Tag Archives: Jessica Chastain

The Huntsman: Winter’s War

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“I bet that story wet the eyes of a few ladies.”

I’d like to get it out there right away that, although I chose to take time out of my evening, paid the 3D uplift and even volunteered my services to write this review, I went in with no expectations of greatness from The Huntsman. I would call myself a fan of most of the billed cast and given the acting pedigree on-screen. I don’t think it would be asking too much to at least have the almost two-hour run time made bearable by those that were paid to be there, would it? I mean, even if this second crack at the fantasy franchise turned out to be nothing more than hot piss, it would at least be watchable, given its stars, right?

Yeah, it would have been nice.

Half prequel and half sequel, The Huntsman tells a story that kind of surrounds 2012’s Snow White and The Huntsman‘s story of how Snow White took the crown from Charlize Theron’s Evil Queen, Ravenna. A few years before the events of Snow White, Ravenna and her sister Freya (Emily Blunt) drift in opposite directions when the soon-to-be Evil Queen watches her vulnerable sister suffer the loss of her child and in anger learns to unleash her power to control ice. With Freya’s new found power comes a new life; one focussed on conquering all she surveys and covering the world with ice. To do this, she trains an army of children, her “Huntsmen”, to do her dirty work.

Years down the line and Snow White has taken the crown. The Ice Queen’s army have decimated the land and her best huntsman, Eric (Chris Hemsworth – sporting a pretty bad accent) is a wandering nomad who finds himself on the trail of the presumed dead queen’s magic mirror – a source of unrelenting evil that has vanished en route to a place where it will be safe and the world will be safe from it. Joined on his quest by a couple of bickering dwarves (Rob Brydon and the returning Nick Frost) and Sara (Jessica Chastain), a warrior whose skills equal The Huntsman’s and together, the rag-tag group need to find the mirror before Freya and her army get their paws on it.

Wow. I almost made that sound like it could be interesting.

Like I said, I went in with no delusions that this was going to be a good film. But the least these people could do for all that money is put a little effort in. Director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, in his directorial debut – a little IMDb-fu taught me he was a visual effects guy on Snow White – seems to be under the impression that making the film look pretty is all he needs to do to sell the film. It is very pretty, too; it all looks very Game of Thrones in its frozen landscapes and scary armies. But it’s not enough to mean you can ignore everything else.

The names up on that screen did nothing but disappoint, either. I adore the three leading ladies and rarely do I have a bad word to say about them; but there seems to have been a collective decision to half-ass their way through this terribly lacklustre script, possibly in the hope that they and us don’t have to suffer through a third entry in this dumbed down franchise. Charlize Theron is essentially relegated to a support role; I mean, it’s not bad considering she was killed in the last film, but she gets the part of the older sister to Emily Blunt’s Ice Queen, Freya and pretty much plays the walking embodiment of the mirror’s evil. Blunt, normally brilliant in everything, seems blank and bored in every scene she’s in. I’ve seen Blunt be great in bad movies, she always seems to put everything into her performances. But here she appears to be having a few of those bad work days that we all have; simply showing up and going through the motions because she knows that’ll be more than adequate. A real shame.

It turns out, that the price for admission into last year’s Crimson Peak for Jessica Chastain, was a contractual obligation to Universal for a film to be named later. And every single frame that her and her just awful accent are in screams of being forced to be there. No heart, no soul and absolutely no care for the job at hand. This usually exciting to watch actress looks as insulted to be there as I felt to be watching this loathsome film. Finally, Mr Hemsworth. Mate, you’re Thor! We all know you’ve actually got some character in you. We all know that you are more than a long haired cardboard cutout with zero ability to look interested in anything. So why are you in this film sleepwalking your way through every scene pretending like you’re Mel Gibson pretending to be William Wallace? Weak, dude.

Along with bits of Game of Thrones and Once Upon A Time, the story has a few elements from Snow White and a whole lot has been borrowed from The Snow Queen – but friends, Frozen this ain’t. No real care or attention has been put into the plot-hole heavy story and even less into the film’s direction. The Huntsman plays itself like a dark and scary fantasy film with some flashes of horror in it but doesn’t have the courage of its convictions. Instead the film plays safe to the same crowd that went to the first film because Hemsworth – and missing-in-action Kristen Stewart hot off of her Twilight fame – not only fails to put together a decent flick for the teenagers it’s aimed at, it fails to put together a watchable movie at all.

Overall, The Huntsman: Winter’s War is a bloody awful film. Even for a first time director it’s a poorly filmed, badly executed mess with a hacked together, disjointed script and a bored looking cast. It’s a real shame, because all the parts for a great film are here just waiting to be put together. Sadly, those in charge of its construction aren’t much more than peanut butter slurping monkeys, constantly distracted picking bits of poo out of their bum hair.

Crimson Peak

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“It is a monstrous love. And it makes monsters of us all.”

Crimson Peak is not a horror. It’s a gothic romance. Creepy, tense, but full of emotion”. So promised Guillermo Del Toro before his latest film was released. Still, I’ve seen the trailers and they suitably creeped the shit out of me and I was more than ready to call bullshit and say that Crimson Peak is in fact a horror flick. After a conversation with my local Cineworld where, for reasons I simply can’t explain, they refused to do a showing of one of the few horror films I was looking forward to with the lights on, I jeered myself up and headed to sit in pitch black with a film from a guy who’s horrors – or whatever he wants to call them – scare the living crap out of me.

Mia Wasikowska is Edith Cushing; a woman who, as a child, discovers she has the ability to see ghosts when her mother’s death leaves her haunted by terrifying spirits. Now a grown woman, she dreams of being a writer and is stifled by the sexism of the late 19th century and is left a little deflated by the situation she’s found herself in. Enter Sir Thomas Sharpe, a very cool and suave looking Tom Hiddleston, an English baronet and an inventor who’s desperately chasing finances to build a machine to mine the invaluable red clay that his estate is built on. Falling for Sharpe’s charm and sophistication, the pair are quickly married and heading across the Atlantic from New York to Cumberland where they will live together in the gentleman’s run down estate with his sister, Lady Lucille Sharpe; an ever so slightly creepy turn by Jessica Chastain.

Having been ghost free for a decade and a half, Edith’s arrival at the Sharpe’s Allerdale Hall estate brings with it ghosts both new and old that haunt the new bride’s nights warning her of the evils that lie within the house she now calls home. As Edith digs into the pasts of the house and the brother and sister that live there, she begins to uncover a generations old secret that threatens to swallow her up and leave the creepy siblings successful in their diabolical plans that will make their run down estate shine once again.

Guillermo Del Toro’s films have always amazed me, but I’ve always been of the opinion that we, as an audience, get two different Del Toro’s. The first is the man we all got to know years ago, the man who writes, directs and produces creepy Spanish language films whose imagery is as disturbing as the stories he tells. His direction is simple and elegant and horrifyingly beautiful. Then we get the man who found commercial success with his English language movies like Blade 2 and Hellboy; films that are, in their way, just as good as his Spanish language movies but are missing something. They are amazing, and again his direction and imagery are superb but they feel like they are missing the soul that Del Toro puts into his ghost films. This is where Crimson Peak really shines. We are treated to the kind of world that, until now, has been reserved for the man’s sublime back catalogue. Films like The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth and the Del Toro produced The Orphanage are where I believe we get to see the best in the director’s work and finally we get an English language film that takes us back to his roots.

As is always the case with Guillermo Del Toro’s films, the acting is amazing, but the direction is what shines brightest from the screen. The Sharpe’s Allerdale Hall is the true star of the film; the haunted house looks like a gothic cathedral standing tall in the rolling hills of North England. Inside, every turn takes you in to a perfectly crafted corridor that is as eerie and it is gorgeous; every creaky staircase and every flickering lantern is moulded perfectly into a house who’s walls literally bleed red from the wet clay surrounding it and as the snow falls and the house is surrounded with white, the mansion looks even more beautiful and even more eerie.

I genuinely can’t recommend Crimson Peak enough. I’ve loved Guillermo Del Toro’s films since I first saw Mimic almost two decades ago and to see him going back to what made me fall in love with his flicks is definitely something special. It’s got some horrific moments and some terrifying imagery, but I can’t argue with the director when he promises a creepy gothic romance, that’s exactly what we got. It’s emotional and powerful and everything a fan of Del Toro’s ghost stories could want.