New Maleficent Trailer

I was not excited to hear that there would be a movie featuring Maleficent following the release of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.  While I enjoyed Burton’s artistry, I thought the story was weak and screenwriter Linda Woolverton had been tapped to write the script for the new picture with a first time director known only for his contributions to special effects.  To be fair, I already had a bias.  I dislike stories that attempt to tell a well known tale from a reverse angle.  Sometimes it’s interesting to see the tragedy of where someone goes wrong.  Harvey Dent is one example, Anakin Skywalker, is another, or virtually anyone from the series Heroes, depending on what part of which season.

At worst it would be a telling the villains side of the story, a gimmick that I never enjoyed.  Villains with worthwhile stories often have thim incorporated into the traditional narrative.  providing a counter argument for a melodrama is not something I am really interested in.  At best however, it could be something like the ironic and witty Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.  The addition of Paul Dini as a writer, certainly provides a glimmer of hope.  He has done great work with DC and Marvel.  His episodes of Batman the Animated Series are among my favorites.  his involvement could mean a very worthwhile story after all, especially considering his penchant for writing female villains.

While I appreciate his involvement there is one thing I always expected from Maleficent, given the visuals of Burton’s Wonderland, and the breathtaking imagery of Sam Raimi’s Oz the Great and Powerful.  Surely, the appearance and feel of this new look at the world of Sleeping Beauty– already rich with unique visual appeal in Disney’s original animated version– would be moody and evocative and striking in it’s depiction of such fantastic scenery.  I expected this until I saw the teaser trailer, which seems to be the least inspired of Disney’s recent live action fairy tale adventures.  It also features Aurora (presumably) far more than is suitable in my opinion.  While it sheds little light on how these two characters will fit together in the narrative, the teaser shows much of the world the movie is set in and my initial interpretation is generic fantasy: light on personal artistic flair and heavy on the well worn territory of other fantasies like Snow White and the Huntsman and Jack the Giant Slayer.  The only exception being that possibly due to incomplete rendering, certain animated elements look very fake and will hopefully be made to fit in more with the rest of the picture.  On a positive note, I did dig the Disney title in the beginning of the trailer.  I will continue to keep an open mind as the release date draws near, but so far I don’t like what I see.

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Movie Review: Wanderlust

I finally rented Wanderlust.  Now, you have to understand that I am a big Stella, The State, and Wet Hot American Summer fan.  I also enjoy David Wain’s web series Wainy Days.  On the other hand, his humor can easily wear thin and his stock jokes are few and often used.  I’m not saying I’d prefer another Austin Powers.  It’s just that such a great talent with solid comedic skills is slightly diminished in the feature film format.  Role Models was good.  The Ten was lost on me.  Wet Hot American Summer was his Citizen Kane and it will never be topped.

Wanderlust has a couple of other things going for it, too.  Some of the old cast from The State support the legendary Paul Rudd and the always nice to see Jennifer Aniston.  These two are great together and are arguably the key to making the whole thing work.  And it does work… but barely.

The movie starts out really strong and very, very funny as a married couple makes the big decision to buy a “micro-loft” in the East Village.  In the same day each loses their current/potential income and they are forced to sell and move in with George’s (Rudd) brother Rick (co-writer Ken Marino).  on they way, they become stranded and stay at a B&B which as it turns out is a wacky commune.

So, here come the spoilers.  The set up is really, really great.  But then, some of the characters try a little too hard to be quirky, some harboring ulterior motives, and the humor began to drop a bit.  The inclusion of a plot to turn the land into a casino lacked pizzazz.  If Michael Ian Black or Michael Showalter were more involved, a hilarious farce riffing on the cliché would ensue, but it was just a tactless way to give the story an end point.  About halfway through the movie it stops being truly funny in spite of Paul Rudd being Paul Rudd.  It comes together at the end though, just as hastily as the mal-intentioned characters began the conflict; And although it never reaches the cleverness and genuine wit, that it began with, it ends well enough to be worth watching.  Still, you gotta go with WHAS. C+