Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – A Movie Review

Brilliant.  Absolutely brilliant.  I think, when on their own, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp are very, very talented, but when working together-geniuses.  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is exactly what it should be:  visually incredible; surprisingly sentimental; purely entertaining; superbly acted.  Depp continues to amaze me, and his Willy Wonka falls somewhere between utterly charismatic and surpassingly disturbed.  Burton grows and grows as a director, and is every bit as innovative today as he was twenty years ago.  I recommend this movie with the highest confidence; however, be warned, if you’re not a Burton fan, you may not appreciate his lavishes.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest – A Movie Review

As you probably know, the critics have been making this movie walk the plank . . . bad joke, I know, it’s what I do.  Anyway, despite the critics’ best efforts, this thing has been a cash-making sea cow.  Again, bad.  I know.

Here’s the thing, this movie was fun.  Period.  It was fun!  The props were incredible, the special effects were out-of-this-world, the costumes were great, the pacing was quick, Johnny Depp was hilarious, and the cinematography was outstanding.  In other words, everything that worked in the first film worked for the second.

Consequently, just like with the first film, there were plot holes that could sink a ship, but hey, let’s employ our suspension of disbelief and have a nice time, shall we?  Orlando Bloom, of whom I am apparently a “hatah,” gave yet another wooden, stoic performance, but you just have to expect that sort of thing from him.  He would do well to follow in Depp’s eclectic footsteps or else he is in terminal danger of being typecast for the rest of his career.

Yes, this is a middle film.  Sometimes middle films leave you feeling satisfied, like The Empire Strikes Back, and sometimes they don’t, like The Matrix ReloadedDead Man’s Chest falls somewhere in the middle.  Luckily, we don’t have long to wait for the next Pirates film, so very soon we’ll simply think of them as one seamless saga. 

The movie moves very fast despite its 2.5 hours of running time and it really is very entertaining.  I particularly loved the fact that so much of the first film is brought back for the second, even things that were just mentioned in passing.  I’d tell you to go see it right away, but I have a feeling you already have if its box office earnings are any indication.

The Libertine – A Movie Review

This is a film starring Johnny Depp that deals with the 17th century poet, John Wilmot.  A true period piece, the costumes and sets were amazing.  The cinematography was stellar as well, as it truly looked as though all interior shots had no more lighting than several very bright candles.  In other words, there existed an ever-present flicker.

I suppose the acting was very good, but I enjoy a zany Johnny Depp more than a straight-laced, deplorable Johnny Depp.  Of course, he as the libertine, and a libertine is one who is morally unrestrained, so you can imagine who likable he was.

Ultimately, I didn’t think much of the story and I felt the film rather boring.  If you enjoy period pieces and/or anything dealing with John Wilmot, this may be the film for you.  Otherwise, I think you could stand to pass on this one.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End – A Movie Review

So, as most of you know, for ten months of the year I am a high school English teacher.  This gives me great insight into many different aspects of life, including which movies are winning the admiration of youth culture.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End did not score well.  This initially confused me, because while I thought Dead Man’s Chest was entertaining, many high school students loved it with a passion I didn’t understand.  So when they came in, some literally the next day, after seeing At World’s End and lamented the demise of their favorite movie franchise, I thought to myself, “Netflix.”

Fortunately for me, my wife and I wanted to go see a movie and At World’s End was about the only thing that stuck out to us.  I’m glad it did.  In my opinion, the professional critics and the more astute high school students were wrong.  At World’s End was wonderful. 

I liked everything about this movie.  The special effects were the best yet, the acting was fun to watch (especially Depp’s, whose return to quirkiness with Captain Jack was much needed), and, most importantly, the story finally made sense and wrapped up many plotlines.

We finally get to see something relatively interesting done with Orlando Bloom’s character, Will Turner; Bill Nighy’s Davy Jones turns out to be far more complex than anyone imagined; Geoffrey Rush’s Captain Barbossa is a flat-out joy to watch; and the Keith Richards’ cameo was instant-classic.  The movie had action, humor, character development (finally!), and some dramatic gravitas (not so much to ruin the fun tone, though).  Really, for me, At World’s End captured everything I enjoyed about its two predecessors, and truly felt like a continuation and conclusion of those two other films.

One major complaint I heard from the critics was that there was simply too much going on, and yes, there were several plotlines being dealt with, but I never thought it was too convoluted to enjoy.  Be aware, however, that I wasn’t holding it accountable for much.  In my mind, this is a fun summer movie based on a Disney attraction, so I made sure simply to enjoy the ride.  Were there some aspects I didn’t totally understand?  Yeah, but I got the overall idea.  It certainly didn’t ruin my viewing experience.

All in all, I thought it had the fun of the first one with a far more complex treatment of storyline and character.  Best of all, it concluded all the plots that had been introduced in the other films, ended very symmetrically with the beginning of The Curse of the Black Pearl, and even left itself open to some interesting possible sequels.

Which reminds me-make sure you sit through the credits.

Sweeney Todd – A Movie Review

How can you go wrong with Tim Burton and Johnny Depp?  Answer: You can’t. 

First and foremost, you must understand that Sweeney Todd is a musical.  Many people don’t make this realization before they sit down to watch the film.  If you’re among them, don’t feel bad-you’re not alone.  However, bear in mind this is a film adaptation of Steven Sondhiem’s musical and the vast majority of the movie is pure song.

That being said, while I’m not particularly a fan of musicals, I am a fan of Burton and Deep, Burton, and Depp (in that order).  We get the classic gloom and melancholy playfulness we love from Tim Burton, and Depp makes Sweeney Todd his own with emotional glares, terse dialogue, and a stylistically eerie appearance.

And while it was obvious none of the actors were professional singers, I didn’t find Depp’s singing nearly as distracting as I thought I would.  Be aware, though, at times the music itself grates on the nerves.

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise Sweeney Todd offered was the scene-stealing acting and singing of Sacha Baron Cohen.  Of Borat fame, the nearly-unrecognizable Cohen dazzles with multiple accents, mesmerizing body movement, and probably the best singing existent within the film.

Burton, as usual, gives us wonderfully morose scenery and costumes.  Never a slave to convention, a musical would have been the last endeavor I would have expected him to undertake, but I’m glad he did.  It goes a long way to solidifying his versatility, and the fact he did it his own way with tremendous risk in casting only reestablishes my faith in his artistry.

Be aware, however, that had anyone else directed Sweeney Todd, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to watch it.  If you’re a fan of Burton/Depp collaboration or musicals, I think you’ll be pleased.  If you don’t particularly enjoy either, I’d make a point to avoid Sweeney Todd.

Ed Wood – A Movie Review

I’m a big Tim Burton fan, and when Burton and Johnny Depp get together, it’s always magic.  That’s why I always felt bad about not seeing the movie Ed Wood.  Released in 1994, I simply never got around to watching it, but after hearing about how good it was, I finally decided to sit down and give it a watch.

First a little background information-Ed Wood was a director responsible for famous B-movies such as Plan 9 from Outer Space.  He died in 1978 and two years later was voted “Worst Director of All Time.”  He also had a penchant for dressing in women’s clothing, despite the fact he was a reputedly a staunch heterosexual.  He used Bela Lugosi, famous for his portrayal of Dracula in his younger days, in a few of his films well after Lugosi had been forgotten by Hollywood.  Once Lugosi died, Wood’s career took a turn for the worse-not that it’d ever been great-and he faded away.

Of course, such a strange life and career is right up Tim Burton’s alley, and Burton assembled an incredible cast of actors in this film.  (Remember this is 1994.)  He secured Johnny Depp, Sarah Jessica Parker, Bill Murray, and a charismatic and Oscar winning performance from Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi.

While I appreciated the acting and the homage paid to Wood by Burton, the overall storyline didn’t really interest me all that much.  Ed Wood’s story, while odd, didn’t captivate me as perhaps it would a fan of his B-movies.  Those standards I usually appreciate from Burton in movies such as Edward Scissorhands, Beetle Juice, Sleepy Hollow, and Big Fish were also absent.  I’m not saying this is a bad thing; I’m saying that it simply didn’t interest me all that much.

That said, though, if you really want to see Johnny Depp acting his tail off, I’d check this movie out.  Just be aware it focuses more upon Wood and Lugosi’s relationship than anything.  If I’d known this going in, I might have had a different impression of the film.  I really thought it was a comedy about Wood’s complete life story for some reason.  But, while there are some funny moments and characters, I found it really to be a rather dramatic story about a vanishing actor striving to remain relevant and a hapless director’s failed dream of making it big.