Maleficent

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

Maleficent (B+). I just caught this one at the dollar theater, and I was glad I did. It’s a new take on tale of Sleeping Beauty, basically retelling the story from the perspective of the wicked witch, Maleficent. Of course, she’s pretty much pure evil in the classic animated version of Sleeping Beauty, so they have to nip and tuck the story to make Maleficent a more relatable character. She has a painful backstory, see, that explains that her seeming wickedness comes from a place of hurt, not pure evil. Anyway, it worked for me, more so than the similarly themed Oz the Great and Powerful. Angelina Jolie (Salt) plays the title character and chews the scenery in an entertaining fashion. As Princess Aurora, the adorable Elle Fanning (Super 8) isn’t given much to do but smile and be adorable, but she does it well. Definitely worth a look.

Maleficent

The Borg Queen checks in on a current release.

Maleficent  (A-)

The first thing my 15-year-old daughter said when this movie ended was, “I loved that movie!”  And I felt the same way.  This movie is a retelling of the classic Sleeping Beauty from the vantage point of Maleficent, the fairy (though in the classic she is a witch) that casts the spell that sends Princess Aurora into a deep sleep.  The story keeps many of the basic elements of the original, but the story overall is quite different.  At 97 minutes, the story wastes no time and moves at a good pace.  The special effects were outstanding and Angelia Jolie’s portrayal of Maleficent is excellent.  It may have been a bit predictable, but even though you know how a rollercoaster comes to an end doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy the ride getting there–at least, not in this case.  The film is rated PG.  Although I think the film overall is good for children of most ages, very young children may be scared by some of the creatures.  There is also one highly dramatic scene that I have since learned is supposed to be a metaphor for rape and plays a large role in the events thereafter.  Though that concept was lost on me when I saw the film, reflecting back on the film now I am struck by how remarkably well Angelina Jolie and the writer captured the emotions of that scene and the events that followed.  Definitely worth your hard-earned money to see this one in the theaters.

The Tourist

New review from The Movie Snob

The Tourist (C). I’d say my decision to wait for this movie to make it to the dollar cinema was a wise one. Angelina Jolie (Salt) plays Elise, a mysterious woman in Paris whose every move is being watched by an international team of police. She gets a mysterious message from a mysterious, unseen man, instructing her to take a train to Venice and pick out a stranger of the right height and build to make the police think the stranger is the mysterious, unseen man. The lucky stranger turns out to be Frank Tupelo (Johnny Depp, Corpse Bride), an unassuming math teacher from Wisconsin. She chats him up, he’s enchanted, they reach Venice, and hijinks ensue because everyone thinks Frank is the mysterious, unseen Mr. X. It’s a hair too serious and violent to be a feel-good Romancing the Stone kind of movie, but it’s not serious enough to be a serious thriller. So it just kind of idles along without any real sense of urgency. But Venice is pretty, and if you like Jolie or Depp, that might be enough to carry the movie for you.

The Tourist

Nick at Nite goes sightseeing with The Tourist

The Tourist.

Sadly, this movie is not receiving a fair shake. Everyone wants to complain – Jolie and Depp have no chemistry, it is not an action film, it is not a romantic comedy, it doesn’t know what it is – well those complainers should come down from their ivory towers and give this film a chance. The Tourist is not the best movie ever made, but it is entertaining and worth the price of the ticket to a first run feature. It reminds me of some of the better 70s or 80s thrillers (not meant to be ironic). Think Three Days of the Condor and Robert Redford. The movie has some action, a plot, some twists, a few laughs, and a ton of scenery to chew on. Jolie plays the girlfriend of a financial thief. Depp is the hapless tourist that is thrust into Jolie’s intrigue. The co-star of this movie is Venice. Wow, I want to go there. I give this move an “A.” Ignore the other reviews. Go see it.

Salt

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Salt (C). The action-thriller genre may have just about played itself out, as far as I’m concerned. Angelina Jolie (Beowulf) stars as a CIA agent who, as the movie opens, gets sprung from a North Korean prison in a spy exchange. Flash forward two years and she’s back at work in Washington. A Russian defector turns up and fingers her as a Russian mole. After that, it’s pretty much non-stop Jolie action. Although the movie poster poses the question “Who is Salt?,” I actually found it relatively easy to follow the plot’s twists and turns. Not that they were remotely plausible, but at least I could generally tell who was supposed to be on which side at most points during the film. Anyhoo, if you like lots of explosions and car chases and fisticuffs, Salt should suit you fine. Personally, I’m getting close to having had enough.

Wanted

A new review from Nick at Nite

Wanted

This movie surprised me. I was surprised it was watchable at all. I got the impression from the reviews I read that Wanted was the bastard love child of Alien v. Predator II and Grindhouse or as I like to refer to them – the two worst movies ever made. Here is the main issue. Critics need to relax, take a smoke break, and grab a beer. If you go to see a movie about a group of assassins – who are actually seamstresses – who have been killing people based on names that are spit out of a magic loom, you cannot complain that the movie is not realistic. This movie is not supposed to be realistic. It is escapist fare. It is for eating popcorn and enjoying. Our intrepid hero is working a boring desk job when he finds out that his father who has just been killed is a member of a group of assassins. He is recruited to join the group to avenge his father’s death. It has two or three plot twists. It is pretty violent. It is action packed. It also had Angelina Jolie (Maleficent) – wow. I give it an “A.”

Beowulf

New review from The Movie Snob

Beowulf (B+). For best results, I recommend that you see this movie the way I did if at all possible — in 3D at an IMAX theater. Under those conditions, the visuals are so spectacular that you won’t mind the deficiencies in the story-telling and Angelina Jolie’s odd accent too much. The 3D effects are very good, and the weird computer animation they use is head and shoulders better than the same technique was back when they made The Polar Express. Anyhoo, this is a 21st-century embellishment of the tale of Beowulf. Well, embellished as compared to the child’s version I once read eons ago. As I recall, a giant named Grendel plagued the land of King Hrothgar until the mighty hero Beowulf came along and took care of business. And then Grendel’s mother, who was some sort of dragon-like creature, came along to avenge her son, and Beowulf had to settle her hash too. In this retelling, Grendel’s mom is, well, Angelina Jolie (Maleficent), and things go a little differently. I got a kick out of it, but be warned that there is some pretty gross stuff — squeamish folks will want to close their eyes, especially whenever Grendel is on the scene. But if you liked 300, you should like this.