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MOVIES - Into the Woods - Review

Into the Woods

Note: Beware, spoilers ahead.

In the past few years, I have increasingly become more and more obsessed with stage musicals. It all started with Wicked many moons ago and my obsession quickly developed to other stage musicals. I branched out and quickly became a huge fan of Stephen Sondheim, a truly inspiring composer and lyricist. One of his most famous works is Into the Woods, a musical that entwines various storybook characters with a setting in and around the woods. To me, that sounds like Heaven.

I had never seen the stage version - in fact the first ever stage musical I saw was Wicked last year for my birthday on the West End - so I came into this film not knowing the story or outcome. I'm a big fan of Once Upon a Time as well as anything to do with fairytale characters, so I kind of loved the film before I even stepped foot in the cinema to see it. Now? I absolutely, one-hundred percent love it!

First off, the story. It seems to begin with that there's a jumbled assortment of characters with interloping storylines that connect quite remarkably as the film progresses. We have Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) who wants so desperately to go to the ball and meet the Prince (Chris Pine). We have Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) who is pretty much a thief - I agree with the Baker on this one - so she can go into the woods to visit her Grandmother (Annette Crosbie). Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) lives with his mother (Tracey Ullman) who wants him to sell the family cow. Finally, we have the Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) who want so desperately to conceive, but the Witch (Meryl Streep) has placed a curse on them that prevents them from having children. However, there's a way to break the curse if the Baker and his wife can collect four special items before the third midnight - a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn and a slipper pure as gold. Sounds easy enough, right? This sets them on a remarkable adventure that begins the interactions with the other storybook characters and becoming involved in their storylines. The Witch has also been looking after Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy), who is the Baker's sister but they don't know that, and she has caught the attention of the Other Prince (Billy Magnussen). Jack has also been stealing from the Giants, which leads to a second Act a lot more serious and darker than the first when the wife of a Giant that Jack killed comes down a second Beanstalk to avenge her husband's death. You can see where she comes from.

Next we have the incredible cast and their characters. Cinderella is played wonderfully by the always amazing Anna Kendrick who is really shaping up a very impressive resume. Her stepmother (Christine Baranski) and two stepsisters, Florinda (Tammy Blanchard) and Lucinda (Lucy Punch) are perfectly cast too as the sort of serious but insane and comic characters to balance the material. Christine Baranski's performance is simply a joy too, the moments with the stepsisters are so funny. Especially when she cuts off the toe and heel of the stepsisters to get the slipper to fit and her delivery of "you'll never need to WALK" was a highlight. There is also a lot of critical acclaim for Meryl Streep and Emily Blunt for their roles in the film and I can definitely see why. They both absolutely give incredible performances and, spoiler alert, I'm still devastated that Emily Blunt's character bit the bullet after finally getting her wish. The two young actors - Daniel Huttlestone and Lilla Crawford - both give great performances too and I applaud them for it. I thought I would find Little Red Riding Hood annoying at first but fortunately Lilla played her very well enough for me to end up really liking the character by the end. I do love Johnny Depp - I'm a huge fan of Pirates of the Caribbean - but forgive me for thinking that I really wasn't taken by him in this film. I guess I'm just a little bored of his appeal now. Can't fault his acting, but yeah the novelty has worn off for me.

We can't forget the delightful music! It's a little hard to listen to the songs on their own as they mainly follow the story, so when I bought the soundtrack from iTunes a couple of weeks ago it was a little hard to get into the music, though there were some standout songs that I really enjoyed listening to. Now I've seen the music within the context of the film, I feel like I can go through the soundtrack and picture what happened on screen. It makes me enjoy the songs so much more! The lyrics are fantastic and really capture the essence of the story. The standout songs from the soundtrack, in my opinion, are - 'Prologue: Into the Woods', 'Agony', 'It Takes Two', 'On the Steps of the Palace', 'Witch's Lament', 'Moments in the Woods', 'Your Fault', 'Last Midnight', and 'No One Is Alone'. The songs really do compliment and drive the story forward and Act II had quite the impact.

Into the Woods is now going down as one of my favourite movie musicals. It's a rollercoaster ride of imagination that never slows down, even when you think it's over, there's so much more to love about this 2-hour musical. Filled with a star-studded cast that each deliver phenomenal performances and absolutely gorgeous scenery and special effects, this is a film I highly recommend going to see. Disney has yet another winner of a film on their hands.

Have you been to see Into the Woods yet? Let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.

About the Author - Gavin Hetherington
Award-winning author of 'Abyssal Sanctuary: Remnants of the Damned'. Gavin joined SpoilerTV on August 9, 2014 and will be reviewing 2 Broke Girls, Mistresses, Orange is the New Black, Pretty Little Liars and Salem in the 2014-15 season. Gavin's favourite shows include Charmed, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, The Walking Dead, Once Upon a Time, Revenge, Scandal and much more. You can contact him at gavin@spoilertv.com.
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