MV5BMTQ1NDk3NTk0MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTk3MDcxMzE@._V1_SY317_CR5,0,214,317_AL_Maleficent is Disney’s retelling of the timeless Sleeping Beauty story. Staring Angelina Jolie as the titular character, she is re-imagined as a magical fairy who is by default the leader and protector of the fairies against the evil of men. The fairies and men occupy two separate kingdoms: the fairies live happy idyllic lives while the men suffer from poverty, envy and greed; the men covet what the fairies have.

As a young fairy, kind-hearted Maleficent befriends a young man, Stefan (Sharlto Copley) and their friendship blossoms into something more. But Stefan, like most men becomes greedy and corrupt.

Later, the men attack the fairies but are repelled by Maleficent and her army of tree warriors. The defeated (and dying) king-of-men offers his kingdom to the person who destroys Maleficent. Stefan takes the king up on his offer and in a shocking act of betrayal deforms Maleficent and turns her heart to stone.

After Stefan becomes king, Maleficent shows at the christening of his newly-born daughter, Aurora and curses her with the sleeping curse. Maleficent immediately regrets her curse and modifies it so that only true love’s kiss can break the curse. Three fairies kidnap Aurora to circumvent the curse.

I like how the film gives Maleficent a back story; she is not just the evil queen of the Sleeping Beauty tale, but wronged and in her anger, takes it out on an innocent.  She realizes her error and makes amends, because she is not truly evil, only wounded by a betrayal.

For a Disney film, it is dark, and somewhat more violent than I would have expected. In one scene, Maleficent battles with the king and his army defeating them with the help of her army of animated forest vegetation: tree-like soldiers on “horseback,” a serpent which tunnels underneath the ground and attacks the army of men from below and tree-like troll creatures with hammers. The visuals are stunning and well-rendered.

Despite its PG rating, it might scare small children, so keep this in mind when viewing with little ones.

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Worth a look if you like fantasy films which turn a trope upside down.

Skip it if Disney films are not your thing.

– steve






Under the Skin

MV5BMTU1MDEwMDg4Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTk3NTcxMTE@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_AL_Under the Skin is a creepy, atmospheric film starring Scarlett Johansson as a woman who cruises around Scotland looking for single, lonely men to seduce, ultimately luring them to their demise.

It’s hard to discuss this film without spoiling it, but suffice it to say that the overall tone of this film is exceedingly unsettling. Director Jonathan Glazer slowly builds tension: each time a man is lured to his death, we see a bit more information as to what is actually happening. The more we see, the worse it gets.

We see Johansson’s character coming to terms with what she truly is, and what she is doing, although the “why” is never fully explained.

A few scenes are downright chilling: Johansson’s character physically overcoming an exhausted swimmer on the beach; the truly horrifying end scene. Scenes where men are lured to their demise are used to horrifying effect.

The cinematography uses drizzly Scotland to good effect: the colors are muted which adds to the tension of the movie. The grey skies add to the mounting dread.

This film stuck with me long after I finished viewing it.

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Under the Skin

Worth a look if you like creepy, unsettling films.

Skip it if dread is not your thing.