Movie Review >> Snow White and the Huntsman, Moonrise Kingdom, and The best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Snow White and the Huntsman, or 2012’s second revisionist look at Snow White, is a brooding, beautifully filmed work that attempts to graft a blend of Gladiator and Joan of Arc onto the tale of the fairest maiden of them all—with somewhat mixed results.

In this retelling, Charlize Theron is the evil part-time Queen (and full-time sorceress) who maintains a reign of terror on her kingdom while imprisoning Snow White (Kristin Stewart), her step-daughter, beauty rival, and rightful heir to the throne.  After a beautifully shot, if heavy-handed prologue depicting Snow White’s arrival, and the subsequent demise of her royal mother and father under conditions natural and most foul, the movie gains momentum when an empowered Snow White (this is not your parents’ old-fashioned, passive fairy-tale princess) escapes from the Tower and flees into the Dark Forest, pursued by the Queen’s brother and the reluctant, grieving Huntsman (Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth).  The pursuit through the Dark Forest makes for an atmospheric, exciting sequence, as Snow White tries to fend off menaces both natural and manmade.  Subsequently, Snow White forges an alliance with the Huntsman (Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth), eludes the Queen’s men, and stumbles upon the Seven Dwarfs.  Meanwhile back at the palace, the Queen frets and glowers over Snow White’s escape-while others, such as Duke Hammond and his son William (Snow White’s childhood love), learn that Snow White is alive, and make strides to help her battle her way to the throne—over the Queen’s heartless body, if need be.

Under the firm helming of Rupert Sanders, Snow White and the Huntsman does a good job of sustaining audience interest, blending some imaginative embellishments with a fair amount of exciting escapes and action sequences.  One thing the movie (regrettably) does not develop is the potentially complex relationship between Snow White, the Huntsman, and William when they all unite in the Forest.  What feelings they have are left largely unexplored, and this serves to limit emotional involvement.  Another wasted opportunity comes—and I hate to say this—with Charlize Theron’s Queen.  She is evil all right, but mainly acts in two registers: soft and bellowing.  There’s very little subtlety there, and quite frankly, I was happy to get back to the forest. Kristin Stewart, however, does a nice job as the heroine, endowing Snow White with grace, intelligence, and passion—one can see why others would risk their lives to follow her.   Chris Hemsworth makes for a suitably heroic and compassionate Huntsman, while the dwarfs are energetically embodied (and digitally reduced) by a who’s who of British genre films: Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Ian McShane.  Hoskins is particularly moving as the older Dwarf who knows a good thing in Snow White when he “sees’ it.

Some brief shots:

I enjoyed Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, a lyrical, graceful fable about troubled, romantic adolescence and adulthood, set in the mid-1960’s, during an eventful few summer days prior to the arrival of a massive storm, as recounted by narrator Bob Balaban. As the story begins, Suzy, a “troubled child,’ runs off with Sam, a fellow troubled (foster) child-and Khaki Scout.  This rebellious, if innocent adventure results in their being pursued by Suzy’s very troubled parents (Frances McDormand and Bill Murray), the local law officer (Bruce Willis) who has a ‘thing’ going with McDormand, the likable if officious scoutmaster (Edward Norton)—and most threateningly, by Sam’s fellow scouts, who take it upon themselves to be heavily armed while searching for the pair.  While the last third succumbs to an overflow of chases and activity, there is much to be savored throughout: the gently evolving “Little Romance” between Sam and Suzy (endearingly portrayed by Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward); the likable befuddlement of Edward Norton’s scoutmaster; the growing bond between Bruce Willis’ lonely Captain Sharp and Sam over a makeshift dinner; the trademark Anderson wit where foreground dialogue is counterpointed by background (often comic) action.  More than Anderson’s more recent live-action efforts, there is a great deal of compassion—in characterization and events- which allows this movie to be so much more than just a stylized look at a more innocent time.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is well worth seeing, partly for its optimistic (but not unrealistic) look at the prospect of aging and finding contentment (if not happiness).  However, it’s mainly worth a look because of a sterling cast working at a uniformly high level.  Bill Nighy, Judi Dench,  Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilson, Ronald Pickup, and Celia Imrie all turn in lovely, nuanced portraits as British retirees who wind up, for various reasons, at a crumbling retirement home in India—and subsequently find  a degree of peace and satisfaction—albeit in different ways.  Dev Patel is the young, romantic, at times frantic owner, and Tena Dunae is his engaging love interest.  The movie, while it’s not perfect ( a certain climactic confrontation is a little muted), does provide an uplifting feeling one need not be ashamed of.