Nigh-unstoppable super-soldier Brixton (Elba) and his magical motorbike interrupt an MI6 mission in the heart of London to try to steal a supervirus, killing all of the agents bar one (Kirby), who escapes after injecting the virus into herself in slowly-dissolving plot-delivery devices, but is framed as the thief. The CIA tap DSS Agent Luke Hobbs (Johnson) and rogue former MI6 operative Deckard Shaw (Statham) to retrieve the virus, and the surviving agent, who is revealed to be Shaw’s sister Hattie.
Directed by Jon Favreau Starring Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Billy Eichner, John Kani, John Oliver, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and James Earl Jones
Touted at the time as Disney’s first original feature film, The Lion King was the fifth film in the Disney Renaissance, and the most successful offering of that period by a substantial margin, as well as playing a substantial role in the spread of major animation studios such as Dreamworks Animation. The film is a coming of age adventure, folowing young lion Simba (Matthew Broderick) as he grows up in exile and returns to face his wicked uncle Scar (Jeremy Irons) and avenge the murder of his father, Mufasa (James Earl Jones). It caught a storm of controversy over similarities to Kimba the White Lion, the English language dub of a Japanese anime film called Jungle Emperor Leo, but remains one of the iconic products of the House of Mouse.
In 2019, The Lion King became the latest movie from the Disney back-catalogue to receive a ‘live-action’ remake, directed by the man who did the same to The Jungle Book. I use sarcastic quotes because, unlike the 2016 The Jungle Book, there is no human presence, and in fact what we have is almost – or perhaps actually – entirely computer animation.
Simba (JD McCrary) is the son of Mufasa (Jones) and Sarabi (Woodard), the King of the Pridelands and the leader of the lionesses who hunt for and defend the pride. While Mufasa and his adviser the hornbill Zazu (Oliver) try to guide Simba towards a positive model of altruistic monarchy, his brooding uncle Scar (Ejiofor) plots to seize power.
Directed by Jon Watts Starring Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, J. B. Smoove, Jacob Batalon, Martin Starr, Marisa Tomei and Jake Gyllenhaal
In the wake of the global catastrophe now known as ‘the Blip’, Peter Parker (Holland) is looking forward to taking a break from a) being Spider-Man and b) fielding questions about when he’s going to take on Iron Man’s mantle as public head of superheroing by taking a trip to Europe with his classmates, including bestie Ned (Batalon), cool punk and subject of Peter’s crush MJ (Zendaya), academic jock Flash (Tony Revelori) and Brad (Remy Hii), a rival for MJ’s affections who is notionally five years younger than the rest of the group, but didn’t vanish during the blip so is chronologically the same age. Alas, this holiday is soon interrupted by the appearance of a monster made of water and a mysterious hero in Venice.
“On The Road Of Life, There Are Old Friends, New Friends, And Stories That Change You.”
Directed by Josh Cooley Starring 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 and Joan Cusack
1995’s Toy Story was a game changer, the first fully CG animated feature and the film that put Pixar on the map. It told the story of Woody (Hanks), a cowboy doll and the leader of a playroom full of animate toys belonging to a boy named Andy, whose position as ‘favourite toy’ was challenged by a newcomer, astronaut toy Buzz Lightyear (Allen). Through a series of adventures after being lost, Woody and Buzz bonded, and across two sequels and a series of trips outside the playroom their friendship grew, until at last they were passed on by the now-teenaged Andy to a young girl called Bonnie (McGraw). Toy Story 3 brought the story to a fairly natural close, so the creation of a fourth movie became a bit of a running joke in the industry, even making it into the opening number of The Muppets Most Wanted.
And then they made it.
The Late Sequel
After a brief flashback to the departure of his former love interest, Bo (Potts), Woody is in a slightly uncomfortable situation, no longer favourite toy, with his Sheriff’s badge often given to his line-mate Jessie (Cusack) and control of the playroom in the hands of Bonnie’s long-time ‘head toy’ Dolly (Bonny Hunt). When he goes against protocol to accompany Bonnie to her first day at kindergarten, he ends up escorting a new toy home: Forky (Hale), a craft project made from a spork, who feels a natural impulse to become trash.
Directed by F. Gary Gray Starring Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Rebecca Ferguson, Kumail Nanjiani, Rafe Spall, Laurent Bourgeois, Larry Bourgeois, Emma Thompson and Liam Neeson
Men in Black was a science-fiction action comedy, made on a modest budget, which became a huge sleeper hit in 1997. Pairing Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as Agents J and K, the newest and oldest field agents for the Men in Black, a secret organisation which polices alien activity on Earth, which is run as a neutral port for galactic refugees and travellers. The combination of Jones’ assured presence and the meteoric rising star of Smith – this was the role, coupled with 1996’s Independence Day, that catapulted him from surprisingly solid rapper and TV actor turned support player to bona fide superstar – with a sharp script and pacy, gonzo plot about a giant cockroach trying to steal the ultimate energy source produced a real standout of nineties SF cinema, and spawned two sequels of… less outstanding quality.
In 2002, Men in Black II spent a chunk of its runtime undoing the ending of the first movie for the sake of the magic pairing of Smith and Jones, and replaces the pathetically terrifying prospect of an impossibly tough and powerful insect in a rotting Vincent d’Onofrio suit with an alien disguised as an underwear model and trows in some unnecessary backstory and a bunch of poop and boob gags for good measure. It… wasn’t good.
It was to be another ten years before 2012’s Men in Black 3 added time travel and fourth-wall breaking to the mix, and threw in some more unnecessary back story as an alien supercriminal tried to pre-murder K. By this point the shine was definitely off, and as good as Smith and Jones are, they really didn’t seem to give a shit anymore.
Calls for another sequel were virtually non-existent, but the franchise had just enough juice left for another run to be considered worthwhile. With Smith and Jones unwilling, unavailable, or just because the response to MIB 3 was so disappointing, the studio opted for a soft reboot that would expand the franchise to an international stage and be called… Men in Black International.
The Soft Reboot
In 1996, Molly Wright meets an alien, and sees her parents neuralised by the MIB. Twenty years later, Agents H (Hemsworth) and High T (Neeson) face an attempted invasion by an alien force called the Hive at the gateway to (Tomorrowland) at the top of the Eiffel Tower. Three years after that, Molly (Thompson), having failed to get the FBI or the CIA to recruit her to ‘the department that deals with up there,’ finally manages to track down the MIB in New York, where Agent O (other Thompson) recruits her as a probationary agent with the designation ‘M’.
Directed by Chris Renauld Starring Patton Oswalt, Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate, Tiffany Haddish, Lake Bell, Nick Kroll, Dana Carvey, Ellie Kemper, Chris Renaud, Hannibal Buress, Bobby Moynihan and Harrison Ford
Max (Oswalt) and Duke (Stonestreet) find their lives changed forever when their owner Katie (Kemper) marries and has a baby, Liam. Duke takes the changes in his stride, but Max becomes consumed by the fear of Liam getting hurt, so the family take a ride to visit relatives on a farm. Max leaves his beloved toy, Busy Bee, with Gidget (Slate), who manages to lose it in a cat lady’s apartment. Meanwhile, Daisy (Haddish) comes to Snowball (Hart) for help rescuing a white tiger from brutal circus owner Sergei (Kroll) and his pack of wolves.
Directed by Guy Ritchie Starring Mena Massoud, Will Smith, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad and Billy Magnussen
Come on. Do you guys really need a synopsis of this plot? It’s Aladdin! Ignoring the fact that it’s one of the classics of the Disney Renaissance (now remade in live action as part of their current binge on their back catalogue) it’s also a staple of British pantomime since about…well…forever. You know the story.
Directed by Chad Stahelski Starring Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Laurence Fishburne, Mark Dacascos, Asia Kate Dillon, Lance Reddick, Anjelica Huston and Ian McShane
Following the events of John Wick and John Wick: Chapter 2, John Wick a) is locked out of the sanctuary of the Continental hotels, b) hunted by every assassin in the world and c) a pair of words that have been used to the point that they have no meaning anymore. With time running out, he goes to the Director (Huston), a Belarusan Romani matriarch, to arrange passage to find Sofia (Berry) in Casablanca, so that she can take him to her boss (Jerome Flynn) and arrange a meeting with the Elder, ‘the man who sits above the table’ (Saïd Taghmaoui), to plead for his life.
Directed by Neil Marshall Starring David Harbour, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Sasha Lane, Daniel Dae Kim and Thomas Hayden Church
In the European dark ages, a war between humanity – represented by Arthur and Merlin – and the supernatural – led by the ‘Blood Queen’ Viviane Nimue (Jovovich) – ends with the latter’s dismemberment and burial in scattered locations, as explained in a narration almost identical to the one from the New Year’s Doctor Who episode, but with more swearing. Centuries later, monster and monster-puncher Hellboy (Harbour) is sent to rescue a fellow agent of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defence, only to find him turned into a vampire and gasping out final words about ‘the end.’
As with my Infinity War review, I’m going to go spoiler free on this one, since it’s just such a consequential thing. I mean, this is the conclusion – however long the MCU continues, what comes after this is a new chapter, even a new story – of an eleven year, ongoing movie franchise. It’s big, and spoiling it would be a major dick move.