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Tag Archive: fairy tale retellings


Review by C.J. Bunce

With the unique signature of the only director that could pull off a film like The Shape of Water, have no doubt it is worthy of a parade of Oscar recognition.  As for direction The Shape of Water is a triumph for Guillermo del Toro’s sheer bravery in choices.  As for acting it’s the perfect mix of the four top acting tiers: a superb performance in a challenging role by a lead actor and actress, and a superb performance in a challenging role by a supporting actor and actress.  del Toro’s story, too, is novel, soaring and magnificent, even if it may be derivative of many fairy tales, folklore, and past fantastical films.  In fact it’s del Toro’s intelligent reimagining of stories from Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast on a backbone of films like King Kong, Splash, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon that lends some familiarity and authenticity to its story and characters to touch audiences.  Ultimately the finely crafted assemblage is greater than the sum of its parts, forming the stuff of those classic best pictures of the year of decades past.

The idyllic early 1960s is stripped of its patina to a very real and difficult world beyond the happy families as seen in the slick marketing and television shows of the day, at least for the average person trying to find their way.  A mute woman named Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and her co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) work in a quasi-government corporate facility as janitors.  When a Fed named Strickland (Michael Shannon) brings a gilled, man-like creature (Doug Jones) he captured in South America to the facility for study, Elisa covertly befriends it.  When Strickland and his military cronies decide it’s time to vivisect the creature, Elisa enlists a friend in her apartment complex (Richard Jenkins) to try to get the creature to safety, with even Zelda and a lab researcher (Michael Stuhlbarg) joining along in her plan.

The tragedy of Oscar season is the lack of nomination for Doug Jones, the modern Man of a Thousand Faces (and bodysuits), who has played every character in commercials from McDonald’s Mac Tonight to one of the terrifying Gentlemen of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Marvel’s Silver Surfer, to the star of del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, and ghosts in his Crimson Peak and Abe Sapien in his Hellboy series, and he is currently headlining Star Trek Discovery, again in prosthetics.  It is a truth that no other actor has the experience and physical skill and talent required to perform in the roles he is sought out for, and his “Amphibian Man” in this film is a showcase of his singular grace, elegance, and style.  His understanding of animal movements and reactions is impeccable.  Sally Hawkins, seen in countless performances (a standout in Fingersmith, Layer Cake, Tipping the Velvet, Blue Jasmine, where she was also nominated for an Oscar, and Never Let Me Go, among other films, and even a bit part in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace), perfectly captures a life in silence and a hopeless romantic.  Her piercing stares at Strickland nearly slice him in two.  Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer (The Help, Hidden Figures, Snowpiercer, Medium, The X-Files) plays Zelda for laughs for the most part, and her ramblings about her lazy husband and her support of Elisa are wonderful.  Richard Jenkins (Silverado, Hannah and Her Sisters, The Witches of Eastwick, Wolf, Absolute Power, Into Thin Air, Jack Reacher, Bone Tomahawk, LBJ) takes on a role as neighbor Giles, a part like nothing audiences have seen him play before, a down on his luck ad man, he is boxed in from gaining the love that he seeks.  del Toro makes it possible for each moviegoer to see himself/herself in each of these characters.

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emerald-city

The Wizard of Oz–whether or not you may be a fan of L. Frank Baum’s classic book or one of the best fantasy films of all time, you may want to tune in for a new NBC series airing Friday nights this winter.  Featuring well-known actors Joely Richardson and Vincent D’Onofrio, Emerald City stars Adria Arjona as twenty-year-old Dorothy Gale, who is sucked into a tornado and transported to the otherworldly Land of Oz.  D’Onofrio plays the famous Man Behind the Curtain who runs Oz.

But don’t expect the bright and cheery world of the 1939 production or something like you’d see from Disney.  Look for a dark world in this modern-day retelling.  It’s gritty and somewhat dystopian as seen in the first trailer for the series, below.

Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Ana Ularu, Mido Hamada, Gerran Howell and Jordan Loughran co-star in the series.  Series writers and executive producers include Shaun Cassidy, David Schulner, Tarsem Singh Dhandwar, Matthew Arnold, and Josh Friedman.  Dhandwar directs the series.

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Star Wars fans take note: Trisha Biggar, costume designer for the prequels and featured in the landmark book Dressing a Galaxy: The Costumes of Star Wars, has created the costumes for the series.  Keep Padme Amidala in mind when watching the wardrobes of the various featured witches.

Check out this preview for Emerald City followed by several character posters released by Universal to promote the series:

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Huntsman

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

We’ve said it before: It’s the rare sequel that’s actually better than its preceding installment (Terminator 2, The Empire Strikes Back, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), but back in a preview last month here at borg.com, we predicted that The Huntsman: Winter’s War might just break through to join those few.  The original Snow White & The Huntsman (2012) was fun but forgettable, despite high-profile headliners Kristen Stewart (the Twilight Saga), Chris Hemsworth (Thor, Star Trek), and Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road, The Italian Job, Aeon Flux).  It must have been fun enough, however, since Theron and Hemsworth, along with several other original cast members, signed on for a second film–and convinced star-powered newcomers Emily Blunt (Edge of Tomorrow, The Adjustment Bureau) and Jessica Chastain (Crimson Peak, Zero Dark Thirty) to join them.  Thanks in no small part to the stellar cast, plus gorgeous special effects, and elaborate costumes by Academy Award-winning costumer Colleen Atwood (Arrow), The Huntsman: Winter’s War stepped up its game and really delivered a great fantasy film experience.

It’s no secret that a great backstory adds layers and richness to a film, and filmmakers capitalized on that to develop the all-new plot to Winter’s War, reaching well beyond the Grimm-fairytale framework of the “Snow White” story.  In the original film we were introduced to Theron’s incarnation of Snow White’s evil stepmother, Queen Ravenna, and her magical, corrupting golden mirror.  In Winter’s War, we meet Ravenna’s younger sister, the lovely Freya, content to live in her sister’s shadow, as long as she has love in her life.  But when her infant daughter dies, Freya’s heart is frozen, and her own cold magic awakens.  In an unsubtle nod to Disney’s Frozen, Freya becomes the Ice Queen (actually called “The Frozen Queen” in the trailer), and conquers all the lands of the north, marshaling unbeatable armies of child soldiers she raises in place of her lost daughter.  “In my kingdom we have but one law,” she says: “Do not love.”

Hunstman and Sara

Inevitably, two of her most prized soldiers–her children–break that law.  Young warriors Sara (Chastain) and Eric (Hemsworth) woo and wed in secret, until betrayed and ripped apart by the queen’s jealousy.  Eric ends up in service to Ravenna, to play out the adventure in The Huntsman.  Seven years pass, and Winter’s War then turns from prequel to sequel.  When in service to Snow White’s kingdom, Eric is charged with a task worthy of a true Huntsman: Recover Ravenna’s mirror and deliver it safely to Sanctuary, where it and its magic can be locked away for good.  Thus begins a lively quest, aided by familiar dwarf ally Nion (Nick Frost, Shaun of the Dead, Attack the Block) and delightful newcomers Mrs. Bromwyn (Sheridan Smith, Galivant), Gryff (Rob Bryson, Cinderella), and Doreena (Alexandra Roach, Being Human).

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Hunstman Winters War

You get the feeling that we’re in store for the year’s best fantasy movie with each new look at next month’s release The Huntsman – Winter’s War, the sequel to the 2012 fairy tale film Snow White and the Huntsman.  It would also be a rare, but welcome, sequel that could improve on the original.  With the expanded cast this one could be that next surprise hit.

Most of the cast of the original, a pretty fun romp that told a completely re-imagined version of Grimm’s Snow White story, is back in The Huntsman – Winter’s War.  Except for Snow White.  The next chapter provides a version of the Ice Queen tale with one of our favorite actresses, Edge of Tomorrow’s Emily Blunt, as the new antagonist.

Blunt plays the sister of evil queen Ravenna, played again by Academy Award winning actress Charlize Theron. Also returning is Chris Hemsworth as The Huntsman, Nick Frost as Nion, and Sam Claflin as William.  New to the story is Crimson Peak’s Jessica Chastain as the warrior Sara.

The Huntsman Winter's War poster

Check out this action-packed trailer just released by Universal Pictures for The Huntsman – Winter’s War:

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hunt

The 2012 fairy tale film Snow White and the Huntsman was a pretty fun romp, telling a completely re-imagined version of Grimm’s Snow White story.  Next year most of the cast (no Snow White) is back in The Huntsman – Winter’s War, a version of the Ice Queen tale with one of our favorite actresses, Edge of Tomorrow’s Emily Blunt, as the new antagonist.

Blunt plays the sister of evil queen Ravenna.  Played again by Academy Award winning actress Charlize Theron.  Also returning is Chris Hemsorth as The Huntsman, Nick Frost as Nion, and Sam Claflin as William.  New to the story is Crimson Peak’s Jessica Chastain as the warrior Sara.

Check out this beautifully done trailer for The Huntsman – Winter’s War:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Every bit like a crazy and dark Sam Raimi production, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters takes an already creepy Grimm fairy tale and amplifies it into a bloody Rated R monster movie.  It is as true as you could probably hope to get to the spirit of the original story of two kids who outwit a witch in a house made of candy.  We even get to see the original tale laid out nearly verbatim to the centuries-old story, including the triumph of the kids who foil the witch and throw her into the oven.

H and G

But that is only the beginning of the tale, and this is the story after the story, a sequel where Hansel and Gretel become mercenaries who hire themselves out to small forest towns to rid them of the plague of witches who have stolen nearly a dozen children.  Witch Hunters never takes itself seriously.  Images of the missing children end up on printed broadsides on the 1800 version of a milk bottle.  And after decades of consuming candy, Hansel is diabetic (he has the “sugar” disease) and must take an early form of insulin to prevent him from dying.

Famke Janssen in Witch Hunters

Harkening back to the German origins of the fairy tale, Witch Hunters is a German production with lots of German design influences.  Like the original Grimm tales this is a violent and gory story.  Witches are instantly the unsympathetic villains who are bad for bad’s sake.  Led by the beautiful Famke Janssen, who for most of the film dons some impressive prosthetics, these witches are the stuff of the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz.  A motley assemblage of Halloween-esque witches with brooms don dark garb on their own evil sabbath day and congregate in a spot in the woods in something strangely similar to an annual rally in Sturgis.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Fairy tales seem to be everywhere this past year, beginning with a TV rivalry of sorts between Once Upon a Time and the superb series Grimm.  Lost Girl, the Canadian TV series winding up its third season in the States, has been a brilliant series, full more of folklore than fairy tales per se, yet it truly highlights the “fae” of the genre.  Movies like Snow White and the Huntsman, Mirror, Mirror, and Red Riding Hood have shown that classic tales still have resonance with mainstream audiences, because the source stories are, quite simply, timeless.

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