Learning to let go: Quick movie reviews for ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Toy Story 4’

YesterdayToyStory2.jpgHow do you let go of a dream that you’ve been holding onto for so long that it’s become a part of who you are? Even when that dream has turned into something toxic, you just can’t imagine your life without it.

I really wasn’t expecting to find parallels between the two movies I saw in theaters this weekend: “Yesterday” and “Toy Story 4.” One is about a man who wakes up in a world where only he remembers The Beatles, and the other is a continuation of an animated franchise about toys who come to life.

Both of these movies were entertaining, yet they also turned out to be way more thought-provoking than I had planned on. I wish I could write up full-length reviews on both of these, but alas, it’s summertime and difficult to keep up with all the new movies coming out. Here are my quick thoughts on each, and some of the interesting parallels between them.



I was intrigued by “Yesterday” from the moment I saw the first preview. Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) is a struggling singer-songwriter who is pondering giving up his dream of becoming a famous musician. Then, on the night of a strange power outage that takes place across the world, he gets in an accident.

When he wakes up, he appears to be the only one who remembers who The Beatles are. This presents him with an intriguing ethical conundrum: should he perform The Beatles’ music and market it as if it were his own? Technically he’s not hurting anybody or stealing from anyone in this reality, because The Beatles were never “a thing.” Yet deep down, he knows he’s being dishonest, and untrue to himself.

On a surface level, “Yesterday” is a quirky, entertaining romantic comedy. Overall, I felt like it was lacking the little extra push it needed to go from “good” to truly “great” but I would still definitely recommend it, especially to Beatles fans. It’s always a pleasure to hear these songs again.

(Spoilers ahead…)

I also really loved that they never explained how reality shifted and apparently erased the existence of The Beatles. I think including that would have bogged down the movie and detracted from its quirky charm. I do wish they hadn’t added in additional missing pop culture fixtures (like Coca-Cola and Harry Potter), because that kinda distracted from The Beatles premise.

I also appreciated the movie’s message about recognizing when it’s time to let go of a dream. It’s something we don’t talk a lot about, because we’re used to the message of “follow your dreams and don’t ever give up and you too can succeed!”

The truth is, not everyone is going to be famous. You can work really hard and never get recognized for that work. It’s terrifying to look a dream that is so precious to you and think about giving it up, but sometimes that is the healthiest thing you can do.

Jack eventually lets go of his dream of being a superstar (and confesses about stealing The Beatles’ music). Then he goes on to find incredible joy and meaning in an ordinary life.

As someone who had big dreams post-college and then my life ended up going a different way, the ending of this movie really resonated with me. Maybe I’ll never be famous, but I still find joy and fulfillment in being creative.

Toy Story 4


I missed seeing “Toy Story 4” on opening weekend due to traveling for work, and I actually considered skipping it. “Toy Story 3” felt like such a perfect ending to the franchise, and the trailers for “Toy Story 4” didn’t necessarily grab me.

However, it was actually my husband who announced that he wanted to see it after hearing some glowing reviews, and I’m so glad he did.

“Toy Story 4” is so much more than a mere cash grab or tired, rehashed sequel. It’s a great film in its own right, and it stands with “Toy Story 3” as the best in the franchise, at least in my opinion. It’s been a while since I laughed so hard I cried in a theater, but “Toy Story 4” delivered (“plush rush” is all I’ll say and leave it at that, for those who haven’t seen the movie yet).

The standouts of the movie are actually some of the new characters: Forky (voiced by “Arrested Development’s” Tony Hale) and carnival plushes Bunny and Ducky (voiced by comedy duo Key and Peele). I never thought I would laugh so hard at the antics of a plastic spork, but Forky and his obsession with trash are hilarious. Bunny and Ducky also generated lots of laughter during the showing I went to, including the moment referenced in the previous paragraph.

Yet what impressed me most about this movie is that Pixar was able to present a new story with a meaningful message that doesn’t detract from previous films or borrow too heavily from them, either.

(Spoilers ahead…)

The heart of this movie is Woody’s personal journey to adapt to a new life after Andy has moved on. He isn’t connecting with his new kid, Bonnie, as much as he connected to Andy, and it’s hard for him, since so much of his identity is wrapped up in being a child’s beloved toy.

I was actually a little surprised that they ended the movie with Woody going off on his own adventure with Bo Peep, who is a proud “lost toy” without an owner. I’ll admit it, I definitely got a little teary-eyed as Woody watched Buzz, Jessie, and the rest of the gang driving off in Bonnie’s family’s RV after an emotional goodbye.

But I really liked that ending, and it’s the reason why “Yesterday” and “Toy Story 4” play well together. Woody has a hard time letting go but eventually he realizes that he needs to let go of his past dreams and try something new.

There’s grief in letting go of his old life, but also joy in embracing a new adventure. And saying goodbye to your friends doesn’t mean you stop caring about them.

Closing thoughts

Anyway, I wasn’t expecting either of these movies to touch me as deeply as they did, and I thought both were well worth catching in the theater. Letting go is a hard lesson to learn, and I loved how both of these movies communicated that without being too heavy-handed. I definitely want to see both of these movies again!


Movie review: Was ‘Incredibles 2’ worth the wait?

Incredibles-2-Wallpaper-HD-30073It’s been 14 years since the first “Incredibles” movie premiered in theaters, and it’s amazing to see how much the superhero genre has changed during that time. The original “Incredibles” came out a year before Christopher Nolan’s groundbreaking Dark Knight trilogy and four years before the very first Marvel Cinematic Universe film, “Iron Man.” I don’t think anybody buying a ticket for “The Incredibles” back in 2004 imagined that by the time we finally got a sequel in 2018, we’d also be watching the epic superhero mashup “Infinity War.” So, how does the Incredibles franchise hold up after all these changes and all this time?

The original Incredibles movie introduced us to the Parr family, who were trying to live under the radar after superheroes had been made illegal. Despite their best efforts to live a “normal” life, parents Bob and Helen find themselves pulled back into the superhero business, except this time they also take their super-powered kids with them.

The sequel picks up right where the first film left off, with the Parr family jumping into action to stop a super villain with a giant drill, named the Underminer. Unfortunately, their attempt to save the day is a bit…well…messy, and isn’t exactly a PR win for the campaign to bring back superheroes. However, a wealthy benefactor named Winston Deavor offers to help superheroes like the Parrs become legal again by demonstrating to the public how great superheroes are. He picks Helen (a.k.a. Elastigirl) to be the poster child of these efforts. Of course, a new super villain arrives to foil their plans — the mysterious Screenslaver, who hypnotizes people using video screens.

Before I say anything else, I have to emphasize that “Incredibles 2” is a fun movie. It’s a good movie to take the kids to on a hot summer afternoon (and adults too, of course!) Although it seems like there are fewer films geared towards kids these days, at least in theaters, there’s clearly still a demand for this type of family film. “Incredibles 2” premiered to an amazing $180 million this past weekend — that’s a huge number, and a nice boost for Disney after the underperformance of “Solo.”

Still, I also have to say that at least for me, the sequel didn’t feel quite as fresh or exciting as the original. Maybe that’s a symptom of the 14-year gap between the two films, or the fact that so much has changed within the superhero genre in that time. Plus, sometimes it’s just tough to recapture the same magic in a sequel, because this time the concept isn’t a surprise.

The original “Incredibles” is such a good film, blending retro aesthetics, a fantastic soundtrack, and interesting family dynamics into this perfect cocktail of fun and adventure. For whatever reason, the plot of the sequel didn’t engage me as much, even though I still had fun watching the movie. I also thought the villain wasn’t as interesting this time; it’s hard to beat Syndrome, who was fascinating because Mr. Incredible inadvertently creates his own villain. The reveal of the Screenslaver’s true identity didn’t really come as a shock, and I thought it was interesting how much monologue-ing this villain did, since they made a joke about villain monologue-ing in the original.

However, let’s move on to the positive. Baby Jack-Jack was, hands down, the best part of the movie for me. Watching him discover his powers (and subsequently terrify his poor family) was absolutely hilarious. I loved superhero suit designer Edna Mode’s reappearance (she and Jack-Jack absolutely deserve a spin-off short). And I enjoyed seeing how the Parr family continues to love and support each other, even though they hit a few road bumps. The interactions between the family members provide both the film’s best comedic moments and its heart.

In short, I enjoyed watching “Incredibles 2” and thought it was a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon. If you were a fan of the first, definitely go see the sequel. However, for me it didn’t *quite* live up to the original, and I left the theater wishing for just a little bit more than it ended up delivering.

Movie review: Pixar’s ‘Brave’ a break with tradition?

Merida, the star of Pixar’s new animated movie “Brave,” isn’t exactly your typical Disney princess. Instead of spending her days in a castle pining for “prince charming,” the Scottish princess (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) loves to be outdoors, riding her horse through open fields, climbing up the side of steep cliffs and practicing archery. She’s strong-willed and fiercely independent — traits that often put her at odds with her mother, Queen Elinor, who’d rather she be a more traditional, demure lady.

The conflict between the mother and daughter comes to a head when Queen Elinor announces the clans of the kingdom will be gathering, and the chiefs’ sons will be competing for Merida’s hand in marriage. Merida hates the idea of a forced betrothal and tries to purchase a spell from a witch that will “change her fate.” However, the spell doesn’t work out quite like she planned, and instead it brings a curse down on her family. The princess must work to heal bonds that have been broken and find a way to save her family’s kingdom before the curse becomes permanent.

Like all Pixar films, “Brave” is gorgeously animated, and the movie perfectly captures the wild beauty of the Scottish landscape. I spent a month in Scotland after graduating from college a few years ago, and I completely fell in love with the country and its rolling green hills and mountains, majestic stone castles and deep blue lochs. The landscape has a certain untamed, almost mystical feeling, like it was pulled straight from the pages of a fantasy novel. The film’s Celtic soundtrack, with bagpipes and folk harp, also reflects the magic of the Scottish culture.

“Brave” has a great cast of voice actors; Kelly Macdonald is joined by Emma Thompson as Queen Elinor, Billy Connolly as King Fergus, and Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane and Kevin McKidd as the leaders of the three clans. And Julie Walters is hilarious as the witch (or “woodcarver,” as she keeps insisting) who sells Merida a spell; there’s a great bit where the witch’s cauldron serves as a sort of “answering machine” when she’s “out of the office” (If you have a question about a spell, pour in vial No. 1; if you’re having unexpected side effects from a spell, pour in vial No. 2; etc.).

The film has a nice amount of humor for both kids and adults. Younger viewers will laugh at the high jinks of Merida’s mischievous triplet brothers, while adults will find amusement in the Scottish chiefs’ constant bickering and attempts to one-up each other.

One thing critics have pointed out is that despite “Brave’s” plucky heroine, the film is a more traditional tale than some of Pixar’s previous offerings. Several of the main plot elements in “Brave” have been used before — a forced betrothal, a curse that must be broken, etc. — and the concept isn’t as quirky or original as a cowboy toy and a sci-fi action figure who become friends (“Toy Story”), monsters who work at a scream factory (“Monsters Inc.”), or a little garbage-collecting robot who goes on a journey through space (“WALL·E”).

However, like all Pixar films, “Brave” has plenty of charm and heart, with characters the audience truly cares about. “Brave” manages to good-naturedly poke fun at the Scots’ reputation for stubbornness and also celebrate their fierce loyalty to family and tradition.

I wish film makers had maybe pushed the concept just a little bit further, but the movie still is a fun, rousing adventure, and a visual treat for those who love Celtic culture and legends.