FILM: Yesterday (2019, Danny Boyle)

Yesterday (2019 poster).png

Following its premiere at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, romantic-comedy Yesterday is distributed by Universal. After being knocked off his bike during a 12-second-long global power outage, aspiring musician Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) awakes in hospital and learns that he is in a world where The Beatles never existed, and only he can remember their songs. After playing their songs, Jack is heralded as the greatest songwriter in the world and becomes a global sensation. However, the new celebrity life begins to impact his relationship with long-term best friend Ellie (Lily James), and he starts to become ridden by guilt over his living a lie.

PROS

  • An altogether rather charming and quirky narrative, which has good gags and clever pop culture references. Ultimately, however, it serves as a rejection of celebrity culture and celebrates creative arts, emphasising their importance to society and that people should appreciate the art rather than idolise the artist.
  • An excellent lead in Himesh Patel, who is expressive, quirky and very talented in the music sequences. He also has a very good chemistry with the charming Lily James. Memorable supporting turns come from Kate McKinnon, Sanjeev Bhaskar and (a very pleasant surprise) Ed Sheeran.
  • Stylistically this is recognisably a Danny Boyle film in its direction, particularly where some of the montages are concerned, while the music scenes are directed with passion and flare, boasting real energy as Boyle pays nostalgic tribute to a band whom he loves.

CONS

  • The narrative is quite unfocused and disjointed at times as it dabbles a lot with a romantic subplot, but more often than not in a manner which is like toes being dipped in the bath until the climax. Also, the running gag of things having never existed is funny at first, but gets quite dull and repetitive quite quickly.
  • Several supporting characters get very little in the way of development, while in some cases they have potential to add an interesting twist to the narrative, but the potential itself is unfortunately never realised.

VERDICT: 7/10

PREVIEW: July 2019

2019 is already almost halfway finished, and we are past the halfway point in the countdown to Christmas. Boy…this year is escaping us. I have been trying my best to avoid the sun because I struggle with heat, but I have nevertheless had my first sunburn in six years, leading to my friend Inha calling me “The Pink Panther”. I have made a reasonable number of cinema trips, and will be going tonight to see Yesterday, and have done a fair few posts on this blog during June.

As ever, I have a number of cinema trips lined up for July, in a month where I will be attending a wedding and celebrating my birthday, and like with every summer there will be a mixture of indies and blockbusters. New releases in UK cinemas which I currently plan to see include Apollo 11Spider-Man: Far From HomeMidsommarThe Dead Don’t DieSupport the GirlsAnnaStuberThe Lion KingPavarotti and The Intruder. I will do my upmost to get reviews for all of these films published, time permitting of course.

Thank you as always for checking out this blog – whether its your first time or your thousandth time doing so, I hugely appreciate it. Enjoy your summer and for the month ahead I wish you, as always, Happy Reading!

FILM: Child’s Play (2019, Lars Klevberg)

Child's Play (2019 film).jpg

Child’s Play is a remake of the 1988 horror film of the same title, and is distributed by United Artists Releasing. A high-tech Buddi doll named Chucky (Mark Hamill) is deliberately mis-programmed, with all of its safety features deactivated. The doll eventually comes into possession of Andy (Gabriel Bateman), a 13-year-old loner who is struggling to adjust, following a recent house move. Andy and Chucky bond very quickly but, with his programming being all over the place, Chucky eventually goes on a killing spree, murdering anyone who he sees as a threat to his and Andy’s friendship.

PROS

  • Cast and crew alike clearly have a lot of fun in embracing the more ludicrous and daft aspects of the franchise’s premise, and in doing so make it quite a fun film to watch.
  • Good performances from Gabriel Bateman, as well as Aubrey Plaza as Andy’s mother and Brian Tyree Henry as Detective Norris. Mark Hamill, however, steals the show with his voice performance as Chucky – he may not be Brad Dourif, but he is damn good.
  • Some absurdly brilliant killing scenes which are well shot and edited, make good use of fake blood, and would not be out of place in a Final Destination film.

CONS

  • A very predictable and somewhat formulaic narrative, meaning that the only real scares are some cheap jump scares, with even some of the murders lacking shock factor.
  • Screenwriter Tyler Burton Smith tries to satirise Millennials’ over-reliance on technology, and also contemporary consumer culture, but his efforts at satire often feel misjudged and, at several points, rather shoehorned in.
  • Chucky’s redesign is frankly awful and stands out like a sore thumb, thanks to some dreadful animatronic puppet effects and cheap CGI.

VERDICT: 5/10

FILM: Toy Story 4 (2019, Josh Cooley)

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Toy Story 4 is the twenty-first feature-length computer-animation from Pixar. On her Induction Day at Kindergarten, Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw) uses some arts equipment and a spork to make a new friend – Forky (Tony Hale). As the toys join Bonnie and her family on a road trip, Woody (Tom Hanks) must convince Forky of his importance to Bonnie and help him come to understand his identity and place as a toy. However, he and Forky end up lost in a small town, and Forky ends up being held hostage in the antiques store by the doll Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), who wants Woody’s voice box. After reuniting with former love interest Bo Peep (Annie Potts), Woody goes on a rescue mission, but ultimately comes to grapple with questions of identity and belonging. Meanwhile, Buzz (Tim Allen) tries to discover his inner voice and, in doing so, sets out to help Woody and Forky in whatever way he can.

PROS

  • It should go without saying by now, but the animation is absolutely stunning. Pixar have once again created an animated film which boasts a rich colour palette, glorious smaller detail and expressive character design (including the surreal Forky and four creepy Benson ventriloquist dummies).
  • A rich and mature narrative, which is a great continuation of the original trilogy, with a great sense of adventure and real energy, while exploring issues of identity and belonging in a way which is accessible for adult and child alike. There are some great gags (both physical and verbal), and some rich moments of poignancy, particularly at the end of the film, which gives a beautiful conclusion to Woody’s wonderful character arc.
  • Bo Peep is a far more interesting character here than in previous Toy Story films, while the new characters are excellent. There is a lot of depth to Forky, while Gabby Gabby is such a well-realised antagonist and ultimately becomes more of an antihero. Keanu Reeves brings great energy and charisma to stunt-motorcyclist toy Duke Caboom, while Ducky and Bunny are a hilarious double-act, voiced brilliantly by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele.
  • Randy Newman once again composes a magnificent musical score for the film, with some great new tracks, while also reusing some of the most memorable leitmotifs from the previous three scores, evoking a wonderful sense of nostalgia.

CONS

  • Buzz’s inner voice subplot is fun, but it has a degree of repetition, while its wrap-up does feel a bit rushed.
  • Many of the most iconic characters of the franchise, including Jessie (Joan Cusack), Slinky (Blake Clark), Rex (Wallace Shawn) and the Aliens (Jeff Pidgeon) are quite underused, the Aliens having little more than a cameo.

VERDICT: 9/10

FILM: Brightburn (2019, David Yarovesky)

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Horror film Brightburn is distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing. Having crashed by spaceship into their Kansas farm as an infant, Brandon Breyer (Jackson A. Dunn) has been raised by Kyle (David Denman) and Tori Breyer (Elizabeth Banks) as their son. Around the time of his twelfth birthday, Brandon discovers that he has superpowers but, under a dark, sinister influence, he begins to channel them for destructive and evil purposes. Can his “parents” get to the bottom of what is going on and stop him before it is too late?

PROS

  • A well shot and edited film, with cinematographer Michael Dallatorre making excellent use of both shadows and point-of-view shots.
  • Some good performances, the most memorable turns coming from Elizabeth Banks and Jackson A. Dunn.
  • Very vivid use of fake blood and gore, particularly in the final-third of the film.

CONS

  • The premise has potential, but instead the film excessively uses horror cliches and relies a lot on jump scares, while the dialogue is clunky and surface-level.
  • Some misjudged narrative choices in the first 20 minutes make the rest of the film predictable, thereby robbing it of any real mystery and tension.
  • An underwhelming supporting cast, many of whom are little more than extras.

VERDICT: 5/10

RANKING: Pixar’s First 20 Films

Logo for Pixar

Toy Story 4 is released in UK cinemas tomorrow…and I will not be seeing it until Monday as I am away for the weekend. I am okay with that though, because a pleasure deferred is a pleasure heightened, plus I am really looking forward to my weekend away at a Ministry conference. Anyway, getting back on track…

Toy Story 4 is Pixar’s 21st film. 21st…that feels crazy…I remember the marketing for Toy Story 2 two decades ago, and feeling incredibly excited at the prospect of Pixar’s 3rd film. To mark the release of Toy Story 4, I am going to rank Pixar’s first twenty films from worst to best, but I will do something different though. As opposed to a paragraph, or lists of pros and cons for each entry, I am going to have two bullet points for each entry, a Watch if… and an Avoid if…

I would do big paragraphs on each film, but a) I wanted to something a bit different and slightly more tongue in cheek, and b) if I did paragraphs for each film then you would be here reading all day. So, without further ado, let’s start with…

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20) Cars 2 (2011)

  • Watch if: you appreciate round the world adventures that cover three different continents.
  • Avoid if: you cannot stand Mater/the voice of Larry the Cable Guy.

Lightning McQueen, Cruz Ramirez and Jackson Storm race along a beach.

19) Cars 3 (2017)

  • Watch if: you want to watch a Cars film which features comparatively little Mater.
  • Avoid if: you are a vintage fan who cannot stand modern cars.

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18) Cars (2006)

  • Watch if: you have fond memories of taking summer road trips.
  • Avoid if: you have never heard Larry the Cable Guy’s voice

The silhouette of a dinosaur (apatosaurus) with a small boy on his back surrounded by stars

17) The Good Dinosaur (2015)

  • Watch if: you want to see animated backdrops with a photo-realistic quality.
  • Avoid if: you are not a fan of a cartoonish style of character design.

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16) Monsters University (2013)

  • Watch if: you are a fan of high school/college films, particularly those of the 1980s and 1990s.
  • Avoid if: you prefer your Pixar films less slapstick-heavy than this.

A girl with long, curly red hair stares at the viewer holding a bow and an arrow. Behind her is the film's title while at the left shows a bear staring at her.

15) Brave (2012)

  • Watch if: you love all things Scotland, from the beautiful countryside, to kilts, to the accent.
  • Avoid if: you dislike the lazy slapstick often done by DreamWorks and Illumination.

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14) Finding Dory (2016)

  • Watch if: you are a fan of Ellen DeGeneres and cannot picture anyone else voicing Dory.
  • Avoid if: you were content with Dory’s character arc in Finding Nemo.

The poster features Flik peeking out of the leaf with the rest of the circus bugs including Francis, Dot, Heimlich, and Slim.

13) A Bug’s Life (1998)

  • Watch if: you love either the Aesop Fable The Ant and the Grasshopper, or classic films like Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven.
  • Avoid if: insects give you the creepy crawlies (pun intended).

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12) Incredibles 2 (2018)

  • Watch if: you want a superhero film that is different and fresh compared to your typical summer blockbusters.
  • Avoid if: you are still traumatised by your parents embarrassing you as a teenager.

Theatrical release poster depicting the Incredibles running from an explosion

11) The Incredibles (2004)

  • Watch if: you love superheroes and want the Fantastic Four film that Fox tried and failed to give us on multiple occasions.
  • Avoid if: you suffer from claustrophobia.

The poster features Woody making a V sign with his fingers behind Buzz Lightyear's head. Above them is the film's title below the names of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen. Below is shown "The toys are back!" in all capitals above the production details.

10)  Toy Story 2 (1999)

  • Watch if: you enjoy fun rescue mission narratives, and also came to appreciate hearing Kelsey Grammar’s dulcet tones during the 1990s (Frasier!).
  • Avoid if: you consider the video game industry an abomination.

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9) Finding Nemo (2003)

  • Watch if: you adore ocean-based films, as well as adventures which serve as a massive learning curve for a father.
  • Avoid if: you are terrified of jellyfish.

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8) Monsters, Inc. (2001)

  • Watch if: you appreciate monster films, but also appreciate hilarious Billy Crystal films and Steve Buscemi antagonists.
  • Avoid if: you remain traumatised by the prospect of monsters in the closet.

Protagonist Remy, a rat, is smiling nervously as he clings to a piece of cheese while he is pinned to a door by sharp knives and forks. The film's tagline, "He's dying to become a chef", is displayed along the top. A logo with the film's title and pronunciation is shown at the bottom, with the dot on the 'i' in "Ratatouille" doubling as a rat's nose with whiskers and a chef's toque.

7) Ratatouille (2007)

  • Watch if: you have a real passion for good quality food and have wisely already eaten your supper.
  • Avoid if: you are terrified of rodents.

Theatrical release poster depicting the characters Coco, Dante the dog, Miguel, Héctor, Ernesto, and Imelda when viewing clockwise from the bottom left around Ernesto's white, Day of the Dead-styled guitar. The guitar has a calavera-styled headstock with a small black silhouette of Miguel, who is carrying a guitar, and Dante (a dog) at the bottom. The neck of the guitar splits the background with their village during the day on the left and at night with fireworks on the right. The film's logo is visible below the poster with the "Thanksgiving" release date.

6) Coco (2017)

  • Watch if: you love music, or Mexican culture, or stories about the dead, or any combination of those three.
  • Avoid if: you hate dogs…(what kind of monster are you?).

L to R: Fear, Anger, Joy, Sadness and Disgust

5) Inside Out (2015)

  • Watch if: you find the human mind fascinating, and want to see a film about it that is both clever yet easy to comprehend.
  • Avoid if: you hate being reminded of the difficulties of adolescence.

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4) WALL-E (2008)

  • Watch if: you adore classic films such as Modern Times and 2001: A Space Odyssey, or you just enjoy a science-fiction film with robots.
  • Avoid if: you hate the thought of mankind becoming wholly reliant on technology.

The poster features Woody anxiously holding onto Buzz Lightyear as he flies in Andy's room. Below them sitting on the bed are Bo Peep, Mr. Potato Head, Troll, Hamm, Slinky, Sergeant and Rex. In the lower right center of the image is the film's title. The background shows the cloud wallpaper featured in the bedroom.

3) Toy Story (1995)

  • Watch if: you want to see a groundbreaking achievement in animated filmmaking which evokes childhood nostalgia in so many different ways.
  • Avoid if: your sibling destroyed your toys during childhood.

All of the toys packed close together, holding up a large numeral '3', with Buzz, who is putting a friendly arm around Woody's shoulder, and Woody holding the top of the 3.

2) Toy Story 3 (2010)

  • Watch if: you love finding an example of an outstanding third film in a franchise (those types of third instalments are few and far between).
  • Avoid if: you hate the thought of becoming a grown-up.

A house is floating in the air, lifted by balloons. A dog, a boy and an old man hang beneath on a garden hose. "UP" is written in the top right corner.

1) Up (2009)

  • Watch if: a heartwarming adventure with talking dogs, South American birds and a flying house sounds either appealing or intriguing to you.
  • Avoid if: you prefer not being an emotional wreck 10 minutes into a film.

Pet Sematary (2019) – Five Changes Which Made it the Superior Adaptation

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Poster for the 1989 adaptation

The original adaptation of Pet Sematary came out thirty years ago, an era where the horror genre had been quite sequel-heavy, with the Halloween, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street franchises getting ever-more ludicrous. However, with Misery, The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile all being released within the subsequent decade, Pet Sematary (1989) has subsequently become regarded as one of the lesser Stephen King adaptations.

Pet Sematary (2019 poster).png
Poster for the 2019 adaptation

However, a new adaptation of King’s novel was released this year, an adaptation which had a number of differences to both the source material and the previous adaptation. Some of these differences are quite considerable, others far minor, and this piece is going to discuss five such differences that made the 2019 adaptation of Pet Sematary superior to the 1989 adaptation. It should go without saying, but this piece will contain spoilers for both the novel and the two film adaptations.

1) Louis’s Efforts to Save Victor Pascow

Early on in the narrative, a young man named Victor Pascow is brought to Dr. Louis Creed with a fatal head injury sustained when he was hit by a car. Louis is unable to save him, but Victor goes on to appear to Louis as a ghost, warning him not to cross the barrier at Pet Sematary. In the original adaptation, a seemingly complacent Louis knows that Victor cannot be saved but tries to ensure that his final minutes are as painless as possible.

In the new adaptation, however, Louis tries desperately to save Victor and is devastated when the young man dies. This change works in the new adaptation’s favour for good reason. For much of the narrative, it is open to interpretation whether Victor’s ghost is actually there or if Louis is struggling with guilt over being unable to save him and his reappearance is a manifestation of said guilt. By depicting Louis as clearly impacted by Victor’s passing, it resultantly makes it far more plausible that Victor’s reappearance could be a manifestation of guilt than in the original adaptation, thereby giving the viewer more opportunity for interpretation.

2) Jud’s Motivations for Taking Louis Beyond the Barrier

The catalyst for the narrative is the death of little Ellie’s beloved cat Church. After he is run over, elderly neighbour Jud takes Louis beyond Pet Sematary’s barrier to bury the cat in old Native American grounds – grounds which have supernatural qualities that can reanimate anyone buried there, leading to Church returning from the dead, albeit with a more sinister streak than before. The sinister streak is found in anyone who is reanimated by those supernatural forces, and Jud later explains that the same thing happened with both his childhood dog and a local soldier who had been killed in conflict. This does bring into question why Jud would take that same risk with Church in the first place.

In the original adaptation, Jud says that it was because he thought that Ellie was too young to learn about death, and as a result comes across more as a foolish man than a compassionate man. In the new film, however, Jud says it is because he cares deeply for Ellie and could not bare the thought of her having to grieve for Church. As such, in the new film Jud comes across as a genuinely kind, compassionate and sympathetic character, whose motivations are better realised and more plausible than in the original, thereby making him more likeable and reflecting that mistakes often come from pure and honourable intentions.

3) Ellie Dies Instead of Gage

The narrative of Pet Sematary climaxes with Louis secretly burying his recently deceased child in the ground beyond the barrier, only to realise when it is too late that causing his child to be reanimated was a huge mistake. In both the novel and the original adaptation, it is two-year-old Gage who is killed by a truck and later reanimated, and that is where the narrative became most implausible. Upon reanimation, the little boy goes on a killing spree, leading to a final confrontation with his father that results in the latter nearly being killed. No matter what the supernatural qualities, it feels so implausible that a toddler could so easily overpower, maim and even kill adults.

In the new adaptation, however, it is nine-year-old Ellie who is killed by a truck and subsequently reanimated, which does work in the film’s favour. How so? Well, ultimately it is a lot more plausible for a nine-year-old to be a threat capable of overpowering adults than it is for a two-year-old, no matter the supernatural quality. Plus, there is more scope for a reanimated nine-year-old, which is proven by the fact that the new Ellie is cunning and sadistic, with not a trace of childlike innocence or naivety like there was with the original reanimated Gage.

4) No Real Focus on the In-Laws

One of the worst moments of the 1989 adaptation was Gage’s funeral, where Louis is attacked by his grief-stricken father-in-law, who blames him for not saving the toddler. The grieving grandfather ultimately causes a brawl which culminates in the tiny coffin being knocked to the ground. This is a child’s funeral – yes, emotions are going to be running high and there will be distraught relatives, but the brawl turned what should have been a poignant moment into something unnecessarily farcical and frankly ridiculous. When Rachel later goes to stay with her parents after the funeral, her father tries to apologise to Louis, who refuses to forgive him – a moment that is awkward and a little dull, to be perfectly honest.

As such, when watching the new adaptation for the first time, many familiar with the original film would likely dread the funeral and Louis’s subsequent clash with his father-in-law. However, said father-in-law is ultimately just an extra, the realisation that we are not going to be subjected to brawls and awkward moments of tension is nothing short of a relief, and subsequently Ellie’s funeral is a poignant scene that carries some real emotional weight, as opposed to the farce which we were subjected to in the original.

5) Not Under the Bed After All

Easily one of the most predictable moments in the original adaptation is when Jud is searching his house, suspecting that the reanimated Gage is in there. As soon as he enters his bedroom, we immediately know that Gage will be under the bed and, of course, he is and floors Jud by cutting open his heel with one of Louis’s scalpels.

In the new adaptation, when Jud searches his house for the reanimated Ellie, we are certain that she will attack from under his bed. However, the screenwriters give us a red herring – at just the moment where we believe Ellie is about to attack Jud from under his bed, the old boy kicks the bed across the room, suspecting that she might be under it. She is not, and this results in heightened tension as the most obvious hiding place is no longer an option. Furthermore, this is another reminder to viewers that seeing the previous adaptation does not mean that we can know exactly what will happen in the new one.

FILM: Diego Maradona (2019, Asif Kapadia)

Diego Maradona Poster

Documentary Diego Maradona is distributed by Altitude, following its premiere at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. The documentary gives an overview of the career of footballing legend Diego Maradona, looking at how his childhood in the Argentinian slums informed his approach to his career, but also at how his fame and success impacted his personal life, and the long-term impact which it had on him.

PROS

  • A very well researched documentary, which presents a well rounded and well informed final film, as director Asif Kapadia, with maturity and sensitivity, interviews a wide variety of people, from Diego Maradona’s family, to sports journalists, to Maradona himself.
  • Using footage of Diego Maradona’s career and press interviews with the sporting legend and his fans alike, Asif Kapadia gives us a detailed overview of his career, in which he explores the shallow, fickle and ultimately toxic nature of celebrity culture.
  • Using home video footage, Asif Kapadia gives us a sensitive and intimate insight into Diego Maradona’s personal life, emphasising the humanity of a man who football fans once viewed as a demi-god, by emphasising that fame and success can never provide the true sense of worth and identity which people believe that they can.

CONS

  • Given that Diego Maradona and a number of people impacted by his career and actions are interviewed, the fact that their interviews are audio only is to the film’s detriment, as showing their expressions as they discuss and reflect upon the past would have added more emotional weight as we would have seen the lasting impact within their expressions.

VERDICT: 8/10

FILM: Toy Story 3 (2010, Lee Unkrich)

All of the toys packed close together, holding up a large numeral '3', with Buzz, who is putting a friendly arm around Woody's shoulder, and Woody holding the top of the 3.

Toy Story 3 is the eleventh feature-length computer animated film from Pixar. When Andy (John Morris) is packing up his bedroom as he prepares to head off to college, what remains of his now neglected childhood toys end up going to Sunnyside Daycare after a mix-up. Woody (Tom Hanks) is the only one of the toys who knows that it was a mix-up, while the rest of them are excited about their new home…until they discover that, for toys, it is ultimately a prison run by the sadistic and dictatorial teddy bear Lotso (Ned Beatty). Determined to get back to their owner, the toys devise an escape scheme, but Woody ultimately must come to accept that maybe he and Andy are not destined to be together forever.

PROS

  • A wonderful prologue which sets the tone for a film which is rich in adventure, relationships and serious themes of mortality, identity, childhood and growing up, while conveying the passage of time and establishing the context for the body of the narrative.
  • This film boasts one of the finest Pixar screenplays to date, as the screenwriters value in equal measure intense moments of drama, absurdly brilliant moments of comedy, heartfelt character-driven moments and serious themes of mortality, identity, childhood, growing up and moving on. Furthermore, the screenwriters manage this wonderful balance within a screenplay which boasts some rich, mature and beautifully realised dialogue as well.
  • It should go without saying that the animation is outstanding, boasting a truly rich and vibrant colour palette and a wonderfully crisp visual quality. The amount of small detail in the animation is astounding, with many moments, as well as the fur of Lotso, boasting incredible texture. Plus the prologue perfectly recreates the grainy visual quality of late-1990s/early-2000s’ home videos.
  • The returning voice cast members are absolutely outstanding, particularly Tom Hanks and Tim Allen as Woody and Buzz, while Blake Clark (replacing the late Jim Varney) takes to the role of Slinky like a duck to water. The voice cast also features some excellent new additions, but none more so than Ned Beatty, who brings a wonderfully multilayered, yet sinister quality to Lotso, who happens to be the most well-realised Toy Story antagonist to date.
  • A magnificent musical score by Randy Newman, which perfectly compliments the film with its wonderful array of warmth, weight and energy. Furthermore, the Academy Award winning song, We Belong Together, is terrifically catchy and is perfectly suited to the themes of family that have been prevalent throughout the franchise.

NITPICKS

  • There are several new characters (namely the majority of Lotso’s henchtoys) who exist solely to intimidate Woody and friends, which is made more noticeable by the fact that one of them is voiced by a somewhat underused Whoopi Goldberg.

VERDICT: 10/10

Worst 5 Pokémon League Battles in the Anime

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The Pokémon anime has been going for 22 years and counting, with over 1000 episodes under its belt. Every region in which Ash has travelled has had a League Conference which he has challenged to varying degrees of success (or not).  There have been some spectacular battles over the course of Ash’s various League campaigns, but equally there have been some pretty bad ones. While I have been discussing the best battles per region this year on the blog, this time I am going to take a step back from complimenting Pokémon battles which have happened on screen and, with the upcoming Alola League beginning to air in Japan next week, look at the worst battles in the League Conferences so far.

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5. Ash vs. Tobias (Sinnoh League)

Where the animation is concerned, this battle was outstanding, particularly the aerial battle between Tobias’s Latios and Ash’s Swellow, plus to see Ash’s Sceptile defeat a Darkrai which had swept in every Gym and League battle that it had partaken in was great, as was the explosive tie between Ash’s Pikachu and Tobias’s Latios. However, after the spectacular full battle between Ash and Paul, what a cop-out ending for the Sinnoh League. To see Ash’s team of six get swept by a Darkrai and Latios just felt like such an anticlimactic way to round off what had been a genuinely fantastic regional League. Plus, Ash knew that Tobias had at least one Legendary Pokémon on his team, so why he did not bring powerhouse Pokémon such as Charizard, Snorlax or Infernape to his own team is anyone’s guess.

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4. Ash vs. Trip (Unova League)

Okay, this is probably the most controversial pick on this list as it was the battle in which Ash defeated his long-term Unova rival for the first time. However, after all of the focus on their rivalry, after all of the times Trip defeated Ash and subsequently belittled him, we expected them to face each other in a full battle, similar to those which Ash had faced previous rivals Gary and Paul in. Instead it was a one-on-one match between Ash’s Pikachu and Trip’s Serperior. While it had an explosive ending, Serperior had dealt a lot of damage to Pikachu, before the Electric-type turned the tables with apparent ease. This felt like a huge cop-out, especially after Serperior had been built up as this absolute tank during the World Tournament Junior Cup arc only a few months earlier, and was a very disappointing way to end Ash and Trip’s rivalry.

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3. Rounds Two and Three (Kanto League)

Nothing reflects the fact that the writers were unsure what they were doing with the Kanto League more than these two battles, which were crammed into the first few and final few minutes of a single episode respectively, so much so that we never even learn the name of Ash’s opponent in Round Two. While Ash won both of these battles (and it was nice to see Squirtle, Kingler and Pikachu in action), with the anime having built up to the Kanto League since day one, and with it being Ash’s first regional League, it felt ridiculous to see two battles being crammed into barely half an episode. Given that the writers had no true certainty as to whether they would create another regional League Conference, it seems crazy that they did not put more effort into the Kanto League, speaking of which…

2. Ash vs. Ritchie (Kanto League)

Ash’s fifth battle in the Kanto League would determine whether he made it to the quarter-finals, and he battled Ritchie, a friendly rival whom he had made. This was it, this was what both the League and the entire anime to date had been building to…so, what a let down. Ash only just made it to the match (very late!) as he had been kidnapped by Team Rocket, so by the time he got there both Pikachu and Pidgeotto were exhausted. Very soon, Ash’s only option was his disobedient Charizard…who cost Ash the match by choosing to nap rather than battle Ritchie’s Pikachu. What. A. Joke! Over 80 episodes and over 18 months…for this? What if the anime had never got as far as the Johto League? This would be Ash’s best effort at a regional League (bar the Orange Islands), and what a sour note for the series that would have been (it still kind of is one).

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1. Ash vs. Cameron (Unova League)

While Ash’s defeat at Ritchie’s hands was probably his most humiliating, he was at least motivated to push himself further and developed a more mature approach to losing as a result. His defeat at Cameron’s hands, however, was just as much of a joke, but served no purpose character development wise. Despite Cameron having been built up as a trainer to take seriously, he was just goofy in this match, sending Ferrothorn and Swanna out against Ash’s Pignite and Pikachu respectively in spite of 4 x type-disadvantages. Plus, Cameron thought that a full battle meant five Pokémon instead of six, so when he defeated Ash, he did so with only five Pokémon. For Ash’s Unova League campaign to end with him losing to a goof who did not even make it a full six-on-six battle in many ways encapsulates everything wrong with the Unova saga, leaving us fans seething in a way which even Ash’s loss to Ritchie did not manage.