Squad Goals

Another DC movie, another set of poor reviews. If my readers recall, I was one of the few who came to the defense of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, so is this a case of deja vu where all the negativity is largely unwarranted? I won't be able to give a fully in-depth review today, but this DC fan must admit that the negative reviews, this time, make a lot more sense. Suicide Squad was a disappointment for me as the film just wasn't able to live up to the hype promised in the trailers. I could feel a bit of studio tampering in the cut I witnessed in the theater. The editing was kind of sloppy and I just felt so much potential wasted. But......that doesn't mean the film isn't without its redeeming qualities. Let's go over the good and the bad shall we?

THE GOOD: The best part of this movie is Margot Robbie. She makes the role of Harley Quinn her own and she's clearly having a ball. She undoubtedly steals every scene she's in, which just makes me sad that sometimes she's not given anything more to do in a scene than call someone a pussy. (Cool! She says shocking things! /sarcasm.) Will Smith is solid in the role of Deadshot and very likable, though he's not really doing anything too new. They're kind of the only two characters that really seem to matter because they're given the most depth (aside from perhaps Diablo.) Viola Davis is good at being her intimidating How to Get Away With Murder self and Joel Kinnamon was reliable as always. The comic world that we see Harley and the Joker (Jared Leto who didn't get enough time to make too much of an impression) inhabit is one of the best parts of the movie and we didn't get to see nearly enough.

THE BAD: Some of these characters are completely throwaway. I'm looking at you Killer Croc with your horrible one liners. And one liners in general grated on me where you get the sense they were told to try to copy the Marvel formula. No DC! Do your own thing I beg of you!! That style competed with the movie the whole time where you just can sense that a darker movie was hiding under the surface that was probably the filmmakers' true vision. Unfortunately what we got was somewhere in between with emphasis from studio execs to try to be crowd pleasing. One final thing to add to this category would be that I wasn't really into Cara Delevigne's villain and as mentioned before didn't get to see nearly enough of Jared Leto's joker to decide how I felt about him. Obviously, you don't walk out of this movie feeling about him the way you did when you first saw Heath Ledger's take on the character.

FINAL VERDICT: Suicide Squad is flawed, but still enjoyable. My expectations were just a little too high. EMILY RATING: 6/10


Beyond Darkness

Two new mini movie reviews today as I take on two genre films. The biggest film out this week is the third entry in the rebooted Star Trek franchise, Star Trek Beyond and the second is a modest horror flick with a simple premise called Lights Out. Both have been pretty well received by critics lately, but since I don't seem to be trusting critics this year I had to see them for myself to judge.

Back when The Force Awakens was announced I realllllly wanted JJ Abrams to be stolen away from Star Trek because I truly believed he was the man for taking on George Lucas's beloved saga. Some will think he was, but boy I couldn't be sadder that things went that way now with what happened with both franchises. JJ had a camaraderie with that cast and his directing of them felt effortless and in the early scenes of Beyond something just feels off. Some of the chemistry feels like it's missing. It took me a long time to really get into the movie. I couldn't tell where things were going for a good while, and then once they happened it didn't feel earned. Eventually, I had to just let that go and enjoy the ride. And as always, Star Trek is a fun ride. Honestly, I'll never hate on one of these rebooted Star Trek films because it's just a fun universe to visit and solid characters to spend time with. The world building here was so much more impressive than the film JJ left Trek for. Instead of recycled worlds, our eyes are treated to something new which was half of the fun. And for a film in its genre of sci-fi adventure, it's really as fun and as popcorn as it can be.  One more thing I ought to mention is that the late Anton Yelchin has a bigger role this time around than perhaps in any of the other films and he was as wonderful as always. Made me miss him even more. Anyways, there's not a ton of substance to this film, which easily makes it my least favorite of the trilogy...but I can still appreciate it on its own terms.  EMILY RATING: 7.5/10

Anyone well acquainted with me or this site KNOWS I love a good horror flick. I heard many conflicting reports about Lights Out before seeing it. The reviews on Rotten Tomatoes were all fresh and the IMDb user score was still pretty high. Could it be the next great horror film? Or did it deserve the hate that local critics seemed preconceived to having before seeing it? The answer for me is somewhere in between...it wasn't a great horror film, but I had fun with it. And I certainly didn't think it was awful. (Side note: if you want to see a truly awful horror film made this year check out The Darkness immediately.) The film is incredibly short, and as such, some things definitely tend to be a little rushed. The investigation into the entity (real or paranormal) that haunts them is thrown together and you certainly leave the film scratching your head a little at some of the plot holes. The performances aren't amazing and the creature probably could have used a little more work in how she looked (a little too Mama CGI for my taste.) The film breaks a lot of its own rules, but in the second half, you really won't mind because it's just a lot of fun. The filmmakers took a simple premise (a creature that can only appear when it's dark) and surprisingly was able to do a lot with it.  EMILY RATING: 6.5/10


Girl Busters

About a year and a half ago a reboot was announced to a beloved series. Business as usual right? Not quite when the property being redone was Ghostbusters, one of the most popular boys club movies ever made and the cast that was announced for the new film gave the story a gender makeover. Ever since that announcement people have been analyzing, criticizing and arguing over the decision. Some just didn't want a reboot period when they had long been hoping for a sequel with the original cast, some took a misogynistic side and didn't think that women had a place in the ghostbusting world, and others just saw it as a gimmick. It seemed that few people were actually excited for it, and when the trailers were released it only got worse and more hateful hype ensued. For me personally, Ghostbusters was a big part of my childhood as my three brothers were obsessed with it, and I definitely have a fondness for it. I was in the camp of feeling that the original Ghostbusters was lightning in a bottle that even its own sequel couldn't quite duplicate and it was best not to touch it.

The reboot basically repackages the origin story of the original Ghostbusters with a couple of female scientists who can't get funding to pursue their paranormal dreams. The only differences being that this time, the city of New York doesn't embrace them as the Mayor is constantly trying to let everyone know that they're con artists to keep people from freaking out and the other main thing being that all of the paranormal activity is somehow being orchestrated by one lonely man who was picked on his whole life (his story reminded me a lot of Electro from The Amazing Spider-man 2, also a Sony feature.) He unleashes chaos on the city, and it's up to the ghostbusters to save the day.

I will fully admit that I went into this movie expecting and maybe even wanting to hate it. But...I didn't hate it....nor did I really like it. I felt very ambivalent about the whole thing. Was it as effortlessly funny as the original film? No, but I laughed a handful of times. Did the new cast capture my heart and gel as a perfect team? No. There was a moment at the end when Leslie Jones puts her arm around Wiig and I thought "did those two ever even have a moment together this whole film??" Really all I can say for the movie is I found it amusing. But the film definitely thinks it's a lot funnier than it is as certain gags are beaten to death and go on way too long. In a movie all about female empowerment, I hate to say it but the best performer here was probably Chris Hemsworth. Kristen Wiig all too often slips into silly SNL mode, Melissa McCarthy was probably the best but was kiiiiinda phoning it in. Leslie Jones was better than portrayed in the previews....so good for her at least and Kate McKinnon had a caricature of a character that didn't earn her zaniness. It just made me think about in the original how acquainted we were with Bill Murray's Peter Venkman right from the get-go as we see the type of man he is when he hits on his test subject. The original just was so much more character based, when this one just relied on character TYPES. The film is also littered with homages to the original and every time you see one, you can't help but think "I wish I were watching THAT movie."

Bottom line: Ghostbusters the female edition is lackluster, but not really anything worth getting worked up over. It's clear it's standing on the shoulders of a classic and doesn't really have anything new or worthwhile to offer of its own to have it be remembered by anyone. EMILY RATING: 5/10 


The Ab Man...I Mean Ape Man

As I walked into the preview screening for The Legend of Tarzan this last week, I decided to myself that I really had no expectations of the film's quality (or lack thereof.) I told myself, all that I expected from this movie was to enjoy two attractive people in love, one of which spends most of the movie shirtless (sorry guys, it ain't Margot Robbie.) With low expectations like these, could the film possibly disappoint? Apparently, to many of the critics, the answer was yes. I, on the other hand, shut my brain off and enjoyed the ride.

The Legend of Tarzan isn't an origin story, but more of a sequel to a story you've already heard of, or likely seen another iteration of. The story takes place after Tarzan of the jungle has been civilized and has chosen to settle down in England under his birth name John Clayton the III,  with his beloved wife Jane. Tarzan is enticed back to Africa for....reasons. Mostly because a convoluted plot wants him back there to help free slaves while other characters have nefarious intentions toward him, so back to the jungle he will go. Instead of a story of how he came to be, we're treated to his history in glimpses and stories told by Jane. However, soon after their arrival, Jane is kidnapped to bait Tarzan into...more plot contrivances. Does anyone really care? The plot here is all over the place, yet somehow, unlike other brainless blockbusters, I easily forgave this one. 

The beautiful and likable cast are one thing, but there was just something really refreshing about this silly movie to me in the midst of a pretty crappy summer. I appreciated the style of the film; we don't have nearly enough old-timey adventure flicks anymore. There was something endearing about the flashbacks, and I almost wished we could have had an origin film since they were done so well....though I also felt that the "Hook approach" to coming back after the real story happened worked fine enough (much better than say Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland.) There's some blandness to the proceedings and some uneven humor, but still somehow I just really managed to have a fun time with this film. Tarzan is almost godly with his powers and what he's able to do, and it's fun, if not ridiculous to watch. He is the Aquaman of the jungle if you will. Tarzan is kind of a hot mess (both the character and the movie hehe,) but honestly, I couldn't hate it. If I was blinded by Alexander's abs, please forgive me. EMILY RATING: 6.5/10


Sharks n Aliens

Independence Day: Resurgence doesn't deserve a typical review where I keep you in suspense for the first paragraph to let you know whether it's good or not. So I'll just let you know right here from the get-go that this movie is absolutely terrible...if not one of the worst movies of the year and one of the worst blockbusters of recent memory. If you love movies that induce headaches from mind-numbing idiocy, then this movie is for you! Also out today is a movie called The Shallows that may be just as dumb but twice as fun. I'll give you my briefest of brief thoughts on both. Let's start with former.

In Resurgence, 20 years have passed since the events of Independence Day.  The world has lived in peace all this time and advanced far in technology after learning from all the junk the aliens left behind (and yet, a 90s computer was able to beat those aliens with a virus...makes sense.) Now, a new president is faced with a tough decision when an unknown spacecraft appears to be a threat to earth and from there an incomprehensible and stupid story begins to unfold.  Plot specifics aren't necessary here because there's really not much to this film besides aliens attack earth...again. But surely it can't be that bad right? Wrong. The characters here are all essentially cardboard cut-outs and everything is lifeless. I was bored out of my mind during this movie. Watching every battle scene I felt I might as well be watching a video game as there was absolutely no suspense for any peril that any character faced. I could go more in depth on the ranting if I wanted to, but frankly it's not worth the energy. EMILY RATING: 1.5/10 

Now for The Shallows where Blake Lively stars as a woman caught between a rock and a hard place. In this case, a "hard place" being a shark-filled ocean. It's basically Castaway meets Jaws, with even less rhyme or reason than those two films may at times be accused of. As with Jaws, the shark in The Shallows is thirsty for killing and more powerful than seems reasonable. But here, it seems that the unbelievability of its power is amped to incredulous levels.  Is this movie every bit as dumb as Independence Day: Resurgence? Probably....but it pretty much owns its B-movieness. Plus perhaps the most merciful difference is that it's an hour shorter, making it a lot harder to feel bored during its shark-filled proceedings. It kinda revels in its absurdity as opposed to taking it seriously, so it's a lot easier to have fun with. So no, I wouldn't call The Shallows a good movie, but it was an entertaining one...which was a lot more than I can say for Resurgence. EMILY RATING: 6.5/10


Forgetting Dory

It's kind of fitting that the character who Finding Dory centers around suffers from short-term memory loss since her movie is so darn forgettable. Wait now, Emily. Surely you can't be talking about the long-awaited sequel to the beloved Pixar classic Finding Nemo. That movie has 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. You must have seen a different movie. Perhaps I did because I must say upfront that I'm finding the overwhelming love to this film to be both surprising and confusing. As I'm the minority on this issue, I'm sure those expecting to love this movie still will....but let me address some of the good and the bad.

Right from the beginning we're introduced to the baby version of our forgetful Dory as her parents desperately try to teach her how to survive in case something ever happens and they're not there. After that, the film quickly picks up where Finding Nemo left off as recently returned Nemo is back settling into routine life wherever it was in the ocean they lived (I'm guessing Florida.) Shortly after, Dory has a flashback to her parents she lost and she's determined to find them, but she knows she can't do it alone. Marlin, feeling he needs to pay Dory back for her help during the events of Nemo reluctantly agrees and they start their journey across the ocean. Again.

The film often switches back and forth between the flashbacks as Dory's memories are sparked through her journey. I could tell Pixar wanted so badly for me to just fawn all over the baby Dory, but my appreciation never came and I couldn't shake my disconnect to the whole adventure until halfway through the movie. I was glad they didn't completely copy Nemo and make the whole film about the journey through the ocean...yet by glossing over it, as they did, it almost felt like a disservice at the same time. To accomplish something that took a whole film last go around, they do in about 5 minutes here. I get the writers conundrum in not wanting to duplicate the exact formula, and I might have been more appreciative if some truly creative material followed. Instead, the endless callbacks to everything everyone loved the first time get old pretty quickly and the majority of the plot was just useless conflict after useless conflict. It kinda felt like they amplified the dentist portion of the plot from Nemo and thought of different ways fish could be separated from one another and called it a day. Honestly, I was pretty over it by the time there were like 5 more conflicts still to overcome.

"Let's have Dory speak whale again. Everyone loved that the first time." - An example of the ideas coming out of the pitch room for Dory.

Was that a lot of ranting? Probably. But truth be told, I didn't even laugh until about an hour in. There were two sequences I genuinely liked....only to realize later that night that one of them was directly ripped off from their own earlier work in Toy Story 3 (ie the scene where Dory and her new octopus acquaintance are trapped in the kids touching exhibit, seemed almost identical to the kids daycare scene in Toy Story 3 where all the toys are extremely traumatized with how rough the children treated them.) That said...it's a pleasant enough film and a lot better than most animated kids films, and it will be enjoyable to many people ...particularly those who don't gripe over some of the things that I do. After all, the film is stunning to look at, and as a 3D experience, it was pretty cool to see the depths of the ocean. But as someone who admired the first one's creativity enough, it's sad to see Pixar turn in such an uninspired work (and incredibly puzzling to see such praise for it.) When sequels are ordered rather than organic, it really shows...and try as Pixar might to give us something new and original they just can't deliver because the heart wasn't there.  EMILY RATING: 6/10


Conjury's Out?

James Wan's The Conjuring, released in 2013, was one of the best horror movies of the 21st century. It revitalized the genre on a general audience scale and honestly was much needed! So of course, naturally success brings sequels and spinoffs. First was Annabelle, the spinoff origin story of the creepy doll that was featured in The Conjuring. Annabelle did pretty well at the box office, considering its modest budget, but it wasn't critically welcomed, and the public also generally felt that it was far inferior to the film it spun off of. Fast forward two years from Annabelle, and three from The Conjuring, and we find ourselves at the release of the direct sequel The Conjuring 2. As I discussed in my Insidious 2 review, horror sequels don't really have the best track record...so will it be possible for lightning to strike twice?

The first Conjuring was based on the case files of real-life ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren. These fictionalized subjects of real life people make a natural fit for a horror franchise to be built around because since they've been involved with a lot of crazy happenings, there's so much material to draw from. And that is exactly what James Wan did when coming up with a sequel; he combed through the creepiest stories to tell the best one he thought he could. The Conjuring 2 is all about a haunting in an apartment in Enfield, England by a crotchety old man. Early on, you wonder how dangerous he really is, since all he's using his powers for is to change the channel on the telly to the program he wants to watch. Seems like a regular old codger to me! Soon we find him to be more sinister with every incident that goes on, and outside help will be needed to put this family who has been haunted, back together. 

James Wan is such a talented horror director. So many scenes play out so artfully and with purpose. It's like you can just see a master at work. Several times throughout the film moments just seem orchestrated to result in the perfect scare. That said, not all scares are created equal, and some definitely felt pretty throwaway, just to give the audience a jolt. There's nothing really wrong with that, but it's just the type of conditioning that makes general audiences feel like all horror movies need to be jumpy ones, instead of slow burners they can't appreciate like The Witch. Also regarding some of the scares, some of the CGI really felt out of place to me and took me out of the film. I appreciated the concept of what they were going for in two particular places, but I'm not sure they pulled it off completely effortlessly. The other thing about some of these ghosts is that they seem much more Insidious and much less Conjuring. Maybe Wan is trying to create a shared cinematic universe here, but I just would prefer some of the stylistic choices of ghosts and demons to stay with Insidious and not spread to everything else James Wan does. 

But The Conjuring 2's strengths don't just lie with its director. Once again in its sequel, Ed and Lorraine Warren played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are terrific in their roles, and play off of each other incredibly well. Whenever they're not on screen in The Conjuring 2, you desperately want them to find their way to where the action is so they can be a part of it. The supporting cast is all solid as well, without a false note among the bunch. Frances O'Connor as the fear-stricken mother, and Madison Wolfe as the daughter Janet, who ends up being the most tormented of the lot, in particular give fine performances. 

All in all, The Conjuring 2 is a good sequel. But there were just enough moments that had me thinking "this just isn't as flawless as the first." I wish I had had the chance to see it twice before I posted the review, because maybe my rating could move up a little bit...but on first impression I have to rate it with my gut. EMILY RATING: 7.5/10


Ninja Turtles Before You

Welp. This has to be one of the strangest double review pairings I've done in recent memory. Out now is the sequel to the 2014 Michael Bay-produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the adaptation of a popular romantic novel Me Before You. We'll go with Turtles first.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is so unbelievably stupid. It is absolutely preposterous...but I can't deny that I was stupidly entertained the entire time. Trust me, I'm not proud of this, but I did have a really fun time laughing at the absurdity of this movie. But when I wasn't laughing my heart was weeping for poor Laura Linney, that her career has amounted to her giving inspirational speeches in front of a green screen, imagining teenage mutant ninja turtles by her side. WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU LAURA LINNEY???

I'll be honest, I'm pretty much a novice when it comes to TMNT. I definitely saw the cartoons and old movies, but all I remember from the those was silly turtles who loved to eat pizza and exclaim "Cowabunga dude!" But the villains and who is who? I couldn't even try to explain this plot to you if I tried. But no matter; the plot really isn't important in a movie like this. At least, the filmmakers don't seem to think so. In fact, I'm pretty sure they were making this up as they went...they just happened to be more canonically minded than the last go round where they did the same thing. So yeah. Out of the Shadows is far more entertaining than it's predecessor, but let's be honest that's not saying a lot. This isn't a good film by any stretch of the imagination--that cannot be stressed enough, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a good guilty pleasure. EMILY RATING: 5/10

Now for a film whose plot I can describe! Me Before You tells the story of Louisa Clark and how her life changes when she becomes the caretaker for the physically paralyzed Will Trainer. Though they get off on the wrong foot (I mean who doesn't these days?) they eventually cannot deny the sparks between them, and Louisa (Lu for short,) is determined to show bitter Will that life is worth living.

Me Before You is an incredibly charming and surprisingly very funny film that unfortunately suffers some fatal flaws.  Firstly it's obvious that some key character and plot development were smoothed over during the adaptation process that would have made the film a lot stronger. For example, both character's arcs of falling for one another are not equally portrayed. While Sam Claflin's Will gets to show his changing feelings with ease, Emilia Clarke's Lu is so warm and friendly it's hard to tell when exactly her feelings shift from platonic to "I can't live without you." Luckily Sam Claflin and Emilia Clarke have enough chemistry to make up the difference, but still a few scenes here and there could have fleshed things out greatly.

Mild vague spoilers in this paragraph: Also, as everyone deduced from watching this trailer, the film is intended to be a tearjerker, so a tragic ending shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone....but still the film's ending is a huge bummer. I won't say anything further about that or go into specifics but.... it was really certainly divisive. Now back to the trailer which I mentioned a moment ago. Another thing this film struggles to overcome is its trailer which showed way too much of the movie. If you've seen the trailer, unfortunately you know a cliff notes version of the film. That's not saying they showed all the best parts... there are plenty of great moments to discover in the film, there just isn't many surprises as to where the story will go next.

I'm very split on this film. I certainly enjoyed the journey, but I didn't so much care for the destination. I think the fact that Sam Claflin and Emilia Clarke are so likable they allow you to forgive a lot. Still, I just can't help but feel that this movie could have been a lot better as an adaptation and as a romance. EMILY RATING: 7/10



Sorry for the long vacation from writing! I just haven't had a lot of subject matter that I've wanted to discuss as of late. But that all changes this weekend as suddenly two sequel blockbusters arrive to vie for your attention during Memorial Weekend: Alice Through the Looking Glass and X Men: Apocalypse. I was able to see both films this week, which means it's time for a double review. We'll start with Alice.

When movies make money, they get a sequel. Even if no one really asked for one. That just seems to be the way it is these days. And so, it was only a matter of time until Tim Burton's take on Alice in Wonderland from 2010 got a sequel since it made a billion dollars on its release. But hey, no harm no foul right? I mean...technically the book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland already had a sequel itself, so there is plenty of source material to draw from right? That was what I figured the whole time I was watching it and as such I found myself occasionally cutting it some slack since I wasn't sure how things went down in the book. But when I wasn't cutting it slack, I was sitting aghast viewing this incredibly uninspired sequel. I can assure you, I rolled my eyes more than I laughed or smiled. It was the type of film that felt so contrived, it took me right out of everything. And when it did, I couldn't help but look at it with a filmmaker's eyes, and wonder why these actors agreed to it and if this really was the best movie anyone could come up with.

And thennnn I did my research. I learned that this movie was not based on the original sequel story in any way, besides the filmmakers deciding to stick the name on it just because people are familiar with it. How many liberties are taken? Lets put it this way, the Hatter whom the whole story is based only has a cameo in the real sequel. Suddenly the very few things I appreciated about the film were completely overshadowed by its shamelessness. Thankfully it isn't trying to be the first movie all over again, but the movie it is trying to be isn't very good either. When Sacha Baron Cohen's character is your most likable one, your movie probably has problems. This movie is nothing more than a cash grab, pure and simple. EMILY RATING: 4/10

Now for X-Men. X-Men First Class was the reboot we needed after the disastrous X3: The Last Stand. Its direct sequel, X-Men: Days of Future Past, improved upon the franchise further and wiped the slate clean with possibility. Is some of that possibility realized with Apocalypse? Well. It depends on who you ask. Once again it seems my comic book tastes seem completely incongruent with critics. While X-Men: Apocalypse is getting mixed reviews, I have to be completely honest and tell you that I LOVED it. In fact, I felt giddy watching it.

There's certainly a lot of ground to be covered and plenty of mutants to be juggled in Apocalypse. There are plenty of implausibilities in the timeline of this trilogy (we all know twenty years have passed and yet no one ages...) but none of it seems to matter when things are really picking up speed in the second half of this movie. My only real gripe is with Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique. She really doesn't bring a whole lot to this role, but it's pretty obvious the accommodations they make for her because of her star power (such as writing her to be the most beloved and admired mutant, all the while getting to appear as herself instead of what the character should actually look like to save from having to spend hours in the makeup chair.) I'd love for her not to return for a sequel so she can give more screentime back to the real stars of the show: James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. As always, they are the heart of this trilogy, though some new and some returning faces certainly make things interesting as well. Just as in Days of Future Past, Evan Peters's Quicksilver is an absolute scene stealer and gets probably the coolest scene of the film all to himself. Oscar Isaac was a fantastic edition and a wonderful villain, while the new young Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan) and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) were all wonderfully used as well.

Go ahead buddy. Finish her off. It'll be fine.

Yes, critics are mixed, but I couldn't be more in love with this movie. This is exactly what I want from my comic book movies, as well as blockbusters: humor (not in the form of constant wisecracks,) character depth, and some risk. Oh, and it's pretty entertaining too. Long live the X-men franchise. Keep doing what you're doing. EMILY RATING: 9/10


Snow Whiteless

When Snow White and the Huntsman came out in 2012, many people felt that the biggest issue with the film was a bland, spiritless and incredibly dull version of the fairy tale heroine played by Kristen Stewart. Maybe if she wasn't in it, the film would be all the better for it. Apparently Hollywood felt so too...(combined with the fact that K-Stew had a very public cheating scandal with the director of the first film) because once the follow-up film The Huntsman: Winter's War was announced she was absent from the cast list. However, you can't help but feel that if she had proved how key she was to the first film and its success, nothing would have stood in her way in reappearing in its sequel and the filmmakers would have wanted her back. Instead, the well-known MVP of the film was Charlize Theron, and SHE was the one who was needed to be brought back...even though her character died in the first film. But never mind all that. The writers have got this covered! They'll just make it a prequel! But yet...they really wanted to do a sequel too....so Huntsman becomes a weird prequel/sequel hybrid. But does it work? After all, we've ditched K-Stew for two actresses even lovelier and more talented in Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain. With a cast like this, they MUST have seen something great in this material and felt they could lift it above the previous film right.... right????

Honestly, I wasn't a huge fan of the first film. When I heard that Charlize had signed on again, fresh off a career-high with Mad Max: Fury Road, I had to wonder what she was thinking! But almost more puzzling was why Jessica Chastain would touch this with a ten-foot pole, when up to this point she's worked with some of the best directors in the biz, and has a pretty spot-free filmography. Emily Blunt too is coming off great performances in Sicario and Edge of Tomorrow. My curiosity was piqued to see what drew this cast to this film. And then....I saw it. And I was even more puzzled than before. The only thing I can conclude is that the following thoughts are what lead each cast member to do this film.

Charlize Theron: "I can make $10 mil for 10 minutes of screentime? Okay cool, I'm in. And it *was* fun wearing all those costumes last time."

Chris Hemsworth: "I need another franchise to prove I'm the most profitable of the Avengers and everyone will take me more seriously. I'm not just a pretty face!"

Emily Blunt: "So I get to play a live action, evil version of Elsa? Cool! Everyone loves Frozen!"

Jessica Chastain: "You know....I really have always wanted to make out with Chris Hemworth..."

Guys....this movie has no purpose for existing. I mean I guess if I had to list one reason it would be to show off Colleen Atwood's amazing costuming skills once again (both Queens have stunning wardrobes that are fun to gander at.) But seriously the whole budget of this film went to the cast and the costumes, and as a result....Huntsman has very little to show for itself (the special effects, for example, are awful and I highly doubt the script went through many refinements.) I mean, it can be mildly entertaining at times and isn't a *total* embarrassment for our all-star cast (all of whom I'm sure will rebound quickly from this dud,) so for an April film I guess you could do worse.

But as a sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman? It sure does a lot of retconning. Yet, they want to keep reminding you of Snow White's existence which is appropriate but all the more awkward because it reminds you of the first film which just doesn't fit with this one. If she's such a great warrior, why would she really just confine herself to the castle (yes I know the film attempted a weak explanation for this...but it doesn't hold.) And what about the fact that it was the Huntsman's true love kiss that awoke her in the last movie? Does Hemsworth ever mention THAT to Chastain? All in all, Huntsman is a fairy tale film that is sorely lacking in magic, and in the end is highly forgettable. Its smallest faint praise according to my friend Kent Dunn, "I mean it's not the WORST thing ever..." So there's that. EMILY RATING: 5/10