Did we really need another telling of this classic fairy tale? I think most people are familiar with the story; a girl named Ella (Cinderella) finds herself living with a wicked step mother and two cruel step sisters after her natural parents die. However a chance encounter with a charming (ahem) prince soon see’s her fortunes changing for the better, with a little help from a fairy godmother.
Disney’s new adaptation of the classic story is directed by Kenneth Branagh and stars relative newcomer Lily James as Ella and Cate Blanchett as her stepmother Lady Tremaine. This proved fun and has several stand out moments (the ballroom dance, the race to get home before the carriage turns back into a pumpkin) and is for the most part done very well. Acting is a tad over the top with a disappointingly hammy Blanchett coming across a little too cartoony, and those stepsisters I just wanted to slap. Helena Bonham Carter also appears as the fairy godmother, and like Blanchet is very caricature and silly. Thankfully then Game Of Thrones’ Richard Madden as the Prince is just the right side of charming without coming across as cheesy. Lily James starts out sugar-coated sweet but develops some real depth as her fortunes deteriorate and dreams are shattered … and proved a much more interesting character than say, Elle Fanning’s Sleeping Beauty in Maleficent.
Brannagh fills the movie with gorgeous (albeit CGI-loaded) locations and some excellent set design and costumes, making for a real visual treat. Yet I was hoping for something that warranted this being done again, but with a reliance on cartoon-like performances and slapstick humour we get very little we didn’t see in the 1950 Disney classic, amongst other versions. A missed opportunity.
For a new audience this is still decent, feel-good entertainment, but for anyone familiar with the story, approach this more as a re-visit than a re-imagining. It’s no Snow White and the Huntsman.
I used to be a huge Tim Burton fan back when he made the likes of Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands and Sleepy Hollow. I loved his gothic style and imagination. Combine this with his frequent collaboration with composer Danny Elfman, most notably on the Batman movies, and this movie-fan was in constant awe. In recent years however I haven’t really kept up with his movies. The last one I watched was Sweeney Todd, which left me cold, and I haven’t as of yet seen Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Well what can I say here? Lets begin by my thoughts on the Terminator franchise. The first is a genre defining thriller that set the bar for chase movies. The follow up is one of the most well executed, jaw-dropping action movies ever made. The belated third film certainly has its moments, and hey, a naked Kristana Loken in place of Michael Biehn or Arnie’s naked butt is gonna be a keeper every time. But let’s be honest here. T2 wrapped up things so well, I don’t think for a second director and series creator James Cameron envisaged further sequels, and therefore I am always left wondering how on earth the war against the machines is still playing out, than for any other reason than a money making scheme?
So here we are with the latest entry. Arnie is out of the picture this time round, and the setting is the near-future apocalypse of a desert landscape and rebel resistance headed by John Connor (Christian Bale). This time we have a mysterious drifter seeming from the past (Sam Worthington), who befriends a young Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn’s character in the first film, and future father of John Conner … please try and keep up). Meanwhile John himself is searching for Kyle after discovering that Skynet have his future father targeted, and he therefore must rescue him and keep him safe if he himself is ever to exist and eventually save the day.
This is convoluted stuff that seemingly relies on the viewer having a cast-iron memory of the previous films, no easy task when they were complicated enough to begin with, and Bale although looking the part adds very little to an iconic character that Edward Furlong didn’t deliver much better in T2. Thankfully new hot-property Sam Worthington lends some emotional weight to proceedings and pretty much steals the show. Director McG handles the brilliantly realised action with style & panache, and is definitely an action director to watch, coming fresh off his fun but brainless Charlie’s Angels movies into something, that at least on the surface has more depth. I say on the surface, as there are some majorly stupid plot developments here, especially Skynet’s ridiculous plan to capture Kyle when killing him would much more easily solve their problems with Connor (but then again, we wouldn’t have a film, would we?). Yet we do have some great tongue-in-cheek references to the earlier films that made me smile, and it ticks along at a cracking pace that even if this does feel pointless as far as the whole Terminator mythos is concerned … it remains great entertainment.
I have always been a big fan of Tim Burton. His dark, tongue-in-cheek brand of comic, goth-horror has always struck a cord with me, and his frequent collaborations with Johnny Depp are just the icing on the cake. Now we come to his latest effort, and one I was at first appealed by as it looked just as dark and sinister as Burton’s masterpiece Sleepy Hollow. Then I discovered it was a musical.
Musicals have a hit and miss relationship with me – I am very fond of the likes of Sound Of Music, Evita, Little Shop Of Horrors (!) and even Tim Burton’s own A Nightmare Before Christmas…but I also hate some that haven’t got the right vibe – such as Moulin Rouge which seemed 90% noise and 10% entertainment. Sadly, this film falls into the latter category, with no memorable numbers, no dancing, no staged choreography…just lots and lots of sung dialogue. You know when a musical has failed when you actually wish they would just ‘talk’ for a bit instead of singing. If there was one memorable song, then at least that would be something…but there isn’t. Maybe I have come into this all wrong though – it’s an Opera, not a musical. Perhaps. Thats not what its been hyped up as though.
I will give credit where its due though; Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter are very good, and make a very interesting odd-couple, and the story is intriguing with some very macabre twists and turns…oh and as expected, Burton’s sumptuous eye for period set design and camera work are a treat for the eyes throughout. Really though, why make it a musical, when you have no decent songs in it? Disappointing.
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