Into the Woods

Into-the-Woods-2014-posterIf you’re a casual movie go-er, you may have noticed that there was a new Disney movie opening on Christmas Day. Probably one of those Princess movies that would force you to listen to another anthemic showstopper for the next six months. But if you are a fan and a freak for a certain Broadway genius whose music can move you to tears within seconds, your hands were sweating and your ticket stub limp as you entered the theatre, anticipation and fear causing you to wish the twenty-five minutes of previews would never end because you weren’t sure you were going to be able to handle what came next.

For Sondheim aficionados, the filming of Into the Woods had us excited, well, excited and scared. This classic piece of theatre opened on Broadway in 1987 and has been considered by many to be Sondheim’s greatest work. When the news came out that Disney was finally making it into a film, it seemed impossible that this could have a happy ending. Into the Woods may be about wishes and princesses, but it gets pretty dark, as fairy tales are wont to do. What if they turned it into Frozen In the Woods?

Everyone can slowly exhale. While the movie is not perfect, it captures most of the essence of the original show and doesn’t try to whitewash the angst that follows the happy ending. I wish some of the reviewers had done their homework and realized that this is a good thing. More on that later.

The cast was uniformly terrific. With the exception of Johnny Depp (who was completely forgettable as The Wolf), every person was perfect for the part and could actually sing. Meryl Streep was a great witch, although it’s hard to listen to those songs and not hear Bernadette Peters from the original cast. One review mentioned that Streep’s voice seemed “a little thin”: he must have been standing in the lobby when she blasted through “The Last Midnight”, because she has a powerful instrument that made the whole thing seem pretty apocalyptic. James Corden and Emily Blunt as The Baker and His Wife were charming together and Little Red Riding Hood practically stole the movie with her eyebrows. The kid playing Jack was way too young but his singing was fine, and I didn’t really care if Chris Pine (Prince Charming) could sing after he ripped open his shirt (turns out he can!).

As I feared, many reviews have mentioned how the first part was wonderful but everything falls apart in the second half and maybe they should have stopped before a major character got squished to death. To which I say: That was the whole point! Happy Ever After comes with consequences! This is a Sondheim show! Aaargh!

For me, the second half was actually better than the first, because the first hour seemed rushed. There are four interwoven stories that have to be introduced so it’s understandable, but the pace to get everything in place didn’t really give you time to savor the lyrics. I was grateful they didn’t try to dumb it down, although making Little Red Riding Hood and Jack younger lost some of the sexual subtext that is implied with the wolf and the giant’s wife. And they cut a few songs, which makes me sad (particularly the “Agony” reprise, which is hilarious). A lot of back story was lost by trying to cram it into two hours, but my guess is they figured fans of the show would already know it and newbies wouldn’t care all that much.

This is not a kid’s movie. There were people in the theatre with children under the age of five and a lot of restlessness in the audience. The two teenage girls in front of me who kept texting throughout the whole movie needed to be slapped up the side of the head like Jack’s mother kept doing in the film. A few people actually got up and left after (SPOILER ALERT!) the Baker’s Wife died. This story has so much going on in it and so many wonderful messages about parenting and life that I wanted to stand up and shout, “Listen to these words!! The man is a genius!”

Anyone who has read this far is probably a Sondheim fan, so let me be self-indulgent and speak to you as a kindred spirit. The man’s music and lyrics move me in ways that I cannot begin to express and I am constantly stunned when I listen to this score. Any parent who has ever sent a child off to camp or college or Brooklyn will immediately weep while listening to “Stay With Me”, a plea that your children never leave you that goes against every rule of good parenting. Or “Children Will Listen”, which is a primer on what you should be doing. Or the reassurance of “No One is Alone”, that no matter how many mistakes you make, you always carry those you’ve lost along the path with you. I can’t wait until the Into the Woods merchandise comes out, because I want a Sondheim doll of my own.

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flicksthatmakemesick.com has been in hibernation lately because winter makes it feel like wearing sweat pants and sleeping on the couch. Also, directors don’t seem to be using hand held cameras anymore so they have pretty much rendered this site obsolete. But occasionally a film comes out that elicits a strong response and requires a review, queasiness be damned. So watch for an occasional post here but don’t set your expectations very high. I’m still wearing sweat pants.

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“Top Ten Barf-tastic Movies” article

Dear Everyone I Bragged To on the Internet:

In a clear cut case of counting your buzzards before they hatch, it appears that my article entitled The Top Ten Barf-tastic Movies To Avoid will NOT be published online at Vulture.com. An editor at the New York Magazine affiliated site originally contacted me and said he loved flicksthatmakemesick.com and would I be willing to write an article that briefly highlighted some of the movies that caused motion sickness. Although I suspected that my site was a tad too niche oriented to appeal to the vast majority of the celebrity-crazed public, I kept my reservations to myself because … well, dude! it was Vulture and they were going to publish me!

Unfortunately, they finally came to that conclusion themselves. After being ignored for awhile, I received a very nice email explaining that my subject matter was just a little too specific for them and they would need all the space they had to run more Match the Hair to the Movie Star quizzes (which is understandable – the Leonardo diCaprio one was hard and left me wanting more, more, more!)

Since Vulture does not wish to spread my words across the starry landfill that is cyberspace, I turn to the only outlet I have left and share this with you, my seven readers. Fear not, for I am not discouraged by this slight and will continue to champion for you, my loyal yet extremely queasy fans!

The Top Ten Barftastic Films to Avoid

Four BagsYou’ve been anticipating this date night for weeks, and you snuggle into the comfy stadium seating with your sweetie and a bucket of popcorn. Absorbed in the film and the tension of the drifting astronauts, you hardly notice the light sheen of sweat that starts to film your upper lip. Your stomach roils a bit and you glance nervously at your date, hoping he thinks it’s the Dolby sound system. Moments later, saliva fills your mouth and you realize with horror that you must choose between barfing in your purse or the popcorn bucket. You choose the purse, because it costs less than the snacks did.

The release of the gut-churning Gravity has once more threatened the tooth enamel of ticket buyers with weak stomachs. The shakiness of hand-held cameras and choppy editing in films have been causing nausea in the audience for years, and certain movies can almost guarantee that once the lights go down, something else is coming up. Here are some barftastic films that you need to watch out for:

10. The Blair Witch Project (1999):  Not the first horror movie to use the shaky cam technique but certainly the most famous. People in the audience were creating hex signs out of Twizzlers to make it stop.

9. The Fighter (2011): This Mark Wahlberg film combines hand-held camera work, boxing, choppy editing, and a crack addict who is so jittery that he makes everything else look like it’s shaking even when the camera is locked down. Also from director David O. Russell: Three Kings (1999), which was even worse.

8. Cloverfield (2008): The monster invading Manhattan was scary but nothing was worse than the puddles you had to jump over in the aisles. Theaters were posting warnings in the lobby about the effects of this one.

7: Babel (2006): A series of vaguely related plots all united by a blurry Brad Pitt, this film contained a disco sequence in a Japanese nightclub that was seizure inducing. See also: Twilight: Breaking Dawn – the birth scene.

6. Once (2006): This delightful musical is so low-budget that the lead characters can’t afford first names – they are simply called “The Guy” and “The Girl.” Apparently they couldn’t afford a tripod, either. Completely unexpected, which made it even worse because it snuck up on you. See also: Rachel Gets Married.

5. Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012):  Even Quvenzhané Wallis’ fabulous bouncing hair will make you queasy after fifteen minutes of watching her run through the swamp.

4: Argo (2013): The recreation of jittery real life footage keeps you constantly on the verge of yakking, and makes you want to shout “Argo fuck yourself!” at Ben Affleck.

3. Life of Pi (2013): Any movie that’s filmed on water is going to be a problem. The constant motion of the bobbing lifeboat will make you empathize with the poor seasick tiger and you may want to bite the head off of the hyena sitting next to you. Most recent additions to this category: Captain Phillips and All is Lost.

2. Exit the Gift Shop (2012): Most of this documentary about street artist Banksy is shot in the dark while people are running, and the camera may very well have been manned by Michael J. Fox. Perfect for the guerrilla-type artists that are being featured but sheer hell if you’re sitting in the audience.

1. The Bourne Supremacy (2004): The mother of all shaky cam movies! Although there are many films that used the hand-held technique before The Bourne Identity sequel was released, this is the one where people really started to notice the effect. Specifically, when complete strangers started throwing up on their shoes.

You can’t stop the way your stomach and brain react to these films, but you can minimize the effects. Sit waaaay in the back, don’t eat greasy popcorn and for the love of God, stay away from IMAX.

Chris Broquet has been resting on couches in theater lobbies for years as she tries to recover from watching hand-held films. See her complete guide to movies that will nauseate you with the unique Barf Bag Rating system at flicksthatmakemesick.com

Roger Ebert: 1942-2013

Shakeflicksthatmakemesick has been offline for a few weeks while I focus on some Real Life Stuff that can’t be ignored no matter how much I try. But I wanted to come back for a brief moment and pay tribute to Roger Ebert, one of the all time great Chicago writers.

I often disagreed with Roger’s movie reviews. All the way back to Sneak Previews, I was far more likely to nod my head at Gene Siskel’s assessment than Roger’s critique. But I kept on reading his stuff and watching his program and realized that even though my opinion frequently veered in a different direction than his, his writing was still very interesing. You had to admire his emotional investment in every movie he watched and his unabashed cheerleading for the practice of filmmaking in general. Continue reading

flicksthatmakemesick is back!

My apologies to all the filmgoers with weak guts who look to this site for guidance and may have accidentally wandered into the 48 frame per second version of The Hobbit because I wasn’t here to tell them not to. It’s like I’m George Bailey and Clarence was testing me by showing the audience what movies would be like if flicksthatmakemesick never existed. But I’ve realized the error of my ways and I promise I will never again take a two-month hiatus, at least without telling you first. (By the way, this is what I was doing: The Samoan Letters)

Academy Award nominations are coming up soon (January 10), and flicksthatmakemesick will be your guide for the best movies of 2012! I’m a little behind, but coming soon I’ll have reviews for Argo, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook and Life of Pi. Hey! It’s snowing! Merry Christmas, you old savings and loan! Zuzu’s petals!

Beasts of the Southern Wild

You may have noticed there has been a bit of a gap between this review and the last post; specifically, twenty-nine days, which in internet posting time is the equivalent of normal time span converted to dog years. I’m assuming readers thought I had died, which would have been a real shame because that would mean the last movie I saw would have been Hope Springs. The real story is not quite as dramatic, but filled with irony and social injustice. Some mofo broke into my house and stole my computer. I’m sure it was just a petty thief looking for something small and expensive to fence, but stealing my laptop did more than just deprive me of my daily updates from ew.com; it also left thousands hundreds some people anxiously awaiting their next flicksthatmakesick post and feeling abandoned when none was forthcoming. In a world that is cold and unpredictable, the least I can do is be there for you every ten days or so. Man’s inhumanity to man (or his meth addiction) will not break my spirit, and I shall continue to blog in a timely fashion as the future unfolds before us. Let’s hear it for renter’s insurance! Continue reading

no chicks in flicksmakesmesick

The hardest part about reviewing movies on a regular basis is actually seeing the films. This is particularly difficult as the summer blockbuster season explodes – movies are opening every weekend, and all I want to do is hang around the patio of Mexican restaurants with a margarita in my hand. Someone should come up with a way to watch movies outside; maybe a speaker could hang off the window … nah, that’s not going to work. How would you prevent people from hiding in the trunk as cars drive in? Continue reading

The Academy Awards: Everything Old is New Again

Don’t throw the past away
You might need it some rainy day
Dreams can come true again
When everything old is new again
!

Let’s hope that the Mayans are not as accurate with their predictions as Peter Allen was when he wrote this song. Last night’s Academy Awards demonstrated that if 94% of your membership is composed of old, white men, chances are pretty good that they are going to vote for a chance to relive their youth and give the golden statuette to a black & white silent movie. Kind of like an all male panel in Congress deciding that funding birth control is useless – go with what you know! I was planning on turning flicksthatmakemesick monochromatic to honor The Artist, but I decided it was too much trouble; plus I didn’t even like the movie that much. Continue reading