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Mar 112015

Many of us remember Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Now here’s a new film version that focuses on a different angle, which is the story of Maleficent. Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) was the main villain of Sleeping Beauty, but she wasn’t always evil.

Maleficent was once a good powerful fairy that lived in the Moors, which is a magical forest realm that neighbors a human kingdom. She even had wings like an eagle, which would allow her to fly anywhere. As for Maleficent’s horns on her head, they’re actually a part of her. Until I saw that, I always thought she wore a helmet.

After the greedy King Henry (Kenneth Cranham) fails to conquer the Moors, he decides to pass on the crown to whoever manages to kill Maleficent. Of course everyone wants that reward. Unfortunately, that includes Stefan (Sharlto Copley) who used to be good friends with her.

Apparently, Stefan chose the crown over friendship, but instead of killing Maleficent, he cuts her wings off. It was that betrayal which drove Maleficent to evil. Now it’s clear why she goes to the castle and curses Stefan’s newborn child, like in the animated version.

From this point, the movie does follow the story line to the animated version, but with different twists from the other characters. For starters, Maleficent’s raven companion has a name, Diavel (Sam Riley), and can turn into a human among other things under Maleficent’s control.

The three pixies, which were originally named Flora, Fauna, and Meriwether, are named Knotgrass (Imelda Staunton), Thistlewit (Juno Temple), and Flittle (Lesley Manville). They are very comical while trying to put up with one another. Flora and Meriwether’s conflict over a dress being pink or blue was one of my favorite highlights on the animated version, but these three are more like female versions of the 3 Stooges, especially while in human form.

Then there’s Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning). She’s a sweet girl with a big smile. Even though Maleficent dislikes her and nicknames her Beasty, she tends to check up on Aurora very frequently and eventually likes her. It must be Aurora’s adorable beauty and kind nature that makes her so likable.

This was a great version of the Sleeping Beauty story from a different angle. It makes me wonder how the new Cinderella movie will turn out.

Nov 182011

Okay. Now I think the story of Beowulf has outdone itself with this CGI animated film, which stars Ray Winstone as the voice of Beowulf and Brendan Gleeson as the voice of Wiglaf. At last, Wiglaf is finally featured in a Beowulf movie.

The story takes place in Denmark in the year AD 507. A monster called Grendel (voice of Crispin Glover) attacks the castle of Herot and Beowulf and Wiglaf are summoned to stop him.

I’ll tell ya, Grendel is one creepy character. Not only is he strong enough to tear people apart with his bare hands and throw them around like rag dolls, but he can also scream and carry on like no other creature. And of course, there’s the drooling and blood drinking. Now that’s just nasty.

Oddly, Beowulf decides to fight Grendel in the nude because he wants it to be a fair fight, since Grendel is also in the nude. Wiglaf stabs Grendel in the crotch several times and he doesn’t feel a thing. At least Grendel does have a weakness. He can’t handle noise. In fact, that’s why he attacks at all.

Angelina Jolie as Grendel's Mother

Beowulf kills the monster by tearing off his arm, but that’s not the end, only the beginning. Grendel’s mother (voice of Angelina Jolie) seeks revenge by seduction after Beowulf is crowned king for his heroic deed. We don’t actually get to see Grendel’s mother until much later in the movie, but her likeness of Angelina Jolie is amazing.

Her long braided ponytail reaches down to the floor and moves around like a snake’s tail. What is she? A succubus, or just a nude witch?

Over the years, King Beowulf and Wiglaf have had other adventures. That reminds me of a Beowulf story I read back in high school, which was about facing a dragon called the Firedrake inside a cave with a bunch of bees. Beowulf defeats the dragon by throwing the queen bee into its mouth and the other bees follow and sting the dragon to death from the inside.

There was a dragon in this movie, but it’s not the Firedrake. It must have been another minor adventure that wasn’t worth putting in the movie here. Darn, I looked forward to that.

This was a good film. The animation is so realistic, you’d think it wasn’t animated at all. Even though the story did run long at points, I still found it exciting.