Tag Archives: Movie Review

Frozen II

I don’t think Frozen II is going to get sing-along screenings, but I’m okay with that. To my mind, if there’s a weakness¹ with Frozen, it’s that one of the songs was so iconic, so memorable, and so infectious it unfairly raised the bar on the rest of the franchise.

Reset that bar, and Frozen II stands up just fine. The music perfectly suits the story, and the story is complex enough to give people (including parents and their children) interesting and important things to talk about after the show is over. Oh, and Olaf’s recap of the first film calls to mind Michael Peña’s recaps in Ant Man, demonstrating that there’s more than one way to entertainingly and unreliably re-narrate.

Taken together, I think the Frozen films suffer from a worldbuilding problem: specifically, the first film was written without the sequel in mind, and the worldbuilding that made the second film so very interesting raises the “wouldn’t someone have mentioned that?” question with regard to the first film.

Put another way, they created a fascinating setting, and it’s so immersive I want it to hold up like a proper epic fantasy rather than than a couple of animated musicals.

Worldbuilding notwithstanding, Frozen II clears my Threshold of Awesome. I’m “I remember every Peter Cetera² music video” years old, and Kristoff’s musical number alone was enough to lift the film over the bar for me.

¹ There’s more than one weakness, but this review isn’t about the first film.
² Cetera was the bassist and lead singer for Chicago in the 80’s, and did well as a solo act. Kristoff’s number sounded like a callback to Cetera’s entire catalog of ballads, and I loved it.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

NOTE: This review is as spoiler-free as I can make it. I’ve included no plot points beyond the most basic ones, like “this is a Star War” and “it has a third act.”

I saw Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in IMAX 3D. The show ended less than an hour ago, and I’m currently nursing¹ a headache while revisiting the logic behind my decision.

Mostly it was about timing. The 3:20pm show was the most convenient for me. But let’s face it… this film promised me lots of big landscapes, and starscapes, and sith-capes, so I figured that a screen which played those to their fullest effect would ensure that even if I didn’t like the story I’d be able to enjoy the visuals.

I enjoyed them both!

But to my surprise, my biggest complaint, the one thing keeping this final Skywalker-infused installment of the Star Wars saga from clearing my Threshold of Awesome, was the editing.

Well… not the technical bits of the editing so much as the way the editing was used to influence the pacing. The first half (at least) of the film raced from scene to scene, switching from thread to thread, without giving me time to process. Lots of scenes, not enough sequels.

TERMINOLOGY BREAK: “Scene/Sequel” format was described sixty years ago by Dwight Swain². In his terminology, “scene” is a unit of conflict, and “sequel” is linking material in which the reader (or viewer) has time to process the previous scene, and is made ready for the next one. “Scene” might be a car chase. “Sequel” would be sitting on the back bumper of the ambulance talking about what happened, perhaps while watching one of the cars burn in the background.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker kept changing scenes on me before I was done thinking about them. We’d jump from location to location so quickly I began to wonder if some poor editor wasn’t told to shave 20 minutes off the film by chopping 20 seconds from the end of sixty consecutive scenes.

It was exhausting.

Fortunately, the final act of the film seemed to be paced in a more viewer-friendly way. It completely changed the flavor of the film for me. At the halfway point I was worried that I was going to exit the theater asking myself “what even WAS that?”, but by the third act I was no longer worried. It was a Star War, and it was turning out to be a pretty good one³.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker does not clear my Threshold of Awesome, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. I look forward to seeing it again at home, where I can pause the show for twenty seconds about sixty times.

¹ 500mg acetaminophen, 120mg caffeine
² In Techniques of the Selling Writer, by (you guessed it!) Dwight V. Swain
³ Pretty good, but nowhere near my favorite. My favorite Star War is The Mandalorian, for which I shall soon be composing a review…

Knives Out

I’m late to the party on this one, I know. Here’s a short summary: Knives Out is the most fun I’ve had at a murder mystery in recent memory, and I spent several minutes combing my memory for contenders.

Sandra and I saw it together, and were both quite pleased at our selection of date-night films. Knives Out clears my Threshold of Awesome, and I think it may end up as one of those “comfort food” films I must own on Blu-Ray for watching again and again and again.

Terminator: Dark Fate

Hey! I finally got back out and saw a movie!

Nothing screams “I am not a real movie reviewer” quite like me not seeing movies. But some of you seem to like knowing what I think about the latest cinematic releases, and I’ve been letting you down. There just hasn’t been time.

There wasn’t time today, but I went and saw Terminator: Dark Fate anyway, and I have no regrets. It’s a perfect Terminator film, and while none of the reveals were surprising, none of them needed to be.  Linda Hamilton, Natalia Reyes, and Arnold Schwarzenegger were perfect, and Mackenzie Davis¹ absolutely crushed it as the augmented soldier sent back in time to stop Gabriel Luna’s “Rev 9” Terminator. Luna was terrifying, and sure, he had help from the SFX department, but his robosociopath was easily on par with Robert Patrick’s, back when the franchise introduced us to liquid metal.

The film brought to mind an entire category of questions which are getting asked a lot lately:  what does the rise of the serialized franchise mean to traditional cinema? What do direct-to-streaming blockbusters mean for TV? What will all these streaming services do to my VHS² collection?

I don’t have any answers, but I do have a response. See, I remember seeing Star Wars in 1977, and thinking it would be AMAZING to have NINE WHOLE MOVIES telling a story, but I couldn’t possibly wait 27 years for the big finish. 10-year-old me would be pretty disappointed to learn that the central Star Wars saga would take more than 40 years to reach Episode IX, but that kid would shake off the funk when told that I’d get a 3-movie Lord of the Rings³, a 23-movie superhero epic which got told, start-to-finish⁴, in just 11 years, and that the nerdy, weird things I loved were appearing on so many different kinds of screens I wouldn’t be able to watch them all.

The Terminator films are not my favorite film franchise, but they’re pretty dang cool. They’re not be-all, end-all movies, but this latest one crossed my Threshold of Awesome. I’m pretty happy to have lived long enough to enjoy this latest era of cinematic output, and I look forward to enjoying as much of what comes next as I can make time for.

¹ Mackenzie Davis played my favorite character in The Martian. She was the one who figured out that Mark Watney was still alive. It was a small part⁵, but her performance still makes me tear up a little. 
² Ha-ha I kid. I live in the future. I need a way to rip my entire blu-ray collection onto my FitBit.
³ I read LoTR in 5th grade. If any single road can be given credit for leading me out of The Shire it was that one, which my Dad put my feet upon by handing me a book. 
⁴ I know, I know, the MCU hasn’t actually wrapped, but Endgame was a good enough ending that I’d be willing to let it end there. 
⁵ The old saw about “there are no small parts” does a disservice to those scenes where an actor must carry the entire weight of the story for their few moments on screen, and where most it has to be carried without using words. Actors are amazing.