Mirror Mirror (2012)
★★ / ★★★★
Although Snow White (Lily Collins), whose mother passed on while giving birth to her, was trained by her father (Sean Bean) in preparation to rule their kingdom, the King felt compelled to remarry a new Queen (Julia Roberts) because he felt he was unable to teach her everything she needed to know. When the kingdom was bewitched by dark magic, the King headed to the forest to search for answers but never returned. Years passed and the Queen had taken control of the kingdom and driven it to bankruptcy. Realizing that her stepmother was unfit to rule, Snow White decided to usurp the Queen and restore her father’s legacy. “Mirror Mirror,” based on the screenplay by Jason Keller and Marc Klein, had hiccups of genuinely amusing moments but in its desperation to convince us that its protagonist wasn’t bland, the little comedic momentum it managed to gather dissipated just as quickly. Without a doubt, the most interesting characters to watch were the evil Queen and Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer), the former deliciously vain while the latter valiant and adventurous. Whenever Roberts and Hammer shared a scene, there was electricity on screen because the two seemed unabashed when it came to making fun of themselves as well as their characters. While there were infantile jokes, like bird excrement being brushed onto the Queen’s face as part of a beauty regimen and the prince licking everyone’s faces as if he were a dog, I laughed because they were so unexpected and delivered with such glee. Not always a fan of gross-out humor, I was entertained when the material asked its actors to go for the extremes. Unfortunately, Snow White was as boring as staring at a plank of wood. To its credit, however, much effort was taken to make her appear edgy. For instance, she was allowed to hold a dagger, engage in a sword fight against the prince, and utter feminist lines–dizzying at best because it was so eager to hammer us over the head about how modern it all was. Perhaps casting was responsible because Collins was almost too classically beautiful. The contrast between the actor’s look and the intentions for her character, in this case, failed to create synergy. In the end, she was just nice, but nice proved dangerously tedious when placed between vitriolic malevolence and hunky earnestness. Furthermore, the look of the film did not offer anything special. When characters ran in the woods or strutted about the palace, it felt like I was watching actors performing on set. Since I wasn’t immersed into their world, I was more keen on noticing images that did not quite fit. For instance, when the thieving dwarves, played by actual dwarfs, got on stilts to appear as giants, the ones on stilts still looked like stuntmen despite the fact that the camera kept its distance. Also, there were some shots that made me question how a character got from one place to another in a matter of seconds when the distance between the two places was at least a tens of meters. The errors proved very distracting especially during the action scenes when it was supposed to be exciting. If anything, there should have been a flow to the images gracing the screen so that the logic specific to its fantasy world would come off as believable. Directed by Tarsem Singh, although “Mirror Mirror” had its moments, the rewards were not fruitful nor plentiful enough. I couldn’t stop thinking how big a statement it would have made if the Queen and the prince actually ended up together.
★ / ★★★★
It’s always depressing when you’re watching a movie and your eyes are seemed to be programmed to check the clock, hoping that about thirty minutes had passed since the last glance, only to find out, with much dismay, that barely five minutes has gone by. In “Immortals,” written by Charley Parlapanides and Vlas Parlapanides, Theseus (Henry Cavill), a peasant whose mother (Anne Day-Jones) was regarded by the village as a whore, was chosen by Zeus (Luke Evans) to lead his people, the Hellenics, to fight against King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) and stop his blood-thirsty quest of obtaining the Epirus Bow, so powerful a weapon that it could awaken the Titans and bring destruction to the world. While I have no problem conceding that some of the images it offered were awe-inspiring, like when the action would switch into slow motion and show Theseus fiercely plunging a spear into other men’s throats as if they were made out of butter, but there were instances when it was impossible to see a thing because it was so dark. For a movie with a healthy budget, I wondered why the filmmakers didn’t seem to have enough light on set. I wished that the characters constantly carried around a torch especially during the scenes set at night and they were required to actually speak and communicate ideas. If we couldn’t see the actors’ faces, then what chance did we have in absorbing certain subtleties, if any, so we could end up having a certain level of understanding of the men and women in the brewing war? The story was messy and confusing. Aside from the fact that I had no idea how the characters got from Point A to Point B, Phaedra (Freida Pinto) being a virgin oracle who knew the location of the much desired Epirus Bow was not handled properly. We saw the first scene through her eyes, a glimpse of what was to come. But since we knew what was going to happen, the journey toward future had to be executed a certain way, loyal to the goal yet packed with enough surprises, so that we wouldn’t be bored or feel cheated. I wasn’t convinced that the screenplay was strong enough so sustain such a promise because the visuals almost always took precedence. The characters lacked logic. There was a natural sexual tension between Cavill and Pinto, covered in grime and sweat, but not between Theseus and Phaedra. While the actors looked alluring, I reckoned that the writers interpreted the actors looking good while barely clothed as actively constructing genuine sexual friction between their characters. Given that Phaedra and the people that surrounded her knew that she would lose her gift of foresight the second she lost her virginity, to have the peasant and a holy figure engage in sex was not only careless with regards to story but a tired convenience for the sake of consummating something even if the romantic angle was barely established. Surely having the ability see the future could have game-changing effects in a time of war. It would have been more interesting to watch Theseus being very attracted to the oracle yet he had to maintain his distance because, during such a critical period, he valued his responsibility to his people more than his craving for flesh. At least for me, the most interesting heroes are those who are required to practice self-denial for the sake of the bigger picture. Directed by Tarsem Singh, watching “Immortals” was like looking at a painting that you can admire because it looks good on the outside. But when a person asks why you like it, your brain panics and you quickly realize that you can’t find anything concrete about it. In order not to come off as stupid, you feel that you have to say something–anything–and you end up saying, “Oh, because it’s shiny.”
The Cell (2000)
★★★ / ★★★★
A psychiatrist (Jennifer Lopez) decided to go into the mind of a deeply catatonic schizophrenic serial killer (Vincent D’Onofrio) who turned his victims into dolls after torturing them. The reason she did it was because she felt as though she failed trying to help a former child patient who also had schizophrenia. She was able to try to help people despite their catatonic states because of an advanced technology which allowed connection between two or more psyches. I enjoyed this film even though the happenings outside of the mind were kind of weak. It reminded me of a very light hybrid of “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Saw” franchise. I just did not believe the chemistry between Lopez and Vince Vaughn, an FBI agent assigned to the case. And I wished that the events that were happening in reality were approached as a gritty procedural drama-thriller to serve as a contrast against the hyperfantasy in the mind. However, the fantasy scenes were fascinating to me because anything could happen. There were some really chilling images in the killer’s mind such as the scene with the horse and when Lopez stumbled upon a room where the killer kept his victims and they looked like really scary dolls. As great as the images were, I admired the concept even more because it was able to hypothesize what could be inside a murderer’s mind–something that a lot of people (including myself) are curious about. However, I can admit that perhaps not a lot of people would enjoy this movie because it asked the audience to take a huge leap of faith. First, we had to accept the idea that a machine that was able to dive into someone’s mind could work despite the ethical reasons why we shouldn’t. Second, it was almost as though the movie asked the audience to sympathize with the killer–not his actions per se, but the person who was abused time and again as a child (Jake Thomas) who happened to have a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia. Written by Mark Protosevich and directed by Tarsem Singh, I’m giving “The Cell” a recommendation based on the fact that it was wildly imaginative at times and it was able to keep my interest despite the heavy material. However, I don’t recommend it to people who are looking for a more typical thriller involving the good guys looking for a bad guy who kidnapped an innocent and now the good guys had to find that innocent person before time ran out.