Category Archives: Movies

Do You Want To Build A Snowman?

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I never thought of doing a movie review, let alone a Disney movie, but I haven’t had inspiration to write about anything else lately. Furthermore, I felt the need to put the movie in perspective.

The movie Frozen is a computer-animated film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and was released in November 2013. The plot revolves around a princess trying to reach out to her sister, the queen, whose magical ice powers have prevented her from having a normal life and a relationship with her beloved sister. The story’s origin stems from Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen. Many believed that the original story was too dark for children and Disney was fortunately able to make a beautiful story that’s suitable for all audiences.

Before watching the movie, I didn’t really have any expectations. When I first heard of it, I actually resented the fact that Disney wasn’t creative enough to think of a better title. Like most great movies that I’ve watched, it’s the feeling that I had at the end, which makes them astounding.

Below are my own criteria of reviewing the movie. I didn’t want to approach it in a more technical manner using the basic elements of screen arts and all that so I opted to a more… user-friendly approach (and easier to write too!).

Overall look / Visuals:

If you look closely with any movie, each one has its own mood or theme with regards to its visuals. With the dawn of computer-animated films, we’ve seen more and more different types of themes in movies. Wreck-It Ralph invited us to a digital computer world as it should since it’s about video games, while The Princess and the Frog had a whole different setting because it was set in good old New Orleans. With the use of technology, animators have been given the freedom to make characters more real than ever and essentially more fun.

What I liked about Frozen is that its mood and overall visuals went hand in hand with the story. It wasn’t too bright like so many other children movies nor was it too dark, as you would think since it had a sad beginning. The animators even researched how light reacts to snow and ice. To moviegoers like you and me, they created a world of magic filled with the beauty of snow.

The characters also looked cute and loveable. You didn’t mind if they were computer-generated or not, unlike in other animations wherein they just couldn’t quite get human characters right.

Story:

The initial intentions of creating a version of The Snow Queen started way back in 1943 when Walt Disney and Samuel Goldwyn wanted to make live action films and animated ones for select stories from the author Hans Christian Andersen. Ever since that time, the producers had difficulty translating The Snow Queen because many felt that the story was too dark and audiences won’t be able to relate to the characters. They tried to bring the project into life two other times in 1990’s and again in 2008 but failed to do so. It was only after Disney released Tangled when everything fell into place. Instead of focusing on the Snow Queen, they made Anna the protagonist so that audiences could see the relationship of the two.

I find the background of the production of this film really intriguing as much as the story itself. In many angles, I can see how Elsa, the Snow Queen, could be depicted as evil, shut out, and cold. But throughout the story, you could see the development of this character. You could see the reasons why she acted the way she did and why she had to be left alone. It resonates to so many human emotions as there have been times in our lives when we do want to be left alone and don’t want anybody to come into our lives. The journey of Elsa together with the perseverance of her sister Anna, who was relentless in finding a way to reach her, is a story that can be emulated and told again and again.

Voice Acting and Production:

Actress Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars and Forgetting Sarah Marshall) played Anna while Broadway sensation Idina Menzel (Rent) brought Elsa into life. I find it outstanding to know that Kristen Bell sang the songs in the entire movie. I thought she only voiced the character but little did I know she was also the singing voice. The two were a perfect pair as Anna and Elsa.

The screenplay was written by Jennifer Lee (Wreck-it Ralph) and she co-directed the movie with Chris Buck. Lee became the first female to direct a full length Disney animation. Pretty cool huh?

Musical Score and Songs:

Christopher Beck scored the film and drew inspiration from Norway as his setting. As for the songs, they were written by Robert Lopez and his wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez.

The songs were really beautiful as they allowed the audience to experience the power of songs as they did in the old Disney movies. During the Disney Renaissance (1989-1999) they produced heart-warming and memorable musical classics for countless movies like Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and The Lion King. The songs weren’t too annoying like in other movies but they fit perfectly into the seam of the story. It wasn’t forced and didn’t sound too modern. Try watching The Emperor’s New Groove and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Messages / Moral:

ANNA: “We’re getting married!”

ELSA: “You can’t marry a man you just met.”

Okay, okay, that’s not the moral of the story. Haha. But a lesson nonetheless to all you young girls out there!

As in all animated films, Frozen had many messages to tell about love, courage, finding your path, trust, and family. However, I truly love the portrayal of Elsa as she kept hiding herself and not let people enter her life. I already explained this in a couple of paragraphs before but I really like her character. She was like any other human being (well, if you discount her magical ice powers) who was afraid of other people judging or hurting her. She didn’t want to let people in because she too might hurt others. This speaks to millions of teenage girls all around the world but can also reflect any other person old or young. What’s more striking is how her sister Anna pursued her throughout the movie. The song “Do you want to build a snowman?” was perfect and was one of the ultimate “aww” moments in the movie. Here was Anna just trying to play and spend time with her sister but Elsa couldn’t because of her powers. When their parents died and Anna was in need of her sister, she just says “I’m here for you” and then with a hint of nostalgia, asks the question “Do you want to build a snowman?” again.

Once the secret was out and the entire kingdom knew about Elsa’s powers, Anna was neither frightened nor discouraged. She went out into the blistering cold to look for her sister. She got hurt and even got her heart frozen. When an act of true love was needed, she thought (as did the audience) she needed a kiss from someone she loved. I loved the twist in the end when Kristoff was running towards her and we all expected that he was the one to kiss Anna. But in an act of love in its truest form, Anna sacrificed herself to protect her sister Elsa. In the end, it was the love she had for sister that made everything go back to normal. In every aspect, they were right: true love thaws out the cold.

Critical acclaim :

Some stats for Frozen:

  • 13th highest-grossing animated film
  • 7th highest film in 2013
  • 3rd highest animated film in 2013
  • 4th highest-grossing non-sequel animated film
  • Highest pre-Thanksgiving opening garnering $15.2 million on its world wide opening
  • Best Animated Feature (African-American Film Critics Association, Austin Film Critics Association, Denver Film Critics Society, Golden Tomato Awards and many others)
  • Best Animated Feature film (Golden Globe Awards)
  • Nominated for Best Original Song, “Let it Go” (Golden Globe Awards)
  • Garnered a total of $711, 919, 106 worldwide which is second to only Lion King as the highest-grossing Disney animated film

Aside from its box office success, what struck me the most was its potential to bring back the Disney Renaissance era. For ten solid years from 1989, Disney released some of the most memorable and acclaimed films. I’m glad that I was born during this time because damn, that was my childhood! After Tarzan (1999), Disney produced so-so films but never the same caliber as its predecessors. From its art, songs, musical score, and characters, the movie felt like… home. True enough, it garnered praise from Time, The New York Post, Los Angeles Times, The Hollywood Reporter, countless other critics and even Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 7.7/10 rating.

Frozen is an absolute delight that mesmerizes you with vivid artistry, gripping your emotions through its empowering story and loveable characters and leaves you with a joyous heart through its Broadway-like music.

As an ending note, I leave you with a clip from the movie. This tearjerker moment ranks high up there with the death of Mufasa in Lion King or in Mulan when she was singing “Relfection.”

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Have You Ever Played The What-if Game?

Okay, so maybe the question is too obvious and deserves a “Well, duh!” answer. We’ve all played the What-if game. In fact, we’ve been playing it since the day our brains were smart enough to think or the first time we did a stupid mistake that had unforeseen repercussions.

What if I got married too young? What if I had stopped smoking when I was in my twenties? What if I lived in the suburbs instead of the city? What if I didn’t buy that stupid motorcycle and just saved the money? What if Vanilla Ice never got sued for copying the intro of Ice Ice Baby?

And a thousand more what if questions in our lifetime.

I’m taking a page here from my favorite sportswriter, Bill Simmons. In his book, The Book of Basketball, he gives the all-time what-if questions that have surrounded the NBA. Some examples are – What if Kevin Durant was drafted first before Greg Oden? What if Kobe signed with the Clippers back in 2004? Etc, etc.

Anyway, aside from pondering the numerous questions about basketball (I couldn’t get over the what-if question about Michael Jordan. He shouldn’t have played with the Wizards!), of course I thought of my own what-if questions, but moreover, I thought of the whole idea of the what-ifs in our lives. What-ifs are questions that we like to ponder on but they can also leave us with a sense of helplessness. No matter what we do, the things we have done are in the past and they’ll stay in the past.

Nonetheless, this is my blog and I want to play the what-if game!

Personal What-Ifs

1)   What if I didn’t study in ADMU and didn’t choose Psychology as my course?

In the Philippines, these are the top universities: Ateneo De Manila University (ADMU), University of the Philippines (UP), and De La Salle University (DLSU). It’s up to debate who’s number 1 but that’s besides my point. Anyway, I only applied to two of them – ADMU and UP. Now, all my life I’ve been studying in ADMU. It’s the only school I know and all my family members have studied or are studying there. Even my dad teaches there. Obviously I wanted to get it in. I also applied to UP because I’ve always thought of it as a great school and I wasn’t dumb enough to apply to only one college.

As fate would have had it, I fortunately got in to ADMU and failed UP’s entrance test (my math scores were horrendous). Looking back, what if I did pass UP? Would I have had a more difficult decision in choosing one school over the other? We’re talking about a whole different environment, education, and social life! And what would I have studied there? I remember the reason why I picked Psychology. Well, it was listed in the brochure and I thought it would be cool if I learned it. That’s it. What if I was more adventurous and picked um… Computer Engineering or let’s say Creative Writing? My career would be totally different! I think I also applied for Psychology in UP, I can’t remember though.

Anyway, if I did decide to study there: my views on our country and the government will be different, I would have met some of the great professors of our generation, and would have probably done a lot of crazy stuff. As for the other things that make me who I am, I don’t think it will all be too different. I’ll probably get into the UP Pep Squad, probably surround myself with similar college friends as in ADMU, and most probably enjoyed college just as much. I believe that a perfect combination of “Nature and Nurture” will be put into play here. On many ways, my life will be different, but at the same time, I think it will still be strikingly similar because of who I am.

2)   What if lived in the 1920’s or the 1950’s?

Growing up, I’ve always wondered what it would be like if I lived in either in the 1920’s or in the 1950’s or any period in between. I like the clothes, cars, music, mood, and the environment. I can go Boardwalk Empire with my style of clothes plus you can give me a 1958 Edsel Corsair or a Cadillac to drive in.

Plus, I think life was much simpler back then. Of course they weren’t thinking that life was simpler in those days and we can already say that now since we live in a chaotic 2014. We’re talking about the Prohibition era and the post World War II era, not really perfect times but hey, I like them cars and clothes!

3)   What if I knew really how to sing, dance, or act?

Sigh. I wish I knew how to do at least one of the three. But alas, I was kept from having these God-given talents. It’s not that I’ll become a pop star or anything. It’s just the ability of doing anything you want and being whoever you want to be. For instance, I love music and it would be nice if I could sing John Mayer’s version of Free Fallin’.  Just one time yo, just one time!

As you think of your own personal what if questions, let me suggest that they shouldn’t revolve any of the following:

a)   Women – (Or if you’re a girl, then men) Relationships carry too many attachments, feelings, and old memories. Rehashing them won’t do you any good and you’ll just end up over thinking about everything. Not unless if you truly believe that she’s the “one.” Then you can go Nic Cage mode calling out Tea Leoni, making a last ditch effort in the airport to have her back in The Family Man. (Btw, this is the ultimate what if movie and second chances) But I gotta say, we really love to play the what-if game with girls right? Yikes.

b)   Jobs – Thinking whether or not you’ve picked the right job or not has its limits. On one hand, you’re allowed to think about it and then actually doing something about it – either stay or quit. However, you can’t allow yourself to think too much if you stayed too long already or haven’t really done anything with your life. I guess you’re there for a reason.

c)    Spontaneous decisions – We’ve all done quite a few of these. As long as they don’t involve drugs, being pregnant, or killing anyone, then you don’t have to play the what-if game with regards to spur of the moment decisions.

Below are a bunch of other what ifs that I’d like to share:

Philippines

1)   What if the Philippines remained under American rule for a couple of more years?

2)   What if we never did the whole People Power movement?

3)   What if we stopped making stupid movies? (To my readers from other countries, the Philippines does produce outstanding films. However we also have a knack of making pretty awful and “what the hell were you thinking?” kind of movies)

World/General

1)   What if we actually knew the truth about the assassination of JFK?

2)   What if the Catholic Church suddenly allowed women to be Pope?

3)   What if firemen, police officers, and teachers were paid more than athletes, movies stars, and musicians?

Movies

1)   What if Ben Affleck never made that movie with Jennifer Lopez and we’ll always think of him as the other guy in Good Will Hunting?

2)   What if the Transformers series was actually made to scare away potential terrorists threats to America as they showed U.S. military strength and ingenuity in all of the movies? (Same can be said with Battleship)

3)   What if Adam Sandler made more serious movies like Reign Over Me and Click or focus on real comedy like in the Billy Madison days rather than oh I don’t know… Jack and Jill??!!

Music

1)   What if Kurt Cobain never died?

2)   What if Michael Jackson was actually found guilty of child molestation, would we view him differently when he died?

3)   What if Taylor Swift stopped singing about love songs and at the same time hooking up with guys and dumping them like they were pairs of shoes?

 

Life is full of what ifs. It’s just the way life works. There are questions we wonder about the world and more importantly there are questions that we have to face in our personal lives. As you look back and play the what-if game, try not to over think or fill yourself with regret. You can also play it going forward i.e. “What if I decide to become a better person starting today?” What ifs are about the past as much as they are about the future. In any case, it’s just a game but don’t try to lose.

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Have You Seen The Movie…?

Here are all the movies I’ve watch back in 2013:

1)   Life of Pi

2)   Silver Linings Playbook

3)   Les Miserables

4)   The Man with The Iron Fists

5)   Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

6)   Warm Bodies

7)   Snow White and the Huntsman

8)   Lincoln

9)   Batman: Year One

10)         The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

11)         Herbie: Fully Loaded

12)         GI Joe: Retaliation

13)         Olympus Has Fallen

14)         Ironman 3

15)         UP

16)         The Bling Ring

17)         Man of Steel

18)         Pacific Rim

19)         The Wolverine

20)         The Hangover 3

21)         Star Trek: Into Darkness

22)         Fast and Furious 6

23)         The Big Wedding

24)         Act of Valor

25)         That’s My Boy

26)         On The Job

27)         Now You See Me

28)         Justice League: Doom

29)         The Savages

30)         The Fighter

31)         Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox

32)         Limitless

33)         Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

34)         Up In The Air

35)         Invictus

36)         Superman VS The Elite

37)         This Is The End

38)         We’re The Millers

39)         The Way Way Back

40)         The Iceman

41)         Parkland

42)         The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

43)         The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

44)         Kick-Ass 2

45)         Good Will Hunting

46)         A Thousand Words

47)         The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

48)         Transit

49)         Oz: The Great and Powerful

50)         Trouble With The Curve

 

As you may have noticed, some of the movies didn’t appear in 2013. I just watched it in 2013. Also, I didn’t force the list to be 50. Now that was pretty cool. I’ve tried to record every movie chronologically in my little notebook, but there were times I forgot so I just wrote it down when I remembered them. Think of this as similar to John Cusack when he rearranged his music record collection autobiographically in the movie High Fidelity. As in the movie, if he wanted to listen to the song Landslide by Fleetwood Mac, he has to remember that he bought in the summer of ’83 pile. Didn’t catch the movie? Don’t worry, it’s a so-so sort of chick flick that you won’t imagine John Cusack in.

This list contains movies that I’ve watched in its entirety. This is one of my biggest rules in watching a movie – you have to watch it from start to end. I excluded from this list the ones I only watched in the beginning or only caught the end of it. (The only time I bent this rule was when I watched a movie with my ex a while back. We were in line at the food booth as the movie was about to start. Knowing that I have to watch everything, she told me I could go ahead inside the theater to catch the start. Thankfully, I wasn’t dumb enough to do that and I waited in line with her. I wasn’t that stupid to compare watching the start of a movie and leaving my girl to wait in line. I didn’t hesitate with my decision to skip the start. Totally worth it. Whew.)

For example, the movie UP was something I first watched nearly three years ago but I only got to watch the end last year, thus it included in my 2013 list. That was a long time coming I gotta tell you. On the other hand, another movie is Monsters University where there are a few parts that I missed out so this movie won’t be included in the list. I’m that particular.

Using movies as “markers” in your life is not only be helpful but really fun. I remember The Wolverine as the last movie I ever watched with my ex; Catching Fire as the movie I watched when my friend Meg and her sister after dragging me out of the house and introduced me to a perfect combination of flavors for popcorn (hint: it had lots and lots of cheese); Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close was the one when I cried like three times when I was watching alone at home (I felt like Max Von Sydow “screaming” Stop! Stop! Stooooop!); This Is The End left me laughing my butt off for hours; and many more memories just from looking my list of movies. I remember who I watched it with (or if I watched it home), which cinema where I watched it, or where I was at that time in my life. This not only bring a sense of nostalgia but again, it’s fun.

Funny story again was when I watched the first Hobbit and the second one in a span of two weeks. I remember after that watching the first one, I was shocked when I say the second one was already in cinemas! But then again, I realized that the first one I watched at home and it went to cinemas the year before. Stupidly funny.

I also listed down all the books and graphic novels I read the past year but the list was too short and embarrassing to post here. Thus, I promise myself that I will make my 2014 Book List this year.

As for the movies I’ve already started listing down my list. Right now I can tell you that watching Rock of Ages wasn’t a pleasant experience. Twenty minutes in I was already about to throw up and change the channel but I told myself I’ve already invested in it so it would be a shame if I didn’t finish it. I have to tell you though that when Alec Baldwin started to sing, I just lost it. Plus the lead guy and girl weren’t really that appealing. And and and I can’t believe how many songs they potentially ruined historically. Okay I’ll stop there. Haha

Anyway, wanna catch a movie with me sometime? 🙂

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