ChickFlicking: In Tha Biz – “The Incredible Case of Kristen Stewart’s Diminishing Prospects” (Nadia Sandhu)

Enough with the gender studies essays on Kristen Stewart, I beg of you. There has been no escaping the latest brouhaha as reports surfaced that Kristen Stewart will not be appearing in Universal’s next Snow White and the Huntsman installment, and that Rupert Sanders most probably will direct.

While the temptation here is to erroneously conflate Kristen’s so-called predicament with Meg Ryan’s own career death spiral (I’m looking at you Lainey), let’s not draw attention away from the key fact. This is not about actors and actresses, or even directors at all – it’s about money. Show BUSINESS. That means producers and distributors call the shots, however bizarrely counter-intuitive those calls may be.

If we follow the money, we find that the producing team behind Snow White and the Huntsman, Roth Films, not only delivered that box office hit for Universal, but were also behind Alice in Wonderland for Disney and are currently shepherding two major tent poles for the rival studio (Oz the Great and Powerful and Malificent). They are the flavour of the month so to speak, so much so that Universal has acquired another property for them, and they in turn are standing by their director. Why is anyone’s guess because the guy is a total hack. Nevertheless, there it is. Rupert Sanders will direct the newly acquired “90 Church” and probably the newly front burnered Huntsman spin off (my money is on a prequel). Check out the non-denial by Universal. They are following the surer path and hedging their bets by spinning off Chris Hemsworth and the Huntsman, at least until the returns come in for Breaking Dawn Part 2.

Now on to K-Stew. Her box office appeal has always been questionable. I know I certainly didn’t go to see SWATH (review) because Kristen Stewart was in it, and judging from audience reaction I wasn’t the only one who got dooped into seeing the film inspite of her presence by a fantastically dark and old school Burtonesque trailer.

So while the film made over $400 million at the box office, we really don’t know how much of that success was based on the Twilight Army showing up in force, or because of doops like me. What we do know is Twilight fans don’t usually turn up for any of their purported fave actors in non-Twilight films, Kristen Stewart included.  We also know that Kristen Stewart has blood on her hands for brutally killing the fantasy imaginings of Twilight fans, forcing those crazies to face the harsh light of reality – Edward and Bella do not exist in real life and are not living happily ever after.

Chris Hemsworth has also not actually opened a film by himself per se, since Thor was a success that Marvel Fans built, but his star is undeniably on the rise.  He has proven charismatic and capable. Let’s be honest, he was also the only watchable actor in the mess that was SWATH (don’t even get me started on the histrionics by Charlize).

So it really comes down to a tale of two leads – one who may be on the wane, and one who is clearly in the ascendant, and a director who is in good with producers who make money for the studio.

Make no mistake, it was precisely because an overrated actress was shoved down the throats of non-Twilight fans by a sycophantic media that people have taken a bit of satisfaction in her “fall” from grace.  The media projected the hubris and her own snotty attitude helped the process along, until the stage was set for the current pile on.  This is NOT a simple black/white feminist issue.  Move on people, you are making me feel sorry for the girl and we can’t have that.

Also, can we maybe stop giving the talentless Mr. Sanders so much ink until he does something to prove he isn’t a blip on the radar? Geez Louise.

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ChickFlicking – Snow White and the Huntsman a ChickFlick? (Nadia Sandhu)

True Drunk’s First Kiss (Snow White and the Huntsman? Total Chick Flick)

Yes, the title of this article kind of has a spoiler in it. But only kind of, so please let us move on.

What stands out to me about this retelling of the classic fairytale is just how little of it is re-imagined from the original Grimm source material.  The biggest deviation is probably whose first kiss wakes Snow from her apple induced coma (hint- he’s a drunk).  Basically what I am saying to all you boys out there is this: you been had broSnow White and the Huntsman is a straight up chick flick – and not the most satisfying one at that.

A queen pricks her finger, spilling three drops of blood, prompting her to wish she had a daughter with skin white as snow, lips red as blood, and hair black as ebony… check, check, check, check.  The Hunstman falls for Snow?  Yep.  Handsome Prince?  Well he’s a future Duke, but he’s still there.  Mirror on the Wall?  Present and accounted for.  Dwarves?  Oh boy are there dwarves.

Charlize Theron is our Evil Queen and she is still gloriously vain, if a little hysterical.  That pesky meddling mirror still causes all this trouble with his “fairest of them all” nonsense.  Our mirror seems to think that Kirsten Stewart somehow fits the bill, and I understand that legions of teen girls agree. #KanyeShrug.

If anything, the film just fleshes out the broad strokes of the modern Disney version – what happens when Snow awakes and her kingdom needs reclaiming?

Birds love Snow White.  Animals love Snow White.  Everyone loves Snow White.  So when the little sprites led her to the magical white elk, I thought we were in for some “when plants attack” kind of military assault on the Evil Queen.  But alas, looks like the CGI budget did not allow for a Lord of the Rings style epic storming of the castle and that is the real shame here.

Our vain Queen will go to any length to preserve her youthful beauty, the source of her magical powers in a male dominated world, and she is resentful of the new young thing.  This is classic bitchy stuff.  And it is also an ill concealed metaphor for sex appeal as a woman’s weapon – something I had somehow not realized was a major theme of this fairytale, alongside the more obvious fear of the new, the next, and your own obsolescence.

Having finally made this connection, I found myself reflecting on how much things haven’t really changed since medieval times.  Sex still sells and all too many ladies in our social media driven, narcissistic world define their self-worth by youth and beauty.

So yes, file this one under “Chick Flick”. And take a moment to admire Chris Hemsworth, who continues to impress. I’ll give this one a mercy pass. Catch it on DVD/VOD, if only for the obvious Star Wars homage at the end (that was intentional, right?)

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Snow White and the Huntsman Review (Kirk Haviland)

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

Starring Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Sam Claflin and Bob Hoskins

Written by Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock and Hossien Amini

Directed by Rupert Sanders

2012’s second reinvention of the classic Snow White tale, Snow White and the Huntsman, arrives in theaters this week hoping it can knock Will Smith out of the top slot. The movie unabashedly borrows from a multitude of sources, a more apt title may be Snow White and the Neverending Story of the Fellowship of the Chronicles of Narnia, but this is not necessarily something to be reviled as it produces a movie much better than my expectations.

We start with a Hemsworth narrated prologue in which we hear the origins of this version’s Snow White character. Snow White is a princess whose mother has passed away while she was still a child. Her father, the King, is then tricked into marrying the villainous Ravenna (Theron) who immediately betrays the King and assumes the throne with the help of her brother. The young Snow attempts to flee with the help of her childhood friend Matthew and his father, only to be thwarted. After years of imprisonment, the older Snow White (Stewart) is recognized by the legendary mirror on the wall as being the fairest of them all and the cause of Ravenna’s downfall. It’s when she is to be delivered to the Queen for execution that Snow manages an escape. Ravenna forces the Huntsman (Hemsworth) to go after her and he reluctantly agrees though he has no love for the queen.  The Huntsman quickly discovers where Snow White is but becomes her protector, not her executioner. En route to one of her Father’s supporters, Matthew’s father, Snow encounters many including the Dwarves (Hoskins and a litany of English actors I will not ruin the surprise of here), Fairies, a mystical Elk and many more. The group, as she is now joined by the Elves in her journey, are pursued relentlessly by a group led by Ravenna’s brother Finn (Sam Spruell) and a group of followers including the also now grown Matthew (Claflin). The film continues through the Apple betrayal, a much different source this time around, all the way to final battle sequence for the kingdom at the end.

Snow White and the Huntsman succeeds in delivering the fun, popcorn munching experience that last month’s Battleship so clearly failed in doing. Charlize Theron is completely over the top here and enjoying every minute of it. She manages to bring gravitas to the role and her ultimate conclusion is very satisfying. Kristen Stewart manages to do nothing different than any of the Twilight pics, but even though she is playing the titular role in the film, her dialogue is kept to a minimum. She does deliver one the most underwhelming and lacklustre ‘rousing battle speech’ sequences in film history, but ultimately her performance is not poor enough to ruin the experience. Hemsworth does some fine work here and is on quite a roll right now with Cabin in the Woods and Avengers already out this year (and both of those are clearly superior to this, see the links for reviews). His Huntsman actually carries some emotional impact that a lesser actor cast for mere looks would have completely lost in translation. The dwarves are a fun reveal and almost all are recognizable faces.

I mentioned before that the film borrows freely from other films, like having identical shots to The Fellowship’s trek through identical locations from the first Lord of the Rings film and a “dark woods” sequence that plays out very similar to the Swamp of Sorrows from Neverending Story. In fact the environmental impact from Ravenna’s rule is reminiscent of both films, with Ravenna pacing in here castle reminiscent of Saruman in his tower. That said the effects in this are solid, one sequence involving a Troll I thought was especially effective, and the fact that the film avoids one of those uber sappy sequences with Snow and one of her protectors that films like these almost always includes works for me a great deal.

Ultimately you could do a lot worse in your Cineplex this weekend, Snow White and the Huntsman is a recommend, not a strong recommend, but a recommend none the less.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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ChickFlicking – The Avengers Assemble Some Serious Eye Candy! (Nadia Sandhu)

Not a lot can be said about The Avengers that hasn’t already been said.  Joss Whedon’s film has been previewed, reviewed, and even sparked a media feud on the way to a record opening weekend.

Call it Spring Fever, but despite this wall of coverage I did manage to find an angle that required immediate exploration- the bicep to tricep ratio of the world’s heroes.  Drool.  Marvel and Disney’s casting department really hit this one out of the park:

Captain America is like Superman. This is a role that can go horribly, horribly wrong for an actor.  Earnest, upright, brightly costumed- that’s a tough gig these days.  But wow.  Chris Evans is a revelation from the golden sheen of his slicked back hair, to that square jawed resolve… hawt.  This man (and his shoulders) really sold that red, white and blue costume. Consider me a pre-sale for Captain America 2 tickets.

In a rare moment towards the end of the film when Robert Downey Jr. isn’t being smarmy or sarcastic as Tony Stark, one is suddenly reminded that this is one damn fine looking man.  It’s those puppy dog eyes.  Gotta be.

Mark Ruffalo is a nice guy, which can be death on the big screen, but his Bruce Banner manages a geeky chic that is awkward and endearing at the same time.  Kudos Mr. Ruffalo.  It takes a real man to rock those hideous faded cords and hide those broad shoulders under a ratty, oversized jacket.

Jeremy Renner is everywhere.  Literally.  I saw the Hurt Locker and he does play soldier very well, but why is this man in every movie franchise?  Mission Impossible, Bourne and The Avengers in 2012 alone!  Well after a close assessment of his work in The Avengers I believe the answer lies in a combination of piercing blue eyes and some really very nicely proportioned arms.  Shoulder to bicep, those arms will not be denied!

Nicky Fury covers all sins.  I am almost  ready to forgive Samuel L. Jackson for the debacle that was his portrayal of Mace Windu in the regrettable Star Wars Prequels.  Eye patch. Leather jacket.  Swagger.  Case closed.

After suspecting it during Thor, I am inching ever closer to the thesis that Chris Hemsworth equals the New Brad Pitt.  And what Hollywood needs right now is another Brad Pitt. Rawr.  Someone get on that Legends of the Fall remake, STAT!

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The Avengers Review (Matt Hodgson)

Three months in France and 10 days in Italy; I can’t even remember the last time I had an opportunity to see a new release in a movie theatre that wasn’t the victim of a coldly indifferent dub job. Luckily, Rome seems to be a little more conscious of preserving film experience, and this past Thursday I had the opportunity to check out one of the most hyped and successful films of recent memory – The Avengers.

Now being in Europe the theatre experience was a whole different beast than I was accustomed to – in fact I could probably write a review just on Italian theatres! For example, seats were assigned for each ticket holder, and at roughly the middle-point of the film the projector was shut off and the overhead lights unceremoniously turned on to make way for an intermission accompanied by a popcorn vendor trolling down the aisle. But I’m not here to review the Italian cinema experience, rather one of the most enjoyable action blockbusters to come out of Hollywood in a long, long time.

In case you’ve been living in a pre-Y2K underground shelter, The Avengers is the cinematic version of the comic book of the same name. The Avengers is comprised of some of the most popular superheroes in the Marvel universe, and the film version casts similarly popular Hollywood actors in the roles of these heroes: Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Chris Evans (Captain America), Mark Ruffalo (The Hulk), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), and Samuel L. Jackson as Samuel L. Jackson Nick Fury.

As a boy and an avid comic book fan I was certainly aware of who The Avengers were, but in the 90’s they hardly seemed like a hot Ticket. The X-men dominated the marvel universe, while the skin-deep coolness of the Image universe was temporarily stealing fans from ‘classic’ superheroes like The Avengers. Since then we have had a plethora of superheroes movies, and despite being a previous comicbook fan, I have to admit that Nolan’s ‘Dark Knight’ version of Batman was the only one that seemed to resonate with me. This has definitely changed with the release of The Avengers.

Joss Whedon the writer/director of the film has chosen and depicted the perfect subject matter for a superhero film; the fate of the world is threatened by an alien god (Hiddleston), threatening an alien invasion – nothing more, nothing less. The heroes, earth’s only hope for surviving this ordeal, are introduced throughout the beginning of the film, and the issue quickly becomes whether or not these extraordinary individuals can overcome their differences and work together as a team. A simple concept, one that could even work on TV’s ‘The Office’, but when you have a egomaniac-playboy-billionaire with a nearly indestructible suit of armour, a super-soldier from the 40’s, a Norse God, and anger management’s least successful participant, getting along and working as a team seems barely short of infinitely impossible.

The Avengers can be charged with some sloppy dialogue at times, not the fault of the Whedon, but of Jackson and Johansson early on in the film and some of the secondary actors. However, after about 30-40 minutes the script and the actors begin to work wonderfully together and there are some truly hilarious lines and moments, not to mention REAL superhero dialogue. Also, the action sequences will leave you sitting on the edge of your seat, your support firmly behind one of the combatants, but still worried about their fate despite their superhero status. A particular action sequence in the first half of the film with Thor, Ironman, and Captain America is as close as Whedon could have hoped to approach perfection.

Robert Downey Jr. is an absolute scene stealer with his deadpan delivery of comedic dialogue that we’ve become so accustomed to. Also, it may sound strange, but the filmmakers really nailed the appropriateness of the special effects. The effects rarely seem to be too much for the subject matter (an issue that I think many Hollywood movies are struggling with nowadays, studios often blowing viewers away resulting in stimulus overload), that said, the film is still packed with some crazy visuals!

Finally, the reveal at the end of the credits left me wanting to walk out of The Avengers and directly into Avengers 2. Rarely have I been this satisfied with a Hollywood movie. The Avengers is a must see for anyone with a sense of adventure or a desire to meet some of earth’s greatest heroes.

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