he wasn’t able to perform the stunts that his TV commercial promised. But he is given the chance to redeem himself and boy does he ever. You could say that Duke Caboom is my favorite new toy to appear in Toy Story 4.

Keanu Reeves-voiced Duke Caboom

The main arc of the story also introduces us to a doll named Gabby Gabby (voiced by Christina Hendricks). While at first, Gabby Gabby and her henchmen at the antique store (a group called the Bensons, who are silent but sentient puppets) aren’t very friendly to Woody and Forky. We learn that there is a very good reason Gabby Gabby is interested in Woody and taking something that is very personal to him. But Gabby Gabby is a vintage 1950’s doll that doesn’t get almost any attention from children, and this is what motivates her to take her existence into her own hands and find the one child who will love her like she deserves. This helps Woody, Bo, Buzz and the whole gang to ultimately find their place in life, whether it’s with one child or one that helps other toys, sometimes lost toys, to find their owners. This is where Toy Story 4 succeeds. It doesn’t try to be overly sentimental in its approach to humanizing these animated toys, but rather it draws on the emotions we feel as human beings on a daily basis; the desire to belong, to be loved, to help others. I think this will be the legacy that the Toy Story franchise leaves its admirers – to accept others and treat others like you want to be treated.

Gabby Gabby, voiced by Christina Hendricks

There is a touching tribute at the end of the credits – to thank and acknowledge the passing of actor Don Rickles, who voiced Mr. Potato Head in the previous movies. Also stay in your seats after the credits for a special bit involving the Pixar Logo and Duke Caboom. I can’t tell you more but I promise you that you won’t regret it. Overall, Toy Story 4 succeeds where the other three Toy Story movies also succeeded, but it also builds upon the franchise with great humor and a great ending. Perhaps the Disney and Pixar bosses will try to make a fifth movie in this franchise (just take a look at what Disney has done with the Star Wars franchise) but it would be beneficial for everyone if they just let Toy Story 4 be the movie that concludes the franchise. Maybe take some time and reflect on the Toy Story legacy, and what it brought adults and children alike in the past 24 years. Then take another one of Pixar’s troves of films (maybe Inside Out 2?) or just go with an original concept (what a novelty!) and hope that it turns into Disney and Pixar’s next animated perfection and makes them “a bajillion dollars” in the process. Because by this time, you would be foolish to ever doubt Pixar, wouldn’t you?


Have you seen TOY STORY 4? Well, what did you think? 

Weekend Viewing Roundup: The Man Who Knew Infinity (2015) + SULLY (2016)

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How was your weekend everyone? It’s been a busy one for me, but a productive one. I actually did go to the movies, which is rare actually for me as I usually go to press screenings on week nights. But after dinner my hubby and I felt like checking out the new AMC theaters with the new reclining seats, which are indeed awesome! SULLY was the only one we’re interested in that is less than 2 hrs long, though it felt a bit eerie watching a plane crash scene in NYC on the weekend of 9/11.

In any case, on Friday night, we also rented a movie we’ve been curious about for some time…

The Man Who Knew Infinity (2015)

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The story of the life and academic career of the pioneer Indian mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan, and his friendship with his mentor, Professor G.H. Hardy.

I have to say that being terrible at math, I’m not that familiar w/ the subject of this biopic. But Of course, just checking on Wikipedia, he’s an extraordinary man whose math theories are still being used today.

Stories about geniuses are popular biopic subjects in Hollywood, i.e. A Beautiful Mind, The Imitation Game, etc. The film traced his humble beginning in Madras, India and how he ended up at Trinity College, Cambridge in the 1910s. Dev Patel bears no resemblance to the real Ramanujan, but he seems to be the only actor of Indian descent working the British film industry could think of to cast. He’s a likable actor, and I think he’s quite believable in the role.

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Jeremy Irons plays G.H. Hardy, Ramanujan’s mentor who invited him to Cambridge to the first place. The film began with Hardy’s voice over saying how much he owed Ramanujan, which suggests there’s a deep friendship between the two. The rapport between the two characters is a bit of a slow built. The main friction between the two is that Hardy refuses to publish Ramanujan’s theories without proofs, whilst Ramanujan’s convinced all his theories add up. There’s also the fact that Hardy didn’t seem sensitive enough to the challenges Ramanujan faces at Cambridge, including his sense of alienation the fact that he’s an Indian studying amongst British intellectual elites.

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As far as biopics go, this one is pretty straight forward. Though the subject matter deals with theorems and formulas, I wish the film is less um, formulaic. The film could’ve been really engrossing under a skilled/experienced filmmaker, but this is director Matt Brown‘s sophomore work, so overall it’s pretty dry. It’s an intriguing journey about a brilliant person, but yet I just wasn’t as involved or moved by his story as I expected. The performances are pretty good, though I’ve seen more impressive work from everyone involved, including Toby Jones as J.E. Littlewood, one of Ramanujan’s advisers. Stephen Fry barely made a dent though as he only appeared briefly in the film.

I do appreciate the spirituality aspect of the protagonist who’s a devout Hindu. Contrast that with Hardy who’s a professed atheist, there’s a few interesting banters between them. Ramanujan said at one point that “An equation for me has no meaning unless it expresses a thought of God.” He still prayed regularly when he’s at Cambridge, so faith certainly played a big part in his life. The film also showed his selfless nature that he hid his illness from his friend. The fact that the university was being used as a hospital during World War I, he also felt that his condition just wasn’t bad enough as the soldiers that he deserved care.

I suppose the film is still worth a look if you’re curious about Ramanujan’s story. Though it wasn’t a great film, I’m still glad I saw it and the protagonist no doubt has a story worth telling.

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SULLY (2016)

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The story of Chesley Sullenberger, who became a hero after gliding his plane along the water in the Hudson River, saving all of the airplane flights 155 crew and passengers.

The last Clint Eastwood-directed film I saw was Invictus which was back in 2009. It also happens to be the shortest film he has directed at 96 minutes, which is the reason we picked this one when my hubby and I was deciding on which new release movie to see on Saturday night.

It really is quite a feat that a film where the ending is well-known, given that it happened only seven years ago, still manages to be quite riveting. Of course Eastwood got the best man for the job, there’s practically no other actor of his stature who’s as skilled AND as likable as Tom Hanks. He’s the perfect actor to play the quiet hero whose selfless and humble traits are something to aspire to. I also think Aaron Eckhart is pretty good here, though I wish Eastwood had given someone as talented as Anna Gunn more to do.

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I didn’t see this movie in IMAX but it was filmed with IMAX cameras so I bet it looked even more spectacular on screen. The plane landing scene on the Hudson river is as suspenseful as it is stunning to watch. Kudos to Eastwood and screenwriter Todd Komarnicki for keeping SULLY afloat when it could’ve easily been a tedious based-on-a-true-event types of movie. Just remember this is a film, not a documentary. There’s likely a great deal of creative license taken in the way the NTSB investigations played out.

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So that’s my weekend recap. What did YOU watch this weekend, anything good?