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UNIVERSAL

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
Cast:
Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt, Nick Frost, Jessica Chastain
Writing Credits:
Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin

Synopsis:
Raised as members of ice Queen Freya's army, Eric and fellow warrior Sara try to conceal their forbidden love as they fight to survive the wicked intentions of both Freya and her sister Ravenna.

Box Office:
Budget
$115 million.
Opening Weekend
$19,445,035 on 3,791 Screens.
Domestic Gross
$47,952,020.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio:
English DTS X
English DVS
English DTS X Headphone
Spanish DTS 5.1
French DTS 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French

Runtime: 114 min. (Theatrical)
120 min. (Extended)
Price: $34.98
Release Date: 8/23/2016

Bonus:
• Both Theatrical and Extended Cuts
• Audio Commentary with Director Cedric Nicolas Troyan
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• “Winter’s Vistas” Featurettes
• Gag Reel
• Previews
• DVD Copy


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Huntsman: Winter's War [Blu-Ray] (2016)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 16, 2016)

Over the last few years, we’ve seen a lot of Disney animated tales remade as live-action movies. If I recall correctly, the enormous success of 2010’s Alice in Wonderland opened the floodgates with its worldwide gross of more than $1 billion.

2012 saw two separate versions of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Mirror Mirror delivered a light, comedic take on the story, whereas Snow White and the Huntsman gave the property a somber action orientation.

The latter did moderately well at the box office, which leads to 2016’s The Huntsman: Winter’s War, a follow-up to the 2012 film. At the start, evil sorceress Ravenna (Charlize Theron) uses her powers to snare a kingdom, a task she does with her younger sister Freya (Emily Blunt) at her side. Ravenna believes that her supernatural abilities run in the family, but Freya has yet to experience those skills.

This changes when Freya gives birth to the daughter of already-engaged nobleman Andrew (Colin Morgan). After Andrew apparently murders the infant, Freya flies into a rage, one that unleashes her dormant powers. She uses these ice-based abilities to slay Andrew.

Her heart turned dark after these events, Freya founds her own kingdom and trains huntsmen to act as her conquerors. To serve as these soldiers, Freya kidnaps children and raises them to be unloved and cold-hearted.

This doesn’t quite work out, as two trainees named Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain) fall in love with each other. This appears to end in tragedy, as Freya separates the lovers and uses a henchman to kill Sara.

The film leaps ahead seven years and we find Eric after the events of the prior movie. Someone makes off with the Magic Mirror, so Eric heads out to find it before mayhem occurs. Surprises and battles occur along the way.

Huh. A story about regal sisters where one of them develops the ability to harness cold for her own purposes - why does that sound familiar?

While I can’t help but wonder why the producers would create a movie that boasts such obvious parallels with 2013’s Frozen, I will admit that the similarities remain fairly superficial. I think the decision to make Freya an ice queen was a mistake mainly because it does provoke these comparisons – surely the writers could’ve come up with another power for her – but I can’t accuse War of real cinematic plagiarism.

I also can’t claim that War offers a satisfying follow-up to Snow White. Not that I felt wild about the 2012 film, as I thought it was a dull adventure. Parts of it worked – mainly related to production design – but it tended to offer something of a snoozer.

Given that I didn’t expect much from War, I hoped it might surpass its predecessor. After, I called the 2012 movie a “long, slow journey” – that left plenty of room for improvement.

Alas, War fails to improve on the prior film in a significant manner. Though I initially thought War would be a prequel – the Blu-ray’s case calls it “the story before Snow White, after all - that only serves part of the tale. We get the prologue that introduces us to Freya and gives us Eric’s “origin story”, but after that 30-minute opening, War turns into a sequel of sorts.

I find it hard to view War as a “true sequel” because it diminishes the role of Snow White so much. I don’t know if the studio wanted a more Snow White-based tale but couldn’t work things out with Kristen Stewart or if they always preferred to focus on Eric, but the fact remains that Snow only pops up in circumstantial ways here.

Whatever led to this orientation, War resembles its predecessor less than it comes across like a semi-remake of Lord of the Rings. The manner in which the film concentrates on a trek related to a magic object and picks up new participants along the way isn’t exclusive to Tolkien, of course, but the execution of War feels too close to Rings for comfort.

War becomes Tolkien Lite, though, a “warrior’s journey” without much depth or intrigue. The film gives us thin characters and not much real meat. We watch the participants amble on their way and get the occasional injection of action but none of this sticks.

I do think War feels a little peppier than Snow White, largely because it offers a less somber experience than its predecessor. Not that I'm against dark/serious films, of course, but the morose, humorless nature of Snow White seemed ill-suited for the material and it became a drag.

While not a laugh a minute, at least War shows signs of life, and Hemsworth helps. He displays a lively charm that allows him to add zing to the proceedings. The absence of the ever-mopey Stewart helps as well, so that becomes addition by subtraction. Although Stewart has talent, I think she too often seems one-note and can suck the life out of her characters, so her absence helps War.

These remain modest improvements, though, so don’t expect War to become an objectively good movie. Sure, it surpasses its predecessor to a minor degree, but it seems so derivative and inconsistent that it doesn’t fare well in its own right. This turns into another pretty mediocre film.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

The Huntsman: Winter’s War appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Though not stellar, the image seemed very good.

Overall sharpness worked well. A little softness materialized in some interiors, but those instances didn’t become a prominent issue. Instead, the movie usually appeared accurate and concise, without shimmering, jaggies or edge haloes. Print flaws also remained absent.

Like most modern action flicks, War opted for teal and orange. These tones tended to be subdued – especially in ice-based shots, where the blues became fairly desaturated. The colors fit the story. Blacks were dark and deep, while shadows showed pretty good clarity. The image lived up to expectations.

As for the movie’s DTS-X soundtrack – which downconverted to DTS-HD MA 7.1 on my system – it added kick to the proceedings. As expected, we got a lot of action, and those sequences contributed a good sense of involvement and activity. Battle elements swarmed around the room in a satisfying manner that created a nice sense of place and environment.

Audio quality also succeeded. Music sounded lively and full, while dialogue appeared natural and concise. Effects appeared accurate and dynamic, with good range and low-end punch. This became a consistently positive soundtrack.

The disc includes two versions of Winter’s War. We get the Theatrical Cut (1:53:52) as well as an Extended Cut (2:00:10). How do these differ?

The first added sequence doesn’t appear until the 26:52 mark – and it becomes the single most significant change to the Extended Cut. In this piece, we see the transport of the Magic Mirror and how Eric combats wildlife poachers. At nearly three and a half minutes, this bit fill more than half of the EC’s changes, but that doesn’t make it especially interesting. It’s not a bad scene but I think it’s superfluous.

As for the rest, I counted six added tidbits. These provide brief extensions of existing scenes and tend to seem less than useful. While not bad on their own, none of them feel necessary.

In my estimation, both versions of the film come with the same impact. I don’t think the additions to the Extended Cut harm it, but I also don’t feel that the alterations help the movie in any obvious way. This seems like a “six of one, half-dozen of the other” circumstance.

Note that the Extended Cut includes a post-credits tag that doesn’t appear in the theatrical version. I didn’t count that as one of the added scenes mentioned above.

Alongside both cuts of the film, we get an audio commentary from director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan. He offers a running, screen-specific look at set design and locations, cast and performances, editing and changes for the extended cut, various effects, costumes and music, action and stunts, and related topics.

After a very slow start, Nicolas-Troyas picks up the pace and delivers a pretty good chat. He covers a nice array of subjects and does so in a peppy, engaging manner. The director makes this a positive overview of the production – and he might offer the first-ever reference to UHD Blu-ray in a commentary!

Four Deleted Scenes run a total of eight minutes, 55 seconds. We see “Freya Says Goodbye to Ravenna” (0:52), “Young Eric and Sara Fight” (2:21), “Eric Finds Passage to Hidden Forest” (3:18) and “Freya Beats Ravenna in Chess” (2:26). These tend to offer minor character extensions but none of them stand out as particularly strong.

We can view these scenes with or without commentary from Nicolas-Troyan. He gives us some notes about the shots as well as why he cut them. Nicolas-Troyan adds useful insights.

A Gag Reel fills nine minutes, 43 seconds. Much of this offers the usual goofs and giggles, but a few more interesting moments arise, such as when we hear Charlize Theron’s kid throw an off-camera tantrum.

Winter’s Vistas: The Making of The Huntsman: Winter’s War splits into five subdomains: “Two Queens and Two Warriors” (7:22), “Meet the Dwarfs” (8:10), “Magic All Around” (8:44), “Dressed to Kill” (6:03) and “Love Conquers All” (5:58). Across these, we hear from Nicolas-Troyan, executive producer Sarah Bradshaw, visual effects supervisor Paul Lambert, prop master David Cheesman, sculptor Codrina Sparatu, motion capture supervisor Simon Kay, costume designer Colleen Atwood, producer Joe Roth, and actors Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt, Jessica Chastain, Sope Dirisu, Rob Brydon, Nick Frost, Sheridan Smith, and Alexandra Roach.

The featurettes cover cast and performances, sets and locations, props and various effects, costumes, and the atmosphere on the set. “Vistas” includes some good footage from the set and the occasional insight, but the clips tend to be pretty fluffy. They’re still worth a look but they don’t offer much depth.

The disc opens with ads for Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. Free State of Jones, April and the Extraordinary World, and Mother’s Day. No trailer for War appears here.

A second disc provides a DVD copy of War. It includes the commentary, the deleted scenes, the gag reel and two of the five “Vistas” segments. It also features both the Theatrical and Extended cuts of the film.

After the dreary dullness of Snow White and the Huntsman, I hoped The Huntsman: Winter’s War might work better. It does, but not in a radical manner, so it remains a movie without much spirit or heart. The Blu-ray offers very good picture and audio as well as a decent set of supplements. War continues the Snow White franchise on a mediocre note.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.25 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main