Posts Tagged ‘Movie’

Review: Maleficent

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Ah, Sleeping Beauty, the classic tale showcasing the power of true love between princess and prince… is a fraud! At least that’s what Disney Circa 2014 wants us to think, and Maleficent is its attempt to show us the side of the story we didn’t ask to hear. The big question is, does first-time director (but long-time special effects artist) Robert Stromberg and writer Linda Woolverton convince us that we’ve been living a lie, or is Maleficent just Sour Apple-colored eye candy?

As the story goes, a young fairy named Maleficent (Isobelle Molloy) falls in love with young Stefan (Michael Higgins) — a human — and grows to trust him with all her heart. When that trust is broken years later by an older and greedy Stefan (Sharlto Copley), adult Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) becomes filled with hatred and erupts a wall of thorns between her magical kingdom and Stefan’s, breaking all interaction between humans and mystical creatures. That is, until Stefan’s daughter Aurora is born, inspiring Maleficent to punish Stefan by cursing his daughter to fall into a death-like sleep on her sixteenth birthday. What follows is a casual race against time to save a teenage Aurora (Elle Fanning), accompanied by irritating/clueless fairies (Imelda Staunton, Leslie Manville, and Juno Temple), wicked imagery, and a search for love in the wrong places.

I like saying positive things, so I’ll start with this: Visually, Maleficent is amazing. Whenever a vengeful Angelina Jolie with horns uses her power to manipulate the beings and earth around her — all in a sexy green glow, no less — I was like whoa! This flick’s saving grace is how it looks. Much of this movie would make a great wallpaper for your desktop, the imagery overall is just beautiful, be it the mystical landscape or evil-fairy-magic. Maybe an awesome visual direction is something that comes with having a director who’s made his career as a visual effects artist, though maybe that’s why poor direction comes nearly everywhere else.

While I was vaguely entertained by Maleficent, there’s a lot of not-entertaining stuff about it. It’s more fair to call the flick endurable if you have your expectations set medium-to-low! The first and second acts are paced very slowly, and drawn out enough to the point where the final act feels very rushed. In a bid to show us what we don’t know, Maleficent teaches us more than we need or probably care to know at a misguided pace.

The notes I write while watching movies are sometimes cryptic even to me — for Maleficent I had written “Another D film”, which was puzzling. While this movie didn’t have me jumping for joy, it’s probably worth more than a D rating! After some thinking I realized that “D” meant “Disney”, which is really true. Maleficent is simply another typical Disney fairytale in a number of tried-and-true ways, and the ideas that aren’t typical resemble Frozen enough that it can’t be coincidental. There’s next to nothing original in Maleficent, it’s all been in Disney films past.

And (!!!) the high majority of the cast are expressionless from start to finish. It’s clear that they had as much fun being in the film as I had watching it, which is probably the biggest problem Maleficent has. When watching a movie, our enthusiasm is directly tied to the energy of the cast, and if everyone on screen showed some moxie, I’d be able to say that this film is a dumb popcorn flick that looks really cool but has its flaws. Instead, I’m here telling you that Maleficent is merely endurable and unoriginal, despite some cool CGI.

I appreciate the effort to add some originality to the Sleeping Beauty story and if executed well Maleficent could have been really great. I kind of made fun of the idea above, saying that we didn’t ask to hear another side of this story, but there’s no better time to erase the past than when the current generation of kids don’t know the original. It has the right cast (if they would do more than phone it in), an awesome visual effects team, and it’s the right time to do this movie if it’s going to be done. Unfortunately Maleficent was just taken in a poor direction overall.

Tl;dr: Maleficent looks sexy, but it’s beauty is skin deep and it’s maybe worth renting on a lazy day.

4/10

Review: X-Men: Days Of Future Past

Sunday, May 25th, 2014

As part of my X-Men: First Class review, I wrote “The most amazing thing about this film is the casting, which couldn’t have been more perfect.” One of my biggest worries going into X-Men: Days Of Future Past was that it would suffer from too much perfect casting. With two different eras worth of characters mostly played by actors who can command the spotlight, there might be too many to focus on! Thankfully my fears didn’t come to fruition, and watching X-Men: Days Of Future Past was a delightful way to spend a Friday afternoon.

X-Men: Days Of Future Past takes place in two different timelines, set fifty years apart. In the later timeline, Mutants have been all but exterminated by the Humans and their Sentinel weapons. All that remain of the Mutants are a select few of the smartest and strongest, though not even they can survive for much longer. With time running out, Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), and Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) hatch a plan to send Wolverine’s consciousness to his younger self — fifty years in the past — to stop the event which leads to the Mutants’ extermination.

In the earlier timeline, Wolverine awakens in a waterbed which he gets massive groovy points for. One thing leads to another and Wolverine finds the young Professor X, Charles (James McAvoy), and the young Beast, Hank (Nicholas Hoult) in the then abandoned school. After some yelling and Charles dropping the F-Bomb, Wolverine convinces Charles and Hank that he is, in fact, from the future and that they need to work together to save it. This takes them on a mission to free a young Magneto, Erik (Michael Fassbender) from the Pentagon which — thanks to a teenage QuickSilver (Evan Peters) — turns out to be one of the most rad prison breaks I’ve ever seen.

Things spiral out of control from there in both timelines, and it’s a blast from start to finish. Other notable cast members include Peter Dinklage and Jennifer Lawrence, who play the slimy Dr. Trask hellbent on exterminating Mutants and Raven/Mystique, respectively. In addition, despite having a small role, Mark Camacho plays an excellent President Nixon — it’s easy to mistake Camacho for the real Nixon! All in all, everyone aforementioned and otherwise performed very well and I didn’t find myself wishing anyone away… except maybe Toad played by Evan Jonigkeit, though the character is kind-of designed to be repulsive.

Speaking of design, the special effects in X-Men: Days Of Future Past are fantastic. Every time Magneto manipulated metal structures, or Mystique transformed into someone else, or Professor X used Cerebro, or a Sentinel showed up to fry some Mutants, it was like visual sex. And it makes sense, if you sit through the End Credits, you’ll find that the Special Effects team takes up probably one quarter of the Credits Crawl time! The set designers performed admirably well also — I wasn’t alive in the 70’s, but based on what I know they did a really good job recreating the atmosphere for the past. Recreating the look of history probably isn’t the easiest task in the world particularly when you’re working on a larger scale.

Despite my not mentioning every single character, X-Men: Days Of Future Past does feature quite an ensemble. However, as mentioned at the top of this review, this film is written (Simon Kinberg) and directed (Bryan Singer) in a way that doesn’t let us lose track of who and what is most important, even as Storm (Halle Berry) is kicking arse. The actors themselves deserve a lot of credit, too — as with X-Men: First Class, the performances by the cast are this film’s brightest shining light. Interestingly, this film features obvious-and-not-so-surprising good performances alongside a surprise or two.

The biggest fault I can find — and I say this as someone who hasn’t ever read an X-Men comic and might not know what he’s talking about — is that X-Men: Days Of Future Past might not completely fit with past X-Men films. If the event that Wolverine was sent back in time to stop, happened as it had, one of the main characters from the earlier films might not have been alive to be in them. But maybe that isn’t a fault of this film, but rather a fault of the earlier ones? I don’t know, time travel is confusing!

Tl;dr: Stop wasting time reading blogs and go see X-Men: Days Of Future Past if you haven’t already! It’s exciting, emotional, funny, and beyond satisfying.

9/10