Commentary

December 13, 2013

Fly Over: ‘Frozen’, and ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’

Frozen-Flyover-FINAL-poster

In theaters:

‘Frozen’

It’s not often that a movie enthralls you to such a degree, and captivates your heart and imagination at such a level, that you’re still humming the music and replaying the scenes in your head a day later. Disney Pixar’s “Frozen” is one such movie.
Set in the fictional Nordic kingdom of Arendelle, two princesses, older sister Elsa and optimistic, energetic younger sister Anna, are being raised by their mother and father. But, unknown to the rest of the kingdom, Elsa has special powers, the power to create and control ice and snow. One night, while playing in the castle with her sister, Elsa accidentally hits Anna in the head with her powers. The king and queen seek help for their daughters from an elder in the mountains.
They are told that Elsa’s powers will only continue to grow and that she must learn to control them and that, to heal Anna, the memory of magic must be removed, which the elder does by modifying her memories while leaving the memory of the fun times. The king and queen shut the gates to the castle to allow Elsa time to learn to control her powers. Elsa shuts herself into her room to avoid hurting anyone again, especially her sister, and to avoid the fear that she is certain her powers will instill in people.
Then, true to Disney formula, the king and queen die in an accident, leaving the two sisters to grow up on their own. Each understandably develops in an almost predictable way; Anna being the eternal youth, full of energy and immature, while Elsa is frozen in perpetual adolescence, with its raging emotions and indecisiveness.
During the summer coronation day of Elsa, Anna’s youthful indulgences cause Elsa to unleash her powers for everyone to see, causing the reaction that she always feared. She flees the kingdom to the northern mountains where she is able to be alone and finally come to terms with her powers, having a long overdue release that has the unfortunate side effect of setting her nearby kingdom into a perpetual winter, freezing the fjords solid and causing snow to blanket everything.
Anna feels that it is her fault this all happened and sets off to speak with her sister so she’ll return the weather to the way it is supposed to be. Along the way she picks up Kristoff, his reindeer Sven, and Olaf, a snowman that Elsa brought to life during her release. Together, they travel to the northern mountain to try and convince Elsa.
This is a true Disney movie the likes of which they haven’t produced in years. Musical pieces that pull at your heartstrings and make even the most hardened person go “aww” at its touching bits. Idina Menzel, most known for her role Elfaba in the Broadway production of “Wicked” and her roles in the movie “Rent,” voices and sings the part of Elsa, bringing her powerful vocals to a role where it does wonders. But Kristen Bell, the voice of Anna, is no slouch in the singing and acting department either. Both actresses, along with their supporting cast, help to make this an instant Disney classic, one that, personally, I’d rate alongside Disney masterpieces like “Mulan,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Little Mermaid.” Not saying that Disney hasn’t produced some great movies in the last few years, but with “Frozen,” they have returned to an era that evokes the wonder of my childhood.
This is a definite “must see” in the theaters and one that will most certainly make its way into my Blu-ray collection. If I could rate it higher than four4 Air Force symbols for this review, “Frozen” would get it faster than it would take me to buy another ticket to see it.
This film is rated PG for some action and mild, rude humor.

 
The-Hobbit-2

In film:

‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’

Peter Jackson’s first installment in the “Hobbit” trilogy “An Unexpected Journey” was unexpectedly drawn out and boring, a three-hour intro of a slim 300-page novel. Let’s face it, the reason “The Hobbit” is a trilogy is based purely on the amount of Benjamins the studios can squeeze out of the millions of Tolkien geeks worldwide – it works. But fortunately, Jackson’s second installment “The Desolation of Smaug” picks it up a notch and keeps the audience entertained for the full 160 minutes.
Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Thorin (Richard Armitage) and the rest of the dwarfs, elves and other Tolkien creations pick up where the first installment left off albeit at a rapidly improved and more entertaining pace.
Of course, no adventure is an adventure without a bevy of hardships and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. For starters, one average height wizard and a dwarf king lead a band of midgets by foot for what seems like a thousand miles to take back their homeland – Erebor – from Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) a giant, fire-breathing dragon. Cumberbatch’s English accent would make any Dwarf feel self-consciously intellectually inferior, but to top it off, Smaug tosses insults so frequently and viciously, he’d make Daniel Tosh blush.
The Orcs are still trailing the rest of the group who are able to stay ahead of them presumably due to Bilbo’s large, hairy feet – it’s the only explanation considering they’re on foot and the Orcs are riding giant, wolf-like monsters. The group seeks refuge from Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt) a shape-shifter before entering Mirkwood – an unwelcoming and dark forest.
Unfortunately for the group, as they’re entering the forest the powerful Gandalf is pulled away for some random wizard errand, and they’re left to trudge through the forest without his magic. The forest is something of a Bermuda Triangle leaving Bilbo and his buddies dazed and confused. Then, to add insult to injury, they’re attacked by giant spiders. Bilbo, and his ring, prove resourceful throughout the film and with the help of Legolas (Orlando Bloom), Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and a band of elves are able to repel the spiders.
The elves, however, are not welcoming guests and imprison the group. Again, Bilbo comes through and the group participates in a highly entertaining escape involving rapids, barrels, a billion Orcs and eventually the help of Legolas and Tauriel who choose battling Orcs as a priority over imprisoning little people – I hope this becomes a theme park ride. Also, in this short imprisonment and escape scene, a love story develops between Tauriel – a new character created for the movie – and Kili (Aidan Turner) the taller and thus most handsome of the dwarfs – tall people get all of the perks even when they’re dwarfs.
The band eventually makes its way to a large lake and after some back and forth are able to convince the bargeman (Luke Evans) to take them to the human habitation Laketown – think of a Middle-earth, old-English version of Detroit. Here the story becomes even more interesting as we learn about a prophecy foretold of the this particular dwarf group returning to their homeland and thus helping Laketown become the booming economic hub it once was by trading with Erebor’s vast wealth.
Finally, Bilbo, Thorin and the group make it to the Lonely Mountain. Here we again see that Bilbo has grown considerably as a Hobbit since the first film. Though he’s often referred to as the Burglar by Thorin who also infers Bilbo’s expendable, Bilbo comes through time and time again.
This entertaining film comes to a climatic peak as we’re introduced to Smaug, and Bilbo comes eye-to-eye with the formidable dragon. I won’t ruin the climax, but it perfectly builds toward the third installment that comes out next year “The Hobbit: There and Back Again.”
This film is rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence and frightening images.




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