Toy Story 4

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Things aren’t allowed to end anymore, especially not stories in film and TV. Whether it’s an unnecessary follow-up season to what should’ve been a mini-series (Big Little Lies, 13 Reasons Why) or rehashes of series that concluded long ago (Roseanne, Fuller House), or further chapters in film franchises that felt finished (Jason fucking Bourne comes to mind). The latest installment is the fourth chapter in the Toy Story story which follows up one of the most successful trilogies in history (really, only this and the original Bourne trilogy can claim to not have a weak chapter). While I don’t think the film fully justifies its need to come back, it’s still an entertaining tale that features some of the old favorites, though I think it lacks the emotional impact of numbers 2 and (especially) 3.

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Rocketman

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It’s hard not to compare Rocketman to Bohemian Rhapsody. They both tell stories of larger than life, flamboyant, at times closeted pop stars that dominated the music scene in the seventies and early eighties. They both, obviously, heavily feature said pop star’s music. They both track the meteoric rise of the pop star through drug-fueled lows and back again. The central performance from an unexpected actor dominates each film, and while Rocketman director Dexter Fletcher didn’t receive credit on Bohemian Rhapsody, he did step in on that film after its original director, Bryan Singer, departed. Hell, both films feature music manager John Reid as a supporting character played by a Game of Thrones actor (Richard Madden for Elton, Aiden Gillen for Freddie). But really, Rocketman is leagues better than Bohemian Rhapsody, for two main reasons: it doesn’t sugar coat or whitewash the story, and it leans into the colorful reputation of the main character. While Rocketman is sometimes messy, it is the bright, bedazzled fantasia spectacle that makes sense for the bright, bedazzled fantasia performer that is Sir Elton John.

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Dark Phoenix

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And there it goes, the X-Men franchise, out with a whimper. Dark Phoenix, the final film in the FOX reign for our mutant heroes, is a dull, lifeless affair filled with a bunch of decent actors slumming it for one final paycheck. Perhaps one day we’ll get a retelling of one of the best comic book stories of all time, but with two bites at that apple it’s doubtful it will be any time soon. It’s a shame, because in the right hands, this could’ve been a lot more interesting, but really I’ve never fully bought into the FOX group of movies. For every perfectly understood character like Wolverine, there’s an abortion of character like Kitty Pryde (not your fault, Ellen Page). But I digress.

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Booksmart

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It’s so rare to have a movie that charms so instantly and consistently throughout the whole thing. Booksmart is that special gem that is so nearly perfect that it’s difficult to find anything bad to say about it. Really, everything in this movie worked so well for me that the bar has now been set for the number one spot on my list for the year. Really, it’s that good, just a hilarious joy from start to finish.

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Aladdin

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I know I’m not the target audience for these live-action Disney remakes of their classic movies, but honestly who asked for these? While it’s an interesting way to capitalize on their IP, and given the time since the original, it’s not a ridiculous notion to put something related to the title back in the universe, this just feels wholly unnecessary. Their latest, Aladdin, falls somewhere between awkward spectacle and cringe-inducing Bollywood homage.

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John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

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I’m new to the John Wick universe, having eschewed the franchise the first time out because all I knew about it was his dog died, and that kept me away until now. This week I devoured all three, and with most things like this, I found the first one interesting (and the dog part not as bad as it was in my head), the second one the best, and diminishing returns on the latest installment, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (a cumbersome title if ever there was). While it still offers plenty of the death and dismemberment that is synonymous with the Wick name, in this installment John has now gone full super hero and in order to keep the franchise going, nothing means anything and there are no consequences that make any difference for our hero.

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Game of Thrones – 8.06 “The Iron Throne”

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Synopsis: First off, we get our last ever opening credits change, showing Daenerys’ destruction of King’s Landing in the previous ep. As the actual episode begins, Tyrion wanders through the streets, surveying the damage. Charred bodies are everywhere. Shellshocked survivors wander around. Jon and Davos catch up to him. Tyrion says he’ll join them later, and Jon cautions it isn’t safe, but Tyrion keeps it solo. In the streets, Grey Worm and some Unsullied have captured Lannister prisoners and he sentences them to die. Jon and Davos try to stop them, the war is over they say, but Grey Worm maintains he is following his queen’s rule. Before another fight breaks out, Davos pulls Jon away to speak with the queen, but Grey Worm slits the prisoners’ throats regardless. Tyrion continues through the remains of the Red Keep. He continues on to the dungeon where he finds a pile of rubble and a golden hand. Under the rocks, he unearths the bodies of his brother and sister, and cries. Jon moves through the (seemingly growing) Unsullied and Dothraki armies at the entrance to the Red Keep. He marches up to the top of the steps where Grey Worm waits. Drogon flies overhead dropping Daenerys down in front of the armies. She gives an impassioned speech, thanking her men for helping her take the seven kingdoms. She appoints Grey Worm her new Master of War. She tells the armies that the war is not over and they will continue their liberation beyond the seven kingdoms all over the world. Tyrion arrives to catch the end of the speech. He approaches Daenerys cautiously. She says he freed his brother, committed treason. Tyrion says he did, but she slaughtered a city. He rips off his hand pin and tosses it aside. Targaryen has her men take Tyrion into custody. Dany and Jon share a look before she walks off without a word.

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Game of Thrones – Episode 8.05 “The Bells”

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Synopsis: Varys is writing letters out. Hard to make out all the words but “true heir” is certainly a focus. One of his little birds arrive. Daenerys isn’t eating, she says. Apparently Varys had someone trying to do his dirty work. Tyrion watches as Varys meets Jon who arrives at Dragonstone. Varys express his fears of Daenerys, but Jon confirms his loyalty to her and that he has no interest in the throne. Tyrion meets with Daenerys. She ain’t looking so hot. She says she knows someone has betrayed her: Jon Snow. Tyrion swears it’s Varys but Dany says that it was Jon telling Sansa that was the betrayal. Daenerys also blames Tyrion, but he swears his intentions were good. Later, Grey Worm comes for Varys. On the beach, Tyrion confirms for Varys that he was the one. Varys says he hopes that he’s wrong, and says goodbye to Lannister.

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Avengers: Endgame (spoiler version)

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After the fervor around Endgame has settled down and everyone and their brother has seen the movie (twice), I thought I’d discuss the film in a bit more depth and go full-on spoilers. If you’re one of the six people that haven’t seen it and actually care, stop reading now.

After twenty-two movies, thirty-some main characters and over a decade of character growth and plot twists leading into this movie, directors Joe and Anthony Russo have really achieved the impossible: they made a mostly satisfying, surprising, and certainly worthy culmination to the Avengers saga that began all the way back in 2008 with the first Iron Man. Every issue I had with last year’s Infinity War (and there were a lot) seemed to be addressed here in one form or another. Instead of tackling the movie in order, I’m just going to separate everything by topic.

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Extremely Wicked, Shocking Evil and Vile

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Former teen heartthrob Zac Efron has done everything he can to shed his High School Musical baggage, and he’s done a good job of making interesting choices, leaning into his chiseled features and roguish charm while playing against type. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile follows Efron as Ted Bundy, the notorious serial killer who was finally brought to justice. While the movie purports to be about Liz Kendall (Lily Collins), Ted’s ex-girlfriend and the one who tipped off police to his presence, he doesn’t seem that interested in her as a person, but only her connection to the handsome murderer.

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