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“Pirates” 5 stale despite lively action

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There are certain franchises that deserve the need to hang their cape and maintain their golden years. I hate to admit it, but I feel Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” is one of them. I recalled fond memories of seeing the first one “Curse of the Black Peal” at my local drive-in theater and enjoying the shear spectacle. As expected, two sequels followed to make a trilogy that were in my opinion mixed but still had some fun. Then “On Stranger Tides” arrived and the wear started to show. Too many complex story-lines, too many convoluted rules and not enough momentum to stay afloat. Now we arrive at the fifth outing, “Dead Man Tell No Tales,” and I feel there’s nothing left to explore here.

Johnny Depp returns as Captain Jack Sparrow but there is nothing new Depp brings here. In previous entries, the rum boozed Captain always knew he had an extra trick up his sleeve when it came to escape or battle. Here, we have seen these character’s actions so much that we are aware of the trademarks. Even worse, Depp feels tired in the role as he walks through like he’s sleepwalking his part. The only time he feels interested is when his character is not talking and partaking in action scenes considering the huge amount of stunt work.

Tossed into the mix are two new characters Henry (Brenton Thwaites) and Carina (Kaya Scodelario) who are trying to be the two new leads of the franchise. Henry is set up as the son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), who we last left cursed to the Flying Dutchman, and is trying to seek a way to break his dad’s curse. It is the basic father and son story but it doesn’t feel developed. On Carina’s angle, she has an interesting concept but it gets easily tiresome. Carina is constantly deemed a witch by her knowledge of the stars which starts as an amusing joke, but gets old by its constant use and one huge plot hole. If everyone deems her a witch, then how come this government is secretly keeping a witch alive for their personal use. If they are using one for their own service, why not use Carina’s methods for their own good instead of trying to execute her.

In the middle of all this, a dead captain named Salazar (Javier Bardem) is out for blood as he tries to hunt Jack Sparrow down for something the booze-hound savvy did to him years ago. To Javier’s credit, he really chews the scenery and acts like he’s having a good time. I’m close to saying he’s the only reason to see this entry for how well-acted and oddly designed him and his ghostly crew are which feel like remnants of a strange Salvador Dali painting.  I like the idea his body moves around like its still floating in water seeing it was the last thing that happened to him when he died. But doesn’t this sound familiar? A supernatural entity that is out for revenge against Sparrow over something he did. Haven’t we been here before?

In fact, the whole movie banks more on the nostalgia of the others and does little to reinvent. Once in a while there is a neat action scene, but it doesn’t last too long to make its impact. Jack finds himself going against a Guillotine blade while being swung around, zombie sharks menace our heroes and old friends return. But there’s much to care about when none of your characters are anchored to a ticking clock or any form of leverage. Certain people could just wonder about without any risk and there still wouldn’t be a sense of care. Even the appearance of old faces like Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) really try to have some fun, but feel this is a tired and repeated premise.

The only reason “Dead Men Tell No Tales” exist is just to see if there’s any life in the franchise along with another reason. I believe after how many fans reacted to the third on “At World’s End,” the people behind this one are trying to make up for those mistakes of a tragic love story and how drawn-out it was. Maybe if this came out 5 years ago, it would have been passable. As it stands, its a swift two hours of swashbuckling that really feels like a fish out of water when your compare it to last week’s Wonder Woman and all the other “better” summer blockbusters that came before it.

“Looking Glass” is colorful yet underwhelming

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The sequel no one asked for…and it exists?

Is there really a reason for this sequel to exist? The executives at Disney feel so considering the $1 billion Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” grossed back in 2010. Truly these are different times when one judges success by the box office numbers and not public criticism. That was the old Disney way considering if it wasn’t for the polarizing reaction to “The Sword in the Stone,” we wouldn’t have gotten Walt Disney trying to make “his” version of “The Jungle Book.” On the other hand, Lewis Carol did write two books on Alice’s adventures in the strange Wonderland, so I guess a sequel is needed. However, what we got was an entry that strays farther from the source despite its good intentions to better than the first one.

Mia Wasikowska returns as the curious Alice Kingsleigh who returns from her trip to China, as depicted in an opening which appears like a scene taken from a Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Not much to say about her character as takes on a spunky attitude and sees life as an adventure. However, her family is in debt as the only means to save her mother’s home is to sell off her ship to the snooty suitor from the first movie (Leo Bill reprising his role) in a possible move of revenge on his part.

Before a deal can be struck, Alice returns to the strange world of Wonder-oh, I’m sorry- UNderland where things are brighter and more colorful compared to the dreary and murkiness of the first film. Director James Bobin (The Muppets and Muppets Most Wanted) brings a new variation of the topsy turvy world that appears more whimsical and less grim. Almost every scene has a bright blue sky and only the intense moments have darker shades of black and navy blue. While some practical sets are used, most of the effects are CGI and sadly appear more cartoony and less lifelike. Sometimes, I feel actors get lost on a green screen as opposed to making us believe something is right in front of us. Most notable is Alice’s first descend into the mirror as she takes moving chess pieces and a living tiger skin rug as a natural occurrence.

ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS

Alice tries to help her friend the Mad Hatter, who looks more like a cross between Willy Wonka and a Halloween clown

Not everyone is happy as The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) is falling into a deep depression when he feels unsure if his family is alive or dead. While Depp’s performance is not heavily used like the previous movie, there’s something strange about this take her. While the Hatter in Tim’s take was wild and manic, I found myself wondering why Depp would change that here. Instead this Mad Hatter seems confused most of the time and talks in a soft lisp that feels unintentionally comedic. It’s like Jimmy Stewart trying to do an impersonation of a cartoon character.

With her best friend under sorrow, Alice decides to help out by paying a visit to Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) with plans to steal a device that can travel though the past. She believes that she can find a way to save the Hatter’s family so he won’t be under so much guilt. This is an element that was obviously not in the original book as the story of “Looking Glass” was an allegory for chess. Personally, I found the book more unique taking Alice’s journey and putting it on pair with a parlor game. It made for something unique to look into how an innocent girl’s quest to be queen can be seen this way. Unfortunately, that is no the case here. Any material from Carol’s book is tossed out to make way for something far removed from the source as Alice goes from one time period to the next as her venture serves as an excuse to see the origins of characters like the Cheshire Cat or the Queens. Even stranger is the time machine that looks exactly like it was a prop modeled after the craft in George Pal’s 1960s “Time Machine” making it weirder to see sci-fi cross with fantasy nonsense. On the other hand, a set of clock minions can mutate into giant Transformer robots, so why complain?

When “Looking Glass” is not trying to be a prequel, it revives its previous villain, The Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) with a plan to steal the time machine Alice took in order to change her sister’s past. Without giving too much, her plan only provides as an excuse for Carter to just walk about, yell obnoxiously and act like a brat as opposed to being a threat like that last film. And when you do find out what her sister, The White Queen, did to make her life so miserable, it makes one to wonder why she didn’t just apologize about it in the first place to avoid such a chaotic mess?

Honestly, I didn’t care much for this sequel and in-between the six years it took to get this into production, I would have been find without it. Characters like the March Hare, the White Rabbit, Tweedledee and Tweedledum get side-linded with minimal lines compared to how prominent they  were before. Most of the cast feels like they showed up for a paycheck considering the three lines spoken by the late Alan Rickman as the Caterpiller show how disrespectful they were to the source. Why even have these characters return when they don’t even make an impact? You could have just cut them or replaced them with other characters and the movie wouldn’t change at all. Even some give off hammy and bizarre performances like Anne Hathaway who is reduced to waving her hands like ‘The Wizard of Oz’s” Glinda the Good while talking exposition in an air-headed manner.

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The sequel no one asked for…and it exists?

The only redeeming factor, surprisingly, is Sacha Baron Cohen as the new character Time, who oddly gets played up like a villain when he doesn’t even intend to be mean that way. True, he does monitor those who kick the bucket and lives in a dark castle, but Cohen’s performance saves this character from being a one-note creation. Time comes off as an eccentric creature that is so obsessed with timelines that even he works like a clock literally. There’s a lot of effort and creativity going into this one character which feels like a mix between a Flash Gordon villain and a Rolex watch.And while I’m not fan of Cohen’s work, I admit when he plays a side-character, there is when I feel most comfortable. Its almost like his wild energy is restrained as he knows exactly what to do with the material he gets, even if its minimal.

As for the rest of “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” there’s not much that can be said. Its a harmless sequel that tries too hard to be expansive, but doesn’t have much necessity value. Plotlines go left and right while characters either chase after each other or try to find a working motive. I also have to question there are odd times when it does have a small dose of darkness that barley goes anywhere. About midway, Alice transports into the real world to find herself trapped in a Victorian asylum without proper transition. A character explains how she ended up there as opposed to showing how she was taken. Something tells me there are missing scenes here. But if the movie is not interesting in clearing this up, than so what? Why should I care for the near death of the Mad Hatter when Alice is busy trying to mend things with the Queens, the Hatter’s family and trying to avoid destroying the fabric of time when she already has done so much damage? For a movie that crams so much and does so little to invest me into what’s happening, I tend to wonder why a raven is like a writing desk more often than the plot holes in this movie. Not the worst, but better recommended as a rental.

Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon: Tusk

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TuskMovieThere is no other movie I can think of that gained so much attention toward its “word of mouth” negative reception like Tusk. During its debut last year, there was rarely a person I knew that actually stood in pure defense against it. Granted, there were at least one or two people but most the talk I came across was largely negative and harsh. So much so, that it almost felt like a warning to “not-see” this movie. Avoid at all costs. Abandon all fate ye who view it. Considering this is the Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon, I decided to see what the fuss was about, watched Tusk with an open-mind and….yeah, I don’t think I need the build up to admit that this movie is probably one of the worst I’ve seen. It’s probably in the top 10 as we speak. Instead of going over the story and such, let me break down what doesn’t work for me seeing all the movie’s problems unravel from start to finish.

In this strange horror-comedy, Justin Long plays Wallace Bryton who hosts a podcast that specializes in exploiting viral videos and mocking them but not in a fun way. I guess this is supposed to be a commentary on things like public mocking shows like Tosh.0 but it comes off feeling mean spirited. Aside from the fact that the podcast is called the “Not-See Party” (seriously, how is it popular with a name like THAT?), I found the Wallace character to be highly unlikable. You could argue they do that to make him sympathetic when bad stuff happens but most of the stuff he does is downright mean.

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Tusk_1088.dng

He is vicious on his comedy, he’s a jerk to his best friend (surprisingly played by Haley Joel Osment who is not that bad here) and cheats on his own wife. Not to mention, the motivation for him to get the story going is to interview this kid in Canada that severed his leg when doing a viral sword play video. First off, those kinds of videos where a kid is fooling with a lightsaber ordeal is very outdated to joke about. Second, Wallace treats this as a golden opportunity but why? What sense is there in interviewing someone young that got brutally injured just for extra mockery? I know they are making him very jerky so we see him have this change of heart but it just doesn’t work seeing how much baggage this guy has against. Even worse is when he discovers the kid somehow committed suicide and he’s still focused on trying to find someone weird and bizarre to fill that spot. I’m sorry but what’s the joke here? Kid injures himself and makes a video, podcast host wants to do an interview and said kid kills himself. That’s just harsh.

Anyway, a saving grace comes in the form of Howard Howe (Michael Parks) who advertises that he has stories to tell with fliers around town. Wallace becomes interested but soon finds it to be a trap. And again, the movie tries to do this horror comedy angle and here is where it becomes very obvious at how unbalanced it feels. You see, Howard was once lost at sea but somehow got saved by a walrus. And because of this, he has this huge obsession with walruses to the point he wants to turn Wallace into one. With such a paper thin motive, you wonder just what was going through Howard’s head about this whole walrus thing. And right from that point, you can tell if this movie will be enjoyable or not.

Now, surprisingly something like this could work but what hampers Tusk from being a good movie (or at least some form of entertainment) is the delivery and tone. Kevin Smith wrote and directed this and his films have this very interesting style narrative wise. Instead of visuals motivating the story, its the dialogue and ideology of these characters. His movies like Clerks and Mallrats work because we connect to the conversations these characters have. Their simple, usual potpourri talks often connect to ths story or at least are simple to understand like Star Wars Vs. Lord of the Rings or Jay talking about the Bible and its wonders (see Clerks 2). But here, this is a horror. Visuals and dialogue motivate the story and unfortunately, this movie gets to be interested in being wordy than visual.

Tusk-Movie-Still-1Again, long blocks of dialogue can move the story but it has to be done right. And here, we get so much talking and so much conversation that it really drags the movie down. The longer these discussions and arguments go on for, feels like an eternity when things should have been cut out or trimmed. It even goes against the phrase “don’t tell, show” by having key scenes where a character mentions a past moment when it would have been easier just to show it. Sometimes, that can work for something like The Shining or Jaws. Dialogue can make a creepy atmosphere and move the story to where it wants to go to. In Tusk, it just feels like filler.

After what feels like an eternity of discussion, we finally get to see Wallace get horribly transformed into a human walrus by means of human skin and disgusting restructure. The sight and description alone is so horrifying that it’s not worth describing (or showing a picture of for that matter). With the weight of Tusk centered on talking and discussing as the main focus, it really drags the pace down to an uncomfortable level. So much so that when we see the beast in its glory, we can’t relish in the cheesy and ridiculous because of how unpleasant of an experience we had. Even the design itself is too gruesome to comprehend that scenes of Wallace being taught how to eat and swim like a walrus feel grueling to watch. Even the motivation behind this act is so bizarre that it feels like an excuse than a legit reason which I can’t spoil.

Not even Johnny Depp as a laid back detective can’t save this movie. I will admit, the make-up job is not bad and you barley recognize him. There is an essence of a character here that I could get by. But what bogs down is again the amount of dialogue and exposition they throw at you. Depp’s character doesn’t even appear until near the last third of the picture and yet his introduction is very daunting to sit through. After so much scenes with talk and discuss, you think the pain would end. But no, we get an introduction to this new character and then followed by a flashback that lasts for 5 minutes too long to the point it feels like you wasted three hours of your time.

There’s only two things I remotely liked to be honest. One is a pair of convenience store clerks played by Kevin Smith and Johnny Depp’s daughters. The scenes are short but somehow they are at least far more interesting to watch. The second is one small scene when Wallace is trying to call his wife and friend but they don’t answer. Call it cliche but the way it is shot is very clever as see Wallace’s wife not notice the phone ringing and its done from a far wide shot. In a sense, it feels very Hitchcocky and it makes me wish the rest of the movie had this feeling.

Dialogue is a necessity to a story. I understand that but so are visuals and pace. Tusk is so wrapped up in talking about things that it proves to be a dull experience than it should considering its absurd premise. I should be interested in this but the overall execution and amount of talk and talk hammer the enjoyment down. This is probably one of the few movies I have sit through where pace and talk hamper on what could have been a fun film. But as it stands, Tusk is certainly in my top 10 worst films I ever had the misfortune to sit through. Consider this a public service to those curious about this movie; don’t. Just don’t.

Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon: A Nightmare on Elm Street Franchise (Part 2)

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Even the poster sums up how weird the movie is

Even the poster sums up how weird the movie is

After Dream Warriors, the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise sort of went downhill. Unlike Friday the 13th where the concepts got more ridiculous, there was at least an attempt to try and stick to what made the first film so memorable. The idea that dying in your dreams can be real and how surreal a dream can be. Well, they took these elements and things got campier as each sequel was made. In fact, the next three movies really had some bizarre stuff the more I think about it.

Case and point is how Freddy gets resurrected in the fourth film The Dream Master. It’s so weird that it needs to be seen to be believed. A dog urinates fire on Freddy’s grave and that’s the trigger to how he comes back. It feels like it comes out of nowhere. Of all the things to try and bring back the dream demon, it all boils down to a canine peeing flames. Supposedly, this idea was originally a joke by director Renny Harlin but later used in a metaphorical manner from what Robert Englund stated. He sees it as a Hell-Hound and how evil Freddy is. Even without that context, its a weird scene.

As Freddy returns, he dispatches the dream warriors with such ease that it feels like the movie should be over. But no, the torch is passed down to Alice Jonson (Lisa Wilcox) who somehow gets Kristen’s powers before she dies. The rest of the movie I guess makes some sense as Freddy starts to kill Alice’s friends in gruesome ways but it sort of defeats the purpose. Freddy was supposed to kill the kids on Elm Street for the parents that burned him to a cinder. Now, he is used as a Jason prawn going around and killing random folks. You could argue it sort of works seeing Alice has Kristen’s powers and Freddy is doing this to taunt her. But even then, it sort of doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Even Alice is sort of uninteresting. I guess they wanted another Nancy-ish character but crank up the heroic levels. In a nutshell, she comes off as a mini-Ripely clone by the end and even when the movie does try to clear up the logic of her powers and everything, it still seems off. She only exists to carry the torch of the franchise because Nancy’s story ended in the third film and Kristen along with her friends got killed off in the opening. Even Ken Sagoe who plays Kincad told his fans that if they were to see the fourth film, they would have to see the movie immediately after getting their ticket or else “my ass will be dead.”

Speaking of which, the staging of the kills are interesting in a sense leading to a lot of creativity. Some are basic like Freddy literally sucking the life out of a teenager and others are over the top like one where a girl turns into a human cockroach and crushed. At least this movie tries to deliver the fun when needed even things don’t add up. Freddy is more campier than before just as the deaths feel a tad more cartoony. At least with Dream Warriors, the theme of the dreams and cinematography helped make the nightmares look dark despite having an exaggerated look. With Dream Master, there’s more light and certainly less menace. Its all about the fun fact and less about the scares.

And then came Freddy with a baby carriage...wait, what?

And then came Freddy with a baby carriage…wait, what?

Thankfully, it didn’t end up as weird as The Dream Child. Lisa Wilcox returns as Alice who graduates from college and might possibly be pregnant. Of course, Freddy returns again but this time wants to take control of her unborn son making her child a monster. As expected, he goes around killing teens she knows in order to give power to the baby in her belly. Yeah, I dare you to make a shred of sense of that. It just raises too many questions and certain too many ethical ones too. I’d go into deeper detail but its hard to deal with the subtext of teen pregnancy and mix it with dark fantasy. Moments when they considering things like abortion come off as awkward and feel really forced. I guess after something heavy like teen suicide, they wanted another heavy topic to explore. But this one doesn’t feel full realized and comes off as awkward and uncomfortable.

Even the death scenes push a little too much of the dark toll for something that is trying to be dumb fun and serious at the same time. A kid’s motorbike morphs into him in such a graphic way and in one infamous scene that had to be cut down, Freddy feeds the innards of a character’s guts to herself. Its absolutely nasty and feels a bit too gruesome. I know the deaths can be creative but also frightening too. Here, there is no sense of fun and we just watch on in disgusted shock. The only exception is a kid who turns into a super hero but gets defeated by (ugh) Super Freddy who slashes at him like tissue paper. Already too soon for such a grim entry and way too over the top for something like this. I admire the effort in trying a new direction but it comes off weird and clunky in the long run.

They said it was the best...but we know better

They said it was the best…but we know better

Even thought Freddy’s Dead was supposedly the last one, we had that suspicion there would be another one. But after all the franchise went through, New Line Cinema felt it was best to end the series while they had the chance. Nice idea but I wish we got a more serious entry. Instead, it goes for a more horror comedy vehicle as Freddy kills his victims in a Looney Tunes fashion. From dressing up as the Wicked Witch to even using Nintendo for a kill, the deaths get sillier and sillier as the movie goes along. Again, I still respect the creativity but at this point, a straight up comedy just felt really like desperation. And nowhere is that more evident with cameo appearances by Rosanne Barr, Tom Arnold or even Johnny Depp (which honestly is one of the more funnier moments in the film.)

However, there are some welcome exceptions like seeing Alice Cooper as Freddy’s father and there is something enjoyable about the deaths even when they get way too bonkers. And at least they have a story that is trying to be engaging even when it doesn’t make sense like Freddy having a kid and trying to find out who it was. The biggest highlight is the climax which was seen theatrically in 3D but ends on a lame note as Freddy is defeated with such a simple weapon that is too weak to describe here. And if watched in 2D, your very much looking at stuff being tossed out at the screen. There is a box set that contains a version with the ending as it appeared in theaters but of course, you have to set up yourself to get a “good 3D reception.” It feels like New Line went all out on this entry and they really tried to make it a spectacular finale but it fails because of how it overdoes itself. Considering how uneven Dream Master and Dream Child are, I’m slightly more forgiving seeing it falls as a guilty pleasure for me. But even with that knowledge, I still can’t find the guts to recommend it.

It feels like after Dream Warriors, the series transitioned itself to be more fun and light. These three tired to be dark when needed but felt unnecessary when you take into effect how off putting it is. I can’t say 4, 5 and Freddy’s Dead are the worst but they are not the best. Fans make some exceptions with the fourth film but I just have a few too many problems it. I say stick with the first film and Dream Warriors if you want a good dark fantasy about nightmares. But as for these three, pick your own poison.

“Into The Woods” sublime and cartoony yet magical

James Corden and Emily Blunt are set out to reverse a curse as they run into many Grimm Fairy Tale characters as they go "Into The Woods"

James Corden and Emily Blunt are set out to reverse a curse as they run into many Grimm Fairy Tale characters as they go “Into The Woods”

I have theorized why “Into the Woods” was something hard to transition to the big screen a lot in my head. A stage musical about fairy tale characters learning there is more to being “happily ever after” and there are some things beyond their reach to which can be controlled. The tongue-in-cheek tone along with certain plot elements made me feel like it would be a challenge to adapt. But I got a nice surprise this Christmas as Rob Marshall directed a version of the stage favorite that is faithful to the source while being light on the alterations. The changes that are made exist to broaden the scope of the story while maintaining its message of “be careful what you wish for.” But it does it all hold together?

James Corden plays a Baker who has a curse of infertility from his wife (Emily Blunt) thanks to his dad who messed with a witch’s garden. The Witch (Meryl Streep) made a trade with the father to spare his life on the terms of getting his next child and setting a curse on his son that being the Baker that he will never have another kid. But as it turns out, the Witch is also under a spell and makes a bargain to remove it on the terms of getting a certain potion. And as it turns out, the elements needed come from fairy tale characters like “Little Red Riding Hood,” Jack from “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Rapunzel” and even “Cinderella.” This must all be done in three nights or else the curse will remain.

As you might guess, the whole premise is unique seeing our favorite fairy tale characters we heard about as kids working off each other and even interacting. This was part of what made the musical work and I’m surprised to see how well it transitions here. The key element here is the woods. In each story, something happens in the deep forest and they have to solve a problem or discover more about their environment than they already knew before. And once they are out, its either back to a normal life or the journey still continues. This works especially for the movie as everything happens in the woods. The first 15 minutes setting up the story is outside to get an idea of what to expect. All the magic in stories come from outside the realm of their homes and this is well balanced here.

The performances are pretty good too adding a comedic layer that doesn’t hammer in the self-aware, tongue in cheek tone but enough to let the viewers be aware this is a fairy tale with a deep message. The only time it gets serious is when a character has an epiphany or when a problem that is too big to handle gets in the way during the final act. The chemistry of James Corden and Emily Blunt is good as they act like a normal couple than something phoned in. Sort of a Medieval Homer and Marge Simpson relationship that are aware of the problem at hand and will do what it takes to lift the curse. Even the kids that play Jack and Little Red are convincing as innocent kids that don’t know better of how big the world is.

Meryl Streep as the Witch in one of the most over the top performances I've ever seen that is surprisingly enjoyable

Meryl Streep as the Witch in one of the most over the top performances I’ve ever seen that is surprisingly enjoyable

But I’m sure one that will be the talk of the town is Meryl Streep as the Witch. While I did admire Bernadette Peter’s portrayal, I enjoyed every minute Streep was on screen. Her take was menacing but not to the point its scary. Its over the top to the point its funny but in a good way. And at times, she can be sentimental seeing she has Rapunzel to look after from the deal she made. But the crowning moment for me that sold her performance was during the “Last Midnight” number. It starts off quiet like a lullaby, but once the accusations get bigger and bigger, so does her anger as it grown while the scene itself gets more manic to the point she goes mad. Its a great moment that I feel rivals Peter’s softer approach.

But I can’t say “Into the Woods” is a timeless masterpiece. There are strange choices and nitpicks I do have that keep me from saying its a flawless spectacle. There are moments when the costume design and certain elements feel like they are taking from modern times. A painful example is The Wolf who is modeled after a “Zuit Suit” variation taken from the Tex Avery cartoon, “Red Hot Riding Hood.” Oddly enough, I recall an interview with the production designers saying this was the intended route. With all that build up to a tale set in a timeless setting, (and I do admit as great as it looks) it feels weird coming across something like that which can take you out of the picture. And while Johnny Depp is entertaining in this cameo, I do wish this hungry predator wasn’t so cartoony.

In fact, there are moments that push for comedic value in a way that is exaggerated but not to the point where its too much. Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen are prime examples as two princes that year for more in a song (“Agony”) where they wish for the women they want while running on waterfalls and ripping their shirts up exposing their abs like expected fan service. Again, its funny but there’s a balance seeing how we know the Prince can be a cardboard cutout character for a fairy tale. However, it pays off when we see they is exactly what they are and nothing more. A hallow characterization that claims to be daring and adventurous when they are really cowards.

The only other problem viewers might have is the final act when all is thought to be said and done, a happily ever after does not come. This is an element taken from the actual play that I feel works seeing once our characters get our wishes, they see the consequences of getting them. Even if you know the world a little bit more, your still lost. The ideal family is not what is to be expected as idols can be misleading. The consequence of discovering a new world and so forth. This is the only thing I feel that might turn viewers off seeing how darker and depressing it can grow to be. Without giving too much away, our leads take on a problem so massive that it becomes beyond their control to know how to stop it. Viewers might think it drags things out too much but for the reasons listed above, I think it works in that context.

“Into the Woods” may get complex but at the center is a story about being careful of inner desires. Its a throwback to the Grimm tales we heard as a kid and how they hold up today. While I’m bugged to see some songs nixed, I am glad to see some key ones like “Any Moment” or “Stay With Me” are used to full potential. There are parts of this movie I do wish where punched up a bit and again had less light-hearted moments, but as it stands its a respectable adaption. I love the sets, the special effects, the performances and the singing is just pitch perfect. I don’t even remember a moment when I was turned off by a sour note. Its all around a good movie. To best describe, think a better version of this year’s Malifecent but more Les Miserables. There’s so much effort in creating a fairy tale unlike anything we’ve seen that we can’t up but enjoy these “moments in the woods.”