Magic in the Moonlight (Review)

 

Magic in the Moonlight is a beautifully-decorated, elegantly written gem of a film, easily one of my favorite comedy-dramas of the year for its heavily-contemplative scenarios, existential questions, and wonderful performances by its two lead actors.”

 
by Steve Pulaski

I have a friend named Kelly, who is quite a bit like Emma Stone’s Sophie Baker in Woody Allen’s latest piece-of-greatness, Magic in the Moonlight. She’s heavily spiritual and feels connected to another life, not to the extent of Sophie, however, can be frequently spacey, sometimes says the strangest of things, acts like a new-age flower-child, embraces some of the strangest music and culture, but always has a kind heart, even for those who do not share many of her personal traits. For one, she was always trying to get me to be more spiritually connected and more aware of a higher power, but never in a demanding, condescending manner, and, at the end of the school year, told me she wishes I would give as much love to myself as much as I gave to my classmates and learned to appreciate myself in a more obvious manner.

Magic in the Moonlight
Written & Directed by
Woody Allen
Cast
Colin Firth, Antonia Clarke, Natasha Andrews
Release Date
15 August 2014
Steve’s Grade: A

Just like Sophie in Magic in the Moonlight, she’s next to impossible not to like, and our relationship as friends is quite a bit like the relationship that brews between Sophie and Stanley Crawford (Colin Firth). In 1928, Crawford is a traveling illusionist, dressing up as a Chinaman and performing complex trickery on a bewildered audience. Despite his occupation, Stanley firmly believes life holds no secrets; he’s “a rational man in a rational world” and “anything else is a sign of madness.” He has the whole world figured out, he’s an atheist before his time, and he believes spiritualism and religion are corrupting forces of human nature.

Stanley has his beliefs tested when he is introduced to Sophie Baker by his longtime friend and coworker Howard (Simon McBurney), a woman who claims to receive “mental impressions,” which allow her to communicate with the unseen, spiritual world and discover things about the people she meets without even knowing anything about them personally. During this little vacation, Stanley finds himself questioning himself and the world in a more spiritualistic manner, but not after a heaping amount of skepticism is bestowed and his pompous attitude greatly criticized by Sophie and Howard.


Stanley’s mindset is one I occasionally fall into, which is my false sense of acting like I know everything there is to know about the world and convincing myself there can’t be any secrets. Then, after about three seconds, I remember that I couldn’t tell someone if the atheists or the spiritualists are correct in this debate on faith and the afterlife. The fact of the matter is that nobody knows for sure, not the atheists nor the spiritualists, which is precisely why they are called “beliefs.” Watching Stanley’s curmudgeon attitude become more and more prominent over the course of the film, until a possible revelation, as well as Sophie’s gentler, looser feelings towards life develop make for zealous hilarity, with Magic in the Moonlight being one of Allen’s most hilarious films in years. After the thematically dreary Blue Jasmine made solid waves last year, we needed something along those lines, and Allen delivers in one of the funniest comedies of the year.

In addition, this isn’t the first time Allen has focused on a relationship between two people and a large age-gap. Allen’s Whatever Works placed Larry David alongside Evan Rachel Wood for more of the same generation-gap conversations in a manner that, while moderately successful, didn’t generate the same level of contemplation and thought-provoking ideas as Magic in the Moonlight. However, Magic in the Moonlight shares the observations “Whatever Works” did, illustrating a generation-gap between heavy-believers and more hardened non-believers, with a relationship brewing from two souls that think they know, when they both really haven’t a clue.

With the film, it all comes down to the casting, with Firth and Stone being absolutely marvelous together, especially Firth, who holds his own and drives the film as a commanding force, similar to the way he handled taxing scenes in “The King’s Speech.” Firth’s recognition for “Magic in the Moonlight,” however, will be far too limited, and considering he performs with a fantastic sense of deadpan humor along with uproariously funny monologues coming at unpredictable times, that fact is just unfortunate. But make no mistake, as Stone manages to hold her own in this film, creating a character out of a loose and often stereotyped outline of a human being, and achieving success through and through.

Finally, Magic in the Moonlight brilliantly details, mostly in the third act, the potential reasons and justifications for human beings deluding ourselves or struggling to piece together answers we subconsciously know couldn’t be true just to have some sort of solace in an often cruel and noticeably imperfect world. This is the real strong-point of Allen’s film, which seems to catch him at a point in his life where he finds himself wrestling with beliefs or trying to understand the spiritualistic world, but can’t help but mock and belittle them and fondly recall himself and that he bears all the answers.

Magic in the Moonlight is a beautifully-decorated, elegantly written gem of a film, easily one of my favorite comedy-dramas of the year for its heavily-contemplative scenarios, existential questions, and wonderful performances by its two lead actors. If the writing was the only thing to praise, the film would be an instant recommendation, but the fact that its cinematography is handled by the famous Darius Khondji and little aesthetic touches like Vaudevillian music are incorporated, definitely make this film accomplished on many different angles. Then there’s the fact that while this film catches Allen at a time when he wants to see if he can best his spiritualist friends and acquaintances, he, in turn, makes a film that is devilishly hilarious and perhaps one of the funniest films Allen himself has ever made.

True Blood: Season 7, Episode 9 (Recap)

Love Is to Die (Spoiler Warning)

This has been the best episode I’ve seen in quite some time from True Blood, with Jess and Hoyt getting back together and some excellent humor thrown in for good measure. The Scene with Ginger and Eric had me laughing so hard, with the look on Eric’s face just priceless. Ginger is sitting at Fangtasia waiting, and when Eric arrives she tells him how angry she is at not being told he’d been cured of Hep-V. When he says to Ginger, “I want to make it up to you, by f*cking you,” with Ginger replying, “Really? We really gonna f*ck?!” Eric then asks her where she’d like to do the deed.

Of course, Ginger wants to mount him on his throne, and after about a two-and-a-half second premature lady ejaculation, with Ginger displaying her complete ecstasy at finally getting it on with Eric, she slides off onto the floor, all the while making crazy noises of arousal. And seeing a baffled and bemused Eric watch Ginger with his hair messed up, I have no idea how he kept a straight face! It was one of the funniest scenes I’ve ever witnessed on the show, and getting to watch it during the final season was just perfection.

True Blood
Created by
Alan Ball
Cast
Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell, Ryan Kwanten, Chris Bauer, Kristin Bauer van Straten, Nelsan Ellis, Deborah Ann Woll, Carrie Preston
Episode Release Date
17 August 2014
Ed’s Grade: A

Sam Merlotte left a couple of letters; one for Sookie and the other telling Andy he quit as Mayor of Bon Temps. He was shit at being the Mayor in the first place and Sam rarely got any decent storylines. There were a couple times during the show where his story-arcs could have gone somewhere better, like his relationship with Maryann Forrester, or when his mother and brother made an appearance, but for all Sam has been a generally likeable character, I’ve always felt he’s gone to waste. Anywho, he’s skipped town with the heavily pregnant Nicole after she gave him an ultimatum. While Sookie reads Sam’s letter with Jess listening on, we get to see a flashback as Sam and Nicole pack up their RV for the road trip.

As was expected, Jessica and Hoyt get back together. How this comes about is all thanks to Bill inexplicably refusing to drink Sarah’s healing blood. The seriously sick Bill is sneaked into the Fangtasia basement where Sarah Newlin is being held captive, with the yakuza dangerously nearby in the main part of the club. At this point I was wondering why they didn’t just draw some of Sarah’s blood with a needle and take it to the dying Bill for him to drink, but that would have been just too easy. As was seen at the end of the last episode, Bill refuses the blood, and after Sookie slaps him on the face a few times, Jessica asks Bill to release her as his progeny.


In a rather emotional scene that’s just what Bill does. Now free but very confused and upset (not to mention, horny), Jessica goes to Hoyt’s, but her timing couldn’t have been any worse. Right before Jess turns up at Hoyt’s, he and Bridget have just been fighting about his behaviour when he’s around Jessica. Hoyt swears he’s never seen her before, however, no sooner has Hoyt spoken those words than Jessica turns up to tell them she and Hoyt do indeed know one another, in the biblical sense.

Bridget warns Hoyt if he walks out the door to talk to Jess, they’re through. Hoyt goes with Jess. Bridget calls Jason on the phone to tell him what had happened, but, of course, she’s unaware of the history between them all. She soon finds out after Hoyt lays Jason out, leaving him with a shiner. After Jessica finishes telling Hoyt the truth about everything and how she was too young while still learning how to be a vampire, they finally have sordid sex, and all is finally right with the world. Jason even learns how not to have sex with a beautiful woman in bed beside him, as Bridget gives him lessons. I wish Ashley Hinshaw would give me lessons. I know I’d fail every time but I’d be willing to keep on trying!

Eric has a heart-to-heart with Bill, explaining to him that he felt the same way when he found out he had Hep-V. Eric tells Bill he should do it for Sookie and Jessica because they’re the one’s who’re suffering. Bill claims he’s doing it for Sookie because all he can offer her is darkness and that the only reason she’s attracted to the likes of them is because she’s fae. Bill thinks if he isn’t around, Sookie will eventually lead a normal life. There’s one big problem with Bill’s theory; he’s not the only vampire in the world. Eric even tells him, “Get over yourself, Bill.” Bill asks Eric to persuade Sookie to allow him to visit her so he can explain why he must be allowed to die, which Eric does.

Right after Eric flies Sookie home, telling her that Bill will be calling soon, he heads to Fangtasia where he has that rapid sex session with Ginger. When he goes downstairs to the basement, he finds Pam tied up to a silly contraption that will kill her if 3 ropes are cut. Mr. Gus wants to know if Sookie knows about Sarah’s blood. With only one rope left to cut, Eric caves in and tells the truth. Gus wants to know where Sookie lives, however Bill is just arriving at her home. Will the yakuza find a very weakened Bill too much to handle? Will Sookie’s fae powers take care of the problem? If you watch the attached trailer you can get some hints at what to expect in the last ever episode of True Blood. I honestly didn’t think they could pull it off but they’ve turned the series around and made this last season really count. I’m missing it already!!

by Ed Blackadder

True Blood

AUG. 24 EPISODE

Episode #80: “Thank You” (series finale)

Debut: SUNDAY, AUG. 24 (9:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT)

Other HBO playdates: Aug. 24 (11:30 p.m.,2:00 a.m.), 25 (11:45 p.m.), 26 (midnight), 27 (8:00 p.m., 12:30 a.m.) and 29 (midnight)

HBO2 playdates: Aug. 25 (8:00 p.m.), 28 (2:30 a.m.) and 30 (1:15 p.m., 9:00 p.m.)

Sookie (Anna Paquin) weighs a future with and without Bill (Stephen Moyer). Eric (Alexander Skarsgård) and Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten)struggle with their uncomfortable partnership with Mr. Gus (Will Yun Lee). Sam (Sam Trammell) makes a choice, while Andy (Chris Bauer) comes upon an unexpected inheritance.

TRUE BLOOD was created by Alan Ball; based on the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris; executive producers, Alan Ball, Brian Buckner, Gregg Fienberg and Angela Robinson; co-executive producer, Howard Deutch; supervising producer, Kate Barnow; producers, David Auge and Bruce Dunn; co-producers, Christina Jokanovich, Ronald Cosmo Vecchiarelli and Sunday Stevens.

An Interview with ‘Geographically Desirable’ Writer/Director Mike Kravinsky and Actress Blair Bowers

Interviews with Mike Kravinsky and Blair Bowers

I recently spoke to writer/director Mike Kravinsky and actress Blair Bowers. We discussed their upcoming film Geographically Desirable, along with their starts in cinema and their upcoming plans.

First up is the interview with Mike Kravinsky, immediately followed by my interview with Blair Bowers. Both provide great insight into the film!

And make sure to check out the facebook page for the film at www.facebook.com/geographicallydesirable.

Mike Kravinsky

Bethany Rose: What sparked your idea for the film Geographically Desirable?

Mike Kravinsky: Well, I actually worked in TV news in the Washington DC area for 29 years. I worked for ABC News. With downsizing they offered me a buyout in 2010. I decided I wanted to continue doing what I was doing, just not in news. I wanted to do fictional/narrative stuff as opposed to documentary stuff, and it just got down to, I was writing this script and a lot of it is just my experience. Write what you know. It was my experience working in TV news with this added component of the Rom-Com. Originally the main character was a guy, but as it went on I felt it was better to have a strong woman in the lead role. That’s basically the genesis for the idea, moments I had experienced in my years in news, wrapped around a fictional story.

BR: How far had you gotten into the idea for the film before you decided to change the lead to a female character?

MK: It was pretty early. I wanted to be able to explore—it’s  a much more interesting change to have a woman who is really work obsessed to start exploring other options in her life or exploring other options in her life. I think it’s a healthy thing, no matter what sex you are, to have your priorities in order. It was fun to have a woman in that role experiencing things the way a woman would experience them in the business because when I got into television, women were just starting to get into managerial roles and things like that. They really had to deal with this male culture, and so that’s one of the things I wanted to bring into the character. She doesn’t know how to talk with her superiors or ask for certain things. I encountered many women like that in my career who were just tough as nails until they had to ask for something from a superior. And that’s sort of why I switched over pretty quick. I just felt like it just can’t be more natural than to make that lead character a woman.

BR: That’s really interesting. It reminds me of Alien and how the character of Ripley was originally supposed to be a man.

MK: Oh yeah! You can have this nice thing like this whole back story with Alien where she wanted a child or had lost a child, but in the original Alien that wasn’t really part of the script. But then she [in Aliens] bonded with this girl, but she was still really tough. I really like that aspect.

BR: I also noticed that you wrote and directed The Nextnik [his first feature film], and there were many cast and crew members involved in both that film and in Geographically Desirable. So what is it like working with so many of the same cast and crew members on two different films?

MK: I really feel like I lucked out because The Nextnik was a first effort. You’re in television news, and you’re making documentaries, and you think you know how to make a narrative film, but you really don’t. It didn’t come to me naturally. You think it will, but it doesn’t. You really need people who understand that they’re working with a director who’s starting out and will support them. That’s what all these people did. Rick Kain, Emily Morrison, Connie Bowman, Paul Fahrenkopf, and so many others, are all really good actors.

DC is not really known as a film area, you think of actors coming out of New York or LA, but it’s got a great stage presence, and a lot of these actors did that. And they were prepared to hold my hand in The Nextnik and say, “Let’s try it this way,” and “Let me help you.” They took what I wrote and said, “I’m thinking I want to have this character be like this.” And I’d say that that was great, a perfect idea. So what happened with Geographically Desirable was that I’d learned so much working with these people in The Nextnik and that they were so good with what they did that I brought my found experience with them. It made the process so much better. Number one, I had a relationship with them, and I know how they work, and they know how I work. Now all the sudden what I learned from The Nextnik and what I learned working with the same people is that the performances were just terrific because again, we had this great working relationship.

BR: I just interviewed a director who made a film [Dan Steadman who directed Belleville] near where I live, and then he decided to make another film here and he used a lot of the same cast and crew, and he  really had the same feelings about working with them multiple times.

MK: You’re still the boss, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be dictatorial. Yes, I know some directors are, but I personally like a good working relationship. A good working relationship comes with time, working with certain individuals. If you think about it, Judd Apatow, uses the same people in front of and behind the camera, so everybody is sort of on the same wavelength. I told Rick Kain who played Larry in The Nextnik, I also asked him to be in Geographically Desirable as the bureau chief, and I decided to call him Larry, so I told Rick, “Any time I cast you in one of my films, your name is going to be Larry.”

BR: I like it! I also noticed that one of the characters in Geographically Desirable, Joe, who is obviously one of the important characters in the film, recites some poetry throughout. I was an English major in college, so I found the use of poetry very interesting.

MK: Did you like the poetry?

BR: Yes, I did! It definitely caught my attention, so I was wondering if you could tell me a little about those poems.

MK: Well, let me tell you, I’m so glad you brought that up. That’s my dad’s poetry. My dad, who passed away at 100 years old in 2012, in the late ’60s, got into poetry writing and started writing this amazing stuff. I was a kid so I didn’t understand, and he would write me these poems and I’d say, “Oh, that’s great dad, thanks, bye.” It didn’t connect until I was an adult. Basically, when I made the film, I couldn’t have done the film without the financial contribution from him, so I made him the Executive Producer, but I also basically used his poetry, and his name is Joe, just like the character.

He has an amazing number of poems. If he were in a particularly sour mood his poetry would be really dark. [Laughs]. And sometimes it was just really sweet stuff. You could tell his mood when you would read his poetry. I hired a screenplay consultant in Los Angeles when I was in the final stages of the film, and she said the same thing, she said, “I love that poetry.” I’m just so happy that people notice that. It’s a tribute to my dad.

BR: I’m one of those people who reads as much of the closing credits of a film as possible, so when the credits were scrolling I said to myself, “I have to see if someone separate is credited with writing the poetry,” and I noticed that the person credited had your last name. I thought it was probably family, but I wasn’t sure.

MK: This had a lot of family in it. My dad obviously wrote the poetry. My wife Liza is a composer and she wrote the music. We sort of help each other. She had a documentary out a few years ago and I edited it for her. So she helped me and wrote the original music for this film.

BR: Nice! So, overall, I know you were involved in the news business, but do you have any film influences, or films that influenced even parts of Geographically Desirable?

MK: Certainly I lean towards the comedic stuff. I like big budget films. They are a lot of fun. I just saw Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and loved it. It’s an amazing film. But there is something about small budget films that are done well that is just fantastic. There is a lot of amazing stuff out there. There’s the film In a World …  that’s about voice-over artists that I like. And Another Earth is a really good one with a small budget. Back about ten or twelve years ago there was a film called Happy Accidents with Marisa Tomei and Vincent D’ Onofrio, again, a small budget film. It was kind of quirky, with science fiction, but it had really good character development and was really well done.

And then you have films like the Paranormal Activity films that were done for a really small budget but would scare the crap out of you. I’m a fan of  small films that are done really well.  When the creators really think about the characters and the stories, and the actors get it, and the crew gets it.

BR: I had planned on asking you about your personal influences with the films you make, but you already answered that when discussing your time in the news industry. Is there anything that you’d like to expand on with that experience?

MK: I’d been working broadcasting or news my whole life, and I’d always been working for someone else. At this point I guess I’m sort of reeling from the fact that I’m on my own. I get up in the morning and I have to think of the things that have to be done. There’s not someone hovering over me telling me I haven’t filled out reports yet. So these themes are really reflective of what I’m personally going through. Who knows. As I get more comfortable in the fact that this is what I’m doing now, maybe the themes of the film will change.

I’m working on  a script now. I’m really taking my time on this one. Sort of like Geographically Desirable it’s about finding the inner strength. There’s a lot of that, and the personal inner strength thing that I think is a neat subject. It doesn’t matter your age, personal growth is personal growth, whatever story is around it, in my case that story always involves around career, but who knows what will happen in the next film.

BR: I was going to ask you about upcoming projects, so you are writing another film?

MK: I have a story, but I’m figuring out a way—all the story ideas I have right now are good ideas for short films, but not maybe as a feature. Basically I’m trying to make the characters the story so I don’t have 40 different stories. I don’t want to call it a romantic comedy, but there is some romance in it, but it’s also science fiction. If you haven’t seen Happy Accidents, see it. I wouldn’t copy what they are doing in that movie, but I would like to emulate it.

Blair Bowers

Bethany Rose: Tell me a little about your character in Geographically Desirable.

Blair Bowers: Nicole is a driven, hardworking woman with very clear goals for her future as a news producer.  Unfortunately, as hard as she works, she has been stuck with the overnight shift for the past two years, which has led her to neglect other important parts of her life.  She is a loving, caring, happy, fun person, who is just too tired to show it.  The movie is a lot about getting those priorities back in line and learning balance.

BR: What were some of your favorite scenes to shoot?

Blair Bowers: We filmed a scene in Floyd, Virginia at the Country Store where every Friday they hold a jamboree and the whole town comes out to dance.  We recreated this event for the film and had a bunch of locals dancing with us and showing us the steps and it was just a blast.  We had a great time chatting with people in between shots and watching people dance who were so much better than we were.  I am so grateful for the hospitality that Floyd and its residents showed us.

BR:Who are some of your acting influences and why?

Blair Bowers: Oh, goodness, such a big question.  My acting professor in college, Wolf Sherrill, encouraged me a great deal to pursue this often difficult career path and really pushed me to be a better actor.  I’m a big proponent of continuing education.  You should always be learning new things and honing your craft.  Currently, I’m studying with Gregory Berger-Sobeck, who has already helped me so much with spontaneity, physicality, and script analysis.

In terms of actors, I have so many people that I am just in awe of – that I respect and admire.  I love Cate Blanchett for her fearlessness.  I love Emma Stone for her humor.  I love Tina Fey for taking care of business.  Those are the first three that pop into my head, but there are many.

BR: What drew you to acting?

Blair Bowers:  I think it’s just in the blood.  My family has home videos of me acting and singing in little skits that my little brother and I would put on for our parents.  I was a very demanding director at seven.  He will attest to that.

BR: What is some typical preparation you do for a role? Do you do research?

Blair Bowers: Yes, there’s a ton of homework that goes along with acting.  There’s a lot of script analysis that you do before any of the filming starts.  Along with that, I had to learn about the producing world and the world of TV news.

I wouldn’t say there was too much ‘research’ for the role of Nicole because we do have roughly the same experience with the world. It would be different if it were set in 1820’s London.  There would be a lot more to research in that case on what day to day life was, how women were viewed, what jobs were available, et cetera.

BR: What is the most unique role you have done?

Blair Bowers:  For theater, there’s all kinds of crazy stuff.  I’ve been zombie Paris Hilton, a little girl’s stuffed animal brought to life, and a proper young lady in Victorian London whose cousin was possessed by an evil monkey.  Film is a lot tamer.  I did, however, get to play a female version of Doctor Who for a short film not too long ago and that was a blast because I got to geek out a bit.

BR:  Do you have any upcoming projects?

Blair Bowers: I do!  Actually, it has a fun connection with Geographically Desirable.  I just finished filming a short called The Drive, which really focuses on the strength of female friendship. It happens to be written, directed by, and costarring the extremely talented Felicia Gonzalez Brown, who plays Nicole’s best friend, Abby, in Geographically Desirable.  It was such a joy to work with her again.  Get us in a car together, which both movies did, and we will ad lib entire scenes and just crack each other up.

by Bethany Rose

Into The Woods (Theatre)

RAVISHINGLY IMAGINATIVE PRODUCTION OF SONDHEIM’S INTO THE WOODS BEWITCHES AT SAN DIEGO’S OLD GLOBE

Storytelling is the heart of theater.  In their warmly-received yet mix-reviewed work from 1987, Stephen Sondheim (music and lyrics) and James Lapine (book) tackled storytelling at its classical core.  Their Into The Woods presented fairy tales from the Grimm Brothers accented with perspectives from Sigmund Freud and Bruno Bettelheim.  The work was complex — and combined with the original Broadway production’s overblown whimsy and post-modern preciousness – the result was a mixed bag of excess and confusion.  It seemed ironic to me that for a work whose featured anthem song was titled “Children Will Listen,” the overworked production made it hard to listen to the play’s message without feeling exhausted and preached to.  But that was then.

Almost thirty years later and back at San Diego’s The Old Globe, where the work originated prior to its initial Broadway run in 1986, Into the Woods has been reworked in a spare and inventive revival by the innovative talents of Fiasco Theater, an ensemble theatre company created by graduates of the Brown University M.F.A. Acting Program.

Fiasco Theater specializes in undressing icons in theatre’s revered canon, and their past presentations of reworked classics have garnered glowing reviews.  [Cymbeline, Measure For Measure, and Twelfth Night.]  Into The Woods is their first endeavor in tacking a modern classic.  From the perspective of this reviewer, it is a masterwork.   [At the outset, let me tackle the issue of the company’s odd name.  It seems that the term originated as a description of commedia dell’arte performances that went horribly and hilariously wrong.  In picking the name for their company, Fiasco Theater believes that “only when artists are brave enough to risk a fiasco do they allow the possibility of creating something special,” and the name serves as a daily reminder to brave the huge risks inherent in discovering huge rewards.]

In their press materials, Fiasco Theater states “Sometimes you can’t perceive the true beauty of something until you’ve seen it naked.”  For Into The Woods, Fiasco deconstructs the work, digging deep into the material and rediscovering its emotional center.  The new production at The Old Globe feels fresh, exciting and different.  By keeping it simple, the complexity of the work is revealed.  Like a brilliant diamond under the hands of a skilled cutter, Fiasco brings out Sondheim’s clearest cut, color and clarity of lyrical wordplay.  And at the heart of the production stands the necessity to tell a story.  The necessity for storytelling as a means to understand, to create, to learn, and to pass on.

Most of the characters of our “once upon a time” are here.  Rapunzel is here, as is Jack and his beanstalk.  Cinderella and her stepsisters, along with Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, are here too.   There’s even the obligatory wicked witch.  But now they are treated as contemporary types — Jungian archetypes if you will — working their way from an embryonic enchanted forest to a state of matured disenchantment.   So, as these classic childhood icons ricochet through the woods in pursuit of their own needs and wants, their deepest yearnings are revealed.  And the depths they will take to reach these wants are questioned, tested, and explored.

In the end, Into The Woods has always been about how the lessons of the childhood fairy tales we all heard as children reverberate within us in our adult lives.   Under the lens of Sondheim and Lapine, these cautionary tales become a sort of roadmap of what lies ahead, and of the choices we make in our adulthood.  Some good, some not so good.  Lessons learned and not learned.  Life is both ordinary and astonishing; both flawed and perfect.  Life is messy.  Mistakes abound.  And as Mr. Sondheim reminds us, we must honor our mistakes.  For people who look and listen —  as Mr. Sondheim so affectingly compels us to do – the world is beautiful indeed when we honor these mistakes.


Unquestioningly, the underlying material is a masterwork.  Complex.  Provocative.  Timeless.  Under the hands of Fiasco Theater, Into The Woods transforms into the masterpiece that it is.  I loved the complexity of the scaled-down presentation, where full orchestra, standard casting, and even the hyper-skilled singing voices of traditional musical theater are thrown out the window.

In lieu of the traditional orchestral accompaniment, this production presents an old-fashioned upright piano played onstage by Matt Castle, who also served as the production’s musical director and drafted the pared down orchestrations.  As a touch of whimsy, cast members enhance the work musically by picking up scattered musical instruments like French horn, guitar, cello and other woodwinds on lyrical cues.

Instead of the usual cast of 18 players, Fiasco presents actors in multiple roles, with a number of deliciously wild doubling.  And the cow, Milky White, is now anthropomorphized and effectively played by Andy Grotelueschen.   Genius.

When pages of stray sheet music turn into magical birds, you know you are witnessing the true essence of magic theater.  Hats off to co-directors  Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld, who are also co-founders of Fiasco Theater.  As The Old Globe’s artistic director Barry Edelstein states, this production “is proof not only of the enduring strength of this musical, but also of the power of simple theatrical storytelling to work wonders.”

Fiasco Theater Company masters the skill of storytelling.  What a brilliant choice to rework Sondheim’s much-maligned classic.  After it leaves The Old Globe, Into The Woods is scheduled to run in New York at the Roundabout Theatre.  Catch it at either venue!

Into The Woods plays at the Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage of The Old Globe Theatre from July 12  to August  17, 2014.   Contact:  (619) 23-GLOBE (234-5623); or see http://www.oldglobe.org/

Armin’s Grade:  A+

by Armin Callo, Theatre & Arts Critic

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Galaxy

“Seeing it was like watching whatever movie that my 12-year-old self freaked out over on that very day in that particular year.  That’s not to say it’s immature in any way, but rather that it appeals to the sense of fun that we rarely allow [...]

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Lucy (Review)

Lucy

  “The important thing to note is that, whatever you think of the film, it’s apparent that it’s the exact movie writer-director Besson set out to make.  He knows how ridiculous it is and he knows how ridiculous you will think it is.”     by Jason [...]

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The Purge: Anarchy (Review)

Purge2

  “The Purge: Anarchy improves on the original in almost every single way, while somehow still managing to not be very good, however, I’d still be willing to give a third film a shot”       by Jason Howard On the night of the [...]

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Review)

Dawn

  “Minor quibbles aside, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is an absolutely thrilling, entertaining, and affecting entry into the summer movie season.”       by Jason Howard Behold of The Beginning of My Review of The Dawn of The Planet of The Apes. [...]

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Rampage: Capital Punishment (Review)

Rampage CP

  “Rampage: Capital Punishment may not have as much emotional punch as its predecessor, and there’s also a sense of deja vu, but it’s still another decent little flick to arm the Boll canon.”     by Nav Qateel Back in 2009 writer-director Uwe Boll [...]

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True Blood: Season 7, Episode 9 (Recap)

TBlood7 iu3Tw4-pKg4

Love Is to Die (Spoiler Warning) This has been the best episode I’ve seen in quite some time from True Blood, with Jess and Hoyt getting back together and some excellent humor thrown in for good measure. The Scene with Ginger and Eric had me [...]

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Magic in the Moonlight (Review)

Magic

  “Magic in the Moonlight is a beautifully-decorated, elegantly written gem of a film, easily one of my favorite comedy-dramas of the year for its heavily-contemplative scenarios, existential questions, and wonderful performances by its two lead actors.”   by Steve Pulaski I have a friend [...]

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Let’s Be Cops (Review)

Let's Be Cop

  “Let’s Be Cops is this year’s winner for a “major-minor” comedy, a film that was panned by critics but still has certain merit that has rather gone unexplored.”     by Steve Pulaski Let’s Be Cops is an energetic comedy romp, boasting ideas and [...]

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Decline of an Empire (Review)

Decline of an Empire (2014)

  “The dialog is also ponderous beyond belief.  So much of it seemed to make little sense and my attention span waned throughout the movie.  Much of it just boggled my mind at how dull and silly it sounded coming out of real live people.” [...]

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The Devil Incarnate (Review)

The Devil Incarnate (2013)

  “The Devil Incarnate is a solid little debut horror that’s well worth checking out, with some truly great acting and an interesting story.”       by Nav Qateel Newlyweds Holly and Trevor Davidson are driving to Miami for their honeymoon. On the way [...]

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Getting Lemons (Review)

Lemons

  “If you’ve ever went through the loss of a loved one and have felt that depression we all feel, then Getting Lemons is a film you’ll definitely get a lot out of.”     by Nav Qateel It doesn’t take a genius to work [...]

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Jarhead 2: Field of Fire (Review)

Jarhead 2 Field of Fire

  “This film feels, very tense and personal.  The fighting looks extremely real, the actors appear to bleed and die before your eyes and the film is not attempting to glamorize war, because that’s the last thing war is.”     by Martin Hafer Despite [...]

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Antisocial Behavior (Review)

Antisocial

  “Antisocial Behavior really does have a bit of everything for fans of psychological horror, and as well as being very much a cerebral film, it will also satisfy those who enjoy the occasional serving of brutal violence.”   by Nav Qateel In his late [...]

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The Dumbest Genre: Action Cinema in Retrospect

Exp3

The Dumbest Genre: Action Cinema in Retrospect by C. Rachel Katz As The Expendables 3 makes its North American debut, let’s take a moment to reflect on how we came to this point. Popular opinion would have us believe that action films are in a [...]

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Martin’s TelePlay #3: Marty

Marty

You’ve GOT to see Marty… The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse production of Marty (1953)—A The Hollywood version (1955)—A+ (yes, it is slightly better than the original) In one of my recent articles, I talked a bit about the wonderful teleplays that were being produced in New [...]

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Martin’s, You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet! – Mary and Max

Mary Max

Hello, and welcome to another edition of You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet! My series of review-articles are not necessarily the greatest films in movie history, but all of them are most memorable. I like to think of them as a celebration of the strangest films [...]

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Into The Woods (Theatre)

Into the Woods

RAVISHINGLY IMAGINATIVE PRODUCTION OF SONDHEIM’S INTO THE WOODS BEWITCHES AT SAN DIEGO’S OLD GLOBE Storytelling is the heart of theater.  In their warmly-received yet mix-reviewed work from 1987, Stephen Sondheim (music and lyrics) and James Lapine (book) tackled storytelling at its classical core.  Their Into [...]

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Top 10 Best Films For Cinematography (List)

Camera

We are accustomed to seeing a movie because a star, director or we have to see latest sequel, prequel or remake or of a sequel to a prequel. It seems impossible to not say “Who’s in it?” However, the person behind that beautiful shot, tender [...]

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A Tale of Samurai Cooking: A True Love Story (Review)

A Tale of Samurai Cooking A True Love Story (2013)

Not bad, but I wanted to like it more than I did. I love Japanese films.  I also love films about cooking–such as Babette’s Feast, The Big Night and Mostly Martha.  So, I would have thought that a Japanese movie about cooking would be something [...]

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Coherence (Review)

Coherence (2013)

  “With better and more professional looking camerawork, I might have enjoyed the film but, as it is, I just cannot recommend it.”       by Martin Hafer I am very happy I did not see this one on the big screen When Coherence [...]

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Kirsty (Review)

Random

  “Kirsty isn’t a film that’s trying to reinvent the wheel, however, it does demonstrate how effective a solid little well-made horror can be.”       by Nav Qateel Kirsty turned out to far more effective than I expected, and truth be told, my [...]

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Into the Storm (Review)

Into The Storm

  “Here is a disaster film that actually has a method to its madness and the wondrous feature of realism under its belt, which can be just as limitless as unrealistic action, any day.”     by Steve Pulaski I’m the first to get nervous [...]

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Around the Block (Review)

Around The Block

  “[Around the Block] managed to take familiar topics and make them quite unique and original yet also offered us insight into bigotry and dissatisfaction that folk outside Australia might not even realize exists.”   by Martin Hafer To Sir, With Love meets Hamlet…meets hip-hop! [...]

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The Quiet Family (Review)

Quiet Family

A very rare case where the remake is SIGNIFICANTLY better than the original The Quiet Family–B- The Happiness of the Katakuris (previously reviewed)–A+ The editor of Influx knows that one of my all-time favorite international films is the brilliant Japanese comedy The Happiness of the [...]

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The Calling (Review)

Calling

  “While The Calling isn’t a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination, Jason Stone succeeded in putting together an entertaining thriller with a great cast who performed well.”     by Nav Qateel Small-town detective Hazel Micallef has a gruesome murder on her [...]

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