Film: Ansen Reviews 'Stardust', 'Becoming Jane'

Directed by Matthew Vaughn

A young Victorian lad named Tristan (Charlie Cox) crosses over from his village into the fantasy kingdom of Storm-hold, where witches brew, pirate ships fly, unicorns prance and a fallen star turns into a beautiful but irritable girl named Yvaine (Claire Danes), who's none too happy to be Tristan's captive. Based on Neil Gaiman's illustrated novel, "Stardust" aims for a "Princess Bride" mix of whimsy and wonderment, the sardonic and the romantic, with only sporadic success. Both visually and narratively cluttered, the film diverts more than it enchants. Michelle Pfeiffer is fun as a witch hellbent on gaining immortality, and Robert De Niro perks things up in a surprising turn as a pirate who's not what he seems. Vaughn, who made the enjoyably tricky gangster movie "Layer Cake," gets points for ambition, but this antic fantasy eludes his grasp.

Becoming Jane
Directed by Julian Jarrold

This period romantic comedy imagines a love affair between 20-year-old Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway, below) and dissolute but dreamy lawyer Tom Lefroy (the ubiquitous James McAvoy) that emulates the novels she would later write. "Becoming Jane," written by Sarah Williams and Kevin Hood, proudly appropriates chunks of "Pride and Prejudice," "Sense and Sensibility" and the rest of Austen's oeuvre into its plot, which raises a question: wouldn't we rather be watching the real thing? Jarrold's movie has charms, but it has trouble finding its own voice until late in the game, when Austen's biography dictates an unmatrimonial final act. As the proud, independent young author, Hathaway is both subdued and alluring—it's her most mature performance. The movie goes down easy, but there's a thin line here: is this an homage or a parasite?