Bennett’s War

We are clearly scraping the bottom of the available movie barrel thanks to our Regal Unlimited Movie Pass. This is not a film we ever would have paid to see, nor is it one that I’ll recommend. Not being awful is not the same as being good.
You know you’re on the margins of the film industry when Trace Adkins has the longest acting portfolio among the cast members. Here he plays a tough guy (of course) farmer named Cal Bennett, father of the main character Marshall. He has a ponytail and a failing farm. He needs money to keep things going.
Marshall Bennett (Michael Roark) is a motorcycle commando, blown up in the Mideast and recovering from leg injuries that threaten to end his Motocross career. His wife Sophie (Allison Paige) is going to make sure of that. After all, she almost lost him once and they have a new baby.
A series of scenes show friends and family hovering over Marshall out of concern for his recovery, but effectively preventing him from reclaiming his dignity. And then he tries to change a light bulb by standing on an unstable stool. I’m not kidding. He falls and cries in his Dad’s arms.
At long last, Marshall defies Sophie by winning a local race and saving Dad’s farm with the prize money. Dad has a heart to heart with Sophie that turns things around. We suddenly find ourselves watching a Rocky-like against-all-odds training sequence to get Marshall ready to compete and go pro. Chin-ups in the barn sort of stuff with a little wifey exercise afterwards. This is the point at which I leaned over to my wife and whispered in my best Burgess Meredith impression, “Women weaken legs, Rock!”
Go Pro is a key choice of words above. This movie felt as if some Motocross fans got together with a helmet-mounted camera and decided to edit it into a story. I can just hear it, “Dude, we got Trace Adkins and Tony Panterra to sign on!”
Yes, Tony Panterra, is apparently sort of playing himself. He is a Motocross racer, stuntman and actor whose largest claim to fame is his daughter Lexy Panterra. I’d never heard of either of them, but it appears she has a large following for shaking her booty in a video workout program called The Twerkout. You can’t make this stuff up.
The Director and most of the actors have only TV and short film credits prior to this picture. The story is corny and predictable, but otherwise gets the job done and generates a little excitement. At least it’s short, and to their credit they managed to keep the rating down with an almost total lack of profanity. I doubt this will be in theaters for long, so if you like Motocross, you may want to zoom over to the theater soon.

Bennett’s War (2019) runs 1 hour 34 minutes and is rated PG.
Should I see this movie? 

Toy Story 4

It’s hard to believe that Andy headed off to college in Toy Story 3 nine years ago. By now he might have completed his Doctorate. Harder yet is realizing that the Toy Story franchise has been with us for twenty-four years. Many of us have children who grew up with this cast of characters, headed off to college, and perhaps had children with their own favorite toys.
If you’ve been to Orlando’s Disney World since June of 2018, you’ve most likely been caught up in the maddening crush known as Toy Story Land. Created to the usual irresistibly colorful and immersive standards we’ve come to expect, you’ll want to ride the Slinky-Dog Coaster, pose alongside Buzz Lightyear with the kids and then run screaming in another direction after the giant Tinker-Toys and crowds of families with kids become too much.
But at the movies it’s like a trip back in time. After all, while we’ve been relentlessly aging, our extended family of characters have remained frozen in 1995, when the original Toy Story announced that “You've Got a Friend in Me.” One wonders why the theme park took so long to come to fruition. The second movie came out within four years. The third after a much longer pause of eleven. And finally, nine years evaporated prior to this most recent incarnation. It’s not like they had to create new characters or new voices (still Tom Hanks and Tim Allen).
But, forgive me for getting a bit misty during these films, and I know I’m not alone. Revisiting these old friends reminds us of, well, a lot. What a different world we lived in during the first two chapters. Perhaps a delay was in order post-911 as we adjusted to a daily diet of war and apprehension. Or did we need Toy Story even more because of it?
If you’ve seen one movie, you’ve seen them all. The original look and feel has been preserved by Pixar despite astounding advances in photorealistic 3D technique. That’s comforting, but just how long can they carry on this franchise? Perhaps as long as new kids are born to watch them? It’s refreshing to see a G-rated movie, an increasing rarity in our NC17 world. And it’s nice to hear fun new music in Randy Newman’s increasingly gravely voice.
Little Bo Peep has a larger role in this Toy Story. And a new character named Duke Caboom (voiced by Keanu Reeves) is a fun addition. He’s like an Evel Knievel partner to Buzz Lightyear’s ongoing failed attempts at flight and fantasy. The new comic star of the show is “Forky” – a living spork created by young Bonnie at her Kindergarten orientation. A subplot involving ventriloquist dummies has parents squirming, but maybe not the kids. That particular fear is an acquired taste, much like clowns. Woody is aging nicely but having something of an identity crisis. And his time in the back of a closet has resulted in “your first dust bunny.” It’s a testament to his own passage of time as adroitly commented upon by a toy alarm clock.
And speaking of parents, this story has a diverse and more present adult couple. “Dad” is referenced several times by the toys, and again by Mom, who ushers Bonnie away before, “Dad is going to use some words” regarding a flat tire on their RV. Animation within a long carnival segment is as good as any filmed amusement park. The lighting is brilliant, the colors vivid and the games come to life in an amusing way.
I’m leaving out details to avoid spoilers, but the setup for a fifth film is definitely in place should they choose to keep this particular money making machine running for another decade or so. It seems everyone wants to be part of this animated treasure. Voices include Mel Brooks, Carol Burnett, Carl Reiner, Betty White and even the late Don Rickles retrieved from archival audio. There are so many characters it’s hard to sort them all out. But with animated stars like these, it’s easy to see how they might go…to infinity and beyond.
Toy Story 4 (2019) runs 1 hour 40 minutes and is rated G.
Should I see this movie? 


The theater was surprisingly full for a Saturday matinee of this family-friendly film. That was a happy post-pandemic reality. And it wasn’t...