Toy Story 4 2019 ***

Toy Story 4 brought in a lot less than was expected at the US box office; $118 million is a huge haul, but the relative failure of the animation to draw crowds will be something of a talking point, given that Pixar’s brand is considered to be so powerful, and the franchise one of the best loved in cinema. Josh Cooley’s film is extremely well done, and doesn’t let down the series, but it is inessential; the previous trilogy wrapped up the characters, took them to the edge of extinction, and brought them back for a happy ending, with life lessons learned in time for bedtime. Toy Story 4 sets up the idea that Woody (Tom Hanks) and Bo Beep (Annie Potts) have an unrequired love, and that their separation is due to Woody’s loyalty to his owner, who doesn’t play with him so much. A new, home-made toy called Forky gets all the attention, and Woody and the other toys embark on various familiar heist scenarios to united the little girl with her toy. New elements, like Keanu Reeves as a Evel Knievel-style motorcycle jumper called Duke Kaboom, are great fun, and the animation is wonderful, but the bottom line is that Toy Story 4 attempts to spin out beloved characters once too many; it’s a trip to the well that wasn’t required, and the classic Toy Story characters are tarnished as a result.

 

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Sully 2016 ****

220856-sully-movieThe story of the Miracle on the Hudson is the kind of material that could make a great tv movie; in the hands of Clint Eastwood, it makes for a great cinema experience. Following a similar structure to Flight, Sully opens with Tom Hank’s airline pilot having nightmares about the successful emergency landing he just carried out over NYC. In a fabricated bit of business that drives the story, the airline authorities somehow take a dim view of his heroic behavior, causing a series of flashbacks from various points of view that unravel exactly why Sully’s actions were so extraordinary. Eastwood avoids bloating the material and takes a sober, factual approach to the near-disaster, aided by a perfectly understated performance from hanks and good support from Aaron Eckhart, whose moustache is worth the price of admission. A model of economy, Sully is a meaty drama that contrives to use a dramatic lie to get at an astonishing truth.

 

Bridge of Spies 2016 ***

bridgespies1044A well-upholstered thriller from Steven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies deals with a real-life Cold War drama as James B Donovan (Tom Hanks) gets lured into the murky business of spy exchanges. After a successful courtroom defence of Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), Donovan tries to broker a deal in East Germany to exchange the enigmatic Abel for two other spies. Bridge of Spies is packed with absorbing details, and the atmosphere of East Germany is well caught. But it’s the acting that elevates the material; Rylance is electric in a showy role, but Hanks’ contribution should not be overlooked; he brings an everyman quality to his well-spoken lawyer, and provides a happy and empathetic centre even when the diplomatic and espionage twists get very complex indeed.