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Will Angelina Jolie scare up or scare away audiences for 'Maleficent'

"WHEN CHOOSING between two evils, I always like to try the one I've never tried before." -- Mae West.

SPEAKING OF evil, rarely has one heard such a prediction of a film's disaster as the one now emerging from Disney's "Snow White" re-boot, "Maleficent." (Well, that's not quite true. I should say not since the prediction that "John Carter" would flop, have I heard such dire forecasts.)

"Maleficent" stars Angelina Jolie as the wicked queen and Elle Fanning as Princess Aurora (aka Miss White.) This doesn't open until May 30, but already, the Disney epic is being dismissed as a failure, something the Mouse Factory will have to "write off," as an impaired asset.

So strange. In my world -- small but entertainment-heavy -- most everybody is interested in seeing Angelina Jolie as the baddest fairytale queen of them all. It's already been proved that Angelina is most popular in roles that are not entirely sympathetic and/or that feature the delicate lady love of Brad Pitt brandishing weapons and improbably beating up men twice her size. (A parking meter is twice her size!)

Also, Charlize Theron had a career-defining turn as The Queen in "Snow White and the Huntsman." I thought she was gorgeous and great! It will be interesting to see who can display a more evil vibe -- Charlize or Jolie? Who will be meaner to the perpetually apple-tempted ingenue?

This sort of thing can be fun for an actress. Jolie spends most of her time with her large family and doing international good deeds in a naughty world. Her presence on the screen alone should spark the box office.

And as it turned out, for all the moaning, "John Carter" made a fortune overseas. Disney didn't take the total bath anticipated; maybe they soaked their over-budgeted feet, but it wasn't total immersion. And "JC" was absurdly over budget. "Maleficent" cost about $130 million. Some Disney execs, having seen the final product, said it's "too dark, too intense, too scary" for children. Well, children have changed. Now THEY'RE scary.

I can't wait to see Angelina Jolie and her CGI cheekbones, doing her worst in a make-believe land.

DOCUMENTARIES seem to be the lifeblood of film these days; everybody is doing one or presenting an idea for one at Sundance or Tribeca. And here is one hosted by the much-admired actress Judith Light. She'll be talking to Lekha Singh in an April 8 event titled "Beyond Right & Wrong: Stories of Justice and Forgiveness."

Although PR people seem not to know these days how to write a press release telling who, what, where and when, I have ferreted this info out because I revere actress Light who is the winner of just about every award the theater can give. (She is also the dynamic boss of TV's recent past in "Who's the Boss?" and has had a recurring role as a tough judge on "Law & Order.")

The documentary happens at 6:30 p.m. in the New York Institute of Technology Auditorium at 1871 Broadway, between 61st and 62nd Streets. You can phone 646-273-6100. (You have to be invited, but try anyway.)

"Beyond Right & Wrong" presents the stories of people who've experienced loss and the people who caused it. From the Rwandan genocide to the troubles in Northern Ireland to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, these souls have entrusted us with their stories, remorse, pain and paths to recovery.

After the blood dries and the screams fade, these people become prisoners of their fates, so how do societies recover? Can victims and perpetrators work together? High-minded stuff!

But when Judith Light endorses, I know it's important. She's the boss!

Regarding the family feud (we can't call it anything but that) currently going on at the grandest French restaurant in America -- La Grenouille -- people may take sides between the ardent guardian Charles Masson and his brother Phillip and their mother. The latter two have been residing in France for years and letting Charles do the hard work here. (The sons' father, the impossibly handsome creator of all this, must be rolling in his grave at this turn of events.)

But this doesn't change things for those who still like fine French dining in the most beautiful atmosphere in Manhattan, on 52nd Street.

People are reluctant to take sides, fearing they may somehow damage the restaurant's sterling reputation. Most customers treasure their loyalty. The majority of La G's "regulars" sense the unease and reserve of the staff. They want to be considerate of the exquisite chef, maitre de and the waiters they all know and love.

But now that Charles has quietly seemed to give up the quarrel and moved out of the charming cafe that he brought to fruition, with more than $250,000 a year spent on flowers alone, many are urging him to announce once and for all that he has "had it" and he'll apply his talents elsewhere.

If and when he does (and believe me, he has plenty of rich and not-so-rich admirers seeking to go into business with him) -- well, I might suggest that he do a slightly less grand set-up appealing to the young billionaires who count on "eating out" and "showing off." He could give them his special touch.

Charles could name his new venture Les Oiseaux. (Birds devour frogs, don't cha know?)

(E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com.)


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