To Al’s Toy Barn… and beyond! “Toy Story 2” (1999)

directed by John Lasseter
© 1999 Buena Vista Pictures Distribution. All Rights Reserved.

Since I wrote you about “Toy Story” yesterday, there’s no way I’m not going to continue telling you about this series. And it’s quite an interesting coincidence, because the second part, which I’m recommending today, was released in the US on… November 24th, 1999. Magic? For sure. The second part is equally good, in my opinion, and I was watching both films over and over when I was younger. In this part, Woody is accidentally stolen by some strange toy collector, Al McWhiggin. At his place, Woody realises that there’s another cowboy toy similar to him. Or actually, a cowgirl, Jessie. Together with some other toys, they are based on one TV show, so having them all is a real treasure for a collector. And even better when they can be sold. Al wants to send all the toys to Japan, where they would be put into a museum. Woody is terrified and wants to return to Andy as fast as possible. However, without him, the collection is not complete and the museum will not accept such set. Plus, Woody is told that Andy will eventually grow up and stop playing with toys, so there’s no point of going back. The little cowboy needs to make a very difficult decision about his future. I think this film is one the few sequels that I really love. Mostly, second parts are a huge disappointment. However, it was possible that the sequel would be much shorter and released only on home formats. Luckily, Pixar was stubborn and made a full-length animation for the cinema. Bless you, Pixar! And this part is also very emotional, perhaps even more than the first film. I’ve heard that the cast was in tears watching the finals scenes, even if they’d known them. If an animation for children makes professional adult actors cry… then I have no questions. It must be a masterpiece. I remember I had some toys based on the ones from “Toy Story” series, and I really liked Jessie, indeed, but my absolute favourite was Buzz, because it was making sounds and other pew pew pew. But I’ve never had Mr. Potato Head and it’s probably my beloved character, so if you can get me Mr. Potato Head, my adult arms will accept him with pure happiness.

My rating: 9/10
S.

You are a sad, strange little man and you have my pity. “Toy Story” (1995)

directed by John Lasseter
© 1995 Walt Disney Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

I couldn’t stop myself from writing about this masterpiece today. As some of you may know, “Toy Story” was released 25 years ago. Feeling old? I do. I still remember when I was little and I was a huge fan of this film. At some point there was also a game based on it, which was super difficult for me, but I loved watching older family members playing. Anyway, if you haven’t seen this animation, look at the title of today’s post. And for those who somehow haven’t watched “Toy Story”, here’s what it’s about: imagine a world where all toys are alive! Cool, huh? However, they are absolutely lifeless when there’s a human somewhere close. In “Toy Story” we focus on the toys owned by Andy, a little boy, who’s absolutely in love with his belongings and takes care of them well. But… Andy’s birthday is coming and the toys are worried that he might get new ones to replace them. The boy, indeed, receives one new toy, which is Buzz Lightyear, a cool action figure. All his old toys are terrified and want to do everything not to be forgotten by his owner. I have to tell you my little secret: when I was little, thanks to this film, I thought that my toys were also alive. So all my teddy bears had to be together, because I knew they would feel best that way. My dolls were all dressed up and sitting comfortably, never left half naked on the floor or something. Even my LEGO figures were left sitting, because who could manage standing like that for hours? Maybe it sounds childish, but I’m not ashamed because I’ve heard Tom Hanks, the famous Woody from “Toy Story”, also used to think his toys were alive. And you know what? I bet this film has taught me respect towards things. Even now, being an adult, I hate when people don’t care about their belongings. Besides, this story has so many good messages for children, that it should be an obligatory homework to watch it. And for film freaks – it was the first fully computer-animated feature film ever produced, so it’s a shame if you haven’t seen it. Oh and one more fun fact: they say that the character of Sid (that annoying little asshole destroying toys) was inspired by one of the Pixar employees who liked to deconstruct toys and create weird things out of their parts. He’s also said not to be working in Pixar anymore, so calm your toys down and remember to seat them properly after playing.

My rating: 9/10
S.

All the fuss about a dozen ballerinas. “The Parade” (“Parada”, 2011)

directed by Srđan Dragojević
© 2011 Filmstar. All Rights Reserved.

I guess there’s no better day for a good parade than Sunday, right? And today, I have a very special parade for you. It’s a film made in 2011, directed by a Serbian director, but generally shot in different locations all over the Balkans. The idea for this production came up way before it was actually realised. The director, Srđan Dragojević, was highly concerned about how homosexual people are treated in Belgrade, so he decided to try educating the society through his art. However, making a serious documentary about LGBT rights and hoping that it will be seen by a large group of people sounds ridiculous. Especially since he wanted to reach the ones who are against same sex couples. It’s logical they wouldn’t see a production about a gay parade. Unless… this film is a comedy where typical heterosexual macho men are fighting with homosexuals. Sold! And even if it sounds controversial, Dragojević was right, because thousands of people have seen this production, and I bet they aren’t all gays. But to calm you down that it’s not that drastic, in this story we get to know a gay couple who at some point meet with a war veteran – very much heterosexual and very much homophobic. Because of the circumstances (you’ll see), those three need to cooperate. The beginnings are not easy, obviously, but at some point they all try to understand the other side and open up. Maybe it looks like a silly comedy to some people, but I believe this film has had a big impact on the way LGBT people are seen in Serbia and in the Balkans generally. I’m not saying it’s a paradise for them, but that production was a significant step towards common acceptance. Besides, it’s full of stereotypes and very Balkan humour, so I laughed a lot and I hope you’ll find something for yourselves in this film as well.

My rating: 7/10
S.

Sometimes life is a walking joke. “A Bump Along the Way” (2019)

directed by Shelly Love
© 2019 Element Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

Perhaps today’s film isn’t generally rated high, but I still want to put a spotlight on it. Although, I guess my female readers might like this recommendation a bit more, because the film tells a story of a mother-daughter relationship. Yet, everybody’s welcome to watch it. Cinema has no boundaries, remember that. So as I said, we have a mother and a daughter. Pamela (Bronagh Gallagher) is a single parent over 40. She’s quite a party animal since she finds it difficult to provide for her little family. And what’s the easiest way to forget about our troubles? Alcohol, unfortunately. One night, Pamela gets so drunk that she has a one-night stand with some random young guy. Assured that she cannot get pregnant, she has unprotected sex with her one night lover. And, as it often happens in such stories, she actually gets pregnant, which is a complete disaster. Her daughter Allegra (Lola Petticrew) already despises her, thinking that Pamela is a horrible mother, who cannot deal with her life and doesn’t know how to be mature. Pamela’s ex-husband doesn’t support her financially and she has just a part-time job. Plus, the father of her second child is some random kid as well. However, the woman tries to handle everything and takes this new baby as a sign to finally manage her life. I must say I find British cinema quite difficult to stand sometimes. I feel like they have amazing ideas, but in the end, the productions are rather average, although there was a huge potential. Yet, I keep giving them a chance. And I’m glad I watched this film because it’s a lovely picture about motherhood and the power of women. Not only those wealthy, popular and successful women we see on the Internet. The power of those struggling single mothers who do their best and are true superheroes, but often have no idea about it. Simple and beautiful story, so give it a chance yourselves.

My rating: 6/10
S.

You will live with me on a fantastic island. “Two of Us” (“Deux”, 2019)

directed by Filippo Meneghetti
© 2019 Paprika Films. All Rights Reserved.

All we need is love. All we need is love. All we need is love, love. Love is all we need… on Friday in 2020. So I’m giving you a wonderful story about love today. However, it’s a bit unusual, so fasten your seat belts, because we’re going to ride a taboo rollercoaster. The main characters are Nina (Barbara Sukowa) and Madeleine (Martine Chevallier), two elderly ladies living on the same floor. Each of them has their own flat and lives alone. But none of them is lonely. In fact, Nina and Madeleine are lovers, but they’ve been keeping it a secret for many years. Those two have a plan to move to Italy and start living in Rome… together. But before that happens, Madeleine needs to tell her children about Nina. Unfortunately, the woman has an accident and ends up in a wheelchair. Additionally, she cannot speak, so it’s impossible for her to communicate her needs. Nina remains just a neighbour and isn’t allowed to be with her beloved one. But love is something you fight for, so Nina is not going to give up. I was honestly watching this film with a puppy face. Not only it’s well produced, well acted and it has a wonderful score, but also shows this unpopular kind of affection. Because if we think about a typical romantic drama, we immediately think “aha, a boy meets a girl”. Standard. Here, not only they are both ladies, but also seniors. Elderly people still flirting? Not just sitting in front of the TV and petting a cat? Wow, so unusual! And in fact, it’s very usual. Just because you’re 70, doesn’t mean you turn your “love button” off. Plus, I think that it’s becoming more and more acceptable for people to see homosexual couples in films. However, those couples are rather young or middle-aged. So I’m glad that cinema is opening our eyes and reminding us that it’s possible to discover our sexuality in a different way even when retired. And that love is love. I know, too much sugar. But that’s what this film is, so feel free to sweeten your evening.

My rating: 7/10
S.

Welcome back to the Army, Major. You’re under arrest. “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” (2016)

directed by Edward Zwick
© 2016 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

If the yesterday’s portion of Tom Cruise wasn’t enough for you, I’ve got another part to recommend! This time our brave Jack Reacher is in double trouble. First of all, he’s accused of killing Colonel Moorcroft, so basically the whole army is after him, and second of all, he finds out that this one not very polite 15-year-old girl named Samantha (Danika Yarosh) might be his biological daughter. Drama, drama, drama. Plus, this time Jack is not working on his own. He has a very badass partner, Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), who’s also accused of espionage, so basically, two very clever good guys are running away in order not to be punished for the things they didn’t do and simultaneously trying to get to the real bad guys. Simple? I guess so. Just like the first film about Jack Reacher, this one isn’t very surprising and they are definitely better written action films out there. However, there’s something fun about this character. He’s not a typical strongman, nor a macho-man, yet when he’s doing his job, better watch out. And in this film he’s also more emotional because he believes Samantha is his child, so Jack is really adorable here. A protective daddy with a gun. I’m rating both parts the same and I still think it’s a decent thriller to see with popcorn in your hands. As I would call it: entertaining and not demanding. And, obviously, still with Tom Cruise being handsome.

My rating: 6/10
S.

I mean to beat you to death and drink your blood from a boot. “Jack Reacher” (2012)

directed by Christopher McQuarrie
© 2012 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

Watching films with Tom Cruise is my guilty pleasure. I know what he’s like as a person (I don’t know him, but I read things on the Internet, obviously) and I don’t really agree with his actions, but as an actor… well, you cannot say he’s a bad one. So I’m always very pleased to see next productions with him. Today, I’d like to recommend you an action film where Tom Cruise plays the main role of Jack Reacher. He’s a former soldier, who needs to investigate a rather strange case. One day, in Pittsburgh, five random people were shot by the same person. The police gets to James Barr, a former army sniper, who, in their opinion, is the responsible one for the assassinations. When they’re trying to find out more from the man, he just takes a notepad and writes “Get Jack Reacher”. As you may be guessing, Jack agrees to help in the case, but there’s one problem. The accused man is in a coma after being attacked by his inmates in prison, which makes it impossible to talk to him. From now on, Jack is trying to find out about the truth without Barr’s help. I would lie if I said that it’s an incredibly surprising production. It’s definitely well-done, the camerawork and all the special effects are on point. But the story itself is rather predictable. Still, something worth knowing – Cruise didn’t ask for a stuntman to replace him in the car chase sequence. In fact, he’s famous for doing all the difficult things on a set, so if you’ll be watching some action film with him, most probably it’s actually him in those dangerous scenes. Anyway, the film is not a masterpiece, but definitely a very pleasant thriller for a lazy evening. So sit comfortably on your sofa, get yourselves hot wine (or tea) and enjoy the handsomeness of Tom Cruise in action.

My rating: 6/10
S.

What happened in 1949, stays in 1949. “Man on the Bus” (2019)

directed by Eve Ash
© 2019 Seven Dimensions. All Rights Reserved.

Do you sometimes wonder whether your parents are your biological parents? Or maybe one of them isn’t? I know, it’s a strange question, but since we often hear about adoptions, people having affairs or those raising not their biological children without any clue, I guess at some point we also start questioning. I remember when I was little and I seriously couldn’t see any resemblance between me and my family. I had a different eyes colour, different body type, my character was a bit different too… generally, I thought I was totally adopted. Now, after many years, I can see it was just my silly way of thinking, because there are many things I have in common with my family members. Although I’m still the only one with a totally different eyes colour, but I understood how it works thanks to my biology teacher from high school. Thank you so much, miss! Anyway, today I’d like to recommend you an interesting documentary directed by Eve Ash, who’s a daughter of two Holocaust survivors from Poland. They moved to Australia to start a better life and raise their two children there. However, after many years, Eve starts to question whether her father is actually her biological father. The woman finds some materials left by her mother and realises that Martha, Eve’s mother, might have had an affair with an Australian man. Since both of Eve’s parents are dead, the woman decides to keep digging and find out the truth. Personally, I enjoyed this documentary very much, because it presents a different perspective on double life. And after watching the documentary, I have two questions that have stayed with me. First: if you cheated on your partner and had a baby with another person, would you tell them? And second: if you weren’t raised by your biological parents, would you like to know that? Difficult questions indeed. But I guess it’s always interesting to think about such topics, even if we’re not in any of those situations. Having more perspectives makes us more open-minded, right?

My rating: 7/10
S.

Don’t treat me like a child. “37 Seconds” (“37 sekanzu”, 2019)

directed by Hikari
© 2019 Films Boutique. All Rights Reserved.

I played this film in the evening telling myself that I can always stop it and finish tomorrow. It was late, I was tired, but still wanted to stare at something moving on my screen. I ended up watching it till the end and reflecting about it at night, which means that on the following day I was an absolute zombie in the morning. But it was worth it. Sometimes I tell you in my posts that I’m not a big fan of Asian acting, because I often find it too intense, a bit fake even. “37 Seconds” is a wonderful example where the actors are very natural, yet they behave according to their culture and way of being. Besides, the whole story is so engaging that it’s honestly hard not to watch it till the end. The main character is Yuma (Mei Kayama), a 23-year-old Japanese woman, who has cerebral palsy. Despite her disability, she works as an anonymous manga artist. One day, Yuma comes up with an idea to start drawing erotic manga and finally get recognised for that. Unfortunately, the woman has no experience in sex, so drawing such pictures can be incredibly difficult. A magazine editor admits that Yuma is talented, but she should perhaps try to get more experienced in bed. And here begins the whole adventure. No, this film isn’t erotic. It’s actually a heart-breaking drama about a woman who’s trapped in her body, but has huge ambitions and curiosity towards the world. I was incredibly moved. I didn’t cry, but I was close. It’s just painful how much we, the healthy (if I can call us this way), ignore the fact that people with disabilities aren’t here just to survive, but they desire the same things we do. They want to be independent, have a satisfying job, develop their skills, find love, kiss, have sex, masturbate, get drunk, party and enjoy life in various ways. They don’t want to be stuck at home with a TV on and people treating them like babies. I can’t express how much I love the fact that this film was made and I believe you all should see it. And one last thing – the actress who played Yuma, Mei Kayama, had no acting experience before “37 Seconds”. Perhaps her natural way of being made this film so touching. I really hope to see her on the screen again, because we need such charismatic people in cinema.

My rating: 8/10
S.

Whatever you feel, just dance it. “Center Stage” (2000)

directed by Nicholas Hytner
© 2000 Columbia Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday has come and I guess we need to dance a little bit, right? That is why today I’m recommending you “Center Stage”. Even though you may read on the internet that it’s a teen drama film, I still believe you might like it no matter how old you are. Indeed, the main characters are young people studying at the American Ballet Academy, but what the story presents is rather universal. All the students are working extremely hard, because they know how difficult it is to be a ballet dancer. Or perhaps I should say a successful ballet dancer, because that’s even harder to achieve. I’ve never danced ballet, but I know it takes a lot of time, patience, practice and strength, both physical and mental. In the film we have several different characters, each of whom struggles with their own problems, such as parental pressure, unhealthy rivalry, lack of self-acceptance, obsessive striving for excellence etc. Personally, I’m not into dancing and I don’t dance unless wine tells me so. But it has to be a decent amount of this magic liquid. Anyway, I believe the film presents the topics that we should be reminded about constantly. That we’re enough, we’re different, we don’t need to be like others, we can choose our own paths and we are unique, so whoever tells us there’s something wrong about us can just go and… never come back. Besides, all the dancing scenes are really beautiful and the final performance is magnificent. I wish I could see it live and I truly admire the actors for their hard work and passion. So, even if you’re not a teenager or a ballet dancer, I believe this film can be quite enjoyable for you anyway. Feel free to dance with them! With or without wine.

My rating: 7/10
S.