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.
Matthew McConaughey became the first new celebrity dad of 2010 when he and Camila Alves welcomed baby Vida into the world, but they weren't the only couple celebrating births. Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell experienced the joys of fatherhood all over again, while supermodel Claudia Schiffer and actress Monica Bellucci were bursting with excitement after announcing their pregnancies.
Love was certainly in the air - actor Josh Duhamel renewed his vows with Fergie, and British model Sophie Dahl became Mrs. Jamie Cullum. Russell Brand confirmed plans to wed Katy Perry, and Michael Buble got down on bended knee to propose to model Luisana Lopilato.
The same couldn't be said for Charlize Theron and Stuart Townsend - they called it quits after nine years together. A cancer-stricken Dennis Hopper filed for divorce from his wife, and sporting pair Chris Evert and Greg Norman finalised the dissolution of their 18-month marriage.
There were new troubles for embattled celebrity offspring - Farrah Fawcett and Ryan O'Neal's boy Redmond was jailed after another drugs bust, and the future was bleak for Michael Douglas' actor son Cameron, who prepared for a lengthy prison sentence after pleading guilty to drug trafficking charges.
Meanwhile, illusionist David Copperfield was cleared of rape allegations, and actor Rip Torn was arrested after he was found passed out on the floor of a Connecticut bank, clutching a gun. Diff'rent Strokes star Gary Coleman was arrested on allegations of domestic assault and then hospitalised following a number of seizures.
Bad health also struck Dexter's Michael C. Hall, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, just as Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber revealed he had overcome prostate cancer.
The music industry mourned the death of R&B legend Teddy Pendergrass when he lost his battle with colon cancer, while the literary world was hit hard with the passing of beloved author J.D. Salinger.
Awards season was in full swing and Beyonce, Kings of Leon and Taylor Swift ruled the 2010 Grammy Awards, while director James Cameron's Avatar collected top honours at the Golden Globes and the Critics' Choice Movie Awards.
In the TV world, Simon Cowell confirmed he was stepping down as an American Idol judge, Miley Cyrus announced she was turning her back on Hannah Montana, and Ugly Betty got the axe from network executives.
Elsewhere, George Clooney led the Hope For Haiti Now telethon to raise funds for the Haitian victims of the 12 January earthquake, enlisting pals Jack Nicholson, Ben Affleck and Mel Gibson to man the phones as Madonna, Bono and Beyonce performed for charity. Clooney, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Sandra Bullock and Gisele Bundchen all led by example and donated huge sums to the relief efforts, and the telethon raised more than $57 million (£35.6 million).
Jessica Biel and Emile Hirsch fronted another big charity drive when they joined a team of stars to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, drawing attention to Africa's chronic water shortage. They reached the Tanzanian peak for the Summit on the Summit: Kilimanjaro campaign on 12 January, six days after embarking on the challenge.
February was marked by tragedy when celebrated fashion designer Alexander Mcqueen was found dead after hanging himself at his London home. Meanwhile, investigations into Michael Jackson’s death in June, 2009 loomed as coroner’s officials determined acute intoxication of powerful anaesthetic Propofol was the cause. The ruling prompted prosecutors to file involuntary manslaughter charges against his former doctor Conrad Murray. Officials also ruled Brittany Murphy’s death in December, 2009 was accidental and caused by pneumonia, aided by anaemia and drug intoxication. Andrew Koenig’s family continued to mourn after his body was found in Vancouver following an apparent suicide. Marie Osmond also grieved the apparent suicide death of her 18-year-old son.
Nancy Kerrigan’s family was rocked by controversy after her brother, Mark, became the target of an investigation of their father’s homicide. Meanwhile, Etta James’ son revealed the singer had been secretly battling Alzheimer's disease for more than a year.
But there were still celebrations in Hollywood. James Cameron’s sci-fi film Avatar became the highest grossing movie in the U.S. and the U.K. His ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow, had something to boast about too when her war drama, The Hurt Locker, scored nine Oscar nods, the same amount as Cameron’s cinematic sensation. She also won top awards at the BAFTAs.
The world watched as Canada's brightest stars including Bryan Adams, Nelly Furtado, K.D. lang and Joni Mitchell teamed up to help launch the Winter Olympics in the country. And in London, Lady Gaga walked away with the BRIT Awards’ top honours. Beatles drummer Ringo Starr unveiled his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and The Beatles' favourite recording studio Abbey Road was awarded historic status by the British government. Celine Dion, Kanye West, and Jennifer Hudson were among singers who recorded vocals for Quincy Jones and Lionel Richie's revamped We Are The World track to raise money for earthquake-ravaged Haiti. The country's biggest celebrity activist Sean Penn was caught in controversy and charged with criminal battery and vandalism following a violent run-in with a paparazzo, while Lil Wayne celebrated winning a postponement on his prison sentence for weapons possession.
It was a romantic month for several stars who announced plans to wed, including Nicole Richie and Joel Madden, Hilary Duff and ice hockey ace Mike Comrie, and Dave Annabelle and Odette Yustman. Kristen Bell revealed boyfriend Dax Shepard had proposed back in December, 2009. Meanwhile, Sienna Miller, who called off her engagement to Jude Law in 2006, rekindled her romance with the actor. Several stars welcomed bundles of joy, including Padma Lakshmi, Boris Becker, Sarah Jane Morris and Gary Busey. February wasn’t such a loved-up month for Ryan Phillippe and Abbie Cornish, or Cheryl Cole and her soccer star husband Ashley - both couples split. John Mayer risked the wrath of ex Jessica Simpson after referring to her as “sexual napalm”.
Public scandal took over headlines when Tiger Woods finally addressed reports he cheated on ex-wife Elin Nordegren with several mistresses and announced plans to return to rehab for sex therapy. Exes waged war in court, including Dennis Hopper, who won a restraining order against his estranged wife. Charlie Sheen was charged with felony menacing, third degree assault and misdemeanour criminal mischief stemming from an alleged altercation with his now-estranged wife, Brooke Mueller. Both parties checked in to rehab.
It was a shocking way to start the spring as March saw two of Hollywood's biggest star couples announce break-ups - Kate Winslet parted ways with her second husband Sam Mendes after seven years and Sandra Bullock's Oscar win was overshadowed after she found out partner Jesse James had cheated on her.
March wasn't any better for Take That's Mark Owen, who was also accused of cheating on his longtime girlfriend Emma Ferguson with 10 women - and he later revealed he's a struggling alcoholic and checked himself into rehab.
More scandals came as the month progressed, with fiery supermodel Naomi Campbell accused of attacking her driver by striking him on the head, and Michael Jackson's mum Katherine visited by welfare officials in Los Angeles over allegations one of her grandkids had purchased a stun gun.
Rapper J-Kwon was reported as a missing person after he failed to get in contact with his loved ones for more than a month, and reclusive R&B star D'Angelo was arrested in New York for offering an undercover cop cash for oral sex.
Other stars facing a tough time included Lil Wayne, who began an eight-month stretch behind bars stemming from a 2007 weapon possession arrest, and Lindsay Lohan, who had a fashion flop on her hands after being axed as the artistic advisor of style house Emanuel Ungaro following a slated catwalk collection.
But it wasn't all doom and gloom - Kathryn Bigelow made Oscars history when she became the first female to land the top director Academy Award for her war movie The Hurt Locker, beating ex-husband James Cameron in the process. Music mogul Simon Cowell confirmed his engagement to make-up artist Mezhgan Hussainy while others to put a ring on it included Friends star David Schwimmer, who proposed to his photographer girlfriend Zoe Buckman, and Sacha Baron Cohen and Isla Fisher, who enjoyed a small private wedding ceremony in Paris, France.
There was also a string of spring babies - Shakespeare In Love star Joseph Fiennes became a first-time father after welcoming a daughter, while Kevin Costner announced he was set to become a dad for a seventh time. Hollywood stars Eric Dane and Rebecca Gayheart also became parents for the first time after the actress gave birth to a baby girl.
While March saw ups and downs for some of Tinseltown's finest, others were looking on the bright side - Ricky Martin confirmed the worst kept secret in pop by announcing he's homosexual, while Will & Grace star Sean Hayes also decided to come out of the closet and spoke for the first time about his sexuality.
Every fan of 1980s movies was left devastated after hearing Corey Haim had died from a drug overdose - the Lost Boys star was aged 38. The month also saw the passings of Little Women star Richard Stapley, veteran British actor Martin Benson and beloved U.S. TV star Fess Parker.
The eruption of a volcano in Iceland at the end of March meant the following month was dogged by stories of stranded stars as a giant ash cloud swept over northern Europe and closed airports across the continent.
California's Coachella festival was under threat as a number of acts cancelled their slots when they were unable to fly out to the U.S.
Several movie premieres were also affected in the chaos - the Iron Man 2 red carpet event in London was moved to Los Angeles when stars including Robert Downey, Jr. were unable to jet to Britain. Miley Cyrus also scrapped plans to unveil her film The Last Song in the British capital due to the cancelled flights.
TV stars Chace Crawford and Kiefer Sutherland were both stranded in London after the ash cloud hit, and the 24 actor made the most of his extended stay by taking trips to some of Britain's best-known landmarks, including a day out to visit Stonehenge.
But many celebrities refused to let a little bit of volcano ash get in the way of their work - Metallica continued their tour by swapping planes for roads and railways, while Status Quo drove back to Britain after finding themselves stuck in Russia. John Cleese was stranded in Norway, so he paid $4,950 (£3,300) for a taxi to take him to Belgium, where he caught a train back to London.
In non-volcano-related news, Sandra Bullock sent shockwaves through the showbiz world when she came out fighting after her husband Jesse James' cheating scandal in March. The Oscar winner announced she had filed for divorce and stunned the world by revealing she had also adopted a baby son, Louis. Bullock admitted the couple had taken charge of their new son back in January, but kept the news quiet and after splitting from James she resolved to raise the baby on her own.
Another high profile celebrity split hit headlines when Mel Gibson ended his year-long romance with Russian musician Oksana Grigorieva, the mother of his baby daughter, Lucia. The couple didn't give a reason for the break-up, but Grigorieva subsequently hinted "you will find out everything quite soon". Jim Carrey and Jenny Mccarthy also ended their five-year romance.
The music world was rocked when Brett Michaels suffered two serious health scares in April. The Poison rocker was admitted to hospital for an emergency appendectomy at the beginning of the month and just weeks later he collapsed after suffering a brain haemorrhage. The rocker was in a critical condition, but slowly began his recovery. Another shock for music fans came with the death of former Sex Pistols manager and punk icon Malcolm Mclaren, who lost his battle with cancer.
April was a sad month for Dynasty fans after two of the show's former stars died within days of each other. John Forsythe passed away from complications relating to pneumonia and his death was followed by the passing of his onscreen brother Christopher Cazenove, who lost a battle with blood poisoning just six days later.
The scandal of the month came when Desperate Housewives actress Nicollette Sheridan filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the show's creator, Marc Cherry. The actress claimed he slapped her during an argument over the script and then fired her when she complained to producers.
Sheridan's co-stars, Teri Hatcher, Eva Longoria Parker, Felicity Huffman and Marcia CrosS, all took Cherry's side.
There were wedding bells this month for Scissor Sisters singer Ana Matronic and her boyfriend Seth Kirby, and actors Seth Green and Clare Grant. Meanwhile, Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon sealed their love by renewing their wedding vows for the third time.
May was not such a happy month for Boyzone singer Ronan Keating, who split from his wife Yvonne, and he wasn't the only one facing heartache - former Bond girl Halle Berry split from Gabriel Aubry after more than four years together, and Buffy The Vampire Slayer star David Boreanaz's marriage was plunged into crisis when he admitted cheating on his wife.
Several stars heard the pitter-patter of tiny feet this month - Monica Bellucci gave birth to her second daughter, Leonie, supermodel Claudia Schiffer delivered her third child, daughter Cosima, and Amy Adams became a first-time mum after giving birth to daughter Aviana.
John Travolta and his wife Kelly Preston had something to smile about after the death of son Jett in 2009, when they confirmed the actress was expecting another child, and it was double joy for singer Alicia Keys - she became engaged to producer Swizz Beatz and announced her pregnancy.
Meanwhile, Hollywood paid tribute to legendary actor Dennis Hopper when he died at the age of 74 after a battle against prostate cancer, and Diff'rent Strokes star Gary Coleman passed away at the age of 42 after suffering a brain haemorrhage in a fall at his home.
There was further tragedy for the Redgrave dynasty when Lynn Redgrave died aged 67 after a long battle with breast cancer, and Brittany Murphy's grieving widower Simon Monjack was found dead at his home.
The rock world was plunged into mourning when Ronnie James Dio lost his battle with stomach cancer at the age of 67, swiftly followed by the sudden death of Slipknot bassist Paul Gray, 38, who was found dead in a hotel room in Iowa after an accidental drug overdose.
Former The Temptations star Ali-Ollie Woodson died from leukaemia, aged 58, and veteran actress/singer Lena Horne succumbed to heart failure at 92.
On the scandal front, Charlie Sheen's troubles mounted when he surrendered legal custody of his two children with ex-wife Denise Richards, and Miley Cyrus showed she's growing up fast when she was caught on camera dirty dancing with a 44-year-old movie producer in a nightclub. Lindsay Lohan was ordered by a court to wear an alcohol-monitoring ankle tag in a bid to help beat her drink and drug demons, and troubled actor Michael Madsen was hospitalised following a nine-day booze binge in Britain.
Bono was rushed to hospital for emergency surgery on his back, leading to the cancellation of U2's hotly-anticipated Glastonbury headline slot the following month.
June was a bumper wedding month with Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green marrying on a beach in Hawaii, while Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart wed after seven years together. Gemma Arterton married Stefano Catelli, and Alanis Morissette married MC Souleye. British newsman Piers Morgan wed Celia Walden and Mena Suvari married music producer Simone Sestitos. Glee star Jane Lynch married Lara Embry in a civil partnership ceremony – and love was also in the air for Orlando Bloom, who announced his engagement to longterm girlfriend Miranda Kerr.
Ugly Betty star America Ferrera became engaged to Ryan Piers Williams, while Kate Hudson hit headlines when she started dating MUSE frontman Matt Bellamy.
It was a baby boom month - Kevin Costner became a dad for the seventh time, Sheryl Crow adopted her second son, director Sofia Coppola welcomed another daughter, and R&B star Ne-Yo announced he is to be a father for the first time.
June was not such a good month love wise for actor Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who filed for divorce from his wife of 13 years. Meanwhile British singer Leona Lewis split from her childhood sweetheart and Twilight's Nikki Reed broke up with Paris Latsis. Brandy's romance with rapper Flo Rida came to an end, Welsh singer Charlotte Church split from fiance Gavin Henson, and former U.S. vice president Al Gore split from his wife of 40 years.
Rock stars were in mourning when former Stereophonics star Stuart Cable passed away, former The Kinks bassist Pete Quaife also died, and country music legend Jimmy Dean passed away at the age of 81. Hollywood was saddened when Golden Girls star Rue McClanahan died aged 76 after suffering a major stroke and actor/director Corey Allen passed away. Zorro star Eugenia Paul also died at the age of 75.
June also caused havoc for the music industry with numerous gigs being axed - Drake, Jay-Z, Ke$ha and Grace Jones all had to cancel shows, while illness caused cancellations for John Mayer, Cher and Wolfmother, and SUM 41 brought the curtain down on their European tour after Steve Jocz was involved in a car crash.
Gossip Girl star Chace Crawford was in the news following his arrest for pot possession, while Motley Crue frontman Vince Neil and The Sopranos star Joseph Gannascoli were arrested separately on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI). Meanwhile it was also another DUI arrest for actor Chris Klein - he then checked himself into a rehabilitation facility to deal with alcohol addiction later in the month.
Incarcerated rapper Lil Wayne's troubles worsened - he was sentenced to three years probation after striking a plea deal with U.S. prosecutors in relation to a 2008 drugs charge.
Other notable events in June included the launch of the soccer World Cup tournament, which saw stars including the Black Eyed Peas, Shakira, Alicia Keys and John Legend perform at the opening ceremony in South Africa. There was also a flurry of tributes on the one-year anniversary of Michael Jackson's death, and Larry King announced plans to retire from his 25-year run as the host of CNN talk show Larry King Live.
A number of awards were also handed out - The Twilight Saga: New Moon was the big winner at the MTV Movie Awards in Los Angeles, picking up four honours, while Sandra Bullock and Scarlett Johansson caused a stir by locking lips onstage at the ceremony. Chris Brown stole the show at the 2010 BET Awards when he performed a dance tribute to Michael Jackson, while Alicia Keys and Drake were crowned the big winners.
Making an earnest cinematic argument for the immortality of the soul and the existence of an afterlife without delving into mushy sentimentality is a difficult task for even the most gifted and “serious” of filmmakers. Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson discovered as much last year when his sappy grandiose adaptation of the ethereal bestseller The Lovely Bones opened to scathing reviews. Critics by and large tend to bristle at movie renderings of what may or may not await them in that Great Arthouse in the Sky.
And yet filmmakers seem determined to keep trying. The latest to make the attempt is Clint Eastwood who throughout his celebrated directorial career has certainly demonstrated a firm grasp of the death part of the equation. His filmography with a few notable exceptions practically revels in it: of his recent oeuvre Invictus is the only work that doesn’t deal with mortality in some significant manner. With his new film Hereafter Eastwood hopes to add immortality to his thematic resume.
The film's narrative centers on three characters each of whom has intimate experience with death and loss. Their stories in true Eastwood fashion can ostensibly be labeled Sad Sadder and Saddest: Marie (Cecile de France) is a French TV news anchor who’s haunted by disturbing flashbacks after she loses consciousness — and briefly her life — during a natural disaster; George (Matt Damon looking credibly schlubby) is a former psychic whose skills as a medium are so potent (the slightest touch from another human being triggers an instant powerful psychic connection a la Rogue from X-Men) they’ve left him isolated and alone; Marcus is a London schoolboy who retreats into a somber shell after losing his twin brother in a tragic car accident (both brothers are played rather impressibly by real-life twins Frankie and George McLaren).
Humanity offers little help to these troubled souls surrounding them with skeptics charlatans users and deadbeats none of whom are particularly helpful with crises of an existential nature. Luckily there are otherworldly options. Peter Morgan's script assumes psychics out-of-body experiences and other such phenomena to be real and legitimate but in a non-denominational Coast-to-Coast AM kind of way. Unlike Jackson’s syrupy CGI-drenched glimpses of the afterlife Eastwood’s visions of the Other Side are vague and eery — dark fuzzy silhouettes of the departed set against a white background. Only Damon’s character George seems capable of drawing meaning from them which is why he’s constantly sought out by grief-stricken folks desperate to make contact with loved ones who’ve recently passed on. He’s John Edward only real (and not a douche).
Marie and Marcus appear destined to find him as well but only as the last stop on wearisome circuitous and often heartbreaking spiritual journeys that together with George’s hapless pursuit of a more temporal connection (psychic ability it turns out can be a wicked cock-blocker) consume the bulk of Hereafter’s running time. We know the three characters’ paths must inevitably intersect but Morgan’s script stubbornly forestalls this eventuality testing our patience for nearly two ponderous and maudlin hours and ultimately building up expectations for a climax Eastwood can’t deliver at least not without sacrificing any hope of credulity.
It should be noted that Hereafter features a handful of genuinely touching moments thanks in great part to the film's tremendous cast. And its finale is refreshingly upbeat. Unfortunately it also feels forced and terribly unsatisfying. Eastwood an established master of all things tragic and forlorn struggles mightily to mount a happy ending. (Which in my opinion is much more challenging than a sad or ambiguous one.) After prompting us to seriously ponder life’s ultimate question Eastwood’s final answer seems to be: Don’t worry about it.