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Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’ continues another long streak of Disney related films. Cinema screens have been filled with them with various Marvel extravaganzas and animated remakes. ‘Maleficent 2’ is derived from the popular Disney classic ‘Sleeping Beauty’. A sequel to the 2014 movie, ‘Maleficent 2’ is more of the same spectacle that Disney’s unfettered fortune can provide.

Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) is a powerful witch protecting the moors of her homeland. When Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) becomes engaged to Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson), trouble brews. This comes via Phillip’s mother Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer). Wanting to divide fairies and humans forever, the Queen’s plans see Maleficent use all her wiles to combat this latest threat to her domain.

A diverting time not taxing the mind too hard, ‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’ is enjoyable. It doesn’t break any new ground and nor does it particularly linger in the memory. It provides colourful escapism with amazing CGI. You can’t ask too much more than that, even if Jolie doesn’t appear in it as much as expected. Acting honours go to Pfeiffer, who has a grand time as a wicked lady.

Feeling much like a production line product, ‘Maleficent 2’ is the Disney empire at its zenith. It’s easy seeing where the huge budget went with the original cartoon bought to stark life. The direction is decent as are the rest of the performances. There isn’t any need to have seen the first entry as it was as forgettable as this one which will be once you leave the theatre.

A mega-budgeted all-ages piece of cinematic fluff, ‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’ is fine. That’s the best way to describe it, as are most of the current Disney products. The days of pushing the envelope appear over in terms of story with the real evil being the bland mediocrity Disney dishes out to modern movie audiences.

Rating out of 10: 6

Joker

‘Joker’ takes its cue from downbeat 1970’s Hollywood films. Often intense character studies, these stayed in the memory such as Martin Scorsese’s ‘Taxi Driver’. ‘Joker’ owes much to that movie as it has the same grimy, hard-hitting feel plus its lead actor Robert DeNiro. It’s not what you’d expect from a comic-book adaption, but ‘Joker’ revels in striking out in ways that would make its comic character laugh with glee.

Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is a comedian looking for his big break. Getting nowhere despite his talents, Fleck’s frustrations sees him turn to crime. Painting his face with clown-like features, he renames himself Joker. One of his targets is Murray Franklin (Robert DeNiro). Chaos quickly ensues with Gotham City’s residents cowering in fear at the self-dubbed ‘Clown Prince of Crime.’

Todd Phillips directs this daring version of Batman’s well known adversary. Like its subject, ‘Joker’ crashes through the screen with anarchic force. This is almost entirely due to Phillips’ astute direction and Phoenix’s magnetic performance. He morphs into the psychopathic killer with steely precision. Every movement feels exact as Fleck descends into a maelstrom of madness.

Those familiar with the non-stop action of the Batman films may be disappointed by ‘Joker’. It’s more of a psychological thriller than the usual comic-book film. That’s a very good thing as the script’s unpredictability effectively mirrors Fleck’s haphazard life. From the costuming, music and general tone, ‘Joker’ is sure to stir debate but linger long after the credits roll.

‘Joker’ has already caused controversy but is well worth seeing. Phoenix shows his acting skills with ease, as does DeNiro. Future films in this genre have their work cut out in matching the atmosphere of this character study of a truly disturbed individual.

Rating out of 10: 8