Into the Woods

Walt Disney Pictures

In Stephen Sondheim’s career packed with beloved musicals, none compare to Into the Woods in terms of sheer popularity. It’s one of the most-performed productions on an amateur level and has been revived in different forms on and off Broadway countless times. It’s also dark and subversive, a merciless fairy tale satire that subverts the form through sly sexuality and plenty of horrific moments. This is not, in other words, a great candidate for a big screen adaptation under the Disney banner. There’s an uncomfortable, inherent tension between the corporation that popularized Cinderella and Rapunzel and material that undercuts the mythology. This caused great concern in the run-up to the film’s release, which theater buffs latching on to every possible deviation from the source as well as reported statements Sondheim made implying that the film had been toned down, which he later took back. I’m not an Into the Woods expert. I couldn’t delineate the precise ways Rob Marshall’s film remains faithful to and deviates from its source. I can, however, confirm that the Sondheim spirit is absolutely and unmistakably here, probably in no small part thanks to the fact that book writer James Lapine crafted the screenplay. This is not a case of Marshall expanding a relatively intimate musical to his characteristically grand, stylized canvas. Rather, it’s a filmmaker and, by extension, an entire studio smartly and vividly understanding that genius need only be translated to a different medium, not tampered with.

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Anna Kendrick

Anna Kendrick started early. The actress of both stage and screen earned her first Tony nomination at the tender age of 12 (for her turn in High Society), which she followed up five years later with an Independent Spirit Award nomination for her very first feature film role, in the big screen Camp. Kendrick has continued to pursue her movie career in the subsequent years, throwing most of her attention at various and varied cinematic endeavors, with significantly less attention paid to her stage work in the interim (Kendrick hasn’t starred in a stage outing since 2003). Yet Kendrick has never balked at her theatrical background, and she’s begun more effectively blending her various skills — namely, acting and singing — into her own unique career, becoming bankable and dependable in a way that her other peers have not. And she might be able to save the modern musical.

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Into the Woods

In the new trailer for Rob Marshall‘s Into the Woods, all is rightly in place. Emily Blunt is beautiful and kind, Chris Pine is a charming prince, Meryl Streep is an absolutely flawless being with supernatural powers, Johnny Depp is exercising his passion for fashion and Anna Kendrick is Anna Kendrick. In order to master a Disney adaptation of this beloved Sondheim musical before the theatre kids angrily descend from the catwalks, sound booths, trap doors, costume labs, right and left wings and that part of the stage where they think nobody in the audience can see them (I’ve done a lot of tech theatre; I know all the good backstage hangouts), a few things need to be nailed down in the trailer. They have to hit that title song, and as those first few “I wish!” moments ring out in the terrible, terrible woods, it’s clear that this isn’t going to be a problem. Nice sell, Jack and Little Red. Now the next thing that must work is that The Witch needs to be fearsome, worthy of respect and able to pull off being both fabulous and draped in grey rags at the same time. You guys ever heard of this Meryl Streep? Needless to say, The Witch is everything she needs to be and more, if this trailer is any indication of what’s to come for the rest of the film.

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Nightcrawler Movie 2014

Last summer Jake Gyllenhaal dropped out of Into the Woods to film Dan Gilroy‘s Nightcrawler. When the two production schedules clashed, the actor had to ask himself: should I make some bank off the huge Disney musical or take a pay cut to star in the directorial debut of the guy who wrote The Fall and The Bourne Legacy? Thankfully, Gyllenhaal didn’t base his decision on how many zeroes his check would have had. That’s not to imply Into the Woods is a project without artistic merit, but how frequently does a character as complex as Lou Bloom come along? It’s a question with an obvious answer, but a potentially moronic question is apropos for a discussion with Gyllenhaal, an actor who’s more than willing to ask questions others might deem stupid. Bloom features the DNA of Travis Bickle and Rupert Pupkin, but he’s his own scrappy animal. The young freelance crime journalist is naive, unrelenting, childlike, vicious, disgusting and admirable. He’s a self-starter who will risk his life — and sadly the lives of those around him — to capture the most valuable crime scene footage in order to produce the best story possible for a local news network. When the sun goes down in Los Angeles, Bloom goes on the prowl, ready to hit record on his camcorder at the sight of a dead body. In the eyes of Gilroy and Gyllenhaal, he’s a nocturnal animal. To take on the look of a hungry coyote, the actor dropped 30 pounds; he’d often run 15 miles to the set to maintain his figure. […]

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Johnny Depp

There must be a room in Johnny Depp‘s mansion devoted solely to the silly hats he’s worn in past films (do you think he ventures back in there to re-wear them now and again? Could Depp’s Willy Wonka top hat stack on top of his Alice in Wonderland Mad Hatter top hat?). And if that’s the case, he’s got another prized piece of headwear to add to the collection: one crisp grey fedora, sporting two large wolf ears and a tuft of extraneous fur. That one’s courtesy of Into the Woods, the latest silly-hat feature Depp’s got in the works (as well as another Pirates of the Caribbean, another Alice in Wonderland and Mortedcai, which may only be going the silly mustache route for now, but where mustache goes, hat often follows). We’ve seen trailers and images for Into the Woods before, but nothing of Depp’s character, the movie’s version of the Big Bad Wolf (or The Wolf, if you’re into the whole brevity thing). But with a generous assist from Entertainment Weekly, we’ve got a glimpse of Depp, decked out in his formal lupine finest. And it is weird.

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Into the Woods

Everybody loves musicals, right? Yes. Let’s go ahead and say that everybody loves musicals. But there is a caveat to this fact I’ve just gone ahead and made up. A musical is only warm and lovable if you explicitly know you’re watching a musical. Say you put on what you think is an ordinary film — let’s go with Blade Runner – and out of nowhere Rutger Hauer belts out an “Attack ships! On fire off the shoulder of Oriiiiiiiiiiiiiiooooooooon!” while a chorus line of Harrison Ford replicants shimmy across the background. That’s sure to put a lot of people off (although for the record, I would pay any sum of money to witness such a thing). Yet Into the Woods has just gone and played that same maneuver: the “singing robot surprise.” The first trailer for Rob Marshall‘s seemingly-ordinary fairy tale film has finally arrived, and it’s stuffed full of all sorts of fantasy teases. A girl in a red hood skips merrily into a wild and extremely unsafe-looking forest. A boy climbs several stories beanstalk without any visible safety gear. Also there’s a witch, a wolf-thing, a Rapunzel and a big mess of Maleficent quick-growing thorns. The only thing missing is the one thing that’s kind of crucial to Into the Woods: vocalized musical tones. Check out this strange, song-free trailer below.

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INTO THE WOODS

[Click to massively largify] This movie looks like it’s going to be awesome. You’ve got the pedigree of Steven Sondheim and James Lapine matched with an intriguing cast that features Meryl Streep in the spotlight, and in our first look at Into the Woods, she’s looking a bit like the witch from Big Fish minus the eyepatch. The character is desperate to regain her youth and beauty, so she makes a bargain with a cursed baker (James Corden) to un-hex him if he brings her a bunch of bizarre items. Along the way, he runs into all sorts of fairy tale characters — Jack with his magic beans, Cinderella and Rapunzel to name just a few. It’s a really fun musical with a dark sense of humor, and we’ll get to see if Rob Marshall and company can bring its spirit from the stage to the screen in December 2014.

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DOCTOR WHO S11.2 EPISODE 1

An open thread where you can share what you’ve recently watched, offer suggestions on movies and TV shows we should check out (or warnings about stuff to avoid), and discover queue-filling goodies from other FSR readers.

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bluntdance

What is Casting Couch? It’s tying a nice bow on this work week with casting news concerning lovely ladies like Michelle Yeoh, Olga Kurylenko, and Chloe Moretz. Oh yeah, and there’s some stuff about some dudes in there too. The upcoming adaptation of the Steven Sondheim musical Into the Woods that Rob Marshall has been putting together for Disney hasn’t been too secretive about its casting process. James Corden is rumored to be on board as the film’s lead, the Baker, we know for sure that mega-stars Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep are signed for sizzle roles as the wolf and the witch, and we even recently learned that Chris Pine and Jake Gyllenhaal are close to landing the roles of a couple of bumbling princes. But the one key ingredient that’s always been missing is who’s going to play the female lead, the Baker’s wife. Until now. Variety is reporting that Emily Blunt is finalizing a deal to take the role, and —oh man—does that super-talented angel coming on board instantly make this movie that much more appealing or what? The Wrap has a report that the delightful Christine Baranski may soon be getting an offer to join as well, but let’s take these things one step at a time.

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It’s musical adaptation day at Film School Rejects! Everyone, jazz hands! Earlier today, I was perhaps hysterically excited over the news that screenwriter John Logan would be adapting Jersey Boys for the big screen, but this latest adaptation news has landed on my all-singing, all-dancing heart like a block of lead. Rob Marshall has just signed on to direct a cinematic adaptation Stephen Sondheim‘s Into the Woods for The Walt Disney Company. James Lapine, who wrote the musical with composer Sondheim, will pen the screenplay. The play is a bit of a no-duh fit for Disney, as anyone who is familiar with the work will attest. The play “weaves together the story of several of the most beloved fairytales (Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel) into the original story of a Baker and his wife who try to reverse a curse on their family in order to have a child, exploring the consequences of the characters’ wishes and quests and their desire for ‘happily ever after.’” Fairytales with a twist? Yup, that sounds like something Hollywood is into right now, and Disney definitely has a vested interest in Cinderella and Rapunzel. Into the Woods earned ten nominations at the 1988 Tony Awards, with wins that included Best Score and Best Book of a Musical. The play returned with a 2002 Broadway revival that won a Tony for Best Revival of a Musical. With a pedigree like that, it’s a wonder that it’s yet to get a […]

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published: 12.23.2014
B+
published: 12.22.2014
C-
published: 12.19.2014
A-


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