Monthly Archives: March 2015

Movie Review: Cinderella (3 *’s or 4 ½ *’s) (2015)

All right. I admit it. I broke down and went and saw Cinderella. Mostly for this blog. But I was also curious. Anyway, the film is by Disney, of course. It was directed by Kenneth Branagh and starred Cate Blanchett (the cruel stepmother), Helena Bonham Carter (the fairy godmother), and a number of lesser well-known names.

It tells the story of Cinderella. And just so. I haven’t seen the original Cinderella animated film nor read any of the stories for a number of years, but this version added nothing new. It kept to the original storyline and at times seemed to move swiftly through it, ticking off story details as it went. Which is fine. I was kind of hoping that there would have been some additional “meat” to the story, but there wasn’t. It was basically (as far as I can remember), the animated version told with real people with little variation. It is a far cry from the film Ever After (starring Drew Barrymore in 1998) which is a Cinderella story with real content that I highly recommend.

Anyway, Cinderella is a young woman whose life takes a turn for the worse when first her mother dies, and then her father (after remarrying). The stepmother and her two daughters treat Cinderella awfully, making her basically an oppressed servant in her own household. Then, through a freak chance she meets the prince and the romantic legend begins to bloom.

Strengths: it was put together fine; the acting was fine; the special effects were spectacular, of course (but that goes without saying … I mean it’s 2015 and it’s Disney); the plot, although somewhat thin, made a coherent whole. Weaknesses: probably the only major weakness was that the romantic relationship was built on virtually nothing … a couple chance meetings, and that was it. But the film was made for children, so that’s probably not a fair criticism. Anyway, it was okay as far as Disney children films go. Not sure it needed to be rated PG; it might have gotten away with a mere G.

Anyway, I’ll give Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella three stars if you’re an adult, but four and a half if you’re a little kid looking for a classic romantic fairy tale.

Old Movie Review: Heavenly Sword (3 ½*’s) (2014)

Heavenly Sword is an animated film (I did not realize that when we first picked it out—but that’s okay, animated films are fine) set in ancient Japan (or, at least, that’s how it appeared to me). The main character is a young woman named Nariko (voice by Anna Torv). She has a compatriot (her sister) named Kai (Ashleigh Ball). The movie is based on the computer game of the same name. I’ve never played the game, so I can’t really comment on it. The movie had the feel of a computer game. It was almost like watching someone else play a computer game. Although if that is the case, the individual playing has the skill to complete it.

Anyway, the basic plot is …. hmmm, where to begin? Nariko’s family has guarded the Heavenly Sword for untold years. The Heavenly Sword is the weapon of a deity who wielded the blade to defeat an ancient, powerful enemy centuries ago. Then the deity disappeared. There is a prophecy that one day the Chosen One will be born to Nariko’s family and will wield the Heavenly Sword once again. Nariko is that child. Well, almost. She’s born at the right time and place—the first child of her father—but she’s a girl. Believing that only a boy can be the Chosen One, her father all but ignores her growing up and does little to train her. Then one day an evil king arrives at the family’s fortress with an army behind him. Soon, the fortress is in ruins and Nariko is fleeing across the countryside with the Heavenly Sword in tow, desperately searching for the true Chosen One, presumably her half-brother.

Strengths: the action was good; the plot was engaging; the dialogue was interesting. There were a few cliches, but that’s fine. Like I said, it had the feel of a computer game. It was a good way to spend about an hour and a half if you are looking for some mindless violence and chaos … all for fun, of course. Weaknesses: like I said, there were a couple cliches. But other than that, I don’t recall any major weakness in the storyline or the characters. Well, it might not be appropriate for very young children because Nariko’s father, after her birth, slept with (and sometimes raped) numerous other women in the hopes of begetting a son. But that all happens off-screen in the past.

Anyway, the film was okay for what it’s worth. I’ll give it three and a half stars out of five.

Movie Review: Seventh Son (3 ½ *’s)(2015)

            Seventh Son is a movie inspired by the novel The Spook’s Apprentice. I think there is also a novel or a series of novels out there entitled The Seventh Son of a Seventh Son which has some connection to the movie as well, but I’ve read neither, so I can’t say for sure. Anyway, the main character of this book is Tomas Ward, the apprentice of Master Spook, Gregory. A spook is a man who hunts down evil spirits and creatures. The main antagonist in the story is an evil witch queen named Mother Malkin who leads a group of lesser witches in a bid for absolute power.

The story begins with Master Gregory imprisoning Mother Malkin in a deep dark pit, covered with iron. He thinks this will hold her forever, and so he leaves her. However, ten years pass; the iron covering rusts; and the blood moon rises. As her power peaks, Mother Malkin escapes and begins to plot revenge. She kills Master Gregory’s current apprentice and he is forced to find another. Enter Tomas Ward. He is the seventh son of a seventh son (as all Spooks are). Master Gregory seeks his family out, pays the parents a significant quantity of coin, and recruits Tomas. Pressed for time, Master Gregory endeavors to train Tomas on the go. He barely survives the first evening in Master Gregory’s home because he encounters an infernal skeleton that animates and attacks. Only the intervention of Master Gregory saves him. Still, believing he lacks the time, Master Gregory still insists on seeking Mother Malkin out and training Tomas on the go. The movie follows the standard fantasy quest from there. There is a love interest, a few conflicts, lots of special effects, and so forth.

Strengths: the characters were interesting and well-developed, the story was consistent and semi-decent, and the special effects were good (as most modern movies are). The acting was fine and the dialogue was decent. Weaknesses: the plot was somewhat lacking. It was pretty much standard fantasy quest type stuff … no surprises. My biggest complaint isn’t so much a complaint as it is a warning concerning the portrayal of witches. They are portrayed in the typical Western way. Witches are evil (except for one who isn’t), servants of demons and hell. There is no exploration of the religion of Wicca in the film. For me, this is fine, because I kind of like the demonic witch figure for the purposes of story-telling. That said, such stories tend to do a disservice to real witches. Real Wicca does not involve Satan-worship or the casual practice of evil despite what some groups might say. In Wicca there is a God and a Goddess (or a Goddess and her Consort). If I want to know what a witch believes in, I will ask the witch and not someone from a different religion that has a skewed view of her. Anyway, I could probably go off for pages on Wicca and its misinterpretation, but I’ll just leave that topic there.

Anyway, Seventh Son was okay, but nothing to write home about. I’ll give it three and a half stars out of five.