The Morning After: Dec. 29, 2014

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Into the Woods

To date, there have been four adaptation of legendary composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim’s masterful collection of stage musicals. The first two adaptations, A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum (1966) and A Little Night Music (1977), weren’t very good, both omitting tons of music and translating to the big screen poorly, unlike many other Broadway-to-film transitions during the period.

Tim Burton tried his hand in 2007 with Sweeney Todd, another awful attempt to make Sondheim a big screen quantity. Seven years later, the fourth adaptation makes its way to the big screen and, like its predecessors, it pales in comparison to the original, though this is perhaps the best of the four, that appellation isn’t particularly satisfying.

Leaving out some of the best musical numbers, twisting some of the others, and tweaking some deaths and events to avoid burning Disney’s bridges, director Rob Marshall has made a claustrophobic, disjointed cinematic experience that occasionally soars only because the cast is trying very hard to give it some depth. Marshall doesn’t seem concerned with digging into the fairy tale motifs the play is more adept at engaging. James Corden as the Baker, Emily Blunt as his wife, Anna Kendrick as Cinderella, Daniel Huttlestone as Jack (and the beanstalk), and Lilla Crawford as Little Red Riding Hood deliver the film’s only wonderful performances.

Meryl Streep is miscast, sings well in a few places, but mostly falls flat, especially in her first scene of the film (and that makeup is atrocious). Johnny Depp just needs to retire to his private island and stop assaulting us with his vain attempt at emoting while singing. While his Wolf has the lascivious qualities one would expect, his furry hatted, zoot-suit bedecked performance is Razzie-worthy.

Out to Kill

As a member of GALECA (the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association), the year-end awards season typically includes one or two questionable features that any sane critic wouldn’t permit near his ballot. Out to Kill is a well meaning gamble that stumbles quickly and never recovers.

The story of the denizens of an apartment complex who become embroiled in a murder mystery when a hateful, self-involved slut (Tom Goss) ends up dead in the shared pool. Investigating is the hunky new guy (Scott Sell) who suspects everyone while taking on the case as a private investigator. The formulaic plot tries to keep the viewer on his toes, but astute mystery aficionados will spot the various twists and turns coming, each one developed from a cursory knowledge of mystery television from the 1980’s, including Murder, She Wrote and Magnum P.I..

Trying to find great gay actors on a budget is certainly difficult and much of queer cinema relies on a bevy of porn star-level actors looking to find that big screen break that few have successfully accomplished. Still, with all the artifice and struggles for believability, there are some genuine attempts at creating a palpable sense of tension. The musical score over the title sequence and closing credits is solid, but under utilized as much of the film tries for naturalistic sound, but has trouble creating a cohesive soundtrack.

Aside from these issues, there’s a solid effort to make the cast of characters inclusive of body types (most are buff, but a handful are not), professions, races and subcultures. Unlike a number of gay films (horror, comedy and drama) I’ve attempted to watch in recent years, this one is at least modestly watchable and won’t cause you to turn off the film five minutes in. Drawing you into the story, if only minimally, is at least a small success.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.