Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) & Byzantium (2012) Reviews

Saw these two together after really wanting to see them for ages. I was massively disappointed. Here are two quickie reviews…

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

Directed & Written by Jim Jarmusch

Starring: Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, Anton Yelchin, Jeffrey Wright, Slimane Dazi, John Hurt

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A depressed musician reunites with his lover. Though their romance, which has already endured several centuries, is disrupted by the arrival of her uncontrollable younger sister.

My Opinion:

Good god this movie was boring. I’d really been wanting to watch it because I find Tilda Swinton interesting, Mia Wasikowska has been pretty decent in things like Stoker, and I always really liked sweet Anton Yelchin (RIP). Hiddleston is okay – I can take him or leave him. Oh! And John Hurt (RIP)! Hurt was awesome (I did a list not too long ago of My Top Ten John Hurt Movies. Luckily, I don’t have to update that list to add Only Lovers Left Alive).

Anyway, Hurt was great in this – he was the best part of the film (for me). Swinton was also fun to watch. I usually like her a lot but, sometimes, she annoys me (like in Okja). Mysterious vampire is the perfect kind of role for her, though, so she was good in this. I suppose Hiddleston did well with the role but all he did was mope the whole damn time. How did Swinton’s character put up with that mopey bastards for hundreds of years (or thousands, maybe – I don’t remember)? If I want mopey “teen-angsty” vampires, I’ll watch Twilight. Can’t vampires be happy?! They’re immortal! That’s cool, isn’t it? Grumpy fuckers. Or is that grumpy suckers? This movie just reinforces my opinion that The Lost Boys is the best vampire movie ever. 😉

Um. What else? I’m bored. Review over! Just so you know, nothing happens in this movie. Hiddleston mopes. Swinton puts up with his moping. Wasikowska is a total bitch who stays with mopey Hiddleston & big sis Swinton for a while, which makes Hiddleston mope even more. Yelchin (the only non-vampire) and Hurt (a dying vampire – I can’t remember how that’s possible and I don’t care) were good and helped to make the movie slightly watchable. Without them… Meh. A movie having no plot is okay as long as you have really great characters (like in Dazed And Confused) and a movie with lacklustre characters is okay as long as you have a great story (like in Circle). Only Lovers Left Alive lacks both a good plot and good characters. But it has a 7.3 rating out of 10 on IMDb so what the hell do I know?!

My Rating: 5.5/10

Byzantium (2012)

Directed by Neil Jordan

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Arterton, Sam Riley, Jonny Lee Miller

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Residents of a coastal town learn, with deathly consequences, the secret shared by the two mysterious women who have sought shelter at a local resort.

My Opinion:

Good god this movie was boring as well. I actually slightly preferred Only Lovers Left Alive because at least that movie had a bit more style & better actors. To be fair, I watched these movies back to back while cleaning the house so I wasn’t exactly paying full attention. But if they’d actually been GOOD, I’d have stopped doing the housework and sat down to watch them properly. Thanks to Byzantium, I now have a very organized bookshelf.

Let’s see… What do I vaguely recall from this movie? I recall hating Gemma Arterton’s annoying accent. I’m terrible with accents so don’t know if she was doing it well or not but it was like nails on a chalkboard. Maybe I just don’t like her… I don’t think I’ve seen her in much but the quality of her acting in this film certainly didn’t impress me. Saoirse Ronan was far better in this film – I usually like her okay and she’s the best thing about this movie.

Er. You know, I honestly can’t remember much of this movie now. Lots of blood. It was a far more bloody vampire movie than Only Lovers Left Alive. More bloody, shittier acting, an actual plot but one that I can barely remember now, less moping but still pretty mopey overall (seriously – cheer the fuck up, vampires!), and no John Hurt or anyone with true star power to help elevate the film. Oh, I now recall that all the first vampires were men & they didn’t want any to be women but then Arterton became the first female vampire (if I remember right). So there’s a bit of a “girl vampire power” thing going on in the film, which was okay but kind of undone by all the terrible treatment of the women in the movie. And I still don’t like Arterton.

My Rating: 5.5/10

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Maleficent (2014) Review

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Maleficent (2014)

Directed by Robert Stromberg

Based on La Belle au bois dormant by Charles Perrault & Little Briar Rose by The Brothers Grimm

Starring:
Angelina Jolie
Sharlto Copley
Elle Fanning
Sam Riley
Imelda Staunton
Juno Temple
Lesley Manville

Running time: 97 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Maleficent explores the untold story of Disney’s most iconic villain from the 1959 classic Sleeping Beauty and the elements of her betrayal that ultimately turned her pure heart to stone. Driven by revenge and a fierce desire to protect the moors over which she presides, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) cruelly places an irrevocable curse upon the human king’s newborn infant Aurora (Elle Fanning).

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My Opinion:

Saw this today (it’ll be “yesterday” when this posts) and am still trying to decide how I feel about it. Overall, I think it’s pretty good. It starts out very strong then loses its way a little. There were things I thought were very good (Angelina Jolie), things I didn’t like so much (the story felt rushed) and, unfortunately, one thing I really hated (the good fairies). I’ll break it down a bit now and at the very end I’ll say how scary I think it is for those with kids although, of course, it depends on each individual kid & if they’re easily scared or not.

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I’ll start out with the good things about this. The best thing, by far, is Angelina Jolie. I’ve never been a huge fan of Jolie but I have to admit that she’s PERFECT as Maleficent. She looks great in this – they got the look of Maleficent so right. I’m actually a big fan of Disney’s 1959 Sleeping Beauty. I know it’s dated in some ways (Sleeping Beauty herself is pretty insipid) but it’s a lovely looking film, Once Upon A Dream is a truly classic song, I LOVE the good fairies, and Maleficent is SUCH an iconic villain – I can certainly see why they’ve chosen her for her own movie. I don’t think Maleficent as a character is in any way damaged by this film. They’ve done an excellent job bringing her character “to life” in this movie & giving her a backstory and, of course, much more depth than in Disney’s 1959 version. It’s also nice that she’s such a strong female character. And I’m happy to report that Aurora is not so completely useless in this like she is in the 1959 film (although she’s extremely underdeveloped – more about that later).

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As I said, this movie starts out very strong. I really liked Maleficent’s backstory & seeing what turned her “evil”. I really liked the look of the film and was very much enjoying the first half of it. They managed to take a character who is one of the most evil Disney villains and did make her sympathetic. But here’s where we get into what some will like about this movie and others will hate…

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I’m doing my best to keep this review spoiler free but it’s a hard one to discuss in this way. I’ll say this: it VERY much changes the story in Disney’s 1959 Sleeping Beauty. I admit I know very little about the original story but do know that the 1959 film bears little resemblance to it anyway so most everyone, like myself, will be comparing Maleficent to the 1959 Sleeping Beauty. The changes didn’t bother me – I see it as another interpretation. Others may not like it. I don’t know… I think the direction they took was a good one and made it feel less dated and “Disney-fied” (although, it’s fairly obvious where they’re going to go with the story). Sorry to be so vague but I don’t want to spoil anything. However, I will say that Maleficent DID ruin my absolute favorite thing about Sleeping Beauty: the good fairies.

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I hated them in this. They changed their names but kept their “colors” the same. Imelda Staunton was okay but I hated Juno Temple. Too young! I know I know – I’m comparing it too much to Sleeping Beauty in this case but, dammit – I love Flora, Fauna & Merryweather. They’re nitwits but they mean well and you can’t help but like them in Sleeping Beauty. In Maleficent, they’re just plain nitwits & I hated how they don’t seem to even really care about Aurora whereas they loved her in Sleeping Beauty. And they look pretty crap in Maleficent – I hated the look of them when they were small fairies. Ugh. Sorry to go on about this so much but they’re SO unlikeable in Maleficent! What a shame. It’s the only change that I hated, however, and I know that’s because they happen to be three of my favorite Disney characters.The other changes to the story were… Interesting. I liked them fine. But they’re very drastic changes so beware if you’re expecting Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.

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Another problem I had with this was that in making Maleficent a sympathetic character, they went a little too far in making us not care about the other side. Things in life aren’t so black & white, which they’ve proved by taking Maleficent & making us feel for her. But that doesn’t have to necessarily make those against her “evil” either. They spent a lot of time developing the character of Maleficent and did a very good job but, unfortunately, we get hardly any character development at ALL with anyone else. The first half of the film focuses SO much on Maleficent that, by the time Elle Fanning shows up as the 16-year-old Aurora, the rest of the film goes far too quickly and we barely get to know Aurora at all. Her father, King Stefan, well… I don’t know how to discuss him without spoilers either. I also wasn’t crazy about the changes made with his character although I didn’t hate it as much as with the good fairies. I’m just not sure it fully worked. And Sharlto Copley really didn’t feel right for the role. But after such a set up for his character at the beginning, he ends up very poorly developed in the second half of the film. Really, the movie is too short. After such a promising start, the second half felt very rushed and needed far more character development for Aurora & King Stefan at the very least.

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Summary:

Maleficent starts out very strong with a magical look & feel and does an excellent job in developing its title character. Jolie is absolutely perfect as Maleficent – she was born to play this role. But, unfortunately, the second half of the film feels very rushed and all the other characters are very underdeveloped. Still, I think it’s much better than things such as Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland (which I hated), Oz The Great And Powerful (which I hated with a passion), and Snow White And The Huntsman (which I thought was okay). Maleficent definitely improves on these and seems like a step in the right direction but I felt that maybe too many “executive” types were pulling the strings, resulting in a film that was too short and therefore felt rushed & underdeveloped. Maleficent is a great character but I so wish they’d focused on the story and the other characters a bit more as well. Overall, it’s a worthy film and I enjoyed it although it drastically changes the story most of us know from Disney’s 1959 Sleeping Beauty.

My Rating: 7/10

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Is It Too Scary For Kids?

First of all, I’m no expert on kids so don’t come back here & yell at me if your kid was too scared! As always, every kid is different so use your best judgement. This ended up actually not being as dark as I was expecting from the trailer. It’s more tame than the ones I mentioned above (Snow White & The Huntsman and Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland). It’s maybe about the same as Oz The Great And Powerful as far as how scary it is. There are three bits that are maybe pushing it a little (I’ll still try to stay spoiler free here). One is a battle at the beginning and of course the final stand off at the end. These two fight scenes are a little intense but of course you don’t see anything like blood and nothing is TOO violent. In my opinion, at least. A lot of very young kids seem to have seen the Harry Potter movies which, to me, I think are too scary for anyone under 7 or 8. I think Maleficent is far less scary than the darkest Harry Potters. The scariest bit involves a dagger in a scene very similar to 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I’d say this one scene would be the most upsetting to young kids but it’s brief and you’ll see it coming if you want to shield your kid from that one scene. As I say – I’m no expert and you have to judge things based on each individual kid as some scare more easily but I personally don’t think Maleficent is much more scary than some of Disney’s animated movies, which can be very dark. Bambi scarred me for life! 😉