Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Monday, December 9, 2019

Movie Review: Knives Out (PG13 – 130 minutes)

The classic ‘whodunit’ murder mystery is a plot device that has been around literally forever.  The writer leads the audience on a chase to follow the clues, ignore the misleading red herrings, and figure out (prior to being told) who committed the crime. Agatha Christie mastered the technique and if you missed last year’s version of Murder on the Orient Express, you should check it out.

Knives Out is a modern murder mystery written and directed by Rian Johnson with an incredible cast and fabulous story.  It feels very much like a game of Clue, which I adore.  The Thrombey family is gathered at the home of Harlan, the patriarch, to celebrate his 80th birthday.  Sometime between the end of the party and the next morning, Harlan’s throat is cut.  Because the house was filled with people, there is a large collection of suspects.  The police come by the house after the funeral two weeks later to interview everyone with the assistance of “American” investigator, Benoit Blanc, to discover exactly what happened.  Hijinks ensue.

I can’t say anything else without spoiling the movie and really, you should see this one. It is excellent. Johnson has created a funny and snarky near-perfect murder mystery with an exceptional cast. Each of them has a reason to be the murderer and the movie is crafted well enough to sweep the audience along as Blanc and the police try to determine exactly what happened.  The cast seems to be truly enjoying themselves, but not at the expense of the audience which is a pitfall of some more pretentious movies. This one seems to be a party the audience is invited to.

  • Daniel Craig is the one thing I would have changed about this movie – now, that’s mainly due to my intense dislike of him.  But, why is this British man playing an American detective? Are there no other American actors that were available at the time who would have enjoyed it more?  He’s fine in the roll and while Blanc starts off as a bit aloof, eventually Craig manages to pull the audience to his side as he review the clues.

  • Jamie Lee Curtis plays Linda Drysdale, Harlan’s daughter.  She had a special connection to her father and loved spending time with him in his house. 

  • Don Johnson plays Richard Drysdale, Linda’s husband.  He’s not all that thrilled about the rest of the family and has no problem sharing his opinion.
  • Michael Shannon plays Walt Thrombey, Harlan’s son.  He’s running Harlan’s publishing company and was asking about selling the rights to Harlan’s books to movie production companies the night of the party.

  • Riki Lindhome plays Janet Thrombey, Walt’s wife. She’s underutilized here and is mainly identified as Walt’s wife and the mother of their terrible son, Jacob, played by Jaeden Martell.
  • Toni Collette plays Joni Thrombey, Harlan’s daughter-in-law. She was married to his other son, but he passed away.  She’s started a ‘lifestyle’ brand after having been helped by Harlan. He’s also paying for her daughter Meg’s school.  Katherine Langford plays Meg.   

  • Chris Evans plays Hugh Ransom Drysdale, Richard and Linda’s son and Harlan’s favorite grandson. He’s an absolute terrible person with no aim in life who has mainly been living on handouts from Harlan.

  • Ana de Armas plays Marta, Harlan’s nurse and friend. She’s the only person he truly trusted, not only with his medicine, but with his secrets.

  • LaKeith Stanfield plays Lieutenant Elliott and Noah Segan play the two police officers on the case.  Stanfield’s cop is irritated with the entire situation and Segan’s cop is really having a good time.

  • Edi Patterson plays Fran, Harlan’s housekeeper, who seems to have an opinion about everything.
  • Frank Oz, (yes, Frank Oz!) plays Harlan’s lawyer, Alan Stevens.  He’s there to read the will and reveal some plot-advancing news.

  • K. Callan plays Great Nana Wanetta, Harlan’s mother. She’s in the house, but the family treats her like a piece of the furniture and they have no idea how old she is.

  • Christopher Plummer plays Harlan and truly seems to be having more fun than anyone else, embracing the silliness of the over-the-top characters at work.

Overall, the movie is exquisitely crafted, well-acted, and incredibly fun. The thanksgiving weekend release was perfect, I went to see it with my whole family and had a great time. 
9 out of 10 – Just because I personally have to take away a point for Daniel Craig and that accent, don’t let that stop you.  That might even be your favorite thing in the movie!

There are better and more classic murder mysteries, but this one reminded me how much I loved Clue and how Tim Curry carried that nonsense all the way through.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Movie Review: 21 Bridges (R – 99 minutes)

The gritty cop drama is a genre all to itself.  It was more popular in the 70s and 80s then it is today, but every once in a while, you get a throwback.

21 Bridges starts its story with a young Andre Davis at the funeral of his father.  His father had been a police officer and was killed in the line of duty, but not before taking two of the three criminals he was fighting with him.  Years later, Andre has become a detective and the movie opens with him, and his union reps, in a meeting with Internal Affairs.  Apparently, Andre has developed a bit of a reputation as a cop that ends up with a lot of dead criminals. He maintains that he has only ever fired when fired upon, or when in mortal danger.  IA seems skeptical, but he knows he is a good cop and doing everything by the book.

That evening, we see two criminals head to a restaurant, thinking it is a front for drug dealers and that they are going to steal 50 kilos of cocaine. For some reason, there is far more cocaine when they arrive and in addition, some cops show up, very casual-like.  The criminals get into a shootout with the cops that leads to a lot of dead cops.  They go on the run, and Andre gets called in to investigate.  The head of the local police department is very happy Andre is on the case, and strongly suggests he would be fine if Andre has to kill these particular criminals.  Partnered with a DEA agent, Frankie Burns, Andre has all the bridges into Manhattan (all 21 of them) shut down to trap the killers and begins an all-night chase to find them and figure out exactly what happened. 

I like a movie that is a quick and contained piece of story. The one-night setting benefits the pacing and urgency of this movie.  It is directed by Brian Kirk, who has done mostly TV episodes up to this point, including Luther, Game of Thrones, and Penny Dreadful.  It’s dark, gritty, and makes the city seem like a maze.  The action is interesting, and the story is fine – it’s not really anything you haven’t seen before but it is well executed. 
  • Chadwick Boseman sets aside Black Panther to play Andre Davis. He does a good job of wanting to be the best cop he can, despite his slightly shady experiences.  He’s good at playing a character who is sorting through the moral gray-area.

  • Sienna Miller plays Frankie Burns, and I’m not entirely clear why. I am sure there was an American actress that was available that would not have had to work as hard on the New York cop accent.  She does a good enough job as a woman who may or may not be hiding something.

  • J.K. Simmons plays a very J.K. Simmons-y police Captain who is distraught at losing members of his squad and needing some closure quickly.

  • Stephan James plays Michael, one of the criminals who seems to be caught up by the other and may have been redeemable at the beginning of the night.  But by the end, not so much.

  • Taylor Kitsch plays Ray, the criminal who is leading this operation. He thinks he has everything under control until everything starts spiraling out of control.  He does a great job of increasing panic through the night.  Both Michael and Ray could have been very one-note, but James and Kitsch manage to give them some depth.

  • Keith David plays Keith David. He’s another cop who seems to be in charge of some stuff.

  • Alexander Siddig shows up briefly as Adi, a money cleaner who offers some advice to the two criminals on the run.

Overall the movie is fast-paced, interesting, and well done. It’s short and feels like a throwback to cop-dramas of the past.  A couple of the performances are a little over the top and you can see some of the plot coming before it gets there, but none of that is a deterrent.  I went in expecting nothing and was pleasantly surprised.

6 out of 10 – a perfectly serviceable gritty cop-drama.
For some reason in reminded me of Enemy of the State, which I loved.  

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Movie Review: Last Christmas (PG13 – 103 minutes)

There is an infinite amount of holiday movies and everyone has their favorite.  Love Actually is fine. I personally can’t stand It’s A Wonderful Life.  Elf is delightful.  For me, Die Hard is the best.  Last Christmas is a perfect entry into the collection and I think it will certainly become one of the favorites. 

Last Christmas follows the story of Kate, or Katerina, as she struggles with life in general. She had a heart transplant a year ago and since then her life is falling apart. She can’t quite handle the fact that she was incredibly ill with everyone worried about her and now she has a second chance at life but can’t help feel overwhelmed by it.  She is a bit self-sabotaging, working in a year-round Christmas shop run by a woman named ‘Santa’ and going on auditions for singing stage roles.  Her parents are barely speaking to one another and her sister is telling her to get her life together.  One day at the shop, she notices a handsome man in the street, looking up.  His name is Tom, and as she spends more time with him, she realizes that she is a mess and takes steps to improve her situation.

The movie is directed by Paul Feig, who has made a lot of things I really love: Bridesmaids, Spy, and A Simple Favor among them.  The story was written by Emma Thompson and her husband based on the Wham song, and it is an absolutely charming story.  I particularly enjoyed that Tom does not ‘fix’ Kate’s life, she fixes herself after he shows her how much he enjoys life.  The cast is exceptional and seems to be having a really good time.

  • Emilia Clarke plays Kate with a sense of hopelessness after her transplant and feeling like she can’t quite live up to the expectations of a second chance.  Her transformation is lovely, and again, I really like that Tom was not the fixer, he was the inspiration for her to take matters into her own hands.  She does her own singing in the movie and does a wonderful job carrying the piece.

  • Henry Golding continues to encourage me to push for him to be James Bond. He even has a little Bond moment in this movie. He’s so handsome and charming and fun and likeable. He’s the perfect rom-com lead.  He gives Tom a general lightness that works very well. He inspires Kate without becoming a crutch.

  • Emma Thompson plays Petra, Kate’s mother. She’s worried about her daughters while also worrying about herself. This is set just as Brexit was first pushing through and Petra and Ivan came to the UK from the former Yugoslavia.  Petra is concerned they will be sent back and channels all her anxiety into worrying about Kate, which drives Kate a little nuts. Thompson manages to make the role touching and funny.

  • Boris Isakovic plays Ivan, Kate’s father. He’s attempting to be there for his family, while still not being there. He’s driving a cab and is out most of the time.
  • Lydia Leonard plays Marta, Kate’s sister.  She is frustrated at the slack Kate is given after her health issues and encourages her to straighten out her life.  ‘Encourages’ is putting it nicely.
  • Michelle Yeoh plays Santa and steals all the scenes she is in. I’ve never seen her do straight comedy and I think she manages to find just the right tone between irritated and supportive with Kate.

  • It’s worth mentioning the music.  Yes, it is all George Michael, and while Last Christmas is obvious, the rest is equally as enjoyable. There’s one song that is new and previously unreleased.  It made me remember how much I loved his music.

Overall, I really loved this movie. It’s so charming and fun, the perfect holiday rom-com with layers beyond the obvious.  Yes, there’s a bit of a twist, but it is not one I saw coming, which I really enjoyed.

8 out of 10 – I do feel like it was released too early. This needed a thanksgiving weekend release, or even a little closer to Christmas.
Bonus - come on, everyone love this song!

Friday, November 8, 2019

Movie Review: Terminator Dark Fate (R – 128 minutes)

If you’d like to hear me and some other fantastic LAMB members discussion Terminator: Dark Fate in great detail, check out the LAMBCast review - https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/lambcast/episodes/2019-11-07T14_51_42-08_00

The original Terminator was released in 1984 and is one of my favorite movies. The story is interesting, the action is great, and the effects by Stan Winston were mesmerizing.  I am one of the rare folks who prefers The Terminator to the slick updated T2: Judgement Day, even though I really enjoy both.  The first movie had a scary and claustrophic feel as the Terminator pursued Sarah Conner through Los Angeles.  He was a cybernetic killing machine T800 model 101 created by Cyberdine systems in the future.  Skynet, a large AI created to help with military defense, went online in 1997 and promptly decided human beings were the issue and launched nuclear weapons to eliminate all of us.  The few remaining humans formed a resistance lead by one John Conner to fight the machines.  Irritated, Skynet created time travel and infiltration units called Terminators covered in skin, since nothing inorganic can travel through time.  They sent one back to kill Sarah Conner in 1984 before she gave birth to John – essentially Skynet was ensuring its safety before it even came into being.  Luckily, future John got ahold of the time travel equipment and sent back a single protector named Kyle to find Sarah and keep her safe. In the process, Kyle and Sarah fell in love which resulted in John.  Kyle died saving Sarah from the Terminator, but not before the entire situation put enough mental strife on Sarah to cause a mental breakdown.

T2 was bigger and louder and featured Robert Patrick’s incredibly polite T-1000 as he came back after John Conner as a rebellious teen in 1991.  Patrick’s version was liquid metal and even more difficult to destroy.  The resistance again sent a protector, this time a repurposed T800 meant to protect John.  Together, the T800 and John broke Sarah out of a mental institution and then head after Miles Dyson, the man who would create Skynet. Sarah figured if she killed him, there’s no way he would create Skynet, thus – the future is saved.

There are three other movies, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines from 2003, Terminator Salvation from 2009, and Terminator Genisys from 2015.  This movie ignores all of them, so for the purposes of this review, I will too!

Terminator: Dark Fate begins with a flashback to 1992-ish where Sarah and John are on the run. Skynet apparently sent another T800 unit when the T1000 failed, and this one succeeds. Distraught, Sarah shuts down again.  We fast forward to 2020 and meet Daniella, a young woman in Mexico taking care of her father and working at a local car factory with her brother.  One day they get to work, and a robot has taken their jobs - see what they did there?  A new type of Terminator comes to get her at the factory.  This one is liquid metal over a solid metal endoskeleton, but both bits seem to be able to work independently – two terminators for the price of one!  A protector shows up who is named Grace and instead of being a regular human from the future, she’s an enhanced super soldier from the future.  Unfortunately, those enhancements are only good for short bursts of incredible strength and speed, so Grace crashes pretty hard, just in time for Sarah to show up and save her and Dani from the two-part Terminator.  Action hijinks ensue from there on.

This version is directed by Tim Miller, who did the first Deadpool movie. It’s fairly well-paced and the action set-pieces are great and include the factory fight, a car chase on a bridge, a chase through the desert that involves a drone, and a battle on an airplane that shifts to Humvees that fall to a dam then into a river then the fight goes into the hydroelectric power plant.  That last one is overwhelming but entertaining.  James Cameron is back as the producer of this one. He directed 1 and 2, but had nothing to do with the others, which may be why this movie disregards all of them.  Overall, the new cast was pretty good, but it was the returning cast that stole the movie for me.
  • Linda Hamilton gets top billing and it is about damn time. She owned Terminator 2 when she shifted Sarah Conner into the human version of a terminator and she adds years of pain to that aspect in this version. She’s a complete badass and deserves all the credit she is getting for this. 

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger is back as another T800 – don’t ask which one, it doesn’t make sense. He’s been undercover since 1991 as a drape salesman, no I am not kidding.  Honestly, I could have used another hour of him explaining his theories on which drapes for which rooms.

  • Mackenzie Davis plays Grace, who is the protector this time around. She’s a standard human from 2042, but enhanced with all kinds of advancements, including what seems to be Kevlar under her skin and some sort of power source making her stronger and faster. She does a decent job of maintaining the singular focus that the protectors traditionally have in these movies, I just didn’t find her character engaging enough to really care about her story.

  • Natalia Reyes plays Dani Ramos, the object of the new Terminator’s mission. She is just a regular girl from Mexico, so she doesn’t understand why all this is happening until its revealed how important she is in the future.  She did a great job and had established herself as a powerhouse before Grace showed up to tell her she would become one.

  • Gabriel Luna plays the Rev-9, the new bi-functional terminator. He looks similar to others, and certainly has the T1000’s ability to pleasantly do his infiltrating – to the point of mimicking the accent of whoever he is talking to at the time.  The reason he’s not exactly like the previous terminators is that he’s not a Cyberdine model, he’s from something called Legion, not Skynet.

Overall, the movie is certainly entertaining enough and the action is great. It’s a fun way to kill a couple of hours. If you have deep emotional connections to the original or the sequel, it may be tough to deal with some of the story alterations here – it was for me.  I did like the idea that yes, even though Sarah had stopped Miles Dyson and Cyberdine from creating Skynet, someone else somewhere else created another military defense AI that came to the same conclusions – just later on.  Inevitably, someone is going to make that mistake.  Excuse me while I ask my Alexa to warn me about AI induced judgement days.
6 out of 10
Also – spoiler alert – I did love that Dani became the powerful future leader the machines feared, instead of – as the movie puts it – some man that hasn’t even been born yet.  Awesome.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Movie Review: Dolemite Is My Name (R – 117 minutes)

I first learned of Dolemite when Rudy Ray Moore brought the character to a Big Daddy Kane song in 1990. I eventually saw the movie, but it has been years and I think I may need to give it a rewatch.  Rudy Ray Moore was an entertainer who created the character of Dolemite in his stand up routines and then rolled him into a few blaxploitation films in the 1970s.  The genre had already been established with Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song by Melvin Van Peebles in 1971 and went on to includes Shaft, Super Fly, Hammer, Trouble Man, Cleopatra Jones, Coffy, Foxy Brown, and Black Belt Jones.  
Eddie Murphy had met Rudy Ray Moore several times prior to his death in 2008 and had mentioned wanting to make a biopic about his life.  Here, Murphy has worked with writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski to bring a piece of Moore’s life to screen during the years he developed Dolemite and brought him to the screen.

Rudy Ray Moore is working in a record store in Los Angeles in the early 1970s, trying to get the in-store radio station to play his songs while working as a stand-up comedian introducing bands in the evening.  Disappointed at his lack of progress, he develops the character Dolemite based on the rhymes of Rico, a bum who comes into the store one day. He spends time with Rico and his homeless friends, collecting their stories and jokes.  Moore gets a wig, an outfit, and a pimp cane to bring Dolemite to the stage as a rhyming over-the-top bragging pimp character.  Audiences love it, so Moore and his friends work together to release an album of his raunchy comedy.  And I mean raunchy.  It becomes a hit and he tours to support it.  To celebrate, they go to see a movie, but are befuddled by the ‘comedy’ the majority white audience is laughing at.  Moore decides its time to make a Dolemite movie to bring the character to the world.

After meeting with a studio head that has made other blaxploitation movies and being turned down, Moore accepts funding from a company that agrees to start him, but warns him he will be in debt for the rest of his life if he fails.  He and his friends convert an abandoned hotel in L.A. to a makeshift soundstage, get help from some film school students, and work to bring Dolemite to life.
Craig Brewer directed Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan, and multiple episodes of Empire. He is currently working on Coming 2 America and brings a lighthearted touch to this biopic.  It is fast-paced and hilarious while managing to have some truly touching moments as well.  The costumes and music are fantastic but the true genius of this movie is the cast.

  • Eddie Murphy plays Rudy Ray Moore as a dreamer with the will to work to achieve those dreams. The movie perfectly illustrates the message that you can accomplish anything if you are willing to put in the work and believe in yourself.  Murphy’s performance is nothing short of excellent and absolutely should be Oscar nominated this coming spring.  He gives Moore the self confidence to lead a group of friends towards a goal with the well-honed comedy chops I sometimes forget he has, while adding just a touch of doubt when things begin to fail around him. It’s wonderful on every level.

  • Keegan-Michael Key plays Jerry Jones, the writer that Moore finds in a local playhouse and recruits to write the Dolemite movie. Key gives Jones just the right since of artistic integrity as he is swiftly won over by Moore’s enthusiasm to provide something entertaining for the people.

  • Mike Epps, Craig Robinson, and Tituss Burgess play Jimmy, Ben, and Toney, Moore’s main crew, who help get the movie off the ground and support Moore’s dreams while also having an absolute blast making a movie.

  • Da’Vine Joy Randolph plays Lady Reed, who Moore meets while touring the south. He brings her on board to sing with him and help provide fashion sense for the movie.  She has a brilliant moment when Moore confesses to her that he’s worried about the sex scene in the movie because he knows he not as handsome as other movie stars. She reminds him it doesn’t have to be sexy, it can be funny, and that’s his strong suit.  I loved the true friendship depicted between the two of them.

  • Kodi Smit-McPhee shows up not blue as Nick, one of the film school students who comes in to be the director of photography for the movie.
  • Snoop Dogg plays the record store DJ and Tip T.I. Harris plays the studio head who turns down Dolemite at first.  Chris Rock plays an Indiana radio DJ who helps Moore get the movie to theaters.  They’re all basically cameos, but they are really fun and you can tell they had a good time being there – especially T.I., who seems to love his office, costume, and his lines.

  • Luenell plays Moore’s Aunt who funds some of his early projects and gives him the motivation to keep going.
  • Wesley Snipes plays D’Urville Martin and steals every single scene he is in.  Martin had done several movies prior to 1975.  Moore and his crew spot him in a strip club and talk him into acting in and directing their movie. He’s never convinced of the project, and leaves it in epic fashion when completed.  Snipes gives D’Urville a pompous-jerk with piles of eye-rolling attitude.  It’s horrifically campy and absolutely perfection in this movie.

Overall, I loved it – watch this movie.  It’s currently playing on Netflix and because it debuted at the Toronto Film Festival, should be Oscar-eligible. I really hope that it gets some nominations, it’s beautifully done.

9 out of 10 – Side note, while the main theme is believing in yourself and working for your dreams, despite your naysayers – there is a side theme I was even more drawn to, perhaps due to the comments recently from certain directors that certain mainstream movies aren’t true cinema.  The part I loved most about Dolemite Is My Name is the idea of making a movie that people want to see - the core goal is entertaining the audience.  Moore literally runs down a list of things people love and wants them in the movie.  Once they finish the movie, the remind each other that they love it, and critics opinions don’t matter.   They make a movie for the joy of making movies, for an audience that loves movies. I love that message, and wholeheartedly support it.  Moore would have loved it. 
"Was it as good as Shaft?"  Hell yes it was. 

Original Trailer so you can see how accurate this version is!

Monday, October 21, 2019

Movie Review: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (PG – 118 minutes)

The live-action reimagining of the Disney Sleeping Beauty story from Maleficent’s point of view was released in 2014.  It explained Maleficent as a fairy queen of the Moors who loved then battled with King Stefan of the local kingdom.  She cursed his daughter to prick her finger on a spinning wheel when she turned 16 after he had betrayed her and cut off her wings.  As Maleficient watched the child grow up, she grew to care for her as a daughter and after finally defeating her terrible father, named her Queen of the Moors and all the fairy-folk that lived there. 

This sequel picks up five years after, Aurora is still Queen of the Moors and Maleficient their fairy protector.  Some poachers stealing fairy folk are killed in the Moors and Prince Phillip’s father and mother, the King and Queen of Ulstead name Maleficent a villain.  Despite that, Phillip proposes to Aurora, and The Queen tells him to invite Aurora and Maleficent to dinner.  That goes about as well as you would expect as the Queen reveals herself to be the villain in this version, constantly belittling Maleficent and her kind.  The King seems to want peace between the two kingdoms and knows that the wedding is the key.  After being verbal assaulted for most of the meal, Maleficent gets all angrily-glowy and the King mysteriously passes out.  The Queen accuses Maleficent and she leaves, demanding Aurora come with her.  Aurora, of course, decides to stay with her ‘new’ family.  As Maleficent flies away, she is shot with an iron weapon the Queen has been designing.  Fairies are basically allergic to iron.  She plunges into the river, but just before drowning, she is rescued. 

Spoiler alert from here down, only because I didn’t see any of this bit in the trailers…

She’s rescued by another dark fairy, just like her with wings and horns, who takes her to a special cave where their people are living.  There’s a whole bunch of them who have been chased away from their lands by the encroachments of humans and the one who rescued her, Conall, wants her help brokering a peace.  Their second in command, Borra, is thinking it would be better to wipe out the humans.  Plots, battles, a wedding, and an attempted genocide ensue.

The movie is directed by Joachim Ronning and is absolutely stunning visually.  The world of the moors and the fairy life in them is just gorgeous and well worth a look in 3D.  The costumes are amazing, and the action sequences are pretty fantastic too.  The story is fine, but gets a little more complicated than necessary. There’s a lot of people with grudges that are huge and barely explained.  The cast is wonderful and seems to really enjoy playing in this world.

  • Angelina Jolie really embodies Maleficent perfectly.  She seems to completely revel in this character.  The look is incredible, the horns and wings are perfect, and the irritation with humans is just perfection.  She’s even better when pushed towards the hatred and evil that Maleficent is remembered for in the animated classic.  Also, she turns into a giant dark phoenix in this movie for…reasons?  To symbolize transformation? 

  • Elle Fanning returns as Aurora and gets a little more to do here. She’s blindly suckered into the Queens machinations, even though she’s dripping evil villain vibes at dinner.  Once she realizes she’s been had, Aurora does her best to help remedy the situation and Fanning gives her a sense of justice.

  • Harris Dickinson is now Prince Phillip as opposed to Brenton Thwaites who is filming Titans.  He’s a little boring, but that’s what he’s given. His whole motivation is his love for Aurora, which does put him at odds with his mother. By the end he’s found a way to unite the two kingdoms.

  • Sam Riley returns as Diaval, Maleficent’s right hand raven.  He’s there to provide exposition and request to be turned into a bear instead of a raven at some point. 

  • Jenn Murray plays Gerda, the Queen’s right hand woman who is viciously cold and cruel – and surprising passionate about playing the organ, especially when it’s filled with fairy-killing powder.

  • Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Connall. I had no idea he was in this and was shocked when he showed up.  He seems to be leading the fairies in their cave and is concerned they will go extinct without forming peace with the humans so that they can co-habit. 

  • Ed Skrein plays Borra, who spends his time flexing, growing vines as a weapon, and telling everybody that the fairies will go extinct if they don’t go to war with the humans and eliminate them.  Also, he spends a lot of time looking at Maleficent all sexy, which she seemed to be into.
  • Michelle Pfeiffer plays Queen Ingrith, and steals most of the scenes that she is in. She hate the fairy-folk, and I mean, hates them.  She has developed a weapon that will wipe them all out and then develops a plan to lock them all in the church and simply kill them.  She’s evil on a whole new level and the scene between she and Jolie are just fantastic.

Overall, the movie is very enjoyable and lovely to look at.  I feel like inside it there is the possibility for an R-rated version where Maleficient discovers this hidden cave of other sexy fairies and ends up in a love triangle with Borra and Conell.  Or maybe that’s just what Ed Skrein was selling – I was buying it. As I mentioned, the story is a little weak.  It is too complicated in some places and also too simple in others, but the visuals really save the movie.  I will say that for something aimed at kids, the scene with all the fairy folk trapped in the church and slowly being killed with the red powder the Queen had created is a bit much. It is a little scary and more than a little disturbing, so be forewarned if you’re planning on taking little ones. Eventually they get rescued, but it took way too long.

6 out of 10 – would have been higher if it had been the movie Skrein seemed to think he was in.