Beirut Goes To Storybrooke

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While watching the newest episode of American TV Show “Once Upon a Time,” which flashbacks to the earlier days of Storybrooke, one of the characters was reading a newspaper in which former US-president Reagan is declaring something regarding the Marines in Beirut.

For those who don’t know, Once Upon a Time is a very creative and interesting show by the creators of LOST, which is one of my favorite TV shows of all time (despite the lackluster finale). It’s about every single fairytale character you could think of and how their stories intertwine as they are taken out of their world and into ours where they live in the town of Storybrooke, without any recollection of their previous lives.

Of course, the plot has definitely thickened and gone much darker since the show’s early days but it’s always interesting how they manage to weave together stories you never thought would have any relation to each other: Snow White and Hook, Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White, Jack (the one with of the beans) with Hook, Rumplestilskin and everyone else, etc….

It also offers a whole new “perspective” to the stories we grew up reading – can you imagine for a second that Snow White may have been the reason her stepmother went bad?

If you’re not watching Once Upon a Time, I highly recommend you start doing so – not because of their irrelevant mention of Beirut which lasts less than 1 second but because the show’s premise is very different from everything else out there.

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Snow White & The Huntsman – Movie Review

It’s official. We can call 2012 the year of Snow White. Let’s see, there’s a whole TV show – Once Upon a Time – centered on her story. There has already been a movie, Mirror Mirror, which tackled the infamous fairytale with a comic approach and now Hollywood has decided to bring the world yet another adaptation which plays with the Brothers Grimm story: Snow White & The Huntsman.

Following a war that he wins, the father of Snow White (Kristen Stewart) finds a hostage with his enemies and he’s entranced by her beauty (as an aside, who wouldn’t be?). The woman’s name is Ravenna (Charlize Theron) and he immediately marries her. However, on their wedding night, Ravenna kills the king and takes over his kingdom, taking the still-young Snow White as a prisoner. Years pass by and Snow White comes of age, threatening the queen not to remain the fairest of them all. As she manages to escape her prison, Snow White joins forces with the huntsman the queen hires to kill her (Chris Hemsworth) and eight (yes, not seven. Eight.) dwarves to try and dethrone the queen.

Snow White & The Huntsman starts off promisingly but quickly fizzles away as Theron gets less screen time. In fact, the only person cast correctly in the movie is Charlize Theron who manages to do the impossible: pull you to her side. You actually root for the bad person in this movie and do so whole-heartedly.

Kristen Stewart, on the other hand, is entirely miscast. I have seen Stewart in other roles (no, not Twilight) and despite what people want you to think, she actually has potential. But she keeps choosing the wrong roles. Snow White is no different. To begin with, when it comes to being the “fairest of them all” how could she exactly compete with Charlize Theron? But let’s leave that argument aside for now. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I may have a thing for blondes. Her performance is not as riveting as Theron. She dwarfs in comparison when their scenes come after each other. Their characters meet only twice, one of which is an entire action scene. Theron still outshines her there.

She’s not feisty enough and when she feigns strength, it comes off as forced and not natural. Perhaps she could pass as Snow White in another version of the story. But in this Joan of Arc-esque take on the fairytale, Stewart fails miserably. She’s sulky and passive most of the time, while she needs to be commanding and strong. The attitude just isn’t there.

Chris Hemsworth is simply there most of the time. He doesn’t add anything substantial to the movie as he does in, say, The Avengers. He just hovers around, providing input when needed. Apart from that, the role of the huntsman in the story of Snow White is nowhere near how this movie makes it out to be. But I guess twists to the fairytale are needed in the 21st century.

When it comes to Snow White & The Huntsman, the movie’s main problem is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be. It aims at being an epic version of the story of Snow White but still manages to take Snow to a land of fairies and legendary elks. It aims to keep the feel of the fairytale alive but fails at that, totally losing the charm of the story the people fell in love with many years ago. It relies heavily on its visual effects, which were very well done – the eight dwarves are all regular-sized actors, as an example, but loses itself in the fact that it has diluted the story up to a point where those visual effects serve as the wheel moving the movie forward.  At the end of the day, Snow White & The Huntsman is visually pleasing, enough so to keep you entertained for two hours, but is essentially hollow. Blame it on the Hollywood rehash of the story.

Walt Disney’s 1937 take on the story still stands unscathed.

6/10

Mirror Mirror – Movie Review

2012 can definitely be considered as the year of Snow White. The story has two movies coming out this year, one of which is Mirror Mirror, and a TV series, Once Upon a Time, by the creators of Lost no less.

This adaptation of the infamous fairytale strives to balance comedy with drama – it seeks out light-hearted moments and intersperses them among the storyline’s darker elements, giving a rather refreshing approach to the story we all know.

The movie starts with the Evil Queen (Julia Roberts) telling what she calls her story of which the little girl, whose skin is white as snow and hair dark as night and so called that pompous obnoxious name, Snow White, is of little importance. As Snow White grew and her father, the king, realized he was unable to teach her everything she needed to know, he decided to remarry. The king was bewitched by the dazzling beauty and charm of a woman – the Evil Queen compliments herself plenty – and marries her. But a dark magic sweeps the land and the king is forced to go save his kingdom, never to be seen or heard from again.

As Snow White grows, the Evil Queen tries to keep her at bay, safely tucked away at the castle. But the Evil Queen knows that there will come a time when Snow must do what snow does best and Snow must fall.

Julia Roberts is riveting as the Evil Queen. Even though the movie is not really her story, she manages to make it all about her and she pulls it off remarkably. Whenever she’s on screen, she dominates – be it with her charm or uncanny ability to fool you with an innocent looking smile. Julia is a major contributor to Mirror Mirror‘s two faces. She can be hilarious at times and  downright chilling at others. In fact, the moment the credits started rolling, the people I was watching the movie with were positively surprised that Julia Roberts had it in her to portray an evil role. Even the comic relief moments she introduces here and there are of evil nature. For the doubters about Roberts’ ability to portray the Evil Queen, you will be impressed.

The rest of the cast, even Snow White (Lilly Collins), do very well with the characters they’re given. Those that are asked for seriousness are serious and those from whom comedy is required are often hilarious. Acting-wise, Mirror Mirror is simply charming and fun to watch, especially with the interactions of Snow White with the Dwarves or the Evil Queen with her minion.

The interesting thing about Mirror Mirror is that it doesn’t go along the typical Snow White storyline we’ve all known. The whole poisoned apple storyline is downplayed, the Evil Queen doesn’t want to kill Snow White because of her ethereal beauty but because she got active in the affairs of the kingdom. The band of dwarves, usually thought as kind, happy or grumpy or sleepy or whatever their names are, are not like that at all in Mirror Mirror – they are a band of thieves who pry on unsuspecting strangers passing along their path. These little detours from the fairytale we’ve all memorized are what keep Mirror Mirror an interesting movie to watch.

Mirror Mirror is a fun and entertaining movie, be it with its plentiful humor, Julia Roberts’ sarcasm, Lilly Collins’ innocence or Prince Alcott’s (Armie Hammer) facial expressions. As the title implies, the movie has two sides: one is comedy, the other is a fairytale and both work really well together. The happy ending doesn’t feel forced on it, the movie builds to it – what it doesn’t build to, however, is that Indian dance scene it concludes with. But even that ridiculously out of place ending sequence cannot derail what is a strong movie from being bogged down. Even Game of Thrones fans will be surprised by a brief appearance of the series’ most prominent characters and that’s always a good thing.

7.5/10

Once Upon A Time – TV Show

I recently started watching a new American TV series titled “Once Upon A Time,” brought to us by the creators of one of our generation’s best TV shows: Lost.

The premise of the show is highly interesting and, even though it starts off weirdly, picks up right at the middle of the first episode and enthralls you. A testament to that is the show catching my brother’s attention as he was engaged with multiple Facebook chats with his friends. You know teenagers and their chats can go on forever. He stopped them to watch.

The show is a modern twist on the fairytales we’ve heard over and over again as we grew up: Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio, etc…. On the day of Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming’s (Joshua Dallas) wedding, the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla) barges in and threatens them with a curse where no one would have a happy ending, except her. Months later, a pregnant Snow White goes to Rumplestiltskin who tells her that the curse can only be broken by her unborn daughter, as she turns 28.

As the events in that alternate world take place, we are introduced to Emma (Jennifer Morrison) who lives in our world, on the day of her birthday. She was turning 28. It is then that her biological son finds her and tells her that he lives in a town in Maine called Storybrooke where people are the characters of those fairytales, brought to our world by the Evil Queen’s curse without them knowing who they are or where they come from. None of them can leave the town and none of them have an inkling of their past.

Emma, who gave up her son Henry for adoption ten years prior, drives him back to Storybrooke to give him back to his adopted mother and, without intending to, finds herself wanting to help her son out of his “crazy” fantasies, not knowing that her presence there is changing everything.

The overall story might look childish for many (the foundation is a fairytale after all) but the execution is captivating, which is expected from the creators of Lost. They managed to continue the stories of those fairytale characters that we all know and add another dimension to them – one that transcends the magic in which they live, making them look raw and real.

The performances, mainly that of House‘s Jennifer Morrison, are great as well. Morrison portrays the cynical Emma but keeps her character sharp enough as to not repel viewers. She makes the transition to a caring “mother” and makes it look fluidly easy.

All in all, with three episodes in (the fourth one set to air this Sunday November 13th), Once Upon A Time is definitely one of the better new shows to be introduced. It’s a must watch that will surely spark the imagination of million, just as I’m sure its creators intended. Even the fairytales we thought we knew keep surprising us by having links between all the different stories. And if you’re attentive enough, you’ll notice allusions from Lost, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and other Disney movies there.

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