Opening this weekend:
Sonic the Hedgehog 2--This is the sequel to the 2020 screen treatment of the hero from the popular '90s-era video game from Sega. He's a determined-looking little goober with blue fur and quills who can run at supersonic speeds. He doesn't look all that much like a hedgehog to me, but whatever.
I never played the game and had no familiarity with the character, but I did review the first film, which I saw at a drive-in in Glendale in April of 2020; it was the last movie I actually saw at a theatre before the big shut-down began in earnest. If memory serves--the first film didn't exactly tattoo itself on my mind--this new film is better than its predecessor.
By which I mean, it's a little better. Starting with a prologue sequence set on "The Mushroom Planet" (a nod, possibly, to Eleanor Cameron's delightful "Mushroom Planet" books of the '50s and '60s?) to which the rotten Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) has been exiled, Sonic 2 is noticeably more visually rich and imaginative than the first film. Settings range from Siberia to Hawaii to oceanic temples, and the action ranges from aerial chases to avalanches to battles with giant robots to dance-offs.
Robotnik escapes his "Portobello purgatory" and returns to Earth in cahoots with Knuckles (voiced by Idris Elba), a giant extraterrestrial echidna, to pester Sonic (voiced, as before, by Ben Schwartz) about a magical green emerald. Knuckles doesn't look all that much like an echidna to me, but whatever. Our hero's principal ally, this time, is Tails (voiced by Colleen O'Shaughnessey), a fox with two bushy tails that allow him to fly, helicopter style. Tails does, at least, sort of look like a fox.
Along with James Marsden and Tika Sumpter, back from the first film as Sonic's surrogate parents, Shemar Moore, Natasha Rothwell and Adam Pally also pad out the cast. Carrey is at his snarkiest and wackiest, and seems to be having a good time, although he's reportedly announced his retirement.
On its own terms, all that's really wrong with Sonic 2 is that, at 2 hours 2 minutes, it's too long. It didn't seem to me that this was a movie that particularly needed to be three minutes longer than Citizen Kane.
Lost Angel--This micro-budget indie debut feature by Simon Drake is set in a fictitious south England island community. As it opens, we see our heroine Lisa taking a ferry home. Her sister has died, apparently by suicide, but as Lisa investigates, she finds reason to doubt the official story.
As the plot progresses, it takes a low-key, matter-of-fact turn into the supernatural. After a slow start, weighed down by lachrymose music, the film gradually picks up a nice head of mystery-thriller steam. Drake uses the settings to generate atmosphere without it feeling forced, and the performances take hold, particularly that of the plaintive, quietly focused Sascha Harman as Lisa. By the end, Lost Angel is both gripping and highly touching.
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