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 average actor earns peanuts compared to what the following group of Hollywood hot shots make, though their bloated salaries are not just handouts. Each and every person on the list below got where they are because of dedication to and love of their craft. Sure, luck plays an integral part, but without the drive to succeed they’d all be yesterdays news instead of next years busiest entertainers. Read on to see who you’ll be seeing a lot of in 2011.
*Note: This list is comprehensive, but not necessarily "complete" as there are many working actors in the business who have just as many, if not more, films in production. The individuals were selected because of their status in current pop-culture and the size of the films in which they appear. That is why someone like Ray Wise, who has 10 films in various stages of production, was excluded while others with less were included.*
Had I made this list last year, or the year before that, Rogen probably would’ve found himself on it. Since becoming a household name in 2007 with Knocked Up and Superbad (among others), the funny man has had more work than he knows what to do with. He starts 2011 with the eagerly awaited release of his 3D superhero flick The Green Hornet, but his cancer dramedy Live With It could hit the festival circuit around the same time. March will see his long-gestating collaboration with Simon Pegg/Nick Frost Paul hit theaters (in which he voices an adorable alien) followed by the May release of Kung Fu Panda 2. Somewhere in the middle of that will be another dramedy, Take This Waltz, in which he co-stars with Sarah Silverman and Michelle Williams. Add that up and Rogen’s got a very lucrative year ahead of him.
Stone is poised to become the starlet of tomorrow with a leading role in Sony’s new Spider Man film, but that’s a ways off. Next year will see her build momentum towards that coming blockbuster with four releases, including a role in Relativity Media’s massive untitled ensemble comedy (which may now be titled Movie 43) and a reunion with her Easy A director Will Gluck in the Mila Kunis/Justin Timberlake rom-com Friends With Benefits. However, what I’m looking forward to most is The Help, an adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s beloved novel in which she plays a leading role and Crazy, Stupid, Love, the new dramedy from I Love You Phillip Morris directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa in which she plays daughter to Steve Carell. There’s enough quality here to ensure that Stone becomes a major player in her own right in the new decade and I can’t wait to see what she does with all that star power in the coming years.
The king of all media is back in full force next year, bringing no less than seven major motion pictures to global audiences in addition to one eagerly awaited new network TV show (Terra Nova – due May 2011). First up is the D.J. Caruso-helmed sci-fi actioner I Am Number Four followed by J.J. Abrams’ homage to the famed filmmaker’s early work with Super 8 (Spielberg serves as executive producer on both). The huge summer season continues with Transformers: Dark of the Moon and the very buzzy Cowboys & Aliens before he unveils the Shawn Levy-directed robot boxing drama Real Steel. Then, around Christmastime, we’ll get a double dose of his directorial efforts with the WWI epic War Horse and the motion captured franchise starter The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn. That is the mark of a true mogul – releasing a pair of big films just days apart. Small potatoes for Mr. Spielberg, of course.
Captain Jack attacks the world of entertainment on all fronts next year as actor, producer and director. He’ll be seen in two films, including the long-delayed The Rum Diary and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and heard in a third – Gore Verbinski’s animated Rango. He serves as producer on Martin Scorsese’s 3D live action Hugo Cabret and a foreign film called Cool Water (which may or may not end up shooting early next year). Additionally, he should finally release his untitled Keith Richards documentary, which has been in post-production for a long time now. It’s one of the most diverse schedules that anyone in the business can boast next year and I’m very excited to see how it all turns out for EW’s most recent Entertainer of the Decade.
Like Ms. Stone’s upcoming slate of films, Craig’s is comprised of higher quality than quantity. After a lengthy absence from the silver screen, the British bad ass releases four big movies from four big directors. He starts his domination of the second half of 2011 with Jon Favreau’s Cowboys and Aliens and segues into Jim Sheridan’s new thriller Dream House. After that, he’ll release back to back December blockbusters with the fore mentioned Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn and the mega-hyped English language adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. All together, Craig is looking at an easy billion-dollar year before he begins work on his third Bond film, due in 2012.
As I was compiling this list I realized that I wasn’t showing enough love to the producers that make filmmaking possible. There are hundreds of financiers and producers out there making movies, but none is quite as prolific today (and tomorrow) as Ryan Kavanaugh. The CEO of Relativity Media puts out a number of titles next year, some of which I’ve already mentioned (including that huge ensemble comedy, Cowboys and Aliens and Rogen’s Live With It). Additionally, he releases Neil Burger’s Limitless (formerly titled The Dark Fields), the James Cameron-produced Sanctum, Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire and Tarsem Singh’s Immortals. He’ll also be active in the realm of production as his company gears up for principle photography on The Town That Dreaded Sundown and The Crow remake. Like most big companies, Relativity could easily acquire a number of films for distribution throughout the year, which would just add to its already stellar slate in 2011.
The “It” Boy of the new decade is ready to take Hollywood by storm (again) next year. He’ll first appear in Ron Howard’s relationship comedy The Dilemma on January 14th before hitting Sundance in his third collaboration with director Dito Montiel with Son of No One. In February, his long delayed swords-and-sandals actioner The Eagle opens, while April will see Haywire finally blast its way into theaters. Tatum will only take very short breaks to promote these films as he’ll be working on a variety of projects including the ensemble drama Ten Year, the period espionage thriller Love and Honor and Sony’s 21 Jump Street reboot, ensuring that his It Boy status will remain intact for many years to come.
Here’s a guy that you wouldn’t think would end up on a list like this, but Koechner’s comedic abilities have made him a must have for productions big and small. The major studio’s called upon him for films like Paul, Final Destination 5 and This Means War (all set to bow in 2011) in addition to indies like Wish Wizard, Wedding Day and Fully Loaded, in which he apparently plays himself. It’s a big moment for the comedian, so I hope he and his fans drink it in.
The Sons Of Anarchy star gets his big-screen due next year with a whopping six (possibly seven) releases. He invades the first frame of 2011 with Season of the Witch and will play father to the Barbarian in Lionsgate’s Conan reboot in August. A number of other independent and studio releases will drop throughout the year as well, including Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, the dramatic thriller Crave and a film called Frankie Goes Boom that will reunite him with his SoA co-star Charlie Hunnam (Chris Noth, Lizzy Caplan and Whitney Cummings co-star). Perlman also joins Universal’s Mummy/Scorpion King franchise with the direct to DVD Scorpion King: Rise of the Dead. If it begins production on time, he could also release the action thriller The Riot, which presents a practical take on the survival horror genre. Factor in the tentative summer start of his old friend Guillermo del Toro’s At the Mountains of Madness (in which he plays Larson) and Perlman, at 60, is busier than ever.
In between financial and psychological meltdowns Nicolas Cage manages to get some work done. The Oscar winning A-lister will appear in a quartet of films next year, starting with Season of the Witch and continuing on with Roger Donaldson’s The Hungry Rabbit Jumps, Patrick Lussier’s Drive Angry 3D and Joel Schumacher’s Trespass. In addition, he produced the family comedy A Thousand Words, which was developed as a starring vehicle but was passed off to Eddie Murphy shortly before production began in 2008. He’ll continue to shoot his Ghost Rider sequel through the first quarter of 2011 and may end up filming a third National Treasure at some point as well.
He’s made a name for himself in films like 300 and Inglourious Basterds but Fassbender has yet to really breakout. Next year, he should do just that with four films locked and a handful of others gearing up for production. First is Cary Fukunaga’s adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s literary staple Jane Eyre followed soon after by Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire. On June 3rd, he joins the X-Men franchise as a young Erik Lensherr/Magneto in X-Men: First Class, which could turn into a career-within-a-career in itself. Additionally, David Cronenberg’s highly anticipated A Dangerous Method should hit the festival circuit at some point in 2011, possibly leading to awards buzz. If you don’t think that is enough of a schedule to balance, try to figure out when/how he’ll shoot two new dramas (Brendan Gleeson’s At Swim-Two-Birds and Steve McQueen’s Shame) amidst all that promotional work? Staggering, isn’t it.