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.
Lester, best known for his work with The Beatles in the 1960s, was presented with the BFI's highest accolade in London on Thursday (22Mar12) in honour of his film and TV achievements.
Accepting his prize, the American-born filmmaker acknowledged the harsh reviews he received at the start of his career working in TV with comedians Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers.
He quipped, "When my career was just beginning, the elegant TV critic Bernard Levin came to see me in rehearsal with Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers. He wrote, 'He seems an amiable young man who climbed into a lion's cage and realised he's forgotten his chair and his whip.' Some 50 years later, I still haven't found a whip, but with this extraordinary honour, the BFI has kindly given me a chair."
Lester's work with Milligan and Sellers caught the attention of John Lennon, and he was hired by the Fab Four to direct A Hard Day's Night and Help! in the 1960s.
Lester joins a prestigious list of previous BFI Fellowship recipients including Dame Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, David Cronenberg and Martin Scorsese.
In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
The British broadcaster, whose series of infamous interviews with disgraced U.S. President Richard Nixon were immortalised in the 2008 movie Frost/Nixon, is slowly losing his hearing.
And he's confessed he now wears a subtle listening device in each ear so he can keep up with conversation.
During a chat with Radio Times magazine, he says, "I could do this interview without them but they're just terrifically convenient."
According to an update on his son's Facebook page, prolific composer/songwriter Robert Sherman, half of the famed Sherman Bros. duo, has passed away at the age of 86. Jeff wrote kind words yesterday evening as a word to Sherman's fans:
My Dad, Robert B. Sherman, passed away tonight in London. He went peacefully after months of truly valiantly fending off death. He loved life and his dear heart finally slowed to a stop when he could fight no more.
The son of another successful songwriter, Al Sherman, Robert began his music career early and began collaborating with Disney in the late '50s. His most famous working relationship spanned five decades and produced countless hits, toe-tapping tunes that kids and parents alike could sing in their (even today) in their sleep. In honor of the passing of this musical legend, here are five of Robert Sherman's most memorable songs:
"It's a Small World After All"
Originally penned for the 1964 New York World's Fair, the Sherman Bros. popular song became a permanent fixture at Disney theme parks across the globe, including Disneyworld in Florida, Disneyland in California, Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris and more.
Mary Poppins was obviously close to Robert's heart, the songwriter going so far as to pen a treatment for the feature film version (but was not credited). The Sherman Bros. wrote both the score and slate of songs for Mary Poppins, which earned them two Academy Awards in 1965. "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" stands out as both an exceptional display of their musical talents and the influence of their work—the word was later inducted into the Oxford English Dictionary.
"Chitty Chitty Bang Bang"
Robert Sherman's first non-Disney work came in the form of the 1968 fantasy film of the same name. The infectious songs in this Dick van Dyke musical garnered the duo another Oscar and eventually made its way to Broadway stages (which was also the case for Mary Poppins).
"Heffalumps and Woozles"
A song that will continue to haunt many of us who caught it as kids, "Heffalumps and Woozles" stands as one of the Sherman Bros. weirdest creations (while still maintaining their signature upbeat melodies). The song was featured in the 1977 short film assemblage The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and, thanks to the longevity of Pooh and Co., as stuck around for eons. When a speed metal band like Powerglove is covering your songs, you're doing something right.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks may not be the most familiar Disney live-action/animation hybrid, but thanks to the moody, inventive songs by the Sherman Bros., it's certainly one of their most creative. "Substitutiary Locomotion" is a foundation for the movie's wild ride, which saw Angela Lansbury magically bringing inanimate objects to life for a grand dance number that only the Robert and Richard Sherman truly imbue with soul. David Tomlinson's Emelius has handy advice when Lansbury's Miss Price can't get her spell off the ground, and it's the wisdom of the Sherman Bros.: "As I always say, do it with a flare"
“My dick is going to get so wet tonight ” declares Costa the foul-mouthed ringleader of a trio of sex-starved teens in the opening moments of Project X the new “found-footage” comedy from director Nima Nourizadeh and producer Todd Phillips (The Hangover). Believe it or not this qualifies as one of his more charming moments in the film. All of 17 but blessed with an obnoxiousness lesser men would take decades to cultivate Costa (Oliver Cooper) is the perfect mascot for a film that makes no bones of its mostly prurient intentions proffering what is essentially a succession of debaucherous montages intermingled with uneven attempts at comedy and held together by the slimmest pretense of a plot.
Caustic as he is Costa at least exhibits something of a recognizable personality; the same cannot be said of his two cohorts the tubby dweeb J.B. (Jonathan Daniel Brown) and the earnest blank Thomas (Thomas Mann). None of them seem to enjoy much in the way of popularity at their high school located in the fictional suburb of North Pasadena but Costa has a plan to fix that. On the occasion of his 17th birthday Thomas whose parents have conveniently departed for the weekend reluctantly agrees to host a party that Costa promises will be a “game-changer” for their lowly social status.
Hardly a game-changer is Project X’s script co-written by Matt Drake and Michael Bacall which mostly treads a predictable teen-comedy path. At its outset the party appears to be a bust. Soon however hordes of eager revelers descend upon Thomas’ house and the event swiftly devolves into a festival of wanton hedonism that would impress Charlie Sheen. The orgy of booze drugs and sex is captured by Nourizadeh in one impressively slick sequence after another set to a vibrant soundtrack.
To maintain the guise of an actual movie – and to occupy us between shots of topless beauties downing tequila and frolicking in the pool – Project X tosses in a few familiar tropes to push its story along: an unstable drug-dealer bent on revenge a buzzkilling neighbor seeking to end the night’s festivities prematurely a budding but hesitant attraction between Thomas and his childhood friend Kirby (Kirby Bliss Blanton). But the scenes are so hollow and contrived that you get the sense even the filmmakers don’t buy them and only added them to the film in a transparent ploy to forestall allegations of complete and utter vapidity. The efforts serve only to add a dash of the banal to the proceedings.
Project X’s natural forebears – R-rated teen comedies Superbad and American Pie – tempered their crudity and outrageousness with a surprising degree of depth and sincerity. Moreover they were actually funny. Project X is a shallow affair to be sure but a dearth of laughs is what ultimately dooms it. A belligerent little person who goes on a crotch-kicking spree after being tossed in an oven amounts to the film’s most sophisticated attempt at humor. More often it relies on recycled gags from previous films (including Phillips’ own library from Road Trip to The Hangover Part II) and Jackass-inspired mishaps.
The found-footage approach has proven to be a potent (if overused) tool in horror films but its utility in the service of comedy at least in the hands of Nourizadeh is limited. It mostly comes across as a needless gimmick good for marketing purposes but little else. Perhaps acknowledging as much Project X’s backup plan calls for an incessant raising of the stakes. As the once-innocuous gathering metastasizes into a fully-fledged riot one so dangerous that even the police dare not intervene the specter of parental disapproval gives way to the threat of incarceration and finally to the potential incineration of the entire neighborhood. The scale of the destruction is impressive – especially for such a (presumably) low-budget film – but like much of what precedes it almost entirely pointless.
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The independent comedy film A.C.O.D. is accumulating a terrific band of performers to deliver its sincere but comically fruitful story about a grown man struggling to deal with his parents' divorce. It was announced today that Mary Elizabeth Winstead will join the existing cast of Jane Lynch, Adam Scott, Richard Jenkins and Catherine O'Hara.
Winstead previously played the femme fatale in the sensational Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, and starred in last year's horror flick The Thing. In this new movie, Parks and Recreation's Scott plays the lead: Carter, the son of two divorcees, who is charged with the implausible task of keeping his parents civil for the duration of his brother's wedding. Scott's Step Brothers costar Jenkins will play his character's father. Winstead joins the cast as Carter's girlfriend, who manages to keep him sane throughout the traumas of dealing with his family.
The script comes from the film's director Stu Zicherman and The Colbert Report creator/Modern Family writer/producer Ben Karlin.
The veteran star will appear opposite Alison Steadman and Brenda Blethyn in the film called King of the Teds, playing a former factory worker.
Jones previously enjoyed a brief cameo role in Tim Burton's 1996 comedy Mars Attacks!, playing himself.
King of the Teds will be shown on Britain's Sky Arts channel later this year (12) as part of a series called Playhouse Presents, which will also see film appearances from Harry Shearer, who will portray former U.S. President Richard Nixon, as well as British actors David Tennant and Richard E. Grant.
Americans loves three things: underdogs, celebrities and things that go really, really fast. They're also partial to gastropods, but that's a little further down on the list. In any event, DreamWorks' new animated picture Turbo will please lovers of any and all of these phenomena.
The company just announced that big names such as Samuel L. Jackson, Paul Giamatti, Maya Rudolph, Michelle Rodriguez, Snoop Dogg, Bill Hader, Luis Guzman, Ken Jeong, Michael Peña, Richard Jenkins, Ben Schwartz and Kurtwood Smith will all lend their recognizable voices to the picture, which is targeting a June 7, 2013 release. Ryan Reynolds leads the all-star cast in the studio's latest venture, playing the title character Turbo - a big-dreaming snail who wishes to become an Indy 500 racer. Turbo gets the chance after a freak occurrence that instills him with the gift of lightning speed, much to the dismay of his fellow snails (who, as you might assume, prefer to take things slow). While fast-talking Reynolds is perfect for this role, he's not the only highlight of the film: Turbo's eclectic, ethnic cast features many pop culture favorites with distinct vocal attributes that are well-suited for an animated romp. This cast alone is enough to get the engines revving on this fun new story from DreamWorks.
In his eight-year big-screen career, Tyler Perry has already written and directed 10 feature films, a number that puts him on pace with filmmaking’s nebbish Cal Ripken, Woody Allen. Like Allen, Perry is fond of casting himself in key roles in his movies, most famously as the irreverent matriarch Madea in the bewilderingly popular string of comedies that bear her name. (Woody Allen comparison complete – cinephiles, you may now exhale.) In his latest film, the romantic drama Good Deeds, Perry sheds his trademark Madea costume to play an Ivy League-educated software executive whose structured routine is upended by a chance encounter with Lindsey (Thandie Newton), a headstrong single mother from the opposite side of the tracks. The role represents a major leap for Perry, who finds himself for the first time playing the part of the leading man.
I recently caught up with Perry to talk about Good Deeds, his co-star Newton, the sex scene with Gabrielle Union he felt compelled to trim, and how the sweet, soulful sounds of ‘80s soft-rock legend Richard Marx ended up on the film’s soundtrack. In our interview, Perry also spoke about the controversy surrounding his casting of reality-show lightning rod Kim Kardashian in his next film, The Marriage Counselor, and how Good Deeds prepared him to inherit Morgan Freeman’s mantle as James Patterson’s iconic detective Alex Cross in the forthcoming thriller I, Alex Cross:
Tyler Perry's Good Deeds opens this Friday, February 24, 2012.
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