REVIEW: Frozen 2

Warning: mild spoilers for both Frozen 2 and Rise of Skywalker. This warning will make sense in context.

While I was buying the tickets for this movie, my friend said “Quick q. So you’re here. I’m here. And our other friend is here. Why aren’t we watching Uncut Gems?” And I found myself asking that question multiple times throughout or viewing of Frozen 2.

Frozen 2 was an unnecessary sequel and it was confusing, and it also had the same plot as Rise of Skywalker: a young woman with mysterious powers that nobody else has and that she cannot properly control finds out her grandfather is evil. She then embarks on a solo quest to understand both who she is and how to fully utilize her powers. A young man, while waiting for the young woman to come back from her solo quest, meets someone of a similar background as him and they talk about being sensitive to/having conversations with strange forces/reindeer – things that do not actually talk back to these individuals (a bit of a reach, I know, but hear me out on this next part). During the solo quest, the young woman crosses treacherous waters to reach an abandoned wreck from a previous film.

Now, you may be wondering, which movie was better? I preferred Star Wars because I found Frozen to be quite confusing at times. I did not understand a lot of basic plot points, which I don’t think is the mark of a good movie. The premise of the film is that Anna and Elsa have to free the Enchanted Forest, but they never made it entirely clear what they were freeing the Forest from. The Forest is closed off from the rest of the world by a force field that is never referred to again, even when the curse (?) is lifted. In fact, certain characters leave the forest area at some points during the movie even though the force field should be keeping them in the forest.

I felt like the movie was, in general, unnecessarily vague. It doesn’t really feel like there’s a point to Anna and Elsa’s quest – they’re chasing after a mysterious voice that only Elsa can hear, and when she stumbles upon the truth about her powers, the truth is kind of irrelevant. The truth about the origin of her powers is not significant at all when she and Anna finally save the day. The movie tries very hard to be mysterious to keep the audience engaged, but they never explain anything, and shrug off any plot holes by trying to distract the audience with Olaf and a cute fire-breathing lizard.

Maybe I thought the first film was leagues better than its sequel because I’m not exactly part of the target audience anymore. Judging by the squeals of joy and high-pitched laughter, the kids in the audience seemed to enjoy the movie. However, I did enjoy some aspects of the film. Elsa’s two new songs, “Into the Unknown” and “Show Yourself” showcase Idina Menzel’s incredible talent and vocal range, proving she always fails to disappoint Visually, this film has some stunning animation, especially the scene where Elsa is crossing turbulent waters, creating platforms of ice to run across. In another scene, Elsa is exploring a dark cave-like area which is actually supposed to be an ancient river, and her surroundings are black but contrasted with blue and purple geometric ice crystals. This scene was also reminiscent of the scene in The Last Jedi when Rey falls into the pit and goes through a series of visions, but I digress.

Overall, Frozen 2 is not a bad movie. The first one is 100% the better film and there was really no need for a sequel, but if you don’t take it seriously, it can be enjoyable. The music is great as expected, and it is a very visually appealing film. Still, I wouldn’t recommend you rush to the theater right this second to watch it.

REVIEW: Knives Out

Knives Out is fantastic. It’s funny, clever, well-written, and well-directed. None of the humor is forced, cringy, or cheesy. Many of the jokes reference present-day trends and politics, but it never seems like writer-director Rian Johnson is trying too hard to make the film relatable to the audience. Although the film does follow a classic whodunit formula – discovery of the crime, interviews with the suspects, the following investigation – its premise is very original. The way the events pan out are creative and unexpected. The story itself is very tight and clean; there are no gaping plot holes as the film literally explains everything. Everything that happens was previously hinted at, but everything is very subtle and keeps the audience engaged as a result.

The film would not have been nearly as good if it weren’t for the actors. Every member of the Thrombey family is unique – distinctive – and they all shine in their own ways. Chris Evans came across as over-the-top in the trailers, but in the context of the film, he fits right into the ridiculousness of the Thrombey family. The family dynamic is so fun because all of the characters are so eccentric. Jamie Lee Curtis plays the eldest of three who all benefitted from their father’s tremendous wealth, and her character insists that she started her company from the ground herself, and that her husband works for her. The two youngest members of the family, a juuling feminist and an active member of alt-right twitter, provide underrated and entertaining interactions. My personal favorite member of the family was Toni Collette as a lifestyle guru and essentially Gwyneth Paltrow.

The biggest standouts of the film were the two leads, Daniel Craig and Ana de Armas. Craig plays Detective Benoit Blanc, who has a strange southern accent that somehow works. His character has some of the best lines, including a comparison between a will reading to a tax return by a community theater and a long monologue relating donuts and donut holes to missing evidence. On the other hand, de Armas’s character is much more unassuming, but rather than being a stereotypical Latina maid, she is the heart of the film. Marta is charming, sweet, sly, and ruthless all at the same time. De Armas’s performance shows that she is an actress to be on the lookout for. Since moving to Hollywood where she immersed herself in English lessons, she has starred alongside Robert De Niro, Jonah Hill, and Ryan Gosling. De Armas has spoken about her being able to relate to the character of Marta – both wanted a better life for themselves and their family.

It’s clear that writer-director Rian Johnson took great care in creating the character of Marta, and into allowing a newer actress to shine alongside some of the biggest names in the movie industry today. It’s clear that all of the actors had a blast on set, and it’s impressive that Johnson was able to create a film that is both character and plot driven. Johnson could have easily channeled his efforts into one aspect or the other, but instead he was able to weave absurd characters into an outrageous storyline, resulting in a film that is nearly, if not flawless.

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

The final installment in the Star Wars sequel trilogy starts where The Last Jedi left off, meaning it starts off where The Force Awakens left off. I’m no The Last Jedi hater, but if I’m being honest, not much happened in that movie. At this point, Rey is still figuring out her powers and who she is, Kylo Ren is still figuring out if he’s completely evil, and Leia has again enlisted the help of Finn and Poe to thwart whatever diabolical plan the First Order has just set into motion.

The Rise of Skywalker has terrible reviews. It has a 58% score on Rotten Tomatoes, compared to The Last Jedi’s 91% – the same The Last Jedi that is perhaps the most polarizing episode in all of Star Wars. Still, The Rise of Skywalker does have an 85% audience score. Going into the movie, I thought, “There’s no way it can be that bad.” And I was pleasantly surprised! As a whole, I truly enjoyed The Rise of Skywalker. That being said, I did have some issues with it.

First, there is one spoiler that made me turn to my friend in the theater and ask, “Was that really necessary?” It is just one thing that the film doesn’t linger on for very long, but at the same time, that just goes to show how unnecessary it was. Crossing out of spoiler territory, it should come as no surprise that there are some fights and action sequences that involve the use of the Force. Unfortunately, these battles aren’t always terribly exciting as they just involve people pointing their hands at each other. It’s kind of the same deal as Harry defeating Voldemort in The Deathly Hallows – hair is being blown back, clothes are rippling, the two sides are clearly straining with effort… but they’re also just standing there. Overall, the action isn’t this movie’s strongest point – the last battle is mindlessly chaotic and difficult to follow.

Perhaps one of the strongest aspects of the film is that we finally get to see the main trio come together. Unfortunately, up until this film, the main trio of Rey, Finn, and Poe didn’t really feel like a trio. In the prequels, it was clearly Anakin, Padme, and Obi-Wan, and in the original trilogy it was clearly Luke, Han, and Leia. Even though there were pairings within the trios – Anakin and Padme and Han and Leia as the couples, Anakin and Obi-Wan and Luke and Han as the close friends, and Luke and Leia as the twins – it was clear from the beginning that there was a main trio. In the sequel trilogy, there was a bigger emphasis on Rey and Finn in The Force Awakens, which makes sense as Poe was supposed to be killed off initially. Still, Rey is separated from the other two throughout nearly all of The Last Jedi, which is a shame as her character didn’t even get much significant development from her solo quest. Furthermore, the sequel trilogy established strong relationships between Finn and Poe and Finn and Rey early on, but Rey and Poe don’t even meet until the end of The Last Jedi. But, in The Rise of Skywalker, they do have a unique relationship full of banter and a mutual love of BB-8, and as a result, it’s clear both characters and Finn have a place in the main trio.

Ultimately, The Rise of Skywalker is not a bad movie. Sure, I had my issues with it (I didn’t get to talk about the criminal underuse of Lupita Nyong’o!!), but it is still a fun film. I don’t feel an immediate need to re-watch it like I did with The Force Awakens, but I think it’s still worth seeing in theaters. I would just recommend going in with an open mind.

REVIEW: The Lighthouse

A24’s newest film follows two lighthouse keepers in 1890s New England. Director Robert Eggers chose to shoot with vintage cameras and a constricted aspect ratio, all in black and white. To further enhance the setting, Eggers took great care to ensure all of the dialogue was period-accurate. As a result, the audience truly feels like they are on the island with the two characters. The Lighthouse is unique in the sense that it is more about the viewing experience rather than its technical elements.

That being said, while the film successfully brought the audience into the story, it was almost too successful. As the film progresses, the characters spiral more and more into madness, and it is easy to feel lost and overwhelmed. The film feels stagnant while Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe spout pure lunacy at each other and envision inexplicable and disturbing images. It is clear that the characters are developing more and more towards insanity, but it feels like the story is not progressing at all.

The issue with the pacing and plot development largely arises from the fact that the film is very predictable. Dafoe’s character often speaks in cryptic superstitions and warnings that are actually not at all cryptic, instead laying out what will happen in the film. The viewer knows exactly in what direction the story will progress, but it takes the film a while to build up to the climax. The viewer is left feeling restless and impatient, and the just-under-two-hour runtime feels much, much longer.

Simply put, watching The Lighthouse is exhausting. I personally would rather be exhausted by a film because I was emotionally invested in it rather than because I was also being driven towards hysteria. Still, it is very impressive that Robert Eggers was able to craft such an engaging and enthralling experience. Both Dafoe and Pattinson give masterful performances as well, as Dafoe expertly weaves comedy with authority and intensity. He starts at 100%, and ends at 100%. On the other hand, Pattinson starts with a more subtle performance, one that hints at an edge to his character. It is how he is able to underplay what is deep inside his character that makes the moment when his character snaps so enrapturing.

Ultimately, The Lighthouse is not for everyone, but I would still recommend seeing it. It is a very unique kind of experience, and it would be a shame to miss out on it.

PREVIEW: The Lighthouse

A24’s newest film, The Lighthouse, stars Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson as two lighthouse keepers in the 1890s. The film follows their descent into madness after a storm strands the two on an isolated, mysterious island. The film has received critical acclaim, particularly towards both performances by Dafoe and Pattinson, the black-and-white cinematography, and the direction by Robert Eggers.

I have been looking forward to this film ever since the first trailer dropped. I am already aware of Dafoe’s range as an actor, having seen him in both Spider-Man and A24’s The Florida Project. But, this will be the first time I have Pattinson in anything besides Harry Potter and Twilight, and I am interested in seeing how he will showcase his own range.

Eggers’s directorial debut, the Witch, is available to stream on Netflix.

REVIEW: Ad Astra

In the near future, commercial flights take passengers to the moon, babies are born on Mars, and power surges have begun to wreak havoc across the solar system. Astronaut Roy McBride is sent to investigate these surges, and to discover the truth about his father, a famed and presumed dead astronaut. Ad Astra is an adventure film, with chase scenes on the moon and zero-gravity fight sequences. Although the action is exciting, the film’s strength lies in subverting the genre. Rather than being a film about a tough action hero racing against the clock to save the universe, Ad Astra is about a hero whose strength lies in his humility and emotion. He is a hero who does not consider himself a hero; he is just someone searching for human connection.


To a certain extent, Roy does fit the mold of a typical action hero: he always comes out on top in any impossible situation. But, Roy is better defined by how humble and gentle he is. He knows that Major Roy McBride is a highly esteemed public figure, but he does not view himself in that way, even though he proves again and again that he is worthy of the praise he receives. He even goes so far to call himself selfish for jumping at the possibility that his father might still be alive. Roy reacts in this way because he was never really allowed to express his emotions – he is praised for focusing on his missions and for never having a heart rate over 80 bpm regardless of how severe a situation is. Roy has a very gentle nature, but he has been repressing this side of himself his entire life. When he contemplates why he wanted to become an astronaut like his father in the first place, he realizes he never wanted to be famous. He was motivated by his desire for human connection: he saw becoming an astronaut as the only way he could reach his father, who was absent throughout his childhood and disappeared when Roy was sixteen. As Roy becomes more invested in his search for his father, he realizes he has been harboring bitterness and anger towards his father for leaving him. This prompts him to realize that his anger has been driving his search, pushing him away from a stable life on earth, where he will disappear into the stars like his father.


It is advantageous for the film to make Roy more human and therefore more relatable rather than the perfect model action hero. Anyone can connect with the idea of wanting to live and to love. This idea ties into Ad Astra’s central message: it is easy to look so hard for something that you can miss what is right in front of you. It is only after getting closure about his father that Roy realizes he had let himself be consumed by searching for his father, unknowingly pushing away his loved ones in the process. Ad Astra could have pushed Roy down a dark, obsessive path, but it guides him towards self-realization instead. Ultimately, Ad Astra is a surprisingly optimistic film about human connection, and it is a reminder that there is strength in emotion.


Image source: