Perhaps fitting for this film’s ominous, imposing, pointedly direct title, Maleficent’s best element is put right up in your face unadorned, and it’s Maleficent herself. Specifically, it’s Angelina Jolie. The scripting provides a nice groundwork of mythic broadness and nuanced character, and the figure’s visuality lends her an imposing and dominant yet frail and brittle figure, with costuming that approximates what small amount of expressionist grandeur a gargantuan summer blockbuster in 2014 with the Disney name could possibly hold on to. But this is a movie star piece through an through, and this film’s Maleficent is Jolie. It’s rare indeed that I play ball for an actor as the most important feature of a film, but then few actors have the raw, lascivious, deliciously commanding screen presence of Angelina Jolie. In addition, the film privileges her in shots, clearly reflecting director Robert Stromberg’s understanding that she is the center of the film, and his desire to show her off. So, that fact noted, it seems not only acceptable, but necessary to center Jolie in any consideration of Maleficent’s failure or success. Continue reading
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is a difficult film to review. Usually this means one of two things: the film was mediocre and I find myself struggling to say something substantive about it, or I’m fascinated by it but I have not yet figured out how to unlock its mysteries. Usually the latter means I will love the film for its confounding, maddening tension and hate it for the same reason, at least until I see it again. Neither of those is the case for Andrew Dominik’s second film. I know exactly what I think of this film, and it is far from mediocre. The issue with this review is quite simple: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was all-but made for me. And gushing over something does not a review make, so I must try to formulate my jumping up and down into something coherent. Here we go.