Toy Story 4 & 4 Tower Movies Reviewed

By Chris Narloch, June 30th, 2019

So far this has been a (mostly) dud summer at the multiplex, with insipid sequels like “Dark Phoenix” and retarded remakes like “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” clogging theaters.

The entertaining exceptions have been the sleeper hit biopic about Elton John (“Rocketman”) and the hilarious teen girl comedy “Booksmart,” which unfortunately bombed at the box office.


Another mixed bag of movies opened recently, and below I separate the good (“Toy Story 4”) and the bad (“The Dead Don’t Die”) from the ugly (“Men in Black: International”).

Multiplex Movies

I’m not usually one to cry at the movies, but “Toy Story 4” got to me (in a good way). Pixar scores a bulls-eye yet again with the further tales of Woody, Buzz, Bo Peep, and the rest of the beloved toys who help their child owners -- and each other -- out when the going gets tough.

At heart, the “Toy Story” movies are about friendship, loyalty and love, and their exquisite animation and amazing voice casts bring the films to life more vividly than most live-action movies.

I’m not going to spoil the story or the surprises in “Toy Story 4” for viewers. Just go see this classic family film as soon as possible, and try not to cry your eyes out. I dare you.

If you act fast, you can still catch “Late Night,” a funny female-driven comedy starring Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling as, respectively, a late night talk show host and her loyal fan turned new joke writer.

Thompson isn’t totally believable as a stand-up comic, but Kaling steals the movie with an engaging performance as a sunny, optimistic woman with a sarcastic but not snarky sense of humor.

I don’t know what to say about the sad sequel “Men in Black: International” except that you know you’re in trouble when the handsome and funny Chris Hemsworth and the always-terrific Tessa Thompson can’t save a film from being boring.

The cast of the new “Men in Black” movie isn’t to blame. They never had a chance thanks to a tired, unoriginal script, and direction by F. Gary Gray that has precious little style or personality.

There are some cool CGI critters in the film, but we didn’t really need another “Men in Black” movie at this point in time, and we really didn’t need a mediocre “Men in Black” movie like this one.

Tower Movies

Opera fans are encouraged to head to this historic movie theater on Broadway in Sacramento to see Ron Howard’s excellent new documentary about the late, great singer Luciano Pavarotti.

“Pavarotti” humanizes the legendary performer, and confirms that one of the greatest opera stars ever had a heart (and an ego) as big as his voice. The movie doesn’t dig as deep as it might have, but the candid clips and performance footage included in “Pavarotti” are essential viewing for opera queens.

An even greater music documentary is also playing at the Tower, but you’ll want to act fast before “Echo in the Canyon” leaves town so as not to miss this sensational survey of the roots of the California sound in pop music.

Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles was the place to be in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and “Echo in the Canyon” is the story of how the Byrds, the Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, The Mamas and the Papas, and many more musicians hung out and created timeless music there.

Bob Dylan’s handsome son, musician Jakob Dylan, is our host for “Echo in the Canyon,” and his unobtrusive but thoughtful presence plus musical collaborations with friends Regina Spektor, Beck, and Cat Power show how music created in the Canyon influenced generations of artists that followed.

The indie darling director Jim Jarmusch wastes an incredible all-star cast in the lukewarm, too-laidback zombie flick “The Dead Don’t Die,” which is maybe worth watching for the talent in front of the camera.

A zombie movie can’t stay in first gear like “The Dead Don’t Die” – it has to have action and suspense, which Jarmusch seems determined not to provide.

Low-key laughs and gore is a difficult recipe to pull off, but “The Dead Don’t Die” is probably worth seeing (after a few hits or a few beers) just to witness a zombie movie that stars both Iggy Pop and Selena Gomez, plus Tilda Swinton, Adam Driver, Bill Murray, Chloe Sevigny, Danny Glover, Tom Waits, Steve Buscemi, Carol Kane, and Rosie Perez.

Finally, the over-hyped indie drama “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” turns out to be less interesting than that intriguing title would suggest. There are several fine performances in this film, and it has a hypnotic, dream-like quality at times.

Yet I can’t recommend “The Last Black Man in San Francisco,” which uses the very real and serious subject of gentrification in the Bay Area as a backdrop for a sad story about a delusional young African-American man who can’t let go of his obsession with a house he believes his ancestor built.


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