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Berlinale Review: Cinderella

Kenneth Branagh fully understands the societal critique underlying the tale, and brings it out into the open.

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Berlinale 2015: Cinderella

Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella is, for the most part, a straightforward retelling of the fairy tale, and the Walt Disney Pictures imprimatur ensures that the filmmaker forgoes the more violent moments in the Brothers Grimm version of the story (no one cuts their toes off here in order to fit into Cinderella’s glass slipper; to see that, you’d have to turn to Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods). Which isn’t to say that the film doesn’t have its own distinct virtues. Dante Ferretti’s color production design and Sandy Powell’s wide-ranging costumes (the black-with-green-stripes design on wicked stepmother Lady Tremaine’s dress offers an expressive contrast with Cinderella’s initial plain pink dress) are so intoxicatingly colorful that every shot has the immersiveness of a dream. But it’s the emotional reality with which Branagh, screenwriter Chris Weitz, and his cast ground this Cinderella that makes it as affecting as it is.

Branagh fully understands the societal critique underlying the tale, and brings it out into the open: The world that surrounds Cinderella is one in which surface appearances matter more than inner beauty, class status is a kind of mental prison from which only a few are able to break free, and climbing up the social ladder is believed to be the only sure route toward happiness. Perhaps Weitz’s most noteworthy alteration, in that regard, lies in the way the script turns the Grand Duke (Stellan Skarsgård) into a parallel of Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett), deviously scheming behind the scenes in a misguided belief in the rightness of the current order of things. This contrasts with the sunny idealism that Cinderella exudes, and that the Prince (Richard Madden) finds himself drawn to amid the superficial tradition-bound world he has known up to that point.

Most of all, though, this Cinderella resonates as an ideological battle between Cinderella’s (Lily James) natural optimism and Lady Tremaine’s (Cate Blanchett) viciously calculating pragmatism. While the former ultimately wins out, Branagh isn’t above occasionally giving the latter perspective its due. Even as Blanchett generally plays her character to the delicious black-hearted hilt, she does offer fleeting glimpses of the painful life experience that has shaped her appalling current behavior. And though the film sprinkles in those intermittent moments of bitter adult wisdom, Branagh, as with the film’s main character, never allows Cinderella to sink into heavy-spiritedness. A sense of play reigns over the proceedings, perhaps encapsulated most amusingly by Helena Bonham Carter’s Fairy Godmother, played with a kind of jokey, no-nonsense gleam in her eyes that nevertheless feels completely sincere rather than snarky. That just about sums up the film in a nutshell: It may not reinvent any wheels, but it’s been made with enough care and belief in its material that it manages to refresh our relationship to the iconic tale, reminding us of why its message, of kindness triumphing over evil, has endured for so long.

Berlinale runs from February 5—15.

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Watch: Two Episode Trailers for Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone Reboot

Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes.

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The Twilight Zone
Photo: CBS All Access

Jordan Peele is sitting on top of the world—or, at least, at the top of the box office, with his sophomore film, Us, having delivered (and then some) on the promise of his Get Out. Next up for the filmmaker is the much-anticipated reboot of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, which the filmmaker executive produced and hosts. Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes, “The Comedian” and “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet.” In the former, Kumail Nanjiani stars as the eponymous comedian, who agonizingly wrestles with how far he will go for a laugh. And in the other, a spin on the classic “Nightmare at 20,0000 Feet” episode of the original series starring William Shatner, Adam Scott plays a man locked in a battle with his paranoid psyche. Watch both trailers below:

The Twilight Zone premieres on April 1.

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Scott Walker Dead at 76

Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde.

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Scott Walker
Photo: 4AD

American-born British singer-songwriter, composer, and record producer Scott Walker, who began his career as a 1950s-style chanteur in an old-fashioned vocal trio, has died at 76. In a statement from his label 4AD, the musician, born Noel Scott Engel, is celebrated for having “enriched the lives of thousands, first as one third of the Walker Brothers, and later as a solo artist, producer and composer of uncompromising originality.”

Walker was born in Hamilton, Ohio on January 9, 1943 and earned his reputation very early on for his distinctive baritone. He changed his name after joining the Walker Brothers in the early 1960s, during which time the pop group enjoyed much success with such number one chart hits as “Make It Easy on Yourself” and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore).”

The reclusive Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde. Walker, who was making music until his death, received much critical acclaim with 2006’s Drift and 2012’s Bish Bosch, as well as with 2014’s Soused, his collaboration with Sunn O))). He also produced the soundtrack to Leos Carax’s 1999 romantic drama Pola X and composed the scores for Brady Corbet’s first two films as a director, 2016’s The Childhood of a Leader and last year’s Vox Lux.

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Watch: The Long-Awaited Deadwood Movie Gets Teaser Trailer and Premiere Date

Welcome to fucking Deadwood!

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Deadwood
Photo: HBO

At long last, we’re finally going to see more of Deadwood. Very soon after the HBO series’s cancellation in 2006, creator David Milch announced that he agreed to produce a pair of two-hour films to tie up the loose ends left after the third season. It’s been a long road since, and after many false starts over the years, production on one standalone film started in fall 2018. And today we have a glorious teaser for the film, which releases on HBO on May 31. Below is the official description of the film:

The Deadwood film follows the indelible characters of the series, who are reunited after ten years to celebrate South Dakota’s statehood. Former rivalries are reignited, alliances are tested and old wounds are reopened, as all are left to navigate the inevitable changes that modernity and time have wrought.

And below is the teaser trailer:

Deadwood: The Movie airs on HBO on May 31.

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