*”Maleficent” is magnificent and Angelina Jolie wears her title like a tight fitting leather glove designed especially for her. If a film is not cast correctly, it does not work.
Jolie embodies all the elements necessary to play a woman of power, integrity and verve, irrespective of other commanding roles (“Lara Croft Tomb Raider,” “Salt,” “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”).
Although “Maleficent” is the story of “Sleeping Beauty” from another perspective, it takes nothing away from the original Disney classic. It just adds bells and whistles to the story and draws in a much more inclusive audience.
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. The sweet Maleficent turns into the dark and dangerous evil fairy only after being betrayed by suitor Stefan (Sharlton Copley). She puts a curse on his daughter and although the blond Aurora is not the center of this story, it is only after Sleeping Beauty awakes that there is closure. Elle Fanning portrays the 16-year-old Aurora and Jolie’s daughter Vivienne Jolie-Pitt, plays her at age 5.
The visual effects are stunning and the story will captivate both adults and children. There are different twists and turns in this cautionary tale that is embellished with humor. In one scene Aurora senses Maleficent watching her from behind trees. “Don’t be afraid,” Aurora says. “I’m not afraid,” Maleficent responds. “Then come out,” Aurora demands. “Then you’ll be afraid,” Maleficient warns.
“A Million Ways to Die in the West” plays on bigotry
Some call it satire or pushing boundaries, but when a filmmaker uses bigotry and racism in an attempt to get jokes, it reeks of despicable and irresponsible behavior. The stalking and killing of Trayvon Martin, the shooting of Jordan Davis because his music was too loud, and the gunning down of Oscar Grant [“Fruitvale Station”], just to name a few, are still fresh on our minds. Yet, moviegoers are expected to shell out money to see “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” that has people at a shooting gallery called Runaway Slaves in the county fair shooting at caricatures of running slaves. You win by the number of slaves you shoot down. Above the slave targets, there is a bigger picture of a Black person eating watermelon. There is no need to wonder why jokes about the Holocaust or caricatures of its sufferers are ever used.
Someone needs to remind the makers of “A Million Ways to Die in the West” that before the slaves landed over here, they were part of the Middle Passage in which 25 to 50 million Africans died—some killed and others died because of inhuman treatment. The numbers are sketchy due to the fact that there could have been many more deaths since no one knows for sure the exact amount of slaves that died before the slave ships reached their destination.
To make matters worse, racism is still rampant in this country, and it reported and chronicled regularly in The Challenge Group of Newspapers [The Daily Challenge, New American, Afro-Times] and the newspapers in the National Newspapers Publishers Association—of which the Challenge Group is a member—that consists of more than 200 newspapers.
Besides the usual fart and bathroom try at humor, pedophilia is thrown in the pot to titillate child abusers. In one of the scenes, Anna (Charlize Theron) says she was married at the age of 9, but her husband waited until she was 10-years-old, or an “old nine,” before having sex.
Audiences are also supposed to laugh at Sarah Silverman (she plays a prostitute) because she and boyfriend Edward (Giovanni Ribisi) are “Christians” and don’t believe in pre-marital sex. Albert (Seth MacFarlane) is a sheep farmer that yearns to leave the west because it’s nothing more than a cesspool of death, famine, disease and Indians that make life unbearable. Once more, another ethnic group that has suffered much is the brunt of mindless, unjustifiable and unwarranted attacks.
MacFarlane directs and shares writing credit. Neil Patrick Harris, Liam Neeson and Amanda Seyfriend rounds out the cast.
Syndicated Entertainment journalist Marie Moore reports on film and TV from her New York City base. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org