*NEW* RICKI AND THE FLASH REVIEW *NEW*

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Meryl Streep sings and struts her way through this easygoing BUT tragically mediocre melodrama.

A musician (Streep) who gave up everything for her dream of rock-and-roll stardom returns home, looking to make things right with her family.

Penned by Diablo Cody. A somewhat mixed reaction for me. At her best, Juno. Her worst? Jennifer’s Body. This effort luckily fares somewhere in between.

We join Ricki as she performs at her local venue. A battered up pub with her regulars; half a dozen bar flies. I am a huge fan of the Streep. You know that with any film she will give 100%. It was a perfect showcase to see Streep do her best Stevie Nix impression. Anyone who has seen Mamma Mia and Into The Woods will know that she has a cracking voice.

The songs that were written for the film weren’t that bad. It was easygoing and chugged along. BUT things took a more interesting turn as Ricki has to return home to tend to her daughter (real life daughter Mamie Gummer) who is reeling from a bad divorce.

It was great seeing Streep act with her own daughter. Gummer gave as good as she got. As soon as she made her introduction and stormed into the room with her messy hair and dressing gown, I knew Streep had met her match. The fractious relationship between Ricki and Julie made for good viewing as the pair tried to reconcile their differences.

It may have been 33 years since Sophie’s Choice but Kevin Kline and Streep finally reunite once again. They worked well together and Kline played the role of the ex-husband Pete brilliantly. Desperate for the family to be together again. If anything, I was a little disappointed that he wasn’t in it enough.

And that was the main problem for me. There wasn’t enough drama. It didn’t kick off as much as I had hoped and was resolved far too quickly. A heated reunion at a restaurant was a perfect boiling point for Ricki’s sons to vent their anger at their mother who chose fame over family.

Audra McDonald’s Maureen and Streep’s Ricki sparred brilliantly together. It made for a compelling scene as we finally delve a little more into Ricki’s past. I just wish more was made of it. A few passing comments and snipey remarks wasn’t enough. You certainly felt for Ricki but you could also understand Maureen’s frustration after taking over as mum for all those years.

The problem was that after the hour marker, the film fizzed out. All the interesting family drama was put on the back burner and we were left moping over a silly little love subplot with Rick Springfield’s Greg.

Springfield played the love interest well enough. He was a likeable character BUT it was obvious that the pair would get together. To be honest from their on-stage banter and flirty exchanges, I thought they already were.

There were still some good scenes as Ricki desperately tries to hide her feelings and question why Greg would love someone like her. Awww. BUT it shied away from the real story for me.

And yes, I did clock Diablo Cody as one of the bar regulars. Ben Platt (Ol’ Benji from Pitch Perfect) still managed to annoy the hell out of me. Even in a small bartender role.

The closing quarter was far too schmaltzy for my liking. Don’t get me wrong, there were some nice moments as the family seem to accept her and she suddenly receives a wedding invitation. BUT there was a suggestion that Pete still had feelings for Ricki which was never really explored or bothered with.

It ended far too quickly and was dreadfully corny and OTT. A good old song and dance to make up for 35 years of neglect and anger? Okay. Obviously, Ricki is a singer and that was all she could offer. BUT come on! Streep may have nailed Bruce Springsteen’s ‘My Love Will Not Let You Down’ BUT, no disrespect to The Boss, I don’t think everyone would be raving to it at a wedding.

Predictable and a little too hammy for me. Streep was superb and the cast did their best. If it wasn’t for them, this could have been a very dull affair.

2.5/5

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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