‘Cinderella’ A Gorgeous Romance for Tweens ; ‘Home Sweet Hell’ is No Gone Girl

Movie Review – ‘Cinderella’


Cate Blanchett stars in this new vision of the Cinderella tale from director Kenneth Branagh and the screenwriting team of Chris Weitz and Aline Brosh McKenna for Disney Pictures. ~ Jeremy Wheeler, Rovi

PG (for mild thematic elements)

Science Fiction & Fantasy , Romance

Directed By:
Kenneth Branagh

Written By:
Chris Weitz

1 hr. 45 min.

‘Cinderella’ review: Cast enlivens a gorgeous romance for tweens

By RAFER GUZMÁN rafer.guzman@newsday.com

PLOT: The live-action version of Disney’s famous fairy tale. Rated PG.

BOTTOM LINE: Fans of the original may find another favorite in this highly romantic and gorgeous-looking film. Aims more for tweens than tots.

CAST: Lily James, Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett

Walt Disney’s animated “Cinderella” from 1950 has come to define not only the age-old fairy tale but the entire Disney brand. It’s Cinderella (and Sleeping Beauty’s) castle, after all, that graces Walt Disney World and appears at the start of every Walt Disney Pictures production. For many generations, “Cinderella” is one of those special movies that defines childhood itself.

The hand-painted classic is now a live-action remake, and another noticeable difference between the two films is their target audience. Where the original appealed to children, the new version appeals to preteen girls. Its focus is less on cute critters and more on worldly concerns, namely love and interpersonal relationships. What “Cinderella” sacrifices in innocent charm, however, it makes up for with romance, magic and grandeur.

“Cinderella” is brought to life by its cast, led by a radiant Lily James as Ella and a terrific Cate Blanchett as Stepmother (her only appellation), whose eyes dance with catlike cruelty. Sophie McShera (like James, a “Downton Abbey” alumna) and Holliday Grainger play the stepsisters Drisella and Anastasia — high-school bullies in bustles. The Prince, nicknamed Kit and played by Richard Madden, makes for a likable trophy.

Kenneth Branagh directs like an old master from the Golden Age of Hollywood, and he reaches his peak when the story does, at the Prince’s ball. It’s a gorgeous sequence, full of swirling gowns and pirouetting camerawork, all of it kicked off by a lovely close-up: the prince’s gloved hand sliding around Ella’s waist. It’s a small detail, enhanced by just the whisper of touching fabrics, and it crackles with intimacy and anticipation.

The new “Cinderella” puts away some childish things. There’s little time for Ella to play with twittering birdies and chattering mousies (although the hefty rodent Gus-Gus does get his moment). The musical numbers are gone, too, acknowledged by a few “bibbidi-bobbidi-boos” from Helena Bonham Carter as the kooky Fairy Godmother. The king is no longer a bouncy blusterer but an ailing patriarch, poignantly played by Derek Jacobi. Stellan Skarsgård’s Grand Duke adds a bit of high-court intrigue.

Beautifully written by Chris Weitz (“About a Boy”), “Cinderella” isn’t just a re-enactment of the original film but an enrichment. For Disney fans, it could be another treasure worth cherishing.

home sweet hell
Movie review – ‘Home Sweet Hell’

Mona and Don’s seemingly perfect suburban bliss is disrupted by a sexy extortionist and Mona will stop at nothing, including killing the competition, to keep her little slice of heaven.

R (for violence, language, sexual content and some drug use)

Drama , Comedy

‘Home Sweet Hell’ Review: Katherine Heigl and Patrick Wilson Demeaned by a Misogynist Comedy

By Inkoo Kang

An overly familiar premise takes a dark, degrading turn in a nasty, unfun film that’ll benefit neither Heigl nor Wilson’s careers

The fulfillment of wishes — to fall in love, to let justice prevail, to overcome adversity with dignity and strength — is one of the main reasons we as a species tell stories and, more recently, make films. Not all wishes are so noble, of course, as is the case with “Home Sweet Hell,” a rancid comedy fueled by male entitlement and uxoricidal rage.

Starring Katherine Heigl and Patrick Wilson (the latter, coincidentally enough, also headlines the similarly repellent “Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife”), “Home Sweet Hell” is the cinematic equivalent of the guy who’s so busy ranting and raving about how untrustworthy women are that he hasn’t noticed everyone’s backed away from him in fear.

Last year’s “Gone Girl” was also about a vindictive, homicidal, hyper-organized harpy as seen through the eyes of her wronged husband, but if Rosamund Pike‘s Amy is a cartoon, Heigl’s pearl-donning, sex-scheduling Mona is a doodle. More pertinently, “Gone Girl” featured other female characters like Carrie Coon’s concerned sister and Kim Dickens’ committed detective — normal, grounded women who serve as counterexamples to show not all women are crazy and who emphasize just how singularly unhinged and extreme Amy is.

But there’s no such thing as a good woman in “Home Sweet Hell,” even Mona’s little daughter is a monster in the making. Add director Anthony Burns’ sleazy camera, which shows us a topless woman drunkenly waving around a samurai sword — an anonymous bimbo we’re invited to laugh at while ogling her tits — and you can’t help feeling bad for the actors who have lent themselves to be the public faces (and breasts) of this heap of acrid misogyny.

The film begins where so many others do, with a well-to-do husband and father of two needing to rebel against his square, suburbanite existence. That’s how Don (Wilson) comes to hire the young, flirtatious Dusty (Jordana Brewster) as the latest salesperson at his furniture store — a move that’s back-slappingly encouraged by his other employee (Jim Belushi): “The point [is] eye candy. We need something to look at during the day.”

Mona’s irritation about the new addition to the furniture store’s staff explodes into earth-scorching wrath when Don and Dusty embark on an affair that results in a pregnancy. Determined to protect her Stepford-perfect reputation amidst Dusty’s attempts at blackmail for hush-up cash, Mona convinces her husband to do away with his other woman.

home-sweet-hell-trailer-2When the poison he uses appears not to take, Mona steps in to finish the job. The things that make Mona a great housewife — namely, her giant rubber gloves and aptitude for precise measurements — also make her a skilled killer. Heigl manages to squeeze in an ounce of campy dark humor as she saws Dusty in two in her pristine ponytail and pearly-white underwear, smiling with Martha Stewart satisfaction at another job well done.

Mona remains unflappable when a detective (Chi McBride) and Dusty’s former criminal associates separately investigate the murdered woman’s disappearance. Amused by Don’s increasing panic, she dismisses Dusty’s friends’ threats of violence. “He said he was gonna rape us?” she sneers. “Yeah, the whole family? At the same time?” Carlo Allen, Ted Elrick, and Tom Lavagnino’s script could

But instead, we’re stuck with Don’s empty morality and Wilson’s blank stares, which rob us precisely of the kind of getting-away-with-it glee on which this kind of dark comedy is supposed to run. By the end, it’s clear that every step and turn in the plot was meant to justify Don doing something terrible to his wife — a moral accounting that’s not only wildly imprecise but also feels entirely hollow.

Despite a fervent belief in humanity’s infinite creativity, I’m doubtful that an inoffensive, or even just a fair-minded, comedy can be made based on the fantasy of harming one’s wife. And if it can in fact be done, “Home Sweet Hell” sure as heck isn’t doing it.

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