Into the Woods (2014)

Into the Woods
Director: Rob Marshall
Writer. James Lapine
Based on: James Lapine‘s (book) and Stephen Sondheim‘s (music and lyrics) musical, which is in turn based on a few Brothers Grimm fairy tales
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Daniel Huttlestone, James Corden, Emily Blunt, Lilla CrawfordChris Pine, Billy Magnussen, Mackenzie Mauzy, Christine Baranski, Tammy Blanchard, Lucy Punch, Tracey Ullman, Meryl Streep, Simon Russell Beale, Johnny Depp, Frances de la Tour
Seen on: 11.3.2015

Plot:
The baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) dream of having a child, but due to a curse by the evil witch (Meryl Streep), they can’t conceive. But the witch offers to reverse the curse – if they bring her certain items: a cow as white as milk, hair the color of corn, a golden slipper and a red cape. They set off into the woods where they hope to find all of those items. As luck will have it, Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) runs away from her prince (Chris Pine) in golden slippers, Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) tries to sell his white cow, Litte Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) is visiting her gran in her red cape and Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy) and her blonde hair meet her prince (Billy Magnussen) – all in those same woods. But things don’t go quite as planned.

The first half of Into the Woods is extremely enjoyable. In the second half, the plot completely unravels, but at least cast and production design are still awesome.

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[SPOILERS]

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West Side Story (1961)

West Side Story
Director: Jerome Robbins, Robert Wise
Writer: Ernest Lehman
Based on: Jerome Robbins and Arthur Laurents‘ play, which is in turn based on William Shakespeare‘s Romeo and Juliet
Music by: Leonard Bernstein (music), Stephen Sondheim (lyrics)
Cast: Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno, George Chakiris

Plot:
Maria (Natalie Wood) has recently come to New York from Puerto Rico to stay with her brother Bernardo (George Chakiris) who has already built his life in the city. Nardo’s life also involves leading a street gang – the Sharks who are the big enemy of the Jets, now led by Riff (Russ Tamblyn), after their former leader Tony (Richard Beymer) quit for a more trouble-free life. But then Maria and Tony meet at a dance and fall for each other immediately. But will their love be enough to bridge the rivalry?

I watched parts of West Side Story way back in school and basically all I could remember about it was the snapping fingers. But of course there is a whole lot more to the film and I’m glad I got to appreciate it in its entirety and even on a big screen.

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Triple Feature

Yesterday was very intense. I left work early (I started early as well) to be able to go to a triple movie feature. I finally saw Elizabeth: The Golden Age, There Will Be Blood and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. [You may call me crazy for doing that.]

Elizabeth: The Golden Age was amazing. I actually like it better than the first part (which was excellent as well and it had Vincent Cassel in drag).
Shekhar Kapur has a perfect feeling for the use of light and the effect of light and light in general. He could have made a little less “shots through ornaments” (he likes them, see also Elizabeth) but that’s ok.
The acting was a-fucking-mazing. I knew Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush do act really good. I also knew Clive Owen could but rarely would (this time he did). Surprises were: Rhys Ifans (I like him and I know he can act but I didn’t know he was in this movie) and Jordi Mollà (who I didn’t know before but who had the incredible ability to scream “I’m a totally fucked-up maniac and nothing can stop me” without uttering a single word). With that cast, I also have to give out a honorary mention of Abbie Cornish and Samantha Morton who were noticed :).
The dialogues were wonderful. Watching the movie I felt like I needed to take a pen out and write along. Or probably learn the screenplay (by William Nicholson and Michael Hirst) by heart.
Of course, the movie had some weak spots. I already mentioned the ornament shots. Then there was Archduke Charles, an Austrian who comes so the queen may see if he’s fit to marry. Anyway, Christian Brassington obviously doesn’t speak a word German (although he has a good German accent in English) but has to say a couple of sentences. I actually needed the subtitles to understand him because his accent was so bad. [Cate Blanchett had a better pronunciation.] That’s just embarassing.
And from the characterisation: Sir Walter Raleigh must have been one hell of a guy. First, he’s the perfect gentleman, funny, intelligent, knows how to tell a story, knows what he wants and has amazing green eyes (ok, those belong to Clive Owen). Then you might say he trips a little by sleeping with the queen’s chambermaid (or whatever you call the girls) [but I think that was only rational, not necessarily wise but rational – he knew nothing could happen with the queen]. Anyway, he gets Bess (the chambermaid) pregnant and instantly marries her and is happy with that. And after that he goes out and singlehandedly defeats the Spanish Armada.  That might be a little too much (but feeds my hope that somewhere out there might be a man who is a little bit like that).
Summarising: A wonderful film with wonderful actors and a wonderful script which has some minor faults. Plus: Clive Owen’s hotter than Joseph Fiennes.

On to There Will Be Blood:
I was actually very disappointed by this film. I mean, Daniel Day-Lewis is great, as usual, as is Paul Dano who does a very good job not disappearing beside DD-L. But the film concentrates so much on DD-L that everything else is lost.
The “deathmatch” between him and the church is actually no match at all, there never is a single shred of doubt about the outcome and I felt like laughing all the time about the “exorcisms”.
Relationships live and die with Plainview’s feelings, the other person he has the relationship with has no say in it. (And no matter how dominant one person may be, relationships don’t work that way.)
And the music was horrible. It was intrusive and didn’t fit. The beginning of the credits deserves an award for Worst Chosen Music In A Film.
I guess, if I ever had the chance to make a movie with Daniel Day-Lewis, I’d try to get him into it as much as possible. So I understand why Paul Thomas Anderson did it the way he did. But he should have cut about half an hour of the film and could have tried to incorporate some other actors in this film as well.
Without DD-L there wouldn’t have been a movie. With him, there’s great acting but not much of a film.

So we come to Sweeney Todd.
In a nutshell: Another masterpiece by Tim Burton. I loved it. I loved the story, the music, the costumes (K. [German] wrote about Johnny Depp‘s trousers, I have to point out his leather jacket) and the acting.
Let’s get the things I didn’t like out of the way: The opening credits. The blood was poorly animated, it looked much too sticky and he could have done better.
That’s it.
Of course, Tim Burton has this very distinct style and some people may call it repetitive but who cares? I love the way he uses colours, and the lack of them. As well as the way he uses the same actors to portray the same roles, gives it all a continuity. (Though I guess, Christina Ricci wasn’t available.)

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spot the five differences… I know, it’s hard…

The lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler were just wonderful.

And in the darkness
When I’m blind
With what I can’t forget
It’s always morning in my mind

And there’s another quote (this time from the script by John Logan) I loved, Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham-Carter) says: “There could be an us, you know. It may not be what I dreamed of and it may not be what you remember, but it could be an us.”
I may be overinterpreting here, but I also liked the reference to Edward Scissorhands: Mr. Todd holds up the razor and says: “Finally, my arm is complete again.”
I laughed my ass off during the dream sequence. The striped bathing suits flat did it for me ((c) Anita Blake).
I don’t know what to think of Jamie Campbell Bower yet. He knows how to sing, that’s for sure, but I don’t think him that good an actor. And he looks weird.

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Alan Rickman, of course, was great. And Sacha Baron Cohen as “Call me Davey” Pirelli had me almost falling off my chair. And Timothy Spall was the perfect cast for Beadle. (When I saw him, my first thought was “Mr. Croup!” but I mistook him for Hywel Bennett. Only my second thought was “Peter Pettigrew!“)
And Giles Anthony Stewart Head was there, if only for five seconds.

There are about a thousand more things I could write about this film, but I’ll leave it at that. I guess you know already what I’m feeling about it.