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Maleficent: Sleeping Beauty Re-imagined
If you think you know the story Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty, think again. Think of Malificent as the 1959 classic, but told from a different perspective – that of the title character and antagonist in the original.
Set in a far away fantasy world where two realms - one inhabited by man and the other populated by fairies and other earthly creatures - are sitting opposed to one another with the humans - ruled by King Henry (Cranham) - wanting to destroy the other side and rule both worlds.
One day, after being caught stealing, a young boy named Stefan (Higgins) accidentally stumbles on kind winged fairy, Maleficent (Molloy), who instead of punishing him for his crimes, decides to befriend him. The two are quick to bond and as time passes, their friendship turns into much more. However, as they grew older, they eventually go their separate ways with Stefan (Copley) turning into a greedy man wanting to overthrow the king and Maleficent (now played by the spectacular Jolie) assuming her role as the protector of her land.
It's not long before the King marches into battle, however, and Maleficent – now an extremely powerful force to be reckoned with – is determined not to go down without a fight and quickly manages to defeat his army of men. Unfortunately, though, the worst is far from over when Stefan – in order to prove his worthiness to the throne– betrays Maleficent in the worst way possible, causing her to seek revenge the only way her broken heart knows how.
Written by Alice in Wonderland's Linda Woolverton, the story is told entirely through the eyes of Maleficent; the self-proclaimed Mistress of Evil and one of the most celebrated Disney villainess of all time. It's a modern twist on a classic tale which cleverly introduces new perspective and a much darker side to the story.
With her razor-sharp cheekbones, scarlet-red lips and a captivating glare, it's pretty safe to say that this is a typical icy Jolie performance through and through. Jolie glides through the story effortlessly and her presence – which serves as a front to a woman with a broken heart - brings a lot of depth and gravitas to the fictional tale. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast faid into the background which includes Fanning as the sweet but foolishly naïve Princess Aurora and Copley as the overly-theatrical Stefen.
Directed by the famed production designer, Robert Stromberg the set design is nothing short of magnificent, though the CGI falls into typical cutesy mode at times.
Nevertheless, Maleficent still manages to impress; creepy, enthralling and wonderfully enchanting, this latest revisit to the far-away land of Sleeping Beauty is definitely worth a watch; for and her enigmatic performance as a character we all learned to hate.
Marking the fifth instalment in the Underworld franchise, Blood Wars rests in the hands of a first-time feature director, Anna Foerster who, although managing to create a few notable moments of action, fails to bring any ingenuity or freshness to its now exhausted vampires-versus-werewolves narrative.
The story begins with a brief recap of events from the last four films where we learn that everyone’s favourite vampire death dealer, Selena (once again fully embraced by the leather-clad, forever sulking Kate Beckinsale) has been betrayed and banished by her kind.
Still trying to cope with the pain of having given up her vampire-werewolf hybrid daughter Eve for everyone’s safety, Selena is surprised to be summoned back into the vampire community - now led by the scheming Semira (Pulver) - who wish to make use of her skills in order to train the new generation of fighters, while still escaping her own chasers and searching for her daughter.
Taking quite a bit of time to get going, Blood Wars – written by Cory Goodman – is filled with lots of politics and nonsensical dialogue between characters who seemingly have a hard time in conveying any emotion, thus, making it all that difficult for the viewer to get invested in what they have to say. Drenched in a seemingly cold, metallic-blue tint, Blood Wars – although certainly not heavy on the action front – does manage to offer a couple relatively exciting action set-pieces. However, considering that this is a vampires-verses-werewolves kind of a movie, there just isn’t enough of that that specific mythology to set it apart from any other action movies – no wooden stakes or silver bullets to see here folks, just plenty of swirling swords and guns that can’t hurt anyone.
Another problem here is that the mythology behind the franchise in general – something the keeps spinning around aimlessly with no real focus or ending in sight – is a little hard to take seriously.
All of the characters, including the PVC-wearing Kate Beckinsale, who thinks that scowling her way through the scenes will get her anywhere, are all without an ounce of charm or personality – which sadly, brings us to a conclusion that there is no fun to be had in this rather forgettable cinematic offering and generic continuation of a franchise which, perhaps, might be ready now to close its doors and call it a day.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.