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 This Means War – a stylish action/rom-com hybrid from director McG – Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) and Chris Pine (Star Trek) star as CIA operatives whose close friendship is strained by the fires of romantic rivalry. Best pals FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are equally accomplished at the spy game but their fortunes diverge dramatically in the dating realm: FDR (so nicknamed for his obvious resemblance to our 32nd president) is a smooth-talking player with an endless string of conquests while Tuck is a straight-laced introvert whose love life has stalled since his divorce. Enter Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) a pretty plucky consumer-products evaluator who piques both their interests in separate unrelated encounters. Tuck meets her via an online-dating site FDR at a video-rental store. (That Lauren is tech-savvy enough to date online but still rents movies in video stores is either a testament to her fascinating mix of contradictions or more likely an example of lazy screenwriting.)
When Tuck and FDR realize they’re pursuing the same girl it sparks their respective competitive natures and they decide to make a friendly game of it. But what begins as a good-natured rivalry swiftly devolves into romantic bloodsport with both men using the vast array of espionage tools at their disposal – from digital surveillance to poison darts – to gain an edge in the battle for Lauren’s affections. If her constitutional rights happen to be violated repeatedly in the process then so be it.
Lauren for her part remains oblivious to the clandestine machinations of her dueling suitors and happily basks in the sudden attention from two gorgeous men. Herein we find the Reese Witherspoon Dilemma: While certainly desirable Lauren is far from the irresistible Helen of Troy type that would inspire the likes of Tuck and FDR to risk their friendship their careers and potential incarceration for. At several points in This Means War I found myself wondering if there were no other peppy blondes in Los Angeles (where the film is primarily set) for these men to pursue. Then again this is a film that wishes us to believe that Tom Hardy would have trouble finding a date so perhaps plausibility is not its strong point.
When Lauren needs advice she looks to her boozy foul-mouthed best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler). Essentially an extension of Handler’s talk-show persona – an acquired taste if there ever was one – Trish’s dialogue consists almost exclusively of filthy one-liners delivered in rapid-fire succession. Handler does have some choice lines – indeed they’re practically the centerpiece of This Means War’s ad campaign – but the film derives the bulk of its humor from the outrageous lengths Tuck and FDR go to sabotage each others’ efforts a raucous game of spy-versus-spy that carries the film long after Handler’s shtick has grown stale.
Business occasionally intrudes upon matters in the guise of Heinrich (Til Schweiger) a Teutonic arms dealer bent on revenge for the death of his brother. The subplot is largely an afterthought existing primarily as a means to provide third-act fireworks – and to allow McGenius an outlet for his ADD-inspired aesthetic proclivities. The film’s action scenes are edited in such a manic quick-cut fashion that they become almost laughably incoherent. In fairness to McG he does stage a rather marvelous sequence in the middle of the film in which Tuck and FDR surreptitiously skulk about Lauren's apartment unaware of each other's presence carefully avoiding detection by Lauren who grooves absentmindedly to Montel Jordan's "This Is How We Do It." The whole scene unfolds in one continuous take – or is at least craftily constructed to appear as such – captured by one very agile steadicam operator.
Whatever his flaws as a director McG is at least smart enough to know how much a witty script and appealing leads can compensate for a film’s structural and logical deficiencies. He proved as much with Charlie’s Angels a film that enjoys a permanent spot on many a critic’s Guilty Pleasures list and does so again with This Means War. The film coasts on the chemistry of its three co-stars and only runs into trouble when the time comes to resolve its romantic competition which by the end has driven its male protagonists to engage in all manner of underhanded and duplicitous activities. This Means War being a commercial film – and likely an expensive one at that – Witherspoon's heroine is mandated to make a choice and McG all but sidesteps the whole thorny matter of Tuck and FDR’s unwavering dishonesty not to mention their craven disregard for her privacy. (They regularly eavesdrop on her activities.) For all their obvious charms the truth is that neither deserves Lauren – or anything other than a lengthy jail sentence for that matter.
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'Tis Valentine's Day, for loved ones to unite and lovelorn to show spite. In observance of this occasion, we find Tinseltown's love/no-love meter has been cranked up a notch.
Former bad-boy Christian Slater got married over the weekend to former television producer Ryan Haddon at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. The ceremony Saturday night was attended by 150 guests, according to his publicist, and officiated by author Neale Donald Walsch. The vows were taken from Walsch's book ``Conversations with God, Book 3.''
Slater, 30, was once as notorious for his bad behavior as he was for his wicked eyebrows. After squiring actresses (and co-stars) Winona Ryder, Samantha Mathis and Patricia Arquette as well as Christina Applegate and supermodel Christy Turlington, he was sued for palimony by longtime girlfriend Nina Huang after their 1995 split. He was later arrested for allegedly beating then-galpal Michelle Jonas and a police officer during a drug and alcohol-fueled brawl and spent three months in jail.
But that's all in the past; Slater's a family man now. He and Haddon, 28, have a 10-month-old son, Jaden Christopher, who will accompany his parents on their Hawaiian honeymoon.
ALL IN THE FAMILY: David Bowie and wife Iman have announced that they're expecting their first child in August.
Says the once-androgynous rocker, "It's been a long and patient wait for our baby, but both Iman and I wanted the circumstances to be absolutely right, and didn't want to find ourselves working flat out during the first couple years of the baby's life," Bowie, 53, said in a statement.
He and 44-year-old Iman, the Somali-born supermodel, were married in 1992. They have one child each from previous marriages.
Meanwhile, Oasis rocker Noel Gallagher suffered a crib-death scare over the weekend when 18-day-old daughter Anais suddenly turned blue and stopped breathing for about 30 seconds, reports London's Mirror. The musician phoned paramedics and passed instructions to his mother-in-law, who lay the baby on her back to clear the airways. The hospital gave Noel and the baby's mother, Meg Mathews, a breathing monitor in case the problem recurs.
COUPLINGS AND UNCOUPLINGS: London is also the setting for an engagement between Jamiroquai frontman Jay Kay and Brit TV star Denise Van Outen, according to the Sun tabloid. The paper reports that Kay (real name Jason Kay) proposed with a $15,990 engagement ring after popping the question over dinner at his home.
Across the ocean, all was not well on the Dominican Republic front, where singer-actress Diana Ross and husband Arne Naess formally divorced Friday. The nation, which is the place for quickie divorces as long as one of the spouses is present, granted the split to the couple, who were married in 1986 and separated in April. The former Supreme, 55, and Naess, 61, have two children; Ross also has three daughters from previous relationships.
But in New York, a happy marriage took place for, well, Sigourney Weaver's dog. The actress' pooch exchanged collars with a "studly" Italian greyhound, which she calls "the Mel Gibson of Italian greyhounds," in a pre-mating marriage ceremony (or "muttrimony") at an Upper East Side pet boutique, according to the New York Post. No word on the prenup agreement.
QUICK TAKES: Film critic Rex Reed was arrested Saturday after he was allegedly caught shoplifting three CDs from a Tower Records store. The New York Observer columnist, 61, was seen removing albums by Mel Torme, Peggy Lee and Carmen McRae and putting them in his jacket pocket. Security officials stopped him, and he was charged with larceny and criminal possession of stolen property ...
... Miramax Co-Chairman Harvey Weinstein emerged last week at a party for the New York Post's Page Six after months of rumors about the illness that kept him away from Sundance and the Golden Globes. The company spokesman maintains that Weinstein, 47, suffered a bacterial infection and is now back in the swing of things -- minus 40 pounds and wearing a nicotine patch to keep him away from those cigarettes.
... Leonardo DiCaprio is supporting Al Gore for president, according to an interview in the new Time magazine. The star of "The Beach" says he's on the verge of joining his campaign and almost took the stage during the New Hampshire primary to cheer on the White House hopeful. "I was going to just stand onstage and look hardcore," Leo tells Time. But likely he knew that would elicit fainting spells from the campaigner's daughters.
YOUNG AND RESTLESS: We'd like to take this time and promote some starlets who, despite their fame, looks and Internet downloads, are in the mood for love this Valentine's Day.
Perennially chirpy Jennifer Love Hewitt says, "I'm afraid that I'll never get married because I'm a hopeless romantic." She's currently seeing a musician she won't name, but as the 20-year-old recently revealed at a magazine luncheon in New York, "I'm going to end up alone when I'm 95, sitting home surrounded by 19 cats."
And teen pop queen Britney Spears, who has exchanged e-mails with Prince William, has confided her Valentine's Day wish to TV Guide Online: "My dream is to make a movie and to have a love scene with Ben Affleck. He is so real and so warm."
But if Ben's not available, she'd still like to date someone in show business. "Of course, if I met somebody at McDonald's and I fell in love with him, I'd have to go with my heart. But it would help being in the same industry, because you know what that person is going through, scheduling-wise," Spears, 18, says.
So basically, if you're a celebrity or a McDonald's cashier, you have a shot.