Maleficent

Classic Media

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: 50th Anniversary A dapper snowman (voiced by Burl Ives) shares a tale about a Christmas that almost wasn’t and the plucky little reindeer who saved the day. Sounds simple, but the adventure that brings Rudolph from his beleaguered youth through his adventures with misfit toys, a bumbling snow monster, an elf with dental aspirations and a surly ginger named Yukon Cornelius. Also, love. He has an adventure featuring love. Sure, Halloween just ended and we’re still a few weeks away from Thanksgiving, but does that mean we can’t start seeking out Christmas specials? Okay, yes, it does, but that hasn’t stopped the onslaught of holiday-themed releases from hitting DVD today. While most of them are easily ignored this 1964 classic deserves far more respect. This Rankin/Bass production is 52 minutes of pure stop-motion, sing-along joy, and I’m not just saying that because people felt for the longest time that I resembled Hermey the dentally-inclined elf. The bumble cave sequence, the time spent on the Island of Misfit Toys, the opportunity for Rudolph to step up and save Christmas — these are magical sequences, and even at half a century old their power remains. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

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Dumbo Drunk

Cue the most appropriate tagline: You will believe an elephant can fly! Minus a new version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which it forfeited, Disney seems to be planning a live-action remake of all of its animated classics. The good news is that eventually they’ll get to a proper redo of The Black Cauldron. The bad news is that, yes, it’s raping your childhood, your parents’ childhood and in some cases your grandparents’ childhood. I can only imagine what 80 year olds think of the news that now Dumbo is up on the board for another go, according to The Hollywood Reporter (and honoring the wish of Elle Fanning). I also can only imagine what my two-year-old son, who has already seen Dumbo maybe hundreds of times (thanks Netflix iPad app!), will think when he can comprehend what it’s like to hear that your favorite movie of all time is being remade. Because my son has seen Dumbo over and over and over (at only 64 minutes, there’s room for those repeat viewings to occur immediately), I have seen Dumbo over and over and over, too. I know it inside and out. And here’s my reaction: how’s that going to work? The thing about Dumbo is it’s mostly about anthropomorphic animals. Not as much as Disney’s Robin Hood — unlike that movie, the animals here stick to semi-realistic roles within a human-run world, although they talk and sometimes wear clothes — but for the sake of a live-action movie I think this […]

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Maleficent

Did you walk out of the theater after taking in Disney’s latest mega-hit, the villain-centric Maleficent, feeling just a bit uncomfortable? Perhaps because the PG-rated “family” film is, in no uncertain terms, a story about rape, abuse and what happens to victims of crimes rooted in power, control and sexual politics? The Angelina Jolie-starring film is all about humanizing her eponymous heroine – a powerful fairy who loses both her gentle spirit and her (emotionally and physically important) wings after someone she trusts and loves (Sharlto Copley, whose bonkers-bad performance should be discussed at length another time) cuts them off. In the middle of the night. After he’s lulled her with sweet words. And drugged her. If the subtext isn’t clear enough in the initial act, the aftermath of it drives it home spectacularly (and quite devastatingly), as Jolie’s Maleficent wakes to find her wings gone, realizes what has happened and reacts in a way that’s akin to mourning. Even removed from the situation, it’s a very upsetting sequence, one that seems out of place in an ostensibly family-friendly film. Really, though, what’s most out of place in Maleficent is the entire subplot that leads to that wrenching moment (the most emotionally interesting one in an otherwise muddled and choppy feature), and although reading it as something different (or at least something not so jarringly un-Disney) is possible, it’s also wrong. Says who? Jolie.

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Sleeping Beauty

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House of Villains wallpaper

It won the box office over the weekend, but there’s no certainty that Maleficent will wind up with a sequel. Unlike Disney’s previous live-action retellings of its own animated classics — 101 Dalmatians and Alice in Wonderland — this movie may not earn enough in the long run to warrant bringing Angelina Jolie back as the redeemed Sleeping Beauty villainess. The studio will instead focus on its other live-action remakes already in the pipeline, namely 2015’s Cinderella and The Jungle Book and the to-be-scheduled takes on Beauty and the Beast and, again, 101 Dalmatians. That last title will, like Maleficent, be focused on the baddie and has a tentative title of Cruella de Vil. Hopefully Glenn Close will reprise the lead role (making it another sequel to the 1996 hit), as she is currently credited as an executive producer on the project. Given today’s trend of super franchises, though, it wouldn’t be surprising if Disney announced that all these movies were leading towards a mash-up of some sort. And because the public has a thing for antagonists, which Hollywood is already looking to exploit big time with a Sinister Six movie spun-off from the Amazing Spider-Man series, it also wouldn’t be surprising if that mash-up was going to be centered on Disney’s Villains merchandising franchise. It’d be a more fruitful effort than doing something with Princesses or Fairies, even though both of those are much more lucrative licensing-wise. Brands are not proven movie-worthy simply because of clothing and toy sales, especially […]

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angelina-jolie-maleficent1

In Disney’s 1959 Sleeping Beauty, the evil Maleficent has less than 15 minutes of screen time, making the character’s decade-lasting infamy and the initial interest in a feature-length film of her re-imaging, Maleficent, notably impressive. Of course, the same could be said for the Evil Queen of Disney’s 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, who’s gotten two recent chances to re-captivate  audiences with Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman. Judging by Maleficent‘s opening weekend domestic box office numbers, this serpentine queen is number one in fans’ cold dead hearts. Anyone who remembers Maleficent’s fifteen minutes of fame in Sleeping Beauty already knows that Maleficent writer Linda Woolverton took enormous leaps in filling the expansive gaps in Maleficent’s history. However the same can be argued for the writers of Sleeping Beauty as well. The original Disney film was based on both the original fairy tale “La Belle au Bois Dormant (The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood)” by Charles Perrault and the later “Little Briar Rose” by the Brothers Grimm – neither of which had much to say in the characterization of the once nameless and now legendary villain. So how did Maleficent change over time? We did the reading, so you don’t have to.

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summermovieprediction_week6

Welcome to week six of our 2014 Summer Box-Office Challenge! Think of it as a summer-long contest for movie-lovers — you’ll make predictions and guesses as to which summer movies will rule the box-office each week, we award points and at the end of the contest the three top point-earners will each win a Blu-ray/DVD prize pack! First place will win ten (10) Blu-ray/DVD titles released throughout the coming summer, second place wins five (5) and third place wins two (2). We’ll have bonus questions each week as well to help bolster your point totals and keep you in the running. The box office estimates from this past weekend put Maleficent at #1 with $70 million. It’s a shame as it’s not a good movie, but at least we can take comfort in the far stinkier A Million Ways to Die in the West only managing a third place opening behindlast week’s champion, X-Men: Days of Future Past. The estimate makes it too close to call just yet between the two nearest players, Gary Salem and Jamie Boyde — so the rankings below are based on estimates and will be updated once the actuals come in. Here are the current standings for our contest (with the understanding that they may change once actuals come in later today). [UPDATE: The actuals are in, and Maleficent made $69.4 million meaning the point dispersal remains unchanged. However, an earlier error has been addressed resulting in a single change to the top five.] Chris B – 16 points Husain – 15 pts […]

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Paramount Pictures

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Sleeping Betty Short Film

The story of Sleeping Beauty is ripe for reinterpretation, if only because of how simple and boring it can be. The title character, after all, is unconscious for the bulk of the narrative. Disney’s newest solution is Maleficent, in which the villain becomes the main character. Whether that was a successful call remains to be seen (our own critic wasn’t so impressed). For my money the best, most inspired feature-length twist on the story is that of Catherine Breillat, who countered the snoozing character’s complete lack of agency by giving her a rich and exciting dream life. The prize for funniest adaptation of Sleeping Beauty, however, goes to the National Film Board of Canada. Claude Cloutier‘s Sleeping Betty is a cartoon short film that takes the strategy of the Shrek series and turns it loose on a vast panoply of familiar images and cultural touchstones. It begins in a crowded room. The queen is distraught, hunched on a chair next to the bed of her dormant daughter. The king is next to the bed, trying to shake the princess out of her slumber. Around them is a strange cast of visitors which includes familiar images of Henry VIII and Queen Victoria, a court jester and a many-eyed extraterrestrial.

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Avengers Shawarma

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Walt Disney Pictures

A quick re-watch for anyone with a hazy memory of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty reveals that the 1959 film has a lot of problems – just one of which being the complete apparent lack of motivation for its catalytic villain, Maleficent. She sort of just shows up at the princess’ christening and casts the infamous “sleep like death” spell. She’s barely even in the Disney movie, really. For screenwriter Linda Woolverton, this leaves a nearly blank canvas with which to re-imagine the character’s story. For director Robert Stromberg, this is an opportunity to create an entire magical world as the setting for said tale. Yes – Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent is also technically based on the classic fairy tales, but the story told in Maleficent seems exclusively tailored to the Disney character. Opening the film with a re-imagining of Maleficent’s past, her story is told like a connect-the-dots puzzle where each dot represents one of her physical traits: here’s why she walks with a staff, this is what’s up with her and that crow, it’s time to talk about that headpiece, etc. It’s in between these style landmarks that Maleficent’s new truth is revealed.

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summermovieprediction_week5

Welcome to week five of our 2014 Summer Box-Office Challenge! Think of it as a summer-long contest for movie-lovers — you’ll make predictions and guesses as to which summer movies will rule the box-office each week, we award points and at the end of the contest the three top point-earners will each win a Blu-ray/DVD prize pack! First place will win ten (10) Blu-ray/DVD titles released throughout the coming summer, second place wins five (5) and third place wins two (2). We’ll have bonus questions each week as well to help bolster your point totals and keep you in the running. The box office estimates from this past weekend are a bit too close to call just yet — the rankings below will be updated this afternoon once the actuals come in — but the top two films won’t surprise anyone. Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past took first place with just over $90 million while Godzilla fell to second meaning everyone who played last week earns two points for the bonus question. Our player top five has finally gotten a bit of a shake-up too. Here are the current standings for our contest (with the understanding that they may chance once actuals come in later today). [UPDATE: The actuals show X-Men earning $90.8 million so these results are unchanged.] Chris B – 14 points Husain – 13 pts AKFilmfan – 11 pts Starkweather – 11 pts Spencer Connell – 8 pts And now it’s on to week five! Check out the challenge questions below and play along in the comments […]

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Maleficent

The promise of Maleficent is that it redirects our view on the nasty villain who forced Princess Aurora into an egregiously long nap. Drawing on the legacy of other baddie-contextualizing work like “Grendel” and “Wicked,” it theoretically turns a wicked witch into the central character of the story to provide a meaningful, understandable reason as to why she’s a horrible, terrible beast woman. But the trailer doesn’t bode well for that promise. Or at least the CGI doesn’t.

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aboutlastnight1

You’ve seen our preview of our most anticipated movies of 2014. Now put away those expectations for a bit and be patient, because it’s homework time. As you may know, each weekend I offer some recommendations for movies, both well-known and obscure, to see after you’ve watched that latest hot new release. I’ll be continuing this feature into the new year, so you can look forward to adding more to your backlog queue with titles tied to everything from The Legend of Hercules to Night at the Museum 3. First, though, I want to get a jump on some of the most obvious movies of the past related to the upcoming movies of the near future. These are primarily the original works receiving remakes in the first half of 2014 — or older works based on the same stories. And as usual, some are more popular and familiar than others. Couldn’t you just skip the old versions and go blindly into the new as if it’s a fresh property? Of course, and you can keep on listening to cover songs, too. And always see the movie instead of reading a book. However, if you’re interested in knowing your history and also being able to judge something with proper awareness of what came before, whether you want to make comparisons or not, read ahead and prepare yourself for the next six months of moviegoing.

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Anglina Jolie Maleficent

Disney has finally released the highly anticipated teaser trailer for Maleficent, giving us the first look at Angelina Jolie as the beautiful, intimidating horned villain to Elle Fanning‘s Sleeping Beauty. If you can recall back to your childhood, the film tells the other side of Sleeping Beauty, from the perspective of the evil sorceress who put the curse on Princess Aurora that sent her into a charmed sleep only broken by true love’s kiss. The teaser doesn’t offer much in terms of plot, but it’s a glimpse into a gorgeous, dark world far beyond the 1959 original. Gone is the bright, sing-songy storybook realm where Aurora and the good fairies lived peacefully until Maleficent’s curse; the new landscape is enveloped in shadows and guarded by thorns (and a boatload of CGI) — because we’ve entered the world how Maleficent sees it now.

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Anglina Jolie Maleficent

Production on Maleficent started on June 13th, and the movie won’t be in theaters until March 14th of (wait for it) 2014, but Disney has already released a teaser image of star Angelina Jolie as the iconic, evil witch queen who really hates Sleeping Beauty. To be fair, without Maleficent, the fair-haired heroine would just be called “Beauty,” and that name was already taken, so she probably wouldn’t have a cool nickname at all. Credit has to be given to Gregory Maguire’s “Wicked” for birthing a modern fascination with the villain’s side of the story (but mad respect to the old school “Grendel”), and the Robert Stromberg-directed fairy tale promises just that for Jolie. Although this will be the directorial debut for the veteran effects designer, the writing team features both Paul Dini and Linda Woolverton, so there’s a lot to be hopeful for. Plus, the cast also includes Elle Fanning, Juno Temple, Sharlto Copley and a ton of other solid names. Clicking on the image makes it largified. [Disney]

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Disney has finally cast the cherry on top of its long-gestating revisionist take on the Sleeping Beauty myth, setting up young Aussie actor Brenton Thwaites to play the prince to Angelina Jolie‘s evil Maleficent and Elle Fanning‘s innocent Princess Aurora. In the classic fairy tale, the part is generally referred to as Prince Phillip, but Deadline Evil Dark Woods doesn’t let on if that will be the case in Robert Stromberg‘s take on the tale. Despite his name, Thwaites is not a type of bread and he’s also not a knock-off of clothing brand Benetton, he’s one of those Aussie actor kids who cut his teeth on two of their many, many television series. Thwaites did a ten-episode run on SLiDe and also starred on continual favorite, Home and Away. He’ll next be seen as the male star in Lifetime’s take on The Blue Lagoon, next month’s Blue Lagoon: The Awakening (ew). Other stars who did their time on Aussie TV? Chris Hemsworth, Ryan Kwanten, Rose Byrne, Toni Collette, Portia di Rossi, and Liam Hemsworth. It’s nothing to sniff at and no one should be surprised if Thwaites ends up the next Hollywood It Boy. Hey! Maybe we can cast him in Catching Fire!

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What is Movie News After Dark? Like a giddy schoolgirl come home to tell her diary the news of the day, it’s excited to share with you all that has happened while you were paying attention to other, more important things. We begin with the news of the night: Marion Cotillard has confirmed that she’s not Talia Al Ghul in The Dark Knight Rises, her long rumored role. She will instead play Miranda Tate, a ecologically minded businesswoman who “is fascinated by Wayne Enterprises. They go through difficulties, and she wants to help provide the world clean energies. She’s a good guy.” Or a good lady. Which is it, Ms. Cotillard?! If that is your real name! 

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After years of rumors and buzz, Disney’s live-action take on the Angelina Jolie-starring Maleficent is finally zipping along full steam ahead. THR reports (via Cinema Blend) that Elle Fanning is now set to star as Princess Aurora (best known to those not in the fairy tale know as Sleeping Beauty), along with a murderer’s row of the other prime cinematic talent. Fanning was rumored to be in talks back in March (thanks to a nifty exclusive over at Twitch), but it’s nice to get some confirmation on what’s really lovely casting. The outlet also appears to confirm that Sharlto Copley, who is going on a job-accepting tear, is set to co-star as “Stefan, the half-human, half-fairy bastard son of the human king.” The rest of the cast will now include including Imelda Staunton and Lesley Manville as Knotgrass and Flittle (two of three pixies who care for Princess Aurora), Miranda Richardson as fairy Queen Ulla (also Maleficent’s aunt, though she reportedly doesn’t like her so much), Sam Riley as Diaval (Maleficent’s “right-hand man who can transform into a raven”), and Kenneth Cranham as the human king looking to rule the fairy kingdom as well. While this casting is all well and good, we appear to be missing a vital role – the handsome prince!

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If it’s a Monday, Hollywood is cleaning out the refuse left over from the weekend – like a big old mess of release date announcements and changes! While scheduling shuffles and calendar mix-abouts might seem like the driest of movie news, they often can signal studio confidence (or not) in a film, which could in turn give us an idea of how excited (or, well, not) we should be for the final project. And, thankfully, today’s announcements provide something for just about everyone. After the break, check out the newly-minted release dates for The Dictator, Ender’s Game, and Maleficent, along with news of potential conflicts and expectations for the films. Get your tickets now?

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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