The Valdosta Daily Times
“Maleficent” (Adventure/Action: 1 hour, 37 minutes)
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning and Sharlto Copley
Director: Robert Stromberg
Rated: PG (Sequences of fantasy action and violence, including frightening images)
Movie Review: Angelina Jolie is already an iconic figure in movies. She is the reason to watch this film. She and nice visual make this tale enjoyable. Simultaneously, the film takes a fairy tale and tries to stretch into a full feature film with filler material that never lives up to Jolie’s performance or the plentiful eye candy offered.
Maleficent (Jolie) is a member of the serene forest kingdom. She is the land’s winged protector. She meets a young human Stefan (Copley) and falls in love. That love is betrayed when Stefan cuts off Maleficent’s wings to inherit a kingdom. Years later, King Stefan and his queen have an infant daughter, Aurora. Maleficent has her chance at revenge finally. She curses the baby girl, saying on her 16th birthday, the princess will prick her hand on a spindle and succumb to sleep “like death” that can only be broken by a true love’s first kiss. As the child matures, Maleficent befriends her. However, Aurora (an adequate Fanning) finds she cannot escape fate — one 16 years in the making.
“Maleficent” is the story of Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” told from the view of the tale’s villain, Maleficent. Jolie plays her well. She is the reason to see this tale. She genuinely has fun as Maleficent. Her seductive appeal is charming, even when cursing a newborn baby.
A plethora of solid visuals accompanies Jolie. The visuals are grand and engaging, although they are too much at times. Fantastical elements are reminiscent of the manner in which “Fantasia” (1940) dazzles audiences. All of Disney’s visionary elements are present.
The problem is this screenplay rests on those two concepts, Jolie, who is the better part, and nifty visual effects. If Jolie were not the star with her good performance, this film would be scratching to find substance. The story is weak and has filler material. The story has a good premise but fails to maintain the momentum it creates.
“Sleeping Beauty’s” greatest moments should be Maleficent cursing the baby girl, Aurora’s falling into a deep sleep and the kiss that will awaken her. Those are present, but their effect is nowhere as powerful as they could be. This alternate version of “Sleeping Beauty” depends too much on its best attributes — Jolie’s charm and plentiful visuals.
Grade: C+ (A magnificent Jolie is the beauty here.)
“A Million Ways to Die in the West” (Comedy/Western: 1 hour, 56 minutes)
Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron and Liam Neeson
Director: Seth MacFarlane
Rated: R (Profanity, sexuality, violence, thematic elements, gore, drug material and crude humor)
Movie Review: Several television personalities have compared “A Million Ways to Die in the West” to “Blazing Saddles” (Director Mel Brooks, 1974). Brooks’ comedy is one of the greatest comedies in moviedom. This comparison is like the massiveness of the Sun to that of Earth.
Old Stump is a wild Western town. Death is common to the small population. For cowardly sheep rancher Albert (MacFarlane), the likelihood of death is sure. Enter Anna (Theron), mysterious woman who helps Albert find courage and shoot a gun. Albert and Anna fall for each other, but Anna has a secret. She is married. Her husband is the ruthless outlaw Clinch (Neeson), and he wants to know who has been seeing his wife. Albert’s chances for dying sooner just increased.
Nearly, 15 minutes pass before someone dies or is dead. Long before then, one can easily tell this comedy is a million bad moments waiting to happen.
“A Million Ways” offers only a few genuine laughs. The majority is childish bits at which only preteens should snicker. Seth MacFarlane’s other comedies are gratifying as screenplays or teleplays.
“Ted” (2012) and television’s “Family Guy” that started in 1999 are prime examples. They are smart comedies. They may contain adolescent moments, but their intellectual moments prevail.
“A Million Ways” is a bunch of humor haphazardly thrown together with childish intellect. Theron, Neeson and few other stars take part in this elementary comedy.
They give the film some influence, but they can’t help a film plagued with multiple lame flatulence sequences, overly silly characters and an unfocused story.
Disappointingly, this adult comedy mildly entertains, yet it never thrives to be more than immature material. “A Million Ways” is comical mishap, filled with cheap, brainless laughs.
Grade: C- (The quality of comedy dies in the wild, wild west)