Freeze Frame is a weekly show reviewing the latest movies from Hollywood's best films to independent and arthouse movies.
January 18, 2020 Arts & Culture, Podcast, Short Segment
After a 17-year hiatus, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are reunited in the comic action thriller, “Bad Boys for Life,” the third entry in the franchise that began in 1995. These Miami based detectives are getting long in the tooth and it shows as they’re targeted for assassination by a Mexican drug cartel. Everything about this absurd and violent R-rated movie is over the top and beat-by-beat predictable, but Smith and Lawrence manage to save the day and the movie with their goofy humor and personal appeal. Watcha gonna do?
Oscar winners Viola Davis and Allison Janney star alongside young McKenna Grace in the self-consciously whimsical comedy, “Troop Zero.” McKenna plays a pre-teen social outcast in a small Georgia town in the 1970s who recruits a group of misfits to form a Birdie Scout troop. This is the sort of wacky movie that aims to charm us with its eccentricity. This sentimental, sweet natured movie benefits greatly from it’s solid and likable cast.
Actor Guy Pearce goes slumming for a paycheck in the ridiculous action thriller, “Disturbing the Peace.” Pearce plays a marshal and former Texas Ranger who goes to battle with a gang of biker bank robbers in a small southern town. The plot, dialogue and direction are laughably bad, but not quite bad enough to make “Disturbing the Peace” a campy pleasure.
Also opening this week, Robert Downey, Jr. stars in “Dolittle,” a family film about the famed doctor and veterinarian who could talk to animals. “The Corrupted” is a violent British crime thriller starring Sam Claflin. “The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson” is a thriller that claims to offer a new angle on the O.J. Simpson murders. Mena Suvari stars. “Weathering With You” is Japanese anime offering about a girl with power over the weather.Listen
January 11, 2020 Arts & Culture, Podcast, Short Segment
"1917" is a stunning WWI drama that unfolds in a single shot. Two young British soldiers played by George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman are sent on a desperate mission with little hope of success. They’re to cross the dangerous terrain of no man’s land to warn a British regiment not to attack German forces because the enemy has set them up for a trap. Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes based his screenplay on stories his grandfather told him about the war. The single shot approach is a gimmick, but one that works on every level making “1917” one of the most immersive war films of all time. With “1917”, Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins have delivered the best film officially released in 2019.
Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx lead a strong cast in the earnest and heartfelt true-life drama, “Just Mercy,” based on Bryan Stevenson’s bestselling memoir. Jordan plays Stevenson, a naive but driven Harvard-educated lawyer who travels to Alabama to aid people thought to be wrongly convicted. He takes on the case of Walter McMillian, played by Foxx, a death row inmate awaiting execution for a murder he didn’t commit. While the filmmakers wear their convictions on their sleeve, they manage to imbue the proceedings with passion. “Just Mercy” is involving and makes a strong case that our justice system is still severely unbalanced.
Also opening this week, “Like a Boss” is a comedy starring Tiffany Haddish and Salma Hayek about backstabbing behavior in the beauty industry. Kristen Stewart stars in the sci-fi opus “Underwater,” a drama about the crew of an underwater research lab whose struggles only begin after an earthquake. Richard Gere stars in “The Three Christs” the story of a psychiatrist who tries to help three patients, each of whom believes that he is Jesus.Listen
January 4, 2020 Arts & Culture, Podcast, Short Segment
As we begin a new year, it’s time to look back at the best movies of 2019. Here’s the cream of the year’s cinematic crop.
10) The Farewell
Awkwafina stars in a sweetly sentimental comic drama about an American woman who travels to China to visit her terminally ill grandmother.
9) The Two Popes
Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins give splendid performances as Pope Francis and Pope Benedict who confront one another with their opposing philosophies.
8) The Irishman
Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci deliver the goods in Martin Scorsese's epic, violent gangster flick. The length is excessive, but it’s an impressive, blood-soaked morality tale and savvy character study.
Lupita Nyong’o gives a stunning dual performance in Jordan Peele’s original horror thriller. Prepare to be creeped out and intrigued at the same time.
6) Apollo 11
This impressive documentary about the 1969 moon mission consists entirely of footage never before seen by the public.
Korean filmmaker Bong Joon Ho’s comic drama works as a full-blooded thriller and a potent social commentary.
4) Toy Story 4
It’s a brilliantly conceived and executed animated story that works as a comedy, as an action adventure and as an emotionally satisfying conclusion to the series.
3) Little Women
The old chestnut is given a modern feminist sensibility while maintaining the appealingly traditional feel of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved writings.
2) Marriage Story
Noah Baumbach’s involving and sensitive look at a divorce boasts fine performances from Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver.
A stunning WWI drama that unfolds in a single shot, “1917” is the year’s best film and officially opens in KC on January 10th.
December 28, 2019 Arts & Culture, Podcast, Short Segment
Writer/director Greta Gerwig has pulled off a minor miracle. She's given a modern feminist sensibility to Louisa May Alcott’s” old chestnut “Little Women,” while maintaining the appealingly traditional feel of her beloved writings. Saoirse Ronan is fine in the pivotal role of Jo March and Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Timothée Chalamet, Laura Dern and Meryl Streep round out a stellar cast. “Little Women” also boasts a beautiful, evocative score by Alexandre Desplat. “Little Women” is a sensitively rendered film and one of the best of the year.
Will Smith's charisma comes through even when he's an animated character. "Spies in Disguise" is a modest but entertaining family flick from Blue Sky, the folks responsible for the “Ice Age” franchise. This colorful comedy is aimed mainly at young boys. Smith is a superspy who is unwillingly transformed into a pigeon by a clumsy scientist colleague, voiced by Tom Holland. While it’s a few notches below the work of the folks at Pixar, the action and humor of “Spies in Disguise” should prove diverting for the kids.
"Uncut Gems" is a skillfully made thriller set in New York’s jewelry district. It’s been embraced by many critics, but not this one. It’s an aggressively ugly character study with a grating, one-note performance by Adam Sandler as a jeweler with a gambling problem. “Uncut Gems” has flashes of real creativity but is about as appealing as nails on a chalkboard.
The horror flick "Apparition" offers little that's new, but this creepy little thriller demonstrates that creativity can overcome the limits of a low budget. Kevin Pollack and Mena Suvari star in the story of a haunted smartphone app that links the living and the dead. Things get downright grisly in an abandoned reform school. Hardcore horror fans could do worse…and often do.Listen
December 21, 2019 Arts & Culture, Podcast, Short Segment
Freeze Frame: “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” (PG-13), “Cats” (PG), “Bombshell” (R), “A Hidden Life” (PG-13)
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is not the final movie in the franchise. It’s supposedly the end of the line for the Skywalker clan, though. We’ll see. Daisy Ridley is back as Rey, who uses the force to battle evil Emperor Palpatine and the murderous son of Leia and Han Solo, Kylo Ren. It’s visually spectacular and fan boys should be satisfied by the action. But “The Rise of Skywalker” just warms over the familiar franchise themes. The Force is with them, but it’s a bit dim.
The big screen adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Broadway musical hit “Cats” is quite a spectacle, too. The all-star cast, the music, dancing and art direction are quite impressive. But “Cats” attempts to add gravitas to the clever but featherweight poems that T.S. Eliot wrote for children. Fans of the play will take to it like catnip. Others, skat.
News junkies will want to catch “Bombshell,” the true story of Fox News anchors Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson and their bid to dethrone sexist network honcho, Roger Ailes. Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie and John Lithgow to fine work, but the filmmakers approach the material with surprising timidity. “Bombshell” could have been a riveting exposé in the vein of “The Big Short,” but is merely an interesting overview.
Some say filmmaker Terrance Malick is a genius. Other claim he’s a pretentious hack. His latest film, “A Hidden Life” should get the same polarizing reaction. It tells the harrowing true story of Austrian farmer Franz Jägerstätter who suffered greatly when he refused to swear an oath to Hitler during WWII and was eventually beatified. The cinematography is stunning, but the length and slow pace of “A Hidden Life” requires saint-like patience.
Also opening this week, “Lost Holiday” is a comic drama about a couple of stoners who try to solve a kidnapping case. “She’s Missing” is a suspense mystery drama about a woman who searches for a missing rodeo queen.Listen
December 13, 2019 Arts & Culture, Podcast, Short Segment
The bombing incident at Atlanta’s Centennial Park during the 1996 Olympics marked the beginning of a dark time in American society. The FBI and the press were convinced that the security guard who first noticed the pipe bomb and saved many lives had actually planted the device himself in a concerted effort to be hailed as a hero.
Director Clint Eastwood’s film “Richard Jewell” takes a look at the sad sack hero whose life was forever damaged as a result of the media frenzy. Paul Walter Hauser, probably best known for playing one of Nancy Kerrigan’s assailants in “I, Tonya,” is ideally cast in the title role. Kathy Bates plays his long-suffering mom, Sam Rockwell is his resolute lawyer, Jon Hamm is an overly zealous FBI agent and Olivia Wilde plays the overly ambitious Atlanta newspaper reporter who saw this story as the way to ignite her stagnant career.
The film is a cautionary tale that points an accusing finger at a society all-too eager to build up heroes and all-too eager to bring them down. As with all Eastwood movies, “Richard Jewell” is competent, workmanlike and well-acted. But “Richard Jewell” never quite captures the compelling dynamic of its fascinating subject.
Also opening this week, “Jumanji: The Next Level” is a sequel to the 2017 hit “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” which was, in turn, a sequel to the Robin Williams’ original from 1995. Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan and Nick Jonas are all back, along with Awkwafina, in an adventure tale that takes our players back into the world’s most dangerous game. ”Black Christmas” the third version of the slasher flick that first appeared in 1974. This time out, Imogen Poots leads the cast in the grisly story of sorority sisters stalked by a mysterious assailant.Listen
December 6, 2019 Arts & Culture, Podcast, Short Segment
Freeze Frame: “Dark Waters” (PG-13), “Waves” (R), “Knives and Skin” (Not rated), “The Aeronauts” (PG-13)
Mark Ruffalo portrays a conflicted corporate lawyer in the sincere social drama, “Dark Waters.” This true story involves mysterious deaths and illnesses in a small community that may have been caused by the malfeasance of a major US corporation. Ruffalo plays Robert Bilott, who waged a 20-year war with DuPont. As a work of social activism, it’s fine. As a movie, “Dark Waters” is modest and somber.
A demanding father puts too much pressure to succeed on his teenage son in the heartbreaking family drama, “Waves.” Kelvin Harrison, Jr. and Sterling K., Brown lead a terrific cast in this realistic, harrowing and touching tale. It’s overlong, but for patient viewers, “Waves” is an intelligent and compassionate work.
If David Lynch had collaborated with John Hughes on a teen drama about female empowerment, it might have looked a bit like “Knives and Skin.” The filmmakers of this quirky tale about a missing high school student deserve kudos for trying something different, but “Knives and Skin” is a bit too meandering for its own good.
Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones star in “The Aeronauts” a visually impressive historic tale about a balloon pilot and a meteorologist who risk life and limb in the earliest days of flight. It’s highly fictionalized, but a rousing adventure yarn.
Also opening this week, “Hold On” is a drama about a struggling LA singer trying to save her brother from drugs. “I See You” is a horror thriller starring Helen Hunt. “Frankie” is a drama about the dynamics of a European family starring Isabelle Huppert and Marisa Tomei. “Playmobil: The Movie” is an animated comedy based on the building toys. “In Fabric” is a British horror comedy about a cursed dress. “Daniel Isn’t Real” is a horror flick about a traumatized college student who resurrects his childhood imaginary friend. And, the title tells all in the documentary “Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the Movie Palace.”Listen
November 22, 2019 Arts & Culture, Podcast, Short Segment
Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci deliver the goods in Martin Scorsese's epic, violent gangster flick, "The Irishman." In a sweeping tale that takes place over a number of years, DeNiro plays a truck driver and hitman who serves as a go-between linking the Teamsters Union and the mob. Pacino plays the colorful union boss Jimmy Hoffa and Pesci is a soft-spoken Mafia boss. “The Irishman” is the work of a master filmmaker and a cast in full command of their craft. The length may be excessive, but "The Irishman" is an impressive, blood-soaked morality tale and savvy character study.
The much-anticipated sequel to the 2013 Disney blockbuster “Frozen” has arrived. While it isn’t quite as magical as the original, “Frozen II” successfully maintains its atmosphere, tone and themes of female empowerment. The plot is a little complicated, but the visuals are top notch and the vocals are stirring. It’s just what 7-year-old girls crave and “Frozen II” is likely to warm the hearts of parents, too.
Chadwick Boseman stars in the police thriller, “21 Bridges,” an action flick about the hunt for cop killers in Manhattan. After a number of cops are ambushed when they stumble into a drug robbery, the city closes all 21 of the borough bridges in an attempt to trap the perps. The terrific cast also includes Sienna Miller, J.K. Simmons and Stephan James, but their efforts only emphasize how badly this lamebrained movie needed their talents to make it seem better than it is. It’s an ugly, cynical mess.
Also opening this week, “3022” is a sci-fi thriller starring Omar Epps. “Give Me Liberty” is a chaotic farce about one difficult day in the life of a Russian-American van driver. Tom Hanks plays Mister Rogers in the gentle drama, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”Listen
November 15, 2019 Arts & Culture, Podcast, Short Segment
Freeze Frame: “The Report” (R), “Ford v Ferrari” (PG-13), “Gift” (Not rated), “The Warrior Queen of Jhansi” (R)
“The Report” is an intriguing and political drama that focuses on the investigation that uncovered the CIA torture program during the Gulf War. Adam Driver stars as lead investigator Daniel Jones who spent years fighting to find the truth and then battling forces that tried to keep that truth under wraps. While the drama is somewhat reserved, it’s smartly written and involving.
You don’t have to be a race fan to enjoy “Ford v Ferrari,” but it sure helps. Matt Damon stars as the legendary car designer Carroll Shelby who, in 1966, recruits driver Ken Miles, played by Christian Bale, to help Ford defeat the Ferrari team in the grueling Le Mans Grand Prix race. There’s plenty of clashing egos, back-stabbing and testosterone-fueled action. While the movie has flaws, the cars speed past them in an entertaining petrol-headed blur.
“Gift” is a documentary inspired by the writing of Lewis Hyde that focuses on art as a philanthropic act and not as a commercial endeavor. Examples come from Burning Man, an occupied warehouse in Italy and from a community of the natives of Canada’s Pacific coast. “Gift” is sweet and very low-key.
“Warrior Queen of Jahansi” is a sadly pedestrian treatment of an amazing true story. In 1857 India, Rani Lakshmibai led an insurrection against the occupying British Empire that eventually led to the demise of the repressive British East Indian Company. It a dull historical epic.
Also opening this week, Ian McKellan and Helen Mirren star in the senior con artist drama, “The Good Liar.” Kristen Stewart stars in a reboot of the female private eye series, “Charlie’s Angels.” “Take Home Pay” is a Samoan/Kiwi comedy. “Line of Duty” is a police drama starring Aaron Eckart. “Radioflash” is a post-apocalyptic thriller involving virtual reality. “Immortal Hero” is a Japanese drama about a man whose life changes after a near-death experience.Listen
November 8, 2019 Arts & Culture, Podcast, Short Segment
Freeze Frame: “Midway” (PG-13), “Playing With Fire” (PG), “Tel Aviv on Fire” (Not rated), “Pain and Glory” (R)
Hollywood's 'Master of Disaster,' director Roland Emmerich, is best known for big screen spectacles like “Independence Day” and “The Day After Tomorrow.” He gives the famous South Pacific WWII battle "Midway" that same splashy, special effects-heavy treatment. While the action sequences are impressive the human drama is soapy and superficial. Stars like Woody Harrelson and Dennis Quaid give it their best, but only the Japanese characters seem authentic. Still, “Midway” is a fitting tribute to those who served and sacrificed.
The broad and goofy John Cena comedy "Playing With Fire" plays a bit like "Kindergarten Cop" with firemen. A group of California smoke jumpers rescue three kids from a fire and realize that their babysitting skills are lacking. If you're over the age of six, don't expect many laughs from this juvenile and labored effort.
“Tel Aviv on Fire” is a winning Israeli comedy about a Palestinian man who stumbles into a job as a TV writer. Things get complicated when an Israeli border officer forces him to alter the plotline of a politically charged soap opera. While this movie won’t bring peace, it finds common ground and a respite from conflict.
Antonio Banderas reunites with acclaimed Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar for the eighth time in “Pain and Glory,” a wistful and melancholy drama about an aging filmmaker reflecting on the joys and regrets of his life. Yes, it’s a semi-autobiographical work that provides Banderas with his best role in years.
Also opening this week, “Last Christmas” is a holiday rom-com starring Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding. Ewan McGregor stars in “Doctor Sleep,” the big screen adaptation of Stephen King’s sequel to “The Shining.” “Cold Brook” is a fairy tale about middle-aged enlightenment. “Danger Close” is an Australian Viet Nam war drama. “Love is Blind” is a comic drama about a woman unable to see or hear her mother.Listen