INTO THE WOODS REVIEW

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Into the scrap heap? There’s only one way to find out.

This mixed bag of a macabre musical will certainly split audiences but I actually didn’t mind it.

(Said the guy who reviewed the Annie remake a few weeks ago)

I’m not a big musical fan BUT I’ve dabbled in the odd one or two. The classics; The King and I, The Sound of Music (Man points dropping with each title), Moulin Rouge (What?) and now Into The Woods.

I didn’t realise that this was adapted from a successful Broadway musical. So unfortunately I won’t be able to make comparisons.

Rob Marshall, the man who brought us the excellent Chicago and . . .  Nine, takes on another musical. With mixed results.

So what’s it all about? A witch (Meryl Streep) tasks a childless baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) with procuring magical items from classic fairy tales to reverse the curse put on their family tree.

The cast, bar one exception, were excellent. All perfectly chosen for their roles.

Meryl Streep proves once again why she is the best actress going, earning yet another Oscar nomination (and rightly so). I had forgotten what a great voice she had. I know! She was in Mamma Mia! But let’s be honest, that was a mess. Fun but a mess.

The sound of Pierce Brosnan’s “singing” voice will haunt my dreams forever. BUT that’s another story.

Anyway, Streep was superb and no uncontrollable arm waving this time.

She played The Witch with aplomb. Stealing every scene and singing some belters. Not enough of her.

Her closing song, “Last Midnight” was brilliantly done but her dramatic exit was a little unexpected and a bit abrupt. Which pretty sums up the last 20 minutes of the film.

After his turn in Horrible Bosses 2, I knew Chris Pine would be up for a laugh. His performance as Prince Charming was very good.

Especially during the “Agony” song. Pine and Billy Magnusson’s sing-off poked fun at the Disney prince archetype. Pine ripping his shirt off to show his muscles, Magnusson hitting the higher notes while trying to puff out his chest and flex. Hilarious.

Anna Kendrick was (to be expected) very good as Cinders. I knew she could sing after her performance in Pitch Perfect.

The opening prologue certainly got things going and introduced all the characters perfectly.

Daniel Huttlestone irritated the hell out of me in Les Miserables. A french peasant with a ridiculous cockney accent. You what? However he surprised me as Jack. Still a Cockney but it worked this time round.

Tracey Ullman (Where has she been?) was funny as Jack’s mother. Slapping him round the head in worry, hugging him the next.

Emily Blunt was fantastic (And what a voice!) as the Baker’s wife. James Corden was also brilliant. They had great chemistry and made a loveable couple.

The Baker couple were part of an original story line. It was clever how they reworked and incorporated some of the most popular fairy tales with their story line using the woods as the meeting point.

It didn’t cover too much of the same ground with the fairy tales we all love and know.

It merely showed each character returning to the woods after a pivotal moment in their story line i.e. Jack coming down the beanstalk with the gold egg, Cinderella running away from the prince, etc.

The Rapunzel story line didn’t really amount to anything. If not for Streep and Magnusson, it would have been completely unnecessary.

A revelation quite early on in the film involving her story line had so much potential but wasn’t never mentioned again or resolved. A missed opportunity. Mackeznie Mauzy certainly looked fantastic but didn’t really do much. I don’t think she even sang.

To be honest, if it wasn’t for Tangled, there would have been some serious plot holes for people not familiar with her story. (Man points gone!)

Johnny Depp had the easiest role going as the Wolf. He played it to perfection with his Bowie-esque voice.

But the song he sang. Hmmm . . . “Hey Little Girl” really made him sound quite lechy. If it wasn’t the fact that it was the Wolf singing about eating Little Red Riding Hood, it would have been a little unsettling.

Lilla Crawford had a fantastic little voice but I found her really irritating as Little Red. I mean I think Sondheim was deliberately portraying her as a little brat but she really did grate against me.

The film zipped along and kept things going but an hour and 30 minutes in, I wondered how much further this could go and with another 40-odd minutes, I could feel my attention wavering.

The songs were starting to go on a little bit and were not quite as gripping or as memorable. Don’t get me wrong, they were sang to perfection but hardly “The Hills Are Alive”.

What baffled and surprised me was how the film’s final act took such an unexpected turn. It flips everything up in the air with the stories veering away from their intended happy endings. The woods again being the brewing pot.

There were a few surprises to be had and I respected it’s attempt. It was actually a bit darker than I expected for Disney.

BUT it also left things a little too unresolved and ended abruptly with people disappearing with no explanation or a passing comment.

For all the bad press, I actually didn’t mind it. Not the best musical I’ve seen but a nice relief after the barrage of bilge I’ve had to endure this week.

3/5

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*THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS REVIEW*

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What’s this, what’s this? (See what I did there).

A brilliant Halloween/Christmas film? Or both.

Yeah, I’ll get my coat.

24 years? Really? Well, despite that shocking revelation, The Nightmare Before Christmas is still a beautifully creepy, macabre (get me with the fancy words), musical masterpiece that I would happily watch again and again. And again. You get the idea.

It had been a while since I last viewed this with the family, but as soon as the opening song began, my feet were tapping and I was singing along, much to my parents’ annoyance. Once I got over the depressing fact that this film is as old as my little bro. Yikes.

I’m surprised that the West End or Broadway haven’t adapted this to the stage. I’m sure they did something at Disney for the 20th anniversary? BUT I digress . . .

We join Jack Skellington in the wonderfully gruesome Halloween Town as he battles the growing anxiety that something is missing in his life. Unhappy, he stumbles across doors that open portals to other towns, one being Christmas Town.

Elated that he may have found that missing link, Skellington tries to explain the concept of Christmas to the ghastly town with eerily hilarious consequences. A particular highlight being a little boy unwrapping a shrunken head, a very hungry Christmas wreath and toys that don’t quite gasp the concept of “play time”.

It may be a little frightening for children of a younger age. Saying that, my brother’s nearly 24 and it still freaks him out! Funny enough, this never did for me. (As a side note, the one that did was Toy Story. I know, right? Sid and Scud scared me and oh God, Babyface. Still shudder now, just typing the name).

Understandable that this world could only be brought to the screen by none other than Tim ‘Beetlejuice’ Burton and Henry ‘Coraline’ Selick.

BUT the pair fill these delicately creepy characters with such life and heart that make them so funny and entertaining from the delightfully satirical two faced Mayor (Glenn Shadix) to the (appropriately titled) Evil Scientist (William Hickey) with an abnormally sized cranium.

Packed with a wonderfully musical soundtrack by, one on the Burton checklist, Danny Elfman (who actually sang for Skellington. Sorry, Chris Sarandon fans).

I always use the excuse that this is a seasonal film just to watch it. Well it does feature Halloween, Christmas and Easter (well it’s got the Easter Bunny in it!) and . . . It doesn’t matter a film like this can be watched anytime.

Beautifully haunting, great songs, great story, just a great film.

5/5 (Whatttt?)

Oh, a little parting gift as I can’t get this out of my head now . . .