Walt Disney Studios via Everett Collection
As I watched Maleficent toggle between magic woodlands filled with trembling mushroom people and grim battle scenes steeped in markedly misanthropic revenge tales, I had to ask myself the question: who is this movie for? Too shallow for adults, too dark and dull for kids, yet still too cutesy for teens... I left the theater certain that Angelina Jolie's perplexing Disney twist wasn't for anyone, but in assessing the aforementioned elements as pieces of a puzzle rather than conflicting forces, I've come to realize just the opposite: Maleficent is for all people, because Maleficent is about all people. To be more precise, the film's structure is modeled after the lifespan of a human being.
Like all people, Maleficent starts out simple, unbearably bright, and cloyingly enchanted with everything around it — as a lass, fairy princess Maleficent (played by a preteen Isobelle Molloy) scrambles through her fairy-laden home, giggling like a Care Bear with the variety of natural abominations she calls friends (elephant-frogs, tree-skeletons, troll-rabbits). It's sweet enough to invite anaphylaxis.
Walt Disney Studios via Everett Collection
It then grows into its teen years: brooding and self-serious — an older Maleficent (now Ella Purnell) falls horns-over-wingtips for some dope named Stefan, who vows his true love to her but is totes just being a selfish d-bag — followed by the violent hostility of its young adulthood — Stefon (Sharlto Copley, affecting a bad guy in an Animaniacs period sketch) betrays Maleficent (finally Jolie, who cuts through the thick, musty sheaths of aimless convolution with her incredible screen charisma... or maybe just those diabolical cheekbones) by stealing her wings, earning his place as king and setting her off on a course of bitter revenge.
For a long while thereafter, Maleficent settles into adulthood: cynical, mechanical, apparently bored with its life altogether (this after Maleficent dooms King Stefon's baby daughter Aurora to the curse of eventual eternal sleep) ... that is, until a change in direction affords it a short-lived whimsy that perks up the energy just enough to keep it (and us) trucking to the end. If we can work our way past Imelda Staunton, Leslie Manville, and Juno Temple as the insufferable and incompetent fairies charged with caring over young Aurora (Elle Fanning, but without the usual moxy).
Of course, before it gets there, it endures the ever faithful mid-life crisis, ushers in a resurgence of misguided passion that never had much place in the formula to begin with and certainly doesn't seem at all at home this time around — this is an era of ghost-fish, dragon-fights, and plot contrivances out the wazoo. But finally, the film settles on the tranquility of willful disregard, knowing that there's nothing it can now do about its lifetime of shortcomings, happily committing to memories of the things it loved most: reptile-pachyderm hybrids, diabolical cheekbones, and the narration of Janet McTeer. Like any human, Maleficent leaves the world with more questions than answers, and ones we're all better off relegating to a few short words upon its passing and then forgetting altogether.
And, much like all people, it's not very good. Fine. Not altogether bad. But mostly just brazenly unimportant.
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McCartney to perform at Super Bowl halftime show
Former Beatle Paul McCartney is expected to headline the Super Bowl halftime show this February, The Associated Press reports. After the controversy over last year's halftime show, CBS and the National Football League are taking extra precautions to ensure that this year's halftime show goes on as planned. At Houston's Reliant Stadium last Feb. 1, pop star Justin Timberlake exposed singer Janet Jackson's right breast to a TV audience of over 90 million people. CBS is still protesting the FCC's fine of $550,000 for last year's halftime show incident. McCartney has performed at two other Super Bowl games in the past, giving NFL executives a much better feeling about the outcome of his performance. "We are extremely pleased to work again with Paul McCartney, one of the greatest musicians of our time, to create a memorable show," said Steve Bornstein, the NFL's executive vice president of media.
New York TV network rejects promotion of Kinsey
New York TV station WNET has rejected the promotion of the controversial upcoming movie Kinsey, deeming it "too commercial and too provocative." According to the AP, the PBS station does not air commercials, but instead replaces them with "enhanced underwriting spots" that advertise upcoming movies. Fox Searchlight Pictures, which is distributing the movie about sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, is shocked at being censored in a state as liberal as New York. "New York is the most sophisticated city in the country," said Nancy Utley, marketing chief for Fox Searchlight. "It would never occur to me that a censorship issue would come up in New York." The introduction of Kinsey has gained negative attention from conservative groups around the nation, blaming the researcher for inspiring the sexual revolution. CNN has agreed to air the commercials as well as have stations in Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Boston.
Seinfeld's famous puffy shirt on display at the Smithsonian
The unfashionable, puffy shift worn by comedian Jerry Seinfeld in an episode of the Emmy Award winning '90s TV show Seinfeld has been put up for display at the Smithsonian, the AP reports. Alongside Archie Bunker's chair and Dorothy's ruby red slippers, the puffy shirt worn in just one episode of the show is now being remembered for being an unforgettable piece of wardrobe. In the 66th episode of the "show about nothing," Jerry agrees as a favor to wear the goofy blouse during an interview on the Today show. The white shirt was designed by Seinfeld's costume designer, Charmaine Simmons. Now considered an icon, the puffy shirt goes down in Smithsonian history as a memorable piece of American pop culture.
Jim Carrey lives a drug-free life
Actor and comedian Jim Carrey says he's quit all drugs. In an interview that aired Sunday with CBS' 60 Minutes, Carrey told reporter Steve Kroft that his reliance on the anti-depressant Prozac, never cured his depression. "I had to get off at a certain point because I realized that ... everything is just OK," said Carrey. Carrey now lives his life without any drugs or alcohol. "I rarely drink coffee. I am very serious about no alcohol, no drugs," he said. "Life is too beautiful." Carrey's film credits include Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Mask.
Prosecution cracks down on defense in Jackson case
The prosecution in the Michael Jackson child molestation case is accusing the defense of abusing their rights under the judicial system, the AP reports. The defense is being accused of demanding medical records from the alleged victim and his family. Prosecutors have expressed their disapproval by adding that the defense "has grossly abused the process of the court" by requesting information that violated privacy right of the alleged victim and his family that "could not possibly lead to evidence relevant." The response from Jackson's defense team could not immediately be made public. Jackson has pleaded not guilty to charges of child molestation, conspiracy and administering an intoxicating agent, alcohol, to a young boy. The trial is scheduled to being on Jan. 31.
Vanilla Ice expected to be reunited with his wallaroo and goat
Bucky Buckaroo the wallaroo and Pancho the goat will soon be reunited with their owner, rapper Vanilla Ice. According to the Associated Press, the animals escaped their Florida home before being captured on Nov. 13 after scratching a woman's car. The animals are now in the custody of an exotic animal breeder until fines of $220 are paid to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "I'm pretty shocked at all this attention," he said. "They get more attention here than they do at home." Vanilla Ice, born Robert van Winkle, is best known for his 1990 hit, "Ice Ice, Baby." Recently he has appeared on the WB's reality show, The Surreal Life.
Record producer songwriter Terry Melcher dead at age 62
According to his publicist, record producer and songwriter Terry Melcher lost his battle with melanoma on Saturday. At age 62, Melcher was best known for his work with The Beach Boys, The Byrds and The Mamas and the Papas. Melcher also led a productive solo career in addition to producing his mother Doris Day's CBS shows, The Doris Day Show and Doris Day's Best Friends. Melcher's name was also linked to the 1969 Charles Manson murders after turning Manson down for a record contract. The Los Angeles police department denied rumors that Melcher was one of Manson's targets.
Top Story: Passion To Go Primetime?
Apparently Mel Gibson's Icon Prods. has quietly started the process of shopping for TV licensing deals for The Passion of the Christ, according to the Hollywood Reporter. It would be the first hugely successful film to come down the pike as a true free agent for pay TV and broadcast/basic cable licensing in more than five years, since Fox scooped up the rights to George Lucas' Star Wars: Episode I--The Phantom Menace. But sources told the Reporter Icon has made it clear to prospective buyers that the film must run in its entirety and that even some of the more graphic scenes of beatings cannot be edited down, which would make it tough for the four broadcast networks to line up advertisers for the controversial film, even if cuts were made. Others on the list include HBO, Showtime and other major cable outlets.
McGregor Turns Easy Rider
Ewan McGregor, who recently starred in Big Fish, takes to the road on his motorcycle for his next project. Reuters reports the 33-year-old Scottish actor will embark on a three-month journey around the world starting in Eastern Europe, through the hostile terrain of Mongolia, Siberia and Alaska and ending in New York. He'll be joined by friend filmmaker Charley Boorman, son of director John Boorman, who will film their adventures as a documentary. Since January, Reuters reports the pair have trained with ex-soldiers and learned how to perform emergency medical procedures to ensure they can survive any encounters with unfriendly weather, wildlife or serious accidents.
Walters Could Net Hefty Book Deal
Star interviewer Barbara Walters is close to signing a contract with Miramax Books to write her memoirs, Reuters reports, while a report in New York's Daily News speculated the deal could be worth as much as $6 million. "They were very closed mouth over at Hyperion," Publisher Weekly's editor John Baker told Reuters about Miramax's parent publisher. "But an editor there told me they expected to be able to confirm something in about 24 hours." But Baker said he was surprised at the $6 million figure. "I expected it to be a lot lower than this. It sounds phenomenally high. You'd have to sell a couple of millions of copies to get the money back. I'd be surprised if it comes down at that level."
More on Writing Books…
Billy Crystal has joined the league of celebrities who write children's books. As a "love poem" to his first grandchild, the 57-year-old actor penned I Already Know I Love You, published by HarperCollins, which details things Crystal hopes to do with his grandchild, including eating spaghetti and going to a baseball game, Reuters reports. "It's profoundly moving when your baby has a baby," Crystal said about his daughter having a child, after reading his new book to 5-year-olds at the Children's Museum in Manhattan Tuesday.
Simpson, Jackson Rate Well Over Weekend
The ABC Jessica Simpson/Nick Lachey variety special, which took in 11.5 million viewers Sunday, as well as Janet Jackson's appearance on Saturday Night Live helped bolster the ratings over the Easter weekend, The Associated Press reports. CBS won the week overall with 11 million viewers, while NBC came in second with 10.2 million viewers. Fox had 8.6 million viewers followed by ABC with 7.7 million and the WB and UPN with 2.7 million each. For the week of April 5-11, the top 10 shows were: American Idol (Tuesday), Fox; The Apprentice, NBC; Survivor: All-Stars, CBS; American Idol (Wednesday), Fox; ER, NBC; CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS; NCAA Men's Basketball Championship: Georgia Tech vs. Connecticut, CBS; The Swan, Fox; Friends, NBC; Without a Trace, CBS.
Parton Receives "Living Legend" Award
Dolly Parton will receive "The Living Legend" award from the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, the AP reports. The 58-year-old singer and songwriter, whose hits include "Jolene" and "9 to 5," will perform at the ceremony for a taped special set to air in May on the cable channel Great American Country. Past recipients include musicians Johnny Cash and Ray Charles; filmmakers Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese; comedian Bob Hope; and baseball player Cal Ripkin Jr.
Role Call: Affleck Joins Glory; Plummer in Our Fathers; and Beauty Shop
Ben Affleck is set to star in Jerry Bruckheimer's Glory Road, which aims to start production this summer. In the project, Affleck will play college basketball coach Don Haskins who led the first all-black lineup of players from Texas Western to the NCAA championship in 1966 … Christopher Plummer will star in Showtime's adaptation of David France's Our Fathers, about the sexual abuse scandal in the U.S. Roman Catholic Church. Plummer will portray Boston's controversial Cardinal Bernard Law, whose repeated failure to remove abusive priests from ministry lead to his resignation in December 2002 … Andie MacDowell, Alfre Woodard and Bryce Wilson have joined the ever-growing cast of MGM's Queen Latifah comedy Beauty Shop. MacDowell will play a conservative Southern socialite, while Woodard is set to play Miss Josephine, the shop's Afrocentric stylist. Wilson will play a con/truck driver turned hairstylist.
Oscar buzz continues at the box office this weekend as a few of the year's most highly touted films open in both wide and limited release.
Tom Hanks and company lead the way in the prison drama "The Green Mile," based on the popular series by Stephen King and directed by Frank Darabont. Five years ago, Darabont came to prominence with another prison-bound tale by King called "The Shawshank Redemption." That movie, which frequently tops lists of the most popular films of all time, garnered seven Academy Award nominations.
Other Oscar hopefuls include the limited releases "Cradle Will Rock" and "The Cider House Rules." "Cradle," directed by Tim Robbins and featuring an all-star cast, details the events of New York City's art scene in the 1930s. "Cider," directed by "What's Eating Gilbert Grape's" Lasse Hallstrom, is a quirky, coming-of-age love story adapted from John Irving's book. It stars up-and-comers Tobey Maguire and Charlize Theron.
Those in the mood for lighter fare (especially fans of the Adam Sandler/Chris Farley set) should be delighted by the release of "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo." Rob Schneider, another "Saturday Night Live" alum and frequent co-star in the Sandler films, gets his chance to play dumb as a pool cleaner turned first-class male hustler.
Smaller films vying for attention in limited engagements are "Diamonds," a road movie about family relationships co-starring Kirk Douglas and Dan Aykroyd; "Miss Julie," a sexy affair starring "Deep Blue Sea's" Saffron Burrows and directed by "Leaving Las Vegas'" Mike Figgis; and "Wallowitch & Ross," a documentary covering the careers of entertainers John Wallowitch and Bertram Ross.
The following is a complete list of all the week's releases.
Friday, Dec. 10, 1999
"Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo" (Buena Vista) -- Rob Schneider stars as Deuce Bigalow, a down-on-his-luck guy who cleans fish tanks for a living. While fish-sitting for a debonair, world-class male escort, he mistakenly answers the business phone and becomes "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo."
"The Green Mile" (Warner Bros.) -- Set during the Great Depression, Michael Clarke Duncan plays a Death Row inmate in a Southern prison who possesses the unusual gift of healing. Tom Hanks co-stars as the penitentiary guard who, upon discovering the inmate's miraculous power and gentle nature, begins to question the man's guilt.
"Cradle Will Rock" (Buena Vista) -- Based on true events in the cultural and art scenes of 1930s New York City, this film follows various cultural workers -- including Mexican artist Diego Rivera, theater director Orson Welles and propagandist Margherita Sarfatti -- as they defend their artistic expressions in the face of political paranoia and government censorship. John Cusack, Bill Murray and Susan Sarandon co-star.
"The Cider House Rules" (Miramax) -- Directed by Lasse Hallstrom and adapted from John Irving's best-selling novel, this coming-of-age story casts Tobey Maguire as a young man who has spent his entire youth in an orphanage. Hungry for experience, he sets out to explore the world outside. Charlize Theron and Michael Caine co-star.
"Diamonds" (Miramax) -- In an effort to bond with estranged son Dan Aykroyd, former prizefighter Kirk Douglas takes his son and grandson on a road trip to Reno in search of 13 stolen diamonds, stashed away years ago. The quest for the hidden gems affords the men a lesson in fatherhood, reconciliation and the price of growing older. Lauren Bacall co-stars.
"Miss Julie" (MGM) -- Director Mike Figgis returns with a tale of sexual seduction and class conflict set at a wealthy estate. Saffron Burrows stars as an affluent count's sexually wanton daughter who begins an ambivalent and destructive affair with an opportunistic servant, played by Peter Mullan. By the end of the night, the illicit liaison pushes the emotionally unbalanced heroine toward a certain self-destructive act.
"Jerome" (Phaedra) -- Drew Pillsbury plays a man who abandons everything he knows -- his wife, his son, his job -- and heads across the desert to Jerome, Ariz., to pursue his dream of becoming an artist. Despite his determination, the hapless dreamer gets sidetracked when an iconoclastic female drifter, played by Wendie Malick, crosses his path.
"Wallowitch & Ross: This Moment" (First Run) -- Written and directed by Richard Morris, this moving portrait details the career and partnership of entertainers John Wallowitch and Bertram Ross. The documentary recounts from the beginning when Ross was a principal dancer for Martha Graham and Wallowitch was a gifted Juilliard student. Their initial meeting in New York paved the way for an enduring collaboration and a lasting romance.
"Sweet and Lowdown" (Sony Pictures Classics) -- In Woody Allen's latest, Sean Penn plays musician Emmet Ray, a self-proclaimed jazz guitar genius of the 1920s and 1930s. The bigger-than-life portrait follows the eccentric personality through his notorious career as he clashes with lovers, friends, enemies and gangsters in New York City. John Waters and Uma Thurman co-star.
"42 Up" (First Run) -- In 1964, filmmaker Michael Apted began his marathon documentary series about the lives of a group of 7-year-old kids in England, each from radically different socioeconomic backgrounds. Since then, the director has continued to chronicle the ups and downs of his subjects at 7-year intervals. The sixth installment is the latest update on these people at the crossroad of the big 42.
"Tumbleweeds" (Fine Line) -- Leaving an abusive boyfriend behind, single mother Janet McTeer and daughter Kimberly J. Brown head for the sunny suburbs of San Diego to start anew. Once again, McTeer swiftly enters into a destructive relationship and is tempted to look for an easy way out. However, her headstrong daughter, tired of her rootless existence, refuses to abandon her newly established life.