Thursday, August 14, 2014

Film review: Maleficent

**Spoilers ahead**

Sleeping Beauty gets the "Wicked" treatment here. The villainess isn't evil, just misunderstood, and ultimately, the real heroine. So, it loses points for borrowing that concept.

It starts off interesting, it ends with a nice  -- if not totally original -- climax, it's the middle where things lose momentum. I usually feel patronized when a film throws in a gratuitous action sequence to prop up a sagging middle (I'm looking at you three most-recent Star Wars movies, and Casino Royale), but this film needed it. In the second act we watch Aurora go from baby to 15 in a totally unremarkable childhood.

Unremarkable ... couldn't anything happen? A world of dungeons and dragons, and absolutely no conflict in the flabby middle. Just Jolie becoming protective then loving of the princess she had cursed. There had to be a better way of showing that than a playful mud fight with the local trolls.

Just as in the Disney classic, three fairies raise her, but they're incompetent so Maleficent takes over raising her. The incompetence is supposed to be humorous, but never actually is funny.

It's a literal adaptation of the animated film - they frequently recreate scenes faithfully - and I'm sitting in  the theater thinking: please, take liberties, please, someone say something sarcastic. Wicked told an old story in a new way, turning what we knew about Oz on its head. This film, not so much.

I could also see parallels to "Terminator 2." The cyborg didn't turn good to service the story, the cyborg turned good because between Terminator 1 and Terminator 2 Arnold Schwarzenegger became a big movie star, and big movie stars don't play the bad guy. (the exception would be Jack Nicholson who's secure enough in his stardom to play the Joker or Jessup in "A Few Good Men.")

This is the same deal, Angelina Jolie is too big a movie star to play a villain. You could hear her agent yelling at the Disney people, "If you want her to be in this movie, she demands that she's the one who kisses the princess to break the spell!"

"Um...but in the story..."

"We don't care!"

As  a result, when the handsome prince does show up, he has nothing to do. In fact he spends more time unconscious than Sleeping Beauty.

It's like that Monty Python sketch "Scott of the Antarctic," where the dim  lead actor wants a rewrite in which he fights a lion. Nevermind there are no lions in the Antarctic.

So when Jolie gives the princess "true love's kiss," the only thing you see is Jolie's true love for her career.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Garfunkel and Oates: Speechless

IFC is streaming the first episode of this show here. It feels like a lost "Seinfeld" episode. The walking down the street talking about minutiae, running into someone, plot gets set in motion…and the comedy begins.

It's a little slow going at first as the pins get lined up, but once it all comes together we get a hilarious ending well worth the set up. Then there's a post-ending ending which explains everything which is also hilarious.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Film review: Guardians of the Galaxy

OK, we got a ragtag team of rebels who bicker, but must band together to fight a force much more powerful than themselves. I will give you it's a retelling of the Star Wars story, but it's probably the best retelling of the Star Wars story since Empire Strikes Back.

This is the kind of movie George Lucas used to know how to make.

The action sequences were relentless and funny. Yes we've seen jail breaks before, but this one starts with a laugh and ends with a surprise that makes perfect sense.

Everytime Quill puts on his Buck Rogers suit you just know it's going to be great.

We get to hear 70s standards in a whole new way, and  they even acknowledged their homages by giving credit to the Maltese Falcon and the Ark of the Covenant.

I never read the books, so I didn't have that to hold  back my enjoyment, but me and my 6-year-old both had a great time at the movies.