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.
Hands down there is nothing more frightening than to be babysitting alone in a large unfamiliar house while simultaneously being terrorized by a homicidal maniac who keeps calling and asking if the children have been checked. The original 1979 Stranger certainly hammered this point with a young Carol Kane as Jill Johnson the hapless babysitter. In this update high schooler Jill is played by Camilla Belle who has taken the doomed job in a beautiful but remote hilltop house complete with surrounding lake an indoor aviary and lots of windows. When the eerie phone calls start up Jill’s panic turns to abject terror when she finds out the calls are coming from INSIDE THE HOUSE! What’s a girl to do? I guess running out of the house down the driveway and onto the road without ever looking back is out of the question. Kinda tough to carry a movie all by yourself at such a tender age but Camilla Belle seems to handle the role of plucky heroine with aplomb. Some may remember this dark-haired beauty as the little girl who gets chomped on by those nasty mini-dinos at the beginning of The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Then two years ago she got glowing reviews as Daniel Day-Lewis’ daughter in the indie gem The Ballad of Jack and Rose. Now all grown up she’s making her way into more mainstream fare. Playing Jill she’s got all the makings of a model scream queen: breathy wide-eyed and ultimately way too brave as she investigates every single weird noise she hears. And when it comes time to kick some psychotic killer’s butt she’s convincing enough. Director Simon West (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider Con Air) had some pretty big shoes to fill updating a cult horror classic like When a Stranger Calls. From an older generation’s point of view the first 20 minutes of the 1979 movie were perhaps some of the scariest moments ever. Yet in this day and age of supernatural anomalies videogame nightmares of virus-induced mutated zombies and Scary Movie spoofs a simple story of a babysitter being terrorized by a real-life psycho may not make a dent. Or will it? Sure West uses every clichéd trick in the book--from the foreboding music to setting the stage in a creepy isolated locale. But the mere fact this scenario could really happen to any unsuspecting teenager out there whose only source of income might indeed be babysitting this Stranger may make a lasting impression on our horror-addicted youth.
Top Story: Sopranos May See One Last Season
Doesn't look like Tony Soprano is going to get whacked any time soon. The Sopranos executive producer Brad Grey told The New York Times the hit cable show will continue for a sixth season, its last, giving HBO enough shows for a lucrative syndication deal. The deal would be among the biggest syndication deals for a cable program, the Times reports. There has been no official word from HBO as yet.
Paramount and Theater Chain in Feud Over Lara Croft Sequel
Paramount Pictures and theater chain Regal Entertainment Group have become embroiled in a dispute over the promotion of one of this summer's hottest sequels, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, starring Angelina Jolie. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Paramount and DaimlerChrysler Jeep have created an in-lobby marketing campaign, which includes displaying the new Wrangler Rubicon featured in the movie. Regal, however, has maintained a policy of not promoting any third-party brands in its theaters without due financial compensation and as such, the two parties were unable to reach an agreement. In response, The Reporter reports Paramount has decided to release Cradle of Life to Regal's competitors in 47 locations nationwide.
Miller Hooks Up With Fox News
If you've been hankering for some of Dennis Miller's searing social commentary since his Emmy-winning HBO show Dennis Miller Live went off the air, you're in luck. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Miller has signed with Fox News Channel as a commentator and will have a weekly segment on Fox News' Hannity & Colmes debate show. The comedian's sarcastic quips will run on the Friday editions of Hannity & Colmes beginning June 27 and rerun on Weekend Live With Tony Snow on Saturdays.
ABC Falls to Third Despite Major Sport Finals
Despite airing the National Basketball Association's championships and the National Hockey League's finals, ABC wasn't able to rise above third place in the ratings last week. NBC barely won the top spot with 8.36 million viewers over CBS, who had 8.35 million. ABC gathered 7.1 million, followed by Fox with 5.9 million.
Pink Takes Over Beck Song
The Associated Press reports singer/songrwriter Beck wrote in his online journal that he allowed Pink to take over his song "Feelgood Time," which he said "was sitting around languishing," to record for the upcoming Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle soundtrack. Although Beck admitted he was a little disappointed because he would have liked his version to get out there, he said, "Now it would just sound like I was doing karaoke to Pink."
Lollapalooza Opening Date Canceled
The opening date of the Lollapalooza tour July 3 in Ionia, Mich., has been canceled due to "staging and technical difficulties with the event site," AP reports, as opening act Jane's Addiction didn't think they could fit all their production onto the stage. Korina Haga of the Ionia Fair Association told The Grand Rapids Press she was outraged when her office found out about the cancellation from a Lansing radio station, not from the tour management. Instead, Lollapalooza will open July 4 in Noblesville, Ind.
Role Call: Affleck Set Sights on Comedies, Studdard Does Scooby
Ben Affleck must be feeling lighthearted lately, looking at two new comedies as his next projects. One is Disney's Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, where he'll play a guy plagued by past girlfriends à la The Christmas Carol, and New Line's Sex Talk, playing a sports reporter who finds using sports jargon helps people's sex lives…R'uh r'oh! American Idol's newest crown prince Ruben Studdard--or the Velvet Teddy Bear, as he's affectionately known--has agreed to do a cameo in the Scooby-Doo sequel Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, AP reports. "I'm just in at the end of the movie. I'm having a party and singing in the end. It's cool," Studdard said.