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.
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.
Jamie Lee Curtis' actor father passed away on Wednesday (29Sep10). No further details were available as WENN went to press.
Born Bernard Schwartz to Jewish immigrants from Hungary, the star endured a tough upbringing in the Bronx borough of New York, which saw him spend a year in an orphanage with his younger brother Julius because his parents were too poor to feed them.
He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II before deciding to pursue his love of acting and enrolling in the Dramatic Workshop of The New School in New York with German director Erwin Piscator.
He moved to Hollywood in 1948 when he was 23 and landed a contract with Universal Pictures. It was then that Schwartz changed his name to Tony Curtis, adopting his first name from the book Anthony Adverse and his last name from Kurtz, from his mother's family.
Curtis made his film debut with an uncredited appearance in 1949's Criss Cross, but it was only in the mid-1950s that he emerged as a breakout star with roles in movies including 1957's Sweet Smell of Success and alongside Sidney Poitier in The Defiant Ones (1958), a performance which landed him a Best Actor Oscar nomination.
He also starred in dramas The Outsider and The Boston Strangler, but he will perhaps be best remembered for his performance in Some Like It Hot (1959) with Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon. In 2000, the American Film Institute named the movie classic the greatest American comedy film of all time.
Curtis also embarked on a variety of TV projects and was immortalised as 'Stony Curtis' on popular cartoon The Flintstones in the early 1960s. In the '70s, he co-starred with former James Bond actor Roger Moore in The Persuaders! series, and went on to land roles in U.S. TV shows McCoy and Vega$.
The actor scaled down the number of films he made in the 1980s and embarked on a career as a surrealist painter. His works became such a hit in the art world, he was able to command more than $25,000 (£16,700) a piece and his painting The Red Table went on display at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2007.
Curtis was later awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was presented with the prestigious French honour, the Order of Arts and Letters, in 1995. He was also an Emmy nominated star and collected two Golden Globes, in 1958 and 1961.
His final role as an actor was in 2008 romantic war drama David & Fatima, in which he starred with Oscar winner Martin Landau, although he expressed a desire to return to the screen earlier this year (10).
Outside Hollywood, Curtis was also known for his high-profile personal life - he was married to actress Janet Leigh for 11 years and they had two children together, Jamie Lee and Kelly Curtis, who both followed their parents into showbusiness.
He openly admitted to cheating on Leigh during their union and divorced her in 1962 to wed Christine Kaufmann, his then-17-year-old German co-star in Taras Bulba. He fathered two kids with her but his second marriage lasted just four years.
He was married a further three times and had two more children with third wife Leslie Allen, although their son Nicholas died from a heroin overdose in 1994, aged 23.
Renowned womaniser Curtis later revealed he had had a brief fling with Marilyn Monroe in 1949, and detailed their love affair in his autobiography American Prince: A Memoir.
Curtis was dogged by ill health in his later years and came close to death when he was struck down by pneumonia and fell into a coma in December 2006. He regained consciousness several days later but the virus left him weak and he was resigned to using a wheelchair to get around as he could only walk short distances.
He was hospitalised in August last year (09) when he suffered an asthma-like attack and was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition which sent him to seek medical attention again in New York in early 2010.
In July (10), Curtis was admitted to hospital in Las Vegas after another COPD attack after being taken ill at an exhibition of his artwork.
He is survived by his fifth wife Jill Vandenberg Curtis, who he wed in 1998 despite their 42-year age difference, and his five children.
First in "Order"
Despite a strong showing by NBC's Law and Order, which topped the Nielsen ratings list for the first time last week with its season finale, CBS remained the top-rated network last week as such reliable standbys as JAG and Everybody Loves Raymond performed above expectations. The network wound up with an average 7.4 for the week with a 13 share. NBC was close behind with a 7.3/13, while ABC finished with a 6.4/11. Fox remained in last place among the Big 4 networks with an average 2.5/5 for the week.
The top 10 shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. Law and Order, NBC, 14.2/23; 2. Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS, 13.3/20; 3. Law and Order (special), NBC, 12.2/19; 4. Frasier, NBC, 12.1/19; 5. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (Tuesday), ABC, 10.9/18; 6. Judging Amy, CBS, 10.8/18; 7. Millionaire (Monday), ABC, 10.7/17; 7. NYPD Blue, ABC, 10.7/18; 9. JAG, CBS, 10.5/17; 10. ABC Monday Night Movie: Anne Frank Pt. 2, ABC, 9.5/15; 10. Dharma & Greg, ABC, 9.5/15.0.
ABC's Brown to become new face of CNN
ABC News veteran Aaron Brown, familiar to many as the anchor of the Saturday edition of World News Tonight, has been nabbed by CNN, which is expected to feature him in an hour-long evening newscast beginning next fall, according to published reports. Thursday's New York Times said that CNN was hoping to use Brown to replace the recently retired Bernard Shaw as the news network's "defining face."
Ousted BET host Smiley to land at ABC
Former BET talk-show host Tavis Smiley, who was fired by the black cable network last March after he sold an interview to ABC's PrimeTime Thursday, is close to a deal that would see him hosting a daytime talk show on ABC as well as contributing to its magazine shows -- including PrimeTime Thursday -- on a regular basis, published reports said Wednesday.
No backlash to "Survivor" revelations, says CBS
Following the release of a deposition by Survivor contestant Dirk Been in which he acknowledged being influenced by producer Mark Burnett to change a key vote during the production of the show, CBS has received no letters and only two email messages about the matter, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing a CBS spokesman. Both email messages supported the network, the newspaper said. Analysts contacted by the WSJ expressed doubt that an audience backlash would materialize as a result of the lawsuit brought by another contestant, Stacey Stillman, against CBS and the Survivor producers. "This is no quiz-show scandal," Robert Thompson, director of Syracuse University's Center for the Study of Popular Television, told the WSJ.
Porn site pays Anderson and beau "seven figures"
The Internet porn site Internet Entertainment Group has settled a lawsuit brought against it by former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson and Bret Michaels, the lead singer of Poison, for "a seven-figure sum" for attempting to sell video of the couple having sex. Previously IEG had settled a case with Anderson over another sex tape that it distributed showing her having sex with Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee. According to published reports, unlike the Anderson-Lee video, the Anderson-Michaels tape was never widely distributed because Anderson's attorneys took prompt legal action against IEG to block it.
"Big Brother" is Britain's "most censored" show
The live daily telecasts of the hit reality show Big Brother on the U.K.'s digital channel E4 have easily become the most censored shows in TV history, the London Daily Mirror reported Thursday. Broadcast on a 10-minute delay to allow the station to screen conversations between the contestants in a house where TV cameras are trained on them throughout the day, the telecasts frequently include long segments in which no sound is heard at all. During one hour sampled by the Mirror, only 27 minutes was broadcast uncensored, with the sound cutting out more than 30 times. A spokesman for the British Broadcasting Standards Commission, an official watchdog, told the newspaper: "There is nothing in living memory as heavily bleeped as Big Brother." Meanwhile, contestant Penny Ellis, whose employer, a private school, has threatened to fire her after she appeared briefly in the nude during a Big Brother telecast, said Wednesday that she will be probably quit. "I would be a lunatic [to return]," she said. "I wouldn't get any work done. It's best not to go back for the safety of the kids and the structure of the school."
R-rated movies walloped by enforcement
Ticket sales for R-rated films have plummeted since movie theaters, bowing to political pressure, began tightening their enforcement of age restrictions, the Washington Post reported Thursday, citing a study by research group MarketCast. The study concluded that "significant numbers" of children under 17, especially girls, were being deterred from seeing R-rated movies. The theaters' policies, the study said, caused the recent releases The Mexican, starring Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt, and Angel Eyes, starring Jennifer Lopez, to lose a major share of the audience that ordinarily would have been attracted to them, the study said. It estimated that the movie Tomcats, from Joe Roth's Revolution Studios lost 30 percent of its potential audience because of theater enforcement of age restrictions. "I think the implications are that studios will take a hard look at movies that could be cut to be PG-13," Michael Schwartz, research director at MarketCast, told the Post. "They'll ask whether the R-rated scenes will gain them enough appeal to offset the losses, especially where there is strong teen interest." Indeed, Roth told the newspaper that he would never make a movie like Tomcats again. "This is material that's mostly innately appealing to 12- to 16-year-olds, so you're really stuck."
"The Star offers Blake $100,000 to take lie test
Supermarket tabloid The Star has offered actor Robert Blake $100,000 to take a lie detector test in connection with the murder of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley. Neither Blake nor his attorneys have responded to the offer. In an interview with Thursday's New York Post, Star editor-in-chief Tony Frost commented: "If Mr. Blake has nothing to hide, what better way is there of removing the umbrella of suspicion? ... The results of a polygraph are not admissible in a court of law, but they do go a long way to convincing the court of public opinion."
Cahners pink slips "Variety," "Broadcasting" employees
Cahners Publishing, whose trade publications include Variety and Broadcasting & Cable, said Wednesday that it is pink-slipping 140 employees, representing about 3 percent of its work force. The company also eliminated an honor-system policy of allowing employees to leave at 1: p.m. on Fridays, provided that they make up the missed time during the rest of the week. The company said that it was reacting to current economic conditions.
Wanna buy a Muppet?
EM.TV, the troubled German media company that paid $680 million for The Muppets just two years ago, may only get about $200 million if is able to unload the characters, who include Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, the New York Post observed Thursday, citing industry analysts. Chris Bryne, editor of Toy Report, told the newspaper: "The problem is that the Muppets aren't hot the way they once were. ... Any new owner will face the difficulty of trying to make all these characters relevant again." Among the possible buyers, the Post said, are Disney, Viacom and Jim Henson Productions, the Muppets' creators.
News spoof says Disney planning "enhanced edition" of "Pearl Harbor"
Newsweek magazine, in an apparent spoof of itself, began running a "Web Exclusive" on its Internet site Wednesday, saying that the Walt Disney Co. is planning to spend an additional $145 million on an "enhanced edition" of Pearl Harbor that will be "longer, louder and dumber" than the original and will be the "most historically inaccurate" movie ever made. The article said that a number of big stars will be added to the film, including the musical groups 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys "who will appear together in an exciting 'battle of the bands' sequence during which they will be struck by Japanese bombs and perish. "The sequence 'tested through the roof,'" according to the satirical piece, which Newsweek credited to "The Borowitz Report."
In Wednesday's edition of Studio Briefing, we quoted FoxNews.com's Roger Friedman as saying that Town & Country has emerged as the biggest box-office flop in history. A reader responded that 1995's Cutthroat Island, which cost $92 million to make and earned only $11 million (and, in the process, wrecked Carolco, the indie studio that made it), may rightfully claim that dubious distinction.