Maleficent (2014)

6.5/10

As a die-hard Sleeping Beauty fan – it’s my favourite Disney movie – and a firm believer that it is the scariest Disney classic, needless to say I’ve been excited about Maleficent. Also a little nervous and possessive.

Proof of the old-school-ness of my love.

Proof of the old-school-ness of my love.

So I’m a little confused by my ambivalence after watching Maleficent, a tales that imagines another side of the story told about this truly nasty villain.

Maleficent: an honestly badass villain.

Maleficent: an honestly badass villain.

It’s one of the odder emotional arcs I’ve been through, watching a movie I’ve had a lot riding on –suspicious about how pretty it all seemed starting out, excited as Maleficent dropped her curse and got her evil on, then madly disappointed with how things went after that. Half an hour in I was sure I hated it. I thought, this is doing Wicked, but a pretty crap job of it, without any of Wicked’s subtlety or charm.

Then I worked out where they were heading with the storyline, and grudgingly managed to give it another chance.

It had some jarring bits of humour – cute, endearing, but nevertheless out of place with the gravity I craved. It had some clunky scripting, especially around the all-important curse scene.

There was some poor characterisation. King Stefan was laughable (Sharlto Copley, not given much to work with). The fairies were weird and  cringeworthy, though I did like the choice of Umbridge – Imelda Staunton will forever be Umbridge to me – as Merryweather, or Knotgrass, as they pointlessly changed it to. Aurora (Elle Fanning) was so insipid the Ministry and I wanted to slap her every time she gave that gormless smile.

Apart from all that, the look was down pat. The scenery was spectacular. And Angelina Jolie as Maleficent is jaw-dropping. Mesmerising, really, you just want to drink her in. She’s utterly believable and true to the original in every moment, while adding her own humanity to it, which is the whole point.  Plus, she looks great with horns.

This movie was all about the women, which was refreshing. It’s nice to have the handsome prince be the completely irrelevant, token character for a change.

There’s also a nice little twist, which I shan’t, obviously, spoil.

Overall, I’m happy enough, if I try to forget about what they did with my beloved Flora, Fauna and Merryweather.

Special mention goes to Lana Del Ray for her beautiful, creepy rendition of Once Upon a Dream played in the credits. Now THIS had the gravity I craved.

 

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Turbo Blog: one for the ladies

The Ministry was obliged to go away for a few days recently For Business Purposes. I took the opportunity to watch a few things I was pretty sure he wouldn’t care about missing.

  • Sleeping Beauty (2011)
Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty

It’s not a game.

 

 

 

And it ain’t Disney.

 

 

It’s the “story of a young girl’s strange erotic journey”… hang on, that’s Seinfeld.

Australian novelist Julia Leigh directed this, and I guess the words “Jane Campion presents” on the cover offer a clue as to what you’ve got yourself into.

Lucy is a uni student holding down three jobs – waitress, photocopy clerk and laboratory test subject – when she takes another: a silver service waitress who works in lingerie, a novice among girls with other unexplained “responsibilities”.

She accepts a promotion: drink a tea and sleep like the dead in bed next to male clients, who have paid to do anything they like with her. Except penetrate her.

What follows is a singular tale, both nasty and beautiful, with a minimal soundtrack and some profoundly uncomfortable scenes.

There is an odd repetitive patterning to Lucy’s rotation between jobs, and a repetition of concepts as well: penetration and violation pop up in all forms.

So do intimacy and detachment; not only represented by what happens in the bed of that country manor, but in scenes such as the one in which a shopkeeper is so mesmerised by Lucy’s image on a security screen that he does not notice she is behind him, trying to attract his attention.

Definitely arthouse, so choose your movie buddy wisely. Many an online review called it boring, but I found plenty of food for thought, and was not bored. I found the whole thing a rather intense experience that ratcheted up the suspense on its way to a conclusion I did not once guess at.

  • Toast (2010)

No matter how bad things get, it’s impossible not to love someone who made you toast.

This is a trip through 60s Britain, a time famous for the tinned vegetables. It is a biographical story of the youth of now-celebrated chef and food writer Nigel Slater.

It’s nostalgic, has pretty colours and a random appearance by Helena Bonham Carter and tickles you with Nigel’s mum’s reliance on the aforementioned tinned veg (and of course, when all else fails, toast).

” Ah, lashings of toast. Me favourite,” as Lockie Leonard’s little brother, Phillip, would say.

On the con side, there’s a lot of completely unexpected plot that kicks you in the guts. I didn’t know too much about Nigel Slater’s back story and consequently didn’t clock that I’d be weeping into my mending (I really was mending. I said it was ladies’ night) for so much of the film.

I wouldn’t really recommend this unless you’re a die-hard Nigel Slater fan, which I am. There’s nothing much wrong with it, but there’s nothing special either. I think IMDB’s 6.5 a touch generous.

  • Jane Eyre (2011)

All governesses have a tale of woe. What’s yours?

I’d been looking forward to watching this for yonks. Read the book twice, once as a child, and once a few years ago, and have always loved its plain-talking heroine and spooky premise.

Happily, Mia Wasikowska was hands-down perfect for the role, disconcertingly shifting from plain and stark to weirdly sexy within moments.

The structure, starting with Jane collapsing on the moor after fleeing Thornfield Hall and moving back and forth from there, preserves the mystery for as long as possible.

The script captures the nuance and fire of the fiery dialogue between Jane and Mr Rochester, in all its awkwardness and insight.

Horror overtones and a sense of repressed sexuality pervade the film, enhanced by a muted colour scheme and truly exquisite score.

Mrs Rochester, when she eventually appeared, was disappointingly pretty, but apart from that, everything was satisfyingly bleak and unadorned.

I was very happy with this adaptation.

Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Feel as though I have been staring at a computer screen since I was born, but I shall drag my burning eyes to the screen one last time for the sake of my followers, who no doubt are avidly waiting for every post.
So, here’s one I prepared earlier.
But you’re not going to get much fire or brimstone, I’m just going to waffle about something I love.
It makes me happy just thinking about this movie. It’s one of my favourite Disney movies, and that’s a hard choice to make. I’m just going to go ahead and say the spoilers. Everyone knows the story.
It’s got that beautiful old-style Disney animation, before things got all cute and rounded (and the newer style is damn cute, don’t get me wrong). It’s all angular and very unrealistic. The knight’s faces look as though they’ve been carved out of a tree stump, the horses’ legs are so skinny they actually disappear between their pointy fetlocks and their knees, and Maleficent looked exactly like a dragon long before she turned into one.
And no dragon-lover could be disappointed with the dragon she eventually does turn into. Even the Ministry, famous for his dragon-love, had no complaints (or, didn’t dare to voice them in the face of my overwhelming enthusiasm).
Anyway, it’s just gorgeous. The colours are gorgeous. The shapes are gorgeous. Even the gargoyles are gorgeous. And it’s not simplistic. I can’t quite describe what they do with the illustrations of the fairies’ gifts, but it’s unusual and gives you funny feelings. Sorry. I did say I was tired.
Even given what I said about the animation being the style it was before it got cute, it’s still adorable. It has a fat king and a thin king. It has rabbits who dance in boots, and three squabbling fairies. It is so cute it’s quite amazing that it manages to be so hellishly scary.
Menace pervades the entire movie (with the possible exception of the scene with the dancing rabbits). Maleficent is terrifying to look at and to listen to, especially since she is immediately shown as someone ready to sentence another to death over not being invited to their birthday party.
Apart from Maleficent, the Tchaikovsky score, taken from the ballet, is the other major factor that makes this film so dreadfully creepy. Sorry I can’t link to a convenient YouTube, but since childhood I have not shaken off the dread that steals over me when Maleficent’s yellow eyes appear in the fireplace and lure the transfixed Aurora upstairs to this simple, but utterly eerie, piece of music.
You couldn’t fault the action of the climax … though, I must note, the Prince would have been hard pressed to do all that hacking of bushes, evading of guards and killing of dragons without those handy fairies.
Finally, of all the fairy-tale Disney endings, this one is about as fairy-tale as you can get. Aurora ends up waltzing in a cloud wearing a ballgown that changes from pink to blue, for crying out loud. It’s a little girl’s wet dream (appropriate? Whatever) and it’s awesome.
Do yourself a favour, and watch the movie.