Tag Archives: Johnny Depp

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

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Coincidentally, Tim Burton’s grim, macabre musical tragedy ties in with an important moment in my life; “Sweeney Todd” was the first review I ever wrote. I can’t seem to recover this piece of my early teenhood, but I’m happy to say I’ve grown enormously as a critic since my gawky adolescence, and while I have a long way to go, well… who doesn’t? It’s been a rewarding and worthy journey, albeit with many frustrating pitfalls along the way.

Anyway, what can I say? I love “Sweeney.” Always have. I know it isn’t the most popular film with the critics, but I think of it as the last great film Tim Burton has done in recent times. I’ll be perfectly frank… I enjoyed the Burtster’s take on “Alice in Wonderland.” Guilty pleasure, folks, don’t judge me. “Big Eyes” was a mistake one that should not be repeated. Who would have known Tim Burton would be the one to get a terrible performance out of Christoph Waltz? Guys, is that even possible?

While “Alice in Wonderland” was gaudy entertainment, “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” is a dark morality tale, with, in my opinion, a genuine sense of artistry behind it. There was a barber and his wife… and it took only a bit of sleight hand by a corrupt judge (the suitably villainous Alan Rickman) to tear that happy couple apart forever. Now the barber (Johnny Depp,) sent away for a crime he didn’t commit, is a sadistic sociopath bent on revenge.

His wife (Laura Michelle Kelly) is out of the picture, having been driven crazy by the judge’s lascivious appetites, and their once infant daughter Joanna (Jayne Wisener) is Turpin’s young, beautiful prisoner. Lovestruck sailor boy Anthony (Jamie Campbell Bower) concocts a plan to rescue Joanna, but the barber, Benjamin Barker, or Sweeney Todd as he is now called, seems more concerned with getting gory revenge on the judge that ruined his life than protecting his daughter’s welfare.

Helena Bonham Carter gives the most artful performance as the  equally homicidal Mrs. Lovett, who owns a pie shop known far and wide for it’s disgusting grub (as well as questionable sanitation) and forms a deal with Sweeney converting the men the insane barber kills with his razor into delicious meat pies, satiating his bloodlust while — surprise! business soars.

I’ve heard some people criticize Bonham Carter and Depp’s singing voices — saying they are not up for the job of a musical — but I did not consider their relative inexperience a problem. “Sweeney Todd” is stylized and moody and very, very gory, so expect blood spraying literally all over the set in various scenes. The psychology behind the character’s motivations — and their justifications for the atrocities the choose to commit —is interesting and I love the music. Catchy tunes are a prerequisite in a movie like this, and “Sweeney Todd” has the goods in terms of an addictive score.

Helena Bonham Carter acts with her eyes and the dark makeup shadowing her peepers makes her look perpetually like a work of expressionist art. Depp is slightly less compelling, playing the ultimate emo enraged (however justifiably) with how his life turned out. The only character I truly found myself empathizing with was the little boy (payed by Edward Sanders) who believed with an wide—eyed earnesty and breathtaking innocence that he would look after and protect Mrs. Lovett, and she him.

The rest? Fuck them. Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett were morally reprehensible and foul; Joanna and Anthony were a little too much like starcrossed Disney lovers who walked into the wrong movie. Though I had a nagging feeling throughout that Joanna was exploiting the foolishly naive Anthony’s affections in order to get the hell out of dodge. She would be his prize, another kind of slavery, but anything was better than remaining in Judge Turpin’s lecherous possession.

“Sweeney Todd”‘s plot isn’t realistic at all (there’s a kind of unintentional hilarity in the way that, despite endless hint —dropping and an almost identical appearance, Turpin refuses to acknowledge Sweeney’s true identity —who is he, Clark Kent pulling the glasses on his face and the wool over the Judge’s eyes?)

My brother (ever the source of dry wit) quipped that when it came to Judge Turpin, ‘it was hard not to feel sorry for someone who was so like a potato in IQ.’ Not all villains have to be evil geniuses, but damn, that was kind of ridiculous, Turpin had to have gotten into a position of power by some method other than fucking people over. Apparently intelligence wasn’t one of them.

“Sweeney Todd” is a highly enjoyable film even while being morbid and tragic on a grand scale. The stylized storytelling and violence keeps it from being too tough a watch. The acting’s fine, the story’s cool, but the music? That’s really something to stay for. Tim Burton has his moments, and this is one of them. Those with weak stomachs might want to steer clear of this enthusiastically gory flick.

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Into the Woods (2014)

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From the opening scene (and song,) I had a sneaking feeling that “Into the Woods” wasn’t going to work for me. The musical sequences in this film are ponderous and transitionally awkward, while the plot lacks cohesion. And while I appreciated the fact that dark elements from the original fairy tales that “Into the Woods” portrays are upheld in this reimagining, I’m still not sold on a extremely pedo Johnny Depp ambling around as the ‘big bad wolf’ stalking a prepubescent Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) singing about deliciously plump little girl flesh. I know the original tale has some predatory and not exactly savory implications, but puh-leeze! Did Johnny Depp think this role of all things would give his flaccid career a jumpstart?

In this unevenly written attempt to mesh multiple classic fairy tales, ‘Baker’ (James Corden) and ‘Baker’s Wife’ (Emily Blunt) (Nice to know they put so much thought into the lead protagonists” names eh? 😛 ) want to conceive a child desperately, and a witch (played by Meryl Streep) materializes in their bakery one day to say that the reason that Baker is shooting blanks is because of a curse that befell Corden’s father (Simon Russell Beale) before him. The witch proceeds to info them that they need to obtain four magic artifacts in order to break the curse. First. a cow as white as milk, which belongs to a bubble-headed boy named Jack (Daniel Huttlestone.)

Second a cape as red as blood (see if you can figure that one out.) The other two, I will leave you to find out for yourself should you decide to watch the movie. Only when the couple have acquired the magic objects can they bear a child. And when the lives of various fairy tale characters intersect in the woods, nothing will ever be the same.

First of all, I cannot believe that Meryl Streep got nominated for an academy award. I mean, she’s not bad. ‘Not bad.’ She’s certainly not award material. As it become kosher to hand Streep an Oscar every time she goes to get her car keys (no offense to Mrs. Streep, who is talented as well as nontraditionally beautiful.) She just didn’t rock my world here. The entire cast was less than spectacular, though Corden comes off best as a well-intentioned buffoon.

The real problem, however, was the plotting. Big things seem to lead to more big things with little cohesive connection. The storyline is pretty convoluted (though not, to be fair, as convoluted as the later years of “Lost.”) In other words, I knew what was happening,  it just didn’t flow well. The climactic fight scene was a joke- a few stones are slung and a massive villainess who should have been epic wordlessly drops to her demise. Several major deaths also prove to be majorly underwhelming. One character simply gets pushed to the ground (or it seemed to me) and is dead in the next scene. Why? It’s a plot contrivance, that’s why.

There are moments of magic, but they’re few and far between in this rather silly movie. If you like fractured fairy-tales, watch “The Princess Bride,” “Shrek,” or the very entertaining TV series “Once Upon a Time.” While “Into the Woods” might enthrall some, I found it to be a disappointing misfire.

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Cry-Baby (1990)

Admittedly, “Cry-Baby” is a very silly movie, and that silliness may not appeal to everyone. I for one found myself consistently bored by the campy goings-on, and found little to like about delinquent greaser ‘Cry-Baby’ (Johnny Depp) and his redneck family, when the movie insists we cheer on their successes and ‘gee-whiz’ at their failures.

It’s 1960’s Baltimore, and prim, perfect Allison (Amy Locane) has it all- social status, wealth, and a dapper boyfriend (Stephen Mailer.) But, gee, the ‘Drapes’ from the wrong side of the tracks seem to be having more fun, and Allison is doomed to be a ‘Square,’ destined for a life of courteousness and decency.  Or is she?

Everything changes when Allison meets Wade ‘Cry-Baby’ Walker (Depp,) a singing, dancing, rocking Drape bad boy who wins her heart. But a series of rivalries and misunderstandings strive to keep Cry-Baby and Allison apart. There will be a lot of music and a lot of fights before a customary happy ending, and for me they couldn’t get there fast enough.

I’ll be honest with you, folks… the acting here is mediocre, and Johnny Depp as ‘Cry-Baby’ is unexpectedly terrible. The only stand-outs here are Stephen Mailer as Baldwin, Allison’s boyfriend with puppy-dog eyes and a black, black heart, and Polly Bergen, as Allison’s well-meaning but clueless grandma. The rest are forgettable.

Also, there are a load of stereotypes in this movie, all of them attempts at satiric humor and achieving none. Authority figures are the dunces and ‘bad guys’ of the movie, while promiscuous teenagers and thieves are the ones we should look up to.

The movie throws around stereotypes of typically corrupt cops and stupid Christians, while the responsible adults were so ‘square’ that one can only roll their eyes and wonder if director John Waters has the mentality of a goth teen whining to his dear diary about the hypocrisy of grown-ups. Like, they say one thing and mean another. Burn!

In the end, we are caught between the self-conscious morals of the ‘Squares’ and the wild unpredictability and grit of the ‘Drapes,’ from Cry-Baby’s nutty stolen hubcap-selling Aunt Ramona (Susan Tyrrell) to the thuggish girl uncharitably called ‘Hatchet-Face’ (Kim McGuire.)

But guess what? None of the characters are particularly appealing to me. And maybe next time, John Waters will keep his shallow Goth-kid observations about the inherent dishonesty of adults and the dangers of being square to himself. Burn, indeed.
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