A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Into the Woods (Rob Marshall, 2014)

James Corden and Emily Blunt in Into the Woods
Cinderella: Anna Kendrick
Baker/Narrator: James Corden
Baker's Wife: Emily Blunt
Witch: Meryl Streep
Wolf: Johnny Depp
Cinderella's Prince: Chris Pine
Jack: Daniel Huttlestone
Stepmother: Christine Baranski
Florinda: Tammy Blanchard
Lucinda: Lucy Punch
Jack's Mother: Tracey Ullman
Rapunzel's Prince: Billy Magnussen
Little Red Riding Hood: Lilla Crawford
Baker's Father: Simon Russell Beale
Cinderella's Mother: Joanna Riding
Rapunzel: Mackenzie Mauzy
Granny: Annette Crosbie
Steward: Richard Glover
Giant: Frances de la Tour

Director: Rob Marshall
Screenplay: James Lapine
Based on the play by James Lapine
Cinematography: Dion Beebe
Production design: Dennis Gassner
Film editing: Wyatt Smith
Music: Stephen Sondheim

My favorite movie musicals tend to be the ones like Singin' in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 1952) and Meet Me in St. Louis (Vincente Minnelli, 1944) that were created for the movies, and not the ones adapted from stage hits like My Fair Lady (George Cukor, 1964) or West Side Story (Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise, 1961). But Rob Marshall did such a good job transforming Chicago (2002) into a cinematic experience that I had hopes for Into the Woods. Unfortunately the James Lapine-Stephen Sondheim book and lyrics are so droll and cerebral that they tend to get swamped by the special effects and big stars in the movie. Instead of being caught up in the story, I kept wondering "how are they going to top that?" The book is structured to be anticlimactic, with the wedding of Cinderella and the prince as the usual happy ending followed by the dark not-so-happily-ever-after sequel. This works in the theatrical version, when you know that there's another act coming, but in the film version it has the effect of making you look at your watch. Still, there's a lot to like about the movie, especially seeing Meryl Streep ham it up as the witch. The other cast members are also effective, but the real star among them for me is Emily Blunt as the baker's wife, demonstrating good comic timing as well as a solid understanding of the character.