Mirror, Mirror

Mirror, Mirror

Run time 106 minutes.
Marginal for children.

From l, Julia Roberts and Lily Collins in “Mirror, Mirror.”

This fanciful retelling of the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tale, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, strays far and wide of the original. Oh, there’s a beautiful young princess named Snow White (Lily Collins, not as fair a princess as I would have expected), a wicked stepmother/ queen (Julia Roberts), and there are seven dwarfs, and there is a handsome prince (Armie Hammer) all right. But the plot is changed considerably. One thing missing is the mirror and the dialogue between the queen and it. Julia never asks, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?”, and since Julia never asks, she never gets the famous response. Since she never gets the famous response, her jealousy of Snow White has to come from something else.

The script is pretty tongue in cheek. Some may find it light-hearted and humorous. I found it merely tedious. The dwarfs seem to be all standup comedians, competing with one another for the best one-liner.

There is a pretty good sword fight between the prince and Snow White.

One thing that really stands out in the movie is the production design (Tom Foden). The sets are beautiful and colorful. Although there was quite a bit of green screen, much of the film was shot on actual, but oversized, sets. The costumes are equally impressive, done by the late Eiko Ishioka in her last film, passing away in January 2012. According to director Tarsem Singh, “She didn’t just design pieces of clothing, she created works of art.”

So the film has some good points to it. I didn’t think it was as funny as it was intended to be. The comedy between Nathan Lane and Roberts falls flat. While Lane is an accomplished comedian, the lines aren’t there and Roberts has little comedic talent. They are a mismatched pair when it comes to creating laughter.

The film just tries to be too cute. Just as an example, at the end there are graphics telling what each character (including each of the seven dwarfs) ended up doing with his or her life, as if this were a story based on real people.

And it’s far too long. This is yet another film in which a simple story is dragged out to the detriment of the film. There’s no reason why it couldn’t have been told and wrapped up in 90 minutes. The extra 16 minutes make it even more wearisome.

The Hunger Games

Runtime 142 minutes.
Not for children.

From l, Elizabeth Banks and Jennifer Lawrence in “The Hunger Games.”

Despite all the ballyhoo, this is basically a standard thriller set in the future. Apparently the books are a big hit with teenaged girls, so I feared the film would just be more of the same that we got with the Twilight films. But that’s not the way it is. This is actually very entertaining and well done, with a stellar cast.

Set in a despotic country in the future, each year 24 teenagers between 12-18, two from each of the country’s 12 districts, a male and a female, are chosen to compete in a reality TV game fight to the death with only one winner. That means that 24 teenagers are chosen and 23 will die.

When Jennifer Lawrence’s young sister is chosen, Jennifer volunteers to take her place. The boy chosen from the district is Josh Hutcherson, who has loved Jennifer from afar. That means that in order to survive, one will have to kill the other.

The teenagers are turned loose in the forest to either run from each other or to search each other out to kill. All the while they are monitored by the government, who also manipulates the outcome, or tries to, anyway. It’s not as bloodthirsty as it sounds.

Stanley Tucci is very good as the syrupy TV host, as are an almost unrecognizable Elizabeth Banks and Woody Harrelson. Lawrence does a fine job, but not much is required of her, as it was in 2010 in Winter’s Bone, one of the best of that year, a film that required acting to make it work and for which she received an Oscar® nomination. This really doesn’t. She’s out there in the forest and she’s mostly running and hiding.

One technical aspect I really liked was the archery. I took archery at UCLA (and was the class champion, although I never split an arrow like Robin Hood), so I generally cringe when I see actors in films requiring archery pretending that they know how to use a bow and arrow when they clearly don’t. There are many shots of Lawrence using the bow and arrow and she does it exactly the way I learned. Bravo!

I had heard a lot of misleading things about brutality, but, while there is some killing, it’s not graphic and it isn’t profuse. This is mostly a film about chase and survival, although it takes about an hour for the games to actually begin. While director Gary Ross (who also has a writing credit with Billy Ray and Suzanne Collins, the author of the books) keeps the film moving, I can’t for the life of me figure out how he stretched this out to almost two and a half hours. There just isn’t that much story there. It didn’t pass the watch test, because I checked mine innumerable times.

I don’t know if the filmmakers were trying to make a statement about totalitarianism, but it’s there if you want to see it.

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