Review: ‘Lightyear,’ starring the voices of Chris Evans, Keke Palmer, Taika Waititi, Dale Soules, Peter Sohn, Uzo Aduba and James Brolin

June 13, 2022

by Carla Hay

Pictured clockwise, from bottom left: Sox (voiced by Peter Sohn), Izzy Hawthorne (voiced by Keke Palmer), Mo Morrison (voiced by Taika Waititi), Darby Steele (voiced by Dale Soules) and Buzz Lightyear (voiced of Chris Evans) in “Lightyear” (Image courtesy of Disney/Pixar)

“Lightyear”

Directed by Angus MacLane

Culture Representation: Taking place in various part of the universe, the animated film “Lightyear” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans, Asians and Latinos) representing people and robots connected in some way to travel in outer space.

Culture Clash: In this prequel to the “Toy Story” movies, heroic astronaut Buzz Lightyear tries to make things right when he causes an accident that strands several human beings on a foreign planet that is frequently under attack.

Culture Audience: Besides appealing to the obvious target audience of “Toy Story” movie fans, “Lightyear” will appeal primarily to people interested in animated films about time travel in outer space, but should be prepared for a plot that’s more convoluted than the average family-oriented animated film.

Buzz Lightyear (voiced of Chris Evans) and Alisha Hawthorne (voiced by Uzo Aduba) in “Lightyear” (Image courtesy of Disney/Pixar)

In the animated film “Lightyear,” the plot about time travel in outer space often gets messy, but the movie has good messages about teamwork and confronting the past without dwelling on the past. The movie’s title character is astronaut Buzz Lightyear, who became the basis of a talking toy character that is one of the main stars of the “Toy Story” series. “Lightyear” is the movie that shows his origin story and shows why the movie resulted in Buzz becoming a popular toy. It’s a “movie within a movie” premise that has some stumbling blocks, but it works out well enough to be entertaining overall for people who enjoy animated films that take place in outer space.

Directed by Angus MacLane (who co-wrote the “Lightyear” screenplay with Jason Headley), “Lightyear” could easily be a stand-alone movie that doesn’t require anyone to see any of the “Toy Story” films. That’s because, with the exception of Buzz and villain Emperor Zurg (who was first seen in “Toy Story 2”), all of the characters in “Lightyear” are being introduced to movie audiences for the first time. Tim Allen is the voice of Buzz in the “Toy Story” movies. Chris Evans is the voice of Buzz in “Lightyear,” which depicts a young-man version of Buzz in the beginning of movie. It’s a seamless transition, considering that the Buzz in “Lightyear” is not really the same Buzz who’s in the “Toy Story” movies.

The opening scene of “Lightyear” shows that Buzz is part of an exploratory mission in outer space where he and his fellow astronauts from Earth visit other planets in a spaceship nicknamed The Turnip, because Buzz thinks the ship looks like a “root vegetable.” The Turnip has an on-board computer called IVAN (voiced by Mary McDonald-Lewis), which has the type of artificial intelligence that can have conversations with people. Buzz is an astronaut called a Space Ranger, whose duties including peacekeeping and law enforcement in the universe.

Buzz and his commander Alisha Hawthorne (voiced by Uzo Aduba) are part of a crew of more than 1,000 scientists and technicians who are heading back to Earth for what they think has been a successful mission. They are about 4.2 million light years away from home when disaster strikes. Their space vessel picks up a signal that there’s a new planet called T’Kani Prime that hasn’t been explored yet for possible untapped resources. Buzz becomes curious about this unknown planet, so he makes the fateful decision to take a detour to visit T’Kani Prime.

The explorers find out too late that it’s an extremely hostile planet with dangerous vines and giant bugs that attack. While under attack, The Turnip sustains some damage, including damage to the hyper-speed crystal that allows the ship to travel to other dimensions. Buzz, Alisha and most of their crew survive, but they are now stranded in this strange and unwelcome world.

Up until this point, Buzz was an overconfident (and some might say arrogant) Space Ranger. However, he feels humility and tremendous guilt over his colossal error in judgment. He vows to make things right and to find a way to get everyone back home to Earth. But the hyper-speed crystal keeps malfunctioning and isn’t working at the speed it used to have. Buzz worries that this malfunction might leave everyone permanently stranded.

After every attempt to use the malfunctioning hyper-speed crystal with The Turnip in outer space, a dejected Buzz has to return back to T’Kani Prime. However, he finds out the first time this happens that four minutes of his time in outer space equal four years of time on T’Kani Prime. And so, every time Buzz comes back from a failed hyper-speed attempt, years have passed, while Buzz does not age at that same pace. Buzz also finds out that the faster he flies into outer space, the further into the future he travels.

After one of his early attempts to get back to hyper speed, Buzz returns to T’Kani Prime and is assigned a cat robot named Sox (voiced by Peter Sohn), who is described in the movie as an “emotional transition robot.” Sox is intuitive and acts as an all-around helper for physical tasks, getting encyclopedia information, and offering words of advice and comfort. During a few of the action scenes, Sox also has a recurring catch phrase/joke about buying time to stall any antagonists in the scene.

Buzz finds out after coming back from a failed hyper-speed trip that Alisha has fallen in love and gotten engaged to a female crew member named Kiko. He’s happy for the couple, but he also feels sad that the lives of other people are passing him by, and he still hasn’t found a way to get everyone back to Earth. Buzz’s frustration at not being able to achieve his goals as quickly as he thought he would is the movie’s obvious message about how life can have unexpected setbacks.

As shown in a montage sequence, Alisha and Kiko get married, and they have a son together. Their son gets married and has a daughter named Izzy (voiced by Keira Hairston), who from a young age, has been determined to follow in her beloved grandmother Alisha’s footsteps as a commander Space Ranger. As for what eventually happens to Alisha, that’s easy to predict, considering that T’Kani Prime is not a planet that can stop the aging process.

None of this is really spoiler information, because the majority of “Lightyear” is about what happens when Buzz ends up going on a mission with Izzy when she becomes a young woman (voiced by Keke Palmer) and other members of a motley crew of explorers. (This plot is in the “Lightyear” movie trailers.) What happened to cause this mission?

The stranded community’s gruff new commander Colonel Burnside (voiced by Isiah Whitlock Jr.) abruptly informs Buzz that Buzz’s most recent mission was his last one, because the program is being shut down. As part of the shutdown, Sox will be decommissioned and probably become part of a robot scrap heap. The stranded scientists have built a laser dome over their community for protection, because they’ve resigned themselves to thinking that they might never be able to leave T’Kani Prime—at least not in their lifetime.

Colonel Burnside orders that Sox get taken away from Buzz. However, Buzz can’t bear the thought of Sox “dying,” so he escapes with Sox in The Turnip. Through a series of circumstances, Buzz and Sox come back to T’Kani Prime, 22 years later. Izzy is now a young woman who’s part of a group of wannabe Space Rangers called the Junior Zap Patrol. And the planet has come under attack by giant robots, led by an entity named Emperor Zurg (voiced by James Brolin), who is somewhat of a generic villain.

Guess who’s going on a mission to save the planet and possibly the universe? Buzz and Sox join forces with Junior Zap Control members Izzy, goofy Mo Morrison (voiced by Taika Waititi) and sarcastic Darby Steel (voiced by Dale Soules) to often awkward results. That’s because the Junior Zap Control is untrained and often incompetent. And even though Izzy wants to be a Space Ranger, she’s terrified of being in outer space.

“Lightyear” has a few surprises, but the movie mostly sticks to a familiar formula in “heroes who save the world” sci-fi/fantasy stories. One of the movie’s greatest strengths is that it introduces characters with memorable personalities and quirks, with Sox being the one that viewers might be talking about the most. Some viewers might think Sox is adorable, while other viewers might think Sox is annoying. Either way, this character was clearly designed by the “Lightyear” filmmakers to sell Sox toys and other merchandise in the real world.

“Lightyear” falters in having a few characters that are somewhat useless or too predictable. Supporting characters such as Airman Díaz (voiced by Efren Ramirez) and Featheringhamstan (voiced by Bill Hader) seem very two-dimensional and underdeveloped. Some of the jokes are very simple-minded. And all of Buzz’s zipping back and forth between eras and dimensions doesn’t leave enough room for Buzz to slow down and develop relationships with other humans where he can connect with them without missing several years out of their lives.

The movie’s world building of T’Kani Prime is more focused on what the planet looks like, rather than the sociology of the planet. However, there’s one interesting dietary quirk that’s revealed about T’Kani Prime that different from how things are done on Earth: The descendants of the stranded community have developed a custom of preparing and eating sandwiches with bread on the inside instead of the outside.

“Lightyear” has the distinction of being the first Pixar Animation Studios movie made specifically for IMAX screens. The visuals are definitely up to Pixar standards, but the visual effects in “Lightyear” are not really game-changing or extraordinary. The voice actors bring a lot of spark to their roles, even if some of the movie’s dialogue is unremarkable and the plot gets a little muddled.

Some viewers will like the time traveling aspects of “Lightyear,” while others will not. And a big twist revealed in the last third of the movie could be divisive to audiences, depending on people’s expectations on how the movie’s characters should be. “Lightyear” spends so much effort trying to be way ahead of the audience, some viewers will feel annoyed by being expected to keep up with all the time jumping, while other viewers will be up for the challenge and enjoy the ride.

Disney/Pixar Animation Studios will release “Lightyear” in U.S. cinemas on June 17, 2022. Disney+ will premiere the movie on August 3, 2022.

Review: ‘The Addams Family 2,’ starring the voices of Oscar Issac, Charlize Theron, Chloë Grace Moretz, Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton, Nick Kroll, Bette Midler and Bill Hader

October 1, 2021

by Carla Hay

“The Addams Family 2”: Pictured in front row, from left to right: Gomez Addams (voiced by Oscar Isaac), Wednesday Addams (voiced by Chloë Grace Moretz), Morticia Addams (voiced by Charlize Theron), Pugsley Addams (voiced by Javon “Wanna” Walton) and It (voiced by Snoop Dogg). Pictured in back row, from left to right: Uncle Fester (voiced by Nick Kroll, Lurch (voiced by Conrad Vernon) and Grandma (voiced by Bette Midler). (Image courtesy of Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures)

“The Addams Family 2”

Directed by Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan

Culture Representation: Taking place in various parts of the U.S., the animated film “The Addams Family 2” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans and Latinos) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: The ghoulish Addams Family goes on a cross-country road trip, in an effort to create more family bonding, as adolescent daughter Wednesday Addams goes through an identity crisis about her biological origins. 

Culture Audience: Besides appealing to the obvious target audience of “Addams Family” fans, “The Addams Family 2” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching overly cluttered animated films that have a very weak plot.

Wednesday Addams (voiced by Chloë Grace Moretz) and Cyrus Strange (voiced by Bill Hader) in “The Addams Family 2” (Image courtesy of Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures)

In the animated film “The Addams Family 2,” the family goes on a road trip while being chased by a lawyer who wants Wednesday Addams’ DNA because he says he needs to prove she’s not biologically related to the Addams Family. That’s all you need to know about how bad this sequel is. You don’t even have to be a familiar with “The Addams Family” franchise to know that the members of this comedically ghoulish clan are supposed to be very tight-knit (despite the occasional inter-family squabbles) precisely because they’re misfits in the real world and have an “us against them” attitude about it. It’s the basis of the comedy of “The Addams Family” franchise, which has included movies and TV shows, both live-action and animated.

“The Addams Family 2” is directed by Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan, who both also helmed the 2019 animated film “The Addams Family.” Wednesday Addams (voiced by Chloë Grace Moretz) is the gloomy, sarcastic and intelligent daughter of cheerful Gomez Addams (voiced by Oscar Isaac) and somber Morticia Addams (voiced by Charlize Theron), who looks and acts like stereotypical witch. With their pale skin and long, straight black hair, Wednesday and Morticia clearly have a physical resemblance to each other and have similar personalities. And yet, “The Addams Family 2” has a very misguided idea to have Wednesday go through an identity crisis just because someone told her that she’s not a true biological member of the family.

Pugsley Addams, who is Wednesday’s goofy pre-teen younger brother, is more like his father Gomez. In “The Addams Family 2,” Pugsley is voiced by Javon “Wanna” Walton, who replaces Finn Wolfhard, who voiced Pugsley in “The Addams Family” 2019 animated movie. Wednesday is such a negative person that she likes to torture and taunt Pugsley with cruel pranks and insults.

Also in the Addams Family are Uncle Fester (voiced by Nick Kroll), who is Gomez’s oddball bachelor brother; Cousin It (voiced by Snoop Dogg), a hair-covered character who grunts and raps; and Grandma (voiced by Bette Midler), Gomez’s sassy and free-spirited mother. All of them except for Cousin It live together in the same foreboding mansion up on a hill in an unnamed U.S. city. Cousin It drops in occasionally to visit; he’s not a major character in this movie.

Also living in the household, but not biologically related to the Addams Family, are two servants: a disembodied hand called Thing and a butler named Lurch (voiced by Conrad Vernon), who resembles the Frankenstein monster and who doesn’t talk but makes other sounds to communicate. In the 2019 “The Addams Family” movie, Lurch came to live with the family after Morticia and Gomez got into a car accident with a car that was transporting Lurch to an institution for the criminally insane. Lurch was able to escape, and he was invited to live with the Addams Family as their butler. The Addams Family also has a pet lion named Kitty.

In the beginning of “The Addams Family 2,” the family is gathered to watch Wednesday participate in the Cyrus Strange Foundation Science Fair. She is demonstrating an invention that she created which is intended to have the ability to extract personalities and intelligence and implant them in other beings through DNA. Wednesday is so confident about her invention, she’s sure that she will be declared the science fair’s winner.

As a live experiment to demonstrate how the invention works, Wednesday shows how Uncle Fester can’t solve a Rubik’s cube puzzle, while a smart octopus can solve the puzzle. She then temporarily implants the octopus’ DNA into Uncle Fester, and he’s able to solve the puzzle. However, for the rest of the movie, Uncle Fester becomes a mutant with the physical characteristics of an octopus. It’s one of this movie’s many terrible ideas, in a failed attempt at making this story funny.

The audience is impressed with Wednesday’s experiment. However, Wednesday becomes furious when she finds out that this science fair isn’t going to name a winner, because everyone who participated will get a ribbon as a prize. Wednesday fumes, “How can you be a winner if no one is a loser? Is this the third grade? It does not count!”

Someone who has been watching this science fair from afar is founder Cyrus Strange (voiced by Bill Hader), who appears at the event as a hologram. Cyrus asks Wednesday if she would like to work with him to further develop her invention. Cyrus says he has the money and resources to help her, but she declines his offer.

At home, Wednesday has been showing typical signs of adolescent rebellion. She doesn’t want to join the family when they’re gathered for dinner. She’s been sulking more than usual. And she’s been expressing that she wants more independence from her family, because she thinks her parents are too supportive of her.

Gomez decides the best way to resolve this issue is for the entire family (with Lurch, Thing and Kitty in tow) to go on a road trip together. Grandma will stay behind to look after the house. In typical Addams Family fashion, the black automobile that they’re using for the road trip looks like a combination of a recreational vehicle and a hearse.

Just as the Addams Family is packing up to leave for the trip, an attorney named Mr. Mustela (voiced by Wallace Shawn) shows up to inform the Addams Family that he represents a family in Sausalito, California. Mr. Mustela says that his clients are convinced that their daughter was switched at birth with Wednesday, and Mr. Mustela has arrived to collect Wednesday’s DNA as proof. He wants Wednesday’s DNA, right then and there.

Morticia and Gomez scoff at the idea that Wednesday is not their biological child. They refuse Mr. Mustela’s request and tell him to leave. But is this the last they’ll see of Mr. Mustela? Of course not. With a mute, hulking goon named Pongo as his accomplice, Mr. Mustela follows the Addams Family as they go on their road trip, which takes them to Niagra Falls, Sleepy Hollow, Miami, San Antonio, the Grand Canyon, Death Valley and Sausalito.

Why in the world would Wednesday and anyone else in her family start to doubt her biological identity? It happens during the road trip, when Uncle Fester confesses that there was a time when he was all alone in the hospital nursery where Wednesday was placed, shortly after Wednesday was born. This story is shown in a flashback.

Even as a baby, Wednesday did not look like other kids. However, Uncle Fester says that he was goofing around in the nursery and he started juggling the babies. Looking back on it, he thinks it’s possible that he could have put some of the babies back in the wrong cribs. However, what’s dumb about this major plot hole of a story is that Wednesday looked so vastly different from the other babies that there’s no way that a seeing person could confuse her with any of the other babies in the room.

As her parents, Gomez and Morticia should know this too, but that doesn’t stop them from having doubts that maybe Wednesday isn’t their biological child. Uncle Fester’s story sends Wednesday into an even more angst-ridden emotional tailspin. For a girl who’s supposed to be scientifically smart, this awful movie suddenly dumbs her down, in service of a poorly conceived story.

“The Addams Family 2” does what a lot of animated sequels do: It takes the characters on a journey to different places, just so it’ll make the movie try to look more adventurous than its predecessor. Sometimes this idea works, and sometimes it doesn’t. In the case of “The Addams Family 2,” it doesn’t work because the entire basis of the “possibly switched at birth” plot is flawed and an insult to how the Addams Family characters are supposed to be.

“The Addams Family 2” also has a bizarre recurring joke of Uncle Fester trying to teach a pre-teen Pugsley how to charm and seduce women. It’s supposed to be funny because Uncle Fester is terrible at dating and has very little experience with romance. But he creepily pressures Pugsley to start looking for a girlfriend who’s close to Pugsley’s age, even though this kid is too young to be dating anyone.

Didn’t any of the filmmakers think how inappropriate and weird this subplot is, considering that Pugsley hasn’t even reached puberty yet? Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Ben Queen and Susanna Fogel are the four screenwriters for “The Addams Family 2,” so they’re largely to blame for coming up with the awful ideas that plague this movie. However, other chief decision makers (including directors Vernon and Tiernan) were involved in making this movie into a stinking mess, so there’s plenty of blame to go around.

The road trip is just an excuse for the Addams Family to go from location to location and get into various shenanigans along the way. Wednesday is crueler than ever to Pugsley in this movie. For example, in one scene at Niagra Falls, Wednesday has a cursed voodoo doll of Pugsley, which she callously throws into the waterfall, therby making Pugsley plunge into the deadly waterfall with the doll. The movie wants to make viewers laugh at all the physical abuse and attempted murder that’s inflicted on Pugsley, but it’s not slapstick comedy that’s genuinely funny. It’s just plain mean-spirited.

Meanwhile, Grandma is at the mansion, which she has turned into a nightclub-styled party house where she’s charging young people $500 per person for admission. It’s a half-baked idea that’s executed in a mediocre and predictable way. It just recycles a tired joke that an old person partying with young people is automatically supposed to be funny.

“The Addams Family 2” isn’t the worst animated movie you’ll ever see. But it’s offensively bad enough because it had so much potential to be a good movie, considering its generous budget and very talented voice cast. “The Addams Family” movie that preceded it wasn’t great either, but it didn’t wildly go off-track like “The Addams Family 2” does. “The Addams Family 2” is an example of what happens when filmmakers don’t respect a franchise’s characters, and come up with an ill-conceived story that doesn’t ring true to how fans know these characters.

Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures released “The Addams Family 2” in U.S. cinemas and on VOD on October 1, 2021.

2019 Primetime Emmy Awards: presenters announced

September 11, 2019

The following is a press release from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences:

The Television Academy and Emmy Awards telecast producers Don Mischer Productions and Done+Dusted announced the first group of talent set to present the iconic Emmy statuettes at the 71st Emmy Awards on Sunday, September 22.

The presenters include:

  • Angela Bassett* (9-1-1 and The Flood)
  • Stephen Colbert* (The Late Show with Stephen Colbert)
  • Viola Davis* (How to Get Away with Murder)
  • Michael Douglas* (The Kominsky Method)
  • Taraji P. Henson (Empire)
  • Terrence Howard (Empire)
  • Jimmy Kimmel* (Jimmy Kimmel Live)
  • Peter Krause (9-1-1)
  • Seth Meyers* (Late Night With Seth Meyers and Documentary Now!)
  • Billy Porter* (Pose)
  • Naomi Watts (The Loudest Voice)
  • Zendaya (Euphoria)
  • The cast of Game of Thrones: Alfie Allen*, Gwendoline Christie*,
    Emilia Clarke*, Peter Dinklage*, Kit Harington*, Lena Headey*, Sophie Turner*, Carice van Houten*, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau*, and Maisie Williams*

September 17, 2019 UPDATE:

More presenters have been announced for the 2019 Primetime Emmy Awards:

  • Anthony Anderson* (black-ish)
  • Ike Barinholtz (Bless the Harts)
  • Cedric the Entertainer (The Neighborhood)
  • Max Greenfield (The Neighborhood)
  • Bill Hader* (Barry)
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus* (VEEP)
  • Cast of VEEP: Anna Chlumsky, Gary Cole, Kevin Dunn, Clea DuVall, Tony Hale, Sam Richardson, Reid Scott, Timothy Simons, Sarah Sutherland, Matt Walsh
  • Gwyneth Paltrow (The Politician)
  • Amy Poehler* (Duncanville and Russian Doll)
  • Maya Rudolph (Bless the Harts and The Good Place)
  • RuPaul* (RuPaul’s Drag Race)
  • Lilly Singh (A Little Late with Lilly Singh)
  • Ben Stiller* (Escape at Dannemora)
  • Phoebe Waller-Bridge* (Fleabag)
  • Cast of Keeping Up with the Kardashians: Kim Kardashian, Kendall Jenner, Kylie Jenner

The 71st Emmy Awards will air live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Sunday, September 22, (8:00-11:00 PM ET/5:00-8:00 PM PT) on FOX.

For more information, please visit Emmys.com. Find out Where to Watch.

*71st Emmy Awards Nominees

 

https://www.emmys.com/news/awards-news/emmy-presenters-190911

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