Mirror Mirror

[3.5 stars] Mirror Mirror (2012) on IMDb [Amazon]

For some reason the IMDB raters give Mirror Mirror a mediocre rating. Maybe I'm just in a happy mood these days, or my standards are even lower than usual, but I found it enjoyably watchable all the way through. (Also: it was free, being one of the University Near Here's summer film series.)

Julia Roberts plays the evil queen, risen to her position via her feminine wiles and abusive magic. Her latest conquest was Snow White's dad, who she maneuvered into apparently fighting and losing to a fearsome forest monster. She abuses the kingdom's subjects for her own extravagant appetites. Snow grows up fatherless and neglected, and in mortal danger. She finds unexpected help from Prince Alcott, a handsome good-hearted dim bulb. And (of course) seven height-challenged lads, after initial misgivings, become allies as well.

Things are mostly played for laughs, and Ms. Roberts especially seems to be having a lot of fun. There is—out of nowhere—a big Bollywood-style finale, worth sticking around for.

Last Modified 2012-09-21 10:15 AM EST

The Amazing Spider-Man

[4.0 stars] The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) on IMDb [Amazon]

The notion of "rebooting" a series isn't exactly new. (As always, Wikipedia has a good overview.) Like many, I was pretty skeptical of the merit of rebooting the Spider-Man franchise; after all, the previous series of movies isn't exactly ancient history.

Also: Sally Field as Aunt May. Gidget as Aunt May?!

Also: how can you have Spider-Man without J. Jonah Jameson?

Also: Andrew Garfield is nearly 29 years old. And he's supposed to be high school student Peter Parker? (Only slightly more credible is the 23-year-old Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy.)

But it all worked for me. Yes, I'm a sucker.

What's different this time around: Spider-Man's origin story is tied into the mysterious disappearance of Peter Parker's parents, who dump him off with Uncle Ben and Aunt May, before departing for parts unknown. Years later, Peter is a bullied nebbish at school, hopelessly mooning over the lovely Gwen. He finds clues that point him to mysterious doings at Oscorp, where Dad Parker worked. There he finds one-armed Curt Connors, who's researching the incorporation of animal genes into humans. For example, spiders. And I guess you know what happens when Peter wanders around where he's not supposed to…

Great fun ensues, as Peter discovers his powers, tragically loses Uncle Ben (that bit never seems to change), devotes himself to fighting evildoers, and (eventually) finds himself in apocalyptic battles with Connors, who's gotten on the wrong side of his own experimentation.

Last Modified 2014-11-30 1:40 PM EST

Jeff, Who Lives at Home

[3.5 stars] Jeff, Who Lives at Home (2011) on IMDb [Amazon]

I was kind of prepared for a mindless R-rated comedy. Which would have been fine, but what I got was significantly different, and in a good way. There are some relatively unusual magical-realism elements here, and they kept surprising me.

We follow three main characters going through everyday crises: there's Jeff—he lives at home, by the way—played by Jason Segal. He's trying to find meaning in his life, but (so far) this mostly involves getting stoned in the basement of his Mom's house.

Ed Helms plays Jeff's brother, Pat. Unlike Jeff, he's outwardly respectable, with a job and a wife (Judy Greer), but cracks are beginning to show in his life's foundations, and he's doing increasingly desperate, counterproductive, and crazy things to hold things together. (Like buying a Porsche against the express opposition of his wife.)

And then there's their Mom, played by Susan Sarandon. She's desperately lonely, but also concerned for Jeff, keeps nagging him to (for a change) do something constructive, even if it's only a small home improvement project. She also nags Pat to help out in trying to get Jeff out of his rut. But Mom's also the target of a secret admirer at work, who keeps sending complimentary messages.

Things kick off when Jeff takes a call for "Kevin"; he takes this as not a simple wrong number, but as a sign from the Universe that will point him toward redemption. Misunderstandings, coincidences, and slapstick follow. It's very funny, at the same time kind of sweet.

Last Modified 2012-09-21 10:16 AM EST