Starship Troopers – The Mobile Infantry definitely does not accept Hippies!

2014-07-22 by . 4 comments

Starship Troopers is Heinlein’s Hugo-winning right-wing, pro-war, ultra-nationalist (ultra-fascist?) manifesto masterpiece.  Set against the narrative backdrop of boot-camp and interstellar war, Heinlein describes what his ideal military, and by extension future society, looks like.  In Troopers, Heinlein’s paternal characters explain that “might makes right” is the only true moral code and every other point of view is selfish delusion.  At the start of the story, humans live in utopian bliss due to having discovered, and forced to accept, the greatest possible form of government: Democracy where only veterans can vote.

Written after the Korean War, but before the Vietnam War, Heinlein posits the probably naive view that volunteer soldiers are the least corruptible and most moral members of a society.  Non-veteran civilians, on the other hand, are considered unworthy childish scumbag sheep who never had the courage or moral fiber to become true men and women.  Did I mention that Heinlein goes on a 3-page rant about how social-workers and child-psychologists are “pseudo-professional and pre-scientific”, and their notion of not beating your kids (and also not allowing juvenile delinquents to be beaten by the government) led to the downfall of the US before the end of the 20th century?

When ST isn’t explaining why genocide is good, Heinlein is discussing in meticulous and fascinating detail his vision of a perfect military and the awesome array of weapons the Mobile Infantry employs throughout the universe.  One gets the sense that many of today’s sci-fi war franchises, like Warhammer 40K, Battletech, and StarCraft borrow heavily from the torrent of technologies and brutal ideologies that Heinlein presents.  Indeed Warhammer 40K’s ultra-violent Space Marines seem to spring directly from the Mobile Infantry, especially their battle armor, jump-jets, drop pods, and callous ethos.

The Mobile Infantry are soldiers in armored mechanized battle suits equipped with an automatic movement and jump-jet control system, as well as sophisticated communication and sensor equipment.  Each suit has a lengthy array of weapons from hand flamers and rocket launchers to chemical and small-scale nuclear weapons.  This makes the two main battle scenes that bookend the novel graphically entertaining and often thrilling.  Sadly, the couple of other battle scenes are only vaguely mentioned with minimal detail.  One gets the sense that Heinlein only created the two large battle scenes so that he could begin his thinly veiled lectures on his socio-political philosophy and to describe his ideal military.

Heinlein´s Terran military is described in wonderful and intriguing detail.  Though, at times like when Heinlein details the chain of command or the wide variety of possible patrol routes, these descriptions become tedious and down-right boring.  That’s not to say this isn’t a true sci-fi story, it is, but the attention to detail on military matters at times feels more like a distraction. Certain parts stand out, only enlisted men who have proven themselves in battle can become officers, only retired military can vote (no civilians or active military), a small military force comprised entirely of fighting men (no army barbers). The military is hard to join and easy to quit. The book goes out of its way to state this numerous times, and extol the virtues of a volunteer army.

The book has spread to comics, anime, animation, and a film series. In the last few years there has been talk of remaking a Starship Troopers film which will be closer to the books than the 1997 film.

This entry was originally written by markrogers in September of 2011, but was abandoned and placed in a state of limbo. I recently read Starship Troopers and remembered this entry. I decided to finish it and allow it to be published. The title and all but the last two paragraphs are virtually untouched from markrogers’ original draft. – Jack B. Nimble

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Highlights from 2014 – 2nd Quarter

2014-07-15 by . 0 comments

Meta Suggested:

alexwlchan suggested the two questions which happened to be the two highest voted questions in the quarter:

Avner Shahar-Kashtan mentioned DVK’s question How exactly is the Secret Fire similar to the Holy Spirit? He also liked The Valar and their power to create and the answer to Did the force-like magic exist within LOTR books?.

It was a very Harry Potter centric quarter for DVK’s favorites:

I mostly remember these [answers] because they were for the questions I asked, so there’s a certain bias [here.]

How do wizards prevent Accio-fueled robberies?

The answer by alexwlchan is wonderfully canon including sourcing a canon source I wasn’t even aware of before!

Would Severus Snape be classified with ASPD? by Slytherincess – AND a competing answer by alexwlchan. Amazing analysis.

Overpowering The Elder wand by Slytherincess.

Why didn’t Quirrell keep the flying key? by alexwlchan. Especially since it was posted right after I made a fool of myself by commenting that there’s no canon answer.

DVK also liked the research aspect of what initially seemed like a “D’uh” answer to Which are the Two Towers in Lord of the Rings?

Interesting Stats:

The question with the most votes AND the most views goes to Does Batman use Linux? asked by user3058846. The second runner up for most votes was How did Dumbledore, or anyone, know Lily had sacrificed herself for Harry? and the second runner up for most views was What are the rules of Trial by Combat in Game of Thrones?

The top two answers were to Why was Hermione not in Ravenclaw? answered by alexwlchan and Who is / was the “Lord of the Rings”? answered by SQB

The First Formic War (Ender’s Game Prequel Trilogy)

2014-07-02 by . 1 comments

The First Formic War is a trilogy (Earth Unaware, Earth Afire, Earth Awakens) set in the Enderverse leading up to the first Formic invasion.

I was both excited and afraid when I found out there would a prequel trilogy about the initial Bugger (Formic) invasion. I was excited because I love Ender’s Game. I didn’t get too much into the Shadow series, but I’ve read all of the novels directly involving Ender repeatedly. I was afraid because I hate prequels. It seems to me that every prequel in existence tramples on existing canon. I don’t know if it is because authors are incapable of reading their own source material, or too blinded by the dollar signs, but they can’t keep their stories straight.

The First Contact

Ender’s Game spells out the first contact story pretty well. Eros (the Asteroid) suddenly blacks out, a team is sent to investigate, and they are subsequently murdered by Buggers. I really expected this story to play out in the first book. Therefore I was quite surprised when it never did. In Earth Unaware, first contact takes place in the Kuiper Belt. It makes sense that it would probably be further out, particularly with the current interest in space mining and expansion in general, but still.

The Terminology

At some point Orson Scott Card decided not to use the slang term Bugger and instead always use Formic. The term Bugger does not exist in these books, nor in the Ender’s Game movie. I feel that is very strange. It in in our nature to label our enemies with derogatory or otherwise slang names. And yet other than the novel Ender’s Game and Speaker For the Dead, people are very careful to always use the technical term.

The Technology

My number one issue with the books is their introduction of what eventually will be called the Little Doctor (or MD Device). It is clearly started both in Ender’s Game that the Little Doctor came after the second invasion. This is further backed up in Ender In Exile when Ender discovers the Little Doctor is actually a result of an uncontained faster-than-light drive, which humans got from the Buggers. It is started by Ender and Mazer that up until the start of the third war, they were using nuclear missiles as their primary space-based weapon. So it is frustrating to read about the Little Doctor being developed before the Buggers arrive.

In contrast the introduction of what becomes ultimately becomes the Battle Room gear is a nice touch. It shows that humans were developing these devices for the military already, and they just adapted it later for Battle School.

The Action

The problem with prequels is that if you are going to include a character who shows up later (such as Mazer Rackman) you know that character is going to make it. There are several times throughout the books where he is in trouble, and to me, these are wasted pages. You can’t kill a character who is going to show up later, so there is no suspense. Mazer has a love interest that he has to leave because of his duty to the military. Is this a heart breaking moment? No, because we know from Ender’s Game that when Mazer left in hyperspace to jump forward in time, he left behind a wife and family. It is hard to get anxious about events that you know are going to work out.

The new characters were all more interesting to me. Because there isn’t anything keeping them alive. An interesting character in a bad situation will peak my interest. An essentially invincible character (from a future story point of view) on the other hand is less interesting (I’m looking at you, Superman). The tension comes because sometimes interesting characters die (unless your name is George R. R. Martin, in which all of them die).

The Summary

These books are okay. The cover credits Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston as the writers. Based on the writing, you get the impression it is more of the latter than the former. Everything about the book just doesn’t feel like Card, and I feel like he was more of a consultant than anything else. At no point did I ever stop reading because of the writing (such as with Eragon). They are good stories in there and interesting ideas but they are not great.

I feel like the things which were just briefly mentioned (such as China’s decimation, or the Battle of the Belt) were done well. The more specific the details, the more the prequels seem to feel the need to run them over.

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Salt Lake Comic Con Fan Xperience

2014-04-25 by . 0 comments

Salt Lake Comic Con Fan Xperience

I was able to attend the Salt Lake Comic Con Fan Xperience this last weekend. What does Fan Xperience mean? I think it means that because of the success of the first SLC Comic Con they decided to do an encore. The list of celebrities was extensive, and included such people as:

  • Patrick Stewart
  • Nathan Fillion
  • William Shatner
  • Karl Urban
  • Karen Gillan
  • Edward James Olmos
  • Billy Dee Williams
  • Jason David Frank
  • Jonathan Frakes
  • Chandler Riggs
  • Adam Baldwin

I went the first evening for a few hours and basically just walked around. They had panels and celebrity autograph signings, but because of my late arrival, I didn’t participate in any of those. This was the first Comic Con I’ve ever attended.

 

Crowds

Crowds

They say a franchise is only as good as its car, so I guess these are the top franchises.

The Delorean

The Delorean

 

A more modern version of Ecto 1

A more modern version of Ecto 1

 

The Batmobile (circa 1966)

The Batmobile (circa 1966)

 

Shuttle craft

Shuttle craft

 

There were a few good LEGO builds (in my opinion) from the local Utah LEGO group.

 

Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters

 

Isengard

Isengard

 

Helms Deep

Helms Deep

 

Bridge of the Enterprise-D

Bridge of the Enterprise-D

 

Some castle.

Some castle.

 

I guess there is a company that will built you astromech robots.

 

Astromech

Astromech

 

Astromech Advertisement

Astromech Advertisement

 

I saw a couple really good costumes, and a lot of really terrible costumes. There many local arts peddling their wares, of which a lot was intriguing and fun to see. I think because this was something of a supplemental Comic Con it is smaller than the one that will be happening in September.

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Highlights from 2014 – 1st Quarter

2014-04-10 by . 1 comments

Meta Suggested:

Avner Shahar-Kashtan suggested:

Richard (the vampire slayer) suggested this question and his subsequent answer:

Anthony Grist suggested:

Admittedly I might be a little biased because I got a lot of votes for my answer to it as well, but it’s something I think a lot of people who read the books wouldn’t have necessarily been clear on, and not just limited to those whose first language isn’t English.

It was kind of a Lord of the Rings quarter for the site, stats wise.

The question with the highest up-vote (by a huge margin) was Would the One Ring even work for anyone but Sauron? asked by Alexander Winn. Not surprisingly, this question also had the most views.

The second most viewed question was Why did Sméagol become addicted to the ring, when Bilbo did not? asked by User21319.

The answer with the most up-votes was for the question Do Lord of the Rings or The Silmarillion pass the Bechdel test? was answered by Jimmy Shelter. The second most up-voted answer was from the most up-voted question, and the third most up-voted answer was from the second most viewed question.

The 100 – Pilot Episode

2014-03-20 by . 4 comments

The 100 is a new CW television network series set in a post-apocalyptic(as if there was any other kind) future.

Set 97 years after a nuclear war has destroyed civilization, when a spaceship housing humanity’s lone survivors sends 100 juvenile delinquents back to Earth in hopes of possibly re-populating the planet. (imdb)  
The 100

Kids on the ground

Human apparently survived the nuclear fallout by combining all their space stations into one large one. Because of limited resources extreme population control is enforced. Any crime, no matter how small, results in the criminal being ejected into the vacuum of space. If you commit a crime before you are eighteen, you aren’t killed, but are locked up until you come of age. But even in this totalitarian society, resources are becoming scarce, and the station only has a few viable months left.

Faced with the destruction of the human race, the leaders decide to send 100 juvenile convicts to Earth on a song and a prayer that they will find 97+ year old resources that will save them all. Fortunately a few of the convicts are the children of the leaders, and so appear to have inherited both leadership skills and education. Unfortunately, the other 95 odd teenagers sent down have only read Lord of the Flies and believe that society is a model of success. Up above in the space station, the adults try to monitor the kids’ progress and fight their own political battles.

A few things I noticed about the space station.

  • It has rotating sections for producing artificial gravity.
  • It apparently has the resources to produce new clothing (including leather jackets).
  • It has the resources to build a landing ship capable of holding 100 passengers and with fuel and parachutes to land.
  • It has enough fuel to stay in orbit.

Granted only the pilot episode has aired, but for a station that is running out of resources, it sure seems to have a lot.

No one seems to know much about Earth. I don’t know if this means all the weather and down-looking satellites are gone, or were scrapped for the space station, or what, but they are really going in blind. The primary kid leader takes a small team to look for resources, and makes a comment about there being no animals. Two seconds later they come upon a large buck, only to then see that all isn’t quite right on this nuclear Earth. When night falls some of the foliage glows, which would be a warning sign for any child of the atomic age (or probably a society after a massive nuclear war) but these kids don’t seem to care. In the evening it also starts to rain. The adults monitoring on the station are awestruck at this news. That seems odd to me, since there are orbiting the Earth. Try looking down now and then, people.

Unfortunately I feel like this show is really just a version of LOST set in the future. I became frustrated with the show LOST after 5-6 episodes because the characters weren’t intelligent enough to realize that working together was going to be a lot better than not. This appears to be how things are going to be starting for The 100. Already in the pilot episode we see the 100 breaking into cliques, and the Lord of the Flies taking over. I’m not going to put a nail in the coffin on a single episode, but already I’m leery about what course this series might be taking.

 

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Movies With Time-Traveling Robots

2014-03-05 by . 4 comments

Have you ever been in the middle of asking a question but your love of time traveling robots distracts you? So your question starts off with something like “How many times on Red Dwarf does the spaceship break down?” but ends up with “While I’m on that subject, if you could you please provide a list of all movies that deal with robots traveling through time I would be very appreciative.” It can happen to anyone, but it specifically happens to one person.

Here we present a comprehensive list of movies that involve time-traveling robots. What is the criteria? The robot / cyborg / android / super intelligent A.I. must travel through time, not just be a character in a movie where other things (meatbags) travel through time.

Terminator

A cyborg from the future comes to the past to try and woo its one true love, Sarah Connor. Unfortunately some meatbag named Kyle Reese swoops in and impregnates her when she is most vunerable. The cyborg’s heart is both figuratively and literally crushed by a hydraulic press because of this betrayal.

Terminator 2 : Judgment Day

This time two robots come from the future, both seeking the affections of one woman, the same Sarah Connor. The heart broken cyborg from the first movie tries to reconcile their differences and become the father young John Connor never had, while the other robot takes a much more aggressive stance. Both robots perish as their love burns hot enough to melt steel, which was deadly to their cold mechanical hearts.

Terminator 3 : Rise of the Machines

Our love struck cyborg is back again. Sarah Connor is long dead, but the cyborg feels it is important that now adult John Connor receive his inheritance. In this case it ends up being a coffin full of guns. Another cyborg comes back hoping to win John Connor’s heart, but much like the first movie, is thwarted by a meatbag who takes advantage of the situation when both her and John are trapped alone together in a nuclear bunker.

Lost in Space

A robot tries to save the humans from their own stupidity, constantly warning them of dangers to which they turn a deaf ear. Eventually this robot gives up and lets the humans crash land on a planet and die.

Star Trek: First Contact

Android Commander Data has been in the same job on the same ship for 9 years, but with his positronic brain, it might as well be forever. His programming wants him to become more human, which sounds pretty racist in a universe with hundreds of varied sentient species. Deciding to take matters into his own hands, he travels to the past, joins a radical anti-free thinking group, and tries to destroy the race he always tried to emulate.

Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey

Bill and Ted travel through heaven, hell, and time in order to build very poor robot versions of themselves to fight very evil robot versions of themselves. It is kind of like a bodacious exodus.

Flight of the Navigator

A robot space ship is just trying to do its job, when a routine stop causes a traffic accident with some electrical lines and lose its navigation charts. Conveniently the child who was being dropped off has all the necessary charts in his head, Jonny Mnemonic style. Follow that with an hour of evading the government shenanigans, and a trip back to 1978, and you’ve got yourself a time traveling robot.

Bender’s Big Score

Bender is just a robot trying to make ends meet. So when he travels to the past over and over again to steal Earth’s historic treasures, what could go wrong? Apparently everything. Paradoxes ensue.

Cyborg 2087

Cyborg travels to the past to try and fix dystopian future. This is almost more detail than is provided on the Wikipedia page.

Meet the Robinsons

Like most good robot time-traveling stories this one is a tragic love story. Hatty the Bowler Hat just wanted to be appreciated by its maker. When that doesn’t work, it travels to the past to make sure everyone will always love bowler hats. There may also be a couple of kids in this movie.

Unidentified Flying Oddball

Hermes the Android and his lookalike human companion Tom travel to King Arthur’s court to stop Merlin, who apparently is a bad guy now. Hermes has the advantage here, because he is the only one who doesn’t fear death and is a robot.

A.P.E.X.

Attack Robots are sent back in time to work a union job, destroying a virus that causes a paradox and ruins the future. Unfortunately yet another human is on duty to get in the way and steal all the credit. Meatbag extraordinaire Sinclair decides to do things “his way” and fix the future behind the killer robot’s backs. The nerve of some people.

Future War

A movie about love, hate, beauty, tragedy, and ultimately redemption, Future War (set in the present day) sees the caring Cyborg Master travel to the past to find his lost puppy of a slave “Runaway”. Unfortunately Cyborg Master suffers a fate worse than death, which is appearing in this movie, and then finally is given sweet release when his slave kills him, setting him free from the agony of this picture.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

They call Marvin “the paranoid android,” behind his back, because kids can be so cruel. Is it paranoid to have hyper suspicion, anxiety, and fear? Marvin probably wouldn’t be so depressed if he didn’t have to aimlessly wander the galaxy with people approximately 50,000 times stupider than himself. After meandering around for 100 minutes or so with these half wits, he needs a break, and decides to travel to the end of time and matter and dine at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

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Highlights from 2013 – 4th Quarter

2014-01-14 by . 0 comments

Meta Suggested:

DVK had some interesting things to share.

He liked both the question and answer to Was the Cantina music deliberately off-tune or just an artifact of cheap production? asked by user17807.

The question How did Jabba become such a powerful crime lord? asked by Beofett.

He also liked the question and answer of Why do the lightsaber moves of Luke Skywalker look so uncoordinated and crude compared to the prequels? asked by vadr

For under appreciated answers he lists Who or what was Tom Bombadil? and Why are there humans in the Star Wars Universe?. These answers came years after the original questions were asked, but merit reading.

Donald McLean suggested Borg Naming Conventions asked by thea-kronborg, in an exploration of how borg pets get their names.

Interesting Stats:

The most up-voted question with the highest voted answer goes to Was the Cantina music deliberately off-tune or just an artifact of cheap production?

The second highest voted question was Why did the Dwarves build Erebor with wide hallways big enough for dragons to fit in? asked by Truffant.

The most viewed question (with a whopping 41367 views at the time of this writing) was Questions on ending of Thor: The Dark World, which is actually two questions rolled into one question asked by Anon.

 

TV Shows with a Supernatural Theme

2013-12-27 by . 0 comments

It seems like it is a good time for fans of the supernatural. There are plenty of current TV offerings. Here is what some of the regulars of SciFi.SE Chat room have to say about them, presented in no particular order.

Supernatural - Two brothers follow their father’s footsteps as “hunters” fighting evil supernatural beings of many kinds including monsters, demons, and gods that roam the earth.

Keen – Two brothers traveling the US, fighting monsters. Essentially a weekly horror TV series, with a monster of the week. Layered on top is a season-long arc, which is referenced almost weekly, with arc-centric episodes every 3-4 episodes.

Grimm - A homicide detective discovers he is a descendant of hunters who fight supernatural forces.

BESW – I like it. It’s cleverly self-mocking without being self-indulgent, its premise is similar to many other shows and books on the market but they’ve managed to freshen it up, the characters are interesting, and even when there’s a bad episode Monroe makes it worth my time.

True Blood - Telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse encounters a strange new supernatural world when she meets the mysterious Bill, a southern Louisiana gentleman and vampire.

Keen - Trashy vampire romance novels turned into a supernatural soap opera. A guilty pleasure.
Jack B. Nimble - I saw a comment for True Blood that says it is a show about sex which just happens to have vampires.

Once Upon A Time - A woman with a troubled past is drawn to a New England town where fairy tales are to be believed.

Jack B. Nimble – A lot of twists on the classic fairy tales. Who would have thought everyone was so connected? Originally StoryBrook felt like a very small town. As the story (and fairy tales) progress the population seems to be growing exponentially.
Keen – This one is harder to describe at a high level. It has a weird premise and structure. I’d say it’s a fantasy series that mashes up Disney films with some public domain fairy tales and stories, then dumps the lot of them into the real world.

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland - In Victorian England, the young and beautiful Alice tells a tale of a strange new land that exists on the other side of a rabbit hole.

Izkata - Skip out on the tie to Once Upon a Time, since there’s no overlap (yet).

Warehouse 13 - After saving the life of the President in Washington D.C., a pair of U.S Secret Service agents are whisked away to a covert location in South Dakota that houses supernatural objects that the Regents, an Authority above and outside any government, have collected over the centuries. Their new assignment: retrieve any lost objects and investigate reports of new ones.

BESW – Seems to be back on track after some time exploring various styles and themes that weren’t working for it. The reveal that one of the characters has a real-life terminal disease seemed a bit over-dramatic but it’s being handled well.
Donald McLean - I’ve been watching Warehouse 13 since the beginning and I like it quite a lot.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D - The missions of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.

 Jack B Nimble – It would be hilarious to find out that Tahiti is a sponsor of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

 Sleepy Hollow - Ichabod Crane is resurrected and pulled two and a half centuries through time to unravel a mystery that dates all the way back to the founding fathers.

Keen - A cop/fantasy procedural with monsters of the week. The show’s fast pace and clever writing keeps it entertaining as it piles insanity upon insanity. Highly recommended.

Haven - A shrewd FBI agent with a lost past who arrives in the small town of Haven, Maine, to solve the murder of a local ex-con only to discover that the curious enclave is a longtime refuge for people with supernatural powers that holds a lot of secrets, including to her own past.

BESW - Haven has always been interesting to me (surprising since I don’t like Stephen King) but for a couple seasons that was mostly because I was fascinated by how much they could promise to reveal and then backtrack on at the last minute. However, they’ve started answering so many solid series-long questions that I’m wondering if they’re powering up for a series-ending finale. I’m somewhat concerned they’ll get renewed anyway and have to invent new plots to keep going.

There are other shows on TV dealing with the supernatural, but these are the ones that members of the SciFi.SE community chose to comment on.

  • All show descriptions were pulled from the plot summary listed on their respective IMDB pages –  http://imdb.com.

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Review – Frozen

2013-12-03 by . 0 comments

Frozen is a page from the Disney of yesteryear. While I’m consciously aware that there are songs in Tangled, I don’t feel like it was a musical in the classical Disney sense. Frozen reminds me of the great animated musicals such as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. When I walked out of the theater the people (both children and adults) around me were still singing the song “Let it go.”

The movie revolves around two sister princesses. The older one is born with a power to create snow and ice, though is unable to control it. Her powers are subsequently kept a secret to everyone, even her sister. The other sister is born with the capacity to be optimistic in all circumstances. When things turn bad for the older sister, it is the younger sister who sets out to try and repair the damage.

The Sister Princesses

The Sister Princesses

Along the way they pick up a few more characters. An ice miner, a prince, and a snowman. I usually hate comic relief characters, but Olaf the Snowman is delightfully funny and his usage is clever. His naivete and the fact that he is a snowman make for a lot of great comical moments. There is also another snowman, who is quite different. I was watching the movie with a couple of 3-year-old nieces and at one point she became very frightened by the other snowman. People with smaller children should probably wait to see it at home (this is actually true of anyone who thinks it is a good idea to take little children to the theater).

Olaf finds a flower.

Olaf finds a flower.

Frozen has a lot of things going for it, good characters, songs, jokes, animation, and fun. Maybe it is the start of another run of great Disney films.

Filed under Review