Tuesday, January 1, 2008

And in come the Reviews

Hello Again (I'm making up for my utter lack of posting, by posting a whole bunch today) - today, we'd like to start a new segement (by popular demand): Movie Corner.

Movie corner will happen whenever I see a movie (we'll limit this to theatrical movies and the occasional really good DVD rental/purchase). I like to read myself type, so this is just one more excuse to post something that all four readers of the post will have to bear through.

Today, we'll be review two award buzz movies (that are both in moderate theatrical release currently). Now, I'll try my best not to spoil the movie, though readers be cautioned.

The first movie today will be Sweeney Todd: Demon Barber of Fleet Street (R). Run time just over two hours.
Sweeney Todd is Tim Burton's latest film (and let me admit that I'm a huge Burton fan (and like all true Burton fans, I just pretend that the awful Planet of the Apes remake did not bear his name)) starring Johnny Depp (their fourth collaboration). It is an adaptation of the 1979 Broadway musical by Steven Sondheim. Now, you may say: Broadway? How come I've never heard of that musical? Well, truth be told, there is probably a good reason. It's not that good. Now, this may be hearsay to many critics who are pooping their pants over this movie, but guess what, I think this is a "Uh... not quite sure what to make of it, but it's so different, we'll say it's great" vote. The musical follows Todd (Depp) as he returns from an undetermined amount of time in exile. Todd, years back, was ripped away from his daughter and wife and thrown in prison/exile (it's never clear) by an evil judge (the always great, Alan Rickman) who coveted Todd's wife. Todd, on return, meets Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter) who operates a meat pie shop (I know, sounds gross already). They setup a barber shop with the intent for Todd to kill the two people responsible for his troubles. This, of course, spirals cause Todd and Lovett are both nuts. They decide to kill random people and cook them in Lovett's pies. I know, I know, bizarre. Tell me about it.

So, yes, the movie moves on. The problem is, what I've just described takes well over an hour to get to. The movie is pretty simple. Man returns to get revenge and that's all he wants. Could easily be done in an hour - or, had we a more interesting story (or presentation of the story) it could fill the over two hours of running time just fine. But it doesn't. And the movie just drags. And the music isn't that good. In a year where we were treated to Hairspray, with Mamma Mia on the way (summer 2008), the music in Sweeney Todd just sucks. It's one-note and boring. There's no variation. It doesn't get you into the movie - more so, it bored me. The actors do a decent job of singing it, but I can't remember a single tune. All I remember is that I wish the music was good. It's two hours of pretty much the same bland song, over and over.

Now, not to say the movie is awful (I dwell too much on the bad). The actors do a terrific job. All of them are A-Listers, and they show it. Depp's Todd is very creepy and mesmerizing (at first, before he devolves into just a weird, alienating psychotic). Bonham-Carter doesn't an awesome job in the movie, playing the part perfectly. At times it's very funny, at times it pulls you in - it just isn't able to sustain it. You find yourself pulling away from the characters (who act less and less human-like as the movie continues) so that by the end, you're just hoping they all die so you can go home.

Well, I wanted to love this movie, it had all the ingredients of a great movie, but, like Mrs. Lovett's non-cannibalistic pies, it just didn't come together. But, props to Burton who still makes the thing visually interesting and for being daring enough to try something very different. For most people, I'd grade it a C+. But, if you're into interesting/risky movies (especially Burton-esque), a B-.

Movie number two: Juno (PG-13). Just over an hour and a half.

Now, both of these movies have award buzz around them - but Juno truly deserves everything it gets and more.

Juno tells the story of Juno MacGuff (the amazing Ellen Page), a quirky 16 year-old who finds herself pregnant by her best friend Paulie Bleeker (the also amazing Michael Cera). Juno decides to find an adoptive set of parents who are unable to have kids and give them her baby. She knows she's unfit to raise the child, but that the child deserves great parents and all the love and stability it should have.

Juno finds Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman in the Pennysaver add. They're a typical almost yuppie-like couple. Now, I won't go any further and risk spoiling this great movie, but the movie follows the length of the pregnancy.

Juno is perfect! The performances are fantastic, understated, and real. The writing (written by first time screenwriter, ex-stripper, Diablo Cody (c'mon, how could this movie not be awesome by just that fact alone)) is so human it's astounding. Instead of falling into conventions and cliche, Juno dares to be realistic, but still sharp, witty, touching, and enthralling to watch.

Juno ultimately deals with the universal question of what it means to be loved. Though, like most good independent movies, the movie starts out slow, it ends with an incredibly powerful set of scenes. In Juno, characters take responsibility for their actions. They love each other and try to act accordingly (special credit goes to the characters of Juno's dad and stepmom (played with amazing skill by J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney) who never venture into caricature or moron, but walk the line of loving, caring, concerned parents who are doing the best they can to make an unfortunate situation better).

Wow! I can't really say enough about Juno - and it's grown on me immensely since seeing it. Let me just put it simply: Go see Juno and you'll understand what I'm talking about. Grade A, all the way. One of the best movies of the year, and probably my favorite.

Tony loves Juno like Sadie loves Mommy.

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