The Screen Critic: Disney gets back on the horse, the minions return, three arthouse gems and J.Lo goes to space

Jun 21, 2024
Source: Getty Images.

Disney might not be out of the woods just yet but at least the wonderful Inside Out 2 provides us all with a long-overdue reprieve from the studio’s expensive quality crisis.

Picking up where the hit 2015 film left off, this beautiful, brilliantly animated sequel finds Riley reaching puberty as an angst-ridden teenager worried about losing her two best friends and whether she can qualify for the local hockey team.

Torn between keeping her old pals and fitting in with a cool circle of new mates it’s no surprise that the crew of emotions inside Riley’s head, lead by Joy (voiced again by Amy Poehler), is shaken by the arrival of chaotic new emotions. At their head is Anxiety, a hyper-active control freak who appears to have had one strong black too many.

Conflict rages between Joy, who wants Riley to resist change and remain a good person, and Anxiety, who fervently believes that her future happiness lies in conformity.

Filled with colourful, witty visualisations of what the inside of a troubled teenager’s mind looks like, Inside Out 2 is a welcome, warm return to the family-friendly feel of Pixar’s early films and hopefully signals a course correction for Disney back to films with loveable characters and strong, value-driven stories.

About time.

Another top-shelf, crowd-pleasing animated delight is Despicable Me 4, a fast and funny frolic that sees former villain Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) his family and his adorable battalion of diminutive yellow minions go into witness protection.

Easily as good as the previous films, there’s no sign of franchise fatigue as half a dozen madcap storylines skilfully come together for a whopper finale.

And the minions are as funny as ever. Perfect family fare.

If you’re a Russell Crowe fan you might want to give his latest effort an extra-wide berth.

In The Exorcism, Rusty plays a post-prime actor trying to reclaim his reputation by playing a priest in a remake of The Exorcist.

Though it’s a terrible film that begins falling apart within the opening half hour, the film’s biggest flub is that it’s not the least bit scary.

The only thing to fear is that Crowe, having made The Pope’s Exorcist last year, will soon play another priest in an exorcism themed film, just to complete the trilogy. Please, no.

Some rich offerings await discerning filmgoers over on the bountiful arthouse circuit.

Danish megastar Mads Mikkelsen stars in The Promised Land, an excellent historical melodrama in which Mads plays a farmer in the 1700s trying to cultivate land deemed unworkable.

A former military man, he has some success and the King’s blessing, yet finds trouble with a villainous land owner who has a vested interest in his failure.

Tensions rise as Mads develops the land and things get rather heated and violent. Strong stuff with great cinematography.

From New Zealand comes The Convert, an atmospheric historical drama about a holy man (Guy Pearce) who tries bringing the word of God to the freshly colonised islands in the South Pacific where warring tribes resist the onset of progress.

The transformative power of music is given its due in the lovely French film Divertimento in which music student Zahia (Oulaya Amamra) strives to become a conductor in the face of the sexism of 1985.

With her twin sister Fettouma (Lina Elarabi) also working to become a viola player, the fact-based film is a treat for the ears as Zahia learns the hard, age-old lesson that art demands more than good technique.

One of the biggest hits on Netflix right now is the enjoyable sci-fi action film Atlas. It stars J.Lo – aka Jennifer Lopez, though nobody calls her that by now – who has to walk across a hostile alien planet in search of fellow survivors from her crashed spaceship.

Housed in a giant mechanical suit and assisted by a slightly annoying AI program, J.Lo battles an assortment of foes while wrestling with the ethics of fusing her mind with her AI pal.

Very well-made with some A-grade visual effects, it’s a solid, sometimes silly serving of sci-fi pulp, with J.Lo again proving herself as adept with action as she is with rom-coms.

For more visit with updates on X at @jimschembri.

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