Did the world need another Toy Story? No. Did Pixar’s original trilogy not feel perfect? Yes. But only because it was perfect. The perfect beginning, muddle and definitive end. Definitive. What’s more, surely the only thing rarer than a trilogy without a misstep is a quartet that never once drops the ball. Curiously, Toy Story 4 doesn’t drop the ball but still doesn’t succeed in self-justification. At least, not entirely Gloriously animated, richly constructed and brilliantly witty, there’s no denying the film is a charmer and cross-generational hit. It’s a tricky one though. For all the successes here, questions of necessity loom large over all, perhaps leading to a singular conclusion.
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Such is the dominance of superhero cinema in twenty-first century Hollywood – over a decade on from Iron Man and we’re clearly beyond phase territory – the genre has begun to spawn. Now, alongside bravura three act, computer generated blockbusters, we have black and white westerns, space operas and coming of age school flicks all under the bruce banner. Joining these offshoot quasi-comic book features, Brightburn subverts expectations with influence from the dark bite of horror. A smart move, given that genres parallel mainstream resurgence in recent years. In execution, Brightburn never quite achieves the potential of this promised fusion but does enough to just about equal the sum of its parts.
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The pervading suspicion surrounding X-Men: Dark Phoenix, twelfth in the X-franchise and last under an independent Fox, is that all involved have essentially given up. A fractured narrative is held together by the film’s dourly immersive tone but, while scattered set pieces amaze, a lack of cast conviction belies a disinterest behind the lens. As potentially the last time Fassbender and McAvoy and co. will carry their roles, this isn’t what you would call going out with a bang.
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There’s a voice in Late Night so sharp it could cut itself, and a core cast so winning you’ll forgive the softie plotting that blunts it. This is the Nisha Ganatra directed new comedy by writer, producer and star Mindy Kaling, who plays the ‘token woman of colour’ brought in to save Emma Thompson’s erstwhile pioneering late night talk show host, Katherine Newbury, from absolute televisual collapse. Gloriously astute to the self-pitying moral crisis of the white wing in a diversifying world, the film lands its fair share of laugh out loud moments before dawn.
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Pond Life is the near perfect feature debut from director Bill Buckhurst. A delightful time capsule of epochal folk transience, the film benefits from an unusually assured young cast, smart aesthetics and a remarkable script by Richard Cameron, adapting his own play. It’s all wonderfully naturalistic – poetically so, not without irony – and boasts a tremendous feeling for locality. Esme Creed-Miles, meanwhile, will blow you away as gentle, tragic Pogo.
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Get past the been there done that feeling that pervades Guy Ritchie’s touched up but essentially familiar remake of Disney’s animated Aladdin and you may well see the diamond for the rough. Whilst fault lines are striking, smart updates do well to justify the extended runtime. With a budget more dazzling than the cave of wonders itself, Ritchie’s production is shining, shimmering, splendid and sure to put a smile on willing faces.
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Thunder Road is one for the more patient among us. It is an uncomfortable feature-length account of grief, rage, sorrow, and just about every other adverse emotion conceivable. Based on an award-winning short of the same name, this comedy-drama follows well-intentioned but volatile police officer Jim Arnaud (Jim Cummings) as he struggles to cope in the wake of his beloved mother’s passing. Hostile relations with estranged wife Rosalind (Jocelyn DeBoer) don’t help matters for this moustachioed, ticking timebomb, especially as she’s divorcing him and claiming full custody of his resentful daughter Crystal (Kendal Farr).
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