The Lost Patient

I was looking at Netflix for a film to fill the afternoon hours when I came across a movie called The Lost Patient. It was in French, but the premise sounded intriguing so I thought I would give it a try.

The premise listed on Netflix said, “After waking up from a coma with no memory of the night when his entire family was murdered, a young man and his psychiatrist try to untangle the truth.” It was listed as a mystery with a tone of ominous and dark. It sounded good.

It was not.

The film, which starred Txomin Vergez as Thomas, the boy who spent three years in a coma, was really slow, intentionally misleading and fairly predictable. It seemed to want to base the plot on the twist that came near the end of the film, but you could probably see it coming if you paid attention.

After seeing the reveal, there were scenes from earlier in the movie that did not make much sense. With classic twist ending such as The Sixth Sense, when you find out the truth, everything falls into place and when you rewatch it, you see things that you hadn’t seen upon a first watch. The Lost Patient, however, only muddied the rest of the film with what it revealed at the end. It also brought some absolute question on some of the behaviors and choices of the other characters of the film.

I was fooled into the movie, though the runtime was just an hour and a half. Despite the shorter run time, it felt fairly long.

2.2 stars

Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

The second special presentation from Marvel Studios dropped on Disney + this morning, following in the paw prints of Werewolf By Night. This is a Christmas special featuring the cast of teh Guardians of the Galaxy, written and directed by James Gunn.

With Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) feeling down, Mantis (Pom Klementieff) came up with a plan to boost their friend’s spirit. She and Drax (Dave Bautista) went to earth in search of the legendary hero, Kevin Bacon (Kevin Bacon) to bring him as a Christmas gift for Peter.

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is in the vein of the Hallmark Christmas specials, much like Werewolf by Night was an homage to the 1930/40s Universal monster movies. A lot of the cheesy humor from those types of specials were in play on Disney + and it was great.

There were two songs included in the special, one co-written by James Gunn himself and they were wonderful. The first song from the beginning of the special was really funny and Peter’s reactions were perfect.

Drax and Mantis in Hollywood brought some funny moments, showing such a great chemistry between the pair of Guardians. When they arrived at Kevin Bacon’s home, things picked up even more.

There were actually a couple important pieces of information that was revealed in the special that will most likely play into the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 in May, which proved that this was not just a throwaway piece of content. This is important moving forward and, to be honest, it makes me worry even more about Vol. 3 and its potential for emotional pain.

The special was a sweet and charming episode that started and ended with a bit of animation in a flashback. All the Guardians get a moment though clearly Mantis and Drax (along with Kevin Bacon) are the standouts and carry the story. It even ends with a heart warming moment.

Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is much better than the Star Wars Holiday Special. This is a fun and enjoyable interlude with our favorite Guardians (and a furry new one) that worked beautifully during this time of the year.

4.6 stars

Devotion

The new biographical film Devotion gives the MCU fans something to really look forward to.

Devotion revealed the story of the first black navy pilot, Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors) and his wingman Tom Hudner (Glen Powell), who flew missions at the beginning of the Korean War.

Why should the MCU fans be excited about this? Because Jonathan Majors is utterly awesome in this film and he is about to become the next big-bad in the MCU, Kang the Conqueror. We saw him in the final episode of season one of the Loki series and he will next appear in Antman and the Wasp: Quantumania. With his amazing acting skills, there could be some wonderful moments ahead.

As for Devotion, Majors is winning throughout, but the film itself is a tad slow and dragged in places. Jonathan Majors commanded everyone’s attention when he was on screen, but the rest of the film was okay, at best.

It is a true story, based on the 2015 book Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice by Adam Makos. I was unaware of this story so the eventual ending for the movie was surprising. Directed by J.D. Dillard, Devotion probably suffered from being in the same year as Top Gun: Maverick. The flying scenes were fine, but unremarkable and when you have such an example of high quality flight, it is difficult not to compare them.

There was interesting aspects of the race, looking at how black people were treated, even a navy pilot, in the 1950s. While this was definitely part of the story, it did not dominate the script or overwhelm the film.

Jonathan Majors is a star on the rise (not only in the MCU, but also upcoming in the next Creed film) and he helped to elevate this film above what was on the page.

3.2 stars

Crimes of the Future

David Cronenberg returned to the director’s chair to helm this science fiction, body horror movie that is currently being shown on Hulu.

Body horror has never been one of my favorite subgenres of horror, but I was interested in this film because of the sci-fi aspect and the fact that Viggo Mortensen and Kristen Stewart were in the cast.

Unfortunately, this one did not grip me.

I will say that the film started off with a compelling scene between a boy (Sotiris Sozos) and his mother (Lihi Kornowski), but the film took too long after this scene to build upon it, and it went into a different direction that i was simply not into.

According to Rotten Tomatoes, “As the human species adapts to a synthetic environment, the body undergoes new transformations and mutations. With his partner Caprice (Léa Seydoux), Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen), celebrity performance artist, publicly showcases the metamorphosis of his organs in avant-garde performances. Timlin (Kristen Stewart), an investigator from the National Organ Registry, obsessively tracks their movements, which is when a mysterious group is revealed… Their mission — to use Saul’s notoriety to shed light on the next phase of human evolution.”

There were just too may gross moments and none of the prescribed themes seemed to mean much of anything to me. Mortensen is always good, but he seemed to be sleepwalking through this.

Since it was a futuristic world, perhaps my trouble was that I did not fully buy into the setting, which made everything else lacking. Then, everything was so dreary and uninteresting to watch that it felt like a bog.

I did not like Crimes of the Future despite a high Rotten Tomatoes score. If body horror is your thing, perhaps you would like to check this one out. It was not for me.

2 stars

The Fabelmans

Steven Spielberg is back in the director’s chair with a movie that is very much a fictionalized version of his own younger life in The Fabelmans, revealing an adolescence filled with strife and troubles from his parents.

Growing up in Arizona in the 1950s, Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle) discovered a love for creating movies. As he continued to do more filming and editing, Sammy discovered a secret that he was not expecting that threatened to create chaos within his family.

Sammy’s parents, Burt and Mitzi, were played by Paul Dano and Michelle Williams, respectfully. Both actors were outstanding in their roles. Paul Dano created a sweet, kind-hearted Burt Fabelman who, while incredibly intelligent, was missing a lot of what was going on around him. Mitzi Fabelman was anything but likable. She was selfish though she had a deep love for her children and had a special relationship with Sammy.

The Fabelmans showed how important movies were to the world, especially the family unit. We see Sammy grow and mature while dealing with the knowledge of the secret that he discovered in his filming. The Fabelmans is a sort of coming-of-age story.

Mitzi Fabelman seemed to be quite the mess. Though it is never specifically mentioned, the film implied that there was some form of mental illness going on with her. Michelle Williams does a great job of still creating a character that can be rooted for despite choices that were really poor. Mitzi was not very likable, but Burt was always kind and supportive, even though he was spending more time at work in an attempt to avoid some issues. There is a question about how much of the secret that Burt actually knows and when he knew it.

There were some tough scenes to watch during this movie, and all of the actors involved did an exceptional job. Seth Rogan is great as family friend Bennie. In the most standout of performances, Judd Hirsch was remarkable as Mitzi’s estranged uncle Boris. Hirsch only had a few scenes in the film and a minimal amount of screen time, but his impact was massive.

The film may have been a touch long at two hours and thirty-one minutes. There are a few scenes of filmmaking that could have been reduced a touch, but there is not a lot that I would want to remove from the screenplay.

Though this movie may not be as magical as some of Spielberg’s other movies, The Fabelmans gave a usually entertaining, at times funny and always poignant look at the years that inspired him to become the director that he is. The complications felt real and left a challenge for the young teen who struggled to find his way. The scenes with the bullies seemed too typical, but I did like how that resolved itself.

Great performances, solid writing and a love of cinema helped to make The Fabelmans another success in the oeuvre of Steven Spielberg.

4 stars

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

Benoit Blanc, the most famous detective of the world, returned to the screen in his second adventure, this time in a Netflix movie that debuted for the next week in theaters. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery will arrive on Netflix around Christmas, but started the film on the big screen. The sequel to the excellent Knives Out continued the entertaining story telling with an (almost) all-new cast.

Daniel Craig returned, of course, as Benoit Blanc, the southern drawl spouting brilliant detective, along with a great ensemble that included Ed Norton, Dave Bautista, Janelle Monáe, Kate Hudson, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr, Jessica Henwick, Madelyn Cline, and Noah Segan.

Benoit Blanc found himself invited to a private island by wealthy businessman Miles Bron (Ed Norton) for a weekend murder mystery he was hosting for several of his personal friends. However, when the murder becomes no longer fictional, Benoit Blanc joined in on the case, trying to determine which members of the guest list were a murderer.

As it was the last time, the writing of the film is excellent, with Benoit being provided some of the best lines. The film does a solid job of introducing the large cast right off the bat, providing the details on these characters. You know who these people are immediately and the film does the heavy lifting to make that so.

This film was funnier than I remember the original one being. This was more outright funny, while the original had humor, but I do not think back on it as an overtly funny film. There is more humor here, and most of it worked well.

The movie, once again, played with the POV of the story, giving a couple of different perspectives on the same events, showing the audience what had actually happened. One thing that I wished the movie would do more is allow the audience a chance to “play along” with the mystery. They do not let you be the detective. There is no way to solve the case before the movie wants you to.

Daniel Craig is great as the remarkably intelligent and observant Benoit Blanc. When he played off the other enigmatic characters from the ensemble, Craig really shined.

The film took place right smack dab in the middle of the Covid pandemic in 2020 and they make references to the masks and to social distancing.

I was enjoying the mystery, seeing how things fit together after initially being unsure what was going on. I will have to say that the third act, especially right at the end of the third act was considerably weaker than the rest of the film. While it did not spoil the film for me, it did feel too silly, reducing the stakes of the movie downward.

And the movie ended with the credits being run while playing The Beatles’ Glass Onion, which I haven’t heard in quite a long time. That was a special treat.

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery may not have been as outstanding as the original and it did have an ending that did not seem to match up with the quality prior to it, but I had a lot of fun with the film and I would be excited to see continuing adventures of Benoit Blanc.

4.25 stars

Strange World

With the release of its latest animated film, Disney has gone ahead and given the Internet Trolls another reason to bitch about “wokeness.” I can hear them in my head already with their special brand of hatred, which is a real shame, because Strange World is a wonderfully beautiful movie, both visually and story-wise. And now the Trolls will never be able to appreciate Strange World in the proper way.

All because of a certain relationship, one that is only hinted at, one that was in the flirting stage, between two male characters. A relationship that is not what the film is about. All it does is inform you about the character of Ethan, but I know there are plenty of people who can not get past their own hatred.

As I said, Strange World is a magical ride with amazing animation, remarkably creative creature designs and some excellent voice over work.

In fact, I spent much of the movie trying to determine the actor voicing the main protagonist, Searcher Clade. I knew the voice sounded very familiar, but I was having difficulty in placing whose voice it was. Finally I settled on it being Jake Gyllenhaal, and it turned out that I was right. Gyllenhaal did a really good job providing the voice for Searcher.

Strange World reminded me of an old pulp series where the adventurer went exploring and found action, but ended up in some kind of science fiction plot. An Indiana Jones, Doc Savage, John Carter style of character. This was a welcome tone with some brand new pulp heroes to enjoy.

However, there was more than just the pulpy goodness. There was also a double generation of daddy issues as we wound up with three generation of Clade men, all with distinctly differing life choices, but all with the same general struggle. It handled the father’s expectations for his son and his desire to see him follow in his footsteps, and the rejection of that desire by the son. We see this go full circle through the backdrop of the adventure story.

According to Rotten Tomatoes, Strange World introduced “a legendary family of explorers, the Clades, as they attempt to navigate an uncharted, treacherous land alongside a motley crew that includes a mischievous blob, a three-legged dog and a slew of ravenous creatures.”

The legendary explorer, Jaeger Clade (Dennis Quaid) and his son Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal) were in search of a path around the mountain that surrounded their village, Avalonia. Searcher rebelled against his father when he found a powerful new plant and wanted to take it back to Avalonia. Jaeger refused to return without finding the path through the mountains and wound up disappearing for 25 years.

Meanwhile, Searcher grew up a farmer raising that plant, called Pando. He had his own family, including his son Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White) and his pilot wife Meridian (Gabrielle Union). When something started happening to the Pando, Searcher was recruited to go on a mission to try and save the energy-creating plant. On the trip, they find themselves in a strange, bizarre world filled with apparently dangerous creatures.

The film is beautiful to look at. The visuals were so full of color that gave this new world a feel of uniqueness. The computer animated film was amazing and will certainly engage the younger viewers. Parents should enjoy the smorgasbord of vibrancy on display in Strange World.

I also enjoyed the score to the film. Henry Jackman scored the film and provided so many perfect beats and musical touches that stood out to me and, many times, I do not notice the score. This one worked very well witht he style of film they were going for.

I know there will be snarkiness tossed at this film, much like the beautiful Pixar film, Turning Red, had to deal with earlier this year. It’s too bad that the Trolls can affect the perception of a movie. Don’t listen to them. Go and enjoy the film for its own merits. It is worthwhile.

4.4 stars

Tár

Cate Blanchett is truly one of the greatest living actors that we have.

Tár is a nearly three hour character study with Cate Blanchett at the heart of virtually every moment of the movie. Simply put, this film is not viable without her.

If I am being honest, Tár is not a personal favorite movie of mine, but the performance by Cate Blanchett elevated it into a positive watch.

This movie is a biopic about the fictional composer-conductor Lydia Tár, her rise as the first female chief conductor at the Berlin Philharmonic to her rapid free fall from grace through a series of unsettling events.

Directed by Todd Field, his first directorial job since 2006’s Little Children, Tár followed Lydia as she tried to maintain her position despite the troubles of life getting in the way.

Cate Blanchett is transcendent as Lydia Tár. You believe everything that Lydia is facing and, even when she seemingly is having struggles with her own mental stability, or times when she is showing what an unlikable person she was, you find it difficult to dismiss her.

While this film is long, it did flow fairly well. It did not feel like it was a three hour movie. If you are a person interested in the art of acting, this was a masterclass from one of the best actors we have working today. It is a perfect example of how a performance can make a film better than it was. Field said that the film would not have been made if Cate Blanchett was not interested in it. That is quite the compliment.

Expect to see Cate Blanchett’s name during Oscar season.

3.5 stars

R.I.P.D: Rise of the Damned

I am not sure who was demanding a sequel to R.I.P.D, the 2013 supernatural adventure/comedy based on a 1999 comic book by Peter Lenkov, but it is here now, on Netflix.

R.I.P.D was a huge flop even with the great cast of Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges in the film. Sadly, the sequel does not even have that benefit as neither Reynolds or Bridges have returned for the new film. In fact, there is only one character that returned from the original- Roicephus “Roy” Pulsipher.

This was a prequel, telling the story about how Roy(Jeffrey Donovan), the character played by Jeff Bridges in the first film, became a part of the RIPD and the first case he had back on earth with Jeanne (Penelope Mitchell) to prevent the Deados, led by the villainous Otis (Richard Blake) from opening a barrier between earth and Hell.

This was a stupid movie. The story was full of silly dialogue, ridiculous situations and half-baked characters. Jeffrey Donovan was decent as Roy. Had there been better everything around him, I could see myself liking him. The special effects were clearly on a budget, meaning that they were not great.

The story was a Western but only used that for the most basic, stereotypical tropes of the genre.

I can’t imagine that there will be any further sequels in the RIPD franchise after this waste of a movie. It truly is well past time for this franchise to rest in peace.

1.3 stars

Mickey: The Story of a Mouse

Who’s the leader of the club that’s made for you and me?

M-I-C-K-E-Y… M-O-U-S-E

Mickey Mouse is 94 years old. Can you believe that? The lifespan of the iconic character is examined in the new documentary on Disney + called Mickey: The Story of a Mouse.

From his humble beginning, springing out of the mind of Walt Disney in response to losing the character of Oswald the Rabbit, Mickey Mouse has taken on a ton of roles over the decades from troublemaking scamp to international corporate icon and many of those faces of the Mouse are seen in the new documentary.

The documentary was focused around the 2022 Mickey Mouse short, “Mickey in a Minute” and the creation of that by three legendary animators, Eric Goldberg, Mark Henn, and Randy Haycock.

While this debuted on Disney +, the entire history of Mickey Mouse is investigated, which included some of the darker moments in the history of the Mouse. Admittedly, these moments are not gone into in great detail or depth, but just the fact that they are included is impressive to me. They have sections of the documentary talking about Mickey’s use in the World War II war efforts, the, at times, racist depictions in some shorts (The shocking image of Mickey in blackface stuck with me for a while), how Mickey’s image was used by the 1960s counter-culture movement and the Milton Glaser’s unsanctioned short film “Mickey Mouse in Vietnam.”

They even went as far as to address the image of Disney as a copyright overlord and how they carefully protected the image of Mickey Mouse from being used in non-Disney related place. Yes, again, something like this could fill up its own doc, but the fact that any of this is included in what could have been considered a commercial on Disney + is impressive.

Interviews with talking heads, including former Disney CEO Bob Iger, talked about how Mickey had become perceived as nothing more than a corporate figurehead over the years and how there were some efforts at Disney to rejuvenate the image of Mickey.

One of the most fascinating parts of the documentary for me was watching the three main animators hand drawing the images that would go into the new Mickey short. Watching them flip through different pages while making sure that the pictures aligned was amazing to watch. The true artistic skill involved in this type of animation has not been appreciated as much these days with so much of animation coming from computer generation, but these shots truly stood out of the film.

What shines through in the documentary is how the character of Mickey Mouse is beloved the world around and how he can be used as a symbol of hope. Some of the most affecting scenes were the one from Disneyland where little children would run up to the mascot-version of Mickey and give him a big hug.

Mickey: The Story of a Mouse gives a fairly balanced view on the EYG Hall of Fame character when it did not have to and that should be respected.

4 stars

Slumberland

Some times I just don’t understand Rotten Tomatoes.

I was planning to watch Netflix’s new film, Slumberland, tonight and before I set it up, I jumped over to Rotten Tomatoes to see its score. I will admit that, every once in a while, I look at Netflix movies to see the score because a lot of times the Netflix originals are not very good and it might save me some time and help me avoid some clunkers.

Slumberland had a 35%.

I was truly disappointed because I was looking forward to this movie. I decided that I was going to watch it anyway and, you know what… it was pretty good.

Was it a perfect movie? No. But was it 35%? No way. That meant approximately 2 out of 3 critics gave it a rotten review. And I thought this was extremely charming, fun, and full of creative ideas.

Based on a comic strip called Little Nemo in Slumberland, Slumberland featured the young girl Nemo (Marlow Barkley), who lived with her father (Kyle Chandler) in a lighthouse on an island. When her father died at sea, Nemo had to go live with her uncle Philip (Chris O’Dowd).

Slumberland was a land where Nemo’s father and Philip would explore as children. It was the land of dreams. There were rules to the land that had to be followed. After his death, Nemo went into Slumberland to try and find her dad. She met his old partner Flip (Jason Momoa) and they went through a bunch of adventures.

So, yes there were some parts of the story that could have been edited out to make the story more streamlined. There was a whole story arc involving Agent Green (Weruche Opia) that could have been eliminated.

The CGI was fine, but did not stand out as it could have. It showed the restrictions of budget for sure.

However, I thought Marlow Barkley did an excellent job as Nemo and that she had a great connection with Jason Momoa and also with Chris O’Dowd. Jason Momoa was the clear standout of the cast. He looked like he was having all kinds of fun, although I did get kind of tired of his apparent Beetlejuice impression that he seemed to always be doing.

There were a lot of creative thought in the movie and had some good moments of emotion. This would be a fun family movie to watch during the holidays and sometime that is enough.

3.4 stars

The Menu

2022 has been a strong year with horror and the new film The Menu may have topped them all.

The Menu is the new Horror/Dark Comedy/thriller from director Mark Mylod where a group of people went to an island to go to an upscale restaurant for a huge evening of dining. Tyler (Nicolas Hoult) and Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) were a couple who found their way into the party. The Chef (Ralph Fiennes) led his staff with an iron fist. The dinner courses began to be served and it was not long before everyone realized that something sinister was going on.

This was so awesome. I really loved this movie. It was so creative and unlike anything that I had ever seen before. I never was sure where it was heading next and that was a great feeling.

Ralph Fiennes was tremendous as the Chef. He was so menacing and his dialogue and facial expressions were top notch. This is one of Fiennes’ finest performances in a career of great performances.

He is matched with every beat by Anya Taylor-Joy, who played Margot, a woman who was not supposed to be at this dinner originally, and it threw a wrench in the plans. Taylor-Joy was savage throughout the film and showed such strength and power and it made her stand out among the storng cast.

Also in the film were Nicolas Hoult, who character is one of the worst of worst in the room, John Leguizamo, Hong Chou, Reed Birney, Judith Light, Janet McTeer, and Aimee Carrero.

The film was also like a food film, where each course of the dinner is described and explained. These were some of the funniest bits in the film, a great break from the tension and bizarre anxiety that was going on at the restaurant. It is a parody of the food shows and a satire of the precociousness of the type of people who would eat these artsy foods.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but when it was apparent that things were not what they were (the course labeled “The Mess”) I literally shouted out in the theater it was such a shocking moment. It was when things got real for the group of characters and for the audience.

Plus, the ending was absolutely epic.

The Menu was funny, tense and scary. It worked on all levels for me and Ralph Fiennes and Any Taylor-Joy give amazing performances. This may not only be one of the best horror films of the year, but also one of the best movies of the year. Horror fans should love this. Foodie fans should love this. Dark comedy fans should love this. It appeals to all.

5 Stars

She Said

There have been some top notch investigative journalism movies over the years including All the President’s Men, Spotlight and The Post, and yet, the subgenre is very difficult to do well. There is a risk that the story just is not exciting enough to handle the sometime monotonous work that is required of the investigative reporter.

Well, you can add another top level film to that list with director Maria Schrader’s new film, She Said, the story of the New York Times’ investigation into the sexual harassment and misconduct by Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein.

New York Times reporters Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) and Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) were investigating sexual harassment when they decided to look into the rumors in Hollywood, in particular those reportedly perpetuated by Harvey Weinstein. In an effort to get justice for the group of female actors and crew members harassed by Weinstein, Twohey and Kantor went to new heights in journalism. They were not just going after Weinstein, but also the system that allowed him to cover up his numerous victims.

Of course, this was based on the novel, She Said by the real life Twohey and Kantor and this made huge entertainment news in the mid-2010s.

These journalism dramas depend heavily on their casts, and She Said had a brilliant group of actors. Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan were both outstanding, making me believe how important and powerful this story was to them. When they went after these victims, hoping beyond hope that if they could get somebody to go on the record, other victims would follow, these two journalist went around the globe in the slight hope of finding what they needed and when they did get what they wanted, the emotions felt real.

It was not just about the story for them. This was about trying to make sure that others would not continue to be victimized by this predator.

I loved the support that was given to Twohey and Kantor at the New York Times. This included characters brought to life, particularly, by Patricia Clarkson and Andre Braugher. There was a definite team feeling and they worked together on a common goal, avoiding those clichés as pressure from above to drop the story which you see many times ion these types of film.

I thought the film did an outstanding job presenting Harvey Weinstein, the character, as well. We heard his voice on the phone and, when he was on screen (played by actor Mike Houston) we never saw his face, because this movie was not about Weinstein. It was about his victims.

And we got a bunch of strong performances from the women who stepped forward to provide information or to tell their stories about how they were victimized by the producer. Angela Yeoh, Jennifer Ehle, Ashley Judd, and Samantha Morton played some of the victims in She Said.

Because of the strength of the character performances, a film that could have been slow popped most of the time. The film was outstanding at portraying the complex emotions of everybody involved and created a stirring drama.

4.5 stars

Disenchanted

Another long awaited sequel arrived this weekend, this time on Disney + as the follow up to 2007’s Enchanted hit the streaming service. Disenchanted was set ten years ahead of Enchanted and we see that there are real challenges to “Happily Ever After.”

We meet back up with Giselle (Amy Adams) and her real life prince Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and his now teenage daughter Morgan (Gabriella Baldacchino) as they were moving out of New York City and into the suburbs. Giselle was tying to come to grips with her life, missing the fairy tale magic that once engulfed her.

Morgan was unhappy leaving NYC, her friends and school, to start over in the small town of Monroeville in a “castle” that could be called a fixer-upper. A series of unfortunate events happen leaving Giselle forlorn. So when Edward (James Marsden) and Nancy (Idina Menzel) visited from the Kingdom of Andalasia and presented Giselle’s newest baby, Sofia, with a magic wand with the power of granting wishes, things were set up for trouble.

Disenchanted was somewhat of a mixed bag. The story was fun and the music was fine (especially a song between Amy Adams and Maya Rudolph called “Badder”). The problem was everything felt so familiar, as if we had seen it all before. It was a combination of the original Enchanted, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, and Frozen.

Amy Adams stepped right back into the role of Giselle without flaw and she embraced the shift that her character took. She brings so much life to the one time animated princess.

Maya Rudolph’s Malvina was a cool villain and brought some new energy to the trope of the evil queen and the way that the wish affected the whole town and the characters was a creative twist. However, some of the other sub plots felt tagged on and like a waste of time (such as Robert’s quest to be a hero).

Simply put, there was just not enough of James Marsden, who completely dominated every moment he was on screen with the portray of Edward. I could have used much more of him.

Disenchanted does not measure up to the original film, but that should not be held against it. Disenchanted is an enjoyable and fun watch with some clever moments and another excellent performance from Amy Adams. It certainly has its flaws as many sequels do, but nothing bad enough to take away from the pleasure of the film.

3.3 stars

Spirited (2022)

Apple TV + has had some solid films on its service over the last few years, but they still seem to lag behind the big boys. Once again, there is a great film debuting on Apple TV + this weekend that takes a well known and mined story and gives it a fresh take.

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is an all-time class story of redemption. Ebenezer Scrooge being visited by three spirits on a Christmas Eve has been adapted with various successes from Bill Murray’s Scrooged and The Muppet Christmas Carol.

This time it takes the story and flips it around in a clever and creative way. There are a few twists that were unexpected and a whole bunch of songs. That’s right, it is a musical.

The Ghost of Christmas Present (Will Farrell) has had a long career of excellence as the film reveals that they choose a hate-filled person every Christmas to put through the program. Every year, Present thinks about retiring, and every year he chooses to stay. Becoming even more uncertain about how much good he actual has done, Present discovered a special perp considered irredeemable. This was the case that sparked something in Present and he was determined to make the perp change.

The perp, Clint Briggs (Ryan Reynolds), was not looking for a change in lifestyle and the ghosts found him more than they anticipated. When Present has to take over for the Ghost of Christmas Past (Sunita Muni), he starts reflecting on his own life as a ghost.

I have never been a fan of Will Farrell. Honestly, there are way more Will Farrell movies that I dislike or hate than that I liked. However, Farrell is just excellent here as Present is given a surprising origin and a surprising depth of character. Everything that he does makes perfect sense, especially when you discover the truth behind him. His performance is understated, which is just opposite of his normal role. This time he felt like he was playing a character and not just a version of himself.

Farrell and Ryan Reynolds have great chemistry and feel like a perfect duo. Octavia Spencer plays Briggs’ assistant and she is always good. I would have liked a little more from her.

The music was fun and the dance routines were well done although many of them seemed to blend together, not standing out from the others. I do think that there were a couple too many songs in this musical, but I enjoyed most of them. The standout song was a duet between Farrell and Reynolds called “Good Afternoon.”

I really liked the ending of the film. Of course, I will not spoil it, but it was a nice finish and brought characters full circle.

Spirited had appeared in limited run in theaters last week and now can be found on Apple TV +. It is a little long at over two hours, but it is a lot of holiday fun and takes a well-worn story and breathes new life into it.

4.2 stars