Frozen

YES! For anyone who has ever thought, “Come on, Disney princess, save yourself,” or “Wow. That’s kind of simplistic,” FROZEN is here to give you hope.

This is not only a hilarious movie that has heart, it tells a story of complex people making hard choices about being true to themselves and it is about two sisters who you just want to be friends with.

FROZEN is a spectacular movie. Thank you, Disney, for getting this movie made and doing it so right. And thank you also for casting incredible voice talent and writing simply outstanding songs.

You’re going to love FROZEN if you liked:

Beauty and the Beast
The Heat
Wall-E
Tangled

Here’s a trailer:

The deets:

Released November 27, 2013

Written by Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck, and Shane Morris. Based on the faiy tale “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen.

Directed by Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck

Starring Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana, and Alan Tudyk

Rated: PG

*     *     *     *     *

Story

Anna (Bell) and Elsa (Menzel) are sisters in the kingdom of Arendelle. As little kids, they were the best of friends, and they had fun playing with Elsa’s (the older of the two) power: she can freeze things and can create incredible frozen shapes. But one night, Elsa accidentally seriously injures Anna with her power, so the decision is made to remove Anna’s memory of Elsa’s power and keep the two sisters separate.

Elsa is told she must keep her power in, restrain it, not touch anybody, and live a life of isolation so as to not put anyone in danger. Anna is confused at her sister’s sudden isolation and she becomes quite lonely, despite her unflagging optimism about the world.

Of course the parents die, leaving the two sisters to be raised in the same palace, but essentially living separate lives in an isolated, closed-off home. When Elsa becomes of age to be crowned queen, the palace’s gates will be opened for the day for the festivities. But Elsa is in constant battle with her powers, and the celebration goes south after Anna meets Hans (Fontana) and they fall in true love and decide to get married.

Now Elsa decides that as long as she is separate from everybody, she can let her power go and live life on her terms. But when Elsa lets go, the entire kingdom is covered in a blistering winter. So Anna has to find Elsa and find a way to stop the threatened eternal winter. During her journey, Anna meets Kristoff (Groff) and Kristoff’s trusty reindeer, Sven. They also meet Olaf (Gad), a snowman that might be from the sisters’ childhood.

In the meantime, Hans is managing the kingdom while the Duke of Weselton (Tudyk) seems to have it in for Elsa and also seems to have a hankering for money and power.

When Anna finds Elsa, she discovers that Elsa has no idea how to stop the deadly winter. At the same time, a group of soldiers shows up and, once again, Elsa puts Anna’s life in danger by putting ice in Anna’s heart.

Now Anna needs an act of true love to save her before she becomes eternally frozen. And Elsa has to move past her guilt and anger to find out how to control her power.

And these two sisters have to do this for themselves, although they have some help along the way.

Critique

I’m not going to give anything away in my critique. No spoilers.

But you have to know that this movie features acts of true love, courage, and sacrifice that finally open the door on the meaning of the phrase ‘true love.’ You also have to know that something a goofy snowman says will absolutely make you tear up. You should also know that this movie is driven ENTIRELY BY TWO WOMEN WHO ARE DOING THEIR BEST TO FOLLOW THEIR HEARTS AND THE ENTIRETY OF THE PLOT IS DUE TO THEIR CHOICES.

So thank you, Disney. You wrote a great story.

Now. Two songs:

“Would You Like to Build a Snowman” sets the tone early: you’re going to cry. It’s so wonderful but then heartbreaking. And Kristen Bell does her own singing.

“Let it Go” is mind-blowingly powerful. It’s conflicted, beautiful, rocking, and Idina Menzel should always sing it.

Both of these need Oscar nominations and “Let it Go” needs to win. And FROZEN should win best animated picture for 2013.

It’s funny, charming, heart-rending and warming, ultimately very satisfying and hopeful, and the animation is very nice indeed. I wouldn’t mind female protagonists who don’t have caricature-level tiny, upturned noses and big eyes, but that’s a little thing.

For a movie covered in winter, ice, and snow, FROZEN is warm and powerful.

You will love this movie. Give Disney your money.

Content warnings: None. Unless you have a problem with the word ‘butt.’

Writing: 5         Acting (voice): 5         Overall: 5

Send this review to people who haven’t seen FROZEN yet and help them see the light.

Share

Red 2

Red 2 is a couple hours of pretty enjoyable entertainment. But you have to be careful to not stop and think too much about these characters, as they don’t really make any sense at all.

You will probably like Red 2 if you enjoyed:
Red
Dumb and Dumber
Lethal Weapon 2 and 3
Pacific Rim

If you don’t like movies that use good actors in wasted roles and that wink at the audience, Red 2 is probably not for you.

Here’s a trailer:

The deets:

Released July 19, 2013

Written by John Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, Warren Ellis, and Cully Hammer. Based on the comics.

Directed by Dean Parisot

Starring Helen Mirren, Mary-Louise Parker, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Anthony Hopkins, Byung-hun Lee, Neal McDonough, David Thewlis, and Brian Cox

Rated: PG-13

*     *     *     *     *

Story

Frank Moses (Willis) has been out of the spy game for a while now, trying to settle down and make a life with Sarah (Parker). Out shopping, they run into Marvin (Malkovich), who informs Frank that somebody has uncovered Marvin and Frank’s participation in something called Operation Nightshade and now people are gunning for them in order to find a nuke hidden in Moscow.

To stay alive, Marvin and Frank will have to team up with some of their former cronies and find the nuke before anyone else. In the meantime, the best assassin in the world, Han (Lee), is after them and Victoria (Mirren) has also been asked to take them out. Sarah insists she wants to join Frank and Marvin on their journey, as she is clearly bored by the life she and Frank have been living, but along comes Katja (Zeta-Jones), a former flame of Moses, who might be able to help Frank and Marvin get out of the fix they’re in.

So Frank, Marvin, and the rest have to find the scientist who invented the nuke and who might know were it is. The problem is that this scientist has been locked up for more than 32 years. This is Bailey (Hopkins), and he is clearly somewhat off his rocker.

Along this seasoned group goes, firing countless bullets at all takers and basically doing their best to steamroll through all the baddies. Loyalties will be tested, as will love.

Critique

For all the hyperactivity of the fight scenes and enthusiastic effort of the players, Red 2 feels somewhat flat and generally like a bunch of people playing in the same sandbox without much direction or leadership. It feels as if the entertaining scenes were conceived in a vacuum and story was written to try to string these scenes together.

You can almost imagine the writers and director having a conversation. “Okay, so Sarah’s kind of a ditz, so we need a scene where her ditziness messes things up. Oh yeah, and also she needs to be clueless about guns.”

“Good one! Hey, let’s also have Victoria kick everyone’s ass and then deliver a zinger of a one-liner. ”

“Nice! Of course, we also need to see Moses and Marvin have plenty of banter and Moses needs to be in some awkward situations between his current love and his former flame. Willis can just mug here.”

“Good plan!”

So the story is decidedly formulaic, but where The Heat used its characters to freshen up the formula and bring sharp, intelligent dialogue into the scenes, Red 2′s dialogue is too often totally predictable and far too self-aware– winking at the audience as we are all in on the joke that these are old people delivering lines that a younger tough would usually deliver.

All of that said, here we also have consummate actors doing great work and having a lot of fun. Helen Mirren is a joy to watch, with her diminutive frame and sophisticated bearing, as she beats the tar out of people and seems to enjoy it. Malkovich steals every scene he’s in with manic energy and great timing. Zeta-Jones is a little underused; as it seems that her character is a plot device only. Hopkins has a great time and is fun to watch, although his character makes zero sense if you stop and think about him. And Bruce Willis, sadly, phones a lot of his scenes in, although there are a couple of scenes where we get to see his comedic timing.

The biggest tragedy is the casting of Mary-Louise Parker as the too-often clueless and flighty Sarah. Sarah gets far too little to do, and when she does do something right, it makes absolutely no sense– we don’t understand how she knew to do what she did. Parker is better than this role.

All in all, Red 2 is somewhat better than its predecessor, but is still a little flat, a little too silly.

Content warnings: Plenty of explosive violence and a goodly amount of salty language.

Writing: 3          Acting: 4.5          Overall: 3

If you don’t share this review with everyone you know, I hope you get red in the face!

Share

The Heat

The Heat is one of the funniest movies released by Hollywood in the last few years. Both Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock are at the top of their game and every thinking adult will laugh at this movie.

You will probably enjoy The Heat if you liked:
Beverly Hills Cop
48 Hours
Pitch Perfect
21 Jump Street
Bad Boys

If you avoid movies with raunchy language, you might want to skip this one, although you’ll be missing out.

Here’s a trailer:

The deets:

Released June 28, 2013

Written by Katie Dippold

Directed by Paul Feig

Starring Melissa McCarthy, Sandra Bullock, Demian Bichir, Michael McDonald, Marlon Wayans, Jane Curtin, Spoken Reasons, and Thomas F. Wilson.

Rated: R

*     *     *     *     *

Story

Sarah Ashburn (Bullock) is solid FBI agent who is obnoxiously by the book. She is also hard-working and driven and is always the smartest person in the room. Which she very much enjoys. After closing yet another case, she is in line for a big promotion, but her boss, Hale (Bichir), wants her to go to Boston to track down a bad guy named Lassen who seems to be taking over the city’s drug trade, through his proxy Julian (McDonald). These guys leave their enemies brutally dismembered.

So Ashburn shows up and tracks down a small-time seller named Rojas (Reasons), who was just arrested by Shannon Mullins (McCarthy) in a very funny scene. Now Ashburn and Mullins are at odds, with Ashburn trying to invoke FBI jurisdiction and Mullins showing that she is easily as smart as Ashburn, despite her very unconventional approach to police work.

Now Ashburn has to work with Mullins in order to nail Julian and Lassen. Meanwhile, Mullins has to try to keep her recently released brother (Rapaport) both alive and out of jail as well as deal with a family who strongly disapproves of her job as a police detective. And it turns out that if Mullins can nail Julian and Lassen, maybe her brother will stay safe.

We are, of course, led to a showdown with a couple of twists along the way. The journey is punctuated and moved along with multiple scenes of characters acting in a way that is true to them and much hilarity ensuing.

Critique

The formula is tried and true: conventional cop and unconventional cop have to team up to bring down the baddies, with both cops having their own personal reasons for wanting the baddies out of the picture. The formula, of course, includes them butting heads, learning the true nature of their unwanted partner, gaining a respect and appreciation for their partner, a reason to suddenly distrust them, and a final coming together.

It’s a formula that works and it does not reflect badly on The Heat that it follows said formula. This is because the story still feels fresh and the characters are still compelling, because they are what is driving the story and their dialogue and interplay mine every possible joke as far as they can. McCarthy is given long seconds to deliver multiple punchlines, as is Bullock. Notice the scene in the FBI office, towards the end of the movie, where Bullock defends Mullins. It could have just been a scene for Ashburn to show her change of heart, but the burst of inane profanity and the awkward bird-flipping not only provide laughs but show more about Ashburn’s change of heart and personal transformation.

So The Heat delivers character arcs, some twists in the tried and true formula, and brilliantly written and executed dialogue. McCarthy and Bullock are experienced performers at the top of their game and they do a great job.

Now a jab at some of the idiot critics out there. No, The Heat isn’t two women doing man humor. It’s two women doing humor, and some of it is decidedly and pointedly female humor. Some of it is crass, some of it is tender, and most of it is wonderfully true to the characters.

Go see The Heat. You will laugh long and loud. Isn’t that the point?

Content warnings: Lots of salty and raunchy language and some serious violence.

Writing: 4.5          Acting: 5           Overall: 4.5

Heat up the interwebs by sharing this review all over the place. Come on, you know you want to!

Share

Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim is the farthest thing from a thoughtful, moving flick that we are likely to get this year. That said, it’s at times very fun, mostly because of Idris Elba and what isn’t fun about huge robots punching nasty beasties from the deep?

You’ll probably enjoy Pacific Rim if you enjoyed:
Transformers (1, 2, and 3)
Independence Day
Hellboy
Lockout

If you like your action movies to have brains and heart, you might not enjoy Pacific Rim.

Here’s a trailer:

The deets:

Released July 12, 2013

Written by Travis Beacham and Guillermo del Toro

Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Starring Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Max Martini, Diego Klattenhoff, and Robert Kazinsky

Rated: PG-13

*     *     *     *     *

Story

Years ago, a devastating monster, dubbed kaiju, rose from the deep ocean, laying waste to a coastal town. Several more soon followed. Humanity created massive robots, called jaegers (Yay-gher), that would be run by two people whose neural pathways were connected. These people would be in the robot, each controlling half of it, and with their brains connected, they work in total concert.

The technology wherein two people can be connected this way is called ‘drifting,’ and it works best if the two are related.

Raleigh (Hunnam) and Yancy (Klattenhoff) Becket are brothers running a jaeger called Gypsy Danger. Their operation goes bad and Raleigh leaves the ranks of jaeger pilots because of it.

Now, some time later, the attacks from the kaiju are increasing and getting worse. Some idiots think that building walls is the best option for defense of the race. Marshall Pentecost (Elba), who has been running the jaeger program is left without funding and with only a few final jaegers. But he has a plan and he needs the best jaeger pilots he can find, so he goes and finds Raleigh and convinces him to rejoin the jaeger program. The plan? Close the portal that the kaiju are coming from.

In the meantime, you have Dr. Newton Geiszler (Day) and Dr. Gottlieb (Gorman), both of whom are experts on kaiju, trying to discover the true nature of these creatures. These two provide comedy and fun through their competitive dynamic, and they team up to help reveal important information that Pentecost can use to his advantage.

Raleigh needs a partner, so a jaeger expert named Mako Mori (Kikuchi), who has serious issues, is brought on. Now these two need to fight for the survival of humanity, along with the other jaeger pilots.

All of this, of course, leads to a final showdown between kaiju and jaeger, with buildings and roads being destroyed and all kinds of eye-popping fight scenes happening. The creativity that went into the relentless kaiju is a treat.

Critique

Apparently, in today’s action movies, collateral damage is not an issue. We see this in the Transformers franchise, Man of Steel, and many more. Pacific Rim joins the pantheon of films wherein the good guys just don’t seem to care about the damage being caused as they trade punches with the bad guys.

This detracts from the enjoyment and overall impact of the films, because if these heroes aren’t heroic enough to try and save individuals, what’s the point?

The writing/plot of Pacific Rim is focused on one thing: fill in the blanks adequately to lead to awesome fight scenes. To fill in these blanks, emotional relationship issues are created, one-liners are crafted, and, happily, two characters called Newt and Gottlieb are invented who add some good fun. Charlie Day is a win.

It might have been nice to have more thought put into characters who we could care about, who make decisions not because the plot demands that they do but because they go through journeys that we can identify and sympathize with. This does not happen in Pacific Rim, and that is too bad.

But there are solid one-liners, a few scenes of personal sacrifice, a father-son relationship that is quite touching, and huge scenes of phenomenal battles between kaiju and jaeger, so Pacific Rim accomplishes what it set out to do.

That it feels kind of flat at times is a problem with Hunnam’s flat performance, character and dialogue that are too-often there for filler, and not enough time given for characters to think things through. Luckily, Elba and Martini are excellent performers and they get it done.

Content warnings: some salty language, intense scenes, lots of scifi violence.

Writing: 3.5          Acting: 3          Overall: 3.5

Go share this now, before the kaiju attack!

Share