The last few months of 2014 saw a very abnormal trend for movies. The fall season produced its usual mixture of top-notch thrillers, sci-fis and teen franchises. On the other hand, December, normally the Mount Olympus of movies for the year, was one of the weaker release periods of the year.
Welcome to my eighth annual movie rankings list, as long as ‘annual’ means ‘whenever I feel like it every few months.’ This list will determine the order of the movies I’ve seen and may or may not have reviewed since last September. The nominees for Logan’s favorite (and least favorite) movies are, in order of release:
Are we out of the woods yet?
Watching Into The Woods is like taking a pleasant stroll, preferably through the woods, then realizing halfway through that you are hopelessly, irredeemably lost. And being hunted by an annoying giant. At least the first half of the movie was fun, and the entire run time is packed with consistently strong musical numbers from a fun and varied cast. However, a combination of strange plotting from the original musical and director Rob Marshall seemingly running out of steam in the second act makes the movie less than the massive family holiday event it could have been.
Adapted to the big screen by original playwright James Lapine, the film has quite a few plotlines, but starts out with a baker and his wife (James Corden and Emily Blunt) venturing into the woods to collect various items and lift a curse that a witch (Meryl Streep) cast on their house. Other fairytales happen to be passing through, like Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) on the way to that ball she’s always been obsessed with; Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) looking to sell his dying cow for some money and/or magic beans; and Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) on her way to visit her grandma, because that’s all she does. The bakers begin their plunder, as each fairytale holds an item they need.
When Reese Witherspoon yanks out her dislocated toenail in the opening shot of Wild, Jean-Marc Vallée’s biographical drama, a clear message is sent: this woman is tough. And we’re about to witness all the tough things she did on the 1,000-mile hike she forced herself to complete. Especially when her boot tumbles down the cliff almost immediately after the nail. But what follows this brief scene is a completely average film – a normal series of events told with a weighted optimism that is never anything more or less than good. It’s the opposite of wild.
Which is not to detract from the accomplishments achieved by Cheryl Strayed, who wrote the autobiography that serves as source material. Strayed (a name chosen after her divorce) never backed away from the monumental undertaking she assigned herself. As a self-declared feminist, she’s fixated on being one of the few women found on the trail, and one of the even fewer people, gender regardless, to complete it. In that aspect, and in showing her journey, the film is triumphant.