March 2012 - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Mirror Mirror (2012)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site

Snow White: "It's always the prince who saves the princess. I want to rewrite that ending."
Prince Alcott: "You can't do that! It's the way things are! It's approved by focus groups!"

Retelling the story of Snow White, someone as transparently passive and traditionally feminine as one can imagine, and making her into the recipient of a pseudo-hero's journey with all of the trappings that entails can at best be classified as a fool's errand. How do you risk turning a story known so well into a something that can feel both fresh and similarly timeless?

With that in mind, it's unsurprising that Mirror Mirror, like director Singh Tarsem's previous film Immortals, feels all thumbs. It's like a movie that lurched out of the 90's, where redressing a classic fairytale in more modern ideals was regularly done yet rarely done well.

However, where a lot of films from that decade promised one form or another of facetious 'Girl Power'-- from the hollow vapidities of Spice World to the final kill blow delivered by the Charlie's Angels film series-- Mirror Mirror plays like a sort of natural progression of it. It's still reductive at moments, but it lets its version of Snow White (Lily Collins) show vulnerability but earnestness. This film's message isn't to sit and wait for your prince, but that doing things for yourself while helping others is far more rewarding. 


A Couple on Kubrick: Barry Lyndon (1975)

Would we look so favorably on our rogues if they were delivered to our screens with half the honesty of Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon?  This was two years before Star Wars, before Harrison Ford redeemed a full film of selfishness and interstellar racism with one line and a quick explosion.  He was an opportunist and is revered, to a degree, but Barry is the essence of the rogue.

His name barely matters, he exists in a sea of opportunity and displacement every scenario he finds himself in.  It's no wonder he turns into such a selfish mess when he finally has a place to call his own, from country to quiet villa he was looking out for no one but himself.

It's this kind of severe focus I wish Kubrick used during A Clockwork Orange.  That film felt to me ten years ago, as is does now, of a teenage kid unable to get his way and deciding to use his talent to tell rape jokes instead of making a point.  Barry Lyndon is the sort of mature work we've seen develop since 2001.  Even Dr. Strangelove, and especially Lolita, suffered from this kind of teenage mentality.  But in Barry Lyndon he brings his attention to detail to a full historical epic and does not spare the times from his analysis.


In the Land of Blood and Honey (2012)

In America, we tend to have very short collective memories when it comes to global tragedies.  A friend of mine said she was going to be having a drink to take the edge off of a hard day, and when asked why she said it was because it was the first year anniversary of the tsunami which struck Japan.  I felt horrible because, even though I was only following the conversation, I completely forgot about the devastation and how easily I'm part of the collective.

Movies like In the Land of Blood and Honey make me grateful there are artists in the world who will never forget these moments.  They need to be documented and preserved, feelings of all shades put on display, and set into film until we're all part of the universal ash.  The focus here is on the Bosnian War, a conflict which, at the time, we were in the process of trying to forget as soon as it started.

Despite the ethnic cleansing on display, the film manages to be as austere and calm as many of the dramas its director, Angelina Jolie, has been in.  It's a very steady film, never lending itself to the intense emotion these events stir.  But if it has the strengths of the films Jolie has starred it, it shares many of their weaknesses.  A confusing, large-scale conflict is centered around one love story, painted in shades of art and Stockholm Syndrome.  Worse, it's dull, calling out the darkly ironic ending with the opening scenes and trudging dutifully onward to the conclusion.


Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (2011)

Somewhere in Hollywood, performers like Jason Lee and Brendan Fraser gather at a diner and razz each other about the past.  "Smith?", Fraser starts off, "Kevin Smith?  Hack couldn't get past comic book misogyny even if he had Zack Snyder as a tourguide."  Lee, a bit gristled, responds, "Look at you coming at me from a position of higher authority.  All those subtle race lessons Paul Haggis taught you suddenly make you the social police here?"

So they order another whiskey, and the conversation drifts toward films like The Quiet American and Almost Famous.  A cigarette plume dies as they both march toward their respective green screens, soldiering the talent as good soldiers should.  They nod toward each other, down the last whiskey sour, and say goodbye as they disappear into a world of pointless dance scenes and animated animals.

David Cross isn't involved here because he's had his time to fume publicly, and instead puts on a forgotten Rat Pack comedy routine set to the art rock styling of Das Oath.  I may be getting Cross confused with Crispin Glover for the purposes of this story, but no fantasy I can cook up provides enough distance from Chipwrecked.


New on DVD for the week of 3/27