Category Archives: Fantasy

Maleficent (2014)

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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%

FairyTale: A True Story (1997)

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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%

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

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Pan’s Labyrinth

In 1944 fascist Spain, a girl, fascinated with fairy-tales, is sent along with her pregnant mother to live with her new stepfather, a ruthless captain of the Spanish army. During the night, she meets a fairy who takes her to an old faun in the center of the labyrinth. He tells her she’s a princess, but must prove her royalty by surviving three gruesome tasks. If she fails, she will never prove herself to be the the true princess and will never see her real father, the king, again.

Beautiful, captivating, mesmerizing . . . and a story, as well.

The subtitles were a bit of a distraction since the images were so amazing. Like with Amelie, I hated to look away from the picture to catch the dialog.

The movie is not, however, all fairies and bows and butterflies. It has serious brutality, which is why it loses a star. I am not sure this is a movie I would recommend to my sister, for instance.

This movie is much like Life is Beautiful, involving a fantasy world which helps a child deal with a world which is frightening and harsh.


Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing: critics 96%; users 94%

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)

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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

I had no real plans on seeing this new Pirates movie this year. I didn’t really like the first one that much. I’ll admit, it was good fun, but it just didn’t really do anything for me. It was a little long but kept the action.

The sequel, Dead Man’s Chest, was like a treasure map without directions. It jumped all over the place with no real idea of where it was going. The action sequences were drawn out and pointless. The dialog was weak at best.

I didn’t feel anything for the characters. They seemed dumb with no real feeling or attitude or depth. The acting was sub-par. I think Johnny Depp forgot how he played Jack Sparrow in the first movie as I saw parts of his Hunter Thompson character from Fear and Loathing.

Keira Knightly was just going through the motions. She turned into a better actress than what was portrayed on the screen. I don’t even get Orlando Bloom. What’s this guy’s deal? The kid just can’t act.

The only redeeming quality in this movie was Bill Nighy playing Davy Jones. He’s a great actor anyway and brought a little respectability to the role.

Dead Man’s Chest was extremely long. A good 45 minutes could have been cut out of it. I felt sorry the people sitting around me because I kept yawning and moving around in my seat. It was just really slow and boring.

It’d be best if you stayed away from this movie. Wait for something else to come out. Snakes on a Plane will drop on August 18.

Jack Sparrow

Bewitched (2005)

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Bewitched

Thinking he can overshadow an unknown actress in the part, an egocentric actor unknowingly gets a witch cast in an upcoming television remake of the classic show “Bewitched”.

I just got done watching this crap, which I wanted to see since my friend worked on it and Lori & I visited the set.

Man did it suck!

I don’t think the casting was bad, though Steve Carrell was quite disappointing as Uncle Arthur (and I like Steve Carrell). Nicole Kidman is physically a great choice to play Samantha, Will Ferrell was fine, Michael Caine was charming – even Shirley MacClaine was tolerable.

Unfortunately the script was pathetic. Soooo, so bad. I had a feeling it might stink when I heard it was a Nora Ephron endeavor (in fact, I heard that when we were on set and let out an audible “Ech!” – oops) I figured she didn’t have the chops to pull it off and I was right. It was such a great show, with so many fun episodes to choose from – why they decided to try this tactic is beyond me. Movie in a movie is very tricky and rarely successful.

And the soundtrack – who picked these tunes? I mean, they were fine tunes and the CD may be great, but most were completely out of place and distracting in this movie.

UPDATE: Ouch
Production budget – $80,000,000
Total US Gross – $62,252,415

 

UPDATE: Seems that Reilly agrees, though she is perhaps not quite as vehement as I was.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 25%; Audience 34%

The Lovely Bones (2004)

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Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

How do you make a beautiful story out of the rape and murder of a 14 year old girl? You let Alice Sebold write it. I bought this book a while back but hadn’t had the guts to dig in – just couldn’t wrap my mind around the premise. I needn’t have worried. Though there are a couple of missteps, or rather “unnecessary detours” which I will discuss in more since they are spoilers, all in all it is a wonderful ride.

I have not yet decided whether to recommend this to my sister, as the Heaven presented here is not the one she believes in. But the way it follows the characters and their different grieving processes is remarkable. Those type of questions cost it on the word of mouth scale, which you may remember is based not on how good the product is but on how likely I am to recommend it to my family & friends.

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