Lightning Review: Hardcore Henry

Hardcore Henry movie posterSynopsis
Henry wakes up with no memory and much of his body replaced with cybernetic parts. Before he can understand what happened to him, his wife, Estelle (Haley Bannett), gets kidnapped by Akan (Danila Kozlovsky), a man the telekinetic powers. On his quest, he receives help from the mysterious Jimmy (Sharlto Copley).

Review
Normally I don’t go for movies with a first-person perspective, such as found footage films, but Hardcore Henry looked too interesting to pass by. The thing about Hardcore Henry is that although it is told from a first-person perspective, there is no time to focus on how disorienting it can be. It never gives you the chance to get your bearings. As soon as the action starts, which is about five minutes into the film, it literally never stops for more than a couple minutes. The entire time I kept thinking “what the hell is going on?” but I was too hooked to care. The only way I can describe my experience watching this movie is it was like watching someone else play a video game for an hour and a half. The acting, the story, the perspective, the action, everything felt like a video game. There was even a surprising amount of humor, mostly from Sharlto Copley’s character, but also from the music. When the fights kick into gear, the music kicks up too. It doesn’t sound like your traditional action movie music. I found myself smirking at how out of place it felt but at the same time it felt perfect.

I thought Hardcore Henry was GOOD :-). This style of film isn’t my usual cup of tea but there is so much going on, I couldn’t even focus on the fact I couldn’t focus on anything. I know that sounds weird but it made for a very interesting and entertaining experience.

Trivia
Henry was played by 10 different stuntmen and cameramen, including the director Ilya Naishuller. (via IMDB)

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Ilya Naishuller – Director / Writer
Darya Charusha – Composer

Sharlto Copley – Jimmy
Danila Kozlovsky – Akan
Haley Bennett – Estelle
Tim Roth – Henry’s Father
Andrei Dementiev – Slick Dmitry
Oleg Poddubnyy – Yuri
Will Stewart – Robbie
Iilya Naishuller – Timothy / Higher-Self Mercenary

Maleficent Review

Maleficent movie posterSynopsis
When Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) gets her wings stolen by her childhood friend, Stefan (Sharlto Copley), she takes revenge by setting a curse on his daughter, Aurora (Elle Fanning). Stefan places Aurora into hiding and uses all the resources of his kingdom to hunt down Maleficent.

Review
In my Godzilla review, I mentioned that movie wasn’t exactly what I expected. Maleficent, on the other hand, is exactly what I expected when I went into the theater. However, that is not a bad thing. On the contrary, like Godzilla, I thought Maleficent was a great new experience with a well known character.

As I said, there wasn’t anything about Maleficent that I already didn’t expect walking into the theater, except maybe the ending, but more on that later. Very much like the Wicked Witch of the West in the play Wicked, Maleficent is painted as a much more sympathetic character than she is in Sleeping Beauty, where she is portrayed simply as a malevolent character. Again, the story was what I expected it would be, but the way it played out was fun. Part of the enjoyment no doubt came from Angelina Jolie’s portrayal of the character. Ever since I saw the first trailer, I have felt Jolie was the perfect fit for Maleficent, and she did not disappoint. Her poise, her attitude, her mannerisms, she completely filled every facet of the character perfectly.

All the special effects in Maleficent look beautiful. The creatures of the Moor are some of the most unique and best looking mythical creatures I have seen. Even the Moor, the land where the creatures live, itself look great.  The effects had a strong cartoonish aesthetic. The only characters I think this style isn’t beneficial towards are the three fairies (Flittle, Knotgrass, and Thistletwit) when they were in their fairy forms. I feel they need to look more realistic than cartoonish, otherwise they are just awkward. My favorite effect, though, would have to be when Maleficent creates the Forest of Thorns. When the large thorny vines emerge from the ground, it was magnificent.

(*Possible spoilers in this paragraph*) I have been impressed by Disney lately and their shifting viewpoint of “true love” displayed in their recent movies. Much like Frozen, another form of love other than true love’s kiss is highlighted here, causing one character to comment, “There is no truer love.” I’m not going to spoil exactly what happens, but know that it doesn’t play out precisely like Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.

Entering the theater, I had an idea of what to expect from Maleficent and I walked out without any surprises as a result. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t enjoyable anyway. The character Maleficent was painted as character molded by her experiences, rather than merely an evil character like in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. This film is visually stunning. Everything from the environments to the characters in the Moor are impressive. The Forest of Thorns Maleficent creates would have to be my favorite effect. Continued from Frozen, Disney’s concept of “true love” seems to be changing from their previous princess movies. Maleficent is fairly predicable movie, but Angelina Jolie completely embodies the titular character and gives a different experience from previous villain-centric movies.

Rating
3.5/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Robert Stromberg – Director
Linda Woolverton – Writer
James Newton Howard – Composer

Angelina Jolie – Maleficent
Elle Fanning – Auora
Sharlto Copley – Sefan
Lesley Manville – Flittle
Imelda Saunton – Knotgrass
Juno Temple – Thistletwit
Sam Riley – Diaval
Brenton Thwaites – Prince Philip
Kenneth Cranham – King Henry
Hannah New – Princess Leila
Isobelle Molloy – Young Maleficent
Michael Higgins – Young Stefan

Maleficent Trailer #3

Synopsis: Maleficent explores the untold story of Disney’s most iconic villain from the 1959 classic Sleeping Beauty and the elements of her betrayal that ultimately turn her pure heart to stone. Driven by revenge and a fierce desire to protect the moors over which she presides, Maleficent cruelly places an irrevocable curse upon the human king’s newborn infant Aurora. As the child grows, Aurora is caught in the middle of the seething conflict between the forest kingdom she has grown to love and the human kingdom that holds her legacy. Maleficent realizes that Aurora may hold the key to peace in the land and is forced to take drastic actions that will change both worlds forever.

More of the special effects are seen this time around than in the first and second trailers.  I must say I am pretty impressed with the visuals.  Maleficent’s green fire, the forest creatures, and  her wings (one of the most prominent points of the trailer) all look great.  But the coolest thing seen in this trailer is Maleficent’s dragon form, seen briefly towards the end.  It looks bad-ass.  I still have some reservations, mostly about the story and the effect it will have on the character of Maleficent, but for the most part I am pretty excited to see Maleficent, especially with Angelina Jolie as the title character.

Disney’s Maleficent hits theaters May 30, 2014.  Directed by Robert Stromberg, it stars Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Brenton Thwaites, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Hannah New, Sam Riley, Lesley Manville, and Kenneth Cranham.

Maleficent Qings poster

Maleficent Trailer #2

Synopsis: Maleficent explores the untold story of Disney’s most iconic villain from the 1959 classic Sleeping Beauty and the elements of her betrayal that ultimately turn her pure heart to stone. Driven by revenge and a fierce desire to protect the moors over which she presides, Maleficent cruelly places an irrevocable curse upon the human king’s newborn infant Aurora. As the child grows, Aurora is caught in the middle of the seething conflict between the forest kingdom she has grown to love and the human kingdom that holds her legacy. Maleficent realizes that Aurora may hold the key to peace in the land and is forced to take drastic actions that will change both worlds forever.

We got another Maleficent trailer the other day and it is pretty sweet.  This trailer solidifies for me that Angelina Jolie is perfect actress to play Maleficent.  Not only does she look the part, but she has her voice down as well.  I like how the introduction mirrors Sleeping Beauty.  It gives it the feeling that this is the same story, just seen from a different perspective.  It reminds me of the premise for the play Wicked.

Only thing I’m concerned about is if Maleficent gets painted as a sympathetic villain, will she lose the elements that make her such a bad-ass villain?  But on the other hand, it may make her an even better villain in a way that Magneto is such a great villain because we can empathize with him.  In any event, I’m for sure going to see this and can’t wait.

Disney’s Maleficent hits theaters May 30, 2014.  Directed by Robert Stromberg, it stars Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Brenton Thwaites, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Hannah New, Sam Riley, Lesley Manville, and Kenneth Cranham.

Maleficent movie poster