Friday movie roundup: A cracked 'Mirror,' misdirected 'Wrath'
This weekend's studio offerings aren't much to brag about -- and you have to go far afield, to Poland and Yemen, to find a movie worth seeing.
"Mirror, Mirror" is the first of two movie variations on "Snow White" coming this year (the other is "Snow White and the Huntsman," with Kristen Stewart). This one is a candy-colored comic take, notable for Julia Roberts as the vain evil Queen subjugating her kingdom and keeping her stepdaughter Snow (Lily Collins) in the castle. When Snow gets out of the castle, she meets the handsome Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer), whom the Queen seeks to marry for his riches. Director Tarsem Singh ("Immortals") doesn't go far enough into full camp to make this telling work, but the banter of the seven dwarves -- who are as un-Disney-like as they could do in a PG-rated film -- is entertaining.
Less entertaining is "Wrath of the Titans," an unnecessary sequel to the Greek mythology action movie "Clash of the Titans." Sam Worthington returns as the demigod Perseus, this time called to rescue the gods -- including his father, Zeus (Liam Neeson) -- and save the universe when the destroyer Kronos tries to escape the Underworld. The convoluted plot is just a clothesline for director Jonathan Liebesman ("Battle: Los Angeles") to hang an endless series of overblown special-effects sequences.
The week's best movie is over at the Tower, the Oscar-nominated Polish drama "In Darkness." Director Agnieszka Holland ("Europa, Europa") thoughtfully recounts the true story of Leopold Socha (played by Robert Wieckiewicz), a sewer inspector who became a reluctant savior to Polish Jews hiding from the Nazis in German-occupied Poland. Holland creates riveting tension from the Jews' struggle to avoid detection, and finds haunting drama in Socha's struggle to overcome his own prejudices.
Also worthwhile this week, playing at the Broadway and several other theaters, is the charming comedy "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen." This movie centers on a socially inept fisheries scientist (Ewan McGregor) who reluctantly takes on the job of developing a salmon run in the Arab nation of Yemen -- bankrolled by a fly-fishing sheik (Amr Waked), and aided by the sheik's investment advisor (Emily Blunt). The script by Simon Beaufoy ("The Full Monty," "Slumdog Millionaire") is brimming with gentle humor, and a snarky streak provided by Kristin Scott Thomas' character, a fast-talking press aide to the British Prime Minister.
Lastly, speaking of Britain, there's "W.E.," the lush but empty-headed quasi-biopic of Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) and King Edward VIII (James D'Arcy), which chronicles their romance and the toll taken by public exposurea after Edward abdicated the throne. The movie, directed and co-written by Madonna (whose end-credits song "Masterpiece" won a Golden Globe), focuses on a story in 1998, about a rich, lonely Manhattanite (Abbie Cornish) who's fascinated by Wallis and Edward -- who becomes a vessel for Madonna's personal obsession with the fashion and fame of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The one good thing about "W.E." is Riseborough's stellar portrayal of the brittle, vivacious Wallis.