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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Moview Review: The Great Gatsby

I didn’t get a chance to see The Great Gatsby when it hit theaters this past spring. I was anxious to see it. I really love Baz Luhrman’s work. It’s over the top and visually stimulating, and always good about pin-pointing a period of time with a subtle weave of modern day accessibility via score and soundtrack. Also, I am a huge F. Scott Fitzgerald fan. A few of the story nuances may have gotten tangled in that cobweb filled, lit-obsessed mind of mine, but the story is synonymous with everything I love about his work:  the decadence, idealism, and excess of the Jazz Age, coupled alongside impractical and incredibly tender and eloquent stories of youth and love that is often suffocated and tainted by the greed filled society that surrounds them. (Phew, wish I could have summed up my words like THAT in college).

I will admit, I wasn’t a fan of the 1974 film starring Robert Redford. The man is gorgeous, of course. I mean, stunning in the way J. Gatsby should be. But the film always failed to bring out the opulence of the Jazz Age, and Mia Farrow’s Daisy Buchanan always appeared dingy and flighty, not self centered or narcissistic in the way those of us who have a love/hate relationship with Fitzgerald’s Daisy imagine her to be.  Check out the original trailer below, you will see what I mean.

Stark contrast to the high energy, totally stunning, reel you in trailer from Luhrman:

Farrow’s Daisy  also wasn’t nearly as stunning as Carey Mulligan’s Daisy. I know movies have changed a lot in the past 35 years, so maybe some of the look in feel of the film and its characters were transformed in a way now, that they couldn’t be, then. But Farrow’s Daisy was always off and that ruins a movie for me…when you can’t love/hate the character the same way on the screen as you do in the book because of bad casting. (You hear me Kristen Stewart??)

People can say what they want about Leo DiCaprio, but I happen to like the actor. I think he has gotten unfairly overlooked by the Academy over the years. Some of his films have been incredible – Blood Diamond and Inception to name a few. But I feel like no one has ever really given him a fair chance since Titanic. To this I have to say come on! You gave Kate Winslet a chance to move past the film, people really should let Leo move on, too. And he didn’t look too bad. His “old sport” was a bit irritating, but they were in the book as well. There is actually a point in the movie where I am so in love with the both of them (Caprio’s Gatsy and Mulligan’s Daisy), they look that good together, that I almost forget Daisy is a self obsessed snob and he, nothing but a bootlegger.

Luhrman was careful not to forget to focus on the exquisite writing of Fitzgerald using key moments in the film to underscore the brilliance of his work by bringing the words to life on screen, including my favorite line from the book, uttered by Nick Carraway: “I was both within and without.” Poetic. Every time I read the story it gets me. Every. Single. Time.

Last but not least, I want to say a hearty well done to Jay Z for his work on the soundtrack – an effort he brought to life through collaborations with many amazing, talented artists that I happen to love including Lana Del Ray, Florence + the Machine, The xx, and Nero, to name a few. Who cares what this rambling review from the Village Voice says. It’s fabulous and I am only sorry it took me four months to discover it. I love it that much. Don’t trust me? Check out the following tracks: Lana Del Ray’s “Young and Beautiful,” Florence + the Machine’s “Over the Love,” The xx’s “Together,” Gotye’s “Hearts A Mess,” and Nero’s “Into the Past.” Of course Jack White’s cover of U2’s “Love is Blindness” — as heard in the soundtrack — is incredible. But I would have loved to have heard the two collaborate on that.

I’m not a huge Tobey Macguire fan, but he plays a pretty good clueless Nick Carraway and Isla Fisher has little screen time as Myrtle.  Joel Edgerton is a solid Tom Buchanan. I really liked him in The Odd Life of Timothy Green . He’s an actor I am going to pay a bit more attention to in the future.

All in all a film I really, really, really enjoyed and the beautiful architecture of the Jazz Age captured brilliantly in the films many, many, many marketing pieces such as the cast photo below.

“The Great Gatsby” is now out on PPV and DVD and Blu-Ray.

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