With "Frozen," not since "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King" have I been so impressed with a musical Disney movie.
This reworking of "The Snow Queen" fairy tale features dazzling animation, grounded characters and a sparkling array of original songs.
Where the original Snow Queen was evil, we have a good-hearted princess named Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) who has magical powers to freeze whatever she touches. Elsa becomes frightened when she can't control her special gift, and thus isolates herself from everyone, including her cherished, happy-go-lucky sister Princess Anna (Kristen Bell).
Naturally, there's a handsome prince involved, a fun little sidekick and a rather testy big lug of a guy. Who will fall in love with whom?
The eight delightful songs written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez are made for a live theater adaptation down the line. The soaring voice of Tony Award-winner Menzel (the original Elphaba in Broadway's "Wicked") is worth the price of admission alone.
"Frozen" is the rare film that will have both young and old applauding for more.
'Philomena' a gem
Dame Judi Dench gives a lovely, inspiring performance in "Philomena," the true story of a young Irish girl who spends a lifetime trying to find information on the little boy she was forced to give up as a teenager by an Irish convent.
Co-star Steve Coogan, who also co-wrote the moving screenplay, plays Martin Sixsmith, the journalist who turned this woman's story into a book.
Martin is a haughty cynic, but he is also moved by this devout Catholic woman's plight to write her story. What develops is an odd-couple road trip to Ireland and to America, where the truth about the little boy leads to more questions, truths and untruths.
Dench is a remarkable actress, playing a woman who seems a bit daft one moment and then will surprise with a gentle zinger the next. Coogan, normally known for his comic roles, gives a finely shaded performance. Watch his face when this 70-something lady tells him how much she enjoyed sex. Priceless.
"Philomena" makes a gentle commentary on evolving attitudes toward old taboos. So much can be changed through real love and forgiveness.
SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.