Toy Story 4

Since 1996, the ‘Toy Story’ series has been a huge success. Earning a fortune in merchandising, the series has proven a reliable money-spinner for the Disney group. Although it’s been 23 years since the first entry, only 4 movies have been made with ‘Toy Story 4’ now hitting the screens. Such has been the care given to ensuring the script and animation is top-notch that each new film is welcomed rather than shunned.

When their owner Bonnie creates a new toy named Forky, Woody (Tom Hanks) Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and others face a new problem. Attempting to teach Forky on how to behave like a toy, the gang are troubled when Forky escapes. Chasing after him, Woody also becomes separated from the group. Finding Forky in an old antique store, Woody meets Gabby (Christina Hendricks), a doll with more sinister intentions than he realises.

Even though ‘Toy Story 3’ formed a perfect conclusion to the series, ‘Toy Story 4’ is a worthy addition. It enhances the story whist moving it in another direction. Woody and his friends have to find their worth and how they contribute to the happiness of their new owner. This theme ties in perfectly with the story’s main action. Reuniting with lost friends, the gang continue showing the value of team-work and companionship. Due to the vocal skills of the performers, its easy being involved in a tale full of heart.

This doesn’t mean ‘Toy Story 4’ is a saccharine filled kiddie-fest. Adults can also enjoy the often quirky humour and fantastic animation. It mirrors classic Disney films from last century that could be enjoyed by all ages. This enabled the ‘Toy Story’ franchise to remain fresh while maintaining the classic Disney feel. That’s a skill that has seen the Disney group thrive above quickly vanishing trends. This timeless quality is evident in ‘Toy Story 4’ and works well within the entire series.

‘Toy Story 4’ is a fun, enjoyable time with thoughtful moments to maintain ongoing viewing. Although it’s been said before, this may not be the final entry. Despite the glut of sequels elsewhere, in this case if the same craftmanship is still there, a fifth instalment would be more than welcome.

Rating out of 10: 7

Red Joan

Based on Jennie Rooney’s novel inspired by real events, ‘Red Joan’ proves real life can be more compelling than fiction. A cliché perhaps but even fiction is a heightened version of reality which sometimes can be unbelievable. Flitting between a timeline of the 1930s/40s to 2000, ‘Red Joan’ explores how good intentions can go awry. With today’s ‘reality TV’ craze being as unrealistic as possible, ‘Red Joan’ conjures a slice of realism such shows can only hope for.

Joan Stanley (Judi Dench) is a pensioner living a quiet life. Her idyll is shattered when she is arrested for treason. Under questioning, she reveals her early life when as a young Joan (Sophie Cookson) studied at Cambridge. There she met Communist members Leo (Tom Hughes) and Sophie (Tereza Srbova). Joan enters a world of atomic warfare where her decisions would impact the rest of her life and those around her.

‘Red Joan’ works due to the solid performances. Dench and Cookson give strong renditions of a woman grappling with her moral consciences. Keen to even the playing field between Russia and its enemies, Joan’s dilemma is well conveyed. Although you may not agree with her actions, ‘Red Joan’ successfully reveals why she did them. You understand her choices and the reactions of her loved ones.

Trevor Nunn directs with a steady eye on not resorting to melodrama. Whilst the occasional over-wrought scene is evident, ‘Red Joan’ thrives on authenticity. Those expecting a typical spy thriller will be disappointed with the more natural story-telling highlighting the emotional conflict of all concerned. The period setting and music score aid in creating the mood of the times amidst an atmosphere of global disharmony.

Although it may not be consistently exciting viewing, ‘Red Joan’ is a fascinating insight in a person’s beliefs. Whether you agree with them or not is up to you but the film allows you the choice to make up your own mind. Truth can often be uncomfortable but it can create more thoughtful stories lasting in the memory.

Rating out of 10: 6