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Into The Woods (Blu-ray Review)

Into-The-WoodsFrom the director of “Chicago” and the producer of “Wicked” comes a modern twist on the beloved fairy tales you thought you knew. Academy Award®-Winning actress Meryl Streep (Best Actress, The Iron Lady), leads an all-star cast in this enchanted adventure about daring to venture Into The Woods.  The film wound up landing Meryl Streep yet another Academy Award nomination (Best Supporting Actress, which ended up going to Patricia Arquette for her role in Boyhood) to which she yawned and said “yeah I know”.  The film was released around this past Christmas season, which seemed the perfect time for it.

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Film 

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!  Meryl Streep stars as the Witch, Johnny Depp as the Wolf, Emily Blunt as the Baker’s Wife, James Corden as the Baker, Anna Kendrick as Cinderella, Chris Pine as Cinderella’s Prince, Lilla Crawford as Little Red Riding Hood, Daniel Huttlestone as Jack, and MacKenzie Mauzy as Rapunzel.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big fan of the stage version of Into The Woods.  I was quite looking forward to this movie version of the film (Seems like a long time coming).  When time came for it to release, I just wasn’t able to get to it in the first couple weeks (Life stuff comes first always).  And then by the time I could get to the theater, Inherent Vice and Selma were taking precedent over my cinematic choices.  But, I was hopeful I’d be able to see it via a Blu-ray review and alas that was able to happen.

I found the film to be pretty darn good.  I think its easily helped out by strong source material and a cast that proves to be both fun and have a few surprises.  Rob Marshall manages to succeed in a genre where he’s garnered a lot of success from before (He also directed Chicago).  There are plenty of changes to the movie version in an attempt to tighten up the film and streamline some things for a little simpler outcome.  Its a shame to see some songs go, characters’ tweaked or chopped to smaller parts, but I get it.  Funny enough, they actually ADDED two songs to the film and wound up cutting them too (One is available on the bonus features).  There also is an attempt to soften the material as well.  Even though all this is done, I still think the film and story works and can be enjoyed by fan and newcomers as well.

One weird thing to me is that the aesthetic and environment for the film went a bit to “real” and epic for how I feel the material is.  It sort of removes some of the comedic feel of the film.  A bit more goofy or exploitative fairy tale design is sort of how I feel with it.  But, we live in a time where things demand to be “real” and “serious”, so I’m sure that’s what went into the thinking of this.  It doesn’t stop the comedy from being ever present though.

This cast is pretty terrific without being over the top with its choices.  He’s all over the advertising,  and Johnny Depp is a nice wolf, but that character is a small role and by the time the end credits role, you’ll forget he’s in the movie.  Emily Blunt is outstanding here in the film and continues to have a nice well rounded and versatile career.  Meryl Streep is a lot of fun, but I’m not sure Oscar nomination worthy, but at least she’s good in it.  The big surprise for me in this film was Chris Pine.  This guy totally GOT it and is a hoot to watch in the film.  He mugs and totally owns the role and plays it completely straight for maximum comedic value.  The guy is a scene stealer her.

I really recommend if you get a chance to see the full stage production of Into The Woods, I highly recommend that.  This film is a really nice companion though.  Its hard for me to see it as someone going into the story with fresh eyes, so I don’t fully know if its all working as a standalone film.  I’m also not up in arms about changes, as I’m no fanboy and I can understand production decisions and the like in order to adapt something to a new medium.  Anyway, I truly enjoyed the film and am glad there’s finally a film representation of this play available.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Clarity/Detail:  I think we’d be able have more to talk about here had this NOT been a superb display of perfection.  To be a modern Disney film and be top of the line is almost so expected its boring.  This is a nice polished looking film with every bit of detail and texture wonderfully displayed.  Digital effects mesh nicely and look very natural on this transfer.

Depth:  The woods are open, loose and 3 dimensional.  People move smoothly and freely throughout.

Black Levels: For a film with a lot of darkness and shades, it seems to be that this would be a difficult task to perfect.  But, this transfer nails it with all sorts of masterful shading, grays and everything.

Color Reproduction:  Reds and blues look terrific here.  All the colors are striking but natural and lifelike.  The palette used in this film looks gorgeous even if it is dominated by more darker tones and grays and blacks.

Flesh Tones:  Skin looks natural and consistent.  Details on wrinkles, blemishes, stubble all can be seen at any distance.

Noise/Artifacts: Nope, not at all.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio Service, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Thai, Indonesian, Korean, Malaysian, Portuguese, Mandarin, Cantonese

Dynamics:  Once again, perfection.  Into The Woods is truly one of those 7.1 tracks that is more an “experience” than anything.  Effects sound natural and loose, as if they were happening right there with you.  Vocals on the songs do sound as if they are coming from a different source, which is something I’ve not felt modern musicals have had in a while, but its no bother.  And the music comes alive right in your living room.

Low Frequency Extension:  When the giant falls…BOOOM your living room rumbles.  Bass in the musical accompaniment gets a good boost.  When the beanstalk grows there’s a nice rush as well.  The LFE makes this for more an impactful experience.

Surround Sound Presentation: Wind, leaves rustling, random sounds and musical accompaniment all swim around the side and rear channels.  The front speakers are a lively group with following the action and giving it an interactive feel in your viewing area.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is crisp and clear.  It belts out wonderfully during songs and the action travels with the characters with volume/distance accuracy.

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Extras 

Into The Woods comes with an UltraViolet Digital Copy of the film.

Audio Commentary

  • By Director Rob Marshall and Producer John DeLuca

Streep Sings Sondheim “She’ll Be Back” (HD, 4:48) – Rob Marshall introduces a song that was cut from the film.  It then shows the song as it was in the film.

There’s Something About The Woods (HD, 13:23) – Rob Marshall, Stephen Sondheim, John DeLuca, the author, some crew  and the cast discuss the thematic importance of the wood and bringing it to life in the film.  They then go into a discussion of the story, the music, costuming and shooting the film.

The Cast As Good As Gold (HD, 10:10) – Rob Marshall and the cast discuss rehearsing and working together.

Deeper Into The Woods

  • From Stage To Screen (HD, 8:33) – A look at adapting the legendary theatre version to the big screen and “how” exactly to present it from the many option they had.
  • The Magic Of The Woods (HD, 7:24) – A more in depth look at the music and songs of the film.
  • Designing The Woods (HD, 7:07) – A featurette on the set design of the film.  Primarily, more talk about the woods.
  • The Costumes Of The Woods (HD, 6:53) – A more in depth look at the costuming of the film.

Music & Lyrics – You can go song by song or play the whole movie with karaoke-style lyrics on the screen.

INTO THE WOODS

Summary 

Into The Woods is an enjoyable little run through some classic fairytales’ worlds crashing into one another in a very seamless and comedic fashion.  It has some wonderful performances in it, including a surprisingly enjoyable one from the likes of Chris Pine.  Coming as no surprise, this Disney Blu-ray has some absolutely marvelous audio and video quality to it.  One that EASILY says showroom display demo on it.  And, unlike most new Disney features, this one has a healthy little supply of extras to dig into.  This is a terrific release, and if you’re even just curious, its definitely worth the purchase over rental.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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