SOLOMON KANE (2009)
Solomon Kane is a 16th century set fantasy adventure based on the works of Conan creator, Robert E. Howard. It is the story of bloodthirsty mercenary Captain Solomon Kane (a perfectly cast James Purefoy) who learns during an encounter with a demon that his soul is damned and the devil himself wishes to claim it. Seeking redemption and God’s forgiveness, Kane vows to never again shed the blood of another. But when the forces of the evil sorcerer, Malachi (Jason Flemyng) murder a kind family that took Kane in and kidnap their daughter, Kane picks up his sword and pistols and vows to bathe his path to hell with the blood of Malachi and his followers. Writer/director Michael J. Bassett knows to take his subject matter seriously, so we do and to keep the tone dark yet, injecting just enough melodrama so that it’s entertaining. He paces the film well but, doesn’t go too fast and he has a really good visual style and knows how to frame a shot. Bassett gets really good performances out of his cast including leading man Purefoy, who is great as the tortured soul/hero and small roles from veterans Alice Krige, Pete Postlethwaite and the great Max Von Sydow. Flemyng drips with malice but, Malachi doesn’t get all that much screen time and we’d wish he did to make him truly effective as the villain. The production value is high and the film looks sumptuous, the score by Klaus Bedelt is strong and atmospheric, there is some decent but, not great CGI but, the rest of the visual FX are fine. The climactic battle with Malachi and a Balrog-ish demon could have been a bit longer but, otherwise Solomon Kane is a very entertaining and atmospheric dark fantasy adventure that should keep fans of fantasy and sword and sorcery in their seats and happily occupied. Not perfect, it does show signs of being edited down to move things along a bit quicker but, it is a fun dark fantasy with a healthy dose of horror. Kane was released here in the US last year on VOD and is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray!
A solid 3 swords
SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN (2012)
I have to say this flick was a pleasant surprise as Snow White And The Huntsman proves to be a really entertaining and visual stunning version of the classic fairy tale. As the story is a retelling of Snow White, there is no reason to go over the details except to say it is a dark re-telling and there are scenes played almost like a horror film and that was fine with me. First time feature director Rupert Sanders has a sumptuous visual style that aids the movie in every way. The dark scenes are bathed in spooky imagery and the lighter scenes, especially those in “Sanctuary” are absolutely beautiful. Ridely Scott would be proud as I would be surprised if he’s not an influence. Sanders’ pace is a more moderate one, as compared to the fast paced blockbusters of today, he takes his time setting up and telling the story from Evan Daugherty’s script and there is a lot of story told in the 2 hrs plus. I was never bored and there is plenty of well-staged action mixed throughout this tale to entertain and I actually feel the film benefits from not rushing, as we come to like the characters, even those like the dwarves, who only enter a about half way through but are quite charming. The SPFX are flawless with the before mentioned visuals and a large number of CGI created characters which carry weight and have a nice realism. Some of the Sanctuary characters are breathtaking to behold. What helps make all this blend together and work so well, is the cast. Charlize Theron is dripping with sensual malice as evil queen, Ravenna. For the most part, she knows exactly when to show restraint and exactly when to go over the top a bit and she can be downright scary one minute and sexy the next. She even gives us glimpses of vulnerability and inner sadness to the villainous queen so, I will forgive a few over the top moments where she should have shown a bit of restraint. Chris Hemsworth is charming and noble as The Huntsman, a former soldier who’s lost someone he loves and finds a new purpose in life when he crosses paths with the fugitive princess, Snow White. Hemsworth brings heart and depth to the character as he did in Thor and proves he’s a star in the making. And as for Snow White, Kristen Stewart was the biggest surprise of all. I’m not a fan of her disassociated acting style and was surprised at how lively her performance was, especially when she needs to rally her subjects to fight. Yes, there are still some of the Stewart mannerisms but, the big difference was how much emotion she carried in her usually vacant eyes. She conveyed a lot of feeling when she had no dialog and gave the character some heart and soul. Best thing I’ve ever seen her do so far and I’ve seen all the current Twilight films, The Runaways and Adventureland. And rounding out the cast were some very familiar faces amongst the dwarves and since I’m not sure how well their presence is known, I won’t mention names except to say they do a great job making these guys lovable with a limited screen time. All in all, a really good fantasy adventure and a nice surprise for a movie I had only moderate expectations for.
3 and 1/2 huntsman axes! (A little extra credit for the sumptuous visuals and production design.)