Mar 30 2012

Mirror Mirror

Ousted from her rightful place on the throne, Princess Snow White (Lily Collins) is tasked with overthrowing her stepmother, the evil Queen (Julia Roberts), and returning harmony to her kingdom. Mixing things up, the dashing Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) is torn between who will get his hand in marriage, the Queen and her magic spells or the true love of Snow White. Backed by the support of seven outcast and thieving dwarves Snow White must stand up for what she believes in, but is it already too late? No stranger to incorporating Middle Eastern themes, color schemes, and artistic direction into Western cinema, Director Tarsem Singh (The Cell, The Fall) steps up to the plate in this revival of the well known Grimm’s fairy tale to provide color, humor, and his unique imaginative perspective. Now, it’s understandable that some might want to write this one off as “just for kids” given what many have already been exposed to through the Disney lens; but, it’s important to remember that the stories the Grimm brothers wrote were often quite grisly, and now days pose as questionable choices of what we would expose children to. That being said, the screenwriters for Mirror Mirror and Tarsem have done a clever job weaving not only the darkness, and truthfully this one isn’t that dark, but also several layers of comedic flavour to keep younger and older audiences entertained alike. Acting feels up to par for an imaginary tale such as this. And, the unique costume stylings designed by Tarsem favorite, the late Eiko Ishioka, come across as particularly striking and creative with the occasional hat tip to Disney. Plus, what would a Tarsem fairy tale be without a Bollywood dance number in the credits to cap things off? Yep, it happens. Matinee fun, and maybe a date movie…maybe? Mirror Mirror is rated PG.

Mar 23 2012

The Hunger Games

In a post apocalyptic not so distant future what we know as North America is now a union of 12 districts collectively known as Panem. Each year one male and one female from each district is selected by a lottery to participate in The Hunger Games; essentially a game of survivor with fatal consequences for all but one contestant. One part entertainment and one part social control, The Hunger Games serve as a method for the government to oppress its citizens. Now, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) are the representatives from the fringe district 12. Considered underdogs the two a challenged with the prospects of dying young, all the while learning how to navigate a game of death that’s as much about political savy as it is being a wilderness survival expert. Adding to the difficulties, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and game master Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) have their own intentions as to how to shape the game for the greater good. But what will it take to survive the game, and at what cost? Adapted from the wildly popular children’s novels of the same name, The Hunger Games is partially written and directed by the lesser known Gary Ross (Seabiscuit); however, it’s important to point out backing him are a whole host of second unit directors including power hitter Steven Soderbergh so let’s not be too hasty in writing this one off eh? Nor should you, with the exception of a little cinematography shakiness to start with, the overall picture is strong. Cleverly weaving between live action, televised chaos, and behind the scenes political masterminding, the screenplay stays rich without compromising the original integrity of the source. Acting from the ensemble feels up to par, sometimes over the top performances from Stanley Tucci and Woody Harrelson are also much appreciated. Art direction, makeup and hair are worth noting, attention to detail here is nothing short of amazing. Musical cues from James Newton Howard blend nicely to set the scene even better. Basically, I’m saying this is a winner and worth your attention, regardless of any preconceived notions you might have about another kid’s book being translated to the silver screen, this one’s here to stay. Worth noting there is some semi-graphical violence so it may not be for the youngest audiences. The Hunger Games is rated PG-13.

Mar 23 2012

The Raid: Redemption

An Indonesian SWAT team descends on a ruthless Indonesian mobster/druglord held up in a tenement for political reasons only to be met with greater force than expected. One by one the team is picked off by residents of the building until just one new recruit and his superior survive. Still determined to stop their original target the last remaining officers will also have to plot their escape as well. Forutnately, as fate would have it the two are assisted by an unlikely aide. But who will survive this ordeal, and who’s really calling the shots? So you were looking for a hardcore action adventure flick? One that features more punches, more kicks, more explosions, more fights and more thrills than anything we’ve seen in recent day? Can do! Director Gareth Evans delivers a ridiculously entertaining, adrenaline fueled, skull crushing, body blasting good time. Stunning choreography will keep your attention fixed for the most part; however, I must confess towards the end of the film I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and ready for the whole thing to…just…stop. Prepare for subtitles here too, then prepare for ultimate fighting action, unlike anything you’ve seen. The Raid: Redemption is rated R.