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.
Last year director Garry Marshall hit upon a devilishly canny approach to the romantic comedy. A more polished refinement of Hal Needham’s experimental Cannonball Run method it called for assembling a gaggle of famous faces from across the demographic spectrum and pairing them with a shallow day-in-the-life narrative packed with gobs of gooey sentiment. A cynical strategy to be sure but one that paid handsome dividends: Valentine’s Day earned over $56 million in its opening weekend surpassing even the rosiest of forecasts. Buoyed by the success Marshall and his screenwriter Katherine Fugate hastily retreated to the bowels of Hades to apply their lucrative formula to another holiday historically steeped in romantic significance and New Year’s Eve was born.
Set in Manhattan on the last day of the year New Year’s Eve crams together a dozen or so canned scenarios into one bloated barely coherent mass of cliches. As before Marshall’s recruited an impressive ensemble of minions to do his unholy bidding including Oscar winners Hilary Swank Halle Berry and Robert De Niro the latter luxuriating in a role that didn’t require him to get out of bed. High School Musical’s Zac Efron is paired up with ‘80s icon Michelle Pfeiffer – giving teenage girls and their fathers something to bond over – while Glee’s Lea Michele meets cute with a pajama-clad Ashton Kutcher. There’s Katherine Heigl in a familiar jilted-fiance role Sarah Jessica Parker as a fretful single mom and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as the most laid-back cop in New York. Sofia Vergara and Hector Elizondo mine for cheap laughs with thick accents – his fake and hers real – and Jessica Biel and Josh Duhamel deftly mix beauty with blandness. Fans of awful music will delight in the sounds of Jon Bon Jovi straining against type to play a relevant pop musician.
The task of interweaving the various storylines is too great for Marshall and New Year’s Eve bears the distinct scent and stain of an editing-room bloodbath with plot holes so gaping that not even the brightest of celebrity smiles can obscure them. But that’s not the point – it never was. You should know better than to expect logic from a film that portrays 24-year-old Efron and 46-year-old Parker as brother-and-sister without bothering to explain how such an apparent scientific miracle might have come to pass. Marshall wagers that by the time the ball drops and the film’s last melodramatic sequence has ended prior transgressions will be absolved and moviegoers will be content to bask in New Year's Eve's artificial glow. The gambit worked for Valentine's Day; this time he may not be so fortunate.
Director Alexander Payne's (Election Sideways) new film opens over sprawling landscape shots of Hawaii's scenic suburbia accompanied by George Clooney's character Matt King summing up his current predicament: "Paradise can go fuck itself." The reaction unfortunately is reasonable.
We pick up with King an ancestor of Hawaiian royalty in the middle of deliberations over a plot of land handed down through his family over generations. With every uncle aunt and cosign whispering opinions into his ear King is suddenly presented with an even greater problem: taking care of his two daughters. A boating accident leaves his wife in a coma forcing Matt to take a true parenting role with his young socially-troubled daughter Scottie (Amara Miller) and his rebellious teen Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) who was previously shipped off to boarding school. Matt awkwardly hunts for the emotional glue necessary for the mismatched bunch to become "a family " but matters are made even more complicated when Alex reveals that her mother was cheating on him before the accident. Murphy's Law is in full effect.
With The Descendants Payne continues to explore and discover the inherent humor in life's melancholic situations unfolding Matt's quest for understanding like a road movie across Hawaii's many islands. Simultaneously preparing for the end of his wife's death and searching for the identity of her lover Matt crosses paths with a number of perfectly cast side characters who act as mirrors to his best and worst qualities: his father-in-law Scott (Robert Foster) who belittles Matt for never taking care of his daughter; Hugh (Beau Bridges) an opportunistic cousin who pressures Matt to sell the land; Alexandra's dunce of a boyfriend Sid (Nick Krause) who always has the wrong thing to say; and Julie (Judy Greer) the wife of the adulterer in question. Colorful yet real Matt experiences a definitive moment with each of them yet the picture never feels sporadic or episodic.
Clooney and Woodley help gel these sequences together as they observe experience and butt heads as equals. Clooney's own magnetism stands in the way of making Matt a fully dimensional character but he shines when playing off his quick-witted daughter. His reactions are heartbreaking—but it's the moments when he has to put himself out there that never quite ring true. But the script by Nat Faxon Jim Rash and Payne gives Clooney plenty of opportunities to work his magic visualizing his struggle as opposed to vomiting it out like so many of today's talky dramas.
The Descendants is a tender cinematic experience an introspective and heartwarming film unafraid to convey its story with pleasing simplicity. Clooney stands out with a solid performance but like many of Payne's films it's the eclectic ensemble and muted backdrop that give the movie its real texture. The paradise of Descendants isn't all its cracked up to be but for movie-goers it's bliss.
S1E4: And away we go to Chicago and Seattle (again) for more X Factor auditions. This is usually the best part of any reality show because you get to observe both the best and the worst contestants. And even though this show is opting to show us fewer audition segments than Idol, the ones that we have seen have been unforgettable. There's been excessive crying, pants dropping, and mouthing off. So talented contestants or not, it's been highly entertaining and the fun only continues to grow. Granted, I'd rather see more auditions than waste air-time watching Simon wink and give sentimental looks at the contestants as cheesy music plays in the background, but I'm willing to overlook that as long as the ones we do see are either the best of the best or the worst of the worst. And of course, if anyone talks back to Simon again that has to be shown. That's a given.
This week kicks off the final two audition days and everyone is hoping to win over the judges heart (and their vote). Egos are boosted and at times -- while others are deflated, but it's certainly a night to remember. Cheryl Cole makes another appearance in Chicago, but is replaced by Nicole Scherzinger when they get to Seattle (how long will they continue to play musical chairs between these two?). And can someone please tell me what the host, Steve Jones, actually does? He never even goes onstage! He just briefly interacts with the contestants backstage before they perform, but other than that I'm not sure why they need him. Perhaps they just want America to fall in love with his dashing accent. It's kinda working (he is easy on the eyes). So we're off to view another round of hopefuls and things were just as they should be: stars are born and Simon and Paula continue to playfully banter. So it's time for these contestants to face the music! Let's see what memorable moments the show had in store for us this week...
A singing duo wins the judges hearts and perhaps even each others.
So far we haven't seen that many singing groups or duets grace the stage, but tonight we kicked off with two best friends: Brock and Makenna. They've been singing with each other for over 4 years and are very close. In fact, Brock even admitted that he's in love with Makenna but she doesn't know it yet (although she may know now, he's not very subtle). And when the judges asked if they were dating and she said no, his face looked so sad. While I find this romance a little cheesy, I couldn't help but to also find it rather adorable. Could this show serve as a singing competition and a love connection? We're going to get to find out because their strong vocals and outstanding chemistry earned them yeses from all four judges.
An elderly woman goes on stage and auditions to be a judge, not a contestant.
So far all of the contestants have marched onto that stage ready to sing. Well one woman was ready to judge. That's right, an elderly woman walked onto the stage and firmly stated that she was there to audition to be one of the judges. She said that she had heard Simon was looking to fill a spot for one of the judge's seats and she wanted the job. Simon even decided to humor her and asked for her to critique on Britney Spears, but it was an inevitable no, which she took graciously. Gotta give her credit for her bold effort. It's also amusing since Nicole Scherzinger ended up replacing Cheryl Cole on the show. I guess Simon didn't keep that woman's resume on file.
Contestants show that they have Paula Fever.
There were many contestants throughout the night that showed traces of the kooky, yet lovable Paula Abdul. One contestant took the audience on what truly felt like a drug induced coma with his techno dancing and whisper-like vocals. When he was done Paula even said that he took them to a place that she thinks she's been before, which sent Simon into a fit of giggles. Laugh if you want Simon, but several of the contestants named Paula as their muse and inspiration. Granted, those contestants were all sort of weirdos and a little off their rockers, but so what? Isn't that why we love Paula? Simon was baffled and completely at a lose for words. There's a first.
This is why we don't judge a book by its cover.
This contestant walked on stage with greasy hair, baggy clothes, and just all around didn't look like he would have X Factor material. The camera even looked him up and down to make sure the viewers captured his his less than classy appearance. I think everyone thought for sure he was going to get booed offstage. Boy were we wrong. Josh came to Chicago with his mother and "slings burritos" for a living. But after he sang At Last by Etta James, all our previous impressions went out the window because he did a phenomenal job. L.A. Reid said Josh isn't fooling him with his whole "before" look because his "after" is going to be out of this world. I feel like we're going to see a huge transformation from this guy. His mom's a little over bearing, but if we have to put up with her to get him, then I'm cool with it. And then at the end, he asked backstage if there was a bar around anywhere...I like him even more!
Contestant outshines Justin Bieber.
Drew is a 14 year old girl who is obsessed with Justin Bieber (no news there). In fact, a huge junk of her back story was dedicated to her love of him. So it was no surprise when she announced to the judges that she would be singing his hit song Baby. Reid actually signed Justin, so he warned her he was going to be very critical of her performance, but it turned out that no criticism was necessary. She changed up the song and made it her own and it sounded amazing. Nicole even admitted to liking her version better than Justin's. Reid was completely blown away and Simon said that she is exactly who they are looking for. She got yeses all around. So I guess having Bieber Fever really can pay off!
Greene was in the U.K. capital to promote The Twilight Saga: Eclipse earlier this month (Jul10), while Jonas visited the city to support his brother Nick's starring role in West End musical Les Miserables.
And the young stars went for a romantic dinner date at The Ivy, according to Britain's News of the World.
A source tells the publication, "They had a very romantic night at The Ivy. They arrived separately and then left out (sic) by the back door where there were two vans with blacked-out windows waiting to whisk them away.
"They looked like a lovely couple. They had a few drinks and were clearly enjoying not being hounded like they would have been in Los Angeles."
Greene has previously been linked to Brock Kelly and Adrian Grenier, while Jonas recently split from Disney star Selena Gomez.
The actress, who has previously been linked to Entourage star Adrian Grenier, was photographed in a lip lock with the former The Young and the Restless star while out and about in Los Angeles on 26 June (10).
And sources tell Star magazine the actors, who were introduced by mutual friends, are getting serious.
An insider says: "Ashley's really falling for Brock, and he's just as into her... It's new, but she thinks it could be the real thing."