REVIEW: ‘Toy Story 4’ doesn’t fly like predecessors, but still falls with style

I’ll admit, when I first heard a new “Toy Story” was in production, I was skeptical, considering “Toy Story 3” was such a solid end to the trilogy. Fortunately, Pixar did some solid work with this fourth feature.

The latest film picks up seemingly not too long after the end of part three. The original gang, for example, have adapted pretty well to life with Bonnie’s other toys. That is, except for Woody (Tom Hanks). Woody appears to be involved less and less in times of play, and as a result, is getting little anxious.

However, when Bonnie creates a new toy from some materials, mainly a spork, named Forky (Tony Hale),  Woody finds some purpose. Forky appears to be confused, thinking himself more akin to trash than a toy, but Woody is set on protecting him and keeping him around, as Forky has become Bonnie’s favorite. The work gets more difficult, though, when during a family trip, Forky escapes in a small town near a carnival. Woody sets off on an adventure immediately to save Forky, and fortunately, he gets some help from the long lost Bo Peep (Annie Potts).

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REVIEW: When ‘Child’s Play’ isn’t trying to be a remake, it’s at its best

If only this hadn’t been called “Child’s Play.”

This new “Child’s Play” basically takes the framework, such as the character names and the iconic doll, and throws the rest out. Instead of using the original concept, with a murderer transferring himself into a doll through voodoo, this new “Child’s Play” goes with an artificial intelligence route.

The movie follows Andy (Gabriel Bateman), a young pre-teen who lives with his mother Karen (Aubrey Plaza). Karen works at a mid-size retailer that sells the new Buddi Dolls, which are toys that can also connect digitally to other electronics, like an Alexa. Karen eventually ends up lucky enough to snag a Buddi doll (voiced by Mark Hamill) through a stroke of luck. However, during its creation, that certain doll unfortunately became defective. As a result, the doll becomes aggressive.

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REVIEW: ‘Anna’ doesn’t reinvent spy genre wheel, but still entertains

There’s been a few movies over the last several years with women super spies, such as “Salt,” “Haywire,” “Atomic Blonde” and “Red Sparrow.” The latest flick in the sub-genre, “Anna,” doesn’t push the story boundaries too far from those, but overall, it may be the best one, or at least the most fun.

The picture, directed by Luc Besson, stars Sasha Luss in the titular role. Anna is a young woman who had some experience in Russian military training and as a result, is eventually recruited into the KGB.

As an agent, Anna becomes a fierce assassin, able to get even some of the most dangerous jobs done. Her latest work is especially, difficult, though, as it includes other adversarial international agencies.

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REVIEW: ‘Shaft’ doesn’t break ground, but it still kicks some ass

This movie has three Shafts in a movie series that now has five “Shafts.” Yeah, there’s definitely history there.

So this film re-introduces the John Shaft from the 20 movie, played by Samuel L. Jackson. The audience soon learns that he and his girlfriend Maya (Regina Hall ) have had a child, JJ (Jessie T. Usher). Because of the danger associated with his job, though, Maya takes JJ away from New York City to live in a safe environment.

The story picks up in the present day, with JJ now a grown man and an FBI data analyst. While not a field agent, the death of a friend drags him out of the office and into NYC’s crime underground. To get some help, JJ enlists the help of his estranged father. Together they have to balance reconnecting and solving the latest case.

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REVIEW: Despite talented cast and crew, ‘Late Night’ stumbles

The movie might bear the title “Late Night,” but it’s only worth an afternoon matinee price.

Emma Thompson stars in the flick as Katherine Newbury, a host of a long-running network evening show that comes up right after your local news. Despite hosting the program since the 90s, though, Newbury’s style on TV has become less popular over time, to the point where ratings have been on the decline for about a decade.

Needing some new energy in the show, and more diversity to boot, the show-runners decide to make a hire in the writing department. Enter Molly (Mindy Kaling), a young woman who works in a Pennsylvania chemical plant, moonlighting as an amateur comic. Molly is hired, through a bit of luck and joins the writing team. However, her some of her ideas clash with the other writers, and Newbury herself. Continue reading “REVIEW: Despite talented cast and crew, ‘Late Night’ stumbles”

REVIEW: Fourth ‘MIB’ fails to recharge franchise

The “B” might stand for Bland this time around, since that’s what this movie really is.

While “Men in Black International” takes place in the same universe as the first three pictures, this one serves as a sort of ‘soft’ reboot. New characters, different aliens and an unfamiliar threat.

This time around, the movie follows Molly/Agent M (Tessa Thompson), a young woman who saw the Men In Black as a child and has always wanted to be part of the group. When she finally stumbles across the organization, she’s able to join and her first assignment is to go to London for an investigation.

There, she crosses paths with hot shot Agent H (Chris Hemsworth), who gained fame for being involved with stopping a massive alien invasion. The two start to work together on a case that at first seems simple, but soon unravels a plot that may be compromising MIB itself.

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REVIEW: ‘Secret Life of Pets’ sequel is better suited for the small screen

In my review of the 2016 film “Secret Life of Pets,” I said if a person isn’t a pet owner, they can go ahead and skip it. It’s mostly the same old story this time around.

The sequel again follows Max (Patton Oswalt) and Duke (Eric Stonestreet), who live in a New York City Apartment. The two are owned by Katie, who since the first film, has gotten married and has a child. Like the last movie, Max is a worrier and has his share of fears. As a result, he also has several concerns for Katie’s child.

He begins to face his fears, though, when the family takes a trip to a farm. There, Max meets Rooster (Harrison Ford), an older herding dog who helps Max face his fears and not be so-overprotective with Katie’s son. Meanwhile, the other pets back at the apartment where Max lives have adventures of their own.

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REVIEW: ‘Dark Phoenix’ shows a franchise burnout for the ‘X-Men’

Back in 2006, I, like many others, were largely disappointed with “X-Men: The Last Stand,” the supposed finale of the series to that point. Amazingly, “Dark Phoenix” has upstaged “Last Stand,” proving to be a finale even worse.

“Phoenix” takes place a few years after the events of “X-Men: Apocalypse.” Following the defeat of Apocalypse, the X-Men have become a sort of emergency response team and because of their helpful actions, mutants are better respected.

However, trouble begins forming after the team’s latest mission, where Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) is hit by some sort of energy during an attempt to save a space shuttle crew. It turns out the energy is a legendary power that makes Jean’s powers more unstable and brings out an aggressive side of her personality. Additionally, an alien force led by the character Vuk (Jessica Chastain) is after the power.

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REVIEW: ‘Godzilla’ may be a king, but not of cinema

The latest “Godzilla” is chock-full of monsters, yet even the gargantuan creatures don’t necessarily hold this feature up.

The movie begins five years after the 2014 “Godzilla,” where the secretive agency Monarch is keeping track of the giant creature and others across the globe. One of the Monarch researchers is Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga), a woman who lost her son in the 2014 Godzilla battle of San Francisco.

Monarch’s research is taken advantage of by radical environmental terrorists, though, led by a man named Jonah (Charles Dance). As a result of their actions, the powerful monster Ghidorah is released, and several others respond by awakening and causing havoc. To stop them, Godzilla has to get back into action.

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REVIEW: ‘Rocketman’ convincingly captures Elton John’s passion

Saturday might be the time of week alright for fighting, but any day is a good day to see “Rocketman.”

As the title and my song referencing lede implies, “Rocketman” is a film about the musician Elton John (Taron Egerton). The film focuses on John’s early success, which also, sadly, coincided with his struggles with addiction.

The picture tells both John’s early career story and the development of his psyche over time through a series of song and dance numbers numbers set to the musician’s music.

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