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

shoot ’em up (2007)

by zEke

shoot 'em up posterExisten películas de acción cuyo éxito reside en el simple hecho de que se ríen de ellas mismas. Y no quiero decir con esto que se rían a carcajadas de ellas mismas. No se toman en serio, eso es. Algo así, a priori, parece sencillo pero no lo es. Es fácil, muy fácil, acabar produciendo cosas como hitman (2007), de la que he hablado recientemente. Es muy difícil, por otro lado, emular a quien sentó cátedra, esto es die hard (1988). Pues bien, para sorpresa de un servidor shoot ’em up es una absurda película de acción mucho más cercana al amanecer de John McClane que a lo que, con contadas excepciones, nos han acostumbrado últimamente. Una película en la línea quizás de las secuelas de la saga del policía más difícil de matar de la historia del cine.

El argumento de shoot ’em up es ciertamente lo de menos. O sea, es necesario que lo sea. Es necesario que su única función sea la de alimentar la creatividad de los coreógrafos. Todo aquel que pretenda tomárselo en serio debería pensárselo dos veces antes de sentarse a ver el delirante ir y venir de n balas, donde n tiende a infinito. Tiroteos altos, bajos, anchos, estrechos. Tiroteos durante el parto, tiroteos durante el coito, tiroteos vegetarianos. A cual más absurdo y, si se me permite, divertido. Pues si algo han cuidado en esta película es su puesta en escena, absurda, grotesca. Uno contra el mundo. Tiembla mundo.

A lo que iba, que a veces me distraigo, el argumento. Es de noche, Smith (Clive Owen) está esperando el autobús mietras le hinca el diente a una zanahoria. De repente, sin comerlo ni beberlo, se encuentra enfrentándose a un sinfín de pistoleros, a las órdenes de un tal Hertz (Paul Giamatti), que pretenden acabar con una mujer embarazada. Resultado, Smith se acaba haciendo cargo del recién nacido, al que Hertz quiere muerto, con la ayuda de Donna Quintano (Monica Bellucci), una prostituta en periodo de lactancia. A partir de ahí, varios giros inverosímiles y muchos, repito, muchos tiros.

El mérito de Michael Davis, responsable de este embolado, está en tomarse su propio guión a pitorreo y dirigir una película estéticamente muy cuidada y con clara influencia del mundo del cómic. Eso, y contar con Owen entre sus elegidos, quien resuelve con solvencia uno de esos personaje que, en el mejor de los casos, colecciona interpretaciones mediocres. Giamatti está a la altura de lo que una producción como ésta requiere del malo malísimo. La que no empaña es Bellucci, quien parece demasiado esclava de una sensualidad que, con el tiempo, como todo, cede a las leyes de la gravedad.

En resumidas cuentas, lo que shoot ’em up ofrece son casi noventa minutos de entretenimiento para el que se quiera entretener, nada más. Y con nada más quiero decir precisamente eso, pues la película tampoco se entretendrá en distraer las neuronas del espectador mucho más allá de la puerta del cine.

Para las deadhours de los que comen tantas zanahorias, y tan rápido, como Bugs Bunny.

deadrate: γair

official site | imdb

enchanted (2007)

by zEke

enchanted posterIt has already been a while since the last time I went to the cinema with my parents. It will still be a while until I go to the cinema with my nephews to born (polite way to avoid referring to  have my own children while encouraging my sister to rush). Nevertheless, I went and sat, mostly among parents and children, to enjoy a movie that has fairy tale written all over it.

After their come back from wherever they went, mainly due to the success of ratatouille (2007), Disney strikes back, once again, with a movie that reinvents, or at least tries, the way fairy tales are told, and show that in one single under two hours movie there is room for live action, traditional animation and computer generated imagery without getting indigestion. Kevin Lima’s cocktail mixes all the available ingredients and comes out with a movie that while inevitably cloying every now and then, is full of charm.

Giselle (Amy Adams) lives, and sings, in Andalasia, an animated world where animals talk, and sing. She is engaged to Prince Edwards (James Mardsen), who also sings, but in order to remain queen, his stepmother Queen Narisa (Susan Sarandon) sends her to the real, and cruel, world. There, she meets Robert Phillip (Patrick Dempsey), who does not sing, and learns, while waiting to be rescued by her charming prince, that in Manhattan there is much more than just happily ever afters.

Adams might be the keystone of enchanted. This is because no other actress before has looked like an animated princess as much as she does, which might not necessarily be a good thing. I even had my doubts about her nature. It makes one believe that she has really steeped out from cartoon. Nevertheless, the rest of the cast is, by no means, as charming as she is. They are not able to set themselves free from a tendency to overact, which on the other hand, should not surprise anyone in a movie like this, and will delight the children it is mainly made for. At least those who still keep their innocence.

Even though the format is innovative, it is not as much as one might think it is. In the end, what Lima delivers is a live action movie with computer generated animals, including a dragon with the voice of Sarandon, and a chipmunk that might perfectly be a relative of the ones from alvin and the chipmunks (2007). Traditional animation is only used in what turns to be an unattached but related prologue to the action, and then, sporadically, throughout the movie. Nothing to do with past things like cool world (1992) and who framed roger rabbit (1988). Here, traditional animation is just a source of characters to be thrown to the real world.

All in all, a charming movie with songs, a princess, a prince, a stepmother, a dragon, a little miss, a chipmunk and every other ingredient you would like to have in a fairy tale. Assuming you like fairy tales. Otherwise, and since it is made only for those who are going to go see it, you know what to do.

For the deadhours of those who proudly wear tiaras, speak to animals, and wait for them to answer.

deadrate: δair

official site | imdb

an inconvenient truth (2006)

by zEke

an inconvenient truth posterAl Gore es un buen orador. De eso no me queda la menor duda. Mucho mejor que yo, sin duda, a pesar de que ambos usamos un Mac. Aunque una cosa es cierta, mientras Gore sólo tiene que preocuparse de ordenar cuanta información llega a sus manos, un servidor, y otros muchos, es además responsable de cuanto muestra, por lo que, en condiciones normales, el tiempo que me ocupa ordenar cuanto quiero mostrar tiende a cero. No pretendo con esto poner pega alguna al trabajo de, en sus propias palabras, el próximo presidente de los Estados Unidos, simplemente poner el punto sobre las íes, para que nadie se confunda. Al Gore vende bien y, probablemente, sería capaz de vender también el producto de la competencia.

¿Y a qué viene hablar de las dotes orativas de Gore? an inconvenient truth no es más que la adaptación cinematográfica de la charla con la que el que fuera vicepresidente de los Estados Unidos se ha paseado por el mundo con el fin de convencernos a todos de la responsabilidad del hombre, sobre todo el barrado y estrellado, en el calentamiento global del planeta.

Si sólo fuera esto la película durararía apenas una hora, por lo que su director, Davis Guggenheim, se permite el lujo de embelesarnos con un sinfín de imágenes lacrimógenas cuyo único objetivo es el de acercarnos al lado más humano de Gore. Y no digo que estén de más en un documental sobre Al Gore, pero eso no es lo que aquí se nos vende, y lo único que consiguen es distraer nuestra atención hacia el personaje en detrimento del mensaje.

Lo cierto es que algo de razón tendrá Al Gore cuando este año le han sido concedidos los premios Píncipe de Asturias de Cooperación y Nobel de la Paz. Pero que nadie se confunda, su charla es más política que científica y de ahí la importancia de sus dotes como orador. Albert Arnold Gore Junior no expone, manifiesta, aunque razón no le falta. Así, sin llegar nunca a mentir, hace gala de un amplio repertorio de herramientas políticas. No faltan ni medias verdades ni verdades disfrazadas. Eso sí, en contadas ocasiones el fin justifica los medios y a juzgar por el impacto de su mensaje, me atrevo a decir que en esta ocasión, está justificado. No hace daño a nadie tratar mejor a la madre Tierra.

En fin, un documental que como tal no es gran cosa pero que cumple con lo que se propone, concienciar. Parece que Al Gore, embajador de la comunidad científica a la que venera, ha sido capaz de remover nuestras conciencias hasta el punto de que yo, por ejemplo, a día de hoy tengo seis ruedas, repartidas en tres bicicletas, reciclo y me ducho con agua fría. Eso sí, al planeta sigue trayéndole sin cuidado lo que yo haga.

Para las deadhours de activistas de traje y corbata.

deadrate: δair

official site | imdb