In a film series, the second is the most important. It is a litmus test of two important questions: 1. Is there an audience appetite for the sequel? and 2. Is there enough of a narrative to warrant a second movie?
Toy Story 2 (1999) is the second tale within the Toy Story franchise. After Woody (Tom Hanks) is stolen by a toy collector, it is up to his friends to save him. While Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) works on the outside to free Woody, Woody makes friends on the inside. Jessie (Joan Cusack) is a cowgirl and a part of the wild west line of playthings.
I enjoyed Toy Story 2. It has everything that made its predecessor great and then some. It is funny, entertaining, and suspenseful, and the addition of the new characters provides enough stretch to make the story plausible.
As Buzz continues in his efforts to get his crew home, time moves on. When he finally achieves his goal, he discovers that it has been sixty years since his first attempt. An army of robots led by Zurg (James Brolin) is doing everything they can to steal his power source. Leading a small band of misfits that includes Alicia’s granddaughter Izzy (Keke Palmer), Mo Morrison (Taika Waititi), Darby Steel (Dale Soules), and the animatronic cat Sox (Peter Sohn), they must save the day and stop Zurg.
I have mixed feelings about this film. As a standalone narrative, it’s not bad. I appreciate the diversity and representation of the characters. But I also feel like Disney and Pixar are perhaps becoming a little too reliant on a known quantity instead of trying out something new. The lessons within the story are universal and ageless, but that does not take away from the fact that this is the fifth time that we have seen Buzz on the big screen.
Soul: Though it is marketed as a kids movie, the subtext of appreciating life feels appropriate and potent this year.
Mulan: The live-action reboot of the 1998 animated film Mulan rises above its predecessor, making it fresh and relevant.
Emma.: Anya Taylor-Joy stars as Jane Austen‘s eponymous heroine, Emma Woodhouse, introduced as clever, rich, and handsome. Directed by Autumn de Wilde, this adaption is entertaining, funny, and a lovely addition to the list of Austen adaptations.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire: This LBGTQ historical romance between a young woman and the female artist hired to paint her portrait is sweet, romantic, and powerful. It proves once more that love is love is love.
Ordinary Love: Joan (Lesley Manville) and Tom (Liam Neeson) are your average middle-aged couple. When she is diagnosed with Breast Cancer, they both must deal with the rough road ahead.
The Assistant: Jane (Julia Garner) is an assistant to a Harvey Weinstein-esque powerful movie producer. She starts to notice things that don’t sit right with her.
I am Greta: This documentary follows teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg as she advocates for the world to pay serious attention to climate change.
#AnneFrank-Parallel Lives: Narrated by Helen Mirren, this documentary tells not just Anne’s story. It follows other young women who survived the Holocaust. Parallel to the stories of the past, the viewer is traveling with another young woman as she visits different countries in present-day Europe.
We all know that at some point, we will exit this life. The question is, will we live to the fullest while we can?
The new Disney Plus movie, Soul, premiered yesterday. Joe Gardiner (voiced by Jamie Foxx) is a junior high school band teacher with a passion for playing music. At this point in his adult life, his dream of being a professional jazz musician has yet to be achieved. Then he gets an opportunity to play at a local jazz club.
But before he can play, he falls into a manhole. Discovering that he is in the Great Beyond, Joe tries everything he can to get back to his body. His ticket back to Earth is 22, (Tina Fey) an infant soul who is disinterested in being born. Together, they will learn about what true passion is and how to live life to the fullest.
What I like about this movie is while it is obviously a kids movie, there are themes that are well over the heads of younger audience members. The message of appreciating being alive and knowing what is truly important radiates through the narratives, reaching the viewer as only a touching and funny film can.