Maleficent: Mistress of Evil review

MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL

Director: Joachim Rønning
Cast : Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Michelle Pfeiffer, Harris Dickinson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sam Riley, Robert Lindsay, Ed Skrein, Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville, Juno Temple
Genre : Fantasy/Adventure
Run Time : 1 h 58 mins
Opens : 17 October 2019
Rating : PG

In 2014, audiences learnt the back-story behind Maleficent, the villainess of Disney’s 1959 animated film Sleeping Beauty. Beyond being a cackling sorceress/sometimes-dragon, Maleficent painted its title character as someone who rose from tragedy and betrayal to form a complex bond with the young Princess Aurora. Directed by Joachim Rønning (Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge), this sequel continues that story, pitting Maleficent against a conniving, ruthless new foe.

Aurora (Elle Fanning), Queen of the Moors, is about to marry Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson) of Alstead. Aurora’s godmother Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) is resistant to this union. Despite her heroic actions, she has been cast as a villain in stories spread by the humans. Philip’s father King John (Robert Lindsay) thinks the wedding could help to unite the two kingdoms, but his mother Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer) harbours hatred towards Maleficent and the magical creatures with whom she is aligned. Maleficent discovers a hidden society of faes, including the wise Connall (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and the fiery warrior Borra (Ed Skrein). Queen Ingrith foments a war between the humans and the faes, with the young couple caught in between.

Angelina Jolie continues to be all sharp-cheekboned perfection as Maleficent. We were afraid that she might phone in it given that this is a sequel, but she still appears to relish the role. Not only does she get numerous fabulous costume changes, Maleficent goes on a journey of discovery, getting acquainted with her people and learning about their customs and beliefs. There is a conflict between her allegiance to her fae kin and to Aurora, which gives the powerful character something to struggle with.


Much of the film works because of Michelle Pfeiffer. Casting her opposite Jolie was an inspired move. The early promotional materials tried to hide it, but there’s no point beating about the bush now – Queen Ingrith is the “Mistress of Evil” of the title. Pfeiffer plays the villain with sneer and swagger hidden beneath a regal façade, with shades of her witch character from Stardust sometimes visible. Coming off like a PG-rated Cersei Lannister, it’s an absolute hoot.

There’s a lot going on in the plot of the movie, so it is to writers Linda Woolverton, Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue’s credit that the movie never loses sight of its emotional core: the relationship between Maleficent and Aurora. They might not be on the same page for much of the film, but it cannot be questioned that Maleficent deeply loves and cares for Aurora, something Ingrith winds up exploiting.

Just as in the first film, the show is stolen by Sam Riley as Diaval, Maleficent’s shape-shifting sidekick. Riley manages to be both cool and endearing. Queen Ingrith’s sadistic henchwoman Gerda (Jenn Murray) is also a fun, arch character.

While the visuals are often mesmerising and transporting, the film does lean very heavily on computer-generated imagery. This is expected of a fantasy adventure film, but some of the characters do seem unnatural. The Fairy Godmothers Knotgrass (Imelda Staunton), Thistlewit (Juno Temple) and Flittle (Lesley Manville) return from the first film, and their almost-human facial features sometimes cross over into the dreaded uncanny valley.

Prince Philip is boring, but then again, this is something inherent in the source material. Brenton Thwaites, who was busy filming Season 2 of Titans, is replaced by Harris Dickinson, who constantly seems a little bit confused and flat. However, this is also a sign that the film understands that Philip is not the main character, and that he does not have to be the hero to save the day.

Chiwetel Ejiofor is almost completely wasted in a relatively small supporting role.

The action sequences in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil are grand and expansive. Like most big-budget high fantasy projects these days, it seems more than a little derivative of Game of Thrones, but the big battle scenes are dynamic and lively. The movie gets surprisingly dark, with the villain’s plot involving genocide by way of biological warfare. However, the movie still has a bounce and a sense of humour to it and is never too self-serious the way something like Snow White and the Huntsman and its sequel The Huntsman: Winter’s War sometimes were. The big climactic battle takes place in broad daylight, which is a relative rarity in films of this type.

This film has a completely different design team than the first but maintains a sense of visual continuity while also giving us something new. The costumes by Ellen Mirojnick are stunning, especially Maleficent’s battle outfit, which is a sexy, elegant body paint-style number. Production designer Patrick Tatopolous creates some gorgeous fantasy environments, chief of which is the hidden fae sanctuary comprising mini-environments which have different climates.

Summary: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil sometimes transcends its fantasy adventure genre trappings thanks to strong performances by Angelina Jolie and Michelle Pfeiffer, putting more of a spin on its source material than many of the live-action remakes Disney has given us lately.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

 

San Diego Comic Con International 2014 – The Cosplay

Hey everyone, having returned from Comic-Con for a few days I’m hunkering down to put up the mega picture-posts, as per last year. This was my first year going as a member of the press so I did have more opportunities to be up close to the cool stuff. Major thanks to my parents for structuring our family vacation around Comic-Con again this year and am really glad that my brother could join us too.

THE COSPLAY

One of the undeniable highlights of Comic-Con is seeing pure dedication on display in the form of fans dressing up as and embodying their favourite characters. I have serious “fear of missing out” (FOMO) when it comes to cosplays at conventions and of course there is no way one would able to see it all, but I am really glad I got to witness some awesome/cool/cute/beguiling ones this year! I brought along props – a Batman custom action figure, a Selina Kyle one and a Captain Jack Harkness figure. Thanks to everyone who obliged my request to pose with the figures!

The first cosplayer I took a photo of at the convention! Thanks Ms. Nygma! 

This Fall on ABC Family: Bucky, Nat and the silly Singaporean geek.

One seriously cool family. Does that mean their son calls the shots? 
A comedy of terrors and high-caliber fourth wall breakage!

I regret I wasn’t able to get Captain Jack out in time for this River Song cosplayer to pose with.

Lots and lots of  great Tardis dresses!

Yoo hoo! And the prize for best dad of the Con goes to this gentleman.

Shhhhh

The nametag says “Doctor Hu”. It is his real surname.

“Get off my plane!” That’s the right Gary Oldman movie, yes?

“Judge Dredd wants YOU to Kickstarter that darn sequel”

The Blues Brothers 2014 beat the Blues Brothers 2000 any day of the week

At this point in his career, Dick Grayson is still quite affectionate towards his guardian/mentor.

Four times the Marvel loveliness!

She’ll be shooting for her own hand, thank you very much!

The Arkham Knight Harley outfit is probably my favourite from all the Arkham games so far.

Old-school Lara, complete with red-tinted sunglasses!

Bombshell Harley, gotta love that Bomber jacket!

They can show you the world…and some great abs!

Queen of the Sea! Now all she needs is Guy!Mera.

Hammer…sickle…Red Son Harley Quinn? Awesome!

Kickin’ it old school with Wonder Woman and Superman

Rule 63 Damian Wayne Robin

The frost detailing on the hoodie is very nice.

Male-ficent. Geddit?

Gotta love the severed Sentinel head/shield

Jay and Silent Bob in the midst of striking back.

Something to crow about.

In which I attempt to outrun the Flash while all Iron Man has to do is look ridiculously cool.
This is not the Trinity you’re looking for, but I’m not complaining.

Conan the crimson Cimmerian!

Tanks for the memories!

I believe this demonologist/master of the dark arts was hired to help entertain us waiting in line for the Constantine dome screen experience.

Quiet on the set!

Just a nice sweet Gwen Stacy cosplay…until you notice the blood dripping from her nose. Oh snap, that’s dark!

A delightfully goofy 11th Doctor!

Hawkgirl’s wings were nice and fluffy! 

A quartet of Bat-rogues

Purrr….fe – okay, that’s been overdone. Sorry.

Chief Junior knows what’s up.

Zatanna has shrunken Batman down to size.

Who could resist that smile? Certainly not the Joker, and certainly not me either.

It’s Anarky from Arkham Origins and his mini-me!

Atomica ahoy!

This here is one Talon-ted cosplayer!

Love that spiffy-looking TARDIS!

Clark off to save the world/cover a story. 

You know nothing, Jon Snow. Thor’s a woman now!

I didn’t know Gobber was Hiccup’s optician too!

The renowned Hannah and Hilly Hindi of the Hillywood show ham it up with tiny Jack!

Lotsa lotsa Elsas this year!

Death and Deadpool…these two didn’t actually know each other but I thought they did and asked them to stand together.

I feel a sudden wave of pity for Chow Yun Fat’s Hollywood career now.

I for one hope these guys were successful on their road trip.
Mr. J wasted no time in getting right to torturing the Bat. Harley approves.

The craziest and the last…and me!

Let’s cook! “Bottom. hee-hee-hee.”

Disclaimer: this moment in no way represents my real life. Back to my lonely corner to curl up and weep for a while, bye! 

This wonderful Maleficent let me hang on the staff. I exclaimed “I know wield the power of Diaval!” She replied “tsk, tsk, only I do.”

FABULOUS!

Diaval says SCREEE!

Ow…great job on that makeup sir. At least I hope it’s makeup.

It’s great seeing how all the different Doctors react to lil Jack.

Purple and blue!

Red and Red team up to take on mini-Batman. And the best part?The Poison Ivy cosplayer’s first name is actually – wait for it – Pamela!

Castiel on a wing and prayer. 

If it bleeds, they can kill it!

Love how plush those fabrics are, Anna!

May the odds (of finding a seat in Hall H) ever be in your favour.

Okay, so this Catwoman is just utterly gorgeous.

A healthy serving of classic Who and some 12! They appear thoroughly nonplussed about Jack.

An Aspen Comics booth babe.

“My name is Dr. Hank McCoy, and you’re gonna hear me RAWR!”

It’s Mallet Time, Batman!

Zoë! 

The little red camera just completes it.

Stay moist!

The Arkham Knight Harley outfit again, done gorgeously!

Tinkerbell admitted that she left Pan for Hook because she wanted a real man.

The Cinema Makeup School crafts one mean Apocalypse!

Lady Nightwing! Call me…

1, 2, 3…MULTIPASS!

AICE COLD FREEZE FROZEN…CHILL! 

Gangsta style from Deadpool!

Huntress and Kronen? Why not?
TEDD’S PHOTOS
My brother is much more of a photography expert than I am, and wasn’t locked up in panels as much so he could take in more cosplay. Here are selections from Tedd’s camera! 
Let the Wookiee win, Tedd!

Regina Rabbit?

Glad Rapunzel got some love, seeing as how it’s clearly Frozen that’s in vogue this year!

Dammit Wade! I can look at literally nothing else now!

Doctors 1 – 12 in order – not forgetting 8.5! 

Hypnotically accurate 1st Doctor cosplay!

Dat smirk.

The Mandarin descends!

Bucky approves.

The Mad Hatter and the Red Queen in full regalia

This Mikey was just hopping all about doing acrobatics and martial arts.

Dashing onto the CW this fall…

Spy vs. Spy vs. parenthood

All those monsters…

The Hatbox Ghost from The Haunted Mansion!

This sister is about to do battle. Get outta her way!

It’s a jolly holiday in San Diego!

Guessed it yet? That’s a Rocket Raccoon cosplay! Oh…yeah! 

If you like it then you should’ve put ten rings on it

Harvey Quinn!

“Must…stay…positive…”

“I AM FEELING THE OPPOSITE OF HAPPY!”

The Doctor Squees

She’s one dynamite gal!

Drake and Lara strolling rather than traversing cliff faces.

“Junior?!” 

“Well, all things considered, I’d say Experiment Weapon X was a smashing success!” 

Now this Harley is packing some serious punch! 

Kim Possible and Shego looking awfully happy in the midst of combat

Okay, now that’s uncanny! 

Elsa wins. There.

The Second Oe

Add caption

I’m thinking now would be a very good time to stay, Cortana.

Vanellope approves! 

Jew-verine!

Swampy! 

No, let lil Lando go! 


Maleficent

For F*** Magazine

MALEFICENT 

Director : Robert Stromberg
Cast : Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley, Brenton Thwaites, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville
Genre : Fantasy, Adventure
Rating : PG (Some Frightening Scenes)

So much happened before Aurora dropped in. In Maleficent, we learn the untold story of the title character, hitherto thought of as just the dastardly villain from Sleeping Beauty. In her youth, Maleficent (Jolie) befriended and later fell in love with Stefan (Copley). But the gulf between Maleficent’s home, the enchanted forest kingdom of the Moors, and Stefan’s, the human kingdom, proves to be too wide. Stefan eventually becomes the king and betrays Maleficent. When King Stefan’s daughter Aurora (Fanning) is born, a scorned and heartbroken Maleficent casts a spell on her: if Aurora pricks her finger on the needle of a spinning wheel before her 16thbirthday, she will fall into a deep sleep and only true love’s kiss can wake her. As three fairies (Staunton, Temple, Manville) watch over Aurora, so does Maleficent – from a distance, and with the aid of her loyal raven Diaval (Riley). Slowly, Maleficent’s hate towards the child softens, just as King Stefan declares war.

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            After one John Carter/Lone Ranger too many, one hopes that Disney will realise that this is the direction in which their live-action blockbusters should proceed. In telling a villain’s back-story, there’s always the danger of the mystique and menace of said villain being stripped away – just look at Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker. It’s handled far better here and Maleficent makes the ideal candidate for a “perspective flip” retelling because Aurora is just about the most boring Disney princess of them all, and it was always Maleficent who was more fascinating. The screenplay by Linda Woolverton and an uncredited Paul Dini has an appealing fairy-tale logic to it; imps, fairies and enchanted forests existing in the same story as a protagonist who cannot be squarely categorised as either “hero” or “villain”. We live in a post-Loki world, and as a sympathetic character whose path towards the dark side makes sense, Maleficent is very much like Loki – right down to the trickster streak and those horns.

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            Robert Stromberg, production designer on Avatar, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and Oz: The Great and Powerful makes his feature directorial debut with Maleficent. Many design touches from those three films are evident here and while the aesthetic may not be unique, it is undeniably beautiful. Yes, the film is heavily reliant on computer-generated imagery, but there’s still life and soul to the CGI (especially the character animation on Diaval the shape-shifting raven) and the backdrops do not dissolve into generic digital mucilage. Anna B. Sheppard’s costume design work is impeccable; the translation of Maleficent’s animated look into a live-action context particularly effective. It’s at once immediately recognisable and also inventive; how she has different coverings for her horns depending on the seasons is a nice touch. And of course, Oscar-winning makeup artist Rick Baker’s work completes Angelina Jolie’s transformation into the character, horns, severe cheekbones and all.

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            We don’t throw the word “perfect” around here too often, so believe us when we say Angelina Jolie is perfectly cast. She’s proven that she’s great at vamping it up, that she has the dramatic chops and that she can command the screen, all skills she calls upon for Maleficent. From the way she intones lines such as “a grand celebration, for a baby. How wonderful” to her calm, steely gaze to the way she tilts her head back at just the right angle, it proves to be quite the casting coup. The way the character is made sympathetic might not sit well with those who love Maleficent for being “the Mistress of All Evil” but this reviewer likes the layers Jolie brings to the part, in addition to how much she is enjoying herself as Maleficent. Elle Fanning doesn’t have to do much as Aurora because this really isn’t her story, but her wide-eyed naïveté is believable. Angelina Jolie’s real-life daughter Vivienne plays Young Aurora; the scene in which Maleficent interacts with her disdainfully is even cuter once you realise that’s just a toddler playing with her mother.

MALEFICENT
            South African actor Sharlto Copley is deservedly climbing the A-list, and he’s good here as well, playing a king who gradually descends into madness and who is consumed by an obsession with the menacing winged creature he once loved. Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple and Lesley Manville provide the comic relief as the three bickering guardian fairies – they’re amusing if not slightly grating and the CGI versions of them do teeter over the uncanny valley. Brenton Thwaite’s Prince Phillip is pretty much an afterthought but hey, he’s handsome. Sam Riley handily steals the show as mighty morphin’ bird Diaval (known as Diablo in the 1959 film). He may not look it, but Diaval is easily the most adorable an “evil minion” can get without being a yellow, overalls-clad, goggles-wearing capsule.

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            Hardcore Disney animation fans will be pleased to know that the late Marc Davis, one of the revered “nine old men” and the supervising animator for Maleficent, Aurora, Diablo and other characters in 1959’s Sleeping Beauty, is thanked in the credits. Darker, “Grimmified” takes on fairy tales have become something of an eye roll-inducing Hollywood trend, but Maleficent manages to soar above the pack thanks to a compelling turn from its wonderfully-cast lead. Sweeping classical imagery that includes Maleficent breaking through the clouds to bask in the sun’s glow and Diaval in horse mode rearing up on his hind legs as the sun sets behind the castle enriches the experience too. In many ways, the film is much like Lana Del Rey’s cover of “Once Upon a Dream” that plays over the end credits: an effective reinvention of something familiar but one that lovers of the old-fashioned approach might not necessarily enjoy completely.

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Summary: Those tired of blockbuster re-imaginings of time-worn fairy tales might not be won over by Maleficent, but Angelina Jolie’s stunning performance, in addition to some lush, awe-inspiring visuals, make this one worthwhile.
RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong