Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
Brolin and Driver to wed
Jews are angry
Smile, Mrs. Dirty Harry
Moore birthday bash
Pryor turns street
Beastie Boys are back
Brando takes ill
Brolin and Driver to wed
Actor Josh Brolin (Hollowman, The Mod Squad) and actress Minnie Driver (Return To Me, Good Will Hunting) are engaged to be wed, People magazine reports.
This is the third wedding for Brolin, who was married previously to Deborah Adair. Brolin's first wife, Jane, died in 1995. Brolin has two children, Trevor, 12, and Eden, 8.
This will be the first trip down the aisle for Driver, who previously dated Matt Damon and John Cusack.
Brolin -- son of famed actor James Brolin and stepson of Barbra Streisand -- and Driver became romantically involved when they costarred in Slow Burn.
"It's obvious they are very much in love," Danny McKeever, Brolin's auto-racing instructor, told reporters.
No wedding date has been set yet, People reported.
Comic strip "BC" defames Jews, says Jewish group
The Simon Weisenthal Center, a nonprofit Jewish civil rights organization, is asking newspapers that carry the syndicated comic strip BC not to run Sunday's cartoon.
The strip portrays a Menorah, a Jewish symbol, in the first panel, under a quote by Jesus: "Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do." Succeeding panels then show the Menorah morphing into a cross, with more of Jesus' last words atop each panel. The final panel's quote, "Do this in remembrance of me," frames a picture of a cave, presumably Jesus' final resting place.
The founder and director of the Weisenthal Center, Rabbi Marvin Heir, said that newspapers have a duty not to run the strip, as it describes Judaism being "subsumed" or encompassed by Christianity, Reuters reported. The strip "will promote hatred rather than tolerance and diversity," Heir said.
A statement released by Johnny Hart, creator of BC, defends his work, saying that during a week that is holy for both Christians and Jews this year, he was trying to honor both.
The Simon Weisenthal Center, located in Los Angeles, is named in memory of Nazi hunter Simon Weisenthal.
Dirty Harry's wife on "Camera"
Smile, you're on Candid Camera.
Dina Ruiz Eastwood, wife of Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood, will be saying that more often, having joined Candid Camera's team as the show's co-host.
Starting with the new fall season, Eastwood will co-anchor the show with Peter Funt, The Associated Press reports. Eastwood will take over for Suzanne Sommers, former star of Three's Company.
The Eastwoods, who appeared together in True Crime, have been married since 1996. Prior to taking her new gig as Camera's co-host, Eastwood was a news anchor for KSBW-TV (NBC) in Salinas, Calif. Prior to taking the gig as Camera's co-host, Eastwood was a news anchor for KSBW-TV (NBC) in Salinas, Calif.
Candid Camera airs Sunday evenings on Pax TV.
Former "Survivor" contestant gives deposition
America hasn't heard the last from the first season's cast members of the TV hit Survivor.
As part of ex-cast member Stacy Stillman's $70,000 lawsuit against CBS, fellow South Pacific islander Dirk Been delivered a videotaped deposition -- six hours in length -- to lawyers, according to a report by People magazine. Been's deposition will remain under wraps due to confidentiality agreements that each cast member signs before taping begins.
Stillman contends that the TV series rigged the vote that kicked her off the island. Stillman reportedly asked the questions during Been's deposition.
"We're very pleased with what Dirk said today," Donald Yates, Stillman's lawyer, told the New York Post.
For its part, CBS filed a counter-suit against Stillman, claiming she broke her nondisclosure agreement when she brought her suit against Survivor last February.
Moore to celebrate birthday with TV bash
To celebrate Dudley Moore's 66th birthday, his family and friends are throwing him a small party -- at Carnegie Hall.
Michael Caine and Julie Andrews will chair the televised event, An All-Star Tribute To Dudley Moore, People magazine reports. Mary Tyler Moore, Barbara Walters, Amy Irving, Lauren Bacall, Eric Idle, Chevy Chase, Jimmy Fallon and Bo Derek are scheduled to give praise in person, while Robin Williams and John Cleese have taped video messages for Moore.
Dudley Moore, star of such films as 10, Arthur, and the original Bedazzled, suffers from a rare brain disorder called Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, a relative of Parkinson's disease. The ailment has severely limited Moore's ability to work as Moore is confined to his wheelchair. Moore has curtailed his public appearances.
Net proceeds from the evening go to two of Moore's pet charities, Music for All Seasons and the Dudley Moore Research Fund for PSP. The tribute will take place on Monday.
Pryor's name to headline street sign in Illinois
Peoria, Ill., will try for the second time to honor hometown hero, comedian Richard Pryor, USA Today reports.
Peoria City Council members rejected on March 27 the renaming of South Sheridan Street in honor of Pryor, but that apparently did not sit well with certain council members. The proposal has reappeared on the docket, and the council will once again vote on the matter in two weeks.
Councilman Eric Turner said that the city has received a black eye for failing to honor Pryor. According to Turner, he and Pryor were childhood friends while growing up on the south side of Peoria.
Pryor is a controversial choice for such an honor, given his past penchant for profanity-filled routines and his well-documented battles with drugs. In 1980, Pryor nearly killed himself accidentally in a fire related to his freebasing cocaine.
Pryor, currently living in California, suffers from Multiple Sclerosis.
Beastie Boys' Grand Royal reappears
Out of print since 1997, the Beastie Boys' cult magazine Grand Royal has been licensed by Harper Collins to reappear in the guise of a coffee-table book. The book would comprise the best of the old magazines and incorporate fresh new articles, according to a story filed by online portal Yahoo!
The Beastie Boys produced just six editions of Grand Royal, from 1993 to 1997, which were all instant hits. The magazine, which linked skateboarding and politics and music and pop culture, sold out three of the six print runs. The magazine featured articles with then-obscure musicians, such as a Kid Rock interview in the fourth edition.
According to the report, Josh Behar, a senior editor at Harper Collins, said that the Beastie Boys "really love this project. Their dedication is amazing." Beastie Boy Mike D is working closely with Behar to finish the book. The book is scheduled to appear in bookstores in April 2002.
Actor Steve Buscemi reportedly knifed in fight
Actor Steve Buscemi has flown from the North Carolina set of Domestic Disturbance to his home in New York to recover from knife wounds, according to The Associated Press.
Police arrested a local man and will charge him for assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill after allegedly stabbed Buscemi in the head, throat, and arms, AP said. Buscemi was released from a local hospital and flew home to recuperate.
The fight happened early Thursday at the Firebelly Lounge, a local bar, in Wilmington, N.C.
Domestic Disturbance costar Vince Vaughn also was arrested for his alleged involvement in the fight. AP said Vaughn was trying to come to the aid of Buscemi.
Buscemi's agents, the William Morris Agency, said they had no information at this time. Domestic Disturbance's studio, Paramount Pictures, refused to comment.
John Travolta and Teri Polo also star in the film.
Marlon Brando hospitalized
Screen legend Marlon Brando, 77, has reportedly been hospitalized for pneumonia, days before he was due to shoot the opening scene for the upcoming comedy Scary Movie 2 this week.
The actor is said to be undergoing treatment at a Los Angeles-area hospital. Neither Brando's agent, Dimension Films nor Scary Movie 2 producer Brillstein-Grey Entertainment have commented on details about his illness, or how long he is expected to be in the hospital.
The filmmakers still want Brandon to be in the film and, even though production wraps this month, his scenes could still be filmed after he recovers, according to Variety.
Scary Movie 2 is the sequel to last year's summer blockbuster directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans. It costars Chris Elliot, Tim Curry, Tori Spelling and Andy Richter.
The sequel, also directed by Wayans, is due in theaters for the July 4 holiday weekend.
Brando's next project is working alongside Robert DeNiro and Edward Norton in the crime drama The Score.