[Last 2014] Weekend Roundup + Mini Reviews of The Trip To Italy, The Immigrant, Exodus: Gods & Kings and Into the Woods

Hello hello! Hope you had a lovely long Holiday weekend. It’s quite a nice and relaxing holiday for me, though it ended up being a pretty busy one hanging out with friends. I did fit in some movie-watching, even went to the cinema for Exodus though it was more of a last-minute decision when some friends invited us.

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Just a quick thought on each of them as I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to review them…

The Trip to Italy
It’s not as fun as the first film, The Trip. Perhaps I’m just getting tired of Steve Coogan & Rob Brydon‘s schtick and they’re really not very likable characters. The impersonations are getting a bit repetitive, but some are still fun to watch, especially when they’re talking about all the Bond actors. The Italian scenery and food imagery are truly drool-worthy however.

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The Immigrant
The main draw for me is the cast, especially Joaquin Phoenix and Marion Cottilard. Two things that this movie have going for it are the performances and the intriguing story. I’m not generally fond of Jeremy Renner and here he’s just ok, not as compelling as the other two actors. The star is definitely Cottilard who remains alluring no matter how destitute they made her up to be. Now, if only the pace and direction had a bit more life to it. It felt overlong and tedious, even if the actors were able to hold my attention for the most part. The finale did pack an emotional punch, but I wish it had been more evenly-handled throughout, especially since the story strikes a chord with me.

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Exodus: Gods & Kings
Now, Ted’s given a full review of this but since I just this earlier today, I figure I’ll give my own two cents. Well, I ended up enjoying this more than I thought. Perhaps having a very low expectations helps, but I’m glad to say I didn’t find it boring even if it certainly lacking that *epic* touch I expected from Ridley Scott. Performances are good, especially the two leads Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton, but Scott took way too much liberty with the story and character of Moses. There are too many to mention here but let’s just say this story is more inspired by the Biblical tale than an actual adaptation. It’s one thing if a reimagining of the centuries-old story actually enhances the adaptation, but in this case, the alterations are much to its detriment and much of it just don’t make sense. Still, I don’t think this was an abomination as some critics describe it but I think keeping the integrity of the story would’ve served this film better.

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IntoTheWoodsBanner

I have to admit I’ve actually never heard of Stephen Sondheim‘s play before this film, apparently it’s been around for nearly 3 decades. But since I grew up watching a ton of Disney fairy tale movies, the idea of reimagining some of Brothers Grimm fairy tales intrigues me. I’m all about crafting a twist to a classic story, so long as they do a good job of it. Alas, I feel that Into The Woods might be a much better fit as a stage performance as it’s all about showmanship instead of a compelling narration.

The main players are comprised of the Baker & his wife (James Corden & Emily Blunt), and the wicked witch (Meryl Streep). The rest are basically supporting characters: Jack and his mother (Daniel Huttlestone and Tracey Ullman), Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Cinderella’s Prince (Chris Pine), Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy), Rapunzel’s Prince (Billy Magnussen), Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), and Johnny Depp’s in a glorified cameo.

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Not a bad cast at all, and I must say they all did a good job singing and performing the songs. Some fare better than others of course, Kendrick could’ve done well on the stage version of this with her beautiful voice and Streep also has quite a lovely voice. Much have been said about her performance as the witch, but seems that at this point she could just be reading a restaurant menu poetically and they’d shower her with a plethora of awards. I think she’s rather over-the-top here, though that’s perhaps the direction she was given. Her song has the most memorable melody of the entire movie, but I don’t think her performance itself is THAT extraordinary. I think my favorite has to be Pike & Magnussen’s (the two Prince brothers) hilarious and unabashedly campy rendition of Agony. Ironically, it’s the least agonizing rendition of the rest and it got the whole theater cheering for its flagrant goofiness. Corden has the most screen time aside from Streep and I think he’s a good and likable actor that’s able to hold his own. He has a nice chemistry with Blunt, who’s always lovely to watch no matter how little she has to work with.

Overall though, I just can’t get into the story. It’s convoluted for no apparent reason and the third act just got too somber and dark for its own good, which seems disconnected from the lighter scenes that precede it. In fact, the stories don’t feel well-connected at all, they just seem randomly thrown together for amusement sake. Much like the equally star-studded ensemble of Nine, Rob Marshall seems more adept at assembling a bunch of fabulous crews and actors but he’s inept in making the most of the performers to tell an engaging story. I’ve only seen three of his work, including the overrated Chicago which I don’t think deserve the Best Picture Oscar. In fact I wish it hadn’t, as it encouraged Marshall to think he’s a great director.

As I walked out of the theater, I wonder if it had been ill-advised to adapt this material on the big screen. I mean if they absolutely had to adapt it, perhaps Disney should’ve gotten someone who’s more of a bold visionary filmmaker. Someone who could breathe some real sparkle (to match all that fairy dust) into this adaptation and make it entertaining in the process. As it is now, the movie is mere window dressing with gorgeous set pieces, pretty costumes and lovely songs, but it inspires more of a ‘huh?’ reaction than ‘wow.’

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Well, have you seen any of these films? What did you think?

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38 thoughts on “[Last 2014] Weekend Roundup + Mini Reviews of The Trip To Italy, The Immigrant, Exodus: Gods & Kings and Into the Woods

  1. I actually enjoyed The Immigrant which I think is fantastic as I saw it earlier this year. I have no interest in seeing the other films except for The Trip to Italy because I’m a Michael Winterbottom fan and I’m going to see The Trip on TV next month. What I saw this weekend were Nymphomaniac, The Interview (review coming tomorrow), and earlier today, Foxcatcher.

    1. Hi Steven! I wish I could say The Immigrant is fantastic but it was a bit tedious and uneven for me, still worth seeing for Joaquin & Marion though. If you like The Trip, you might enjoy the sequel, but it wasn’t as good IMO. I’d never see Nymphomaniac even in someone paid me.

      1. OK, but would rather see a double of Nymphomaniac and Salo or a marathon of the Friedberg/Seltzer parody films like Epic Movie and Meet the Spartans? And there’s money involved.

  2. Ted S.

    I might give The Immigrant a watch sometime but have no desire to see Into the Woods and Trip to Italy. I might change my mind about Exodus when I see the eventual “Director’s Cut” on Bluray; I thought Kingdom of Heave theatrical cut was boring and awful but the Director’s Cut version was a vast improvement. Maybe the Director’s Cut of Exodus will be much better.

    I watched a few movies at home over the weekend, I bought the 3D version of The Amazing Spiderman 2 and watched it. The 3D effects were very cool but the actual movie was kind of a train wreck yet I thought it could’ve been great had the script was more focused on one story and not multiple plots. I wasn’t bored by it, the first one bored me to death. Then I watched NOAH, it kept my attention but coming from a talented filmmaker like Aronofsky, I was a bit disappointed. With a new Michael Mann movie coming out in a few weeks, I decided to watch his best flick HEAT, haven’t seen in a while and still love it.

    1. The Immigrant is worth seeing if you like the cast, Ted. Yeah steer clear of Into The Woods, I doubt you’d enjoy it. I definitely will borrow your Director’s Cut BD of Exodus if you decide to buy it. I still think Ridley should’ve just stay faithful to the Bible, it’s a much more compelling TRUE story than whatever he concocted out of his agnostic belief.

      Ahah, there’s nothing amazing about Amazing Spiderman 2. Even the SFX was ok for me, drowned out by the awful script and direction. I’m super excited for Blackhat!!

  3. I liked The Trip to Italy, but agree it’s not as funny as the original, and the idea is becoming repetitive by now.
    Marion Cottilard was great in The Immigrant, in the end I think her performance was greater than the film she was in, which was the same reaction I had to her other new film “Two Days, One Night” . “Great” performances in “good” films.

    1. Hi Chris! I remember you said I should check out The Trip sequel because of the Bond discussion. That part is still funny but overall it’s definitely a letdown.

      “Great” performances in “good” films! Now there’s an idea of a blog post 😉 Definitely agree about Marion’s performance there.

  4. Stu

    3 films I haven’t seen but have been tempted by. I was going to check out Exodus despite the average / negative reviews but Birdman, Foxcatcher and The Theory Of Everything are all out here in the next week or so, so I will probably give it a miss now as Xmas is expensive enough as it is! Same goes for Into The Woods, unfortunately.
    We had The Trip To Italy as 6 separate TV shows; I think it might work better in bite-size pieces a week apart like that. I like both comedians but like you I’m getting a bit tired of their double act now.
    I haven’t seen anything yet this weekend but I might watch The Double tonight, and Birdman in the next few days if time allows.

    1. Hi Stu! I think Exodus is still worth seeing, but I’d say check out Birdman first if you can. Into The Woods is good only for a rental or if it’s on TV! Oh yeah, I’d think The Trip To Italy would be more enjoyable in bit parts, though there might be some parts that are duller than others.

  5. Kind of a bland way to end the year for you, huh? I liked The Immigrant more than you, agreed with you on Into the Woods, and not too interested in seeing The Trip to Italy. Bring on 2015 🙂

    1. Hi Cindy! Well the year is not over yet 😉 I forgot to mention here that I bought two DVDs of Toby’s comedy VEXED (I think I told you about it before) and those are such a hoot! So I might watch all the episodes by year’s end. Did you review The Immigrant? I wish I could say I love it, it was just ok despite the intriguing story and great performances. Yep, we agree Into The Woods is just meh. Indeed, bring on 2015!! 😀

      1. Enjoy Vexed. I received the first season of ‘Game of Thrones’. I heard so many people talking about it so I requested it and got it for Xmas. I must have missed the memo that it’s quite erotic. Too bad for that because the show is beautifully done. It’s a Medieval soap opera, is all. Enjoying it!

        1. Oh you’ve seen Vexed? Did you rent it from Netflix? I just LOVE Toby in that, and then in January Black Sails 2 is back and as Capt. Flint he’s soooo different from his goofy character in Vexed. Oh I knew Game of Thrones is quite racy and violent. I have no doubt it’s good and I do love the cast, I just wish I have the stomach for that stuff.

          1. I barely do anymore. When they get to a grisly part, I tell my daughter, who is watching it enthusiastically with me, “Okay, I get it. You don’t have to hold on the bubbles of blood coming out of the throat” (or wherever). The full frontal nudes have me blushing. It was made for teenage boys, I think 😉 But the production set, the landscape, the costumes and props are fantastic. I like the Dwarf, Tyrion Lannister, and the little girl who acts like the character from ‘Brave’.

  6. Really enjoyed reading your thoughts Ruth. I had heard that The Trip to Italy was a bit of a letdown. Sounds like that is definitely the case. I gotta say I really liked The Immigrant. I really did work for me. And we talked a bit about Exodus. You’re right, it isn’t an adaptation. It is more inspired by the biblical account. I do think it maintains the spirit of the story but I also agree that the film would be better served if it had taken more of that account and used it.

    Into the Woods sounds like what I was afraid it would be. I just can’t get interested in it. Isn’t it crazy that it has already received a load of awards nominations? Hmmmmm!

    1. Thanks Keith! I have so much catching up to do w/ reviews, I haven’t even written about The Imitation Game yet despite having seen it back in October.

      I think The Immigrant could’ve been a really GREAT film, but it just felt tedious at times and the engagement level is so uneven. Still I’m glad I saw it.

      Y’know, your review made me want to see Exodus for myself, so when my friends wanted to go I decided to give it a shot. I’m glad I did even though it’s far from being a great film. I think mostly because I love the original TRUE story so much that the deviation irritates me. I mean, that’s not WHY Moses killed those guards, sheesh! Talk about character assassination as it made Moses seemed like he killed them out of selfish reasons instead of out of compassion for the Jewish slaves who’re brutally mistreated.

      I had trepidation going into ‘Into The Woods’ (pardon the pun), but it’s actually worse than my expectations! I’m really irritated that Streep kept getting nominated for a so-so performance and most especially Rob Marshall getting even more encouragement to make more movies! 😦

  7. The Immigrant and Exodus: Gods & Kings are the only ones here I’m interested in. Into the Woods looked like it had potential, but trailers never lit a fire under me.

    I can’t resist a Ridley Scott film. Need to see Exodus!

    1. Hey Jaina! I’m a big fan of Ridley too but he hasn’t reclaimed his glory of Gladiator. There are parts that echo that film but overall it’s totally subpar. But yeah, it’s really not as bad as some people made it out to be.

      1. Gladiator is pretty much the perfect historical epic film. I can’t imagine a single film, whether directed by Ridley or not, matching that. Still, I enjoy a bit of a historical epic, I’m sure I’ll find something to enjoy in Exodus.

        1. Interesting you said historical epic as Gladiator is purely fiction. On the other hand, I wish Ridley had stuck with the TRUE historical story of Moses as it’s written in the Bible. It’s a far more compelling and inspiring story than whatever he and the writes came up with for the character.

          1. Gladiator – historical in the sense that it is set in an era that is of the past.

            Think as a film maker/director/writer, taking on a subject matter that may have some fact to it is tricky. You want to be creative and use the base of the story for your own story. Which I totally respect. I’m of the thinking that anything historical and religious, be it in the bible, bagvhad gita, torah, qu’ran, whatever, isn’t all fact – they’re fables. But that’s a whole other arena!

            1. I can’t speak for the others but as far as Moses’ story in the Bible, I don’t see it as fables. So I guess that’s why I felt that the fictitious alterations to his story bothers me.

  8. I’m really shocked you even saw Exodus! Have you seen Noah yet? I’m really interested to know your thoughts on that one.

    I’m sad you didn’t like The Immigrant. Sati didn’t either, if I remember correctly. I loved it. Like, it’s in my Top Five this year, and I can’t see it slipping out, I love it that much. The whole feel of it was just…stunning to me. I think I said in my review that it reminded me of something that would have swept the Oscars in the 80’s. Like, it just has this old timey soap operatic loveliness about it.

    I’m so confused about what to expect from Into the Woods…

    1. Hi Drew! I wasn’t planning to see Exodus but decided on the last minute as my friends wanted to see it. I was surprised I didn’t hate it, which is a good thing, but they altered the character/story so much that it’s more of an *inspired* story than a faithful adaptation. No haven’t seen Noah but I’m much more of a fan of Ridley Scott than Aronofsky so that’s partly the reason I gave Exodus a shot.

      Oh it’s not like I didn’t like The Immigrant, I just didn’t love it. I think 3/5 is still a good film and Marion/Joaquin are both excellent and the story itself is heart-wrenching.

      Well, just don’t expect much from Into The Woods and maybe you’d love it. I guess the Emily Blunt and Chris Pine parts were still fun to watch, but I’d rather just see those on Youtube later, y’know.

  9. I was listening to Into the Woods soundtrack yesterday and it is kinda terrible, especially Depp and that girl who is Red Riding Hood. I want to see it for Emily Blunt but I’m not surprised to read it’s not very good :/

    1. Hi Sati! Honestly I can’t even remember the song that Depp & the Red Riding Hood girl sang in the movie, and their scene actually seems creepy than playful to me. Miss Blunt is always watchable and she has a lovely voice, but I’d say just look for her scenes to pop up later on Youtube to see it.

  10. Lady Ruth, I saw the Immigrant this weekend too! I agree with your review 100%, the cast drew me and sold it to my husband and we both enjoyed it but agree it started getting a little blah and I wanted it to pick up. But not a bad movie. I have been meaning to see The Trip movies, I was actually going to see that but decided on Immigrant, how funny. I will take your word for it and at least see the first one. Into the Woods seems so unappealing to me, I don’t know I can’t pinpoint, but I am thinking it is because of Anna Kendrick, she seriously annoys me! PS… Black Sails is starting soon! I don’t have Starz right now but I am so tempted to get it to see the show. 🙂

    1. Wow, great minds eh dahling Mel? I’m glad I finally saw The Immigrant, but yeah it could’ve been a lot more compelling overall given how good the story was. I love Marion’s and Joaquin’s performances, but overall it was a bit too I dunno, lackluster? Like a gem that needs a bit more polish, for a lack of a better analogy.

      I hear ya about Kendrick, I’m not overly fond of her either but it’s all the adulation over Meryl Streep’s performance that annoys me more. Chris Pine’s hilarious here though, I hope that ‘Agony’ scene will pop up on Youtube soon.

      Ooooh I can’t wait to see my darling Toby in his naval uniform glory!! Someone saw me this from Twitter and I almost fell off my chair!! http://weloveperioddrama.tumblr.com/post/106230670722/every-man-has-his-torments-you-perceive-the

      1. Exactly… lackluster is a great way to describe the feeling. At first I was really into the film, but I wanted something more to happen with the character not just a momentous feeling of finally being reunited with her sister. Exactly a little more polishing and this would have been a superb movie.

        Glad Chris Pine did well in the film, what about Blunt, I heard she was pretty good too? Kendrick I don’t know I think it’s her annoying voice that bugs me.

        Oh LOVE it, he looks fabulous! Of course people send you Toby pics, totally natural haha. My husband asking the other day when is Black Sails coming back, that’s a good sign that even men can appreciate his acting.

  11. Nice roundup Ruth! I liked The Trip to Italy, but I agree the first film is more fun. Sorry you didn’t like The Immigrant more. I think it’s a triumph in formalism, and the film actually flew by for me on a second watch. I agree on Exodus, which wasn’t *that* bad. Into the Woods was enjoyable, though I was slightly underwhelmed.

    1. Hello Josh! Oh it’s not that I didn’t like it, I just didn’t love The Immigrant. I do think it’s a good film w/ terrific performance, esp. Marion Cottilard’s. Glad I gave Exodus a shot but Into The Woods was only sporadically enjoyable, and overall it’s disappointing.

  12. Good review of Into the Woods, Ruth. I have to admit I felt similarly. Boy, was I disappointed when I found that there was a second Agony song in the musical that was to be sung by the two princes, but that they cut it from the film. I have a couple friends who were much more familiar with the musical than I was who recommended I see an older version of it that fares better, since this version cut songs, changed the storyline, and even kept a character alive that was killed off in the original.

    1. Hello Kris! Belated THANK YOU for the card, sorry I didn’t get around to sending you one. It’s too late for a Christmas card but there’s always Valentine’s Day right? 😉

      Oh there’s a second Agony song?? Bummer that they cut that from the movie as those two princes are a hoot! They didn’t take their roles seriously and were hamming it up which makes it so fun to watch. I’d imagine Into The Woods would be more fun as a stage play.

      1. Hey Ruth! Oh no worries! The holidays have put me so far behind in just about everything, don’t even worry about it!

        Yes!! I know, right? I would agree that I don’t think film is quite the best format for Into the Woods. I’d be all for seeing a stage adaptation at some point though!

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