Frozen II

It isn’t a surprise that such a huge hit as “Frozen” would spawn a sequel. This time Elsa and Anna must save their kingdom by finding the origins of the former’s powers. They discover how their parents met and how their ancestors didn’t always play fairly. While I believe “Frozen II” will be another success, this sequel seemed predictable and suspends reality to advance the plot. You can feel the musical numbers coming on and Josh Graf’s Olaf the snowman was annoying. The music is O.K., trying for another hit like “Let It Go”, but none of the songs comes close. The kids will love it and probably want to see it a few times. I wasn’t overly impressed.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is not just about Fred Rogers. It’s the story of a magazine writer who is assigned to write an article on the star of “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood”, initially believing it will just be a fluff piece. Instead, getting to know Rogers changes his life, helping him to get over his anger, appreciate his wife and child and become a better writer. The lead character is played by Matthew Rhys of television’s “The Americans” and Mr Rogers is portrayed by Tom Hanks in his best performance in years. The character could have come off as corny, but Hanks makes him a genuine, sweet man. If you saw the documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” last year, this film is a great follow-up. It’s a genuine fell good movie that will lift your spirits.

21 Bridges

Chadwick Boseman turns in his Black Panther uniform for that of a New York City detective in “21 Bridges”. The film starts out with a cocaine heist gone wrong. The heist is interrupted by four policemen and they blast their way out. A total of eight officers are killed by two thieves. The 21 bridges refers to the number of bridges connecting Manhattan with the outside. They need to be shut down so the killers cannot leave. The rest of the movie shows the chase and the realization that the thieves stumbled on a much bigger crime. This is a taut thriller with a lot of twists and a huge body count. It will keep you on the edge of your seat. Boseman is good as the detective. J.T. Simmons is good, as usual, as the head of the precinct that loses so many men. Worth seeing if you like tight police dramas.

The Irishman

Martin Scorsese’s latest film, “The Irishman” is a great 2 1/2 hour movie. It’s too bad that it runs for 3 1/2 hours. Like a number of writer/producer/directors no one edited out unnecessary scenes. The story is fascinating, telling the background of Jimmy Hoffa’s body guard and his connections to the mob. Robert DeNiro gives another compelling performance as the title character. The technology that makes him look younger is seamless. It’s good to see Joe Pesci back on the screen as DeNiro’s mentor from the mob. He gives a steady, sometimes understated performance. But the real standout is Al Pacino, who for the first time in a long while, doesn’t totally over act in the roll of Jimmy Hoffa. As is usual for a Scorcese film, it is beautifully filmed and well acted. It’s just way too long. If the production wasn’t so professional this would make a good two or three part miniseries.

Harriet

“Harriet’ is the story of Harriet Tubman, one of the conductors of the Underground Railroad. We learn how she escaped slavery, traveled, over 100 miles to freedom and then went back time and time again, first to save family and then others. She was a badass. The film is a little slow at times, especially when the story is being set up. Harriet’s relationship with her young master is creepy, almost bordering on sexual. As with most films depicting slavery it is sometimes not easy to watch, especially when the bigotry and cruelty is portrayed. Cynthia Erivo, a British actress, plays Harriet in a star-making performance. She portrays Tubman as stoic and focused. An interesting history lesson that should be mandatory watching for students studying the Civil War.

Last Christmas

I figured that “Last Christmas” was going to be one of those typical Christmas romantic comedies, the kind with attractive leads meeting cute and falling in love. You know what I mean, a Hallmark of Lifetime movie, but with better production values. The female lead is Emila Clarke, from “Game of Thrones”, and she is somewhat of a train wreck of a person. She’s from an immigrant family from Croatia (Emma Thompson with a thick accent), semi-homeless in London and has a nowhere job in a Christmas ornament shop run by an Asian dragon lady. She also recently had very serious health issues. Out of the blue, this handsome stranger appears and wins her over. He helps her find her way in life, because she was pretty much drifting. The difference between this movie and other Christmas themed films is that it has a major “Sixth Sense” twist and I did not see it coming. The film itself has giant reality holes, like how does the ornament store stay in business year round and why does the lead character wear an elf costume most of the time? But I really enjoyed this film. It ends on a happy/sad/hopeful note. The two leads, Clarke and Henry Golding from “Crazy Rich Asians” have a lot of chemistry. A nice holiday diversion.

Jo Jo Rabbit

I have been reading a lot about “Jo Jo Rabbit” and its audacious plot, the type that you’ll either love or hate. It won awards at film festivals, while some audience members walked out. Jo Jo is a ten year old Nazi youth, who has an imaginary friend, Adolph Hitler. The writer and director, Taika Waititi, plays the dictator as buffoonish and simple minded and I must admit, he is very funny. Roman Griffin Davis, a newcomer, is Jo Jo and he is outstanding, believable and sympathetic while spouting Nazi rhetoric. The film turns a Hitler Youth Camp into a series of funny and ridiculous episodes. Jo Jo’s mother is played by Scarlett Johansson giving a great performance. Sam Rockwell is a clownish Nazi officer, sympathetic to Jo Jo. This film is not be for everyone. Some people may find its attempt at humor offensive. If you are not offended it is a crazy story with a lot of humor and some pathos. I liked it a lot.