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Cinderella

These days it is considered brave of film-makers to re-invent classic stories.  Spinning an edgy, modern twist on tales has often proved fruitful.  Whilst this approach has raked in cash, it is even rarer and braver of others to stick to traditional versions.  Although having critics, director Kenneth Branagh knows how to handle rich mythologies which he does so confidentially with ‘Cinderella’.  Based on the Charles Perrault fairy tale and the 1950 Walt Disney movie, it is refreshingly free of the cynicism that drags down similar films.

 

Ella (Eloise Webb) lives with her step-mother Lady Temaine (Cate Blanchett) and her daughters.  Revelling in dire wickedness, Temaine treats Ella as a slave.  Ella longs for escape that she receives when her fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter) appears.  Turned into a divine belle dubbed Cinderella, Ella soon captures the attention of Prince Charming (Richard Madden).  Events travel a tortuous path as the divine happy ending forever seems to escape Cinderella’s grasp.

 

‘Cinderella’ has an abundance of genuine charm.  This doesn’t mean it’s a saccharine movie talking down to the audience.  It is an all-ages production rich in visual splendour and solid acting.  Branagh delivers a serviceable rendition of the well-known tale.  With his astute directorial skills he successfully teases out the magical wonder embedded within adding to the colourful scope ‘Cinderella’ needs.  It is complimented by sparkling CGI which never over-whelms the sense of enchantment permeating events.

 

‘Cinderella’ also succeeds due to some astute performances.  Webb makes for a fetching damsel with Blanchett revelling in the haughty evil of her wicked character.  Whilst some occasional over-acting is evident, most generally stick to ‘Cinderella’s spirit of earnest romanticism.  The mix of humour and a little darkness ensure the story zips along at a briskly watchable rhythm.

 

It would have been easy for the makers of ‘Cinderella’ to brashly update its classic formula.  The fact they didn’t speaks volumes for their quest in crafting a suitably grand tribute to a durable fable.

 

Rating out of 10:  7

The Divergent Series: Insurgent

‘Insurgent’ is the sequel to last year’s ‘Divergent’.  Based on Veronica Roth’s ‘Divergent’ book series the franchise is a classic example of current Hollywood commercial film-making.  Adapting a popular teen-based fantasy novel franchise, Tinsletown has been awash with like-minded works.  ‘Harry Potter’, ‘Twilight’, ‘The Hunger Games’ are amongst others that have stuck to this formula.  Just as bland and indifferent, ‘Insurgent’ barely differentiates itself from the recent cult of book-to-screen mania.

 

Still desperate to save her world, Tris (Shailene Woodley) is ready for arms.  Helped by Four (Theo James), she aims to be free of the clutches of Jeanine (Kate Winslet), the powerful leader of the evil Erudite faction.  Battling a new swathe of enemies they search for clues to succeed in their quest.  Finding fresh obstacles, their resolve is tested as their families feel the wrath of their antagonists.

 

‘Insurgent’ rests a lot on Woodley’s shoulders.  She gives a fine performance as the angst-ridden heroine fighting for freedom.  The way her character battles her way to uncovering secrets and lies makes Woodley’s role memorable. Unfortunately not much else can be said for the rest of the film.  Whilst competently directed by Robert Schwentke, the shadows of similar movies loom large.  The plot, characters and overall style make ‘Insurgent’ as forgettable and disposable as its filmic brethren.

 

Making it barely stand out are the pacing and excellently staged action scenes.  Schwentke shows his forte in these sequences with the story’s theme of embracing individuality well integrated.  The irony is Woodley’s co-stars barely register due to their character’s blandness.  None make any impact with their personalities giving way to eye-popping CGI and gunplay.  It builds towards the inevitable sequel leaving enough intrigue to muster some enthusiasm for the follow-up.

 

‘Insurgent’ is a serviceable effort without being memorable.  Those who have seen comparable films don’t need to see this.  Had it been more original it may have passed muster.  That means little when the dollars roll in and Hollywood creates another facsimile in order to make more.

 

Rating out of 10:  5