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IR Film Review: GREYHOUND [AppleTV+]

Tom Hanks’ affinity for World War II is well known and of course his integration both in documentaries and on the big screen speak for themselves which becomes an interesting quandary and question with the film “Greyhound” premiering on AppleTV+. In one way, it is a great move and completely in line with AppleTV+’s programming while injecting it with star power. AppleTV+ is more sophisticated in certain ways than the Netflix approach but each has its strengths. With “Greyhound” which details a crossing of the Atlantic corridor during World War II, Hanks plays the captain of a ship (called “Greyhound”) whose job it is to oversee and in a way cut off attacks on the ships (including the supply chain) by elusive U-Boats. The film has a breakneck pace which is meant to show the dynamics and feel of such a crossing. Unlike “Midway, it is much more insular, the editing and dialogue much tighter but it requires attention since the dialogue points to strategy. This is the first film Tom Hanks has written since “Larry Crowne” and only the 3rd overall. He knows what he wants to do and is efficient…perhaps too efficient since the film comes in at only 90 minutes. But because of that breakneck speed it captures what “U-571” didn’t quite do: the frenetic tension of possibly being attacked at all times. This reviewer found himself thinking of the way “Twister” as a film worked many years ago and that is a compliment. That film was based in action but knew when to speed up but then slow down just enough that you got a true sense of the characters. This is undeniably true here without fail.

The biggest issue is that, as Hanks has said, it was made for the big screen to be seen in the darkened theater especially with many of the storms and night scenes of strategy. This is true but who is to say that as many people would have seen it in a theater. “A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood” was good and a character piece but it is hard to compete with mega blockbusters. “Greyhound” is a movie that in the late 90s and early 2000s would have cleaned up. It is an interesting quandary. But what remains the same despite any of these discussions is the quality of the film. It is not overtly deep but is an action and character piece which literally takes place in a couple rooms. Granted years ago this could not hae been made since it is almost completely digital in terms of the surrounding CGI. This kind of film is perfect in terms of progressing the style that “The Mandalorian” has pioneered with The Volume. It opens the path to these worlds I would think in a period context even more. This writer was on a press trip visit one or two years back when “Greyhound” was being shot in Baton Rouge. It had just wrapped so it did take some time in post production versus say The Volume which is all in camera.

“Greyhound” is that great discussion for creative evolution though it requires letting go a little of the old in service to the audience. Again “Greyhound” develops some great surrounding conversations. It hopefully just as a film doesn’t get lost in the discussion. Hanks steers the ship while his director (Aaron Schneider) who before this was known for the Robert Duvall period film “Get Low” shows a steady hand probably buffered by Hanks. That might have been interesting exercise all around since it seems like many of the supporting players may have been locals around Louisiana. It might have had a masterclass exercise to him. Stephen Graham who has worked multiple times with Guy Ritchie plays Hanks’ XO and, like Sam Neill to Sean Connery in “Hunt For Red October”, works quite well in creating a solid base dealing with both perception and perspective. “Greyhound” is an efficient, entertaining, tense, sophisticated and also educational perception into the idea of this war by placing you in the seat, outside of the modern day contrivances. In that final moment of rest, it shows the dexterity of a captain but also the impact that one crossing could make.

A-

By Tim Wassberg

IR Film Review: TOY STORY 4 [Pixar/Disney]

The trepidation in doing a “Toy Story” sequel is why mess up or challenge a good thing. Money is usually the answer in these scenarios. “Toy Story 3” was such a fitting end with its undeniable odes to “Star Wars” lore and just essential drama that magnified and personified the essence of the journey of Woody & Buzz. “Toy Story 4” is a good movie through and through but one that didn’t necessarily need to be. Nonetheless, it works well all the same. This installment works more in all seriousness as an epilogue on existence of Woody. It is not about the kid’s room or the nursery anymore. It is set again the bigger world asking the question”Do I want more?” and “Who am I?” Wonderfully enough this theme tends to innately move the motivations of every single one of the characters here. By not having to give all the focus to each of the nursery toys, there almost seems to be broadening of character.

Annie Potts as Bo Peep definitely ups here game and the essence of a lost toy in the world does take on new meaning while essentially reflecting the mentality of a new age. The way she hangs and runs with Giggle McDimples just feels organic. Woody is struggling to catch up…which is part of the point of the exercise. The addition of Christina Hendricks as Gabby Gabby, a doll with a flaw in an antique store feels misdirected at first but then, especially with the help of her Henchmen (sort of like Howdy Doody on steroids) there is definitely a sense of darkness but in a way misplaced enlightenment. The fact that some of the ending music from “The Shining” plays at one point just was undeniably elating. The different elements of existentialism moving through the story including the Id, hubris and the inner voice are all incredibly deep despite it being able to play very simple on the surface.

Even the introduction of Forky, a toy made out of trash by their kid Bonnie, evolves from that aspect. He just wants to be trash until he realizes his need to be but his first question is “Why am I alive?” On retrospect thinking, it can be quite filtered and intense in what the movie is talking about. That is a question that Gabby comes to terms with. Even Duke Kaboom, a racing toy played by Keanu Reeves, has a similar existential crisis. Rumor was that Keanu pushed the writers to build his character out more. And while that might be true, Duke’s journey has the same path and texture of needing to be as the other main characters. He was thrown out by his kid because he didn’t do what the commercial said he would. The irony and paradox of that statement both as an actor and as a character is, in ways, profound. Not wanting to give away any of the spoilers, this progression serves all the characters even Buzz with his basic thinking.

Towards the end of the film however which was interesting, there was a buzzy moment that very few films get when it hits the right notes finding heart and connection without being schmaltzy…and it wasn’t even with the main character. That said, though there is an almost subtle texture of “Forrest Gump” in the final moments. Not the same perception but it just about got there. “Toy Story 4” didn’t need to be but in that that it is, it is welcome as it is both a crowd pleaser but also an existential epilogue on the nature of a toy that is Woody. And Key & Peele are pretty good in it too.

A

By Tim Wassberg

IR Interview: The Cast Of “Cloud Atlas” [Warner Brothers]

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