Snow White and the Hunksman

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)
Chick Flick Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ½ (3.5/5)
Film Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ (3.5/5)
Boyfriend friendly: Just tell him that you’re going to see “that new movie with Thor”. You won’t be lying, and he’ll think you’re going to The Avengers for the 9th time.

I already went into a rant about how lame of a princess Snow White is in my review of Mirror Mirror, so I won’t dwell on that any longer (although I will point out that Disney World must have had a reason for taking down Snow White’s Scary Adventure this May). Therefore, it should be no surprise that I had zero desire to sit through another disastrous attempt at remaking an already mediocre story – and judging by the drab three minute trailer that just did not appeal to me at all, I was certain this would be just that. But I knew I had to see it for the purposes of this blog, so I dragged myself out of bed this morning to catch an 11:30AM showing ($4 movie tix before noon, yo!) and by, George, I think I liked it!

Snow White and the Huntsman closely follows the well-known tale (evil queen obsessed with beauty, talking mirror, poisonous apple, seven dwarfs) but adds a few welcome additions (sexy huntsman, intense battle sequences, evil queen back story). Ravenna (Charlize Theron) is an evil sorceress with some serious Daddy issues. She has a nasty habit of feeding from attractive women to sustain her own beauty, seducing powerful men with said beauty, then killing them and taking over their kingdoms. Unfortunately Snow’s father, King Magnus (Noah Huntley), is no exception. For reasons we never really understand, Ravenna decides to spare her pretty, young step-daughter Snow White (Kristen Stewart), and locks her up in a high tower. Years later, however, her magic mirror reveals that Snow’s beating heart is the one thing keeping Ravenna from immortality. She sends her brother to retrieve Snow from her prison cell, but Snow pulls the ole stab-him-in-the-eye-with-a-rusty-nail trick and escapes. Moral of the story: Never send a man to do a woman’s job. Snow makes a break for the eerie Dark Forest, where the Evil Queen’s powers are useless. Ravenna hires the only Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) who has been to the Forest (and lived to tell the tale) to chase after her. He finds Snow in like 3 seconds flat, but is so struck by her beauty and kindness that he decides to switch sides and help her in her journey to find Duke Hammond (Vincent Regan), an old friend of her father, and his son William (Sam Claflin), her childhood bestie. With all of her new allies, including a band of dwarfs led by Bob Hoskins, a revolt is planned to claim Snow’s rightful throne.

Let me start out by stating the obvious: Charlize Theron was absolutely magnificent as Ravenna. Her Evil Queen was dark and, of course, evil but also very complex. She wasn’t just evil for evil’s sake, like the Queen in the original Snow White or in Mirror Mirror. There is a good reason she is so full of hate, and at times I truly felt sorry for her. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t want Snow to completely kick her ass in the end. Chris Hemsworth also surprised as the hunksman huntsman ’cause I have to be honest: Thor just does not do it for me. I guess I prefer the superheroes who make their own power, like Iron Man and Batman, which is no fault of Chris Hemsworth, but I definitely preferred him here as the brooding huntsman who drinks just a little too much but always steps in at a clutch moment. He also was the only one with any sort of funny lines in a movie that could have used just a tad more comic relief. And K. Stew was actually tolerable in the title role. Her accent went in and out, but she did a good job at making Snow pretty resourceful and kind of badass. Think Katniss, not dainty princess. She also wasn’t required to smile until the last two seconds, so that must have made it a bit easier for her.

The costumes were completely stunning. I loved every single item that Ravenna wore, from her beaded gold dresses to her cloak made of raven’s feathers, and Colleen Atwood’s homage to the original Snow White costume – little hints of red in the sleeves of Snow’s dress – made me smile. Rupert Sanders also created a fantastical world, complete with a petrifying Dark Forest, some interesting-looking fairies (they look like the killer aliens from Galaxy Quest!), and some scary-ass evil soldiers who form out of shards of black glass. It surprises me to say that this movie was more faithful to the original story than Mirror Mirror, and every addition or change was carefully thought out and welcomed (including a twist to the classic poisoned apple scene and a LOVE TRIANGLE, which every half-decent movie with Kristen Stewart apparently needs). Don’t be fooled though: this is not a “fun for the whole family” fairy tale and the little kid in my theater who sobbed throughout the entire Dark Forest scene is proof.

Of course, there were problems. The movie dragged considerably in the middle, and it seemed like Sanders began slipping things in just so he had an excuse to play with some fancy CGI. There is one too many fight sequences, and a scene with a white deer who has abnormally large antlers that could have just been cut out and no one would’ve known the diff. It also raised a lot of unanswered questions: Wouldn’t Snow be a little unstable after being held captive all those years? If the Evil Queen hates men so much, why isn’t she a bit more compassionate towards women? And for Christ’s sake, why were Stewart and Hemsworth the only two soldiers without protective helmets in the final battle scene? I thought it was supposed to be safety, not sexy, first!

Honestly, this might just be the “fairest” of all the Snow White movies. That’s a bold claim though, because I don’t think I’ve actually seen the original Snow White since that time I was 5 and I tried to make the well in our backyard garden talk back to me, like she does in the beginning, and I fell down it and cut up my leg pretty badly. True story. Anyway, I still think the Snow White story kinda sucks and I am much more excited for Maleficient: the live-action take on Sleeping Beauty starring Angelina Jolie due out in 2014.

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Not The Fairest Of Them All

Mirror Mirror (2012)
Chick Flick Rating: ♥ ♥ ½ (2.5/5)
Film Rating: ★ ★ (2/5)
Boyfriend friendly: Umm… not so much

I have to be honest – I always thought that Snow White kind of sucked in comparison to the other princess movies. Yeah, I know it’s a classic because it was the first cel-animated feature in motion picture history and yaddi-yadda but seriously – it’s pretty much the same exact story as Sleeping Beauty (an evil witch curses a princess to an eternal sleep that can only be cured by true love’s kiss), except Sleeping Beauty is way better. Now, before you jump all over me, let me make my case: 1) Sleeping Beauty has better hair and a better name… well, at least Aurora is better – I’m not too sure about her undercover code name, Briar Rose. 2) Snow White’s best friends are forest animals and dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty’s best friends are forest animals and fairies. And 3) even though Prince No-Name and Prince Phillip look kinda the same, Phil is hotter because not only does he have a name but he also kills the evil witch by stabbing her when she transforms into a freaking fire-breathing dragon. Prince No-Name doesn’t even kill the evil queen, the dwarfs do!

Needless to say, I was less than thrilled when I heard that 2012 would have not one but two “new takes” on Snow White. But, as I began to see trailers and clips for both versions, I actually started to get a little excited for Mirror Mirror. Whereas Snow White and the Huntsman looks dark and intense, and just not my personal cup of tea, I thought Mirror Mirror’s light-hearted and comedic approach might add some of the excitement that I miss in the Disney version. Unfortunately, the expectations I have for Snow White and the Huntsman seemed to ring true for Mirror Mirror: beautiful to look at, but a boring story with an unoriginal script.

This was one of the harder movies to rate because Mirror Mirror wasn’t necessarily awful – it just wasn’t anything special. Director Tarsem Singh created a spectacular kingdom, with sets and costumes that made my mouth water, but all the magic was lost in a script full of flat jokes and clich├ęs. Although I think Julia Roberts is always exceptional, the material she was given to work with as a humorously insecure evil queen that we love-to-hate was hackneyed. Her vain attempts to slow down her aging body reminded me of Jennifer Coolidge’s evil stepmother in A Cinderella Story, and her childish means of entertainment (like using servants as chess figures) were practically stolen right out of Helena Bonham Carter’s Red Queen. Phil Collins’ daughter, Lilly Collins, made for a beautiful Snow White but, despite giving her a sword, she felt just as wimpy and oh!-so-perfect-its-annoying as the 1937 version. Seriously, I can’t really blame the Queen for wanting Snow dead… That bitch’s flawless, white skin didn’t even turn red or get goosebumps when she was exiled to the icy, cold forest in a short-sleeve dress! The dwarfs had some good lines (and sweet accordion stilts), but were mostly underused and I was kind of sad when they never burst out into a modernized rap rendition of Heigh-Ho. However, points do go to this version for not only giving the prince a name but also for having Armie Hammer play him. My only lament there is that they didn’t use the technology from The Social Network to create two of him. Yum!

Mirror Mirror definitely plays towards children, but I wouldn’t call it “fun for the whole family”. Times are a-changin’, particularly over the last few years where we have seen more and more actual heroines and less damsels-in-distress. Even my 8 year-old cousin preferred watching Katniss over Snow White this weekend! Perhaps, in that respect, Snow White and the Huntsman will actually be a pleasant surprise. K. Stew does look pretty badass in that suit of armor and – judging by the trailer – she doesn’t actually talk all that much in the movie, which is a win in my book.

And because Wrestlemania was last weekend, and the WWE Disney Princess league should probably happen at some point, I leave you with this. Whose your money on?:

The Odds Are In Favor

The Hunger Games (2012)
Chick Flick Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ½ (4.5/5)
Film Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ (4/5)
Boyfriend friendly: So much blood and guts!

If there was a death battle amongst book-to-movie adaptations where Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games were offered as tributes, it would play out like this: The Hunger Games would wipe out the 4 Twilight movies + Harry Potter #5 within the first five minutes, stealthily take out Harry Potter #6, followed by #2, #7, #1, struggle with but ultimately defeat #8 and #4, then sneakily emerge as a dual-victor with The Prisoner of Azkaban and prove to the greedy, suit-wearing government officials in charge of The Republic of Hollywood that they don’t have to destroy every single good book that crosses their desk.

I won’t be doing Suzanne Collins any justice by trying to summarize her epic masterpiece here. But in case you have not gotten to read or see The Hunger Games (you’re missing out!), here’s the general gist: In post-apocalyptic North America, a totalitarian nation known as Panem emerges consisting of a wealthy Capitol and 12 districts. Conditions in the districts, particularly the outlying ones, are extremely oppressive where families face starvation, dangerous working conditions, and torturous punishment for disobeying the law. As punishment for a previous rebellion, in which a 13th district was obliterated, every year each district must send one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 as a tribute to participate in The Hunger Games, where they must fight to the death until a lone victor remains. The event is televised to the entire nation, where viewing is mandatory.

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is a 16 year-old badass with a bow and arrow who lives in District 12, one of the poorer districts. After her father dies in a coal-mining accident and her mother mentally checks out, Katniss takes it upon herself to care for her younger sister Primrose by illegally hunting for food in the woods with her hottie BFF, Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth). When Prim’s name is chosen as a tribute for the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss impulsively volunteers in her place. Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), the baker’s son who once gave Katniss bread when she was on the brink of starvation, is chosen as the male tribute and Katniss is torn between her gratitude towards him and the reality that they both can’t return to District 12. Her feelings get even more confused when Peeta confesses his love for her during a televised interview before the games start. Does he actually care about her or is it all part of the plan their alcoholic mentor and former District 12 Games victor, Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), devised to present the two as star-crossed lovers in order to attract sponsors? Katniss doesn’t have much time to mull it over. Once the gong rings and the games start, there is only one thing she has time to think about: how to survive.

I would first like to thank the genius person who decided to cast a leading lady who can actually act her ass off. After suffering through Kristen I-Have-One-Emotion-On-My-Pouty-Face-At-All-Times Stewart as Bella, and getting frustrated that she made me laugh at parts that had me crying in the book, I was scared that Hollywood would ruin Katniss for me, as well. But the second I saw the first Hunger Games trailer, and had to remind myself to breathe again after watching her volunteer in Prim’s place, I knew I was in good hands. Jennifer Lawrence is Katniss. I firmly believe there is not another person who could have done it better. And it didn’t stop there. Katniss is just one of the many different and amazing characters that Collins created, and the creative team really pulled out all the stops when it came to filling those supporting roles. Elizabeth Banks as the hysterically naive Effie Trinket, Stanley Tucci as the eccentric television host of the games, Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, Katniss’s heartfelt stylist. Perhaps, the best surprise, was that I was completely blown away by Willow Shields, the 11 year-old actress who played Prim. It’s not until the second and third books that I really started to know and love Prim. But in only a short amount of screen time, Shields won my heart over. I almost couldn’t watch her tearful goodbyes to Katniss, and started to wish I could volunteer myself in Katniss’s place, in order to make Prim’s pain go away. My pansy ass would’ve been dead in minutes.

My only complaint with the entire film – and it is a pretty valid complaint – is the portrayal of Katniss and Peeta’s relationship. If you’ve read the books, you understand that it’s not just an act. Peeta is actually legitimately in love with Katniss, and has made it a priority to make sure she goes home alive. Unfortunately, that was completely lost in the movie and it came across that Peeta, like Katniss, was only acting to get gifts from sponsors. In the books, I was totally Team Peeta. But because his and Katniss’s relationship wasn’t developed enough in the movie, I became Team Gale. This was to no fault of the actors, who brought the chemistry when it was asked of them. It just wasn’t asked of them enough! They cut out so many of Peeta’s best moments: the countless times he jokingly-but-totally-seriously asks for a kiss, his biting questions about her relationship with Gale, when he covers for her with the Avox girl, and the heartbreaking realization at the end when he discovers that Katniss was acting for the games, and when she realizes that he wasn’t. Of course, I know that they couldn’t fit everything into a movie that was already 2 1/2 hours long and, for crowd-pleasing purposes, it was probably smart to lighten up the ending a bit. But then they could have at least made the beloved cave scene a bit sexier! In the book, that one scene makes their complicated feelings crystal clear to the reader. In the movie, I think it just confuses you more. And there was nothing PG-13 about it!

Besides that oversight, the movie was extremely faithful to the rest of the book and really embraced all of the little details Collins slipped in – Katniss’s braid, Cinna’s gold eyeliner, Prim’s untucked shirt, the Capitol’s eclectic way of life. There were also some moments in the movie that I actually liked more than in the book, which is a first for me. Though I liked what the Madge character symbolized, I thought cutting her out of the movie and having Prim give Katniss the mockingjay pin was more touching and meaningful. I also liked how, since we weren’t stuck in Katniss’s head, we got to see what was going on outside of the games: Gale’s reactions to the Katniss/Peeta romance, Haymitch working the floor to get sponsors, the Gamemakers putting all the booby traps of the arena into action. In the second book, we find out that President Snow (Donald Sutherland) executed the Head Gamemaker, Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley), for being outsmarted by Katniss but we never hear how he did it. At the end of the movie, we see it happen, and well – it is mother-effing-brilliant.

A big kudos to Lionsgate for defying the odds and making this one of the few book-to-movie adaptations worth watching! For the sequel I just have two requests: 1) Katniss is the “girl on fire”, so don’t be afraid to add some more heat to the Peeta/Katniss/Gale triangle! 2) Bump up the release date. I don’t think I can hold out until November 2013.

Now tell me… are you Team Gale or Team Peeta?