Reviews: Hobbit, Wolf of Wall Street, Catching Fire and More


Long time no see! Reviews have been irregular lately but I wanted to start 2014 with an easy round up to get back on track. I’ve seen a lot of movies over the past few months and I wanted to write down a few quick thoughts on each one. Moving forward the review schedule will be a lot more lax than it used to be but I’m aiming to get back to writing more than I have these last four months. Somewhere along the way I felt like these reviews became very mechanical and emotionless which got away from what I really loved. I want to dial it back and focus less on formality and more on writing about films I enjoy. Anyway, here we go. First up, Ender’s Game.

Ender’s Game

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Ender’s Game was a major disappoint for me. The two weeks leading up to the film’s release I read the novel and was instantly hooked. I fell in love with the characters and was immersed in the constant struggles Ender faced. The movie does away with a lot of this struggle and instead focuses more on flashy action scenes. The battle room, which served as a major chunk of the novel, is skimmed over rather quickly along with all the relationships Ender cultivated with his time there. I never got the sense of Ender becoming the respected leader he was in the books. Also the dynamic between Bonzo and Ender is completely ruined due to a rather unfortunate casting choice that causes far more unintentional humor than it should. Simply put, the film hits the high points that were in the book but without the proper time to breathe it felt like a waste of time amounting to nothing more than popcorn fluff. I wish I could remember the Reddit user to give them proper credit but they summed it up perfectly. The Ender’s Game movie is as good an adaptation as watching someone’s vacation slideshow is a good vacation.

Thor: The Dark World

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Thor: The Dark World was satisfyingly entertaining, far more so than Iron Man 3. It was nice to get a deeper look at Asgard and how that side of the universe lives. The movie started off a little slow for me but it definitely picked up once Thor and Loki partnered up. My only concern is the film’s understandable love affair with Loki. Despite their dynamic stealing the show and being the source of the film’s fun, I felt like the film dropped all other aspects of the story to showcase them. I like Loki enough that I don’t want his character to outstay his welcome. For what it is though, Thor: The Dark World is a solid action film. I was a little surprised how much the early parts of the film reminded me of the Star Wars Prequels, in a good way of course.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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I was caught off guard with how much I enjoyed The Hunger Games when it first released in 2012. It was a decent film and covered enough of the books for me to be happy with it. Although my interest in the film didn’t make it through all the books, specifically the third entry, my interest was still piqued for the films. Catching Fire is an incredible follow up to The Hunger Games and delivers on intense action guided by strong performances. I was impressed with Catching Fire’s ability to incite so much anxiety within me, particularly in a scene involving a swarm of Jabber Jays that did a wonderful job of conveying great panic.

One of my complaints with the first film is the way it got away with a lot of the violence by quick cutting before a character died. It was somewhat of an understandable distraction but it was still off-putting nonetheless. Catching Fire’s strength this time around is the fact that the dangers Katniss faces is more elemental based than combat based allowing for the film to be more lenient with its violence and action. It was a much more immersive experience for me this time around it made the film a lot more enjoyable. Doubt it’ll convert any new fans but it’s definitely worth the time for those who already bought in the first go around.

Frozen

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Frozen was far more enjoyable than I expected and I happily ate crow for all my previous doubts. It’s a great throwback to traditional Disney musicals and features an impressive track of catchy songs, some of which I may or may not have had on repeat in my car for days after. The story plays wonderfully on old Disney princess tropes and provides a nice message for young audiences. It’s a simple story but the execution is charming enough to be entertaining for all ages. The animation itself is wonderfully done and features incredibly beautiful scenery. I wasn’t completely sold on the character models themselves, which at times felt too clean like they were something straight out of a direct to DVD Barbie movie. However this could have been a creative choice, as the character models feel more natural as the movie progresses further into its adventures outside the fairy tale setting. If you’re a fan of animation, especially old Disney films, than this film is a must see film.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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I’ve been conflicted on my feelings for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug for quite a while. The same old song and dance is that the decision to split this simple story into three films would be too much of a good thing. The Jackson Lord of the Rings fan boy in me was thrilled for a new trilogy but it’s never been more evident than with Desolation of Smaug that this may not have been the right choice after all. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my time with Desolation of Smaug but it’s far from a film I would recommend to anyone. It feels like a series of inside jokes or stories that fans will enjoy but for everyone else it feels like it spends a lot of time accomplishing nothing.

The biggest crime the film commits is the gradual shift in focus from Bilbo to the dwarves almost completely. It’s somewhat understandable given that the Dwarves’ quest translates more to exciting cinema than Bilbo’s story but it’s only frustrating when the film decides to spend it’s screen time on superfluous subplots instead. The Legolas, Kili, and Tauriel love triangle is completely unnecessary, especially given the fact that we’re rushed through great moments from the book like Beorn’s House, Mirkwood, and the Wood Elves prison. It’s just a shame that for a movie called The Hobbit, the time we spend with the hobbit has slowly diminished. Overall it’s a narrative mess that feels like it’s obviously been spread way to thin.  Despite these troubling decisions, the film more than makes up for it with the outstanding River Barrel scene and it’s wonderful depiction of Smaug.

Smaug in particular is truly a great spectacle and is the series greatest animated character since Gollum. The dragon is emanating with power and ferocity that commands your attention every second he’s on screen. The dialogue between Bilbo and Smaug is wonderfully playful and conveys such a great sense of power Smaug holds over Bilbo. The film (surprise surprise) takes liberties with the Lonely Mountain scenes but by that point I was more than willing to forgive it and enjoy the ride. As enjoyable as these films are, in the end I can’t help but wish for a tighter film that focuses more on adapting The Hobbit than being inspired by it.

The Wolf of Wall Street

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The Wolf of Wall Street is vile, unapologetic, and downright immoral, but I loved every second of it. It’s definitely not a film for the faint of heart but if you’re willing to join the ride it’s an incredibly bizarre trip. Sex, drugs and alcohol dominates the life of Jordan Belfort and watching the slow descent into depravity and madness is a train wreck that you can’t look away from. The film’s humor is definitely dark and often reaches such ridiculous levels that you can’t help but burst out laughing. American greed through the eyes of Scorsese is extremely uncomfortable and brutally savage. Leonardo DiCaprio gives an absolutely remarkable performance that blurs the line of insanity and absurdity, undeniably making Jordan Belfort DiCaprio’s craziest character yet. Jonah Hill also delivers a wonderful performance that shows the actors incredible range of talent. Hill and DiCaprio share a wonderful on screen dynamic that is the heart of the film’s humor.

The thing I loved the most about this film is the way it’s able to bring the audience crashing down to reality no matter how bizarre the rampant drug fueled escapades ran out of control. There’s such a stark contrast between the seemingly invincible wolves of Wall Street and the real world people that they’re affecting as well as the real danger that they’re putting themselves through. It’s these brief reminders throughout the film that provides a quick realistic glimpse of the self-centered protagonist that the film seemingly shines a glamorous light on. It’s a subtle touch but it’s the point of the film that there is no moral compass here. We’re supposed to be upset and bothered by the film.

I’ll concede the movie isn’t for everyone though. Much like Jordan Belfort, the movie doesn’t know when to quit. I felt like the film could be trimmed down to make a tighter movie, and the excessive narration can feel a little spoon-fed at times. The Wolf of Wall Street may end up being my guilty pleasure, but it’s a film that more than deserves your time at least once. Oh, and trust me when I say this film earns it’s hard R rating.

Interested in writing reviews or news posts for Thinking Cinematic? Contact me at ThinkCinematicReviews@gmail.com! You can also send your guest reviews there too!

Connect with me at:
Twitter: @TreyRSolis
Twitter: @Think_Cinematic
Email: ThinkCinematicReviews@Gmail.com

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Pacific Rim


Summary:

Pacific Rim is a modern day monster movie done right. Weak plots aside it’s hard to deny that the film is incredibly fun and a visually fantastic. The massive scope of the monster battles is breathtaking and pure energetic fun. The cataclysmic destruction is unforgiving and watching giant robots using ships as weapons is so incredibly satisfying on screen. It easily delivers on the monster clashing action that was made for summer films and it does so on a massive scale. That being said, the scenes in between the massive fights will test your patience due to a rather weak plot. Characters are paper-thin and story arcs are rather bland. Dialogue is painfully regurgitated for the benefit of the audience and unnatural. It’ll have a hard time breaking out of its niche market but it’s definitely worth the praise for the specific demographic.

Pacific Rim tells a story set in the near future where giant monsters named Kaiju begin emerging from deep below the Pacific Ocean. These unstoppable forces terrorize major cities, killing millions in the process and wiping humanity of valuable resources. Setting aside their differences mankind comes together to create and build giant, humanoid fighting machines called Jaegers. These mechanical giants are the only weapons capable of standing up to the Kaiju and are most certainly humanity’s last hope of survival.

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Oh boy. Pacific Rim is a movie with a very specific demographic, one which has already had their minds made up to see this movie since day one. However, if you’re still on the fence about this one there are a few things to consider. At its simplest Pacific Rim is a monster versus robots movie and it never tries too hard to be anything more than that. It easily delivers on the monster clashing action that was made for summer films and it does so on a massive scale. That being said, the scenes in between the massive fights will test your patience due to a rather weak plot.

The movie is riddled with clichés and story arcs that are rather boring. The movie never gives enough to time to get invested in the characters, and most of the time we are left filling in the blanks ourselves. One of the main characters Mako Mori desperately wishes to become a Jaeger pilot but is continuously passed for consideration despite being a more than capable candidate. We are told about her skills more than we are shown and it’s not until after she’s suited up and deep into the action that we get to see her talent for ourselves. It makes the build up less than thrilling and nothing we couldn’t predict. It’s little plots like these that are skimmed through throughout the film to get straight to the action that leave a somewhat unsatisfying feeling story wise.

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Another prime example is the neural link between the Jaeger co-pilots. Personally this was one of the most interesting aspects about the story but the movie never dwells on it long enough to really flesh out this aspect. We are given the wonderful flash back scene with Mako but other than that the supposedly important neural link between the pilots doesn’t feel that important. In fact there is an eye rolling scene where two characters who are obviously over explaining their actions for the benefit of the audience despite supposedly being connected through their minds. You can definitely see where the movie was trying to go with these plot threads but it lacks the proper finesse to get it’s point across and it’s clear that it wasn’t the primary concern with Pacific Rim.

Weak plots aside, it’s hard to deny that Pacific Rim is an incredible looking film. The Kaiju and Jaeger designs are outstanding and the scale of each towering monster is breathtaking. The fights are brutal and there’s definitely a sense of weight with each punch. Things like elbow rocket powered punches are pure fan service and I admittedly ate it up. There are plenty of fights throughout the film, each more ambitious than the last. The cataclysmic destruction is unforgiving and watching giant robots using ships as weapons is so incredibly satisfying on screen. This film is meant for the big screen and definitely a trip to the IMAX Theater that I look forward to. The fights are energetic and invoke a child like sense of awe that I haven’t felt in a theater since last year’s Avengers.

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This is a modern day monster movie done right and it’s definitely a visual treat for the right demographic. You can easily see how much fun del Toro is having with this film, and often times he’s just showing off. Del Toro does a wonderful job of capturing the terror of these monsters and they never feel like just massive obstacles to fight against, as can be seen during the Mako Flashback scene. This was easily one of my favorite moments from the film and watching an isolated Mako run for her life as a Kaiju attacked her abandoned city kept me on the edge of my seat. The movie captures the right sense of horror and fun without losing it’s energetic tone. Pacific Rim definitely hits the right beats for the fans of this genre and is one of the most entertaining movies of the summer for the right demographic.

However, it’s hard to recommend this movie to anyone who isn’t looking for pure mindless action. At the end of the day Pacific Rim is simply all style with little to no substance. It’ll have a hard time breaking outside a niche market but it’s definitely worth the praise for it’s breathtaking scope and wonderful visuals. It’s a shame that the movie couldn’t fit some personality to its characters or story but for what it accomplishes I was more than satisfied.

"Pacific Rim" 2013

Pacific Rim is a modern day monster movie done right. Weak plots aside it’s hard to deny that the film is incredibly fun and a visually fantastic. The massive scope of the monster battles is breathtaking and pure energetic fun. The cataclysmic destruction is unforgiving and watching giant robots using ships as weapons is so incredibly satisfying on screen. It easily delivers on the monster clashing action that was made for summer films and it does so on a massive scale. That being said, the scenes in between the massive fights will test your patience due to a rather weak plot. Characters are paper-thin and story arcs are rather bland. Dialogue is painfully regurgitated for the benefit of the audience and unnatural. It’ll have a hard time breaking out of its niche market but it’s definitely worth the praise for the specific demographic.

Interested in writing reviews or news posts for Thinking Cinematic? Contact me at ThinkCinematicReviews@gmail.com! You can also send your guest reviews there too!

Connect with me at:
Twitter: @Treyrs20o9
Twitter: @Think_Cinematic
Email: ThinkCinematicReviews@Gmail.com

Movie Monday Update Week of March 11th


Hello and Happy Monday TC readers! Can you feel it? The summer blockbuster season is quickly approaching and with it comes exciting movie trailers! A ton of movies are set to release to retail this week with a rather lax release schedule at the theaters. Don’t forget to check out my Community Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations here if you haven’t already. You can also check out my review on Oz the Great and Powerful here as well! Let’s get started!

In case you missed it:


The gang is back! A teaser trailer for The Hangover Part III hit the Internet last week with the trio back in action. The movie stars, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper, and John Goodman and is set to release on May 24th, 2013!


A second official trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness hit the Internet last week that shows new footage as well as some additional plot details. Star Trek Into Darkness stars, Zoe Saldana, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Chris Pine and is set to hit theaters on May 17, 2013!


A new trailer for DreamWorks’ The Croods hit the web last week with new footage and additional plot details. The Croods features the voice talents of, Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone, and Nicolas Cage and is set to hit theaters on March 22nd, 2013!


After Earth also received another exciting trailer with additional footage and more detailed plot points. After Earth stars, Will Smith and his son Jaden Smith and is set to hit theaters on June 7th, 2013!


Finally, Iron Man 3 released its second official trailer last week and it is action packed. Iron Man 3 stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Ben Kingsly, and Robert Downey Jr. and is set to hit theaters on May 3rd, 2013!

That does it for a glimpse of last week’s trailers. Which one is your favorite? Leave a comment below and let us know! Let’s go ahead and move on into home releases.

Coming to Blu-ray/DVD this week we have:

March 12th:

Here’s a look at what’s coming to the theaters!

March 15th  Wide Releases:

March 15th Limited Releases (Check your local listings):

See anything that’s missing? Comment and let us know!

That does it for this week! Be sure to keep coming back every Monday and Saturday for new Thinking Cinematic content!

As always, I want to end with this. Thinking Cinematic is looking for more writers. Feel like sending in a guest post? Want to be apart of the Thinking Cinematic team? Send your emails to: ThinkCinematicReview@gmail.com

Connect with me at:
Twitter: @Treyrs20o9
Twitter: @Think_Cinematic 

Lost in Translation


Summary: Lost in Translation’s strongest points are the gorgeous scenery and a fantastic glimpse of Japanese culture. The movie is a captivating experience that offers a unique relationship between two different people who are at different cross points in their lives. Together with their experiences and their fears they are able to reconcile their problems and show just how meaningful certain relationships can be. This is largely in part due to Murray and Johansson’s perfect on screen chemistry. Together they provide moments of wit, humor, worry, and wisdom for people to enjoy and connect with. The movie may seem off putting to some due to the age difference between the two main characters but if you can see past the surface and see what the two represent Lost in Translation becomes a deeper meaningful movie.

 

When the topic of favorite movie is brought up Lost in Translation is always my go to movie. The very first time I watched Lost in Translation I sat in awe as the credits rolled. I sat there and just let the movie sink in and allowed myself to thoroughly enjoy it. I not only watched it back to back but also subsequently watched it another six times throughout the weekend. Now that I’ve owned it in both DVD and Blu-ray I’ve probably seen this movie around ten times, making this the eleventh viewing.

 

I would say that the two things that make this movie so captivating is a combination of the setting and the wonderful music.  The movie takes place in Tokyo, Japan. It follows the story of a washed up actor who travels to Tokyo to do whiskey commercials. His main objective is to get away from his routine life back home and just forget everything for a while. Along the way he meets a woman named Charlotte, a recent college graduate trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life. Eventually they end up having a fun night on the town that takes them across bars, arcades, and karaoke spots. It was nice to see the different culture on screen from the city life, to the nightlife, to the quiet resorts. It gives a nice little slice of Tokyo on screen.

The overall opening tone of the movie is extremely grey as both characters are introduced separately. They’re both experience the daily routine and are seemingly just going through the motions. It’s not until they start meeting and spending time together that you notice a gradual change of tone. It helps with one of the messages the movie deals with, “the unexpected connections we make that might not last, yet stay with us forever.” The quote comes from the back of the DVD case and I feel like it’s the best way to sum up this movie. They’re time together is short, a reality they both understand, but the escape for a few days is more than enough to revitalize their progression in life. It conveys just how fast life can come and go in a blink of an eye.

The movie borrows music from different artists that is wonderfully placed in the movie.  The range of artists includes, Phoenix, Air, My Bloody Valentine, and so on. The timing of each song is perfect and really adds to a lot of the emotional moments in the movie.

One of the biggest complaints I’ve read about this movie is how the age difference between the two main characters makes the movie feel a bit strange. My counterpoint would be that the movie depicts a relationship that goes beyond the straightforward romance between Bob and Charlotte. To say that there isn’t some sense of romance would be a lie but it’s definitely downplayed for the overall message. Bob’s character is symbolic of life experience, where as Charlotte is fresh from college, still new to a plethora of possibilities that she has in front of her. She feels lost and relies on Bob to help ground herself. Although Bob has these nuggets of wisdom he feels stuck, and yearns for the young life of change, and different possibilities. He’s able to live vicariously through Charlotte who helps him find these new experiences. The fact that they’re in Tokyo really helps to make them feel alienated, both in a very unfamiliar surrounding where they can be whoever they choose to be. One of the neat things I’ve noticed about the movie is how they never formerly introduce themselves. I feel like this adds to my argument. It was never about who they are, and more so what they represent.

The movie has a nice blend of humor and seriousness that makes it an awesome feel good movie. Even moments where the movie may get a bit too tense either Bob or Charlotte provides effective and great comedic relief to help break up the melancholy mood. I love that they can change from silly behavior to seriousness and it never feels out of place.

Bill Murray’s portrayal of Bob Harris was perfectly casted for him, especially since Sofia Coppola wrote this script specifically for him. Murray’s smooth delivery and stoic body presences broadcasts the inner feelings of contempt and resentment for the routine he’s found himself in. He displays the stress in frustration going on in his mind without him having to say much. Of course, after meeting Charlotte the change in demeanor is done wonderfully and you can see the stress being lifted from his shoulders.

On the opposite end you have Scarlett Johansson’s take on Charlotte that captures the lost feeling of having different possibilities laid before her. She really shows the youth in her personality and her eagerness to explore and learn, but there is still the fragile sense of insecurity that comes with the fear of the unknown. Johansson offers the vulnerable feel to her character that makes it easy for viewers to connect.

On a personal note, it’s been about three years since I first saw this movie. Each time I’ve viewed it there’s always something different that sticks out to me. A line, or a moment that just seems to sink. There’s a lot to learn from this movie and the fact that you pick up on new things each time is what makes it such an easy movie to just pick up and watch over and over again.

Lost in Translation’s strongest points are the gorgeous scenery and a fantastic glimpse of Japanese culture. The movie is a captivating experience that offers a unique relationship between two different people who are at different cross points in their lives. Together with their experiences and their fears they are able to reconcile their problems and show just how meaningful certain relationships can be. This is largely in part due to Murray and Johansson’s perfect on screen chemistry. Together they provide moments of wit, humor, worry, and wisdom for people to enjoy and connect with. The movie may seem off putting to some due to the age difference between the two main characters but if you can see past the surface and see what the two represent Lost in Translation becomes a deeper meaningful movie.

You can watch Lost in Translation on Netflix streaming here!

Interested in writing reviews or news posts for Thinking Cinematic? Contact me at rrsolis@me.com! You can also send your guest reviews there too!

Connect with me at:
Twitter: @Treyrs20o9
Twitter: @Think_Cinematic 

Snow White and the Huntsman



Speaking candidly, I wasn’t sure just exactly what I was expecting from Snow White and the Huntsman. I was picking up an Alice in Wonderland (Tim Burton) vibe from the trailers, which was off putting from the get go. I was extremely disappointed in Tim Burton’s go with Wonderland, which followed his usual trend of all style and no substance. However, I looked passed it and eventually gave in to Snow White’s marketing.

Much like with Alice in Wonderland this movie left a lot to be desired. For the first hour the movie just plowed through everything with little time devoted to exposition. The first 45 minutes were filled with over dramatic delivery of lines from Ravenna/Charlize Theron. It wasn’t until The Huntsman/Chris Hemsworth appears on screen that things start to take a small, but more favorable direction.

Chris Hemsworth is one of the few characters to bring any sort of dynamic to the story. He provides some much needed humor to liven up the movie as well as helping it progress at a much better pace. He’s also in the rare group of characters that had any sort of depth to him, but I think it’s a sign of how much depth we get to any of the characters when the one with the most development is just named, “The Huntsman.” As good as he was though, he alone couldn’t save the movie.

Along with Hemsworth, the cast of the Dwarves also helped change the pacing of the movie and made it a little more enjoyable. The Dwarves, like The Huntsman, had actual character to them, but not much. It was handled in a brief five-minute story that explained their backgrounds collectively, so it wasn’t like we even got to know about them individually. Honestly, I don’t even know if we’re ever introduced to their names. They were the comic relief of the movies but whether in editing or the actors themselves, it was hard to understand when they delivered their lines leaving me wondering what they were saying instead of laughing. Now I know this is being extremely nitpicky but there was something distracting about seeing familiar faces that were edited to look like dwarves in post.

The movie was filled with cookie-cutter plot lines and characters that were not memorable in the slightest. We’re never given enough time to get emotionally attached or invested with anyone aside from the generic, “here are the bad guys, here are the good guys,” caricatures. The movie sticks with the “Beauty is Power” theme but at points it just feels like we are beaten over the head with it that it just gets old after a while.

I also feel that someone forgot that they had casted Kristin Stewart as Snow White or even that Snow White was in the movie at all. She had very little lines, and often times felt as though she was just there to be there. I know the common trend lately is to hate on Kristin Stewart but I don’t even feel there’s enough of a part that she played to hate on.

Now the movie does have some merits. If anything this movie was a flex of special effects save for one horrendous scene towards the end of the movie. To get into specifics would spoil it but I know that you’ll immediately point it out as soon as you see it. I have no idea how it got past the editing room but it definitely felt like a scene from maybe ten years ago. That aside, there are some gorgeous animations, and a lot of believable action scenes with CGI enemies. Which leads into the next merit. The action scenes, though mild, were interesting, especially the final battle of the movie. I’d actually wager that most of the development and work was devoted to the end of this movie as opposed to the first hour and half seeing as how the whole second act was a lot better than the first. The movie definitely needed a better first act to care about anything in the end though, which left the triumphant of the good guys feeling hollow.

There’s also a confusing scene early on in the movie that had me questioning some other points in the movie. Ravenna/Theron is seen talking to the mirror on the wall when her brother stares at her from just outside the room. We see the brother’s point of view and are shown that Ravenna is talking to herself in front of the mirror instead of the actual personification of the mirror that we see from her point of view. Then later on when Snow White makes it to the Dark Forest we see that she has been hit with some sort of hallucinogenic powder that makes the forest seem to come alive. My question is, are the monsters and unique animals that we see on screen real or just a by-product of the hallucinogen from the powder? Are Snow White and The Huntsman in any danger at all? Is Ravenna just insane or does she actually possess magical powers and magical mirrors? It just makes a lot of the movie seem confusing.

Snow White and The Huntsman features nice special effects and animation but the stiff dialogue and acting from the main cast as well as a very boring and flat plot creates a very forgettable movie. There are few redeeming qualities of this movie that it makes it hard to recommend it to anyone. It’s a very straight forward movie that plows through a lot of the two hour so at best you could tough it out to see some of the special effects but I wouldn’t say it’s worth the 127 minutes to get through.

Interested in writing for Thinking Cinematic? Send your guest reviews at rrsolis@me.com

Connect with me at:
Twitter: @Treyrs20o9
Twitter: @Think_Cinematic