Let It Go, Let It Snow, Let It Go

Frozen (2013)
Chick Flick Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (4/5)
Film Rating: ★ ★ ★ (3/5)
Boyfriend Friendly: This movie is so girl power that you won’t even want him there. Go with your sister instead so you can fight over who’s the Anna and who’s the Elsa afterwards.

As I sit here watching the Sochi Olympics, lamenting over my short-lived career as a 7 year-old figure skater where I was much more focused on the piping hot churro that I was rewarded with after every lesson than I was on landing my toe loop (can you blame me?), I figured this would be the perfect time to write a review on the pretty-surprising Disney smash Frozen.

Now, let me start off with a disclaimer: for as much as I loved it, I did have some issues with Frozen – mostly with the plot, which at times felt rushed and at other times had its holes. For this alone, I do not think it holds a candle to The Lion King, and is definitely not above Aladdin or Beauty and the Beast. BUT the animation was gorgeous, the music was uplifting, and the story was inspiring and fairly feminist as far as Disney movies go. So, it was a win in my book. Plus, I definitely shed more than my fair share of tears during the show-stopping “Let It Go”… but, more on that later.

Frozen is based off Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, and when I say based I mean that, like Andersen’s fairytale, there is a fierce woman who has the ability to turn things into snow/ice and the comparisons really stop there – give or take a troll or two. But that’s okay, because truthfully that story can be a little scary and very preachy so I was good with the creative liberties that the Disney team took (No offense, Hans). Anyway, Elsa and Anna are princess sisters who live in the luscious realm of Arendelle and all is good and well except for the fact that Elsa was born with icy powers that sometimes shoot out of her unexpectedly. This can be fun when you’re doing things like transforming your banquet hall into a winter wonderland, but not so much when you accidentally strike your baby sis with a laser beam of ice. The King and Queen rush Anna to some magical trolls who heal her, but warn the King and Queen that Elsa’s powers must be controlled and that any memory that Anna has of Elsa’s powers must be erased. Cut to a bunch of years later: the King and Queen are dead (Disney HATES parents), Elsa is about to be coronated, and the two sisters haven’t had much interaction since The Ice Incident – which Anna doesn’t remember and therefore thinks Elsa is just a cold-hearted b*tch. But really, Elsa has been hiding in her bedroom in fear, wearing gloves, and trying not to freeze everything in sight. (And you thought King Midas had it bad… at least he had the power of gold, not cold.)

*Groan*. I just re-read that last sentence. Sorry guys, this is my first review in a year and a half. I’m a little rusty. Moving on…

The day of Elsa’s coronation, the castle doors open up for the first time in years and all of the teenage hormonal angst that had been building up within Anna erupts when she meets Prince Hans of Mutton Chops. Actually, he was from someplace else but I can’t remember where because I was so focused on his facial hair and being fearful for poor Anna, who must have never gotten the memo that you should never trust a man with mutton chops. Anna tells Elsa that her and Hans plan to marry, and Elsa – like any respectable older sister – tells Anna she’s crazy, shoots out some ice, and sends Arendelle into an eternal winter. The people of Arendelle accuse Elsa of being some sort of evil sorceress, so she flees to the North Mountain and Anna goes after her, leaving Hans in charge of the kingdom. Along the way, she runs into mountain man Kristoff and his BFF/pet reindeer Sven, as well as a talking snowman named Olaf who was a product of Elsa’s and has some insight as to where she went.

Although the setup of the film did have its fun moments, the writers squeezed in a lot in a short amount of time – sometimes a bit haphazardly. Within the first half hour, Elsa almost killed Anna for the first time, their parents died, Anna fell in “love,” and then Elsa almost killed Anna for a second time – exposing her powers. The film didn’t really take off for me until Elsa fled to the mountains and burst out into one of the most “Screw Everyone, I’m Awesome” songs of all time: Let It Go. I’m including it here because if you haven’t heard it yet well, what’s wrong with you? And if you have, your play count is probably in the double digits already so why not make it triple:

I love this number for so many reasons, from Idina Menzel’s powerful vocals to the fierce look Elsa gives as she slams the doors to her ice castle closed at the end. It’s an anthem for anyone who beats to their own drum and has ever felt like they had to hide it. It challenges girls everywhere to shed those obedient female stereotypes society has laid out for us and to just do our own thing. I could seriously write a whole review about just this one song. But, I won’t. From that moment on, the film really took on a life of its own. I loved the spunk that Kristen Bell brought to Anna. I loved the innocence that Josh Gad brought to Olaf: a snowman whose only wish is to feel the warmth of summer. And even though I saw the ending coming the second the trolls said “only an act of true love can cure a frozen heart,” I loved that what saved Anna in the end wasn’t her love for a man, but her love for her sister. One thing that did really bother me though was Han’s reveal as a villain. I knew it was going to happen the whole time, but I just hoped it wouldn’t. Granted, the movie needed a bad guy, but this just seemed like a cheap mechanic to use to add some drama. Plus, they named him Hans and like… poor Hans Christian Andersen who inspired the story, amiright?!

Truthfully, even though Anna was the selfless one who sacrificed herself for her sister, Elsa remains the heroine for me. Perhaps it’s because, particularly at this stage in my life, I identify more with her: a good girl/perfectionist who grows up in fear of showing her true colors until the pressures of adulthood leave her no choice but to just let it go. Elsa is my soul sister, and I thought it was really cool to see another Disney heroine with absolutely NO love interest (Brave’s Merida being the first to my knowledge). Hopefully Frozen’s box office numbers will inspire Disney to make more movies about fearless heroines who don’t need no man to legitimize their awesomeness.

To end, here’s a throwback to my figure skating days. I’m the one in green with the churro gut:

Aw, shucks! I totally forgot to fit in a Polar Vortex/Disney marketing scheme joke somewhere… Too easy.

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Snow White and the Hunksman

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)
Chick Flick Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ½ (3.5/5)
Film Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ (3.5/5)
Boyfriend friendly: Just tell him that you’re going to see “that new movie with Thor”. You won’t be lying, and he’ll think you’re going to The Avengers for the 9th time.

I already went into a rant about how lame of a princess Snow White is in my review of Mirror Mirror, so I won’t dwell on that any longer (although I will point out that Disney World must have had a reason for taking down Snow White’s Scary Adventure this May). Therefore, it should be no surprise that I had zero desire to sit through another disastrous attempt at remaking an already mediocre story – and judging by the drab three minute trailer that just did not appeal to me at all, I was certain this would be just that. But I knew I had to see it for the purposes of this blog, so I dragged myself out of bed this morning to catch an 11:30AM showing ($4 movie tix before noon, yo!) and by, George, I think I liked it!

Snow White and the Huntsman closely follows the well-known tale (evil queen obsessed with beauty, talking mirror, poisonous apple, seven dwarfs) but adds a few welcome additions (sexy huntsman, intense battle sequences, evil queen back story). Ravenna (Charlize Theron) is an evil sorceress with some serious Daddy issues. She has a nasty habit of feeding from attractive women to sustain her own beauty, seducing powerful men with said beauty, then killing them and taking over their kingdoms. Unfortunately Snow’s father, King Magnus (Noah Huntley), is no exception. For reasons we never really understand, Ravenna decides to spare her pretty, young step-daughter Snow White (Kristen Stewart), and locks her up in a high tower. Years later, however, her magic mirror reveals that Snow’s beating heart is the one thing keeping Ravenna from immortality. She sends her brother to retrieve Snow from her prison cell, but Snow pulls the ole stab-him-in-the-eye-with-a-rusty-nail trick and escapes. Moral of the story: Never send a man to do a woman’s job. Snow makes a break for the eerie Dark Forest, where the Evil Queen’s powers are useless. Ravenna hires the only Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) who has been to the Forest (and lived to tell the tale) to chase after her. He finds Snow in like 3 seconds flat, but is so struck by her beauty and kindness that he decides to switch sides and help her in her journey to find Duke Hammond (Vincent Regan), an old friend of her father, and his son William (Sam Claflin), her childhood bestie. With all of her new allies, including a band of dwarfs led by Bob Hoskins, a revolt is planned to claim Snow’s rightful throne.

Let me start out by stating the obvious: Charlize Theron was absolutely magnificent as Ravenna. Her Evil Queen was dark and, of course, evil but also very complex. She wasn’t just evil for evil’s sake, like the Queen in the original Snow White or in Mirror Mirror. There is a good reason she is so full of hate, and at times I truly felt sorry for her. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t want Snow to completely kick her ass in the end. Chris Hemsworth also surprised as the hunksman huntsman ’cause I have to be honest: Thor just does not do it for me. I guess I prefer the superheroes who make their own power, like Iron Man and Batman, which is no fault of Chris Hemsworth, but I definitely preferred him here as the brooding huntsman who drinks just a little too much but always steps in at a clutch moment. He also was the only one with any sort of funny lines in a movie that could have used just a tad more comic relief. And K. Stew was actually tolerable in the title role. Her accent went in and out, but she did a good job at making Snow pretty resourceful and kind of badass. Think Katniss, not dainty princess. She also wasn’t required to smile until the last two seconds, so that must have made it a bit easier for her.

The costumes were completely stunning. I loved every single item that Ravenna wore, from her beaded gold dresses to her cloak made of raven’s feathers, and Colleen Atwood’s homage to the original Snow White costume – little hints of red in the sleeves of Snow’s dress – made me smile. Rupert Sanders also created a fantastical world, complete with a petrifying Dark Forest, some interesting-looking fairies (they look like the killer aliens from Galaxy Quest!), and some scary-ass evil soldiers who form out of shards of black glass. It surprises me to say that this movie was more faithful to the original story than Mirror Mirror, and every addition or change was carefully thought out and welcomed (including a twist to the classic poisoned apple scene and a LOVE TRIANGLE, which every half-decent movie with Kristen Stewart apparently needs). Don’t be fooled though: this is not a “fun for the whole family” fairy tale and the little kid in my theater who sobbed throughout the entire Dark Forest scene is proof.

Of course, there were problems. The movie dragged considerably in the middle, and it seemed like Sanders began slipping things in just so he had an excuse to play with some fancy CGI. There is one too many fight sequences, and a scene with a white deer who has abnormally large antlers that could have just been cut out and no one would’ve known the diff. It also raised a lot of unanswered questions: Wouldn’t Snow be a little unstable after being held captive all those years? If the Evil Queen hates men so much, why isn’t she a bit more compassionate towards women? And for Christ’s sake, why were Stewart and Hemsworth the only two soldiers without protective helmets in the final battle scene? I thought it was supposed to be safety, not sexy, first!

Honestly, this might just be the “fairest” of all the Snow White movies. That’s a bold claim though, because I don’t think I’ve actually seen the original Snow White since that time I was 5 and I tried to make the well in our backyard garden talk back to me, like she does in the beginning, and I fell down it and cut up my leg pretty badly. True story. Anyway, I still think the Snow White story kinda sucks and I am much more excited for Maleficient: the live-action take on Sleeping Beauty starring Angelina Jolie due out in 2014.

Not The Fairest Of Them All

Mirror Mirror (2012)
Chick Flick Rating: ♥ ♥ ½ (2.5/5)
Film Rating: ★ ★ (2/5)
Boyfriend friendly: Umm… not so much

I have to be honest – I always thought that Snow White kind of sucked in comparison to the other princess movies. Yeah, I know it’s a classic because it was the first cel-animated feature in motion picture history and yaddi-yadda but seriously – it’s pretty much the same exact story as Sleeping Beauty (an evil witch curses a princess to an eternal sleep that can only be cured by true love’s kiss), except Sleeping Beauty is way better. Now, before you jump all over me, let me make my case: 1) Sleeping Beauty has better hair and a better name… well, at least Aurora is better – I’m not too sure about her undercover code name, Briar Rose. 2) Snow White’s best friends are forest animals and dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty’s best friends are forest animals and fairies. And 3) even though Prince No-Name and Prince Phillip look kinda the same, Phil is hotter because not only does he have a name but he also kills the evil witch by stabbing her when she transforms into a freaking fire-breathing dragon. Prince No-Name doesn’t even kill the evil queen, the dwarfs do!

Needless to say, I was less than thrilled when I heard that 2012 would have not one but two “new takes” on Snow White. But, as I began to see trailers and clips for both versions, I actually started to get a little excited for Mirror Mirror. Whereas Snow White and the Huntsman looks dark and intense, and just not my personal cup of tea, I thought Mirror Mirror’s light-hearted and comedic approach might add some of the excitement that I miss in the Disney version. Unfortunately, the expectations I have for Snow White and the Huntsman seemed to ring true for Mirror Mirror: beautiful to look at, but a boring story with an unoriginal script.

This was one of the harder movies to rate because Mirror Mirror wasn’t necessarily awful – it just wasn’t anything special. Director Tarsem Singh created a spectacular kingdom, with sets and costumes that made my mouth water, but all the magic was lost in a script full of flat jokes and clich├ęs. Although I think Julia Roberts is always exceptional, the material she was given to work with as a humorously insecure evil queen that we love-to-hate was hackneyed. Her vain attempts to slow down her aging body reminded me of Jennifer Coolidge’s evil stepmother in A Cinderella Story, and her childish means of entertainment (like using servants as chess figures) were practically stolen right out of Helena Bonham Carter’s Red Queen. Phil Collins’ daughter, Lilly Collins, made for a beautiful Snow White but, despite giving her a sword, she felt just as wimpy and oh!-so-perfect-its-annoying as the 1937 version. Seriously, I can’t really blame the Queen for wanting Snow dead… That bitch’s flawless, white skin didn’t even turn red or get goosebumps when she was exiled to the icy, cold forest in a short-sleeve dress! The dwarfs had some good lines (and sweet accordion stilts), but were mostly underused and I was kind of sad when they never burst out into a modernized rap rendition of Heigh-Ho. However, points do go to this version for not only giving the prince a name but also for having Armie Hammer play him. My only lament there is that they didn’t use the technology from The Social Network to create two of him. Yum!

Mirror Mirror definitely plays towards children, but I wouldn’t call it “fun for the whole family”. Times are a-changin’, particularly over the last few years where we have seen more and more actual heroines and less damsels-in-distress. Even my 8 year-old cousin preferred watching Katniss over Snow White this weekend! Perhaps, in that respect, Snow White and the Huntsman will actually be a pleasant surprise. K. Stew does look pretty badass in that suit of armor and – judging by the trailer – she doesn’t actually talk all that much in the movie, which is a win in my book.

And because Wrestlemania was last weekend, and the WWE Disney Princess league should probably happen at some point, I leave you with this. Whose your money on?:

Tale As Old As Time

Beauty & the Beast 3D
Chick Flick Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (5/5)
Film Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ (4/5)
Boyfriend friendly: Only if you’ll see Star Wars 3D with him in February

Beauty & the Beast 3D may be a weird first review piece considering the story has literally been around for hundreds of years. But Disney, in true Disney fashion, continues to find ways to “re-vamp” all their treasured classics so they can get the most bang out of their buck. After the 1991 film release, came the animated television series, the two direct-to-video midquels, the Broadway musical, the Imax remastered extended version, and, of course, we can’t forget the sing-along edition hosted by Jordin Sparks. Now, Beauty & the Beast is back in theaters, but this time in 3-D… despite the fact that a 5-disc combo pack including a DVD, digital copy, Blu-ray 2D, AND Blu-ray 3D version was released last year.

It’s a little embarrassing to admit how excited I was to pay 20 bucks for a 3D movie ticket in NYC to go see something that I own on VHS. (I used to own it on Blu-ray/DVD too until I loaned it to a foreign exchange student and she took it back to Italy with her… that bitch.) It could be because Beauty & the Beast was the first movie I ever saw in theaters. Or because I named my dog after Belle. But really, I think it’s because Beauty & the Beast is the perfect example of a great romcom. It makes you laugh, it makes you cry, and you leave the theater singing and believing that you’re a princess also destined for a great love story.

For anyone who has lived under a rock for the past 20 years, Beauty & the Beast is about Belle: a French, Daddy’s girl who is being forced to marry this awful The-Situation-but-better-looking dude Gaston, and (you guessed it) the Beast: who is actually a young prince put under a spell by some mean Enchantress all because he wouldn’t give her a place to crash when she was disguised as an ugly, old homeless person. (FYI: I wouldn’t let an ugly, old homeless person stay in my castle either.) The only way Mr. Beasty can reverse the spell, is by loving and being loved in return. So, to make a long story short, Belle gets trapped in his castle, they fall in love, they kick Gaston’s ass, and the Beast turns back into a Prince all while being interrupted for some lovely musical dance breaks by the Beast’s talking household appliances, Lumiere (a candlestick), Cogsworth (a clock), and Mrs. Potts (a teapot).

Beauty & the Beast was actually converted to 3D before The Lion King and, whereas I was very impressed with TLK’s 3D conversion, I was pretty indifferent to this. The 3D did little to add to the movie’s greatness, but it also didn’t take away from it. Sure, there are certain parts where the characters look flat and two-dimensional against a three-dimensional backdrop (a problem that was almost entirely fixed for TLK). But there were also scenes like “Be Our Guest” where everything popped perfectly. You noticed all the little intricacies put in by the animators that were harder to catch before, like filled wine glasses dancing on top of wine bottles and swooping chandeliers holding spoon swan-divers. That scene alone makes the 3D ticket price worth it.

Belle is by far the best out of the Princess Core 4 (i.e. the princesses that are on EVERY Disney backpack, lunchbox, and nightgown). Sure, your 5 year-old daughter might dream of being a mermaid – but Ariel is only 16 years old and wants to get MARRIED. Plus, she’s a ginger. Jasmine might not be rushing off to get married, but that’s only cause she wants to run around with her boobies hanging out. And Cinderella is just fucking boring. Belle’s smart! She reads! She dresses conservatively (but elegantly)! She’s fiercely strong and independent! And she loves people for who they are on the inside… (sigh)

Deciding whether or not paying an inflated ticket price to see a movie you already know all the words to is your call. I enjoyed it, but I would have also enjoyed digging out my toddler-sized yellow ballgown, popping the movie into the one VCR I have left, and singing/dancing along in the privacy of my bedroom. Regardless of how you do it, the happiness you’ll feel for that hour and a half is worth a re-visit. This tale as old as time is truly timeless, and me thinking that the Beast is hotter before he turns back into a Prince/a Hanson brother is besides the point.