Tag Archives: Elle Fanning

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

I never thought that Maleficent cried out for a sequel. The first one seemed to wrap up the story rather neatly: Maleficient, thought largely to be a villain, was actually just a fairy with a dark past, a magnificent wardrobe, a broken heart, and a slight hairpin temper. Inside, she was rather like a pussy cat. More or less. But all-knowing Disney thought there was more money to be made more story to be told, so it milked an old fairy tale for more malevolence.

When we left Maleficent (Angelina Jolie), it was generally understood that she wasn’t so terrible after all. Really kind of sweet, and fiercely protective of the little girl she’d raised as her own. Years later, it seems that message never penetrated the minds of the villagers down below who still fear her. Aurora (formerly Sleeping Beauty) (played in this series by Elle Fanning) has been prancing about barefoot in the forest as Queen of the Moors, home to all kinds of fairies and mythical creatures. Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson) has continued to sniff about and likes the flower crown in her hair and her whole boho-chic vibe. He proposes and she accepts, and they’re pretty much the only two who are happy about it. Maleficent is mostly just concerned because she knows she won’t exactly be welcomed by “his kind.” And maybe she’s also a little sad to lose her precious goddaughter. His mother, Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), makes it clear they’re on shaky ground with her as well. You can imagine how awkward the engagement dinner’s going to be. Or, no you can’t, because it’s next-level awkward. I won’t say it’s the reason that humans and fairies go to war with each other but it’s not not the reason, if you know what I mean. So if you thought planning your wedding with your in-laws was fraught, imagine the tension when both mothers are intent on destroying each other. I mean, the seating chart alone is going be bizarrely complicated when you need opposing armies at the same table.

Anyway, Sean thought Mistress of Evil was “not great” and overlong. And at 20 minutes longer than its predecessor, it’s hard to argue that point. It does take way too long to establish certain facts. But I thought the movie was “not that bad” (is she quoting herself there? Indeed she is). I enjoyed meeting all of the little woodland creatures, especially more of Maleficent’s ilk, including the lovely Chiwetel Ejiofor. But mostly I was there for Maleficent. Poor, dark, misunderstood Maleficent. Yes her black eyeliner is intimidating and her horns are slightly reminiscent of a Beelzebub type. That does’t mean she has a heart of darkness! Don’t judge a book by its brooding black cover. Not even when that book falls from a top shelf and caves in your skull. Err. Well maybe then. Anyway, I love Maleficent because I love Jolie in the role. She’s menacing and conflicted and vulnerable and powerful and it’s terrific to see her don the wings and the cheekbones again.

Does Maleficent: Mistress of Evil justify its existence? Not remotely. Jolie and Pfeiffer make an electric pair and it’s sort of wonderful to see two such formidable women square off so maybe that’s enough. And if it’s not enough, the incredible costumes by Ellen Mirojnick will more than make up the difference.

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Maleficent

As a young fairy, Maleficent is like any other girl, wings and horns notwithstanding. She likes adventure and good stories, and a little mischievious boy named Stefan with whom she shares a first kiss. But as they grow older, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) must protect her land from an evil king and Stefan (Sharto Copley) has taken off in pursuit of ambition and power. On his deathbed, the king calls on his trusted inner circle, including Stefan, to kill Maleficent to earn his crown. Stefan seeks her out to warn her,ostensibly, but it plays out a lot more like betrayal. Woe her broken heart.

King Stefan is crowned and soon there is a child: a girl. Maleficent is furious, and her fury is a glorious sight: green light, crumbling walls, the world bends to rage and damn I wish my anger could manifest itself like that. Meanwhile, the kingdom is celebrating the birth of little Aurora but Maleficent crashes the party, putting a curse on the little sleeping babe. Unfortunately, she learns too late that this child, this sleeping beauty if you will, is perhaps the one person who could have united the land that Maleficent holds so dear.

Disney has learned to pay heed to their villains lately, as well they should. They are often more interesting than the so-called heroes, and in Aurora’s case, this is 137000% true. Sleeping Beauty is as passive a princess as they come since she’s doomed to spend her own movie either in hiding, or deep in sleep. Maleficient, on the other hand, is dripping with vengeance, steeped in power. It’s magnificent.

The Disney World parks, however, still default to the princesses. On our upcoming visit to Disney World, we’ll visit Aurora at Queen Elsa’s castle. Last time we met her in Cinderella’s. Lucky for us, we caught her between naps.

Halloween, however, is the one time of the year Disney embraces its dark side. Only around Halloween can villains be spotted at meet and greets in the park. They even get their own merch and treats – check out this Maleficient look-alike ice cream cone, available at StoryBook Treats. Her dragon breathes fire at parade goers. Halloween seems like an exceptional time to visit Disney World for some value-added extra fun and fright, but alas, Disney rips down its Halloween decorations on the night of November 1st and by the 2nd, the park is transformed for Christmas, which means we’ll get an awfully early start on the holiday.

Anyway, the Maleficent film tells the villain’s unknown side of the story, and it shows that she is perhaps not as evil as we’ve been led to believe. Disney is an unreliable narrator, y’all.

Keep your eyes peeled: two of Jolie’s children, Pax and Zahara Jolie-Pitt, have cameos in the film. Daughter Vivienne played the baby Aurora, and was the only child on set who was frightened of her while in costume. Her Maleficent cackle was developed at home, with her children as barometers, voting on which was just right. Jolie confesses she kept a pair of horns for herself, though presumably not the ones so heavy she’d get neck pains even after very short scenes. She had a hand in developing Maleficent’s look – Disney wanted to capitalize on her beauty of course, but Jolie insisted on Maleficent’s more devious look, drawing inspiration from Lady Gaga. Even so, it was Lana Del Rey she hand-picked to sing Once Upon a Dream for the end credits. The movie has the biggest budget for a first-time director, but Robert Stromberg had an excellent pedigree, with two Oscars under his belt for production design on Alice in Wonderland, and Avatar, which understandable earned him substantial credit with the Disney team.

Angelina is wonderful in the film and this first one performed so well that a sequel is expected in theatres October 18th.

Ballerina

Victor and Felicie look and sound like adults, but they act like children. They ARE children, supposedly. In fact, they’re orphans in an orphanage who manage to runaway to Paris – she, to be a ballerina, he, to be an inventor.

Once there, they immediately get separated in the most unimaginable way possible, and quickly make a pact to meet on the bridge the next day. Which is incredibly stupid since Paris is like 87% bridge. And yet they do manage to make their rendez-vous, and she’s already enrolled in in the dance academy (under false pretenses, sure), and he’s already met famed inventor Gustav Eiffel (his eponymous tower is visibly half-built).

Felicie (Elle Fanning) makes friends with a cleaner with a limp, Odette (Carly Rae Jepsen), which is how she earns her room and board. Odette is somewhat suppressed herself, by a real evil stepmother type (which describes her general attitude and cruelty, not her parentage). There are several Cinderella types, so I suppose it evens out, but the sheer volume of adults being cruel and hostile toward children is a little alarming. Meanwhile, Victor (Dane DeHaan) is working in Gustav’s atelier, where they’re hard at work on the Statue of Liberty. It defies incredulity that these two parentless waifs have managed to make their dreams come true in under 24 hours with no resources or connections or experience. But let’s sweep that under the carpet for now.

Ballerina, also known as Leap!, has some stunning animation where the dance scenes are concerned. But the story is too familiar. Lazy, in fact. I suppose some little girls who love ballet themselves may be enchanted, but there’s no crossover potential for adults , and little to entice other kids into giving this a passing chance. I found it boring, and I’m what might be described as a grown human adult person. The movie veers drunkenly from heavy-handedness to negligence, from unabashed cruelty to unmitigated forgiveness, both unearned. To call it inconsistent is to besmirch the word. And then there’s the not inconsequential fact that a mother tries to go all Tonya Harding on a kid with a sledge hammer. That’s dark, y’all. I’m glad I didn’t spend any money to see this movie, but I’m a little sad that my taxes went toward making it. Canada makes some truly beautiful films, but this isn’t one it’ll be remembered for.

Teen Spirit

Teen Spirit, a singing competition not unlike The Voice or American Idol, comes to the Isle of Wight for the first time. Violet (Elle Fanning) is the first in line to audition, though she’s shy, and her strict Polish mother forbids it. Popstardom seems a far cry from the austere life she leads on a small farm with her single mother, who believes singing for god in the church choir should be more than enough. But for Violet, it’s not.

She auditions, and she recruits a strange old man named Vlad (Zlatko Buric) to pose as her guardian as she is not yet 18. In fact, Vlad has a mysterious past as an opera singer, so he might have some valuable insight into this whole singing thing, if only his fondness for the bottle doesn’t get too much in the way.

MV5BMWVjZTYxZTgtMWUwMS00YTAyLWFjYjktOGE0YjE3MDJhYzE2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTc5OTMwOTQ@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1499,1000_AL_Teen Spirit is a singing competition, but for Violet, it’ll test much more than her voice. It’ll test the bonds of friendship and family. It will test her integrity and her ambition. Her mettle and her tenacity. And honestly, what teenager could stand up to such a battery of glittering tests? It’s a box full of sin and temptation, just as her mother feared, but Violet can’t wait to rip it wide open.

Max Minghella writes and directs Teen Spirit, though to be honest, he could have both written and directed more. It’s short on story, and what story is there is very familiar. The underdog’s story has been told a million ways and it doesn’t feel like Minghella is particularly interested in adding to it. But he does have a knack for the music breaks. Invariably set to a monster pop song, those scenes are slick and spiffy, candy for the eyes and ears. They contrast well with Violet’s otherwise shabby life back home. Elle Fanning sells it. She is the candy, and she’s very sweet; Minghella is smart to have stocked up on her. The movie is worth watching just to see her break out of that shell and if it inspires your singing-and-dancing-in-the-shower routine, you’ll know who to thank.

I Think We’re Alone Now

Everybody in the whole world dropped dead on Tuesday afternoon. They seem to have  died suddenly, no pain or suffering or foreknowledge, on the toilet or in front of the TV. Del (Peter Dinklage) was asleep when it happened. When he got up to work his night shift at the library, everyone else was dead. He is alone, utterly alone.

Del has spent the last however many months or years methodically cleaning out the houses in his town. He is respectfully burying all 1600 residents. He tidies their homes, scrounging commodities like batteries and gas, and empties their refrigerators. Entropy is why: one less case of chaos in the universe. Then he searches for unreturned library books, marks the house, and leaves it behind, unsentimentally, ready for the next one. Sure he’s alone but so, apparently, was he in his life before.

MV5BMTk4MjM3NDUyMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTU4MzgyNDM@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,744_AL_You’ll never guess what’s coming. Okay, I bet you already have, more or less. Grace. Grace (Elle Fanning) is coming. She careens into his town one night and refuses to leave. That he wants her to is interesting, isn’t it? They make a grudging peace, but his solitariness is destroyed, and Grace, of course, is a big ole blob of chaos herself. But she challenges him in unexpected ways. He’s been able to manage this post-apocalyptic world because he didn’t lose much. Grace has lost everything – family, friends, lovers. She thinks Del is cold.

Of course, Grace is not as forthcoming as she’s presented herself. Who knew the end of the world could get so complicated? I wasn’t crazy about the tonal twist in the end and I’m not sure why the screenplay by Mike Makowsky veers off so dramatically when it’s been so low-key up until then. I like a script that has he space to leave some questions unanswered. And Peter Dinklage is very good at filling in the gaps. The opening scenes, largely dialogue-free, are not unreminiscent of a human version of Wall-E. But we get a sense of our solitary man, how comfortable he is with the routine. He’s alone, but he’s not lonely.

If I had some problems with the story, I had none with how I Think We’re Alone Now looks. Director Reed Morano, before she got her Emmy for directing The Handmaid’s Tale, was a cinematographer on films like Frozen River. She was the youngest person admitted to the American Society of Cinematographers and 1 of only 14 women (out of approximately 345, yuck). Morano’s the real deal, and so much of Del’s world looks incredible. I love what the camera will linger on, I love which colours are emphasized and when. I just wish the story delivered on the film’s promise.

 

How To Talk To Girls At Parties

Boy is this title misleading! It sounds like it belongs to the self-help genre, but if you’ve been standing awkwardly around the dip, wondering how to break the ice, calculating to the minute when it’s no longer rude to leave, well, I hate to tell you this, but this movie isn’t going to change your life.

It’s based on a short story by Neil Gaiman, which means I went in curious as hell. And director John Cameron Mitchell is an interesting guy, with some visually stunning work tucked into his artist fanny pack. But here’s the deal: Enn (Alex Sharp) is a young punk. That’s not my inner grumpy old man coming out, he’s a teenager in 1977 who thinks punk rock music is going to save his soul. He and his punk friends go out one night in the London suburb of Croydon and stumble upon a party that seems too good to be true: a sex den of beautiful exchange students.

MV5BNTA3ZGY0ZjctZGVjOC00MDdmLTg0NjctOGE4MGE1YTViYjE0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTc5OTMwOTQ@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1499,1000_AL_Enn is immediately taken with Zan (Elle Fanning) and his immediate concern is about how to successfully extract her from what appears to be a sexy suicide cult. But that notion is further complicated as it becomes obvious she’s from much further away than America. Zan is an alien. Zan is an alien? It seems that Zan is an alien, an alien who is  disenchanted with her fellow travelers and would really like to hang out with her new teenage friends, experiencing their fascinating culture.

DJ James Murphy developed a new kind of EDM for this movie, one he’s described as “extraterrestrial dance music,” that still feels like a cousin to the Sex Pistols.  So you can imagine that John Cameron Mitchell has created a really cool vibe for this movie, and when it works, it’s a lot of fun. But it may have been a little ambitious to stage a punk rebellion musical. Okay, a lot ambitious. But that’s one of the move lovable things about it. Sure it’s unhinged, it’s messy, it’s campy, it’s weird. It’s a punk rock Romeo & Juliet. It mixes metaphors. It mixes genres. It’s not always successful but it takes big risks and paints with wild abandon. Plus, there’s Nicole Kidman looking like David Bowie in Labyrinth, which nearly stopped my heart. Maybe this movie is not for you. But I hope it finds its audience of weirdos. Weirdos gonna weird.

The Beguiled

During the civil war, a girls’ boarding school full of southern genteel ladies is eking out an existence. Out of the goodness of their hearts, they take in an injured enemy soldier, John (Colin Farrell) and nurse him back to health. They’ve hardly got enough fabric to rip into bandages yet somehow the lot of them, including house mistress Martha (Nicole Kidman), teacher Edwina (Kirsten Dunst), and haughty student Carol (Elle Fanning), flounce around in beautiful, gauzy dresses. Suspicious.

I hated this movie in a pretty major way. Every female in the movie is a bitch, even the film_rec-02cute little ones. And every female throws herself at the soldier in their midst, despite the fact that he’s their sworn enemy and currently AWOL. And of course Johnny boy plays each and every one of them, and they faint into his greedy clutches like they don’t have a brain between them to see through his rather obvious machinations.

The entire plot of this movie relies on the crazed horniness of every single woman and girl. And when lusty John finally makes one his lucky mistress, oh man, we’re all going to wish they had stuck to just heavy petting and weird old-timey flirting.

Of course, this being a Sofia Coppola flick, it looks great. Very atmospheric. I sort of want to take a feminist read of it, and wonder where we’d be if it wasn’t for men fucking things up all the time. That’s worthy of a pause, but hard to dwell there since the movie is so entrenched in its sexual tension. The women give some fantastic performances, but the characters are so exploitative it’s hard to really appreciate any nuance.

The Beguiled is a slow-burning thriller seething with toxic masculinity. The pace is uneven, defaulting to meandering. Long, artful silences can’t mask the mixed message: Colin Farrell might be the sex object, but every female is just a flower waiting, hoping, to be plucked by him. It looks dreamy but feels grim. Coppola might be doing interesting things here but I’ll never know it because I was too enraged and insulted to care.