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Reel Mama: June 2012

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Thinner, Sexier, Hotter: 3 ways to help your daughter resist media pressures

Many parents worry about how the impossible standards of beauty for women depicted in the media will influence their daughters’ self-perception.  Magazine images can be airbrushed and digitally manipulated, but few people know that films stars’ images can also be manipulated in movies through special effects, making them appear younger and thinner.  Blemish-free and thin, often alarmingly so, movie stars and models also have a legion of assistants and makeup artists to help them achieve that trend-setting “hot” look.  Little girls, tweens, and teens viewing these images can easily develop an unrealistic idea of how their faces and bodies should look in order not only to be “beautiful,” but to be accepted and loved.

Parents eager to help their daughters develop positive self-esteem and critical thinking skills will be delighted to know that highly respected author, educator, and Huffington Post contributor Signe Whitson is here as Reel Mama’s first guest blogger to offer her expert advice on the subject.  In her first guest post, Signe addresses how parents can have productive and meaningful conversations with their daughters about everything from music lyrics that are demeaning to women and girls to images of women and girls in advertising.  I’m thrilled to welcome Signe Whitson to Reel Mama.  Signe will also be sharing her insights about cyberbullying and how to prevent it in a guest post next week.

Thinner, Sexier, Hotter: 3 Ways to Help Your Daughter Resist Media Pressures

by Signe Whitson

How many times have you heard your daughter singing along to a popular song on the radio and innocently belting out the kind of lyrics that would otherwise get her sent to her room?  In the moment, you believe (desperately want to believe!) that she is unaware of the innuendo and unaffected by its explicit content.  But messages embedded in song lyrics, along with video imagery, and advertising influence do have an impact on the ways girls think about themselves and their relationships with others. Without having to resort to a full-on pop music ban or complete shunning of media, you can help your daughters -- and other young girls -- become aware of media messages that violate values and degrade girls:

Music Lyrics
The next time your daughter is singing along to a catchy tune with questionable lyrics, use the opportunity to ask her questions like:

  1. What do you like about his song?
  2. How do you feel when you listen to it?
  3. What is it about?
  4. Have you ever watched the music video for this song?  
  5. Did the video storyline match the words?
  6. How did the video make you feel when you watched it?
  7. How were the actors/dancers in the video dressed?

Be sure to convey your genuine interest in her music and opinions rather than coming across as an interrogator.  You will be walking a fine line between showing interest in her world and "judging" her taste in music. As long as you can resist the urge to lecture, there can be almost limitless potential for talking about pop music and videos of the day, from lead singers to their fashions, to the messages they are trying to convey, and so on. Let your daughter take the lead.
The goal of this conversation is not to condemn your daughter's taste in music and videos. Rather, asking her to evaluate the lyrics and video images can help her become a more informed consumer and better critical thinker when it comes to awareness of the media influences that surround her on a daily basis.

When young girls get in the habit of asking themselves questions about what they are hearing, seeing, dancing to day after day, and singing out loud, they develop a protective measure of insight and control over ubiquitous media messages -- rather than the other way around.

Models of Perfection
The next time you and your daughter are browsing magazines or watching entertainment news on TV, strike up a conversation about how popular advertisements and celebrity photos often bend the truth and trick consumer into seeing things that do not really exist. 
Ask your daughter to define the term "airbrushing." Explain the concept with the emphasis that some media images use airbrushing to trick girls into believing that "perfection" exists. Explain that when girls take in these messages without questioning them, they can begin to feel badly about themselves, worrying that they don't measure up to impossible standards.
To illustrate, check out the "Dove Evolution" video: 

This brief clip shows the transformation of an everyday-looking woman into a billboard-ready supermodel. It can be a great discussion tool for showing young girls how it takes an army of professionals to transform one person into "model-readiness."  What's more, even with a whole team of hair and make-up artists, the model still needs digital alteration before her image is projected to the world.
"Dove Evolution" is a great visual reminder for kids that seeing should never be believing when it comes to the images in the media.  The most important takeaway point of this film and mother-daughter discussion is to encourage your child to feel good about exactly who she is and not to compare herself to media images that are neither real nor attainable (without a team of professionals and digital alteration.) 
Clothing and Toys
Children and tweens are the target market for airbrushed images and sexualized products of all kinds, everyday. As a way to create awareness in your impressionable youngster, set aside some time with your daughter to browse through store catalogs or walk through toy store aisles.  Encourage her to take note of the types of outfits and toys that are available for kids her age. Ask her to share her thoughts on which items represent "real" girls engaged in everyday activities vs. which show girls in age-inappropriate outfits, wearing adult make-up, or doing things you couldn't imagine a girl your child's age doing. Tally the number of items that represent "real" girls versus those that represent unrealistic products for kids her age. How do the numbers compare? What does this tell her?
When your daughter has this interactive experience of seeing how kid-friendly "kid products" actually are, she gains practice in becoming an engaged, critical thinker.  What's more, she takes important steps to being an empowered consumer who can resist the pressures of unrealistic imagery.
Signe Whitson, LSW is a national educator on bullying, mother of two daughters, and author of Friendship & Other Weapons: Group Activities to Help Young Girls Aged 5-11 to Cope with Bullying.  For workshop inquiries, please visit,"Like" Signe on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter @SigneWhitson.

Disney Pixar’s Oscar-nominated ‘La Luna’ captivates

Photo credit: Disney Pixar

Animation lovers have a second chance to catch Disney Pixar’s latest short film “La Luna” on the big screen.  The short, which received an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Short this year, is the opening featurette screening prior to “Brave.”

Photo credit: Disney Pixar

The seven-minute animated piece will delight lovers of sweet, feel-good movies like "Finding Nemo."  In the charming and magical film, a young boy is invited to learn the family business with his father and grandfather: they are custodians of the moon, and the moon’s lustrous appearance is dependent upon their work.  

Photo credit: Disney Pixar

Reel Mama’s Rating:  Everybody can see this!  It’s a movie that truly is for all ages.

              Official trailer for 'La Luna'
              Credit: Disney Pixar

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Pixar ‘Brave’ for tackling mother-daughter themes

Merida is the thoroughly modern princess 
in Pixar's latest film 'Brave.'
Photo credit: Disney Pixar

Pixar’s latest movie to hit theaters -- ‘Brave’ -- is bound to strike a chord with mothers and daughters and may remind them of the conflicts they often face, particularly when daughters are navigating the difficult teen years.  
Fans of the Disney princess franchise will find Merida unconventional, and the most outspoken princess to date.  She is not merely free spirited.  She is rebellious, particularly against her mother, which is at the heart of the film’s conflict.  She has flaws, and this makes her a believable, dimensional character, the polar opposite of the goody two-shoes portrayal of a princess like Snow White in the classic Disney film.  

Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) is Disney's most unconventional princess to date. Photo credit: Disney Pixar

The Disney princess that comes closest to Merida’s free spirit is Repunzel of “Tangled.”  Both princesses share the desire to explore the world, but it would seem their mothers are standing in their way.  Due to Merida’s attitude and belligerence against her mother, some viewers may not find her as likable as Repunzel, and some mothers in the audience might cringe at the back talk and disobedience, either because it is all too familiar, or because they fear it as their own daughters mature.  Nevertheless, Merida is unique and memorable.  She’s a firecracker, hot tempered, and she wants to take control of her destiny.

Merida finds a way to change her fate in 'Brave'
Photo credit: Disney Pixar

What distinguishes Merida is that she resents her status, whereas many Disney princesses, such as Repunzel, are unaware of it, or like Snow White live in substandard conditions and are certainly not being groomed for the role of queen (though Merida does clean the stables by choice).  “I’m the princess.  I’m the example.  I have duties, expectations.  Every day of my life is planned,” complains Merida.  “A princess strives for perfection,” insists Elinor her mother, the queen, who is bossy, rigid about adhering to the rules, and set in her ways, but this is what makes her a flawed, dimensional, believable parent.

Emma Thompson and Bill Connolly are the voices
of Merida's parents Elinor and Fergus,
who struggle to help her realize her destiny as princess.
Photo credit: Disney Pixar
Elinor truly does have Merida’s best interests at heart: “What I do, I do out of love,” she says. Yet Merida finds the many rules constricting and will do anything to escape them, including seeking out a witch to cast a spell intended to make Elinor see the light and cancel the plans for Merida’s arranged marriage.  Unfortunately, the spell backfires terribly.
What makes “Brave” so remarkable is that it explores mother-daughter conflict in the first place.  “Brave” is the first Pixar movie to feature a female heroine, and the only one in a long line of princess movies that doesn’t focus on the princess dreaming of a Prince Charming, or at the very least falling in love.  Merida’s suiters are clearly unsuitable, with too many shortcomings to mention here.  
Merida expresses strong reservations about marrying in the first place, making her thoroughly modern. The anachronistic nature of Merida’s independent spirit does not detract from the story.  Here is a princess conflicted with teen angst, and that is thoroughly refreshing.  Moreover, a mother-daughter relationship is hardly ever explored on film, much less in a major Hollywood animated kids’ release.

Merida's family struggles with some contemporary issues
facing families today
Photo credit: Disney Pixar

The film takes an odd turn and seems to lose momentum temporarily once the spell is cast.  Nevertheless, the story manages to recover its pacing when Elinor’s plight becomes more serious and she seemingly will never be returned to her former state.
Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald voices Merida to perfection.  The entire cast is outstanding.  Emma Thompson is ideal as the voice of Elinor.  Seasoned performer of animated films Billy Connolly plays Fergus, Merida’s boisterous, hot-tempered yet soft-hearted father.  
Possibly Pixar’s most visually stunning movie to date, “Brave” is one of the first animated movies that truly does justice to the 3D format.  The studio’s rendering of fine detail -- Merida’s glorious unruly tresses, shimmering fabrics, the sheen of animal’s fur -- is exquisite.  The majestic Scottish landscapes are a feast for the eyes.  Merida’s horse Angus is so lifelike he could almost be mistaken for a real horse superimposed on the screen.
Ultimately, “Brave” has a beautiful message about bonding, patience, trust, and most of all, love.  The end is quite touching and will be sure to cause more than a few misty eyes.  “Fate lives within us,” says Merida.  “We only have to be brave enough to see it.”

Merida discovers magic on her journey.
Photo credit: Disney Pixar

“Brave” is sure to be a crowd pleaser that will likely encourage more studios to tackle  projects with brave young heroines and to explore mother-daughter issues.
Reel Mama’s recommendation: The film is appropriate for ages six and up.  Merida challenges authority at every turn, which should generate some valuable family conversations.  Children old enough to understand and ask questions about Merida’s rebellion will best appreciate the film.
Parents should be aware of the violence, with plenty of head bonking and hitting with objects blunt and sharp between the Scottish clansmen.  There are several intense scenes of fighting between human and beast that may be too scary for the youngest viewers.  There is also a brief instance of nudity (male buttocks being shown in the context of a joke about kilts), an instance of an item being dropped into a woman’s cleavage, and mild rude humor, including a reference to mooning (a cultural nod to Scotland's boisterous and bawdy humor).  

Scottish clansmen provide comic relief in 'Brave.'
Photo credit: Disney Pixar

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A night at the drive-in

The mention of a drive-in movie brings back wonderful childhood memories for many, including this movie lover. In the era of the multiplex most children and young adults have never experienced the enchantment of watching a movie outdoors. It's an evening well worth the price of admission. Many communities still have drive-in movie theaters. Seek them out and watch a movie against the setting sun. Here are some photos from my recent night at the drive-in...sheer magic!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Family-friendly 'Mr. Bean's Holiday' (2007) takes a vacation from seriousness

Photo credit: Universal

Boy, are you in for a treat!  “Mr. Bean’s Holiday” ranks among my personal favorite comedy films.  Perhaps it didn’t pass cinematic muster with the tastemakers, but the movie has my two-year-old and the most straight-faced grownup members of my family laughing out loud from start to finish.  How many G-rated films can claim to entertain your toddler, your ten-year-old, your fifteen-year-old, you and your spouse/significant other, not to mention the grandparents?  

The film is a favorite across three generations in my family.  Sometimes a G-rating is equated with baby stuff, but in this case it’s just fun stuff.  Even if slapstick isn’t your thing, it’s worth checking out because it’s guaranteed to entertain the kids.

Rowan Atkinson stars as Mr. Bean, an oblivious
but well-meaning schlimazel in "Mr. Bean's Holiday"
Photo credit: Universal

In the movie Mr. Bean (played by legendary British comedian and "Black Adder" veteran Rowan Atkinson) wins a trip to Cannes in the French Riviera, and a camcorder to document his journey, in a church raffle.  In the misadventures that ensue, Mr. Bean accidentally separates a young Russian boy Stepan (Max Baldry) from his father, who as luck would have it is heading to Cannes as a jurist at the Cannes Film Festival.  Mr. Bean’s mission then becomes twofold: to help Stepan find his father, and to get to the beach.  Along the way they hitch a ride with an actress (Emma de Caunes) starring in a film directed by self-important filmmaker Carson Clay (Willem Dafoe) that is set to premiere at the festival.  Needless to say, the Cannes Film Festival is turned upside down with Mr. Bean’s arrival.

Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson) has countless mishaps
Photo credit: Universal

Sometimes the movie is just pure silliness, it’s true, but Atkinson is a genius when it comes to physical comedy.  There isn’t any other comedic actor working today who can touch his skills for slapstick, timing, and hilarious facial expressions.  Highlights include Mr. Bean boogying down in an open market to Shaggy’s “Mr. Bombastic” (again, quite G-rated shimmying--nothing to worry about) and lip synching to opera.  Mr. Bean in drag is absolutely a hoot, and a bit scary.  

Mr. Bean in drag
Photo credit: Universal

Cinephiles need to check this film out too.  You won’t want to miss the send-ups of an over-the-top yogurt commercial and the Cannes Film Festival itself.  Willem Dafoe’s super-hilarious and all-too-accurate portrayal of the self-indulgent director is spot-on.  
Mr. Bean is oblivious to his surroundings.  He doesn’t seem to “get” the consequences of his actions, but that is part of the humor.  He’s not the brightest bean in the tamale. His rudeness is unintentional.  He’s clearly on his own planet, and he can be selfish at times, but he does have a heart.  He’s likable and funny, and ultimately he does the right thing.  I won’t be giving too much away to reveal that this one has a happy ending.

Mr. Bean reaches la mer.
Photo credit: Universal

Reel Mama’s rating: Appropriate for all ages.
Unfortunately the movie does contain one instance of the “D”-word.   It’s in the subtitles, said by Stepan in Russian when he loses Mr. Bean during one of their escapades.  The instance seems unnecessary in a film that otherwise is perfectly family friendly.  Since it is in the subtitles, it will go right over the heads of pre-readers.  Parents of young readers may wish to preview the film.  
Other instances include artillery fire from tanks during the yogurt commercial (I mentioned that it’s over-the-top), which may prove too scary for very young viewers.  Finally, there is a scene of a man jumping from the Pont du Gard in order to end his life. (The man thinks it’s his wife calling because their marriage is over.  It’s actually Mr. Bean trying to get in touch with Stepan’s father.  Mr. Bean hangs up, and the man jumps.)  
Overall, the film is so wonderfully fun and funny that these instances don’t deter me from recommending it for all ages, especially since they are easy for parents to fast forward through after previewing the film.
Here’s a link to some fun downloadable coloring sheets from the movie.

Enjoy a laugh at Mr. Bean's expense
with "Mr. Bean's Holiday"

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Coming soon: Reel Mama to launch new website this summer recently celebrated its first year in publication!  Dear readers, thank you for your support.  I couldn't have done it without you. To mark the occasion, I'll be launching a brand new colorful website featuring beautiful visuals and exciting new content.  

The site will be easy to navigate, instantly connecting you to the content you care about. I'll be offering celebrity interviews, exciting guest posts, reviews of the latest movie releases, ideas for family movie nights, and much more. Stay tuned for details!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Kat's Cafe and Mom Blog Society have teamed up for another amazing blogger event!  Kat’s Cafe celebrates families whose children have special needs, making the world aware of how beautiful and amazing these kids really are, and also providing support and inspiration for the heartfelt efforts of their wonderful parents.  
Katrina Moody of Kat’s Cafe finds the iPad invaluable for her own children.  She wants to show her appreciation to her readers by hosting this giveaway, and she wants to give bloggers the chance to join in.  Realizing that not just children with special needs benefit from these great devices, she asked for the Mom Blog Society to join her in offering this chance for anyone to win a great iPad.  

Katrina will accept two more co-hosts, and if you are interested contact her at or LaDonna Dennis (
The cost to participate is $5 per link (Facebook or Twitter only, please!), which goes toward the cost of the prize as well as administrative costs. 
If you are interested, please sign up here by June 28.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

'Madagascar 3': Zany 'big top' romp finds its heart

Photo credit: Dreamworks

Make no mistake about it: “Madagascar 3” is geared to the “SpongeBob” crowd.  It’s a nonstop animated all-you-can-eat buffet of wacky chase scenes, silly stunts, and outlandish scenarios involving a gang of African wildlife with a serious case of wanderlust. 
In the first “Madagascar” film Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer), and Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) wanted only to escape their cages at the zoo.  Their natural habitat in Africa, where they reside at the beginning of this third installment, just doesn’t feel like home.  New York City is where they belong.  Africa is boring -- growing old there is Alex’s worst nightmare -- and they just have to get out of there.  

Photo credit: Dreamworks

By any means necessary, in this case swimming, the animals reach Monte Carlo, where their troublemaking friends the mischievous penguins are hiding out (seeing “Madagascar 1 and 2” may be necessary for context).  What follows is a whirlwind tour of Europe that would leave even the most seasoned backpackers totally breathless.  After almost destroying the casino, the animals find themselves with animal control Captain Chantel Dubois (Frances McDormand) hot on their tails, and the gang takes refuge with a traveling circus.
In the first half of the movie, the pace of the story is relentless, churning out one zany moment after another, so that it’s hard to get emotionally invested in the story.  It feels rushed, as if the filmmakers feared that children wouldn’t enjoy it if it took its time.  Children will be mesmerized and entertained, and find plenty of laugh-out-loud funny moments, but might not connect with the characters from the beginning as they would with “Finding Nemo.”  Parents might find their eyes glazing over.
An all-star cast at the top of their game gives voice to the animals, and each one is memorable and unique.  Stiller is heartfelt as Alex, and Chris Rock’s zingers as Marty never disappoint (the "big top" in this case is his rainbow afro).  The characters are a lovable and funny if an easily distracted and accident prone bunch, but the first half of the movie doesn’t give them a chance to shine for who they are.  
Luckily the heart of the story takes center stage midway when Alex and his crew find that they need to re-invent the circus, which has fallen on hard times, as a means to get back to New York.  Some of the circus animals long to recapture their glory days, and the scenes of preparing for and performing at the new circus are engaging and even sometimes touching.  Bryan Cranston as Vitaly the tiger who jumps through hoops of fire is particularly sympathetic.
Martin Short as Stefano the emotionally unstable sea lion would steal the show if it weren’t for McDormand, whose militant, villainous huntress has a French accent dripping with wicked fun.  For her spotlight moment, she sings Edith Piaf’s “Rien de Rien,” which is almost an anthem for the French, in order to reinvigorate her team in her search for the animals.  The transformed circus is a dazzling spectacle.  The rainbow polka dot circus afros figure prominently, a hilarious sight gag.  It wouldn’t be giving too much to say that in the end, the animals find where they truly belong.
Reel Mama’s Rating: Appropriate for five and up.  Harmless rude humor with an occasional joke geared to parents that will easily fly over little one’s heads (i.e., a spoof of Nelly’s “Hot in Here” with the lemur Julien performed by Sacha Baron Cohen singing “I want to take my fur off”).  There’s some slapstick Looney Tunes-style violence and shooting of dart guns.

Photo credit: Dreamworks

Friday, June 8, 2012

Are you Daddy enough?

Photo credit: Lionsgate

Photo credit:

Even as Father’s Day approaches, as usual it seems that mothers are getting most of the attention.  Consider last month’s Time article about attachment parenting posing the in-your-face question “Are you mom enough?”  In this week’s issue, David Poniewozik turns the spotlight on dads with “Daddy Issues.”  Why, he wonders, are dads with baby carriers still sight gags in the media?  Why does the perception linger that these dads are somehow not “man enough”?  
The assumption is fraught with age-old stereotypes.  It’s the false perception that the “henpecked” husband has been forced into daddy duty--an insulting prospect for both parents no matter how you slice it.  Or perhaps that dads’s "invading" mommy territory: as Poniewozik points out, the baby carrier in front gives men a slightly pregnant look.  For some absurd reason, this makes people uncomfortable.  
The dads with baby carriers striding toward the camera in slow motion in the movie “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” is a spoof of Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs,” in which a line of hip mobsters in sharp suits and skinny ties approaches the viewer.  One is decidedly cooler looking than the other.  The baby carrier spoof was meant to be hilarious, poking gentle fun at a group of dads who long for their glory days, but there’s a cynical message as well, as in “Those poor schmucks!  They gave up the glories of bachelorhood for THIS?!”
Then again, maybe I’ve got it wrong.  Maybe the “What to Expect” slow mo is meant to show the dads as being empowered.  They are owning fatherhood: to hell with what anybody thinks!  I hope so.  Still, it treads a fine line.  
Dads, you are brave, and you don’t get enough recognition.  You’re not a poor schmuck for changing a diaper; you are showing love for your child.  You’re there because you want to be, not because you’ve been tricked or forced.  You understand that these are the glory days, not what you did in high school or college.
This is equal partner parenting, and society needs to get comfortable with it.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Attention bloggers: Join FREE iPad 3 giveaway!

Attention bloggers! I've learned about an exciting new giveaway brought to you by and co-host VoiceBox.
The New iPad Giveaway Event is a free blogger event. You will receive one link at no cost as a thank you for participating in this event.
Free Link options are: Email, RSS, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.
Prize: The New iPad ~ iPad3 16GB (value $499)
Open to: Worldwide (note – non-US residents will receive the cash equivalent).
The event dates: July 1 at 12:01 am to July 15 11:59am
Click here to sign up and find out more!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

'Snow White and the Huntsman' shows fairy tale's 'Grimm' side

Snow White takes a few fashion hints from Joan of Arc
in "Snow White and the Huntsman"
Photo credit: Universal

“Snow White and the Huntsman” has something for everyone: a touch of romance for its core audience of ‘tween girls; plenty of action sequences that will please the boys; several Oscar-winning or nominated actors in featured roles for the adults, and cool special effects, sets, and costumes for everyone.  It’s an epic fairy tale, and it could not be further from the charming, beloved Disney animated version of the tale or the fun, slapstick “Mirror Mirror” released earlier this spring.
This telling of “Snow White” is grim, as the first recognized authors of the fairy tale -- the Brothers Grimm -- would wish it to be.  First-time director Rupert Sanders maintains the dark tone without ever having it veer into pure horror, or, with one tiny exception, camp.  While quite violent, there isn’t an over abundance of gore, as is required for its PG-13 rating.   This “Snow White” is also gritty and at times visually is like Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator,” which possibly served as inspiration for the numerous battle scenes.

Photo credit: Universal

We’ve seen many empowered princesses over the last decade, but Kristen Stewart’s “Snow White” is the most empowered of all.  She ultimately becomes a Joan of Arc figure in armor leading an army of soldiers.  Unlike the Disney version, she never once picks up a broom, and she doesn’t wear heels in the woods.  Smart choice.  
Stewart’s performance is quiet and perhaps at times too subdued, but this isn’t out of character for Snow White of the fairy tale.  Stewart’s restraint is an understandable choice for this performance: she’s been a prisoner of her stepmother, the evil queen Ravenna, her entire life.  
While Stewart's Snow White possesses none of the familiar cheer of the Disney Snow White (this is one Snow White who won’t be whistling while she works), she does possess a mystical gift for communicating with nature.  Stewart manages nuanced ripples of astonishment when entering a magical forest known as the Sanctuary, and an impassioned performance when she is urging the villagers to join her cause.  The nature of her role as ingenue, even though it’s one with military skills, doesn’t provide many powerhouse moments.  
Charlize Theron as the evil queen Ravenna is one of the best villains to grace the screen in years.  Unlike Julia Roberts’ gleefully wicked cougar in “Mirror Mirror,” she’s an anguished soul.  Yes, Ravenna rips out bird hearts and munches on them at snack time, tears out several human hearts with her bare hands, and has turned the kingdom into a desolate wasteland.  She’s a bloodthirsty serial killer starving for power, and yet remarkably there are several moments where her suffering is quite pitiable.  
Theron’s role took guts.  Certainly Theron is one of the fairest in the land, and at 37 is one of the youngest to portray the role of the evil queen, but her youth is quite appropriate since it’s part of the queen’s power.  Theron is never afraid of playing down her beauty, and here she is remarkably courageous in showing Ravenna’s true colors as monstrous killer, wretched old crone, and raving lunatic terrified of losing her beauty.  She is scary to watch, and that is as it should be.
Her presence, similar to Roberts, makes quite an impact through special effects and Oscar-winner Colleen Atwood’s costumes.  Watch for the swarm of crows flying around Ravenna, and the cloak of crow feathers, as she performs a black magic spell.  The makeup that ages her is similarly impressive.  The special effects are flawless, especially the magic mirror, which melts into a mysterious liquid gold figure when delivering its verdict on the queen’s beauty.  
Veteran actors like Bob Hoskins and Ray Winstone portray the dwarves, and in this case their diminutive status is achieved digitally.  They offer a dose of welcomed humor without detracting from the tone.
The movie feels a tad on the long side. It’s always challenging for a film in the fairy tale genre to achieve emotional resonance, since it’s a fable comprised of archetypal characters.  “Snow White and the Huntsman” isn’t an exception, and its minimizing the romance in favor of Snow White’s story of survival may be the reason why.  
Reel Mama’s rating:  The film is rated PG-13 for intense battle scenes, mild language, violence, implied incest, the queen’s aforementioned eating of the bird’s heart and committing mass murder (including a brutal stabbing), and a sexual situation (Ravenna removes her clothes, seen from behind).  Teens fourteen and up should be able to handle the movie.

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