Reel Reviews

‘Frozen’

Audience:
A-I — general patronage

 

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A Disney heart-warmer for all

Don’t let the title fool you, “Frozen” (Disney) is bursting with enough warmth and charm to defrost even the hardest Grinchy heart.

Loosely based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale “The Snow Queen,” this 3-D animated musical is good-natured, overwhelmingly wholesome fare with something for everyone: Broadway-style show tunes, thrilling adventure, gorgeous visuals, cute-as-a-button characters, and a nice message about the enduring bonds of family.

There are even a few respectful religious overtones likely to please believers.

“Frozen” is a tale of two princesses: Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel) and Anna (voice of Kristen Bell). Anna is fun-loving and spirited, while Elsa, destined to be queen of the mythical kingdom of Arendelle, is reserved, harboring a deep secret. Elsa, it seems, was born with the power to create ice and snow at will. This gift was great fun at playtime when she was a youngster. At least, that is, until Elsa nearly killed Anna in a freak accident. The king (voice of Maurice LaMarche) then decreed Elsa must be hidden away for her own safety, and the palace closed to all outsiders.

Eventually, the princesses become orphans (parents rarely seem to survive in Disney cartoons), and coronation day arrives for Elsa. The new queen is burdened by fears of a disaster; Anna, by contrast, revels in the overdue arrival of an open-door policy.

At the coronation ball, Anna falls fast for Hans (voice of Santino Fontana), a visiting prince, and after a spirited song-and-dance number, they announce their engagement. Queen Elsa won't give her blessing – the two have just met, after all – and the sisters quarrel. Elsa accidently unleashes her powers and throws Arendelle into a deep freeze. For everyone’s welfare, Elsa retreats to the forest, entombing herself in a mountaintop ice palace. Anna, the fearless optimist, follows her, desperate to help her sibling and undo the eternal winter.

Joining her odyssey is Kristoff (voice of Jonathan Groff), an amiable mountain man, and his silent reindeer sidekick, Sven. Together, they encounter a comedic snowman named Olaf (voice of Josh Gad), who knows the express route to Elsa’s hideaway.

Amid Everest-like conditions, and with an abominable snowman and an adorable bunch of trolls thrown into the mix, the sisters head toward an epic showdown.

“Only an act of true love,” warns troll elder Pabbie (voice of Ciaran Hinds), “can thaw a frozen heart.”

Directors Chris Buck (“Tarzan”) and Jennifer Lee (who also wrote the screenplay) keep the pace fast and the action lively. Some of the storm sequences may be a bit intense for the youngest viewers, but it is all in good fun.

The film contains a few mildly perilous situations and a bit of slightly gross humor. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I – general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG – parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

By Joseph McAleer Catholic News Service

‘12 Years a Slave’

Audience:
L – limited adult audience, films whose
problematic content many adults would find troubling

 

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If you thought Alex Haley’s “Roots” was the definitive take on antebellum slavery in the United States, prepare for a harsh wake-up call with “12 Years a Slave” (Fox Searchlight).

Unlike Haley’s 1976 book, which became a landmark TV miniseries, this film focuses on man’s inhumanity to man, portraying it with brutal honesty and a degree of violence that is almost intolerable.

That alone would normally restrict the picture’s appropriate audience to a small group of adults. Yet at least some mature teenagers might benefit from this important history lesson with its searing depiction of the endurance of the human spirit against crushing odds.

Directed by Steve McQueen (“Shame”) from a screenplay by John Ridley (“Red Tails”), “12 Years a Slave” is based on the true story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man who published the eponymous memoir in 1853 and became a prominent abolitionist. The beginning of the screen account finds Northup living happily with his wife and children in upstate New York, where he earns his living as a carpenter and violin player. Befriended by two strangers, Northup is persuaded to travel to Washington to earn extra money as a musician. There Northup’s nightmare begins. He awakens from a drunken evening in chains, sold by his new “friends” into slavery. Stripped of his identity and now called Platt, he is shipped to New Orleans and auctioned to the highest bidder.

The viewer shares Platt’s sense of disbelief and horror as he endures every possible indignity, not to mention repeated beatings and whippings. As bleak as the outlook is, Platt stays focused on regaining his freedom and returning to his family -- somehow.

“I don’t just want to survive,” he tells his fellow slaves. “I want to live!”

To do so, he must walk a fine line, not revealing his true identity or the fact that he is an educated man who can read and write, a threat to any slave owner. Over a dozen years, Platt has two masters, one benevolent, one not. Kindhearted plantation owner William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) senses something unique about Platt and enlists his help as a musician and engineer.

Platt’s talents, however, are resented by Ford’s overseer John (Paul Dano), who abuses him. When Platt snaps and beats John to a pulp, Ford has no choice but to sell Platt to keep the peace.

His new owner is Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender), a sadist who quotes Scripture as justification for beating his slaves and raping women. As the years pass, the future seems bleak for Platt, until he learns to trust in the unexpected kindness of a stranger (Brad Pitt).

The violence in “12 Years a Slave” is relentless and an assault on all the senses, its tone and feeling reminiscent of “The Passion of the Christ.” Both films employ brutality to make an important point. Here it serves as a reminder of the sufferings of African Americans and the long, dark shadow cast by their bondage down to the present day.

The film contains gruesome bloody violence – including hangings, beatings, whippings, torture and rape – full nudity, nongraphic consensual but nonmarital sexual activity and some profane and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L – limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R – restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

By Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service

Monthly List of Recent Film Ratings (November)

A

Across the Divide, A-II (no rating)

The Awakening, A-III (R)

B

Baggage Claim, A-III (PG-13)

Battle of the Year, A-III (PG-13)

Blue Jasmine, L (PG-13)

Bully, A-III (PG-13)

C

Captain Phillips, A-III (PG-13)

Carrie, L (R)

Closed Circuit, A-III (R)

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, A-II (PG)

The Counselor, O (R)

D

Despicable Me 2, A-I (PG)

Dream House, L (PG-13)

Don John, O (R)

E

Elysium, L (R)

Ender's Game, A-II (PG-13)

Escape Plan, L (R)

F

The Family, O (R)

Fast & Furious 6, L (PG-13)

The Fifth Estate, A-III (R)

Frances Ha, L (R)

Free Birds, A-I (PG)

G

Getaway, A-III (PG-13

The Grandmaster, A-III (PG-13)

Gravity, A-III (PG-13)

The Great Gatsby, A-III (PG-13)

Grown Ups 2, A-III (PG-13)

H

The Hangover Part III, L (R)

I

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, L (PG-13)

Insidious: Chapter 2, A-III (PG-13)

J

Jack the Giant Slayer, A-II (PG-13)

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, O (R)

Jobs, A-III (PG-13)

K

Kick-Ass 2, O (R)

Killer Elite, A-III (R)

L

The Last Exorcism Part II, L (PG-13)

Last Vegas, A-III (PG-13)

Lee Daniels' The Butler, A-III (PG-13)

The Lone Ranger, L (PG-13)

M

Machete Kills, O (R)

Man of Steel, A-III (PG-13)

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, A-III (PG-13)

Much Ado About Nothing, A-III (PG-13)

O

One Direction: This Is Us, A-II (PG)

P

Paranoia, A-III (PG-13)

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, A-III (PG)

Phantom, A-III (R)

The Place Beyond the Pines, L (R)

Planes, A-I (G)

Prisoners, L (R)

Q

Quartet, A-III (PG-13)

R

RED 2, A-III (PG-13)

The Reluctant Fundamentalist, A-III (R)

Restless Heart, A-II (no rating)

Riddick, O (R)

Runner Runner, L (R)

Rush, L (R)

S

Skyfall, A-III (PG-13)

The Smurfs 2, A-I (PG)

Something Borrowed, L (PG-13)

The Spectacular Now, L (R)

T

Turbo, A-I (PG)

2 Guns, L (R)

Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, A-III (PG-13)

W

Warm Bodies, A-III (PG-13)

We're the Millers, O (R)

White House Down, A-III (PG-13)

The Wolverine, A-III (PG-13)

The World's End, A-III (R)

Y

You're Next, O (R)

MPAA ratings: G – general audiences. All ages admitted; PG – parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children; PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13; R – restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian; NC-17 – no one 17 and under admitted.