At the Movies: 127 Hours, Tangled

It’s early movie week as everyone rushes to get their films in theaters before the turkey comes out of the oven.

I did not see “Burlesque” for three reasons: 1) Not a fan of Christina Aguilera; 2) While I love “Moonstruck”-era Cher, 21st Century Cher frightens me; 3) If I want to watch a bombastic, over-the-top musical I can stay home and watch “Glee,” where I can at least enjoy Jane Lynch and use the fast-forward button.

I would have gone to see “Faster” if only to encourage The Rock to stick to action-adventure as opposed to things like “The Game Plan” or “Tooth Fairy” but I couldn’t swing it. I saw enough of “Love and Other Drugs” from the trailer.

So let’s move on to what I did see.

127 Hours

What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than by watching James Franco saw his arm off with a penknife? It will certainly make you count your blessings.

Franco stars as rugged adventurer Aron Ralston. One sunny day in 2003 he sets off for some rock climbing near Moab, Utah. He doesn’t bother to tell anyone where he’s going.

After biking several miles in the barren landscape he hooks up with a pair of women (Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn) who have lost their way. Aron offers his services as guide, and the trio do some exploring before Aron sets off on his own.

This was not a good idea. Aron and a boulder fall down a deep crevasse and him arm winds up pinned under the huge rock. Unable to budge the stone, Aron does what he can to maintain his sanity and his life over a grueling five days.

Based on Ralston’s book about the experience, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place,” director Danny Boyle has delivered a gripping, terrifying, yet ultimately inspiring film. Boyle manages to keep the story moving and compelling as we wait for Aron to make his final, unimaginable decision on how to survive.

Franco gives a terrific performance in what is primarily a one-man show. He runs a full gamut of emotions in the course of the story and makes you believe in him.

Did it work for me? Aside from some horribly loud, blaring music early and late in the film, “127 Hours” is first-rate moviemaking.

Tangled

“Tangled” is your typical Disney animated fairy tale musical but updated with computer-generated animation and 3D.

It’s the classic tale of Rapunzel (Mandy Moore), who in this version is a princess born with magical hair that can heal any wound or turn back the ravages of time if you sing to it. I don’t remember the magic healing hair bit in previous versions.

As an infant, Rapunzel is stolen away by Gothel (Donna Murphy), an old woman who wants the child to serve as her personal fountain of youth. Rapunzel is placed in a hidden tower where she lives with her best and only friend — a chameleon.

Meanwhile back at the castle, the king and queen mark their missing daughter’s birthday every year by sending hundreds of lit lanterns into the sky. Rapunzel can see these lights from her tower and on her 18th birthday is determined to leave home and go into town to see the spectacle up close. Her “mother” will have nothing to do with it.

As coincidence would have it, at the same time Rapunzel is wanting to spread her wings and fly, a young thief named Flynn Ryder  (Zachary Levi) has just stolen the princess’ crown from the castle. While on the run from the authorities, Flynn accidentally comes across Rapunzel’s tower.

Rapunzel gets the drop on Flynn — via frying pan — and takes the satchel with his prize. She agrees to return the satchel if he will help her leave the tower and see the world.

“Tangled” is an enchanting, fun tale in the tradition of … well … pretty much every Disney animated feature. Rapunzel is your standard Disney princess — pretty, smart, independent and with a lovely singing voice. The animal sidekicks don’t talk, which is how I like them. The hero is your standard charming rogue.

The animation is sharp and the 3D is effective. It has the right mix of humor, action and romance. As a musical it’s not as strong as such Disney classics as “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast” or “Aladdin.” The songs are decent but not particularly memorable.

Did it work for me? “Tangled” is one holiday movie worth getting caught up in. (God, I hate myself when I say things like that)

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