1. Frozen (Opening in Wide Release, Disney, 3,742 Theaters, 108 Minutes, Rated PG): Disney having a in-house CGI animation studio when they own Pixar is kind of like ordering in for pizza when you have a Michelin-rated chef living in the house. Granted, the pizza might taste good, but probably not as good as if you had the chef make it.
This one, by a quick read of the plot synopsis, seems a bit deeper than the usual animated fare. Elsa is a woman with the power over ice and snow, powers she can’t exactly control. She puts herself into exile to protect the ones she loves. However, when Elsa loses control of her powers and sinks her homeland into an eternal winter, her sister Anna must find where she’s hiding and help her return the world to normal.
The film is entering wide release this week after opening in one theater last week.
2. Homefront (Open Road Films, 2,572 Theaters, 100 Minutes, Rated R): From the the Academy Award nominated writer of Rocky, Academy Award Nominee James Franco and Academy Award Nominee Winona Ryder join Kate Bosworth and Jason Stratham in a searing look into small town life, especially how one case of bullying leads the residents of the town into a downward spiral of drugs, violence, and, most likely, karate kicks.
Yes, this is an odd film. It’s written by Sylvester Stallone, yet isn’t directed by him and he doesn’t star in it. It does have an Oscar level cast, many not far removed from the A-list in it. Yet it seems to be a classic action film in the mold of the ones you’d find in the late 1970s, early 1980s. It’s hard to tell who in the cast is slumming, who is grasping at another shot at stardom or who is taking a step up with this film.
Stratham plays a former undercover cop who has relocated to a small, rural town. Unfortunately for him, his daughter gets into a fight with the local drug kingpin’s son, setting off a war of vengeance between the two families.
3. Black Nativity (Fox Searchlight, 1,516 Theaters, 93 Minutes, Rated PG): I guess Thanksgiving is the right time for a Christmas movie. Although, it is the second X-mas set movie, following Iron Man 3 in May.
This is a musical adaptation of the Langston Hughes play of the same name. It features a Baltimore youth with plenty of street smarts and little discipline who is sent to live with relatives in New York City. The rebellious kid butts heads with the strict structure his Northern kin set out for him. But the conflict brings out a remarkable change in the boy.
The cast in this film is amazing (It has as many Oscar winners in it as there are Oscar nominees in Homefront, plus one more Oscar nominee added for good measure). I find it hard for the film not to be an enjoyable experience for filmgoers, especially if these films are your cup of tea.
4. The Book Thief (Opening in Wide Release, Fox, 1,234 Theaters, 131 Minutes, Rated PG-13): Okay, I know this was adapted from a best selling book, and it deals with serious issues (about 500 of them), but come on! There is only so much bleakness you can cram into a narrative before it becomes laughable.
Let’s count them up. Lisle is a girl whose father runs off and whose mother puts her and her brother up for adoption. Unfortunately for the brother, he dies before they reach their foster family. But Lisle takes a book of her brother’s as a remembrance. Unfortunately, she can’t read. Her adoptive parents can. Unfortunately, they live in the heart of Nazi Germany. Even worse, her foster family is sheltering a Jewish man in their basement.
I won’t spoil how it ends, except to say there is a Hamlet quality to it, only with bombs instead of rapiers. It’s the kind of ending you’d expect from a film narrated by Death.
Cheery, right? And this was a young adult novel. Between this and The Hunger Games, I fear for the future of kid lit.