Review: “Frozen 2”

Attention: This review is spoiler-free.

Where did Elsa get her powers from? And what were Anna and Elsa’s parents really doing when their ship went down? These pivotal questions lie at the heart of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ supremely entertaining and beautiful sequel Frozen 2.

The film basically picks up where the first film (and the myriad of Frozen-themed short films) left off. Princess Anna (again voiced by Kristen Bell) and her big sister Queen Elsa (again voiced by the dreamy Idina Menzel) are best buddies once more and are peacefully ruling the kingdom of Arendelle. Anna is still with her boyfriend Kristoff (again voiced by Jonathan Groff) and they continue to be accompanied by Kristoff’s reindeer Sven and Elsa’s magical creation Olaf the snowman (again voiced by Josh Gad).

We’re treated to a flashback when Anna and Elsa are little girls and where we learn more about their parents, King Agnarr (voiced by Alfred Molina) and Queen Iduna (voiced by Evan Rachel Wood). Their parents tell the girls a story about an Enchanted Forest and other places outside of Arendelle when some important events took place that directly affected their family.

Queen Iduna (Evan Rachel Wood) sings a lullaby to young Anna and Elsa in FROZEN 2. (©️ Disney)

Back in present day, Elsa keeps hearing voices. She is troubled to know if she should try to figure out what they are saying to her or if she should just ignore them. Of course, being the smart and responsible queen that she is, Elsa heeds the mysterious call and sets the film’s adventure into motion. With all of the gang in tow, Elsa ventures off “into the unknown” (which is also a name of one of the many terrific new songs from the film) to try to find out what these voices are attempting to tell her.

When they find the Enchanted Forest, they meet the indigenous Northuldar people who have a long history with the Arendellians and who have a tradition of caring for the environment (and maybe have a little magic to throw into the mix, too). And while the people seem prosperous and happy, there is (literally) a cloud hanging over them and a major mystery that needs to be solved. Can Anna and Elsa solve the puzzle? Do the Northuldar hold any answers to where Elsa gets her power and to what happened to her parents? You’ll have to see the movie to find out.

Honeymaren (Rachel Matthews), Ryder (Jason Ritter) and Yelana (Martha Plimpton) are all part of the Northuldra people, who might hold the answers to some important questions in FROZEN 2. (©️ Disney)

I found this film utterly delightful. The trademark high quality animation done by the masters at Walt Disney Animation Studios is again absolutely stunning and is such a pleasure to watch. Co-directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck are back along with most of the creative team from the first film and they’ve infused this film with love, craft, and care. The new songs written by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, the same writing team as the first Frozen film and the Broadway musical, are again catchy and wonderful and help propel the story forward.

Ultimately, Frozen 2 serves as a terrific complement to its predecessor. Questions are answered, rights are wronged (including giving Jonathan Groff a full song to sing–and it’s a doozy), and the story all comes together in a very satisfactory way (at least for this viewer). Sisterly love once more reigns supreme along with the encouragement to all to be brave, loving, and to go into our own unknowns, whatever and wherever they may be.

Frozen 2 is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association for “action/peril and some thematic elements.”

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Sisters rule in FROZEN 2. (©️ Disney)

All images ©️ Disney

Review: “Ford v Ferrari”

It’s the Italians vs. the Americans and the Americans (and a Brit) vs. each other in Ford v Ferrari, a fascinating and riveting biopic of how the Ford Motor Company took on Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race in 1966.

The true story is the stuff of legend. Ford, after a failed (and humiliating) attempt to buy Ferrari in the mid-1960s, decided to take them down on their own turf by building a race car to compete in the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans race held annually in Le Mans, France. Ferrari had long dominated the European racing scene, so it was rather audacious that an American car company would come in and try to compete.

The film is mostly focused on the relationship between team manager Carroll Shelby, played by Matt Damon, and driver Ken Miles, played by Christian Bale. The Ford management team hired maverick race car driver and renowned sports car designer Carroll Shelby to lead the racing team. Shelby also had the distinct accomplishment of winning at Le Mans in 1959, driving for British manufacturer Aston Martin.

Matt Damon as Carroll Shelby in FORD V FERRARI. (©️ 20th Century Fox)

For the driving team, Shelby was an advocate for English sports car engineer and driver Ken Miles. Miles, who had a reputation of being “difficult,” also had the skills to get the job done better than anyone, at least in the eyes of Carroll Shelby. Shelby’s and Miles’ rocky relationship gets explored in the film as well as the constant challenges the two of them faced dealing with the brass at the Ford Motor Company who were unconvinced that the brash Miles was a good fit for the team, not to mention the Ford image and brand.

Christian Bale plays Ken Miles in FORD V FERRARI. (©️ 20th Century Fox)

The real highlight of Ford v Ferrari (which takes up most of the film’s third act; although the entire film is terrific) is the dramatization of the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race where Ford and Ferrari battle it out for dominance on the race track. It’s also where the Ford management team and Carroll Shelby continue to battle it out in the pits for how to manage the car and its drivers, and where Ken Miles has to make some pretty important decisions while “going like hell” to win the race.

Director James Mangold and his team are to be commended for creating one of the best automobile racing movies ever. The cinematography, editing, and sound are outstanding. And both Matt Damon and Christian Bale turn in Oscar-worthy performances as two friends who have to overcome a serious amount of obstacles to pull off one of the craziest and boldest racing victories ever.

Ford v Ferrari is pure adrenaline from start to finish. I can’t recommend this film highly entertaining film highly enough.

Ford v Ferrari is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association for “some language and peril.”

My score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

And see this film in IMAX if at all possible. The picture and sound in my screening were tremendous.

(©️ IMAX, 20th Century Fox)

Teaser Trailer and Poster for Pixar’s “Soul”

We’re pretty excited about this new teaser trailer and beautiful poster for Pixar Animation Studios’ upcoming film Soul.

Here’s the poster.

©️ Disney/Pixar

We got a bit of a sneak peek of Soul at the 2019 D23 Expo last summer and it looks innovative, introspective, entertaining, and just overall terrific. Can’t wait to see this film.

Soul opens in theaters on June 19, 2020.

Final Trailer for “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”

It’s hard to believe, but the final trailer was finally released today for the highly anticipated conclusion to the episodic Skywalker saga Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (aka Episode IX).

Here’s the trailer:

Here’s the final poster.

And I’m not sure if I ever posted this awesome poster released at the 2019 D23 Expo…love this.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens in theaters on December 20.

All images ©️ Lucasfilm

Cool Posters for “Terminator: Dark Fate”

Yes, we’re really getting another Terminator movie…it’s the sixth Terminator feature film and it’s called Terminator: Dark Fate.

I think the original film The Terminator (1984) is one of the greatest sci-fi films ever, but I haven’t liked a Terminator movie since Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). The films have been a mess as well as showing a complete disregard for any sort of comprehensible interrelationship with the other films in the series (although my friend Yacov makes a compelling argument for the films’ lack of continuity in a cool video essay that you should definitely watch).

Now, we’re getting yet another film, although this one has the blessing of James Cameron, the director of the first two Terminator films, and marks the return of actress Linda Hamilton to the series. So, let’s hope for the best!

Terminator: Dark Fate opens in theaters on November 1.

Check out these cool posters from the talented folks at Poster Posse.

And check out this poster done exclusively for Dolby Cinema.

All images ©️ Paramount Pictures

October 17, 2019 Podcast

Thanks for tuning in to this week’s podcast!

New in Theaters

Reviews

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (I’ve also done a written review of the film on the blog.)

Classic Cinema Corner

I have been loving the TCM Essentials project this year! Watching 52 classic movies, one a week as listed in the great book from TCM (or almost one film a week…I’ll get there by the end of the year). Here’s a link to my original blog post and here’s where you can get the book.

This week, I discuss my recent viewings of Roman Holiday (Paramount, 1953), Seven Samurai (Toho Studios, 1954), and On the Waterfront (Columbia, 1954)–all on the TCM Essentials list in the book.

Listen to the podcast below or subscribe to the podcast on Apple iTunes. Have fun at the movies this week and thanks again for your support.

©️Stanford Clark

Review: “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil”

Angelina Jolie is back as the misunderstood baddie with horns, wings, and high cheekbones in the fantasy adventure Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.

In this sequel to the 2014 original (which itself is a revisionist retelling of sorts of Disney’s 1959 animated motion picture classic Sleeping Beauty), Princess Aurora (played again by Elle Fanning) has taken over the ruling of the magical creatures that inhabit the moors while, due to bad word of mouth, her godmother Maleficent (Jolie) has removed herself and hides in a cliff watching from afar.

When Aurora receives a wedding proposal from her true love from a neighboring kingdom Prince Phillip (played in this film by Harris Dickinson), Aurora’s hope is that this will be a peaceful, happy, and safe union for all under her stewardship. However, Phillip’s mother Queen Ingrith (played by Michelle Pfeiffer) has something else more selfish and sinister in mind.

Michelle Pfeiffer pays Queen Ingrith in MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL

When Maleficent tries to intervene, she is, yet again, misunderstood, gravely injured (spoiler alert), and then saved by a dark horned fey named Conall (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor). Conall is the leader of a group of banished dark fey (horned and winged fairies like Maleficent) who live in large caves underground to protect themselves from humans while still holding on to the hope for a world where humans and fairies can peacefully co-exist.

What will Maleficent do? Will she stay underground with her new peeps? Will she try to rescue her goddaughter from her crazy soon-to-be mother-in-law? Will she continue just to sit there and look tormented yet pretty (like she does for 90% of the picture)? Is she truly the “mistress of evil”? So many questions…

Actually, this was one of the strangest films I’ve seen all year. While I was just expecting a boring rehash of the 2014 original film, instead what director Joachim Rønning and his team have created is an incredibly stylish and ambitious production that is far superior to its original (which isn’t saying much) and that has a tremendous amount of artistry, beauty, and panache.

The film is really wonderful to look at. The environments created by the multitude of CGI artists who worked on them truly feel like a unique fantasy world, a place that we’ve never seen and one that we definitely want to spend time in and explore. The myriad of magical creatures who live on the moor are creative and fun rather than annoying (although the ridiculous three fairies from the original film unfortunately make it in to the sequel, but with much reduced screen time, mercifully). The costume designs and makeup are also stunning and while they might be enhanced with some CGI, everyone looks terrific which really adds again to the imaginative and lovely aesthetics of the film’s production.

While the film is named after her character, Maleficent, strangely, doesn’t really have much to say in the film which is really problematic for the filmgoer. Her main job is just to look, well, brooding and, again, misunderstood. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it actually was unfortunate that Maleficent didn’t have more to say because we never really understand her point of view or what she’s doing. And while her actions I guess speak louder than words, it still would have been nice to have some more exposition about what in the world was going on in that perpetually misunderstood mind of hers.

The film gets off to a strong and interesting (if not a bit wacky) start, but sadly, by the time the conflict all really comes to a head in the third act, this fantasy flick seems more like a Game of Thrones ripoff than anything else. While it’s pretty clear to know who to root for, the battle royale is still just a puzzling, muddled mess. Sadly, everything gets derailed and we’re left just to think of how beautiful the production design was and to wonder just who was this film made for in the first place.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association for “intense sequences of fantasy action/violence and brief scary images.”

My score: 2.5 out of 5 stars

As an added bonus, here are some cool posters for the film from the talented artists at Poster Posse.

Aracely Muñoz
Chris Christodoulou
Salvador Anguiano
Tracie Ching
Andy Fairhurst
AJ Frena
SG Posters
Jérémy Pailler
Mike Mahle

All images ©️ Disney

Japanese Posters for “Frozen 2”

Check out these great character posters made for Japan for Walt Disney Animation Studios’ upcoming feature Frozen 2.

All images ©️ Disney

Anna (and I have no idea what the rest of the poster says other than probably the Japanese translation of “Frozen 2”)
Elsa (or whatever her name is in Japanese)
Sven and Kristof
Olaf
Bruni

Frozen 2 opens in theaters on November 22 (same day as in Japan).

Poster and Trailer for Disney’s “Jungle Cruise”

Instead of an animated remake next summer, Disney is giving us a movie based on one of their theme park rides. Check out the new trailer and poster for Disney’s Jungle Cruise.

©️ Disney

While films based on Disney theme park attractions have been somewhat hit or miss (Eddie Murphy’s horrible Haunted Mansion movie and that weird Country Bears film come to mind, not to mention how the Pirates of the Caribbean films overstayed their welcome), this one looks like it could be a lot of fun. Let’s hope so!

Jungle Cruise opens in theaters July 24, 2020.