Monday, December 30, 2013

The Last Voyage of the Cinematic Titanic


At this theater in Glenside, PA, near Philadelphia, a handful of people will see the final voyage of the Cinematic Titanic. It'\ll be the last time where the original cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000, plus TV's Frank Conniff and former Mad Scientist mom Mary Jo Pehl will pummel bad cinema to the delight of others. They'll end their six-year run with a double feature: The Wasp Woman (pure, uncut Corman) and The Doll Squad (so cheesy a cable channel aired it...on purpose). By the way, I want to thank Tony Goggin for letting me use this photo.

It's hard to believe that six years ago we saw the first movie, The Oozing Skull, and we wondered if the MST3K alumni still had that way of mocking bad acting, writing, special effects and even editing. When it was first available, it had a modest DVD disc:

After about five minutes, we all thought, "Cool. Nailed It, We're back". Still, when Joel re-used an old riff about "The Mod Squad", and said he was old, we understood. The important thing was, the spirit of MST3K was revived through Cinematic Titanic. It was like the old days: a bunch of people trapped by nearly-evil forces, required to mock bad movies for some vague reason, then put away the results in a time tube. It's not exactly like being trapped in space, but it was the next best thing. It's too bad that when they switched to making DVDs of live shows, they didn't include an escape attempt in one of the DVDs.

The choice of the Keswick was also interesting, but I would have thought the last show could have been in the Uptown in Minneapolis, where a convention included a live riffing of "This Island Earth". Still, the CT tour has toured in an arena, classic theaters, and even New York City.

The fun of mocking movies continues through Rifftrax, which got into full gear a year earlier than CT, and Incognito Cinema Warriors XP, which started in 2008 and continues to do "host segments" more complex than MST ever did. Not bad, since it started as "something to sell on MySpace".
Heck, if you get the blu-ray version of The Heat, you get a commentary track of Joel, Trace and Josh, er, J. Elvis mocking Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy from start to finish. Sure, Trace and J. Elvis used to work for the director, but... (Note, I reviewed this, and it somehow became popular).

I actually met Joel, Trace, J. Elvis and Frank at a convention in San Jose in 2008 shortly after the first CT episode:


I thought this was a great moment, because I finally got J. Elvis' autograph, and got to meet my cable TV heroes. After all, when would I ever meet them again?

Well, it would be a lot sooner than I thought:



This was their first live visit to San Francisco, when they riffed on East Meets Watts (although back then they called it The Dynamite Brothers), and created the "Spit Take Heard Round the World" that's on the live version. I still have the ticket stub

Now, some of us get in the habit of riffing, even on good movies. I do that while I watch something like Frozen, American Hustle or even a movie that everyone but me has seen, like any Harry Potter movie.

Also, I try to "improve" on the riffing of others. My Rifftrax copy of that over-discoed-in-a-new-wave-world musical, The Apple, has great commentary, but I try to add to it. In the "Show Business" number, I wondered why Mike Nelson never noticed the whole routine was similiar to how Baz Luhrmann would have staged a Super Bowl halftime show. Also, in "Cry for Me," when Alfie does his big song outside his apartment window, I find myself singing, "I'm mad at Hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore".
If I watch it again, maybe I could come up with a riff for Catherine Mary Stewart, who was the female lead who went on to Night of the Comet. That's not quite as surprising as the cast including a soap opera star (Finola Hughes) and a guy who helped create two reality shows (Nigel Lythgoe).
Yes, that's how I sometimes see movies, unless it's Gravity. That movie is riff-proof.

At least I was there for the final San Francisco show at the Castro. It's too bad the sound was terrible for the first half, The Doll Squad. After seeing it on TCM a few weeks ago, it's just as well, but I just couldn't come up with any good riffs.
That's why I am hoping that we'll get one last CT DVD of Doll Squad, Astral Factor or even Samson and the Seven Miracles. Just one more for the road, guys.

So, the final Cinematic Titanic show may lead to tears, laughs, and maybe a two-hour chant by the crowd, begging "Please Don't Go". Yet, it has to end, since the cast have new lives all over the country. Besides, Rifftrax and ICWXP will pick up the slack in their own way.
As long as there's an actor taking a role he doesn't have a clue to do convincingly (hello Johnny Depp), they'll be there. As long as there's cheesy, high-priced sci-fi and bad book adaptations, they'll be there. As long as Adam Sandler, Michael Bay, Kristen Stewart  and Keanu Reeves are employed, they'll be there.

Besides, if the Eagles, Frank Sinatra, Cher and Brett Favre unretired, maybe the Cinematic Titanic will sail again in the seas of Video On Demand, Netflix and DVDs. We can only hope.

For now, Godspeed, Cinematic Titanic!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

All the World's A Con: Review of "American Hustle"


Variety, you're wrong.

Peter DeBruge's declaration that American Hustle is an overrated mess, and that critics and award shows have been conned, proves that he missed the point about the movie.

Of course, it's messy, puzzling, irrational and everything else. That's because you have a bunch of people who play a role they create to survive. Irving (Christian Bale) wants to create a better life for himself, starting with breaking windows to help his dad's glass business, then going into fraud and art forging. One day, he meets Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), who fakes a British accent to help with his cons. They're also madly in love with each other. Too bad he's married to Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), who's a bit of a mess and has a young son.

Irving and Sydney, however, get caught by ambitious FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), who wants to fight big white-collar crime and rise in the ranks. He uses these two con artists to create a sting operation to fight major white-collar crime. They target Camden Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner). Polito's "role" is being a man of the people who wants to do right for his city and New Jersey...just as long his constituents don't know all the facts. Richie hopes to tempt Polito by getting him involved with a fake sheik in an attempt to get money to renovate Atlantic City. If it sounds like ABSCAM, the movie will only admit that "some of these events actually happened". It's fiction, but somewhat close to what really happened.

The great thing about this movie is that Irving, Sydney (in her Lady Edith persona) and Richie are all trying to play each other to get what they want. Sydney seduces Ritchie for her own gains, and Irving knows that. Richie wants to learn what they know about cons. It leads to one really bizarre triangle.

There's also some great set pieces, when Sydney seduces Ritchie at a disco, then he tries to "be real with her" only to find out the truth about her. There's Rosalyn getting friendly with some of the mobsters at a party Polito is throwing, then that confrontation with Sydney in the ladies' room that a lot of people will be talking about. The best one is when Irving, Politio, Richie, and their fake sheik meet mobster Victor Tellegio to close the deal...and Tellegio does something that threatens to ruin everything. Most of the cast have been in David O. Russell movies before, mainly The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, and he uses his familiarity with these actors quite well.

Christian Bale is incredible as Irving. Despite a chubby body and an awful comb over, you can't help but believe what he says. It's hard to believe this man is also Bruce Wayne, Dicky Ecklund and John Connor. Bradley Cooper is also great at Richie, who thinks he's better than the con men, but learns the truth in a hard fashion.

It's the women, though, that are THE reason to check this movie out. Amy Adams as Sydney could fit right in a noir movie, and she has the perfect mix of vunerability and deviousness. She is also beyond sexy here. Jennifer Lawrence, meanwhile, proves that she is much more than Katniss...again. You almost hate Irving for treating Rosalyn this way, keeping her in Long Island while he's with Sydney. She is an oddball, but someone you hope can emerge from all this. Of course, there's also that scene in the ladies room. Both Adams and Lawrence are likely to be in the Best Supporting Actress race, and either one would be a good choice.
Meanwhile, it looks like Louis C.K. could have a future in movies. After appearing in Blue Jasmine, he's great as Richie's boss. And, fans of Angel and Law and Order may spot Elizabeth Rohm as Polito's wife, although she looks much different.
Oh, and if Tellegio looks familiar, he was in at least one of Russell's movie before. A recent one.

Now, the movie starts with multiple voice-overs in a style that may be a bit too much like Goodfellas, but this is a long con that pays off at the end beautifully. It also has a great soundtrack that includes "White Rabbit" in Arabic. It's also very good at recreating the 70's, from the old Columbia Pictures logo from back then (the 2nd worst logo update ever, Warner Brothers "little w" is still the worst), to the clothes that look right out of Ron Burgundy's closet.

Easy three and a half stars for American Hustle, and maybe a few awards as well. So there, Variety.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Review of Inside Llewyn Davis: Behind Unknown Music


For every Bob Dylan or Kingston Trio, there was a thousand Llewyn Davises who filled stages at coffee shops in 1961. Maybe they make an album, but not much more than that.

Joel and Ethan Coen, who have made movies that ranged from a kidnapping gone wrong to a screwball comedy, a western to film noir, turn their attention to a musician who struggles to fins a place to sleep, much less his next gig. Inside Llewyn Davis shows that this man's career is affected by bad luck, and maybe himself.

When we first see him, he gets clobbered by someone outside the Gaslight Cafe in New York for some reason. He crashes at a friend's house, then accidentally lets the friend's cat escape. He has to carry the cat everywhere, while he deals with an indifferent record executive, talking to his sister, and then to the flat of Jean (Carey Mulligan), an ex-girlfriend who says she's pregnant--and she's not even sure is Llewyn is the father. Seeing them talk about her dilemma shows that he sees himself as an artist who wants to be above money and career. That is, until he agrees to be a backup musician for a song written by Jim (Justin Timberlake), called "Please Mr. Kennedy".

We later find out Davis used to be part of a duo, but his partner committed suicide. They were known for a song called "If I Had Wings", which has been featured in the trailer.

Davis soon hitches a ride to Chicago, hoping to talk to a club owner about a gig there. It's a tough drive that includes Roland Turner (John Goodman), a boozy jazz singer, and his driver, Johnny Five (Garrett Hedlund).

What's interesting about Davis is that he's a good enough singer/songwriter, but he is sometimes plagued with the weirdest bad luck. Aside from losing the friend's cat, he almost gets in another accident trying to avoid hitting another car. When he tries to get a job with the Merchant Marine, his licenses get thrown away by accident. This isn't about an unknown singer who finds stardom. It's about an unknown singer who stays that way, because that happens most often.

Isacc is great as Davis, and his performances of folk songs are also very good. While the audience at the screening I attended at the Century Stadium 14 did laugh during some parts of this movie, it's more of a character study of one of the countless folk singers who weren't heard as much as he had hoped.

Nestor, the Forgotten Christmas Special


Every Christmas season, TV viewers see the usual characters that generations have grown up with. We see Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer in four specials, the Grinch stealing Christmas until he finds out it's a little bit more than gifts, Linus telling Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about, how Santa Claus first came to town, and Frosty the Snowman trying to keep his hat while parents are asking "who's Jimmy Durante?"

ABC Family airs many of these kids specials, mostly from Rankin-Bass, an animation company that was best known for Christmas stories starting with Rudolph in 1964. It's even airing The Little Drummer Boy, a very underrated special, and Pinocchio's Christmas.

However, there is one that no one is showing this year. In fact, it's been years since anyone has shown the story of Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey on TV

Nestor who?

In 1977, ABC made a special that might be quite familiar to those who are aware of Rudolph and the problems he had with his shiny red nose before a foggy Christmas Eve helped him go down in history.
That's because Nestor, like Rudolph, is based on a song written by Gene Autry. Thanks to YouTube, here's the song performed by Marty Robbins, with scenes from the special.



Both songs are about animals with an unusual body part. While Rudolph had his nose, Nestor had really long ears. The donkey, however, did have his mom by his side.

One winter day, Roman soliders come to buy donkeys from Olaf. However, they reject Nestor, and take the donkeys without paying Olaf. Nestor gets tossed out of the stable and into the snow by Olaf, but mom escapes. Both are caught in a blizzard, but she tells Nestor that no matter what, he must be brave.

She's forced to protect Nestor from the snow, but sacrifices her life. This is kind of dark for a Christmas special, except this also happened in The Little Drummer Boy nine years before. If you remember, Aaron hated all people because bandits killed his parents, but playing for the Baby Jesus changed his life.

Anyway, Nestor meets up with Tilly, a goofy angel voiced by Brenda Vaccaro. She guides Nestor to Bethlehem, where his ears will actually help someone. It turns out he's the one to helps Mary and Joseph to get to Bethlehem. There's even an epilogue where Nestor actually goes back to Olaf, and he's glad to see him back. No reason why, actually. Apparently this is the equivalent to Rudolph's red nose being celebrated at the end.

While Rudolph had Sam the Snowman (Burl Ives) as the storyteller, Nestor had Spieltote (Roger Miller), who apparently is a direct descendant of Nestor. The special also has connections to other Rankin-Bass productions. One of the camels looks like Joshua from The Little Drummer Boy, while in the final shot we see Rudolph from Rudolph's Shiny New Year along with Mrs. Claus and Jungle and Jangle from The Year Without A Santa Claus. 

While ABC Family may not air Nestor this year, people can see it at YouTube. It's also available as a VOD at Rifftrax's website. Mike Nelson riffs this one solo, and comments on how corny the song is and how Nestor gets treated. However, he sounds a bit upset when he sees how Nestor's mom is killed.

Anyway, with the fact that we have zillions of channels, someone should air Nestor regularly, along with some of the lesser-known Rankin-Bass holiday specials. For example, there's no sign of The Stingiest Man in Town with Walter Matthau or First Christmas: Story of the First Christmas Snow with Angela Lansbury on TV this year. I had said 'Twas the Night Before Christmas wasn't being aired, but ABC Family will have that Christmas Eve morning after all. Good thing, too, because it has an interesting story, along with Joel Grey and George Gobel.
Also, they shouldn't be aired at the crack of dawn (The Little Drummer Boy at 7 AM?) just to say they did. It should be done in the afternoon, when even Mom can be nostalgic over these specials.

Then again, there's also YouTube and DVDs as two handy sources.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Rifftrax vs. Santa: The Final Chapter (Please, God!)

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is one of the cheesiest holiday movies not made by the Hallmark Channel, and also a child of the Cold War. Think of it: when Martians kidnap Santa Claus, the response was the U-S military, or its stock footage, pulling out all the stops to find him...and not getting close

It eventually became the traditional holiday target of Mystery Science Theater 3000, with Joel, Servo and Crow teeing off against the movie with its cheap sets, awful costumes, and really dumb story. If you want to find anything to blame for the existence of Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny--or even Tim Allen's Santa Clause movies--this is it.

This past Thursday, Rifftrax took its turn against this holiday kitsch, even though MST and Cinematic Titanic had their chances already. It was difficult to find things that haven't been riffed on, but Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett managed to find a few. They just took different approaches. Mike wondered why the Martians never took off their helmets, Kevin marveled on the Martians' Air Blasters by Marx that stopped anyone cold, and Bill pointed out the movie had "famous people" like Pia Zadora, and Ned Wertimer, the doorman on The Jeffersons. Bill also lusted after Momar (the mom) a bit too much.

They also recycled two riffs from the MST version. When Billy and Betty saw Torg the robot, Joel noted in the MST3K version the soundtrack sounded too much like the theme from Jeopardy. With Rifftrax, Mike said the music was really "Alex Trebek's Funeral March." When Voldar plotted to "discredit Santa", Mike said they were planning to get Karl Rove to help them. That sounds similar to the original riff from Crow: "You get Donna Rice on the phone. I'll get a camera." Just look up Donna Rice on the internets, and you'll get it.

Here's some other riffs:

we see Droppo for the first time:

We have our Jar-Jar

Kimar meets with Chochem about why the Martians kids are acting strangely. Kimar says it's Septober:

Servo: Time for Septoberfest
Rifftrax: I thought it was Februly

The crew of the Martian ship gather:

Didn't one of you mess around with Fred Flintstone?

Kimar pushes Voldar after it's thought Santa and the Earth kids are sucked into space

MST3K: I love you. (Voldar pushes back) It'll never work.
Rifftrax: Invisible mistletoe.

Santa meets Momar

Santa's thinking of going green

Santa complains about the idea of having pills for breakfast:

Crow: What are we, Judy Garland?
Rifftrax: Courtney Love would have liked it there.



There are also riffs on the X-Files, Arby's (of course), a callback on a couple of past Rifftrax targets (including a recent one), JJ Abrams (especially his logo), CBS comedies, Norman Krasner, a certain movie with George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, and Watergate. Voldar is also compared to Daniel Plainview a lot. It's too bad that when Voldar is defeated in the final battle against Santa and his toys, he didn't moan, "I'm finished!"

Before that, the gang found an incredibly cheesy Christmas short made by Sid Davis, usually known for educational movies that try to protect kids from drugs, auto accidents and sexual deviants. This is called "Santa and the Fairy Snow Queen." It's narrated by an overly-hyper brownie called Snoopy, who makes Mr. B Natural look like Clint Eastwood. The "plot" involves the Snow Queen who brings a bunch of "toys" to life. She's described as a "third-rate ballerina on pain killers." Here's the unriffed short:



If you get past the fairy queen's strange Valeria/Natalie from Werewolf accent, and the weird-looking costumes, you'll see this short makes the main feature look like 2001: A Space Odyssey. On the other hand, as the Rifftrax crew notices, it could be mistaken for an existential version of Toy Story. The riffs take on Ronald McDonald, Chewbacca, Lady Gaga, Twilight, and The Nutcracker.

Rifftrax's version was pretty good, but a lot of people are likely to say the MST3K version or the Cinematic Titanic is the best one. The MST3K version is available though Cheesyflix, while Amazon has the Cinematic Titanic version. Also, you can look at my review of the CT version. Judge for yourself who was able to conquer Santa Claus Conquers the Martians best.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Godspeed, WWE Classics on Demand


It had been speculated for some time the WWE wanted to create its own network, where wrestling fans can see their favorite sport 24 hours a day.

After some delays, it's now official: WWE Classics On Demand will close on January 31, and the WWE Network will take its place.

I'm gonna be sad to see the on-demand service go because it was my main source of old-school wrestling, after ESPN decided to stop showing the AWA, World Class reruns and even the Global Wrestling Federation (best known for giving us Marcus Bagwell and Sean "The 1-2-3 Kid" Waltham).

The best thing about WWE Classics is that it showed the pre-Hulk Hogan period of the WWE.  when regional channels (PRISM, MSG and even the old Z Channel from L-A) showed wrestling cards. That beats Prime Time Wrestling every time. Action that hadn't been preserved in VHS or even DVD would be shown every month. You could see proof George the Animal Steele used real words at one time, Hulk Hogan had a War Bonnet that was supposed to be what every kid wanted for Christmas (why else did he have that thing?), and there were cool wrestlers way back when like Superstar Graham, Bob Backlund, Rick Martel before he was "the model", and the Big Boss Man as a jobber that Jim Cornette abused before eventually hiring him as Big Bubba.

If the new WWE network was smart, it should unleash its massive wrestling library big time. There's a ton of old World Championship Wrestling from the late '70s and early '80s that fans would eat up: the arrival of the Freebirds, early Ric Flair, Bobby Heenan managing there for a while, and so much more. Heck, if they showed Stampede Wrestling from 1979 that included early Jim Neidhart, and Jake Roberts and Junkyard Dog using his real name, they could show JYD vs. the Freebirds.  How about a series on how Hulkamania ran wild in the AWA, but also had its roots with WTBS shortly before? Let's not forget Championship Wrestling from Florida...or Mid-South Wrestling. That's going to pull a ton of subscribers to the channel.

Of course, it's obvious the new channel will remember to promote the current stars. There's word that the NXT show may wind up there after a long run on Hulu. We'll get PPV cards six months or so after they're run (although people will have to see the whole thing, not choose individual matches), and there's a chance the new channel will show next year's Wrestlemania. There's also supposed to be reality shows, which ought to rip kayfabe to pieces.

Still, it should stick to its roots and show the old days in a big way. After all, where else could you see a 1984 card from St. Louis just after McMahon bought the WTBS time slot, and could claim the then-National Heavyweight Champion the Spoiler as its own?


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Rifftrax Presents Swamp of the Ravens, or He Brought His Evil There


Lately Rifftrax has been concentrating on the cheesiest movies from Europe for its VOD collection. A while ago, we had Supersonic Man, a disco version of Puma Man with the guy dubbing Cameron Mitchell overacting way too much.

Now from 1974, we have Swamp of the Ravens, a production of Ecuador and Spain which could be a surrealistic version of "The Brain That Wouldn't Die". I chose this because the Black Friday sale Rifftrax had promised a five dollar credit if you bought 20 bucks worth of stuff...and a 20 percent discount. The other reason was one the strangest "love songs" in any cheesy movie.
The Rifftrax sample was removed from YouTube, but here's a link from the main site.

The plot: a scientist named Frosta thinks he can bring people back from the dead because he thinks death is an evolution and can be overcome. He tries to cure a leper, but winds up having to dump his body in the swamp next to the lab. The lab seems to do a better job of reviving the dead than the doc does because we see the victim's heads, and their eyes blinking.
Frosta also has a girlfriend named Simone who wants to go back to her ex-boyfriend, a guy who sings to a Spanish version of Resusci Annie about his love for a dead robot. It's like a lounge singer's version of Lars and the Real Girl. Here's a link to the English version (which might be removed), but here's the Spanish version below:



After she gets away from Frosta by "fooling" him with a mannequin, he grabs her right back and hopes to enslave her with his experiments. He has to fend off the dead leper's friend, described as a "human Nobby", Simone's ex-boyfriend, and the barely competent police.

Now, how the Rifftrax gang endured this movie:

The first four minutes is the doctor reviving a corpse in a van:

Kevin Murphy: In Ecuador, this is what passes as a witty farce. 

The doc's zombie assistant dumps a body in the swamp

Mike Nelson: Terrible biopic of John the Baptist

We see a shelf filled with babies' corpses placed in jars

Bill Corbett:  You managed to go from "creepy" to "Rob-Zombie-level-nightmare-inducing-creepy" in a single scene. 

There's plenty of riffs on Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Kermit the Frog, Jethro Tull,  Eugene Levy, Family Ties, Human League, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Kevin also comes up with a fine song about the leper guy, while Mike does an extended riff on Nick Nolte. There's also a long riff on why the ravens don't own their own swamp...and that the movie actually has buzzards, not ravens. Maybe "Swamp of the Buzzards" isn't as romantic, in a horror kind of way.

Swamp of the Ravens, among other cheesy movies, are available at Rifftrax's new Christmas store. It includes its holiday selections including Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (which has something in common with Rocket Attack USA, a past MST3K target), Talking Christmas Tree, Santa's Village of Madness (also known as outtakes from that Mexican Santa Claus movie), and the Rifftrax Live Christmas Shorts show with Weird Al Yankovic and the live riffing of the other Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer cartoon.


Review of Frozen: This Ain't Your Father's Disney Musical


Once upon a time, Walt Disney Pictures made animated features based on fairy tales where there was a beautiful princess who had to be saved by a Prince Charming, and it all ended happily ever after.

Then Enchanted came along and made a bunch of money. and Disney decided that the old formula could be revamped and improved. That's why Brave won Best Animated Feature at the Oscars last February.

The likely winner in 2014 is Frozen, a new spin on Hans Christen Anderson's "The Snow Queen" and Disney musicals in general. There's the beautiful princess, and two handsome love interests. However, the villain isn't where you expect.

It begins in Arendelle, where there are two princesses, Anna (Kristen Bell--yep, Veronica Mars could have done her own musical if given the chance) and Elsa (Idina Menzel). Elsa has the power to produce winter, but it causes an accident that almost kills Anna. The King and Queen decide to keep the sisters separate, and erase the memory of the accident. The castle is also closed to everyone. After the King and Queen die, Elsa is about to take the throne. While she looks cold, she is struggling to keep her icy touch in check. The pressures overcome her, and she puts the kingdom under eternal winter.  She's forced to leave and build her own Castle of Solitude.

Meanwhile, Anna wants to marry Prince Hans (Santino Fontana) after knowing him for one entire song. Elsa objects, which caused her power to go out of control. Anna endures very cold conditions to get her sister back with some help from Kristoff (Johnathan Groff), an ice deliverer, and his reindeer named Sven. Kristoff is also skeptical about Anna thinking Hans is "meant to be".
To serve as comic relief, there's a talking snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad) who wants to experience summer...although he's not aware of what that's like. There's a great song where he dreams of being in summer and getting a tan.

What's great about this movie is that Elsa is not the villain. She is the victim of a power she'd give anything to lose, but thinks pushing people away is the only thing she can do. Her fear amplfiies that power to disastrous results, and freezes her sister's heart. When Anna is told that true love can save her, she thinks kissing Prince Hans will solve everything.

She is right. True love will save everyone. Where it really comes from makes this a very different kind of Disney musical. It's a great story, with Disney princesses taking charge of the "happily ever after" part. It also has two songs that could get Oscar gold. My choice would be "Let It Go" over "For the First Time in Forever", but "Reindeer Are Better Than People" may be a cult hit.

UPDATE: here's "Let It Go", thanks to YouTube...



Before the movie, there is what seems to be a Mickey Mouse cartoon from 1929 called "Get A Horse". After a minute or two, it's more than that. We see the original Mickey Mouse emerge from the screen..in 3-D. That genre-bending touch could lead to the Mouse's first Oscar for Best Animated Short. He won in 1932 for being created, but not in competition.

As far as the trailers are concerned, there's going to be a flood of new animated movies. There's The Nut Job, about squirrels hoping to break into a nut shop to survive the winter, the Lego Movie, about a Lego piece who is "the chosen one" for some mission, and Walking With Dinosaurs, which might remind people of The Land Before Time. There was also the trailer for Muppets Most Wanted, where Kermit is mistaken for a jewel thief. Even with Tina Fey with a ridiculous accent, Ty Burrell with a pencil-thin mustache, and Danny Trejo somehow appearing, I'm not sure about this one.

I also saw Hunger Games: Catching Fire recently. This franchise will succeed through the end thanks to Jennifer Lawrence. She's born to be Katniss, and her performance is the best thing about this movie. he movie is wise to show that just because she and Peeta survived the 74th Games doesn't mean they go back to their lives as nothing happened. The scars from that experience reveal themselves time and again. She's also identfied as a threat to the status quo at Panem, and a symbol of revolt. She'd rather not have this status, but the more the government responds in severe ways, the more she's willing to fight. Her last defining moment in this movie is proof of that. It should be interesting how they turn Mockingjay into two movies, since the overall plot goes from a game to a war.