Tag Archives: Johnny Depp

Into the Woods

woodsBased on the Stephen Sondheim musical, Into the Woods tells the story of a childless baker and his wife, cursed by a wicked witch to be barren forever but granted the chance to reverse the spell, if only they go into the woods to retrieve some special items for her. Their story intersects with the familiar Grimm Brothers’  tales of Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel.

Meryl Streep plays the witch and plays her beautifully. Director Rob Marshall knows she’s the linchpin and grants her the most spectacular entrances and exits. But it’s Emily Blunt in the role of the baker’s wife who feels like the heart bakerof the movie and Blunt really shines. She can make any line sound so natural, and her voice can only surprise you in the best way possible. She was nominated for a Golden Globe and deserves to be, possibly even more so that Streep (!). Anna Kendrick as Cinderella is comparatively disappointing. It’s always difficult for this reviewer to see past her donkey dentures, but her voice is up to the challenge, even I can admit that. But Cinderella just isn’t that exciting to watch (this problem was likely compounded by the inclusion of a preview for the new live-action Cinderella movie to be released in 2015 – my sister and I wrongly imagined some of those scenes as scenes from Into the Woods).

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“I was raised to be charming, not sincere.”

There is a lot to recommend in this movie. The ensemble cast is spectacular. After their opening number, “Into the Woods” I felt like I should applaud.  And if you had doubts that Chris Pine could sing, let me assure you that he’s learned more than just a thing or two from Shatner along the way. Actually, our group quite enjoyed the scene between Pine’s Prince Charming (recycling his smug asshole look from Horrible Bosses 2) and Rapunzel’s Prince (Billy Magnussen, leatherclad) – the two men are singing about their respective woman-induced “Agony”, splashing about homoerotically in a waterfall, trying to out-macho each other, crotch-thursting, popping buttons to reveal increasingly deep vees of smooth, tanned chests, reminding us more of a duet between George Michael and Freddie Mercury than your typical fairy-tale princes. Delightfully tongue-in-cheek, you almost wished more of the movie could feel this way.

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“Scrumptious carnality”

The sets are gorgeous, and no matter how many times our characters go into the woods, it never feels like they’re passing the same 5 trees, it’s a truly enchanted forest that creates a storybook look that’s fun to get lost in. And the fabulous Colleen Atwood heightens the visual gorging with a stunning array of costumes, including a suit that transforms a man into a mister wolf. Johnny Depp, playing the wolf, is lurking inside those woods, looking lupine and oily, putting out vibes that should warn us away. Although top-billed, Depp’s in the movie for maybe 5 minutes, but that’s more than enough to turn things pretty sour. How do I say this…I felt like I picked up on certain nuances in his song that I was uncomfortable with. As in: sexual innuendo. As in: the wolf would like to “eat” Little Red Riding Hood in more than one way. He’s an absolute creepster with a real pedophile’s mustache and his singing “Hello, Little Girl” will send shivers up your spine. He tells us there’s a “scrumptious carnality” about to be had, and maybe that works in the Broadway production, but it feels grossly inappropriate in this toned-down Disney version where the actress playing Red is indeed a little girl, much too young to be on the receiving end of this lascivious song. And when she starts responding that what they’re doing is new and scary but also kind of exciting, well…I wanted to slam on the brakes.

The characters wrap up their traditional story lines around the 80 minute mark – but wait! These poor schmucks don’t get their happily-ever-afters. The story continues. And I’m glad that the movie doesn’t end on Cinderella’s wedding day because I would have felt cheated. But 80 minutes of singing and skipping through the woods was about as much as I wanted. So the remaining third of the movie, which gets a hell of a lot darker, felt entirely too much. Streep delivers another great song but I was fed up with the inundation of special effects, my patience was waning, and it just felt like filler. My sister felt that since all the characters start (or continue) making selfish, morally ambiguous choices, she didn’t have anyone to pull for. She’s not wrong. My husband felt that the songs were not particularly catchy or memorable, and he’s not wrong either. I enjoyed the movie, enjoyed it quite a bit, it would be impossible not to given the sheer amount of talent (although I am wondering why all of that talent had to be white), but I’m not feeling it for Best Picture this year. Of course, I’m sure I said the same about Rob Marshall’s Chicago and we all know how that went.

Frightfest 2015: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

What if your nightmares weren’t “only a dream”?

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The late Wes Craven touched on something primal here with his horror classic that spawned way too many shitty sequels. Three high school students on Elm Street discover that they have been dreaming about the same nightmarish figure with severe burns on his face and knives for fingers. And that laugh. Oh my God, that laugh.

a nightmare on elm street

It seems that the now infamous Freddy Krueger was once just a regular child murderer. Now that he’s dead, he can only get to you in the world of your dreams. I’ve had nightmares before that would make me fight sleep just to avoid getting back to that place. Here, to fight for sleep is to fight for your life. Craven’s mythology surrounding the world of the dream isn’t nearly as elaborate as, say, Inception’s but he’s come up with an interesting idea here that he has a lot of fun with.

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For a modern audience, the most fun part is watching Johnny Depp’s first movie looking as baby-faced as you’ve ever seen him at 20 years-old. He plays the typical teen boyfriend in a high school movie, apparently not yet having decided that he would play every part as a weirdo. Having never acted before, Depp was so nervous about every scene that he would bring an actor friend of his (who I think may have been Jackie Earle Haley, who would later play Freddy in the 2010 remake) to run lines with because he was so afraid of getting it wrong.

As humble beginnings go, Depp’s wasn’t so bad. A Nightmare on Elm Street is a Halloween guilty pleasure of the best kind.

Corpse Bride

Victor (Johnny Depp) is the son of nouveau-riche fish merchants and Victoria (Emily Watson) is the daughter of aristocrats who are down corpseto their last dollar. Their upcoming marriage will give legitimacy to Victor’s parents while savings Victoria’s from the indignity of poverty. But Victor and Victoria have yet to meet – and neither are keen on marrying a stranger. All that changes when they finally do clap eyes on each other, instantly falling head over heels.

True love doesn’t make Victor any more facile with words, so when he fumbles his way through the rehearsal, he’s admonished to the woods to practise until perfect. Unfortuimagesnately, he unknowingly recites his vows to the corpse of a woman murdered on the night she was to elope, and Emily (Helena Bonham Carter) rises from the dead to claim him as her husband, and drag him down to the Land of the Dead.

Victor is mortified, as he should be – will he ever make it back up to the Land of the Living to reclaim the woman who holds his heart?

Tim Burton breathed his magic into this 19th century Russian folk tale, co-directing on the tails of Big Fish, and simultaneously with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He held the vision, and co-director Mike Johnson followed up with the crew, making sure the tone and emotion were realized.

A beautiful example of stop-motion, the puppets themselves, built by Mackinnon and Saunders, were about 17 inches tall and 46532-stop-motion-ch5-1-fig0503animated on sets built three to four feet off the ground with trap doors allowing animators access to the sets’ surfaces to manipulate the puppets. Victor, Victoria and Emily were outfitted with heads the size of golf balls that contained special gearing to allow the animators to manipulate individual parts of the puppets’ faces.

Burton, on casting Johnny Depp in both movies he was working on at once: “It was weird because we were doing both at the same time. He was Willy Wonka by day and Victor by night so it might have been a little schizophrenic for him. But he’s great. It’s the first animated movie he’s done and he’s always into a challenge. We just treat it like fun and a creative proceEmily_upset_with_Victorss. Again, that’s the joy of working with him. He’s kind of up for anything. He just always adds something to it. The amazing thing is all the actors never worked [together]. They were never in a room together, so they were all doing their voices, except for Albert [Finney] and Joanna [Lumley] did a few scenes together, everybody else was separate. They were all kind of working in a vacuum, which was interesting. That’s the thing that I felt ended up so beautifully, that their performances really meshed together. So he was very canny, as they all were, about trying to find the right tone and making it work while not being in the same room with each other.”

Like the best of Burton, this is macabre yet whimsical, and the visuals here are still arresting today. It’s definitely worth digging out for Halloween, and for whenever.