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.
I can honestly say that, after a few weeks of lackluster episodes, last night’s finale was more entertaining than tits on a turtle. And that’s plenty entertaining indeed.
In a classic True Blood misdirection, the huge cliffhanger that ended last episode with Eric and Russell facing certain doom was resolves before the credits sequence. It’s nice to see Eric front and center this episode, but it’s Denis O’Hare who steals the show. Reason #421 that I love Russell: he manages to remain hilariously snarky even when burnt to a crisp. (Reason #422 is the way he mumbles “fucking goats” as Eric tries to have a meaningful hallucination with Godric.) Seriously, I could not be happier that they’re keeping the former King around, though I doubt it will work out well for our protagonists. Sookie flushed Talbot down the trash disposal, I don’t think Russell’s letting go of that any time soon. And, surprisingly, neither is Eric, who spends the episode getting Jiminy Cricket-ed by his conscience, in Godric form. He seems to take his maker’s suggestion to spare Russell’s life, but instead condemns him to a crueler, slower fate, much to the glowing Godric’s dismay. Normally, this would cross some kind of moral rubicon, but we’ve been promised that Russell will return from his mafia-esque cement nap more crazy than ever, and that just sounds like a lot of fun.
But if you think that Eric’s got ethical issues this episode, wait until you see Bill. It’s one thing to trick Sookie into liking you so that you can feed her to the Queen, or throw Eric in a cement pit, but trying to kill Pam?! That’s the point of no return, Mr. Compton. Fortunately, Pam is fine, and Eric is no worse for wear, though I don’t think I can say the same of Sookie. The episode ends with a pretty great subversion of every Bill and Sookie fight scene we’ve had so far: as usual, Bill confesses to doing terrible things, but claims it was all out of love, and Sookie gets mad but decides to forgive him anyway. But then Eric (still covered in cement, amusingly enough) shows up to reveal the whole truth, and Sookie throws him out of the house for good. We haven’t seen Bill be badass since he left the King’s service, and I must admit that I enjoyed his return to deviousness. Even if directed against Pam. True Blood seems to be quantifiably better when Bill and Sookie aren’t together, and now that they may be broken up more permanently than normal, I’m looking forward to the return of interesting Bill. Assuming that he survives the fight with Sophie-Ann, of course.
Even if Bill doesn’t survive, I’m not sure that Sookie needs him anymore. She’s figured out how to access her magic lightbulb powers (as Russell puts it, it’s about fucking time) and she’s got fairy family to look out for her. Not to mention the return of Brawny, who’s obviously still into her, and still wearing the same flannel shirt. It was kind of excellent to see Sookie take an active role this episode, rescuing Eric and standing up to Russell. For the supposed main character, Sookie often has very little to do, and I hope the writers remember to use her more next season.
On the other hand, Tara is given a fairly graceful and magnanimous exit, and one that I can only hope will be permanent. True Blood suffers from a surplus of characters, and Tara was the obvious weak link, but I’m glad they sent her out with a horrible haircut rather than a sudden pregnancy (the other standby for removing unwanted characters from TV shows). I’m sure Lafayette will miss her, but now he’s got his gay witch nurse boyfriend for company, so he’ll be fine.
Jason’s storyline comes to a far less dignified end this episode, as Crystal is kidnapped by her fiancee/brother and leaves Jason in charge of her creepy inbred village. Which only serves to emphasize how little Jason and Crystal know about each other, because anyone who’s spent more than ten minutes with Jason wouldn’t leave him in charge of a goldfish. Somehow, this doesn’t end with Jason getting immediately arrested and shipped off to federal prison, but maybe that’s how the premiere will start. Jason can be a pretty excellent character, but it’s clear that no one knew what to do with him this season. The kid goes through more jobs than Homer Simpson, and it doesn’t seem likely that his new position as “meth addict babysitter” will stick. Maybe, with Tara gone and Bill out of the picture, Jason will have a shot at a plot that makes sense.
And oh yeah, Sam shot Tommy or something.
So that’s it for season three of True Blood, which may have been the strongest season yet. It’s true, there were some missteps (mostly involving Sam), but I can consider myself thoroughly entertained. And it’s not like we’re watching True Blood for the deep philosophic discourse. It may be hard to go back to a life that doesn’t include regular spine-rippings and a shirtless Alexander Skarsgard, but there’s always next summer.
“I only pretended to betray you so that I could save your life, again!” - Thanks for the plot summary, Bill, but that’s my job. Only I don’t usually sound as hilariously petulant as Bill. I think.
“I will not surrender to the true death. I will find a way to come back and kill your precious viking and your brooding Mr Compton and his unbearable progeny!”
“Ignoring the fact that your word’s worth as much as tits on a turtle?”
“You just rationalized away all need for law enforcement!"
"If you two have finished eye-fucking, can we go?"
Seven days, seven chances to attain sweet, sweet television nirvana. In this week's Best of Seven, we give you every excuse to sit on the couch and veg out while you patiently await the Friday opening of director Christopher Nolan's much-anticipated (and already critically-praised) Inception - this summer's Twilight: Eclipse for adults and other people with brains.
7PM-9PM: Tosh.0, Comedy Central. Comedian Daniel Tosh's sarcasm-laden celebration of viral videos, YouTube celebrities, and other pop-culture ephemera has become one of the highest-rated shows in its time slot, reportedly nabbing almost 2.5 million viewers last week, surpassing both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's ratings. It's America's Funniest Home Videos for the Twitter generation, and it's not too late to jump on the bandwagon: you can catch four Tosh.0 episodes in a row Monday night, right before another 2-hour block (9PM-11PM) of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (including the hilarious two-part 'The Gang Gets Whacked' episode and 'Dennis Looks Like a Registered Sex Offender').
8PM: Ratatouille, Disney Channel. If gross-out humor (Tosh.0 and It's Always Sunny) isn't your thing, enjoy Disney/Pixar's charming 2007 computer-animated story of a rat who dreams of cooking in a Parisian restaurant. Won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
8:30PM: R. Kelly's Trapped in the Closet, IFC. Did you know that singer-songwriter R. Kelly wrote a heartbreaking, 22-part rock-opera in 2005 and 2007, about the perils of one-night stands and the difficulties of keeping it real? Well, he did, and it's sort of kind of brilliant in it's own bizarre way. Start watching this and I guarantee you'll find yourself weirdly mesmerized by R. Kelly's operatic tale, much of which takes place in a closet, natch.
10PM: Curb Your Enthusiasm, TV Guide Channel. In 'The Shrimp Incident,' Larry David (Seinfeld creator Larry David) suspects that HBO executive Allan Wasserman has stolen some shrimp out of his Chinese food.
6PM - Midnight: This is not an endorsement, but if you're interested, apparently the Discovery Health channel has all baby-related programming for a whole six-hour block. Seriously. Hour after hour of Big Babies, and I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant, and so on. A bit of research revealed that this is not, in fact, a singular phenomenon, but a relatively frequent occurrence on Discovery Health and TLC (this Wednesday). Who on Earth is watching this much baby-based programming? Possibly the same people who are watching Say Yes to the Dress in four hour blocks.
8PM: Chappelle's Show, Comedy Central. 2 episodes chock-full of Dave Chappelle's signature combination of wit, gross-out humor, and biting social commentary back-to-back.
8PM: The Departed, FX. Director Martin Scorsese directs the hell out of this South-Boston set tale of one cop's questionable loyalties (Matt Damon) and another's blurring identity (Leonardo DiCaprio), centered around an organized crime gang led by Jack Nicholson. Inspired by the popular 2002 Hong Kong crime film Infernal Affairs. Won four Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Picture.
6:25: Annie Hall, IFC. By far one of Woody Allen's best films, this 1977 comedy-drama stars the writer-director and Diane Keaton. The Best Picture winner follows the ups and downs of a long-term relationship between two mismatched New York neurotics.
9PM: Futurama, Comedy Central. A 3-hour Futurama comedy block!
11PM: Weird Science, VH1. The former music - now 80s nostalgia channel is airing the thoroughly odd (seriously, watch this movie while actually thinking about what is going on - notice the subtle racism and perverse sexual themes) 1985 John Hughes flick. Two high-school nerds computer-generate a hot babe to teach them how to meet girls, as well as have uncomfortable three-person showers. With Anthony Michael Hall.
6PM: Law and Order, TNT. Law and Order may be over, but it will be in syndication forever. Remember the halcyon days with a classic episode from 2004. In 'Fixed,' Fontana and Green reluctantly investigate after a motorist strikes a child-murderer and leaves him for dead, and the evidence they uncover leads McCoy to a startling discovery.
11PM: The Glades, A&E. The pilot episode of A&E's new Florida-based crime drama The Glades re-airs at 11, if you missed the original premiere. The LA Times calls it "an accomplished if occasionally vexing affair," so take that as you will.
Other: Inception comes out tonight!
6PM: Avoid watching the HBO special 'Inception: HBO First Look.' Don't watch it! You won't want any spoilers when you enjoy Inception yourself, for the first or second time, on Saturday night. There is nothing else on TV tonight. Don't even look. Just go watch this movie.
Sunday nights are the reason to buy HBO, plain and simple.
9PM: True Blood, HBO. Alcide and Sookie (Anna Paquin) turn to a packmaster for advice on wow to deal with Russell's minions; Tara considers a proposal from Ranklin; Joe Lee breaks his promise to Sam and Tommy; Jason meets a mysterious girl; an heirloom reminds Eric of his past.
10PM: Hung, HBO. Ray tries to prove to Darby and Damon that he is not an insensitive ex-jock; Tanya turns to Charlie for advice; Jessica feels the pinch of the economic downturn.
10:30PM: Entourage, HBO. Eric and Phil try to convince Drama that he has talent on the sitcom front; Ari (Jeremy Piven) resists Barbara's urgings to have Lizzie promoted; Turtle is intrigued by a business proposal from Alex; Scott Lavin continues to ingratiate himself with Vince.