sweeney todd: the demon barber of fleet street (2007)

by zEke

sweeney todd posterOnce again Tim Burton. Once again a musical. This time, though, with real actors. And among them, once again, Johnny Depp. And it has been already six the collaborations between the Gothic filmmaker and the idiosyncratic performer. They dare now to reinvent the Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler musical of the same title, a musical that hit Broadway back in 1978 and has been touring since. Of course, and these days this is not news anymore, the story of the demon barber of Fleet street had been visited many times before, including three minor feature films in the thirties and a recent television movie with Ben Kingsley. On the other hand, being a character so popular in the English folklore that is not surprising.

Fictional or not, Sweeney Todd is an English villain and serial killer that has appeared in English language works since the nineteenth century. He is a barber that cuts his victims’ throats with a straight razor. Victims, whose corpses are baked later into meat pies and sold by Mrs. Lovett, his partner in crime.

This is precisely the cornerstone of Burton’s film. The barber Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp) is unjustly sentenced to a life of forced labor in Australia by Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) who steals from him his wife and daughter. Fifteen years later he escapes and is back in London, where he meets baker Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), seeking revenge as Sweeney Todd.

This is, above all, a movie that moves along through songs rather than dialog. It is through the songs that the story is delivered. Those who love the genre will be in their element. Nevertheless, those who are not friends with songs on screen will have a hard time to let themselves be seduced by a story that develops at a low pace for longer than they would have liked it. After the solid preamble the action stabilizes and Burton beats around the bush while waiting for an excellent but late final bloody climax. Something I cannot argue is the excellence of the setting, the beautifully shot black and blood (loads of) London that Burton’s camera goes constantly through, the melancholy of a decadent scenario, the power of the omnipresent tunes, in one word, the style. Yes, this movie is stylish, yes it is.

And then Depp. Truth is, none of the characters he plays can be labeled as usual. Sweeny Todd is just another eccentric odd character to add to his long collection of freak performances. And, to be honest, it is obvious to me that he really enjoys performing those characters. You can like his mannerisms more or less, but you cannot deny that each of his performances drink of his joy for good. Here, he knows how to get his character drunk of the dark humor and melancholy that the film emanates. Bonham Carter, who tends to make me think all the characters she performs are relatives, counts one less collaboration with Burton, despite of being the mother of his son. About Rickman I will just say he shows the same exact faces he showed in perfume: the story of a murderer (2006).

Being overall a decent movie, one leaves the cinema convinced that the three hour long musical might have definitely been more amusing.

For the deadhours of gothics and those who were missing the scissors of Edward and do not need much to be content.

deadrate: δair

official site | imdb

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dr. plim’s word

God… what a bad movie.

I watched this movie over 2 months ago and when I found out that it had been nominated for an Academy Award, a.k.a. The Oscars, (Johnny Depp for best performance by an actor in a leading role) I just had to write something about it.

Firstly, I don’t accept the excuses like “this is a Tim Burton movie”, or “you have to like Tim Burton to appreciate this movie”. It is true that movies have different genres but if we kept making up classifications for each director then there would be no standard of “good movie” or “bad movie”. Instead it would be “Coen brothers movie”, “Tim Burton movie”, “Almodóvar movie” etcetera etcetera. Directors do have their individual styles but something more than that is necessary to make a good movie.

Secondly, the lyrics to the songs are really trivial. Perhaps that was totally intentional, he meant to make the characters say in song (and I have a real hard time calling it “song”!) exactly the same phrases two random people say to each other.

Thirdly, the plot is boring. The movie felt slow and boring.

Forthly, Johnny Depp plays a person with no-affect. He has the same expression the whole time. Ok, he is playing someone who is traumatized and it is true that such people can be challenged in terms of showing emotion… so he should have won the Oscar for best traumatized-no-affect actor.

Tim Burton, director of some great movies such as beetle juice (1988), batman (1989), who can forget edward scissorhands (1990), the animated the night before christmas (1993), the funny mars attacks (1996), and the smart big fish (2003). sweeney todd sure contains his signature of noir, or gore, but lacks in terms of acting, in terms of plot, and in terms of the words that come out of their mouths.

deadrate: εad

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i am legend (2007)

by zEke

i am legend posterIn 1954 i am legend was published. A novel by Richard Matheson, who is also responsible for other novels made movies, about the last man alive on earth. For example, duel (1971), the Steven Spielberg’s movie about a trucker chasing an incredulous car driver on a remote and lonely road is actually based on one of Matheson’s short stories. i am legend allowed Matheson to mix horror and science fiction, and to set a scientific explanation for vampirism. The effects of the novel in filmmakers like George A. Romero, one of the precursors of the zombie genre, are obvious when going over the filmography of the latter.

i am legend is the third adaptation of the novel of the same title. Nevertheless, the two previous adaptations did not share the title with the novel. These are the last man on earth (1964) with immortal Vincent Price and the omega man (1971) with overrated Charlton Heston. The former being a more faithful adaptation, the latter probably being a better movie. But we are here today to talk about the unnecessary third adaptation of a novel that was written when authors would have never expected to see their work on the big screen. Three because I am not counting uncredited adaptations like i am omega (2007), probably the worst movie ever, or, if I am picky, 28 days later (2002).

The movie starts with an empty Manhattan. A virus, which was created to cure cancer three years ago, worked at curing it but killed almost everyone, leaving behind virologist Robert Neville (Will Smith), his dog, and an indefinite number of zombies. But not the ones we are used to, these when dark behave like unstoppable animals with rabies seeking blood. Thus, Neville spends his days listening to Bob Marley, watching shrek (2000), and trying to find a cure for the virus, and his nights hiding.

I have to say that I had low expectations when got into the theater right after watching a little jewel called juno (2007), and that helped me enjoy the scarce one hundred minutes i am legend lasts. That, Smith’s solid performance, an impressive empty Manhattan, the German shepherd Samantha, and Bob Marley. All of them ingredients that Francis Lawrence handles well during the first hour of the film. Once Neville falls in his own trap (I do really want to think that is the case, even though it makes little sense being Neville so meticulous) and the computer generated zombies become the main protagonist, Lawrence, whose only movie until now was constantine (2005), loses his way and leave us with the feeling that he was in a rush for closing up.

In summary, if you want to talk about a movie about the last man alive on earth and can handle the exaggerate mannerisms of Charlton Heston go rent the omega man, if you want to have a (just) good time and like Bob Marley go see i am legend with as low expectations as you can.

For the deadhours of those who feel lonely.

deadrate: δair

official site | imdb

steamboy (2004)

by zEke

steamboy postersteamboy is the most expensive full length Japanese animated movie made to date with an initial production cost of twenty six million dollars. It is also writer and director Katsuhiro Ôtomo, the one behind akira (1988), second major anime release after over a decade. Nevertheless, it will not have the impact in anyone that akira had in those who were able to decode it. It will, somehow, please a wider range of audiences, mainly because, better or worse, no one will get lost with this one’s plot.

The movie is without question one of the best animated movies I have ever seen, this is visually, of course, and with Hayao Miyazaki’s permission. The visuals are breathtaking. The alternative Victorian era of the United Kingdom that it portrays is both retro and gentle to see. The scarce action sequences are well cared for and every now and then you will feel that the screen is not big enough to fit the enormity of some of them.

In the middle of the British Industrial Revolution Lloyd Steam and his son Edward are on their way to manufacture the ultimate steam engine in Russian Alaska. Meanwhile young Ray Steam does and undoes in Manchester. His life changes all of a sudden when he receives a steam ball from his grandfather. A steam ball that can change the world the way it is and will turn Ray into the target of the O’Hara Foundation, the company behind the discoveries of his relatives.

Arguably, the Achilles’ heels of this pretentious production are its length (the international release, that I have not seen, is around twenty minutes shorter) and that it likes itself too much when philosophizing (not about artificial intelligence like in ghost in the shell: innocence (2004) but still over the top). The movie philosophizes too much about how human kind will never be ready for the constant technological evolution. Things around us evolves faster than we are able to adapt to them. Thus, most of the dialogs, whose only goal is to point out that idea, seem false, and after a while, annoying. People just do not talk about that while trying to save their lives. Furthermore, I do think the average viewer is able to understand the whole point without the need of all that chinwag.

In summary, a well made animated movie that is not better because of its pomposity and the transcendence that it pursuits with some of the character’s artificial and out of place speeches.

For the deadhours of those who dreamt to be an inventor someday and keep playing in their garages.

deadrate: δair

official site | imdb

wristcutters: a love story (2006)

by zEke

a love story posterwristcutters: a love story fue la gran revelación (por lo menos una de ellas) del pasado (2006) festival de Sundance con todo lo que eso significa, a veces mucho, a veces poco, a veces nada. Triunfadora como lo fueron en su día napoleon dynamite (2004) y the believer (2001). Como es normal en este tipo de producciones independientes, está hecha sólo para el paladar de unos pocos, a veces más, a veces menos, a los que seducirá sin hacer mucho ruido a pesar de sus altibajos. Y todo esto para dejar claro que si tus amigos te la recomiendan y a ti no te gusta, tranquilo, quizás no seas tú el bicho raro.

La película amanece con una escena digna de cualquier festival de cortometrajes. Una escena que, por sí sola, dice mucho y sugiere más. Sugiere durante escasos segundos, lo que tarda en comenzar la acción propiamente dicha. El cineasta croata Goran Dukic, cuyo pasado está esporádica aunque mayormente ligado al mundo del cortometraje, está detrás de este experimento surreal. Él firma un guión inspirado en un cuento de Etgar Keret y dirige un elenco de individuos que yo creía desaparecidos. De Patrick Fugit, por ejemplo, sabía más bien poco desde almost famous (2000). De Shannyn Sossamon sabía algo más, pero no por méritos propios de ella, sino debilidades propias de mí.

Zia (Fugit) se suicida para descubrirse en un dudoso paraíso lleno de suicidas que tiene poco de infierno, y menos de cielo. Allí descubre que su ex-novia también se ha suicidado y emprende su búsqueda en compañía de dos peculiares personajes, Mikal (Sossamon) y Eugene (Shea Whigham).

Tras el prometedor inicio, la cinta es capaz de seducir a la mayoría durante la media hora que tarda uno en familiarizarse con el universo que se nos presenta. Sin embargo, a medida que se desarrolla la historia, ésta pierde intensidad, como si de un romance veraniego se tratara y estuviéramos ya en octubre. Quizás Dikic se pierde ligeramente en el surrealismo de algunos de los ingredientes del pastel. Quizá, a pesar de lo poco convencional, se hace previsible. Quizás sea demasiado optimista. No sé. Por lo menos se deja ver, no dura mucho y Tom Waits anda por ahí, de incógnito, en el papel de un angel.

Con un disfraz, pero lo que aquí tenemos es la típica historia de quien buscando a una se encuentra a otra por el camino para darse cuenta de que es la otra la que le roba el corazón. Eso sí, el disfraz, oscuro, descarado y surreal, hará las delicias de los amantes del cine independiente, con mucho de comedia negra, cuyos cómos no dejan dormir a los más conservadores.

Para las deadhours de aquellos que quieren acabar con sus vidas pero no están del todo convencidos.

deadrate: δair

official site | imdb