Catholic Movie Reviews - Snow White and the Huntsman, Chernobyl Diaries, Crooked Arrows

By  Catholic News Service
  • June 1, 2012

This week's big release is another modern re-telling of the classic Snow White fairytale. Is it worth your $13?


Snow White and the Huntsman

By Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service

NEW YORK - The "Fairest One of All" morphs into a butt-kicking warrior princess in "Snow White and the Huntsman" (Universal), the latest and darkest take yet on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale first published 200 years ago.

In a sharp contrast to spring's campy comedy "Mirror Mirror," first-time director Rupert Sanders colors the classic good-vs.-evil fable with splashes of gothic horror and extreme violence, which make this rather grim (no pun intended) film unsuitable for young children. The battle scenes in this action-adventure would not look out of place in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy -- nor would the religious imagery, unusual for a Hollywood blockbuster.

This time around, instead of Julia Roberts we have Charlize Theron who chews up the scenery as the wicked Queen Ravenna. A master of sorcery who commands a phantom army, she seduces and marries King Magnus (Noah Huntley), then slays him and takes his throne, forcing his happy kingdom into painful submission.

"When one stays beautiful forever, the world is hers," the Queen screams (she screams a lot). To preserve her loveliness -- and power -- she relies on a series of gruesome beauty treatments, including a milk bath (enough to make one lactose-intolerant) and a diet of dead birds and sweet maidens, who literally have the life sucked out of them.

It's only a matter of time before that Magic Mirror warns the Queen of someone fairer, her stepdaughter Snow White (Kristen Stewart of "Twilight" fame), imprisoned in the tower.

"Her innocence and purity will destroy you," the Mirror promises. To ensure her immortality, the Queen must kill Snow White and consume her heart.

Not so fast. Snow White fervently prays the Our Father as she awaits her chance to escape. It comes, and with the help of a conveniently appearing white horse, she flees to the forest.

"After her!" the Queen commands the big lug of a Huntsman, Eric (Chris Hemsworth, aka "Thor"). He complies, only to later take pity on the fugitive and spare her life.

It is here that the screenplay, by Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock ("The Blind Side") and Hossein Amini ("Drive") veers even further away from the traditional fairy tale. The erstwhile assassin joins forces with the princess and skills her in swordplay and the art of war. Then the dynamic duo sets off in search of an army to vanquish the Queen and reclaim the kingdom.

Along the way, they run into the dwarfs, all eight of them (another change), headed by Beith (Ian McShane). Intriguingly, they are played by men who are not vertically challenged in real life, but transformed by movie magic. They live in the Sanctuary, an enchanted part of the forest filled with fairies and magical creatures.

Skilled as gold miners, the dwarfs possess a special gift: They can see light in the darkness. In Snow White they see light, a kind of messiah, a point confirmed by the appearance of the White Hart, an albino stag that kneels before her and offers his "blessing."

"She's the one," says Muir (Bob Hoskins), the blind spiritual leader of the dwarfs. "She will heal her kind."

As Snow White dons her shiny armor and finds her inner Joan of Arc, "Snow White and the Huntsman" barrels towards a climactic battle royal.

At this point, you may be wondering: Where's the handsome Prince (Sam Clafin)? In this film, he's called William, is a duke and arrives late in the game. He's still madly in love with Snow White (they were childhood pals), but she seems only to have eyes for the Huntsman.

In the end, "Snow White and the Huntsman" is an entertaining romp with a strong sense of right and wrong. Parents should be warned that the film's dark tone and excessive bloodshed could be nightmare-inducing for the younger set.

The film contains intense action violence and brutality, scenes of sorcery, and some mild sensuality. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.



Chernobyl Diaries

By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) -- Like the real-life practice of extreme tourism from which it takes its premise, the grueling horror exercise "Chernobyl Diaries" (Warner Bros.) is not for everyone.

In fact, gruesome scenes of the wounded and the dead, together with a barrage of foul language from the jittery and the doomed, make this flesh-creeper morally unsuitable for most.

The opening montage introduces us to a quartet of young Americans abroad: adventuresome Paul (Jonathan Sadowski) is living in Kiev, while his more cautious brother, Chris (Jesse McCartney), Chris' girlfriend, Natalie (Olivia Taylor Dudley), and Natalie's romantically unattached pal Amanda (Devin Kelley) are paying Paul a visit as part of their extensive tour of European hotspots.

Despite Chris' forebodings, Paul convinces his houseguests to join him on an exotic outing to the abandoned city of Pripyat under the direction of local tour guide, and extreme tourism specialist, Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko). Once home to many of the workers at the Chernobyl nuclear complex, Pripyat had to be instantly evacuated in the wake of the 1986 disaster at the neighboring plant, and has remained ostensibly deserted ever since.

At first, all seems to go well. Joined by two of Uri's other clients, backpacking couple Michael (Nathan Phillips) and Zoe (Ingrid Bolso Berdal), Paul and his visitors wander the creepy precincts and get a few startling, yet relatively safe, turns.

But when the time comes to depart, Uri finds that the wiring in his van has been mysteriously sabotaged. This is somewhat unfortunate, as it leaves the dodgy docent, as well as those under his care, stranded amid high radiation levels, predatory wild animals and strange, indistinct noises. Oh, and it's getting dark.

Things go from bad to worse when the embattled ensemble have their first violent brush with an even more sinister source of danger, the nature of which they only gradually come to understand.

In his feature debut, director Brad Parker conjures up the occasional jolt. But unlikely plot elements and largely unsympathetic -- and shallow -- characters work against audience involvement.

"Chernobyl Diaries" is linked to the "Paranormal Activity" franchise by the presence of Oren Peli, who wrote all three of the films in that series and directed the first of them as well.

Given his participation in this project, for which he penned the script in collaboration with Carey and Shane Van Dyke, its high levels of bloodletting -- very much in contrast to the restraint which has consistently characterized the "Paranormal Activity" outings -- comes as a disappointing surprise.

Along with the vocabulary issues aforesaid, such messy mayhem marks "Chernobyl Diaries," like the venue in which it unfolds, a no-go area for all but a few.

The film contains intermittent but intense violence with gore, a few uses of profanity, pervasive rough and crude language, occasional sexual references and an obscene gesture. The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.



Crooked Arrows

By Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) -- America's fastest-growing sport leaps to the big screen -- and returns to its roots -- in "Crooked Arrows" (Peck). This spirited drama follows the fortunes of a Native American lacrosse team and its flawed manager -- who must somehow chart a path to victory and redemption.

Director Steve Rash ("The Buddy Holly Story") reminds viewers of the origins of the sport, first played by Native Americans a thousand years ago. At that time, lacrosse was viewed not just as a diversion, but as a way to honor the Creator and foster tribal unity.

Flash-forward to a Native American reservation in New York State today, and "Crooked Arrows" takes a page from "The Bad News Bears" and "The Mighty Ducks" to convey lessons in sportsmanship, discipline, and tolerance, despite the obstacle of some childish locker-room humor.

Joe Logan (Brandon Routh) runs the sleazy "Lucky Indian Casino" on the Sunaquot Reservation. Half Sunaquot, he is resented by his people for his ambition and worldly ways (his license plate reads "WAMPUM").

The casino wants to expand, and Joe needs the approval of the tribal council, headed by his estranged father, Ben (Gil Birmingham). Dad sees this as an opportunity for Joe to reconnect with his heritage. So he places a condition on the casino expansion: Joe must return to the reservation and coach the high school lacrosse team and, as Ben says, "restore pride to our game."

Good thing Joe is a former lacrosse star nicknamed "Logan the Legend." As he wrestles with a ragtag bunch of teens, he faces his own demons with the help of Crooked Arrow (Dennis Ambriz): Think tribal shaman crossed with Ann Landers.

"No arrow flies straight," Crooked Arrow proclaims. "As long as it follows its own path, it will find its way."

That path is lacrosse, which the Sunaquots called the "Medicine Game."

"Let the game heal you," Crooked Arrow tells Joe. "The spirit lies in the stick."

Soon our teen athletes join their coach in running up mountains, chanting in sweat lodges, and finding their inner animal spirits as they coalesce into a winning team.

"Crooked Arrows" includes some thrilling moments on the lacrosse pitch as it builds to a David-vs.-Goliath climax against a tony prep-school team. Along the way, the sport is presented as an extension of Native American spirituality, a metaphor for overcoming life's challenges and prejudice.

"We all speak the same language," Joe tells his players. "We play to honor our ancestors and the Creator."

The film contains intense contact-sports violence, brief rear locker-room nudity, some sexual innuendo and a few crude terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

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