Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Wednesday Review: Into the Woods

I finally watched Into the Woods with some friends (which is exactly how Into the Woods ought to be watched).*

Introduction: Into the Woods is a musical/operetta that takes several old folktales (Cinderella, Jack the Giant Killer, Rapunzel, and Little Red Riding Hood) and combines them.  A new tale about a childless baker is added, which provides the means of bringing all the other tales together.  But this isn't a simple amalgamation - the story turns the fairy tales on their heads a little, as Cinderella doesn't seem too thrilled with the idea of marrying the prince, Jack's pretty much a budding kleptomaniac, and Red Riding Hood is a bit obnoxious.

My Review: This musical is a lot of fun, especially if you enjoy tongue-in-cheek humor. The basic story of the baker and his wife and the witch is pretty great, and I love how they run across the folktale characters. It's a lark.

The music is well-performed, but that's about all I can say about it. Other than the few notes of the main "Into the Woods" theme, it is utterly forgettable.

The casting for this film was great. Meryl Streep is good in everything, but she makes an awesome witch. She handles the more absurd aspects of her character's story very well, indeed. Emily Blunt makes a lovely and fun baker's wife. James Corden plays the baker and was a great choice - he's as lovable here as he is in Doctor Who, and he avoids re-playing Craig. Anna Kendrick is a surprising Cinderella. She's a bit of an annoying character at first, but Kendrick plays her likably and makes a successful transition after the wedding scene to a more interesting character. Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen are brilliant princes. Their duet was the funniest part of the movie. Completing the main fairytale cast are Mackenzie Mauzy as a believable Rapunzel, Johnny Depp as a very disturbing Wolf, Lilla Crawford as a delightfully irritating Red Riding Hood, and Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche. I mean, Jack. Seriously, though, he did a great job in both movies.

It's easy to see why high schools tend to end their performances at the 'happily ever after' scene - it's a great place to stop and would've made a fun movie right there. But no, Sondheim and Lapine had to push it. What follows is a sometimes fun, sometimes strange after-story, dealing with the consequences of infidelity in a delightfully fairytale manner, the futility of playing the blame game, and ending with the morally questionable song about the nature of what is right.

It's an odd film, to be sure. You absolutely cannot take it seriously. The story has a few elements to it that I didn't particularly care for, and the music is forgettable, but the story is very creative, and I think they did a great job making an entertaining movie.

Release date: 2014
Rating: PG
Run time: 125 minutes
Director: Rob Marshall

My Rating: 3.5 stars

*Seriously, it'll be way more fun than watching it by yourself.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Upcoming Changes and Early Blackberries


I'm working on building a website - an actual, dedicated website.  As opposed to a "blog site."  I even bought a domain name - this is not a drill.

Once that website is up and running (not sure exactly when that will be because I just started working on it and have very little idea of what I am doing at this point), this blog site will be phasing out.  I plan to transfer all my attention and blogging activity to the new site.  That also means I'll be blogging less often,* but I will be posting mini-articles about the arts, arts and faith, and writing stuff, more often.**

But Rachel, why would you do this to us?

Well, this whole editing and writing thing is what I would like to do as a profession.  A website is a nice, professional platform for someone offering editing services, but I don't really want to maintain a separate website and blog.  Right now I have my "website" stuff rolled into my blog site - after the transition, the blog site will be rolled into the website.  Easy.

But Rachel, how will we find the new site?

I'll post it here, of course!  I'll have a transitional period to give you plenty of time to switch over - all ten of you.  ;)

But Rachel, professional sounds like a synonym for boring...

Ok.  The editing services part of the site (and possibly the home page) will carry a professional tone, as will the mini-articles, but everything else is up for grabs.  I still like to have fun, so I don't anticipate that going away.

But Rachel, what about The Wednesday Review that we love so much?

Yes, I've thought about that.  I will still do book/movie/music/whatever reviews.  I probably won't do them every week (I don't even do that now!), but I will still do them, and they will still fall on a Wednesday.  I will also occasionally add to my Off the Shelf and From the Vaults features.


Anyway!  A couple of days ago, I was outside taking a walk, when I found them: Early blackberries.  There aren't very many and they're easy to miss because they're wrapped up in some non-blackberry bushes, but they're there.

When I first saw them, I was walking pretty briskly, talking on the phone with Mom.  I glanced at the bushes for some reason, and noticed a few little red berries.  Raspberries? I thought to myself.  I stopped and stepped closer to see. Not raspberries!  Blackberries!  I caught sight of a darker berry.  RIPE Blackberries!!

I could hardly believe it.  Naturally I ate the ripe berry (delicious) and scoured the bush for more.^  I must have found upward of a dozen little blackberries ready to be eaten.

I cannot tell you how happy this made me.  I'm an Oregon girl, born and bred, and blackberries are huge.  They were an integral part of my childhood.  Those ubiquitous spiny bushes grow all over the place in the rainier parts of the state - I don't remember once paying for blackberries as a kid.  You just go for a walk or hop in the car with a bunch of containers and find a good bramble to start picking on the side of the road somewhere.  When I was really little we used to go pick Wild Mountain Blackberries - the kind you need inside information from the loggers to find.

Having lived in other parts of the country, I know that blackberries are a very western (perhaps even Pacific Northwestern) thing.  Berries in general, and particularly blackberries, just aren't a very big deal most other places.  So it's exciting to be back in Oregon for berry season.

You may remember that I recently went strawberry picking:

Twelve pounds of washed strawberries.

And now, Unexpected Blackberries!?  It made my day.  No, it made my whole week.

Look at those beauties!
So pretty!  So delicious...

The Pacific Northwest is berry heaven.  We've got several varieties of blackberries and strawberries.  We've got raspberries and blueberries.  You can find black huckleberries,*^ red huckleberries, thimbleberries, salmonberries, and more.  I learned to identify them as a kid, just by going for walks in the woods.

All this to say, finding a little trove of ripe and ripening blackberries when the rest are still in the flowering and green berry stage was very exciting.

But Rachel, where are these lovely, early berries located?

Nice try.

*Which, let's face it, I'm already doing because of generally being so busy this term.

**Right now, all I have in that vein is what's on my arts and faith blog, which has been sorely neglected for quite a while now.

^And ate a few nearly ripe ones, as well - yum!

*^Which are actually blue and look a lot like blueberries.