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Weekend Watch: Last Year 'Frozen', This Year 'Maleficent'

Disney returns to the realm of fairy tales to spin 'Sleeping Beauty' from a new perspective.

(Cinedigm | Disney | Universal)
(Cinedigm | Disney | Universal)

To date 2013's Frozen has grossed over $1.2 billion. That's billion with a capital 'B'. It's a blockbuster's blockbuster, a smart genre film mixed with the right amount of nostalgia, originality, and catchy musical numbers. So how can Disney follow it up? This week, the magical film studio debuts Maleficent to battle for box office superiority. It's another nostalgia play, a re-imagining of Sleeping Beauty that reveals the tale of the princess' evil foe. But in Maleficent, the title character isn't really that evil at all, just misunderstood - like Elsa in Frozen

Disney can bank on a big opening weekend for Maleficent. Both Alice in Wonderland and Snow White and the Huntsman took pole position at the box office. But don't expect Maleficent to do what Frozen did. It's a bit too scary-looking for toddlers so families with itty-bitties may stay away. But word is Angelina Jolie is worth the price of admission alone and that may attract older demos that Frozen didn't. 

Maleficent

Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Sam RileyImelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Ella Purnell, Vivienne Jolie-Pitt

Maleficent is Hollywood's latest big budget re-imagining of a classic fairy tale. This time Sleeping Beauty gets the live action treatment, but the story is told with a twist. It centers not around the slumbering princess, but on the villainous Maleficent, played by Angelina Jolie (in her first movie since 2010). We meet the wicked fairy as a young girl and how betrayal and a thirst for revenge created the evil in her heart. There are a couple things you can count on in this film. One, Angelina Jolie will be a blast to watch. This is a movie star role and there's aren't too many of those for women these days. Two, the movie will look amazing. Director Robert Stomberg's background is in art direction (Avatar) so expect otherworldly sets beyond your imagination. Maleficent should also be much more a fairy tale than Snow White and the Huntsman. It's much more fantasy than action/adventure. See it? Yes.

Weekend Watch: Last Year 'Frozen', This Year 'Maleficent'
(Disney)

A Million Ways to Die in the West

Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Liam NeesonAmanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris

Family Guy mastermind and all-around likable chum Seth MacFarlane returns to feature film work after winning over fans in 2012 with a selfish, vulgar, drug-addled teddy bear named Ted. The success of Ted must've bought MacFarlane a blank check over at Universal, how else to explain this weird western follow-up? So, before the inevitable Ted 2, MacFarlane takes us to the wild west, where he stars as a wimpy sheep farmer braving the many tribulations of his time and place. His pretty girlfriend (Seyfried) dumps him and he tries to win her back with the help of a mysterious stranger (Theron). But he also must contend with a romantic rival (Harris) and the deadliest gun in the west (Neeson). It's simple, if you like Family Guy, you'll like this movie. It's basically the exact same thing in non-cartoon packaging. It's not Mel Brooks. It's Family GuySee it? Sure. 

Weekend Watch: Last Year 'Frozen', This Year 'Maleficent'
(Universal)

Night Moves

Starring: Jesse EisenbergDakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard, Alia Shawkat

To tell the story of three activists or environmental terrorists or whatever you want to call them, director Kelly Reichardt employs the same atmospheric, grounded technique she's become known for. Well-known in critics' circles as a cerebral filmmaker, Reichardt has yet to break into the mainstream but she seems to get closer each time. She followed Wendy and Lucy with Meek's Cutoff in 2010 (both starring Michelle Williams). And now, Night Moves arrives with a talented young cast and a modern, political storyline. Eisenberg, Fanning, and Sarsgaard play the film's activists who plan on blowing up a hydroelectric dam. The director shows the reality of a decision of that caliber and the immediate intensity of every second afterwards. See it? Yes.

The Grand Seduction

Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Brendan Gleeson, Liane Balaban, Gordon Pinsent

Ah, The Grand Seduction, an elegant name for what might be an elegant little film. The "seduction" refers to the town of Tickle Cove and their residents' persuasive techniques employed to entice a new doctor to set up shop. A doctor means a contract that will secure a new factory and that means jobs. Directed by Don McKellar, The Grand Seduction features the magnificent Brendan Gleeson and a host of fantastic character actors as the townsfolk, but the reason to see it is the writing team of Michael Dowse (Fubar) and Ken Scott (Starbuck), two of Canada's funniest comedic minds. Don't be fooled by the romantic subplot featuring Taylor Kitsch in Prince Charming mode, this should be a quiet gem of a film worth knowing about. See it? Yes.

Weekend Watch: Last Year 'Frozen', This Year 'Maleficent'
(Entertainment One)

Filth

Starring: James McAvoy, Jamie Bell, Eddie Marsan, Imogen Poots

Based on the Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting) novel, Filth follows an obscenely corrupt cop (McAvoy) as he navigates a thoroughly corrupt world in present-day Scotland. He has his eyes on a promotion as well as a reconciliation with his wife and daughter. Inbetween, anything goes. McAvoy winces through this performance like a man on fire as he sometimes tends to do (Wanted, Trance), but it's a gleeful sight watching Professor X unhinged from the dramatic dungeon that is an X-Men screenplay. You'll be reminded of Trainspotting (if you know and love that movie), but you've got to hand it to Welsh, he knows how to revel in shameful excess and general bad behavior. See it? Yes.

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