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Sweeney Todd (DVD)

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Sweeney Todd DVD review (click for larger imageReviewed by Uncle Creepy

Starring Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Edward Sanders, Timothy Spall, Jayne Wisener

Directed by Tim Burton

Distributed by Dreamworks Home Entertainment


“There’s a hole in the world like a great black pit, and it’s filled with people who are filled of shit, and the vermin of the world inhabit it, and it goes by the name of London” — Sweeney

And with that, we’re off on one of the oldest and darkest journeys into madness and vengeance that the world has ever known. Johnny Depp plays everyone’s favorite demon barber with the maniacal glee of a serial killer picking up his first sharpened shiny object, and who better to give him a world to stain with blood than the great Tim Burton? No one, that’s who. Sweeney Todd is a movie so well crafted that it would be easy to sit here and gush like the many geysers of gore that escape the throats of this film’s victims, and honestly with a movie this good and a DVD set this packing, that’s just what I intend to do. Before we tackle all that (and there is a lot to tackle), let’s look at the events leading up to Sweeney’s rampage.

Based upon the Broadway musical and complete with songs by Stephen Sondheim, Sweeney Todd tells the story of Benjamin Barker (Depp), a local barber in London with the perfect life. That is until the vile Judge Turpin (Rickman) takes an interest in his wife and daughter. It’s not long before the judge has Barker, framed for a crime he didn’t commit, sent away, leaving his spouse and child unprotected and in his clutches.

Sweeney Todd DVD review (click for larger imageYears later Barker returns to London under a new name, Sweeney Todd, and as soon as he reaches the city’s shores, he’s off to find out what happened to his wife and little girl. Unfortunately, Sweeney finds that Mrs. Barker has passed on and his kid is still being victimized by Turpin as he keeps her locked away in his home. As you can imagine, this doesn’t sit well. Todd decides to open up a new barbershop above a meat pie store run by the equally as crazed Mrs. Lovett (Carter), and together the two make quite a team. Sweeney provides the cattle and Lovett does the butchering and the cooking. This goes on as Sweeney rids London of its corrupt aristocracy shave by shave, in the hopes that one day he may be able get his revenge on Turpin and save his daughter Johanna (Wisener).

“Alright! You, sir? How about a shave? Come and visit. Your good friend Sweeney! You sir! Too, sir! Welcome to the grave. I will have vengeance. I will have salvation… Who, sir? You sir! No one’s in the chair come on, come on! Sweeney’s waiting! I want you bleeders. You sir? Anybody? Gentlemen, now don’t be shy. Not one man. No, nor ten men. Nor a hundred can assuage me.” — Sweeney

And vengeance is exactly what Todd has as this film spews blood by the bucketful at a relentless pace. In my opinion this is Burton, Depp, and Carter at their absolute finest. Brilliant is an understatement when referring to Sweeney Todd. For a more in-depth review of the film itself, check out Tristan’s Sweeney Todd review here. Our subject of the day is the two-disc special edition DVD, and WOW is there a lot of ground to cover!

Sweeney Todd DVD review (click for larger imageDisc One is home to the film and just a single supplement, the twenty-six-minute featurette entitled Burton + Depp + Carter = Todd. This bit of goodness basically documents the making of the movie from the mouths of the title stars. Covered here are casting, costume designs, character development, and recording the film’s soundtrack. While rock solid stuff, I still have to wonder where the hell the commentary is? That’s the only missing piece of the puzzle in this set, but not to worry — Disc Two more than makes up for the missing track.

Things kick off with footage from a press conference from November of 2007 with director Tim Burton, stars Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, and Timothy Spall, and producer Richard Zanuck. Running about twenty minutes, this is nothing earth shattering, but it’s entertaining nevertheless. The really good stuff starts with the next featurette, Sweeney is Alive: The Real History of The Demon Barber. Coming in at around twenty-six minutes, this bit of supplemental goodness covers the London legend of Sweeney Todd, which dates back to the late 1700’s. Did this happen? Could it have happened? Does this tale share anything in common with that of cannibal Sawney Bean? Everyone from historians to professors get their say, and without question this was one of the most interesting things I’ve watched in a really long time. Excellent stuff! Next up are six more featurettes to pour through, Musical Mayhem: Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd (twelve minutes), Sweeney’s London (a look at how London actually was during this time period — seventeen minutes), The Making-of Sweeney Todd (twenty-four minutes), Designs for a Demon Barber (a look at the film’s costumes, set decoration and production designs — nine minutes), A Bloody Buisness (a look at the F/X — nine minutes), and the gem of them all, Grand Guignol: A Theatrical Tradition (twenty minutes).

Sweeney Todd DVD review (click for larger imageWhile a little off-topic, Grand Guignol: A Theatrical Tradition, takes a look at the birth of horror theatre in France and the impact it had on both the Broadway musical and, of course, the film itself. As a huge fan of everything Grand Guignol, seeing its history documented from its birth in 1897 to present day was an absolute dream for me! Riddled with still photos and lots of insight, this is one part of this set you just don’t want to miss. But alas, there are still a few more tasty tidbits to discuss …

Things are finally wrapped up on Disc Two beginning with MovieFone Unscripted with Tim Burton and Johnny Depp interviewing Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. Running twelve minutes, it’s easy to see the chemistry these two have with each other. You won’t learn anything that hasn’t already been covered elsewhere on this DVD, but it’s still a good time. From there we have The Razor’s Refrain featurette, which is basically an eight-minute musical montage, a photo gallery, and the movie’s trailer.

In retrospect I don’t think I could have handled a commentary too. Sweeney Todd gets my vote for DVD of the year. The film itself is genius, and this set packs everything you could have hoped for and lays it on thick. Hit the link below and get yourself a copy like yesterday!

“They all deserve to die! Tell you why, Mrs. Lovett, tell you why! Because in all of the whole human race, Mrs. Lovett, there are two kinds of men and only two. There’s the one staying put in his proper place and one with his foot in the other one’s face. Look at me, Mrs. Lovett! Look at you! No, we all deserve to die. Even you, Mrs. Lovett, even I!” — Sweeney

Revenge has never been so ghastly sweet!

Special Features

  • Burton + Depp + Carter = Todd featurette
  • Sweeney Todd press conference
  • Sweeney is Alive: The Real History of The Demon Barber featurette
  • Musical Mayhem: Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd featurette
  • Sweeney’s London featurette
  • Making-of Sweeney Todd featurette
  • Grand Guignol: A Theatrical Tradition featurette
  • Designs for a Demon Barber featurette
  • A Bloody Buisness featurette
  • MovieFone Unscripted with Tim Burton and Johnny Depp
  • The Razor’s Refrain featurette
  • Photo Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailer

    Film:

    5 out of 5

    Special Features:

    5 out of 5

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    Before We Vanish Review – A Quirky and Original Take on Alien Invasions

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    Starring Masami Nagasawa, Ryûhei Matsuda, Hiroki Hasegawa

    Written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

    Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa


    During the J-horror rampage of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo (aka Pulse). A dark, depressing, and morose tale of ghosts that use the internet to spread across the world, the film’s almost suffocatingly gloomy atmosphere pervaded across every frame of the film. Because of my love of this film, I was eager to see the director’s upcoming movie Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (aka Before We Vanish), which follows three aliens who recently arrived on Earth and are preparing to bring about an alien invasion that will wipe humanity from the face of the planet. Imagine my surprise when the film turned out to be barely a horror title but was instead a quirky and surreal dramedy that tugged at my heartstrings.

    Admittedly, I was thrown completely for a loop as the film begins with a scene that feels perfectly at home in a horror film. Akira (Tsunematsu), a teenage girl, goes home and we enter moments later to blood splashed on the walls and floor and bodies strewn about. However, the disturbing visuals are spun around as the young girl walks down a highway, her clothes and face streaked with blood, Yusuke Hayashi’s music taking on a lighthearted, almost jaunty attitude. From there, we learn of the other two aliens (yes, she’s an alien and it’s not a secret or a twist, so no spoilers there): Amano (Takasugi), who is a young man that convinces a sleazy reporter, Sakurai (Hasegawa), of his true form and tasks Sakurai with being his guide, and Shinji (Matsuda), the estranged husband of Narumi (Nagasawa).

    What sets these aliens, and their mission, apart from other invasion thrillers is their means of gathering information. They’re not interested in meeting leaders nor do they capture people for nefarious experimentations. Rather, they steal “concepts” from the minds of people, such as “family”, “possession”, or “pest”. Once these concepts are taken, the victim no longer has that value in their mind, freed from its constraints.

    While this may seem like a form of brainwashing, Kurosawa instead plays with the idea that maybe knowing too much is what holds us back from true happiness. A man obsessed with staking claim to his family home learns to see the world outside of its walls when “possession” is no longer a part of his life. A touchy boss enters a state of child-like glee after “work” has been taken. That being said, there are other victims who are left as little more than husks.

    Overly long at 130 minutes, the film does take its time showing the differences between the aliens and their individual behaviors. Amano and Akira are casually ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to send a beacon to begin the alien invasion, no matter how many must die along the way, while Shinji is the curious and almost open-minded one, whose personal journey finds him at one point asking a priest to envision and describe “love”, a concept that is so individualistic and personal that it can’t be taken, much less fathomed, by this alien being. While many of these scenes are necessary, they could have easily been edited down to shave 10-15 minutes, making the film flow a bit more smoothly.

    While the film begins on a dark note, there is a scene in the third act that is so pure and moving that tears immediately filled my eyes and I choked up a little. It’s a moment of both sacrifice and understanding, one that brings a recurring thread in the story full circle.

    With every passing minute, Before We Vanish makes it clear that it’s much more horror-adjacent than horror. An alien invasion thriller with ultimate stakes, it will certainly have appeal to genre fans. That being said, those who go in expecting action, violence, and terror will certainly be disappointed. But those whose mind is a bit more open to a wider range of possibilities will find a delightful story that attempts to find out what it means to be human, even if we have to learn the lesson from an alien.

    • Before We Vanish
    4.0

    Summary

    Before We Vanish is a beautiful, wonderful tale that explores what it means to be human when faced with the threat of extinction.

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    Delirium Review – Bros, Cameras And A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On

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    Starring Mike C. Manning, Griffin Freeman, Ryan Pinkston

    Directed by Johnny Martin


    When will these testosterone-overloaded frat bros with cameras ever learn that pissing off the evil souls of the departed all in the name of amusement won’t get you anywhere but wrecked? Same goes for filmmakers: when will they learn that found-footage exploits set in a house of pure sadism are something of a wrung-out affectation? Oh well, as long as people keep renting them, they’ll continue to get manufactured…which might or might not be to the benefit of the horror film-watching populous.

    Delirium opens with a poor lad, strapped with a GoPro, running for his life through a labyrinth of haunted territory, praying for an escape…and it’s a foregone conclusion as to what happens to this trespassing individual. We then relocate our focus towards a collection of (ahem), “gentlemen” self-titled as The Hell Gang, and their escapades are about as profound as their grasp on the English language and its verbiage. The words “dude”, creepy”, and the term “what the fuck” are thrown about so much in this movie it’ll make your head spin to the point of regurgitation. Anyway, their interest in the home of the Brandt clan is more piqued now than ever, especially considering one of their own has gone missing, and they’ve apparently got the gonads to load up the cameras, and traverse the property after-hours, and against the warnings of the local law-enforcement, who surprisingly are just inadequate enough to ignore a dangerous situation. The cursed family and the residence has quite the illustrious and bleak history, and it’s ripe for these pseudo-snoopers to poke around in.

    Usually I’m curb-stomping these first person POV movies until there’s nothing left but a mash of blood, snot and hair left on the cement, but Martin’s direction takes the “footage” a little bit outside of the box, with steadier shots (sometimes) and a bit more focus on the characters as they go about their business. Also, there are a few genuinely spooky scenes to speak of involving the possession of bodies, but there really isn’t much more to crow about, as the plot’s basically a retread of many films before it, and with this collection of borderline-douches manning the recording equipment, it’s a sad state of affairs we’re in that something such as this has crept its way towards us all again. I’m always down for jumping into a cold grave, especially when there could be a sweet prize to be dug up in all that dirt, but Delirium was one of those movies that never let you find your footing, even after you’ve clawed your way through all of the funereal sediment – take a hard pass on this one.

     

    • Film
    2.0

    Summary

    Got about a half-dozen bros with cameras and a wanton will to get slaughtered on camera, all the while repetitively uttering the same phrases all damn day long? Then my friends, you’ve got yourself a horror movie!

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    Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters Review – A Timid Step Towards a Frightening Possibility

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    Starring Mamoru Miyano, Takahiro Sakurai, Kana Hanazawa, Yuki Kaji, Tomokazu Sugita

    Directed by Kobun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita


    The Godzilla series is the longest-running franchise in cinema history. With over 30 films over a 60+ year career, the famous kaiju has appeared in video games, comic books, TV shows, and more, cementing its place as one of the most recognizable cultural icons in the past 100 years. With Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, the titular beast makes its foray into the world of anime in this first film in a proposed trilogy. While there are moments that are genuinely thrilling, the film unfortunately fails to capture the imagination and wonder that is at its fingertips.

    The story is quite simple: Earth is under attack by swarms of various kaiju who are wreaking havoc across the planet. Entire cities are being destroyed when Godzilla appears to vanquish humanity’s foes. Unfortunately, the King of the Monsters isn’t really there to help humans and its rampage continues until a race of alien beings arrive at Earth asking for a place to stay in exchange for defeating Godzilla. When they are unable to do that, the remaining humans board a giant spaceship to venture off into space in search of a new home only to come back some 20 years later, nearly 20,000 years later by Earth time (think Interstellar logic), to search for resources and, possibly, a planet that will welcome them once again. However, Godzilla is still around and isn’t keen on sharing.

    The main character of the film is Haruo Sakaki, a young man who begins the film by nearly following through on a suicide bomber terrorist act that is meant to call attention to humanity’s loss of vision and failure to fulfill their mission of finding a suitable home for the remaining survivors. Even though he is accosted and jailed for this act, he is eventually freed when people realize that his lifelong passion of killing Godzilla is the foundation for research he’s done in finding a way to take down the creature…a plan that just might work. The other characters are so forgettable that I forgot their names during the film.

    From there, the film essentially pivots into following a massive team of volunteers who land on Earth’s surface to lay a trap for Godzilla in order to destroy it. Since this is Earth 20,000 years after they left, the flora and fauna have evolved and changed so radically that the team have no idea what to expect or how to react, so caution is a must.

    The problem with this is that while the characters have to be cautious, the film doesn’t nor should it. The movie has the chance to explore the wealth of imaginative opportunities at its fingertips and yet does almost everything it can to avoid doing just that. The color scheme is flat and uninteresting. The character movements lack smoothness and the action sequences fall victim to shaky cam syndrome. There are a few mentions of some of the changes that have taken place on the planet, such as razor sharp plants, but they’re so incidental or offhand that it feels like no one making the film has any interest in seeing anything other than man against beast.

    Speaking of this dynamic, the action sequences are quite entertaining but also feel somewhat reserved. Godzilla barely moves and much of the destruction levied against the humans is seen from a distance, apart from an attack on a military outpost by dragon-like creatures. For nearly the entire film, I found myself thinking, “I’m okay with this but that’s about it.

    The brightest moment in the film are the last few minutes and I won’t spoil what happens. Suffice it to say that it definitely has me interested in the second and third films but I really hope that this new world will be explored further in those entries. Otherwise, we’ve got a fascinating foundation that will be squandered.

    • Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters
    2.0

    Summary

    Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is a bland entry in a trilogy that has great potential. For a first course, there’s a distinct lack of flavor or complexity. The final minutes are the only saving grace and I hope that the second and third films make use of that grand wonder.

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