This has been one of the roughest weeks at work for me in a long time because of hardware issues, but at least it's been a distraction from the co-worker drama of last week, so I can't complain, but I am exhausted. I'm going to try to get back into animation-land this weekend and off the live action movies, but for now, I'm still doing the live action.
Last night actually afforded me two movie views, the first of which was Alice In Wonderland, the Tim Burton version. I have always absolutely ADORED Tim Burton. He's weird and a bit off, artistic with that Disney flair just like me. As the years roll on though, I get more and more resentful of his constant need to attach Johnny Depp to practically every single project. There have been some other Johnny Depp movies that I do like (or even love, like the Pirate movies), but I don't think I would consider myself a fan. There have been some extraordinary Tim-Johnny collaborations (Sleepy Hollow is always the first that comes to mind), but the more they do together, the weirder Johnny's characters become to the point of almost nightmarish extent (his Willy Wonka still freaks me out to no end). If I think about it though, Johnny's Mad Hatter is actually more Willy Wonka than his Willy Wonka, but it's still so creepy it's scary. And, even though the special features addresses it, I still don't understand why he feels the need to break into a Scottish accent when he's being really creepy. What's with the stigma in Disney movies with Scottish accents? More on that later.
In general, I'm not really a fan of the Alice stories or other interpretations of the book (even the Disney animated version is hard for me to take). This one is different. Although there are those "you must be stoned to understand" moments, it does have an overall story flow that is strong and appealing. A lot of people have criticized Anne Hathaway's portrayal of the White Queen. She is actually one of my favorite characters in the movie and I absolutely love her over-the-top queen-like hand movements that had most people up in arms (pardon the pun). I'm not an Anne Hathaway fan per se, but I don't dislike her either, so I always approach her acting from a neutral point of view, but she completely won me over as the White Queen.
The vocal casting of Stephen Fry (who I also adore) as the Cheshire Cat takes a character that I've never really liked and turned him into one of my favorite Disney characters ever. Even the color change of the cat is better because he's always struck me as a bluish character versus pink and purple. And Alan Rickman as the caterpillar? Seriously? Total genius!
Even as an almost total CG movie, I can rarely find fault in the animation and often get as lost in the scenery as I do in Sleeping Beauty. Now, there is one caveat to this and that's Crispin Glover's Knave. Since his entire body is CG, there are times when the movements are very unnatural and almost reminiscent of very early crappy CG animation (take, for instance, when he mounts his horse and takes off...it looks downright Jason and the Argonauts circa 1970's). Every other character with CG aspects to their bodies don't do this, so I'm not sure if it was the particular animator working on his character or what, but it's shotty work and it does bother me.
I'm also not really a fan of Helena Bonham Carter excluding a few performances (Bellatrix Lastrange is the first that comes to mind as one of her best), but I don't think anyone else could have played the big-headed Red Queen as good as she did. Now that she and Tim have split, I'm interested to see how many movies of his she will be in for the future. Hmmm...wonder what we could do to split him and Johnny up? The only long term relationship I want Tim Burton to keep forever is with Danny Elfman. A Tim Burton movie is NOT a Tim Burton movie without a Danny Elfman score. I actually have more of them than any other movie soundtrack combined.
But enough rambling and on with the trailer:
Overall, I can't claim that I love this movie, but I do really really like it.
Then I finally broke down and watched Maleficent. Like Alice, I was at the theater on opening weekend to see this and I actually blogged my review pretty soon afterwards (you can read it HERE). I just now re-read that review and I think, as time has passed, my opinion of the movie has gone down quite a few notches. I mentioned in that review that I couldn't wait to get the DVD so that I could watch the special features on the disc and, when I did finally get the Blu-Ray, I didn't rewatch the movie, but instead watched the special features. It didn't improve my opinion of the movie at all and probably kept me from watching it again.
So last night's viewing was the first time I had seen it since the theater. I so want to love this movie, a live action tale of my most favorite Disney villain of all-time, but I can't no matter how hard I try. Even knowing that I knew I probably wasn't going to like it any better last night, I was still hopeful that maybe I could find something truly magical I never noticed before and suddenly fall maddeningly in love with it. Yes, it is still a visually stunning movie and the score is still one of my non-Elfman favorites, but the qualms I had initially with the movie have now turned into full-fledged hate points that no amount of wishing can wipe away.
First up, the changing of character personalities to the extreme negative, i.e. Stephan and the three good fairies (I call them Flora, Fauna and Merriweather nots or nots-fairies for short). No matter how they try to justify it, I just can't buy Stephan as the evil, power hungry, mad king just like I can't buy the nots-fairies as stupid selfish idiots who really could have cared less about Aurora. I agree that something bad had to happen to make Maleficent so vindictive against the child of Stephan and Leah (yes, I know this movie called her Leila, but that's not right either), but Stephan basically slipping her a roofie and cutting off her wings is just too hard to swallow. And again, why did Stephan and all the bad guys have to be Scottish? That point bothered me the first time I saw the movie, now it downright pisses me off.
The whole Diaval/Diablo name change/character change actually bothers me less now than it did initially. They still could have called him Diablo, but I now appreciate his contribution to the movie and as a best friend, albeit in servant form, to Maleficent. But, and it's a big but, the use of him as the dragon instead of her is still a game changer and extremely disappointing.
Although I don't think anyone could have played a live action Maleficent but Angelina Jolie, I still don't like her and it does affect my view of the character. It sounds dumb, but I might have been a bit more forgiving if she did have green skin instead of heavily painted sunken cheek bones and long pointy Spock ears...she's a fairy, not an elf. The wings, however, I did like because she is, after all, a fairy. It's a point I've always had to defend with the original movie all these years because most people mistakenly assume that Maleficent is a human Queen or a witch versus a fairy and it's all down to the fact that she doesn't have wings. So I guess that parts of the wings cut off story works and parts don't. I would have preferred another explanation for her losing her wings, but I don't know what explanation it could have been.
I am still really pleased they were mostly true to the christening scene. It's one of the most iconic scenes of the original movie and a lot of the dialogue is even similar, so the differences (like the stupid not-fairies and their different "gifts") don't bother me so much.
And the Henson/Krofft-like mud nether creatures are still stupid. I get that in a world of fairy folk Maleficent's original minions wouldn't have worked, but since the filmmakers didn't have issues with changing any other character's personalities, what difference would one more group had made? And their personalities wouldn't have had to change that much, they were more stupid than evil anyway.
This viewing reminded me how much Elle Fanning was the absolute wrong choice for Aurora. I've seen her in other things now and I kind of like her, but this was really bad casting. Like my initial complaints, she's too child-like and whimsical and pretty whereas the original Aurora is elegant, graceful and beautiful. If there had been singing in this movie, there is no way that she could have sang "Once Upon A Dream" even if she has an amazing singing voice (I have no clue what her singing voice is like) simply because she doesn't have the presence of either Mary Costa or Helene Stanley. Even Lily James, who played the live action Cinderella, would have been a better choice. I don't know how to explain in words what I mean, it's not all about looks, it's about that classical elegance. Think of Grace Kelly vs Marilyn Monroe...both were extremely beautiful, but Grace was elegant while Marilyn had that child-like innocence. Marilyn couldn't be Aurora either, but Grace could have. Or, in modern terms, think Anna vs Elsa. They just hold themselves differently, that certain savoir faire, so to speak.
Don't get me started on the whole, the prince wasn't the savior of the princess theme. I'll never shut up! I HATE the direction princess movies have been going lately and I've ranted about it incessantly. I'm all for women's lib, but there has to be a little bit of manly chivalry too. Why can't we be strong and independent as well as have a strong and independent guy who would go to the ends of the earth to save us? I've been divorced for over 15 years and I'm very happy and content with my solo life, but I would trade it all in a heartbeat for a prince-like man any day. I'm sure they do still exist because I know women that have one, but they are getting fewer and further between and that is what is really sad. Why do they even need to bother to try anyway if the message we keep sending is we don't need them. But I said I wouldn't rant again, so on with the trailer:
I will say, the only thing that truly thrills me about this movie is the direction lately of the opening sequences of Disney movies. The Disney castle conglomeration (since it's all the park's castles combined, that's what I call it) always makes me giddy at the beginning of a movie, but in the past few they have started morphing it into whatever castle is featured in the movie, or replacing it altogether, like with Maleficent's Castle or Cinderella's, or even one of the main buildings in Tomorrowland. It's the one change to the classic Disney format that I absolutely love and I hope it continues!
Gee willikers! I've managed to make this post about two movies longer than I do about some of my marathon weekend viewings! Sorry about that! There are certain things I get pretty passionate about and my loyalty to the Disney brand is one of them.
Live Action: 42
Full-Length Animation: 76
Animated Shorts: 253
Live Action Shorts: 1
Mixed-Medium Shorts: 2
Animated Series: 77
Mixed-Medium Series: 2