LIGHT YEAR: 4 STARS
This image released by Disney/Pixar shows the character Buzz Lightyear, voiced by Chris Evans, and Sox, voiced by Peter Sohn, in a scene from the animated film “Lightyear,” which will be released on June 17. (Disney/Pixar via AP)
The opening minutes of “Lightyear,” Pixar’s new origin story playing in theaters now, informs us that what we’re about to see is the movie that inspired “Toy Story” character Buzz Lightyear. . In other words, it was the movie that inspired merch that inspired a movie that inspired even more merch.
Chris Evans voices Buzz Lightyear, a square-jawed, heroic, and slightly clumsy Space Ranger. After a disastrous crash landing on a strange planet, his attempt to rescue the crew, including Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba), his best friend and commander, goes awry, leaving everyone stranded on a hostile planet at 4 .2 million light-years from Earth. His famous Space Rangers helmet hangs heavy on his head. “Everyone is stuck here because of me,” he says.
Determined to get home, Buzz embarks on a series of experimental flights using various jet fuel configurations, trying to find the right formula to achieve the hyper speed needed to traverse space and time.
But something strange happens. For every minute spent in space, a year returns to the planet. As Buzz attempts trip after trip, her best friend Alisha grows old, gets married, has a child, and later grandchild Izzy (Keke Palmer), while Buzz remains, more or less, unchanged.
On the planet, sixty years have passed before Buzz, and his adorable and intelligent computer companion, the cat Sox (Peter Sohn), attempt one last test trip, one that will unite him with Izzy, his “cadet team”. motivated and volunteers” and Zurg, a menacing force with an army of robots.
At first glance, “Lightyear” might seem like the origin story we don’t really need. Twenty-seven years, three sequels, a direct to video film, and a TV series later, you wouldn’t think there’s much left to say about the character, but Pixar has found a way.
“Lightyear” is a Pixar movie through and through. You expect top-notch animation, cool-looking robots, cute side characters, and the occasional laugh for parents and kids. There’s less expectation of the action-adventure being fun and how effective Pixar’s patented harrowing moments are.
It’s a hero’s journey, which actually humanizes the little talking piece of plastic (or coded series of bits and bytes) and imbues a slogan like “To infinity and beyond” with a new sincere meaning.
“Lightyear” may well inspire a character revival and spawn more toys, but this film is much more than merchandising.
SPIDERHEAD: 3 STARS
This image released by Netflix shows Jurnee Smollett, left, and Miles Teller in a scene from “Spiderhead.” (Netflix via AP)
I liken the experience of watching “Spiderhead,” a new psychological prison thriller starring Chris Hemsworth, Jurnee Smollett and Miles Teller, and now streaming on Netflix, to going to a nice restaurant with a dirty bathroom. The food, service and ambience are top notch, but go to the bathroom after dinner and if it’s dirty, that’s what you’ll remember the most from your visit.
Such is the fate of “Spiderhead”, a film that makes a good impression until the last minutes.
Hemsworth is visionary Steve Abnesti, a chemist who runs Spiderhead, a remote prison facility where his experimental mind-altering drugs are tested on inmates. Prisoners live in beautiful cells that look like trendy hotel rooms and eat gourmet food. There are no bars on the doors and not a single orange jumpsuit in sight. “Your presence in this establishment, while technically a punishment, is a privilege,” says Abnesti.
In exchange for the relaxed rules and relative luxury of the prison, inmates are equipped with a module or Mobi-Pak containing mind-altering drugs. Administered by the amiable Abnesti, these concoctions are part of a larger study to analyze the effects of manipulating emotions. “Our work will save lives,” says Abnesti. “Not just one life, many lives. We make the world better. »
Inmate Jeff (Teller) is Abnesti’s guinea pig. The couple have a special bond forged on a shared belief that inmate experiences are for the good of all humanity. But when Jeff is forced into a cruel drug trial, he suspects his trust has been misplaced. “The time to worry about crossing the lines was there are a lot of lines,” says Abnesti.
Based on the New Yorker short story “Escape from Spiderhead” by George Saunders, the film explores moral dilemmas and the ethical dilemma of exercising control over the powerless for personal gain. The very idea of forced injections is an even bigger and hotter topic now than when Saunders wrote the news.
So why did it feel like I was leaving a dirty bathroom as the end credits rolled?
This is the theory of recency. The last thing you see is what makes the lasting impression and “Spiderhead,” despite an interesting premise, some good performances, and a growing atmosphere of apprehension and mistrust, rushes the ending to the point where you wonder if the filmmakers have lacked film, time or interest in the story. Tonally, the sudden, action-packed ending feels stuck and uninspired.
Ultimately, “Spiderhead” disappoints because it’s so fair, but ultimately doesn’t trust the idea-driven story to satisfy.
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPEN: 3 ½ STARS
This image released by Sony Pictures Classics shows Mark Rylance as Maurice Flitcroft, right, and Mark Lewis Jones as Cliff in a scene from ‘The Phantom of the Open’. (Nick Wall/Sony Pictures Classics via AP)
“Life is not an oyster,” says Maurice Flitcroft in “The Phantom of the Open,” a new feel-good film starring Mark Rylance and currently in theaters. “It’s a barnacle.” It’s a rare moment of desperation for the endlessly optimistic man who has followed his passions on an unlikely journey to become a British folk hero.
Flitcroft, a 46-year-old crane operator at the same shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness, England, where his father and grandfather worked, but after trying his hand at painting, music and even driving stunts, he adopted Oscar Wilde’s quote, “We’re all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”, as his mantra.
He encourages his wife Jean (Sally Hawkins), son-in-law Michael (Jake Davies), and twins Gene and James (Christian and Jonah Lees) to get out there and live their dreams.
In 1976, faced with unemployment, Flitcroft took up golf with a view to competing in the oldest golf tournament in the world, the British Open. He has never played before, but he has determination, heart and the belief that “an open championship should be open to everyone”.
Incredibly (although this is a true story) he qualified and, in the qualifying round, scored a disastrous 121, 49 over par, a record for the worst score yet to be broken. British Open organizer Keith Mackenzie (Rhys Ifans) is outraged – ‘I want him banned from every club in the country!’ – but the press loves the story of the brave golfer’s underdog and audiences both at home and abroad welcome him as an inspiration “Practice is the way to perfection,” says -he.
“The Phantom of the Open” is as sweet as Flitcroft’s tea. He takes six sugars in every cup, and that sugar rush keeps him and the movie going.
Following in the footsteps of true-to-lie British films like ‘Fisherman’s Friends’, ‘Eddie the Eagle’ and ‘Calendar Girls’, or jovial TV shows like ‘Ted Lasso’, this film is held in the air by wonderfully kind people. performances from the cast led by Rylance and Hawkins.
Rylance practically radiates light as an optimistic dreamer. What could have been a caricature of a whimsical whimsical is tempered by the actor’s considerable comedic talent, as well as his ability to find the core of humanity in every character he plays. It would have been easy to play Flitcroft as a broad character with a head full of dreams and nothing more, but Rylance makes sure we see the person and not the stuffing.
“The Phantom of the Open” is a bit old-fashioned, but contains solid laughs and deep dives to reveal the class prejudices the crane operator suffered as he pursued his dream. More importantly, it’s about the importance of following your heart no matter where it takes you to find happiness.
BRIAN AND CHARLES: 3 STARS
A photo of “Brian and Charles”. (Courtesy Sundance Institute/Barney Tullett)
“What I’m building isn’t for everyone,” says Welsh inventor Brian (David Earl) in “Brian and Charles,” a new original comedy playing in theaters now. “But that’s fine with me.”
Similarly, the movie isn’t made for everyone, but those with a taste for mild eccentricity will find plenty to like here.
Brian leads a solitary life working on his whimsical inventions, such as a puzzle made out of ping pong balls, an airborne cuckoo clock, an egg belt, and trawler net shoes. “They don’t always work,” he says. “But I have so many ideas here that I’m moving on to the next one. It does not bother me.
He’s a dreamer with an active imagination and a shed full of spare parts, like a broken washing machine and a mannequin head, which he uses to cobble together an unsightly two-meter-tall robot. Unlike most of his other creations, the “very, very cheeky robot” actually works. “I learned that building a robot is like baking a cake,” says Brian. “You start out wanting a Victorian sponge and end up with a blancmange.”
With a blue light that makes his single eye twinkle, the artificially intelligent automaton is named Charles Petrescu (Chris Hayward) and quickly becomes Brian’s best friend. “My belly is a washing machine!” he exclaims. They watch TV together, share Brian’s favorite cabbage dishes for dinner, and even the occasional hula dance.
As Charles “grows up”, he becomes earthy. He wants to leave the rural Welsh village of Brian to see the world and listens to heavy metal music that cuts through the quiet of Brian’s cottage like a knife edge. His new bad attitude also attracts the attention of town bully Eddie (Jamie Michie) who wants Charles to be his, to entertain his children.
Shot in the style of a mockumentary, “Brian and Charles” is a bizarre portrait of a lonely man who finds companionship, a sense of purpose and courage in unlikely ways. The main characters, with the help of local woman and possible love interest Hazel (Louise Brealey), become a family, with all the ups and downs that that suggests.
“Brian and Charles” is sweet, bizarre and quietly funny, with a scene stealing the performance from Hayward, whose voice Charles is both charming and hilarious. The film has a very distinct voice, heavy with goofy humor, which won’t suit everyone. But for every gag that seems stretched, there’s an undercurrent of likeability that draws the viewer in.
Eddie, the film’s bully, is played with too harsh a side and seems somewhat out of place, but aside from that faux pas, “Brian and Charles” is a singular and original approach to finding your logical, non-biological family.