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Category: Julia Roberts

'Mirror Mirror': What happened to the fairy-tale renaissance?

April 2, 2012 |  7:00 am

"Mirror Mirror," starring Julia Roberts and Lily Collins and directed by Tarsem Singh, is the latest fairy-tale disappointmentOf all the ways American pop culture defines itself in the early part of the 21st century, myths -- larger than life, older than time -- supersede them all.  World-creation (usually based on the rules of a world someone previously created) is what we consume, as one glance at the "Lord of the Rings"-ish enthusiasm for HBO's just-launched second season of "Game of Thrones" demonstrates.

No world is getting (re)created these days more than the one shaped by the Brothers Grimm. And yet it's these myths we seem to want least.

This was supposed to be the era of the fairy-tale movie. Big studios threw big money at big stars to take us to the land of happily ever after. In part, this was -- let's be honest -- because the source material came cheap. But it was also happening for all sorts of cultural reasons, we were told, a metaphor for evil and escape in a post-9/11 world, children's folklore with a Christopher Nolan spin.

TIMELINE: Snow White through the years

Yet like Cinderella's slippers on the other women, none of them have quite fit. In fact, fairy-tale movies so far have been dismal commercial and creative affairs. This past weekend's "Mirror Mirror," starring Lily Collins as the put-upon princess Snow White, was the latest such disappointment -- a paltry $19-million opening, just a 53% favorable rating on Movie Review Intelligence. And though you can toss out specific reasons for its failure (mistimed marketing, the diminishing appeal of Julia Roberts), it's starting to feel like something larger is going on here.

Tarsem Singh's decision to spin a fairy tale into a bouncy, punny, girl-empowerment story has fared no better than the bending of the form to other genres, not to the earnest teen romance ("Beastly") nor the gory period thriller ("Red Riding Hood"), both of which struck out with critics and audiences as well. Over the river and through the woods, to the house of flopdom we go.

This is all in pointed contrast to other mythic cinematic offerings -- the kind, such as "Harry Potter" or "The Hunger Games," that take stories to the realm of the fantastic without the strictures and expectations of a direct fairy-tale adaptation. It's also in contrast to television, where the fantasy procedural “Grimm” and the fairy-tale adventure "Once Upon a Time" have both enjoyed at least modest success, suggesting that if you are indeed going to try to put your mark on the Brothers Grimm, perhaps you need more than 100 minutes to do it well.

TIMELINE: Snow White through the years

There's still time for others to reverse the tide: Universal Pictures has been parceling out pieces of this June's "Snow White and the Huntsman," for example, hoping that the straight-faced seriousness of an action movie will be the fairy-tale formula that finally catches on. Maybe it will. Or maybe we'd rather look to new, "Games of Thrones"-like horizons instead of continuing to gaze in the mirror.


Hollywood is churning out classic fairy-tales -- with a twist

"Mirror Mirror": Snow White tale is fair (not fairest), critics say

Box Office: Greek gods, Snow White no match for "The Hunger Games"

--Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Lily Collins as Snow White, surrounded by dwarfs, in "Mirror Mirror." Credit: Relativity Media

'Mirror Mirror': Snow White tale is fair (not fairest), critics say

March 30, 2012 |  2:21 pm

Mirror Mirror
The first of two Snow White films this year, "Mirror Mirror" outfits the classic fairy tale with some humorous elements (Julia Roberts as a catty evil queen), some modern updates (Lily Collins' Snow White wields her own sword) and some visual flair courtesy of director Tarsem Singh ("The Cell," "Immortals"). Many movie critics are finding the film to be, well, fair.

In a positive review for The Times, Sheri Linden calls "Mirror Mirror" a "visually inventive interpretation" of the familiar fairy tale that manages to avoid "shortchanging the requisite froufrou or sugarcoating the story's dark Oedipal heart." Roberts pulls off "an exceptionally entertaining evil monarch" and leads a game cast, including Collins, "a convincing foil," and Armie Hammer ("J. Edgar"), who lets "his princely flag fly." Linden adds that director Singh's "singular knack for spectacle" is mostly put to good use and owes much to "Tom Foden's lush and witty production design and the splendid costumes by Eiko Ishioka."

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times similarly declares "Mirror Mirror" "a sumptuous fantasy for the eyes," with the caveat that it's also "a pinball game for the mind, as story elements collide and roll around bumping into each other." Beyond the impressive visuals and a show-stealing turn by Roberts, Ebert says there's not much depth: "The dialogue is rather flat, the movie sort of boring, and there's not much energy in the two places it should really be felt: Between the Queen and Snow White, and between Snow and the Prince."

TIMELINE: Snow White through the years

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Could 'August: Osage County' finally jump to the big screen?

February 1, 2012 |  7:19 pm

August: Osage County

This post has been corrected. See note below for details.

Theater buffs have been curious for a while now about the cinematic fate of “August: Osage County," Tracy Letts' 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winning family drama that has been in development as a movie for several years.

Now the film project--which would have Meryl Streep as pill-popping matriarch Violet Weston and Julia Roberts as her complicated adult daughter Barbara--looks to finally be taking a step forward.

An executive at the Weinstein Co., which owns rights to and has been developing the movie, said that a September schedule-opening for both Streep and Roberts could allow the movie to begin shooting in the fall. The executive, Weinstein Co. COO David Glasser, said the goal was for the film to wrap production by the end of 2012 and come out in the 2013 autumn awards season.

According to another person at the company who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to talk about internal matters, Letts, who had been adapting his own play for the screen, recently turned in his screenplay to the company and executives deem it close to shooting-ready.

That's key for any stage-to-screen work, which often requires a veteran screenwriter to come in and do a polish. (Among the challenges here: chiseling the piece down from its verbally intensive, and expansive, original; the play ran nearly 3 1/2 hours on the stage.)

John Wells remains  attached to direct the film, though as "August" sits in development, the "ER" veteran's calendar continues to fill up. On Tuesday, NBC ordered a pilot for his prison drama "Bad Girls," adding to two shows Wells already has on the air ("Southland" and "Shameless”). (Longtime Woody Allen collaborator Jean Doumanian is a producer on "August," incidentally.)

Currently appearing on the big screen in “The Iron Lady," Streep recently completed shooting the marital dramedy “Great Hope Springs,” which will be out later this year, and does not yet have a new go film. Roberts would need to work around production for “The Normal Heart,” another prestige theater adaptation. The actress is set to star as Emma Brookner, the wheelchair user who became an AIDS activist, in Ryan Murphy’s film adaptation of the Tony-winning work.

Roberts and Streep have an astounding 20 Oscar nominations between them, though that hasn’t stopped some theatergoers from fretting about the casting.

“August” tells of a dysfunctional Oklahoma family over a few summer weeks as they come to terms with various resentments and secrets. The movie has a kind of gallows humor; Barbara, for instance, is prone to ripping off lines like “Thank God we can’t tell the future. We’d never get out of bed.” The play won a spate of awards when it first debuted, including a Pulitzer, a Tony and a Drama Desk prize. Many critics put it on their list of best plays of the 2000s.

Deanna Dunagan and Amy Morton incarnated the Violet and Barbara roles, respectively, on both Broadway and the West End; Estelle Parsons and Shannon Cochrane played the parts when the show came to Los Angeles' Ahmanson Theater.

Theater has been a primary source of prestige films this year, though with not always satisfactory results. "The Ides of March," based on Beau Willimon’s political drama, fared reasonably well with critics and audiences. Another stage-derived drama, Roman Polanski's "Carnage," was a minor disappointment among both groups, while Steven Spielberg's "War Horse" landed somewhere in-between.

[For the record, 2:10 p.m. Feb. 2: A previous version of this post misspelled the last name of playwright Beau Willimon as Willon.]


When going from stage to screen, things change in-between

At N.Y. Film Festival, Roman Polanski's welcome wagon

Theater review: 'August: Osage County' at the Ahmanson

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "August: Osage County" at the Ahmanson. Credit: Los Angeles Times

'Mirror Mirror' trailer shows a new side of Snow White [Video]

November 16, 2011 |  4:22 pm

Mirror Mirror

The Snow White fairy tale has been told and retold since before the days of the Brothers Grimm, and come March 16 director Tarsem Singh will unveil his own version, "Mirror Mirror." Audiences can now get a glimpse of his work, as Relativity Media has released the first full trailer for the film, starring Julia Roberts as the evil queen and Lily Collins ("The Blind Side") as Snow White.

With ornate sets and costumes and sweeping snowy vistas, the trailer hints at the lush visuals Tarsem (as he prefers to be known) has made his trademark. Roberts seems to be having fun playing the catty queen, and Collins shows off some action moves as the leader of a group of bandits — seven diminutive bandits, of course.

The trailer comes on the heels of Tarsem's ancient-Greek action spectacular "Immortals," which opened Friday and dominated the box office over the weekend, and the recently released trailer for that other Snow White vehicle, "Snow White and the Huntsman," which stars "Twilight's" Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron as the evil queen and is set to open June 1.

"Mirror Mirror" also features as its charming prince actor Armie Hammer, who is currently on screen opposite Leonardo Di Caprio in Clint Eastwood's political biopic "J. Edgar."

Check out the "Mirror Mirror" trailer below.


The battle over 'Snow White' movies

Box office: 'Immortals' destroys rivals

Hollywood is churning out classic fairy tales with a twist 

-- Oliver Gettell 

Photo: Julia Roberts and Lily Collins in "Mirror Mirror" Credit: Jan Thijs / Relativity Media

People's Choice Awards nominations 2012

November 8, 2011 |  2:57 pm

Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks are among the 2012 People's Choice nominees
Moviegoers weren't interested in shelling out their hard-earned money to see Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks in "Larry Crowne" at the box office over the summer.

But judging by today's People's Choice Awards nominations, the two are still some of the most popular stars in the country. Both Roberts and Hanks secured nods for the 2012 ceremony, whose winners will be voted upon by the public. Also among the actors and actresses selected as fan favorites were Johnny Depp, Jennifer Aniston, Daniel Radcliffe and Robert Pattinson.

There was, predictably, much love for both the "Twilight" and "Harry Potter" franchises: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2" was nominated as movie of the year, favorite action movie, favorite book adaptation and favorite ensemble movie cast; Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint and Tom Felton were all deemed some of the most popular stars younger than 25; Taylor Lautner, meanwhile, earned a nod for favorite action star.

PHOTOS: 2012 People's Choice Awards nominees

Those who want to vote for their favorite stars can do so at PeoplesChoice.com until Dec. 6; winners will be announced during the telecast on Jan. 11. 

A full list of nominees follows.

Continue reading »

Word of Mouth: Julia Roberts' 'Fireflies' finds theatrical release [video]

October 13, 2011 |  4:27 pm

Fireflies in the Garden

This year’s flop “Larry Crowne” notwithstanding, Julia Roberts has been one of Hollywood’s most bankable movie stars. But her costarring role in the independently financed “Fireflies in the Garden” didn’t prevent the movie from being earmarked for  a direct-to-video release. Now, four years after “Fireflies” was shot, the drama about a dictatorial father will finally reach theaters.

The first feature from writer-director Dennis Lee, “Fireflies” was produced by Senator Entertainment, which went under soon after the movie premiered to caustic reviews at 2008’s Berlin International Film Festival. As Senator’s assets were divided, the film landed at Sony, which planned to skip a theatrical release. But Lee, Roberts and some of the film’s makers labored to get the film back, and cobbled up enough money to support a limited “Fireflies” release this weekend.

In this week’s Word of Mouth column, John Horn writes about the film’s journey to the screen, and talks about the article in this video.



Movie review: 'Fireflies in the Garden'

Dennis Lee champions his indie 'Fireflies'

Senator Films throws its hat into the ring

Photo: Willem Dafoe and Julia Roberts in "Fireflies in the Garden." Credit: Van Redin/Senator Entertainment.

Fourth of July puzzle: Are America and Tom Hanks out of step?

July 4, 2011 |  5:00 pm

Photo: Tom Hanks in "Larry Crowne." Credit: Universal Pictures Few mountains in moviedom are harder to climb than the one "Larry Crowne" has just tried to scale. Told in the unfashionable genre of the dramatic comedy, Tom Hanks' tale of midlife redemption via community-college enrollment and a gang of affable scooter-riders was never destined to become a monster hit. That it didn't exactly bowl over critics ("offbeat" was the nicest word some could find for it) ensured the film was something far less than that: Over this four-day holiday weekend, the Hanks-Julia Roberts collaboration barely mustered $15 million.

But no matter how low the bar, there are conclusions to draw from the movie's failure. "Larry Crowne," after all, had two of the most bankable stars in Hollywood history. Over the past quarter-century, Hanks and Roberts have accounted for nearly two dozen movies that grossed at least $100 million and defined the culture to boot, from "Forrest Gump" to "Erin Brockovich," "Cast Away" to "Pretty Woman." And yet here they were, together, struggling to out-open "Hall Pass" and "Jumping the Broom."

Central to the film's dismal results is how its themes play to a demographic that, as my colleague John Horn points out, doesn't fuel big opening weekends. (Nearly three-quarters of the film's audience this weekend was above the age of 50, according to Universal Pictures, which released the movie.)

Maybe more important, as Hollywood pundits have been noting for some time, stars exert a lot less influence over moviegoers than they once did. Unless actors are inhabiting a signature role or character, their presence isn't enough to lure us to theaters. We'll pay to watch Matt Damon as a globetrotting Jason Bourne but not as a tortured San Francisco clairvoyant; Johnny Depp compels us as a swashbuckling Jack Sparrow but not as an early-20th century gangster.

That rule would certainly seem to apply to "Crowne." As a laid-off retail clerk faced with home foreclosure, Hanks (who also directed and co-wrote the movie) wasn't anywhere close to what has been his signature part in the past few years -- the conspiracy-solving professor Robert Langdon, a character that gave him his only recent live-action hits. (Another recent movie, "Charlie Wilson's War," was similarly a world away from that character; it also underperformed.)  And as an embittered, semi-alcoholic professor, Roberts (who also costarred in "Wilson's War") was herself removed from one of her trademark America's Sweetheart roles.

But it's hard not to wonder if something else is at work with Hanks, something more specific than just the issue of waning star power.

The 54-year-old initially became a box-office draw because he was a charming if innocuous presence, the regular guy we could all identify with. But when you look at America's favorite movies circa 2011, they're populated with very different, and decidedly less Everyman, types: the kooky and stonerish ("The Hangover's" Zach Galifianakis); the swashbuckling and sometimes morally ambiguous ("Pirates of the Caribbean's" Depp); and, most commonly lately, the Adonis-like and reticent ("Thor's" Chris Hemsworth).

Even the alleged heir to Hanks' nice-guy throne, "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" star Shia LaBeouf, is  more intense and jittery than Hanks ever was. Genial likability -- the on-screen demeanor Hanks made famous -- isn't common among today's film protagonists. American leading men do many things these days. Guy-next-door is rarely one of them.

Taking a closer look at Hanks' work, a more particular pattern emerges. The actor has historically played an ordinary guy, but in his biggest hits he's almost always thrust into circumstances that are so extraordinary they're almost absurd.

He has drifted to sleep a child and woken up a man; gone unwittingly from mentally challenged savant to phenomenally rich folk hero; boarded a plane and gotten marooned for several years on a desert island; boarded a plane and gotten marooned for several years in an airport; walked down a city street and fallen in love with a fish. The biggest lesson of the Tom Hanks canon might be: "If you look like a regular guy and act like a gentleman, you just might have the most adventurous life humankind has ever known."

Seen through this lens, "Larry Crowne's" storyline, about a normal dude with normal problems (he struggles to find love and pay the bills), is a zeitgeist misfire on several levels. It stars a man whose primary asset we no longer favor, and places him in banal situations we don't enjoy seeing him in.

Hanks will next test his appeal  in several high-profile films, including  the post-Sept. 11 magical-realism of "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," the time-bending historical epic "Cloud Atlas" and the seafaring adventure "Captain Phillips," about a workaday cargo-ship captain whose vessel is commandeered by Somali pirates.

It's an open question whether Hanks will come across as his usual likable self in these movies. But judging by the source material, the settings at least will revert to his typical mermaid-loving, JFK-amusing, volleyball-addressing outlandishness. Which maybe -- but only maybe -- will make him a box-office draw again.


Critics agree: Michael Bay is better than Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts

'Larry Crowne' is opening opposite 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon'

'Transformers' demolishes the competition

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Tom Hanks in "Larry Crowne." Credit: Universal Pictures

Critics agree: Michael Bay is better than Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts

July 1, 2011 | 11:24 am

1 There’s no question Michael Bay can crush giant robots. Now the “Transformers” director has flattened Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.
While reviews for Bay’s “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” were scarcely glowing, they were nonetheless superior on average to the notices given Hanks and Roberts’ “Larry Crowne,” the romantic comedy that Hanks also directed and is  opening this weekend against “Transformers.”

According to two of the three most prominent movie review aggregation sites — Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic — the third “Transformers” film received better marks than “Larry Crowne” by a slim but consistent margin, even though critics largely disliked both films. 

Rotten Tomatoes assigned “Transformers” a score of 37% positive reviews compared to “Larry Crowne’s” 35%, while Metacritic favored the intergalactic robot story over the Hanks movie by a 42 to 1 41 margin. Movie Review Intelligence, the third big aggregation site, gave "Larry Crowne" the narrowest of victories, with the Hanks movie rating 47.1%, barely surpassing the 46.6% for  “Transformers.” 

While critics for years have loved to trash Bay’s movies, the contempt they dumped on Hanks and Roberts was remarkable for its ferocity. 

Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times said “Larry Crowne” is “an inside-out movie, acceptable around the edges but hollow and shockingly unconvincing at its core. When that core is two of the biggest movie stars around — Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts — it’s an especially dispiriting situation.”

In the Wall Street Journal, John Anderson wrote: “As difficult as it is to dislike Mr. Hanks, it takes no effort to all to develop an aversion toward ‘Larry Crowne,’ the alleged comedy being perpetrated today by Mr. Hanks; his director, Mr. Hanks; his producer, Mr. Hanks; and the co-writer, Mr. Hanks. It is a distinctly painful experience.”

Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune said the film “offers zero surprises, but — fatally — no wit, and only the thinnest sort of synthetic charm.”

One of the few nice “Larry Crowne” write-ups came from Boxoffice magazine’s Pete Hammond, who said the film is “a perfect summer comedy for grown-ups looking to escape robots and superheroes.”

At least the “Larry Crowne” reviews are not the worst in either actor’s career. Hanks’ “The Da Vinci Code” was savaged even more brutally in 2006, while Roberts’ “Valentine’s Day” a year ago earned materially lower marks.


Critical Mass: 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon' gets thrashed (who knew?)

Hollywood sequels bite into a new crust

Movie review: 'Larry Crowne'

 -- John Horn

Photo: Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks in "Larry Crowne." Credit: Bruce Talamon/Universal Pictures

Photo: Bumblebee in "Transformers: Dark of the Moon." Credit: Paramount Pictures

'Snow White' war: Relativity Media leapfrogs its fairy tale adaptation's release date ahead of Universal's

May 24, 2011 |  2:31 pm

Julia Shot No. 2 has just been fired. As we predicted Monday, Relativity Media is moving the release date for its still-untitled, family-friendly Snow White action project ahead of Universal Pictures' fairy tale adaptation, "Snow White and the Huntsman."

Relativity's movie, which will star Julia Roberts as the evil queen, will now come out on March 16, 2012, the same weekend as Sony's "21 Jump Street" and one week ahead of the highly anticipated adaptation "The Hunger Games" from Lionsgate. (Relativity's Snow White film is scheduled to begin shooting next month.)

Tuesday's move comes one week after Universal shifted its Snow White adaptation out of the 2012 holiday season to June 1, nearly a month ahead of Relativity's original June 29, 2012,  release date.

Relativity is not stopping with "Snow White." They seem to be engaging in all-out warfare with Universal, dating their Nicholas Sparks romance "Safe Haven" -- which has yet to be cast -- on June 1. That means it will go head to head with  "Snow White and the Huntsman" starring Kristen Stewart.

Relativity has also slated its Philip Noyce-actioner "Hunter Killer," about a rookie submarine captain who must work with a Navy SEAL, for Dec. 21,the same weekend that Universal has set its latest Judd Apatow-directed comedy, a "Knocked Up" spinoff that Universal just moved into December.

It's rare for this kind of battling to happen so early in the life cycle of a film. But Relativity's maneuvering suggests it was very upset with Universal's earlier decision to move its "Snow White" adaptation from late 2012 to June 1, ahead of Relativity's title. The question now is whether Universal will retaliate.

It's never good for the movie business as a whole when studios place competing projects on the same weekend because it splits the audience and diminishes the box-office potential for each film. With Relativity placing its Sparks film on the same weekend as Universal's "Snow White," one could argue that the two films will split the female audience. The same can be said for the male audience having to choose between "Hunter Killer" and the Apatow comedy.

It's unlikely the last chess piece has been moved in this high-stakes game.


The battle over 'Snow White' movies: Who will be the fairest (and first) of all

Hollywood is churning out classic fairy tales with a twist

Kristen Stewart vs. Lily Collins: Who's the fairest of them all?

After 'Twilight,' a fairy-tale renaissance looks for a happy ending

-- Nicole Sperling

Photo: Julia Roberts will star in Relativity Media's family-friendly Snow White action project. Credit: Charles Sykes / Associated Press


Critical Mass: 'Eat Pray Love' [Updated]

August 13, 2010 |  1:30 pm


For girl-type people, writer-director Ryan Murphy's adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir "Eat Pray Love" was the second-most-anticipated film of the summer (behind "Sex and the City 2"), but sadly it appears to be sharing the same harsh reviews that Carrie and company received in May.

Writing in The Times, critic Betsy Sharkey zeroes in on the problem: tears. She writes that Murphy "wrings all of his actors emotionally dry, scraping to the bone to expose vulnerability, but he hasn't quite figured out how to control that power. So this gorgeous but messy affair isn't always as satisfying as it should be."

Continue reading »


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