Thursday, June 28, 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman

Starring: Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Bob Hoskins
Director: Rupert Sanders
Running Time: 2 hours, 7 minutes
Rating: PG-13

FIRST PIC: See Angelina Jolie as Maleficent!
Photo courtesy of Greg Williams/Disney; US Weekly
I’m really digging Hollywood’s idea of live-action remakes of classic animated Disney movies. Just last week, a photo of Angelina Jolie as Maleficent from “Sleeping Beauty” surfaced from the highly anticipated remake, and it tells the story from the antagonist’s point of view. Similarly, “Snow White and the Huntsman” reveals a much darker evil queen, and blurs the lines of reality and (science) fiction. (Side note - I’m glad I chose to spend two hours watching “Snow White and the Huntsman” as opposed to the silly “Mirror Mirror.” Sorry, Julia Roberts. Armie Hammer would have been the only highlight of that movie.)

Photo courtesy of Allstar/Universal; The Guardian
The setting is ambiguous; both the time period and location are unclear, but we seem to be in some sort of fantasy world, a la Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland." Second only to “Monster,” Charlize Theron is in the role of her life as the gorgeous, wicked Ravenna, stepmother to Snow White, and ruler of the kingdom. This performance deserves nominations of all sorts. Her portrayal of Ravenna made the movie successful, and it dragged when she was not on-screen. And props to the costumer – I would love to rock any one of Ravenna’s smashing outfits.

While there were moments of the awkward Bella from “Twilight,” Kristen Stewart perfectly fit the profile as the fair, yet strong-willed Snow White. The grime underneath Stewart's fingernails was a necessary detail, as she practically became Bear Grylls to escape being Ravenna's prisoner.

Sam Spruell portrays Ravenna’s creepy brother (with a chatch haircut) and it’s obvious that he’s both bewitched by and terrified of his sister’s power. In one scene, he hears her asking the “Mirror, Mirror on the wall” the most famous question of them all. Ravenna clearly sees the mirror come to life and speak the answer, but her brother just sees her talking to herself. It’s obvious that this is all in her mind, and that she is seriously disturbed.

Chris Hemsworth and the dwarves in 'Snow White'
Photo courtesy of Splash News/Universal; OK Magazine
The only subtle humor comes from Chris Hemsworth as the drunk (and jacked) Huntsman, but there is very little of this comedic relief. Hired by Ravenna to capture Snow White from the deep, dark forest, he soon realizes he should help SW escape her doomed fate. For those of you wondering about the dwarfs – they make an appearance, though in the middle of the film when the plot begins to drag. And they all seemed to be named “Grumpy.” Bob Hoskins (Mr. Smee, anyone?) is the head dwarf and is practically unrecognizable.

There’s definitely an underlying theme in this modern fairy tale: women don’t need a man to be successful. Ravenna’s desire for power resulted from being “thrown out like a scrap” by a man. By being in control, she doesn’t have to worry about a man walking all over her. I get it, but she is relentless in her rise to the top. Similarly, the end leaves you wondering about Snow White’s romantic future. Though Chris Hemsworth’s bod would be enough to seal mine.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Rock of Ages

Starring: Tom Cruise, Julianne Hough, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Alec Baldwin
Director: Adam Shankman
Running Time: 2 hours, 3 minutes
Rating: PG-13

“Rock of Ages” is everything you’d expect it to be - perfectly cheesy, high energy and full of good jams. I’ll try to equate my review of the film to singing terminology: while most of the movie was pitch-perfect, some aspects definitely strained the vocal cords. After seeing the awesome tour at the Blumenthal, I knew going into the film that it would be a fun 2-hour escape back to the 80s. More than anything, I was eager to see Tom Cruise’s hyped up return to the big screen.

For those of you non-musical theatre junkies, “Rock of Ages” originated on Broadway, and tells the story of young, fresh-faced, na├»ve Sherrie and her quest for fame, and more importantly love, in 1987 Los Angeles. We’re taken back to a world which few of us experienced, and it’s hard to resist singing along to every great song from the decade, and some you even forgot about (“Heaven” by Warrant, anyone?) Julianne Hough plays Sherrie with ease, and if I’m being blunt, she’s smoking hot (way to go Ryan Seacrest.) After meeting Drew (newcomer Diego Boneta), he gets her a job at his place of work – the infamous Bourbon Room on the Sunset Strip. The two fall hard for each other and share every ballad known to top the 1980s charts, but alas, love is fleeting, and the story’s subplots begin to take shape.

As Mayor Mike Whitmore and manic wife Patricia, Bryan Cranston and Catherine Zeta-Jones are spot-on casting. CZ-J makes a tremendous welcome back to the big screen (though she has definitely had some work done) and we get to hear those pipes of hers we first heard in “Chicago.” Their goal is to “clean up” the Strip, which inevitably means closing the Bourbon Room.

Alec Baldwin is one of the actors that was definitely stretching here. Give me Alec in “It’s Complicated” any day over this tired, coarse owner of the Bourbon Room. His trademark (albeit recent) raunchy humor was nowhere to be found, and he depended on his scenes with Russell Brand for the laughs. (I still can’t decide if Russell was wearing a wig, because his hair is always a hot mess even in real life.) The Bourbon Room is in financial troubles up to their vocal cords, and the impending threat of closing encourages them to call in the big guns: a performance from washed up rock god Stacee Jaxx.

I’ve been reading about Tom Cruise’s performance in this movie for months now. I was underwhelmed. I don’t associate the word “sexpot” with “Tom Cruise.” Some of his scenes moved a bit too slow; he paused too long for effect. His scenes with Malin Akerman were disgustingly sexual, but some of the more comedic in the film. Akerman’s comedic timing as a reporter for Rolling Stone was outrageously perfect. No one is sure whether or not Stacee Jaxx will be able to perform like he did in his prime, but the Bourbon Room is desperate for any sort of financial salvation.
Constantine Maroulis
Photo Credit: Hollywood Reporter,
Brian To/FilmMagic/Getty Images 

Luckily with today’s advancements in the studio, all of the actors sang beautifully, and I wanted to applaud after each number (that’s the musical theatre nerd in me talking.) The movie gets extra points for throwing in a cameo of #2 on my hottie list, Constantine Maroulis, because he was featured on the Broadway tour! (Leo is #1 for those of you keeping track.) “Rock of Ages” is fun for dates, parents – anyone looking to re-live or sing their way through the 80s.

"Rock of Ages" trailer

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Te amo Barcelona

Whatever you do, you mustn’t confuse Spanish cuisine with Mexican cuisine. I love salsa, quesadillas and margaritas as much as the next person, but in Spain, you get paella, churros and sangria – three equally as succulent indulgences.  Three amigas and I ventured into exotic Barcelona for a long weekend, and had a blast eating and dancing our way through the city.

If you’ve been to Paris, you’ll appreciate the following analogy. Champs Elysees : Paris :: Las Ramblas : Barcelona. Shops, restaurants and tons of people fill this main street, which was a fantastic introduction to the bustling city. Our first stop on Las Ramblas was naturally a tapas bar! In traditional Spanish culture, tapas are consumed when people wake up from their afternoon siesta, and these small bites are meant to hold you until dinner (which isn’t until 10 or 11pm!) After eyeing the large selection, I chose to start with a modest portion of Mussels. This turned into many more small plates, including Chorizo Croquettes, Baguettes topped with Manchego cheese, and Tomato, Onion and Feta salad. Not to mention of course, Sangria!

At breakfast, freshly squeezed orange juice is the perfect drink to rejuvenate one for a long day of trekking around Barcelona. Tortillas de papas is most likened to an omelet or quiche - potatoes, eggs and spices fill a pie crust. Croquettes filled with chorizo and gooey cheese serve as your side, and, sticking with traditional European breakfasts, plenty of bread is served. If you're looking for something to quench your thirst after a hot day on Playa San Miguel, La Boqueria is a busy, enormous market where fresh fruits and juices are widely available. Or you can opt for the most delicious mojito you’ve ever had – fresh lime and mint are the star ingredients.

After a long day of beaching and shopping, we were ready for a traditional Spanish dinner at El Rey de La Gamba (The King of the Prawn.) Champagne Sangria was not as delightful as red Sangria, but our appetizers of Tomato Bread and Grilled Octopus whet our appetites nicely for the main event: PAELLA. Saffron-infused rice is served in a large, scorching-hot skillet, with every seafood variety imaginable. Prawns, shrimp, squid, octopus and eel swam all throughout the dish, with roasted red peppers and lima beans too! A serving for 3 people was easily enough for 5.

To our