“Frozen” (Animation/Family/Musical: 1 hour, 43 minutes)
Starring Voices: Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad and Santino Fontana
Directors: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
Rated: PG (Violence)
Movie Review: Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s "The Snow Queen,” “Frozen” is nice Disney musical. It works for wintery entertainment. It is a tale of two sisters’ love for each other, a love that saves them and moviegoers.
Princess Anna (Bell), ice deliverer Kristoff (Groff) and a goofy snowman named Olaf (Gad) brave the ice lands to reach Anna's sister Queen Elsa (Menzel), whose magical powers have frozen the kingdom in perpetual winter. Anna and her entourage will attempt to convince Elsa to thaw the lands. This will not be an easy task. Elsa believes she is safer in self-confinement. However, the kingdom for which she is reigning monarch is not safe.
This entertainment is a nice adventure. It offers a few story twists. This makes the film’s plot a treat. “Frozen” does the unexpected. This works well to keep audiences entertained guessing the ending. Plus, audiences are treated to an approximate five-minute, animated short before the film starts. Good action, nice visuals and interesting characters propel the adventure of “Frozen”. They add to this tale of two sisters trying to save each other and their kingdom. Their story is an inspiring tale for audiences of children and adults.
Grade: B (The perfect ‘frozen’ treat for this chilly holiday season.)
“Black Nativity” (Musical/Drama: 1 hour, 33 minutes)
Starring: Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson and Jacob Latimore
Director: Kasi Lemmons
Rated: PG (Thematic material, language and a menacing situation)
Movie Review: A literary great during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, Langston Hughes was author, playwright and poet. He captured African-American life during the 1920s-1960s. “Black Nativity,” which is based on his 1961 play/musical Black Nativity, captures some of modern woes of life in Harlem, but the drab ending is modern moviedom messy. Langston (Latimore) is a mature street teen from Baltimore. Naima is his mother. After their house goes into foreclosure, Naima sends Langston to stay with his estranged grandparents, Reverend Cornell and Aretha Cobbs (Whitaker and Bassett) in Harlem during the Christmas holiday. Langston has questions, but neither his mother nor grandparents will answer them. This does not stop the determined young man from wanting to know why his mother and grandparents do not talk.
Kasi Lemmons is one of few black female directors for major films produced today. Her best work remains “Eve's Bayou” (1997). She also directed “Talk to Me” (2007). Both films are good. “Black Nativity” does not match either of those two films.
The cast has two great actors, Oscar recipient Whiter and the Oscar-nominated and beautiful Bassett. They make the film tangible. It is fitting that they both receive top billing for this musical drama, although they cannot save the misfortune of a poor script.
Hudson is in her element with the singing bits. She fails at the dramatic parts, proving she is a better singer than actress. Latimore (“Vanishing on 7th Street”) is tolerable as a youth with angst, but he, like Hudson, is not compelling, mainly because of a weakly written screenplay written by Lemmons.
The film works as a musical until the insertion of a rap piece that does not jive with the other songs and music. The conclusion is also weak and rushed. The apex of this screenplay needs more runtime to resolve itself. The film could easily use another half an hour.
This contemporary adaptation of Hughes holiday musical becomes good within the last 25 minutes. During that time, it becomes exceptionally lackluster too.
Grade: C (This is no Harlem renaissance.)
“Homefront” (Action/Suspense: 1 hour, 40 minutes)
Starring: Jason Statham, James Franco, Izabela Vidovic and Kate Bosworth
Director: Gary Fleder
Rated: R (Strong violence, profanity, sexuality and drug content)
Movie Review: Good an on energetic action, “Homefront” is feels like something one has seen many times before. Like action films of yesteryear, it entertains. When the dust settles, one wonders why characters were over-dramatized. The same transpires with “Homefront,” a cast of exaggerated players.
Widowed ex-DEA agent Phil Broker (Statham) retires to Rayville, a small town in Louisiana with his ten-year-old daughter Maddy (Vidovic). The two plan a quiet life, but that changes quickly. Agent Broker quickly angers several members of the town by thrashing several citizens. Quickly, war ensues.
Take cast noteworthy talents playing hyped characters, and the result in “Homefront.” It is similar to a 1980s film, yet mild by modern standards. It is screenplay by 1980s legendary action star Sylvester Stallone and loosely based on Chuck Logan’s novel entitled the same. This is an explanation for the 1980s feel. Few Stalones screenplays are far from the feel of the 1980’s action-genre productions.
It is an action film with excitement, but it does not provide that ultimate thrill. Again, that feeing of déjà vu is prevalent. Grade: C (A homely front.)
“Frozen” (Animation/Family/Musical: 1 hour, 43 minutes)
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