VIDIOT – APRIL 2014

Frozen

Finally, Disney addresses the issues of their aging audience with this feature about poor blood circulation.

Oops! Apparently this animated movie is about an ice princess, not about icy toes.

In response to an incident involving her ability to make snow that occurred when they were young, Princess Anna (Kristen Bell) shuts herself off from her sister Elsa (Idina Menzel).

It is not until Elsa’s coronation that Anna reappears.

Unfortunately, her frosty condition unleashes eternal winter on the kingdom. Forcing her into exile.

Now it is up to Elsa, her guide Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and a snowman (Josh Gad) to find Anna and convince her to lift her blustery curse.

With more than one earworm on its soundtrack and a cast with both singing and slapstick chops, Frozen is Disney’s best of the 21st century.

Mind you, with the power to make snow, you’ll always have a job at any ski resort.

Saving Mr. Banks

If it weren’t for Herr Disney’s theme parks, the cities of Anaheim and Orlando would’ve become Allied strongholds during WWII.

However, this drama isn’t about Walt’s ideology, it’s about his adaptation of Mary Poppins.

After decades of being wooed by Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) to sell him the film rights to her book, a penniless P. L. Travers (Emma Thompson) agrees to fly to L.A. to help with the script.

Unfortunately for the film’s writer (Bradley Whitford) and lyricists (Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak), she is an obstinate collaborator who detests animation and musicals.

Meanwhile, flashbacks of P.L.’s youth detail her relationship with her alcoholic father (Colin Farrell).

Although well acted, Mr. Banks downplays the tension between Walt and the author in order to get the desired happy ending that has become the company’s stock-in-trade.

Incidentally, I’m more curious in how Disney convinced someone to walk around in the California heat in a mouse costume.

American Hustle

The hardest part of scamming before the Internet was you had to find someone to play the son of a deposed Nigerian King.

Fortunately, the con artists in this 1970s crime-drama only had to find someone to play a Sheikh.

Irving (Christian Bale) and his girlfriend Sydney (Amy Adams) agree to help an FBI Agent (Bradley Cooper) bring down corrupt politicians to avoid conviction on their most recent swindle.

The target of the operation is a New Jersey mayor (Jeremy Renner) willing to work with the mafia to revitalize the gaming industry.

But when Irving’s dingbat wife (Jennifer Lawrence) gets involved in the dupe, it could cost them everything.

Inspired by real events, director David O. Russell assembles a crack team of talented actors to pull off an adroit script that tackles both the dramatic and comedic duties masterfully.

Mind you, the biggest swindle of the seventies is still disco.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

The perk to being a political prisoner is that you get to waste triple the amount of taxpayer dollars.

However, there are no pricey dinners for the convict in this drama.

When Nelson Mandela (Idris Elba) moves from his South African village to the segregated city to become a lawyer, his eyes are opened to the injustices in the courtrooms, and on the streets.

Compelled to march in the Anti-Apartheid protests, Mandela later bombs government buildings and is subsequently sentenced to life in prison.

On the outside, his second-wife Winnie (Naomie Harris) leads an international campaign for his release.

With a praiseworthy performance from Elba, this adaptation of Mandela’s autobiography may not be the most artistic but it’s the most comprehensive movie about his triumphs and failures.

And eventually whites and blacks of South Africa learned to get along through their mutual love of annoying other countries with the vuvuzela.

Inside Llewyn Davis

The key to being a successful folk singer is finding the perfect street corner to busk on.

Even more prominent, the troubadour in this drama has found himself a coffee house to play at.

After his partner’s suicide, couch-surfing folk singer Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) learns a fellow folk singer (Carey Mulligan) is pregnant with his baby.

Llewyn agrees to pay for the abortion and that arrangement sets the stage for his journey from Greenwich to Chicago to see a record producer (F. Murray Abraham) in hopes of establishing a solo career.

A striking recreation of the 1960s café scene, directors Joel and Ethan Coen bring their oddball blend of dark humour, eccentric characters and esoteric metaphors to the format.

And while not every message is comprehensible and not every ballad is enjoyable, the artistry is undeniable.

Incidentally, the folk singer movement ended the very day Bob Dylan became indecipherable.

The Book Thief

The problem with stealing books is that no one cares they’re missing.

However, this drama takes place at time when books were both valued and feared.

To keep her safe from the Nazis, Liesel’s (Sophie Nélisse) mother sends her to live with foster parents, Hans (Geoffrey Rush) and Rosa (Emily Watson).

Whereas Rosa is stern, Hans is kindhearted and teaches Liesel to read the books she pilfers from the book burnings.

When WWII breaks out, Liesel learns Hans is harbouring a Jew (Ben Schnetzer) in their basement.

To pass the time, the refugee teaches Liesel to write her own stories.

Despite omitting major sections of the book, this is a suitable adaptation of the teen novel.

But, like the book itself, the narrative never uses its fascist setting to its full potential.

Incidentally, Nazis burnt books so Hitler’s Mein Kampf would be the only one on the Best Sellers list.

Homefront

To get rid of a meth-head, tell them there’s a cache of cold medicine hidden out in the backwoods.

Unfortunately, that won’t work for the father in this thriller because he lives in the sticks.

After an epic undercover assignment with a biker gang, which saw him kill the leader’s kin, DEA agent Phil (Jason Statham) retires to a rural community.

But when his daughter crosses a bully at school, his mother (Kate Bosworth) asks her meth-dealing brother Gator (James Franco) to intimidate Phil.

Doing so, Gator discovers Phil’s a cop, and gets his girlfriend (Winona Ryder) to notify the imprisoned gang leader who wants to settle the score.

While the action is impression thanks to Statham, the thrills are less so thanks to Franco.

Miscasting aside, the story itself is pretty standard and ultimately uneventful.

Fortunately, in the backwoods, moonshine distillery explosions cover up any meth lab explosions.

Out of the Furnace

The highlight of coming home from war is not having to lie on a pile of corpses, pretending to be dead anymore

Mind you the ex-soldier in this drama performed less cowardly deeds.

Back from Iraq, Rodney (Casey Affleck) rings up a gambling debt with a local thug (Willem Dafoe).

Russell (Christian Bale), Rodney’s brother, pays half of the debt with his paycheck, and is later incarcerated for DUI.

When he’s released from prison, Russell learns of Rodney’s involvement with underground boxing, and his subsequent death at the hands of a crazy hillbilly (Woody Harrelson).

To make things right, Russell hunts down his brother’s killer despite the sheriff’s (Forest Whitaker) warning.

While the acting talent is present and accounted for, the gritty script is hard to pin down due to its erratic and somewhat implausible nature.

Besides, to avoid future revenge scenarios, only kill people who are an only child.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

When you catch fire in a dystopian future, survivors don’t extinguish it but gather around your body for warmth.

Fortunately, the conflagration in this sci-fi movie is a controlled burn.

Motivated by district uprisings resulting from the game’s most-recent winners, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), President Snow (Donald Sutherland) announces an all-star Third Quarter Quell.

When Katniss and her mentor’s (Woody Harrelson) names are drawn, Peeta volunteers to take his position.

Meanwhile, the other tributes (Jeffrey Wright, Jena Malone, Amanda Plummer) are just as upset over their re-enrolment and conspire to topple the affluent Capitol.

The second film based on the teen Lit series, Catching Fire is darker than its dour predecessor, but for good reason.

Tonality aside, the eclectic cast continues to grow and excel, while the seditious story starts to take root.

Incidentally, the Hunger Games are impartial, unless, of course, there’s a Russian judge.

12 Years a Slave

Slavery in America was so bad that slaves actually wanted to move to the frozen wilderness of Canada.

Unfortunately, the slave in this drama doesn’t make it out of New Orleans.

Touring with a performing troupe, a musician from New York, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), is sold into slavery despite being a freeman.

Liquidated to a plantation owner (Benedict Cumberbatch) under the slave name Platt, Solomon shares his insight with his master.

But when a handyman (Paul Dano) starts harassing him, Platt is sold to Epps (Michael Fassbender) to keep him safe.

There, he meets Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o), whom he tries to save from the sadistic Epps.

Based on Northup’s own account, 12 Years a Slave captures the brutality of the times with brilliant performances.

However, the director’s sullen static shots can become tedious.

Incidentally, inequality continues to exist so long as Black History Month only has 28 days?

Nebraska

The first thing you should do after winning a million dollars is fake your own death, leaving no will.

Regrettably, the winning senior in this dramedy visits his family.

Determined to walk from Montana to Nebraska to collect a sweepstakes worth $1 million, Woody (Bruce Dern) is repeatedly picked-up by police and returned to his wife (June Squibb).

Despite the mail-in prize’s bogus appearance, Woody’s son David (Will Forte) agrees to drive him to Lincoln.

Along the way they visit Woody’s hometown, where his relations and his rival (Stacy Keach) vie for his newfound fortune.

Earnest by nature, this black and white road movie features many subtle yet superb performances from an unlikely cast.

That understated quality also applies to the surprising amount of comedy that punctuates the overall depressing narrative.

Incidentally, nothing makes children want to take care of their aging parents more than their parents winning the lottery.

Blue is the Warmest Colour

When women have sex with one another do they take turns faking their orgasms?

Thankfully, the sapphic lovers in this drama answer that question, and more.

Despite attempts to date the opposite sex, Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) can’t fight her attraction to the same sex, specifically a blue-haired artist she encounters on the street.

Serendipitously, at her first lesbian bar, Adèle meets the indigo girl, Emma (Léa Seydoux), and they begin a torrid love affair.

Over time, they make a life with one another. But Adèle’s housewife routine isn’t enough for Emma (Léa Seydoux) whose art is starting to sell.

With lesbian love scenes that rival most porn, this French comic-book adaptation uses the waning intensity as a metaphor for the failing relationship.

Unfortunately, that relationship never feels authentic enough to care about. Neither is the three-hour running time.

Incidentally, in an all-female relationship who gets to nag who?

He’s a Cover Songwriter. He’s the…

Vidiot

By Shane Sellar

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