Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

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Maleficent: Mistress of Evil starts up pretty much where the last film ended. Aurora (Elle Fanning) is now the queen of the fairylands and Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) watches over all, and everyone is happy. In this time period there is no news or social media, so even though Maleficent is now good, and their land is at peace, that doesn’t mean other kingdoms know this. So, in their eyes, Maleficent is still the mistress of evil. Enter Queen Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer), she hates the magical creatures, and after her son Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson) proposes to Aurora, she sees her way to destroy all magical creatures.

Genocide seems to be an unusual story-line choice for a kids movie, but that’s the direction the filmmakers went in here. I understand that magical creatures are easy characters to use as victims, but in our Hobbit/Harry Potter/Star Wars galaxies, magical characters are not expendable. Since none of these creatures do any harm, it once again makes ‘Man’ the bad guy. Maleficent was clearly the bad one in the first film, now Man has to destroy everything he doesn’t understand, or that scares him. Lovely moral lesson for all of the children who are watching to be mesmerized. On that note, the film is gorgeous with lush scenery, fantastic makeup, and incredible special effects work.

Jolie gets to give a bit more of an emotional performance, since she is the hero this time around, and that was refreshing. Michelle Pfeiffer plays the “real” evil queen with such vile perfection that it may be one of her best performances. It reminded me of Imelda Staunton’s Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter films, and that is a great compliment coming from me. The filmmakers need to hope that the target audience doesn’t see past the bright colors and action to the ugliness of this story of hate and murder that is really at the heart of this film. Too bad. because it was so pretty.

Swanner: 1 star

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Podcast: SJ 254: Disenchanted; The Connors; Modern Family; South Park; Survivor; Superstore; Snakes on a Plane; American Psycho, and More!

White Background LogoSwanner and Judd talk about Disenchanted; The Connors; Modern Family; South Park; Survivor; Superstore; Snakes on a Plane; American Psycho.

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Judy

Swanner: Judy tells the story of the last few years of Judy Garland’s life. Starting off with her London Concerts, Judy has to leave her two youngest with their father in the states as she travels to England to perform. At this point in her career no one in America will work with her after many divorces, bad behavior, and rumored addictions. Once in London Judy, continues her destructive lifestyle, being too drunk or wasted to perform. Renee Wellweger plays Judy, giving her a voice and face of the woman who started her career playing Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. 

The film is based of Peter Quilter’s stageplay “End of the Rainbow” a one woman show about Garland. Tom Edge adapted the screenplay with Rupert Goold directing. I will warn you that if you’re a Judy fan you’ll find many discrepancies in the timeline with the London Concerts starting 1961, not 1968 and she didn’t happen on Mickey Dean at a party, he delivered her prescriptions from a pharmacy to her hotel. Even if the timeline was correct it, still wouldn’t help the flaws of the script. Only really giving us a summery of Judy’s last few years. That’s what makes Zelweger’s performance all the more brilliant. She gave Judy life. Even with her singing not being a perfect match, she knew how to performance the song the way Garland would have.

We all have heard the lows of Garland’s life, with pills supplied to a teenager by the studios, and the years of her trying to find someone to love her. It’s probably why her children meant so much to her. Even with the limitations the screenplay offered, Zelweger gives us a flawed Garland, scars and all. I would have liked to see the film utilize her music more, especially in pivotal scenes. They do it once after she marries Mickey Dean where she sings “For Once in my Life”. The soundtrack has songs left out that I’m sure would have added more body to the film, but I’m sure the studio said to trim down the running time. The studios are still controlling Garland, even after her death. 

The question here is does Zelweger’s performance shine above this mediocre film? The answer is a resounding yes. We can only hope that the limitations of the film don’t hurt Zelweger’s Oscar chances. This is a performance that should be remembered well after this years Academy Awards. 

Swanner: 2 1/2 stars

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Swanner: Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) is an astronaut that has followed in his father’s footsteps. Clifford McBride, his father, lead the search for intelligent life by heading the mission to Neptune. When all communications were lost with his ship, the worst was expected. McBride and his crew were presumed dead. Recently there has been an energy pulse which is causing electrical disasters on Earth. The energy pulse is coming from Neptune, which has the military sure that McBride is still alive. They get Roy McBride to agree to send a message to the source of the pulse, in the hopes that his father will answer. Once he does, a ship will be sent to stop him.

Watching the film, I couldn’t stop thinking of Apocalypse Now: an officer has lost his mind and one man is sent in to stop him. Change out jungle for space. The thing about Apocalypse Now is that the long trip to find the Colonel Kurtz has multiple characters that we meet, finding out their stories and their fears. Most of this film is various shots of Brad Pitt, thinking with his endless voiceover, trying to make sense of the boredom; both his and ours. Basically, not a lot happens. The pacing is deadly, and had it not been for an amazing group of technicians, the film would have no redeeming qualities. The cinematography and score are the true highlights of the film.

The acting is fine. Pitt gives a solid performance, when he has something to do other than show beard growth. Tommy Lee Jones and Donald Sutherland in any film is always a good thing, but just not enough here. I’m not sure that selling the film as some space odyssey is a good idea when all we get is the nothingness of space that happens in the film. Pitt’s character may find what he’s looking for in life, but I only found a 2 hour and 2 minutes black hole in my evening.

Swanner: 1 ½ stars

Podcast: SJ 251: Big Brother; So You Think You Can Dance; Songland; Righteous Gemstones; The I Land; Hello White Privilege; The Kominski Method; Bill Burr: Paper Tiger; Curtis Harding: Face Your Fear; Hustlers

White Background LogoSwanner and Judd talk about Big Brother; So You Think You Can Dance; Songland; Righteous Gemstones; The I Land; Hello White Privilege; The Kominski Method; Bill Burr: Paper Tiger; Curtis Harding: Face Your Fear; Hustlers.

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