MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL (2019)

The two MALEFICENT movies exist in a weird tangent of the Disney live-action reboot universe.

On the one hand they’re an interesting perspective shift on the classic Sleeping Beauty tale with a surprisingly A-list cast (Jolie! Pfeiffer! Ejiofor! Fanning!) mixed in with some surprise appearances (Warwick Davis! Ed Skrein!). They’ve got the sort of largely well-done fantasy special effects that only a swollen purse and high-grade talent pool can produce.

On the other hand they’re overly melodramatic, exposition heavy and self-serious in a way that doesn’t serve much more than generic fantasy cliche tropes. Also, the humans (with few exceptions) are quite unambiguously the villains, especially in this film, so there’s little conflict in siding with this supposed “Mistress of Evil” who never does anything considerably evil at all. It sort of gets handwaved away as being the perception of her by commonfolk, but I still feel like Angelina Jolie must have signed on expecting something vampier and more fun than the little she really gets to do.

Characters are paper thin, plot goes nowhere interesting, action is pedestrian and stakes aren’t engaging, even the design is at most blandly pretty. The first one was okay but this feels unnecessary.

FROZEN 2 (2019)

In some ways more charming than the first, in others less inspired.

Kind of a mixed bag — half the songs were forgettable and the overall story felt like a bridging episode between a strong first film and a bigger, more creative third one.

But the visual design is wonderful, painted on an autumnal Scandinavian pallette and the colonialist narrative touched on some darker concepts without really confronting them, which I suppose is understandable as this is still ostensibly a film for kids.

Doesn’t really transform the franchise in any meaningful way despite heaping on new elemental mythology and expanding the world, something that plays more like the setup to a more interesting trilogy rather than a really solid standalone in its own right.

That said, Kristoff’s 80s power ballad backed by imaginary reindeer harmonies is a brilliant bit of tonal anachronism and I like that the fundamental messages are of community support and reparations.

Overall not bad but I assume the next one will be better.

THE WITCHER s01 (2019)

Takes a bit to come together properly, and in the end mostly establishes itself as a good base for more interesting seasons to come.

Cavill is pitch-perfect as the titular Witcher, the gruff and stoic Geralt of Rivera, and this would have worked well enough as a monster-of-the-week style creature feature show.

Better, then, that there is a whole dense world’s worth of politics and history and intrigue and lore running in parallel to all the magic and monsters, even if the arrangement of the first season sees parallel timelines come across a little jumbled.

If you’re a fan of swords and sorcery this is worth a watch, though be aware that it’s far more unabashedly fantastical than say, GAME OF THRONES is, so your mileage will vary based on your taste there.

Good action, mostly solid effects, brilliantly realised background/landscape artwork.

I liked it, I think it will get much better too. Lots of potential.

DISENCHANTMENT s02 (2019)

EDIT: I had originally labelled the show as Disenchanted, which is something that I’ve noticed a whole lot of people have also done. Whether that’s a reflection on the title or our collective brain-fart, I dunno. But…

A step up from the first season, but still kinda middling.

Feels more like late-game Simpsons than any of the really good Groening stuff, and has a tendency to explain or vocalise a joke rather than trust in itself or let it play as a visual gag.

You could skip it.