Lightyear

Lightyear imagines what the movie would’ve been that got kids like Andy excited to get the toy of him in Toy Story. In this universe, Buzz Lightyear is a space ranger tasked with a difficult mission and must learn to make new friends and approaches to his mission — and his purpose as an astronaut and a man — on the way.

Lightyear dazzles as an animated Star Trek of sorts, with some of the best animation I’ve seen in years. The designs of spaceships, suits, weapons and settings, as well as the concept of flight and hyperspace travel, are designed so beautifully that you forget you’re watching something completely animated and get immersed in the visual adventure. The intergalactic settings let Pixar’s animators explore their incredible skills and make something that looks gorgeous. Chris Evans is perfectly cast as Buzz Lightyear, not just because he does the Lightyear voice well but because his character parallels Captain America so well in that they both are willing to give whatever it takes for the greater good but must find their own identity and life for themselves. Keke Palmer is also great as Lightyear’s new companion, and Taika Waititi is as always hysterical as another “rookie” that takes on a deadly mission with Buzz. A highlight though, is Sox, a robotic cat voiced by Peter Sohn whose destined to be a fan favorite Pixar character and steals the screen. The script always finds inventive ways to bring in conflicts and there’s some signature humor and heart Pixar is known to have mastered. Although there’s a twist at the end that may have not had the thematic resonance it was trying to get at, it’s still an exciting movie throughout and could please action/sci-fi movie fans of all ages. Though it’s not as great as the last two Toy Story movies per say, Lightyear has likely Pixar’s most stunning animation since Soul and is a blast for the whole family, with a top-notch Chris Evans voice performance and lovable supporting cast.

Jurassic World Dominion

Dinosaurs now live — and hunt — alongside humans all over the world. This fragile balance will reshape the future and determine, once and for all, whether human beings are to remain the apex predators on a planet they now share with history’s most fearsome creatures.

With promising groundwork to set up what could’ve been an exciting conclusion to the Jurassic Park franchise, Jurassic World Dominion instead does little with the potential its given and messes up almost every chance it gets to deliver. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard are solid action stars but their characters get no development besides looking cool and facing off against dinosaurs. Speaking of the dinosaurs, they themselves barely feel like characters in the story anymore, and the two leads are no longer seen exercising their heroic compassion towards the creatures which felt out of character for them. The conflicts with the dinosaurs feel so rushed and hard to be invested in because the proper explanation and stakes simply aren’t there. A genetic engineering storyline takes up a lot of the film’s screen time, as well as Campbell Scott’s lackluster performance, which is a bummer considering the ideas about whether humans and dinosaurs can coexist go undeveloped as a result. The film spends a lot of time with uninteresting supporting characters, whether bad actors like Scott Haze and Justice Smith or good actors like Omar Sy who simply don’t contribute anything. DeWanda Wise and Mamoudou Athie are great as far as the newcomers go, but the original trio from Jurassic Park add a lot to the movie. Laura Dern gives the movie lots of grace and empathy, and Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum are charismatic, with Goldblum bringing his lovable and hilarious chops as always.

Because there’s no proper motives or conflict in the storytelling, the journey and stakes are too boring and confusing to feel invested in. The writer and director don’t trust enough in the audience and put in a 2-minute exposition sequence at the beginning instead of bringing in ideas through visual storytelling. There’s also loads of plot armor that results in predictability because characters can get away from any danger depending on their importance to the story. Despite the franchise being beloved, the concepts being wondrous and the action being gigantic, this movie doesn’t feel thrilling or even sensical. Although I was looking forward to seeing how the trilogy would resolve and conclude, I felt no excitement during this movie unless it was seeing the two generations of the franchise’s stars interact with each other. Not to mention the CGI dinosaurs help expand the scale but no longer feel consequential or visually stunning the way the practical dinosaurs first did all the way back in 1993.