Review – This Film Left Me Cold… (“The Huntsman: Winters War”)

Okay, here’s a goofy idea: take the plot elements of 2012’s truly dumb and epically weird Snow White and the Huntsman and make a new film that’s both a prequel AND a sequel at the same time. Yeah, I thought the same thing. Huh??
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So, that dismally awful 2012 movie gave us Chris Hemsworth (moonlighting from his Thor role) as Erik the huntsman, under the orders of evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) to slice ‘n’ dice the lovely Snow White (Kristen Stewart) because she’s prettier than her and, yadda-yadda-yadda, you know the rest. You got a poison apple, eight dwarves (yeah, that movie had eight dwarves), a climatic showdown, and Snow turning all bad-ass and killing the Queen. Universal wanted a sequel, but Stewart had an affair with the director, so that didn’t happen. What to do? Get a whole new script written by cut-rate screenwriters, have a second-unit director make his feature film debut, and call it both a prequel and a sequel! Yeah, that’s Hollywood, baby!

Anyway, in prequel’s side you have Queen Ravenna (Theron) and her younger sister, Freya (Emily Blunt) hangin’ out in the Queen’s castle when Freya drops a bombshell that she’s in love (and preggers) with a handsome young Duke. But the Duke goes all nuts and kills their baby later on, making Freya go crazy and releasing her inner magic to become The Ice Queen (think Elsa in Frozen). Freya freaks out, takes off for the North, and builds her Ice Palace around a town where she periodically steals the villagers pre-teens (apparently the parents don’t mind ’cause they never rebel) and trains them as her guards and army.

The best of the best turn out to be huntsman Erik (Hemsworth) and feisty Sara (Jessica Chastain). Freya, still royally pissed about the whole Duke-thing, forbids love of any kind in her presence. The penalty? Death! But, wouldn’t cha know it, Erik and Sara can’t help falling for each other and both are driven out of Arendale. . . I mean, Freya’s kingdom. Thinking Sara is dead, Erik wanders the land until we fast-forward seven years later.

Now it’s sequel time! Ravenna is dead, but that evil Magic Mirror she used has been stolen from Queen Snow White and must be returned. It can’t fall into the hands of Freya, who knows about it’s unlimited power. Snow’s guards track down Erik and, with the help of two of Snow’s comic-relief dwarves named Nion and Gryff (Nick Frost and Rob Brydon), they are off to find that mirror. But what they find is Sara (obviously not dead) and two other female comic-relief dwarves named Bromwyn and Doreena (Sheridan Smith and Alexandra Roach). All together they hunt for the mirror and retrieve it back from some rather unsavory goblins.

Problems arise when Freya grabs the mirror and takes it back to her Ice Palace and decides to invoke it’s power, but all that does is release the not-quite-dead, but not-quite-alive either Queen Ravenna. Ah, but this sisterly reunion doesn’t go off exactly as planned, as old feelings are dredged up and the two aren’t really happy with each other. When Ravenna decides she wants all her land back, Freya sees the writing on the frozen wall and can’t let it go, thereby unleashing a battle between the good guys and the bad sisters in a rather anti-climatic showdown. Hey, at least it’s over quickly.

First the good news: this movie, directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, is actually better than the original, with a playful, paint-by-the-numbers, harmless script by Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin. These two guys write mostly schlocky direct-to-video movie sequels you’ve never heard of, but this one has nice action along the way with some good laughs, courtesy of the dwarves and Hemsworth’s winning personality.

The bad news is all the gaping plot holes and ridiculous side-stories that make no sense at all. Yeah, the SPFX and costumes are dazzling and all, but you’ll shake your head at why the characters are doing the dumbest things ever. Hemsworth and Chastain have nice chemistry together, but the real fun here are the dwarves and their sarcastic banter with each other. Think of it as Frozen meets Lord of the Rings. 

Dead Ringer (1964)
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Sisters. Sheesh! Can’t live with ’em, can’t kill ’em and take over their lives. . .oh, wait, maybe you can! In a strange Bette Davis black and white vehicle back in the mid-sixties, this odd little duck tells a quirky tale of identical twin sisters who have very little love for each other, but share alot of deadly secrets.

We start with a funeral for a very dead Frank DeLorca. His filthy, stinkin’ rich widow, Margaret (Davis) is visited out of the blue by her estranged sister, Edith (Davis again), who is broke and owner of a soon-to-be-closed bar in L.A. The two reconnect, but it’s obvious there is no love shared between these two. Maggie is carefree, happy-go-lucky, and lives in an awesome mansion estate, while Edie is a dismal working-class chain-smoker who has one thing in life, her boyfriend, Jim Hobson (Karl Malden). Jim is a L.A. detective and ex-homicide cop who loves Edie, despite her failures.

With her bar rent way past due and foreclosure eminent, she gets a totally wacky idea: kill her twin sister Maggie and then make it look like she (Edie) committed suicide! She pulls it off and commits the perfect murder! Assuming the guise of Maggie, Edie ingratiates herself into her old sisters wealthy life, but can’t help her old habits, like smoking like a chimney. She skirts around some problems (a tricky combination safe number, Maggie’s signature), but things gets dicey when she finds out that Maggie had a lover on the side!

Peter Lawford plays sleazy golf pro Tony Collins that apparently had been having an affair with Maggie for some time. But Edie is repulsed by this loathsome playboy and rebukes his advances. Tony sees red flags and figures out that Edie killed Maggie, setting up a perfect blackmailing scheme for wealth and riches. Things get really interesting when Tony reveals that he and Maggie actually murdered Frank to begin with! People die, some get mauled to death, and others go bonkers. No one comes out of this unscathed.

This movie has quite the cinematic history: first this was a 1946 Mexican film called La Otra (The Other) by Rian James, which was adapted into A Stolen Life, a 1946 film starring Bette Davis as twin sisters! Then Oscar Millard and Albert Beich re-wrote the story into this movie. Paul Henreid, the legendary actor who fled Nazi Germany, directed this movie (one of only six he directed) with a straight forward hand, sometimes missing the mark. The best part of this movie is the clever use of Davis’ body double (Connie Cezon) for use as her on-screen twin sister. The two looked so much alike, no camera SPFX were needed.

The plot has a great arc to it and even plays out like a stage adaptation, but this re-write is bogged down with too much Davis posturing and a meandering sub-plot that it takes too long to really get things moving. Look for some nepotism here, too: Henreid’s daughter, Monika, plays Janet the maid.

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