Movie Review: Cinderella (2015)

Running time: 113 minutes

Director: Kenneth Branagh

cdn.indiewire.comDisney is wasting no time adapting their most beloved fairy tales into live-action films and the talent involved both in front and behind the camera is stellar. First it was Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, last year Maleficent  and with Beauty and the Beast, which will star Emma Watson, Dumbo and Mulan on the horizon, it’s time for Cinderella to make it into the big screen.

After her father dies, Ella (Lily James) is forced to live with her stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and step sisters (Sophie McShera and Holliday Grainger) who make fun of her and never treat her as part of their family. Soon, Ella becomes a servant in her own house but never loses her pure heart and good will. After meeting a dashing stranger (Richard Madden) in the woods and with the help of her fairy godmother (Helena Bohan Carter), Cinderella attends a ball at the palace that will give her the opportunity to change her life forever.

CINDERELLAAs Disney has evolved through the years, the role of the princesses has done the same. Released in 1950 and being the second Disney Princess after Snow White, the classic Cinderella was in the early stages of this evolution, so she was still pretty much a one-note character that needed the Prince to save her from the horrible stepmother, and like in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves the role of the Prince was underdeveloped, not even having a name. Now, 65 years later, when Disney Princesses have stopped being damsels in distress and have become adventurers, brave and the ones in charge of their own future and happiness, and with the live-action adaptations changing the stories to turn then into heroines, Disney’s remake of Cinderella finds a beautiful balance between maintaining the original story that is so close to everyone’s hearts and making Cinderella a stronger character as well as giving more depth to the Prince.

Lily James was such a perfect casting choice for Ella. Incredibly likable in the role, she has that iconic sweet, kind and naive look of Cinderella but brings more personality to the character and, though not too many times, has the courage to stand up for herself. Now, while in the animated version the mice are adorable and probably the most remembered characters of the film, here seeing Ella talking to them and serving them dinner was a bit weird at first. But instead of pulling me out of the movie, it was kind of fun and you can actually understand what they are squeaking some of the times.

CINDERELLAThe chemistry between Ella and the Prince is wonderful from their very first encounter. I loved that they changed it from the animated version and Kit doesn’t fall in love with her when she is all dressed-up and pretty for the ball, but when they run to each other in the woods and she is wearing her maid clothes. Also, let it be said that Richard Madden makes an excellent prince. One of the changes in the story that I liked the most was how much we got to know his character. As I said, in the first Disney movies the Prince was there to take the Princess away from her misery but it wasn’t until Sleeping Beauty that he had a name or something to do in the story. Through his friendship with the Captain of the Guards, and especially the relation with his father we finally get to see Prince Charming being something more than just charming and becoming an actual person with fears, doubts and emotions.

CINDERELLAAnd though the two leads are excellent, Cinderella wouldn’t have been the same without the amazing supporting cast that also does a great job at embodying the original characters, still making them different and unique. Helena Bohan Carter puts an interesting spin on the role of the fairy godmother. Like in the animated version she’s just in one scene but really makes an impact and contributes to make that sequence unforgettable. Sophie McShera and Holliday Grainger as the step sisters, Drizella and Anastasia have great dynamic together. They can be a bit cartoonish and annoying but that only adds to the fun of the characters.

But amongst all these fantastic actors the one who, without a doubt, steals the movie in every scene she is in, is Cate Blanchett in the role of the wicked stepmother. That icy, malicious look and the elegant way she carries herself through the film is really mesmerizing. We get to see shades to why she is as evil as she is but not trying to redeem her. Something I would have love to see done in Maleficent instead of that twist that completely ruined a lot of people’s favourite villain, despite being Angelina Jolie the perfect person to play Maleficent.

CINDERELLAAnd not in many movies does the talent behind the camera shine the way it does here. Director Kenneth Branagh makes it visually stunning. The movie is absolutely gorgeous to look at. The attention to detail, the splash of color, especially in the ball sequence, which is breath-taking. Everything is so stylish, from start to finish, including those dresses and hats Cate Blanchett gets to wear that look like they belong in the cover of some fashion magazine. My one complain would be that I would have loved to hear some songs from the animated version.

Of course some more flaws can be found but for what it is, a re-adaptacion of a beloved classic fairy tale, it did exactly what it was supposed to do. It’s enchanting, pure Disney magic, it keeps very close to the original story and I had a smile on my face for its entirety. Cinderella can only be described as a delightful experience.


Movie Review: Insurgent (2015)

Running time: 119 minutes

Director: Robert Schwentke

I_D024_10238_RBeing another young adult franchise taking place in a dystopian future, The Divergent Series seems to be always behind someone else. It hasn’t been able to step away from the big shadow The Hunger Games has cast and their next installment, Allegiant, is going to dangerously tackle the same idea as The Maze Runner sequel. The latter will take the lead though, as The Scorch Trials is coming out nearly half a year before. Allegiant also has against it that it will be another case of a last book being split into two films, even though there’s not much material to pull off two solid movies. With all these facts playing against it, will Insurgent be a step up or a step down for the franchise?

After the attack on Abnegation by Dauntless, Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) are on the run from the leader of Erudite, Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet), who is using Divergents to open a box that has all the answers to understand the purpose of the factions. A secret that Tris’s parents sacrified themselves to protect and will make Tris embrace her Divergence and confront her inner demons if she wants to discover the truth.

Insurgent-HD-wallpapers-26The movie picks up shortly after Divergent ended, with Tris, Tobias and Caleb on the run from Erudite and joining Amity. There, Tris cuts her hair and even though it was shown in the ad campaign, it still threw me out of the movie. I know it shouldn’t bother me that much what her hair-style is, but it does, because it is not about the hair-style but what it represents. While in the book Tris cuts her hair carelessly below the ear without even looking in the mirror, in the movie is so perfectly cut and stylish. It was supposed to be awkward, not cool. I understand that they did it this way to fit Shailene Woodley’s current short hair after The Fault in Our Stars but I would have rather see her wearing a wig.

Ok, that was too much talk about hair so let’s move on. While the group is in Amity together you come to a funny realization. Every male actor there has already played Shailene’s love interest in some movie. It makes you wonder if there are no more young actors working in Hollywood these days. At least Miles Teller as Peter has some funny, snarky moments, but Ansel Elgort, playing her brother Caleb, simply doesn’t seem to want to be there. Then there is also, Theo James as Tobias, who is stuck in the boyfriend role and even though he has a lot of action scenes to do, he doesn’t have any development and we don’t learn anything about his personality at all.

tumblr_nhyu9agYRz1t1p3qwo5_1280It is after they have joined Candor that I had my second major problem with the changes in the character of Tris. When she is interrogated, Tris is forced to confess something she did in the first movie, that has been hunting her since then. In the book she is able to fight back the serum (because she is Divergent, maybe they forgot, despite being the title), she could have kept it to herself but chooses to tell the truth. In the movie they take that decision away from her and the merit it involves.

It is from the moment she gets to Erudite that the plot becomes completely different from the book. I don’t mind plot changes because I understand that some things that work on paper don’t necessarily work the same way on-screen, but one thing is making changes in the story and other is taking away things that define and build the characters. Like, a lot of Tris’s actions are supposed to be suicidal because she thinks after her parents sacrified themselves for her, it is her duty to do the same thing to honour them, which causes a lot of friction with Four and comes to play later in the books. The movie forgets about that as it forgets Tris’s apprehension about using guns after killing Will in the first movie.

I_D051_21792_RSome curious thing about Insurgent is how wasted are the Oscar caliber actresses in it. In the first ten minutes we are introduced to Johanna, played by Octavia Spencer, the leader of Amity, to never see her again in the movie. When the group is captured by the factionless we meet their leader, Evelyn, portrayed by a brunette Naomi Watts, who was ok but for what the character is, could have been much better. Another that is kind of phoning it in is Kate Winslet, who was actually my favourite part of the first movie as Jeanine, and in this one doesn’t seem to know what to do with the horrible part she has been given. Despite not minding plot changes, the box thing didn’t convinced me and the simulations Tris had to go through there didn’t work for me, precisely because they had taken away all those details from her that in the book, most of them, come to play in that situation.

insurgent_trailer_stillThe production design is beautiful and there are some cool action sequences, but one of the problems I had with Divergent was how episodic it was. I was hoping they would make the story flow better this time, but they didn’t. The characters go from one scene to another with no development at all. It kind of feels like playing a video-game and the technology they use is so futuristic that it comes across almost fake.

When I finished the second book I felt a need to read the next one and find out more about the big revelation. I was devastated because by that time the third book didn’t even have a released date yet. The movie has completely failed to captured that feeling. The revelation doesn’t play like a cliffhanger but as a resolution and very much like in The Maze Runner ends up setting the sequel in the most anti-climatic way and I’m not sure if people will come out of the cinema craving for the next one, not even those die-hard fans of the books.