‘Spies in Disguise’ Review: Super Spy with all the best toys

You had me at Big Willy Smith

I didn’t realize I wanted a kid-friendly spy movie but that’s what I got in the new Christmas animated film “Spies in Disguise” that has more of a cohesive message than most live-action movies. 

The animated film from Blue Sky Studio that is known for it’s “Ice Age” films has left the ice age and gone tech in this kid-friendly spy movie that touches on war, tragedy, friendship and even a wolf needs his/her pack. The film is directed by Troy Quane and Nick Bruno, the screenplay was written by Lloyd Taylor and Brad Copeland and based on Lucas Martell’s short film Pigeon: Impossible.

The animated film from Blue Sky Studio that is known for it’s “Ice Age” films has left the ice age and gone tech in this kid-friendly spy movie that touches on war, tragedy, friendship and even a wolf needs his/her pack.

Lance Sterling (Will Smith) is the ultimate spy that can take down the bad guys without a sweat who does it alone under the order of Director Joy Jenkins (Reba McEntire) and the H.T.U.V. superspy tech division support team. Lance realizes things are a little off-kilter on his latest derring-do when his spy toys don’t work as usual. He learns the culprit is Walter Beckett (Tom Holland) who believes in a better way to get the bad guys and bring world peace. Lance meets his match in the evil villain Killian (Ben Mendelsohn) aka robot hand. Killian is a bad guy out for vengeance for a reason and personal vendetta with Lance. When Lance is framed he seeks out Walter all while being pursued by Mercy Kappel (Rashida Jones), Eyes (Karen Gillan), Ears (DJ Khalid), AND Killian in very exotic locations with the help of his trusty BMW that has more toys than 007. Once Lance is piegeoned he and Walter are out to clear his name, get the secret weapon, and turned back to man since it’s hard to karate chop Masi Oka (Katsu Kimura) with feathers.

I found the animated film funny and the message it sends to young kids that it’s OK to be weird, sometimes new is better, it’s better to have friends and family was delightful. This is a kids’ movie that can spark an interesting conversation but has enough humor for adults to enjoy as well. I found the movie charming and recommend it for families and animation fans to add to their ‘go see list’. Make sure you stay till the end for a little surprise.

I’m giving Spies in Disguise a B

Spies in Disguise

Directors: Nick Bruno, Troy Quane

Writers: Brad Copeland & Lloyd Taylor

Stars: Will Smith, Tom Holland, Ben Mendelsohn, Rashida Jones, Karen Gillan, Rachel Brosnahan, Katsu Kimura, DJ Khalid 

Rating: PG

Running Time: 1h 41m

Genres: Animation, Action, Adventure, Comedy, Family, Sci-Fi

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker review – death is only the beginning

SPOILER FREE

Everyone was invited to the goodbye party for the George Lucas Trilogy that expanded beyond all imagination with J.J. Abrams’s putting his stamp on the universe again.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away Star Wars burst onto the screen and life has never been the same for fans rather Jedi, Empire or Rebel it has permeated our lives to animation, comic books, games, cosplay and (for some) a life philosophy.

I have been counting the days since they announced that this was the final chapter of the saga. I wasn’t sure what to expect after Disney took over and began to make it their own.

This final film was what I expected but still had surprises that I didn’t know I wanted but when I saw it filled my Jedi Rebel heart with joy. This is Rey’s movie. It’s her journey as she gets to know herself and place in the universe everyone else is along for the wild ride. BUT what a ride where everyone has a moment where we see into their souls or motivation. We get to say goodbye and hello again as the film returns to the beginning from when this entire universe began from our own George Lucas. We all realize we’re getting long in the tooth and aren’t the young hero anymore but that we still have our place with the rebels or empire or just trying to survive to keep our heads down and not come to the attention of the stormtroopers.

It’s a lot and some might say it’s stuffed but for me, a film that was a little over two hours that had so many stories to give closure to well J.J. did the job solidly. I mean as a fangirl I’d have cut some and focused on a few stories that have made me excited but I’m no Hollywood big wig so what do I know.

All that I can say is that it’s beautiful and follows along with the original films where Rey focuses on her Jedi training to take on the Sith Lord out to dominate the galaxy snatching freedom from those who’ve fought so hard. Rey, Finn, and Poe are the found family that holds the film together as it intertwines with beloved original characters handing the universe onto the next generation. At heart this is a story of hope and light through the darkness, love, and friendship intertwined, and how everyone (even a Jedi Knight) needs a support system. 

I didn’t love the film the way I love Star Wars (A New Hope) but I saw that as a child and with a kids’ eye and well Star Wars is for kids. Anyone complaining that this isn’t ‘their Star Wars’ is suffering from having an old soul. Nothing can remain to stagnate to keep living the heart must keep beating. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is keeping the universe beating showing a new generation of heroes and villains. It’s worth seeing in Imax, 3D and well on any screen, you can find it. I plan to see it a couple of more times so that I can focus on not only the main cast but supporting characters that all had their own stories to tell from a glimpse of LGBTQ representation (don’t blink) to the fact that we have Black, Asian, Latino, and other minorities surviving into the future <phew the race war was averted or maybe we won?>. This isn’t the Star Wars of my childhood 

Thanks, Imax for the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Tshirt I got seeing at AMC Century City

Cast: Daisy Ridley (Rey), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Carrie Fisher (General Leia Organa), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Naomi Ackie (Jannah), Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux), Richard E. Grant (Allegiant General Pryde), Lupita Nyong’o (Maz Kanata), Keri Russell (Zoril Bliss), Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca), Kelly Marie Tran (Rose Tico), Ian McDiarmid (Darth Sidious/Palpatine), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian)

Director: J.J. Abrams

Writer (Based on characters created by George Lucas

Writer (story by): Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow, Chris Terrio, J.J. Abrams

Writer: Chris Terrio, J.J. Abrams

Cinematographer: Dan Mindel

Editor: Maryann Brandon, Stefan Grube

Composer: John Williams

Action, Adventure, Science Fiction

Rated PG-13 for sci-fi, violence, and action

141 minutes

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil – Cherry at the Movies

Guess who’s coming to dinner

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is a beautiful ‘girl power’ sequel to the 2014 hit that retold the Sleeping Beauty fairy-tale from the ‘Evil Queen’ point of view. This is Angelina Jolie’s movie but Michelle Pfeiffer brought the ice cold Queen fire willing to take down the fae queen with the big horns and cheekbones that can cut a beotch. 

This action film ups the color, action and digs deep into where, what and who Maleficient is since she looks like no other fairy creature in the forest that she defends to the death.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil opens with Aurora Queen of the Moors (Elle Fanning) holding court and embarking on a new life with her own Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson) of Ulstead but like MANY an interfering Mother in Law Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) does not care for the usurper out to steal her precious child! Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson) is an attractive replacement to the original actor but like Aurora (Elle Fanning) just doesn’t have the fire to hold against the flames of Maleficient who burns the scenery with every smirk, growl and look of love. The only one who’s able to burn as bright is Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer) the Ice Queen married to the kindly King John (Robert Lindsay) who’s she doesn’t love AND plots to steal his kingdom and murder all the Fae <scream>! 

It all goes down under the dream closet of jewels, shoes and dresses <swoon> that hides the truly ugly her nefarious plan to start a war with iron and a semblance poisonous to our sweet woodland creatures. I have to say bad is looking MIGHTY good on the Queen Ingrith who’s choice to wear white, silver and drip in diamonds the color of ‘innocence’ as a stark difference to Maleficent in the classic LBD (Little Black Dress) but as both these powerhouse actors prove any line delivered from such talent can sound like Shakespeare! 

The action speeds up at the engagement dinner when Maleficent meets the soon to be in-laws and Ingrith puts her plan into action causing a riff between mother, daughter, human and fae. As the film begins to create Maleficent mythology and background where she comes from we get to meet new dark fae as well as battle lines for the coming war. The film has a bit of hamhanded comment on racism and otherism in real life with the Dark Fae peaceful faction led by Conal (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who wants peace with humans while other faction wants to destroy them.

King John is ‘cursed’ by Maleficient, Aurora and Philliop navigate love and a mother’s desire to create a ‘mini me’, Ingrith’s plan to kill all the creatures during the nuptials well it’s a hodgepop that leads to what I want to see Maleficent kicking booty and I wish that we’d had some sort of fight between her and Ingrith. But if wishes were horses I’d have a Prince Charming sweep me away forever to a love castle.

I enjoyed the bitter dark chocolate bon bon fairy tale that was sumptuous to the eye and ears. It is appropriate for older small kids and kids at heart who love dark fairy-tales with a little Grimm to it. You can go see Maleficent: Mistress of Evil on October 18, 2019.

Distributor: Disney

Production: Roth Films

Cast: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sam Riley, Harris Dickinson, Ed Skrein, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Lindsay, David Gyasi, Jenn Murray, Miyari, Warwick Davis

Director: Joachim Ronning

Screenwriters: Linda Woolverton, Noah Harpster, Micah Fitzerman-Blue, based on characters from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty and La Belle au Bois Dormant by Charles Perrault

Producers: Joe Roth, Angelina Jolie, Duncan Henderson

Executive producers: Jeff Kirschenbaum, Matt Smith, Michael Vieira, Linda Woolverton

Director of photography: Henry Braham

Production designer: Patrick Tatopolous

Costume designer: Ellen Mirojnick

Editor: Laura Jennings, Craig Wood

Music: Geoff Zanelli

PG rating

Running Time: 118 minutes

‘The Lion King’ Review: Cherry at the Movies

Beyoncé, John Oliver, Billy Eichner, Keegan-Michael Key, and Seth Rogen are some of the famous voices that take you on an African journey.

I saw the new “The Lion King” and was impressed with how life like the animals were almost all voiced by Hollywood stars. It was uncanny how I felt like I was watching the latest Earth Documentary on Nat Geo with anthropomorphism taken to the next level with singing interludes. The film opens on July 19thand I am sure will wow audiences of all ages.

Will they love it? Well it depends on the person. If it’s the first time seeing on the big screen I think they will be blown away. For parents wanting to take a nostalgic trip down memory lanes with their kids, parents, friends and loves well your hearts will swell to bursting. If you are fascinated on how technology is changing entertainment you will analyze every blade of grass and how the animals moves and be impressed. But if you want to be wowed on all senses especially you might now be as in love since Jon Favreau had one job. It was to make the movie his own putting a personal stamp on it but instead he pretty much replicated the original. That’s neither bad nor good just not as exciting as I would have hoped. 

What I found incredibly distracting about the film is that the famous cast whose voices are easily recognized did NOTHING to change their voices. I assume that was his choice or at the direction of Disney but for me it took me out of the film every time they opened their mouths. I watched and thought how much more enjoyable the movie would have been with more fresh ‘voices’ in the roles that could disappear into the animation or at least having them work with a voice coach to get more emotions since they were not able to rely on a raised eyebrow or facial expression. Instead it’s a movie that sounds like most of them were reading the script with some emotion but not enough for me to connect with the movie. I must admit I love animation from movie to tv to shorts I love a VO actor who’s able to do multiple voices and uses it as a finely tuned instrument. 

Mufasa (James Earl Jones) reprises his role and is the moral center of the film. I have to say he’s irreplaceable and brings the emotional connection I felt seeing it for the first time. Simba (JD McCrary/Donald Glover) and Nala (Shahadi Wright Joseph/Beyoncé) are the soul and they did a good job. I must admit young Simba and Nala were phenomenal and did a great job emoting mischievousness, yearning for parental approval and pushing boundaries. I found Pumbaa (Seth Rogen) and Timon (Bllly Eichner) to do an OK job but their voices were so recognizable that every time they spoke I pictured them and I lost connection with the movie. I had the same issue with Zazu (John Oliver) an important role that connects the two tribes ‘management’ and he just didn’t have the ability to bring the necessary emotion to the role. I did love Scar (Chitwetel Ejiofor) he made my spine tingle with how he was able to bring out a threat in the most benign a phrase especially when he teamed up with his army of hyenas led by Shenzi (Florence Kasumba). That’s one pack of canines I would not try to pet!

I don’t want to say that the film isn’t beautiful nor a solid addition to the Disney vault goldmine of turning beloved classic animated films into ‘live action’ or reimagined. It’s technically a beautifully well and done animated film. It just didn’t have any surprises for me and since the animation looked so realistic the anthropomorphism felt a little off. Lions are NOT a benevolent Monarchy led by a King. They are the top of the carnivore pyramid!

I wish they had added more songs and allowed the ones used the fullness they deserved. When the opening chords of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight …” with Donald Glover and Beyoncé singing well that I wish had gone on MUCH longer. I wish they had a more international cast of VO actors able to connect emotionally with me to transport me to the African Plains. I just wish that Jon Favreau (Director) and Jeff Nathanson (Writer) had ripped apart the playbook and made a new Lion King for this generation. This one is a 4 and what I wanted was an X.

The Lion King: Rated PG. It’s a tale as old as time and one that Jon Favreau doesn’t turn into his own.  

Running time: 1 hour 58 minutes.

Director: Jon Favreau

Writer: Jeff Nathanson

Stars: Beyoncé, Keegan-Michael Key, Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Billy Eicher, John Oliver, Chiwetel Ejiofor, James Earl Jones, Eric Andre, John Kani, Florence Kasumba, JD McCray

Rating: PG

Running Time: 1h 58m

Genres: Animation, Adventure, Drama, Family, and Musical

Toy Story 4 – Review Cherry at the Movies

Toy Story is back and pulling heartstrings

Pixar’s Toy Story was released in 1995 and now 24 years later the whole gang is back together with a few new friends!

The release of Toy Story 4 is like seeing my old imaginary friends I had in childhood. A memory that warms my heart and feels like a hug. I had thought the trilogy and specials on ABC Family (now Freeform) was all I needed. BUT, Toy Story 4 has picked up and surpassed my memory from the past films. I have to be honest that what really had me squeal in surprised glee was the representation of seeing a lesbian couple, a dark complexioned Black child, an Asian child and so many others that were represented even in the background of previous films.

This is a film that could stand alone but if you haven’t seen the previous films will be a little confusing because of the friendships and status of the various toys. 

No spoilers but we don’t get a Pixar Short before Toy Story 4 but it’s so full that I ALMOST didn’t miss it!

The opening of the movie was a reminder of the close relationship between Bo-peep, Woody and all the toy friends on a dark and stormy night. It set up the core story of the film between a toy and his loyalty to his boy. Seeing how the toys work together to hide from the children and find a missing friend was the best caper I’ve seen in while. We see Andy his forever child has grown up leaving behind Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen) and all his old toys. But he still loves them so saved them for when he has his own child to pass them onto Bonnie (voiced by Madeleine McGraw). She loves her hand me down toys but as she grows older the toy dynamics change with who’s the favorite and who’s in the closet. 

The pace really picks up when Bonnie has to go off to kindergarten. It’s a major change for her since she has a hard time making friends with the diverse group of kids (I squealed with the representation in that scene!). Being an ingenious child with the help of her toy Bonnie makes her OWN friend so we get to meet Spork (voiced by Tony Hale). Spork is surprising funny as he navigates being alive and not what he’s made off. The back and forth between Woody and Spork is funny as they go on an adventure road trip with the entire gang.

We get to see Bo-Peep and her sheep who are living a life of adventure and self-determination no longer ‘belonging’ to one child in an Old Western Town called Grand Basin with a traveling carnival for the festival. That’s where we meet an almost in mint condition Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) and her four quietly terrifying puppets that are her minions. When she meets Woody a plan comes together that will fulfill her dream. But she’s not the only new toy we find along the journey. We meet Duke (Keanu Reeves) the stuntman with a heart of gold with a tragic backstory <sniffle>. My heart was stolen by Duck & Bunny (Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele) who are the carnival prizes that can’t be won and are FURIOUS when they meet Buzz! Make sure you stay till the end for the easter eggs that will have you giggling!

I don’t want to give away too much because this movie really touched me. I have to admit a few tears came to eye at the end from seeing a kid that sort of looked like me. As well as our toys learning lessons that apply to kids and adults. It’s a film that hits all the emotional highs and lows of past films and TV specials. It’s quite magical and with Randy Newman returning as the soundtrack it really brings the sounds of the films together like a bridge.

I can’t strongly recommend enough to see this in theatre with your friends, kids and alone. It makes you really think because ‘Why are we here’ ‘What are we’ and ‘Can we break free from expectations’? It’s a lot but wow the journey was beautiful.

Toy Story can go to Infinity and Beyond with this film setting up a new animated film series with a new child AND toys! 

This is cherry at the movies and I’ll be seeing YOU in the middle seat!

Production company: Pixar
Distributor: Disney
Voice cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Madeleine McGraw, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Joan Cusack, Jay Hernandez, Lori Alan, Bonnie Hunt, Kristen Schaal, Wallace Shawn
Director: Josh Cooley
Screenwriters: Andrew Stanton, Stephany Folsom; story, Andrew Stanton, John Lasseter, Martin Hynes, Rashida Jones, Will McCormack, Valerie LaPointe, Josh Cooley, Stephany Folsom
Producers: Mark Nielsen, Jonas Rivera
Executive producers: Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich, Pete Docter
Production designer: Bob Pauley
Editor: Axel Geddes
Music and songs: Randy Newman
Casting: Natalie Lyon, Kevin Reher Rated G, 101 minutes