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    Movie review: ‘Cinderella’ a charming, old-fashioned fairy tale – Earth Station One

    rs_1024x759-141119042502-1024.Cinderella-JR-111914By Ashley Bergner/Box Office Buzz

    In recent years, Hollywood has become quite adept at transforming well-known fairy tales into something creative and unexpected. “Snow White and the Huntsmen” brought a sense of gothic grit to a famous children’s story. “Maleficent” turned a seemingly irredeemable Disney villain into a more sympathetic figure (and switched up the classic fairy tale cliche of “true love’s kiss”). The TV show “Once Upon a Time” featured a split narrative that had fairy tale characters living in a small American town under a curse.

    However, Disney’s new live action “Cinderella” is a surprisingly straightforward and traditional retelling, sticking fairly close to the storyline of Disney’s own 1950s animated version. While I like many of the revisionist fairy tales we’ve seen, in this instance, the traditional tone works perfectly, and “Cinderella” is a charming, beautifully-shot family film.

    I won’t spend much time describing the plot, because most of you probably know the story by heart already — the cruel stepmother, the fairy godmother, the royal ball, the glass slipper, the “happily ever after.” The film stars Lily James, best known as the character Rose from “Downton Abbey.” James gives the character a sense of sweetness and kindness without being artificially earnest; her gentle spirit is genuine. She has a nice sense of chemistry with “Game of Thrones’” Richard Madden, who plays the prince. Although technically they don’t really have much time to get to know each other (and we learned from “Frozen” that you really shouldn’t marry someone you’ve just known for a day!) ;) the romance is sweetly portrayed. Cate Blanchett is icy and elegant as the “evil stepmother; she thankfully doesn’t overplay the role, giving the character a few sympathetic touches. Holliday Grainger and fellow “Downton” alum Sophie McShera are great fun as the two over-the-top stepsisters, with entertainingly hideous costumes and constant bickering. And Helena Bonham Carter has a brief appearance as the quirky fairy godmother.

    Another highlight of the film is the gorgeous set design and elaborate costumes. Bright colors pop off the screen, and Patrick Doyle’s lovely score fits perfectly with the film.

    As I mentioned before, director Kenneth Branagh keeps the story fairly traditional, and in this case, it works, because while it is traditional, it certainly doesn’t feel stale. The lively performances bring a freshness to the well-known tale. Although this Cinderella doesn’t immediately come across as empowered a heroine as perhaps some of the other princesses in recent fairy tale retellings, she’s more than just a helpless damsel-in-distress pining away in a tower. She’s not a warrior but she does have courage, and determines not to give up, even when it looks like her story won’t have a happy ending. She doesn’t rely on fancy dresses, expensive carriages, or even necessarily the prince to make her happy; she finds that inside.

    As much as I like some of the grittier fairy tale retellings, sometimes it’s nice to have a straightforward “happily ever after.” “Cinderella” is rather like a finely-crafted piece of cake — sweet but still with substance.


    The post Movie review: ‘Cinderella’ a charming, old-fashioned fairy tale – Earth Station One appeared first on Transmissions From Atlantis.

    Movie review: ‘Maleficent’ offers a twist on a classic fairy tale

    By Ashley Bergner
    Box Office Buzz

    178833 KS_New_maleficentMaleficent is one of Disney’s most iconic villains — a terrifying fairy and master of dark magic who curses the infant Princess Aurora, better known as “Sleeping Beauty.” She’s heartless and irredeemably evil … or is she? Disney’s new film “Maleficent” offers a different twist on the classic fairy tale, presenting Maleficent as a damaged antihero whose heart wasn’t always bent on revenge.

    “Maleficent” takes places in a fantasy land divided into two realms: humans and magical creatures. The young fairy Maleficent befriends Stefan, a human who wanders across the border between the realms. She falls in love with him, but he betrays her in order to become next in line to succeed to the throne. Enraged and heartbroken, Maleficent plans the perfect revenge: she curses Stefan’s newborn daughter, Aurora, to prick her finger on a spinning wheel on her 16th birthday and fall into a sleep like death.

    However, events transpire a bit differently than in the animated “Sleeping Beauty” film. As Maleficent watches Aurora grow up, her heart is touched by the young girl’s innocence and compassion, and she begins to question whether she should use the princess as the instrument of her revenge. The curse is too powerful to be stopped, but are love and forgiveness powerful enough to break it once it takes hold?

    Although “Maleficent” has received mixed reviews from critics, most seem to agree the main strength is Angelina Jolie, who stars as Maleficent. Jolie is the perfect fit for the role; not only does she look the part, thanks to great costume and make-up work, she brings more depth to a character that was previously a one-dimensional villain. She conveys a sense of regal but dangerous power, and she’s terrifying when she unleashes the full force of her wrath on King Stefan. The visuals and special effects are darkly gorgeous, taking on a more gothic feel as Maleficent’s wrath casts a shadow across the land.

    While it is nice to have a family film option in the summer release schedule, especially since it seems like it’s been a while since there’s been one that’s live action, I did find myself wondering what “Maleficent” would have been like if film makers had been allowed to make it a little darker and grittier. 2012′s “Snow White and the Huntsman” wasn’t flawless, but one of the things I liked best about the film was the fact it wasn’t afraid to be dark and gritty, and it was fun to see the classic fairy tale presented as a gothic fantasy.

    Although this version’s Maleficent does some bad things, one could argue she’s never actually truly evil; she even “softens” her curse after King Stefan begs for mercy. If script writers had pushed Maleficent a little farther to the dark side, her eventual return to the light would have had even more emotional impact (à la Darth Vader in “Return of the Jedi”). It also might have been nice to see some deeper character development from some of the other players: perhaps a more nuanced King Stefan and more background on Maleficent’s shape-shifting henchman, Diaval.

    Still, the movie is definitely worth watching for Jolie’s performance and the breath-taking visuals. Also make sure you stay for the credits — they feature a haunting, eerie re-imagining of the “Sleeping Beauty” song “Once Upon a Dream” by Lana Del Rey.


    The post Movie review: ‘Maleficent’ offers a twist on a classic fairy tale appeared first on Transmissions From Atlantis.

    Movie Review: Atlantis The Lost Empire

    1356I remember reading a bunch of articles in various movie magazines such as Cinescape and Cinefantasque a couple of months before ATLANTIS: THE LOST EMPIRE hit movie theatres.  Most of the articles were gushing on and on about the producers hiring the same linguist who created the Klingon language for Star Trek to create an Atlantean language for the movie. Now, you have to wonder why the producers went to all that trouble since the Atlantean language is heard on screen for maybe 30 seconds and written Atlantean is hardly seen.  And in any case, the main character translates it for the rest of the characters (and thereby for us, the audience as well), so what’s the point of going to all the trouble to invent a new language? After seeing ATLANTIS: THE LOST EMPIRE, I figured it out: the producers had to do something to justify the incredibly thin and tired story. After spending all that money on a brand new language and the animation, they probably didn’t have much left over to pay one good writer. Which may explain why there are six credited writers: my guess is that they were so bored with trying to write this story that they just passed the script around in a sort of round robin: whenever someone got tired of writing, they just passed it on to the next poor sucker in line.

    Milo Thatch is the grandson of the great archeologist Thaddeus Thatch and the old man has passed down his dream of finding Atlantis to Milo. However, Milo is stuck working as a janitor, frustrated beyond words because he can’t get anyone to believe his theory and finance an expedition. Maybe the fact that he has absolutely no evidence that Atlantis exists has something to do with it. And one day, outta nowhere, with no forewarning or setup, this crazy old millionaire shows up and drops into Milo’s lap a book that shows him where Atlantis is and has even built a submarine and hired a crew to help Milo find the Lost Empire. Now there are so many things wrong here that I audibly groaned when I saw this scene. But I digress….let’s just simply go on ahead with the rest of the story, okay?

    Atlantis the lost empire inside the subMilo meets Commander Rourke and his second-in-command, the beautiful and calculating Helga and a colorful assortment of multi-national specialists in various fields (doctor, communications expert, demolitionist, etc) that made me sit up and pay attention for a while since I thought that they were going to be a crew of goofy, eccentric but supremely skilled and capable sidekicks like Doc Savage’s Amazing Five or Buckaroo Banzai’s Hong Kong Cavaliers. No such luck. They’re on board mostly for comic relief, except for the black doctor and Latina teenage mechanic who actually have interesting back-stories.

    They get on board this way cool submarine that looks like a 19th Century prototype of The Seaview from Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea and find Atlantis in record time, losing most of the crew and the way cool sub and from there the movie continues on a limp and predictable path as Milo finds that Commander Rourke and his crew are really out to steal the magnificent giant crystal that powers Atlantis. And I’m not giving anything away here because almost right from the first time we meet Rourke he’s whispering in ominous asides to Helga and we’re shown mysterious crates full of oversized guns being loaded on board the sub. And so Milo has to appeal to the better nature of the mercenaries to get them to change sides and help him save Atlantis from Rourke.

    The animation is absolutely spectacular, especially the opening sequences where we see Atlantis sink and the ending, which is a terrific action sequence, but that’s all I can recommend in ATLANTIS: THE LOST EMPIRE. At 95 minutes, it zips by in a bewildering daze. Atlantis is found in the first half-hour of the movie and there is absolutely no time to get to know the secondary characters and/or their motivations. In a desperate attempt to give the characters some dimension, the filmmakers stick in a scene where the characters sit around a campfire and actually tell Milo their back-stories. But by then, it’s too late. I wasn’t interested in what happened to any of these characters and was only in it for the eye candy of the outstanding animation work.

    PlotAtlantis05And it’s a shame because the voice work is also quite good. There’s a real problem when the bad guy of a movie is more charismatic and appealing than the good guy, but that’s what happens here. James Garner does such a good job as Rourke that I found myself hoping he’d pitch Milo off a cliff and actually get away with stealing the crystal. Michael J. Fox is his usual energetic self as Milo. Leonard Nimoy voices The Atlantean King and there’s other familiar voices such as Cree Summer, Phil Morris, John Mahoney, Claudia Christian, Jim Varney and Don Novello all of who no doubt jumped at the chance to collect a nice voiceover check while waiting for a live action movie or TV show guest spot.

    It’s not that there’s anything really wrong with ATLANTIS: THE LOST EMPIRE and I realize that I’m not the target audience for this movie, but I have a hard time believing that even kids would find this material exciting or thrilling.  And let’s face it…you don’t blow up a way cool sub like that in the first 30 minutes of your movie…any kid will tell you that.  And there’s just too much metaphysical New Age mumbo-jumbo involving crystals and mysterious life-force energies and all kinds of mystical double-talk that does nothing but try to make you think that there’s something going on here. ATLANTIS: THE LOST EMPIRE could have been a smashing Edgar Rice Burroughs/Jules Verne type of adventure and all the right elements are there. My advice to the producers is: next time, forget about creating new languages and tell a good adventure story.  My advice is to go Netflix George Pal’s “Atlantis: The Lost Continent” if you want to see a really good movie about Atlantis.


    Walt Disney Pictures

    Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise
    Produced by Don Hahn
    Associate Producer: Kendra Holland
    Written by Tab Murphy, Gary Trousdale, Joss Whedan, Kirk Wise, Bryce Zabel and Jackie Zabel

    95 minutes

    Rated PG and that’s a stretch. I’d have given it an outright G.

    The post Movie Review: Atlantis The Lost Empire appeared first on Transmissions From Atlantis.