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


The Bare Necessities

Another year, another live-action remake of a beloved Disney animated classic. Except in this case, I have never really had much of a strong personal attachment to The Jungle Book (though my 2-year-old niece who is obsessed with it is another story,)...so I didn't feel like I had impossible expectations like say with Maleficent or Cinderella. So was the film easier to please because I didn't hold the original so dear? Maybe, but it also left me feeling ambivalent whether they got things right or wrong. I wasn't excited about nods or furious about flubs. I kinda just sat somewhere in the middle for most of the film. But some things WERE a little glaring, and other things were somewhat delightful! For me, the good outweighed the bad, but let's take a closer look at both.

First and foremost, The Jungle Book has got some amazing animation and the 3D is probably the top reason to see this movie. It feels like you are in the jungle with these characters, and it can certainly be a ride! There were a lot of sweet moments, and just incredibly detailed moments where little things were constantly going in the frame. It also felt refreshing to see a movie like this, with the animals taking the stage (like Planet of the Apes for example,) so the action sequences aren't in your typical blockbuster. *Almost* all of the key moments are included, minus my nieces favorite part with a certain water fetching girl...which I thought was a mistake not to include! But the ape temple sequence is really cool, and the lovable Bare Necessities is sure there. So with all that in mind, most people will come out fairly pleased! But, as I alluded to earlier, there were some things that were lacking.

The most important point to address is that the child actor Neel Sethi, who portrays Mowgli has to basically carry this entire movie on his shoulders, and I'm not sure he's always up to the task. It seems fairly obvious at times that he's a child alone in a blue screen filled room being told directions on what to do. I got taken out of the movie a few times because of this, and also because of some of the majorly stiff voice acting from the cast. A lot of scenes, (the ones with the wolves in particular come to mind...) where it seems really obvious to me that these are just people in a recording booth, reading lines directly from a script. I couldn't get as lost in it as I wanted...or really embrace it, but then usually the visual aspect would pull me back in. Some of the choices I'm not sold on at all...like Christopher Walken as King Louie made me laugh for the wrong reasons, and Bill Murray, while always great....just didn't fit Baloo to me. The old Baloo just seemed so much more effortless in comparison. And Scarlett Johansson was kind of an odd choice for Kaa.

This movie is a little too scary for really little kids, so it will be interesting to see what audience really embraces it. I enjoyed the film, but from such glowing reviews beforehand, I expected it to be on par with last year's Cinderella. I don't think it was, but it was certainly better than Maleficent! All in all, I'd say The Jungle Book is fun but flawed. EMILY RATING: 7.5/10