Remember when I was all “I’m going to be back to my regular review format soon” on my last Duet post? Heh. So much for that, huh? I just saw these two so close together that a Duet review is a little easier on me. Although both of them are worthy of lengthier reviews, and I wish I had the time for them. 😦 Anyway, enough of my “lack of time” woes. Right now, I’m making time to discuss two very different films: Cinderella and It Follows!
Synopsis: “When her father unexpectedly passes away, young Ella finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother and her daughters. Never one to give up hope, Ella’s fortunes begin to change after meeting a dashing stranger.” –www.imdb.com
The High Notes:
- The gorgeous visuals. There’s no denying that this is a visually stunning film. You can always count on Disney for that, eh? Really though, the costumes are beautiful, the sets are rich and intricate, and the effects…I mean, wow. When that pumpkin turns into a carriage, it’s simply amazing. “A feast for the eyes” seems like a pretty apt description.
- The cast. Lily James is a charming young Ella—sweet and easy to root for. And, of course, you’re never going to hear any qualms from me in regards to pretty Richard Madden as the Prince. It’s also nice to see Cate Blanchett’s dark side as the evil Stepmother and Helena Bonham Carter’s lighter side as the Fairy Godmother. I think it was clever to have the two actresses in the opposite roles you’d expect because they both clearly have fun with it. Oh, and the stepsisters, Drisella (Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) are delightfully ridiculous.
- For the most part, it stays very true to the cartoon version, which is actually kind of refreshing after all of these live-action versions that completely twist the original story. (I don’t know about you guys, but I’m not a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland or Snow White and the Huntsman, though Maleficent is slightly better.) Director Kenneth Branagh actually makes a bit of a bold move staying true to the original Disney cartoon, but I think, for the most part, it pays off.
The Low Notes:
- Some of these characters need a bit more attention. Yes, the actors all do a good job with what they were given, but the Prince could’ve (and should’ve) been so much more than just a pretty face. And the Stepmother could’ve (and should’ve) been so much more than a one-note villain. And the Fairy Godmother is only in one freaking scene! I would love to see more character depth from the first two and just…more from the latter.
- Cinderella’s relationship with the Prince. It involves…a lot of staring. Seriously, a little more conversation would’ve been nice. I realize one conversation in the woods followed by a lot of loving stares is how a typical Disney prince/princess relationship forms, but a little more would’ve been nice here.
- I appreciated the fact that it stays true to the cartoon, but at the same time, I’d hoped for…more. Hmm. “More” seems to be the word for this one, huh? I think it has a lot to do with the fact that Cinderella has never been my favorite Disney cartoon. I’ve always found both the story and the princess a bit boring. While I’d still choose this live-action version over the cartoon, it still isn’t as engaging as I’d hoped.
The Staccato Version: Cinderella really is everything you could hope for from a live-action version of the much-loved cartoon. It’s gorgeous, well-performed, and very faithful to the story. But for people like me who didn’t exactly love the story to begin with and hoped for something to amp it up…Well, you might be disappointed. Even so, I liked this film, and I think most Disney fans will, too.
My Grade: B+
Synopsis: “After a young girl gets involved in a sexual confrontation, she is followed by an unknown force.” –www.imdb.com
The High Notes:
- Maika Monroe. I was just praising this girl in The Guest, and here I am praising her all over again. Her character, Jay, has a really nice balance of vulnerability and strength, and it’s very easy to like her. She’s terrified, but she’s not helpless. And she’s not boring or just there to be pretty either. I’m all about solid female characters—especially in horror movies. Monroe’s Jay fits the bill perfectly.
- The horror on every level. It’s psychological and supernatural. It’s slowly creeping along with a few jarring jump scares. It’s unsettling. It’s grotesque. It’s mysterious. It’s tense. It’s just…awesome. This is what horror should be—not a bunch of gore sloshing across the screen and not back-to-back jump scares that leave no lasting sense of terror, but a combination of disturbing things that leave a real impression on you. Director David Robert Mitchell clearly understands this.
- The undeniable style. Much like The Guest, this film definitely has a retro vibe going for it, and it’s really cool. I’ve read a few reviews that compare it to Halloween, and I can definitely see that. Don’t get me wrong—modern horrors have their merits, but referring back to some of the awesome horrors of the past gives It Follows a refreshing twist.
The Low Notes:
- You might drive yourself crazy trying to figure out what time period it’s set in. A lot of the technology seems to suggest the ‘80s, but then there are these more modern cars thrown in and a girl has this crazy seashell e-reader…So I’m still wondering about the decade. It’s a minor thing, but it may irk you.
- If hipster stuff bothers you, this might not be your thing. Because this group of kids that Jay hangs around with is very hipster. There’s one girl who even has big, hipster glasses and reads Dostoyevsky, and I just couldn’t help getting a tiny feeling that the film was trying a little too hard to be cool. Again, it wasn’t enough to truly bother me, but it might bother some people.
- Though I felt the nearly constant creepiness was fantastic, I could see some people not being impressed—particularly since the title “It” that follows moves about as fast as the zombies in Night of the Living Dead. While I was still creeped out, you might not be.
The Staccato Version: I am happy to report that It Follows is officially the horror film to beat this year. Monroe is fantastic, the horror works in a lot of ways, and the film as a whole is just really cool. I found very little to pick on here, and I think many horror fans will feel the same way. If you’re like me and haven’t seen a grade A horror since The Babadook, this might be just what you need to restore your faith in the genre for 2015.
My Grade: A-