“Frozen 2″ Movie Review: Is It Worth Your Money??

Frozen2

Screenshot from Walt Disney Animation Studios

Rating: 4/5 Stars

I remember seeing “Frozen” for the first time when it first came to theaters. I knew next to nothing about it thanks to very few witnessed advertisements so I went in mostly blind and was very pleased to see how everything played out. It was a beautiful, wonderful, elegantly scored film that felt like a real return to Disney’s classic film quality levels. Imagine my surprise at how quickly the film evolved into a massive phenomenon and then, Disney taking a whopping 6-year gap before finally putting out the sequel. Needless to say, the hype surrounding “Frozen” was obscenely high and left a great deal to live up to for “Frozen 2” to match.

Our story takes us back to Arendelle where Elsa (Idina Menzel) enjoys a peaceful reign as queen until she starts hearing a strange voice calling her to the enchanted forest; outside of the kingdom. Desperate to find answers to the origins of her powers, Elsa ventures into the forest along with her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) and friends Kristoff (Jonathon Gruff) Olaf (Josh Gad) and Sven the reindeer. What the group discovers is a new side to the sister’s parents, the king, and queen, and how their ties to the magic world are far more complicated and dangerous than Ana or Elsa ever imagined.

Topping a juggernaut like the original “Frozen” is no easy task for any sequel, thankfully, “Frozen 2” doesn’t just try to merely copy its original formula and instead treats the film’s story just like it treats its characters: allowing them to age. “Frozen 2” has grown up in every aspect compared to its “sister” movie; everything from the themes, morals, drama, music, and conflicts have all escalated into much bigger and more mature elements that I don’t think anyone was expecting. Gone are the catchy, Disney pop-ish musical numbers that can be easily lip-synched on sing-along CD albums and are now deeper, more emotionally meaningful songs that resonate with personal growth and the changes that come with age. Even Olaf, the goofy lovable snowman, sings about how he hopes he will be wiser when he grows older.

This new approach certainly appeals to the older audience members and it helps that most of the story really focuses on the character’s core motivations and developments. This maybe Elsa’s journey but there are so many other pivotal moments and lives involved here, it feels like everyone’s invested in this and the dangers and environments they encounters measure up accordingly with each bigger moment. The new environment expands the world of “Frozen” with new creatures, new mythology, and lore and it’s gorgeously rendered with spellbindingly beautiful computer effects and graphics. The world has never looked so wondrous before.

Kristen Bell and Indina Menzel truly go above and beyond their emotional capacities. Their bond and ties are truly tested here, pushing them to the limits and still managing epic songs that elevate Bell and Menzel’s talents to new heights. Sadly though, the music never becomes memorable or catchy enough that you’d want to say buy the soundtrack and listen to it over and over again like the first film. The songs are beautiful and expertly scored but just doesn’t make it replay value, with the exception, of course, being Kristoff’s song; a hilarious 80’s power ballad tune that is hilarious to watch and even better to listen to. Its high time Kristoff got a real song this time around.

However, “Frozen 2” suffers from a few flaws; ones that are actually quite identical to the ones afflicting “Ralph Breaks the Internet.” Namely, “Frozen 2” delivers slim to zero new characters. The ones they do introduce are so paper thin and barely on screen, they feel more like cameos than proper roles. Another problem is nothing that new is brought to the table. Much like how “Ralph 2” just explored new levels of the same relationship we knew about before, “Frozen 2” gives us a few new neat tidbits about Elsa and her parents but it’s largely the same old story with just a few lessons about growing up. Kristoff’s relationship with Ana is one of the best new expanded storylines they’ve had but even that was handled fumblingly at times.

Overall, “Frozen 2” is a gorgeous, well-matured film that doesn’t try to be another kid’s movie and be something deeper and richer with heart and depth. The lack of new characters is disappointing and the rehashing of similar relationship problems/cues is unfortunate, but all in all, this is a beautiful movie that does take a few risks and tries something more adult-oriented and it works on many levels even if not all the way through every time.

“Countdown” Movie Review: Is It Worth Your Money??

Movie

Screenshot from Movie Coverage

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Movies, as well-intended or crafted as they can be, often rely on simple elements or gimmicks to rack in the audiences and those gimmicks come in all kinds of different styles: big-name actors, clever concepts, gore, special effects, brand recognition; etc. Horror movies have often relied on gimmicks to deliver a monster/ghost story or slasher flick that delivers something unique enough to make people want to see it. Having a movie about a killer phone app like “Countdown” sounds silly, absurd and pretty dumb just on face value alone. However, while this movie isn’t anything truly great it IS something new…it’s just that most people won’t believe it.

Quinn Harris (Elizabeth Lail) an aspiring nurse who meets a patient who informs her there is an app that supposedly tells you exactly how long you have left to live. Naturally, she doesn’t believe the app really work, Quinn’s patient dies and she learns the danger is real and her countdown time says she will die in 3 days. Now she must unravel the secret behind this deadly app, find out where it came from and most importantly, find out how to stop it before her time runs out and she meets her destined fate as another victim to this bizarre phone app.

This is one of the few instances where I come across a movie I know next to nothing about, and by that I mean I saw barely any trailers, clips or even advertisement whatsoever. I was taking a risk on a movie that sounded dead on arrival with such desperate attention-seeking story about a phone app that essentially kills you. However, the more I watched the movie the more I learned this wasn’t anything quite that hokey and that there was actual thought put into the movie’s story; such as establishing rules, mythology and how this app’s functions play out with the characters.

Unlike “The Ring” where everyone who watches a cursed videotape dies, “Countdown” doesn’t automatically give everyone who downloads it a short-lived life clock. Some people download it and say they will live another 40 years, others download it and it says they will die in 24 hours. There is a system and demonic lore to this concept, which is already light years more fleshed out than I expected this movie to ever be. The cast tries everything from exploring phone technicians and even demonic exorcists to free themselves of their rapidly approaching deaths and it provides ample and effective tension to go along with the bone-chilling scares that follow.

The demon figure itself is actually scary and even gave me a few frights here and there. Unfortunately, the cast doesn’t carry enough thought and background padding like the story received. Everyone in here plays dime-a-dozen roles, relying on tired old clichés about whiny siblings, inappropriate male figures and the same old backstory you’ve heard and seen done better a million times. “Countdown” works better as a mystery thriller than a thought-provoking perspective on fate, destiny and changing your future or even as a horror movie sometimes. You’re more interested in learning the ins and outs of this app’s origins and functions than you are the cast it’s terrorizing.

The cast is just too weak and generic. You don’t care who dies or who doesn’t because no one feels like a real person and no one is acting like they are a real person either. The buildup and payoff overall do serve a satisfying enough purpose even when the cast and the film’s flimsy attempt at humor fails at almost every chance it has. While the plot’s material leaves it wide open for sequels, I can’t for the life of me seeing the need to go see another one and feel all that could be said and done here was already over and done with.

Overall, “Countdown” has a bland cast with weakly written characters and average level acting. You don’t care or invest enough to be emotionally involved in their fates. The plot and the overall story behind the killer phone app is more interesting and thought out than expected and in the end, I feel that makes the movie decent enough to give a watch. It may sound dumb but “Countdown” has more brains behind it than I think most people give it credit for.

“Doctor Sleep” Movie Review: Is It Worth Your Money??

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Rating: 4/5 Stars

Of all of Stephen King’s adapted works, none was as impactful and iconic as Stanley Kubrik’s creative approach to “The Shining.” Though heavily different from King’s original source material, Kubrik’s inventive filmmaking style and Jack Nicholson’s unforgettable performance cemented the movie in cinematic history and still holds up to this day. The idea of a sequel (book or film form) sounds like an absurd and impossible task to accomplish, however, Mike Flanagan who had stellar success directing “Oculus,” “Ouija: Origin of Evil,” and Netflix’s “Haunting of Hill House” TV series; proves to be up to the task of adapting King’s spinoff/sequel to “The Shining” entitled “Doctor Sleep.”

Set decades after the horrific events of the Overlook hotel incident, Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) had suffered from alcoholism, depression and horrific nightmares of the ghosts that still haunt him (literally and figuratively). He travels around trying to find purpose in his life and finds a new talent using his “shining” powers helping dying patients in a hospital. He stumbles across a group of beings who siphon the shining off kids as “steam” in order to live forever. When a young girl (Kyliegh Curran) possesses the strongest shining Danny has ever sense, Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) leads the immortals after the girl and now Danny has to use his gifts to save her life and stop the evil before it takes more young lives.

Following Danny’s life, after “The Shining” is not only an interesting story approach, it’s also the most sensible considering how the original film ended. What’s surprisingly satisfying about “Doctor Sleep” is how it crafts its own story and fleshes out its own characters so well that even with the earmarks of “The Shining” being present during its 2 and a half hour running time; it never feels boring or like it’s relying too much on callbacks for its core material. Both Danny and Rose get equal amounts of screen time; alternating back and forth between the two and learning more and more about their lives, their beliefs and how they use their powers for themselves and towards others. Everyone gets a chance to shine (pun intended) and the world and story building feels stronger/better for it.

Ewan McGregor isn’t my first choice for playing an adult Danny Torrance but he clearly proves he was the BEST choice. McGregor beautifully displays the broken, aching misery that someone like Danny would naturally experience considering what happened to him. You feel for his struggle and applaud his noble acts to help others even while struggling to help himself; both of which are presented in raw, intense performances from McGregor throughout the film. Ferguson plays a delightfully charismatic and wicked villain as Rose the Hat. She truly feels like a real life King character brought to life with her mannerisms and twisted motivations. Her group serves as excellent villains and provides a variety of intense and terrifying challenges to our heroes.

The callbacks to “The Shining” mostly work, but at times they do fail to feel like a properly connected sequel should when the film makes the unfortunate mistake of re-creating key scenes from “The Shining” with different actors. Sometimes it’s not really noticeable like with the excellent casting of Carl Lumbly as Dick Hallorahn and Alex Essoe as Wendy Torrance, other times (like Jack Torrance essentially), it’s hard not to cringe a little at the poor imitation. I will say though the film’s climax brings the story full circle back to the Overlook Hotel in a sequence that is chilling, intense, horrific and satisfying on every possible level. I won’t say how everything plays out but I will say that whether you are a fan of the film or the book, this movie’s grand finale will please people all across the board.

Overall, aside from a few weak imitations of key “Shining” scenes, “Doctor Sleep” is a masterfully crafted successor that manages to stand on its own two legs; using its connections to the previous film as winks and clever nods rather than leaning on them like crutches. McGregor and Ferguson are perfectly portrayed, written and developed along with everyone else involved. This is a worthy continuation of King’s story and manages to be its own beast without leeching off the original’s coattails. It’s a lengthy sequel but one that definitely does the books and the film justice and of course, quality.