‘Frozen II’ expands, doesn’t improve franchise

Images courtesy Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

3/10 I never made time for Frozen in November 2013. It’d come a bit out of nowhere, and I sort of pretended it hadn’t had the success that it had. Glancing over it on Disney+ before its long-awaited sequel six years later, I’m struck by how poorly integrated the animation is and how strangely the whole thing is structured – the infamous “Let it Go” number, which seems like a big, triumphant second-act closer, comes 35 minutes into the movie and feels like the end of an entirely different story.

The media phenomenon is much bigger and much better than the core movie, which isn’t a surprising or a necessarily bad thing, but now they’ve finally got around to a sequel, and whether or not the movie is any good is at issue again. It’s not.

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‘The Good Liar’ brings all-world stars together and gives them nothing to do

Images courtesy Warner Bros.

1/10 The Good Liar is exhibit A for how poor control of information can utterly ruin a movie.

London, 2009- con artist Roy Courtnay (Ian McKellen) has found his final mark, Betty McLeish (Helen Mirren), whom he has approached on an online dating service. But not all is as it seems. All will seem to be as it seems for the vast majority of the runtime, but then, all will no longer be as it had seemed before.

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‘Charlie’s Angels’ poorly made, poorly sold

Poorly composited promotional material like this is what doomed Charlie’s Angels. Everything’s there — dresses, guns, pretty ladies — but even a layman can tell that not everything is really there. And what’s the deal with that triangle thing? Images courtesy Sony Pictures Releasing.

3/10 Charlie’s Angels was immediately an interesting idea, taking old sexploitation from the ‘70s and repurposing it as a movie about, by and for women. This is readily apparent in the marketing, which doesn’t seem to be aimed at moviegoers at all – it looks like a commercial for a feature-length commercial, emphasizing fashion, feminine confidence and power, dancing and music from fluffy pop artists who are nowhere near as popular with men. Then writer/director/producer/star Elizabeth Banks put her foot in her mouth over it, and the experiment’s no fun anymore.

In Charlie’s Angels, engineer Elena Houghlin (Naomi Scott) is working on Calisto, a magical icosahedron that can provide renewable energy, but also sometimes turns itself into a bomb. When her company tries to go to market before the product is safe, she turns to the authorities – in this case, the Townsend Agency, an international collective of women spies. Houghlin is joined by angels Sabina Wilson (Kristen Stewart) and Jane Kano (Ella Balinska) and a Bosley (Banks) to stop Calisto from going public.

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‘Ford v Ferrari’ less the true story, more the story you want to be true

It’s a little thing, but it was great to hear that 20th Century Fox fanfare again, possibly for the last time. Images courtesy 20th Century Fox.

7/10 There’s a clear intent behind Ford v Ferrari that’s successfully born out. The intent to evoke the type of movie you’d find channel surfing on a Sunday afternoon, its 152-minute runtime expanded to fill a three or four hour window, left on in the background while you stare without seeing and quietly dread the next morning.

It’s that type of movie, and it’s made for the type of person who thinks that’s still a normal way to consume movies.

Ford v Ferrari, titled Le Mans ’66 for international release, goes through a mostly fictionalized version of the Ford Motor Company’s dramatic entry onto the international racing scene, first by attempting to buy Ferrari in 1963, then by beating them at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s oldest and most prestigious endurance race. To do this, Ford hires car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), one of only three Americans to win the race at the time, who was forced into early retirement because of a heart condition, and he brings in his chief partner, Ken Miles (Christian Bale). Known for his temper and hatred of top-down organization, Miles has a rocky relationship with the bureaucrats at Ford. Continue reading

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‘Jojo Rabbit’ is good for the first half hour, then gets sad

There’s a running gag where characters will express their enthusiasm for Nazism by forming a swastika with their bodies, like Taika Waititi’s imaginary Hitler does here. Image courtesy Fox Searchlight Pictures.

4/10 At its outset, Jojo Rabbit is everything it’s promised to be, sort of like the most twisted Wes Anderson movie ever made. With cheerful colors, square compositions and sharply angled camera moves, the film opens on a Hitler Youth weekend camp, where young Aryans get to experience some of the things that the mighty Wehrmacht go through every day. The film skewers Nazism and white supremacy in general by making a genuine attempt to package and sell its ugliest and most violent realities as delightful and kid-friendly.

That’s the first half hour or so, and then the laughs kind of stop.

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