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.
Roberts, Diaz collect highest paychecks in Hollywood
Star Julia Roberts, whose action sequel Ocean's Twelve hits theaters Friday, tops The Hollywood Reporter's annual list of the highest-paid actresses with an asking price of $20 million per film. Roberts first gained notice playing a waitress in the 1988 comedy Mystic Pizza and won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her role as the doomed diabetic heroine in the 1989 drama Steel Magnolias, but it was her performance as a warm-hearted prostitute in the 1990 rags-to-riches hit Pretty Woman that made her one of Hollywood's most bankable stars. Close behinds Roberts on the Hollywood pay scale is Charlie's Angels star Cameron Diaz, who also sports a $20 million price tag but didn't appear in any films this year. Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Drew Barrymore, meanwhile, round out the Top Five with a $15 million asking price per film. The sixth highest-paid actress is Halle Berry, with $14 million, followed by Sandra Bullock, Angelina Jolie (both earning $12 to $15 million each), and Renee Zellweger and Jennifer Lopez ($12 million), The Associated Press reports. The special "Women in Entertainment" issue also includes what it considers five breakout performers: Kirsten Dunst is No. 1 at $8 million, followed by Lindsay Lohan ($7.5 million), Jessica Alba ($3 million), Mandy Moore ($3 million) and Sarah Michelle Gellar ($2 million).
Joan and Melissa back for the Hollywood awards
Joan and Melissa Rivers are bringing their fashion expertise back to the red carpet, this time for the TV Guide Channel, starting with the Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton on Jan. 16. The mother-daughter duo was shut out of this year's Emmy Awards because of a contractual snafu with E! Entertainment Television--the network they had been with since 1996. According to the AP, an exclusive agreement between E! and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, in charge of the Emmys, prevented the Rivers duo from covering Emmy's red carpet arrivals. "It's been a mess, it's been a very messy couple of months," Joan Rivers told the AP Tuesday. "I think they have their acts together. I just want to get back to work."
Incredibles tops Annie award noms
Pixar Animation Studios' The Incredibles tops the list of nominees for the 32nd annual Annie Awards with 16 nominations, the International Animated Film Society announced Monday. The film's nominations include best animated feature, directing, music and voice acting for Samuel L. Jackson, who plays the hero Frozone, and Brad Bird as the fashion designer Edna Mode, the AP reports. DreamWorks' Shrek 2 and Shark Tale, meanwhile, garnered seven nods each. Other nominees include Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence and The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie. The awards will be handed out Jan. 30 in Glendale, Calif.
Mishaps on Spielberg's War of the Worlds
Looks like a few "extras" were lost on the set of Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds, a remake of the H.G. Wells novel starring Tom Cruise. Two adult-size mannequins apparently broke free and drifted south down the Connecticut River during filming, Connecticut authorities told AP. Despite a search by the movie production's water safety crew, the mannequins weren't recovered, and other police departments along the riverfront were alerted. "We just wanted them to know that if they got any calls about bodies floating in the river," police Lt. Shannon Haynes said Monday. "But we never heard anything about them being found."
CBS wins ratings week... again
CBS topped TV ratings again this week, bolstered by Everybody Loves Raymond and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the AP reports. CBS averaged 13 million viewers followed by ABC ( 10.4 million); NBC (10.3 million); Fox (6.7 million); UPN (3.6 million); and the WB (3.5 million). The top 10 shows were: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation CBS; CSI: Miami, CBS; Survivor: Vanuatu, CBS; Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS; Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet in Heaven, ABC; Two and a Half Men, CBS; Without a Trace, CBS; ER, NBC; NFL Monday Night Football: St Louis at Green Bay, ABC; Lost, ABC.
Looking for Dan Rather's replacement
CBS now has the unenviable task of finding a replacement once anchorman Dan Rather signs off in March. "We're almost starting from ground zero," CBS Chairman Les Moonves said last week. "Anything can happen. We may bring in the cast of Friends."According to a recent Broadcasting & Cable article, some of the candidates include ABC News' Diane Sawyer, Dateline NBC's Stone Phillips, 60 Minutes's Lesley Stahl, Lester Holt of NBC's Weekend Today and Sawyer's Good Morning America co-host Charles Gibbons.
Infinity expects Stern to fulfill commitment
Viacom Inc.'s Infinity radio unit expects Howard Stern to remain with the company through the end of next year when his contract expires, Reuters reports. "We are counting on Howard (Stern) being on the air, but we are feverishly looking for someone to replace him," said Infinity's president and chief operating officer Joel Hollander at the UBS Media Week conference in New York. Stern announced in October he was heading to Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. in January 2006, but there has been speculation the shock jock may jump ship before the Infinity deal is up--that is, if someone were willing to buy out the remainder of the contract. Asked by a conference attendee if Infinity would entertain offers to permit Stern's release, Hollander quipped: "If you were to give me a check for $100 million, I'll let him go tomorrow."