Sunday, March 29, 2015

Mini Reviews: Into the Woods and Cinderella.

I've been really bad at posting reviews of new release films lately! I struggle with writing reviews at the best of times (my "reviews" are basically just lists of what I like and don't like...), but when I see a film in theaters and can't jot down some notes, I seem to have a hard time gathering my thoughts into coherent sentences. :)

My mom and I recently went to see Cinderella, and I wanted to write about it. And we saw Into the Woods back in January, but I didn't do a post about it then because it was the sort of movie that I needed to see a second time. (Which I just did this week after getting it on DVD.) Since these are both Disney films and both fairy tales but otherwise very different, I thought it would work to do mini-reviews of them within the same post.

I'll talk about Into the Woods first. After seeing it in theaters, my overall reaction was that it was unlike anything I'd seen. I liked it, but there were a couple of things that bugged me. (More on that later.) But after having three months to listen to the soundtrack repeatedly and then watching the film again, it has grown on me tremendously.

On the surface, this movie is really gorgeous. The colors and costumes and sets are lovely. I really appreciate the general lack of CGI...I didn't realize how awful and overbearing the CGI is in most live action Disney films until I saw the refreshing realness of this film. And the casting- can we just talk about the cast? I haven't seen Meryl Streep in much (this one, Julie and Julia, and A Series of Unfortunate Events), but I'm always amazed at what a good actress she is. And she can sing, too! All of the cast did great with the songs. Other highlights were James Corden and Emily Blunt as the Baker and the Baker's Wife. But I shouldn't start naming names because the entire cast was wonderful.

Now let's talk about the songs, because after all, this is a musical. I know that the majority of people aren't too fond of musicals, but I personally love them. And Into the Woods is one of the best sorts of musicals: the songs actually help tell the story. They're not just there...if you cut out the songs, you'd be missing half the story! And I love how the songs were all unique but somehow seamlessly connected. Little bits of familiar refrains wind their way through the songs and tie everything together. And I happen to think that all of the songs are very catchy and memorable. (The only one I don't like is Hello, Little Girl, and even that one is catchy. More on that later, though.)

If I had to pick favorites, I would probably choose anything sang by Cinderella (Anna Kendrick's voice reminds me so much of Amy Adams' voice in Enchanted!), Agony, Last Midnight, and No One Is Alone. Agony is one of my favorite scenes in the whole film. It's so over-the-top and hilarious...when we saw it in theaters, everyone in the room was cracking up. :) And I just really, really love No One Is Alone. The way they cut between the Baker and Jack and Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood is so perfect, and the song itself is lovely. There's one little line in there I don't agree with: "You decide what's right, you decide what's good," because obviously, as a Christian, I think God is pretty clear about what is right and good.

{Random note: I think my mouth fell open when the Baker said, "Why does he always cry when I hold him?" I was like, was that a Doctor Who reference? Tell me I'm not the only one who thought that! There are a couple of lines that are word-for-word taken from James Corden's awesome character Craig in DW.}

I really love it when humor is combined with darker themes. I don't just seems to create the perfect balance. Of course I love fluffy comedy and I can also appreciate strictly dramatic stories. But pure comedy seems superficial sometimes, and darker movies without any light are just depressing. So I love how Into the Woods makes me laugh with its random humor but also makes me think.

I've always liked fairy tales, whether they're the originals or retellings. I loved the darker twists in this story and how it turns traditional tales upside down. You think you know where things are going but then everything changes. I love how it tackles things like right and wrong, happy endings, stealing, lying, cheating, blaming other people, and making mistakes. Perfect, happily-ever-after fairy tales are wonderful, of course...but life isn't always like that, so it's nice to see something a little different. As Hannah said in her lovely post, the film raises questions and while it doesn't always answer them in the best way (if it answers them at all), it's still good.

I have two tiny qualms with this film. The first is the whole Red Riding Hood/Wolf thing. I know Disney cleaned up quite a few questionable issues with the plot (and I appreciate that), but this part is still creepy. Also, there's one beloved character who makes a bad decision and doesn't really get a chance at redemption before the said character dies. This bothered me more at first. After listening to the soundtrack a lot since then, I can see a little bit of redemption in the song that comes between the bad decision and the death, but still, I wanted more.

I loved Into the Woods. I think it's going to be one of those films that just gets better and grows on me more each time I watch it. :)

Now onto Cinderella! My thoughts on this one are going to be a lot more straight-forward, because it's just a beautiful, traditional fairy tale. :) And even though you know exactly what's going to happen, it never felt dull or predictable.

The casting in this film was awesome! Of course Cinderella and Drisella were familiar faces since I'm a fan of Downton Abbey, and I have to say it was interesting to see their roles reversed. Helena Bonham Carter was perfect as the Fairy Godmother, and Cate Blanchett was equally perfect as the villainous Stepmother. I couldn't figure out why the King looked so familiar until I looked it up and realized he's from Doctor Who. :) The only one that I wasn't completely sold on was the Prince. I'm not even sure why...he just didn't look like I was expecting, I guess.

Like Into the Woods, this film was visually stunning (honestly, it was even prettier than Into the Woods). The colors! The costumes...oh my goodness, those costumes. Cinderella's floaty dress, the 20s/30s glamour of the Stepmother's wardrobe and hairstyle, the matchingness of the stepsisters' bright clothes- it was all perfect. I think I could sit through this movie several times just looking at everything. The settings were also incredible. I want to live in their's like the perfect English cottage (except it's probably a little large to call a cottage.)

I was impressed with the CGI in this movie, because as I've mentioned before, Disney tends to go a little overboard with it in their live action films. One of my favorite scenes was the whole part with the Fairy Godmother transforming everything, and then everything returning to what it was. I loved how the footman still looked like a lizard, how the driver of the coach still had a beak-like nose and feathers on his uniform, and how the mice's ears stuck with them for a while even when they were horses! That whole bit was just really well done. :) I also really liked how they incorporated the mice and Lucifer the cat into the film.

I love the 50s animated Cinderella, but I feel like this was a wonderful live action adaptation of the story. Seeing the story play out with real people made it so much more dramatic and realistic, you know? Of course you feel sorry for animated Cinderella, but you feel even worse for real Cinderella (when that branch is sent back from her father...oh my). And the Stepmother is bad enough in animated form, but in this movie her cruelty takes on a whole new meaning.

I loved this line: To be seen as we truly are is the biggest risk we will ever take. Of course, it feels a bit ironic since it's talking about Cinderella. Her character in this film is basically the most loving, kind, selfless person ever, and it's only referring to the fact that she's poor. I think it applies much more to the rest of us who have tendencies to be unkind and selfish. :) If you're as sweet as Cinderella, it's not really a risk to let someone see you as you truly are!

The only disappointment with this film was that I expected them to use the music from the original film. I knew this wasn't a musical, but I really thought they would incorporate this songs into the background somehow, like as music at the ball or something. I really like those songs, and it would have been a nice tribute to the animated film! Maybe they did this and I just missed it, but I tried to pay attention to the music and none of it sounded familiar. (Speaking of music, what about Drisella playing the piano and singing off-key? That was hilarious.)

Basically, Into the Woods and Cinderella couldn't be more different, besides the fairytale aspects and the fact that they're both really beautiful. One is as traditional as you can get, and it's all about love and happy endings. The other twists traditional stories and wonders what happens when people aren't perfect and if things don't turn out you like expected them to. But I love them both. :)

(It turns out that my mini reviews weren't so "mini" after all! Sorry about that.)

What did you think of Into the Woods and/or Cinderella? Do you prefer traditional fairy tales or retellings?


  1. I haven't seen either of these but now I want too!

  2. I haven't seen either one of them yet as well. I find the actress they used for Cinderella quite distracting, as well as one of the stepsisters. (Because I do watch Downton Abbey). I really don't see that changing, but I think I'd like to see the film for the cinematography. It looks like a beautiful film, visually, and that's always worth seeing in my book.

    I'm really curious about Into the Woods, even though I'm extremely picky over musicals.

    When I read that line you wrote, from the Baker, I also thought of his character on Doctor Who. Lol! I loved that episode because Matt and James played off each other so incredibly well. Have you ever seen their little Dalek home movie they made between takes on the set? It was hilarious, and obvious that they got along really well.

    1. You should still definitely see them! I think you'll get drawn into the film and forget to think of them as Rose and Daisy. :) I'm not picky over musicals, but I think this is a musical done really well.

      Yes, I love that little Dalek video! :) The two episodes they do together stand out in my memory, not because of the plot but because of how great their friendship was.

  3. haha. I caught that "He always cries bit" too. heehee. :D

    And Cinderella was wonderful- definitely one I'll be getting on DVD!

    1. Glad I'm not the only one! :) Yes, I'll be getting Cinderella on DVD, too. It was really wonderful.

  4. Wonderful post, Kristin! I loved what you said about Into the Woods. And I didn't catch that Baker/Craig thing - but that's so hilarious.

    I'm hopefully going to be seeing Cinderella next weekend - so excited! Glad you liked it.

    1. Thanks, but your post about Into the Woods was a lot more eloquent than mine, ha. :) The Doctor Who thing might not have been an intentional reference, but it's definitely there.

      I look forward to hearing what you think about Cinderella! I hope you enjoy it.

  5. Agh! I forgot to comment on this one and totally planned to... but anyway, I loved your thoughts on these films and am glad you enjoyed both! Great perspectives and reviews. Funny thing is Lily did record the "heart" song (I'm blanking on what it's called). Maybe it's in the credits? I don't recall hearing it, but do know it's on the soundtrack which is fun. :)

    1. Thanks! Is it "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes"? I thought I had noticed it listed on the soundtrack somewhere. I didn't stay for the credits, so I didn't hear it if it was there. :) I just wished they had used instrumental versions of the songs as background music.

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