Friday, November 29, 2013

Review: Frozen [2013]

"Some People Are Worth Melting For"

Release Date: 28 November 2013 (Malaysia), 27 November 2013 (USA)
Directed By: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Written By: Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck, Shane Morris
Voiced By: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana, Alan Tudyk
Duration: 85 minutes
In A Nutshell:
Princess Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) is born with magical snow/ice powers. But her powers are uncontrollable. In order to protect her, she is ostracized from the rest of the world, including from her sister Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell). On her 18th birthday, which is also her coronation as queen, an argument with Anna results in her secret powers being exposed to rest of the world. Panicking, Elsa runs to the North Mountains but as she leaves, the entire kingdom is turned frozen. Anna seeks to reunite with her sister which is also the only way to save the kingdom from the icy weathers.

Image source here
Thumbs Up:
+ Vintage Disney #1: A return to the classic universe where everything's magical, fun, and joyful.
+ Vintage Disney #2: Enchanting songs sung with mesmerizing perfection. Now this is true magic!
+ Vintage Disney #3: The animal and non-human sidekicks providing the best humors. Here we have a reindeer named Sven along with a living and talking snowman named Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad).
+ Not one, but two strong female characters in both Anna and Elsa.
+ Heck, almost everyone else is a lovable character!
+ I know outstanding visuals are now a minimum requirement in animation nowadays, but Frozen really blew me away. The creation of the Elsa's ice-castle in particular was truly imaginative.
+ Short animated film shown before Frozen. I like that they're going the Pixar route by showing these shorts. Get A Horse! [2013] is a nice combination between classic slapstick cartoons and modern animation.
Thumbs Down:
- Even for a Disney film, I would have preferred something other than the "can only be cured by an act of true love" angle. Well, that's what I initially thought. Turns out that the angle serves the film very well (no more spoilers!). Consider this current point a "pseudo-thumbs down" then! ;P
- An absence of a worthy/mean villain. Where's the likes of an evil step mother when you need one?

The Verdict Is In:
Life lately has once again been extremely hectic for me. The last time I went to the cinema to see a movie was almost one whole month ago during the opening of Thor [2013]. I needed a really feel-good movie for my dose of escapism (because darn, I desperately do need it right now). Thankfully Frozen [2013] lived-up to those expectations. A genuinely fun and magically world to completely immerse myself in. With recent movies like Tangled [2010], Wreck-It Ralph [2012], and now Frozen [2013] all being top-notch features, it seems like Disney has returned to its golden-era of animation of the 80s and 90s. Heck, this current batch of movies, dare I say it, might even be slightly better!
8.5 out of 10

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Xpress Reviews: Violet & Daisy [2013] & How I Live Now [2013]

Wow! Another lengthy absence as I'm getting less and less time for blogging nowadays. Hopefully this will be a quick review. The focus of today's Xpress Reviews is the ultra-talented Irish actress, Saoirse Ronan. Ideally, I would have included a third film from her released this year, Byzantium [2013], but just couldn't squeeze-in the time to watch it. I am glad though that I got to spend time to see these following two enjoyable flicks instead....

# Violet & Daisy [2013]

"Everything's a test when you're a career woman"

Directed By: Geoffrey Fletcher
Written By: Geoffrey Fletcher
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Alexis Bledel, James Gandolfini, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Danny Trejo, John Ventimiglia
The Story: Violet (played by Alexis Bledel) and Daisy (played by Saoise Ronan) are two teenage assassins. What they initially thought would be another routine job - killing a man named Michael (played by James Gandolfini), turns out to be quite the opposite and full of surprises.
The Verdict: One thing is obvious to anyone watching this movie.... director Geoffrey Fletcher is trying to emulate Quentin Tarantino's storytelling style. Although imitators are rarely as good as the original (as is the case here), the overall feel of a Quentin movie is all there. The storytelling, violence, humor, conversations, and music are obviously Tarantino-inspired. The three of the main lead characters shine and bought to life vividly by Ronan, Bledel, and Gandolfini. At this time of writing, the movie holds a low Rotten Tomatoes score of 22% (although not enough reviews yet to reach a consensus). This surprises me as while the movie is not perfect, I can confidently say that I enjoyed it. It seems that this is my choice of underrated movie of the year then!
Rating: 7.5 out of 10

# How I Live Now [2013]

"All these rules... you think you've got to obey them."

Directed By: Kevin Macdonald
Written By: Jeremy Brock, Tony Grisoni, Penelope Skinner, Meg Rosoff
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, George Mackay, Harley Bird, Tom Holland, Danny McEvoy
The Story: Elizabeth, whom later is known as Daisy (played by Saoirse Ronan), is a neurotic American teenage sent by her father to spend the holidays in the countryside of England with her aunt and cousins. Her holiday is disrupted when London is attacked by a nuclear bomb which turns the entire country into a chaotic military state.
The Verdict: A lovely film that get's better the longer it goes. The second half has some very disturbing and tensed scenes without having the need to revert to (much) violence. Also, as was the case with Violet & Daisy [2013], all the lead actors here play their role pretty well. A recommended watch.
Rating: 7 out of 10
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