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.
Martha Stewart heads to "Camp Cupcake"
If she has to serve time, she might as well do it at a prison where typical inmates cook, serve food and do laundry. Martha Stewart will serve her five-month jail sentence for lying about a suspicious stock sale at a minimum-security prison in W. Va., Alderson prison, locally known as "Camp Cupcake," where she is to report by 2 p.m. (EDT) on Oct 8., Reuters reports. The homemaking maven had said she wanted to serve her jail term at Danbury, Conn., or Coleman, Fla., but the U.S. Bureau of Prisons sent her to Alderson because she would receive less media attention there when reporting for the sentence. The facility, located about 200 miles south of Pittsburgh, has no gates or fences and houses more than 1,000 inmates, mostly drug offenders, who sleep in bunk beds in dormitory-style rooms. Past inmates of note have included two women who attempted to kill President Ford, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme of Manson Family infamy and Sara Jane Moore, and Billie Holliday (on a drug charge). Speaking at a news conference earlier this month, Stewart said she is looking forward to getting this behind her and to vigorously pursue her appeal. After her release, Stewart will still have to serve five months of house arrest at her home in suburban Bedford, N.Y., and submit a complete a written report to her probation officer within the first five days of every month. Stewart was found guilty in March of conspiracy, making false statements and obstruction of agency proceedings stemming from her suspicious sale of stock in biotech company ImClone Systems Inc. on Dec. 27, 2001.
Miramax preparing to distribute Moore's Sicko
Miramax is preparing to finance and distribute Michael Moore's upcoming documentary Sicko, which takes aim at the American healthcare system, Variety reports. Moore's last documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 was purchased by Miramax chiefs Bob and Harvey Weinstein's ad hoc Fellowship Adventure Group and released in association with Lions Gate Films and IFC Films after Disney refused to handle the pic. Although the doc is not necessarily as inflammatory as the politically charged Fahrenheit 9/11, it's unclear what Disney's stance on the project is. According to Variety, a stalemate over Sicko could exacerbate the already fragile relationship between Disney CEO Michael Eisner and the Weinsteins.
Lawsuit against DiCaprio dismissed
A judge Wednesday threw out a lawsuit against Leonardo DiCaprio and two other men for their alleged roles in a street fight over Showgirls actress Elizabeth Berkley, the AP reports. DiCaprio, 29, and three others were sued for $45 million by Roger Wilson, 44, who claimed the Titanic star encouraged his friends to attack him outside a Manhattan restaurant on May 4, 1998. Wilson, an actor who appeared in two of the Porky's movies and was dating Berkley at the time, approached DiCaprio and his friends about calling Berkley repeatedly. Wilson's suit claimed DiCaprio aided and abetted the assault by shouting, "go out there and kick his (expletive)" to his friends. DiCaprio's friend Todd Healy admitted to hitting Wilson, claiming it was in self-defense when he thought he saw him reaching for something, possibly a weapon. But Judge Paula Omansky dismissed the action against DiCaprio because Healy never heard the alleged remark, and therefore could not have been incited by it. Omansky, however, said the lawsuit could proceed against Healy.
CBS tops premiere week
In a week during which CBS was fined $550,000 for Janet Jackson's infamous Super Bowl stunt and its news division had to apologize for shoddy reporting, at least the network lead in the ratings. AP reports that during the first official week of the new television season, Sept. 20-26, CBS averaged 13.6 million viewers followed by NBC (10.6 million); ABC (10 million); Fox (5.3 million); the WB (4.2 million); UPN (3.1 million). The top 10 shows were: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS; CSI: Miami, CBS; Without a Trace, CBS; ER, NBC; CSI: NY, CBS; Survivor: Vanuatu, CBS; Law & Order special, NBC; NFL Monday Night Football: Minnesota at Philadelphia, ABC; Lost, ABC; Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS.
Franken challenges O'Reilly to a bowling match
On his radio show Wednesday, satirist-commentator Al Franken challenged Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly to a "friendly" bowling match. The proposed face-off would be a part of The Great American Bowl-Off, an Oct. 7 event being organized by the Web site Meetup.com in bowling centers around the country designed to give political partisans a break from campaigning. "If Kerry and Bush supporters can put aside their differences for a day to compete, well then, so can Bill O'Reilly and I," Franken said. But a spokesman for Fox News Channel told AP O'Reilly "is not going to respond to anything Al Franken says."
Star-studded concert tribute held for Ray Charles
Ray Charles, who died June 10 of liver disease, was honored in Los Angeles with a tribute concert that praised the late singer's life and his ability to transcend race and musical genres, AP reports. "Make no mistake about it, there will be no pity party," said music producer Quincy Jones, who met Charles when the two were teens. Jones told the packed audience at the Beverly Hills Hotel Wednesday night that Charles "lived more lives than any 900 of you. In his last days, he told me, 'Man, I've already lived it all.'" Performers included Stevie Wonder, country singer Travis Tritt, former Doobie Brother Michael McDonald, and R&B artists James Ingram and Patti Austin, who sang Charles' hits. The event, hosted by Bill Cosby, raised money for the $15 million Morehouse College Center for the Arts in Atlanta. Charles gave the black liberal arts college $2 million to help fund the complex, which will contain a performance space in his name.
Famed NY radio personality dies
Scott Muni, one of the legendary voices of New York radio and who was an AM and FM disc-jockey for nearly 50 years in the country's biggest radio market, died at the age of 74 Tuesday in Los Angeles, Reuters reports. The cause of death was not immediately known
Kit Bowen contributed to this report.