Ballerina

Vampire Owl: I thought that this movie was called Leap!.

Vampire Bat: Yes, but the original name of the flick is Ballerina.

Vampire Owl: It was the cooler name – they should have kept it. Leap could be part of rather too many things.

Vampire Bat: Yes, Ballerina is the name that suits the flick, considering the content too.

Vampire Owl: I wonder why it is that animated dance movies prove to be better than simple and usual dance movies these days.

Vampire Bat: Because animated is cute and safer option.

Vampire Owl: Do you know that I had participated in a dance programme once?

Vampire Bat: And you won something, at least a small prize?

Vampire Owl: They made sure that I would never dance again.

Vampire Bat: For some reason, I am not really surprised about that. You are going need a cure for wellness.

[Gets three cups of elaichi tea with a piece of tea cake].

What is the movie about? :: In this story set in the 1880s, a young girl who lives at an orphange, Felicie (Elle Fanning) wants to do nothing other than to dance all the time – it is more like her only love, but her future is rather bleak, considering the situation. Her best friend in the orphanage is a smart young boy named Victor (Dane DeHaan) who wants to be an inventor, and also creates a few memorable inventions by himself there. Their plan is to escape from the orphanage and reach Paris, where Felicie plans to be a ballerina and Victor wants to be an inventor. There they separate their ways, and Felecie joins Odette (Carly Rae Jepsen), the cleaner of the Paris Opera who also works for Regine Le Haut (Julie Khaner), an extremely rich lady who owns the city’s most popular restaurant. There she meets Regine’s daughter Camillle (Maddie Ziegler) who is practicing for ballet.

So, what happens next? :: Camille finds Felicie to be a good for nothing girl, who will never be anything other than a cleaner. As she insults her and throws Felicie’s favourite item, her music box out through the windown, breaking it. An angry and depressed Felicie, while going out, is given a letter which was intended for Camille, admitting her to the Paris Opera Ballet. She decides not to show it to Camille, and take her position in the opera, posing as her. She is successful in doing the same, but struggles as she has no experience. Meanwhile, Victor become an office assistant at Gustave Eiffel who is building both the Eiffel Tower, the big landmark of the city, as well as the Statue of Liberty to be gifted to the United States of America. Both struggle in their work, not really able to make the impact that they thought they could make when they left the orphanage.

And what is to follow with this adventure? :: Merante (Terrence Scammell), the teacher and choreographer at the opera tells the girls that one of them would be chosen to dance as Clara in The Nutcracker, and promises to make the selection quick by eliminating the worst performer of the group every day. Felicie is expected to be eliminated on the very first day, but escapes when someone else is injured and eliminated. Realizing that Odette used to be a ballerina during her time before getting injured, Felicie gets training from her, and hopes that she could improve herself well enough to keep surviving the elimination. But with so many things in her mind, it seems rather too difficult for her to keep focus, and her lie is also so close to being discovered. She realizes that she stands no chance if her identity is revealed, as she might be sent back to the orphanage, and also if she has to face someone as disciplined like Camille, there is not much chance. Against all odds, can she do it?

The defence of Ballerina :: The movie is more about achieving one’s dreams, none being too small. It calls for hard work, and not backing out, no matter how difficult or impossible the situation seems to be – it calls to do what we love, and keep loving the same. There are a few moments which bring the laughter, and the dance steps make one feel very good. The visuals of the city are also amazing. The movie also shows the usual attitude of the rich towards the poor, and how much the rich and the powerful tries to get their people all the opportunities, and talent don’t matter for them; there will always be the common people who do better. Still the attitude of the rich remains the same, as it has been shown in too many tales. It is strange that even after so many years, nothing has changed – the rich gets all the opportunities by birth, and the poor who gets rich becomes the oppressor at some other point. It is a strange world, but we should never stop trying to get to our dreams.

The claws of flaw :: One would have a feeling that achieving dreams of a higher level is only getting difficult these days, as only foul is fair in an evil world – every time we try to achieve something, there is more than one rich lady in front of us; there are thousands or millions of obstacles in the same place, and happy ending or happy continuation is more than just difficult in our world. We keep feeling that there could have been more of some stunning scenes of dance around here, as the scope was always there to make it bigger. It also takes some time to get itself to the ballet and serious dancing, and it is only balanced by the shorter run-time of the movie which leaves it with no dull moments – how can one find such a thing looking at such cute and wonderful animation? The boy’s tale could have also got a little bit more attention though, at least related to how far he has gone with his objective.

How it finishes :: Ballerina or The Leap! as it is known more, is another animated movie that you would love to add to that long list of interesting movies which ask you to go after your dreams without worrying about what would happen otherwise. It is the kind of inspiration that we have always wanted, and this movie gets to that fine list of animated movies, even though not that much there compared to those bigger flicks like Frozen, Moana, Zootopia, How to Train Your Dragon, Epic, Kung Fu Panda and many others which have gone on to become bigger names among all kinds of audience – Ballerina is also a movie which will work for everyone, and it is certain to appeal to children, as it is that cute. There are movies like Sing and Rock Dog which deals with the singing side, and Ballerina meets the dancing one – we see that all things get the needed inspiration. Well, no dream is to be left unattended.

Release date: 4th November 2016
Running time: 89 minutes
Directed by: Eric Summer, Eric Warin
Starring: Elle Fanning, Dane DeHaan, Maddie Ziegler, Carly Rae Jepsen, Terrence Scammell, Julie Khaner, Mel Brooks, Kate McKinnon, Elana Dunkelman, Shoshana Sperling, Joe Sheridan, Bronwen Mantel, Jamie Watson, Tamir Kapelian

<— Click here to go to the previous review.

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Maleficent

maleficent (1)

The Sleeping Beauty :: There are not many of us who don’t know the Sleeping Beauty or Princess Aurora, being as famous as the little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Gretel and Rapunzel, may be a little more popular than Goldilocks – the heroines of the tales of our childhood, at least belonging to some of them. Red Riding Hood returned darker in 2011, Snow White in 2012 and Gretel in 2013. All these movie have been coming up with a darker version of the old fairy tales. I have felt that there is nobody like Amanda Seyfried to be a fairy tale character. I have found these re-imagining of stories pretty much interesting except for Kristen Stewart’s portrayal of Snow White which ruined it for me. There is always something about seeing a story which you have known in the childhood presented in another way, and with this movie coming from the perspective of the antagonist who features in the posters and impresses us, Maleficent was not going to be a movie to be missed. Well, it is not always about the princess; for there are so many things which are not royal, but is yet better than they are. Then, this movie has Angelina Jolie; a long time since she was last seen in a movie – I guess the last ones were two fine movies, The Tourist and Salt in 2010.

What is it about? :: Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) is a faeire living in the magical forests which the human kingdom has always wished to capture. Despite having no king or standing army, the forests have always managed to keep the armies of the greedy human king away. She actually serves a certain kind of leader to the creatures of the woods, being the only faerie of human size. Her only human acquaintance is Stefan (Sharlto Copley) whom she met when they were both kids and grew up together, falling in love. As the old friend and lover returns one day, she lets him in, only to have her wings taken away from her. Maleficent, in her state of sadness, pain and anger turns darker with her magic, and with that, turns the magical fairy kingdom darker, depriving it of the colours. With a shapeshifting raven Diaval (Sam Riley) for company, she decides to give the man who betrayed her what he deserves. The current situation is that the man is now the king of the human kingdom, and his wife has given birth to a baby girl. She finds that her window of opportunity to march to the castle and give the newborn baby a gift from her dark magic which will make sure that her former lover would remember her for a very long time.

The defence of Maleficent :: No matter what other movies might have, we have Angelina Jolie here, coming back to the big screen after a long time, except for her voice that we heard in in Kung-fu Panda. Maleficent has a lot of visual splendor, right from the beginning when we are introduced to the cute little protagonist faeire who sleeps on a tree at the top of a cliff, flying around and having her fun with the creatures of the magical woods. All these creatures are nicely created to give us a taste of the magical forest in such a way that we can feel that it is different from the human side as well as the darker side to which we are introduced later. The trees surrounding the faerie world as well as the mounted warriors of nature also needs some special mention. But what thrives is the awesomeness of her with those wings and the final dragon. The cute ones are rather those which you usually expect to see. The movie’s environmental theme is real good, but it could have been used in a more visible manner. The difference in the story is nicely worked out even if not fully utilizing the available resources. The 3D is effective at times. The kids are going to love this one, that is for sure.

The claws of flaw :: Maeficent reminds us of so many movies, including Red Riding Hood, Alice in Wonderland, Oz the great and Powerful, Jack the Giant Slayer, Hansal and Gretel: Witch Hunters and finally, Snow White and the Huntsman which had Charlize Theron and Kristen Stewart instead of Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning here, even as this movie is surely better except for not having, may be Charlize Theron. There was the need for more imagination, which is why this movie struggles and drags at parts. It actually remains too predictable at times, and when it is not, it just manages to make its story good enough. With the classic story of the sleeping beauty in the pocket, they could have done better, may be with a better information about how this one big faerie came into existence as one of her kind, and how she mastered black magic getting so powerful. Another question would remain about the mental state of Princess Aurora whom we know is the one narrating. Some things just happen here, and even as there is the unreal atmosphere around, it needs to explain within that circle, but it doesn’t, and also fails to connect with the audience emotionally at times. The jokes and other dialogues are not memorable.

Performers of the soul :: Angelina Jolie has everything under control in this movie. Just like the poster, she has herself inscribed all around the movie; she is majestic as the defender of the magic realm when left with her wings, and magnificent as the sorceress who takes on the powers of dark magic when deprived of her wings. It is really a joy to watch her in such an avatar; I have always felt that she would make a great villain, an evil sorceress – this feeling of mine has actually come to screen with this one. The horns, the wings, the black dress and the wicked smile; then there are those cheekbones and the fury in the eyes, they are all perfect. The idea of sending the enemy’s daughter into eternal sleep on her sixteenth birthday – now she is indeed fit to give such a curse. Even the girl who plays her childhood was so good. The beautiful magical world indeed belongs to her! Elle Fanning, the sister of Dakota Fanning (Jane Volturi of the Twilight series) plays the role of Princess Aurora in the movie. She is the next best thing as she becomes one of the cutest princesses one has ever seen on screen, and wait until you see with a crown on the head in the end. Sam Riley’s human-raven hybrid avatar was nice. Sharlto Copley made a pretty good villain, but with not enough space and screen time.

Soul exploration :: Maleficent is not just a story of the past or unreality. It is in many ways parallel to what is happening in our world. They not only keeps the famous villain in the shades of grey and closer to white, they also divides its world into the human world of science and technology and the magical world where nature thrives. The humans are always motivated by that desire to destroy nature with their new scientific inventions after looting whatever wealth they can find from there. The human king and his subjects fear what they can’t understand, because it is beyond their scientific explanations, and it is the same reason why they feel that it should be destroyed. But the wealth of the forest in also too attractive, and thus they keeps making an attempt to take control of the territory and deprive it of the resources. On one side, there are the greedy humans, and on the other side, there are the creatures of the forest who live a happy life even with no control or rules imposed by the society. The enemies of the faeries are the products of new technologies, and in this case, iron. The movie is a battle between the righteous nature and the evil man’s scientific inventions, the same thing that happens in the present.

How it finishes :: Maleficent is not a movie that you can avoid even in the presence of a number of regional movies which have gained positive reviews; in our case, those like How Old are You and Bangalore Days. It doesn’t have the power to make a huge impact in the presence of the other movies, but one can’t deny that it has its magnets to attract, starting from Angelina Jolie. The movie is short too, and thus making sure that it won’t lose its way moving towards the end that has quite the difference that is needed. Yes, there is no true love, and all that romance and stuff is a lie – this movie has such dialogues throughout, claiming that true love doesn’t exist, and even the breaking of curse is supposed to be by true love which everyone knows doesn’t exist. Now, I would say that it is a great step taken when the stories of dumb romance have been spreading through the air. This realization that human beings are inherently evil and there is no love between even the most seemingly romantic couple, is what contributes powerfully to the dark and powerful side of this movie, which has to be appreciated. Yes, this is that kind of a world when the prince gets drunk on the way to the castle, arrives late, and the sleeping beauty dies; end of the story.

Release date: 30th May 2014
Running time: 97 minutes
Directed by: Robert Stromberg
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Miranda Richardson, Lesley Manville, Kenneth Cranham, Vivienne Jolie-Pitt, Eleanor Worthington Cox, Janet McTeer, Ella Purnell, Isobelle Molloy, Toby Regbo

maleficent copy

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.