FROZEN 2

Cert U Stars 4 

Warm your heart with Disney’s magical animated sequel which surpasses the first for fun and adventure and is guaranteed to enchant a new generation of young female fans.

Sticking rigidly to the formula which made the first film a billion dollar success back in 2013, it sees key members of the original cast and crew return on an action-packed sleigh ride of sisterly solidarity, gorgeous animation, comedy sidekicks and yes, inspirational, uplifting and impossible to ignore or forget power ballads.

Queen Elsa and Princesss Anna are living peacefully in happy kingdom of Arendelle, but when Elsa is troubled by a mystery strange siren call only she can hear, the country is attacked by dark magical elemental forces.

So in order to save their kingdom the sisters take their loyal companions, Olaf the snowman, Kristoff and Sven the reindeer, into the mysterious enchanted northern forest which their parents had always warned them to stay away from.

Directed again by Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee in the style of musical theatre on ice, the animation and design are as great as you’d expect, with astonishing textures and attention to detail right down to the smallest stitch or snowflake.

All the major characters get their chance to sing, including the reindeer. They’re composed by double Oscar winning couple Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez.

As the headstrong, inquisitive and impetuous Elsa, Broadway legend Idina Menzel expressing her remarkable range and power in a full-throated performance, especially with the show-stopping and beautifully staged self-empowerment ballad “Show Yourself”.

Kristen Bell as loyal and brave Anna sings the haunting lullaby “All Is Found”, Jonathan Groff as the Dim well meaning Kristoff is given the 1980s style soft rock parody “Lost in the Woods”.

And squeaky voiced Josh Gad as Olaf the snowman gets his own joyous song about embracing change and not being afraid of growing up called “When I Am Older”.

And yes, the inescapable song “Let It Go” is given a mischievous and mercifully brief airing.

Olaf the snowman is once again the film’s most valuable player, a chilly chatterbox of innocence and humour who will have the little kids giggling in the aisles.

Plus he gets to deliver a very funny whistle-stop refresher of the first film for those of us fortunate not to have had to watch it on a loop for half a decade. Thank the lord for my having a son not a daughter.

Recognised it’s the little girls which made the first a global phenomenon are now teenagers with a different set of priorities, we’re given a romantic subplot involving the lovelorn Kristoff, showing how difficult and confusing courtship can be for the inexperienced.

Among the shipwrecks, missing parents, and long-standing unresolved conflicts, there are tiny cute dragons, ferocious water steeds, fearsome rock giants and a loveable herd of reindeer.

Elements of Brigadoon and The Lords of the Rings are added to the original inspiration of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Snow Queen, and underneath all that there’s the unmistakeable DNA of smash Broadway show, Wicked, in which Menzel also starred.

Messages of seizing the day, reaching one’s potential, love triumphing over danger and the importance of building bridges not walls are added to a story which touches on the darkness of colonialism.

But Disney recognise the need to give the audience what they want and always put the entertainment first, and by allowing the characters to grow they keep the story fresh they leave the door firmly open for another sequel.

 

 

 

 

THE REPORT

Cert 15 Stars 3

Torture, espionage and political dirty tricks give a sharp edge to this dry real life political docudrama which stars the ever busy Adam Driver.

Best known as the baddie Kylo Ren in Star Wars, he plays Dan Jones, an idealistic and impassioned senate staff member leading a US Justice Department investigation controversial CIA use of ‘enhanced interrogation’. i.e. torture, such as waterboarding.

Having obsessively spent five years investigating the CIA and and producing a report which has more pages than the bible, publication is bogged down by party politics and he finds himself accused of whistleblowing, a crime which could result in twenty years in prison.

Scenes of torture such as water boarding as necessarily nasty, and mix with traditional thriller elements such as furtive meetings in car parks.

However there are many more stuffy office scenes than action ones as the script indulges in a hand wringing debate as to what sort of country the US aspires to be.

 

LE MANS ’66

Cert 12A Stars 3

Burn rubber with Christian Bale and Matt Damon as they prevent this fleetingly thrilling motor racing epic from becoming an endurance.

The story is driven by Bale’s loopy performance as a maverick racing driver and war veteran, Ken Miles, and seeing the Batman star screaming ‘giddy up’ in a volatile Brummie accent is a major joy.

He teams up with Matt Damon’s Carroll Shelby, a car mechanic and a bit of a cowboy, but not the British sort.

They’re hired by car magnate Henry Ford II who’s determined to build a car capable of beating that produced by rival manufacturer Enzo Ferrari, in the French 24 hour motor race marathon, Le Mans.

It’s 1966 and being an American movie, you’d never know there was an international football tournament taking place in Europe that year.

Although the stereotypical Italians are the competition, the real villain is a duplicitous Ford executive who’s noticeably more camp than not just the drivers, but of Ken’s beer drinking wife.

Director James Mangold has made impressive box office crowd-pleases such as 2005’s Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line, and previously worked with Christian Bale in 2007’s excellent Western remake, 3:10 to Yuma.

It would have been far more interesting had Mangold succeeded in suggesting racing can be akin to a divine experience, and he could have renamed the film ‘Chariots of Fire on wheels’. But the nearest this comes to heavenly is in moving some drivers closer to god.

But beyond loss of life there’s nothing at stake except Ford corporate pride which isn’t something I’m invested in, and as soon as the gorgeous red Ferrari 330 sashayed onto the track I wanted the ‘wrong’ team to win.

Petrol heads may love this macho peeing contest, but in a year of Disney have live action remakes of classic animation, this feels very much like a retread of Pixar’s cartoon Car franchise.

MARRIAGE STORY

Cert 15 Stars 5

Scarlett Johansson puts herself in line for her first Oscar nomination with a terrifically mature performance in this sublime and gently devastating divorce drama.

Best known as Marvel superhero Black Widow, Johansson shows how great she can be when working from a powerful script, which is a compellingly precise dissection of an increasingly desperate situation full of blame, manipulation and extraordinary anger.

Alongside his strong performance in The Report which is also released in the UK this week, Adam Driver equals Johansson’s brilliance as her husband, and the wonderfully observed story follows the couple’s failing relationship as it collapses into a fierce custody battle for their young son.

Therapists, judges and social workers become involved, as well as a trio of wildly expensive lawyers played with impeccable style and wit by Alan Alda, Ray Liotta and best of all, Laura Dern.

As the couple become so tied up in ‘winning’, they lose sight of the amicable separation they initially were trying to achieve, and their Marriage Story left me in tears.

LITTLE MONSTERS

Cert 15 Stars 4

Ukulele renditions of Taylor Swift and Neil Diamond songs add a new dimension of terror to the apocalypse in this raucous Australian zombie comedy where good taste and restraint are immediate casualties.

Lupita Nyong’o’s talent and charisma are essential to raising the emotional stakes and giving gloss and fresh energy to what could be been a run-of-the-mill exercise in brain-eating carnage.

A cheerfully sweary and bloody antidote to her darkly disturbing and Oscar worthy turn earlier this year in horror movie, Us, Nyong’o plays a wholesome and sweet kindergarten teacher.

A school trip to a petting farm goes off syllabus when the secret military base next door accidentally unleashes a horde of lurching flesh-eating zombies.

Trapped with Nyong’o and her pupils in a souvenir shop are Alexander England’s immature slacker, and Josh Gad’s creepy TV entertainer.

There’s plenty of foul language among the guts and gore and I childishly giggled along as the mayhem erupted into blood splattered violence.

EARTHQUAKE BIRD

Cert 15 Stars 3

There are few shocks and not much to ruffle your feathers in this Tokyo-set psychological thriller.

Oscar winner and Tomb Raider action heroine Alicia Vikander stars alongside Elvis Presley’s granddaughter, Riley Keough, as Westerners whose romantic involvement with a handsome photographer has developed into a missing person inquiry.

A fractured narrative timeline, stilted dialogue and a steadfast refusal to be hurried make for a curiously dislocated yet oddly compelling watch, as the script explores the way women internalise guilt even when exploited and abused.

In its favour it offers a street level view of Japan full of regular people and no hint of exotic geishas, gangsters or mysticism. And as tourists we see some glorious landscapes.

Neither female star is shy when it comes to on screen nudity, and though the film flirts with the underlying erotic tone, it never goes all the way. And there’s no doubt the multi-lingual Vikander has a firm command of the local tongue.

THE GOOD LIAR

Cert 15 109mins Stars 4

Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen experience the horrors of internet dating in this quietly compelling and twisty thriller.

The pair deliver tremendous performances of calculated deception and superficial charm, with Mirren irresistibly demure and mischievous as a wealthy widow.

She’s preyed on by McKellen’s dapper English scoundrel who runs financial scams out of a London gentlemen’s club. In a moustache and blazer he’s every inch an English scoundrel in the mould of Terry-Thomas and is aided by Downton Abbey star Jim Carter, posing as an avuncular accountant.

A trip to see Quentin Tarantino’s revisionist Second World War movie Inglourious Basterds, underlines how easy it is to manufacture history, especially where online profiles are concerned.

The date forewarns us of the violence to follow and as the tension is methodically cranked up we’re we’re gently led to a very dark place where the deliberate tearing of a dress is as violent in intent and as shocking as the brutal murders we witness.