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Old-fashioned values and state-of-the-art visuals

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 06, 2013

By FROZEN (PG, 125 mins)

  • Elsa, voiced by Idina Menzel, and Anna, voiced by Kristen Bell, from new animated film Frozen. Below: Will Forte as David Grant and Bruce Dern as his father Woody in Nebraksa

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Featuring the voices of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Alan Tudyk, Santino Fontana, Ciaran Hinds, Maurice LaMarche. Directors: Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck.

Loosely based on The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen, Frozen proves that Disney's animated heroines have unquestionably come of age.

Long gone are the rose-tinted days when princesses waited patiently for Prince Charming to sweep them off their feet or save them from some grim fate.

Now, the spunky, independent and self-assured heroines are just as smart and resourceful as their male contemporaries, and they don't need the love of a man to affirm their self-worth.

Frozen is a terrific fairytale adventure that melds old-fashioned values with state-of-the-art visuals and a rousing musical score with infectious songs by husband-and-wife team Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez.

Every beautifully coloured and crafted frame is crammed with wit and joy, drawing in audiences of all ages to the story of two sisters battling against both the elements and their fears to claim their rightful place on the throne.

Director Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck don't let the pace flag and the 108 minutes pass in a blur of laughter, tears and frost-bitten action sequences, that look especially stunning in 3D with all of the computer-generated snowflakes fluttering just in front of your face.

You won't need to wrap up warm though because the story casts an irresistible warm glow to thaw even the most cynical and jaded heart.

As children, Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) love to play together, taking full advantage of Elsa's ability to create ice and snow from her fingertips. When an accident late one night almost ends in disaster, the King (Maurice LaMarche) agrees to wipe Anna's memory so she forgets about her sibling's hidden talents.

At the same time, Elsa retires from public gaze, fearful that she will hurt someone else with her powers.

When the King and Queen are subsequently lost at sea, Elsa reluctantly emerges to claim the throne. Unfortunately, on her coronation day, her gloves come off and the locals witness her powers, branding her a witch.

She flees into the snowy mountains to live alone in a castle of ice.

Anna gives chase, leaving the kingdom in the hands of her trusted sweetheart Prince Hans (Santino Fontana). As she ascends towards Elsa's hideaway, Anna meets hunky ice trader Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his loyal reindeer Sven and a blissfully naive talking snowman called Olaf (Josh Gad).

Frozen is one of the best animated features to canter out of the Disney stable in years. Warm-hearted, uplifting and constantly surprising, it's a timeless fable that will appeal to both boys and girls thanks to uproarious comic relief from Olaf (who is too cute for words).

Bell and Menzel add vim to their plucky heroines, the latter singing the film's stand-out song Let It Go.

As an added treat, Frozen is preceded by a black and white Mickey Mouse short, Get A Horse, that seems to hark from a bygone era but has a wicked sting in the tail.

Actor a front runner for next year's Oscars

Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Stacy Keach, Bob Odenkirk, Mary Louise Wilson, Rance Howard, Tim Driscoll, Devin Ratray. Director: Alexander Payne.

It could be you. You could win seven-figure lottery jackpots, priceless trinkets and more money than you know what to do with, if you believe the deluge of spam e-mails that bombard our inboxes or the junk mail that clutters our doormats.

The key word here, of course, is "could".

Companies prey on greed and the unfulfilled dreams of people struggling to survive and it's only when you delve head-first into the small print that you realise your chances of claiming that glittering first prize are just as remote as if you'd paid your money and plucked seven numbers out of the ether.

Nebraska is a bittersweet road movie about a curmudgeon, Woody Grant (Bruce Dern), who takes one of those bogus prize notifications to heart and embarks on a cross-country odyssey to collect the million dollars he believes is waiting for him in the titular state.

The old man's despairing son David (Will Forte) and his long-suffering wife Kate (June Squibb) try, to no avail, to make Woody see the light.

But the ageing father has a letter in his hand that clearly states he is due a massive payout and he intends to get from Montana to Nebraska, walking every arduous step of the way if he has to.

Fearful of the repercussions for his father's health, David agrees to indulge Woody's fantasy and he accompanies the patriarch on his journey to the offices of the lottery company. En route, they stop off at the home of Aunt Martha (Mary Louise Wilson) and her husband Uncle Ray (Rance Howard), who are delighted to learn of a windfall in the family. So too are numb-skull cousins Bart (Tim Driscoll) and Cole (Devin Ratray), and Woody's one-time friend Ed Pegram (Stacy Keach), who claims to be owed money from many years ago.

The louder David protests that Woody hasn't won a dime, the more convinced friends and neighbours become that the old coot is holding out on them.

Tensions build and David's brother Ross (Bob Odenkirk) and mother join the madcap expedition, swatting away the free-loaders, who feel they are entitled to share in Woody's miracle.

Shot in crisp black and white, Nebraska is another delightful character study from director Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants). Bob Nelson's script deftly sketches the sinewy bonds between the dysfunctional members of the Grant clan and the minutiae of unremarkable lives is a rich source of humour.

Bruce Dern delivers one of the finest performances of his illustrious career and is a front runner for next year's Oscars, tugging heartstrings as his forgetful family man clings on to the dream of collecting his winnings, even if he has to die trying.

June Squibb is hysterical in support and Will Forte is a loveable straight man caught in the middle of madness that movingly brings the generations closer together.

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