Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Cinephile

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Cinephile

Article excerpt

You expect to see fairies in a magic fable, but Stardust gives you one that is most unexpected. This fairy is a godfather, and he's played by Robert De Niro in a giddy, cross-dressing performance. De Niro is Captain Shakespeare, an airship commander who is all gruff growls in public but turns sweet the moment he's behind closed doors. At first, the young heroes on the run (Charlie Cox and Claire Danes) are afraid to have fallen into his clutches, but Shakespeare assures them they have nothing to worry about--he's just happy to have someone he can reveal his secret to. Still, the biggest shock isn't Shakespeare's hidden life; it's the sight of De Niro smiling up a storm.

Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves in Stardust, and why not? This is the kind of self-contained fairy tale that studios rarely make these days, adapted from the Neil Gaiman novel by Layer Cake director Matthew Vaughn. It's the story of Tristan Thorne (Cox), a young romantic who aims to prove himself to haughty Victoria (Sienna Miller) by trekking into a magical kingdom to catch a falling star for her. That star is Danes, and Tristan isn't the only one who wants her--so do a fleet of princes fighting for the king's crown as well as a crafty witch (Michelle Pfeiffer) who can use the star's heart to prolong her own youth.

That so many characters are racing each other initially lends the film a frantic, busy air, but by the time De Niro shows up, things have settled in nicely. This fairy tale is hardly original, but it's been made with care and sprinkled with quirks. I have always wanted to see Michelle Pfeiffer battle a unicorn, and no film has been willing to oblige me until this one. For that, and for De Niro's pirate poof, Stardust sparkles.

Only slightly less fantastic is The King of Kong, a documentary about men who parlay their teenage mastery of Donkey Kong into grown-up careers attending video game championships. These guys may have been zeroes in high school, but they're heroes in this niche circuit--none more so than Billy Mitchell, a boastful man with a mullet who in 1999 was proclaimed the greatest video game player of the century. Mitchell is as notorious for his self-mythologizing as he is for his records, among the most notable of which is a score on Donkey Kong so high it takes the game to a rarely glimpsed "kill screen. …

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