Charmless, incoherent, and pretty much pointless, 'The Huntsman: Winter's War' left me cold

Newstalk's film critic Philip Molloy also takes a look at 'My Name is Emily', 'Midnight Special', and more

Philip Molloy, Movies, Right Hook, Picture Show, Huntsman: Winter's War, My name is Emily, Midnight Special, Man who Knew Infinity, Dheepan

Charlize Theron, who was contractually bound to the production, stars as Ravenna for a second time in 'The Huntsman: Winter's War' [YouTube]

The Huntsman: Winter’s War (12A)

Someone described The Huntman: Winter’s War as the least keenly anticipated prequel/sequel of the year, a follow-up that nobody much wanted to the film that nobody much liked. The first film, Snow White And The Huntsman in 2012, was a darkish variation on the “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall” fairytale in which an Australian hunky huntsman doing his best Scottish impersonation was forced to join forces with the seven dwarfs protect Snow White from the wicked queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron).

Now in the prequel, Ravenna has a younger sister Freya (Emily Blunt) who is pregnant and becomes a threat when the mirror reveals that the child will ultimately become queen. Ravenna kills the infant and Freya, unable to let it go, retreats “to the north” where she establishes a new kingdom and forbids all forms of romantic love, becoming a kind of supernatural Miss Havesham imbued with the powers of Frozen’s Elsa.

The action then jumps forward by seven years and the huntsmen, who have served Freya fatefully in building her new kingdom, have turned on her and attempt to destroy the evil mirror once and for all. 

The Huntsman: Winter’s War was shown to the media at lunchtime on Monday, a few hours after it had opened to the general public. Universal Pictures was, presumably, trying to get to the public before the press had its say and having seen the film, I can understand why. It is charmless, incoherent, pointless, and pretty much useless.

My Name is Emily (12A)

My Name Is Emily is a polished and well-structured mixture of road movie and coming-of-age drama from Simon Fitzmaurice, the Irish writer/director who was told in 2008 that he had motor neuron disease and had four years to live.

Simon beat those odds and overcame his condition to make his first feature film, even though he was confined to a wheelchair and completely paralysed.

He communicated with his cast and crew through his eyes – using iris-recognition technology – which transmitted his thoughts to a listener or listeners via a computerised voice. Obviously in these circumstances, it was essential to have a strong, professional crew and Simon had such in
producer Lesley McKimm and Katheryn Kennedy, cinematographer Seamus Deasy, editor Emer Reynolds and production designer John Hand.

I thought the quality of the dialogue and the dramatic situations was variable in My Name is Emily, but the performances were uniformly good and the locations in Wicklow stood in credibly for the north of Ireland.

My Name is Emily is on general release throughout the country from Friday.

On last week's The Picture Show, I spoke producers Lesley McKimm and Kathryn Kennedy about the unique challenges of making this movie. Listen back to the podcast below:

Midnight Special (12A)

Writer/director Jeff Nichols – the man behind 2011’s Take Shelter and 2012’s Mud –  and actor Michael Shannon are quickly becoming one of the cinema’s star partnerships. After four pictures together it is obvious that
Nichols gets the actor’s creepy magnetism better than anyone else he has worked with. And he puts it to its best use yet in the strangely hypnotic sci-fi thriller Midnight Special

The film opens in a Texas motel room, where Shannon’s Roy and Joel Edgerton’s Lucas seem to be holding an 8-year-old boy named Alton (St. Vincent’s Jaeden Lieberher) hostage. But Roy is actually Alton’s father, and the kid’s no ordinary kid.

He possesses supernatural powers that a religious cult and the government are both after. Usually Alton is shy and
quiet, poring over superhero comics. But then he’ll start speaking in tongues, or a blinding white light will shoot from his eyes. Is he a prophet? A security threat? An alien conduit?

As father and son speed toward some doomsday reckoning, Nichols keeps us guessing in a way that evokes Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Midnight Special is a more modest, more enigmatic film than that, but it’s no less gripping.

I also spoke to Jeff Nichols on last week's show, you can listen back to the full interview in the podcast below:

The Man who Knew Infinity (12A)

The Man Who Knew Infinity is a formulaic, period biopic about the life of S. Ramanujan, the penniless Indian clerk who faced racism and snobbery when he came to Cambridge in the early part of the 20th century to present his research in the field of numbers.

With that brown and yellow palette that has been such a familiar part of British period cinema down the years The Man Who Knew Infinity looks convincing – and it has a riveting central performance from Jeremy Irons as Ramanujan’s mentor – but it doesn’t say anything that is particularly unusual or different. Dev Patel does his usual giddy turn in the title part.

Dheepan (15)

Also out this week is Dheepan, the new film from the award-winning French writer/director of Rust and Bone and A Prophet, Jacques Audiard. Audiard took home the Palme d’or at last year’s Cannes Film Festival for this drama.

Dheepan focuses on a trio of Sri Lankan refugees who flee their war torn homeland only to find themselves in a new conflict zone in the projects of Paris. Told almost entirely in the Tamil language – and subtitled in English – it presents an involving picture of migrant life for two-thirds of its running time before taking a heavy handed turn into genre territory.