Bring It On: The Musical – Theatre Review, Spotlight Youth Theatre, Glendale

Bring poster 1

At first glance, staging the energetic and demanding Bring It On: The Musical at Spotlight Youth Theatre in Glendale seems overly ambitious.  The choreography is both tough and challenging, the energy required is non-stop, plus the demands of its staging require a taller and wider platform than the one Spotlight can offer.  But look closer.  Considering its subject, its intended audience, and the age-group required to make it work, it’s actually an inspiring choice.

Like the theatre’s earlier production of the controversial Spring Awakening, the characters of Bring It On: The Musical are teenagers.  Instead of Spotlight’s youthful cast playing dress-up while pretending to be older, here everyone is once again age-appropriate; the world of Bring it On has no room for adults.  Plus, because of its occasionally spectacular dance routines and the difficulty of singing with strong voices while delivering those complicated moves, in order to work, the production can’t take the easier route and simply recreate what was done before and hope for the best.  It has to adapt to its local theatre setting but without losing any of that mandatory spectacle or vitality.  Kenny Grossman, whose directorial choices have repeatedly proven he’s up to the challenge, has done exactly that.  The musical, as presented, may not have the epic scale as it appeared on the Broadway stage or even on the national tours, but given the limitations set by Spotlight’s intimate theatre, this production, re-shaped, adjusted and presented by an undeniably talented youthful cast, is ultimately a genuine crowd-pleaser.

 Bring 1

Despite taking its inspiration from the 2000 Kirsten Dunst movie, it’s only the name that remains the same.  If you were hoping to see something seen before but now with the addition of songs, you might be disappointed, though you shouldn’t.  The musical bears little resemblance to its big screen counterpart.  The characters are changed, the plot is different and the life-lessons learned had no place in the original, though interestingly, the development of the central character having to move from one school to the other because of a redistricting requirement comes from one of the four straight-to-video sequels, Bring It On: All Or Nothing.

The plot revolves around young Campbell Davis (Carly Grossman, here displaying a talent for comedy in addition to her singing and dancing abilities) whose cheerleading life at Truman High is about to come crashing down.  For her, cheerleading is everything.  When attempting a pep talk to the nervous Eva (Jasmine Bassham, effectively conniving as a teenage All About Eve equivalent), Campbell insists that, “Being a cheerleader is like being a Marine; you’ve signed your life away.”

Bring 3 

Then it happens.  Campbell and the somewhat nerdy Bridget (a funny Maggie Waller, with a hairdo inspired by the Arrietty Clock character from The Borrowers) both receive letters explaining they’re redistricted to a nearby inner-city school, Jackson High, where, horror upon horror, it doesn’t have a cheerleading squad.  “What’s the point of even having a school?” asks Campbell’s friend, Skylar (the suitably snarky Ava Tyson).

The earlier, establishing moments, when the pert and very blonde Campbell achieves her goal of being the captain of the somewhat privileged Truman High School cheerleading squad, are great fun as the production leaps from song to song without a breath, culminating with Campbell’s emotional solo, One Perfect Moment.  But it’s when the nightmare of having to move to the inner-city school of Jackson High where the production gets its edge and really kicks in to high gear.  There may be no cheerleaders at Jackson, but the characters are more than capable of expressing complicated moves of their own, as shown by Jackson’s dance crew with Do Your Own Thing.  The production delivers its best number when the three principle players from Jackson, Danielle (Phoebe Koyabe), Nautica (Katie Czajkowski) and the cross-dressing LaCienga (Trey DeGroodt) perform the expressive We Ain’t No Cheerleaders.

 Bring 2

There’s also the nice touch of two video monitors, courtesy of Bobby Sample and Luke Bader, that are effectively used throughout, first as a digital countdown to begin the show, next as an illustration to visually explain Campbell’s redistricting nightmare (followed by a hellish explosion) and then as a way of displaying characters who Skype.

The cast is huge.  When everyone is assembled, the stage is packed to the rafters, but each performer, including the large, supporting ensemble, hit their targets with equal success.  With musical direction and choreography from husband and wife team, Mark and Lynzee 4man, voices fill the auditorium – Phoebe Koyabe as the street-wise Danielle is authentic in her performance and outstanding as a singer – and bodies twist, turn, whirl, roll and fly through the air without the need for wires. The production can’t display those towering cheerleading pyramids that were repeatedly seen in clips to hype the New York presentation, so don’t expect them, but Spotlight’s large scale dance numbers, as with the opener and the climactic battle between Jackson High and Truman High, create the illusion of being airborne all the same.

 Bring 4

In terms of weight, the book is slight and holds little surprises when it comes to character reveals and plot developments – though, admittedly, the end result of the cheerleading Nationals is unexpected – plus the songs, while suiting the moment, are not particularly memorable, but Bring It On: The Musical is an unabashedly loud and cheerfully upbeat production with great crowd appeal.  And there’s something else to keep in mind.  As with characters who will soon be moving out of the comfort zone of high school and into the unpredictable real world, so it will be for the performers playing them, making for a bittersweet feeling when some of the cast take their bow at Spotlight for the last time.  It’s something to think about when you give the cast a deserved standing-o.

For more regarding times, dates and tickets CLICK HERE for the official Spotlight Youth Theatre website.

Bring poster 2

Posted in Theatre

Mother’s Day – Film Review

Mom poster

Similar to the formula used in his two previous, warm-hearted comedies, Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve, Garry Marshall’s Mother’s Day is an ensemble, romantic comedy populated by attractive characters with overlapping conflicts.  Some drift in out of each other’s sub-plots.  Others may never meet.  And like those two previous outings, it’s all built around the celebrations of one, all important, landmark day.  Here it’s for mothers and all the emotional baggage, good and bad, that goes with it.

With an over-long running time of almost two hours, Mother’s Day spends the first seventy-five minutes setting up the relationships and conflicts of several married and almost married characters, all of whom have their individual issues to solve, whether it’s with each other, their children, or their parents.  The final forty-five minutes belong to the day itself where all the conflicts of the first half come together and do their best to find resolution in one way or another before the final, sentimental fade out.

 Mom 2

Heading the cast is Sandy (Jennifer Aniston), a divorced mother of two boys who continues to communicate with her ex, Henry (Timothy Olyphant).  “You are the happiest divorced couple I’ve ever met,” says friend and confidante Jesse (Kate Hudson), suggesting that maybe, just maybe, there’s still something there that might bring everyone back together again, until Henry drops the bomb and tells Sandy he’s just married the drop-dead gorgeous Tina (Shay Mitchell), a much younger woman.  “She’s almost thirty,” Henry tells his ex, adding, “In a few years.”

Then there’s Jesse with her own family issues.  Jesse is married to Russell (Aasif Mandvi) who is a doctor of Indian descent. Jesse’s parents wouldn’t understand the idea of their daughter in a culturally mixed marriage, so she’s never told them.  Then the bigoted parents make a surprise, out-of-state visit for Mother’s Day by turning up on their daughter’s doorstep, unannounced.  “You married a towel-head?” asks dad, moments after having already insulted the man by asking the doctor if he was the hired help. The bewildered parents also discover the truth behind their other daughter’s marriage.  Gabi (Sarah Chalke), who happens to live next door to her sister, is gay and in a relationship with another woman.  “Are we on The Jerry Springer Show?’ asks mom (Margo Martindale).

 Mum 1

And there’s more.  Bradley (Jason Sudeikis) is a widowed father of two girls who mourns for his departed Marine wife (Jennifer Garner).  His story overlaps with Aniston’s Sandy.  Julia Roberts plays Miranda, a successful TV pitch-woman on HSN, married to her career, plus there’s Britt Robertson as single mom Kristin, a woman hesitant to commit to a marriage with her boyfriend, Zack (Jack Whitehall) because of some unresolved, personal issues.  “I never knew my biological mother,” Kristin states.  She knows who her mother is; she’s just never approached her.  And we know that before the film concludes, both daughter and estranged mom will undoubtedly meet, and it’ll be someone in the cast we’ve come to know.

Shot by cinematographer Charles Minsky with a bright, candy-colored look throughout, Mother’s Day is exactly the film you think it’s going to be; sentimental, emotional, often mawkish and occasionally funny. Unlike 2003’s Love Actually, an ensemble, romantic comedy that Marshall appears to have adopted as a template, there’s no real adult-flavored hard edge to the humor, and that’s intentional.  Each story has its soft center possessing the kind of resolution any romantic at heart will want and expect.  By the end, even if every character doesn’t necessarily live happily ever after, at least most will live hopefully ever after.  By design, no one is going to leave the theatre with an unresolved downer.

 Mom 4

By this point, you must already know if the film is for you, particularly if you’ve warmed to director Marshall’s previous two outings with the same story-telling construction.  It has a specific audience, and if buying mom flowers and candy doesn’t seem enough this year, then you have a movie to treat her to.  You won’t remember much about it once it’s done, but at the very least, with the real Mother’s Day fast approaching, you’ll score a few extra parental points.  After all, what would you prefer, give mom the day off and volunteer to work in the kitchen or take her to the movies?

 MPAA rating:  PG-13     Length:  118 Minutes     Overall Rating:  5 (out of 10)

Posted in Film

Sing Street – Film Review

Sing poster

Writer/director John Carney was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1972.  He was educated at a free-state Christian Brothers school during the eighties called Synge Street CBS.  He then went on to be the bassist for a band called The Frames and directed several of their videos.

In his new comedy Sing Street, Carney has turned inward for inspiration; it’s all about a teenage boy in Dublin during the eighties attending Synge Street CBS who wants to impress a girl, so he forms a band just so that he can invite her to be in his music videos.  It may not be exactly autobiographical, but it certainly seems that way.

 Sing 1

It’s Dublin, 1985, and the Lalor family is in financial trouble.  Marriage issues not withstanding, mum and dad are forced to make changes.  One of those changes means that fifteen year-old Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) has to leave his expensive school and transfer to the rough-around-the edges nearby free state-school, Synge Street CBS.  It’s there, outside of school grounds, where he meets the older Raphina (Lucy Boynton) and he’s immediately smitten.  It’s the one thing that young boys fear when it finally comes, but fully embrace in the same way the valiant willingly rode into the valley of death – puppy love.

Having watched BBC’s Top of the Pops on TV the other night and found inspiration in the Duran Duran music video, Rio, Conor voices the first thing that springs to mind when talking to Raphina: would she be interested in appearing in his band’s next music video?  After all, she does dress and bear a resemblance to one of the girls from Bananarama; why wouldn’t he be attracted?  Amused by the younger kid’s invitation, Raphina agrees, and then drives off with her older boyfriend while Genesis blasts on the car stereo.  Undeterred by the obstacle of the girl he suddenly likes having a boyfriend, Conor knows what he has to do next; he has to learn how to sing, play an instrument and form a band; then comes the videos and finally the girl.  It all fits.

 Sing 2

Conor’s older brother, Brendan (Jack Reynor) knows about these things.  Rather than sounding musically polished, the older brother tells the younger, “You have to learn how not to play, and that takes practice.”  As for the girl of his younger brother’s dreams having a boyfriend, that was going to be no trouble.  “No woman can truly love a man who listens to Phil Collins,” he advises.

Unlike director Carney’s previous musical outings, Once and Begin Again, Sing Street is lighter and funnier.  Its setting may have the look and feel of a down-to-earth drama, but the emphasis is clearly on music and humor.  Watching Conor and his Sing Street band progress as they drift from style to style in both music and fashion, depending on what TV music video they’ve just seen on Top of the Pops, is genuinely, laugh-out-loud  funny and certainly relatable to those who view that particular decade of dubious tastes and fashions through a prism of youthful nostalgia.

 Sing 4

Oddly, by giving the story a specific date, 1985, those who followed music of the time may question some of the musical choices and references.  Duran Duran’s Rio had run its course earlier in 1982, so it’s doubtful that it would have appeared as a new chart entry on Top of the Pops in ’85.  Spandau Ballet’s Gold was two years earlier in ’83, and M’s Pop Muzik was back further still in the late seventies and was never a part of the eighties’ musical landscape.   Still, pinpointing irregularities in the film’s musical makeup spoils nothing.  The overall sense to Sing Street is one of fun, lead by a game cast of mostly unknown young actors who truly capture the feel of what it was like to be at school while influenced by the fashions and pop-synth musical styles as heard and seen on both radio and TV.   And what love-sick smitten boy didn’t go to peculiar lengths to impress the girl?   When the school’s principle (Don Wycherley) aggressively wipes the blue makeup from around Conor’s eyes, a look inspired by Conor having just witnessed the new romantic movement of Spandau Ballet on TV, the man declares, “No more Ziggy Stardust!”

Particularly effective is the fantasy sequence where Conor, later renamed Cosmo by Raphina, imagines his band playing in a professionally shot, well-choreographed music video recreating the prom sequence from Back to the Future.  All characters in Conor’s life – his brother and sister, his parents, the kids at school, and more importantly, Raphina – all turn up in fifties costumes as if extras on Zemeckis’ set while the band performs its eighties style, self-penned song on stage. It’s both funny and very well shot.

 Sing 3

Without the dramatic weight of Once, which went on to be a successful West End and Broadway musical, or, to a lesser degree, the underrated Begin Again, Sing Street has the potential to fade from memory faster than it deserves, though out of the three, it’s easily the most entertaining.

 MPAA Rating:  PG-13    Length:  106 Minutes    Overall Rating:  8 (out of 10)

Posted in Film

Green Room – Film Review

Green poster

The setup to director Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room is simple enough.  A down-on-its-luck punk band stumbles upon a murder in the green room behind the stage of its last gig.  Surrounded outside by the club’s killer bouncers and its owner, the band is holed up in the neo-Nazi skinhead bar.  What follows is an explicit grunge version of Straw Dogs.

The band is called The Ain’t Rights and they’re having a rough time.  After several disappointments, within moments of finally calling it quits, the members are suddenly given the opportunity to earn a few hundred dollars playing at an off-the-beaten-path night club.  As the guy who sets the gig up tells them, the place is full of “braces and boots.”  It’s a line from Elton John’s Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting and it refers to the uniform of skinheads.  The bar is a grungy, black painted, neo-Nazi skinhead drinking hole, but the band members need the money, so they accept the gig and play before a scary crowd of bottle throwing, beer spewing, boots and braces wearing, skinheads.  As a private joke, the band plays a cover of Dead Kennedys’ Nazi Punks, F**k Off.   The crowd goes dangerously wild.

 Green 1

But it’s after the concert, not during, where things fly out of control, and it happens in an instant.  Just at the moment of taking their money and leaving, band member Sam (Alia Shawkat) realizes she’s forgotten her cell phone; it’s still charging in the green room.  Sam and Pat (Anton Yelchin) go back to grab the cell only to walk in on the aftermath of a murder.  A young girl lies on the floor with a knife in her skull.  All band members are quickly rounded up by the club bouncers and locked in the green room while club owner, Darcy (Patrick Stewart) decides what to do with them.

You’re held here for your own safety,” insists Darcy, calling from the hallway while he buys time to think of what he’s going to do with the band.  The answer, of course, is simple: Have his club employees kill all witnesses, including the murdered girl’s accompanying club member friend, Amber (Imogen Poots) and frame them all for the crime.  But first, they have to break into that green room.

 Green 3

Using all kinds of weaponry, including, guns, knives, machetes, box-cutters, and even killer attack dogs, Darcy organizes a vicious, uncompromising attack while remaining outside as he fixes things to look as though the band were really trespassing on private property and were killed by guard dogs while siphoning gas for their van.

Green Room is director/writer Jeremy Saulnier’s third film and it’s a tense, lurid, and brutal affair.  When the violence hits, it hits hard.  Bones are broken, limbs are shattered and throats are torn.  As a filmmaker, there’s no holding back on Saulnier’s desire to have you see every graphic action taken.  In fact, there’s even that occasional moment when you’re not quite sure what it is you’ve just witnessed, but cinematographer Sean Porter is in no rush to cut away.  After a brief moment of visual adjustment, the gashes, the open wounds and the ripped flesh on a victim’s throat become unpleasantly obvious.

 Green 2

The film fails itself in the third act.  The conclusions aren’t as rewarding as you might want, plus that abrupt cut to black ending leaves you hanging in a less than satisfactory condition than the one you might be hoping for.  But before you get there, there are surprises and rewards.

What surprises is that the Green Room is a taut, well executed horrific thriller made up of a particularly good and convincing ensemble.  The reactions of Yelchin’s Pat stuck in a nightmare situation way beyond his control with no clue what to do next are just as you would expect a young man of this inexperienced nature to be.  Through sheer fear and persistence, plus a little improvisation – he duct tapes his gaping flesh wounds even though the pain remains – he and the other band members use whatever objects they can find laying around in order to both overcome their savage attacks and get out of that building alive.  But it’s the surprising casting of Patrick Stewart’s low-key club owner Darcy and Imogen Poots’ cornered and resourceful Amber that stand out and keep audiences’ interest continually piqued.

 Green 4

For those who like their violence up front, in your face and as punishing as a compelling mainstream film can get, Green Room won’t disappoint.  For others, it will be a grisly, uncomfortable hard watch.  There’s no in-between.

MPAA Rating:  R       Length:  94 Minutes    Overall Rating:  7 (out of 10)

Posted in Film

Elvis & Nixon – Film Review

Elvis poster

It sometimes happens; you hear of a real-life event so bizarre in its telling that upon completion you’re only response is to raise both eyebrows and state, you can’t write this stuff.

When you walk out of Elvis & Nixon, the new comedy/drama from director Liza Johnson, you’ll be stating the same thing; you can’t write this.  Except, you can.  It was written in a book by lawyer and White House administrator Bud Krogh called The Day Elvis Met Nixon, and even though the film doesn’t credit Krogh’s account as its official source, once you see the film, you may want to read it, just to go over a couple of things. Did it happen like this?  With some movie embellishment and a little imagination, evidently, it did.

 Elvis 2

It’s 1971, and Elvis Presley (Michael Shannon) has had it with all the war, the crimes and all of those bleeding heart liberal college students on drugs that he sees everyday on the TV news.  Enough is enough, he thinks while watching the country’s woes on his many TV screens.  There’re only two things Elvis can do.  First, he can take out one of his many shiny pistols and shoot the TV, which he does; second, he can drop everything and fly to D.C. for a meeting with the President and offer his help to get the country back on track, which he also does.

Accompanied by his friend and advisor Jerry Schilling (Alex Pettyfer) and the head of his personal security, Sonny (Johnny Knoxville), Elvis flies to Washington.  His intention is to meet President Nixon (Kevin Spacey) and to offer his services as a Federal undercover agent for the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.  More importantly, he wants a federal badge and to be known as a Federal-Agent-At-Large, a position that doesn’t actually exist, but it sounds good to Elvis.  “What kind of man would I be if I didn’t offer to help?” the Vegas singer asks.

 Elvis 1

Of course, even someone as popular and as well-known as Elvis Presley can’t just walk into the White House and hang out with the President of the United States, even though the singer thinks he can.  Stopped at the gate by government security, Elvis hands the guard a rambling letter for the president, one that he wrote on the plane.  It ends with, “I would love to meet you just to say hello if you’re not too busy.”   When the guard takes the letter and refers to the superstar by his real name, Elvis corrects him.  “Call me Mr. Burrows,” he insists.  “I’m undercover.”

It takes a while for the meeting to be arranged.  Elvis, Jerry and Sonny are forced to linger at their hotel while waiting for a call.  And then it comes.  Even though an impromptu meeting will interfere with the President’s nap time, permission is granted, and Elvis, in full Vegas gear – sun glasses, black, high-collard shirt and that over-sized gold belt buckle that looked like he once won a wrestling championship, but still undercover as a Mr. Burrows – enters the White House.  “Looks a little like my place,” he remarks.

 Elvis 4

At this time in his troubled presidency, Nixon hadn’t begun the practice of secretly recording conversations in the Oval Office, so those odd moments of privacy with Elvis are nowhere on tape.  From eye-witness accounts, screenwriters Joey and Hanala Sagal and Cary Elwes have pieced together how events possibly unfolded behind closed doors.  The strength is that it’s all played straight.  Both Elvis and the President were so larger than life that no colorful character embellishment in a dead-pan delivered comedy like this is required.  The whole thing is naturally funny.

Moments before the meeting, Nixon is briefed on Presley’s background.  When told that Elvis knows karate, the President asks his advisor, “Do you think I could take him?”  And later, when the President shows the singer around the Oval Office, he proudly presents his piece of authentic moon rock in a glass display given to him personally from, “…a great American, Buzz Aldrin,”  Elvis responds with, “That’s cool, man. Buzz sent me one, too.” Ordinarily, the comic absurdity of both of those lines would be questionable if presented in any other story purporting to be based on a real event.  However, knowing what we know of these two men, as funny as those lines are, you have no trouble in accepting that what you’re hearing could well have been said, in the same way you have no trouble accepting that Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey are playing Elvis and Nixon respectively, even though they’re fooling no one and hardly look like them.

 Elvis 3

Running at a scant 86 minutes, Elvis & Nixon is an unexpected though hugely entertaining recreation of a largely unknown but real event that was supposed to be a secret, and it’s approached in the only way it can be approached – without a note of irony, and that makes it all the funnier.

 Elvis pic

The official White House picture of Elvis shaking hands with the President – the one that Elvis requested not to be taken because he considered himself to be there undercover – is said to be the most requested photograph in the National Archives.  And during the closing credits that lists what happened to these people, we learn that Nixon’s administrator, Bud Krogh (Colin Hanks) the man who oversaw the meeting and wrote the book on this unusual account, was later arrested and imprisoned for overseeing the Watergate break-in.  He then went on to become a Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress teaching Ethics and Leadership.  Really.  You can’t write this stuff.

MPAA Rating:  R     Length:  86  Minutes      Overall Rating:  8 (out of 10)

Posted in Film

The Huntsman: Winter’s War – Film Review

Hunts poster

One of the odd things about the 2012 fantasy adventure Snow White and the Huntsman is that despite its global financial success most can’t recall what it was about, unless, of course, you personally loved it and bought the DVD for repeated viewings.  The impact wasn’t really there, and almost no one expected a sequel.

In truth, The Huntsman: Winter’s War isn’t exactly a sequel.  It begins as a prequel with an introduction that comes long before anyone called Snow White was in the story, or, as the narrator informs in a voice-over that sounds suspiciously like an un-credited Liam Neeson, “One that comes before happily ever after.”  It then jumps seven years later, several years after Kristen Stewart’s Snow White as Joan of Arc fantasy, and picks up with a plot that already seems convoluted before things are fully established.  And there’s no Snow White, even though she’s often mentioned, which only adds to the film’s overall oddness.

 Hunts 3

The plot, as it now plays out, begins with Charlize Theron’s evil Ravenna establishing herself as queen and taking over the kingdom.  Her sister, Freya (Emily Blunt) shares none of her older sibling’s desire to rule, but unfortunate circumstances involving the love of a local duke, a newborn child and a gruesome murder results with a basically nice Freya turning into an instant, cold hearted, nasty one.  She develops the magical talent deep within her of turning everything into ice and then leaves the kingdom in order to set up her own in another part of the land.

Unlike her Frozen Disney counterpart, Elsa, who built her ice palace, sang a really good song and wanted to be left alone, Freya has other plans.  She wants to rule and build her own army of murderous huntsmen.  Children from nearby villages are kidnapped, then trained to be emotionless killers.  “Do not love,” the now chilled Freya demands of her army.  “It is a sin.  I forbid it.”  Like her older, evil sister, Freya’s approach to ruling her kingdom is by killing everyone in it.

 Hunts 1

Once we finally get to the point where the film jumps to seven years later – a time long after the Snow White story of the first movie – many may already be lost in the lengthy backstory.  What follows is an adventurous journey involving a rag tag bunch of characters, lead by rebellious huntsmen Eric (the returning Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain) in search of their Holy Grail, which here is that magical mirror, the one that should be on a wall telling evil queens who is the fairest of them all.   They’re accompanied by not seven but four dwarfs, Nion (Nick Frost), his brother Gryff (Rob Brydon), Doreena (Alexandra Roach) and Bromwyn (Sheridan Smith, who with her great comic timing, steals the movie.)

Technically, the film is a standout.  Effects are truly magical; there’s no denying the film’s visual beauty – both Charlize Theron and Emily Blunt are at their most attractive in the film’s many dazzling and eye-catching costumes – but the story echoing all kinds of elements that feel like mash-ups of not only Frozen but also The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones, is scattershot.  And then there’s the bizarre element of the accents.

 Hunts 2

We develop our speech patterns from our peers, so hearing Hemsworth and Chastain attempting Scottish accents when those around them have no trace of the highlands is another layer of oddness, particularly when they don’t do it well.  It’s an issue that also extends to both Brydon and Frost.  They’re supposed to be dwarf brothers even though Frost sounds as though he’s straight out of London’s East End while Brydon talks in his native Welsh.  Like the plot, the voices throughout are all over the place.

There is another story,” the narrator tells from the outset. “One that you have not yet seen.”  And we nearly didn’t see it.  Originally, a regular sequel with Kristen Stewart returning as Snow White was planned with rumors that director Rupert Sanders would also be back.  However, a set of revealing Us Weekly pictures of the married Sanders in an affair with his leading lady resulted in a public embarrassment for all.  Sanders’ wife, Liberty Ross – who played Queen Eleanor in the first Huntsman adventure – filed for divorce.  The negative publicity was not good.  But Universal wasn’t going to let it go, and what was meant to be the further adventures of a sword-wielding Snow White was then redeveloped without Stewart or Sanders’ participation.  That explains why there’s no Snow.  But there is plenty of ice, and the film’s one saving grace – humor, courtesy of the bickering Brydon, Frost, and particularly, Sheridan Smith.

 Hunts 4

In the same way that no one expected a follow-up to the 2012 fairy tale, this visually impressive though clumsily told second feature all but guarantees that no one should expect a third, with or without Snow White.

 MPAA Rating:  PG-13   Length: 114 Minutes   Overall Rating:  5 (out of 10)

Posted in Film