Monday, December 2, 2013

Moonlight Movie Reviews - Frozen

Before I begin, R.I.P. Paul Walker.

You just never know what news each new day will bring. No one should pass on so young. Our condolences to his family and friends, and those of his friend who was also killed.

Now, tonight's review...

Last Thursday, as you may or may not know, was Thanksgiving here in the good ol' U.S. of A., and this year, I did something a little different, as you may recall my reporting. I attended a screening of Disney's newest animated feature, "Frozen", at my favorite place in town, the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, where I was served up a turkey dinner with all the trimmings and a slice of pecan pie for dessert. The following are the results of that screening... 

I really don't care for that poster. It's completely misleading. There's a much better one out there, but I'm guessing the better one is a foreign poster by its December release date. Anyways, this review is not just going to be a review of the film, but also of the Thanksgiving meal at the Alamo Drafthouse, so let me begin by saying I saw this film and had my holiday dinner at the Alamo's Village location. It's the one nearest to me, but I don't go there as often as I do Lakeline, which is brand new. Of course, I went to the now closed Lake Creek location the most before that (really miss the lobby with the center of couches and seats). I guess I liked both better than the Village, which is the least impressive looking Drafthouse we still have aside from the Ritz. But, I'll say this for it, I like the tables and seating much better than the new trend. The newer Drafthouses have tables meant specifically for couples, so, if you're not careful choosing your position when buying your tickets, you could end up sharing a table with some stranger's 7 year old. Yeah, I much prefer the old, bar-type tables that stretched in front of the entire row with just a few openings. The seats are more comfortable at the village too. I think it's because the armrests raise up, if I'm remembering correctly. The Village Drafthouse does have its own hipster charm as well, especially on a rainy day. It IS a little sad how the old Drafthouses are gradually all being replaced by more mainstream looking ones. Hopefully, the Ritz will remain intact, ha.

So, I showed up at the Village with a couple of family members on Thanksgiving evening for a 6 o'clock showing. We had reserved our seats (as is usually necessary) AND three of the special Thanksgiving meals, which were described as having limited availability, all in advance. With a certain upcoming trip that will include MANY restaurant visits and that will benefit from having seen "Frozen" beforehand, we decided this was a good option over cooking at home. Since my father passed of Leukemia a couple years ago (he did most of the Thanksgiving cooking, a retired butcher and a former cook from his Marine Corps days), a few years prior to that in fact, we had decided, most years, to only have one big, home-cooked turkey dinner a year instead of two, alternating from Christmas to Thanksgiving based on... whatever. After all, the meals were mostly the same with just more desserts at Christmas. We have only skipped Thanksgiving twice, however (usually going to a Chinese buffet on Christmas Day), and this was the second time. A few years back, we had Thanksgiving at a Cracker Barrel restaurant. The meals at Cracker Barrel and the Drafthouse were similar, and yet different... More on that in a minute.

As for the film, we opted to see it in 2D. I'm the only one who, very occasionally, is interested in seeing a movie in 3D. I have to hear rave reviews of the 3D itself first though. I DID hear such reviews about Frozen's 3D, but sadly, not till AFTER I saw it. I usually just go with 2D, as the only movie so far (outside of a theme park) that has impressed me with its 3D has been "Oz, the Great and Powerful". But, after hearing the comments of others, I really hope someplace still has Frozen in 3D when I get back from the trip I'm taking soon. I do want to experience that.

We were the first ones in the theater when seating began and were pleased to see they were running a great preshow. Full short subjects were being shown, including Disney's Silly Symphony "The Grasshopper and the Ants" (awesome for a Disney fanatic like myself to see on the big screen), an animated short about a snowman, and a live-action short about some children building a snowman! Awesome stuff! Meanwhile, the Alamo staff ran about taking orders. We showed our waiter our Thanksgiving Dinner food voucher and ordered some drinks.

Now, let me tell ya, we were all pretty ravenous! It was Thanksgiving, and we were waiting on our turkey dinner! I had high hopes that we'd have our meals before the lights went out so I could get a picture for you guys, but guess what? No such luck. In fact, we had pretty bad luck in that regard, but I'll get to that soon. 

The theater darkened after a bit, and we settled in for some Disney magic, which was kicked off by something I totally did not expect. I had heard here and there that Disney had recently created a new Mickey Mouse short in the vintage, 1920's style. Why on Earth? Well, I had no idea what to expect. The all-new Mickey Mouse short, "Get a Horse", is being shown before "Frozen"! And, yeah, in the beginning, it looked exactly like one of those old, 1920's talkies. Only a seasoned animation fan would catch the clues here and there that what they were watching wasn't truly vintage. Initially, anyway. But, as the short rolled on, things got a bit more tell tale, especially when Mickey was thrown through the screen and into the modern world, where he was, in fact, a CGI character all of a sudden. The rest of the short, a battle with Pete, was mostly characters running in and out of the movie screen and playing with that concept, going back and forth from CGI animation to hand drawn, black and white, oldschool stuff. It was pretty cool! It maybe got a bit repetitive, but still pretty cool! So glad I got to see this on the big screen!

Next up, Frozen. Still no food.             

Okay, I gotta say, whoa. And I appreciate this movie more the more I think about it and the more I revisit the music. Honestly, when I first was sitting there watching it, I was a bit weirded out. It is soooo Broadway. I mean, I thought Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin were very Broadway in style (and I LOVED them), but noooo this is WAAAY more Broadway than those films ever were. Really. It's even way more Broadway than Tangled was. And at first, it was a bit overwhelming and weird for me. Even after seeing the film, I've been saying, "I loved it, but I still think I prefer the style of the 90's films. That amount of Broadway styling worked better on film." In retrospect though, I think I really just have to get more adjusted to it. A few movies, the Rogers and Hammerstein stuff especially, did go full out with the Broadway stylings of the performances. This is just a first for the animated format, especially the computer animated format. As a long time watcher of animation, I needed to adjust to it. I like to think I'm more prepared now, and when I view this film a second time, forget it. I'm going to be totally blown away and embrace it completely! But really, I'm getting ahead of myself.

"Frozen" is based on the Hans Christian Anderson tale, "The Snow Queen", but VERY loosely. In fact, it is hardly like that tale at all. They might as well not even mention that connection. The film is actually about two sister princesses in a (made up) kingdom in... that whole Norwegian area. I'm no geographer. One of the princesses, Elsa, the older one, happened to be born with the gift, or curse, of being able to control and create ice and snow with her touch. It's a very X-Men kinda power, and as a child, she has no control over it. When it endangers her little sister, Anna, their parents decide to seal up the castle and confine Elsa to her room until she learns to control her abilities. Unfortunately, she never does. Her parents die at sea soon after their decision, and when they are grown, it is time for Elsa to be crowned queen. Anna is thrilled that the palace will finally be opened up for the coronation, and she will finally get out and be able to meet some people. But, Elsa is terrified that something will go wrong and her secret ability will be discovered. Naturally, that's what happens. Elsa ends up fleeing the kingdom and creates a palace of ice on a secluded mountain. Her turmoil also results in creating a harsh winter across the whole land, right in the middle of summer! Anna is desperate to put things right, since her sudden engagement to a prince she just met is what caused her sister to expose herself. She sets off on a journey to find her sister and talk to her, and enlists the aid of a handsome, silly, young mountain man and his reindeer to guide her. Along the way, they add a living snowman named Olaf overflowing with love to their team, one of Elsa's unintentional creations. They also encounter a snow monster, a fun group of trolls, and the villain nobody was expecting. It's actually quite a ride and full of surprises!

Frozen is really a fantastic film! The music and songs are excellent! I admit again, I had to warm up to them, and, oddly enough, I prefer the sillier ones from the comic relief, but all are pretty amazing. This is not your traditional Disney fairytale. As much as Tangled was not, this is even less so. And yet, it's not going into Shrek territory either. It's a solid fairytale story (and pretty much a fully original one) throughout, with fun, likable, solid characters, good humor (I didn't think I was going to like Olaf based on the lame trailers, but I loved him!), amazing voices (Broadway's Idina Menzel as Elsa, and one of my goddesses, Kristen Bell, as Anna!), a fun and smart take on fairytale (and Disney) traditions, oh, and the ladies! The frosty ladies of "Frozen" are hot, hot HOT!

"Frozen" is definitely one to catch in theaters! It's excellent for holiday viewing, and I hear the 3D is great too, so catch it that way if you can! As I said, I'm hoping to go back for that experience if I'm not too late when I get back into town! Definitely two claws up for this one! Can't wait to own it on blu-ray! By the way, stay till after the credits for an extra tidbit when you go. I didn't even know about it, so I missed it, but I read there IS something there.

Now, getting back to a little matter of a Thanksgiving meal...

So, about halfway though the film, we were getting concerned that our dinner hadn't arrived. We called our waiter over to confirm that it was coming. Honestly, it was a bit unclear as to whether they had forgotten, didn't get the message initially that our food voucher was for the Thanksgiving meal, or were just taking time to get it all prepared. At any rate, the meal didn't finally arrive till the movie was already at its climax, and frankly, that wasn't very cool.

When the meal finally did arrive though, I thought it looked quite good, though I was looking at it in the dark. The meal consisted of turkey meat, giblet gravy, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, dressing, cranberry sauce, 2 rolls, and a slice of pecan pie with whipped cream that was brought out later (and there wasn't much film left, honestly, but they managed it anyway). Now, just looking at the value of this meal, I have to count another strike against them. Comparing it to Cracker Barrel, even deducting the price of the film ticket, the Drafthouse dinner cost quite a bit more, while the Cracker Barrel served up the same stuff PLUS a beverage, more bread (in two varieties) AND slices of ham along with the appealing slices of turkey. As much as I love the Drafthouse, their meal was a miss in comparison, not just value wise, but also in the quality of the turkey. Of course, this could be a matter of opinion. As I said, at Cracker Barrel, we received lovely slices of white turkey meat with gravy over them. At the Drafthouse, we received pieces of dark meat that looked rather like the pulled dark meat pieces one eats the day after Thanksgiving, some being pretty tough or not all meat, ha. Now, I prefer dark meat generally. My mother, on the other hand, hates it. I think she was expecting those white, Cracker Barrel slices. That classic, perfect looking meat. And, in truth, meat served that way would have looked better. Of course, this meal was doomed to be hated by my mom the moment we had to ask them if they'd forgotten our meals. And, in all fairness, we booked in advance, so they should have known we were coming. This is definitely something they need to work on. We should have received our meal, at latest, shortly after the film started.

As for the rest of the meal, it varied. Again, I didn't hate the meat, though I do think they should have opted for sliced white meat. Or, hey, how about a turkey leg as an option? Truthfully, a few options are something both Drafthouse AND Cracker Barrel should consider working into their Thanksgiving meals. See, I hate green beans, and so do a lot of other people. I get that green bean casserole is sort of a Thanksgiving thing (though I only heard that recently), but I would rather have had some corn or something. The turkey gravy was fine. I'm not a cranberry sauce person, but it's nice that they have that. However, I would recommend they start serving it in a separate dish. One thing about this plate, everything sort of ran together, and that's not my style of eating, ha. But it was only a real problem in the case of the cranberry sauce. The dressing was very good, and I never eat dressing, so that's saying something. Though, I think the seasonings might need to be toned down a bit. I could only handle it in portions. Still really good though. The bread was fine and sweet potatoes were delicious! Now, I never eat sweet potatoes much either, but these were really REALLY good! And, of course, the pecan pie was excellent as well. However, I can't imagine Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie, so I'm glad I had one at home that we cooked up later.

Everyone at the Drafthouse was very nice, as always, and for the most part I enjoyed the meal, except for the stress of having to eat in a rush. Well, it wasn't so stressful for me, as I tend to wolf down my food. However, my mother has throat complications and so is a slow eater, making the time it took for us to get the meal all the more annoying for her. She had to take at least half of it home. The food overall was fine, though it really could use a bit of tweaking here and there (go for the fancy slices of turkey rather than scraps, separate the cranberry sauce, and tone down the dressing), but I really did not like that I had to pay extra for a beverage. So, would I eat Thanksgiving dinner at the Drafthouse again? Well... maybe, but not with my mom in attendance, as I know she wouldn't want to. Cracker Barrel certainly wins out over the Alamo on the subject of Thanksgiving meals, and it also sets the tone better. After all, Thanksgiving should be a nice, quiet meal at a table with your family. However, I'm a movie fanatic, and I also know a lot of folks around here spend Thanksgiving alone. I might end up having to do that sometimes too. In that case, yeah, I'd probably go back, and I'd probably recommend it. I just really hope they start tweaking things to get the meals out sooner (since they know when they've got them lined up in advance) and to give people better quality and value overall.

To sum up, LOVE the Drafthouse and LOVED Frozen, but Thanksgiving at the Drafthouse, while excellent if you are alone for the day, needs to do a lot of tweaking to really be worth the high pricetag and the title of Thanksgiving Dinner. Currently, it's a mixed bag. Not all good, not all bad. Fork over those beverages with the meal though! C'mon! They are overpriced on regular days as it is, but with an almost 30 dollar turkey dinner, they really ought to come with. Okay, that's all for now, gang! See ya next time!


  1. Great review of what many are calling "Disney's best since the Renaissance period". Frozen sounds absolutely incredible, and I can't wait 'til I finally get to see it. I agree with you on the source material for the film. I am a big fairy tale fan and own a complete collection of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales, and I gotta say, this movie bears absolutely no resemblance to his original tale. I can't really count that as a mark against Disney however, as fairy tales are all about variations among storytellers. Disney has built an empire based on their interpretations of tales long told. The Little Mermaid is one of my top favorites and like Frozen it is also based on a tale by Hans Christian Andersen, and it's not exactly faithful to the original tale either. But I digress, so I'll get back to Frozen. One thing I keep hearing is that the film has a strong Nordic atmosphere. I'm assuming that's due to the harsh winter weather befit to the Nordic region, but could also have something to do with trolls serving as pretty prominent characters. Trolls being a popular being in Scandinavian folklore. All I know is that this movie looks awesome, and I doubt I'll be disappointed when I finally do see it.

    As far as the Thanksgiving dinner goes, that's a shame they couldn't be more organized and have your meal ready for the start of the feature. An established chain like the Alamo Drafthouse should be a bit more orderly and efficient, and have a reserved dinner ready when you arrive. As for the actual dinner, I have to say, everything that came with sounds so tasty! I'm definitely in the dark meat camp, as I find it more flavorful and juicy. Although I do enjoy thick breast meat slices, and can see why many prefer such. At my house the turkey is accompanied by: mashed potatoes, Mom's homemade stuffing, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, candied yams, pickled red beets (they are a big favorite of mine), and more esoterically, stewed tomatoes and butter beans. Dessert is pumpkin pie with whipped cream, a classic choice. I can't believe you don't like cranberry sauce or green bean casserole. I love 'em both, and I love my Thanksgiving plate getting a little messy and ran together. Shockingly, I've never had pecan pie, even though I've always wanted to try it. I'm definitely going to make one in the near-future though.

    All-in-all, it sounds like you had a great and unique Thanksgiving. I'm glad your Mom's doing well, and I hope her and your sister enjoyed themselves as well. Next up is Christmas!

    1. Hey Ryan! That Thanksgiving dinner sounds great! At our place, the traditional meal is a Butterball turkey stuffed wit our Dad's stuffing, which my younger sis has taken over making. Extra is often made as dressing since the rest of my family loves it so much. My aversion to some of the vegetables used in stuffing tends to keep me away from it, ha. As sides, I believe mashed potatoes are often made. Giblet gravy is there too, and sometimes I make some brown gravy since giblet gravy is good on turkey, but I prefer brown gravy on my potatoes. Corn is served as well, and a big pot of brown beans is made. That's the salty kind, not the sweet kind. There is usually broccoli, and sometimes salad, and sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce were only added a few years back. We used to have these terrible dinner rolls, but now we usually get croissants, and at my request, cornbread is made too. For dessert, there is usually pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and sometimes apple pie. I make pumpkin bread all through the Fall, sometimes even on Thanksgiving. We also have cool whip around for the pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread, and vanilla ice cream if we have an apple pie. Christmas is basically the same meal, but with more dessert options, ha! As for pecan pie, it is amazing, but it does depend where you get it. The one I really liked was always the one from our Texas grocery store, HEB, but they screwed it up recently by switching from pecan halves to pieces, which does not come out the same...

      By the way, I actually don't mind my Thanksgiving plate getting a little messy when I like everything on it, but cranberry sauce simply is not my thing, ha. And I'm a dark meat guy too. It doesn't look as pretty on a plate as those slices do though, and enough gravy makes that dry old white meat work well enough, ha.

      Yep, Frozen is actually set in Norway or somewhere like that, so it is definitely meant to have that Nordic atmosphere! They did a beautiful job with it! And while I adore the girls though, they are not on that top level for me with Tink, Ariel and Rapunzel, ha.

  2. Howard at Alamo DrafthouseDecember 5, 2013 at 7:27 PM

    Hi Nathan (not sure if I have the name correct). Please accept our sincere apology for the delay in your food being served. Our goal for the holidays was for all of our guests who decided to see a movie on Thanksgiving to have a fabulous experience and it sounds like we did not achieve that. Please call me at the theater so we can take care of you (and especially your mother!). I look forward to hearing back from you soon.

    1. Hi Howard! We are away for this week, but I'll certainly try and reach you once we get back. I definitely appreciate your interest in making up for the way things turned out on Thanksgiving. We certainly do want to get back there soon for one of the holiday quote-alongs, and yeah, it would be nice if something would inspire our mom to rejoin us, ha.