Frozen
(Disney)
Move over, Frosty. A quixotic snowman who longs to experience summer handily steals the show in "Frozen," Disney's 53rd in-house animated feature and one of its most classical, with a Hans Christian Andersen pedigree, a full-fledged showtune score and little of the ironic humor that has become the lingua franca of most contemporary toons. But this always enjoyable tale of mysterious magic, imperiled princesses and square-jawed men of action proves longer on striking visuals than on truly engaging or memorable characters. With the family crowd pretty much to itself this holiday season, "Frozen" should generate considerable box-office heat, if not quite the same level of critical and audience affection that attended the superior "Tangled" and "Wreck-It Ralph."
-- Scott Foundas
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Oldboy
(FilmDistrict)
Revenge, like octopus, is a dish best served cold, but Spike Lee's disappointingly straight remake of "Oldboy" is a lukewarm meal at best. Granted, with its hammered heads and severed tongues, Park Chan-wook's gleefully sadistic 2003 thriller was itself little more than a grotesque adolescent wallow, but it certainly didn't want for novelty or style -- neither of which, alas, factors much into this Westernized and depersonalized genre outing. Serving up the original's baroque twists and equally baroque violence with a studied competence verging on boredom, the FilmDistrict release will be appreciated primarily by viewers unfamiliar with the material, though with minimal anticipation and likely poor word of mouth, it's unlikely to wrap its tentacles around the box office for long.
-- Justin Chang
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<p><a class=Idris Elba portrays South African leader Nelson Mandela.

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Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
(The Weinstein Co.)
Having taken nearly as long to reach the screen as its subject spent imprisoned by South Africa's brutal apartheid government, producer Anant Singh's film of Nelson Mandela's autobiography finally arrives bearing the slightly musty odor of a 1980s Richard Attenborough superproduction: stolidly reverential, shackled to the most dire conventions of the mythmaking biopic, and very much a white man's view of the "dark" continent. Making "Lee Daniels' The Butler" seem positively avant-garde by comparison, director Justin Chadwick ("The Other Boleyn Girl") and screenwriter William Nicholson's CliffsNotes version of Mandela's nearly 700-page memoir never opts for a light touch when a sledgehammer will do, slathered in golden sunsets, inspirational platitudes and John Barry-esque strings that will doubtless make a certain contingent of awards voters sit up and beg for more. But for all its failings, there is one thing about "Long Walk to Freedom" that can't be denied: Idris Elba gives a towering performance, a Mandela for the ages.
-- Scott Foundas
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