NEW THIS WEEK:
-- ROMANTIC FANTASY FANS CAN CELEBRATE! AN INGENIOUSLY DARK, ROMANTIC, MAGICAL RE-IMAGINING OF THE FAIRY TALE:
"SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN" PG-13 -- Teens who like romantic fantasies with an edge could be transported by this long but enthralling and gorgeous movie. "Snow White and the Huntsman" does much better indeed than last March's mediocre "Mirror Mirror" (PG), by taking the story more seriously, deepening and darkening it. A prologue recounts how the good medieval King Magnus (Noah Huntley) and his queen (Liberty Ross) loved their little girl, Snow White (Raffey Cassidy). But the young queen died and the grieving king was bewitched by Ravenna (Charlize Theron), whom he married. She murdered him, locked little Snow White into a tower, and ever since has ruled the kingdom with her dastardly brother Finn (Sam Spruell), turning it desolate. When Snow White is of age (now played rather flatly by Kristen Stewart of the PG-13 "Twilight Saga" films), the evil queen must consume her beating heart in order to stay young. The girl escapes through the palace sewer and into the awful Dark Forest. Ravenna and Finn hire the Huntsman (terrific Chris Hemsworth), a drunken widower, to capture Snow White, but he decides to protect her instead. The hunted pair find brief respite in a charming enchanted forest, where they meet a band of dwarves (reduced in stature digitally and played by the likes of Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins and Toby Jones). Snow White's childhood friend William (Sam Claflin) joins them to raise an army against the queen. That famous poison apple stops them for a bit.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The level of violence and disturbing images in "Snow White and the Huntsman" make it a solid, sometimes R-ish PG-13, and probably not entertainment for preteens. Fight scenes include many swords and daggers piercing flesh, though there is not a lot of blood, nor are wounds graphic. More disturbing to young and/or nightmare prone moviegoers are the images of the evil queen, reforming out of a pool of dead crows and tar; rotting animal corpses in the Dark Forest; tree branches turning into writhing serpents; and a huge, roaring troll that attacks the Huntsman. The queen's brother threatens Snow White in a subtly sexual way, and there is other milder sexual innuendo. Ravenna and King Magnus have a nongraphic bedroom scene before she kills him. Characters drink and engage in brief toilet humor.
-- A DEVOUT BUT PONDEROUS EPIC ABOUT FAITH AND REBELLION TELLS A LITTLE-KNOWN CHAPTER IN MEXICAN HISTORY:
"FOR GREATER GLORY" R -- Scenes of battle and the torture of a boy in this epic saga of religious devotion and violence are upsetting and intense, yet still it is understated for an R-rating. So "For Greater Glory" is OK for most high-schoolers. That doesn't mean this heavy-handed, sermonizing chronicle will appeal to them, unless it is on the grounds of a devout Catholic faith and curiosity about a little known story of courage among believers in 1920s Mexico. That was when pious Catholics, finding peaceful protest didn't work, mounted an armed uprising to fight anti-church laws brutally enforced by the revolutionary government of President Plutarco Calles (Ruben Blades). Recruited to lead the disorganized Cristeros is retired Gen. Gorostieta (Andy Garcia), a gruff nonbeliever who becomes wedded to the cause after he sees the courage of a boy, Jose Luis Sanchez (Mauricio Kuri), who gives his life for the Cristeros. Eva Longoria plays the general's devout wife. Oscar Isaacs is fun as a wily outlaw, Victoriano "El Catorce" Ramirez, who joins the fighters. On behalf of President Calvin Coolidge (Bruce McGill), American ambassador Dwight Morrow (Bruce Greenwood) supports the Mexican government (we need Mexican oil) but pushes for peace.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The battle scenes are hectic and loud, with rifle and artillery fire, fallen men and horses, but none of the deaths or injuries shown are highly graphic. The film shows a priest hanged in his church by government soldiers, and another killed by firing squad. The toughest sequence shows the heroic boy Jose tortured by soldiers, then killed and rolled into a grave. Characters smoke and drink.
-- THE OLD 1950s ATOMIC HORROR FILM GENRE GETS A NIFTY UPDATE TAKE IN THIS "EXTREME TOURISM" NIGHTMARE SCENARIO:
"CHERNOBYL DIARIES" R -- Horror buffs of high-school age will get a worthy chill out of this inventive scare fest, even though the blood-and-guts quotient is comparatively understated for an R rating. Filmmaker Bradley Parker relies more on shadowy figures and a nervous camera lens. After seeing Eastern Europe, Moscow and Kiev, a small group of 20-something tourists -- four Americans (Devin Kelley, Jonathan Sadowski, Jesse McCartney and Olivia Dudley) and Australian newlyweds (Nathan Phillips and Ingrid Bolso Berdal -- take a detour. In Kiev they book an "extreme tourism" jaunt with Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko) who takes them to see the abandoned Ukrainian town of Prypiat. (Belgrade, Serbia, is where the film was actually shot.) About 50,000 residents evacuated the town overnight in 1986 when the nearby Chernobyl nuclear power plant, where many of them worked, went into a horrific meltdown. Guards won't let Uri enter the town, so he takes his customers in by stealth. Walking through the empty apartments, and offices, the young tourists -- not as callow as most protagonists in horror films -- are moved. But then they encounter a rampaging bear, and slathering packs of wolves and dogs. Not what Uri expected. They're trapped inside his disabled van at night, long past the limit on radiation exposure. Venturing outside proves a bad choice, too, as mutant creatures corner the dwindling group of survivors.
THE BOTTOM LINE: While the events that unfold are intense -- the protagonists chased by a bear, by wolves, and (SPOILER ALERT) eventually by mutant humans, the images are not exceptionally graphic. However, there are the remains of torn-apart human victims, and of dead and decomposing animals, though the images are fleeting and rather unspecific. The dialogue is peppered with strong profanity and there is moderate sexual innuendo early on.
(c) 2012, Washington Post Writers Group.