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Sister drama and hoarding in Huntsman and Doris


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THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER'S WAR. To say one movie represents everything that is wrong with Hollywood in 2016 is both facile and unfair; there are, after all, so, so many things wrong. But with The Huntsman, it's tempting. It's a sequel/sort of prequel to Snow White and the Huntsman (2012), itself a superfluous re-telling. This installment trumps its predecessor by eliminating Snow White save but for a few brief mentions, and focusing instead on Eric the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) and the difficult to define relationship between rival sisters Ravenna (Charlize Theron) and Freya (Emily Blunt). Snow White without Snow White? Apparently so.

Years before the events of the first movie, Ravenna is already establishing a modus operandi. After marrying a king, she kills him — over a chessboard, in case anyone accused the movie of subtlety — and seizes control of the kingdom. Meanwhile, Freya has fallen in love and gotten pregnant. Shortly after the birth of her child, the baby's father burns it in its crib, awakening Freya's latent ice powers. She retreats from her family and the notion of love, constructing an ice palace in the northern wilds. There, she raises an army, turning stolen children in to cold-hearted huntsmen. When her two greatest warriors Eric and Sara (Jessica Chastain) fall in love and plan to elope, Freya drives a wall between them, literally and figuratively. Eric wanders the wilderness, mourning and getting drunk. When he is approached by King William (Sam Claflin) and two of Snow White's dwarf companions (Nick Frost and Rob Bryden, far and away the best part of the whole affair) with news that the mirror that defeated Ravenna has been stolen by orcs (perhaps the only minority group not underrepresented in mainstream movies), he signs on to recover the thing. There's an uncomfortable reunion, some lady dwarves and the predictable orc battle, all en route to the inevitable climactic showdown.

Director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan (visual effects supervisor on Snow White) continues the earlier movie's emphasis of style over substance, particularly in lavish sets and costuming. As before, the storytelling fails, with a years-spanning plot that hardly holds together from one scene to the next. The capable cast struggles and the ensemble product feels forced, stagy. As a whole, the movie is doubly disappointing for its attributes. Tremendous effort obviously went into creating a beautiful, enveloping world but the story, poorly prepared, rudderless and poorly executed, fails to come to life there. PG13. 114m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.

HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS. Played too on-the-nose, this could easily turn loathsome. A character study about sexagenarian spinster Doris (Sally Field) falling for a much younger co-worker and navigating the world of Brooklyn hipsters, the movie is saved thanks to careful handling by director Michael Showalter, who co-wrote the screenplay with Laura Terruso, based on her short. Credit is due to the stand-out cast, Field especially, but Showalter's off-beat mix of humor and earnestness keeps Doris from preciousness, pretension and cliché.

Doris has spent years caring for her ailing mother in an increasingly cluttered house on Staten Island. Now that mom has died, brother Todd (Stephen Root) and his wife Cynthia (Wendi McLendon-Covey) urge Doris to clean up the house and sell. They see her as a hoarder who needs professional help; she's attached to her stuff and worries leaving the house might destroy her identity. Meanwhile, art director John (Max Greenfield) enters Doris' life at the apparel company where she does data entry. She's immediately smitten/borderline obsessed. Enlisting her best friend Roz (Tyne Daly) and Roz's granddaughter Vivian (Isabella Acres), Doris learns how to Facebook stalk, gradually forming an uncomfortably close friendship with John. Among his hipster cohort, she walks a tightrope, balancing genuine appreciation against sarcastic ridicule. Her fascination with these new friends puts Doris at odds with Roz and things blow up on a number of fronts.

Showalter is best known as a member of The State, Stella and Wet Hot American Summer crew, a team with which he's done beyond-hilarious work writing and acting. But he also directed a screwball-ish comedy called The Baxter (2005), and Doris has more to do with it than the rest of his resume. Like The Baxter, Doris has touches of absurdist humor, but at bottom is defined by its heart and nuance. Doris creates a tiny, real world where hilarious things occasionally happen. The cast pulls together to populate that world, taking care to make their characters real and funny and beautifully sad. A lesser actor would lose the thread of the main character in maudlin posturing, but Field makes Doris a fully formed, flawed, beautiful person. Her performance stands out due to her own sterling work as well as the cast and crew supporting her. R. 95m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.

— John J. Bennett

For showtimes, see the Journal's listings at www.northcoastjournal.com or call: Broadway Cinema 443-3456; Fortuna Theatre 725-2121; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Richards' Goat Miniplex 630-5000.

Previews

KEANU. Comedy duo Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele play average Joes wading into the criminal underworld to retrieve a kitten. R. 98m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.

MOTHER'S DAY. Chicken soup for the multi-generational-ensemble-comedy soul. With Julia Roberts and Jennifer Aniston. PG13. 118m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.

PURPLE RAIN. Prince's song-packed star vehicle about a musician with baggage, a pompadour and a dream returns. R. 111m. BROADWAY.

RATCHET AND CLANK. Animated space adventure with misfits out to save the galaxy. Starring James Arnold Taylor and David Kaye. PG. 94m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.

Continuing

BARBERSHOP: THE NEXT CUT. Ice Cube returns as Calvin, trying to save his shop and his neighborhood with the world's chattiest employees. With Cedric the Entertainer and Eve. PG13. 112m. BROADWAY.

BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE. Neither the surprisingly solid Ben Affleck nor Henry Cavill's jaw can save this high-production cacophony of collapsing buildings, baffling dream sequences and rushed exposition. PG-13. 151m. BROADWAY.

THE BOSS. Riches-to-rags-to-riches isn't new, but Melissa McCarthy, as a fallen CEO making a bakesale comeback, sweetens the deal with cutting asides and hilarious dialogue. R. 99m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.

CRIMINAL. The memories of a CIA spook (Ryan Reynolds) are dumped into the brain of an ex-con (Kevin Costner), who must now save the world. R. 113m. BROADWAY.

EYE IN THE SKY. A remote operation gets morally, tactically and politically tricky when a child wanders into the line of fire. Starring Helen Mirren. R. 102m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.

THE JUNGLE BOOK. The Kipling story returns to inspire real childhood wonder with seamless CGI, believable animal characters and grand adventure. PG. 106m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.

ZOOTOPIA. An animated animal take on the buddy movie with Jason Bateman, Ginnifer Goodwin and Idris Elba. PG. 108m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.

— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill


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John J. Bennett

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