Movies: 'Frozen,' 'Philomena' & 'Cold Turkey'
Published 3:34 pm, Friday, November 29, 2013
Following are Susan Granger's reviews of the latest movies in area theaters:
With its 53rd feature, Walt Disney Studios has reclaimed its animation crown. And the magic begins with Lauren MacMullen's inventive short, "Get A Horse," featuring Walt himself doing voice work.
In "Frozen," Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) and Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) are fairy-tale princesses, heirs to the enchanted Scandinavian kingdom of Arendelle after their parents die in a shipwreck.
Older Elsa was born with a scary, supernatural power to create snow and ice and, through a bizarre occurrence, inadvertently has condemned her subjects to bleak, perpetual winter. So Elsa seeks sanctuary in an Ice Palace on North Mountain. Younger Anna longs to create a thaw and re-establish the close connection with her beloved, yet estranged sister that they once shared as children.
For this arduous quest, Anna teams up with a rugged mountain man Kristoff (voiced by Jonathan Groff), his trusty reindeer Sven and an endearing, anthropomorphic, carrot-nosed snowman, Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad), who loves "warm hugs" and dreams of summer. Complicating matters are the scheming Duke of Weselton (voiced by Alan Tudyk) -- which everyone pronounces "weasel-town" -- and handsome but duplicitous Hans (voiced by Santino Fontana), prince of the Southern Isles.
Based very loosely on Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen," the fast-paced comedic adventure is directed by Chris Buck ("Tarzan," "Surf's Up") with co-director/writer Jennifer Lee ("Wreck-It-Ralph") and co-writer Shane Morris. Chock full of clever, contemporary gender revisions, there's an exhilarating nod to female empowerment and awesomely gorgeous animation.
The most unexpected treat is the soaring musical score by the husband-and-wife songwriting team of Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (Broadway's "Avenue Q" & "The Book of Mormon"). Of the eight original songs, the liberating "Let It Go" is most memorable. Composer Christophe Beck's score includes rhythmic chanting, the Norwegian bukkehorn (ram's horn) and Christine Hals' high-pitched Norwegian "kulning." Indeed, "Frozen" seems poised to become the next Disney project to transition to the Broadway stage.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Frozen" nabs a nimble 9, ready to warm even the coldest of hearts.
Inspired by true events, this is the intense, chilling story of a guilt-riddled Irishwoman searching for the son that the church stole from her a half-century before.
In Northern Ireland in 1952, when innocent, young Philomena Lee (Sophie Kennedy Clark) was seduced at a carnival, her parents dispatched her to punitive nuns who incarcerated unwed pregnant girls in Roscrea, a slave-labor workhouse, similar to the laundry documented in "The Magdalene Sisters."
Aptly named, the Sisters of Little Mercy insisted that the "fallen girls" give birth with little or no medical assistance, claiming "Pain is their penance." Afterwards, they were only allowed to see their tykes an hour a day. For a $1,000 donation, Catholic couples from the United States adopted the children -- without their mothers' knowledge or permission. Later, when mothers begged for information about their offspring, they were told all documentation had been lost in a fire.
Now an elderly widow, retired in Birr, Ireland, devoutly religious Philomena (Judi Dench) is determined to find her long-lost son Anthony. "I'd like to know if he thought of me," she tells former BBC journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan). "I've thought of him every day."
Intrigued by the heartwarming potential of this human-interest story and bankrolled by a daily newspaper, cynical Sixsmith traces Anthony's adoption to America and escorts congenial, relentlessly curious Philomena on a trip to Washington, D.C., a journey that proves to be revelation for both.
Adroitly balancing gentle, comedic savvy with a harrowing, horrifyingly convincing act of injustice, director Stephen Fears ("The Queen") is blessed with a taut, witty, unsettling script by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, based on Sixmith's "The Lost Child of Philomena Lee."
Dench's riveting, finely tuned performance is impeccably crisp, filled with feisty strength and beauty. She plays Philomena magnificently, leaving the audience in tears, while Coogan personifies sharp, supercilious exasperation.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Philomena" is a poignant 9, a touching testament to the integrity of the human spirit, capturing Philomena's eloquent faith in the essential goodness of people.
In "Anna Karenina," Leo Tolstoy wrote: "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." That certainly applies to this dysfunctional assemblage who happens to be related to one another.
As Thanksgiving weekend unfolds, the eccentric Turner clan gathers at the posh Pasadena, Calif., home of Poppy (Peter Bogdanovich) and his second wife, Deborah (Cheryl Hines). From Poppy's ill-fated first marriage, there are two daughters, yoga teacher Lindsay (Sonya Walger) and free-spirited Nina (Alicia Witt), and from his second, law school student Jacob (Ashley Holmes) -- plus their respective partners and offspring.
While Poppy perpetually sips white wine, family secrets are spilled. As it turns out, all of Poppy's progeny tote their own emotional baggage, most of which revolves around shirking personal responsibility and asking their father for money. Meanwhile, Poppy -- a dour, semi-retired foreign policy expert from Stanford who notoriously botched his overly optimistic estimation of a peaceful transition to democracy in Iraq -- is coping with his own problems, which are amplified when enraged Nina stabs her stepmother Deborah with a dinner fork.
For this wannabe black comedy, writer/director Will Slocombe has assembled an experienced cast that includes writer/director Bogdanovich ("The Last Picture Show"), Hines (TV's "Curb Your Enthusiasm"), Walger (TV's "Lost") and Victoria Tennant ("L.A. Story") as a glamorous neighbor. Too bad they find themselves saddled with a weak, unfocused script that's filled with selfish, utterly predictable bickering that engenders little emotional involvement. The proceedings are unimaginatively photographed by Lucas Lee Graham and edited by Lauren Connelly. On the plus side, however, the upper-crust location is stunning; it's an Architectural Digest-worthy suburban house.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Cold Turkey" is a familiar, fractured 4. It's in limited release in theaters and available on VOD.