Main Event Reviews: “Pacific Rim” (2013) vs. “Atlantic Rim” (2013)

In 2007, American screenwriter Travis Beacham was walking on the beach near Santa Monica Pier and imagined a giant monster and giant robot fighting each other to the death. He later conceived the idea of two pilots controlling this giant robot, and asked himself “What would happen if one of these people dies?”. Intrigued by the idea, he wrote a 25-page treatment. One year later, Legendary Pictures bought this treatment, then titled “Pacific Rim”. Director Guillermo Del Toro (the man behind the badass “Blade II”, the fantastic “Hellboy” and “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” and his Spanish-language masterpiece “Pan’s Labyrinth”), intrigued by Beachman’s treatment, made a deal with Legendary Pictures to co-produce and co-write the film. Five years later, “Pacific Rim”, which started as a simple idea during a walk on the beach, is now a summer blockbuster. Ah, the power of imagination. And film production companies.  And money.

 

On December 14th 2012, the first official trailer for “Pacific Rim” went viral on YouTube, and viewers worldwide went APESHIT! Amazed by the state-of-the-art special effects, they blogged, tweeted and non-virtually asked themselves questions like “How did they do that?”. One man, however, asked himself “How can WE do that?”. I’m not sure who this man is, and honestly, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that on June 24th 2013, approximately two and a half weeks before “Pacific Rim” opened in American theaters, “Atlantic Rim”….. I shit you not…… ATLANTIC MUH-FUCKIN’ RIM …. came out on direct-to-DVD. This mockbuster (i.e. low-budget rip-off of a popular, big-budget film) – or as I call it – Z-Make –  is the latest film from visual effects company The Asylum, responsible for such classics as 2006’s “Transmorphers” (I can imagine the gut-busting laughter during the marketing pitch for that movie),  2010’s “Titanic II” (which is NOT a sequel to James Cameron’s 1997 magnum opus “Titanic” , in case you were wondering), “Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies” (not to be confused, of course, with “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”) and the SyFy Channel’s original movie “Sharknado”  (which I WILL be reviewing very soon. Scout’s honour).

 

And now for the MAIN EVENT!

 

 

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First, from Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures, with an estimated budget of $190 million, directed by Guillermo Del Toro, and starring Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman and Hellboy himself, Ron Perlman, it’s the giant robot vs. giant monster smackdown “PACIFIC RIM”!!

 

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And its opponent, from The Asylum, with an estimated budget of $500,000.00, directed by Jared Cohn and starring Graham Greene, William Shannon Williams (real name), David Chokachi, Jackie Moore and Treach from the legendary rap group Naughty by Nature, it’s the wannabe giant robot vs. giant monster smackdown “ATLANTIC RIM”!!

 

 

“PACIFIC RIM” – The true original out of the two competitors kicks off tonight’s main event.  Set in the 2020s, “Pacific Rim” begins with an inter-dimensional portal opening at the floor of the Pacific Ocean. This portal unleashes gigantic creatures called Kaiju (Japanese for “monster”), that wreak havoc and destruction in different parts of the world. The leaders of the world put their petty (I guess) rivalries aside, unite and create the Jaegars (German for “hunters”), gigantic humanoid mecha controlled by two pilots. These pilots are mentally linked by a neutral bridge, which allows them to share each other’s memories and past experiences, thus making them more efficient in navigating the Jaegar.  The Jaegar project is a success, as Kaiju after Kaiju get their asses whooped – so to speak. However, due to budgeting issues, the Jaegar project is discontinued and humans have resorted to building massive walls to protect themselves from possible Kaiju attacks. Four Jaegars are deployed to Hong Kong where the construction of a coastal wall is nearly complete. Stacker Pentecost (AWESOME NAME!!) (Idris Elba), commander of the Jaegar forces, is determined to end the war, which he plans to accomplish by destroying the portal. But to do that, he needs the best Jaegar pilots at his side. He persuades retired ex-Jaegar pilot Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) to pilot the Gipsy Danger, the Jaegar he piloted years ago. Together with Mako Mori (played by the very pretty Rinko Kikuchi), Raleigh returns to the field….or sea or whatever….to wage war on the terrifying creatures which threaten humanity’s future.

 

Like the Guillermo Del Toro films that I mentioned above, “Pacific Rim” is a visually stunning movie to look at.  Del Toro loves creating strange and unique worlds, from the amazing Troll Market in “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” where creatures of all shapes and sizes populated the screen, to the dark, nightmarish Labyrinth of the Faun in “Pan’s Labyrinth”. The post-apocalyptic world of “Pacific Rim” is just as unique, with its neon-lit cityscapes, bleak exteriors and brightly-lit interiors. Primarily, the film is a homage to the Japanese-originated genres of kaiju (which started with the post-Hiroshima cultural icon Godzilla or Gojira) and mecha (an immensely popular genre involving robots). Del Toro has the utmost respect and admiration for these genres, and it shows in the film’s grandiose approach to its subject matter. Jaegars face off against Kaiju in SPECTACULARLY BAD-ASS fight sequences, the likes of which can be imagined in a manga/anime….or Saturday morning cartoon for that matter. Comparisons of these sequences can be made to adrenaline addict Michael Bay’s “Transformers” trilogy, but the differences between those films (with the exception of the first one) and “Pacific Rim” are that, simply put, the fights in “Pacific Rim” are better edited, better choreographed, easier to comprehend and far from sloppy. Also, the film skillfully uses size and scale to its advantage, making the viewer feel physically small in relation to the gigantic creatures and robots shown on-screen. The acting is exceptional, though there’s no standout performance or scene-stealer. The true scene-stealers are the Jaegars and Kaiju, and when they appear on-screen, they OWN the fucking movie! My gripes with this movie are few. Nearly all of these fights take place at night (and mind you, they look INCREDIBLE) but I would have loved to see a few more fights in the daytime to add some variety to the film. Also, the story, while well-written by Travis Beacham and Guillermo Del Toro, slows down in the first hour thanks to a section of expository dialogue and character development that I personally felt ran a bit too long. Finally, there were a few moments where the film took itself too seriously despite its anime/manga/Saturday morning cartoon premise, but then again, it’s an American summer blockbuster. If we don’t take gigantic robots kicking monster ass seriously, who will?  In the end, “Pacific Rim” is exactly what it sets out to be, and exactly what you want it to be. It’s a live-action cartoon with human characters, gargantuan monsters and equally-gargantuan robots to annihilate them in epic fashion!  And it’s also a triumph in visual storytelling and special effects that will have fanboys and fangirls all over the world worshiping Guillermo Del Toro (not like he’ll be comfortable with that though….since he’s Catholic and all).  Hideo Kojima of “Metal Gear Solid”  fame loved it, Kanye West called it one of the greatest movies ever made, and I call it a solid summer film that deserves to be experienced on the big screen….in 3D…..and in IMAX if you can cough up the extra money!

 

 

“ATLANTIC RIM” –  You know those rappers who try to rap in a sing-song manner like Drake or use Auto-Tune to sing bullshitty choruses, just because they’re popular trends in rap music? And then they tweak these trends (usually by fucking them up entirely) just to appear “different”? Well, that’s what “Atlantic Rim” is: it blatantly copies the premise of “Pacific Rim” while trying desperately to be different. Creatures rise out of the Atlantic Ocean – their origins never explained – and the military hires these three self-righteous caricatures to kick their asses. They’re so full of themselves that they walk majestically cliched slow motion towards an Army jeep, just to get a free ride to the military base. It takes about half a minute, in case you were wondering.

 

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With their gigantic robots (nicknamed…I think… Red Bot, Blue Bot and Green Bot by their users – which is funny since Treach from Naughty by Nature gets the Green Bot – ’cause he be smoking weed in his spare time and shit – apparently), the trio fights gigantic creature after ugly, unimaginative gigantic creature. It’s the equivalent of watching an episode of “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers” (which, as you should know, is inspired heavily by the kaiju genre). Even the robots themselves look like something out of the Power Rangers TV series.

 

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The Asylum could’ve made a toy line based off this movie. If only they had the money. Ah well.

 

The story is dull and uninteresting for its 81-minute running time. An oil rig is sunk thanks to some creature whose origin is left unexplained, and our three Zords…oops, I mean, heroes….are sent to investigate.  Afterwards, more creatures attack and our heroes are forced to step back into their robots (which run out of fuel quickly, leaving them incapacitated and immovable, by the way) shout orders at each other and save the day. “Atlantic Rim” is really fucking lame, but the cheesiness and corniness of the film itself makes it watchable.  Feel the joy as ‘Red’ (played to a douchebag-level extent by David Chokachi’) dances with his potential love interest Tracy (Jackie Moore) at a party, while footage of death and destruction inter-cuts their scene together.  Smell the tension as Jim (of ALL the names in the world, you’re going to call Treach’s character JIM?! Really?!!) saves a girl from a building engulfed in After Effects-rendered flames, and tells her that his superhero name is Superfly, because he’s “gonna fly her out” to safety in his Green Bot. HUH?!!! Gaze in amazement as the trio, powered by metallic headbands connecting themselves to their machines (*COUGH*rip-off of neutral bridge in “Pacific Rim”*COUGH), swing their arms wildly in order to get their robots to move their arms to fight the creatures. And connect emotionally with ‘Red’ who, after being placed in solitary confinement for insubordination (this montage runs for about a minute, but I assume he stayed in there for no less than 5 minutes before his superior enters the room), keeps his spirit and determination up by pacing up and down the room, doing push-ups, writing something on a piece of paper at a table, shadowboxing and screaming at the guard outside. It is the FUNNIEST scene in the entire movie! I replayed this scene about FIVE TIMES, and laughed my ass off every time! Yes, I said ‘replayed’. This movie is available for download on the torrent site of your choice, so hopefully, you won’t see the need to buy it from the bootleg DVD distributor of your choice for $10.

 

If you enjoy watching bad movies, especially with friends, you’ll find lots to laugh at in “Atlantic Rim”. The special effects are crappy, the story is poorly-written, the characters are one-dimensional and the dialogue is nonsensical. Examples include: “Jesus  H. Christ! I’d love to be watching the news tonight”, “Tell him it’s too late! It hatched!”, “We jammed that sucker! We JAMMED it!” , “What is this on my sonar? It looks like a mermaid” and my favourite line “WHOA! I GOT A WARHAMMER!!”  But thanks to its over-seriousness and lack of tongue-in-cheek humour (which most SyFy Original Movies contain. by the way), “Atlantic Rim” is a movie that you won’t be watching again….or at all.

 

Oh, and by the way, Mr. William Shannon Williams, Samuel L. Jackson just called. He wants his eye patch back!

 

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“PACIFIC RIM” – 4 out of 5 stars (“See this movie”)

“ATLANTIC RIM” –  1 out of 5 stars (“Of course it sucked!”)

– Matthew

 

 

 

Main Event Reviews: “World War Z” (2013) vs. “Apocalypse Z (Zombie Massacre) (2013)

In my continued attempt to bring some variety to this blog, I plan to continue the “versus” concept that I incorporated last year into my write-up: “Mirror Mirror vs. Snow White and the Huntsman: The Fairest Fight of them All”. Back then, the title suited that post perfectly as I compared and contrasted the two live-action Snow White films which came out a mere two months apart from each other. But like the Overlooked Movies category that I christened last week, today’s post marks a brand-new category to A Legally Black Blog that I’d like to call “Main Event Reviews”. Here, two movies with a similar theme, similar title or EXACT title (i.e. original vs. remake) do battle for ultimate supremacy. Ties are rare in this competition, but for the most part, there can only be one winner.

 

And now for the MAIN EVENT!

 

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First, from Paramount Pictures, Skydance Productions, GK Films and Plan B Entertainment, with an estimated budget of $190 million, directed by Marc (“I was the guy who directed “Quantum of Solace” – You know,…that ONE James Bond movie that Daniel Craig fans shitted on”) Foster, and starring Brad (“My name’s in the dictionary. Really! Look it up!”) Pitt,  David (“Yo, I got snubbed for that Emmy! Really! Look it up!) Morse, and Matthew (“’Alex Cross’ does not exist! Really! Look it up!”) Fox, it’s the zombie-apocalypse summer blockbuster “WORLD WAR Z”!!

 

 

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And its opponent, from Metrodome Distribution, Event Film, Extreme Video and 8988 Games (Ooookay then), with an estimated budget of….$1,000,000 (WOW!), written and directed by Luca Boni and Marco Ristori (“Either your brains or your signature would be on that cheque. I’m just kidding. That was a Mafia joke. We’re not Mafia, by the way”), and starring Uwe (“Do people really call me the Ed Wood of the 21st century?”) Boll, Tara (“I was an extra in ‘Beverly Hills Chihuahua”. Really! Look it up!”) Cardinal and Carl (“I don’t even know what fucking movies I’ve been in. Check IMDB or sum’n”) Wharton, it’s the seemingly-original “APOCALYPSE Z” (a.k.a. ZOMBIE MASSACRE)!!

 

If you haven’t realized it by now, “Apocalypse Z” (or “Zombie Massacre” which is actually the better title) is but one of a large number of Z-movies (or Z-makes as I’ll be calling them throughout this review) that blatantly copy the premises and/or titles of particular Hollywood movies (mostly horror or sci-fi) which either came out in the past or currently generated a lot of Internet buzz, like “Snakes on a Plane” (‘remade’ as “Snakes on a Train” — now that’s fucking original), “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” (‘remade’ as “Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies”) and the upcoming  mecha vs. monster sci-fi flick “Pacific Rim” (‘remade’ a few months ago – or should I say, copied the premise from the TRAILER for Pacific Rim before the movie even came out – as “Atlantic Rim”). Now Z-makes shouldn’t be confused with the “XXX parody” (a term which is pretty much self-explanatory). At least those movies are self-aware that they’re making fun of your favourite movies, like “Spider-Man” (parodied as “Spider Babe”), “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” (serving as inspiration for “Pirates”) and “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring'” (INFAMOUSLY parodied as “The Lord of the G-Strings: The Femaleship of the String”). Z-makes, from what I’ve observed, are far from intended parody. They’re presented as “legitimate” films made by “legitimate” film companies for a “legitimate” audience (i.e. those over 21 who want to get drunk with some friends on a Saturday night and laugh at a bullshit movie).  Z-movie film production studios hiring smaller-time visual effects studios and washed-up or relatively unknown actors to work on these “center of the Earth”-low budget films is one thing, but giving these films titles that are obvious rip-offs to superior (for better or worse) Hollywood films  is something else altogether. I think the main reason behind this practice is to fool the customer into thinking that the Z-make is RELATED to the Hollywood film, like the aforementioned “Abraham Lincoln” movies. If the “Vampire Hunter” film is inaccessible, then the customer would be inclined to stream (online), rent or (gulp) BUY the “Zombies” film. And just like that, the Z-movie studios make money and/or generate their own Internet buzz.

 

Now I’ve never seen a Z-make before, and I figured that now would be a great time to start, considering the worldwide success of “World War Z”. You know and I know that I’ll HATE the shit out of “Apocalypse Z”, but I am a film buff and as such, I have to be open to a wide variety of movies. And with a bag of popcorn in my hands and my brain on my lap, I’m confident that I will, at least, catch a few laughs with this movie. Besides, I’ve sat through Z-movies before. Just recently, I watched “Super Shark” on the SyFy channel (ONLY because E! TV host Joel McHale poked fun at it on “The Soup” (best show on E! – I’m just saying)) IN ITS ENTIRETY and it was HILARIOUS……LY BAD! Here’s a hilarious video based on the movie. Call it “ringside entertainment”:

 

 

Well, it looks like the two competitors are desperately trying to keep themselves awake. So long intro aside, LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE!!

 

“WORLD WAR Z” – There’s a lot of zombie movies out there, but not that many with a PG-13 rating.  Like “I Am Legend” back in 2007 (which was, in retrospect,  a very good but not a great Will Smith film),”World War Z” takes a horror sub-genre dedicated to blood, guts and rotting flesh and tells a story that audiences 13 years and over can enjoy. Though it apparently strays away from Max Brooks’ 2006 novel of the same name (I haven’t read the book, and I don’t have any intention to any time soon), Marc Foster’s adaptation succeeds as an entertaining, thrilling and….I shit you not…..FUN zombie movie. Brad Pitt plays Gerry Lane, a former United Nations investigator and family man tasked to investigate a worldwide outbreak of a virus that turns people into zombies. While evading masses of zombies from country to country, Lane learns more about the virus and its effects. It’s this knowledge that can save humanity from the uncontrollable pandemic affecting the world, provided that Lane survives long enough to apply it.  Since Brad Pitt is the only A-list actor in “World War Z”, the film plays itself essentially as a Brad Pitt movie, with the supporting cast overshadowed by Pitt’s own star quality as a result. As expected, Mr. Bradgelina (do people still say that shit?) turns in a solid performance, and you can’t help but root for the guy as he runs away from, dodges and eludes zombies from the Middle East to Europe. The zombies themselves are well-crafted (in terms of both make-up and CGI) and if their twitchy movements and ability to leap onto their victims doesn’t freak you out, then seeing them pile themselves together into gigantic masses WILL.  There are some great jump scares in the film and a lot of holy-shit moments thrown here and there, but unfortunately, there are little scenes of genuine zombie violence.  I blame the rating for that aspect, for had it been a R-rated film, we would have been given the genuine gore that one expects from a zombie movie. But thanks to the film’s quick pace, dark tone and roller-coaster ride approach to its story, “World War Z” manages to elevate itself to a worthy entry into the zombie genre. Don’t go expecting a feature-length version of an episode of “The Walking Dead” and you’ll be fine.

 

“APOCALYPSE Z” – While “World War Z” was based on a novel, “Apocalypse Z” (actual name: “Zombie Massacre”) is based on the 1998  Amiga computer video game of the same name which, according to Wikipedia, was a clone of the CLASSIC first-person shooter “Doom” (which, if you know your video game movie history, was adapted to an immensely disappointing Universal Studios film starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson back in 2005). On the subject of video game movies, one name has become synonymous with shitty film adaptations of great video games: Uwe Boll. He directed not one – but FIVE bad video game movies: 2003’s “House of the Dead”, 2006’s “BloodRayne”, 2007’s “In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale” starring Jason Statham, 2007’s “Postal” and 2008’s “Far Cry”.  With that being said, “Apocalypse Z” is a terrible movie. No, I don’t think you get it.  “Apocalypse Z” is a TERRIBLE MOVIE, and not in the ‘so bad it’s good’ category either. The plot is as follows: four mercenaries – 3 gun-toting guys and a woman wielding two fake-ass katanas (along with knives, a handgun just in case and a couple of shurikens….you know….for good measure) are hired by the CIA to infiltrate a Romanian nuclear power plant infected by a virus that…you guessed it….turns people into zombies. The mission is to blow up the power plant before the virus spreads worldwide or some shit like that. “Apocalypse Z” suffers from an abundance of expository dialogue. The main characters explain what the mission is about over and over to each other, and it gets really fucking annoying after the first ten minutes of the film. If the dialogue isn’t hammering a plot point to the viewer’s head, it tries its utmost hardest to develop character. This, however, fails every time thanks to the bad acting by the film’s cast. There are some incredibly ridiculous lines in this movie, the most bizarre of these being“You know what a big pile of shite looks like…with flies around it? I’m going to create a big pile of SHITE! You have to trust me on this one!”,  but none that can you expect to see on an Internet Meme in the future. Like most bad movies, there are some unintentionally hilarious moments. In one scene, one of the male mercenaries (I won’t say who – not like you’ll give a fuck anyway) is attacked by a zombie.  Before he passes away, he shares a homo-erotic moment with his comrade, who’s forced to kill him. The comrade leans over, and in a unconvincingly disenchanted manner, speaks the following: “Brother. So many wars…so many women..we will fight again! We will fight (*FAKE TEARS*) again! Forgive me, my brother!”. Unfortunately, the Oscar-worthy acting doesn’t end there! The acting throughout the film is so stilted and amateur, it’s as if they’re starring in a student film. Like I mentioned earlier, the estimated budget is $1,000,000 AND IT SHOWS! Every time a zombie with a different face (see, every zombie in this movie LOOKS DIFFERENT! They have no distinct facial features, as all look radically different from one another) gets shot with a fake bullet from a plastic gun with obvious After Effects muzzle flair added to it, you can literally see the budget burning on-screen. I expected to laugh my ass off considerably in this movie, but apart from a few corny one-liners, some laughable action sequences and a  performance by Tara Cardinal that would have even the most devoted of cosplay girls yelling at the screen in disgust over how uninspired her character is (her fighting movements….if that’s what they were supposed to be ….were lazy, sloppy and effortless. Even the way she holds her katana is lazy. Check the pic below)….

 

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….. “Apocalypse Z” is an absolute mess and a complete waste of 86 minutes of your life. It’s unexciting, un-entertaining, unoriginal (take a wild guess what this shot reminds you of)…..

 

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….. underwhelming and undeniably a big pile of shite….with flies around it. Unless you really enjoy laughing at bad movies, or you want to educate yourself on how NOT to make a original, low-budget horror/action movie,  do not see this movie. EVER! In fact, you should skip “Apocalypse Z”  altogether and move on to “Apocalypse Now”, since it’s a fucking masterpiece (PERIOD) compared to Uwe Boll’s entire filmography. Oh, and I forgot to mention: Uwe Boll plays the President of the United States. I’m not joking. German-born Uwe Boll plays a (surprisingly) foul-mouthed, bald-headed PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES – and he doesn’t even try to sound American! Good thing you only appear for one minute, huh, Boll?

 

AND THE WINNER IS –  Couldn’t you tell by my long-ass tirade in the previous paragraph? “World War Z'” is the better movie. It’s worth the time and the extra money (Yes, it’s in 3D – and it’s done REALLY well).  “Apocalypse Z”, like the game that inspired it, should, and will be, forgotten through the test of time.  “Super Shark”, on the other hand, will be remembered by me, ’cause that shit was HILARIOUS! Seriously, it was!

 

WORLD WAR Z” – 4 out of 5 stars (“See this movie”)

“APOCALYPSE Z” –  1/2 out of 5 stars (“Burn this movie….literally”)

– Matthew

“Mirror Mirror” vs. “Snow White and the Huntsman” – The Fairest Fight of them All

Once upon a time in the magical kingdom of Hollywood, there lived a man named Walt Disney.  After the success and popularity of his Mickey Mouse short films, Walt began production of the first ever feature-length, full-colour animated film. Based on a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, this film was called “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”.  With its revolutionary animation, charming characters and timeless story, this film was a milestone in cinematic history. The first of its kind, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” laid the foundation for nearly every fairy-tale themed film released since then.

 

More than 70 years later,  the fairy-tale film became a cash cow for the kingdom of Hollywood. While there were a few critical and commercial successes (“Shrek”, “Enchanted”, “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Tangled”),  and those which made a substantial amount of money despite mixed reviews (“Hoodwinked!”, “Alice in Wonderland”), the rest of these movies SUCKED ASS (“Beastly”, “Hoodwinked Two”, “Red Riding Hood”, “A Cinderella Story”). It seemed as if every classic fairy tale (from “Jack and the Beanstalk” (ridiculously re-titled “Jack and the Giant Killer”) to “Hansel and Gretel” (I shit you not!)) was destined cursed to be adapted into a movie.

 

But then, an extraordinary event took place. Two films were released in 2012, almost three months apart from one another, which were both adaptations of the “Snow White” fairy tale – and to a lesser extent, the “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” animated film.  Both were commercial successes, and both received positive and negative comments by critics and viewers alike.  But in the fight for box office supremacy, only one live-action “Snow White” film is cursed destined to stand tall.

 

And now for the MAIN EVENT!

 

 

First, from Relativity Media, with an estimated budget of $85 million, directed by  Tarsem (“Just call me Tarsem”) Singh, and starring Lily (“I don’t even know what ‘Sussidio’ means”) Collins,  Julia (“I will not play a hooker with a heart of gold…AGAIN”) Roberts, and Armie (“It’s ARMIE Hammer….not fucking ARM & HAMMER!”) Hammer, it’s the PG-rated “MIRROR, MIRROR”.

 

 

And its opponent, from Universal Pictures, with an estimated budget of $170 million, directed by Rupert (“This is my first feature film, bitches!”) Sanders, and starring Kristen (“Did that kid just call me Bella?”) Stewart, Charlize (“I want another Academy Award”) Theron, and Chris (“I’d like my fucking hammer back, Sir!”) Hemsworth, it’s the PG-13 rated “SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN”.

 

Those of you looking for a faithful adaptation of the Snow White story and/or animated film will be extremely disappointed. Both “Mirror Mirror” and “Snow White and the Huntsman” differ immensely from its source material.  This can be viewed simply as an attempt to present the Snow White fairy tale to a modern, Twilight-esque generation. While “Mirror Mirror” strays far from, and modernizes particular conventions of, the original story, “Snow White and the Huntsman” maintains most of these conventions, while presenting the story as a medieval epic.

 

“MIRROR MIRROR” – With this film, you get a light-hearted, and sometimes trippy, comic adventure in which Snow White (Lily Collins) seeks to re-gain her kingdom from the clutches of her stepmother, Queen Gertrude (Julia Roberts). Yes, she meets the seven dwarfs. And yes, she falls in love with a prince (named Andrew Alcott and played by Armie Hammer). But in an ironic twist, the Queen herself also falls for Prince Alcott, and desires to marry him for his wealth. So now the villain of “Snow White” has been reduced to a fucking gold-digger! Yeeeeeah.  The performances in the film are good, but it’s Julia Roberts who steals the show as the self-obsessed, neurotic and partly psychotic Queen Gertrude. The visuals, as expected from a Tarsem Singh film, are gorgeous and unique, and the costume design by the late, great Eiko Ishioka deserve to be Oscar-nominated. However, there are moments in “Mirror Mirror” where the story screeches to a halt and pointlessly revels in its own weirdness, almost as if it’s not sure where it should go next. Take, for example, a bizarre-ass sequence (which lasts fortunately for less than a minute), where the Queen is the subject of a beauty makeover. BIRD SHIT is used as a facial mask, worms and bugs are spread over her skin, and scorpions are used to pinch her lips (call that the earliest form of lip augmentation, folks).  In a later scene, Prince Alcott is given a love potion by the Queen while in her bedchamber. This love potion….wait for it…. was meant for a puppy! Get it? Puppy love? Clearly, this joke was meant for six-year old kids. And six-year old kids are guaranteed to laugh their heads off when Armie Hammer acts like a fucking puppy. Even the dwarfs in the film exist to make six-year old kids laugh, and nothing more. In my opinion, “Mirror Mirror” feels more like a kids movie instead of a solid family movie.  Now I admit – the film had style, but it lacked character depth, a cohesive theme and a story entertaining enough for me to give two fucks about what was going on. In the end, “Mirror Mirror” was, simply put, a bad apple.

 

“SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN” – In the vein of recent medieval adventure flicks like “King Arthur” and “Robin Hood”, this film delivers a dark and grimy version of its source material. An adult Snow White (Kristen Stewart) is introduced as a prisoner held captive in the tower of a castle owned by her cruel stepmother Ravenna (Charlize Theron). After killing Snow’s father on the night of their wedding (OUCH!, Ravenna rules the kingdom of Tabor with an iron fist. She sucks the life force of virgin girls to prevent herself from becoming old and withered. But everything changes when the man in the mirror (not Michael Jackson – RIP) warns Ravenna that there is another one fairer than her. Without revealing much of the plot, Snow escapes from the tower, and eventually winds up in the Dark Forest where she meets Eric the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth). Later on, they meet a band of eight dwarfs (yes, I said EIGHT) who guides them through an enchanted forest, where Snow learns of her true destiny. As expected in a medieval adventure flick, there is a final battle involving cavalry riding along the beach in slow-motion, a rousing pre-battle speech delivered by Kristen Stewart (of all people) and of course, the final confrontation between Snow and Ravenna.  From the nightmarish Dark Forest to the beautiful enchanted forest, this film is visually stunning. Kristen Stewart is surprisingly good as Snow White, even though she loses her British accent at times, and her facial features still resemble that of her Twilight character, Bella. The rest of the cast, especially the actors who play the dwarfs (who had their faces digitally transmuted on small bodies, by the way), deliver decent performances. But it’s Charlize Theron who, similar to Julia Roberts in “Mirror Mirror”, steals the show. Her performance is so grandiose and over-the-top that she literally commands every scene that she’s in.  There are a few flaws however. The pacing in the film, more particularly the second act in which Ravenna is almost non-existent, is a bit uneven. Also, there’s a couple of unexplained events in the film. Like when Snow escapes from the tower, she winds up on a beach and there’s a white horse just standing there. Where the fuck did that horse come from? And logically, what’s the odds of finding a solitary horse on a beach while being chased by a band of soldiers? It’s never explained. Yeeeeeah. But anyway, while “Snow White and the Huntsman” is far from perfect, it’s still a very entertaining film.  And it’s more fucking entertaining than all the Twilight movies put together! I’m just saying.

 

AND THE WINNER IS –  “Snow White and the Huntsman”, by a fucking longshot, wins this battle. Unless you really hate looking at Kristen Stewart’s buck teeth, or you have a gripe with five-foot actors playing dwarfs, then this film is worth your time and money. But whether you check out this film or not, I highly recommend that you see the 1937 “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. It’s dated (DURRRHH!) but it’s a rather enjoyable movie and a masterpiece in all respects. And it’s actually a family film, which is more than I can say about “Mirror Mirror” – I mean, “The-Film-Which-Will-Not-Be-Remembered”.

 

“MIRROR MIRROR” – 2 out of 5 stars (“I want my money back”)

“SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN” – 3 1/2 out of 5 stars (“Worth a look”)

– Matthew