‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ Review

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Director: Burr Steers

Writer: Burr Steers

Cast: Lily James, Sam Riley, Bella Heathcote, Ellie Bamber, Millie Brady, Suki Waterhouse, Douglas Booth, Sally Philips, Charles Dance, Jack Huston, Matt Smith, and Lena Headey

Synopsis: Jane Austen’s classic tale of the tangled relationships between lovers from different social classes in 19th century England is faced with a new challenge – and army of undead zombies.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There is a very short scene in the middle of the credits*

 

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has had a very troubled and long production. Natalie Portman was originally set to star until she dropped out because of scheduling conflicts – although she stayed on as a producer – and David O. Russell was going to direct until he dropped out due to scheduling conflicts as well. Lily Collins was then going to replace Portman but turned it down, and then the studio landed on Burr Steers to finally direct. What we finally ended up getting was a better than expected adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s take on Jane Austen’s classic story of “Pride and Prejudice.” Of course, one has to get over the concept that zombies are added into a classic novel, and if you can get over that, then you’ll enjoy the film a hell of a lot more.

Just like the original – the Jane Austen story – Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is set in 19th century England and places its focus on Elizabeth Bennet (James) and her sisters: Jane (Heathcote), Lydia (Bamber), Mary (Brady), and Kitty (Waterhouse). Their mother, played by Sally Phillips, is determined to find them wealthy and eligible suitors so they can get married, since once their father dies, they get nothing. Of course, Elizabeth is very independent and headstrong with little to no interest in giving up her swords and martial arts training to be a married woman and to follow the norm of society. However, during all this, zombies – a term they actually use in the film – are overtaking England. This is where changes into the Austen’s story take place and where Grahame-Smith’s take kicks in.

From Left to Right: Ellie Bamber, Bella Heathcote, Lily James, Suki Waterhouse, and Millie Brady

The Bennet Sisters have been trained since they were girls and thanks to their father, played by Charles Dance, were sent to be trained in China, were the “wise” parents send their children to train as opposed to the rich parents who send their children to Japan. Certain families have gone the countryside to hide under their lands which includes the Bennet’s. When Mrs. Bennet finds out a new wealthy suitor in Mr. Bingley (Booth) has arrived from the warfront, they go to a ball where Bingley and Jane fall for each other. At that same party, Elizabeth meets Mr. Darcy (Riley), now a general in the army against the undead. The love story between them starts off as standoffish and trying to up one another every chance they can get. However, when George Wickham, a lieutenant in the army and one that has a past with Darcy comes into town, Elizabeth starts to fall for him, and where the love story starts to take place. Of course, everything comes to head once the story picks up in the final act that leads to an explosive and its own spin on the love story ending.

Sam Riley and Douglas Booth

Again, if you can get past the concept of zombies being injected into the story and the fact that now all the characters know martial arts and fight with swords, then sitting through the movie will be a hell of a lot better. However, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a pretty enjoyable and fun movie anyway. Director Burr Steers and Co. do a great job of balancing the different tones of action, horror, and comedy and make them blend together fairly well. The tonal differences could have really hurt the film, but thankfully Steers control the tones and make them work for the film instead of against it.

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That’s not to say that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies isn’t without its faults and missteps. The film is good, but could have been better with some better pacing in the middle of the film and expanding some of the new concepts they bring in that includes a Horsemen of the Apocalypse angle that leads nowhere expect some nice visuals. Some visuals do work, while others fall flat especially an early one in the film, but for some it doesn’t help that some scenes are very poorly lit. The low lighting really makes one particularly scene hard to see anything, which doesn’t help since the scene feels like it’s important scene, but since we can’t see anything, the scene just fails.

Lena Headey

Jack Huston’s Wickham also falls a bit flat, although his story with Darcy is solid, it’s a bit rushed so the emotional impact and feeling fails to grab a huge amount of attention. Also felling underwhelming is Lena Headey’s character Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Heady also has a few scenes in the film, but none of them really stick out too much. It’s a shame really since her character is described as one of the deadliest and most skilled swordswomen in England, which is accompanied with a nice visual, but other than that, the character doesn’t really go anyway.

Riley, Matt Smith and James

As for the rest of the cast, they all do well with the material presented in front of them. Lily James nails Elizabeth Bennet is every way possible, making her easy to root for and a kickass character at that. Sam Riley’s Mr. Darcy is one of the characters you grow to like as he comes off as a bit full of himself, but sees his actions as necessary to protect everyone from the zombie plague. Bella Heathcote’s Jane Bennet gets really the third billing of the movie since her arc with Douglas Booth’s Mr. Bingley is the main arc in the first act of the film, although they both disappear during the middle of the film in order to drawn Elizabeth and Darcy’s arc. The other three sisters are a bit interchangeable unless you remember who’s playing who. Matt Smith, who plays Parson Collins, is a big highlight in every scene he’s in and could easily steal the film for some people.

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All in all, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies a hell of a lot of fun and more enjoyable than some will give it credit for. While it fails on some levels, like pacing and some underdeveloped scenes, that stop it from being great, everyone involved make the crazy concept worth the watch. If zombie action with a little classic romance is your thing, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies should fill that right up.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

4 out of 5

‘Maleficent’ Review

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Dir: Robert Stromberg

Cast: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley, Brenton Thwaites, Juno Temple, Imelda Staunton, and Lesley Manville

Synopsis: A vindictive fairy is driven to curse an infant princess only to realize the child may be the only one who can restore peace.

 

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

It is a common thing in Hollywood now to retell classic stories from our childhood and give them a new take. Whether it be a gritty or realistic one, or even a total retelling of the story. In the case of Maleficent, it is not just a retelling but also a look at the point of view from the “villain.” The reason why I say “villain” is because Maleficent makes the title character, Maleficent (Jolie), a sympathetic character.

 

The start of the movie plays as an origin story for Maleficent. We see her at a young age, as the narrator – even telling us this is a story we never knew – tells us the magical world is not on the best terms with the human one. Nevertheless, Maleficent befriends and eventually falls in love with a human, Stefan (Copley). We see them as they grow and were told eventually Stefan stopped coming and worked his way into working in the castle for the king. With the king falling ill, and taking a beating from Maleficent and the other magical creatures, Stefan finds a way to become the king but the catch is he has to kill the woman he was once in love with. Finding not able to do it he takes something else from her, her wings.

 

The rest of the story you can probably guess; Stefan becomes king, Maleficent becomes evil, curses the baby Aurora, etc.  Where the story twists is when Maleficent begins to feel sympathy for Aurora, and becomes her unlikely protector since her official fairy guardians Flittle (Maville), Knotgrass (Staunton), and Thistletwit (Temple) are incompetent.

 

Now I will admit, I was a bit hesitant about Maleficent because it looked like it might suffer from Snow White and the Huntsman-syndrome. The movie is great looking for the most part. Although it should not be too much of a surprise since the director is not only a first time director but an Oscar winner for Special Effects, Richard Stromberg (Alice in Wonderland, Avatar). Stromberg knows how to make a scene look bright and vibrant but also dark and moody. Needless to say, he knows how to make a scene look cool but going back to Snow White and the Huntsman-syndrome, sometimes all the scene is, is just a pretty looking scene or cool wallpaper.

 

Now that’s not a knock on the special effects, like I said, a lot of is great to look at. But, even with a movie that has ton of special effects, it can not just rely on that, we need the story and even though the concept of Maleficent seems like a good, the movie sometimes falls flat on that end. Next to some of the effects, the best thing about the movie is Jolie’s Maleficent.

 

Jolie gives a great performance as usual. She displays the right amount of emotion ranging from pain, envy to sadness, but in reality, this is a redemption story for Maleficent. Having her heart broken and then cursing Stefan’s daughter Aurora (Fanning) to then feeling sorry for Aurora. Maleficent might be the best character in the movie, although that isn’t really saying much, when all the other characters seem either one-dimensional or are just not that interesting. The other best character is probably her minion Diaval played by Sam Riley, who gives a solid performance.

 

Elle Fanning’s Aurora doesn’t really have much to do. Really all her performance is smiling a lot. She does have some moments to do other than smile but it’s kind of a waste of Fanning’s ability.

 

Sharlto Copley’s Stefan will probably divide fans but needless to say, he’s not the King Stefan we knew in Sleeping Beauty. Also, the dark tone moments come from him and his interactions either with himself or with Maleficent. Copley is a great actor but just like Fanning, his ability is only limited to what the script and director wants.

 

The comedy here is mostly left to the fairies Flittle (Maville), Knotgrass (Staunton), and Thistletwit (Temple). Although there is some humor with magical creatures, Maleficent and Diaval having their moments too.

 

All in all, Maleficent is a great concept but doesn’t really pack the punch you want it to. Even the twists to the story aren’t great considering you might see some coming or just don’t pack the emotional punch I think the creative team thought they would. There are some pretty things to look at but Jolie and Riley make, or at least try, to make the movie mean something more.

 

Maleficent

3.5 out of 5