Vivo (2021, dir. Kirk DiMicco with Brandon Jeffords)

A kinkajou quests from Cuba to Miami with a statement of long-held love. Bland animated musical comedy adventure. The songs are the movie’s weakest point: the movie looks great (Roger Deakins is listed as a consultant) and there’s some OK comic moments, but this is forgettable underwritten stuff.

Here’s the trailer.

Rocketman (2019, dir. Dexter Fletcher)

Biopic of Elton John, charting his rise to fame and his struggles with success, leading to addiction and recovery. And a chirpy fantasia it is too, daft and jolly and waspish and excessive enough to hint at the real Reg/Elton, while its involved producer/subject settles some scores along the way.

Here’s the trailer.

The Christmas Chronicles, Part 2 [AKA The Christmas Chronicles 2] (2020, dir. Chris Columbus)

Two years on, and an unhappy Kate Pierce is kidnapped by a cast-out elf aiming to get revenge on Santa. Sprawling grab-bag sequel, mashing up Milton, Gremlins and a hundred other properties. Messy and uncoordinated, though Kurt Russell is having fun, plus he gets another Blues Brothers-ish singalong set piece.

Here’s the trailer.

Slumber Party Massacre II (1987, dir. Deborah Brock)

A survivor of a mass murder hallucinates during a break with bandmate friends. Shifting from the slasher template to ape now-voguish Elm St-derived dream logic (and Trick or Treat‘s rock focus), this semi-spoof sequel takes forever to get going, and isn’t good when it does, one great stunt aside. The fourth-wall-breaking villain gets a song, though.

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020, dir. David Dobkin)

No-hoper Icelandic childhood best friends dream of winning Eurovision. Ferrell adapts his sports comedy template to fit, with generally appealing results. While it’s overlong and needs more jokes, everyone’s having fun, the musical parodies are good, and there are plenty of in-jokes and guest appearances for the faithful.

Blue Story (2019, dir. Rapman)

London teens become inexorably drawn into turf warfare, and the violence that comes with it. Straightforward though vivid and confident debut, keenly balancing school and street, the ordinary world and the futility of revenge. Lots to admire, not least the use of music and fourth wall breaking throughout; writer-director Rapman is one to watch. Recommended.

Dreamgirls (2006, dir. Bill Condon)

An unscrupulous manager manipulates the careers of multiple music performers throughout the 60s and 70s. Awkward facsimile of the musical biopic subgenre adapted from a stage show. Some of it works (Eddie Murphy is great as a James Brown-ish blowhard) but too much is sketchy by-the-numbers genre pastiche material that doesn’t even have the benefit of actual period songs.

Cabin in the Sky (1943, dir. Vincente Minnelli)

A shot-dead gambler tries to redeem himself, as emissaries from Heaven and Hell agree on giving him a second chance. Minnelli’s first directorial feature is a wartime Faustian black-cast curio; both of its time (at best) in representational terms yet featuring great performances and musical sequences, it’s well-worth revisiting.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984, dir. Steven Spielberg)

An archaeologist and a nightclub singer find themselves facing an ancient occult evil. Though this prequel starts and finishes well, it’s hampered by an absence of narrative causality, two annoying sidekicks, and unfortunate treatment of gender and ethnicity throughout. Some great stuff remains, but this is too awkward too often.

Frozen II (2019, dir. Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee)

Elsa and Anna have to leave Arendelle to find out the secret of Elsa’s powers and their family history. Overly-complicated sequel with OK though derivative songs, and reliance on goodwill from Part I to see things through. Some good moments, but second time around, this is no classic.