Sunday, 1 December 2013

On the Road: Frozen, alone and fearsome

After only watching two films in the past two weeks, I had a bit of a flurry this weekend in Los Angeles, starting with Disney's new animated movie Frozen, about two sisters (voiced by Kristen Bella and Idina Menzel) struggling with what seems to be a family curse. Based on a Hans Christian Andersen story, the plot has some real weight and the characters are unusually strong, offering a strong twist on the usual Disney formula . Although the filmmakers couldn't resist filling the screen with silly jokes and comic relief characters, the animation is gorgeous and the themes are handled with a refreshing lightness,

I also had a couple of awards-consideration screenings on Saturday, my first two in Los Angeles. Both were pretty harrowing films, for different reasons. First was the true thriller Lone Survivor, in which Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Taylor Kitsch and Emile Hirsch get into serious trouble on a mission in Afghanistan. It's riveting and exhausting, and a bit too rah-rah heroic for its own good. But it's also electrically charged and sharply well made. Second was the dysfunctional drama August: Osage County, starring Meryl Streep as a fearsome matriarch who locks horns (and then some) with her equally tetchy daughter Julia Roberts. The ace ensemble includes Chris Cooper, Margo Martindale, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ewan McGregor, Abigail Breslin, Juliette Lewis and Julianne Nicholson. And the insights from playwright/screenwriter Tracy Letts are startlingly honest. It sometimes feels hugely over-dramatic, but every scene strikes a nerve.

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