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Being a somewhat original historical action movie for people who really like skiing.

Yes. This. I am bringing back Friday Night Netflix, a very sporadic feature I used to do around the time I first started this blog. Back then I wrote these as a way to review movies I’d seen a bunch of times that I figured were underseen but easily available on Netflix. Now I’m expanding that to include movies I’ve never seen before, also easily available on Netflix, whether I like them or not. And no, Netflix doesn’t pay me to write these, but they certainly could and I wouldn’t mind.


For The Last King, a Norwegian and Irish co-production about an interesting period in Norway’s (very interesting) history… I guess I kind of liked it? It’s more like an 80’s buddy movie with delusions of historical epic than it is like a Kingdom of Heaven or even the show Vikings. The production is detailed and the action is coherent, but the story is about as straightforward and characters as archetypal and broadly sketched as an 80’s or early 90’s Schwarzenegger vehicle. None of this is bad, but wrapped in a package that lacks any particularly standout performances or “holy shit” moments, it might not be propulsive enough to hold the interests of people who can see a better version of basically the same stuff elsewhere on Netflix (The Last Kingdom for instance).

That said, this movie has some novel action (skiing fights!) and takes place in an unfamiliar setting. Norway and Scandinavia are usually explored in terms of the Viking era and rarely any other era. This movie takes place in the 13th century during a civil war period. You don’t really need to know much background, but this movie sent me down a wikipedia rabbit hole of Norwegian history so hey, interesting stuff. Read the rest of this entry »



Getting over estrangement isn’t easy!

Frozen is both surprising and a film that makes perfect sense. Disney is on a tear lately, and Frozen belongs to a new and proud generation of “Princess” movies that are not afraid to indulge a little self-awareness, trope-busting, and progressive themes. Its companions are Brave and Tangled, with both of those films functioning nicely alongside this one as the new breed of animated films featuring female characters that are not dominated nor defined by childishness, vapidness, the institution of marriage, or their relationships to men.

Co-directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck may not have known what they had on their hands, but Frozen is a smash success and the type of movie I’m very happy exists. I pride myself on being as manly as the next man, by any sane and emotionally healthy definition, but Frozen made me choke up and just the chorus of stand-out song “Let It Go” gives me the big feels. Lee had no previous animation experience, by the way, and was brought on to make sure the story and characters had depth and complexity. This is a big deal. This is maybe a sea-change in how the business of making these frankly very commercial movies is done. Disney has long done above-average work in the kids’ and animated genres, especially since linking up with Pixar. I hope the quality of Frozen, and the returns it is deservedly enjoying are a lesson to other creatives and executives in the industry.

Seeing movies like this one and Catching Fire in the same weekend, and knowing they are hugely successful in every way that matters, makes me very happy for the state of my favorite entertainment industry and hopeful for the future. Read the rest of this entry »


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