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Film Talk: Latest Movie Releases – Toy Story hero back with a buzz as Lightyear lands

I was one of those kids. Back in the run up to that fateful 90s Christmas I had begged both Santa and my dear old mum for the toy that, across the land, was at the top of every child’s list.

To infinity and beyond – Chris Evans stars as the voice of Buzz Lightyear in the new and eagerly-anticipated Pixar spectacular
To infinity and beyond – Chris Evans stars as the voice of Buzz Lightyear in the new and eagerly-anticipated Pixar spectacular

And this wasn’t a Tracy Island, nor was it a Tamagotchi, or even a Power Rangers Megazord (Top marks incidentally, if your attic contains all three).

No, this particular enigma of the shelves was the plastic likeness of a character that – with Tim Allen’s vocal charms – had taken children all over the world to infinity and beyond. Now, after four flicks showcasing the friend we all had in the ‘child’s plaything’ version of a certain Space Ranger, we are finally being treated the origin tale of the man himself. The buzz is real.

With Lightyear hitting cinemas today, Toy Story fans will get the chance to get acquainted with the space-faring legend that inspired the creation of Andy’s second-favourite toy (come on – he never really loved him quite as much as a certain charming sheriff).

So far, the reviews have been pretty polarised, but fans are expected to flock to the flicks in their masses to see just how well Chris ‘Captain America’ Evans does filling Tim Allen’s shoes as the voice (if not the face) of yet another iconic hero.

The question is though, will toy shops once again be under the siege of Star Command-hungry little ‘uns on the hunt for effigies of Disney / Pixar’s interstellar champion? Or this time will Mr Bezos come to the rescue of parents otherwise destined to be trawling town centres for eternity? We wait with bated breath...

LIGHTYEAR (PG, 107 mins)

Released: June 17 (UK & Ireland)

When it comes to masterfully merchandising a film, especially to young audiences, Disney twinkles brighter than every other studio.

In 1996, parents travelled to infinity and beyond in search of Buzz Lightyear action figures, when the astronaut toy topped Christmas wish-lists and feverish demand far exceeded supply.

Six-year-old Andy supposedly received his Buzz Lightyear action figure in the first Toy Story film as an early birthday present, after a trip to the cinema with his mother to see an action-packed film about a courageous Space Ranger.

Writer-director Angus MacLane’s out-of-this-world computer-animated adventure is that picture.

Co-written by Jason Headley, Lightyear unfolds in a different universe from Pixar Animation Studios’ earlier work (the central character is voiced by Chris Evans rather than Tim Allen) but iconography from Andy’s playtime proliferates, including Buzz’s catchphrase and the insidious threat of Emperor Zurg.

Composer Michael Giacchino, who won an Oscar for his score for Up, tugs heartstrings here too, especially in the film’s emotional gut-punch that elegantly underlines a Space Ranger’s personal sacrifices.

Visuals are breathtaking and a robotic cat sidekick named Sox is a bountiful source of humour, but Lightyear is one of Pixar’s fluffier and more forgettable offerings.

Compared with the thrilling earthbound escapades of Andy’s Buzz Lightyear figure over the past 25 years, child’s play comfortably wins out over intergalactic survival.

Buzz Lightyear (Evans) and commanding officer Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba) crash-land their spaceship with a manifest of 1,200 slumbering passengers on a planet with aggressively hostile insectoids and vegetation.

Marooned 4.2 million light years from home, the Space Rangers reanimate crew and passengers to construct a fortified base from which to launch test flights of an experimental jet piloted by Buzz.

Unfortunately, time dilation dictates that for every minute Buzz spends in space travelling at hyperspeed, the people back at base age one year.

Buzz sacrifices precious years with the people he loves to complete his mission, accompanied by robot companion Sox (Peter Sohn), Alisha’s granddaughter Izzy (Keke Palmer) and rookies Mo (Taika Waititi) and Darby (Dale Soules).

In their way stands Emperor Zurg and an army of mechanised monstrosities.

Lightyear is a slickly orchestrated battle beyond the stars that melds high-stakes action and family-friendly comedy.

Diversity and positive representation are woven into the fabric of a script that exploits the notion of time dilation to deliver one deeply satisfying narrative curveball.

Vocal performances are polished, including droll comic relief from Waititi as a clumsy newbie, who always seems to be in the wrong place. MacLane shoots for infinity and beyond like the film’s namesake but cannot quite escape the gravitational pull of high expectations.

GOOD LUCK TO YOU, LEO GRANDE (15, 98 mins)

Released: June 17 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

Daryl McCormack and Emma Thompson in Good Luck To You, Leo Grande

Scriptwriter Katy Brand certainly does, in amusingly graphic detail, in a sensual, empowering and thoroughly feel-fabulous comedy drama about a retired religious education teacher seeking her first orgasm and the charming escort hired to shepherd her to nirvana.

Good Luck To You, Leo Grande is essentially a two-hander between Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack that relishes the verbal foreplay between richly drawn characters at very different stages of their lives.

Director Sophie Hyde sidesteps mere titillation to address timely issues of body self-image, shame and sex positivity head-on, including heated scenes of intimacy that venerate the architecture of the human body and our capacity to receive and give pleasure.

Brand’s dialogue occasionally fakes an orgasm in pursuit of a punchline but chemistry between the leads sizzles, building to a simple yet devastatingly effective scene of acceptance and glowing self-appreciation which confront unrealistic ideals that proliferate in the media.

EVERYTHING WENT FINE (15, 113 mins)

Released: June 17 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

Everything Went Fine features performances from Sophie Marceau and Andre Dussollier

Enfant terrible Francois Ozon meditates on mortality in a provocative and moving drama based on Emmanuele Bernheim’s autobiographical book Everything Went Well. Retired industrialist Andre (Andre Dussollier) is 85 years old when he suffers a debilitating stroke that confines him to hospital, a shadow of his imperious former self.

His daughter Emmanuelle (Sophie Marceau) rushes to his bedside and visits regularly in the hope that Andre will make a miraculous recovery.

Instead, the ailing father makes a final request to his favourite child.

He wants her to secretly work with lawyers to arrange his assisted death in Switzerland behind the back of ex-wife Claude (Charlotte Rampling) and his other daughter Pascale (Geraldine Pailhas).

Father and child must raise 10,000 Euros to pay for the trip across the border and if their plans are exposed, both could face a prison sentence.

THE BLACK PHONE (15, 103 mins)

Released: June 22 (UK & Ireland)

Scott Derrickson, writer-director of Sinister and Deliver Us From Evil, conjures a new supernatural nightmare, adapted for the screen from Joe Hill’s short story with co-writer C Robert Cargill.

A serial killer nicknamed The Grabber (Ethan Hawke) prowls the streets of 1978 North Denver, posing as a magician to lure unsuspecting children into the back of his van to demonstrate one of his tricks.

Five youngsters vanish without trace and The Grabber snatches bullied boy Finney Shaw (Mason Thames) in broad daylight and locks him in a soundproof basement.

A disconnected phone on the wall begins to ring, which is impossible, and when a confused Finney picks up the receiver, he hears the voices of The Grabber’s previous victims.

These phantoms want to help Finney turn the tables on his sadistic captor and escape a grim predicament.

Meanwhile, Finney’s older sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) harnesses psychic abilities inherited from her mother to deduce where her brother is being held captive.

GEORGE MICHAEL: FREEDOM UNCUT (15, 119 mins)

Released: June 22 (UK & Ireland)

George Michael: Freedom Uncut

Before his death in December 2016, Grammy Award winner George Michael was intimately involved in this autobiographical film, which he was co-directing with long-time collaborator David Austin.

George Michael: Freedom Uncut focuses on the turbulent period when the London-born singer-songwriter released two of his defining albums: Faith in 1987 and Listen Without Prejudice: Vol 1 in 1990.

Narrated by the star, the feature-length documentary allows Michael to openly and honestly discuss his public persona and the intensely private personal life that cameras never saw.

Friends, collaborators and admirers who contribute include Tony Bennett, Mary J Blige, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Tracey Emin, Linda Evangelista, Liam Gallagher, Jean Paul Gaultier, Sir Elton John, Tatjana Patitz, Nile Rodgers, Mark Ronson and Stevie Wonder.

A 4K remastered version of the Freedom! ’90 music video directed by David Fincher plays in its entirety before the main feature in cinemas worldwide.

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