Sunday, 22 June 2014

Maleficent (2014)

Director: Robert Stromberg
Producer: Joe Roth
Writer: Linda Woolverton
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning
Rating: PG
Angelina Jolie is a force to be reckoned with in Disney’s new spin on its classic tale of Sleeping Beauty. Disney has stuck to its recent theme of that there are no heroes and villains, although with a darker tone than Frozen.

Meet young Maleficent, a fairy who is not as evil as her name suggests. She whizzes around on her awesome wings, and all is fine and dandy in the incredibly CGI’d magical forest. Until she meets Stefan, a young boy who has snuck into the forest. And since this is Disney, they grow up together and fall in love. Stefan grows into ambitious adult Stefan, and due to his greed, he betrays Maleficent in a gut-wrenching scene where he drugs her and cuts off her wings. Soon Stefan is king and about to have a baby, and in a fit of rage Maleficent… Well we all know they story from there.

The visuals were spectacular. Director Stromberg is a well-known special effects artist; his past credits include Alice in Wonderland and Avatar, and he did not let fans down in this respect. The forest glittered and unfurled magically before your eyes; strange creatures whirled and snarled, and even the CGI on Jolie’s face looked bizarrely believable.

This was a one-woman-show at heart, that woman being Jolie, and with piercing cheekbones and glint in her eye; she swept sweet Elle Fanning’s Aurora and tormented Sharlto Copey’s King Stefan away. Maleficent was a women of few words, but that didn’t stop all eyes on Jolie, whose angry roars, heart-wrenching sobs, and knowing smirks says all.

Though the film may have benefited from some more words. Or plot. The obvious comparison to Maleficent is Wicked, the retelling of the story from the villains perspective, where we find out that they are not as evil as they seem. But while Wicked leaves you in awe of the cleverness and richness of the story, Maleficent is severely lacking in this area. Maleficent is betrayed, Maleficent becomes angry, Maleficent regrets her actions. Disney desire to stick rigidly to the 1959 original has caused this retelling to revert to a darker live-action version replica. And considering Linda Woolverton also wrote classics such as Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, the standard of plot is sub-par.

It’s hard to not initially be bowled over by Maleficent, whose world it is too easy to be absorbed into. The film taps into truths of real life, from love and betrayal, to friendship and fear. But once the magical dust has settled, and your eyes are exhausted from the visual assault, the sour taste of disappointment remains.

Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Don't Even Think About It

Don't Even Think About ItAge Group: YA
Genre: Contemporary 
Pub Date: May 2014
Publisher: Orchard Books

Don’t Even Think About It has one of the most interesting premises in contemporary YA, but the problem is that it sets your expectations too high. Set in a New York high school, a class of students are given a tainted flu shot and all mysteriously develop telepathy. Now the idea of having twenty students with ESP is a great one. The execution of it wasn’t.

If you don’t go into this book thinking that the teens are going to use their new found powers for good and to save the world, then you’ll be fine. This book was a lot less X-Men, and more The Princess Diaries. Ultimately this is a teen contemporary with a twist.

Unfortunately the twist gave it too many complications to work well as a contemporary.

We have twenty-two kids with ESP. The book is written as a collective, using “we”, but then jumps around to different characters, with their points of views. We follow about 8 characters, which are too many for a book this short. Spreading out the book between so many characters meant none of them were fully developed past their vague stereotype: the cheating popular girl, the girl in love with her best friend, the pervy teenage boy, the smart girl who goes by “Pi”…  Did I mention how clich├ęd it was? It was easy to get confused between several characters when you were following so many stories at once.

Then we had the ESP itself. Soon this book went from “oooh that’s an interesting thought”, to “I really don’t care about everyone’s every single thought”. It really captured the headache you would get being a teenager with ESP. Don’t get me wrong, teenagers having teenage thoughts is fine, everyone has really mundane thoughts. But I have no desire to hear or read about everyone’s mundane thoughts.

The main problem I had is that I just didn’t care. I couldn’t care about most of the characters because the plot was spread too thinly between all of them. I couldn’t care about the plot because it wasn’t explained well enough, and I didn’t care about any of the drama that was going on. This book read like it was written by someone who thought how teenagers thought, but I give teens a lot more credit to be more intelligent than they are portrayed in this novel.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Rating: 4/10