Maleficent is Magnificent!

maleficent-movie

Maleficent is in one word, perfection.

In more words, it is everything about a fairy tale origin story I want. Unlike that tragic Snow White and the Huntsman featuring she who can’t act to save her life, Kristen Stewart.

Much has been said over the years about Maleficent, the antagonist in Disney’s adaptation of the classic fairy tale, “Sleeping Beauty.” Her voice, her walk, her crow, her dragon…she is the evil character we love to hate because in a word, she is fabulous. That’s why when rumors started swirling a few years back that Jolie was set to bring the deliciously wicked character to the big screen I, like others, got excited. If anyone could bring to life the character epitomized by the late actress Eleanor Audley, it would be Jolie.

And bring her to life she did.

Jolie’s performance was exactly as you would think; her voice eerie, not as commanding as Aduley’s, but unique in its own right, befitting of her Maleficent. Jolie’s Maleficent is strong and regal and wicked and endearing and just perfect! Her statuesque presence, dazzling eyes (emphasized by special effects of course, but no less gorgeous), power and grace, not to mention moments of frailty – yes frailty –  has you actually rooting for her. Rooting for her…the evil fairy!  And if you’re wondering if that is a typo …it’s not. You read it right. Maleficent, in this story, is a fairy. Without giving away too much, that was a new twist on the tale. And overall, I absolutely loved what the writer’s did with Maleficent’s origin story. Without giving away any spoilers, love is the key to both the damnation and salvation of both Maleficent and Princess Aurora – but in a surprising twist from what we’ve been told all these years.

Let’s face it, I am a sucker for love stories. And when love is the background behind the twisting evil of some of movie’s most villainous foes – think Wicked Witch of the East, Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter – it brings me to my knees. Who wasn’t touched by the story of Elphaba? Whose heart wasn’t shattered when Anakin thought his wife and unborn children were lost? Who didn’t mourn for the family of Hannibal Lecter? (Before you think me weird, if you’ve not seen Hannibal Rising rent it, now. It will give you a whole new level of …understanding, dare I say, for the epitome of evil characters, Hannibal.) You understand  these characters better, and the heart of their plight. You may not agree with their approach to dealing with their grief, but you get it and a part of you supports their quest for vindication. (Except for the whole eating people thing in Lecter…that is still horrifying.) This is what I loved about Maleficent. All these years, finally, we understand her wickedness and guess what, if you’re like me, you understand and emphasize with it.

I wasn’t too impressed with Elle Fanning’s performance, but then again, I’ve never been a fan of Princess Aurora. Of all the princesses, she always bugged me. Not sure why. Her father, King Stefan, has an interesting background in this adaptation, and is at the heart of Maleficent’s curse. He is actually pretty annoying in the movie, bordering on dirty dirt bag material.

These two things aside, Jolie’s costumes were gorgeous, the look and feel of the film kept it very close to the beloved Disney classic, and the ending credits even featured one of my favorite voices, Lana Del Ray, covering the classic “Once Upon a Dream,” featured in the 1959 animated film.  I love this song. I sang it to my son every night at bedtime when he was a baby, and he still smiles when he hears it to this day.

I will be buying the film when it comes to DVD, as we have with every version of the Disney classic that has come to VHS and DVD. What can I say, it’s a bit of a favorite. And now the origin story is, too.

Lana Del Ray – “Once Upon a Dream”

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Sweet dreams little darling – movie review, Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters

I have written about my passion for literary mash-ups before — when classic fiction meets the supernatural. But I haven’t written about my interest when the same twists are taken on beloved stories/fairy tales. Like Summit Entertainment’s Red Riding Hood (2011) or the newly released Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters.

The famed story, part of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, has been passed down through time and goes something like this: a brother and sister are sent into the woods to fend for themselves by parents who can no longer afford to feed then. Lost and hungry, the siblings stumble upon a house made of candy. Finding themselves unable to control their hunger, they eat from the house, which turns out to be a clever trick of a cannibalistic witch to lure them into her home. Trapped as slaves while the witch feeds them in effort to fatten them up, the two eventually overthrow the witch and burn her in the often she planned to cook them in.

The story has undergone extensive analysis over the years, and like most Grimm’s fairy tales, was created  not as a bedtime story for sweet dreams, but essentially, to keep children from being bad. (Seriously, that’s what Grimm’s Fairy Tales were all about). But unlike the take, the new movie takes an interesting twist on the fable picking up years after Hansel and Gretel escape the witch’s cottage and are now grown bounty hunters who track and kill witches all over the world.

Given that plot you know I had to see it.

While I expected more from Jeremy Renner (Hurt Locker) and Gemma Arterton (Quantum of Solace) as the film’s Hansel and Gretel, it’s kind of hard to be serious when you’re well, a witch hunter. So remove the serious acting expectations and layer in the supernatural and you have a pretty decent flick. I didn’t enjoy it as much as Red Riding Hood — let’s be clear, the eye candy in that movie was insane – re: Shiloh Fernandez, Max Irons — not to mention the lovely Amanda Seyfried, who in my eyes can do no wrong, encouraged a more ethereal, fantasy vibe in that flick. But I will give Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters credit for bringing to the screen an interesting spin on a tale that as been told for over two hundred years, as well as roping in the always creepy Famke Janssen, who gives me goosebumps as the Phoenix in Xmen, and makes my skin crawl as this film’s antagonist, the most evil of wicked witches.

There are so many movies out right now that I want to see and while I could have seen any of those on my list, I’m glad I checked this one out. Last week was rough and I needed something to take my mind off of it. And a Sunday afternoon movie that delivered ass kicking witch hunters did just the trick.