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Maleficent

Decades after its founder Walt Disney marvelled audiences with his animated movies, his Company has thrived. Whilst its traditional animation outfit has slowly faded its live-action arena is gathering pace.  The ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ movies showed they could successfully transfer their properties to the big screen with ‘Maleficent’ their latest.  Based on the wicked character from the 1959 movie ‘Sleeping Beauty’, it successfully conjures a dazzling spectacle for which Disney has become known.

 

Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) is a sinister Mistress of Evil.  With a heart of stone she seeks out ways to cause misery.  One victim is Aurora (Elle Fanning) a young princess.  Trapped in a battle between forest dwellers and humans, Aurora holds the key to peace.  Maleficent determines to prevent such an occurrence with a myriad of mischief.  Seeking to rule a divided kingdom, Maleficent’s ways reveal the darkness lurking in her conflicted soul.

 

It would be simple praising ‘Maleficent’s’ wondrous CGI which mirrors Disney’s best works.  To do so would ignore the care gone into the script.  Graced with Jolie’s strong performance, the character effectively escapes from its animated confines.  A fleshed out persona, Maleficent is continually split by her thoughts.  Initially an entity for good, her gradual descent into evil is authentically conveyed.  It’s easy understanding her actions with true villainy potentially hiding elsewhere.

 

Robert Stromberg’s direction replicates that elusive charm missing from several recent fantasy epics.  Ensuring the story’s messages create a strong moral centre, he avoids bogging it down with sugary sentiment.  In many ways ‘Maleficent’ is a very traditional Disney tale with a fine cast more than matching the opulent visions.  There’s majesty to the dark tale with the cinematography capturing the fantastical flourish it needs.

 

‘Maleficent’ is a decent live-action version of a Disney classic.  Sticking closely to its source while adding a few of its own unexpected twists, it’s a delicious cinematic foray into the realms of imaginary marvels.

 

Rating out of 10: 7

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Since 2000 the ‘X-Men’ series has been a huge success.  Encompassing 4 films and 2 Wolverine spin-offs, the franchise has made much of its rich comic-book origins.  ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ uses its history to tell a stirring tale.  Directed by Bryan Singer, who helmed the first 2 instalments, it successfully blends the elements making the movies so watchable.  Loaded with opulent special effects and high-octane action, it does justice to the characters created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby decades ago.

 

When a chain of events threaten the future of mutant-kind, Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) sends Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time.  Tasked with warning a young Xavier (James McAvoy), past and present must merge to battle the new threat.  Forced to work with the deadly Magneto (James Fassbender/Ian McKellen), the uniting mutants take a final stand against those who seek to destroy them.

 

‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ is a production made with care.  From Singer’s astute direction to the strong cast and gripping story there is hardly a mis-step.  Old and new fans should find much to like as it gives an overview to why this series has been so successful.  Usually a movie with multiple characters is a recipe for disaster although the plot gives each a chance to shine.  The time-travel elements succeed without creating a murky narrative with the series’ foray into science fiction working splendidly.

 

It’s the action audiences want to see and there’s a lot on display.  Singer ensures every punch and battle adds to the story.  He also injects some nice humorous touches without compromising the film’s integrity.  This is a colourfully spectacular romp nicely slotting into the established mythology. It sets up events for other films without making it feel like an ad for a sequel – something weighing down similar works.

 

The latest X-Men instalment provides a great ride.  Restoring some of its lost lustre, the franchise benefits from the energy infusion Singer brings.  It should do no harm to a superhero genre showing no signs of slowing down.

 

Rating out of 10:  8