21 Bridges *1/2
has the elements of a great thriller—a hardened detective, dirty cops, drugs, and beaucoup shootouts—but it also makes the mistake of assuming you’ve never before seen a movie about hardened detectives, dirty cops, drugs and beaucoup shootouts. Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman) is an NYPD detective who’s killed eight suspects in nine years, yet somehow still has a job. He’s put on a huge case: Two desperate Army veterans (Taylor Kitsch and Stephan James) rob a coke dealer and kill eight (yes, eight) cops in the process. Davis’ solution? Shut down Manhattan to smoke out the perps. As cop-thriller plots go, that isn’t bad. Unfortunately, 21 Bridges
wants you to feel for the guys who kill eight cops (which is difficult, even if the cops in question are shitty people). It also has no sense of humor, and Boseman has to say things like “we’ll flood the island with blue” while keeping a straight face. There’s some good shootin’, and the bad guys—cops killers and dirty cops—get what’s coming to them, but you’ll be two steps ahead of Boseman the whole way. Opens Nov. 22 at theaters valleywide.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood **1/2
Fred Rogers, by every possible account, was one of the most genuinely decent public figures in recent American history, and this fact-based story only partly succeeds at the tricky job of making genuine decency dramatically interesting. Rather than providing a simple biopic of Mr. Rogers (Tom Hanks), director Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?
) tells the story of Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), the fictionalized stand-in for a real Esquire journalist whose assignment to profile the revered children’s show host in 1998 collides with his own unresolved childhood traumas. Heller takes a fanciful approach to her visual storytelling, using scale models for her establishing shots and placing Lloyd in the middle of an elaborate dream sequence. But while the intention here is clearly to humanize the “living saint” notion of Fred Rogers—and Hanks’ performance is grounded in a kind of intense paying attention that one point even turns toward those in the audience—he’s still more like a magical guardian angel helping Lloyd deal with his daddy issues. As solid as Rhys’ performance is, Lloyd’s friendship with Mr. Rogers remains too ethereal to latch on to. Opens Nov. 22 at theaters valleywide.
Frozen II ***
With its second chapter, the Frozen
franchise remains an interesting outlier in the Disney animation canon: A story centering the love between sisters, while still nodding to an old-school “be true to yourself” moral. Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idinia Menzel) return, forced to investigate the history of an enchanted forest when Arendelle is threatened by elemental spirits. The entire creative team returns from the original—co-writers/co-directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, and songwriters Kristin Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez—so they’re smart enough not to mess too much with the musical formula that created a blockbuster five years ago: a funny song for Olaf (Josh Gad), show-stoppers for Elsa, etc. And like the original, you’ll find an intriguing subversion of the idea of who you can trust, plus a little political allegory. It’s all very operatically entertaining, finding the right mix of impressively fanciful animation and a willingness to ground the story in emotion. There’s no reason to expect anything groundbreaking—unless Kristoff’s hilarious homage to vintage power ballads counts—but “more of the same” feels like an easily justifiable choice. Opens Nov. 22 at theaters valleywide.
The Irishman ****
See feature review
. Opens Nov. 22 at Broadway Centre Cinemas and Megaplex Jordan Commons.