Big-hearted, touching finale to Pixar’s legendary franchise.
“Toy Story 4” is the fourth and probably final installment of Disney Pixar’s original franchise. It’s remarkably poignant and should appeal to audiences of all ages — from parents and children to those who grew up loving Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen), Jessie (Joan Cusack) and the gang. There are also many new characters this time around, starting with Forky (Tony Hale), the sentient arts-and-crafts toy made from a spork, clay, pipe cleaners and googly eyes. This movie definitely fits into the series’ action-comedy genre, but its peril is less intense than the harrowing climactic sequences of “Toy Story 3.” Still, you can expect lots of high-stakes escapes/rescue missions, some close calls and very creepy vintage ventriloquist dummies. Most of the film’s peril, worry and violence focus on separation from the toys’ new kid, Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw), as well as the slightly sinister machinations of Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), an antique-store doll who’s desperate for a new voice box. Gabby Gabby’s subplot has one of the movie’s only less-than-completely-positive messages (it touches on the idea that if you fix what’s “wrong” with you, you could be more likely to be accepted/find love). But her arc also includes powerful examples of empathy, and overall the film has touching themes of friendship, loyalty, imagination and the power of play. (100 minutes)
Honest dramedy about impact of deception and lies.
“Being Frank” is a comedy about a man (Jim Gaffigan) whose 17-year-old son (Logan Miller) discovers that his dad has another family. Expect to see a parent being both socially and emotionally abusive. Underage teens and adults drink and smoke pot; there’s also a fair bit of strong language (“s---,” “f---” and more), as well as infidelity, innuendo and flirting. Frank doesn’t always take responsibility for his choices — or their effects on his families — but the movie shows that actions have consequences. It also does a balanced job of presenting the idea that there are always two sides to every story. It’s easy to get angry when you feel betrayed by someone you love, but the film makes the case that it’s wise to try to understand others’ perspectives before making assumptions or forming judgment. (110 minutes)
Engaging JoBros documentary has some language, drinking.
“Chasing Happiness” is a documentary about the Jonas Brothers, the wildly popular trio that first achieved huge success as young teens. Now grown up (and starting families of their own), Nick, Joe and Kevin drink (once to slight excess) and occasionally use strong language like “f---” and “s---.” In a montage, one brother is briefly seen with a cigar in his hand. Some talk about their abstinence pledges as young teens and briefly mention difficulties because of it. The Jonases and their parents model strong family bonds, hard work and willing sacrifice to achieve their dreams, and the brothers have matured enough to talk openly and honestly with one other about the ups and downs of their past and their former estrangement. (96 minutes)
Available via Amazon streaming.
Solid dramatic account of 1990s wrongful-conviction trial.
“When They See Us” is a dramatization of the Central Park Five case, in which five teenagers were wrongly convicted of the violent rape of a 28-year-old woman. The 1990 case was widely publicized at the time and has become an example of institutional racism within the police and the American justice system. This miniseries, created by “Selma” filmmaker Ava DuVernay, focuses on a large cross-section of people involved with the case, from the teens and their parents to the police and prosecutors. Violence includes a teen being beaten by a police officer, but the central crime isn’t shown on screen. The complex subject matter makes this brutal but often powerful series most appropriate for older teens and adults. (Four episodes, ranging from 64 to 88 minutes.)
Available via Netflix streaming.
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