WATCH: ‘Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw’ unveils final trailer, recap video

Universal Pictures has just released the final trailer for Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw starring Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba and Vanessa Kirby.

As a companion piece to the trailer, the studio has also shared a recap video in which Johnson explains where Hobbs & Shaw sits in the entire Fast & Furious timeline.

Check out the videos below and watch Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw in Philippine cinemas July 31.

Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures. #HobbsAndShaw #FastFurious     

About Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw

After eight films that have amassed almost $5 billion worldwide, the Fast & Furious franchise now features its first stand-alone vehicle as Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham reprise their roles as Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw in Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw.

Ever since hulking lawman Hobbs (Johnson), a loyal agent of America’s Diplomatic Security Service, and lawless outcast Shaw (Statham), a former British military elite operative, first faced off in 2015’s Fast & Furious 7, the duo have swapped smack talk and body blows as they’ve tried to take each other down.

But when cyber-genetically enhanced anarchist Brixton (Idris Elba) gains control of an insidious bio-threat that could alter humanity forever — and bests a brilliant and fearless  rogue MI6 agent (The Crown’s Vanessa Kirby), who just happens to be Shaw’s sister — these two sworn enemies will have to partner up to bring down the only guy who might be badder than themselves.

Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw blasts open a new door in the Fast universe as it hurtles action across the globe, from Los Angeles to London and from the toxic wasteland of Chernobyl to the lush beauty of Samoa.   

Directed by David Leitch (Deadpool 2) from a script by longtime Fast & Furious narrative architect Chris Morgan, the film is produced by Morgan, Johnson, Statham and Hiram Garcia. The executive producers are Dany Garcia, Kelly McCormick, Steven Chasman, Ethan Smith and Ainsley Davies. 

WATCH: ‘Charlie’s Angels’ trailer reveals empowered women secret agents

Join the secret sisterhood of agents. Watch the official trailer of Columbia Pictures’ new action-adventure Charlie’s Angels from director Elizabeth Banks and starring Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott and Ella Balinska.

In Banks’ bold vision, Stewart, Scott, and Balinska are working for the mysterious Charles Townsend, whose security and investigative agency has expanded internationally. With the world’s smartest, bravest, and most highly trained women all over the globe, there are now teams of Angels guided by multiple Bosleys taking on the toughest jobs everywhere. The screenplay is by Elizabeth Banks from a story by Evan Spiliotopoulos and David Auburn.

The film also stars Elizabeth Banks as Bosley, Djimon Hounsou, Noah Centineo, Sam Claflin and Patrick Stewart.

In Philippine cinemas November 13, Charlie’s Angels is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.  Use the hashtag #CharliesAngels

Go for Gold Philippines tries to break Guinness World Record in dribbling

Go For Gold Philippines is ready to show the world what the Filipino basketball community is capable of achieving when it attempts to break the Guinness World Record for the most number of people dribbling simultaneously.

Go For Gold godfather Jeremy Go announced in a press conference on Thursday that at least 10,000 dribblers will be invited during the July 22 record-shattering feat at the Mall of Asia Concert Grounds in Pasay City.

“Being a SEA Games year, we want to be able to encourage a lot of Filipinos to be active in supporting sports and our national athletes,” said Go.

“We believe that this will be a good way to bring buzz and excitement to kick start our country’s program,” added the vice president for marketing of Powerball Marketing & Logistics Corporation, the prime mover behind the Go For Gold project.

Supporting the objective is the International Basketball Federation or Fiba, which recently formed a partnership with Go For Gold to encourage more Filipinos to support the Gilas Pilipinas men’s basketball team of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas in the coming Fiba World Cup in China on Aug. 31-Sept. 15.

Also invited to join the effort are the national athletes from various national sports association under the Philippine Olympic Committee and the Philippine Sports Commission in support for the country’s 30th Southeast Asian Games hosting later this year.

The most number of people dribbling a basketball simultaneously was 7,556 during an event organized by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Palestine on July 22, 2010.

A fiesta-like atmosphere is set at the MOA Concert Grounds, the official venue partner of the world record attempt, with popular sports personalities and show business celebrities expected to encourage more dribblers to join the record-breaking effort.

Scratch it! brand ambassadors Nadine Lustre and Sam Concepcion will be there to energize the basketball-crazed multitude as well as music artists Karencitta and John Roa together with This Band and Allmost.

“Also in line with our motto ‘Basta Pilipino Ginto,’ where we believe that the Filipino deserve the best, whether it is in training, sports, events, even scratch tickets, we want to have an international record that we can be proud of,” said Go.

Players, coaches and team officials from various Philippine Basketball Association and Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League ballclubs are anticipated to join the record-shattering attempt.

Go For Gold is heavily involved in Philippine basketball with MPBL defending champion San Juan Knights-Go For Gold and PBA D-League champion Go For Gold-CSB capturing the titles in both leagues.

The Philippine Navy Sea Lions which qualified to the Global King of Kings Basketball Challenge in Shanghai, China on Aug. 8-11 is also being supported by Go For Gold along with the PH Air Force Go For Gold Air Spikers, the defending Spikers’ Turf champion.

Aside from these teams, Go For Gold has a stable of champion national athletes from cycling, triathlon, chess, canoe-kayak dragonboat, sepak takraw, wrestling and skateboarding.

Spears Films presents two competition films at Cinemalaya 2019

The Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival 2019 to be held from August 2 to 13 is doubly special for Albert Almendralejo’s Spears Films because the company is presenting two films.

Last year, Albert, a former GMA 7 executive-turned-filmmaker was so happy that his directorial debut—the documentary “Journeyman Finds Home: The Simone Rota Story”—was shown in exhibition at Cinemalaya.

Albert is a big fan of the festival. When it is Cinemalaya week, he clears his busy schedule so that he can watch the films at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Last year was memorable because he attended the prestigious indie filmfest as a producer-director and not just as a member of the audience. “Journeyman Finds Home,” the story of Italian Filipino footballer Simone Rota’s search for his biological mother, is Almendralejo’s collaboration with director Maricel Cariaga.

For the Cinemalaya 2019 competition, Spears Films is fielding the drama about art and love entitled “Malamaya,” and the family picture, “Children of the River.”

The team of “Malamaya”: director/co-writer Leilani Chavez, actors Enzo Pineda and Sunshine Cruz, director Danica Sta. Lucia and producer Albert Almendralejo. Photo courtesy of Erickson Dela Cruz.

“Malamaya,” is a romance that Spears Films is co-producing with ALV Productions and Cine Likha Productions. It features Sunshine Cruz as a seasoned visual artist who reignites her lost passion with an aspiring photographer played by Enzo Pineda. Getting in the way of their romance is a potter played by Raymond Bagatsing. “Malamaya” is directed by Danica Sta. Lucia and Leilani Chavez.

“Children of the River,” meanwhile, is Spears’ venture with Luna Studios and GMA Network Films. This movie written and directed by Maricel Cariaga tells the tale of three young friends whose fathers have gone off to war and are now left with the responsibility for caring for their respective families.  In the cast are: Cinemalaya 2017 Best Actor Noel Comia Jr., Juancho Trivino, Rich Asuncion, with the special participation of Urian Best Actor Jay Manalo.

Spears Films’ Albert Almendralejo with “Children of the River” actors Jay Manalo, Rich Asuncion, and Noel Comia, Jr., and writer-director Maricel Cariaga. Photo courtesy of Erickson Dela Cruz.

Albert says, “While ‘Malamaya’ is a romance in a cosmopolitan setting and ‘Children of the River’ is an idyllic story in the province of Quirino, both are coming-of-age stories of persons rising above their weaknesses. I was drawn to produce these films because both show the process of maturity.”

For Albert, Cinemalaya 2019 is a homecoming of sorts. He says, “It’s full cycle for me because the first film I produced, Ralston Jover’s directorial debut, ‘Bakal Boys,’ won the NETPAC Prize in the 2009 Cinemalaya. It feels great to be part of this significant festival.”

Spears Films also produced “Tumbang Preso,” a drama thriller on human trafficking directed by Kip Oebanda; and the documentary about the training of young Filipino footballers in the UK entitled “Little Azkals” by Babyruth Villarama, and “Pangarap Kong World Cup,” a two-part docu series that chronicles the preparation of the Azkals Philippine Men’s National Football Team. “These are stories about the youth and how to improve their well-being,” says Albert.

For updates about Spears Films/Spears Activation and PR, visit Spears Activation & PR on Facebook and http://spearsactivationandprco.com.

Witness extraordinary with ‘Rocketman’ at SM Cinema

 Some of may have grown up listening to his catchy songs, some may just be about to discover his musical brilliance. Either way, it’s hard to find someone who has never heard the name, Elton John – see this icon’s biopic, Rocketman and see his story and the story behind his music in the big screen. Rocketman is now showing in SM Cinema!

Elton John has been defying norms and performing songs at a theatrical grandeur ever since he started his career in 1962. Since then, he has written music that have spanned generations such as “Your Song”, “Skyline Pigeon”, “Tiny Dancer” and “Candle in the Wind” among others.

His biopic, Rocketman, whose title is based on another one of his famous songs, follows the colorful life and musical career of pop culture icon, Elton John, as he navigates the musical world. Featuring his time as a prodigy of the Royal Academy of Music and his musical partnership with Bernie Taupin, Rocketman will show us that being different is not so bad after all.

Fans of Elton John don’t need to worry about missing this movie because there is always SM Cinema for you, wherever you are! With 64 branches nationwide, SM Cinema offers accessibility at an affordable price – perfect for the ultimate family or barkada bonding! So get ready to sing along to the classic Elton John songs in SM Cinema theatres across the country and marvel at the life of one of the world’s best-selling rock idols.

READ MORE: Movie review of ‘Rocketman’

Catch Rocketman starting June 19 at any of the SM Cinema branches nationwide. Book your tickets through the website, www.smcinema.com or download the SM Cinema mobile app. You can also follow /SMCinema on Facebook and @SM_Cinema on Instagram for updates. Satisfy your cravings at Snack Time, the official food concessionaire of SM Cinema, which offers a wide array of snacks like popcorn, hotdogs and burgers to complement your movie watching experience. Follow /SnackTimeOfficial on Facebook for more information.

‘Rocketman’ review: The glamorous and heartbreaking life of Elton John

With its highly imaginative direction and Taron Egerton’s magnetic performance, ‘Rocketman’ finishes on a high note.

It’s impossible not to think of Bohemian Rhapsody while watching Rocketman. Not to mention the fact that Rocketman director Dexter Fletcher himself assumed directing duties after Bryan Singer’s untimely exit while shooting Bohemian Rhapsody, both musical biopics feature flamboyant, gay pop-rock icons who reinvented themselves amidst adversity.

Rocketman, however, has a surefire edge over the other as Taron Egerton here does his own singing. We first heard him spectacularly perform an Elton John classic in Dreamworks’ Sing, and that credential alone suggests that he might have the vocal chops to do the rest of his jukebox. And he does not disappoint. Egerton may not exactly look or sound like Elton, but he channels the superstar’s flair and vibe with such authenticity that goes beyond an impersonation. Donned with signature over-the-top costumes, he successfully puts on a fearless and electrifying show. If Rami Malek can win an Academy Award for his work in Bohemian Rhapsody, it’s only righteous to start the Oscar hype as early as now for Taron Egerton.

“…how wonderful life is when you’re in the world.”
Taron Egerton as Elton John performs ‘Your Song.’

Both movies pretty much follow a standard template for musical biopics – a calculated yet effective retelling of the rise, the fall and the rebirth of an icon, accompanied by a wheelhouse of greatest hits. In Rocketman, piano prodigy Reginald Kenneth Dwight (Elton’s birth name) meets an aspiring lyricist Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) and together, they produce a number of hits that skyrockets Elton’s hollywood career to superstardom. The costs of fame soon catches up and he falls into an abyss of depression and various addictions – shopping, alcohol, painkillers and even sex. Whereas Bohemian Rhapsody is on a disadvantage for being confined to a PG-13 setting, Rocketman greatly benefits from its R-rating as it avoids sugarcoating the edgy chapters in Elton’s extravagant and promiscuous lifestyle.

But what makes Rocketman truly soar is Fletcher’s assured and adventurous direction that deftly weaves fantasy elements into Elton’s trajectory. Unlike Bohemian Rhapsody, the film disregards the chronological release of his songs and goes for a full-blown musical: the characters break out in songs and dances whenever the narrative calls for it. Given the eccentric nature of its protagonist, it’s quite easy to suspend disbelief and allow the film to take us to wherever it wants to go.

Jamie Bell (Bernie Taupin) and Taron Egerton bring warmth and sincerity to their friendship in ‘Rocketman.’

Musical scorer Matthew Margeson brings new arrangements to some of Elton’s songs and in doing so, the film produces multiple music genres that bear wide range of emotions. An energetic “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” marks Elton’s rebellious transition from childhood to young adult. The “Crocodile Rock” performance – where gravity cease to exist for a moment and the crowd starts floating – represents an insurmountable joy during Elton’s music career. “Bennie and the Jets” is played with an increasingly aggressive tempo to portray his psychedelic descent to rock bottom. The highly imaginative sequence of “Rocketman” is presented as an accompaniment to Elton’s suicide attempt and desire to leave the spotlight.

The film also shines with its slow ballads like the iconic “Tiny Dancer” being reinterpreted as a song about longing and unrequited love; an intimate “Your Song” that brings earnestness to the film’s core friendship; and an emotional duet of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” that reflects Elton and Bernie’s anger and disappointment at each other. It’s an epic celebration of the superstar’s enduring legacy and Elton’s spirit is very much alive throughout.

A rising star. Elton John performs “The Crocodile” in Troubadour, London.

At times, Rocketman feels like a Broadway production, where its pompous musical numbers occasionally outweigh the introspective drama involved. But thankfully, Fletcher takes us back to a third act where film’s cliché narrative setup – a frustrated Elton recounts his life during a therapy session – finally pays off as he confronts his inner demons. It’s in this moment when the pieces fall together and we understand the complexities of the character. Here is a son who poses a peculiar persona in a subconscious attempt to gain the affections of his uncaring father (Steven Mackintosh) and promiscuous mother (Bryce Dallas Howard). A performer who took risks in the music industry because his dashing yet devious manager/lover (Richard Madden) urges him to leave a mark in the world. A gay man whose told to be choosing a life of loneliness because of his decision to embrace his sexuality. A star who succumbs to self-destruction after failing to earn the validation of the people who mattered to him. And finally, a flawed human who decides to turn his life around with the help of his loyal best friend.

Livin’ the high life? Taron Egerton, Bryce Dallas Howard (Sheila) and Richard Madden (John Reid) in ‘Rocketman.’

With all the entertainment that Rocketman offers in its great performances and splendid production design, there lies an incredibly relatable tale of unconditional friendship, atonement, freedom and self-actualization. It’s only fitting that the film ends with the song “I’m Still Standing” to cap off Elton John’s moment of redemption. This can be your song too, and you can tell everybody.

4.5 out of 5 stars
Directed by Dexter Fletcher, ‘Rocketman’ stars Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard, Stephen Graham, Gemma Jones, Jason Pennycooke, Kit Connor, Matthew Illesley, Charlie Rowe, Steven Mackintosh, and Tom Bennett. 121 minutes. R-13.

QCinema announces documentary lineup for 2019

A 41-year-old learning the ABCs, a woman living her life between Saudi Arabia and the Philippines, and an alien recounting the lives of Filipino men and women – these stories highlight the lineup of documentary films for this year’s DocQC category at the QCinema International Film Festival (QCinema).

For its seventh edition, QCinema will showcase three documentary films that will run from October 13-22.

These documentaries include For My Alien Friend by Jet Leyco, A is for Agustin by Grace Pimentel Simbulan, and Spring by the Sea by Aleia Garcia.

Jet Leyco’s For My Alien Friend is about stories of Filipino men and women, and other living things passing through similar objects, familiar spaces, non-linear time, and dreams alike – all connected from the lens and experience of a stranger, an Alien whose language is disconnected and demands an interaction from the viewer to reconnect these stories to find their own meaning.

Jet Leyco, director of ‘For My Alien Friend.’

A is for Agustin by Grace Pimentel Simbulan focuses on the life of 41-year old Agustin Tiburcio, an illiterate indigenous man in a remote mountainous region in northern Philippines who wants to learn his ABCs. He gets fed up with being exploited by his employers and decides to go to school with the goal of making a better life for himself and his family.

Grace Pimentel Simbulan, director of ‘A is for Agustin.’

Spring by the Sea is a film by Aleia Garcia, showing alternating Philippines and Saudi Arabia as her home and uses personal home videos and present footage to tell the story of her family.

Aleia Garcia, director of ‘Spring by the Sea’

The grantees for the documentary films have been given a post-production grant of P500,000 each while retaining exclusive rights to their films.

Aside from DocQC, QCinema has also given grants to filmmakers for its QCShorts and Asian Next Wave competition category.

SM Cinema presents the ‘Child’s Play’ scare experience

 Hold on to your seats and get ready to scream as SM Cinema presents Child’s Play, the remake of the classic slasher movie.

In line with the release of the movie, SM Cinema is bringing the scare to you with the Child’s Play Scare Experience at the SM Megamall Cinema Lobby on June 15 to 23. Get chills as you check out the eerie lineup of collectibles at the Chucky Toy Collection Display. Witness the evolution of Chucky from the ‘80s to the present day with the Chucky Poster Exhibit. You can also get the chance to win limited edition Child’s Play shirts by taking photos at the exhibit backdrop and uploading them on Facebook or Twitter.

Easily one of the most recognizable icons of horror cinema, Chucky recently visited SM Aura and SM Mall of Asia for the Chucky Scare Experience Mascot Tour. You can catch him at the following SM Cinema branches this June: SM Megamall (June 20 and 23), SM North EDSA (June 22) and SM Fairview (June 22).

Child’s Play features mother and son Karen and Andy Barclay as they move to a new city. Seeing his son struggle to make friends, Karen gives Andy a “smart toy” to help him adjust to his new life. Little do they know that the toy is slowly gaining sentience and is seeking to wreak havoc upon their new home.

Directed by Lars Klevberg, Child’s Play stars Mark Hamill as the voice of Chucky, Gabriel Bateman as Andy Barclay, Aubrey Plaza as Karen Barclay, Brian Tyree Henry as Detective Mike Norris, Tim Matheson as Henry Kaslan and Marlon Kazadi as Omar Norris.

Catch Child’s Play starting June 20 at SM Cinema branches nationwide. Book your tickets through the website, www.smcinema.com or download the SM Cinema mobile app.  You may also follow /SMCinema on Facebook and @SM_Cinema on Instagram for updates. Satisfy your cravings at Snack Time, the official food concessionaire of SM Cinema, which offers a wide array of snacks like popcorn, hotdogs and burgers to complement your movie watching experience. Follow /SnackTimeOfficial on Facebook for more information.

Eddie Garcia: In memoriam

The entertainment industry of the Philippines has an obsession with giving titles to its most bankable stars: titles that have become synonymous with the actors or actresses themselves. Superstar. Star for All Seasons. Megastar. Diamond Star. King of Comedy. The King. Earlier generations may also recall The Great Profile. But in an industry filled with kings, queens and stars, Eddie Garcia took a humble title—taken from his character’s name from a movie—and made it a legend bigger than himself: Manoy.

And today, the entertainment industry has lost its biggest brother, an actor and director who lent his name and talent to over 600 films in the span of 70 years, all of which are testaments to his longevity. A passionate artist with a strong, disciplined work ethic that built his reputation as the most prolific actor on the silver screen, whose appeal has endured for generations. (A Reddit thread from October 2018, about his photo on the cover of Esquire Philippines, ended up being more of a tribute page about him than about the photo itself.)

He was a long-time student of his craft, having been cast into Siete Infantes de Lara (his first film, in 1950) without any acting experience. And through the years, he strived to become a better performer, for any role he accepted is, in his words, “the best recommendation for your next film.” And Garcia never permitted himself to be typecast as an action star: he has taken roles in comedy and drama films as well, including Lino Brocka’s Tubog sa Ginto, which he said was his favorite performance (as a closeted gay man). He also immersed himself behind the scenes, shadowing directors, cinematographers and editors, before going on to direct over 30 films himself. For both his work in front and behind the camera, he has won numerous awards, even receiving an Urian for Best Actor before he died.

He himself was long considered a contender for being the next National Artist. Whether this honor will be given to him remains to be seen. But whether or not he earns that honor, he can rest contented that he has worked with and learned from six of the eight National Artists for Cinema, the exceptions being Lamberto Avellana and Kidlat Tahimik.

READ MORE: Eddie Garcia on his third Cinemalaya film ML (Martial Law)

More than his artistry, he has also been known for having a strong, focused work ethic, an attribute that younger generations can learn from regardless of their industry. His punctuality is the stuff of legends, almost always being the first person to report for duty on set; hence, the famous quip “you do not make Eddie Garcia wait”. (We at Cinema Bravo have been a witness to his punctuality. At the press conference for “Rainbow’s Sunset”, we arrived at the venue an hour earlier. To our surprise, Eddie Garcia also arrived just a few minutes after. The press con itself started one hour late, but Manoy was gracious throughout, gamely answering questions and posing for photographs.)

He also avoided complaining or critiquing his workmates, preferring instead to follow his directors’ instructions and doing his very best, however small the role is. As a director, he refrained from reprimanding his cast and crew, and instead focused on getting everyone’s job done, and done right. Perhaps more than the awards he has received, his fellow film workers now remember him more for his grace, his chivalry and his humility. It is not surprising then that in an industry rife with rivalry and politicking, Eddie Garcia has virtually no critics or enemies.

Until the very end, he believed that he should never retire, preferring to work for as long as his health permitted. We lost him, yes, while doing what he loved best, in an accident that he did not deserve. Who knows how many more films and TV shows he could have done. How many more awards he could have won. How many more audiences would have looked forward to his formidable performances and Instagrammable one-liners.

And in his passing, we have lost an even bigger star than the film industry’s kings and queens. A true legend in his own right whose body of work has transcended three or four generations of movie audiences.

Because however the kings and queens of cinema come and go, there can only be one Manoy.

‘Toy Story 4’ review: Schooling adults on existentialism

With its weighty themes on existential crisis and self-actualization, Toy Story 4 has strong and valid reasons to bring back our beloved characters for one more adventure.

The announcement of Toy Story 4 is met with a lot of apprehension from fans and I totally get what they’re feeling. Toy Story trilogy wrapped up on such a perfect note that it almost feels sacrilegious to extend the story of Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen) and Co. for the sake of a shameless cash grab. Toy Story 3 marks the pinnacle of the franchise and anything less than ‘perfect’ will smear its reputation. Despite this, I went to the screening with prejudices set aside. After all, if there’s a Hollywood studio that can match their timeless classics, it’s probably the combination of Disney and Pixar.

And boy, I am pleased to see this surprisingly, much-needed epilogue. To say the least, I walked out of this movie with a big smile and an enriched perspective in life. If TS3 tackles separation anxiety and the lifelong impact of toys to kids, TS4 poses deeper existential questions. In here, the successor of Andy’s toys, Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw) literally makes a new friend, Forky (Tony Hale), out of a spork. He soon becomes a conscious and sentient toy who believes that he’s not meant to be a plaything. This leads to a hilarious gag of Forky throwing himself to a trash bin, and Woody repeatedly intercepting his suicide attempts.

Forky insists, “I’m trash!” and we all know what he’s talking about. It’s something that we must have said to ourselves at some point in our lives. But what makes a toy, a toy? How do you measure someone’s worth? Is it by looking at what they’re made of, or is it about them finding and fulfilling their purpose? Four movies in and this franchise continues to depict its characters the way that a kid would have imagined them: as toys imbued with real human depth and emotions.

Forky grapples at the confusing reality of his existence while Woody teaches him the essence of “toyhood.

The rescue adventure kicks into gear as sheriff Woody goes after Forky who sneaks out during a family trip. Along the way, he unexpectedly reunites with his old flame Bo Peep (Annie Potts), the shepherdess who has now turned into a free-spirited, self-sufficient “lost toy,” since her last appearance in Toy Story 2. For this installment, Bo Peep has a much more significant role than being just Woody’s love interest. Aside from being an empowered heroine, she’s there to challenge his existing ideals.

Over time, we’ve seen how Woody developed into a parental figure to his owner. He believes that the most noble thing a toy can do is to be there for a child. But does the principle still apply now that Bonnie is no longer fond of playing him? Would he be content on spending most of his days gathering “dust bunnies” inside a closet, or is it time to boldly venture to the unknown yet exciting possibilities in life? At what point should personal happiness be prioritized over the selfless advocacy? TS4 breaks the mold of what a toy should do. It gives it’s characters autonomy over their fates. Woody’s path to self realization imposes a lot of conflict which brings the character’s journey into a much fuller circle than what we thought before.

“Who needs a kid’s room, when you can have all this?” Bo Peep is back… and she’s a badass.

It’s also a film about breaking misperceptions, the things that we once fear – in Woody’s case, becoming a lost toy – might not be as horrendous as we once thought. There’s a wonderful subplot too about second chances and self-acceptance present in the film’s de facto villain, Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), a vintage doll who believes that the only way she can be loved is if she gets a replacement for her defective voicebox… just like the one that’s sewn into Woody’s back.

Creepy baby doll Gabby Gabby controls a gang of ventriloquist dummies in ‘Toy Story 4.’

Emotionally, TS4 does not surpass the amount of damage that TS3 did to our tear ducts, yet it knows wisely not to. TS4 makes up with a lot of laughs. It’s situational humor is consistently clever, like Buzz’s complete misunderstanding of conscience/inner voice for his pre-programmed recordings and also the humor mined from our old-time favorites like Jessie (Joan Cussack), Rex (Wallace Shawn), the Potato Heads (Don Rickles and Estelle Harris), etc. Most of them might be relegated to minor status to further advance the theme and plot, but this sequel introduces equally memorable scene-stealers like disaster-prone daredevil Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves), and a pair of hysterical conjoined carnival toys Ducky (Keegan Michael-Key) and Bunny (Jordan Peele).

Back from the retirement shelf (L-R): Trixie, Buttercup, Mr. Pricklepants, Dolly, Hamm, Buzz Lightyear, Rex, Aliens, Jessie, Slinky Dog, Bullseye, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head reprise their roles in ‘Toy Story 4.’

Some may take TS4’s level of animation and production design for granted but Pixar has always been spectacular in their game. TS4 is easily the best-looking entry in the franchise. Likewise, the same can be said to the whole voice cast, especially Tom Hanks in particular who still sounds as youthful and as energetic as he did two decades ago.

Toy Story 4 never loses sight of what makes the franchise appeal to multiple generations. It can have all the fun that it wants but the viewing experience never falls short of meaningful and inspirational, as the franchise has shown steadfast commitment to deliver mature yet kid-friendly themes. If you’re planning to skip this because you believe that the trilogy already ended so perfectly, believe me when I say that you’ll be missing a great deal.

5 out of 5 stars
Directed and co-written by Josh Cooley, ‘Toy Story 4’ stars Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Madeleine McGraw, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Jay Hernandez, Lori Alan, Joan Cusack, Bonnie Hunt and Kristen Schaal. 100 minutes. Rated G.