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Maybe it's too soon to say the tide has shifted definitively. But it's certainly been a unique time for fairy-tale villains.After hundreds of years of moral clarity, suddenly we're getting a new look at these evil creatures, who are actually turning out to be complex beings, and not that bad at all. Really, they've just been misunderstood. (And, by the way, those charming princes? Highly overrated.)The most obvious recent example is "Frozen," the animated Disney blockbuster that showed us how the Snow Queen, long portrayed as an icy-hearted villain, was actually a tragic victim of circumstance, with a pure and loving heart. And now we have "Maleficent," which tells us that one of the most evil characters in all of pop culture is equally vulnerable and misunderstood.

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Plus, she's gorgeous. Duh. She's Angelina Jolie.All this is a rather seismic development in fairytale-dom. There are numerous versions of "Sleeping Beauty," stemming back even before Charles Perrault's from 1697, but the fairy who casts an angry spell on the baby princess, dooming her to prick her finger, has always been, well, just nasty.But now, 55 years after Disney introduced the character named Maleficent in its 1959 classic film— and colored her skin an eerie green — the studio is back with a live-action (not to mention 3D) Maleficent who's more superheroine than evil fairy. Think Maleficent by way of Lara Croft.And though Maleficent is no longer green-skinned, it's hard not to think of another green-skinned villainess who's also been rehabilitated, by means of the durable Broadway hit "Wicked": the witch Elphaba from "The Wizard of Oz," who, it turns out, we just didn't know enough about.

And so it is in "Maleficent," in which director Robert Stromberg and screenwriter Linda Woolverton take us back to the fairy's youth to better understand her. She's a plucky young thing with lovely wings and bright pink lipstick, which will turn blood-red when she becomes an adult (the fairy world clearly isn't lacking for cosmetics.)One day she meets a young man from that other, darker world,(Watch Maleficent Online in High Quality) where humans live. The two form a strong bond. But the ugliest human emotions — jealousy and ambition — will intervene. Young Stefan will grow into the power-hungry older Stefan (the wild-eyed South African actor Sharlto Copley.) And his stunning betrayal of Maleficent will instantly harden her, turning her into the villainess we recognize.Alas, the story's still all about a guy, in the end. But we digress."Maleficent" is surely targeted to the same audience — young and female — which has so lovingly embraced "Frozen" and its appealing message of female solidarity and empowerment. But "Frozen" felt clever, charming, and fresh. "Maleficent," less so.

Part of this is due, paradoxically, to Jolie's star wattage. Don't get us wrong: she's the best thing about the movie, and always worth watching. But it blunts the effectiveness of the narrative if we can never quite believe Maleficent is bad. That's because we know she's essentially good, and she seems to know that we know it; You can see it in the upturned wrinkle of her mouth.And frankly,(Download Maleficent) the other characters are simply not that interesting — Stefan, but also Elle Fanning's Aurora, or "Sleeping Beauty." The best scenes Aurora has, in fact, are when she's a gurgling baby and then, adorably, a toddler, played by none other than 5-year-old Vivienne Jolie-Pitt. (In the movie's one laugh-out-loud moment, Maleficent tells Aurora: "I don't like children.")But Fanning as Aurora is too boringly sweet — especially compared to the fabulous-in-every-way Maleficent, with her blazing lips, fashionable black headgear and exaggerated cheekbones, not to mention her way around a quip.

In the end, "Maleficent" is fun for its appealing visuals — especially in the forest — and for watching Jolie. But that's not enough to make the whole film interesting. As the minutes tick by, you might even start feeling a bit like Sleeping Beauty herself comes to feel: Drowsy."Maleficent," a Walt Disney Studios release, is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America "for sequences of fantasy action and violence, including frightening images." Running time: 97 minutes.(Download Maleficent) Two and a half stars out of four.This impressively made spin on the classic fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty may well essentially be a vehicle for the many talents of Angelina Jolie, but that doesn’t stop it from being a thoroughly entertaining fantasy romp. It may be a little too dark for the young kiddie marketplace that has lapped in classic Disney animation over the years, but as Oz The Great And Powerful has shown, there is a keen audience out there for elegantly made fantasy fare.

And yes, the film is very much an Angelina Jolie film. She – well at least her character – is front and centre for pretty much all of the film as the ‘real’ story of Maleficent (not the easiest of names to pronounce), the iconic evil character from Disney’s 1959 version of Sleeping Beauty is revealed. And guess what? She turns out to have reasons for planting that curse on an innocent baby princess,(Download Maleficent) but also comes to see the error of her ways.Indeed it will come as no surprise that Maleficent is a movie with a message of forgiveness and redemption. Plus rather astutely it follows on from one of the themes from last year’s Disney hit Frozen that love doesn’t just have to come in the form of a hunky prince.Oddly, it has been under review embargo right up until its May 28 release date, the film delivers thrills and spills, spells and laughs and enough magical wonder to keep young fantasy fans happy, but quite whether it is quitedynamic enough to entrance audiences under the spell of Godzilla and the X-Men remains to be seen. But the presence of the Angelina Jolie promotional bandwagon will guarantee plenty of press attention away from the review pages.

The original Sleeping Beauty story goes back generations and in many different forms, but Maleficent the character (the embodiment of the clichéd ‘evil queen’ figure) first featured in the Disney animation, created by writers, animators and actress Eleanor Audley. Sporting a horn-shaped headdress and slink black attire,(Download Maleficent) she was the prefect hiss-worthy villainess who casts a spell on the infant princess that when she is 16 she will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and fall into sleep…only to be woken by true love’s kiss.For the 2014 live-action spin on the legend, it turns out that Maleficent is in fact a sweet natured fairy child, blessed with curved horns and magnificent wings. She keeps the peace between the fairy world and the human, but is conflicted when she meets a human boy named Stefan who charms her. Later, as an adult, Maleficent (Jolie) falls for Stefan (Sharlto Copley), but he betrays her and cuts off her wings as a way of impressing the dying human king and taking the throne for himself.

Driven by bitterness and revenge, Maleficent makes her way to the castle when Stefan’s child Aurora is born and places the spell on her. Three pixies - Knotgrass (Imelda Staunton), Flittle (Lesley Manville) and Thistlewit (Juno Temple), who fear and feel alienated by Maleficent - are chosen by Stefan to raise his infant daughter, and to hide her away until the day after her 16th birthday.But Maleficent watches over Aurora as she grows (played as a toddler by Jolie’s real-life daughter Vivienne Jolie-Pitt in a lovely scene where the two meet) and slowly finds herself enchanted with her innocence and compassion, realising that the adult Aurora (Elle Fanning) could well be the person to bring the human and fairy lands together.(Download Maleficent) Cue Maleficent’s journey of redemption as she tries to deal with the terrible repercussions of her spell.Angelina Jolie has a fine old time as Maleficent. It is a great character for her, ranging from a sweet natured young lover through to an evil revenge-driven witch and on to a compassionate woman trying to right wrongs. She gets to snarl and hiss but also smile and charm… perfect for Jolie’s qualities. Plus she gets to wear a big old pair of horns; have her already razor-sharp cheekbones enhanced further by make-up and do a little light flying.

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Sharlto Copley is given little to work with except grow a beard and play the duplicitous King with dark anger, while Elle Fanning’s Aurora is the mirror opposite, being the vision of smiling warmth and perfection. Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville and Juno Temple are simply there for comic effect (and very good they are too), while Sam Riley is effective as Diaval, the raven that Maleficent transforms into a man (or a wolf or dragon depending on mood) to act as her confident.(Download Maleficent) Debut director Robert Stromberg, who had won Oscars for production design work on Avatar and Alice In Wonderland and also worked on Oz The Great And Powerful, shows great sensitivity to the subject matter. Clearly at ease with the fantasy setting (the flying scenes remind of Avatar), he does a great job in pulling together a story that slows a little in the middle – as Maleficent spends most of her time as an observer – but finds it feet again as it spirals to an exciting and action-packed climax. Technically the film is spot-on – the real question will be whether family audiences warm to a character who veers from evil villain to would-be hero, but there is no denying the strength of Angelina Jolie’s lead performance.

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