Snow White and the Huntsman

By إبن البيطار (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsTime to take Little Miss to the cinema and this retelling of a Disney-fied classic seemed ideal.

Snow White and the Huntsman

“Lips red as blood. Hair black as night. Bring me your heart my dear, dear Snow White.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Evil stepmother takes over a kingdom while the king’s true offspring tries to win it back

See it if you like: dark fantasy flicks which focus as much on story as spectacle

Gillian had been wanting to see this since she eyed the poster in the cinema. Little Miss had, I think, seen a trailer on the telly. I was pretty much just along for the ride. Funnily enough it was the second film in two days we’d seen with Charlize Theron in it (after yesterday’s Prometheus) – and it very almost has Michael Fassbender as he was considered for the role of the Huntsman.

Now this is a story that all of you will have heard before, and which virtually everyone will have enjoyed in its cartoon form. There are certainly parallels to this version (Snow White’s costume early in the film and her relationship with wildlife, for instance), but the tale twists and turns in different ways. The scriptwriters had a very different vision and some excellent ideas for bringing the tale to life. A shining example is the evil stepmother’s magic mirror which melts and appears in humanoid form that only she can see.

The effects, in fact, steal the show. They’re imaginative and seamless. From the creatures in the magical forest sequence to the dwarves (of which there are actually eight…). Rather than taking the easy route of hiring eight people of diminutive stature, the director has opted for some very well known names and some fantastic jiggery-pokery to make them appear very realistically miniaturised. I was sat there for a good few minutes trying to convince myself that it was actually Bob Hoskins up there. And Nick Frost. And Ray Winstone. And Ian McShane.

Visually, then, it’s great. The story is well enough known in one for to be easy to follow, and all the better for the fact that it’s a new (to me at least) version. If there’s one thing that lets it down it’s the pacing. I found things to be a little drawn out at times. While the action sequences, and there are a lot of them, were bursting with excitement, the dramatic scenes were a little slow and made the film really feel like all of its 127 minutes. Having said that, Little Miss enjoyed the whole thing and it must have been good for an 11 year old to sit right through without complaint.

Certainly the cast give it their all with Kristen Stewart being perfect as the titular character and Chris Hemsworth convincing as the man sent, at first, to hunt her down. Feminists will appreciate that Snow White is no shrinking violet saved by a handsome prince in this version, instead being more of a Joan of Arc character gaining strength as the tale progresses.

I tend to find myself agreeing with the current average score on IMDB – around 7/10. With a little better pacing, it could have jumped up to an 8, but it’s still pretty good and shouldn’t disappoint. The 12A rating is spot on, too. The violence isn’t grisly, it’s very much a fantasy piece, and there’s no real nudity (a bare back is about as much as you see).

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Prometheus

By إبن البيطار (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsAfter a bit of indecision, we decided to save £25 and skip the IMAX version. Probably for the best – no pointless 3D and more money to spend on the Burger King we wolfed on the way to the cinema to see Ridley Scott‘s latest:

Prometheus

“My God, we were so wrong…”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: In the near future, we discover a message from the stars… and head off to see what lies on LV 426.

See it if you like: the first two Alien films

It’s been a while since the last Alien film. Thankfully, as Resurrection was dreadful. Also, Ridley Scott hasn’t had much to do with them since the original back in 1979. A long time to wait for the creator to revisit his work.

Thing is, was it worth the wait? In my personal opinion, yes. Not because it’s an “Alien film”, but precisely because it really isn’t. It just happens to take place in the same universe and, despite what anyone says, it is a prequel to that 1979 classic. However, it’s not told as an Alien film but more from the point of view of the human race. It sets up the first film wonderfully well (I couldn’t spot any inconsistencies), yet still leaves questions unanswered.

That’s been the beauty of the franchise to date. Alien was a tense horror. Aliens was a balls-out action film. Alien 3 straddled the line and, once the studio got their bloody hands off it and let Fincher re-edit it the way it should have been, ended up being more than watchable. Resurrection, as mentioned, is best left forgotten. Variety has been key in keeping it interesting.

Prometheus continues this trend with a film that probably has more in common with the first instalment, but on a different scale and with quite a lot of expectation sitting on its shoulders. It bears this well.

Kicking off in the not too distant future, a group of archaeologists led by Doctors Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover a series of cave paintings, murals and the like which all contain a similar pattern. After some research, they realise they are effectively a map pointing to a planet that’s reachable using space travel of the day and argue that it’s a chance to meet whoever created the human race.

Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), or at least his globe-spanning company which plays a fairly major part in the earlier/later films, funds the expedition out there where the group discover… well, I don’t want to give away any more than the trailer.

The film has all the familiar aspects of a member of the franchise: an android (this one called David and played by Michael Fassbender), an untrustworthy “company (wo)man” (Meredith Vickers played by a rather sexy Charlize Theron), huge sets (Scott prefers to build in real life rather than digitally), great Chris Foss-like spacecraft, tension, a strong female lead, and so on.

The story moves quite slowly, in honesty, but when the action kicks in it’s with a shock factor. There’s definitely a horror element, both because of the tension followed by a jump, and in the gore stakes. While not as outright violent as the second movie, and not as edge-of-the-seat scary as the first it manages to have elements of both while focussing on a very good story that tries to give a sound basis for what was to follow.

Performances all round are excellent, though I’d pick out Fassbender in particular as what is effectively the first Weyland android. Quirky, cool and mysterious you wonder if the Alien universe has ever been party to Asimov’s Laws of Robotics.

Visually, it’s a treat from the gorgeous sets to the costumes and creature effects.

It seems to have been getting some mixed reactions which is to be expected. I, personally, think it’s a great slice of classic science fiction. It takes a core question – “where do we come from” – and drops a nice little dollop of “what if” in there. The technology may be a little too advanced for the era during which it’s meant to take place, but that’s the only real slip I could see… and one I’d love to have proven right as it would mean there’s a possibility of me just about seeing the beginnings of it in my lifetime!

I can understand why some people won’t have liked it. On the other hand, I’d recommend it highly because I enjoyed it and Gillian reckoned it was pretty good also.

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Film Feast

"Invictus" sneak preview in Hsinchu,...
Invictus (honestly!)

Four Film Friday this time – Invictus, Youth in Revolt, Astro Boy and Edge of Darkness. I’ll try to get through them quickly…

Invictus

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) becomes President of South Africa and decides to use the upcoming Rugby World Cup as a means of unifying the country.

I don’t like rugby, on the whole. This worked in my favour going into this film as it’s based on real events and I didn’t know what the outcome would be as I had no idea who won the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Clint Eastwood directs, Freeman is – as ever – simply superb and Matt Damon captains the Springboks.

How close is it to what really happened? Who knows. I’m sure there are certain key scenes and events which mirror history but there’s always room for dramatisation (Wikipedia has a small list). Thankfully it’s not overly-sentimental or symbolic, though it does push this from time to time.

Both Freeman and Damon pull off decent accents although some of the other actors appear somewhat stilted, especially towards the beginning of the movie.

This is a good film. Not overstated, not grandstanding, and a very good story. The obvious link between a battered country finding its feet and being led by someone who’s overcoming the odds is very much mirrored by their rugby team’s efforts. If I have a complaint, it’s the huge over-use of slow-motion to enhance “dramatic effect” near the end.

Youth in Revolt

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Boy meets girl, boy has to become bad boy to get girl, boy goes a little too far…

Michael Cera plays two parts in this film – Nick and the alter-ego Francois that he creates to get the girl, Sheeni (Portia Doubleday). The only other film I’ve seen Cera in was Superbad and that lived up to its title. Youth in Revolt is marginally better but still lacks greatness.

If there’s one thing that stands out, it’s the amusing animated segments interspersed throughout the live action. They don’t really add to the story, but they’re amusing and the one at the start got one of the loudest laughs in the theatre. It’s worth watching the one over the end credits as well.

Amusing in places, messy in others. Next!

Astro Boy

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Scientist creates uber-bad killer robot, and also a robotic replica of his dead son. Cue obvious battle.

I’m not a Manga geek so I don’t know how this hold up to the original, however it’s kind of “OK” as a CGI Hollywood version. There’s no denying the quality of the voice cast: Nicolas Cage, Donald Sutherland, Samuel L. Jackson, Bill Nighy, Charlize Theron… However, the script needs more work. Or more jokes.

Visually it’s nice, but CGI films are all starting to look a little samey now. There’s no real imagination in Astro Boy. If you want a mechanical visual feast, check out Robots from a few years back.

The kids will like its simplicity, but adults will miss the added depths, double meanings and references present in films such as Toy Story or Planet 51.

Edge of Darkness

Plot-in-a-nutshell – a cop’s daughter is gunned down in front of him on his doorstep, so he sets out to find out who did it

This film is based on a BBC drama from some years ago which I vaguely recall watching. Obviously, it’s been shifted to the US but well re-written to make it fit both geographically and in a modern timeline.

However, while the drama had several hour-long episodes to fit everything in, the film version has only 117 minutes. As a result, Mel Gibson‘s efforts to locate his daughter’s killer and work his way through the conspiracy tree is often a little messy.

Ray Winstone’s role is rather hard to pin down. We know he’s there but who the hell actually is he? Other than an English guy who swears a lot (i.e. he’s playing himself again).

The film begins well enough, but the thrills and spills promised by the trailer really don’t occur. There’s a lot of soul-searching and threats by Gibson’s character mixed with very occasional bursts of fast driving. It is a drama, not an action thriller – but the trailer is misleading.

It’s a good story, too. But as I said it’s compressed into too short a time. Some questions are left unanswered while other bits of evidence are thrown in and the viewer is left wondering where they came from.

Well-acted, good story but just not suited for film form without better scripting.

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