6 Star Movies, Live Action Movie Reviews, Live Action Movies, Reviews

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil Review

It’s time to look at the long awaited sequel to the first Maleficent film. That one was definitely quite good and I remember being impressed because it actually did surpass my expectations. It showed that there are still new ways to adapt some of the old classics. Maleficent also made for a quality character. Unfortunately the sequel is quite the step down from the first one. It’s not a massive shift in terms of score as this is still a good movie but there are a lot of questionable moments of characters making terrible decisions and Aurora’s character was completely wrecked.

The movie starts out with Aurora deciding to finally get married to Phillip. She is a princess and he is a prince so this will be a good way to unite the two kingdoms so everyone can live in harmony and forget about the corruption of the world. Unfortunately that’s not the way it is to be. Phillip’s mother Ingrith is not pleased with this and decides that she will fool these suckers into letting their guard down. She invites Maleficent into the castle and frames her for the murder of the king. Maleficent leaves and gets sniped out of the sky like a rank amateur while Aurora loses all of her intelligence and obeys Ingrith’s every whim. Realizing that the humans are going to win at this rate, Borra convinces all of the demons to attack the kingdom. Can they stop the evil humans?

I’ve got several problems here and the graphics aren’t one of them. The film looks quite solid. I like the energy effects and the destruction scenes we have are very good. The soundtrack isn’t terribly memorable but it does work well for the dramatic scenes. There’s a good amount of technical effort that was put into this film. Additionally the script was solid and the pacing was on point. You won’t be bored during this movie and it is careful not to make any big mistakes. So far so good eh? Well, lets talk about some of the issues here because the writing was not up to the task this time.

First off is Aurora. I haven’t seen a character catch as many Ls as this princess in a very long time. She’s one of the more unlikable characters and is now my least favorite Disney princess. First off, she doesn’t believe Maleficent when the lead tells her that she didn’t murder the king. Instead Aurora chooses to passively believe the quite obviously evil queen. Then Ingrith convinces Aurora to turn her back on the dress that the fairies made for her in order to fit in. Aurora is very quick to ditch her heritage and even agree to live in Ingrith’s castle. Aurora has absolutely no agency in the film and sides with all of the worst people. She’s proven here that she is not ready to leave and completely betrays Maleficent’s trust. It’s too bad because Aurora used to be a good character but I think she let romance cloud her judgment and forgot that she has an equal stake in this.

Then you’ve got the gullible monsters who walked straight into the murder house. Why didn’t any of them suspect something when no humans were walking in to the church? They do know that the humans have despised them for a long time so as soon as they noticed that Aurora wasn’t there they should have left. You never walk straight into a villain base without a plan. Then as some of them started getting murdered by the smoke they all started panicking and running. Why didn’t the massive tree monsters try breaking one of the many windows in the castle? They also should have attacked the girl playing the trumpet a lot sooner since she had no real protection. The monsters just looked incredibly weak and I had an issue with that. The scene made no sense.

We also can’t forget how weak the demons were. They were a disgrace as the humans were actually beating them. Humans! You can’t lose to a human, it’s just not done. This only happens when the humans are evil, when they’re good guys then they suddenly can’t fight for beans. It was pretty annoying to see everyone get wiped out by Ingrith’s armies and when they finally start to make a comeback they are forced to stop fighting. The worst example of this was Borra. After watching most of his allies get murdered by one guy he flies in to avenge them but prince Phillip stops him and gives the other guy a full pardon. They’re back to being friends in the next scene. Really? This army guy just betrayed everyone and murdered tons of people but he gets a full pardon? I think a full rebellion is liable to break out in this kingdom over the next few days because that was just wild. I still don’t get how you can lose to humans but let us press on.

Prince Phillip is super oblivious to everything. Aurora should have been telling him what was going on sooner but he also should have kept himself in the loop a little more. He let Ingrith handle everything and that’s really not the case when you’re king. He also clearly did not visit his father in the hospital bed at all since he didn’t notice the obvious wound on him that would have proven that Maleficent was not to blame. He just trusted the report and had no real agency. That’s a big red flag for a character.

Ingrith makes for a good villain in part because she is the only intelligent character around. She actually makes a lot of good plans and takes down all of her opponents with ease. She comes close to murdering Maleficent twice and also takes down whole armies. While she is on the right side at least she is actually an effective ruler. Ingrith knows how to lead her armies and how to take down opposing armies. Something tells me that Aurora and Phillip will not be able to do the same.

Then we have Maleficent who is all bark and no bite in this film. She loses most of her hype with how she has to try and be nice to everyone while Ingrith doesn’t bother with such things. Maleficent loses every verbal debate they have quite badly. I was shocked at how one sided all of their discussions were to the point where I couldn’t really blame Maleficent for running away. I do blame her for getting sniped so easily though. Then in the final fight she should have taken more of the enemies down or at least beaten Ingrith. Losing to her 1 on 1 was the ultimate moment of sadness for her character.

When you boil down to the heart of things, my main issue with this film was the writing. The characters all just looked terrible and seemed to have the average IQ of a slasher film protagonist. They made it awful easy for the villain to do what she wanted to all of them. I would have preferred more of a balanced fight and for the humans to have actually taken some losses. They get away with literal murder in this film as it feels like an unconditional surrender for the fairy folk by the end. The humans now have complete reign over everything.

Overall, This sequel just couldn’t match the original. It’s a decent movie and one I could see again but it makes a whole lot of mistakes. Aurora is hard to watch with how terrible she is and the ending just doesn’t feel fair. Maleficent should have just wiped everyone out and moves somewhere else where she would have been better appreciated. I think that would have done quite a lot to balance things out. If you like the original then you should still check this one out. Logic aside the film is still pretty entertaining with only some slow parts to hold the pacing back. If we get a third film hopefully it embraces the action a little more with a better outcome to the fight. The rest of the demons also need a buff since they looked so weak.

Overall 6/10

4 Star Movies, Live Action Movie Reviews, Live Action Movies, Reviews

Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life Review

After a long time, I have finally gone and seen the sequel to the first Lara Croft film. The first one wasn’t exactly a thrill a minute so this one really tried to add in as much action as possible. The Cradle of Life shows many glimpses of a world where it could actually have been a solid film, but these glimpses are simply too brief and the film is ultimately plagued by a few negatives.

As for the plot, Lara Croft has finally met a challenge that is too much for her. To get to Pandora’s Box, she will need to get into villainous territory. Her two assistants are already out of the picture thanks to the enemies so Lara is forced to free an associate from prison. This man is there for a reason so this is a pretty big gamble, but the two characters have a long history between them. Now that we’ve got the drama in place, the adventure can really start!

The actual plot isn’t bad and Lara is essentially just embarking on a new quest. Unfortunately, bringing someone along was definitely not a good move as the guy drags down the film. His name is Terry and he’s definitely not a good character. For starters, he’s a total criminal who clearly has not reformed in his ways. He talks tough right from the start, but he still gets beat up a few times and Lara also tricks him on more than one occasion. It becomes very evident as to why the two of them ended up parting ways. They definitely can’t trust each other and both prefer riches to companionship. Terry goes off the deep end rather unexpectedly at one point although I didn’t care for him anyway.

He also gives us the worst scene in the film as he and Lara decide to see if they’re still meant for each other. The long romance scene is an example of a very poorly developed plot and one that is completely unnecessary. After not seeing each other for years and parting on bad terms, I find it hard to believe that they would get back together so quickly. If so, the characters are definitely too easy and it hurts any chances that they had of being likable.

Likewise, the scene also hurts Lara’s character and I definitely don’t care for her here. She’s a character who tries to get in as many one liners and burns as possible, but that also means that they don’t all work. While she claims to be a professional, she nearly dies by staying in a crumbling ruins for too long and her banter quickly dies down when held at gunpoint. She’s a decent adventurer, but she’s hardly a great fighter. (Although, she’s good enough to beat her partners at Kendo) Using her feminine wiles to get through the adventure was really the last straw for her character.

As such, there weren’t many likable characters to be found in the film. I actually didn’t mind one of her partners as he was really petty. In the kendo match, he finally got a hit towards the end of their bout and started celebrating a lot. It’s like fighting on For Glory in Smash Bros where the opponent will taunt numerous times after finally getting an elusive KO. The other member is fairly weak and doesn’t add much to the story. He does try to warn Lara about the fact that the villains are on to him, but she is evidently not the sharpest tool in the shed and misses all of the warnings that he gives.

I need to quickly take this time to mention the fact that it’s not really wise for a treasure hunter to have a very well known mansion in the middle of such a big landscape. Lara doesn’t have any real defenses so any villain organization can just bust in as we saw in this film. She really needs to think about adding some much needed security to make the place a little tougher to break into.

The film was surprisingly a little more violent than I had expected it to be. One of the scenes in the climax involves a man burning to death with surprising detail as he melts. Another scene, which I found to be more intense involved a guy who was poisoned. From the way that the scene played out, it started to look like he was literally spitting out his guts. That likely wasn’t what was happening….likely, but it sure looked like that, which was pretty gruesome.

Let’s quickly look at a nice positive for the film, which is the fact that there are monsters to be found. Towards the end of the film, we find out that there are monster guardians which watch over Pandora’s Box. They can phase through objects and their speed isn’t too shabby. It almost goes without saying that there physical strength is very good. Watching them take down the group of humans was like watching the Raptors take everyone down in Jurassic World. The monsters take their time and methodically take everyone down one at a time. It’s very impressive to watch and it was a fun scene as monsters are just what we needed. They were a little too powerful so we never get to see Lara fight one of them, but the plot hax would have likely been too immense so I suppose that it’s fine.

Some of the special effects don’t quite hold up here though. One scene in particular comes to mind as Lara glides across a city. It clearly looks like she is just being held by a string with a background picture that is moving in the background. That definitely looks fake, but I suppose that we can’t have too many films with good effects right? On the bright side, it’s bad in a bit of a campy way so I wouldn’t call it a huge issue. Just something that it fun to note.

It’s really too bad that the film crumbled as it went along because I did find it to be interesting. For example, the opening scene was fun as Lara infiltrated an underwater temple and the plot began. That was the film’s first missed opportunity as Lara should have fought the villains. A nice fight scene at the beginning of the film is always a fun way to start off. We got a fight later on between Lara and another villain that was fun though. Even if the collateral damage did end up destroying the guy’s “priceless” statues. A film just needs more good qualities if it wants to be good. The plot isn’t enough, you need good writing, good characters, and more. This film couldn’t really pull off any of that as I’d call the writing decent at best. Even the final scene’s humor is a plot that’s probably been overdone a little at this point. You will feel a little bad for the two assistants…but very little.

Overall, The Cradle of Life is definitely not going to be the film to give video game adaptions a good name. It had a fairly interesting plot and the monsters at the end were cool, but that wasn’t enough to make it a good film. Making the poison scene a little less graphic and cutting out the make out scene between Lara and Terry would have helped the film a lot and that probably would have put the film in the clear with a 2 star boost. That being said, the could have/should have case can be applied to just about any film. So, when it all boils down to it, The Cradle of Life simply couldn’t stay afloat and Pandora’s Box just wasn’t meant to be found. If you’re looking for a good adventure film, then you should probably watch Indiana Jones…although I haven’t seen those in a while. Be on the lookout for the CGI ants! As for Lara Croft, we’ll have to wait a long while before we get a film that does the classic games justice.

Overall 4/10

7 Star Movies, Live Action Movie Reviews, Live Action Movies, Reviews

Maleficent Review

I saw Sleeping Beauty pretty recently so that was a good set up for this film. The film did claim that the old story was basically fake through the posters and intro, which was a risky move since the older fans could have gotten nervous. Luckily, this new retelling turned out to be pretty good and Maleficent surpassed my expectations.

The film begins with Maleficent’s tragic backstory as she has her wings stolen and is tricked by a corrupt man from the enemy kingdom. It’s too late to regain her abilities, but she places a curse on the King’s daughter and then departs to protect her kingdom. Three fairies decide to take the princess to a shack in the woods so that they can hide from Maleficent, but this only buys them a few hours. Rather than harming the girl, Maleficent decides to just watch her from the shadows and help out from time to time. She mocks the fairies as well, but it’s hard not to at times. Aurora’s birthday is quickly approaching though so Maleficent will have to decide between good and evil while also facing upcoming dangers from the kingdom.

It’s a pretty happy film for the most part as Maleficent learns about the joys of being a nice person. It’s a film where you need to enjoy looking at the scenery as the film puts a lot of focus on it as we see that Maleficent’s kingdom isn’t all that bad either. The only dark part is probably the beginning, which is filled with dread as you know that the prince cannot be trusted.

Maleficent is a pretty good character and she’s certainly better than I expected. The posters didn’t really do the costume any favors and she’s certainly a formidable threat when she possesses her wings. She basically started out as a hero and lost her way, but she continues to try to do the right thing. She’s certainly better than some of the current protagonists like Katniss and Bilbo. I’d also go as far as to say that this could be her best portrayal, although she was still pretty great in the original film.

The director must not have liked the three fairies since they are downright awful in this film. They are just there to show us that the Kingdom is still very corrupt. They let the King push them around and they don’t really care that much for Aurora’s well being. Some of their lines are just meant to be funny, but they don’t really work and you would think that they were the step sisters from Cinderella. They definitely weren’t portrayed correctly.

Aurora was a decent character, but I feel like she jumped to conclusions way too quickly. After a lot of bonding time with one of the characters, she quickly forgets all of that and attacks her because of a quick word from the fairies. At that point in time, I’d definitely be more inclined to listen to the person who seems to be a lot cooler and more trust worthy. Aurora was also pretty quick to fall into the romance trap, which was unfortunate. I don’t believe in love at first sight and I probably never will. If you live in a forest and see a strange man for the first time…you should probably just head back home instead of telling him where you live. I didn’t think that she did a good job there and things almost got dicey.

The King is pretty awful as expected. He just wants to be rich and to destroy Maleficent no matter what the cost. He’s about as corrupt as they come and he really starts to go crazy by the end. He’s a character who’s created to be very unlikable and I can safely say that it works. I don’t think that you’ll be rooting for him during any parts of the film.

The Prince who always comes to save the day finds himself with a very different role in this film. I thought that Maleficent did a great job with that since it disproves the whole Love at First Sight myth. Let’s just say that it’s not true love and he’s written out of the script pretty quickly. Now other films can take note of how this isn’t a true romance and maybe things will start to look up…maybe.

The fight scenes were also surprisingly good. It’s no secret that I really don’t like the medieval period for films since the battles just contain a lot of gritty stabbing and guys yelling for a while, but that’s not the case here. The monsters actually look tough and we get some Man of Steel moments when Maleficent is flying. The fight scenes where she has her wings are definitely the best parts and the final fight is also pretty fun. That being said, it also takes us to the classic plot hax part.

The final fight makes no sense from a logical stand point or even when looking at it through the wonky power levels of Avengers Assemble. Maleficent has magic powers and she can do just about anything, but one hit from the iron net and suddenly she is powerless. She just stands there as the prince beats her up and that’s pretty annoying. I expect her to put up a much better fight than that. Also, she should have transformed her partner out of his dragon form when they tried to capture him and then quickly transformed him back so that the chains would have slipped off. That would have been genius, but unfortunately it didn’t happen.

The soundtrack is pretty nonexistent. It’s unfortunate, but to be expected since that is a big weakness for most live action films. They just can’t seem to put a good soundtrack together for some reason. The special effects are solid though and this won’t hurt the film, it just won’t help it either.

One thing that you should note is that this film may be rated PG, but I do feel that PG 13 is more appropriate. As far as I am concerned, PG films should not have any blood or scenes that get too intense. The scenes with the net start to stretch that point and Maleficent losing her wings was also rather intense. It would be a very mild PG 13, but I do think that it would be the correct rating.

Also, while I did like Maleficent a lot, she was way too gullible in the opening scenes. How can you trust someone that you’ve barely met and who deserted you for years? That scene was pretty painful to watch and you just have to wonder if the film could have made it a little more believable. I mean, the King was suspect from the every start! He looks shifty and certainly not like the friendly type. That certainly hurts her character as she would have been almost perfect otherwise. Even when she’s in her evil phase, she’s still nice to her loyal followers and doesn’t just start beating them around for the lolz. That’s a true villain.

Overall, Maleficent was a solid film. It beats Transformers, Hunger Games Mockingjay, TMNT, and X Men Days of Future Past as far as this year’s big films go. It still loses to Captain America, Spider Man, Guardians, and Godzilla, but landing in the top 5 is no small feat. I doubt that the Hobbit will pass it so it should be pretty safe there. A sequel for this film could be intriguing provided that we get a solid villain. Now that we know that good fight scenes are a possibility, I’m ready for her to fight another being with wings and super speed. That could potentially be the best Disney Princess film to date. Ah well, first we have to get through Cinderella…one of the few films that didn’t really have a villain. (At least, a villain with superheroes) You will enjoy this film from start to finish and it is a title that you will walk away from feeling pretty content. I recommend this if you’re looking for a fun Disney film to watch or if you just want a classic monsters vs humans film. Even if you are just looking for a summer blockbuster film, this one would fit the bill to an extent. I would argue that it has about as much action as Xmen and certainly more than the Hunger Games. Sleeping Beauty is officially my favorite Disney Princess part of the franchise for now.

Overall 7/10