New York, June 22 (AP/ UNB) - There are two movies opening this weekend that feature iconic anthropomorphic dolls. Be very careful which one you choose.
“Toy Story 4” has the usual gang of lovable toys led by Woody and Buzz. (Bring tissues.) Then there’s the remake of “Child’s Play,” which has Chucky, the freckle-faced homicidal doll who likes stabbing things. (Bring a strong stomach.)
The reviews for “Toy Story 4″ are pretty good and you might be surprised to find that the ”Child’s Play ” reboot is actually pretty solid, too. It’s a winking, self-aware horror movie that will make you laugh even when things are drenched in blood.
The original “Child’s Play” came out in 1988 and featured the nightmare-creating concept of your dolls coming to life and harming you. It was a fairly straight-ahead horror flick with a dash of commentary on consumerism. But the franchise — six sequels — gradually grew camp, most recently with “Cult of Chucky” in 2017.
The reboot this summer has sidestepped Chuck’s real dad — the writer and director Don Mancini — and freshened the concept for 2019: Chucky is no longer possessed. Now he’s a cloud-connected, self-learning AI doll with wide powers: He controls the lights, TVs, Roomba, cars and other electronic devices. Underneath the gleeful horror is a commentary on our dependence and the interconnectivity of our devices.
Director Lars Klevberg and screenwriter Tyler Burton Smith don’t pretend the killer doll trope hasn’t been done before. They fully dive into it, gently mocking the genre as they exploit it and signal to the audience all along what they’re doing. “You’re my best friend,” says Chucky when he’s taken out of the box. To which his new owner naturally says: “It’s kind of creepy.”
This time, Chucky is created by the nefarious Kaslan Corporation, which has a range of interconnected products. A sweatshop worker in Vietnam tasked with assembling the dolls disconnects one of its security protocols in a fit of pique. It ends up in the hands of a single mother (Aubrey Plaza) and her lonely son, Andy (Gabriel Bateman). Chucky tries to understand human behavior but stumbles at subtlety. He’s imprinted to Andy and lashes out at anything that Andy dislikes, whether that’s the family cat or his mom’s new boyfriend.
The filmmakers have left little Easter eggs throughout the film, from references to “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” to “Office Space.” They have a jokey tendency to use old-school lightning whenever they want to signal something ominous is happening. The final climactic fight scene happens in a dark basement sporting industrial spinning fans with light and smoke pouring out of them. At one point, there’s a “Star Wars” joke that is extra funny because Mark Hamill is voicing Chucky.
There’s so much tongue-in-cheek humor that even though the body count mounts — and some in the audience may be surprised that death comes to animals and beloved figures alike — there’s really no dread. Somehow, despite “Silence of the Lambs”-level carnage, the gore level doesn’t shock, inoculated as we are by being in on the joke. Riffing off that, composer Bear McCreary leans in on “Omen”-like, ever-building horror music.
The film’s tautness comes and goes, to be honest, never really building to edge-of-your-seat stuff. And it could have had more glee messing with our love of digital convenience. But it takes care of fans of the franchise. The doll comes up with the name Chucky for itself, even though plenty of other options are available. It’s owning its past.
Plaza, known for her comedic chops on “Parks and Recreation,” shows off a winning dramatic side, while Bateman proves to be an actor to watch, able to play alienated teen, surrogate brother, aghast victim and vengeful son. Brian Tyree Henry once again makes the most of his small role as a kindly cop. And Hamill goes to his creepiest place to say things like “Are we having fun now?”
Surprisingly, we are having fun. While most of the oxygen will be taken up this weekend with “Toy Story 4,” credit goes to “Child’s Play” for turning in a solid valentine to the darker side of what “Toy Story” also does — including movie posters that drag the bigger franchise.
“Child’s Play,” an Orion Pictures release, is rated R for “bloody horror violence and language throughout.” Running time: 88 minutes. Three stars out of four.
New York, June 21 (AP/UNB) — As Nik Wallenda prepares to walk a wire 25 stories above New York's Times Square, he admits he's a little uneasy. And for good reason: His sister, Lijana, will join him for the first time since a near-fatal accident.
"Of course, I'm nervous. How would you not be? You know the fact that I'm going to be risking my life, along with my sister who nearly lost hers to that same wire," Wallenda said.
Two years ago during a rehearsal for an eight-person pyramid stunt to break a Guinness world record, something went awry, and five performers were injured, falling 30 feet. Lijana Wallenda suffered severe injuries to her face that required reconstructive surgery.
That's what makes this stunt feel more stressful than when crossing a 1,500 foot gorge near the Grand Canyon, or his 1,800 foot walk over the Niagara Falls.
"People may not understand that, but the fact that my sister's on that wire with me, I'm so concerned about her and her safety that I can't really focus on myself. And that that's nerve-racking," he said. "The fact is that I'm so concerned about her that I won't be able to focus a 100 on myself. And, in really doing this, I need to be able to focus 100 percent."
This time, the siblings will start from opposite ends of the 1,300-foot wire, which will be suspended between two Times Square towers. In the middle, Lijana Wallenda will sit on the wire and let her brother step over her. Both will then continue to the opposite side. The attempt will air live Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
While dangerous, the stunt won't be death-defying. That's because New York law requires the Wallendas to be tethered. "It doesn't impede us from falling. It impedes us from falling all the way to the ground," said Nik Wallenda.
Wallenda says he constantly draws on his family's 200-year aerial legacy over seven generations.
"We've learned a lot. We've learned a lot by loss of life, too. Look, I've lost seven family members doing this. So, it's trial and error in a sense. We figured a lot out. But, look, the danger — it's the real deal."
Washington, June 21 (AP/UNB) — No one arrived in a horse-drawn carriage. But there was valet parking for the guests invited to a "mini-ball" held at the Library of Congress in honor of the Disney film "Cinderella."
The Thursday evening event featured a costumed Cinderella character, who descended the library steps to the cheers of a crowd of children and adults, including some members of Congress and their families.
Before Cinderella made her grand entrance, hundreds watched a screening of the Disney classic animated movie, released 70 years ago. The Library of Congress recently added the film to the National Film Registry.
Attending a brief ceremony to mark the honor were Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden and Mary Walsh, director of the Disney Animation Research Library.
Walsh says though "Cinderella" is 70 years old, it has a message that still resonates today, calling it "a story of perseverance and resiliency." She notes of the movie's heroine, "her life was not easy and she found it within herself to continue to have the strength and determination to hold on to her dreams, no matter what was going on and she did it with kindness and respect."
Walsh notes that despite the harsh treatment Cinderella endured, she chose not to retaliate. And she says that "sends a strong message" about enduring under duress, one that is "as important today as it was 70 years ago."
After the ceremony, Cinderella posed for pictures with a long line of children and adults. For guests seeking to create their own fairy tale images, there were a series of photo backdrops, including one that gave guests the chance to slip their feet into a replica glass slipper.
Dhaka, June 21 (UNB) - Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Kiara Advani, Arjan Bajwa, Suresh Oberoi, Kamini Kaushal, Adil Hussain, Nikita Dutta, Soham Majum
Director: Sandeep Reddy Vanga
Rating:1.5 Stars (out of 5)
Shahid Kapoor steps into Vijay Devarakonda's shoes in Sandeep Reddy Vanga's Kabir Singh, a remake of the director's own 2017 Telugu smash hit Arjun Reddy, reports NDTV. The Bollywood actor, and the rest of the cast, represent the only alterations effected in this totally redundant reiteration of the tale of a young orthopaedic surgeon who goes on a self-destructive rampage when the medical college junior he loves is prevented from marrying him.
Every shot, every scene, every camera angle and every line from Arjun Reddy is replicated in Kabir Singh, leaving one wondering why the director felt the need to mount a separate Hindi version in the first place when all that he has done is give us the same film all over again with merely the language and setting changed for the benefit of a pan-Indian audience. He could have well dubbed Arjun Reddy and re-released it nationwide.
In any case, Kabir Singh is a hugely problematic film. The bloated, overlong love story seeks to lend a veneer of normality to acts of dreadful delinquency and sickening misogyny by painting an empathetic portrait of a wayward doctor who lets heartbreak get the better of him, in the process endangering the life of a patient every time he picks up a scalpel to perform a surgery. The film's protagonist, already dealing with serious anger management issues, goes completely over the edge and turns into a womanizer, an alcoholic and a drug addict when the Sikh girl (Kiara Advani) he thinks he owns marries another man under pressure from her orthodox family.
As all hell breaks loose and his life and career spiral out of control, the audience is expected to summon sympathy for a painfully self-absorbed character who cannot see beyond his own nose. His insolence and sense of entitlement know no bounds. It is one thing to be a flawed hero wronged by circumstances but quite another to be an insufferable lout born with the belief that a woman cannot but play along when a man makes up his mind on matters of the heart.
One key scene from Arjun Reddy is inexplicably done away with in Kabir Singh. It robs the protagonist of the only moment in the three-hour drama where he makes the right noises, however faux. He takes umbrage at sexist remarks about air hostesses that a bloke who has just jetted in from London makes. The hero is livid and gives the guy a piece of his mind. This sequence is obviously meant to underscore that our man is not all bad. He has the right ideas until he is unsettled by rejection. Kabir Singh provides no such glimpse into his mind.
Kabir feels that muscle-flexing and loathsome behaviour are his birthright when he is thwarted. The girl, on the other hand, is a mute spectator as the college topper with "an impeccable academic record" struts around the campus telling everyone within earshot that 'she' is 'his' girl ("meri bandi hai," he says repeatedly). Seriously, does anyone talk like that in this day and age and hope not to be ticked off? Preeti Sikka, the girl in question, is marginally better than a doormat: she does Kabir's bidding like a wound-up doll with no agency of her own and the guy does not have the sense to see that he is doing her absolutely no good.
In an early sequence, the medical college dean (Adil Hussain in a cameo that does no justice to the seasoned actor) hauls Kabir up for a sports field brawl. The latter, his insouciance instact, insists that football is a violent sport and he is well within his rights to arm twist the referee for flashing a red card at him and to bash up a rival who gets in his way. "Frankly, sir, I do not care," he thunders. That is meant to be a show of masculine pride. He seems to be saying that I am what I am, take it or lump it. When a film for the masses not just condones, but also appears to celebrate, such awful demeanour, one can only worry about the message that is going out.
The errant final year student is handed a month's suspension, but he decides to leave the college only to change his mind at the sight of the pretty newcomer who catches his fancy. No words are exchanged. The man jumps to a conclusion. The girl surrenders to him without a whimper. While she is allowed no room to have a say, no transgression is too low for the hero. He rides roughshod over everything that he perceives as a threat and then plays victim when the tables are turned on him.
Kabir sinks into a blue funk, has a combination of alcohol and morphine and passes out for two days. His elder brother Karan (Arjun Bajwa), who is in the middle of his own wedding, and his best pal Shiva (Soham Majumdar) fret and fume over the hero's aggravated state but to no avail. After he returns to his senses but continues to drink heavily and snort cocaine day and night, he turns his attention to a movie actress Jia Sharma (Nikita Dutta) who comes to his hospital with a sprained ankle. Kabir treats her without a modicum of respect. Again, like Preeti, Jia falls into his trap. Look, no point cribbing, Kabir Singh is a man who is difficult to resist, so he can get away with murder!
This is absolutely the same film as Arjun Reddy and has nothing new to offer except for the fact that the Mangalore/Hyderabad setting of the original makes way for Delhi and Mumbai, with neither of the two places showing up on the screen in any significant manner as action-0defining cityscapes. Kabir Singh has obviously inherited all the ills of the earlier film. Emancipation for the heroine here means her jumping into bed with the hero at every available opportunity and then preening over the number of times that the two have had pre-marital sex. This approach to gender assertion comes from a caveman philosophy that one thought India's filmmakers have put behind them for good. But no, Kabir Singh and its makers are too firmly stuck in the past to notice that the world has moved on.
Shahid Kapoor stretches himself very thin indeed in trying to convince us that Kabir Singh is a present-day incarnation of Devdas that we should shed tears for. But the man he portrays does not suffer quite as irreversibly as the classic tragic hero did. But he raves and rants through his ordeal and would have us believe that he is more sinned against than sinning. Sorry, we aren't buying that.
Kiara Advani is trapped in a role that requires her to be no more than a sounding board designed for periodic ego massages for the male protagonist. Veteran actress Kamini Kaushal, playing the hero's sagacious, sensitive granny, endeavours to inject some warmth into the story. Unfortunately, Kabir Singh is beyond redemption. Strictly for Shahid Kapoor fans.
New York, June 20 (AP/UNB) — Like “Casablanca,” ″Toy Story 3″ concluded with the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
It’s an ending that has very possibly produced an ocean’s worth of tears, not to mention countless awkward moments for children mildly embarrassed by their parents suddenly turning into waterfalls. “Um, dad, it’s a movie about a toy cowboy.”
But the sentimental crescendo of the “Toy Story” trilogy was real. The films’ young boy, the one whose name was emblazed on the bottom of Woody’s foot, had grown up. Andy was going to college. The fate most feared by the toys — boxed up in the attic — was miraculously avoided when Andy gifted his beloved playthings to a young girl named Bonnie.
As he drove off, after one last imaginative romp in the yard, Woody watched Andy go like a wistful father. After three brilliant and heartfelt parenting parables that ruminated on aging, loss and impermanence alongside the pitfalls of arcade claw machines and toddler daycare centers, this was the final goodbye. Goodbye to Andy, yes, but goodbye to childhood. “So long, partner,” said Woody.
The finale was immediately received as a classic Hollywood ending. “The chances of topping this one are infinitesimal,” New York magazine wrote at the time. “Toy Story 3″ won the Oscar for best animated film. Everyone, including the film’s makers and cast, believed they had neatly, perfectly wrapped up their trilogy.
Tom Hanks and Tim Allen discuss the generational success of the 'Toy Story' franchise, as well as making a fourth movie and carrying the story forward. Also, Tony Hale talks about his new character. (June 18)
“From the inside, ‘Toy Story 3’ was definitely the end of it,” said Tim Allen, the voice of Buzz Lightyear. “That one scene was it.”
But, of course, that wasn’t it. “Toy Story” has returned, nine years later, with “Toy Story 4.” In today’s movie business, nothing is safe from ongoing sequelizing, not even a story about the very necessity of letting go and making peace with the passage of time.
That movie franchises have been extended well beyond their natural cycle is nothing new. But “Toy Story 4” may mark when Hollywood officially gave up saying goodbye.
It’s probably a fool’s errand to wish for prudence from a corporate-made, multi-billion dollar property that was, from the outset, designed to sell as many toys as it jerked tears. “Toy Story 4,” which opens in theaters Friday, is widely expected to make around $150 million over the weekend and gross close to $1 billion over its worldwide run, just like “Toy Story 3″ did.
And, for some, Woody is again coming to rescue. The Walt Disney Co. release will break a spell of underperforming sequels . The box office has recently slumped about 7% below last year, partly due to a string of disappointing returns for badly reviewed (or just plain bad) sequels: “Dark Phoenix,” ″The Secret Life of Pets 2,” ″Men in Black: International.”
As Jeff Bock, senior box office analyst for Exhibitor Relations notes, it’s difficult for any studio, even Disney, to leave $1 billion on the table.
“Audiences might not actually need ‘Toy Story 4’ but theaters desperately need it,” said Bock. “It’s very reflective of where we are today with sequels and continuing sagas. We’re at a point where three is no longer the magic number. It’s beyond that.”
It would be an unfair Buzz kill to call “Toy Story 4” simply a blatant cash grab. Quality control is too high at Pixar to give us a “Toy Story” sequel on par with, say, “Jaws: The Revenge,” or something that we collectively pretend never existed, like “Godfather 3.” ″Toy Story 4″ is quite good, critics say . Though many reviewers have questioned its necessity, the film rates 99% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
Directed by veteran Pixar animator and first-time feature filmmaker Josh Cooley, “Toy Story 4” finds Woody and the gang now settled in with Bonnie. But Woody slips into another existential crisis of self-worth when Bonnie favors other toys, especially one she quickly crafted herself out of a spork and some kindergarten trash. She names him Forky, a neurotic character voiced by Tony Hale. When Forky goes missing on a family road trip, the resulting adventure forces Woody to confront the possibility of not only post-Andy life, but post-kid life.
It’s become standard business for franchises to slowly abandon the numbers that might too bluntly remind fans of their lengthy runs. The “Fast and the Furious” series understandably chose to title its upcoming installment “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbes and Shaw” over its almost shocking actual numerical value: “Fast & Furious 9.” Pixar, at least, hasn’t shied away from where this “Toy Story” fits in, even if its lead actor would have gone a different direction.
“It really should be called ’Toy Story: Forky,” said Tom Hanks. “Because it’s all about the Forky.”
Sequels have always been a somewhat touchy subject for Pixar. Since its groundbreaking first feature, 1995′s “Toy Story” (the first full-length computer generated animated movie), Pixar has, for much of its existence, eschewed repetition for originality. In his 2014 book “Creativity, Inc.” , Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull called quality “the best business plan” and suggested sequels can lead to “creative bankruptcy.”
Lately, things have been changing at Pixar, and not just because of a recent preponderance of sequels including “Finding Dory,” ″Cars 3″ and “Incredibles 2.” Former Pixar chief John Lasseter, who directed the first two “Toy Story” films, exited the company last year after acknowledging “missteps” in his behavior with female staff members. In 2017, Rashida Jones departed “Toy Story 4,” which she was helping to write, and said then that the company had “a culture where women and people of color do not have an equal creative voice.”
“Inside Out” and “Up” director Pete Docter, who has a story credit and is an executive producer on “Toy Story 4,” last year took over as Pixar’s chief creative officer. The studio’s next two releases will be originals: “Onward” next March and Docter’s own “Soul,” in June 2020.
And given Pixar’s unique stature as one of Hollywood’s few remaining factories of fresh storytelling capable of reaching mass audiences (its last original, “Coco,” grossed more than $800 million), some are rooting for “Toy Story 4″ to — really this time — be Woody’s last go-around. Not because they won’t watch another one, but because they will. In a movie world of endless “Star Wars” episodes and even actors who can be digitally resurrected, closure — the kind preached in “Toy Story 3″ — is increasingly a hard-to-come-by commodity. Not everything is meant to keep going for infinity and beyond.