Snow White & The Huntsman review

"Snow White & The Huntsman" is a blandly forgettable attempt to apply some "Lord of the Rings" grit to the classic fairy tale. The update re-imagines Snow White (Kristen Stewart) as a tough princess who can fight for herself. It’s nice to see the "Twilight" actress shed her increasingly awkward public persona for a strong character like this and it’s a reminder that freed from the shackles of her terrible franchise, she can actually be quite effective. Charlize Theron (pitched so perfectly in last year’s "Young Adult") goes a bit over-the-top as the evil Queen Ravenna and is saddled with a half dozen scenes of essentially evil busywork. Chris Hemsworth as The (nameless) Huntsman is scrubbed of his "Thor" charm and isn’t given much to do beyond serving as a romantic foil for Snow White. This leaves the Prince’s (Sam Claflin) character as kind of redundant.

I’d expected the film to perhaps provide a twist where he’s working to double-cross our heroine but nope, he’s also just lining up to be with her because of some time they spent together as kids. The seven dwarves played by great British character actors (Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, etc.) are also basically a waste. If this wasn’t adapting a tale that implied they had to be there, they probably wouldn’t be. Directed by commercial helmer Rupert Sanders who wowed me last year at Comic-con with a promo reel, its at least pretty to look at. But the screenplay by newcomer Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock (“The Blind Side”) and Hossein Amini (“Drive”) seems to be the product of rewrites and lacks a singular vision. The film is neither a success, nor a disaster, but like our titular heroine, it just kind of lays there.

13 Films I Am Probably Definitely Going To See This Summer

Well, “The Avengers” is out today which must mean that Summer Movie Season is once again upon us. For the next 3 months multiplexes will be pummeled with all manner of potential blockbusters (with the occasional arthouse counterprogramming). While I’ve also seen a handful of Summer releases which I’d recommend including “The Avengers,” “Beasts Of The Southern Wild,” “The Loved Ones" and "Safety Not Guaranteed" there are still plenty of films left to go. Some I couldn’t be less interested in (“Battleship” “Men In Black 3” etc.), some I’m more curious about than anticipating and some I’m really, really looking forward to (see below!) Alright, May to August here we go!

1. The Dark Knight Rises (July 20) Christopher Nolan returns to finish his epic Bat-trilogy. I walked out of “The Dark Knight” thinking it was an impossible act to follow, but 4 years later I’m starting to think that if anyone can do it, Nolan can. Watch the trailer.

2. Prometheus (June 8) This quasi-prequel to “Alien” marks director Ridley Scott’s first foray into sci-fi in 30 years. It looks incredible but can it possibly live up to the trailer?

3. Moonrise Kingdom (May 25) Despite a decade of diminishing returns for the celebrated auteur I remain hopeful that his latest - a 60’s set tale featuring two 12 year old runaways - will mark a return to form. Wes Anderson, I just can’t quit you. Watch the trailer.

4. Brave (June 22) After punishing America last summer with a film whose name I dare not speak, Pixar look ready to apologize to us. I haven’t been blown away by the trailers but am still hoping that my blind faith in the studio will pay off with another classic.

5. The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3) It may seem too soon to push reset on the “Spider-Man” series but the 3rd entry was a “Batman & Robin”-level disaster that really called for it. Add Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone and some unexpected talent behind the camera and I’m definitely curious to see what they do with it. Watch the trailer.

6. ParaNorman (August 17) From the studio that brought you “Coraline” comes another dark and beautiful looking stop-motion tale. This one features a misunderstood boy who can speak to the dead. Watch the trailer, be convinced.

7. Snow White & The Huntsman (June 1) Though I’m not really interested in the whole fairy tale re-imaginings (started by Tim Burton’s odious “Alice In Wonderland”) I have to say I’ve been curious about this one since I saw some visuals last year at Comic-Con. Watch the trailer.

8. Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World (June 22) A dark comedy about the end of the world starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley. Doesn’t that sound like something you would want to see? Watch the trailer.

9. Neighborhood Watch (July 27) Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and “Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace“‘s Richard Ayoade in a Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg scripted, Akiva Schaffer (Lonely Island) directed comedy about suburban dads who defend their neighborhood from aliens. Watch the trailer.

10. The Campaign Will Ferrell v. Zach Galifianakis as rival politicians. (August 10)

11. Ted (July 13) From the creator of “Family Guy.” But just watch the trailer.

12. The Dictator (May 16) The first trailer was very bad but the new one is much better!

13. Ruby Sparks (July 25) From the directors behind “Little Miss Sunshine” comes their long awaited sophomore feature which could be too precious or it could be cute.Watch the trailer.

Also: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (June 22), The Bourne Legacy (August 3), Dark Shadows (May 11), Magic Mike (June 29), Savages (July 6).

Comic-Con ‘11

After years of watching from the sidelines I finally attended my first San Diego Comic-Con. I’d been to the New York version the past couple years but it just doesn’t compare to the original. I was lucky enough to attend as part of a work trip to help promote our site The Long Khan, whose promo video would be featured in a panel Friday morning moderated by Kevin Smith and featuring William Shatner who would be recreating Captain Kirk’s famous scream along with an audience of 2000 people. It was awesome. Saturday was the only real day I got to go see panels and check out the convention floor so I tried to make the most of it. I spent the first part of the day in the legendary Hall H, the 7500 capacity room that showcases all of the big film presentations usually with cast/filmmakers in attendance.

As much as I’d heard about Hall H over the years, I was a little worried about the prospect of being stuck in there all day sitting through panels I wasn’t as interested in to get to the ones I really wanted to see. But 5 hours just flew by in there. I saw panels for Francis Ford Coppola’s experimental goth "Twixt" with Coppola, star Val Kilmer and composer Dan Deacon in attendance, the “300”-esque "The Immortals" with director Tarsem Singh and cast members Henry Cavill, Freida Pinto, Stephen Dorff, Luke Evans and Kellan Lutz, LARP-ing love letter "Knights Of Badassdom" with an all star geek cast of Peter Dinklage, Ryan Kwanten, Summer Glau, Margarita Levieva, Danny Pudi, Michael Gladis, Jimmi Simpson and director Joe Lynch and dark reimagining "Snow White & The Huntsman" with Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth and Sam Claflin led by first time filmmaker Rupert Sanders.

The panels are a strange phenomenon. As I wrote on my full recap of the ‘Snow White’ panel over at The Playlist… As transparent as the marketing and pandering can get during the panels where all cast and crew have been coached on exactly which topics to hit and which to avoid in order to stay on the good side of fanboys and girls, the whole thing still kind of works. I went into Saturday’s panel for Universal‘s “Snow White & The Huntsman” with next to no interest in it and damn if it didn’t end up winning me over along with the rest of the packed crowd inside Hall H. You know it’s a show and they’re aiming straight for the geek audience and yet there’s such an enthusiasm in the room it does end up creating some excitement.

"The Immortals," I thought looked like a "300" rip-off before the panel but after the footage (and being charmed by the candidness of director Tarsem), now I think that it’s insane fight choreography and beautiful cinematography could just turn it into something cool. "The Knights of Badassdom" I would have dismissed as being a direct-to-video level nerdfest but the clips really made it look like it could be a cute little movie. And this is in spite of the incessant pandering to the LARPing community by director Joe Lynch. That particular subset of nerd is much smaller than he was probably anticipating judging by a muted crowd reaction to those particular shoutouts. ‘Snow White’ as I mentioned on the writeup above, hasn’t started filming yet, but the reel of demo footage along with the director’s commercial work did make me interested to see how it turns out. After 5 hours of panels it was time to finally check out the convention floor.

What I didn’t realize was exactly how big the floor actually is. At NYCC, it’s one gigantic room that takes a day or so to browse through it. SDCC has 4 of these rooms and would probably take you all 4 days to get through the place. I didn’t have the energy for that so I took a brief look around and stopped off at the MondoTees booth to get a look at the art they had onsale which included an incredible print of "The Mummy" by Martin Ansin. Unfortunately it was printed on wood and was not going to be coming on the plane with me, thus I had to pass it up.

I also saw on Twitter that "Scud: The Disposable Assassin" creator Rob Schrab had a booth and knew I had to stop by. ‘Scud’ was a huge deal to me in high school, it was my favorite comic book, probably of all time, and the last book I read consistently. It was co-created by Dan Harmon, who most people will probably recognize now as the creator of “Community.” Both guys love movies and used the book as practicing ground for all the things they would have done on film had anyone given them a chance. A decade or so later, both guys are doing pretty well in film/TV, Harmon with his sitcom and Schrab as producer/director for “The Sarah Silverman Show” and “Children’s Hospital.” So I was able to nerd out and tell him how much I loved his comic and that I was happy for his success in Hollywood. He was super nice.

And that was pretty much it. I spent the evening seeing “Captain America” (not officially part of Comic-Con but certainly in the spirit of) with my uncle, aunt & cousins who live in San Diego. There was so much going on that I wish I could have spent more time there: I missed panels for “The Amazing Spider-Man,” “Prometheus,” Peter Jackson & Steven Spielberg’s panel for “Tin-Tin,” a sneak preview of “Drive,” the world premiere of “Cowboys & Aliens,” a Conan O’Brien art exhibit and countless afterparties. The best part of Comic-Con is that it’s not just a convention. Unlike the NYCC which is on the West Side Highway surrounded by blocks and blocks of nothing, the San Diego convention center is right in the heart of downtown with tons of bars, restaurants and shops just across the street. The whole neighborhood gets into the spirit throwing themed events during the day and parties at night. It’s SXSW for comic-book nerds and I’m going to try to make it back next year so I can take it all in.