A highly-acclaimed cinematographer, especially noted for his four collaborations with Stanley Kubrick, John Alcott emigrated to the USA in 1980 and became one of the most sought after directors of pho...
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.
When gullible small-town square Paul (Biggs) gets a scholarship to a prestigious New York City university he's ripe for the plucking from the likes of his spoiled rich roommates (Zak Orth Tom Sadoski Jimmi Simpson). Meanwhile Paul's classmate Dora (Mena Suvari) tries to balance schoolwork off-campus jobs and a covert relationship with her world lit professor (Greg Kinnear). Will Paul and Dora two very different breeds of social outcast find a way to hook up? You don't need SAT scores in the 99th percentile to figure that one out.
Biggs' natural goofiness and Everyboy likability go a long way toward making "Loser" watchable but there's little the talented young actor can do with the lifeless increasingly predictable storyline. Suvari who functioned well enough as "American Beauty's" teen lust object ranges from weak to downright awful trying to navigate a lead role in this vastly inferior film. Kinnear lends a piggish charm to his people-using misogynist prof easily the film's most entertaining character.
Writer-director Amy Heckerling who so successfully mined the comic potential of '80s and '90s youth culture in the genre classics "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and "Clueless " scores surprisingly few laughs in moving her act to an institution of higher learning. To its credit "Loser" shows more respect for the audience's intelligence than the average campus comedy fare taking the time to delve into a few real issues (teacher/student relationships inequalities between rich and middle-class students) along the way but the results simply don't generate the sparks Heckerling's earlier high school films did.
First film as director of photography, Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange"
Last screen collaboration with Kubrick, "The Shining"
Final film as director of photography, "No Way Out"; released posthumously
First film as focus puller, "Whistle Down the Wind"
Moved to the USA from England
Won Academy Award for lensing Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon"
First collaboration with Stanley Kubrick (additional photography), "2001: A Space Odyssey"
A highly-acclaimed cinematographer, especially noted for his four collaborations with Stanley Kubrick, John Alcott emigrated to the USA in 1980 and became one of the most sought after directors of photography. He also started a lucrative second career directing and shooting TV commercials.<p>The London native broke into films in the 1960s as what the British call a "focus puller" (a first assistant cameraperson in the USA). Alcott worked on various camera crews until 1968 when he was given a chance to shoot several scenes for Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey". By 1971, he was Kubrick's cinematographer of choice, working on "A Clockwork Orange" (1971), "Barry Lyndon" (1975), for which he won an Oscar, and "The Shining" (1980). Alcott was known for his keen ability to give even the most horrific tale a high degree of visual attractiveness and beauty without detracting from the story. For example, his work on "The Shining" includes numerous daytime and nighttime shots set in a bush-enclosed maze. These scenes, particularly the snow-bound ones, appear as if painted on canvas--stark and vivid, the coldness being blown by a arctic wind from the screen, despite the terror displayed within them. Even Jack Nicholson's son appears as if painted by Gainsborough, with hints of "The Blue Boy" in the lighting and framing.<p>Alcott had evoked Gainsborough, Corot and Watteau in his award-winning work on "Barry Lyndon". Shot throughout Europe, this 19th Century period piece included gorgeous tableaux, including several shot by candlelight and finely lensed battle sequences. While "A Clockwork Orange" worked as analytic cubism, "Fort Apache: The Bronx" (1981), despite its raw feel, at times could have been an urban mural as the characters seem placed in a backdrop of which they are prisoners not of their making. Alcott turned "The Beastmaster" (1982) into a colorful fantasy and "Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes" (1984) into the green-hued world lacking in the old black and white films, a canvas in which the humidity melts on the screen. The Kevin Costner spy vehicle, "No Way Out" (1987), was dedicated to Alcott, as it was his last work before his death of a heart attack earlier that year.