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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HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 REVIEW

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Meh, it wasn’t all horrible, I guess.

The gang are back. Ruder, louder but funnier? Well . . .

What are they up to this time?

Dale (Charlie Day), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Nick (Jason Bateman) decide to start their own business but things don’t go as planned because of a slick investor (Christoph Waltz), prompting the trio to pull off a hare-brained and misguided kidnapping scheme.

I really enjoyed the first one. It was stupid but funny. The plot was a demented version of Strangers on a Train and Jennifer Aniston completely broke out of her comfort zone as the sex addict dentist, Julia.

Inevitably, a sequel was soon on the cards. The first half of the film was actually quite entertaining. Crude, OTT but funny. En par with the first film.

The banter and exchanges between the gang were all there and I was laughing a lot more than I expected to. Sudeikis was on form yet again with his zippy one liners; “Holy shit, he fight clubbed himself! We have a fight clubber!”

However, Charlie Day really got on my nerves this time around. His high pitched screeching and yelling was irritating. I felt he was overcompensating with noise just to remind us he was still in the movie.

The whole Dale/Julia thing was starting to go on a little bit. And after a while you felt that was all his character was bringing. A re-tread of the same old subplot.

The opening news TV segment was hilarious bar a somewhat lazy shower sketch that reeked of the old Austin Powers movies. It got a guilty chuckle but we’ve already had a whole franchise of that.

Bateman was good as Nick. Playing it straight faced with his deadpan delivery made some of the sillier moments and exchanges a bit more entertaining.

Christoph Waltz and Chris Pine were very good. Waltz played the slick smooth talking businessman well. I expected nothing less. However, I felt his character was a little nothingy after the inital con and was pushed to the background. Shame.

I mean, come on. You have Colonel Hans Landa at your disposal.

Chris Pine was something else. Crazy Kirk. Up for a laugh and providing one of the most bonkers performances I’ve seen in some time.

And of course, there was a reunion of some familiar faces. Kevin Spacey made a comical cameo as the gang desperately seek advice. However, where Spacey had me in stitches with his put downs. I felt his “No balls” rant went on far too long.

It just about got away with it BUT I felt that the film had to rely too heavily on these faces to fill the rather thin and flimsy story line. Don’t get me wrong. It’s watchable but the gags are soon far and few between and the bickering between the guys soon gets irritating really fast.

Jennifer Aniston looked stunning yet again and tried to outdo her previous performance in vulgarity but it just didn’t come off as funny or necessary for that matter.

I mean her sex addiction rehab scene with Bateman was hilarious as Nick mistakes the session for an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Plenty of sordid innuendos that had me cringing but laughing.

However, her pursuit of Dale was old hat and after a while, you wondered why Julia was even in this sequel? Jamie Foxx also returned and was in fine form as Motherfucker Jones.

BUT again by the end, I felt he overstayed his welcome. A high speed police chase sequence was way too OTT for me and just wasn’t that funny. Texting one handed while driving? Woah. We got a badass over here. Or an idiot.

Jonathan Banks even made an appearance and seemed to do his worst impression of Mike Ehrmantraut from Breaking Bad. His character may have been small fry but he was dreadful. I had to double check IMDb to make sure it was definitely the same actor.

For every good gag, there were dozen duds and I felt like it tried to break from the first film’s style (Good) then chickened out and did exactly the same stuff which made the last 20 minutes really flat, predictable and unfunny.

Not completely horrible but not that great either. So-so at best.

2.5/5