Sunday, June 26, 2022

Movie Reviews: Lightyear | Good luck to you, Leo Grande | Jurassic World Dominion

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The origin story of Pixar’s Buzz Lightyear might not feel quite as original, but it’s still done with signature Pixar brio, writes Alistair Harkness

Light Year (PG) ***

Good luck Leo Grande (15) ***

Jurassic World Dominion (12A) *

The Toy Story franchise takes you back to the future light year, a time-jumping spin-off film that traces the origins of space ranger toy Buzz Lightyear, voiced by Tim Allen, in a futuristic sci-fi film released circa 1995. That was the date the first Toy Story movie hit theaters, and the new movie imaginatively suggests that its square-jawed delusional hero with his catchphrase “to infinity and beyond” really is a piece of merchandise from this “new” movie that we are told was the favorite of Andy, the little boy in whose room all these toys first came to life. While this mirrors Toy Story 2’s brilliant plot twist – in which Woody the cowboy realized he was an offshoot of an old western TV show – that’s all there is to it in terms of meta-fun: the movie settles never grappled with why this film’s animation or effects would be light years above anything seen in a mid-1990’s Disney film.

Instead, the film constructs a slick sci-fi adventure and teamwork out of the character, in which the model for Buzz – now voiced by Captain America star Chris Evans – is a sort of loner who never follows the rules and disdains authority and a sense of confidence that drives him to always push the envelope, even when it threatens the mission at hand. The film revolves around one such mistake, which traps him and his crew on a distant planet with no obvious way to get home. Their only hope seems to be Buzz’s determination to risk his own life trying to travel through hyperspace, but his test runs come at a terrible cost: for every few minutes he spends in space, his peers – including himself best friend Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba) – Age four.

Like a children’s version of Interstellar, the film uses this to explore deeper themes about what makes a meaningful life as Buzz is forced to join forces with a new generation of misfits led by his best friend’s astrophobic granddaughter, Izzy (Keke Palmer ). Though what follows never really feels substantial or original (plot points from various Star Wars and Star Trek films are generously honored), it’s all done with typical Pixar brio.

In a twist on the usual May-December romance trope, Good luck to you Leo Grande casts Emma Thompson as a retired religion teacher who hires a sex worker to explore her unfulfilled sexual desires. Her gigolo of choice, however, is as far removed as possible from the scruffy, damaged hustler familiar from Jon Voight’s train in Midnight Cowboy. In a modern era where high-end sex workers are selling an experience via an app (and expecting a certain level of understanding and respect from their customers), Thompson’s character, the pseudonymous Nancy, meets the titular Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack) in a Smart hotel room, where she babbles nervously about his impressive vocabulary and her own sexual weaknesses while he talks to her calmly like a therapist trying to figure out why she’s never been able to reach orgasm.

It’s all very civilized and director Sophie Hyde, working from a script by British TV comedian and author Katy Brand, shoots it like a British romantic comedy, with some of the inherent stance those films have. But as the characters become more intimate, so does the film, with McCormack and especially Thompson breaking through the film’s more mechanical execution to deliver well-rounded portraits of people who yearn for human connection in a judgmental world.

“Jurassic world? Not a fan,” jokes Jeff Goldblum late in the evening Jurassic World Dominion. The feeling is mutual. This sixth installment in the almost 30-year-old dino franchise is a creative low point, even by the dead horse flogging standards of previous installments of Steven Spielberg’s groundbreaking original. As the concluding chapter of both the Jurassic World reboot saga starring Chris Pratt and the entire Jurassic Park series, it seeks to bring back Sam Neill’s paleontologist Alan Grant and Laura Dern’s paleobotanist Ellie Grant in a cynical attempt to increase the legacy’s appeal Franchise now that the nostalgic sight of dinosaurs on the big screen has really worn off (a trick that didn’t work on Jurassic Park III and isn’t working here).

They’re reunited with Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm – who appeared in the previous episode – after he invites her to visit the biotech company he now works for as a kind of doomsday prophet of sorts for profit while going over his chaos-theoretic forecasts, mindlessly fueled by a new generation of scientific disruptors who have absorbed the kool-aid of their Steve Jobs/Elon Musk-like leader Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott). Dodgson’s company, the by no means evil BioSyn, has taken on the responsibility of tracking and controlling the genetically engineered dinosaurs now roaming the earth, relocating most of them to a biological reserve on his Bondian property deep in the Italian Dolomites. where he publicly promises to learn from them to cure disease and help humanity, but in reality creates new species of locusts to help him control the world’s food supplies.

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