Occasionally, Lullaby is the story of one particular family struggling with the imminent death of its mensch of a patriarch (Richard Jenkins) following his long battle with cancer. But for some reason, the movie can't live with being only that. Lullaby wants to reach everybody, to cover all possible constructs of the grieving process, to deliver the ultimate cinematic depiction of untimely death. In stuffing itself with so many varied elements, however, Lullaby feels no longer like the story of any cohesive family, relegating itself to an array of moments that you'll probably recognize from past films about cancer (or contemporary ones, for that matter) and recall seeing handled a lot better in those movies, to boot.
When debut writer/director Andrew Levitas lets his characters run organically, he earns his best material: Jenkins plays dying dad Robert Lowenstein with terrific humanity, holding fast to his decision to emancipate himself from life support while catering to the emotional whims of his reserved wife (Anne Archer), defiant daughter (Jessica Brown Findlay), and black sheep son Jonathan (Garrett Hedlund), the focal character in the story. Jenkins is the film's power source, peppering his slow drift toward the inevitable with good natured snark and some bona fide dad jokes — there are a few dynamite puns in this picture, rest assured — and instances of authentic sentiment. Hedlund returns the favor as the prickly runaway who has never forgiven his dad for getting sick, but pales in comparison to the soft grins of his screen partner.
If left alone with the simple grandeur of the above, the Lowensteins might brave a storm worth watching. But Lullaby compulsively tosses in an abundance of contrivances in a counterintuitive effort to courier the emotional reach to all audiences (or maybe it's just out of desperation for script filler). At various points in the movie, we learn about conflicts involving family inheritance, the Lowensteins' Jewish heritage, a hostile nurse (Jennifer Hudson, giving a performance that at the very least toes the line of racism) who is apparently the sole staff member in a gigantic New York City hospital, and Jonathan's relationship with ex-girlfriend Emily (Amy Adams) — a character with absolutely no place in this story — each introduced more abjectly than the last, and none commanding any presence of import.
The problem with all of these elements isn't simply their existence, but the insincerity with which they are all handled. Late in the movie, a conversation about an otherwise unmentioned automobile demands the gravity of an established metaphor, just one of many scenes that doesn't earn the catharsis it seems bent on establishing. The biggest culprit here might be the material surrounding Jessica Barden's Meredith, a cancer-stricken 17-year-old who the movie utilizes as Jonathan's Jiminy Cricket figure (taking form as both sage otherworldly symbol, despite going out of her way to introduce herself as "human" when they first meet, and a victim prime for the saving). Though the most egregious example of the movie's reliance on go-to schmaltz, Meredith is hardly the lone problem.
As a result of its proclivity to pluck away at the harp strings at every turn, when Lullaby does shoot for that real, it comes off as bizarre and misplaced. These issues notwithstanding, the rougher, more guttural moments in the film are indeed its most shining examples of humanity. If Lullaby were satisfied keeping its Lowensteins confined to the close quarters of Robert's hospital bed — fighting, crying, laughing at nurses, talking about baseball, dealing with (literal) s**t, and making dad jokes — we'd have what we likely came for: a touching, difficult story about people dealing with a true problem. But instead, the film chooses to favor of the big over the real.
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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.
Hanna hits theaters this Friday and we've already raved about it in our review. Then we talked about how awesome a great super solder film, like Hanna, can be. Now, we've really gone overboard and we're giving away a huge prize pack that includes an 8gb iPod Touch!
Hanna (Ronan) is a teenage girl. Uniquely, she has the strength, the stamina, and the smarts of a soldier; these come from being raised by her father (Bana), an ex-CIA man, in the wilds of Finland. Living a life unlike any other teenager, her upbringing and training have been one and the same, all geared to making her the perfect assassin. The turning point in her adolescence is a sharp one; sent into the world by her father on a mission, Hanna journeys stealthily across Europe while eluding agents dispatched after her by a ruthless intelligence operative with secrets of her own (Ms. Blanchett). As she nears her ultimate target, Hanna faces startling revelations about her existence and unexpected questions about her humanity.
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iPod Touch (8GB) loaded with the movie soundtrack
Micro Fiber Cloth
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Later this year you will likely flock to your local movie theater to watch a young man become a super soldier at the height of WWII. This month you can see a somewhat less stylized but no less sensational story about a young girl who was born into a similar life of action and international adventure. Her name is Hanna and she can kill you with your own knife while it’s still in your hand.
Joe Wright (Atonement) directs this well-balanced coming of age story set within the cold and unforgiving world of assassins and espionage. The film follows the titular heroine who has lived a reclusive life in the forest with her rogue CIA-agent father on a vengeful mission that takes her all across the map. Trained to survive in the harshest conditions and fight like the spawn of Lara Croft and Rambo she is pursued by deadly adversaries as she inches closer to her primary target a ruthless CIA handler who had mysterious past dealings with her Dad all while discovering what life outside the woods is like.
While star Saoirse Ronan’s visceral turn is a marvel to observe so too is Wright’s. Like his protagonist he ventures into the unknown with this material taking the reigns of a film that couldn’t be any more foreign to him. Coming off of past projects grounded in romance and realism he forges new territory with Hanna delivering a fresh approach to the at-times tired spy thriller. He presents the major plot points of the story patiently delicately hinting at the big picture and always leaving you pining for more. Though the twist is ultimately predictable the fun part is putting the pieces of the puzzle together on your own. You’ll find more brilliance in his method by dissecting the picture piece by piece. His use of sound in both the film’s abstract score (from the sorely missed Chemical Brothers) and its effects which phase in and out at calculated points is in part a cinematic experiment that plays with perception in ways that audiences may not have experienced in a mainstream movie. There are also a few visual motifs in select scenes (most notably a killer fight sequence that ends with Eric Bana exterminating a handful of Agency henchman) that tell a parallel visual tale to supplement the narrative.
Thematically Hanna is even more complex. Screenwriters Seth Lochhead and David Farr explore the limitations of a disconnected mind in their Black List-certified script giving their curious character the opportunity to learn much about society and her self while hitchhiking across continents. Of greater significance is the culture clash of Western materialism and Eastern minimalism manifested in the form of a British family traveling abroad that Hanna befriends (the young daughter played by Jessica Barden is a poster child for consumerism) and the contrast between Cate Blanchett’s Marissa Wiegler and Bana’s Erik Heller.
Provoking thought while providing plentiful doses of popcorn entertainment the film works on so many levels and is a unique entry in the collective canon of assassin-on-the-run flicks. Its story is far from groundbreaking but Wright’s surreal visuals and anti-establishment attitude make Hanna a radically original action experience.
"We both like Lady Gaga, and we'd sit on set between takes in the 50 (Celsius) degree heat, with everyone else saving energy because of heat exhaustion, and we'd both suddenly burst into Poker Face." British actress Jessica Barden on working with fellow teen Saoirse Ronan on the Moroccan set of new film Hanna.
Diaz, who currently owns a $1.35 million ($1 million) house in the city, has upgraded after closing a deal on a sprawling estate in Beverly Hills, which was formerly owned by actress Candice Bergen.
The expansive property includes a swimming pool with a hot tub, a massive garden and a tennis court, as well a detached three-bedroom guesthouse.
Diaz's new neighbours include Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban, Jessica Simpson, and newlyweds Penelope Cruz and Javier Barden, who also own a home in the community.