BARE BONES: MALEFICENT-MISTRESS OF EVIL (2019)

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MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL (2019)

Sequel to the 2014 film about one of Disney’s greatest villainesses finds Aurora (Elle Fanning) getting engaged to handsome Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson) and her godmother Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) having none of it. Unknown to both Aurora and Maleficent, it’s all a ruse by Phillip’s mother, the scheming Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), to not only be rid of Maleficent, but all the creatures of fairy. Framed for bewitching the king and wounded, Maleficent is found by others of her kind and taken to their secret island hideaway. As she heals her wounds and gets to know her people, she plans to stop Ingrith and save the creatures of fae with her new army at her side.

Sequel is directed by Joachim Rønning (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) from a script by Micah Fitzerman-Blue, Linda Woolverton and Noah Harpster. It’s unremarkable story-wise and fairly by-the-numbers in execution, but does at least have a lot of fantasy images and creatures to keep one’s attention. There is also a fair share of action and an epic battle at it’s climax, with both Jolie and Pfeiffer chewing up the scenery appropriately. Maleficent is never actually evil at any point in the film…pissed off, yes, but evil, no…so the title is a bit misleading, unless it actually refers to Pfeiffer’s Queen Ingrith, who is the far more sinister of the two. Maybe Maleficent: The Pissed Off Anti-Hero was too awkward a title for the Disney promotional department. The film is competently made and colorful enough to be an amusing night on the couch, especially for it’s target audience, but a forgettable fantasy, overall. Strengths and weaknesses aside, the biggest disappointment here is in not letting Jolie really cut loose in a role she was born to play.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES (2017)

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PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES (2017)

Latest installment of this popular franchise has a bit of a complicated story, but that isn’t a new thing with this series. Will Turner’s (Orlando Bloom) son Henry (Brenton Thwaites ) sets out to find Poseidon’s Trident to break the curse and free his father from the Flying Dutchman. He plans to enlist the help of Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) himself, who currently is running from the ghost of the dread Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), who wants revenge for Jack causing the demise of he and his crew. Throw in Carina (Kaya Scodelario), a young woman accused of witchcraft, who is the only one who knows how to find the trident, not to mention the resurfacing of Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and you have enough story for two movies…or maybe three.

Latest yarn is directed by the Kon-Tiki duo of Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg from a busy script and story by Jeff Nathanson and Terry Rossio. It’s certainly better than the lackluster Stranger Tides, though still shows that this series is running out of gas, especially with a very underwritten part for Depp’s Captain Jack. There is a lot going on in it’s series short running time of 129 minutes and not all of it necessary to further the plot. There is some fun action and some spectacular visuals, but at the same time, it just doesn’t have that energetic spark of the first film. The cast, especially the newcomers, seem to be having a good time, though Depp appears to be just going through the motions and Rush’s Barbossa has little to do but be a possible link to one of the new characters. Bad guy Bardem disappears for periods of time, so the sense of urgency in the quest is neutered somewhat. The pursuit of the pirates and accused witch Carina by a British naval officer, also seems like excess and takes the focus away from Salazar at points. Overall, it was still a fun enough adventure, but the series seems to be getting mired in the shallows and needs a reboot or be decommissioned.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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