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Talking Movies with Spling - The Huntsman: Winter's War, Run and Byzantium

Spling reviews The Huntsman: Winter's War, Run and Byzantium as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Catch Talking Movies on Fridays at 8:20am and Saturdays at 8:15am every week on Fine Music Radio.

The Huntsman: Winter's War

Snow White and The Huntsman was a beautiful magpie of a fantasy adventure. While far from perfect, the film's unlikely duo in Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth kept us guessing as a dark, majestic performance from Charlize Theron stole the show. No one was expecting a prequel... sequel... spin-off?

Whatever it is, The Huntsman: Winter's War creates a continuity of its own by including Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, visual effects supervisor turned director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan and it's predilection for stealing from bigger and better fantasy films. As if having one brilliant actress wasn't enough, they've gone and snagged another two in Jessica Chastain and Emily Blunt.

This time round, The Huntsman is trying to circumvent a complete takeover of the kingdom. We're given a light origins story and introduced to a new love interest in Sara. The two are separated by Freya only to reunite in an effort to foil both Freya and the resurrected Ravenna. Speaking of foil, the costumes and make up are just as dazzling as the CGI moving from grubby woodsman wear to shimmering majesty... it's how they maintain power.

The ensemble is impressive even if Chris Hemsworth is playing a blend of Thor and Brad Pitt in Snatch. He's there, but he's not there... delivering a Wednesday performance, which is further distanced by our difficulty in deciphering his forest of an accent. Luckily, he's able to push off Jessica Chastain in a Witch Hunters style duo, and supported by two snarky dwarves in Nick Frost and Rob Brydon.

The Huntsman: Winter's War

"Say my name, witch..."

The evil queen match up between Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron counterbalances this party of adventurers as the recovery of the magic mirror becomes paramount. It's like an adaptation of Frozen, creating a similar dynamic with dwarves instead of a snowman and moose, and Chris Hemsworth as the mountain man. The twisted sisters complete the picture and instead of singing "Let It Go", they're committed to being "the fairest of them all"... even if it comes down to a dazzling CGI-fueled cat fight.

The CGI is quite masterful, painting an icy magical kingdom and casting a spell on the audience with life-like creatures and sorcery. This distracts us from a pithy story as elements from better films drop into place like dominoes. The goblins are basically mutant Planet of the Apes primates, who are intimidating and just ape enough to be scary.

The icy Queen Freya is a variation of Tilda Swinton's White Witch from The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, complete with polar bear. Even the altercation at the bar has a Lord of the Rings feel, while Eric and Sara's relationship echoes Game of Thrones.

Disney tried to graduate visual effects wizard, Robert Stromberg, into a fully-fledged director in Maleficent and here Cedric Nicolas-Troyan attempts a similar leap of faith. While the visual effects are dazzling, the storytelling and performances aren't as polished and the film suffers as a result.

The Huntsman: Winter's War has a first-class cast, incredible visual effects and some sharp action sequences, but these fail to rescue a garbled script and truly engage our imagination. The fantasy adventure isn't epic enough to draw wonder, funny enough to be charming or magical enough to absorb us. We're left in limbo, rooting for the talent, marveling at the effects, ploughing through the dull familiarity and waiting for the film to click...

The bottom line: Half-hearted

Talking Movies with Spling - Eddie the Eagle, Race and Grandma

Spling reviews Eddie the Eagle, Race and Grandma as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Catch Talking Movies on Fridays at 8:20am and Saturdays at 8:15am every week on Fine Music Radio.

Movie Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane

10 Cloverfield Lane follows Cloverfield, a sci-fi thriller that tracked some kids with a first-person video camera perspective during a monster attack on New York City. Matt Reeves went on to direct Let Me In and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and there wasn't much thought to a Cloverfield prequel or sequel. Well, eight years down the track we have one. Instead of going for another city demolition monster movie in the vein of Godzilla, they've gone for a tight, claustrophobic and rural thriller in which the real monster is inherent in man himself.

This one's directed by newcomer, Dan Trachtenberg, who will undoubtedly follow a similar trajectory to Matt Reeves. Being a low budget thriller a few steps up from the coffin in Buried or boot in Brake, he's forced to get creative in terms of framing the thriller, using some classic red herring tactics while leaning into some fresh surprises with some fairly dexterous storytelling. While not quite as constrained as the Reynolds and Dorff vehicles, this follow-up to Cloverfield, takes a page, throwing our characters into the confines of a fully-kitted bomb shelter after a woman's rescuer claims the world has been subjected to a widespread chemical attack.

Being so up close and personal, Trachtenberg's forced to wring as much as he can out of his small, yet accomplished cast starring John Goodman, John Gallagher Jr. and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Goodman doesn't often tackle lead roles and here he's been given the chance to shine with an intricate co-lead performance demanding a strong presence as Howard. He goes head-to-head with our heroine in Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Michelle, who remains defiant and quite enigmatic as his project and counterpart.

10 Cloverfield Lane

"So we're the only people left... did I mention I'm seeing someone."

10 Cloverfield Lane is largely about keeping the audience on edge and slightly off-balance. The see-sawing of uncertainty adds a layer of suspense to this well-crafted thriller that keeps you guessing as the would-be rescuer falls in and out of favour with both Michelle and the audience.

Just when you think you've got a grip on the situation, it changes quite surprisingly, making the experience fresh, tense and exciting. The thriller moves with purpose, never stagnating in its limited space and remaining taut despite some of the story's frayed ends. The MacGyver tactics and bunker life hold their own interest, but its the psychological warfare that is most intriguing.

While small in nature, it's big in terms of entertainment and comprises some beautifully-composed and tightly-wound sequences, which gradually escalate from a single room hostage drama to something much more sinister. This is an ambitious film and Trachtenberg more than manages to keep a lid on it until the pot literally explodes. It's a bold and gripping thriller spurred on by strong performances, a smart script and restrained direction as one story dwarfs another.

The bottom line: Terrific

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