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Another Look at Maleficent: Should You See It?

Maleficent

Brent Hopkins

In our rarely-running kinda-series Should You See It? we talk about movies that just came out. You can figure out the rest of the premise from the title of the series. That’s right: We talk recipes. Should you see Maleficent?

I saw this with my sometimes girlfriend and I will admit I had no idea what it was, going into it. I had forgotten the name of the antagonist from classic animation and I just didn’t put the pieces together until the film started. As Mr. May put it, the film is about pleasing boththe parents and children of the audience with a reimagining of a simple good vs. evil story. This is something I think it does rather poorly, as I could not imagine enjoying this as a child because it is a gritty retelling. There are all the magical elements and attempts at humor to please younger audiences, but throughout I never got a lighthearted vibe from the film.

The film is awkwardly chopped up into three acts with the real weight of the story in the beginning and the end. The middle tries to be fun and happy, but the setup is so grim it feels truly empty. You are introduced to Maleficent and the humans and you instantly are slammed with the knowledge that humans are the worst things to ever exist. Maleficent is tricked in probably one of the most uncomfortable rape analogies that will assuredly go over a child’s head but will not for any adult. She is drugged and has her power (the most important thing to her) forcibly taken from her by someone she thought she could trust. Once this happens there is no point in time where I wanted anything but for Maleficent to reclaim her power. Angelina Jolie is captivating in this role and I am not sure any other actress could have owned the role as well. That being said, most of the other characters are flat in comparison.

Should you see it?

Yes, much like the movie Noah, which I wrote about before, Maleficent has its fair share of flaws and pacing issues, but I think any adult who has seen the original animation from Disney will be stunned that the same company put out this film. I can’t say if it was good or bad, but just that it left thinking about it more than the new X-Men movie did.

Brent Hopkins considers himself jack-o-all-trades and a great listener. Chat with him about his articles or anything in general at brentahopkins@gmail.com.

 

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Maleficent Tries to be Sleeping Beauty for Both Children and Adults: Should You See It?

Maleficent

Jonathan May

In our rarely-running kinda-series Should You See It? we talk about movies that just came out. You can figure out the rest of the premise from the title of the series. That’s right: We talk recipes. Should you see Maleficent?

Trying to make a movie appeal to everyone can be problematic. If it’s meant for children, studio executives/producers feel the need to also make sure the adults are in on the laughs and tears. While this might satiate everyone slightly, the end result is something almost unclassifiable: a hybrid movie with all the plot motivation and CGI a child could want with the postmodern self-consciousness and humor an adult would expect. Many times in the theater, I heard a child whisper to the attendant parent, “What’s happening?” If this question is asked during the run of a children’s film, then it is almost certainly a failure. The beauty of the original Sleeping Beauty film is in its simplicity; Maleficent, however, adds complication after plot complication, giving “adult” realness and motivation to the main character, ultimately making her more relatable to adults than children. This is the movie’s main flaw.

I wouldn’t want to spoil the ending in any way, but the complexity the film tries to attain through this ending certainly confused this viewer. I had assumed the Raven fellow (a stand-in for the companions of Odin: Huginn and Muninn) would end up being the one to break the spell; in that regard, I was wrong. However, I feel like the way the story was built (with Maleficent and her servant watching over Aurora), we were supposed to feel that way. I’m by no means begrudging the ending and its representation of the many different kinds of true love; I was just mystified by the movie’s many attempts to lead us astray in order to keep us guessing.

Should you see it?

Will this film be watched with the same fervor as Sleeping Beauty in 20 years? I quite doubt it. Though Angelina Jolie was a powerful force in this film, her power almost mutes the depiction of the other characters. Ultimately, this film falls between two worlds, an ever-widening divide as long as studio executives are calling the shots rather than the story-makers.

Jonathan May watches too much television, but he’s just playing catch-up from a childhood spent in Zimbabwe. You can read his poetry at owenmay.com, follow him on Twitter at @jonowenmay, or email him at owen.may@gmail.com.

Tough Questions: What’s the Worst Thing You’ve Paid More than $50 For?

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Every week we ask everyone who hangs out around here to answer a tough question. This week:

What’s the worst thing you’ve paid more than $50 for?

Rules are simple: What do you regret blowing half a c-note on? We all spend money on things we regret, but when did you really mess up? Did you get into an eBay war and lose sight of just how important collectable glassware is? Did you buy a plane ticket to somewhere you didn’t even want to go? Did you go to grad school, like, at all?

Alex Russell

Every year I go to Vegas with a few friends. We go in March, both because Chicago is miserable in March and because March Madness in Vegas is always full of degenerates, but mostly your happier, saner degenerates. A regret story about Vegas is nothing new, but it’s hard to pin down a “bad beat” any easier than this one. We were early for a dinner reservation, because your life in Vegas revolves around when you’re supposed to be where for what, and there was a roulette table right outside the restaurant. Vegas wants you to play, of course, but they want you to play impulsively. The $100 bet on black because I was hungry and frustrated was straight out of an anti-gambling PSA, and even though I know in my heart that Vegas is smarter than me… it’s rarely that damn obvious.

Alex Marino

Remember netbooks? It was that awkward time between laptops getting smaller and the iPad’s debut. People swore that netbooks were going to be the next big thing. I bought it because I wanted something for taking notes on in graduate school. I only installed what was absolutely essential for school stuff to keep it running fast. Well, it wasn’t fast. It sucked. And now I have a $200 dinosaur collecting dust in my closet.

Mike Hannemann

When you go to Epcot, sometimes you will want a drink. When you want a drink at Epcot, you’ll notice each country the park is divided into has a beer from that country. When you figure this out, you will want to go on a beer crawl of every country. When you do this, you will drink nine beers with high alcohol content. When you complete the beer crawl you will go to the Japan portion of the park and buy a $75 backpack that is a Goomba from Super Mario. When you do this, your parents will think you need to go back to therapy.

Andrew Findlay

I bought a pair of Mephisto shoes for 150 dollars. I was in Europe with a group for my friend’s wedding, and after they went off on their honeymoon we went to Paris. I had a pair of old, ratty tennis shoes, and I was ironically worried about them causing foot pain from the miles and miles I would walk there. My solution was to go to a shoe store and buy those damned Mephistos, which are like the Cadillac of supportive shoes. Seriously, podiatrist-recommended. They felt great for the first day and a half, and then I started experiencing sharp pains in the balls of both feet. One day in particular, waiting in line to go up the Eiffel Tower, the standing for more than an hour really did a number on me. Once we got up there, I immediately sprinted to the nearest bench and sat down without informing my friends of what I was doing. Because there are a shit-ton of people at the Eiffel Tower and because I’m an idiot, I did not see them again until we all made it back to where we were sleeping. I spent the rest of the vacation limping around, complaining about my feet, and being generally annoying to my companions. To this day, the balls of my feet still cause me pain, ranging from slight to significant depending on the day. I’ve bought a lot of crap I regret, but these motherfuckers ruined my vacation and gave me a lasting injury, and I paid out 150 dollars for the privilege. Clear winner.

Brent Hopkins

Fifty dollars was much harder for me to figure out than I would care to admit. I am a fan of saving money and spending it on big purchases, so I rarely have things that I am just disappointed in. There was something recent that didn’t sit well with me, and that was a motel I stayed at when my sister came to visit. Now, this motel was 38 dollars per night and we stayed two nights, so it amounted to over 50 in total, but I would have rather roamed like a vagabond than stay there. There was nothing aesthetically pleasing about this place and the bathroom looked like it had seen the Korean War in its prime. This was supposed to be a relaxing vacation but we were both awake by 7 a.m. and out the door to spend as little time as possible there. I was around there a few weeks ago again and just looking at the facade of the motel made me feel dirty. Never again will I go that far by my purse strings again.

Tough Questions: What’s the Weirdest Place You’ve Ended Up on a Trip?

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Every Monday we ask everyone who hangs out around here to answer a tough question. This week:

What’s the Weirdest Place You’ve Ended Up on a Trip?

Rules are simple: Where did you end up when you didn’t mean to go anywhere? We’ve all ended up in weird places – like a cookout with an ex or Iowa – but the weirdest of them all are the unexpected ones. Where were you most surprised to find yourself, and how many goats were there with you?

Alex Russell

I went to London for a month in 2005, supposedly to learn how to teach middle school. I guess I did that, but I also spent a lot of that January in the pub you can see in the opening credits of Black Books. I was there with some people I knew and some I didn’t and we managed to make friends with the staff of the pub. It was a weird experience, because usually when I travel I keep to myself. This time, though, a spunky British lesbian and a gruff bartender became my travel companions for a really weird week. I still remember ordering a boilermaker (there are many ways to order one, but I wanted a shot of whiskey dropped in a beer) and having to explain what I meant to the guy. I spent a lot of time apologizing for being American, but never more than when he asked me plainly: “Why can’t you Americans just drink?

Brent Hopkins

The weirdest place I ended up on a trip had to have been when I went to Cambodia and ended up at a private house party. I was traveling with my friend Sara and we had a really nice tour guide to help us get to all the sites (the killing fields are more depressing than you’d imagine and Angkor Wat is far more impressive). He was a fascinating guy and told us about his life and how being a tour guide had allowed him to buy some land and start building his own house for his family. I really wanted to to drink palm wine, but we found it a bit hard to come by so on the last day we were there he invited us to his still-under-construction abode. This was far from the main tourist drag we had been on and he picked up a special treat for us when we were on the way… grilled dog. The meat was pretty good, though it wasn’t the first time I had dog, and I got quite drunk sitting outside with about 25 to 30 people for an impromptu housewarming.

Austin Duck

The strangest, most surreal place I’ve ever ended up on a trip was a Denny’s in Orlando, FL. Ena had never been to Disney World as a child so, right before she graduated college, we took a bus down, rented a cheap motel, and went to Disney and Universal. And here’s the bitch of it: The Atlanta bus station–with shoeless children eating nacho cheese from plastic containers with forks–was not the weirdest place. The Greyhound bus, where, as soon as we boarded (and sat next to the toilet because there were three of us), a toothless woman threw in a styrofoam cup, rendering it completely useless and, for the next eight hours, we were tasked with denying desperate customers their bathroom privileges… this wasn’t the weirdest. No, the weirdest was, after taking the “convenient shuttle” from our hotel to Disney (2 hrs), after wading through oceans of children so Ena could have the prototypical American experience, after It’s a Small World and The Haunted Mansion (sans Eddie Murphy) and Pirates of the Caribbean and a $15 burger and fries and the 100+ degree heat with full humidity and after waiting in a parking lot for an hour for that fucking shuttle to take us back to our hotel, we stumbled, numb, into Denny’s in some kind of psychedelic/psychotic daze, laughing through course after course of over-salted, brown food, me in a ridiculous Hawaiian shirt, Ena in shock at the heat and the awfulness that is Orlando, the waiters and residents of Kissimmee or wherever the fuck we were just staring at us… We definitely brought the weirdness–after all, it was just Denny’s–but, nevertheless.

Jonathan May

In 2010, I went to LA to visit my friend Cody with my friends Jenny and Ben. I love LA. The great people, all the great shows, Korean BBQ. But inevitably, I’m drawn inland toward Joshua Tree National Park. So we went. Cody’s family had a house there outside the national park. Now, the desert has always been one of my ideal landscapes. I love the hot and cold, the weird creatures, the rock formations; hence, I love Joshua Tree. Well, in the town of Joshua Tree (population 7,414 as of the 2010 Census), there happens to be one world famous museum. I had no idea such a thing existed, there on the outskirts of the brutal California desert, on the edge of the civilized world. But lo, on the rim of the city, off the highway, is the World Famous Crochet Museum. The two photos cannot possible illustrate how small this thing is. Literally three people, and no more, can fit inside. And inside? Inside?! Stuffed to the brim with crocheted objects, including the pictured taco (a personal favorite). I literally stood outside the small green building, looking around, hoping we were too far from LA to be Punk’d. It’s a surreal place to be in the middle of so much harshness.

crochet tacoworld famous crochet museum

Andrew Findlay

The weirdest place I ever ended up was the catacombs underneath Paris. I can’t really say “ended up” as if I didn’t plan to go there – it’s a major tourist attraction. It’s also creepy as hell. The quick history is that the limestone used to build Paris was mostly mined from underneath the city itself, a practice which continued until streets started falling into the tunnels honeycombing the city. The city leaders made further mining illegal, but still had all these tunnels, all these people, and all these overflowing cemeteries. Instead of exhuming old corpses and burying new ones ad infinitum, whoever was running Paris at the time decided to just toss all the old bones into the old mining tunnels. In recent years, it has become a tourist attraction, and people organize and manage upkeep for all that calcium. There are skulls stacked in artistic arrangements. Walls of bones. It is creepy to be shuffling through the tight, cramped underground of one of the most famous cities in the world, and it is doubly creepy to be surrounded by the remains who used to walk, live, and breathe just like you. Seriously – a cemetery is just a bunch of stone and memories. Being hemmed in on all sides by human remains is a completely different psychological experience, and the catacombs are one of the weirdest places I have ever been.

Mike Hannemann

I wasn’t the most traditional college student. I missed out on a lot of milestones that you see cliched in movies – most notably the road trip. I never really take vacations that aren’t somehow family related. I left the state for weddings but never had an epic Spring Break or drove to x place to see y event. The closest I have, after reflecting on it, is Wisconsin Dells. Yeah, that crappy water resort north of Chicago that families go to. A group of friends decided it would be a great place to go for a weekend in the summer. Hindsight is 20/20. The highlight of the trip took place after 60 minutes and one game of Drinking Mario Party. Turns out the area didn’t really sell beer after 10 and we were desperately low. People drinking eight beers in an hour will have that outcome. We asked the receptionist at our hotel if anywhere was selling beer and she said yes. A gas station. Two miles away. With no cabs to be found, we decided to walk it. Now, as I mentioned, eight beers in an hour will have another outcome: You’ll desperately need to relieve yourself. As we reached a breaking point, we walked past a tourist attraction with large recreations of historical monuments. This all builds to the weirdest place I ended up on a trip: peeing on the leg of a replica of the Trojan Horse, towering above me.

Alex Marino

Tanzania is a weird place. I loved the two weeks I spent there back in 2007 but in retrospect it was such a crazy experience. If you ever get the chance to go you MUST go to Zanzibar. It’s an island just off the coast of Dar es Salaam. We spent a few days at a coastal town called Jambiani. “Town” might be too nice of a word. It was basically three hut-lined streets going north/south with some bungalows on the beachfront. My friend and I went on a quest to find booze which turned out to be especially difficult. A local identified with our struggle and said he knew a place to get us booze. He demanded we call him “Flea” and lead us down a weaving pathway of identical huts. We ended up in this little courtyard with a large pile of rocks stacked four feet high in the middle of it. He told us we had to wait there as he went into his friend’s house to get us the booze. He then proceeded to reach into the pile of rocks and pull out an empty bottle to put our booze in. At that point we had to politely tell him that getting us booze and putting it in a used empty bottle pulled from a pile of rocks was not okay.