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Review: Prometheus (2012)

Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: Jon Spaihts, Damon Lindelof
Genre: Horror / Sci-Fi
MPAA: Rated R
Released: 8 June 2012
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall, Emun Elliott, Benedict Wong, Kate Dickie,

Synopsis: A team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race.

Review: 8/10

My Thoughts: In 1979, filmmaker Ridley Scott terrified audiences everywhere with Alien; a franchise that would deliver – over the course of 33 years – three sequels and two conjoining spinoff non-cannon films, as well as an array of rich content spanning through books, comics, video games etc etc… But one question that has always boggled the minds of viewers; where did the ‘Alien’ (Xenomorph) come from? How did it come to be? And why does it have striking hominoid like features? But more importantly who was the gigantic dead alien we’ve all come to know as the “Space Jockey” sitting in the pilot’s chair? For some three decades we’ve asked this question, and for three long decades fans waited for the man who started it all to show us.

I was about 6 years old the first time I watched Alien, and unlike most children I was not afraid by the sight of the two mouthed Xenomorphs. Instead I was in amazement over how incredibly interesting the mere sight of them were, I wanted to know more about them, where they were from, why they had two mouths and why they needed facehuggers to transplant their fertile eggs into us and use us as living breathing incubator for their race. After three long decades of being absent from the science fiction genre in which Scott himself help revolutionize with films like ‘Alien’ and ‘Blade Runner’ he has now returned once more to tell us the tale of how it all began, or as Mr. Dryden from Lawrence of Arabia (1968) would say: “big things have small beginnings”.

Taking place 29 years before the events of Alien, Prometheus takes us on a chilling journey to where it all began, following a team of explorers on a 2 year space voyage paid for by the Weyland Corporation to uncover the clues to what they believe is mankind’s true origin, but the truth they seek have consequences that may lead them to unspeakable horrors. I have been waiting years for a true film to be made in the Alien franchise, and after suffering through AVP (Alien vs. Predator) and AVP: Requiem, I welcomed the news of an Alien prequel with open arms. My only concern however, was how it would pan out. I was astonished by how well the finished product turned out. Prometheus was indeed a nostalgic journey down memory lane for someone such as myself, from the interior and exterior of the spaceship to its band of misfit crew, Prometheus brought me back to what intrigued me about the franchise as a child, and brought forth with it answers to questions I’ve long waited for. Ridley Scott also brought back the horror element into the series which I feel became somewhat absent after James Cameron decided to go the route of action sci-fi rather than keeping with the theme Scott started out with in the previous Alien film. However that’s not to say Cameron’s take on the series was at all inferior to Scott’s Alien, just different in theme.

In Prometheus Scott dropped the action theme and returned it to its glorious roots of Sci-fi horror and placed the film’s main focus on the story itself rather than on quick cheap chills and thrills for shock value. But what makes this film so astonishing is the fact  that while it is indeed a prequel to the Alien franchise, it doesn’t rely on it fully. You don’t have to watch the previous Alien films nor do you require any knowledge of them to see this. Prometheus is a film that stands strongly on its own two feet with a standalone story that doesn’t require the backbone of the Alien franchise for stability. However, with that being said I was amazed at some of the stuff Scott was allowed to get away with by the studios here. Certain elements in the film places a few touchy subjects into question almost from the start which will most likely leave some unnerved, especially those of a strong spiritual background, so for this I have to say is not a film for everyone.

As for the acting: much like Scott’s previous films, Prometheus had a very solid cast. First up was Noomi Rapace: You may remember as the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. She delivered a stellar performance in the role of Elizabeth Shaw. I was very unfamiliar with Rapace’s background in film prior to TGWTDT so I can’t say about her past. However with that being said, I’ve really taken a liking to her ability to take on strong leading female roles. She has delivered nothing short of astonishing thus far. Charlize Theron is on a roll this year, playing strong hardened female characters back to back with Snow White and the Huntsman and now Prometheus. Theron, who plays Vickers – the corporate liaison who oversees the operation for the Waylon Corporation, is harden and cold hearted to the bone and only looks out for the company’s interests. Theron pulls of this sinister role without breaking a sweat and makes her presence undoubtedly noticed whenever on screen. Michael Fassbender, whom has been a part of an array of amazing franchises and films as of recently, delivers a superb performance here; his presence in the film equals none except for Theron. Logan Marshall-Green preformed quite well in the film, though I felt his presence was lacking, especially his chemistry with Rapace , which wasn’t really all that strong.  For someone who’s supposed to play second fiddle to Rapace as her partner I think he could have done a lot better. However with that being said about the minor hiccup in the cast, what I found to be the most astonishing appeal to Prometheus was the choice in casting. Unlike most big budget films like this, the cast wasn’t completely Americanized which I’ve always found to be a total cliché in most big budget sci-fi’s. With Prometheus the support cast was mostly British, which was a decent change of pace for a change with a support cast like: Idris Elba, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall, Emun Elliott, Kate Dickie, Benedict Wong, and Guy Pearce.

Finale Say: With a strong plot and gorgeous special effect, Prometheus exceeded my expectations in every aspect and left me questioning why Ridley Scott ever left the sci-fi genre. I highly recommend!

Review: Snow White & The Huntsman (2012)

Directed by: Rupert Sanders
Written by: Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini, and Evan Daugherty (screen story)
Genre: Action/Adventure/Drama
MPAA: Rated PG13
Released: 1 June 2012 (USA)
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Sam Claflin, Sam Spruell, Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Johnny Harris, Brian Gleeson, Vincent Regan, Noah Huntley, Liberty Ross

Synopsis: In a twist to the fairy tale, the Huntsman ordered to take Snow White into the woods to be killed winds up becoming her protector and mentor in a quest to vanquish the Evil Queen.

Review: 8/10

My Thoughts: For generations many have watched the Disney kid-friendly classic Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, however few have ever heard the dark Grimm’s’ version it’s originally based on. While Snow White & The Huntsman isn’t exactly the dark version some might have hoped for, it’s the closest thing to date. In Snow White & The Huntsman, we’re told a different, more mature version of the classic tale with a dark twist. In short; this is not your daddy’s Snow White!

Before I go forward with my breakdown on the film, I must make a confession: I was biasedly rooting against this film from the get-go. Yes, yes you’re probably asking yourself; Oh how a critic can hold a moral high ground and hold a biased opinion against a film!?! Well it’s easy.. I’ll let you in on a little secret; we’re all biased to some extent, especially the ones who claim they are not! Now with that being said, I rooted against the film for a number of reasons, more than I can remember on hand, but two sole reasons I was against it are: 1. I am not at all a fan of Kristen Stewart. I’ve always considered her an actress with wasted talent. She has the presence in her and the skill to be great (Panic Room was proof of that) but she wastes it all on terrible film choices like “Twilight.” It’s a role that always leaves her with a blank stare of zero emotion and total boredom, and I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, those films are sucking the dear life out of her!

The 2nd being; I was not at all pleased with some of the choices made by the production during filming. Like mirrored designs that were quite similar to other known franchises (the crest on Snow’s shield looks painfully a lot like the crest of Gondor from the LOTR series) or the fact this was going to be the second Snow White related film being released within just months of each other (the first being Mirror, Mirror). Which between the two would be the true film and which the pretender was yet to be seen. So yeah I was rooting against it to say the least.  Despite my low expectations and thoughts about it from the beginning, above all else, I waked in with an open mind.

To my surprise Snow White & the Huntsman turned out to be a very enjoyable film. I walked in expecting your typical “tween” flick since the Twihard fandom was obviously the targeted audience here, but I found SWATH surprisingly jammed packed with enough action and maturity in the storyline to appeal to a general movie going audience. The story is really nothing like any other Snow White film made to date; it’s dark, twisted and quite grim.  Like in past Snow White retellings, much of the evil queen’s agenda is left unknown to us.  Especially why she wants Snow dead so badly, other than the obvious, her birthright. Much like, but not entirely similar to the ABC show “Once Upon a Time,” in SWATH we’ve given a layered back story on why the queen must be the “fairest of them all” and what her true intentions are towards Snow White and how their fates, as well as the fate of the land itself, are linked to one and the other. As I stated earlier this is not your daddy’s Snow White; here we’re given a more harden Snow, one who has known nothing but pain and misery most of her childhood while locked away in the castle tower since the queen took over the kingdom. While a part of her still clings to her innocence, she is prepared to stand up and become the leader she was born to be and lead the remnant of those still loyal to the king ,who continue to fight on in hope of one day restoring the true hair to the throne.

Introducing the huntsman into the fold was interesting, but also worrisome. The huntsman is indeed a part of the classic Grimm’s tale and quite frankly this film would not be complete without him. However, I feared his part in the film may result in a love triangle with Snow and her childhood friend William, the Duke’s son, whom she may one day marry. The good guy and bad boy fighting over the same girl angle is such an overly used and tiresome cliché story point the studios like to work these days, and I personally have had enough of it with within the last 4 years with the Twilight films and Red Riding Hood to last a lifetime. Interestingly enough, while there is a romance developing between certain characters in the film, it doesn’t dwell too much on it however and plays a very minimal part in the film. Snow White isn’t fighting for love or a boyfriend; she’s fighting for her people and to avenge her father’s death.

Now the film isn’t perfect, far from it truth be told.  It’s got it’s flaws and some questionable aspects that left me a little confused. One in particular is that it’s established at the very beginning that this tale takes place in a mystical realm, as it always was meant to be, but the very first line muttered from Kristen Stewart’s mouth is the Lord’s Prayer. It felt a little awkward hearing it in this film seeing that its’ not taking place in our realm. Furthermore, Christianity plays a role in the overall theme, not shoved down your throat like some films do, but it’s clear they did this to appeal to a Christian fan base since it was diverse with so many different mystical creatures. However, I enjoyed the way they fit in all the classic elements of the classic story, except for the poison apple which I thought felt a tad bit rushed. However, looking upon the film as a whole, I’ll forgive that mishap.

As for the acting: Well this is where it got interesting for me. Why? Because as stated in the beginning of this review, I am NOT a Kristen Stewart fan, she’s played the same role in most of her films without even trying to broaden her horizon a bit performance wise. I blame the role of Bella for this, but she’s gotten too comfortable in the role of the damsel in distress waiting on a man to save her. And I’ve grown tired of this repeat role of hers. Now she’s no Rooney Mara and SWATH is certainly not TGWTDT (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) in comparison of breakout performances go, but Stewart did something here that surprised me greatly, she impressed me in her performance! Yes you read it write, she impressing in her performance. For once that drained emotionless look she normally gives worked and worked with a charm it did. We also see a side of her strength and determination, which is something I haven’t seen in her for a long time, and yes she smiles for a change too. If this is what playing Snow White does to her she ought to play more characters like this in the near future.

Now with that being said, while Stewart is the lead and this is a Snow White tale, Charlize Theron steals the movie with her performance as the evil queen Ravenna. She put emotion and drive into the role, and to some extent, she made you feel sorrow for the queen despite her evil ways. Chris Hemsworth did a great job as the Huntsman, but to be honest, it was incredibly hard seeing him in this, especially after seeing him appear as Thor in The Avengers a few weeks earlier. No matter how much I tried I kept picturing him as the mighty thunder god Thor. Sam Claflin performance as the Duke’s son William was fantastic; he played the part with conviction and was spot on. Sam Spruell’s deserves a special nod for his performance as Finn, right hand to the evil queen and her brother, he embraced the deviousness of the role. You loved to hate him almost from the get-go, yet a part of you can’t help but feel a little sympathy for his character since he only does what his sister wills. Now unlike the classic tale with only seven dwarfs, SWATH has eight dwarfs, who were presented unlike they’ve ever been before being played by: Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Johnny Harris, and Brian Gleeson. Yes all full size actors playing dwarfs and CGI’d down to size using top quality special effects that were barely noticeable.

Finale Say: Snow White & the Huntsman may have its flaws and is not a exact adaptation of the Grimm’s tale, it’s dark atmospheric tone help make the most of its PG-13 rating. This twisted retelling of a classic tale proved to be quite enjoying from start to finish. I highly recommend.

C.H.E.W.I.E. Award Winners! [1/4]

Ladies and Gentlemen, readers and fellow movie buffs! Welcome to the 1st annual “Critic’s Honorable Entertainment Winners In Excellence Awards,” AKA The C.H.E.W.I.E. Awards!

Several months ago, our hardworking writing team assembled and began efforts on what would soon be TCW’s very first annual awards show, featuring staff nominated content in multiple categories spanning the entertainment venue, in both mainstream and indie genres. The process of nomination was both anonymous and equally respectful to all aspects of film. And though the process of nomination was strictly handled by our writing staff, the voting process itself was open to all readers and members of our website. And now, after a month of voting; we are proud to deliver to you the results of our awards show in a four-part “Winners Announcement” segment. Thank you for your support and your votes, we hope you enjoy the results of our C.H.E.W.I.E. awards.

PART 1


THE WOMAN

RUNNER UPS:
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
Red State
Chillerama
Red, White, & Blue
Insidious


WHAT THEY SAY

RUNNER UPS:
The Secret Friend
Doll Boy
Izak’s Choice


THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO

RUNNER UPS:
Straw Dogs
Martha Marcy May Marlene
We Need to Talk About Kevin



DRIVE

RUNNER UPS:
Transformers 3: Dark of The Moon
Fast Five
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows
Hobo With a Shotgun

Part 2 of Our First Annual C.H.E.W.I.E. Awards: Click Here

Short Film Review: Familiar

Starring: Robert Nolan, Astrida Auza, Cathryn Hostick

Written & Directed By: Richard Powell
Reviewed by: Kelsey Zukowski (The Scream Queen)
Grade: B+

Familiar is a dark short film that immediately shows us the twisted fate at hand. It comes full circle, showing how we got to this point and reveals the uncompromising gritty reality behind it. Of course, this is really just setting the tone for what is to follow. At first glance, we really have no real understanding of what’s going on or the weight it holds.

John Dodd’s only escape from his family life misery is the hope o f being essentially free from fatherhood when his daughter goes away to college. He’s done his time and he’s nearly out now, needing freedom behind his residential prison more than ever. Life seems to have other plans though. John’s wife tells him that she is pregnant. It may be a miracle to her, but to John it’s a fate worse than death. He can’t just sit back and allow himself to be stuck again for another 20 years.  He still has some control and he’s not willing to go out without a fight. John resorts to abortion methods and drugs his wife. Things don’t stop there. John’s boundaries are clearly ripping off the seams. A darkness in him getting stronger until it completely takes over piece by piece.

Familiar is a beautifully shot film with excellent production levels, something I rarely see in low-budget  indie horror screeners like this. The acting is spot on and simply incredible. It is the glue that holds the film together. Robert Nolan as John as is clearly the stand out performance. He shows an outstanding range and real understanding of a character who is so teetering. He nails it all from the subdued, hollow, and distantly numb to the scared, out of his element individual who loses his grip on reality and is determined to go out with a fight no matter how viciously suffocating it might be. Astrida Auza gives a much more subtle performance as his wife, but it’s the little touches that really make it notable. She doesn’t seem like an actor, she seems like a real person who is somewhat content in life, but still struggles and aches for something more.

Familiar is constantly interesting and engaging. Each act of the film is significantly different from the previous, almost seeming like a different being altogether. Still, it all works as a progression. It just has you intrigued and not really sure what is going on. It weaves quite an intricate web and ends up revealing a nightmarish reality far beyond fears of fatherhood. Yet it is that fear of the loss of freedom that takes an entirely different horrifying physical manifestation. Or is it the physicality that brings light to the true terrors of parenting, and tragic domestic  living that are merely brought light to by more jarring visuals? That is up to you to decide.