Saturday, January 24, 2015

Into the Woods

My mother took my sister and I to see a stage production of Into the Woods when I was a teen. I loved it! It was a fun and fantastic twist on several of my favorite fairy tales. When I heard that Disney was filming their own production, I was ecstatic, especially once I heard who was to star in the film. We went to see this new film recently, and loved it as well. I will warn you, this post does contain spoilers, but if you're familiar with the fairytales Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Little Red Riding Hood, most of it will not come as a surprise.
There are many characters in Into the Woods, and the title song introduces many of them. There's Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) and her wicked stepmother (Christine Baranski) and stepsisters (Tammy Blanchard and Lucy Punch). Anna Kendrick, who rose to fame in the Twilight movies,  is quite a wonderful Broadway style singer, as is Christine Baranski, who did a fantastic job singing in another musical film, Mama Mia. Lucy Punch was also the wicked stepsisters in another Disney film, Ella Enchanted. We also meet the Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt). He played the much abused servant Planchet in the most recent Three Musketeers, and she was the voice of Juliet in Gnomeo and Juliet, among other roles. Meryl Streep is incredible as the Witch, and although I absolutely adore her in Mama Mia, she does a much better job of singing in Into the Woods. Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford in her debut screen role), Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) and his mother (Tracy Ullman) round out the group that must enter the woods, either to solve a problem or visit someone far away. Daniel Huttlestone previously appeared as Gavroche in the lavish film production of Les Miserables.  Tracy Ullman, who has been making me laugh since Robin Hood: Men in Tights, also lent her voice to characters in the Corpse Bride and Kronk's New Groove.

As there adventures play out in the Woods, they meet each other, as well as other characters. The Baker and his wife must find the things that the Witch requires so that they can have a child. The Witch requires four things: the cow as white as milk, the cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn, the slipper as pure as gold. Jack must sell his best friend, his cow Milky White. Cinderella must find a way to attend the Prince's (Chris Pine) Ball. And Little Red Riding Hood must make her way to Grandmother's house. On the way, she meets the Wolf (the delicious Johnny Depp who is absolutely wicked in the role, especially when he sings "Hello Little Girl"). As the Baker and his wife split up to better continue their search, she sees Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy) and her Prince (Billy Magnussen) meeting in a tower.

Through a series of wild and ridiculous misadventures, everyone works to toward their own goal. The Baker and his wife manage to find and lose and find again the items that they need. Cinderella continually evades the Prince, who, along with his brother, Rapunzel's Prince, sings the hilarious song "Agony" to explain their misery at falling in love with girls who are distant, each in their own way. Cinderella's Prince finally comes up with a wily way to catch the mystery maid, but succeeds only in catching her shoe. Rapunzel's Prince is caught by the Witch and cast out into a wall of thorns. Jack, who traded his cow to the Baker for "magic beans", has gone up the beanstalk and robbed the giants, and even killed one. Eventually, everyone gets what they think they desire, only to discover that the giant's mother (Frances de la Tour, who played another giantess in Harry Potter) has come seeking revenge for the death of her son. Back into the Woods, everyone must go to find a way to set everything right. I won't spoil the end for those who haven't seen it, but it is quite unexpected.

In all, I quite enjoyed the film. While it isn't exactly like the stage musical, it was still a good adaptation. (And the songs will be stuck in your head for days. We ended up buying the soundtrack because of this.) If you have the chance, see Into the Woods. You may end up loving it, too.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Hobbit knits

I don't know if you've noticed this (although if you've seen my Pinterest, you've probably guessed) but I'm a rampant knitter. I have been known to spend most of my free time knitting. Friends and family often receive scarves, fingerless gloves, and mounds of dishcloths for birthdays and Christmas. I have hundreds of patterns for sweaters, scarves, shawls, blankets, mittens, and mire, just waiting for me to test them out. I also have many more patterns that I've knit, some of which I return to over and over again. I can't tell you how many basket weave dishcloths  I've made. And socks! I can't forget the socks. I was so addicted to knitting them when I first discovered that I could make them, that I made at least a dozen pairs before I moved on to something else. The same thing happened with the mitts. My sister said she'd like a pair because it's cold at work, and I ended up making her 10 pairs, so that she could match them to her outfits, right? The most recent pair look like smores  in color blocking. I made several pairs for Bean, too.

At the moment, I'm completely addicted to knits from the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. I have an Arwen inspired sweater on my needles right now and I recently knitted a Leaves of Lorien dishcloth. And I'm absolutely obsessed with the mitts and scarves worn by the dwarves in the Hobbit movies. There are some fantastic patterns on Ravelry, many of which I've pinned on my Hobbit Crafts board. There are also a few amazing kits from Stansborough Yarn Company. One is for Bofur's mitts and one for his scarf. They can be ordered directly from Stansborough, or from Weta, the production company behind the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Stansborough provided all of the wool yarns used for both knit and woven accessories in the films. They also sell finished woven replicas of the scarves and cloaks for on the films. This New Zealand based company even created a special line of yarn that can be purchased to create you own Hobbity accessories. The yarn line, called Mythral or Mithril, is available in 5 colors: Kokako, Rata, Manuka, Takahe, and Kakariki. The grey color, Kokako, was used for Gandalf's hat and mitts. The wool comes from a specific breed of sheep, th he Stansborough Grey, of which there is only one flock in the world, and they live in New Zealand. As a result, the yarn can seem a bit pricey, but I'd still love to try it. You can order the yarn indirectly from Stansborough, or from the one US distributor: Yarn Sisters. A single skein at Yarn Sisters is $16.00 plus shipping. I think I may just have to order some to make a pair of dwarven mitts to wear this winter.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Christmas Movies for Kids Part 3

I love many of the kids Christmas movies that have appeared in recent years. I especially enjoy those from DreamWorks Animation. They have created several short Christmas films that feature characters from their popular series.

How to Train Your Dragon: Gift of the Night Fury - This is a wonderful tale about Hiccup and his Viking pals and their dragons. As the Vikings prepare to celebrate Snoggletog, the dragons suddenly leave, dampening everyone's spirits. Even Toothless leaves once Hiccup provides him with a new tail. As Hiccup's pals work together to save Snoggletog, Hiccup tries to discover what has happened to the dragons. In the end, everyone comes together to celebrate the true meaning of the season: the love of family.

Shrek The Halls - With Christmas rapidly approaching, Princess Fiona and the babies are looking forward to spending the holidays as a family. Unfortunately, Shrek knows nothing about Christmas. As he struggles to create the perfect Christmas from the book "Christmas for Village Idiots", his friends manage to destroy everything. With a little help from Fiona, Shrek learns the meaning of family, and finally discovers the perfect Christmas.

Kung Fu Panda Holiday - Po has always celebrated the Winter Feast with his father, but this year, he's expected to host a formal dinner for the Kung Fu Masters. With the help of the Furious Five, Po tries to create the best Winter Feast ever. Along the way, he tries to discover the true meaning of the holidays; time spent with family and those he loves.

Merry Madagascar - When Alex and his zoo pals shoot down Santa, whom they had mistaken for the "red night goblin" the lemurs fear, they worry that they've ruined Christmas. Working quickly, Alex, Marty, Gloria, Melman, and those wacky penguin come up with a plan to save the day: they'll deliver the presents while Santa recovers from his amnesia. With some madcap hijinks and more than a few mistake, the animals manage to save Christmas, but are forced to return to Madagascar to bring Santa his sleigh. In the end, they discover that giving makes it all worth while, and they are happy to celebrate the holiday.

Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas Special - While Manny and Ellie get ready for their first Christmas with their daughter Peaches, Sid does what he always does, and ruins everything by breaking Manny 's heirloom Christmas rock. Manny informs Sid that he has just made Santa's naughty list, even though he made it up. So, Peaches, Sid, Crash, and Eddie journey to the North Pole to set things right, with hilarious results!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas Movies

It's that time of year again: time to dig out the Christmas movies and have a movie marathon. If you are looking for movies to watch, be sure to check out a few of my favorite Christmas movies. I must admit that I am terribly fond of Christmas movies, so my list of favorites is quite long. If you'd like to know more about a particular film, just click on the link.

Kids Christmas Movies:
     Eloise at Christmastime
     Eloise Little Miss Christmas
     Emmett Otter's Jugband Christmas
     Mickey 's Once Upon a Christmas
     Mickey 's Twice Upon a Christmas
     How the Grinch Stole Christmas
     Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas
     The Original Television Christmas Classics - Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,  
           Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Little Drummer Boy, and
           the Cricket on the Hearth
     The Happy Elf
     Beauty and the Beast: Enchanted Christmas
     Yes, Virginia
     The Santa Clause Trilogy
     The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus
     Santa and Pete
     The Polar Express
     Muppet Christmas Carol
     Arthur Christmas

Adult Movies:
     White Christmas
     Miracle on 34th Street
     The Man Who Saved Christmas
     Silent Night
     The Holiday
     A Christmas Carol - my favorite stars Patrick Stewart
     A Christmas Carol: The Musical

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Fire

Normally, I don't pay too much attention to the sensational news out of Disney World.  However,  last night I was there,  so I know it's true.  Apparently,  a firework from Wishes landed on the exterior of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride and set it on fire.  The fire was quickly extinguished,  but the ride was closed for nearly two hours.  It reopened shortly after midnight,  which was when my family and I rode for the first time.  It was well worth the wait; we loved it! The fire doesn't seem to have done any major damage, but I suspect there will be some changes for fireworks on windy nights.