2 Stars Movies

Yesterday (2019)

From what I remember, I was about 9 or 10 when my dad introduced me to the Beatles, easily his favorite band (though I think Bread was a close second). The first song I remember hearing was “I want to hold your hand”, and then my world of music was never the same again. This is what would start me out on listening to other “oldies” of the 1960s and 1970s. Even those who don’t like The Beatles cannot deny the influence they have had on music, putting them right on the list of names like Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Elvis. The love of the fab four from Liverpool is clearly evident in the movie Yesterday, but its brain is not.

The premise is well known by now: Struggling solo musician Jack Malik (relative newcomer Himesh Patel), once a former teacher and now working part time at a local factory, is about to hang up his guitar strings for good, having only his manager/life long friend Ellie (the always charming Lily James) as his main supporter (even his parents seem hesitant on his musical career). All this changes one night when, as he is riding his bike home, there is a mysterious power surge all over the world that lasts for twelve seconds. This also happens right at the time Jack is hit by a bus, knocking out his two front teeth in the process.

Eventually, he realizes he is the only person left alive who remembers any songs from John, Paul, George, and Ringo (his google searches lead him straight to Beetles and Pope John Paul). While he has some struggle remembering certain song lyrics (mainly Eleanor Rigby), he finds he can become famous by passing the songs as his own (and does a good job of singing them in the process). He becomes so well respected that Ed Sheeran (as himself) says that Jack is Mozart and he is Salieri.

One of the things of the film I was not expecting was that the Beatles would not be the only thing that people have forgotten about. I won’t spoil what they are, but they seemed really superfluous to the film other than some laughs and a product placement (one of the absences would be even more impactful than the absence of The Beatles, without question). Another flaw is the character of Debra, Jack’s new manager. She is played by Kate McKinnon. This is a character that felt totally out of place and even somewhat annoying, going for total schtick. This is in no way a negative take on McKinnon (who has done wonderful work on SNL.)

Parents, the movie is a very soft PG-13. There is swearing, but very little violence (just the aftermath of Jack’s accident). There is also mild suggestive material, but it does not get past lots of kissing. I would think that mature middle schoolers and up are okay.

One thing the movie does get right is the zeal that Jack has for the Beatles (such as his reaction to Ed trying to change the name of “Hey Jude”). Sure, he can use the money, but at the core of it all he is trying to make sure people here songs from the most influential band of all time. This got me thinking: What if I got up one day, and somehow found myself to be the only person alive who has heard about Jesus Christ? While I would assume my first reaction would be utter shock, how would I get his message across? How much fervor would be behind it? Even now, when not alone in knowing the name of Christ (who the Beatles did say they were more popular than at one point), how much joy do I have in proclaiming his name to all?

Yesterday was written by Richard Curtis (who wrote 2003’s wonderful all star cast rom-com Love Actually), and was directed by the very talented Danny Boyle (who won an Oscar for his 2008 capraesque like Slumdog Millionaire). Their work on Yesterday, though well intended, falls short of their previous works, as well as other films revolving around The Beatles such as the underrated Across the Universe (2007) and (perhaps the best of the fab four flicks) A Hard Day’s Night (1964). As a relatively loyal fan of the band, I will stick with those films and the original tracks.

Ob-La-di, Ob-La-Da. Life still goes on.


Rating: 2 out of 5.

4 1/2 Stars Movies

Toy Story 4 (2019)

Memorable characters are one thing, but being relatable is just as important (if not more so). This is one of the main reasons why the Toy Story films have been so effective for nearly a quarter century. Like The Godfather, Star Wars, and films in the MCU (not to mention other Pixar films), the characters of Toy Story are ones we relate to, and are all around timeless. Just like a toy is to our inner child. This makes all the events of the fourth installment all the more powerful, and even sometimes poignant.

Like many, I too was hesitant to hear there would be a fourth film for Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), and the rest of the gang, especially after the emotional climax of the third film. Still, this revisitation is another knockout. When it is discovered that the toy’s new owner Bonnie (Madeleine McCraw) is about to start kindergarten, she (literally) makes a new friend in class out of a spork, naming him Forky (a wonderfully casted Tony Hale). Woody is doing all he can to make sure Bonnie is happy (despite no longer being the favorite toy) and makes sure that Forky is aware of the fact that he can be more than just “trash.”

On a road trip, Woody and Forky are separated from the rest, and wind up in an antique shop. In a rather dark and creepy situation (the music used was the same used during The Shining), they come across Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), an old doll that reminded me of the classic Talky Tina from the “Living Doll” Episode of the old school Twilight Zone. She is set on getting Woody’s voice box (her own is busted). Woody eventually teams up with his old friend (and flame) Bo Peep (Annie Potts), who was given away in-between the second and third film. Meanwhile, Buzz has set out to help Woody despite having trouble listening to his “inner voice”.

While other old characters have returned (Joan Cusack as Jessie, Pixar vet John Ratzenberger’s Hamm, Wallace Shawn’s Rex, Kristen Schaal’s Trixie, Bonnie Hunt’s Dolly, and the late great comic Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head), we still get a good amount of new characters. The duo of Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key nail it as Bunny and Ducky (respectively), two stuffed animals tied at the hand who have spent their lives on the wall of a carnival game. Still, perhaps the best new cast member is Keanu Reeves as Duke Kaboom, a daredevil motorcycle stunt toy from Canada (“Yes I Can-ada!”).

Without giving anything away, I will mention that the film manages to deliver more than a good share of laughs and cries (more on the ending in a bit). It delivers a sense of redemption and closure with it’s characters. It reminds us that certain paths in life that take longer to travel then others. It reminded me of one of my favorite verses: “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” – Proverbs 16:9

Parents, I imagine this is one of those animated movies you would be taking your kids to, not them asking you to take them to. Aside from some of the darker moments (including ventriliquist dummies) mentioned already, the film is fine for kids.

Now about the last half hour or so of the film. I read recently that Tom Hanks and Tim Allen each had to record the lines of the last scene away from other cast and crew due to getting too emotional. Being that I cried till I pulled up to my driveway on the way home, I would think this is accurate. If you thought the last half hour of Avengers: Endgame was a tough cry, wait till the last half hour of Toy Story 4.


Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
3 Stars Movies

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

The book of Revelation crossed my mind a good amount while watching Godzilla: King of the Monsters. One verse I did not expect to think of was in chapter 3, when Jesus is talking to the church in Laodicia.

“So, because you are lukewarm-neither hot nor cold-I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” _ Revelation 3:16.

The reason for this is simple: I have not been this “lukewarm” about how I feel over a movie in sometime. In the end, I have to choose a side, and that side is on the positive…barely.

Set five years after the previous movie, we meet Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga), who has been trying to find out how to make the titans less vicious (I think, I admit I am not sure) after losing her son Andrew in the events five years ago.. Along with her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown, aka Eleven from Stranger Things), she is soon kidnapped by the (over the top) evil Alan Jonah (Charles Dance), who is dead set on being eco friendly. Her ex husband Mark (Kyle Chandler) teams up with a team of doctors from the first film (played again by Oscar nominees Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins) as well as new faces such as Bradley Whitford and Ziyi Zhang. There is conflict over which of the titans are here to help us (such as Godzilla) or destroy us (newcomers such as Rodan, Mothra, and Monster Zero, better known as King Ghidorah).

The human drama does tend to take away from the film, though none of the actors can be at fault. Grizzled faced vets don’t get played much better than Kyle Chandler, and if you need a girl who is quick witted, smart, and capable of emotion in the blink of an eye, then look no further then MMB. The drama involves whether or not to let the titans battle it out, or have humans put an end to it (with help from the military, of course).

All of that is sheer background to the real reason we see these movies: all out monster mashing. Since the 1998 version of Godzilla (a film some friends of mine still like for reasons I may never understand), the battle sequences have always seemed to be in the dark rain, obscuring the visuals. That is a shame, because the 2014 version showed some rather impressive visuals (regardless of the weather situations), and this film is just as fun to look at.

Parents, the film is fine for anyone who has seen a modern monster movie before. The only thing to mention is there is some good amount of swearing, but nothing worse than the PG-13 rating allows. Middle school and up is totally fine.

Going back to the book of Revelation, it is clear that the return of Jesus will come. It will be an event that will be like no other. We humans can either try to prevent it (which would be foolish to say the least), or just leave it up to God to fix it all. The same goes with Godzilla, as his movies have shown that they tend to work the best when pesky humans are not in the spotlight.

Note: The next matchup scheduled for Godzilla is King Kong. As someone who watched the 1960s version of the matchup many times as a kid. I am stoked for the remake, and have my choice picked out regardless of the odds.


Rating: 3 out of 5.