Monday, December 29, 2014


So I'm having this weird kind of affair with Rob Marshall. It's been short yet intense and it has led me to others but neither one of us are upset by that

Yeh, let's clear this up

Rob Marshall is a movie director. I have seen four of his movies. Three of them have been musicals. Two of those musicals were my first exposure to stage musicals, one of which I later saw on stage. The third musical is, I believe, an original movie and it led me nowhere

Rob Marshall's film version of Chicago is one of the best contemporary movie musicals. Yes, even better than the film adaptation of Les Miz. I saw the movie a couple of times, enjoyed both viewings tremendously and last year, finally saw the stage version here in Toronto. I enjoyed the play very much and I still love the movie.

See, I saw Les Miz on stage maybe five times before I saw the movie. I had not seen the stage version for a long time and I enjoyed the movie. We saw the new Toronto staging of Les Miz about a year after seeing the movie. I sort of remember the movie. It's like that

Rob Marshall's movie Nine is a musical version of the Fellini film. I never much cared for Fellini and, with the exception of one or two musical numbers in Nine, didn't much care for that either. If it became a stage production maybe I'd see it but motivation would not be strong

Last night Collette and I went to see Rob Marshall's movie Into The Woods. It's based upon a rather famous Stephen Soundheim musical which I've never seen. I've seen a stage version of A Little Night Music which I enjoyed and stage and movie version of A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum both of which I adored

Oh yeh, he also did something called Westside Story. Only ever saw the movie. It works.

But I have never seen the stage version of Into the Woods and knew very little about it. When I saw the trailers for the movie I didn't even realize that it was a musical. Isn't it interesting how they seem to hide that

Collette and I are quite fond of reworking fairy tales and have seen many movies and TV shows (Once Upon A Time, Maleficent, Snow White and the Huntsman to name a few) and enjoy the idiom So off we went, into the woods

I can only speak about the movie version here. I understand that changes were made from the stage play (often there are) but I can't comment to that

What we saw I loved. This movie does more than twist your favorite fairy tales. It's funny, it's dark, it's hilarious, it's harsh, it's at times even moving. It's a rather complicated plot to unravel but all your faves are here: Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Rapunsel. How they come together and fall apart is usually surprising and very entertaining

The score is very strong, the lyrics are clever and insightful and compelling; there are no songs here likely to be made into pop versions but the melodies still work, tying themselves together in some surprising ways

This is more operetta style, with the bulk of the dialogue expressed as song. There are a couple of show stoppers; Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen as a pair of prince brothers pretty much steal the show and there is a lovely and moving foursome with two adults and the two children in the cast

There are some big names in the cast: Johnny Depp as the Wolf does his Johnny Depp thing, being appropriately creepy and displaying a quite serviceable voice. Meryl Streep has a solid voice and has some strong moments but her Wicked Witch character is, a times, a bit muddled. And Tracy Allman is Tracy Allman and that is always good.

Emily Blunt and James Corben, as married bakers whose story is at the heart of the stories are very very good, Corben in particular displays a broad range from comedy to empathy, always remaining steadily in character

For me, the revelation in the cast is Anna Kendrick as Cinderella. She has a voice as good as many stage performers I've seen and her performance is rock solid. Her Cinderella is a transformative character of course but Kendrick uses her skill as an actor, more than her wardrobe, to express these changes

This will not be a film for everyone. It's point is to challenge you and it does so. Soundheim piles his lyrics into his meters and you better pay attention. But it's funny as hell, it's unpredictable and it gives you much to think about

It's dangerous in the woods. And it's also pretty damn entertaining

Monday, December 8, 2014


I have wishes for fishes under the sea,
in clear blue water
into which nobody pees

I have wishes for fishes, any kinds that swim,
the wrigglers and squirmers
and the selfish ones who proclaim "Don't eat me, eat him!"

All of the critters under the sea
the kelp and the jellies and the
cute anemones

I have wishes for fishes
and all of their kin,
wishes for the ocean
into which I'll now jump in

Ripley's Aquarium, Dec 2014 from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.

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