Review: An ode to change, ‘Toy Story 4’ is a poignant coda to our greatest animated franchise

I really wonder what a younger version of me time-skipped to now would have taken away from the splendid, colorful, contemplative “Toy Story 4.”  Let’s say 4 years old—right around when experiences start to anchor themselves in the mind as memories, if hazy ones.  For me, chief among those recollections as they pertain to movies: Watching the original “Toy Story,” early and often.

Animation had already been changed forever upon the movie’s release, but at 4 I couldn’t be bothered by its historical and cultural footprint. Give me the fantasy of toys coming to life when no one else is around, their unwavering loyalty to kids like me and the introduction of a big-screen brand with a timeless sense of endearment that I was able to appreciate even at that age.

20 years on, like a toy chest that gains new treasures over time, there’s much more to appreciate from the “Toy Story” movies. There’s perhaps no other franchise – certainly not an animated one – that audiences have grown with as steadfastly as it’s produced new installments, its lessons and humanity and pure pathos shining ever more luminously. Continue reading →

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Review: Pixar’s ‘Coco’ is visually gorgeous, surprisingly grounded and vaguely formulaic

After over two decades and nearly 20 films, it’s refreshing for Pixar to provide its most grounded premise yet.

Following sustained success by way of talking bugs, talking toys, talking cars, talking fish, talking emotions, talking rats and “talking” robots, something about a Dia de Los Muertos-centric story featuring human characters (and, yes, talking humanoid skeletons) feels much more relatable, like Pixar declaring a coup upon itself.

But then again, that was the point of “Coco” – to showcase a world with more connections to reality than any other Pixar offering before it, and to flesh out that world with the humanity the animation giant has the reputation of conjuring. Continue reading →