Movies at Home — May, 2008 Part II

 
Every time Johnny Depp and Tim Burton work together, they create movie magic. So how could I miss this one? The only doubt in everyone’s mind is, however, can Johnny sing?
 
Based on the Stephen Sondheim musical, Sweeney Todd is an unapologetically gruesome movie about a barber named Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp) returned to London as Sweeney Todd and sought revenge on Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman), who had framed him, violated his wife, stolen his daughter, and destroyed his life. He was assisted by the similarly miserable Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), who pictured a wonderful future with the vengeance-filled barber and benefited from the undying supply of meat from the handy work of Sweeney Todd. Once his arms was completed by the extension of the blade, the demon barber went on a killing rampage to rid the world of sinful human beings and much much more…
 
With Depp, Carter, and Burton reunited once again since Corpse Bride, this almost seemed like a family project. But the end product could not be more further from cheerful, happy tunes. If you’re familiar with Burton’s works, you’d know that his films are either filled with all the colours in the world or depressingly black-and-white. In this case, the gloomy tone amplified the cynical nature of the barber of death. The tagline for the movie was rightfully — "Never forget. Never forgive." Benjamin Barker a.k.a. Sweeney Todd was so consumed by his hatred for the people responsible for his ruined life, he never considered a new start with Mrs. Lovett. He was blinded to everything else, leading to the surprising and tragic ending. Mrs. Lovett was foolish enough to hope for the love from Benjamin, whose revenge does not exclude anyone, including her. All in all, the story is a tragedy with hate and blood, lots and lots of blood, flowing in its veins, as seen during the opening credits.
 
When musicals are transported to the big screen, casting does not always calls for someone with known incredible singing skills. Besides the facts that Tim Burton wants to work with Johnny every chance he gets, and his girlfriend has worked hard enough to be the leading lady in this movie, Depp’s brooding charisma and Carter’s oddball vibe are perfect for this film. Depp’s Sweeney Todd had lost all faith in humanity. His hollow eyes showed that he only cared about his revenge. I paid attention to his singing at the beginning, but later became focused on his captive acting. Carter sounded like she handled the singing with ease, but in fact she had to do most of the more difficult numbers.
 
Alan Rickman was once again the sneaky authority figure. By his side was his pal from Harry Potter, Timonthy Spall, playing Beadle. Dare I say they are getting typecasted. With only a minimal amount of singing, they both performed with expertise in their respective characters’ personalities. In a musical-turned-feature film, the supporting cast usually have the stronger singing voices, and it’s no exception here. Barker’s daughter, Johanna (Jayne Wisener) and the sailor who fell in love with her, Anthony (Jamie Campbell Bower) both had great singing chops. They were easy on the eyes as well. But the acting was rather weak. Well, you can’t have it all, right? The most memorable character for me was the orphan Toby, played by Edward Sanders. He had a voice so sweet and cute that you feel sympathetic towards him even when he was scamming the town folks or getting drunk.
 
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street was a strange concept for a musical by itself. With Burton at the helm, the end product is a dark-toned movie with good acting and singing, suspense and surprise, and lots of gore (I was getting really uncomfortable with the killing scenes, while my sister was getting desensitized). Check it out if this combination is right for you. Oh, by the way, in a thoroughly dark film, Sacha Baron Cohen of the Borat fame provided comic relief in a single scene.
 
 
A lot of people refer to Juno as the Little Miss Sunshine of 2007. It features one of the most promising young star, Ellen Page from Canada. Of course it’s been on my movies to see list for a long time.
 
Juno (Ellen Page) was a smart girl with a sharp sense of humour. After one night of passion with her best friend, Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera), she got pregnant and decided to keep her baby. She found a nice couple to adopt the baby in the classifieds, next to pet wanted ads. The parents to be seemed to lead the flawless middle class suburban life, but when the young and spirited Juno walked into the picture, the uptight wife Vanessa (Jennifer Garner) and the rocker-at-heart husband Mark (Jason Bateman) may not be the perfect couple after all. With her surprisingly supportive father Mac (J.K. Simmons) and step-mother Bren (Allison Janney) by her side, Juno learned about life not only because it was inside her belly, but also how it affected everyone around her.
 
Unlike other movies that deal with teen pregnancy, Juno does not judge nor lecture on the issue. In fact, I don’t think the film is about the tribulations of young mothers. It’s more about adulthood and youth, sophistication and innocence, and love and dream.
 
As smart as Juno was, she was still a young girl who does not understand how everything works in this world (But honestly, who does?). She first went to an abortion clinic by herself, and then found the adoptive couple before confessing to her parents. She thought she could handle the biggest event of her life all on her own. Even in her relationship with Vanessa and Mark, she acted as if she was a grownup and talked to them as "equals." Bleeker looked like a clueless geek, but he saw right through Juno’s camouflage. He was Juno’s best friend and perfect match. That made the ending so much sweeter. The pregnancy forced Juno to enter adulthood faster, and she acted like she had it under control, but she was still a young girl who eventually decided to treasure the last few years of her innocent youth.
 
Juno not only skyrocketed Ellen Page’s career, it also introduced the world to the now Academy Award winner writer Diablo Cody. The script was fresh, full of clever dialogues and remarks that made me suspect whether anyone would really talk like that. I loved the way every character grew on me as the story went on, and our first impression of the characters changed along the way. This is a recurring opinion in my reviews, but a good script creates characters that have more to show beneath the surface.
 
As the protagonist, Ellen Page was brilliant as Juno. She was quick witted and independent, but she was also fragile and childish at times. Ellen Page WAS Juno. I knew it was not her time to win the Oscar last year, but she definitely deserved that nomination. Michael Cera always gets cast as the nice, timid, geeky guy. But like I just mentioned above, his character Bleeker was actually more mature than Juno. The Canadian director, Jason Reitman loved him because of his subtle expression.
 
Jennifer Garner was good as the rigid Vanessa. She showed her desperate desire for a child, which made the audience become more sympathetic toward her. Jason Bateman’s Mark was funny and confident like Juno. Mark and Juno were so alike, that their connection seemed overboard and dangerous in some people’s eyes, including Bren (This is the reaction that the writer and director wanted, of course). It was Juno’s free spirit that made Mark realize his undying dream, but pursuing it meant giving up his current life. My favourite was J.K. Simmons’s Mac. Simmons had played a lot of tough guys. I was happy that he could finally show his softer side as the loving, caring father of Juno. Allison Janney’s Bren broke the stereotype as the supportive step mom. She was fair and not preachy. Her coming to defend Juno was one of the best scenes in the movie.
 
Juno is a very unique movie. It showcases a story and characters that we had not seen in other typical movies. Although it is not everyone’s cup of tea, I think it is a movie worth seeing just to get a different taste. For me, it’s a smart, bittersweet comedy that reflects the lost naive days of youth.
 
P.S. I have discovered that DVD can be a personal film school these days. The director’s and/or writer’s commentary really help us understand more about the movie. From the camera angle, props, set design, shout-outs in the lines, to fake trees and leaves, costumes and locations, filmmakers really put thoughts into every little details. This make me respect them even more. So support the films! Don’t download movies or buy pirated DVD’s!
 
 
第一次看得獎高手劉若英演戲, 是大家都很熟悉的[人間四月天], 一場告訴徐志摩懷孕消息卻換來丈夫冷漠焦慮的戲, 讓我了解為什麼奶茶可以多次獲得評審青睞。而這部戲我也是衝著她和林嘉欣的名字才引起興趣的, 就和電影海報一樣, 兩位女主角的確身負整部電影的成敗。
 
電影由三起綁架案串聯而成, 劉若英飾演女督察何婉真, 負責調查富家公子的綁架案, 策劃的竟是三年前身受其害的肉票家屬林曉陽(林嘉欣 飾), 陰錯陽差之中, 何婉真變成受害者, 當女強人自己的兒子被綁架, 又該怎麼面對?
 
開頭的倒敘法力求震撼, 然後林曉陽精準地策劃和控制富商甚至何婉真的劇情安排十分緊張, 但是後段當她發現綁錯人, 卻開始出現弱點, 說要表現角色善良的一面, 又覺得力道不夠, 後來計劃越失控, 她就越慌亂, 之前的精明和冷靜通通不見了, 而三年前弟弟被綁架最後身亡這件事到底對林曉陽綁匪的身分有什麼推進力或是掙扎, 都沒有更深入的討論, 讓我頗為失望。何婉真這個角色也是, 從女督察變成無助的母親, 除了強烈情緒上的表達, 反覆的態度讓我不知道她的想法究竟是什麼? 她感到憤怒還是自責? 立場變成了家屬, 她對於警察的做法有沒有不同的認識? 這些在她試圖堅強以致於最後幾乎瘋狂的行徑中都讓我看不清。隨著劇情脫軌, 場面似乎變得混亂, 編劇好像不知道如何收拾, 所以最後以最"方便"的手法結束, 卻讓這部電影給我虎頭蛇尾的感覺
 
林嘉欣的表現就跟她的角色一樣, 開頭好像是個狠角色, 後來壞沒壞到底, 好又尚未贏得觀眾(至少是我)的芳心, 所以無法達到印象深刻的效果。至於奶茶, 老姊看她發現被綁架的是她兒子的歇斯底里, 直說她演得太過火了, 唉, 一瞬間我也有這種感覺, 或者我覺得因為驚訝而不知所措才是比較可信的反應。不過她的廣東話原音發聲讓我很驚喜, 雖然還是有口音但是可以說蠻標準的, 可見她為這部片準備所做出的努力。
 
片中最容易受人喜愛的是張兆輝的刑警智叔, 正直和善又專業, 是他演到爛的角色種類。張智霖飾演何婉真的前夫, 在此好像是個提供輕鬆氣氛的喜劇角色, 他並沒有像那個富商一樣, 持續表現出父親的焦急, 反倒是花在支持何婉真和處理現任女友的精力較多, 還有最後他如何逃脫手铐是個未解的謎, 我還一直想到他和奶茶生下的小孩眼睛一定大得嚇人…

About Alice

I am a Taiwanese-Canadian who lived in Toronto for 18 years and then decided to explore the west coast and moved to British Columbia. My interests include science, technology, movies, music, theatre and literature. I am always curious about how things work. I hope I can turn this curiosity into my passion about life and the world around us!
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