The people (birds) of Bird Island have been deeply engaged in an epic prank war with the people (pigs) of neighbouring Pig Island. But then an actual serious threat arrives from a third island, which has the pigs’ King Leonard (Bill Hader) calling for a truce so the two frenemy nations can discuss. Red (Jason Sudeikis), however, isn’t into truces. He’s the bird who gained popularity last movie when he saved the birds’ eggs from the evil green piggies. He’s afraid that a truce would make him irrelevant, and worse, unpopular.
But the threat is real, y’all. Purple-feathered tyrant Zeta (Leslie Jones) from Eagle Island is tired of living on the cold island. Birds and pigs are going to have to band together to overcome the threat together. Only problem: both Red and Leonard are reluctant to give up alpha status. Red is terrified if no longer being needed. But things are a little more complicated than the bill we’re being sold.
The movie hits all the cute notes the first one was known for: bright characters, great voices, zany antics. Plus pigs and flightless birds breaking out into dance almost constantly to crazy catchy pop songs. That’s literally all an animated film needs to be popular with kids. Angry Birds knows it. It’s undemanding, at times even unthinking, but it harnesses a charming chaotic energy that moves along so agreeably and so quickly you’ll hardly have time to think, let alone be bored. Fire! Ice! Lava injectors! Smells like bacon! Urinal hijinks and pigs in spandex: it doesn’t make a lot of sense but you wouldn’t be watching the sequel of a movie based on an app if you cared about logic in plot.
The voice talent is wonderful though it’s growing so exponentially it’s hard to give everyone their due. The animation seems to have leveled up since its last foray, if you bother to look past the garish colours and frenetic action. The sight gags are almost as frequent as the pop songs which means brainless or not, this movie is light-hearted fun.
And on a personal note, I get that Zeta is supposed to be the villain here, but as a Canadian living in my own wintry wasteland, I get you, girl. You just want to get some sun on your buns. But we could have avoided all this violence and mayhem if you did as Canadians do and buy a ticket to Mexico. Did I mention we’re going to Mexico next week? Feliz navidad, bitches.
Growing up, Noelle and Nick new what fates awaited them: Nick would take over his father’s role as Santa Claus, and Noelle’s job would be to support her brother and spread Christmas cheer. Sure it sounds awfully patriarchal, but do you think a Christmas movie has room to unpack that?
Spoiler alert: Santa dies (not to worry, off camera, nothing traumatic) and Nick, now an adult (Bill Hader), reluctantly dons the jolly red suit. He goes deep into training for his big night, learning the fireplace trick, and getting licensed to drive reindeer. But his heart’s not in it. When he confesses his ambivalence to sister Noelle (Anna Kendrick), she suggests he take a weekend away and come back refreshed. Except Nick doesn’t come back. Facing a ruined Christmas season, Noelle and her nanny Elf Polly (Shirley MacLaine) follow him to Arizona to pull him away from his new life of yoga and enlightenment.
Never having left the North Pole, Noelle is a fish out of water. Not unlike Will Ferrell’s Buddy the Elf, there’s a lot of humour to be found in a true believer, a fully Chistmas-spirited weirdo finding her way in a world full of cynicism. The girl uses gingerbread-scented deodorant for Santa’s sake. The joy she radiates is a lot to take and though I am not a fan of Anna Kendrick, I admit she is probably perfectly cast in the role. But she doesn’t just excel at all things merry and bright, she tints it all with just a hint of oppressed anger.
Although I like the premise, I wish they’d taken it further. Maybe I wish it was a little less kid-friendly and embraced the acerbic edge it seems more suited to. I’d like to praise it for its feminist edge but it largely ignores it in order to keep the sleigh moving along with good tidings and cheer, plus I’d previously watched Santa Girl, also about a daughter of Santa’s, which tackles a concerning amount of the same material. And I’d like to praise it for avoiding the sappy romance, except it seems to go to a lot of trouble to set one up only to leave us unfulfilled in the end. Strange choices.
A Bill Hader as Santa movie should be a slam dunk. You have to take a lot of wrong turns to mess this one up, but unfortunately Noelle just isn’t my cup of cocoa.
Toy Story movies have always been darker than people give them credit for. In the first film, Buzz believes himself to be a hero stranded in a hostile environment. Turns out, he’s just a toy – everything he thought was real is a lie. He exists to be someone’s plaything, and Woody and the gang convince him that there’s dignity and even nobility in this fate, even if it strikes you and I as a kind of slavery, to exist merely at someone else’s whim, until you’re all used up, and then you’re disposed of. What a dizzying and disorienting concept; it’s no wonder Buzz literally gets depressed when he learns his true nature. In the second film, Woody literally contemplates his own mortality. His benevolent master Andy will one day tire of him, and worthless, he’ll be discarded. His friend Jessie really hammers this home with a heart-wrenching flashback of being abandoned at the side of a road by someone who once claimed to love her. Ultimately, Woody chooses to live as a toy rather than achieving a sort of immortality as a collector’s item; he’ll have a short but meaningful life rather than a long but insignificant one. What a choice. In the third film, Woody and the gang face the consequence of this choice: Andy goes off to college, and eventual abandonment becomes actual abandonment. Not only that, but the best friends are being separated, with Woody being doomed to spend his twilight years alone on Andy’s shelf, no longer a useful, loved plaything, but a mere relic of his past. Meanwhile, his friends are going to molder up in the dark oblivion of an attic. What cold comfort. Luckily, the toys are instead given to a little girl named Bonnie to live out a happy afterlife. Cue the fourth film.
Woody (Tom Hanks) and pals are having a grand old time being played with by Bonnie. Sure, the little girl prefers cowgirl Jessie (Joan Cusack) over cowboy Woody just a tad, but still, it’s a good life, no complaints. Bonnie is starting kindergarten soon, and at an orientation session, she shows some initiative (fancy term for not following instructions) and makes herself a toy out of trash rather than a pencil cup out of art supplies. She brings her cherished new friend home and gives him a place of honour among toys. “Forky” is no more than a spork, some googly eyes, a pipe cleaner, and a broken popsicle stick, but he’s Bonnie’s new best friend, so Woody vows to keep them together at all costs. That’s going to be a problematic promise because a) Bonnie’s family is embarking on an RV roadtrip and b) Forky has some suicidal tendencies. Forky was never supposed to be a toy, you see. He’s trash. He knows he’s trash. Rather simple-minded and fairly spooked, all he wants more than anything in the world is to be trash once again, which is where he keeps launching himself. Woody keeps dutifully fishing him out, but one of these times he’s bound to get thrown out for good. It’s on one such rescue mission that Woody encounters an antique store where he thinks he may find an old friend/lost toy/love interest, Bo Peep (Annie Potts). We haven’t seen Bo Peep since the second movie, which was 20 years ago. Where has she been this whole time?
Bo’s been living free and wild as a toy with no owner. That’s essentially Woody’s worst nightmare but she makes it sound rather grand. Besides, Woody has a new worst nightmare: another antique store occupant, vintage doll Gabby Gabby wants his voicebox and she’s prepared to rip the stuffing out of his chest to get it. Yikes!
Structurallly, this fourth installment plays out a lot like those that came before it. There’s always some kind of separation, and then some kind of secondary rescue mission when the first one fails. These toys sure do get themselves into some high-stakes situations on an alarming basis!
It’s wonderful to see the cast of old friends: Bo looks shinier than ever, and Jessie’s hair has never looked yarnier. The animation on these films started out innovative and has only improved. And new friends are a hoot and a half: Forky (Tony Hale) is a walking, talking existential crisis, but the rendering of his pipe cleaner is photo realistic. Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) was a dollie defective right out of the box, and her resulting failure to bond has really warped her. Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves) is a Canadian daredevil who never lived up to his promise; he is haunted by his past, and by the kid who resoundingly rejected him. Ducky (Keegan-Michael Key) and Bunny (Jordan Peele) are two brightly-coloured stuffed animals attached at the hands. They’ve been unredeemed carnival prizes for far too long, and are a little unhinged. Officer Giggle McDimples, Giggs for short (Ally Maki), may look precious and pocket-sized, but she’s a force to be reckoned with, and fiercely protective of her road warrior partner, Bo Peep. All these new toys will come together in surprising ways to give our pal Woody one last big adventure.
Coming full circle with the original film in the franchise which was released 24 years ago, Toy Story 4 has Woody once again paired with a toy who does not believe himself to be a toy. Woody’s experiences with Andy, and now with Bonnie, position him to a real advocate for finding and fulfilling one’s purpose and embracing one’s destiny. Heartwarming and heartbreaking in almost equal measure (I cried twice before the opening credits were over, and then alllllll the way home), Toy Story 4 more than justifies its existence. But after the perfect send-off in #3, is #4 a necessary or worthy addition? As much as I looked forward to connecting with these characters again, I surprise myself by saying no. Toy Story 4 is a good movie, an entertaining one, a very sweet one, but I can’t help but wish they’d left it at a trilogy so that we could have one perfect, shiny thing in our lives.
A little later than most, we’ve been watching Dirty John on Netflix. It’s apparently based on a true story, about a woman who gets stuck in an abusive relationship with a pathological liar, thief, and drug addict – John, played by Eric Bana. To cleanse our palettes I suggested we find a movie featuring Eric Bana in a nicer light but perusing his filmography on IMDB, we discovered that Bana’s good movies are fewer and further between than we’d imagined. Troy? King Arthur? Lone Survivor? No thanks. I had this foggy memory of a movie where the characters discuss Eric Bana, and how his role in Munich would get them all laid that night. So, logically, instead of watching Munich, we watched Knocked Up, which doesn’t have Eric Bana at all, but does have the above mentioned scene. It seemed easier to digest.
In it, a straight-laced TV producer, Alison (Katherine Heigl), gets drunk and has sex with an improbable mate, stoner Ben (Seth Rogen), and though that encounter is destined to be a one-night stand, she gets pregnant and it forces them together way beyond what’s reasonable for a couple of opposites.
Actually, I accidentally just referenced this movie the other day. Seth Rogen has another movie coming out, another romantic comedy (or as romantic as a guy like Rogen can tolerate) and in my mind, I thought it was Katherine Heigl again. It isn’t. It’s actually Charlize Theron. Sean suggested my mistake meant that somewhere in the world, Charlize was feeling vaguely insulted without knowing why. Sorry Charlize.
Anyway, Knocked Up is sort of funny. Actually, it’s definitely funny, thanks in no part to Katherine Heigl, but thanks in large part to its very talented extended cast – including early inclusions of Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig who both maximize small roles. And Harold Ramis as Rogen’s father, who is a delight for every single moment he’s on screen. Leslie Mann plays Alison’s sister, married with kids, who were played by her real-life kids with writer-director Judd Apatow, Maude and Iris Apatow. Which is crazy because the kids are teeny tiny in this movie, but in 2019, Maude Apatow just went to the Vanity Fair Oscars party with her parents, looking very grown up. And we saw her last year at SXSW at the premiere of her mother’s movie, Blockers. She’s a lady now. Katherine Heigl is washed up. And Oscar winner Charlize Theron is signed on for the next Seth Rogen movie. What a crazy world in which we live.
Anyway, this is a better movie than you’d think. It kind of has some smart and sad stuff to say about marriage – it’s weirdly wise for a movie that makes fart jokes, and more raw and explicit about the realities of birth than any drama has dared to be. It may not have Eric Bana in it, but it did restore our faith in humanity, so job done, DVD we found in our garage.
There’s just something right to me about a Nick Frost – Simon Pegg pairing. And this movie celebrates their inherent dweebitude. Graeme (Pegg) and Clive (Frost) are just a couple of nerds visiting the U.S. for comic con and then an alien-themed road trip, you know, Area 51, Roswell, New Mexico, all those popular conspiracy theorist tourist traps. Only this road trip just happens to bring them a real alien, and his name is Paul (voiced\motion captured by Seth Rogen).
Paul crash-landed here decades ago and has put up amiably with interrogation and testing, but he’s making his escape now that the only thing left is to slice and dice him. Is the government simply going to let him get away? Of course not. Jason Bateman, Bill Hader, and Joe Lo Truglio are all hot on his tail (he doesn’t have a tail). Graeme and Clive have an RV and a religious one-eyed woman named Ruth (Kristen Wiig) and that’s about it: not ideal fleeing-the-government provisions, but it’ll have to do.
Paul is a love letter to science fiction fans. Pegg and Frost made the film’s pilgrimage in real life, and based the script on some of their odd encounters. The idea first came to them on a rainy night on the set of Shaun of the Dead, where they quickly sketched the character. Cameos and references to pop (science) fiction abound – how many can you spot? Paul is a real tribute to the genre but also just genuinely funny, even for those of us without an intrinsic love of extraterrestrials. This isn’t an excellent movie, but it’s a good enough movie, and frankly, it’s funnier than anything presently in theatres.
I’m at a wedding today, one I’m helping to coordinate, so I know the brides and I are all hoping that it won’t be cloudy, nor will there by any weird weather events. Blue skies and sunshine please.
I saw Up in theatres with my best friend Rachel in the spring of 2009. The previews included a trailer for a movie I’d never heard of before – Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. With our dorky 3D glasses on, the meatballs looked big and bad and only a glance between us was needed to establish that this is where we’d be when it came out in September of that year.
I did see Meatballs in theatres, with Sean. Rachel was dead by then. She died very suddenly on this day 7 years ago, the result of a motorcycle accident. She left behind a 9 year old daughter and was just a couple of weeks away from turning 30. She was buried in a sundress that I bought her. She was always older than me but now I’m older than she ever got to be. I’ve been without her for longer than I knew her, but her loss still smarts.
Meatballs was possibly the first movie I saw with Sean. He and I met just a month before Rachel died. He never knew her in life; they only “met” when he accompanied me to the hospital to say my goodbyes, but that swollen face and broken body weren’t her.
I’ve never been able to be objective about this movie. I like it. It has Mr. T. and that’s pretty objectively great. But it’s also a way to have one last date with the fabulous Miss Rachel. I never got to throw her that surprise birthday party, or be the maid of honour at her wedding. But I did see this movie, and I know she saw it with me.
Now that we got that out of the way, this movie is better than I imagined possible, having known nothing about the movie or the app. Before seeing this movie, I thought – should I download the app? Might there be some crucial plot point that I need to grasp going in? But then I thought, nay, realized – nah.
Here’s what I have discovered: three friends live among a flock of super happy birds. But they’re not happy. They’re angry. They met at anger management. Red (Jason Sudeikis), Chuck (Josh Gad), and Bomb (Danny McBride) only get angrier when a ship of green pigs sails out of nowhere (“But there’s no other place besides here!”) and start encouraging them to adopt pig ways. They introduce things like trampolines, slingshots, and helium gas, and I thought – these are the dumbest gifts. Birds don’t need to be hurled about, they already fly!
Then I thought – Oh. Wait. I haven’t seen a single bird fly and we’re 30 minutes into this thing. Are these birds flightless? And then Red, Chuck, and Bomb hiked up a mountain and that confirmed it, yup, flightless (“Ugh, my calves are killing me.”). So they hike up a mountain in order to find Mighty Eagle who might help out with the pig problem because Red does NOT trust the pigs, not one rasher (“Something about those pigs isn’t kosher”).
Anyway. My hat’s off to the screenwriter who pulled this movie entirely out of his ass. It’s easier to make a story out of nothing than it is to make one out of weird, specific prompts: angry birds, pigs, slingshots – Go! And yet here we have it, and it only took 4 grown men to come up with it: John Cohen, Mikael Hed, Mikko Polla, and Jon Vitti. That said, it’s flimsy. It’s better than a movie based on an app should be, because it’s still a stupid concept (confidential to the jerks who want to turn Fruit Ninja into a movie: STUPID CONCEPT!). But it’s a better cartoon than Norm of the North. And Kungfu Panda 3. And Hotel Transylvania 2. And yet worse than the trailer to Finding Dory. Yeah, I said it. It can’t even compete with a Pixar trailer. So what kind of endorsement is this? It’s not much of one, that’s what.
But will kids like it? I mean, some kids weren’t even born when the app came out in 2009, and hopefully most kids aren’t already carrying smartphones in their pockets. I know it had a hard time keeping my attention, and I have the attention span of a 3 year old (so: no). But it’s energetic and filled with primary colours, which might impress the 4-year olds but is beneath the 8 year olds. And it’s got some great one-liners that even I could appreciate, and a few sight gags that made not completely resent the film. It’s rated PG for “rude humor and action” and yes, there’s some rude humour. How do you feel about pelvic thrusts combined with sexual innuendo (I know, I know – is there any other kind). But what stopped me in my tracks was that one bird says “Shut up.” Shut up was a VERY bad word in my house, growing up. VERY bad. Awful. Huge trouble. Then again, so was vagina, so that shit’s messed up (is this just me? What was off-limits in your house?).
So yeah. It’s vaguely entertaining. Pretty hollow. Filled with Sean Penn’s grunts. Awkward theme to explain to your kids. And the hallmark of a sub-par animated film: the characters dance to an out-of-date pop song. I’m waving the caution flag, folks.