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.
New York City detective Mike Reilly (Stephen Dorff) teams up with Department of Health researcher Terry Huston (Natascha McElhone) to investigate five bizarre deaths. Before long they discover that all the victims died exactly 48 hours after visiting the Web site feardotcom.com. The site itself looks amateurish with rapid-fire images of a strange doorway screaming faces torture tools and indiscernible grainy objects. Users log on to watch a twisted doctor perform autopsies on people--while they're still alive torturing his victims until they beg to be killed. The voyeurs must then interact with a mysterious woman who asks things like "Do you want to hurt me?" She challenges users to find her within two days--or die. Those who don't find her end up suffering whatever gruesome fate they fear most and--this is the best bit--it's brought on by some sort of evil force generated through the computer. Of course curiosity gets the better of them and Mike and Terry log on to the site only to find themselves embroiled in a supernatural violent fight for their lives. If this explanation made sense that's more than we can say for the plot of feardotcom.
Dorff is well cast as Mike Reilly a brash young city police detective whose curious nature gets him into trouble. But the character is too simplistic and underdeveloped to give Dorff much to do. Although we get a little more insight into McElhone's character Terry (we know she has a cat name Benny for example) there isn't much to like or dislike about her. Dorff and McElhone's characters strike up a sort of friendship as the film progresses but there isn't much chemistry between the actors. A couple of the creepier roles in the film are much more entertaining to watch especially Stephen Rea and Michael Sarrazin. Rea plays Alistair Pratt the twisted doctor whose torture victims provide feardotcom.com's "entertainment " while Sarrazin plays Frank Sykes a drunk and washed-up author. It's a shame these two didn't have more screen time.
Director William Malone explains in the production notes for the film that feardotcom offers both a scientific and spiritual explanation for what happens in the film and that it is ultimately up to moviegoers to decide which school of thought they subscribe to. But the film's storyline is so convoluted and contradictory that it's difficult to figure out what question the film is asking let alone find the answer. Even if nothing about the story--or the philosophical questions it purports to ask--makes sense the intense look of the film is enough to keep you watching. Malone bathes the film in murky blue tones and sunlight never even trickles in. Offices are dimly lit and apartments are always dank and dilapidated. It rains day and night. The weird flashes of images presented in this setting are graphic and disturbing making feardotcom a film for the strong of heart--and stomach.
October 01, 2001 10:21am EST
A Cab for Three was awarded the Golden Shell for best film at Spain's San Sebastian Film Festival. According to CNN, the film, directed by Orland Lubbert, was not among the favorites to win. French director Claude Chabrol was booed by the press and critics when he announced the award.
At a time when television talk show hosts are showing restraint and respect in dealing with the complexity of the terrorist attacks, the self-proclaimed King of All Media Howard Stern is taking a more tasteless approach. In the aftermath of the attacks, Stern has blamed the U.S.' lack of military response on the feminization of America. Entertainment Weekly quotes Stern as saying, "What's all this peace and love crap? [Let's] offer up someone from the Middle East."
Singer Tori Amos is addressing the issue of female victimization in her latest album, Strange Little Girls. According to SonicNet.com, Amos covers 12 songs written by men, giving them each a distinctive, female voice. Songs on the album include Eminem's "97 Bonnie & Clyde," the Velvet Underground's "New Age," Tom Waits' "Time," and the Beatles' "Happiness is a Warm Gun."
A coalition of entertainment companies on Monday will try to strike down legislation requiring music labels to offer the same licensing deal at the same price to all online music ventures, Variety reports. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Rick Boucher (R-Va.) this summer over concerns that major record labels would somehow lock up the online music business.
The Directors Guild of America has agreed to early negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, Variety reports. While the DGA's current three-year contract with the AMPTP does not run out until June 30, 2002, they are hoping to avoid showbiz disruptions like this year's writers and actor's sagas.
Producer Quincy Jones has an autobiography coming out Oct. 9, aptly titled Q: The Autobiography of Quincy Jones. According to The Associated Press, Q will cover his days of working with Count Basie to Michael Jackson's Thriller. "[Jackson] was so shy he'd sit down and sing behind the couch with his back to me while I sat there with my hands over my eyes with the lights off," Quincy says.
Country singer Naomi Judd will act as honorary chairwoman for a campaign to build Kentucky's first freestanding hospice facility for the dying, The Associated Press reports. The group hopes to raise $1.5 million for the 10-bed, 12,000-square-foot Community Hospice.
At a Friday summit in Washington sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus, rap leaders were urged to help others understand rap music as a positive force. According to Variety, the panel included the president-CEO of the Recording Industry Assn. of America Hilary Rosen, Def Jam Records' founder Russell Simmons and NAACP president-CEO Kweisi Mfume.
Spirited Away, a Japanese animated movie, has set a new audience record in Japan, Variety reports. The film, which debuted on July 20, has reached 16.9 viewers and grossed about $184.14 million. Distributor Toho Co. expects the film to surpass Titanic's gross in the next few weeks. As of Wednesday, the film was $4.27 million shy of Titanic's all-time high.
Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of former U.S. President Bill Clinton, is starting a two-year course in International Relations at Oxford University. According to Reuters, father and daughter arrived in London on Sunday surrounded by British and U.S. security officials. Clinton, who attended Oxford from 1968-1970, has been quoted as saying he is taken with the idea of returning to his alma mater in a teaching role.