Review: Frozen II (aka Frozen 2)

Oh c’mon, did you really expect Frozen 2 to be as good – or even better – than its predecessor, the highest-grossing animated film of all time in worldwide box office? Did you really expect, or even want, another “Let It Go”? If so, you’re in for a bit of a letdown with this perfectly safe and pleasing sequel to the 2013 mega-hit that introduced us to royal sisters Elsa and Anna and the picturesque, Norwegian-esque Kingdom of Arandelle.

Review: Synonyms

Based on the real-life experiences of writer-director Nadav Lapid (The Kindergarten Teacher), Synonyms is the strange story of a young Israeli man named Yoav (Tom Mercier) who comes to Paris to escape his Israeliness and meets French couple Emile and Caroline who become his best friends and more. You’re never really sure who he is and what he wants, but you’re along for the ride as he walks the streets of Paris memorizing his French vocabulary (particularly synonyms), dancing in his tiny apartment and in streets and clubs, and doing everything he can to shed his former skin.

Review: Waves

Mainstream Chick and I both watched this one at the Middleburg Film Festival. It’s a family melodrama with a capital “F.” At its center is the African-American Williams family, whose patriarch is a driven man who made something of himself and expects nothing less from his son, pushing him to the breaking point. It’s an emotional roller coaster of a film that shocks and aches and takes a deep dive into the meaning of love and family. It’s not a perfect film, but it’s definitely worth seeing for its insistent style and excellent performances.

Review: The Report

We Chicks both saw The Report at the Middleburg Film Festival last month. We were both fans of this political thriller that should be seen widely, and agreed that its audience may be limited by the subject matter. And that’s unfortunate, because it’s an important story, extremely well done, that could very well change hearts and minds about a very dark moment in our country’s all too recent past.

Review: Charlie’s Angels

The new Charlie’s Angels movie is not quite a reboot. Or a sequel. Or even a reimagining of the classic franchise. It’s more of a continuation, expansion and rebranding of the female-driven crime drama that launched a thousand magazine covers and at least one iconic hairstyle when the detective series premiered in 1976 with Jill Munroe (Farrah Fawcett), Sabrina Duncan (Kate Jackson) and Kelly Garrett (Jaclyn Smith) employing a combination of beauty, brains, bikinis and athletic prowess to chase down bad guys. Angels came and went over the course of the series, which lasted five seasons and later spawned two harmless yet forgettable big-screen adaptations, Charlie’s Angels (2000) and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003) featuring Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu, and directed by McG.

Charlie’s Angels (2019) pays homage to all that came before it, while modernizing and expanding the brand, and introducing a new group of angels for a new generation. It doesn’t suck; but no need to rush out and see it.

Review: Ford v Ferrari

Ford v Ferrari has all the key ingredients for an awards-season crowd-pleaser: two great actors (Matt Damon and Christian Bale) sharing top billing, a true story that many folks are probably not aware of, and an adrenaline rush that carries the film to the finish line. It’s a classic sports underdog story about two racing legends, Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles, who helped the Ford Motor Company build and race a car that could hold its own against Italian racing icon Enzo Ferrari’s team at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans Race in France. More importantly, it’s about the friendship between the two men, so you don’t have to be a motorsports fan to get on board.

Review: Last Christmas

Romantic comedies and dramas are few and far between these days, so when a decent one does come along, it’s generally worth celebrating, even if it’s just so-so. Such is the case with Last Christmas. Will it become an instant Christmas classic, ala Love Actually, Elf, or It’s a Wonderful Life? Extremely doubtful. Will it satisfy a minor craving for holiday heartache and cheer, with a splash of meet-cute? Absolutely. It’s a step above Hallmark and Lifetime (and straight-to-Netflix) fare, though not a giant leap.

In case you had any doubt, it’s true: Last Christmas the movie was “inspired by” Last Christmas the song– a classic and catchy George Michael/Wham! ballad that has little to do with Christmas, and everything to do with busted relationships. (EARWORM ALERT!)

Quickie Review: Motherless Brooklyn

Motherless Brooklyn is the type of film that evokes a general sense of post-viewing contentment, and a lingering feeling that it could have been more. Perhaps with a bit more drama, or a bit more emotional pull, it could have escaped the somewhat bland “yeah, it was good” category, i.e. perfectly fine for streaming or watching on an airplane or killing time if Terminator films are not your speed. Motherless Brooklyn operates at a slow, stylized pace. The story is interesting and relevant. The actors are all very good, and the noir production design and cinematography casually and convincingly immerses the viewer in 1950s New York. Motherless Brooklyn is a crime drama with a gumshoe aesthetic and a unique twist. The main character Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton, Birdman) is a private investigator with Tourette’s Syndrome, a disorder involving the nervous system that causes involuntary tics, sounds and movements. His condition results in some awkward situations as Lionel attempts to solve the murder of his boss, mentor and only friend Frank Minna (Bruce Willis).

Review: Terminator: Dark Fate

True confessions time. I’m more than a little late to the Terminator game. Until last week, my only exposure to the decades-old franchise revolved around random clips featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a menacing looking robot dude and pop-culture references to his signature line, “I’ll be back.”

Since I never ventured there to begin with, I couldn’t really go back. Or could I?

Seemed fitting to try, given the brand’s own penchant for messing with time. So thanks to Amazon Prime (free streaming of 1984’s The Terminator) and iTunes ($3.99 rental of 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day), I got up to speed pretty quick, and got the baseline I truly needed for Terminator: Dark Fate.

Review: Harriet

Harriet Tubman was an extraordinary woman and she deserves to have her story told (and to be on the $20 bill.) She was a tiny, illiterate slave, but she was also fearless and smart. She escaped her bondage, but returned into hostile territory to bring hundreds more people to freedom as a key figure in the Underground Railroad. And this new film Harriet touches all the high points of her heroic tale. But despite a great cast doing their best, the film never really rises to the level her amazing story deserves.