REVIEW: Snow White and the Huntsman

There comes a moment late in the film Snow White and the Huntsman, as Snow White (Kristen Stewart) is showing some actual passion in attempting to rally the last free troops in her kingdom to march against the evil queen (Charlize Theron) who murdered her father and usurped his throne.  I was starting to get interested in spite of myself.  After having been a fairly passive presence during the first three quarters of the film, Stewart finally let loose with some assertiveness, and the result was interesting.  “Why couldn’t she have shown a tenth this much energy during any other part of the film?” I muttered to myself.

Then came the defining moment of the monologue.  “Who will be my brother?” asks Snow White.  Only she says it a little too emphatically.  And the crowd around her is a little too quick and unified in their response.  And the comment itself was a little too on-the-nose.  Shakespeare already wrote the definitive speech of this type, and that sentence was simply too close to it.  So much so, in fact, that immediately the words popped into my mind:  “Saint Kristen’s Day speech.”

I couldn’t help it.  I laughed.

Don’t misunderstand me.  There are quite a few merits to be found in Snow White and the Huntsman.  The film is well-shot and well-animated, at times gorgeous.  The costumes are rich and lush.  Most of the actors give performances of good to excellent quality, especially Charlize Theron in an almost perfectly-judged scenery-chewing turn as the villain.  But in the end, it’s not enough.  What we have here is a film that never really seems to get a handle on its reason for existing.  It wants to break away from the classic versions of “Snow White” that we all remember, but never totally manages to do so.  Add in the mis-casting of Kristen Stewart as the titular princess, which is (I think) the real reason the film never manages to coalesce, and we get an assembly of some intriguing parts into a disappointing less-than-whole. (more…)

REVIEW: The Avengers

There is so much I would like to say about The Avengers.  But I can’t say a lot of it openly.  The film has been in theaters less than a week, and many people still haven’t seen it yet.  So for those people, I’ll confine myself to saying this:  the film is an unmitigated triumph for everyone involved, including and perhaps especially Joss Whedon.  If you haven’t seen it, you should do so immediately.  And stay all the way through the end credits so you can see both additional scenes.

From here on out, you risk spoilers.  You have been warned. (more…)

RETRO-REVIEW: Thor

I should start by confessing that Thor has always been my least favorite of the major Avengers.  (No one cares about Ant-Man enough for him to be anyone’s least favorite.)  The idea that a Norse god would deign to fight alongside superheroes for the fate of a planet that no longer cares about him has always struck me as ridiculous.  Don’t bother to tell me Thor’s motivations have been explained.  I know they have.  I just don’t really care.  And even if I did, it’s not possible for you to defend his classic costume in any way I would find credible.  Captain America’s wings looked like models of understatement next to Thor’s.

So my expectations for Thor were low.  As a result, I ended up walking out of the theater feeling blown away.  Having had some time to gain a bit of perspective, I am no longer prepared to declare it the single most enjoyable night I ever had at the movies.  But it’s still the best surprise I ever received from a film, and that’s saying quite a lot.  Given the chance to change the backstory and the look of the Thor mythology, director Kenneth Branagh and his team of writers made a set of remarkable improvements in the updated background details while telling a fairly safe straight origin story.  Thor could have been the most idiotic of the five prequel films.  Instead, it’s solid.  That’s certainly more than I think we had a right to expect.

The three biggest and most important changes: (more…)