After my first thoughts video (here), I usually like to take a couple days before I write out a more full set of non-spoiler thoughts. This time, with Toy Story 4, I took an extra day. Mainly because I'm having trouble getting how I feel about this film across. I watched the originals, 1 a day before going into this one, & that could've been a mistake. Those films, being animated perfection with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 100%, 98%, & 100%, set the bar pretty high. And while this fourth installment is great, I didn't feel it made to that original level. That's where I'm having trouble with this one. It's a really good, if not great film, there's just something about it that didn't give it that extra nudge into perfection for me. Hands down, this was probably the funniest installment. The new characters dominate this latest Toy Story, & they are hilarious. Forky, Ducky, Bunny, & Duke Caboom totally steal every scene. This installment is very heavy on the new characters. Especially if you include Bo Peep with her new look. It's pretty much all them with Woody, & a little Buzz on the side. Bonnie almost even gets more screen time than the rest of the toys we all started this ride with or accumulated along the way. And even though this may be the funniest Toy Story, I feel like ending aside, it just didn't give me the "feels" this series up until now has been known for. A small gripe to have when a film is this entertaining. My only other gripe would have to be tossed aside as having to do with my own expectations going in. I wasn't much on the villain. Though the ventriloquist dolls were terrifying, Gabby Gabby just didn't give me the payoff I was expecting. I don't want to get to spoilery, I'll just say I was expecting more villainy to this character than I got. We seem to do that a lot more now though. I didn't hate it, just was hoping for something far more sinister. There were no extreme gripes at all really, except for it not living up to perfection status. It's still a highly satisfying film. I do also have to throw in that Pixar is making this whole animation thing look easy now. Insane levels of detail throughout the film has these toys looking almost real at times. All in all while I feel this franchise didn't need a fourth installment, it still manages to pull it off nicely. Turning a great sendoff into what should be a now definite sendoff, that while may not be a 100% entry, dosen't fall below 95% on my scorecard. That said, as much as I did enjoy this, I'm not sure i want a round 5. No matter the direction they choose to take. Unless they're opening it up for a series maybe. Very funny film though, even the end credits. Any Toy Story fan will leave happy. It's hard to even meet perfect, but this one definitely gives one heckuvan effort.
As per usual, after my first thoughts video (here), I've taken a couple days to let Dark Phoenix set in. Then, write a more thorough non-spoiler review afterwards. After hearing all the poor reviews, I'm still surprised how much of this I really liked. Was it perfect? Not at all, but when put I to contrast everything we've got from the past 20 years of X-Men it does more than hold up. Not quite as great as X2 or Days of Future Past, but far from being a X3. In fact, I'd almost go as far to say spin-offs aside, I'd put this at a tie for 3rd place. Everyone holds their own, acting wise for what they're supposed to be. Major standouts from McAvoy's Professor X, & Fastbender's Magneto as usual. They've really held their own in some giant shoes left by their predecessors. There's a lot definite pros & cons to this film though. As I said, it's not perfect. It didn't really stick the landing in my opinion, & I'm only talking last 5 minutes of the climax. In a world without X3, I'd have probably been a little more lenient. However, it felt too close to that film's Phoenix attempt. I also wasn't really feeling Jessica Chastain's character at all. While her alien race made for great canon fodder later in the film, her characters addition felt like it was forced to fill a void. Particularly if we're talking comics, the void of Mastermind & the Hellfire Club to get into Jean's head. We've already done Hellfire Club though in these though. I get they needed a bigger villain, this just wasn't it. Other than that, there things that a just become a token of FOX with the X-Men property. Lack of continuity, & unknown mutants added when they have literal books filled with actual famous & semi-famous X characters. However, all that said, the pros on this film somewhat tilt the scales in its favor. The story, changed a little from its source material, was really good. Alien race aside at least. Much darker tone than expected. It fits the subject matter perfectly though. I loved what they did with Jean's background. On top of that, the Mutant power action side of this film has never looked better. Hands down, this was the best display of the actual original's team's powers in use we've seen so far. And though I don't like their use of no name mutants, they still keep up the fun fan service of characters fans will notice in the background, but unfortunately have no real part to play. That's been a staple since day one. All in all, if you've stuck with the X films so far, you shouldn't be disappointed with Dark Phoenix. I liked it way more than the last installment, & just judging from the epilogue of this film, I'd have continued to follow this cast. That said, am I glad this is it for FOX? The X family are going to get passed into the more capable hands of the MCU eventually? Yes. It's been more good times than bad over the past 20 years with FOX's, but I feel like even when they hit a homerun, they haven't fully reached the X-Men's full potential. I'm glad I went to the theater for this one though. They're going out on a much higher note than they were. I enjoyed a whole lot more of this film than I didn't.
As usual I've took a couple days from my first thoughts review video (here), and now it's time to get into my full thoughts on the live-action remake of the Disney Animated Classic, Aladdin after getting some time to let it sink in. I can't believe how excited I still am about this film. It totally lives up to its own phrase, "diamond in the rough". That said, there will be some layers to this review. First, I want to get into how this film stands up to its animated predecessor. This is the part I couldn't believe the more I thought about it. As great as Robin Williams is, I think I now actually prefer this out of the two. Probably because it hits every single beat of the original. With only slight changes & additions. Changes that seem only there to compliment the realistic nature of live-action, & additions that go on to further the mythology of the tale without changing it any way. It being live-action also gives it room to draw on so much more emotion. In today's context, animated Aladdin is a smartphone, the live-action Aladdin is the upgraded version. Speaking of upgrades. Sees like a good time to get into the music. With the addition of Jasmine's new two part song, along with some amazing dance numbers, this film seem more a musical than the original. All the original songs got a new remix if you will. However, they stayed so true their original counterparts if I played the right snippets, you'd think only the artist performing had changed. Basically there was a very subtle hip hop influence injected into each. Like a 80-20 mix, 80% original, 20% hip hop. It blended perfectly at that rate. One of the things that worried me going in. Jasmine's new song I mentioned earlier was an amazing piece of music performed beautifully. It seemed a strange place to add it, but by the time she was halfway done the hair on my neck was standing up, & I didn't care about its placement anymore. I also mentioned the dance numbers earlier. These were amazing! Also a mix, this time Hip Hop meets Bollywood, & I never wanted to learn a dance in my life until I saw this. This blew me away! I loved the dance choreography in this film. Never really seen anything like this in my life. Now, before I sign off I want to break down the standout acting performances contained in this film. I have to start that by mentioning the overall chemistry between the cast as a whole. The chemistry displayed made it look as if these people had been really good friends for years that just decided to make a movie. I couldn't believe how tight knit they all seemed. I'll break 'em down first with the one everyone was most worried about, Will Smith as the Genie. When he first was cast, I told a lot of nay sayers if we could get old Fresh Prince, Bad Boys Will Smith, he could pull it off. If anyone has the charisma to even attempt to fill those big shoes Robin William's left behind he could, but only if he could tap back into something we haven't seen for a long time. That's exactly what we got. I haven't thought Smith was having a good time making a film in a long time. It was so refreshing to see this return for someone who at one time was one of my favorite acting personalities. He took full ownership of this role & totally made it his own, & the addition of keeping him around throughout to be Aladdin's advisor was a perfect addition. Definitely one of the additions that puts this over the top. Mena Mossoud was also just cast perfect as Aladdin, as was Naomi Scott as Jasmine. You believed every minute of their love story. Not just that though, every other aspect of their characters as well. From his thief with a heart of gold, to her frustrated Princess who's beauty hides her mind. These three carried this film to the heights it reached, but they did definitely have some back up in that feat. Nassim Pedrad was great as the new character & best friend to Jasmine, Dahlia. Even if I did immediately realize why she was there, i loved her role. The biggest one i was worried about going in though was Marwan Kenzari as Jafar. Jafar always came off as downright sinister even in just his look, where this guy didn't to me. What he lacked in sinister look though, he made up for in performance. This guy oozed evilness from the start. They added some extra layer to the character too that worked very well. I noticed at the end af my first thoughts vid that I didn't mention the digital characters of Abu, Jago, & the Magic Carpet. I at least have to mention how real these characters came off. You would totally have thought that they not only trained these animals, they also went out & got an enchantment put on a rug. Beautiful effects abound, & set pieces for that matter. Every place form the alleys of Agrabah to the Cave of Wonders seemed so real. Last but definitely not least though, Guy Ritchie. I think the craziest part of all this is how this stays so true to the animated original, but at the same time is totally a Guy Ritchie film. The chase scenes are absolutely amazing. The storytelling is fluid, with virtually no downtime. Totally Guy Ritchie. Anyway, all in all I completely loved this film. Definitely my favorite out of all the live action remakes Disney has done so far. If they can keep them to this level, I can't wait to see what's next.