Movie reviews


#1

With the start of a new year and a new iteration of the forums, it’s time to start a new round of movie reviews. The first one will be a movie that has been in the theaters for over two months now and is going strong. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s still in the theaters pretty close to the DVD release date on March 18, 2014.

Last year, I had said that Pixar had been doing better than Disney because Pixar tells original stories while Disney re-tells other people’s stories or its own stories. Well, the purchase of Pixar and putting John Lasseter in charge of pretty much all animation at Disney has paid off. This might be an interpretation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, but Frozen just passed Finding Nemo as the highest-grossing original animated film. Disney is now doing not just something right, but many things right.

If you haven’t seen this fim yet, see it. Beyond the typical 3D and standard versions, there’s another choice that you’ll want to factor in, which I’ll cover at the end. It’s worth seeing in the theaters, and I don’t feel that way about most films. I’ll go to a few of them, but I’m mostly happy to wait until they’re out on DVD. Today was the second time I’ve watched it and I immediately went out to get the soundtrack. I will be buying the deluxe soundtrack shortly.

Now, if you haven’t watched this movie, skip to the end of this review. While the details I’m about to share aren’t anything you can’t learn by going to Wikipedia or any other review site, you will enjoy it more.





The film starts off with princesses Anna and Elsa playing in the snowfall that Elsa is able to magically create. But an accident results in having to erase most of Anna’s memories, leaving her wondering why her sister now avoids her. In a misguided attempt to protect their daughters, her parents isolate the family from the rest of the kingdom and teach Elsa to repress all emotion and to never use her powers, instead of learning to control them as they had been advised. Okay, technically that’s a form of control, but it doesn’t work so well.

Anna keeps reaching out to Elsa through the perpetually shut door, but to no avail. The years pass, and I don’t know how Anna remains cheerful and optimistic for so long, but eventually she just about gives up.

A few years after the death of their parents, Elsa becomes queen. The coronation day starts off fairly smoothly with Elsa doing her best to keep control. But she’s overwhelmed by the number of people and Anna’s sudden romance, loses control and flees into the mountains. The kingdom is immersed in snow as she leaves. Anna goes out after her.

It’s during her trek deep into the mountains that Elsa has a revelation: she’s free to use her powers. She learns very quickly and the results of specular and beautiful. She also gives herself a new outfit, hinting at a power to control materials like fabric on a molecular level.

As Anna searches for Elsa, she meets up with Kristoff, who has a very strong bond with his reindeer, Sven. Thankfully, Disney avoided having Sven talk, though he is intelligent enough to know exactly what is going on. Some of what he would have said is taken up by Kristoff and some by Olaf the snowman. There’s a genuine innocence and sincerity in Olaf that makes him a really likable character.

They do find Elsa and are also awestruck by what she’s made. But she’s still afraid of hurting Anna and accidentally does so again. It’s then a race to save Anna as the other search party catches up to Elsa.

Will Anna be saved? Will she reconcile with her sister? Will Olaf learn “whatever snow does when it’s summer”?

It’s a Disney film. The answer is yes on all counts, but see the film to see exactly how.





I realize that’s kind of a lot of detail about what happens in the first half of the movie and suddenly cuts off, but that helps me tie into the fan response to this movie. One of the reviews said that it seemed like a few of the songs were kind of forced into the movie because it was locked into being a musical. But many people have noted the lack of songs in the final act. More specifically, the lack of an answer by Elsa to the question of “Do you want to build a snowman?”

Having just watched the movie again, I think putting another song at the end of the movie would have been a mistake. But what the fans have come up with to provide that answer are really good. Some immediately follow Anna’s question. Some are for the end of the movie. They’re worth hearing, but don’t watch the videos if you haven’t seen the movie and don’t watch them unless you have some tissues at hand.

“Do you want to build a snowman Reprise”
“Why Can’t We Build A Snowman (Elsa’s response)”
“Do you want to build a snowman, Elsa’s response to Anna”
“Of course I want to build a snowman”

Yesterday, I tried to find again the official video for Do You Want To Build A Snowman? and I can’t find it any more. I think it’s been completely obliterated by the response to Elsa’s anthemn, Let It Go. There’s at least two official Disney channels on YouTube, but for the Disneyanimation and DisneyMusicVEVO channels, that video has been watched over 72 millions times in the past two months, or about 1.2 million times per day.

The movie has done so well with Golden Globe, Annie and Critics’ Choice awards and Academy, BAFTA and Satellite award nominations that they just released a special singalong version in theaters. I might go back and see it again next weekend just so I can enjoy the audience singing along with the song. Here’s “Let It Go” in the singalong version, and the version where they include all 25 languages the movie’s been released in.

After hearing that, there’s almost no need for the version that Demi Lovato sings. The Idina Menzel version is so powerful, but Demi’s version is a little longer and has some extra lyrics, so it helps fill out the credits.

If you need any more incentive to go see this movie, there’s discussions going on about adapting it to a Broadway musical. That’s a good sign. You may also catch the performances by Alan Tudyk as the Duke of Weaseltown (“that’s Westleton!”) and screenwriter Jessica Lee as the queen.

I said it before. I’ll say it again. See this movie.

And if you’ve got Disney Infinity, get the Frozen Toy Box set. The grappling hook and shovel that Anna uses are a pretty good pair of weapons, and Elsa’s snow powers can freeze the enemies in mid-air. You’ll also get the texture set and sky set that will turn the toy box into the winter kingdom of Arendelle.


Cultural Notes
#2

I really liked this movie. It really felt like a Pixar/Disney movie. And as the father of daughters it has female role models I liked. It also doesn’t use the male figures as comedy props.

I could sanction my daughter marrying Kristoff. As opposed to many of the men in similar stories. This avoided some of the pitfalls that Tangled jumped into.


#3

NPR reported this morning that Frozen is now the fourth highest-grossing domestic animated film. The soundtrack just hit the number 1 spot on the Billboard 200 chart, and is the fourth animated film soundtrack to do so. Let’s see how well it does up against The LEGO Movie, which comes out this Friday.


#4

My wife and I went to see Interstellar last night.
A week or so ago I read a review of it that said that they could write a review that concentrated on the film’s many flaws, but that to do so would miss the point and do the film a grave injustice as it is a phenomenal film. I understand exactly what the reviewer meant. When we finished watching the movie, my wife and I looked at each other and just said “Wow”.

If you have considered going to see it then I’d say definitely go. If you haven’t considered going to see it then I’d say think about it because it’s an incredible movie.


#5

You know an actor really made an impact on the public when just seeing the words “In Memory of Mickey Rooney and for Robin Williams” causes someone in the theater to cry briefly.

I may have more about Robin in the future. If/when it’s done, I’ll post the link here.


#6

I saw ‘Fury’ the other week. Whilst it may not be the action film people were wanting, nor the ‘war is hell’ message people were wanting, it did have some merits. (And demerits as well.)

Good points:

  • Real Sherman tanks.
  • A real Tiger tank.
  • Very correct weapons / uniforms / equipment on both sides.

Bad points:

  • A Panzerfaust hit at point-blank range on a Sherman’s side would toast it up faster than you can blink.
  • Two grenades detonate inside a tank and no internal damage?
  • The track broke in the wrong place when they hit the mine.
  • Overly long in places and too drawn out.

Overall, they get good marks for accuracy and authenticity. But an overall ‘FAIL’ for a movie I could not sit back and enjoy, nor come back to watch again.


#7

Saw the third Hobbit movie. I’m not the most excited about this one. Some really awesome stuff, but it was also pretty obvious they were reaching to fill it out.

The Dwarf/Elf mashup was really disturbing on several levels, it screws with the Legolas’ story in the ROTK. I also think they could have pushed the fact that the elves were immortal a bit more before the face/heel turn, would have had a bit more impact I think if people understood better that each of those elves was potentially thousands of years old with thousands of years ahead of them.

And I think both the Dwarven and Elfin armies could have spent less time on close quarter parade drill and a bit more on traditional movements. Though the battle was very enjoyable, I got the feeling that if I watched it a second time without being all oohh about the effects I’d start asking some questions about what was going on.

And that’s very disappointing about Fury. I’m glad it’s not another “War is Hell” movie though most of those are total shit unless they are done right. And by done right I mean from the soldier’s point of view, not Michael Moore’s.


#8

I enjoyed the Hobbit movies, but still wish we had gotten the Guillermo de Toro 1-2 movie versions that were origionally discussed. The added content in The Hobbit changed the tone from “a more fairy-tale story that happens to lead in to the Lord of the Rings” to “The LotR Prequel.”

it didn’t need to look like LotR or have more links between the two. It’s a very different form of story-telling even its from the same author.

The dwarf king played by Billy Connolly was also noticeably bad CGI for some reason. He looked like a reasonably good cut-scene video game character from a few years ago, which isn’t really what you want to see in a big major release movie.


#9

I’d noticed the same thing. And Scottish dwarves are even more cemented into the public psyche with that one too.

There and back again. I had a Atlas of Middle Earth when I was a kid, that I’d kill to find now, that compared the journey of Bilbo to Frodo’s from the Shire to Rivendell. The dwarves and Bilbo took the main road, and basically strolled most of the way. No hurries, just a grand adventure.

Found it, 10 miles a day by pony vs. 17 miles a day on foot. 17 miles a day is pretty serious for walking, while carrying your supplies on your back. The first few not so much, but a month of it would half kill you.

I think they made The Hobbit too big. By including all the pieces that happened, but didn’t belong to Bilbo’s story. In the book Gandalf just appears and disappears, for “reasons” of too much importance. The quest for the Lonely Mountain was just a small part of what he was working on. The public, having already seen the other movies, had to have the back story, side story, and everything else. The books go from a simple little story to this world rending trilogy. I don’t think they could go the other way.

I’m curious if there is any talk of doing anything with the other stories in the canon. There is a place for massive films like this, and there is plenty of water left in the well, but would it work if they took an Unfinished Tale, or an entire story from the Silmirilion instead of filler?


#10

“If you are referring to the incident with the dragon, I was barely involved.”

For very large definitions of “barely”, apparently.


#11

I saw Birdman today because…well, I needed to kill 2 hours.

Two hours very well spent. It’s not the kind of movie I usually get to see but I thought it was outstanding.


#12

Yeah, just saw the review of Fantastic Four by Howard Tayler. Suffice it to say that my five-year abstention from going to a movie theatre is in absolutely no danger of ending on this movie’s account.


#13

I think these guys need to watch a few episodes of the cartoon. Maybe they’ll get it then. Like one of the comments says, Mr. Fantastic is not 20. Johnny is the only one under 30, part of the deal with some of the characters there is that they are adults and can think this shit through instead of just blasting through everything.

Bummer.


#14

Making Johnny Storm black, but not Sue, is a decision I have a hard time with.

I understand Tayler’s position, regarding perceiving the movies as separate from the comic books, but if that is true, why did they keep the same names? If they use the same names “Fantastic Four”, “Avengers”, etc., then they should follow canon as much as possible. And I am not talking about story-lines, except when the story-lines contradict canon; there’s a lot to be said for creating new story-lines, and die-hard fans would love it.


#15

Since I haven’t kept up with this installment (they fooled me twice already)…since Johnny & Sue are supposed to be siblings, how did they explain it? Adoption?


#16

Yes. From what I understand, Sue was the adopted child.


#17

While I don’t doubt that it happens, I have to say that while I’ve known multiple minorities that have been adopted by white parents I’ve never known a single white person adopted my a minority.


#18

Does Nicole Richie count?


#19

I can’t imagine she made it past the 3rd grade without learning how.


#20

I know a guy who was fostered with a black family. Unfortunately, as supportive as that family was, they were in a school district where he was one of a very few white students. He received a lot of bullying and harassment, and social services took him out of that home and place him in a different county.