Blu-ray Review “Into the Woods”

Actors: Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine
Directors: Rob Marshall
Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Walt Disney Studios
Release Date: March 24, 2015
Run Time: 120 minutes

Film: 2 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Personally, I am a fan of musicals. I thought Disney was going to knock this out of the park with this A-list cast and a fun musical like “Into the Woods”. This cast in fact did bring their A-game but the film itself ended up being more of a D-grade. The pacing was horrible and jumped around so much. The first and second act were actually decent but the third absolutely ruined the film for me and it dragged on for what felt like forever. They misused talent like Johnny Depp in a less than 5 minute cameo. Chris Pine was the savior of the film, no question but he wasn’t enough to bring it home. Anna Kenndrick was sweet as always and even Emily Brunt surprised me with the whole singing thing…but overall the third act made this too difficult to enjoy.

Official Premise: From the director of “Chicago” and the producer of “Wicked” comes a modern twist on the beloved fairy tales you thought you knew. Meryl Streep stars in this epic musical saga about daring to venture “Into the Woods”. Iconic characters, such as Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel, find their fates intertwined with a humble baker and his wife, whose longing to have a child sends them on a quest to reverse a witch’s (Streep) curse. With an all-star cast, this spellbinding adventure is everything you could ever wish for!

Despite the film being terrible, Disney did deliver an outstanding Blu-ray along with a digital copy included. The 1080p transfer was perfect and really captured the fairy tale feeling of the film. It worked well with the CGI and with the scenery. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 was also a showstopper. The songs in this film were fun and this was really well presented. As much as this pains me to say, this is truly an amazing Blu-ray in terms of audio and video, even the special features were impressive as well.

Started off the extras, there is an audio commentary track from Director/producer Rob Marshall and producer John DeLuca and they discuss the film in depth from every aspect. Pretty interesting stuff. “Strep Sings Sondheim: “She’ll Be Back”” is a feature on the actress singing the deleted song. “There’s Something About the Woods” features cast/crew discussing the production. “The Cast as Good as Gold” is another chat with the cast discussing the pre-production of this film. “Deeper Into the Woods” is a four-part documentary, which runs about 30 minutes. Lastly, “Music & Lyrics” runs about an hour and pretty much gives you the option to watch the songs in the film only with karaoke-style lyrics.

Film Review “Into the Woods”

Starring: Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt and Johnny Depp
Directed by: Rob Marshall
Rated: PG
Running time: 2 hrs 4 mins
The Walt Disney Company

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

In late 1987 and early 1988 it was a great time for Broadway musicals. Fans had three long running and beloved shows to pick from. “Les Miserable” won the Tony Award for Best Musical and was made into a great film. “The Phantom of the Opera” also won the Tony Award for Best Musical and was made into a so-so film (call it the curse of Joel Schumacher). One of the shows “Phantom” beat that year was the Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine take on fairy tales, “Into the Woods.” It too has been made into a film and, while it’s not “Les Miz,” it isn’t “Phantom” either!

As the film opens we are introduced to several familiar characters from all of our childhoods: Cinderella (Anna Kendrick); Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford); Jack (Daniel Huttlestone), the kid with the beanstalk; the Baker and his wife (James Corden and Blunt) and, of course, the evil witch (a well-cast Streep). Their stories all become intertwined when they all meet up and discover that each has something the others want. It’s just a matter of what they’re willing to do to get them.

On the plus side, I can safely say that it is virtually impossible to have a bad musical when the guy writing the tunes is Stephen Sondheim. If I listed all of his great shows I’d be here until NEXT Christmas so let me give you the first five off the top of my head – “West Side Story,” “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum,” “Gypsy,” “Sweeny Todd” and “Assassins.” Though some of the songs from the show have been excised (as have some characters, many of whom have been combined into one) the score is still as hummable as it was almost three decades ago. The cast is also pitch perfect – a little Anna Kendrick joke there…did you see what I did there…with everyone having a wonderful time. Besides those named above, work by Tracey Ullman, Christine Baranski and Depp, as the Big, Bad Wolf is exemplary. The biggest surprise here is, ironically, the same actor who surprised me earlier this year in “Horrible Bosses 2”…Chris Pine. As Prince Charming, Pine is all dramatics and gravitas, singing strongly of his love for the mysterious Cinderella while making sure his shirt is open far enough to see his hairy chest! And what a great voice. Sorry William Shatner, but the answer to which Captain Kirk is the better singer sure isn’t you! Corden and Blunt also shine as a young couple in love who achingly want a child. Speaking of children, young Huttlestone brings a fun and youthful spirit to Jack. I was probably too hard on Huttlestone when I reviewed him as Gavroche in “Les Miz.” I think it’s just because I hate the character. When I saw the show live I actually had to stop myself from applauding when Gavroche was shot. My bad.

The negative is that, in order to make the film “family friendly,” some of the darker elements of the show have been removed. Some of the characters that died in the show now survive and those that do die do it off screen. Body parts are cut off and eyes plucked out. Speaking of body parts, the wolf is missing a major piece of his anatomy. To put it bluntly, in the show the wolf wanted to do more to Red Riding Hood then just steal her basket! And while those unfamiliar with the show won’t notice those changes, fans of the show will not be happy. What’s next? The movie version of “SPAMALOT” that doesn’t tout the necessity of having Jews to succeed?

Blu-ray Review “Into the Woods: Original Broadway Production”

Starring: Bernadette Peters, Chip Zien, Joanna Gleason, Tom Aldredge, Robert Westenberg, Kim Crosby
Director: James Lapine
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT
Release Date: December 2, 2014
Run Time: 153 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 2 out of 5 stars
Extras: N/A

With the new Disney’s big-screen adaptation of the Tony-Award Winning Broadway Musical “Into the Woods” right around the corner, it is the perfect time for to release the original Broadway Production on Blu-ray for the very first time. What we get here is a May 1989 performance of Stephen Sondheim’s award-winning musical, which starred Bernadette Peters, Chip Zien, Joanna Gleason, Tom Aldredge, Robert Westenberg and Kim Crosby. If you are a fan of the production and looking forward to the movie, this will be a good way to revisit before seeing it on the big screen.

Official Premise: A baker and his wife journey into the woods in search of a cow, a red cape, a pair of golden slippers and some magic beans to lift a curse that has kept them childless. Tony Award winners Bernadette Peters, Joanna Gleason and the rest of the original Broadway cast weave their magic spell over you in Stephen Sondheim’s masterpiece, directed by James Lapine, a seamless fusion of fairy tale characters and what happens after “happily ever after.”

If you have seen this production on DVD, I wouldn’t be expecting much from this Blu-ray. The 1080p transfer is quite muted with the productions colors and even shows up blurry in a few scenes. I was expecting much more from this. The DTS HD Master Audio 2.0 audio track sound great especially with classics songs like “Children Will Listen” and “No One Is Alone”. There are zero special features included to accompany this stage production.

Blu-ray Review “The Cabin In The Woods”

Directed by: Drew Goddard
Starring: Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Jesse Williams, Kristen Connolly
MPAA Rating: R
Distributed by: Lions Gate
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Running Time: 94 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 4 out of 5 stars

“The Cabin in the Woods” is one of the most original ideas for a film that I have seen in a long time. With a world of all remake and sequels, this is rare thing in Hollywood. The film was created by Drew Goddard (“Cloverfield”) and Joss Whedon (“The Avengers”). It is also a very large genre cross ranging for laugh-out-loud comedy to some sick-ass horror. The story focuses on a group of students (Kristen Connolly; Chris Hemsworth; Anna Hutchison; Fran Kranz and Jesse Williams) whole nice vacation at a secluded mountain cabin suddenly turns into a brutal fight for survival. There is so many levels to this film that I feel that even after watching it a few times, there is still so much you can miss. As I am surely not the only one this film leaves the options wide open for future installments, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. What I liked most about this film is that Drew and Joss are just big fans of themselves and they just aimed to deliver a fun and unique film. You will not be disappointing.

The Blu-ray presentation is very impressive and really delivers on all accounts. Lionsgate also released this film as a combo pack, so you get a Blu-ray disc of the film and also a digital copy. With the digital copy, you are able to choose between iTunes download or an Ultraviolet digital streaming copy. The latter is easily the smarter choice of the two. The 1080p transfer looks absolutely amazing especially during the last 30 minutes. It is also presented its 2.39:1 original aspect ratio. The main star of this film is a truly amazing 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. When things get crazy in this film, that track really gets a nice work out.

The special features are just as impressive as the film is and does not disappoint for its fans.
There is an awesome audio commentary with writer/director Drew Goddard and writer/producer Joss Whedon, fans of the film are going to slow this! There is an really in-depth and informative behind-the-scenes documentary called “We Are Not Who We Are: Making The Cabin in the Woods”. There is a two-part featurette called “The Secret Secret Stash”, including “Marty’s Stash” and “Hi, My Name is Joss, and I’ll Be Your Guide”. Great stuff here! There is also two more Behind-the-scenes featurettes including “An Army of Nightmares: Make-Up & Animatronic Effects” and “Primal Terror: Visual Effects”, both of these are easily my favorite extras. You can also catch the fun “Wonder-Con Q&A with Joss and Drew”. Lastly there is a BLu-ray exclusive extra, which is the icing on the cake, called “It’s Not What You Think: The Cabin in the Woods Bonus View Mode”, I am going to leave that one as a surprise because it is AWE….SOME!!!

DVD Review “Don’t Go in the Woods”

Directed by: Vincent D’Onofrio
Starring: Bo Boddie, Eric Bogosian, Gwynn Galitzer
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Distributed by: New Video Group
Release Date: June 12, 2012
Running Time: 83 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2.5 out of 5 stars

It is not too often that you hear the words, horror movie and musical but in the same sentence. “Don’t Go in the Woods” is a really a great blend of both. It plays like a great combination of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Glee”. The music is over-the-top pop music and really adds a lot to the environment of the film. There are fast cuts and a lot of great thrills. The gore is amazing and completely over the top but not campy at all.

This is the directorial debut from Vincent D’Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket, Law & Order: Criminal Intent) and I really hope he continues directing because he is out-of-this-world! The musical/horror hybrid tells the story of a young band who heads to the woods escape everyday life and technology in order to focus on writing new songs. But their hopes of taking a break from everything will only cause them suffering as them find themselves in the middle of a nightmare.

The music in the film is fantastic lead and penned by acclaimed singer-songwriter Sam Bisbee and backed by a gifted ensemble cast. I wish they would have included some extra features concerning blending of music with horror. The special features included is “American Express Presents an Interview with Director Vincent D’Onofrio”, which is a decent look into this first directing effort. There is also a few Behind the Scenes Interviews with the Cast and Crew.

Book Review “The Cabin in the Woods: The Official Movie Novelization”

Author: Tim Lebbon
Mass Market Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: April 17, 2012

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

Official novelizations have never really been my cup-of-tea. “The Cabin in the Woods” is really no different. The film is so unique and really has to be seen in experience. I am personally a very visual person anyway. If you still prefer to read, I would check out the Official Visual Companion. Read our review here, this book is worth reading immediately…once if you’ve seen the film of course.

Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard did such a great job with this story, changing the face of horror.  I just feel that changing it even so slightly for mass market paperback, doesn’t seem worth it.  The author, Tim Tibbons, is also known for this NY Times Bestselling novelization of the movie “30 Days of Night”. A friend of mine did an excellent job of describing this film as an onion, with each layer being peeled off slowly and reveals new surprises throughout.  I can only really experience this to be enjoyed having actually watched the film.

I can really see this book only appealing to MEGA fans of Joss Whedon, who need to have everything that he is related to.  This book also comes with unnecessary back story for the characters, which isn’t really unless needed as filler for this novel. But then again, like I said in general I am not a big fan of film novelizations. If you would like to experience “The Cabin in the Woods”, I would highly recommend just seeing the movie yourself. Just go see it! You won’t regret it.

Book Review “The Cabin in the Woods: The Official Visual Companion”

Author(s): Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: April 17, 2012

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

Joss Whedon is literally a God amongst his fans.  He is the creator of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”,”Firefly” and “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog”, just to name a few.  He also wrote/directed a little film called “Marvel’s The Avengers”.  Match that with the genius of Drew Goddard, writer of “Cloverfield” & “Serenity” and you get one of the best horror film of the year.  This book is official visual companion and it is easily the best companion book that I have ever seen.  It is not only caters to fans of Whedon but all horror fans a like.

This book features an amazing 40-pages visual in-depth interview with both Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard.  It simply answers ever single question any fan can have about the film and its production.  It also includes the full screenplay by Whedon and Goddard accompanied by some fantastic production art and hundreds of color photos.  The images included are really high quality and although no hardcover it still looks great.  Lastly the film goes into great details on the film’s creatures, but I will stop there as not to spoil anything.

Be warned if you have not seen this film, do not pick it up prior to watching since it contains mucho spoilers.  If you have seen the film then you can’t pick it up quicker as it is not only super descriptive about the film but it encompasses every aspect a fan can wish for. Overall this book is really well produced by Titan Books, who delivered yet another amazing release.  They are the best when it comes to providing fans with the official visual companions.

Film Review “The Cabin in the Woods”

Directed by: Drew Goddard
Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford
Distributed by: Lionsgate Entertainment
Running time: 105 minutes

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

In this campy horror film, five young adults plan a vacation in the woods at a cabin only to end up with a lot more than they expected. This movie starts out as what one would presume is your typical comedy/horror film. Although it takes a whole other angle and leaves the audiences surprised. I would have to say that this is a must see if you like quirky movies and especially if you are a Joss Whedon fan, who co-wrote and produced.

When the group ends up at this cabin in the middle of the woods, they are just looking at an secluded escape from daily life. If the location wasn’t creepy enough, the house is filled with animal heads mounted on the walls, a one way mirror hidden behind a gruesome picture and a cellar filled to the brim with odd knickknack and trinkets from times past. The quintuplet of friends soon find themselves in the middle of a horror story, unable to escape what turns out to be a ritual killing with a much much bigger picture.

If you are already familiar with other works by Joss Whedon, then early on you will begin to recognize faces. If your like me and love his work, you’ll get more and more excited as the movie progresses. With a menagerie of familiar and new actors and a story only Joss Whedon could weave, this movie proves to be a perfect blend of horror and comedy. I felt that it rides the fine line between the two genres expertly. I have seen many films but this theater experience was just amazing.  The audience was totally just glued to the screen, as was I.  This film will not disappoint.

FREE TICKETS to Advance Orlando FL Screening of “The Cabin in the Woods” [ENDED]

“The Cabin in the Woods” is an horror/comedy film, co-written and directed by Drew Goddard and co-written and produced by Joss Whedon. It stars Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Jesse Williams, Anna Hutchison, and Fran Kranz. Lionsgate is releasing the film on Friday, April 13, 2012.

Media Mikes like would to offer its readers a chance to see this highly talked about film before anyone else. If you are in the Orlando, FL area and would like to enter to win ticket this, head over to our Facebook page, LIKE it and then leave us a comment with your favorite Joss Whedon project and be sure to use the hash tag #CabinintheWoods.

The screening is scheduled to take place on Monday, April 9th, 2012 at the AMC Altamonte at 7:30pm. We suggest you arrive to the screening at least one hour in advance in order to get a seat. Admittance is not guaranteed with ticket and entry is first come first serve. The tickets will be distributed through GOFOBO.com. Good luck and thanks for visiting MediaMikes.com.

TO REDEEM TICKETS PLEASE GO TO GOFOBO.COM AND ENTER RSVP CODE: MEDIAM9VM0 (ALL CAPS)

Synposis:
A group of friends at a cabin retreat scratch the surface of something so massive and horrific that they can only begin to fathom it as time quickly runs out.