Is 'Toy Story 4' Any Good? Here's What The Reviews Say
'PLEASANTLY UNPREDICTABLE'

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It's been nine years since we saw Woody, Buzz and the gang in a tear-jerking end to the "Toy Story" trilogy. The fourth installment (out next Friday, June 21) is premised on the toys pondering the nature of their existence — does it justify its own? Here's what the reviews have to say:

Woody Has A Bit Of An Identity Crisis Spurred By Newcomer Forky And The Return Of Bo Peep

Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw) is about to begin kindergarten, and Woody (Tom Hanks) is struggling with the fact that she seems to be losing interest in him. During playtime, he's left in the closet more often than not, collecting dust and growing anxious. Things get no easier when Bonnie actually makes a new friend at school: Forky, who, being made out of objects found in the trash, seeks to return from whence he came. Thus, Woody finds his second lease on life with Bonnie, battling obsolescence by taking responsibility for Forky's well-being.

[Polygon]

Forky's arrival sparks a journey that's both geographical and psychological, for Woody and Buzz. With Woody, that comes courtesy of his lost love, Bo Peep, who unexpectedly crosses his path while he's on the hunt for Forky[…] Buzz, meanwhile, has become complacent in his new routine, and when Woody goes missing again, he's forced to step up and take charge – but finds himself doubting his own instincts.

[IGN Movies]

People Will Love The Hell Out Of Tony Hale's Forky

I should probably talk about Forky, because everyone's gonna like Forky[…] Watching him achieve sentience has a wonderful twinge of Frankensteinian horror, as Forky is at first horrified by his newfound existence. He's almost suicidally determined to assume what he believes is his rightful role as mere garbage. Who hasn't wanted to yell "trash!" and throw oneself in the waste bin at some point, as Forky repeatedly does? It's a dark and bracingly good joke, given nutty voice by Tony Hale.

[Vanity Fair]

I'll admit it: When I first heard of this Forky, I thought it sounded like something out of an Onion headline. How stupid of me. This is Pixar; of course, they figured out a way to make Forky an endearing, lovable character.

[Chicago Sun-Times]

Forky alone is enough to elevate this potential cash-grab into the beautiful and hilarious coda that its long-running series needed to be truly complete. Forky is the hero we need in 2019.

[IndieWire]


Woody's Storyline Feels Right, Even After The Seeming Finality Of 'Toy Story 3'

There's a subtle weariness in Tom Hanks's performance that speaks to everything Woody has been through over the decades, a sign that this old gunslinger has seen – and lost – too much. That gravitas helps anchor the story, especially when it's set opposite Forky's googly-eyed naivete.

[IGN Movies]

Toy Story 4 wisely feels like less of a new chapter and more like an epilogue, an addendum for Woody that muses on the peculiarities of the symbiotic relationship between toys and humans these movies have long explored.

[The Atlantic]


Bringing Annie Potts Back As Bo Peep Both Does Right By Her Previously Sidelined Role And Deepens Woody's

Now living in the wild as a Lauren Bacall-like "lost toy" with her three-headed Cerberus sheep, Bo has been reborn as Pixar's version of a Miyazaki heroine; using her staff to navigate the human world like the whole planet was designed as her playpen, she moves through the antiques store with the savage grace of Princess Mononoke, pushing Cooley's animators to make this the most fluid and enjoyably kinetic Pixar film since "Ratatouille."

[IndieWire]

Bo and Woody's reunion is sweet, but then it turns bitter. While he's happy to see her, there's part of him that looks down on the life she lives, making the most of her new circumstances. He can't see himself living as a self-sufficient toy like her, even though we all see the dead-end situation he's in. This rings loud and clear for us, the viewers: The need to let go and say goodbye can be so obvious to everyone except the person who has to do it.

[Vox]

The Other New Toys Are Fine Additions, But They Steal Focus Away From The Rest Of The Ensemble

Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key voice carnival toys who look a tad familiar. Peele's Bunny suggests a bigger-eared Sulley from Monsters Inc, and Key's Ducky is literally an angry bird. Keanu Reeves plays a daredevil Canadian toy, and John Wick star's line readings float like rainbow vapor above an undiscovered waterfall. Still, his stunt-casting is the kind of referential gag Pixar used to avoid: Yes, he Whoas.

[Entertainment Weekly]

While they're all good for a few big laughs, they don't seem like characters who will stick with fans the way one-time newbies like Jesse and Bullseye managed to. The exception, of course, is Forky, who will undoubtedly permanently worm his fuzzy, misshapen arms into all of our hearts and have us wearing T-shirts emblazoned with "I'm trash!" in no time.

[Refinery29]

The original crew gets short shrift: You want to see more of them, and what you do see winds up feeling like a distraction. Did development of this movie get lost somewhere between sequeldom and spin-offery, juggling old toys with new stories? Kids won't care, though they will wonder why Jessie gets relegated backwards to seventh banana status. 

[Entertainment Weekly]


The Antagonist, Gabby Gabby, Is Appropriately Creepy

On the trip, Woody finds himself in a store called Second Chance Antiques. ("Established 1986," the sign reads, the same year Pixar became an independent company.) Inside lurks Gabby Gabby, a cherubic 1950s doll who sits on a throne of fine china behind locked glass. Gabby Gabby is up to something tricky — and she's uncannily voiced by Christina Hendricks, channeling retro good cheer and horror-movie megalomania slipping into unbearable sadness.

[Entertainment Weekly]

Gabby Gabby's obsession with affection isn't that different from Woody's. But unlike Woody, Gabby Gabby's never experienced it, and that makes her more desperate. Her desperation makes her not only the most extreme villain but also the most relatable and heartbreaking one in the Toy Story series thus far.

[Vox]


It's Definitely The Weirdest 'Toy Story' Movie Yet

I'm all for the studio exploring new concepts and original characters going forward, and setting aside the endless anthologizing of its biggest hits for a good long while. But if I had to get another Toy Story, this is about as strange and beguiling an entry as I could have hoped for.

[The Atlantic]

In my mind, there's no question Toy Story 4 is the weakest movie in the series. But it's also the riskiest and the most pleasantly unpredictable. It also asks more questions — sincere, tough questions — about the nature and meaning of life than almost any "adult movie" I've seen this year.

[ScreenCrush]

We see Woody and friends not only chance exposure to the human world, but also interact with it in ways I think are unprecedented for the series. It's a bit jarring, and yet all that flouting of rules and strained suspension of magical disbelief ultimately leads to a worthwhile message. One that, much to my shock, offers a kind of permission to those in the audience who do not—and maybe never will—feel the kind of parental devotion that Woody so ardently premises his existence on.

[Vanity Fair]

Animation-Wise, It Showcases Pixar's Stunning Evolution

All of these locales and toys are rendered in astounding animation that I fear is in danger of being overlooked because most of the characters are 20 years old, the setting is relatively mundane, and the key cast addition is literally a plastic utensil. But the character animation in Toy Story 4 — the body language, the movement, the expressions, the "acting" — is astounding.

[ScreenCrush]

The most beautiful moments in Toy Story 4 are those between Woody and Bo. From the specific pattern of light cast by the lamp she used to stand on, to the way they come into focus and the background blurs whenever they're together (whereas the rest of the film is relatively clear), the visuals make it clear that the movie, while still a meditation on childhood and letting go, is also a love story.

[Polygon]


It's Got Exactly The Kind Of Heart And Message You Expect Of A 'Toy Story' Film, And That's A Relief

While the last movie saw our heroes coming to terms with their own mortality, Toy Story 4 strives for something just as weighty – self-actualization. After years of existing just for the enjoyment of their owners, we start to see what happens when our heroes begin pondering their true purpose, and venturing beyond the roles they've been given.

[IGN Movies]

Woody has always been convinced that he was put on this planet to provide for Andy and Bonnie and whatever kid might have him; he's lawman, and that's his code. But, with Forky's help, "Toy Story 4" takes a step back and forces Woody to re-evaluate his own sense of frontier justice. Yes, he was manufactured for the love that he has to give. But he's only alive because of the love that he's received in return.

[IndieWire]

While the story is largely an allegory for parenthood and the emotional plight of a soon-to-be empty nester, the sharp pain of rejection that Woody feels is something every one of us has felt at least once or twice. That universality is the hallmark of any Toy Story movie — all of which pull from the same playbook designed to employ zero-hour speeches, nuggets of wisdom about love and friendship, and a nostalgic, plinky Randy Newman soundtrack to force us to work out a few feelings, shed a few tears, and sniffle our way to the funny parts.

[Refinery29]

TL;DR​

It feels miraculous that Pixar could've successfully navigated such a narrative minefield again after the cathartic closure of the last film, but Toy Story 4 is full of the same joy, wonder, and whimsy that we've come to expect from every Toy Story installment.

[IGN Movies]


Watch The Trailer

 

You can get pre-order tickets here. 


Is The Seth Rogen Comedy 'An American Pickle' Any Good? Here's What The Reviews Say
IN A REAL PICKLE HERE

Digg · Updated:

The movie, which streams on HBO Max on August 6, has an enticing premise: a man gets preserved in a jar in the early 20th century and wakes up 100 years later in contemporary Brooklyn. But does the movie itself live up to its zany plot? Here's what the reviews say.


Seth Rogen Plays Two Men, Herschel Greenbaum, A Man Who Wakes Up After 100 Years In A Pickle Vat, And Greenbaum's Great-Grandson, Ben

An Eastern European labourer named Herschel (Seth Rogen) arrives in America, only to be pickled for 100 years in a factory accident. He awakes in 2020, and moves in with his only surviving relative: great-grandson Ben (also Rogen). Things are going swimmingly — until Herschel wrecks Ben's business, leading to a vengeful game of oneupmanship.

[Empire]

While Hershel is low-key confounded by these modern times (what with interracial dating, women's rights, and the high cost of produce), he is most perplexed by his descendant's priorities. Ben doesn't observe Jewish religious traditions and hasn't visited the family graves in years. He has no wife, no children, and no career that Herschel can comprehend. So tensions rise. In no time at all, the pair declare each other enemies. Herschel strikes out on his own with a pickle cart with wares pulled freegan-style from dumpster diving. Meanwhile, Ben stews over how to ruin his eccentric great-grandfather.

[IGN]


The Movie Probes Into Issues Of Jewish Immigration Identity — Though Perhaps Not Deeply Enough

In its best moments, An American Pickle knows how to thread the needle between fish-out-of-water comedy and retaining a thoughtful look at Jewish ancestry in America, but those moments are few and far between […] Every time the movie has a chance to go deeper, whether it's with immigration or legacy or American comfort or Judaism, An American Pickle skims the surface and moves on.

[Collider]

Made in the midst of a resurgence in blatant anti-Semitism across the US, it's a strange choice for "An American Pickle" to reveal that Herschel's greatest backlash comes from...violent Christians? The movie sidesteps the most alarming aspect of Jewish persecution — its resurgence in public over the last four years — and never even gives Herschel a chance to learn about the Holocaust.

[IndieWire]


As A Comedy, It Sometimes Falls Flat In Delivering Laughs

There are some scattered laughs but it's not particularly funny, and "American Pickle" […] is generally all over the place, aiming to be an abstract comedy about family and religion but losing its way trying to also poke fun at modern culture.

[USA Today]

 [T]he film fails to build its laughs into substantial comic momentum, or even construct many substantial scenes. (Tellingly, one of its funniest is a mid-credits bonus.) As it progresses, the material feels more and more like a series of slightly amusing paragraphs, with sentimentality wedged uncomfortably between flights of satirical whimsy.

[The AV Club]

There are laughs along the way with Herschel and Ben's mirror-image intergenerational, culture-clash roommate bromance. But, inevitably, as with so much high-concept comedy, the real laughs, the ones built on detachment, self-aware flippancy and cynicism, come at the beginning, with the establishment of the premise.

[The Guardian]


The Story's Emotional Beats, However, Manage To Shine Through

 Despite the acrimoniousness of their split, you root for their inevitable reconciliation, which closes the movie on a warm note […] "An American Pickle" is neither the most substantial nor the most sophisticated comedy, but its soulful sweetness outweighs its flaws.

[The Hollywood Reporter]

It may not always succeed as a comedy but as a drama, this is the real dill. Part time-travelling family drama, part idiosyncratic immigrant-adventure comedy, "An American Pickle"'s gags underwhelm, but its emotion and originality will surprise you.

[Empire]

[T]he thread of leaning on family to process grief is touching, and Rogen manages to make Herschel and Ben's longing to connect feel real. The movie is frequently funny, sometimes sweet, and never particularly deep, but it does have a uniquely odd relationship to time that gives it a peculiar extra layer. Call it the proprietary brine.

[Wired]


And Rogen's Charisma Helps To Keep The Audience Entertained, Even When The Rest Of The Movie Falters

[I]t's enjoyable enough to watch the actor single-handedly rescue the high concept surrounding him.

[IndieWire]

Rogen is an always likable actor whose reputation was built largely on playing crude, sophomoric stoners. But there's an inherent sweetness in his screen persona that's been there since the very beginning on "Freaks and Geeks," notably in the affecting story arc in which his befuddled character, Ken Miller, struggled with the revelation of his tuba-playing girlfriend Amy's intersex birth origins. It's a variation on Ken — the tender, passionate bear of a guy occasionally stymied by his blind spots — that steers "An American Pickle" through its narrative rough patches.

[The Hollywood Reporter]


TL; DR

Nothing in "American Pickle" can match the silly storybook fantasy of its opening moments, but they do a good job of getting us hooked. 

[IndieWire]


Watch The Trailer Here


Is The Google Pixel 4A Worth It? Here's What The Reviews Say
NOT PHONING IT IN

Digg · Updated:

The Pixel 4A, which will be released on August 20, is incredibly affordable at $349, but can it compete with other smartphones? Here's what the reviews say.


The Best Feature Of The Phone Is The Camera

[W]hen it comes to photos, the Pixel 4A goes toe-to-toe with the iPhone 11 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S20 — and often wins.

[The Verge]

There is no distinguishable difference between the $350 Pixel 4a's and the Pixel 4's camera, a phone that starts at $800. That's incredible, and if you like your photos to look good, it's a major reason why the Pixel 4a should be at the very, very top of your list. 

[Business Insider]


Design-Wise, It's Not The Flashiest Phone

The Pixel has always been a phone that felt a lot nicer than it looked — it's not the most stylish. The Pixel 4a's design is even more basic than ever, though. It comes in Just Black and... that's it. There are no other sizes available, either. Keeping to one size and color was part of Google's strategy to reduce production costs. 

[Engadget]

The word I use most often to describe Pixel hardware is "unassuming." It's basic: no frills, no fanciness, just an easy-to-hold phone without any embellishments. It's a little boring, but at least it isn't tacky.

[The Verge]


But Helpful Software Features Like Live Captioning Might Be Drawing Points For Users

Google's software tends to make up for its basic hardware, and as usual, the company has some helpful tools that make the Pixel experience better than any other Android phone. Most of these have already been announced, like its personal safety and car crash detection feature, Google Docs integration for the Recorder app, as well as adaptive battery management. With the Pixel 4a, though, Google is bringing its Live Caption feature to calls.

[Engadget]

I like Google's bonus software features that it includes on Pixel phones. The voice recorder app is able to transcribe text, for example, and accurately transcribed about 90% of my interview with Google during a Pixel 4a briefing. It just saves me a ton of time that I'd otherwise spend trying to jot everything down. Other unique software features include crash detection, which can automatically call 911 if you get in a car accident.

[CNBC]


The Performance Of The Phone Is Generally Fine, Though It Can Be Slow Sometimes

The Pixel 4a has a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. It's fine and fast enough to keep the phone running smoothly. There are a few hiccups at times, though. I noticed it would stutter while scrolling through long lists, like in Twitter, but that problem generally resolved itself after a few days. Google was aware of this, too, and it may just be that it takes some time for things to store inside the phone's memory.

[CNBC]

Anecdotally, the phone works quickly with most tasks. Unlocking the screen with my fingerprint, launching Assistant and opening apps went off without a hitch. But the Pixel 4A isn't the smoothest phone I handled. After I downloaded Call of Duty and PUBG, I had to restart the phone because both apps stalled while loading.

[CNET]


Some Of The Phone's Drawbacks Are Its Lack Of Wireless Charging And Waterproofness

Google left out one big feature that does matter: water resistance. That would save a phone that was accidentally dunked in a toilet or left out in a storm. So it was disappointing not to have it because durability was another feature that people wanted most in their smartphones.

[The New York Times]

This phone doesn't have some of the premium flourishes, like wireless charging, water resistance, a triple-lens camera, or 5G connectivity. But, it gets the core features so right that those extra flourishes seem irrelevant. 

[Business Insider]


Most Importantly Though, The Phone Is A Great Bargain With Its Cheap Price

The Pixel 4A is about $50 cheaper than its closest competitors and has 128GB of storage, instead of 64GB like years past, so it really is a solid value. And these days, any amount of money that can be saved is crucial.

[CNET]

The Pixel 4A is cheaper than high-end devices largely because it lacks the frills in fancy phones, like wireless charging and a face scanner. But for what you pay, it's a great value. Its camera quality and bright screen are on a par with many of the best smartphones out there.

[The New York Times]


TL; DR

The Pixel 4A is cheap and basic, but most cheap phones don't get the basics right. The Pixel 4A does. And just to remind you: it does so for $349.

[The Verge]


You can pre-order the Pixel 4A at Google Store and BestBuy. And if you're interested in buying a Pixel 4, you can buy one here.


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