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.
Billed as Mountain Man, the actor starred in Deliverance's "Squeal like a pig" scene, where his character and a backwoods friend rape Ned Beatty's adventurer Bobby.
McKinney, who also appeared in seven Clint Eastwood movies, died at the Valley Presbyterian Hospice in California after a long battle with lung cancer, according to TMZ.com.
A statement on his Facebook.com page reads, "An avid smoker for 25 years of his younger life, he died of cancer of the esophagus. He was 80 and still strong enough to have filmed a Doritos commercial 2 weeks prior to his passing, and he continued to work on his biography with his writing partner."
McKinney also appeared in Sam Peckinpah's Junior Bonner, The Life & Times of Judge Roy Bean, blaxploitation classic Cleopatra Jones, First Blood and The Green Mile as well as a string of popular TV series like The A-Team, Baywatch and The Fall Guy.
Top Story: Mystic River Kicks Off Awards Season
Clint Eastwood's Mystic River has won the first major prize of this year's film award season. The National Board of Review on Wednesday named the drama best film of 2003 and its star, Sean Penn, was named best actor for Mystic River as well as the drama 21 Grams. Other honorees include Diane Keaton, who won best actress for her role in Something's Gotta Give, and Edward Zwick, who took best director for The Last Samurai. Some see the NRB's selections as an indicator of what to expect in the race for Academy Awards, although the board's choices have not usually mirrored the Oscars. The top 10 films named by the board were: Mystic River, The Last Samurai, The Station Agent, 21 Grams, House of Sand and Fog, Lost in Translation, Cold Mountain, In America, Seabiscuit, and Master and Commander. Best foreign film was The Barbarian Invasions, a Canada/France production.
Academy Taps Horovitz for Oscarcast
Preparations for the 76th Academy Awards are getting underway. According to Variety, Louis Horvitz is set to direct the Oscar ceremony, which will be held Sunday, Feb. 29, at the Kodak Theater. This will be Horvitz's eighth stint as director of the the Oscar presentation. Michael B. Seligman will be the supervising producer, marking his 27th year of work with the show, while Roy Christopher will come back to give his artistic touch as 15-time production designer.
Watch Star Wars With ... Princess Leia
Carrie Fisher, famous for her role as Princess Leia in the first three Star Wars films, will hold a private screening of The Empire Strikes Back for up to 10 fans as part of a Hollywood costume auction this weekend by Fisher's mother, actress and memorabilia preservationist Debbie Reynolds. Five winning bidders and one guest each will be invited to attend the screening of The Empire Strikes Back, the 1980 sequel to the first Star Wars film, with Fisher. The screening will be held early next year in the Los Angeles area. Proceeds from the sale, held in Beverly Hills and on eBay Dec. 6, will go to the planned Hollywood Motion Picture Museum.
L.A. Judge Dismisses Streisand's Privacy Suit
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Allan Goodman dismissed Wednesday Barbra Streisand's $10 million lawsuit against a multimillionaire who posted photos of her Malibu estate on a Web site documenting erosion along the California coast, Reuters reports. Streisand sued Kenneth Adelman in May, accusing him of violating California's anti-paparazzi law and her privacy rights, but Goodman ruled that Streisand lawsuit chilled Adelman's free speech rights on a matter of public concern, and ordered her to pay his legal bills. The judge also noted that Adelman had not tried to photograph Streisand personally and had not even known that he was capturing her estate on film when he snapped the photos from 2,700 feet away.
Ray Romano To Pen Children's Book
Ray Romano, the Emmy-winning star of CBS' Everybody Loves Raymond, is writing a children's book, The Associated Press reports. Publishers Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers described Raymie, Dickie, and the Bean: Why I Love and Hate My Brothers as "the funny and true story of why brothers can be gross, disgusting and downright mean--but still love each other." Romano is writing the book, expected to be published next fall, with his brothers Richard, a retired New York police sergeant, and Robert, a New York City schoolteacher. "When my brothers and I weren't fighting with each other, we had a lot of fun growing up," Romano said in a statement. "Now it's great as adults to collaborate with them on this book and fight with each other again."
Ray Liotta Gets "Best Human" Accolade
Actor Ray Liotta has been honored with a unique award by Hollywood standards: Best Human. Liotta took home the award for "Best Performance By A Human" in the 2002 hit criminal adventure game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City at the first Spike TV Video Game Awards held Tuesday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Liotta gives voice to the lead character in the game, which was the best seller of 2000, Reuters reports. The two-hour awards show was hosted by comedian David Spade and will be broadcast Thursday night on Spike TV.
Record Label Drops "Murder" From Name
Record company Murder Inc., the label behind rap artist Ja Rule and singer Ashanti, announced Wednesday it had changed its name to The Inc., the AP reports. "Over the course of the years, it seems as though no one is really looking at the talent ... more so than that damn word 'murder,'" label founder Irv Gotti said at midtown Manhattan news conference. Gotti, whose real name is Irv Lorenzo, added that he had no intention of changing the nickname he shares with the late Gambino family boss John Gotti. "It's just a nickname, like any other nickname," he said. "I ain't going to change it."
British Actor David Hemmings Dies