Tag Archives: Jason Ritter

Frozen II

Reviews for Frozen 2 were a bit mixed and I confess I didn’t exactly love the first one (was I the only one on the entire planet not to?). I didn’t hate it, but it was just okay for me. I didn’t even love the song. On our recent trip to Disney World, we met pretty much the whole Frozen crew but needed to attend a sing-along (where people definitely, enthusiastically sang along) to even remember some pretty big plot points from the movie, which came out in 2013 (for example, not one of us remembered trolls). Still, we dutifully brought back an Elsa dress for our 3 year old niece, who has caught Elsa fever (not the kind that produces snow boogies) like pretty much every little girl under 10 has at one time or another.

So of course we went to the see the film. The trailers looked…well, astonishing, frankly, real marvels of computer animation, if a little light on story. We tempered our expectations and emptied our bladders (it’s not really that long, just long for kids – nearly 2 hours with previews) and took our seats in a theatre packed with kids.

And you know what? I can’t speak for the kids, but I freaking loved it. Yes, the animation is, well, staggering. There was more than one moment when I had to convince my eyes that they were looking at cartoons, not real life. The cinematography is top-tier; the light design is dazzling. But, okay, throw all that aside: what about the story? You may have heard that it doesn’t reach the heights of its predecessor, that it lacks drama because it doesn’t have a distinct villain. That the songs are a bit on the forgettable side. I think that’s all a bunch of hogwash.

Frozen II is more interesting, more complex, and more satisfying than the first one, perhaps because its themes are more mature, perhaps because instead of battling a bad guy, it turns inward, introspective. An enchanted forest is calling to Elsa, and though everyone fears what will happen if she opens Pandora’s box, she opens it anyway, exuberantly, after obsessing over it. Though she and Anna vow to go forth together, as a team, they inevitably part ways and both will be tested.

I laughed. I cried. I was surprised on several occasions by its bold and curious choices. There’s a musical number performed by Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) that inserts what I can only describe as a 1980s-style power ballad into the proceedings for no apparent reason. The number is done as if it’s an early MTV music video, all hokey and cheesy and wonderful because of it – clearly not aimed at children who will never know that the M in MTV once stood for music.

I felt that the first film espoused a fake kind of feminism – people applauded it while apparently failing to note that lots of male characters were still propping up the sisters. But in this film they simply do, and they do well, all by themselves, without anyone needing to point it out. You can tell the ladies are genuinely getting down to business because Elsa’s beautiful dress, already being marketed to little girls in stores, comes with slacks, making it easier for her to kick butt. Elsa seemed moody and bratty in the first, but here she’s a woman full of confidence, full of competence. And Anna knows her worth, magical powers or no.

Do any of the songs rival the powerhouse Let It Go? from the first film? How could they, really? Let It Go was an anomaly, one in a million. And then horribly overplayed and quite tedious. Still, several of the songs were quite good, if not quite as memorable, and performed by Broadway’s best, well, it’s nothing to sneeze at.

I don’t know what kids think of it (yet – my 5 year old nephew and 3 year old niece will see it tomorrow – and in 2 weeks, when that 3 year old niece turns 4, her aunt Jay will bring an Elsa cake to her birthday party) but I do know that I was impressed by it, entertained by it, moved by it. I said previously that the first Frozen felt more like a merchandising tool than a movie, destined to spawn straight-to-video sequels, so this is a rare occasion when I admit my mistake, and am humbled by it. Just a bit. ūüėČ

This is my nephew Jack, who’s providing the kid perspective.

And my other nephew Ben.

It’s okay. You can tell me their reviews are better than mine. I know it. And I’m the proudest aunt.

Ben also has something to add to my Detective Pikachu review.

The Intervention

Four couples convene at a cottage for a weekend getaway, or at least that’s what one of the couples thinks. The other three are there to tell the fourth to get divorced already. Ruby ¬†(Cobie Smulders) and Peter (Vincent Piazza) have been at each other’s throats for as long as anyone can remember, and their friends have determined that this is the time to spring a martial intervention on them. It’s not that easy to tell your friends to quit their relationship though, especially not when your own is on somewhat rocky ground.

Jessie (Clea DuVall) and Sarah (Natasha Lyonne) are in love, but they lead separate lives, perhaps because Sarah is not exactly Jessie’s “type” , but you do you know who is? Jack’s the-intervention-still3-natashalyonne-jasonritter-benschwartz-aliashawkat-cleaduvall-melanielynskey-bypollymorgannew girlfriend! Everyone thinks it’s kind of tacky that Jack (Ben Schwartz) brought a hot young date named Lola (Alia Shawkat) to the shindig, and they doubly don’t appreciate their sloppy pda all over the place. Not when Annie ¬†(Melanie Lynskey) and Matt (Jason Ritter) are on their umpteenth postponement of their wedding and Annie’s drinking again, not that anyone minds so much when her drunken outbursts break the ice during a very tense dinner.

Have you ever guided someone towards divorce when they themselves have never put divorce on the table? It’s a little dicey, but Clea DuVall’s script is often funny in the right places. We don’t get to know the characters very thoroughly, but we do get a front row seat to an epically disastrous friends’ weekend. The plot is a little old-hat but the incredible dynamism between¬†the lead actors gives the movie some verve and even if it plod a little in the middle, it was a good Netflix risk that made me feel just a bit better about the stupid stuff I get up to with my friends, who as far as I know, are pretty comfortable with my marital status.

One Proud Canadian at the Whistler Film Festival

If you’ve glanced at our chaotic Comments section on Jay’s Golden Globes post, you may have noticed that I am a big supporter of Todd Haynes’ Carol, which had its Canadian premiere at the opening gala of this year’s Whistler Film Festival. It was the best by far of the films I saw at the festival but- my love for this Hollywood indie aside- I am as proud as I am surprised to announced that the Canadian films I saw outshone every other American entry. Here are my thoughts on the three most pleasant surprises from my side of the border.

I don’t know why why I was so surprised that How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town was exactlyMV5BMTUzMjU2NzA4Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzM0MTg5NjE@__V1_SX214_AL_ what it sounds like. Maybe knowing that it was Canadian, I was expecting it to be more polite and restrained. But, no, the second sex comedy from director Jeremy Lalonde does not skimp on the orgy. Having been labelled the town slut as a teenager, sex columnist and closet virgin Cassie returns to her conservative small town for her mother’s funeral. No one is particularly happy to see her until several townspeople- each one having reasons of their own- decide they need to have an orgy and beg her to facilitate it for them. Lalonde, on hand to introduce the film and to answer audience questions, packs Cassie’s living room with likable characters you’d never experience to show up to an orgy. The implausibility of the situation- especially that they’d keep coming back after every increasingly hilarious false start, is part of the fun. The jokes are mostly lowbrow (a montage of cum faces being one highlight) but rarely cross the line into juvenility.

In The Steps, Marla (Emmanuelle Chriqui) and Jeff (Jason Ritter) are brother and sister living inthe steps New York who are called to their estranged father’s (James Brolin) cottage in Ontario to meet his new Canadian wife Sherry (Christine Lahti) and her three kids. Truthfully, things haven’t been going great for Jeff lately. He’s lost his fancy New York job and his fancy New York girlfriend and he watches a little too much porn. But that doesn’t stop him from judging the shit out of his new step family; Sherry loves lame icebreaker games, David (Benjamin Arthur)¬†owns the third largest paintball course in the province and loves hair metal and Nicolas Cage movies, Keith (Steve McCarthy) is a depressed former indie rock musician, and Sam (Vinay Virmany) keeps sneaking away to smoke pot. Obviously, this isn’t going to be one big happy family right away but (spoiler alert) they’ll be backing each other up in bar fights in no time. Obviously, it’s hard to watch this movie without knowing where it’s going and each character seems plucked from the Handbook for Movies About Dysfunctional Families. But the casting, both in how they inhabit their own characters as well as how they interact with the others, is bang on. It got big laughs from a small 9 am crowd at Whistler and was well worth getting up so early for.

The Steps was a perfect example of how a familiar story, when told well, can feel new. This is just as true of Forsaken, which had its Western Canada premiere at the festival. Kiefer Sutherland (who stood like 20 feet from me when introducing the film) plays gunslinger John forsakenHenry Clayton who returns home to his Reverend father (Donald Sutherland, sharing the screen with his son for the first time). As a pacifist, Rev. Clayton is none too happy to see his boy and is skeptical that he is sincere in his vow to hang up his guns for good. John Henry’s abstinence from the way of the gun is tested when some bullies ride into town forcing people off their land and threaten his long-lost love (Demi Moore).

They don’t make westerns like this anymore. Forsaken is neither revisionist nor homage. Instead, it follows the tradition of the great westerns of the 50s that understood the excitement of watching a hero getting his revenge just as well as they did the importance of making us wait for it. John Henry takes a lot of abuse and witnesses a lot of injustice before finally unleashing hell. We’ve seen this character before and know how it’s all going to turn out but it’s fun to see it all play out, especially with first-time feature director Jon Cassar taking his time with telling the story. If there’s one thing Kiefer knows , it’s how to play a killer who just wants to retire but keeps getting pulled back in and plays John Henry with just the right mix of badass and bashful. Both Sutherlands play their parts well, although the accent Kiefer tries out in some scenes doesn’t suit him, and the two are at their best when onscreen together. Even more effortless, however, are the bad guys played by the great Brian Cox, Sean’s high school buddy Aaron Poole, and the amazing but underrated Michael Wincott. It’s a blast watching these three be despicable and even more fun knowing that, by the end, their uppance will come.