Maleficent (2014)

0

Posted on by

Maleficent

Maleficent

A beautiful, pure-hearted young woman, Maleficent has an idyllic life growing up in a peaceable forest kingdom, until one day when an invading army threatens the harmony of the land. Maleficent rises to be the land’s fiercest protector, but she ultimately suffers a ruthless betrayal – an act that begins to turn her pure heart to stone. Bent on revenge, Maleficent faces a battle with the invading king’s successor and, as a result, places a curse upon his newborn infant Aurora. ~Walt Disney Pictures

This one is tough for me. I am a huge fan of Sleeping Beauty; the fairy tale, the ballet..and the Disney animated feature. Maleficent has long been my favorite of the Disney villains so I am a bit protective of “her” story.

I am admittedly a fan of alternate histories, and not such a fan of alternate fairy tales (or alternate fiction of any kind, really. I guess because, “What if Hitler didn’t make it into Poland?” is an interesting study but “What if this author who wrote this story didn’t really mean to have this thing they wrote actually happen?” seems a bit of an insult to the author.*) Now you know my bias going in to this film.

That said: It is a gorgeous film. They create a world that is every bit as magical as you would expect from a big-budget Disney outing. You can see several instances where the filmmakers were aiming at shot-for-shot replication of the animated scenes, which I really enjoyed.

Maleficent, animated

Angelina Jolie is delicious. Delightfully wicked and charmingly vindictive, qualities one hopes for in a villain. (Also charming was real-life daughter, Vivienne, as a very young Princess Aurora.) I appreciate Jolie’s commitment to preserving Maleficent’s “look”, if not her original evil

The story, however, is a letdown. I hoped to come away with greater affection for all the characters, especially Maleficent, whom I have adored for so long. I was disappointed. In an attempt to “humanize” or soften or simply bend Maleficent’s story, they ruined her. If not for Angelina Jolie’s performance, there would be nothing left of her at all.

My boyfriend, being male and having only sons, was not especially familiar with the Sleeping Beauty story. He also has no problem with changes to well-loved children’s tales. Therefore, he would give it 4 stars on a standard scale.

So there is your yardstick: If you are not familiar with the original source material, you will find this a much more enjoyable story. If you love the tale of a cursed Sleeping Beauty and her handsome prince, you may find it less so.

My Word of Mouth Scale rating reflects the number of old Disney fans I have in my circles.

* Yes, I realize the original story was tweaked for both the ballet & the Disney cartoon. Those changes were mostly ‘cosmetic’ and didn’t alter the general theme

Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 49%; Audience 75%

Philomena (2013)

0

Posted on by

Philomena

Philomena

A world-weary political journalist picks up the story of a woman’s search for her son, who was taken away from her decades ago after she became pregnant and was forced to live in a convent.

Lovely and enjoyable movie about a heartbreaking true story.

Though some poetic license was taken (as well as some unnecessary editorializing), the basics of the story are intact. A young woman, naive about the birds & bees, finds herself pregnant out-of-wedlock – something shameful in the ’50s, and even worse for a Catholic girl in Ireland. Philomena Lee (Dench) is sent to a convent, where she will give birth & do her penance by working off her ‘debt’ to the nuns for 4 years.

After their children are born, the fallen women are allowed to see them only for brief visits always knowing that at any time the children could be adopted out. Anthony is taken away when he is 3 years-old, leaving a devastated Philomena to get on with her life.

Though she never stops thinking of him, and tries through the years to track him down, it is 50 years before she gets any satisfaction. Finally unable to suppress the longing, she tells her daughter about the boy who was taken from her all those years ago. Her daughter tells a journalist (Martin Sixsmith, portrayed by Steve Coogan) The journalist takes up the cause, throwing his considerable resources behind the hunt.

Though the story is fairly well known, and so you may already know how it ends, the beauty of this telling is not in the destination, but the journey. We get to know Lee and Sixsmith as they travel together in search of answers. In the featurette I’ve linked below they mention how the humor of their relationship makes the heart-wrenching search easier to take. It does.

It also gives Dench an opportunity to show why so many accolades and awards have been heaped upon her. The supporting cast here is fine, but it is clearly the Dame’s show.

This rates highly on the Word of Mouth Scale for having relatable humor and an accessible storyline. There are a few in my circle who would find it too “wordy”, but not every film can have be a Jason Statham shoot-’em-up. :-)

Go ahead and see this one – odds are high you will like it.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 92%; Audience 90%



The Most Under/Over-rated Movies

0

Posted on by

Movie Critics vs Audience, Ratings ChartBen Moore did some interesting movie review related data mining. Using the Rotten Tomatoes (somewhat limited) API, he charted movies based on critical review vs audience ratings. Hence; critically acclaimed but audience panned would be “overrated”, savaged by critics but loved by the audience would be “underrated”. I find it especially interesting as my Word of Mouth Scale idea is meant to gauge how likely my friends are to enjoy a film, not how good of a movie it is – or what the movie critics consider a good film.

Click on over to see the interactive chart.

 
For the backstory & his methodology, read his blog post.


FairyTale: A True Story (1997)

0

Posted on by

FairyTale

Fairy Tale: A True Story

Based on factual accounts, this is the story of two young girls that, somehow, have the ability to take pictures of winged beings… which certainly causes quite a stir throughout England during the time of the first World War. Everyone, except the girls who think it’s quite normal, is excited about this “photographic proof” that fairies exist… even the great Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini pay the girls a visit.

Written by BOB STEBBINS

 

I am familiar with the story of the Cottingley Fairies, and so I was quite keen to see this film. I find it fascinating that two children were able to perpetrate a hoax that fooled not just family & friends, but a nation – and several experts in photography…and spiritualism. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was one of their earliest, and most consistent, proponents.

Cottingley FairyThe movie presents our young fairy hunters as younger than the real Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, and slightly closer in age. It is a bit of understandable artistic license, hard for modern audiences to imagine a 16 year-old embracing the wonder of fairies.

The visuals are quite beautiful, colorful and deliciously saturated. I really enjoyed seeing two of my favorites, Harvey Keitel as Houdini and Peter O’Toole as Conan Doyle, among this fine cast.

It is a magical children’s movie with a more serious backdrop, so it remains entertaining for adults, as well.

Bonus: Paul McGann plays Elsie’s father, and it’s always nice to see him :-)


Rotten tomatoes: Critics 52%; Audience 62%

The Heat (2013)

0

Posted on by

The Heat

The Heat

Uptight FBI Special Agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) and foul-mouthed Boston cop Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) couldn’t be more incompatible. But when they join forces to bring down a ruthless drug lord, they become the last thing anyone expected: buddies. From Paul Feig, director of “Bridesmaids.” (c) Fox

Another movie I never intended to see. As much as I like both Bullock and McCarthy, the ads for The Heat just made it seem awful. (D disagrees, he thought the ads were fine) It was getting impressive reviews, though, and when friends saw and recommended it firsthand, we decided to give it a shot.

Funny. Laugh out loud in a lot of places. The script is iffy, the direction – eh. The movie is saved from mediocrity by the quality cast – especially Sandra Bullock who is as endearing & funny as she has ever been, and seems to be getting better looking with age.

Melissa McCarthy is a funny woman who, unfortunately, seems to believe more is never enough. Her roles just get more & more over the top, usually dampening my enjoyment – The Heat is no exception. However, if you enjoyed her character in Bridesmaids, you will enjoy her character here. She commits to the portrayal 100%, and you have to give her some respect for that.

It is a bit coarse (credit that to McCarthy) and so definitely not for everyone. Still for a movie that had some very unappealing advertisements, this ended up being quite appealing after all.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 66%; Audience 75%

Tabloid (2010)

0

Posted on by

Tabloid (2010)

Tabloid

A documentary on a former Miss Wyoming who is charged with abducting and imprisoning a young Mormon Missionary.

This was not a great documentary, but that won’t detract from your enjoyment of the story. A story that seems unfathomable as fiction but, as they say, the truth is stranger.

A beauty queen meets the “love of her life” – then loses him. Rather than accept that life goes on, she decides to track him down, kidnap him, and ‘deprogram’ him with sex. I have actually heard people refer to Mormonism as a cult, but I have never heard that particular cure mentioned.

Sex Slave HeadlineThe details of the story would be enough for an entertaining biography. Errol Morris ups the ante by having the beauty queen and her “co-conspirators” discuss those details for the camera. Throw in the salacious photos and tabloid headlines of the time and you almost feel for the girl in her quest for everlasting love. At the very least, you have to admire her moxie.

The main failing of the movie is how the victim gets lost in the hoopla. I can understand his reluctance to participate, but I wish we could have been encouraged to feel for what he went through. I wish we could know what ‘rebuilding’ his life looked like – though I suppose that would have just violated him further.

Though the events Tabloid recounts took place in the pre-digital age, the film also functions as a kind of prehistory of modern celebrity culture and tabloid journalism. ~ Dana Stevens, Slate

Despite the decidedly sexual nature of the story, I think it is a film most in my circle could enjoy. 3.5 on the Word of Mouth Scale.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 91%; Audience 74%

Penny Serenade (1941)

0

Posted on by

Penny Serenade

Penny Serenade

As Julie prepares to leave her husband Roger, she begins to play through a stack of recordings, each of which reminds her of events in their lives together. One of them is the song that was playing when she and Roger first met in a music store. Other songs remind her of their courtship, their marriage, their desire for a child, and the joys and sorrows that they have shared. A flood of memories comes back to her as she ponders their present problems and how they arose.

One of my favorite tear-jerkers of all time, starring one of my favorite screen couples. “Penny Serenade” always puts me through the ringer, even though I have seen it a dozen or so times. It can still make me cry and, thankfully, it can still make me laugh.

The music-stirring-memories plot device makes for a lovely soundtrack, as well as our main characters’ meet-cute. We start the film knowing that Julie and Roger are ending their marriage. We learn through flashbacks everything they’ve faced and why they feel it is so hopeless now.

The cast is full of top-notch talent, the writing is solid, the direction stellar. As melodramatic a film as this, though, would have floundered with lesser performers in the main roles. Cary Grant is at his charming best, Irene Dunne could tell the entire story with just her face. Together, in this movie and others, they have a chemistry so winning, you can’t help but be drawn in to their world.

There are some standout scenes; baby’s first bath, Roger’s impassioned plea to the judge… However, it is the whole of the movie that makes it great.

If you enjoy an old movie now & then, and you don’t mind your companions seeing you cry, do yourself a favor and catch “Penny Serenade” It is available at many libraries – and even on YouTube.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 93%; Audience 74%

Speaking of the Cary Grant / Irene Dunne chemistry, I found this video that was made for a contemporary song, using some of the sweetest, kissiest moments from Penny Serenade

1 2 3 4 5 16 17