"Snow White and the Huntsman" (Universal): Most of the chatter about "Snow White and the Huntsman" tends to be comparisons between the new live action feature and the vintage Disney cartoon, completely ignoring the recent rom/com retelling "Mirror Mirror." That's a good thing, because the Julia Roberts vehicle, in which she effortlessly plays the evil queen obsessed with obliterating the beautiful and youthful princess Snow White, is easily one of the worst movies of 2012.
A vast improvement on many levels, "Snow White and the Huntsman" covers familiar territory. A beloved king and queen give birth to a beautiful and adored princess. The queen dies when the princess is a young girl, the king remarries and his new bride, Ravenna (Charlize Theron) wastes no time in wasting him. Consumed with her own beauty and its wicked maintenance routine, Ravenna removes any and all threats to her dominance, going so far as to lock up the young princess (Raffey Cassidy) in a tower.
During the insidious queen's reign, the villagers suffer greatly. Their once sunny existence reduced to a grim and muddy grey. Ravenna, on the other hand, continues to bloom, keeping her youthful visage by sucking the life-force from her younger victims. When her faithful mirror, from whom she receives regular stroking and advice, reveals that now that the princess Snow White (Kristen Stewart) has come of age, she poses the greatest threat to Ravenna. When Ravenna sends her devoted and devious brother Finn (Sam Spruell) to the tower to fetch Snow White so that she can finish her off once and for all, things don't go as planned and Snow White escapes. Finn enlists the help of the titular Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) with the promise that the mourning Huntsman's dead wife will be returned to him alive.
From here on, much of "Snow White and the Huntsman" is a heart-stopping, if violent, cat and mouse chase story; but what a visually dazzling one to behold. The special effects are indeed special, ranging from the queen's menagerie of black magic powers and tricks to the journey through the mystical Dark Forest to the encounters with its creatures including the dwarves, the fairies and other beings. Of course, just as a potential romance begins to heat up between Snow White and the Huntsman, Snow White's childhood love, William (Sam Claflin), the Duke's son who has joined the search for the Princess, enters the picture. Lengthy battles scenes aside, "Snow White and the Huntsmen" is imaginative and captivating and has earned itself a seat on the throne of retold fairy tales, thorny, but jeweled, crown and all.