Snow White and the Huntsman – Review

Charlize Theron as Ravenna

A scene from ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’. Courtesy Universal Pictures.

Move over Disney, there’s a new Snow White in town and it’s surprisingly good. As someone who was dreading Snow White and the Huntsman beforehand, it really pulled me in and I ended up enjoying it immensely all the way through. There’s the typical ingredients to the story, such as dwarves, an evil stepmother, and a poisonous apple, but there’s also a few great battle sequences, some amazing effects, acting, writing, and directing. It’s a beautiful combination that makes for one solid film.

After Snow White’s mother dies, her father, King Magnus, is drawn to the beautiful Ravenna (Charlize Theron). On the night of their wedding she shows her true self and kills King Magnus in order to take over his kingdom. Jump ahead a few years and Ravenna now has poor Snow White (Kristen Stewart) held captive as she holds the key to Ravenna’s eternal beauty. Snow White figures this out and escapes into the dark forest where the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) is recruited to find her and bring her back.

Stewart is probably the weakest link in the entire movie. Her British accent is horrendous and she’s just as wooden as she is in the Twilight films. I can think of a handful of actresses who would have been a better fit for the part instead of her. She does grow on you as the movie progresses just not enough to make you like her.

Theron on the other hand kills it as Ravenna and makes the entire movie. When she does her “mirror mirror on the wall” speech it sent shivers through me. After her dreary performance in last year’s Young Adult it’s nice to see her take a role she can have fun with.

Proving he’s more than just Thor, Hemsworth does a fine job as the Huntsman and is becoming a really good actor. The best casting though goes to Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Johnny Harris, and Brian Gleeson as the dwarves. They play it up and add a lot of humour to the overall dark vibe of the film.

The fact first-time director Rupert Sanders handled Snow White and the Huntsman so well and delivered the stunning masterpiece it is is a feat in itself. I can’t wait to see what he’s capable of next as he’s got great vision and talent.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Rated PG
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth
Directed by: Rupert Sanders

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Pt. 1 – Review

Disclaimer: I am a thirtysomething male who is not the demographic of the Twilight franchise. That said, I have somehow enjoyed the first three films in the series so far and have given each one a favourable review. Until now.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Pt. 1 begins with vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson) and mortal Bella (Kristen Stewart) getting married. Then they go on their honeymoon, have sex, and sit around playing chess for two weeks until Bella (SPOILER ALERT) discovers she’s pregnant with Edward’s demon seed. They must return home to get help from the rest of Edward’s “family” as well as from werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner). Will poor Bella make it out of this ordeal safely or will this thing inside of her kill her?

For the first hour and a half, Breaking Dawn Pt. 1 is a limp, lifeless, boring snoozefest that made me wish I watching anything but Breaking Dawn Pt. 1. Even a marathon of General Hospital would have been more entertaining than sitting through this crap. But then the last thirty minutes got so crazy and gory I almost forgot I was watching a Twilight movie. And by the reaction of the crowd, it might have gone too far, especially during the “birthing scene” where Edward literally bites the baby out of Bella.

Director Bill Condon has made a few good movies in his career, including the biopics Kinsey and Gods and Monsters. But he was also responsible for the horrible sequel to CandymanFarewell to the Flesh and the Beyoncé movie Dreamgirls. So it really shouldn’t be a surprise that Breaking Dawn Pt. 1 feels like a musical trapped inside of a graphic horror movie. Quite honestly, Condon is probably the worst choice to wrap this series up as it appears he wants to go in a hundred directions with it and has made a big gloppy mess at his attempt.

The cast all do their part just fine and nothing has really changed much with their talent or lack of talent. Technically speaking though, the effects and the soundtrack are drastically diminished this time around and the movie actually looks quite bad. And maybe it’s because of budget cuts, but I didn’t see one sparkly vampire the entire film. What a rip-off!

As with all the Twilight films, Breaking Dawn Pt. 1 is critic proof and everything I just wrote means nothing to the fanbase who will flock to see it no matter how bad it is. I just hope Breaking Dawn Pt. 2 redeems the series for the casual viewer like myself.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ 

Twilight: Eclipse – Review

Twilight: Eclipse, the third film in the Twilight saga, opens much darker than the previous entries with someone or something chasing a young man down a shadowy alleyway in Seattle. We learn the young man is Riley (Xavier Samuel) and he is about to become a bloodsucker with the mission of taking out the Cullen family.

Too bad that tone didn’t stay throughout the movie because then Twilight: Eclipse would be much more than “just another Twilight film.” Unfortunately, before long it’s back to the love triangle of teenage angst-ridden Bella (Kristen Stewart), vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson), and werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner), with the same scenarios playing out over and over again: Bella wants to be a vampire, Edward doesn’t want her to be one, neither does Jacob but he still blames Edward, and so on.

Directed by David Slade, who did a great job adapting the vampire graphic novel 30 Days of Night (not to mention the indie thriller Hard Candy), I had high hopes for his vision with the story. I understand he has a demographic of teenage girls to appeal to but if he only kept more of that vibe from the opening this could have have won over an entirely new audience. The biggest draw for me from the last film, Twilight: New Moon, were the werewolves, yet here they are hardly around until the end.

A scene from ‘Twilight: Eclipse’. Courtesy eOne Films.

When it comes to the Twilight series they are mediocre movies at best filled with bad acting and writing. That said, there is something about them that draws me in, holds my interest, and keeps me watching. Halfway into Twilight: Eclipse I realized it’s because the series is the equivalent of a television show with each sequel playing out like a new season. Looking at it that way, this is the season that should have delivered more than it did but ended up being quite pointless (think season three of The O.C.). The characters didn’t grow, the story didn’t move, and it’s not going to be high on my list of flicks to watch a second time. I’m still hooked though and will tune in again next time because I need to know the fate of Bella, Edward, and Jacob.

Even if you hate the Twilight series it deserves to be recognized for the beautiful cinematography each film features. From the sweeping shots of British Columbia (which is the stand-in for Forks, Washington) to the soft close-ups of Bella and Edward, it’s stunning to look at and is truly a work of art with the camera. This is highlighted on Blu-ray with an excellent 1080p image and is truly the only way the film should be viewed at home. With a 5.1 DTS-HD mix the sound is also great, especially during the battle scenes where the werewolves are involved.

Special feature on the Blu-ray release include audio commentary with actors Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, a secondary audio commentary with Twilight author Stephanie Meyer and producer Wyck Godfrey, a feature-length making-of documentary (that can also be watched in a picture-in-picture window as the movie plays), deleted scenes, a photo gallery, music videos from Muse and Metric, and more. A regular DVD of the film is also included.

Film *** Blu-ray *** (3 out of 5 stars)

Rated PG
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner
Directed by: David Slade

Xavier Samuel, Riley in ‘Twilight: Eclipse’ – Q & A

Xavier Samuel is the first person we see onscreen in the third chapter of the Twilight series, Twilight: Eclipse, as we witness his character Riley being attacked by a vampire, in turn transforming him into a powerful newborn bloodsucker. It’s a big role for the Aussie actor and has put him on the map to becoming the next hot star. spoke with Samuel about Twilight: Eclipse. Read our Q&A below.

Bamcat: Were you a fan of the Twilight series before getting the part?

Xavier Samuel: I knew that it was very popular and I had seen the lunchboxes and pillow cases, and it was on the back of buses everywhere, but I think I was the only one on the face of the planet who hadn’t read the books. So [when I got the part] I ran to the bookstore and read them very quickly and it’s safe to say I’m a big fan now.

Xavier Samuel’s ‘Twilight: Eclipse’ poster. Courtesy eOne Films.

Bamcat: What did you like most about the Riley character?

XS: The complexity of him. He’s not a two-dimensional villain — he’s still got human blood pumping through his veins. He’s kind of a tragic figure in a way because he’s being manipulated and seduced, and will do anything for love even if it means assembling a newborn army of bloodthirsty vicious vampires. He’s had his humanity snatched from him and as a result has this intense jealousy and rage.

Bamcat: Was it awkward joining the series as a new cast member?

XS: In theory, coming in as an outsider and playing a bad guy, you imagine you’d be ostracized. I was relieved that everyone was so down to earth and warmly welcomed me into the family.

Bamcat: What was the most challenging aspect of the film for you?

XS: The challenges were living up to the character and really delivering. So it was remaining as focused as possible and doing the best job as possible. And fighting with imaginary wolves of course.

Bamcat: Do you feel Twilight: Eclipse is different from the previous films?

XS: It’s more action-packed and the stakes are much higher now that Bella has this choice to make. One of the exciting things about the whole saga is that each time there’s a new director and they bring their own interpretation and aesthetic to the film. David Slade really has this fierce grip on the dark side of the film and if you watch something like Hard Candy, which was another one of his films, the performances are so well measured. He’s really an actor’s director [and] it’s really a film as opposed to a movie.


Bamcat: How would you sell a non-Twilight fan on Twilight: Eclipse?

XS: This film in particular takes it to a new level and it stands on its own. Again, David Slade comes from a very different perspective than I imagine the other filmmakers come from so it’s exciting to have it in his hands. The chase sequences are awesome… everything about it I’m really proud of.

Bamcat: Have the Twilight fans embraced you?

XS: Because the character is so dear to everyone you sort of become them but I haven’t been mobbed yet or anything. I understand why people are so passionate about it. It is surprising in that the hysteria is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

Bamcat: What will we see you in next?

XS: I just finished a Roland Emmerich film called Anonymous. It’s kind of a departure for him and is about the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays. I got the impression it was a story that was really dear to his heart and something he always wanted to tell. I play this guy called Southhampton and I have long, blond, curly hair. He’s really loyal and is a patron of the theatre but is staging a rebellion at the same time. It was a lot of fun to do.

Twilight: Eclipse is available on DVD and Blu-ray on December 4.

The Twilight Saga: New Moon – Review

It doesn’t really matter what I say about The Twilight Saga: New Moon because the “Twihards”, “Twilighters”, “Twibies” (Twilight zombies) or whatever other name you can come up with for Twilight fans have already bought their tickets and will be making it the #1 film this weekend whether it sucks or not. For what it’s worth I did kind of like it.

After an incident at Bella’s (Kristen Stewart) birthday party, Edward (Robert Pattinson) tells her he and his family are leaving for good, and do. Bella has an emotional meltdown where she mopes around for months and has horrible nightmares. She eventually realizes that if she does reckless things, like riding motorcycles, she sees visions of Edward. This leads to her getting two old dirt bikes out of a junkyard and asking her friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner) to fix them up.

Time passes, she and Jacob grow closer and the pain over losing Edward starts to subside. Jacob falls hard for her and just when Bella begins to fall for him, he disappears. His father says he has mono yet he won’t answer his phone and won’t return Bella’s messages. When she finally goes to his house a few weeks later he has cut his long hair off and now has a tattoo on his arm. She’s angry and upset at him and then finds out the truth — Jacob is a werewolf.

Two Vamps in love.

In the Twilight world, werewolves and vampires are mortal enemies who only live together in peace because of a treaty of rules they have. The treaty wasn’t written with teenage hormones or love in mind and Jacob moving in on Bella is what eventually brings Edward and the rest of the Cullens back to Forks, Washington.

That’s the main chunk of the story. There are a ton of other subplots, involving the wicked vamp Victoria (Rachelle Lefevre), the super league of vampires called the Volturi and a lot more back story and action from the werewolves.

Since I am not the target demographic for this series, I was shocked that I liked the first film at all. Sparkly vampires? Really? But there was something about it I dug. That said, New Moon was far superior. It was a tad slow to start, and the visions of Edward that Bella sees are silly, but the wolves made up for it. When they fight it’s awesome. Even when they are just standing and snarling it’s pretty cool.

Stewart and Pattinson are their typical dowdy selves but Lautner, who has beefed up in a major way, seems to be more confident with his acting. Michael Sheen’s Aro, one of the leaders of the Volturi, is a wonderful addition to this ever-growing cast. And although he’s not on screen that long he does give one of the most memorable performances. On the flip side, Dakota Fanning, as Volturi member Jane, was completely wasted.

It’s safe to say fans and the teen audience it’s made for will be pleased with the outcome of New Moon. Hopefully the third film in the series, Eclipse, will appeal to a larger movie-going audience when it opens next year.

*** out of 5 stars