Posts Tagged ‘Anna Kendrick’

Into the Woods: The Woods Can Be a Wonderful Place—Movie

December 29, 2014

Into the Woods” is a joyous, albeit dark, journey into the combined worlds of Stephen Sondheim, James Lapine and the Brothers Grimm. Directed by Rob Marshall, with screenplay by Lapine, based on the musical by Sondheim and Lapine, “Into the Woods” grabs you in the very first scene and never lets go.

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Through song we’re quickly introduced to a variety of familiar fairy-tale characters with some unfulfilled dreams, chief among them—the Baker and his Wife (James Corden and Emily Blunt), Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Cinderella’s Stepmother (Christine Baranski), Jack and his Mother (Daniel Huttlestone and Tracey Ullman) and most especially, the Witch (Meryl Streep). Yes, the Witch has unfulfilled dreams, too…dreams that only the Baker and his Wife can make happen. And why would they help the Witch? Well, as she explains, to reverse the curse they didn’t know was placed upon them…a curse that makes it impossible for them to have children. Helping the Witch puts the Baker and his Wife in contact with virtually every other character in the musical. The plot seems simple and direct, but that is not necessarily the case. As the Witch reminds them…and us…be careful what you wish for.

What helps makes “Into the Woods” so successful is that every single actor can actually act and sing. Each actor makes you believe in his or her character and is perfectly cast.

The supporting cast…and the word, supporting, is used loosely… is just phenomenal. As the Wolf, Johnny Depp is sublime. He is everything you’d want in a wolf…sly, sneaky, lithe and sexy…even with those ears and whiskers. What’s more, his voice suits his character to a tee. Depp has limited amount of screen time, but he makes the most of every single second. As the object of his “affection,” Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Hood is terrific. She conveys just the right amount of spunkiness. Crawford may be young and little, but this girl can sing…she’s a precocious belter and is fabulous. Daniel Huttlestone and Tracey Ullman as Jack and his Mother make the perfect team. Huttlestone is impishly cute with a great voice and his character’s “love affair” with his cow seems very believable. Tracey Ullman has a shockingly melodic voice. In a supporting role, we don’t see a lot of her, but she is fun to watch when she’s on the screen. Fans of “The Bold and Beautiful’s” Mackenzie Mauzy knew she could sing and as Rapunzel she doesn’t disappoint, making a beautiful and belligerent Rapunzel. Cinderella’s Stepmother, Christine Baranski, is hysterically mean. She can sing with the best of them and her role just seems meant for her.

Chris Pine as Cinderella’s Prince and Billy Magnussen as his brother and Rapunzel’s Prince have to be singled out for special praise, especially Pine. They are both fabulous and together are just hysterical. When they sing, “Agony,” you’ll be in anything but. Pine is the year’s comedic find. He has a bit more dialogue than Magnussen and as the slightly dim, but oh so charming prince, he just continues to astound, he is that good.

Then there are the leads…to say they are all amazing is putting it mildly. As the Baker, James Corden is so very lovable you can’t help but root for him. He might not be leading man handsome, but he is a terrific actor and with his wonderful voice, he makes you fall in love with him. His scenes with the young characters, Jack and Little Red Riding Hood, are very charismatic and his work with Blunt and Streep is especially good. Emily Blunt is extremely endearing as the Baker’s Wife. She has a delightful voice and her scenes with Corden and Pine are terrific in very different ways. Anna Kendrick gives us a very plucky Cinderella, one with a huge heart, but fierce in spirit at the same time. Her singing is amazing and she is just all-around magnificent. Finally there is Meryl Streep as the Witch. To say she is astounding and perfect in every way is an understatement. Many of us knew Streep could sing, but we’ve never heard her sing the way she does in ‘Into the Woods.” Ferocious and soft when she needs to be, she just nails it. The beauty of Streep is that her part is meant to be huge and she plays that just right without overwhelming her cast-mates. The other actors more than hold their own with her which makes the movie a well-rounded affair.

The musical takes full advantage of the screen, using special effects where it’s called for and not a bit more. The effects help the film, but never overtake it. As brilliant as “Into the Woods’” cast is, the movie would be nothing without the breathtakingly beautiful and lyrically fun songs of Stephen Sondheim. Abetted by James Lapine’s marvelous screenplay, the astute direction of Rob Marshall and the most wonderful of costumes by Colleen Atwood, “Into the Woods” is a feast for the ears and eyes.

Sometimes it’s more than ok to go into the woods. This is one of those times. Run, don’t walk.

4 nuggets out of 4

 

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Drinking Buddies: You’ll Want to Join In—Movie

September 8, 2013

Not necessarily intended, but “Drinking Buddies” goes a long way in answering the question from “When Harry Met Sally…”, “Can men and women ever just be friends?”

Written and directed by Joe Swanberg, “Drinking Buddies” is an in-depth study of relationships…the friendships you make at work and how those friendships can carry over into your personal life. “Drinking Buddies” focuses on a group of co-workers in a Chicago microbrewery, honing in on Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson).Drinking Buddies

Kate’s employed as the brewery’s event planner. The lone female, she works with a fun group of guys, scruffy, easy-going Luke chief among them. The group has fallen into the habit of going out for drinks and other activities after work. It’s apparent that Kate and Luke have a real connection, but is it more than a strong friendship? Kate is in a long-term relationship with Chris (Ron Livingston), a fairly uptight music producer. Luke is in a committed relationship with Jill (Anna Kendrick), a special ed teacher. A couples’ weekend together makes one wonder if switching partners would make more sense. Changing the composition of the two couples seems a no-brainer–they seem that much more compatible. And that weekend does cause one partner to rethink the commitment. But as “Drinking Buddies” suggests, not every relationship works within the same parameters.

A very down-to-basics, unglamorous Olivia Wilde is a revelation as a guy’s girl who’s searching for love. Jake Johnson is terrific as the best friend co-worker who has a lot more going on underneath the surface than one initially surmises. Ron Livingston is very good in a subdued role of the boyfriend not sure he’s found his soul mate. Anna Kendrick’s hesitant, but stronger than she thinks performance is absolutely fantastic. “Drinking Buddies” supporting cast led by Jason Sudeikis and a great soundtrack make an enjoyable movie even better.

“Drinking Buddies” is a lot deeper than its previews suggest. Much of the dialogue is improvised which makes you feel like you’re watching real conversations with friends. It’s that genuineness that is so appealing and special about “Drinking Buddies.”

3 nuggets out of 4

Up in the Air—Movie

December 28, 2009

Up in the Air, co-written, directed and produced by Jason Reitman, is one of the year’s finest, and stars George Clooney (Ryan Bingham) at his absolute best. Bingham works for a firm hired by companies to fire employees rather than doing it themselves. These “terminators” do exist and take it from one who knows whereof she speaks, even if this job isn’t outsourced, the tactics employed are the same. For anyone who is unemployed or knows someone who’s been laid off, this movie hits very close to home. That said, somehow Up in the Air is highly entertaining and that is due to the screenplay and the actors.   As a man more comfortable in airports, hotels and airplanes, and lives for the number of frequent-flyer rewards he’s accumulated, George Clooney is sensational. It’s hard to imagine any other living actor who could handle this role. The part calls for an actor who can be sharp, sarcastic, hard-hearted, charming and ultimately sympathetic and Clooney pulls it off 1000 percent.  The two lead actresses are also terrific. Vera Farmiga (Alex) plays Ryan’s newly found soul mate, seemingly as carefree as he and equally obsessed with her credit and mileage cards. Anna Kendrick (Natalie) portrays the too smart for her own good rookie recently hired by Ryan’s company by suggesting that more money could be saved if the firings were done over Internet video-conferencing, rather than in person.  While not exactly a feel-good movie, Up in the Air is still a must-see.

3 ½ nuggets out of 4


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