Ghostbusters Review: Girl Power


Director: Paul Feig

Writers: Katie Dippold, Paul Feig

Stars: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones

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Release date: July 14th, 2016

Distributor: Columbia Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 116 minutes


3/5

Best part: The four leads.

Worst part: The cameos.

No movie in cinema history has faced as much anger as 2016’s Ghostbusters reboot. Prior to release, it was showered in searing hatred. Delusional fanboys attacked it for coming near the 1984 original’s lasting legacy. Misogynistic creeps resented the all-female leading cast members. With all that said, it’s best to judge Ghostbusters for what it is and not what certain factions might want.

It has to be said – Ghostbusters is much better than most of 2016’s other blockbusters. The franchise kickstarter follows a familiar structure. Dr Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is a geeky professor at Columbia University just short of gaining tenure. However, a book about paranormal beings in our realm – co-written by herself and Dr Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) – gets in her way. After reuniting, Gilbert and Yates reluctantly team up with wacky engineer Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) to tackle a reported ghost sighting. After getting fired, the trio turn into a full-time ghost-catching group looking out for New York City. Joined by streetwise MTA worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) and ditzy receptionist Kevin (Chris Hemsworth), the group face an army of ghouls and naysayers.

The original delivered big laughs, unique visuals and intelligent heroes for geeks everywhere to look up to. The 2016 version follows a wholly specific formula from script to screen. This one also features an array of Saturday Night Live alumni coming together, proving everyone wrong and saving the world. Writer/director Paul Feig overcomes the barrage of hate and uncertainty with ease. This – like earlier works Bridesmaids, The Heat and Spy – is a pleasant, crystal-clear experience free from anything ‘dark and gritty’. The plot itself boils down to everything you’d expect from a modern supernatural-comedy. The first and second acts revolve around the origin-story dynamic – building up and then shaking the team’s foundations. Of course, the third act is reserved for the underdeveloped villain’s master plan. Ghostbusters doesn’t change the game, but certainly gives it a little push.

Feig and co-screenwriter Katie Dippold make their characters human and understandable in spite of the ensuing chaos. For the most part, the humour is a mix of clever references and light-hearted one-liners. The four leads, having worked together before on many projects, make the jokes, sci-fi gobbledygook and touching moments work effectively. However, Feig’s direction occasionally lets them down. Awkward editing choices and sluggish pacing keep this reboot from reaching its true potential. Sadly, the third-act action extravaganza delivers bland, CGI-laden visuals rather than unique flourishes. Worse still, cameos from Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and the rest of the original troupe stop the movie dead in its tracks. The score also fails to impress, partly due to Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliott’s rubbish remix of the original theme.

Ghostbusters valiantly highlights the best women in contemporary Hollywood comedy. The cast and crew deliver many laugh-out-loud moments, engaging performances and effective reminders of the franchise’s appeal. However, it can’t decide whether to stand on it own or cling to the original.

Verdict: A quaint reboot.

The Huntsman: Winter’s War Review: The Ice Queen, The Hunk, His Wife, and the Sequel No One Asked For


Director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan

Writers: Craig Mazin, Evan Spiliotopoulos

Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt, Charlize Theron

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Release date: April 7th, 2016

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Countries: UK, USA 

Running time: 114 minutes


 

2½/5

Review: The Huntsman: Winter’s War

In the Heart of the Sea Audio Review: Punchered Vessel


Director: Ron Howard

Writer: Charles Leavitt

Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland

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Release date: December 11th, 2015

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 121 minutes


3/5

Review:

Blackhat (Home Release) Audio Review: Code Black! CODE. BLACK!


Director: Michael Mann

Writers: Morgan Davis Foehl, Michael Mann

Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Tang Wei, Leehom Wang, Viola Davis

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Release date: January 16th, 2015

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 133 minutes


 

2/5

Review:

Thor: The Dark World Review – Hammered Home


Director: Alan Taylor

Writer: Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins


Release date: November 8th, 2013

Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 112 minutes


Best part: Hemsworth and Hiddleston.

Worst part: The bland villain.

Review: Thor: The Dark World

Verdict: An enjoyably frantic and action-packed superhero sequel.

Rush Review – Speed of Life


Director: Ron Howard

Writer: Peter Morgan 

Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara


Release date: September 13th, 2013

Distributors: Universal Pictures, Entertainment One, StudioCanal, Universum Film AG

Countries: UK, Germany, USA

Running time: 122 minutes


 

4½/5

Best part: Hemsworth and Bruhl.

Worst part: The under-developed female characters.

To a certain extent, sport is instilled in everyone’s flesh and blood. In an instant, it can send people into dizzying highs or crushing lows. It can represent an entire country’s strengths and weaknesses, and can turn hard working men and women into enviable role models. A sport built on an excess of prestige and power is Formula 1 racing. This enrapturing event is captured seamlessly in Rush – a movie about taking names, becoming a champion, and rolling with the punches.

Chris Hemsworth.

Built on top of piles of money and will-power, Formula 1 is one of sporting history’s greatest accomplishments. This popular sport, as Rush is concerned, attracts people thanks to thrills, chills, and spills. Documenting the search for glory and recognition, Rush presents a brutally honest yet beguiling analysis of this dangerous competitive sport. This pulsating and emotionally powerful sports drama chronicles two drivers pushing themselves to breaking point. Money and power hungry playboy James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) lives for the many highs of his debaucherous lifestyle. Sleeping around first and winning Formula 3 races later, his immense talents are a match for the punishing Formula 1 circuit. His leap from Hesketh racing to Mclaren sets him up for success. Meanwhile, irritable and socially inept Austrian driver Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl), after turning down his father’s offer to become an accountant, takes it upon himself to reach his near untouchable goals. His intensity and overblown persona push him from low-level team BRM into Formula 1 powerhouse Ferrari’s line of sight. With both drivers reaching the prestigious event by 1975, their troubling Formula 3 rivalry spills over into their first Formula 1 season. From then on, the opposing forces stare each other down whilst speeding along tracks across the world. Off the track, Hunt’s enviable yet questionable antics hurl him into several regrettable decisions, including a rushed marriage to supermodel Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde). Meanwhile, Lauda’s relationship with the ever understandable Marlene (Alexandra Maria Lara) will force Lauda into deciding where his priorities lie.

Daniel Bruhl.

Whether Steve McQueen is lighting up the track in Le Mans or Lightning McQueen is zipping through an animated universe in Pixar’s Cars, car races/chases are welcome on the big screen. Tapping into modern sporting culture thanks to Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull Racing quarrels, Rush illustrates that sportsmanship is just as important as landing a spot on the podium. Unlike today’s Formula 1 competition, the 70s era relied entirely on sleaze, slickness, style, technological advancements, and greed. It was an era in which Cigarette sponsorship and chauvinistic personalities were far more important than teamwork and determination. Its cultural impact rang true with people escaping their lives to watch celebrity sportsmen glide around a track at breakneck speeds of up to 300km/h. Director Ron Howard (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind) potently relays these seminal themes. Known for jumping between genres and extraordinary stories, Howard’s directorial style achieves a sensory and psychological stranglehold over multiple demographics. From crime-thrillers (RansomThe Da Vinci Code),to Westerns (The Missing), and family-friendly adventure flicks (The Grinch), Howard’s film-making dexterity, attention to detail, and persistence continually shine through. Like with Cinderella Man, Howard is unafraid to present the realistic and fantastical elements of this inspirational story. He is brave enough to utilise advantageous sports movie tropes and an efficient docudrama structure. Like his other biopics, Rush highlights the lead characters’ historical importance by presenting a memorable and valuable part of their lives. Despite having not been interested in Formula 1 racing before, I was instantly swept up in Rush‘s subtleties and frenetic narrative. Thankfully, the energetic pacing establishes the thrills and visceral nature of Hunt and Lauda’s bitter rivalry.

The thrill of the race!

The greatest sports movies leave the most alienating aspects of each sport on the sidelines. They swing for the fences to highlight the symbolic intricacies and emotional moments. Like Moneyball and Warrior, Rush focuses on the intense physical, mental, and spiritual training these athletes undertake. The movie’s tension-inducing spectacle, of cars circling round tracks and livelihoods spiralling out of control, delivers a rush in itself. Before it reaches the checkered flag, the movie depicts a sensitive yet dense examination of manliness, egotism, and humility. The lead characters embark upon parallel journeys that strengthen the narrative. Throughout the snarky battle of brains, braun, wits and raw talent, Howard leaves no stone unturned. This invigorating drama lives by the phrase uttered pensively by Lauda: ”A wise man learns more from his enemies than a fool from his friends”. It captures the soaring highs and crushing lows of these characters’ existences. Pushing themselves tirelessly to achieve perfection, their breaking points are expressed in startlingly different ways – Hunt’s through pleasure and Lauda’s through searing pain. Like with Frost/Nixon, Howard crafts a metaphorical boxing match, on and off the track, between two understated professionals. Howard creates a detailed timeline of applaudable life achievements, from the gleeful Formula 3 race to the 1976 Japanese Grand Prix, and gently hits the breaks during the tender moments. It’s a tale of sportsmen driven by obsession, manipulation, oneupsmanship, and envy. These men would rather complain to the authorities about petty insults and slight miscalculations than accept defeat. Despite this, these unlikable yet lauded figures transition into empathetic individuals. With explosive arguments spiced up by punchy, profound dialogue, Peter Morgan’s impeccable screenplay is whistled through commendable accents and mannerisms.

“A wise man can learn more from his enemies than a fool from his friends.” (Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl), Rush).

Olivia Wilde.

Rush‘s pulpy visual style, thanks to Howard’s succinct direction and Anthony Dodd Mantle’s kinetic cinematography, punches it into overdrive. Their attention to detail and engaging visual styles capture the era’s bold aesthetic. Mantle’s monumental camerawork tingles the senses and lends this obscure story a bubbly personality. Howard gleefully toys with historical events. Eye-catching montages emphasise the distinct intricacies of the characters’ lives and ostentatious Formula 1 season. Rush gleefully displays every bright, enthralling facet of this valuable and chauvinistic era. Archival footage is spliced seamlessly into certain sequences to emphasise the story’s importance. Howard relentlessly splatters the screen with a vibrant and eye-catching re-creation of the sexy 70s. The immaculate costumes, set designs, practical effects and CGI vistas fuel the movie’s verisimilitude. If that wasn’t enough, Howard’s auteur touch even makes sure the wacky hairstyles, bloated egos/personas, and roaring crowds all put in 110%. The ladies may turn out for Hemsworth’s staggering physique (on display throughout), but everyone will enjoy the kinetic and meticulous race sequences. These tension-inducing set-pieces move blindingly fast and illustrate why 25 drivers risk their lives to compete each year. Mantle puts the pedal to the metal in these sequences, emphasising each joyous and disastrous moment with immersive tracking shots and first-person photography. Crashes and tailspins cap off each race with flawless technical precision, depicting the competition’s baffling cruelty. This is edge-of-your seat entertainment, hitting the audience with car crash-like force. Flashy title cards, freeze frames, and Hans Zimmer’s thundering score rev-up each race and illuminate Rush‘s sweeping scope. The movie accurately presents the cars, pit crew gear and tracks from this memorable era. Shots showcasing oil hurriedly pouring into engines, flames bursting out of exhausts, and intense rumbles continually build to captivating climaxes.

Man and machine!

Despite it’s glorious positives, Rush pulls some awkward skids along the way. Howard’s heavy handed messages are needlessly explained. Philosophical moments, clunky speeches, and metaphors dent this otherwise enjoyable experience. As with most docudramas, the celebrity characters attract large audiences. Formula 1 nuts, in particular, will be pleased to see Hunt and Lauda being treated with respect. Rush‘s objective insight focuses on the well-known wheelings and dealings of Formula 1. Lauda is a fascinating and frustrating character. Ordering a pit crew to stay over night to fix his car, Lauda is a man who, for better or worse, always has his mind on the job. Believing that Formula 1 is, by far, the greatest thing on Earth, this socially awkward character embraces his persistence and rat-like persona. Insults fly left and right when he meticulously inspects other drivers’, managers’ and mechanics’ efforts. Bruhl delivers a captivating and intense performance as, arguably, Formula 1’s greatest machine. His romantic sub-plot develops this multi-dimensional character. On the other hand, Hunt is a god-like enigma and confused, childish celebrity who continually pushes himself to the limit. A spoiled brat fascinated by life’s most pleasurable facets, victory, money, women, drugs, and alcohol may push him to the edge. Hemsworth delivers a dynamic and touching performance as this alluring yet tragic figure, capturing Hunt’s sense of humour and boyish charm. Rush‘s most powerful moments involve conflicts between opposing individuals e.g. Hunt’s violent run-in with an obnoxious journalist. Unfortunately, the sub-plot between Hunt and Miller lacks lasting impact and is only touched upon in three potent scenes.

Faster than a Ferrari, smoother than an Aston Martin, and grander than a Rolls-Royce, Rush is a modern action-drama without the excess, bloat or predictability. With its immaculate attention to detail, kinetic visuals, and powerhouse performances, the movie ultimately suggests that nothing is more exhilarating than the speed of life.

Verdict: A tense, thought-provoking, and emotionally resonant sports-drama.

Red Dawn Review – Hemsworth’s Hindrance


Director: Dan Bradley

Writers: Carl Ellsworth, Jeremy Passmore 

Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, Adrianne Palicki


Release date: September 27th, 2012

Distributor: FilmDistrict

Country: USA

Running time: 93 minutes


 

1½/5

Best part: Chris Hemsworth.

Worst part: Cinema’s worst product placement.

Following the end of the Cold War, many Americans became enthralled by the exploitative yet paranoia inducing thrills of the 1984 cult classic Red Dawn. Many kids dreamed of one day facing a global threat with their buddies in their very own backyard. This imaginative idea has been brought to life yet again, in the form of a fresh faced remake quickly forced into hibernation by distribution company Metro Goldwyn Mayer. Red Dawn however doesn’t even belong on anyone’s list of guilty pleasures, sadly becoming yet another typical and unnecessary  Hollywood remake.

Chris Hemsworth.

After a six year tour of duty in Iraq, Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth) is an all around nice guy returning to his home in Spokane, Washington. He quickly attracts the attention of the locals, his feisty brother Matt (Josh Peck), his father Tom (Brett Cullen) and attractive childhood friend Toni (Adrianne Palicki). Barely can he settle back into his father’s couch when the threat of war comes back to haunt him, this time in the form of invading North Korean/Russian forces. Attaining a rag-tag group of high-schoolers of all divisions, the Eckerts must soon find a way out of their new situation with the help of Jed’s military training. Having lost their homes, lives and loved ones, the young renegade force known as the ‘Wolverines’ must stop this ominous foreign threat from spreading across the United States of America.

Isabel Lucas & Adrianne Palicki.

This jingoistic and forgettable remake of the hauntingly relevant original falters despite its somewhat promising start. Following a harrowing montage of news footage linking the 2008 Global Financial Crisis to the onset of nuclear war, Red Dawn’s fantastical account of an invasion of US democracy stretches any sense of credibility beyond a simplistic Call of Duty-like scenario. What made the original such a patriotic yet vital action flick was the link to Cold War paranoia surrounding its initial release. Upon this realisation, creating a North Korean (formerly Chinese) enemy worthy of the Soviet Union stretches plausibility. What is left is just a forgettable action flick bordering on xenophobia. This remake was finished in 2008, put on hold after MGM was hit by the recession. It’s easy to see why it was left to a release date four years later, becoming a film without a sense of place in our current political climate. The North Korean threat is a largely over-the-top band of thugs, little more than target practice for the Wolverines.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

Director Dan Bradley has worked as stunt coordinator and/or second unit director on big budget action films such as The Bourne Ultimatum, Swordfish and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. His penchant for expansive action set-pieces pays off in the film’s many shoot-outs and chases, yet fails to create a sense of either atmosphere or brutality for this dull narrative. Despite the tight pacing and high level of explosions, Bradley’s work on Paul Greengrass’ Bourne films has led to many tense scenes ruined by shaking cameras and quick cuts. This ultra-modern remake fails to learn from the original’s noticeable flaws. This contrived and silly story creates an emotionally manipulative yet undercooked survival tale of US citizens fighting oppression. The story is set to one training and battle montage after another, creating a breezy yet unrefined documentation of this peculiar invasion. Trying unrelentingly to achieve impact, Red Dawn‘s inappropriate score its only one step away from being as emotionally manipulative as the world’s biggest onion. The characters are awkwardly placed into certain types. High school and military politics are depicted as comparable in this film, conveniently comprising the jocks, rebels, nerds and hotties as the pecking order of this unit. Pretty predictable stuff here.

“Marines don’t die, they go to hell and regroup.” (Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth), Red Dawn).

Hemsworth, Josh Peck & Josh Hutcherson.

Hemsworth, Josh Peck & Josh Hutcherson.

Australia’s 2010 Red Dawn-like action flick Tomorrow, When the War Began is a far greater re-iteration this implausible situation. Any chance at developing character or resonance falls flat with every cheesy one liner and underwhelming speech, creating an inexplicably cloying experience to endure. This earnest retelling provides a humourless and bland romp, with comedic moments falling flat and ridiculous product placement achieving only unintentional laughs. Despite becoming little more than uninteresting enemies for the North Korean troops, the underused cast is full of recognisable faces. The original’s fun vibe was created partly through its charismatic young cast including Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, C. Thomas Howell and Jennifer Grey. The chemistry between the original cast is lost in the remake, as the new group fails to create a believable or likeable fighting force. Chris Hemsworth (achieving major success with Thor and The Avengers) is a charismatic screen presence as the hapless leader. Josh Peck however becomes a bumbling and irritating soldier playing by his own rules. Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games) is easily replaceable, as is the rest of this underwhelming group of small soldiers.

Despite Bradley and the cast’s enthusiasm, their Red Dawn remake has been through hell and back itself. Given the resources on offer, this action-adventure could have been something for new generations  to cling onto. Unfortunately, it has arrived several years too late.

Verdict: Yet another in the line of lacklustre remakes.

The Cabin in the Woods Review – Scintilating Slaughter-fest


Director: Drew Goddard

Writers: Joss Whedon, Drew Goddard

Stars: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Fran Kranz, Richard Jenkins


Release date: April 13th, 2012

Distributor: Lionsgate

Country: USA

Running time: 95 minutes


 

4½/5

Best part: The clever references.

Worst part: The irritating supporting characters.

Despite its simple title, The Cabin in the Woods is far from your normal cliché ridden slasher flick, so far in fact that it questions the very genre itself. With a witty sense of humour and a strong thirst for blood and gore, this is one of the most influential horror films of the past decade.

Fran Kranz & Kristen Connolly.

Fran Kranz & Kristen Connolly.

The Cabin in the Woods sounds so simple that it must be a ruse. This trick is, of course, what five teenage friends discover during their stay in a small country shack. The inhabitants are met with various twists and turns as their sanity and loyalty will be tested to a great extent. These friends are (forcefully) based on five well known stereotypes of horror, picked off depending on their moral codes. There’s Curt ‘the jock’ (a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth), Jules ‘the slutty dumb blond’ (Anna Hutchinson), Marty ‘the stoner’ (Fran Kranz), Holden ‘the sensitive guy’ (Jesse Williams) and, most importantly, Dana ‘the virgin’ (Kristen Connolly).

Chris Hemsworth & Anna Hutchison.

Chris Hemsworth & Anna Hutchison.

Sadly shelved for four years due to economic problems with MGM, director Drew Goddard (writer of Cloverfield) has created a visually thematic and referential ode to several great horror flicks and elements of decades past. The major secret of the film is based on a Truman Show/Death Race 2000 style discussion of the effect of modern reality TV within the public sphere. With the dialogue cleverly yet valuably speaking up about the dangers of using innocent lives as the subjects of sickening games, run by two charismatic industrial technicians Richard (an always convincing Richard Jenkins) and Steve (Bradley Whitford), both the technicians’ and victims’ points of view are assuredly established. Instead of using the Wes Craven/Kevin Williamson Scream series method of simply pointing out clichés and influences, what makes The Cabin in the Woods the most ‘meta’ horror film in Hollywood existence is that it breaks down each individual horror symbol and trope and explains their true importance in pop. culture.

Richard Jenkins & Bradley Whitford.

Richard Jenkins & Bradley Whitford.

If there’s one problem with this 80s style gory yet unique horror spectacle it’s that, much like the equally stylish and culturally relevant ode to pop culture Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, its straight aim at the narrow hipster/cinephile target demographic may limit the film’s cultural reach. Despite this, this subversion of horror clichés, symbols and ideologies are what makes this modern slasher flick a must see. It’s derivative yet self-aware of its influences which have shaped the very fabric of Hollywood horror. What you expect from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly  creator Joss Whedon (also the writer/director of the recent blockbuster hit The Avengers) is in this deceptive and smart horror film. With a taste for satire and self-referential humour, Whedon’s writing style has once again created a stylish composition of different genre elements after his take on a revered superhero squad. Both Whedon and Edgar Wright (director of Shaun of the DeadHot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) have proven their value of being inside the fanboy state of mind. The film and TV creations of both directors have proven repeatedly that being popular and relevant can mean cleverly speaking up about the obvious elements of pop culture itself.

“Yeah, uh, I had to dismember that guy with a trowel. What have you been up to?” (Marty (Fran Kranz), The Cabin in the Woods).

Tim De Zarn.

Tim De Zarn.

Much like Whedon’s take on superheroes, vampires and space travelling adventurers, the visual style of Joss Whedon’s vision is second to none. The cabin, designed specifically to represent a visual reference to Sam Raimi’s ground-breaking Evil Dead films, is a simple yet strange labyrinth filled with ornaments and illusions from cults and tribal rituals past. This is a stark contrast to pristine hallways and command centres looking like a cross between J.J. Abram’s Star Trek and Tony Scott’s The Taking Of Pelham 123. Let’s not forget that this film holds the creatures of both historical fables and Hollywood cinema inspiring the film’s creation. All manner of blood thirsty ghosts, ghouls and goblins from the 1930’s Universal Studio’s Classic Monsters era, to George A. Romero zombie flicks, to, most importantly, the spirits risen from The Evil Dead (pun intended) are, literally, on display. This gleefully leads up to the 3rd act bone-chilling and disgustingly nostalgic blood-bath and vital cameo from one of classic sci-fi horror’s most important faces, which no creature that goes bump in the night should ever keep you from witnessing.

Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon, bolstering their already sterling reputations, tear the horror/cabin-thriller genre to shreds. Like the movie’s final third, Goddard’s style delivers constant surprises. Deserving of major critical and commercial acclaim, the movie says what we were all thinking.

Verdict: A deceptively simple sounding horror flick with Joss Whedon’s hands all over it. 

Snow White and the Huntsman Review – Grimm & Grizzly


Director: Rupert Sanders

Writers: Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock, Hossein Amini (screenplay), The Brothers Grimm (fairytale)

Stars: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Sam Claflin


Release date: June 1st, 2012

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 127 minutes


3½/5

Best part: The breath-taking visuals.

Worst part: The monotonous pace.

Following the recent forgettable slapstick farce Mirror Mirror comes yet another interpretation of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale Snow White. Snow White and the Huntsman takes a large step in the other direction; creating a dark, twisted interpretation of a story normally considered to be a fun, family friendly adventure. Out of the many recent film and TV adaptations of popular fairy tales, this adaptation of Snow White may be the fairest of them all.

Kristen Stewart.

This film takes a sharp turn away from the classic 1937 animated adaptation Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, emphasising many fantasy elements relevant in popular film culture. With the evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) taking over the kingdom and locking the murdered king’s daughter Snow White (Kristen Stewart) away forever, the king’s once glorious and beautiful reign has crumbled. Her rule forces Snow to escape her captivity and proceed into the dark forest. With a strong desire for Snow’s still-beating heart, she enlists the help of the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to bring her back. The Huntsman’s path however intertwines with Snows as their desire for the freedom of their kingdom leads Snow to be the fated saviour of the land and take her rightful place on the throne.

Chris Hemsworth & the dwarves.

Chris Hemsworth & the dwarves.

This interpretation perfectly suits the name of ‘Grimm’. With this familiar story recreated in the serious tone of the revered original material, Snow White and the Huntsman is a derivative yet energetic reinvention of the legend. The direction by first time feature director Rupert Sanders (previously known for creating breathtaking advertisements for the Halo 3:ODST video game) creates a fairytale land that is sickly creepy and gorgeous simultaneously. Despite the uneven pacing throughout, Sander’s film may be seen as his canvas; a blank slate in which his keen eye for visuals and influential works are composed in a multi layered and involving fashion. His action set pieces and cinematography contain elements of blockbuster hits such as GladiatorKingdom of Heaven, the similarly envisioned Robin Hood and The Lord of the Rings trilogy with the mixture of handheld camera work, fluid tracking shots and soft lighting. While the affecting landscapes and peculiar creature designs are reminiscent of Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke and Guillermo Del Toro’s Pans Labyrinth. Several shots in particular, involving fairies calling Snow White, are filmed in close up on their small faces to create the emotional balance needed for the disgustingly dark story told.The weaker aspects of this interpretation however involve the screenplay. Involving three different screen writers, Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side) and Hossein Amini (Drive), the screenplay is of lesser quality than the visual style due to the many popular genre elements fit in all at once.

“Lips red as blood, hair black as night, bring me your heart, my dear, dear Snow White.” (Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron), Snow White and the Huntsman).

Charlize Theron.

Charlize Theron.

Despite the many charming dialogue moments and rousing speeches, including one that will leave any sceptic of Stewart thinking twice, flashback sequences and underused characters dilute from the familiar story. Unfortunately, the development of Snow White from victim to determined hero is largely implied. She never convinces the viewer that she is the fabled, strong female lead character the original fairytale portrays her to be. Her underwritten character, though convincingly performed by Stewart, incessantly shifts focus between the more involving characters around her. The dwarfs, played by a plethora of experienced character actors such as Ray Winstone, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan, Nick Frost, Bob Hoskins and Ian McShane, are also underwritten. Despite engaging performances from this reliable cast, they simply provide moments of comic relief for this otherwise sombre interpretation. The performances from all three leads are enrapturing. Coming off of portraying the detestable female lead character Bella in The Twilight Saga, Stewart can hopefully shrug off that stigma after her dynamic performances in AdventurelandWelcome to the Rileys and now Snow White and the Huntsman. Hemsworth continues his run of charismatic performances after Thor and The Avengers with a thick Scottish accent and axe in hand. While Theron, continuing on from her recent turn as the hardened female antagonist in Prometheus, brings an ice cold  demeanour to the sadistic Queen Ravenna.

Though hindered gravely by its sluggish pacing and derivative direction, Snow White and the Huntsman appeals to fairytale buffs and blockbuster nuts equally. Thanks to the charming performances and invigorating visuals, this gritty reboot will work wonders over the holidays.

Verdict: Thankfully, fairer than many of the poisoned apples in modern cinematic fantasy.

The Avengers Review – Superhero Smorgasboard


Director: Joss Whedon

Writer: Joss Whedon

Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo


Release date: May 4th, 2012 

Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 142 minutes


 

5/5

Best part: The pithy comedic moments.

Worst part: The MacGuffin.

Marvel’s cinematic universe for the past four years has been building up to the superhero flick to end them all. With many characters getting their own blockbusters such as Iron man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America, their interweaving story-lines have finally woven into the ultimate team on a mission film. The Avengers defies extreme expectations and concerns to become one hell of an intense roller coaster ride.

Avengers assemble!

Avengers assemble!

As we saw in 2011’s superhero flick Thor, Loki(Tom Hiddleston)’s deceptive and disastrous ways have only just begun. With Earth the setting for his assault, the fabled Tesseract device is all that’s needed. His violent theft of the device has forced scarred SHIELD director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to bring together an elite and superhuman group to stop Loki’s wrath upon mankind. Tempers flair, reputations are preceded and alliances are engineered from scratch as this team of vastly different superheroes must protect the Earth from anyone threatening its destruction.

Tom Hiddleston.

Tom Hiddleston.

Luckily for the average film-goer, the Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America films don’t need to be seen to enjoy this high octane sensual experience. Writer/director Joss Whedon has created a hilarious, action packed and emotionally gripping superhero adventure fitting for a climax to this series. His penchant for strong character development, clashing egos, arse kicking women and witty dialogue are all on show in The Avengers, not very surprising coming from the creator of mega-hit genre TV shows such as Buffy and Firefly. Much like his underrated sci-fi actioner Serenity, the characters come first as he gleefully toys with the concept at hand. Focusing for the first half on bringing these wildly differing and engaging characters together is The Avengers’s strongest power as every POW! and BAM! is met with a satirical one liner and unexpectedly hilarious  moment of physical comedy. These characters serve as the building blocks for something extraordinary in the first half as fighting each other must be put aside to fight the forces of evil. The chemistry developed slowly and uneasily between this cast of famed superheroes from varying ages and galaxies creates a fascinating origin story of arguably the greatest team in superhero lore. Every character pulls their weight, and no one steals the show, as we see every character earning the right to be accepted into the Avengers Initiative.

“The Avengers. That’s what we call ourselves; we’re sort of like a team. “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” type thing.” (Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), The Avengers).

Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Evans & Robert Downey, Jr.

Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Evans & Robert Downey, Jr.

The witty Whedon-esque dialogue is of course met with brilliant performances from this A- list cast and the creation of burdened yet likeable characters. Powerfully making his presence known in both Iron Man films, Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark is a delight. His quick delivery of comedic lines and upbeat presence on screen lets everyone know why Iron Man is a fan favourite. While Captain America (Chris Evans) makes his presence known; placing his differing views, emotional torment, and leadership anxieties in full view. Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye don’t disappoint when called upon to anchor the film’s emotional core. While credit goes to Mark Ruffalo as the big, green, mean machine turned pleasant scientist Bruce Banner. Given the unfortunate task of replacing Edward Norton from the previous film, Ruffalo delivers an enjoyable yet intensifying interpretation of Banner, constantly toying with the monster inside him. When these superheroes aren’t using their unique abilities and witty personalities on each other in several of the film’s most intense moments, they’re destroying New York while tussling with Loki and his army of alien minions. Despite several inventive and beautiful action set pieces throughout, including Captain America and Iron Man working together to save the Helicarrier, the final third kicks into overdrive. It’s here when we see this team working side by side in the line of duty. Its hilarious, stylish and breathtaking all at the same time as we see the powers of our favourite heroes in full effect. Whedon creates an immersive representation of the forces of good. Single shot set pieces zooming around the city depict each member of the team risking everything to come to the aid of one another, while impressively destroying hordes of evil doers.

One things for sure, this cracking foray into the origins of the ultimate crime fighting unit is a paradise for comic book aficionados, action fans and everyone in between. Whedon, the impeccable cast of comic book favourites and consistent level of laughs come together to create one of the best superhero films ever assembled.

Verdict: An enlightening and powerful superhero flick.