Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sweeney Todd, National Treasure: Book of Secrets

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter

I'm not really a big musical guy, so I wasn't all "Lance Hunter Burbank" about this movie heading into it, but Becky (the sister) was fReAkInG oUt about it, so we went to the first midnight showing. I'm sure it's passable as a musical (I obviously haven't seen it in any other incarnation but the film), but I honestly didn't think it needed to be made into a movie. There wasn't any sort of message involved - it was your standard revenge story: The Count of Monte Cristo, emo-style. The trailer was incredibly deceptive in its portrayal of how much singing would truly occur, and I'm sure that's not going to sit well with people "tricked" into seeing this in theaters.

Once you get past the fact that there's TONS of singing, that makes things a little easier. Johnny Depp's voice is not half bad, and even the extremely British Helena Bonham Carter isn't awful because her character isn't supposed to have a beautiful voice. I'm fairly certain that all of the singing is overdubbed (I know for a fact that some of it is; I can only assume the whole thing was filmed this way), and sometimes it's pretty obvious that the leads are lip-synching, as well as they try to hide it from us. There were some good songs in it. My favorite was the one that Mrs. Lovett and Todd sang together; he was singing about seeing his old friends (his barber blades) again, and she was singing about how they could be friends, or something like that. But there were also some really bad ones, like the Mrs. Lovett tangent about the beach and what they would do if they lived together. (Forehead slap). And the supporting characters were kind of cool in a weird way. Alan Rickman was good as the evil judge, and perpetual-minion Timothy Spall played his disgusting character perfectly. Even Sacha Baron Cohen (aka Borat) wasn't as twitch-inducing as I thought he'd be; in fact, he provided some good comic relief.

Plot-wise, there there were some fairly questionable occurances, but they weren't glaring enough to make a big deal about. I don't want to ruin the experience for the people who actually like(d) the movie. The one thing that really bothered me about the whole production is that there was this huge outcry before the movie began filming about how it was fighting hard to get this "R" rating and it shouldn't be cut down to a PG-13, because there's so much violence and the violence really needs to be there, blah blah blah. So they finally scored the "R" rating, and people (myself included) were kind of excited about that because we thought maybe that would be the ray of light in an otherwise questionable film. We were wrong. The violence, albeit plentiful, was probably the most fake I've seen in a movie that wasn't made specifically for the Sci-Fi Channel. There were throat-slittings galore (the story does follow a barber bent on revenge, after all), but the blood was so fake it became more distracting and comedic than shocking and effective to me.

In my opinion, the only people this movie is for are die-hard Depp fans, Burton fans, or musical fans. If you are one of those people, then you've probably seen the movie by now. If you haven't seen Sweeney Todd yet, I'd personally suggest you keep it that way. You're not missing much.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets
Director: Jon Turtletaub
Starring: Nicholas Cage, Diane Kruger

If you're a fan of the first movie, then (for the love of all that is good) don't see this one. It's nowhere NEAR as good. I loved the first film - partly because of my love for treasure hunting movies, and partly because of Nic Cage, but Book of Secrets took everything that I liked about the first movie and took the fun out of it.

(Spoilers ahead. Not that the movie isn't so predictable you couldn't figure them out anyway, but still, I'll give the warning.)

THE TREASURE - Some sort of City of Gold, but it's not El Dorado. It's Native American in origin, supposedly discovered in Florida. But (as my Dad pointed out to me afterwards) the city was eventually found in South Dakota! No mention of how the massive city of gold was picked up and moved across the entire country. Not even an attempt at an explanation. It was like they suddenly needed the treasure to be closer to a major national landmark and since they couldn't think of one in Florida (or didn't want to use Kennedy Space Center or Disney World), they moved it and hoped we wouldn't notice. Nice try, filmmakers.

THE STYLE - One of the reasons I loved the first movie so much was because it was a treasure hunting movie, but presented in a cool way. The history of each clue and how it got there was a great way to keep the audience guessing as we followed our heroes across the country in a search for the Templar Treasure. In Book of Secrets, however, the writers didn't try to make the style fresh and new again, but pretty much kept the exact same thing they used in the first one. There were definitely problems with the first movie (how the heck did Nicholas Cage make all of those connections in such a short time?), but because of the style we accepted them and were distracted by the overall cool-factor of what we were watching. This time around, there is none of that to distract us from the glaring logic problems presented to us in the film. The clues are stupid and there isn't really any cool history behind them. And once they find the treasure, it looks almost identical to the one they found at the end of the first one. Whatever.

THE VILLAIN - Sean Bean gets replaced by Ed Harris? Are you serious? Ed Harris should have just keeled over and died at the very beginning, because there is no way that there could be a cooler villain in a movie than one played by Sean Bean (with one exception - Neville Sinclair in The Rocketeer). Ed Harris was a really questionable villain. Supposedly he had ties to the black market and selling of illegal artifacts, and he held Cage and Co. at gunpoint, but saves them in the end because he wants his family name to be a part of something good. What a pansy. I've eaten Chipotle burritos that were better villains than that.

THE FAMILY DYNAMIC - Diane Kruger reprises her role as Abigail Chase, but she has left Ben Gates because he's too good at what he does. So they don't get together until the very end of the movie. An unnecessary plot device, says I. And they committed the cardinal sin of bringing the whole family along for the ride. Whenever this happens in sequels, it's hardly ever a good sign: this is no exception. Helen Mirren (didn't she just win an Oscar? Then why is she in THIS movie?) plays Cage's mom, next to Jon Voight as the father who returns from the first movie. They get entangled in the search because his mom HAPPENS to be a world-renowned cryptologist and somehow Ed Harris and his baddies make a clone of the dad's phone. I don't know if this is possible, but they did it somehow. Don't ask me how. Anyway, the mom is not needed and definitely doesn't warrant the talents of an Oscar winner in the role.

If you couldn't tell, I'm a more than a little disappointed with this movie. The good parts (basically the parts involving the President) were few and far between, with stuff like bad comic relief from the sidekick (Riley, again played by Justin Bartha) and totally irrelevant phone calls to Harvey Keitel's character (why is he back??) stuffed in the middle. Go out and buy the first one, watch it multiple times, and forget this sequel ever came out. Good call, Mikey. Until next time...


Ian Fleming said...

I'm pretty sure Tim Dalton was known as the "fat Bond".

Joey Joe said...

"but Becky (the sister) was fReAkInG oUt about it"