Archive | 2007 RSS feed for this section

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)

18 May


Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Let’s just get this out of the way. There’s a penis shown on screen for what feels like too long for a mainstream comedy, which in this case is “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.” It’s an unexpected, uncomfortable sight, everyone’s gone crazy about it upon the film’s release, and it seems executive producer/co-writer Judd Apatow has an odd obsession with showing the male anatomy (either that or his sometimes-collaborator Seth Rogen is an influence; see “Superbad,” for example). There, I’ve addressed it. Now let’s talk about how awesome the rest of this movie is.

Remember the golden age of parody movies when you could make fun of tropes in a particular film subgenre while also pay homage to them? Movies like “Airplane” and “Spaceballs” are within that particular field. But unfortunately, many of the parody movies we know of nowadays are the ones that merely mention what’s popular at the time and put more emphasis and effort on that than story and humor, which both need to be the biggest factors. But then along comes a gem known as “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,” a film that makes fun of musician-biopic stories while knowing what it means to parody something properly and be entertaining along the way.

You know the formulas of many music biopics and how overly earnest the films are in painting the portrait of tortured yet successful musicians. “Walk Hard” goes through all the conventions with an extreme lampooning style.

John C. Reilly stars in oddly enough one of his very best roles as Dewey Cox, a marginally talented country rocker who comes from a humble Southern background, where he experienced a tragic occurrence that cost the life of his brother. (He accidentally cut him in half while the boys were having a machete fight. What makes the scene even more hilariously tragic is the fact that the boy is still alive briefly after being “halved.”) Dewey’s father (Raymond J. Barry) hates him (and is always grumbling about how “the wrong kid died”) and he lost his sense of smell. But he can play guitar efficiently and sing well enough to get attention of some people, which leads to more people, which leads to a following, which leads to fame, which leads to drugs, sex, all that stuff you expect.

“Walk Hard” has it all: A) the disapproving parent, B) the cynical first wife (Kristen Wiig, very funny) who always reminds Dewey he’s “never gonna make it” even though he’s already successful, C) the drug pusher (Tim Meadows, also very funny) who’s always telling Dewey “You don’t want none of this shit” and yet somehow always convinces Dewey that DOES want “this shit,” D) a second wife (Jenna Fischer, also very funny) who has her own struggles with him such as resisting her own sexual urges, E) the ups and downs of fame and fortune, even going through Bob Dylan/Brian Wilson struggles in music and creativity, F) rehab, and finally G) redemption with a heartfelt song about Dewey’s life as a whole. What else does it have? Surprisingly, there’s heart in the midst of all the zaniness. I think a good reason for that is John C. Reilly doesn’t merely play Dewey Cox as a running joke but as sincere as possible, which surprisingly works—it makes the jokes more funny and you care somewhat about him too. Dewey Cox is just so…sweet! It’s hard not to care for him. The film was directed by Jake Kasdan, who co-wrote the script with Judd Apatow, and it’s clear they have some affection for Cox…don’t say that out loud, reader.

Many of the songs are heavy on the double-entendre fueled lyrics, making them highly amusing, particularly the title song “Walk Hard” (a play on “Walk the Line”) and especially “Let’s Duet,” a duet with John C. Reilly and Jenna Fischer. Say this out loud: “Let’s duet in ways that make us feel good.”

There are many other funny bits I haven’t even mentioned in this review, including a recording scene that feels very similar Brian Wilson’s (of the Beach Boys) drug-induced creative state, a callback to the Bob Dylan documentary “Don’t Look Back,” and especially the cameos from comedic actors portraying famous past musicians. (I’ll leave it for you to find out.) “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story” is consistently clever, very funny, and represents the man, the myth, the legend that is Dewey Cox in a way that would make him proud if he were a real musician.

No Country for Old Men (2007)

24 Jul


Smith’s Verdict: ****

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“No Country for Old Men” provides a fascinating character study with three complicated types—a good guy, a bad guy, and an anti-hero. One wants to do the right thing; one is practically anarchy-and-misery-personified; and the other walks that fine line between good and evil. First, let’s talk about the “anti-hero.” This is Llewellyn Moss (Josh Brolin), a down-on-his-luck ex-welder who lives in a trailer park with his wife (Kelly Macdonald) and sometimes sticks his nose in places he shouldn’t. While on a hunting trip, he comes across a drug deal gone wrong in the middle of nowhere. He looks around, finds a lot of bodies, and finds a suitcase full of money. So he decides to keep it for himself.

This scene, early in the proceedings, also has Moss coming across a lone survivor who is immobile in the driver’s seat of a pickup truck and weakly asks for water. So what does Llewellyn do? He takes the guy’s gun and ammo and moves on because he knows that where there are drugs (and there is a truck full of “Mexican brown”) and moves on. Why does he do this? Did he have any intention of helping him if he did have water to give to him? Well, later that night, as he lies in bed in his trailer, he does have a change of heart and decides to go back and help the poor man, thus establishing that Moss is not a good guy or a bad guy—just a guy in between.

There is a definite bad guy here, and he’s a man you never want to meet anytime soon. He’s Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), a cold, heartless killer whose murder weapon is a high-pressure air gun that can kill a cow (or kill a man with one shot to the forehead). Chigurh (emphasis on the “gurh” so it doesn’t sound like “Sugar”) is not charismatic and he’s not even enthusiastic. There’s never a sense that he enjoys what he does, as he goes around doing one horrific deed after another. What does this mean? Who is this guy? If he were a tree, what kind would he be? You can’t really ask much about this guy, because what he represents is the psychoticism of the criminal mind and how it’s only getting worse and worse. This is something that our movie’s good guy, local sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones, looking more at home than ever), discovers, as he’s been on the job long enough to know that with everything going wrong and, even worse, confusing, this is all becoming too much to handle or even attempt to understand. He knows as well as we do that Chigurh is not going to stop doing these things anytime soon, and as long as people like him are around to spread anarchy and misery, what does that say for the world around him?

Chigurh goes after Moss because the drug-deal happened in his territory and now he wants the money. Moss packs up and leaves, sending his wife to her mother’s until he can figure a way out of this. Moss goes from place to place, with Chigurh catching up to him, and Bell being thrown into this because Chigurh had escaped from (and killed) one of his deputies.

Really think about that money—if you were a poor guy and you saw a way you could keep a mysterious bag of cash, would you take it? You’d think you’d get away with it and just enjoy yourself with it, but it’s not that easy when there are people who want it back, and they’re people that are best not to be trifled with and probably can’t be reasoned with. I’ve seen Sam Raimi’s “A Simple Plan”—I can already tell you before seeing this movie that this shouldn’t end well for a character deciding to take a chance and keep the stash. In “No Country for Old Men,” Moss is a bright guy who does realize his mistakes, even if he doesn’t want to acknowledge that maybe he isn’t as smart as he thinks he is (just smart enough to outwit Chigurh at a few crucial points). Either way, Moss is an intriguing anti-hero—his mistake leads to the question of what he’ll do afterwards and we wonder what will become of him and actually care for him. This is my favorite performance from Josh Brolin; he’s very strong here.

Javier Bardem is excellent as Anton Chigurh. I think he’s one of the best, most compelling villains you’ll ever find in a film. With that cold stare and indefinable accent he carries with him, Chigurh is one creepy S.O.B. If you ever come across this guy in the middle of nowhere, you should say your prayers quickly because you’re more than likely never going to be able to say them again. He doesn’t feel pity or remorse, and he can’t be bargained with. And you never know exactly what he’s going to do. Take this scene, which comes at the half-hour mark—it involves a coin toss. Chigurh is at a gas station, the clerk decides to make small talk, and Chigurh manages to take his words and twist them around to some weird cryptic speak, before he ultimately flips a coin and tells the unnerved man to “call it.” The tenseness of this scene is enhanced by Bardem’s performance as he messes with the clerk’s mind, as well as ours, because we don’t know what he’s going to do. Is he going to kill him? What will happen when the guy finally calls it? One thing’s for sure—Chigurh won’t leave until a decision is made. That’s a great scene, and this is a great performance from Javier Bardem.

“No Country for Old Men” was crafted by the Coen Brothers (Joel and Ethan Coen), and they definitely know how to pace a film like this. With a story as complicated and with as many twists and turns, pacing is one of the more important aspects to keep us on edge and invested. With that said, the pacing in this movie is flawless, which helps with some of the most disturbing, suspenseful, uncomfortable scenes in the film, such as when Moss must escape his hotel room before Chigurh can piece together where he is. “No Country for Old Men” is very edgy throughout, with the terror counterbalanced by laconic wit that the Coens tend to put in their films (here, some of the comic bits come from Tommy Lee Jones’ wit). And being a Coen Brothers film, to expect a conventional way to tell this story (which is adapted from a Cormac McCarthy novel) would be foolish. Don’t watch this film and pretend you know everything that’s going to happen, because I made that mistake and nearly hated myself for it. This is not like any other movie I’ve seen before—it plays with our expectations, catches us off-guard, and among everything else it has to offer, it delights in making us think and wonder while also unnerving us with what it thinks it can get away with. One last thing I’ll say about that is this—if you feel the least bit hateful towards the open ending, just think about how you would rather see it end. “No Country for Old Men” is a great film. 

In the Land of Women (2007)

8 Jul


Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“In the Land of Women” is a character-based film that relates to the feelings and redemptive aspects that are felt after a breakup. After a relationship ends, sometimes a person needs a change of scenery. In that change of scenery, that person runs into situations or people who either help him or need his help (sometimes, it’s both) and in this process, each person involved in this experience has a chance to get over their plight. This is essentially what happens in Jonathan Kasdan’s “In the Land of Women.” With good acting, convincing drama, and an understated manner, this is an effective film.

Adam Brody plays Carter Webb, a struggling young writer who writes softcore porn. His girlfriend, Sofia (Elena Anaya), has just dumped him, leaving him heartbroken and uncomfortable. In order to get over this recent breakup, he decides to leave town for a while, and uses the excuse to visit his senile grandmother (Olympia Dukakis) who believes she is dying. He becomes her caretaker for his time spent in this Michigan town, and thus he finds himself “in the land of women.” Aside from his grandmother, two other women come into Carter’s life, and they live right across the street. They’re Sarah (Meg Ryan), with whom Carter becomes friends as they share casual walks around the neighborhood, and her oldest daughter Lucy (Kristen Stewart), who is going through the confusing times of dating in high school and sees Carter as kind of a “big brother,” if nothing more. (There’s also the precocious younger girl in the family, Paige (Makenzie Vega), who develops a crush on Carter. A small flaw in the movie—this subplot goes nowhere.)

Sarah is going through a rough, reflective time in her life, having discovered she has breast cancer and also that her husband is having an affair, which even Lucy knows. And she also feels that Lucy does not love her very much, which she herself blames for certain mistakes in the past. Lucy is having trouble finding the right guy to date in high school, and even dates the complete-jerk of a football-quarterback when she should be dating the kid’s friend, who is actually nice, attentive, and shy. With each woman’s issue, Carter finds he is able to comfort the vulnerable Sarah and give advice to Lucy, even when it may seem that Lucy may actually have a crush on him. Does she or is she even more confused?

Despite what I’ve just described, “In the Land of Women” is not a love story. This came as a pleasant surprise, because while watching this film, I thought I could predict the typical “romcom” aspects that would come with the territory. But no, it’s just that these sweet moments between Carter and Sarah and Carter and Lucy serve as ways in helping each other out through either harsh or unclear points in life. They learn a couple things from one another, Lucy and Sarah can reconcile as mother-and-daughter, and Carter grows as a person. There are many effective scenes in this film that go with that amount of feel, and the film as a whole becomes touching without seeming manipulative. At times, though, it can be a bit too much. The payoff involving the Olympia Dukakis character feels forced and unconvincing. And also, a few scenes turn out to be arguably a little too cute.

The actors are quite good in “In the Land of Women.” Adam Brody is very likable as the nice, reactive leading man; Kristen Stewart is very appealing as Lucy; and Meg Ryan delivers her best performance in quite a while—she has the same Meg-Ryan appeal that made her famous in romantic comedies (such as “When Harry Met Sally”), but more importantly, she shows a greater sense of maturity that makes her more than what she’s usually known for. She’s great here. Also good is Makenzie Vega as grade-schooler Paige, Lucy’s sister and Sarah’s youngest daughter—she’s precocious but not annoyingly so. These actors add to the charm and realism of this effective, understated drama.

Margot at the Wedding (2007)

22 Jun


Smith’s Verdict: ****

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Noah Baumbach’s “Margot at the Wedding” is one of those “acquired-taste” films—particularly independent comedy-dramas that either enthralls you with what it presents or makes you angry if not annoyed. And while grittiness and documentary-style filmmaking takes a huge part of the films’ craft, what is mostly singled out is how unlikeable the characters can become. “Margot at the Wedding” does indeed feature characters who say and do mean, hurtful things to each other, and the film has divided critics because of this (I especially remember a 2007 “Ebert & Roeper” review with guest-critic Michael Phillips’ enthusiastic review of the film, followed by Roeper’s quite negative response). Now where do I stand on viewing the characters, and therefore the film?

Well, you saw the “Smith’s Verdict” rating above, so it’s not exactly a mystery that I personally love this film.

Noah Baumbach is the writer-director of “Margot at the Wedding” and it’s evident from his earlier film “The Squid and the Whale” how intelligently he handles the characters and situations he goes through. He doesn’t give the characters (or the actors playing them) one-note roles; they’re fully realized and have some redeemable qualities that can either be ignored or acknowledged depending on how much you’re able to accept them as real people. And since he sees them as real people, he finds it important that film audiences view them as real people; so thanks to specific direction and long, moving shots, a documentary-style of filmmaking is handy.

The characters in “Margot at the Wedding” are a family so dysfunctional that the family in “The Squid and the Whale” (divorced parents and two struggling sons) looks happier by comparison. Nicole Kidman plays the title character, Margot, a bitter woman who writes short stories, cares for her young son Claude (Zane Pais) after an ending marriage, and is, on her worst days, a neurotic, self-important bitch. It’s clear that in order to keep her own unsteady ego, she constantly hurts and insults those closest to her—even her own adolescent son, who does nothing to hurt anybody and is probably the most innocent character in the entire movie. (Watching this movie, I felt the same sympathy for this kid I did for the teenage son trying to survive a broadly-crazy family in “Arrested Development.” This kid does not deserve the type of mental scars parents’ battles can bring.)

Margot and Claude come to the Eastern shoreline family house of Margot’s sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who is about to marry Malcolm (Jack Black). Already, this reunion between siblings is sensitive and it only starts to get worse when Pauline confides in Margot with a secret: she’s pregnant. So of course, Margot tells Claude who in turn tells Pauline’s daughter Ingrid (Flora Cross) and her teenage babysitter Maisy (Halley Feiffer), and Pauline has to tell Malcolm before he hears it from someone else. And of course, because Margot is in the middle of separating herself from her husband (John Turturro), she starts an affair with Dick Koosman (Ciaran Hinds), Maisy’s father. Oh, and because Margot can’t cause enough damage, she constantly states that marrying Malcolm is a mistake, thinking him to be a loser, despite everyone else, including Claude, seeing him as a nice good-guy type. And then she snaps at the rude behavior of Pauline’s next-door neighbors, which starts another conflict.

Yes, it’s clear that Margot is mostly an unlikeable, fixated, selfish woman who manipulates her family and others around her, with Pauline being the butt of manipulation for the most part. Her positive qualities are her genuine love for her son (despite a questionable decision later in the film) and at times a certain respect for her sister—if she wasn’t going through a failing marriage, she’d probably be happy for Pauline and more respectful for Malcolm (though to be fair, Malcolm does have a flaw that is revealed midway through the film).

It’s brilliantly ironic that the happiest occasion—a wedding—provides the course of problematic, emotional scarring for this dysfunctional family. It’s almost like an opposite version “National Lampoon’s Vacation” movie; drained of energy, showing the real deal, and hardly any room for compromise. Margot is a mother who is blatantly honest in her observations and hurts those around her, whether intentional or not, and for the most part it is, just so she can come off as “sophisticated.” This is the kind of thing that Baumbach has to be praised for—showing skill in leaving discomfort with realistic situations and characters who talk like natural people would talk. Sometimes, there’s wit; other times, there’s honest truth; mostly, it all sounds very natural. It’s as if Baumbach knows to draw the fine line between appalling and truthful, and at times you get laughs from the darker wit-aspects.

Kidman delivers one of the best performances of her career, showing no fear in making Margot as pathetic as she doesn’t like to believe she is and somehow finding a way to show that the character is not a one-note caricature—there are times when she does care for those around her. Jennifer Jason Leigh presents an appealing Pauline, who is a nice woman but also flawed herself in how she defends herself from Margot’s remarks. And you really buy Kidman and Leigh as sisters, as they bicker but also have genuinely-sweet moments together when there’s nothing to fight about. The supporting cast is good, especially the young actors who deliver personality and appeal. But Jack Black, usually known for broadly-comedic roles, is probably not as successful as he could be in a role like Malcolm, but he’s not terrible at all—it’s the quiet, low-key moments that he’s able to pull off, while he can’t quite handle the louder moments.

Like I said, people will either get into “Margot at the Wedding” or you’re put off by the Margot character and how good Kidman is at making her unlikeable. With an unhappy universe in which the film takes place, is it effective? For me, it is. It spoke to me and I admired it for the characterizations and craftsmanship…

I’m just glad I’m not Margot’s son.

Once (2007)

21 Jun


Smith’s Verdict: ****

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

John Carney’s “Once” is a “musical” in the most nontraditional meaning possible. For one thing, it tells its tale while grounded in reality so that the usual corniness and improbability found in “traditional” musicals are nowhere to be found. And second, the music/songs come naturally, so that occasionally characters will play a certain song all the way through, but in a reality setting. And strangely enough, all of the songs serve as part of the storyline. In that case, then, it’s one of the most intriguing musicals I’ve ever seen. Although, I don’t think I want to call “Once” a musical. Instead, I’ll just call it what it is: a damn good film.

The minimalist plot focuses on the relationship between two people in Dublin, Ireland. Those characters are an Irish street guitarist (Glen Hansard) and a Czech flower saleswoman (Marketa Irglova). She hears some of his songs and notices his true talent, and they start to spend time together. She also plays piano and accompanies him in singing and playing a piece called “Falling Slowly” in a piano shop. It’s the start of something good, but their relationship is mainly platonic, as he is trying to get over an old girlfriend who left him to move to London, and she is married but has left her husband for a better life for her child. Both connect very well through music. They play music together, he plays her a few tunes, she comes up with lyrics for one of his soundtracks, and she moves him forward to recording a song at a studio, which is what they attempt to do.

All of the songs are memorable and help to move the story along and bring insight into the characters’ lives. For example, the lyrics to “Falling Slowly” state a lot about what the characters have gone through in their lives—singing it together to one another makes it all the more intriguing. That song, by the way, is my choice for the best one in the movie (then again, I’ve always known that—I first heard it when it was performed on the televised 80th Academy Awards, where it won Best Original Song), although another song, “When Your Mind’s Made Up,” is great as well.

This relationship between these two characters is very sweet and well-done, and the actors playing them display a great deal of chemistry. (And they’re talented musicians too, which is an important quality for this craft.)

I mentioned that “Once” is as nontraditional as a musical can get. It also has a low amount of choreography, as opposed to old-school musicals that rely on a heavy amount. Instead, “Once” tells its story in a documentary-style, with tracking shots, awkward closeups, shaky handheld shots, and zooming in and out. At first, I found this distracting, but I never lost the illusion that I was there with these people. Just as I never lost the illusion that there was real heart and passion put into “Once.” It’s a genuine treasure of a movie.

Death Proof (2007)

8 May

Grind House (Death Proof)

Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof” was the second of two films (the first directed by Robert Rodriguez) to pay homage to a type of ’60-‘70s exploitation film known as the “grindhouse,” which was commonly made for drive-in theaters. The films were made with very little money and usually bad quality in the filmmaking and acting department. They have since been accepted as guilty pleasures. Rodriguez and Tarantino are apparently among those fans, and these two films they created (released as a “Grindhouse” double-feature) are practically their love letter to the type. It’s not conventional in the slightest (compared to what we’re used to now), and it’s all about cheese, pulp, sex, and gore.

There are two main differences between Robert Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror” and Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof,” however. Rodriguez’s intention was to make a bad film with a tongue-in-cheek approach to the splatter-movie/zombie-flick that goes incredibly over-the-top. Tarantino plays it straight with a sincere approach in his story. “Death Proof” was the true attempt to make a “grindhouse” production.

It seems as if Tarantino was tailor-made for this type of film. It’s oddly-structured, incredibly over-the-top, and fast-and-furious in its filmmaking style, which is everything Tarantino pushes to great effect in his films.

“Death Proof” stars Kurt Russell as a psychopathic stuntman, aptly named Stuntman Mike. He revels in extremities and drives a kick-ass muscle car that is guaranteed “100% death-proof.” He hangs out at a bar where several loud, obnoxious young women (with whom the film spends a lot of time with before introducing us to Stuntman Mike) are hanging out on a road trip. He picks up one of the women, takes her for a drive in his car, and gives her a ride she’ll never forget…because she’ll be dead. (Apparently, to feel the edge of a “death-proof” car is to sit in the driver’s seat.) He then performs a dangerous stunt that claims the lives of her friends, before focusing on another group of women about a year later.

For the first half-hour, we’re subjected to the girls’ chitchat amongst each other in a flat attempt to establish character development. While there are some good Tarantino-esque lines (or rather, “conversations”), I have to admit I didn’t care much for these people. And I was hoping that Stuntman Mike would show up a lot sooner so that he could dispose of these nymphs ahead of time.

Then, the film switches gears and follows a whole other group of young women. While they’re about as compelling as the first group, they at least have the honor of having New-Zealand-stuntwoman Zoe Bell among them. The idea of this striking young stuntwoman (who was Uma Thuman’s stunt-double in Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” movies) taking center-stage (and playing herself) in a movie about a psychotic stuntman brings numerous possibilities, and while it doesn’t follow through with all of them, it still brings about the most important aspect—squaring off against Stuntman Mike, giving him a worthy opponent.

Bell and her friends (played by Rosario Dawson and Tracie Thorns) come to a Tennessee town to test-drive a white 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T and perform a dangerous stunt known as “Ship’s Mast” (which requires Bell riding on the car’s hood with leather straps to hold on to). Then, Stuntman Mike comes along and messes around with them, endangering their lives. But with the extremist attitude these girls have, this may end up being his biggest mistake…

That’s the payoff to “Death Proof” and it’s a damn good one. In fact, the whole second half is the best thing about “Death Proof.” The conversations are pure-Tarantino; the intensity is taken up a notch once the women and Mike engage in their stunt-driving; and it just feels like an engaging “grindhouse” feature. If the first half represents everything people hate about the “grindhouse” element, then the second half represents what everything loves about the “grindhouse” element. Tarantino set out to deliver a love-letter to this type of film; for the most part, he succeeds.

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

1 May


Smith’s Verdict: ****

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Most films released in 2007 dealt with darker plots, such as “No Country for Old Men” and “There Will Be Blood.” But those two weren’t musicals. Tim Burton’s “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” is one of the best musicals to come around in a long time, and I’m pretty sure it’s the darkest (and bloodiest). “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” was originally a Broadway play, and for years I don’t think just any filmmaker would have dared to make a film adaptation until Tim Burton decided to give it a shot. If you know the story, or even if you don’t know the story, you’ll be amazed by this film of great direction, amazing sets, memorable characters, and a great story of revenge.

The story—Benjamin Barker (brilliantly played by Johnny Depp in his seventh Depp-Burton collaboration) is a barber living in London with his wife and baby daughter. But when the dastardly Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) notices his wife’s beauty, he ships him to Australia on false charges to be with her and adopts his daughter. Years later, Barker is a changed man. He’s released from prison and has come back to London to discover that his wife is dead and his daughter is locked up by the judge. He hears this news from Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), who is noted to make the “worst pies in London.” He changes his name to Sweeney Todd and reopens his barber shop right next to Mrs. Lovett’s pie shop. He vows revenge on Judge Turpin and is just waiting to slit his throat. In the meantime, he practices on unworthy throats…

Well, it is a musical. How’s the singing? Well, people may think that Johnny Depp sings in “Crybaby,” but some people forget that wasn’t his voice. We hear him sing throughout the whole movie, and it’s not exactly a big Broadway voice but he doesn’t need one. His acting is unique and now, so is his singing. And this movie never has more than five minutes of no singing. The songs are quite good and very memorable. Stephen Sondheim is the finest music maker, having to keep these songs alive for this movie. The music is amazing and intriguing.

There are also subplots involving a young sailor who falls in love with Sweeney’s daughter and may end up helping getting her back (without knowing who she really is), and a boy who is adopted by Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett that could cause trouble when Sweeney is acting strange, or even more so. And also, we know that Mrs. Lovett is absolutely in love with Sweeney while Sweeney couldn’t care less about she feels. To him, Mrs. Lovett is like a sister to him and she doesn’t understand that Sweeney’s only love is his wife. These are created so we don’t have to see a whole lot of blood throughout the whole movie’s running time, and they work effectively.

We also get a great comic moment from “Borat’s” Sacha Baron Cohen as an Italian rival barber who has a shaving contest with Sweeney. He’s hilarious here, and that’s great comic timing in such a film that has Sweeney slitting the throats of his customers and Mrs. Lovett cutting the remains up and cooking them into her meat pies. Suddenly, she doesn’t make the worst pies in London anymore.

Like most Burton movies, the movie looks so good while also looking quite eerie. Tim Burton has yet another unique style of filmmaking. He’s made London look so dark because this is a dark movie and the character’s faces look so gothic to blend in with the dark surroundings. Burton scores again here and this is most definitely his best film since “Ed Wood.” The acting is first rate. Johnny Depp is such a great actor who has all these memorable roles. He creates another memorable character for his career as the vengeance-seeking Sweeney Todd. And Alan Rickman is game enough to make a role his own. This is the best I’ve seen him act since 1988’s “Die Hard.” And also there’s Timothy Spall as the silly assistant to Rickman’s character Beadle, who’s also very good.

To sum it all up, with Stephen Sondheim’s spellbinding music, Tim Burton’s direction, Johnny Depp’s fantastic role, and a few scares here and there makes this one of the best musicals I’ve seen in a long time. And I guess the blood spurting out of the throats also makes this the bloodiest classic musical I’ve ever seen.