Category Archives: Movie Reviews

Review of SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN

I have long anticipated the premiere of Snow White and the Huntsman, and so of course I was nearly ecstatic to catch a nice and packed 8:30 p.m. show last night!

Directed by relative newcomer Rupert Sanders, Snow White and the Huntsman stars Charlize Theron as the evil Queen Ravena, Kristen Stewart as Snow White, and Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman. The entire piece is a dark retelling of the treasured fairy tale, and I think it worked out well.

I’ve always enjoyed a nearly gothic twist on fantasy, so for me, the director’s cinematic choices were exquisite. The focus was no longer on the incredibly beautiful Snow White and her silly little love affair with Prince Charming—this was a tale of a tortured Princess whose inner beauty was part of her destiny, and whose strength and conviction overturned the tyranny of an extraordinarily evil Queen. In addition, this take focused on the kinship between Snow White and the Huntsman, thereby removing it from the everlasting “Girl meets boy, girl loses boy, boy finds girl through some trial and tribulations, and girl and boy fall in love and live happily ever after, yay!” tradition of most fairy tales. This version was about honor and loyalty, kinship and companionship, belief in one’s strength, following one’s heart, and rising up against evil and wrongdoing—a real fairy tale for actual grown ups!

Overall, the cinematography was beautiful and lush; Sanders used a wonderful play of light and dark to emphasize the dismal nature of the kingdom as well as the madness of the Queen. Also spectacular was the repeated contrast of blood against snow, which is of course the epitome of what we’ve come to recognize as Snow White’s unique characteristics—dark hair, fair skin, and blood-red lips. Many scenes in the movie were reminiscent of Sleepy Hollow, Alice in Wonderland, and Lord of the Rings, adding it to a long line of visually stunning fantasy work.

The casting was also surprisingly workable—though honestly, Charlize Theron is fairly hard to swallow as an ugly queen (nonetheless, the effects team did a splendid job of aging her to fit the part). Theron played a jealous, obsessed Queen with great skill, and paired with the creepy images of her soldiers, mirror, and magic, her onscreen presence was ferociously chilling. Stewart, with her girl-next-door prettiness, did a good job of playing a Princess coming into her own strength, the emphasis in her part on the beauty she carried within. Finally, the handsome Chris Hemsworth portrayed a believable Huntsman, whose personal torment is made good through his assistance to a would-be queen.

I’d also like to mention the unbelievable costume work of Colleen Atwood—she truly deserves an Oscar for this film. Complete with the decadence of real feathers, skulls, and jewels, some of Ravena’s pieces were remarkably gorgeous!

All in all, I found the movie to be an impressive redux of a classic tale, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of Sanders’s work in the future. If you haven’t had a chance to get to the theatre, make sure you check out Snow White and the Huntsman soon.

Happy viewing, everyone!

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Launch Countdown to SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN!

We all grew up with fairy tales, those mesmerizing stories that gripped our imaginations, first read to us by our parents and later, tales we read (and maybe even reread) on our own. Then there were all the movie versions and spin-offs that we probably saw, and of course the figurines, games, coloring books, tea sets, costumes, and pink sparkly bikes with characters on the basket that we no doubt collected. No matter how much we may try to downplay them, fairy tales are a part of our culture—little pieces of magic that live within us even beyond the years we knew them by heart.

That said, I am in full countdown mode for Snow White and the Huntsman!

The dark version of the classic tale is directed by Rupert Sanders and debuts this Friday. Starring Charlize Theron as the malevolent Queen, Kristen Stewart as Snow White, and Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman, it promises to be one heck of a show. I will admit, there have been a few movies that I’ve been eagerly anticipating this year—The Hunger Games and The Avengers, to name a couple—but this one is by far the most exciting for me. Take a little girl who loved all fairy tales merged with a grown woman who loves a solid dark fantasy, and there you have it!

Based on the preview, the movie looks like a fantastically decadent new take on an old tale. You can check it out here: Snow White and the Huntsman preview. I’ve actually re-watched this clip about 30 times myself, I am that excited! 🙂 I’ll be back to share my thoughts this weekend, but I don’t expect that many of us will be disappointed.

So the question remains—will you be heading out to see Snow White and the Huntsman?

🙂


On THE AVENGERS!

Well, I was going to wait one more day to share my thoughts on The Avengers, but the teenage girl trapped inside me simply couldn’t stop squealing in giddy excitement—so here I am, posting! 🙂

I had tentative plans to attempt to see the movie today, since I’ve been counting down to its release and somehow didn’t make it opening night. Having chaperoned our high school’s prom last night—which, by the way, was a lovely event; all of our students looked sharp and beautiful, and seemed to have a smashingly good time—I was still in bed debating the course of my day when I received a friend’s text, inviting me to see The Avengers at 10:30 a.m.

A 3D movie at 10:30 a.m.? Who does that?

I figured I’d give it a go—and am I ever glad I did.

If you are one of the few who somehow haven’t yet heard about The Avengers, it’s been a highly anticipated superhero action flick in the works for some time. The best part of the movie is that it’s not just a superhero movie, it’s a group superhero movie, thus packing a wallop for most any audience member, young or old. Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Captain America in one movie, contending with the eternally devious Loki? However would director Joss Whedon pull this off?

Seamlessly, as it turns out. Pick your favorite Marvel character from the list above and you’ll be satisfied. All of them hold their own, the actors falling gracefully back into their roles as the characters who at first are at war with one other, but who soon find the power of working together as an incredible team. It is the exquisite dynamic between them that is the real fun of the movie.

The plot is straightforward: a group of heroes is sought out to save Earth from the evil demigod Loki and his power-hungry other universe allies. Meanwhile, our group of heroes is really a collection of ferociously independent super creatures, each wracked with some sort of torturous doubt or hubris that risks everything—but in this case, everything is our planet. Thor feels tremendous guilt for bringing the creatures to Earth. Hawkeye/Agent Barton seeks vengeance on Loki for mind-control. Hulk/Bruce Banner is distraught over his uncontrollable rage. Captain America is still confused by the present, as well as the degenerate cooperation amongst the team. Black Widow/Agent Romanova is the tough girl with a sordid family history. And of course there’s Iron Man/Tony Stark, with his huge ego insisting on handling everything solo.

The good news is that they all figure out how to use their strengths to work together and make good. The results are delightful: a team of superheroes bouncing their powers off one another as they save the day. Who couldn’t love this story?

Hardcore action? Check. Killer special effects? Check. Plentiful wisecracks interlaced throughout? Check. Pretty images? Again, check. Cool costumes? Yep, check. A cohesive story-line and great dialogue? All there, check. And of course, badass heroes? CHECK. Potential for sequel? (You’ll have to see it to answer that question!)

So there you have it. Granted, I’ve always been a sucker for superhero action movies, but I think The Avengers was by far the best. Nothing in it disappointed me, and I think most theatre-goers would be hard-pressed to say otherwise. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly advise you scrap the rest of your plans and see it today. Or at least this week. You won’t be disappointed!

All right, everyone, enjoy the show. Now I’m off to save the world…or at least, pay some bills. 🙂


Quoth The Raven

After a particularly long and stressful week, I decided there was exactly one thing I wanted to do last night: go see The Raven.

I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Edgar Allan Poe. The 19th century dark poet and author was one whose work I treasured in high school because I tended to favor the romantic lyricism of his work, as well as his gory imagination. I admit that my previously shared flair for the dramatic didn’t hurt my fascination with the man, either.

So, walking into the theatre, this deep adoration had me hoping James McTeigue’s direction of The Raven would delight me as much as Roland Emmerich’s did in Anonymous last year (great movie, if you haven’t checked it out yet). Though I think the cinematography of The Raven was lovely—the period thriller is set in 1849 Baltimore, a time of colorful and decadent wardrobes, quaint horse-drawn carriages, and bleakly dark cobblestone streets—and the concept was clever, the movie did not quite meet my expectations. The admirable John Cusack seemed believable as a goateed Poe at first, but I soon found myself put off by some of his attempts to speak in the style of his character. In all honesty, I think most of the actors came across that way—their acting seemed fine, but something about their dialogue didn’t click. In Anonymous, I never felt uncomfortable with or aware of the actors’ Shakespearean dialects; here, I felt everyone struggled, spending more of their focus on attempting to command the romantic language than acting their parts. Blood spewing violence aside, I felt the movie had a unique idea that could have been a little bit clearer, and perhaps needed more depth.

Fortunately, I have a knack for enjoying most movies, even those that leave a bad taste in my mouth. Despite my criticism of The Raven, I did find some prettiness embedded in it—namely, the frequent quoting of Poe’s stories as he connected the serial killer to his artistry. If for no other reason, I enjoyed the movie for bringing Poe’s language to the screen and into the ears of a new audience.

Now for some fun: mesh a flair for the dramatic with a love of Poe and a 14-year-old girl, and what do you get? Some really over-the-top poetry. When I arrived home last night, I remembered Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Raven” once inspired an intensely mad work of my own. Since it’s always good to poke some fun at oneself, and for your amusement, I thought I’d share a piece that a 14-year-old me wrote for a high school English class—and which my teacher found so dramatic, he actually read it aloud to the class, complete with wild hand gestures…Oh boy. Hold on tight, folks, there’s some real teen angst in this one:

Madness

Alas!

What brought it on?

Was it the anguish inside or

Was it the torture on the outside?

Did the cold nights of loneliness

With the terrible insomnia

Of the pain for tomorrow

Bring it about?

Was it rejection, and the feelings

You threw harshly at me?

Maybe it was blackness

That burnt through my window,

Burning until nothing was left

But a shriveled, diminutive

Shell of what I had once been,

Forcing me into eternal insanity.

You laugh at the torture

I must withstand,

But oh!

How you bring it on, let it continue.

Stop this pain you cause me!

Don’t laugh!  No!

Hold me!  Love me!

Be as you once were.

Halt your squalid words,

Your painful ideas.

Don’t grin at me;

So insolent and deluding.

Deceiving and conniving,

Stop it!  Please!

You’re calloused and shrewd.

What caused it?

And in your insinuating actions,

Your insubordinate ways,

Do you realize a

Part of me tears away?

I’m going mad.

You caused it.

You’ve torn my heart to shreds, but

You keep laughing

With your gimlet eyes

Shooting impetuous hatred

My way.

Why?

The pain is

Causing me great

Indignation.

So stop!

You’ve pinioned me against

A wall of thorns

And you won’t release me

Until…

You won’t tell me either!

Stop it, please!

My will to live is gone!

I don’t exist.

I’m just not here.

Stop!

It won’t be long.

You’ve killed my heart,

You’ve killed my soul.

You keep on killing

And you won’t let go.

Your passion to

Hurt me

Is driving me mad;

I’m declining

In more ways than one.

I’m nautious

With your treatment;

Steadily vomiting your putrid

Love out of my system.

But it won’t all leave.

No, it’s still there,

But covered with your madness.

Your madness

My madness,

You’ve given it to me

Like a plague, a disease.

I’m crying out,

Unplug your ears

I love you, please!

I’ve lost my will

I can’t hold on

Save me from this death

You’ve left me mad and insane.

And now…

I’m gone.

***

Wow. There’s probably a reason I switched to fantasy and contemporary fiction instead of poetry… 🙂

If you would like to read more about Edgar Allan Poe, please check out the Edgar Allan Poe Museum or PoeStories.com. You can also read more of Poe’s work at PoetryLovers.com.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


Thoughts on THE HUNGER GAMES Movie

***Though I have tried to leave this review vague enough for those of you who have not yet seen the movie (or read the book), I am issuing a slight spoiler alert as I have made some obvious references to scenes from the story.***

It’s taken me a couple days to fully process my thoughts on The Hunger Games movie. If you’ve been reading along or following me on Twitter, you’ve likely noticed that I’ve been off the charts with enthusiasm for this movie. On Friday, I spent some time asking early viewers what they thought, and all of them seemed to be quite pleased.

So, when I headed out Friday evening with seven other friends to see it—five who had already read the books and two who had not—I had high expectations and a ton of anticipation for a movie I’d been waiting to see for over six months. Though I can say that we enjoyed the movie to a degree, we also all seemed to leave with the same sentiments, which were voiced very clearly by my close friend:

“Some things are just best left untouched.”

Perhaps my group of friends is the exception to the norm on this whole Hunger Games movie, but I had a hard time fully embracing it. There are things I definitely enjoyed: the acting, for example, was superb. Jennifer Lawrence made an excellent Katniss Everdeeen, Josh Hutcherson played a worthy Peeta Mellark, and Liam Hemsworth made a workable Gale Hawthorne (though he seemed far too old to be playing the character, in my opinion). Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, and Wes Bentley as President Snow, Caesar Flickerman, and Seneca Crane, respectively, were by far the most impressive, easily filling the shoes of the manipulative Capitol characters they played. Elizabeth Banks provided a serious yet comic relief character through Effie Trinket, which seemed to closely fit the Effie we knew in the books. Lenny Kravitz as Cinna was also good, and his portrayal as Katniss’s supportive friend came across as heartfelt and representative of the original character.

The depictions of the Capitol and the Districts also felt clever and suitable. The director, Gary Ross, created a land of excess and technological wizardry for the Capitol, surrounding it with images of extraordinarily poor neighborhoods whose hunger, misery, and complete devastation has clearly prevailed after a hostile government’s suppression.

Despite all this great acting and staging, however, I really felt like I was watching a slow-paced, bare bones interpretation of a truly phenomenal tale.

I know, I know—no movie is ever as good as the book, but I think there were a lot of directorial choices by Gary Ross that could have gone differently in order to more closely suit the story. Character development was of course hindered by the length of the movie, but certain pivotal pieces were also purposely left out, such as Katniss’s guilt over leaving Gale behind, and several momentous details about rival characters through the later parts of the movie. I recognize that some of this happened due to a PG-13 rating—a wise move in that the book is for teens, so of course the audience would mostly be filled with teens as well—but some of it seemed unnecessary. Yes, the story was there, but the devastation and torment caused by a Capitol so horrifically murdering children as payback for rebellion seemed cryptically and skeletally pieced together with scenes of a Capitol that we didn’t completely understand as viewers. Had I not read the book, I don’t know that I would have understood what—to me—is the entire essence of The Hunger Games: Katniss’s strength despite the nerves, horror, and fear she feels as she makes her way through the Games and preparation for them. We see only a glimpse of her feelings in the movie, as we rapidly speed through her multitude of obstacles and her eventual care for Peeta. In addition, the “Girl on Fire” chariot scene felt like someone ran through with an extinguisher to tone down the blaze before it came to our screen, but this part was critical for the entire idea of Katniss as a spark for revolution. To me, the whole film felt rushed and yet barren, as if we were meant to wade quickly through a series of images that could have been dramatic and terrifying, but really were just dulled-down glimpses of a society that was supposed to evoke some emotion from us as an audience.

The part I did feel actually drew something out of me was one between Katniss and Rue, played by Amandla Stenberg. Rue’s demise did play out a tad differently in the movie to suit the time frame, but I appreciated Ross’s portrayal of their connection and teared up a bit as I watched.

In the end, I admit I may have been expecting too much. I will of course see the next movie because I have some buy-in with the trilogy, but even the ending did not have enough bite for me, nor did it leave me wanting more—or even realizing there was more, for that matter. Was Snow mad? Did he give up? Was that a shrug of his shoulders and a general dismissal of Katniss? I really had no idea other than what I read, and for the audience member who did not read the book, I don’t know that I’d return for part two.

Am I glad I saw the movie? Yes. Was I disappointed? Yes. Could it have been done in a different way that would have suited my vision? Very possibly. Am I in the minority of viewers?I’m not sure, but I have a strong feeling that I am.

But, more importantly, do I still have half of the third book, Mockingjay, to finish, to reinspire me to fall in love with the trilogy? YES! And for that I’m very grateful.

I know my opinion is likely conflicting for many, but I’d love to know your thoughts. If you’re willing to share, please participate in the poll below.

Thanks for sharing!


HUNGER GAMES Fever

The time is rapidly approaching for the opening of The Hunger Games, and I am proud to admit that I myself have a strong dose of “Hunger Games Fever.” Quite literally, actually, as I seem to be coming down with a cold!

Undeterred, I do plan to see the movie as soon as possible, as I imagine many of you will too. Whether lining up tonight for the special midnight showing or heading out tomorrow, you still have time to read the book before the movie comes out! It may be only eight hours for you to finish if you’re going tonight, but this book is well worth a read in advance of the big screen interpretation. If you need a little push of motivation, please see my March 7th post, “Review of The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins.” There are numerous other glowing reviews out there that will likely inspire you to finish reading before the movie begins, and I encourage you to read them as well—just don’t take too long, because you need time to finish that book!

Sadly, I will not be making it out tonight to see the movie, what with the emerging cold and the 5:30 a.m. alarm that will blare painfully in my ear, but my tickets as well as those of my nine enthusiastic friends are already in our hands as we count down the hours!minutes!seconds! until our showing at 9:15 tomorrow night.

In the meantime, here are a few links to more Hunger Games fanfare:

There are plenty of other online blogs and articles for you to check out as you’re standing in line for the movie, so enjoy them while you await what will likely be one of the best movies of 2012. Stay tuned for my thoughts on the movie over the weekend, as I compare it to Suzanne Collins’s outstanding novel.

As for finding a good seat in the theatre…may the odds be ever in your favor!


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