Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Film Review: Frozen

A big problem Disney has always had was luring little boys to movies about princesses. In this film, I think they quit trying. Two princesses! Each one fiercely independent in the post-Beauty and the Beast mold. And they sing Broadway-calibre songs about self-determination.

The heinie of my 6-year-old boy was squirming for sure. It wasn't until a giant fierce snow monster showed up later in the film did things get interesting for him.

That being said, things start getting really good with a third act twist, and after that the climax kept him glued to his seat.

The characters speak in modern vernacular, but the humor isn't simply making modern-day references. And thank god Olaf, the comic relief snowman doesn't speak in jive.

The animation is astonishing, the CGI just gets better and better.

By all means take a date, take your daughter, but ask yourself how patient your son is with musicals featuring princesses before taking him.

Actually, go see it if only to see the short it opens with, "Get a Horse." It blends 1929 animation with CGI and "The Purple Rose of Cairo." And you get to hear Walt Disney do the voice of Mickey Mouse. I'm telling you this guy has a future as a cartoon voice artist.


The movie's apparently the biggest hit Disney Animation has had in years, and it's still running, so I don't feel bad about adding to my review.

I was surprised by the lack of peril, or urgency in the story. The key plot line in the movie is: "I have to get my sister."

And I'm thinking, "Why?"

I'm not giving any spoilers but, the sister has the powers of Frozone from the Incredibles, or if you want to get real nerdy, Polar Boy from the Legion of Substitute Heroes. She inadvertently freezes over her kingdom, then runs away to live in an ice castle of her own making.

And the protagonist says, "I have to get my sister."

Why? It has not been established the sister can melt the kingdom. Once she finds her sister the movie has no direction to take. If the sister says "yes, I'll come back," nothing will change. If the sister says, "No, I won't go back," nothing will change. The kingdom will still be frozen over, which seems like a major inconvenience, but not fatal.

I'm standing by my original review, by all means, see it, but take your little girls, not necessarily little boys, but from a story construction point of view, the heroine's quest doesn't really seem necessary.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Old timey movie review: "Lawyer Man"

This is another film in the Forbidden Hollywood series. I was expecting sex and nudity but instead got only big city corruption. Oh well.

William Powell starts out as a lawyer from the poor side of town, gets recruited by a law firm from the rich side of town, gets framed in a shady case, his new rich friends turn their back on him, he scrapes his way back to the top, gets recruited by the mob/city to be assistant DA where he bites the hand that feeds him by prosecuting one of their own. Then he gives a big speech (one of several) and goes back - with his long suffering secretary Joan Blondell - back to the poor side of town.

All this in slightly over an hour. And without a single courtroom scene.

Let's think about this for a second. The film is called "Lawyer Man," (a terrible title), the film centers on 2 or 3 important trials, William Powell gives 2 or 3 long speeches...and none of this happens in a court room! There's some forced comedy about an Italian immigrant trying to talk his way into the courtroom for an important case, but the guard won't let him, nor the audience inside.

Imagine what Sydney Lumet and Al Pacino could do with this.

Powell gets his revenge on those who wronged him, but we never see it. It would dull the enjoyment of any revenge movie.

Warner Bros. is treading Dashiell Hammett territory, the movie looks like the Cliffs Notes version of "The Glass Key." There's lots of big city corruption, but unlike the protagonist in "The Glass Key," William Powell is never in any danger.

Anything with Powell though is worth watching, it's just unusual to see him unable  to breathe little more motivation into this character.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Web film review "Star Trek: Of Gods and Men

Back in the 70s, Star Trek fan fiction was spread around by mimeograph sheets (ask your grandparents). Now, the fans make $100,000 semi-pro movies with actual cast members, all funded by internet donations. It's crazy! And often very good.

I inadvertently stumbled upon the fan film "Gods and Men," and after a clunky beginning, it got better. It's an alternate timeline story, the type of which we've seen before, and it has the dream mash-up of (spoiler) Charlie X and Gary Mitchell beating each other up! A fan's dream come true. It also features the destruction of Vulcan two years before the rebooted Star Trek film did it.

Trek veterans Walter Keonig, Nichelle Nichols, Garrett Wang, Alan Ruck, Grace Lee Whitney, Tim Russ (and a few red shirt-types) all reprise their roles. Charlie X and Gary Mitchell are played by character actors who both do exceptional jobs.

In the alternate timeline, Chekov is leading rebels in a takeover of the Enterprise now led by an evil Starfleet. It's Mirror Mirror, mixed with Space Seed, Wrath of Khan, and a bunch of other episodes. At the end there's a colossal spaceship battle which is awfully cool. Definitely a fan fantasy.

The drawbacks: The aforementioned clunky beginning. Clunky dialogue, clunky acting, clunky setup. (stick with it though). We need a 20 year moratorium on time travel, and the phrase "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." Both have been way overused. (That being said, it was good to see the Time Guardian again). Also a major character has an unexplained change of heart which shifts everything.

I thought Charlie X had been retconned to be a member of the Q continuity. No difference, but Roddenberry did have a frequent reliance on god-like omnipotent characters.

The web pages of the creators say they're trying to make a pilot, I say CBS should pick it up, and make Alan Ruck the captain.