‘The Huntsman: Winter’s War’ Review

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Director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan

Writers: Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt, Jessica Chastain, Nick Frost, Rob Brydon, Sheridan Smith, Alexandra Roach, Sope Dirisu, Sam Hazeldine, and Sam Claflin.

Synopsis: As a war between rival queen sisters Ravenna and Freya escalates, Eric and fellow warrior Sara, members of the Huntsman army raised to protect Freya, try to conceal their forbidden love as they combat Ravenna’s wicked intentions.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

When Snow White and the Huntsman came out back in 2012, the film was met with a mixed – a tad more negative – reaction. The film had some interesting things going for it and had compelling characters in Eric the Huntsman and Queen Ravenna. This is saying something, considering the main character in the film was, well, Snow White. So, Universal Pictures decided to take one of the most compelling characters in the original and give him an origin story, but also give Snow White and the Huntsman a sequel without really involving the character of Snow White. Does it work? Sort of.

The Huntsman: Winter’s War starts by showing us how Eric (Hemsworth) essentially became the Huntsman along with fellow warrior Sara (Chastain). The two were taken from their homes by Freya (Blunt), the sister of Ravenna (Theron), who after losing her baby unleashed a secret power within her that gives her the power of ice. Freya’s one rule for her Huntsmen is that love is forbidden. However, Eric and Sara fall in love. When Freya finds out she takes action, which goes into spoiler territory unless you absolutely remember everything in Snow White and the Huntsman.

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The film then jumps forward seven years after those events, and now takes place after the events in Snow White and the Huntsman. Eric is now a trusted member of Snow White’s guard, although Snow White is not really in the film and is only seen from behind in a very quick seen. So when Prince William (Claflin) – in his only scene – comes to him to tell him Ravenna’s mirror has gone missing, Eric takes it upon himself, with two dwarfs in Nion (Frost) and Gryff (Brydon), to go find the mirror and take it to The Sanctuary (again, if you remember the first film, it’s the magical forest). Of course, Freya is not too far behind, and Sara joins the fight.

There are some things to really like about The Huntsman: Winter’s War. Like its predecessor, some of the visual effects are top notch and are pretty great to get into. Some of the characters are great like the new addition of Emily Blunt’s Freya, Jessica Chastain’s Sara, and the dwarfs of Rob Brydon’s Gryff, Sheridan Smith’s Mrs. Bromwyn, and the returning Nick Frost as Nion.

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Chris Hemsworth’s Eric the Huntsman has more time to breathe since he takes the lead role here. It is a bit hard to take Hemsworth’s performance as the Huntsman’s a bit seriously because sometimes I see him as a hammerless Thor, it’s not a bad thing, but it’s just the natural charm that he brings to his roles. Jessica Chastain, who is always reliable in anything she does and is reliable here too, but it takes just a tad bit of time to get use to the fact that she has an accent. The supporting cast of Frost,Brydon and Smith have unbelievable chemistry together and are one of the best parts of the film, and give some lightheartedness to the film.

Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron as the two queen sisters have some great scenes together. The problem is that they don’t get enough time together, despite what the trailers and promotional ads have you believe, and it is a shame really since they are two of the best actress working today. Also, for those hoping for a ton of screen time for Theron will be disappointed, as she disappears after the first ten minutes and doesn’t appear again until the final act. That being said, Emily Blunt holds down the fort for being the main queen, and is also a bit held back. Her story is a good one if the writers decided to delve more into it, but instead it is just left underdeveloped and underwhelming at the end of all of it.

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Moreover, like its predecessor, The Huntsman: Winter’s War doesn’t standout too much. The story will probably feel a bit formulaic to some, and it does slow down – with the expectation of an action sequence – right up until the end.  Also, the big thing really, The Huntsman: Winter’s War feels like it ignored some of the events in Snow White and the Huntsman, one big particular one that involves Eric’s past. It’s fine if they wanted to rewrite things or treat this like the first film never happened, but this particular piece was the driving force behind Eric in Snow White, that it doesn’t really make sense that the film would rewrite this.

All in all, The Huntsman: Winter’s War has a great cast and some pretty cool visual effects. However, Emily Blunt’s Queen Freya story feels underwritten and Charlize Theron doesn’t have a ton of screen time. Fans will find things to enjoy, but overall The Huntsman: Winter’s War may be the end of these characters. Which is a bit of a shame, because this series had huge potential.

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The Huntsman: Winter’s War

3.5 out of 5

New Podcast: Ghost in the Shell “Whitewashing,” Spider-Man: Homecoming, & Much More

A new episode of the podcast is up!

Not only do I talk about the above mentioned news items, I also talk about Baywatch, Emilia Clark leaving Terminator, the recent movie trailer releases, and a hell of a lot more.

 

 

Also, be sure to like the Facebook page to stay up to date on the recent movie news and have a sneak peak at what we’ll talk about on the podcast that week.

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‘The Jungle Book’ Review

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Director: Jon Favreau

Writer: Justin Marks

Cast: Neel Sethi

Voice Cast: Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, and Christopher Walken

Synopsis: The man-cub Mowgli flees the jungle after a threat from the tiger Shere Khan. Guided by Bagheera the panther and the bear Baloo, Mowgli embarks on a journey of self-discovery, though he also meets creatures who don’t have his best interest at heart.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

I know I’ve watched the animated 1967 film, but I don’t actually remember too much from it. So going into The Jungle Book, I went in pretty fresh, not knowing a ton about the story and how things would work out. Thankfully, Jon Favreau and the special and visual effects team did a great job of bringing Rudyard Kipling’s characters to life in a remarkable and effective way.

Loosely based on multiple versions of Rudyard Kipling’s novel, The Jungle Book follows Mowgli (Sethi), a “man-cub” raised by wolves lead by Akela (Esposito), and his “mother” Raksha (Nyong’o). However, Mowgli’s presences upsets the tiger Shere Khan (Elba), and asks the animals who live in the jungle is Mowgli is still worth keeping around and reminds them that he will grow up and older and become they thing they fear the most. Mowgli, wanting nothing to happen to his pack, decides that it’s time to move on and is lead out of the jungle by his friend Bagheera (Kinglsey), but Khan sneaks attacks them and Mowgli runs deeper into the jungle.

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Along the way, Mowgli encounters different characters that’s he’s never met like the hypnotic snake Kaa (Johansson), the cunning and lovable bear Baloo (Murray), and gigantopithecus King Louie (Walken). His adventures lead Mowgli down a path to find out where he truly belongs, with man or the jungle, and face the dangerous Shere Khan.

Obviously, one of the big selling points for this iteration of The Jungle Book is the visual effects, and that’s not a bad thing. The visuals that director Jon Favreau was able to get out of everyone involved is phenomenal. The photorealistic approach to not just the environment, but the animals really brings you into the world that is being created. While some effects are blatantly visual effects, there are some moments that have you second-guessing. Yes, that’s how great the effects are, it makes you second guess. However, that might also be a problem because you’re wondering whether or not it’s real, partially real or full CG (no animals were used around Neel Sethi, but still).

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Besides the technical level success, The Jungle Book is also elevated by the great voice performances by the cast and newcomer Neel Sethi. Sethi is the only real non-CGI character in the film, and for his first movie, Sethi is able to handle himself pretty well, especially considering he was probably working off tennis balls or stand-ins, but even saying that, Sethi draws you in every important scene that he needs to. There are moments where he misses his mark, but not only is this his first movie, it’s also a movie where he is the only human character.

The voice casting is perfect of Shere Khan with Idris Elba. Elba already has the swagger and demeanor that demands respect, and every time Khan was onscreen you understood why the rest of the animals were afraid of him and Elba’s voice just makes it more powerful. Ben Kingsley’s black panther, Bagheera is the no nonsense teacher that tries to make sure Mowgli fits in with the pack and learns the ways of the jungle since he found him when he was a baby, and forget his “human tricks.” You can say that Bagheera is more of the father-figure to Mowgli, than Akela. Finally, Bill Murray seems like he was born to play Baloo. Murray injects The Jungle Book with his comedic and light-heartedness, and is so likeable you can’t help but laugh along with me.

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The rest of the voice cast like Lupita Nyong’o as Raksha, Mowgli’s wolf-mother has her real moment to shine when Mowgli decides to leave. Scarlett Johansson has a glorified cameo voice appearance as Kaa, in one of the darkest and creepiest scenes in the movie and Giancarlo Esposito’s Akela is, unfortunately, the loose-end of the voice cast, but that’s nothing against him, just the character not giving enough to do. Finally, Christopher Walken’s King Louie was mixed for me personally. In fact, his whole scene kind of takes the wind and good pace the film had and the middle of the sequence seems forced and out of place with the rest of film.

I’m also trying to imagine what the film looked like in 3D, but I assume it adds to the experience. I didn’t watch it in 3D, but just watching the film, I can only imagine they used the 3D pretty well with the environment they were given.

All in all, The Jungle Book is a great family film, despite some dark and maybe too intense scenes for kids, it also carries some messages that they can pick up on. However, the big positive out of the film is the amazing visuals, the great voice cast, and newcomer Neel Sethi.

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The Jungle Book

4 out of 5

‘Hardcore Henry’ Review

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Director: Ilya Naishuller

Writer: Ilya Naishuller (Additional writing by Will Stewart)

Cast: Sharlto Copley, Danila Kozlovksy, Haley Bennett, Oleg Poddubnyy, Andrew Dementiev and Tim Roth

Synopsis: A first-person action film from the eyes of Henry, who’s resurrected from death with no memory. He must discover his identity and save his wife from a warlord with a plan to bio-engineer soldiers.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

A couple of years ago, the music video for Biting Elbows’ “Bad Motherfucker” came out and it made a lot buzz when it did. It was an impressive – and bloody – first-person perspective, or POV, action video shot on a GoPro by Ilya Naishuller, the frontman of the band. So, when Naishuller was asked about extending that idea to a feature-length film in the same format by producer – and star of the film – Sharlto Copley and producer Timur Bekmambetov, he accepted the challenge. What we get is a full-fledged, jam-packed action film that will satisfy any movie fan that wanted or thought it would be cool to see a movie shot like a first-person shooter game. Is Hardcore Henry for everyone? No, but if you want to try and watch something new, then give the film a chance.

Hardcore Henry, despite its experimental format, is rather simple in terms of storytelling. The film is told through the eyes of Henry, who wakes up in a lab by his wife Estelle (Bennett) who gives him a cybernetic arm, leg and eyes after a terrible accident – that is never actually revealed – and Henry is about to get a new life, since he memories have also been erased. That is until the process is interpreted by a telekinetic warlord named Akan (Kozlovsky), who wants Henry for something. Estelle manages to get Henry out of the lab, only for Estelle to get kidnapped by Akan and Henry having to go save her with the help of Jimmy (Copley), or should I say, Jimmy’s.

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Hardcore Henry doesn’t take itself too seriously, which works for film and was probably the best way to go. This kind of film lives off being ridiculous in the action, especially since the villain in the movie has telekinetic powers, Sharlto Copley plays wildly different characters all named Jimmy, the film is told in the POV format with a main character that does not talk, and it’s called Hardcore Henry.

On a technical level, Hardcore Henry is pretty successful. No matter how you feel about watching a whole movie told through the eyes of someone else, everything that happens onscreen is mind-blowingly great to see. The stunts and the set-pieces are all amazing to watch and I’m surprised that we didn’t read anyone getting seriously hurt or worse. So credit is due to the stunt team involved, and for Naishuller – in his directorial debut – for being able to pull everything off, because Hardcore Henry is filled with crazy stunts in every single action scene.

Not only that, but Naishuller making his first movie a movie that is filmed like a first-person shooter video game is pretty ballsy. Some parts even feel like a video game. None of the action sequences are the same, I mean sure there all pretty loud and have shaky camera work, but if you can make it past that, you’ll see how Naishuller tries his best to not make any of the action sequences the same. The action is pretty engaging and makes the film work even more. Again, if you’re not use to the format then Hardcore Henry is going to be pretty hard for you to watch. I’m a video gamer, so I’m use to the format, but even I felt a headache coming in near the end. The nice thing is that Naishuller takes into account the fact that not everyone is going to be ready for the POV style, and even slows the action down a bit, but when the action is on, the action is jam-packed and in your face (literally).

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The only real person that gets any real screen time is Sharlto Copley, who steals every scene he’s in with his different characters. I won’t get into how that works, and Copley brings something different to every character that makes him a standout in every possible way. Kozlovsky’s Akan is clearly enjoying himself as the villain, and even has a certain charm about him that make him a pretty good villain, but if he was given more screen time he could have been even greater. Of course the film is told through Henry’s eyes, so that cuts out that option. Haley Bennett’s Estelle doesn’t get enough screen time to really shine, but she is good in the limited screen time she has.

Now, Hardcore Henry isn’t a perfect film by any means. The ending falls a bit flat and doesn’t really carry the emotional punch it probably should considering what happens, but the whole film doesn’t really have anything else going on. It’s a simple “get back your girl and kill the bad guys” story, which is fine as long as there is compelling characters, and while Hardcore Henry has two major compelling actors, it doesn’t mean it’s all that great. I’m not bashing the film by any means. Like I said, Hardcore Henry on a technical and stunt level is fantastic, but when it comes to everything else, it’s just okay.

All in all, Hardcore Henry will probably spark the curiosity of other studios and directors to try, but for the movie itself it’s not that bad. Ilya Naishuller does a fantastic job bringing the scope of this film together. An easy standout is Sharlto Copley and the format itself is an interesting experiment that worked for the most part, but it won’t be for everyone.

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Hardcore Henry

3 out of 5

‘The Boss’ Review

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Director: Ben Falcone

Writer: Ben Falcone, Steve Mallory, Steve Mallory

Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Bell, Ella Anderson, Tyler Labine, Peter Dinklage, Timothy Simons, and Kathy Bates

Synopsis: A titan of industry is sent to prison after she’s caught insider trading. When she emerges ready to rebrand herself as America’s latest sweetheart, not everyone she screwed over is so quick to forgive and forget.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Melissa McCarthy comedies are usually hit-or-miss, and if you’re a fan of McCarthy’s comedies then you’ll most likely enjoy The Boss. If you’re not a fan, then The Boss may not be for you. However, The Boss does have some really funny moments that should make anyone laugh. Unfortunately, the film could get lost in the shuffle of other recent R-rated films.

McCarthy plays Michelle Darnell, a hard-headed and blunt-talker business mogul who loses everything when she’s convicted of insider trading. When she gets out and realizes she had nothing she goes to her former assistant and single mother, Claire (Bell), for help. When there, she takes Claire’s daughter, Rachel (Anderson) to her Dandelions (a Girl Scouts like organization) meeting and see an opportunity to get back in the business world. The selling point is that Claire can bake amazing brownies. Michelle then takes it upon herself to convince Claire to start a business selling brownies.

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When The Boss works, it really works. McCarthy looks to be having a ton of fun playing the foul-mouthed former business titan that has a knack for wearing turtlenecks. They try to bring some levity to Michelle and try to get us deeper into what makes her character tick, but the idea is a bit underdeveloped and never fully fleshed out the way it probably should have been for it to work more than it did. However, the comedy does work because of McCarthy, her timing and delivery are perfect and how she was able to pull off some of those rifts were great to watch.

Saying that though, not all the comedy works. Like all comedies, not every joke is going to land and be funny. One of the things that The Boss does that hinder it – comedy wise – besides some jokes not landing, is that some of the running jokes overstay their welcome, and sometimes it’s only by a few seconds. It’s almost like director Ben Falcone told the cast to just keep going until he yelled cut. Unlike most rated-R comedies lately, The Boss never really crosses any lines and plays it safe, but isn’t really an insult or a negative toward the movie, some jokes are border-lined, but it never crosses the line like you think a movie like this would.

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The rest of the cast don’t really get a chance to shine, with the possible exception of Kristen Bell’s Claire. She gets the second most screen time and handles herself against McCarthy. Peter Dinklage plays Michelle’s former lover and turned rival Renault, who hams it up a bit with Timothy Simons’ Stephan as his assistant, Ella Anderson’s Rachel gets a one big moment to shine, but she comes in and out of the film and Tyler Labine’s Mike who has a thing for Claire shines the most at the end of the film. A standout, in terms of her short screen time is Eva Peterson’s Chrystal aka Giant. Criminally underused is Kathy Bates, who plays Michelle’s mentor in a cameo role really, but it would have been nice to see more of Bates, since they were able to get her in the film at all.

All in all, The Boss has some great comedy moments and Melissa McCarthy carries the film on her shoulders. While the movie may not be one of the best R-rated comedies out there, it’s certainly not the worst and if you give it the chance, you’ll be laughing with the rest of the crowd.

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The Boss

3.5 out of 5

New Podcast: Rogue One Trailer, Charlize Theron Joins Fast 8, Warner Bros. Shifts Focus & More

Thank you so much for listening to this week’s podcast. Once again, another late upload, this time because of slow internet. Not an excuse I know, but I am trying here guys! Anyway, take a listen and let me know what you think and what were you’re favorite news items.

 

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