Trailer Review: Cinderella


As a young girl my least favorite Disney movie was Cinderella. I loved Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Sleeping Beauty. But I only watched Cinderella once or twice. There are no fun songs, no cool animals, and worst of all Cinderella herself is incredibly boring. She seemed so dull and too goody two shoes. She didn’t make any mistakes or any daring choices. She didn’t seem to have much of a desire to do anything other than attend some stupid ball. She just put up with abuse and never said anything against it because Cinderella is a ‘good girl.’
My apathy for Cinderella persists to this day and this new live action adaptation starring Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, and Stellan Skarsgård does nothing to change that. Cinderella has the misfortune of coming out the year after Maleficent, which was a generally good re-telling of a classic Disney fairytale. Maleficent also had the great advantage of an interesting protagonist (played wonderfully by Angelina Jolie). Cinderella instead centers on boring Ella, played by Lily James. Lily seems fine in the role, but she doesn’t have any charisma to engage an audience (at least not from this trailer).
I really hate the narration of Ella’s mother about how good she is, etc. *yawn* I hate how the trailer is hammering the viewer over the head with its message. And I like my characters to be real and flawed, not perfect. All the Disney films I listed that I like have flawed characters. They all do something that may be wrong, but they also learn something. Cinderella just leaves the party a little late. Which is plain old dumb.
There are a few things I like about the trailer. First of all, the cast. Cate, Helena, and Stellan are some of my favorite actors. The whole time I watched this I kept wondering, what drew such great talent to this project? Whatever it was, I don’t see it (other than maybe a big paycheck). Cate’s costumes are wonderful, just amazing. Visually she is the most striking of anyone, more so than Cinderella. Cate was great as a villain in Hanna, one of my favorite action films (see it if you haven’t!) So it will be fun to see her being evil once again, she does it so well. Aside from Cate’s I don’t like any of the other costumes, the step sisters in particular look silly. Helena Bonham Carter brings some fun and humor to the trailer. She looks like she had a blast playing the Fairy Godmother.
I forgot that Kenneth Branagh is directing this film. Now that I remember that I feel so disappointed. I think he is a talented director and actor. But this feels generic and totally unoriginal. This adaptation feels unnecessary and doesn’t look any different than the animated classic. I’ll be skipping this one when it comes out March 13, 2015. If I want to hear “Kindness is magic” I’d much rather watch Ricky Gervais’s TV show, Derek, again.

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


This film holds a special place in my heart. Even though it is not the best film to everyone, it is the best film to me. Other films may accomplish more technically, they may have better pacing or a better plot, etc. But for me, Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd is everything I’ve always wanted in a film.
Some people are put off of musicals and hate them sight unseen. Me, I like my films loud, dramatic, and over the top. So musicals don’t scare me, although I don’t watch very many of them. The only other one that I love is Moulin Rouge. So I love how strong Sweeney Todd is visually, musically, and dramatically. The visuals are stunning, I love the mixture of real sets with CGI. I also love how the color palette reflects not only different times in Sweeney’s life, but also reflects the characters’ perceptions of their world. Optimistic at first and then pessimistic. I like that the majority of the film is nearly black and white. The cinematographer used the Digital Intermediate process to strip the film of most of its color. This de-saturation really makes the blood pop as well as the pale faces of the cast. The bleakness of Victorian London comes to life and there is no other director who could have accomplished it quite like Tim Burton.

Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd and Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett make a great duo.
Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd and Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett make a great duo.

Sweeney Todd is the last great film that both Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have made. I think Sweeney was made at the pinnacle of their careers and they have been on a downward slide ever since. Johnny received an Oscar nomination for his role as Sweeney Todd, thus it’s his last critically acclaimed role. The trio of Burton, Depp, and Helena Bonham Carter has become a bit of a joke these days. But the three have great chemistry together and that comes through in the majority of their work (I’d like to forget Dark Shadows ever happened). The casting of Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett is perfect, I couldn’t imagine anyone else on the roles. Casting younger actors makes the film a little sexier and cooler than the theatrical version. I also think the film really benefits from having non-professional singers in the film (other than Lucy, played by Laura Michelle Kelly). Having actors who don’t normally sing can really hurt a film (ahem, Pierce Brosnan and Mamma Mia!). But in the case of Sweeney Todd, none of the actors sound terrible. In fact some are surprisingly good (Sacha Baron Cohen and that high note, OMG). They also inject their characters personalities into their singing voices better than if they were lip synching to someone else. The characters are more real and relatable because they don’t sound like opera singers.

Johnny Depp earned an Oscar nomination for his role as the murderous barber.
Johnny Depp earned an Oscar nomination for his role as the murderous barber.

Johnny Depp is amazing as Sweeney. He owns that role. First of all, I love his look. Collen Atwood, frequent Tim Burton collaborator, designed all the costumes and she does a fabulous job. Some might argue that Depp only has one look and one emotion throughout the film. But I think if you believe that you are missing out on the subtleties of his performance. He is a haunted man who only has one thing on his mind, revenge. The only time he experiences anything close to happiness is when he kills someone. And even then the feeling is only fleeting.
One of my favorite aspects of the film is its dark humor. Sometimes it is very subtle, just a look or twitch from Johnny. Other times it is more overt, such as during the “A Little Priest” number. Helena Bonham Carter is a large source of the humor. Mrs.Lovett lightens the tone of the film with the songs she sings and the way she doesn’t take things too seriously. This is in stark contrast to brooding Sweeney. Helena is a joy and the audience can see how much fun she is having in the role. Of all the parts she has played, this is the one she was born for. The rest of the cast is also quite good, especially Sacha Baron Cohen and Alan Rickman. Alan is appropriately evil. There are a lot of similarities between Judge Turpin and Sweeney. They are both blinded by their own ambitions and disregard those around them. So when Turpin says, “How seldom it is one meets a fellow spirit,” I believe he is quite right, even if Sweeney denies it. Sacha Baron Cohen nearly steals the show as the flamboyant, but calculating Pirelli. As usual, his comedic timing is perfect, but he also excels when he is being serious.

Sweeney Todd (Johnny Depp) gives Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) a close shave.
Sweeney Todd (Johnny Depp) gives Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) a close shave.

I’ve gone this far without once mentioning that the film is about a cannibalistic barber. I guess when I think about the film that is the least interesting aspect of it. Or I’m just desensitized to it after 30 + viewings. I like the gore because it is done in an artful way. The blood is like paint that Sweeney (and Tim Burton) is using to paint a canvas. I was never grossed out by the film, except for the one shot of a blood skeleton near the end. The film makes the murders both horrifying and funny at the same time. During the song “Johanna reprise” Sweeney is so nonchalant about killing that I giggled once or twice. I also enjoy what the film has to say about revenge and how it affects the person seeking it and everyone around them. I like that the ending is not an optimistic one, but something that people can learn from. The film isn’t afraid to be dark, right up until the end.

I love this movie. I have watched it many, many times. And it never gets old. I think that is due in part to Stephen Sondheim’s amazing songs. The whole thing feels like a long form music video. But the visuals are also incredibly fun and a treat for the eyes. The only criticism I have of the film is that at time the pacing can feel a little slow. Near the middle of the film, when there are less musical numbers, it starts to drag during dialogue only scenes. But during the songs the music, as well as the film and its actors, soars. To me, this is Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, and Helena Bonham Carter’s best film. 9.5/10

Fight Club (1999)


I felt like re-watching some of David Fincher’s older films because I am extremely excited to see his new film, Gone Girl, when it arrives next week. I absolutely loved the book and I love most of Fincher’s work so it’s a win-win for me. Anyways it’s hard to believe Fight Club is now 15 years old. As I was watching the film last night I found it hard to review because it is so ingrained in pop culture now it would be almost sacrilegious to say something bad about it. Fight Club is based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk. It is about a nameless narrator (for simplicity’s sake I’m just going to refer to him as Jack) played by Edward Norton. Jack lives a boring life where he works at a job he doesn’t like and buys Ikea furniture he doesn’t need. That is until he meets Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter) and Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt).

My favorite part of the film, what makes it so enjoyable to watch are the actors. Edward, Helena, Brad, and even Meatloaf are all excellent. The first half of the film is brilliant because they all bounce off each other so well. Edward’s narration is particularly funny as he discusses how miserable his life is and how much he wants that yin and yang coffee table. Brad is also quite excellent. He exudes so much charisma and machismo he easily draws in the viewer as well as Jack. And I absolutely love his extravagant wardrobe. But my favorite of all the actors by far is Helena, I think she steals the show in any scene she is in. I may be a little biased because I love her in everything she does and also because she is the only woman in the film and really the only character I can relate to. Her timing is perfect and the way she delivers her lines is just hilarious and shocking. One of the most memorable lines (and there are many in the film) is when she tells Tyler “I haven’t been fucked like that since grade school.” I loved every minute she was on screen.

I really love the humor in this film. There is so much of it and it is quite shocking at times. The highlight of the humor for me is pretty much anything to do with Robert Paulsen (Meat Loaf). I guess I just find his big “bitch tits” hilarious, especially when Jack is crying into them. The first half of the film is the more humorous what with the narration and the support groups, so that’s why I prefer it and why I think the film starts to suffer in the second half (basically once Project Mayhem starts).

Edward Norton becomes acquainted with Bob.
Edward Norton becomes acquainted with Bob.

I love how right away the opening credits establish that we are in Jack’s head and the narrative is totally his. My issues with the film mostly have to do with the plot. For the first half of the film there is almost no plot. And it’s awesome. Jack is just going through the motions and meets Marla and Tyler and starts the Club. So things are fun for a while. But right around when Project Mayhem starts suddenly there is a plot and a problem that has to be solved. I found my attention wandering. I don’t care that Tyler is trying to undermine capitalism, I just want to see some fights and laugh at Bob’s tits. I think it might be in part the pacing of the film changes. It’s really fast paced then things start to feel sluggish. Maybe it’s because Tyler disappears for a while and Marla isn’t around much either. The first time I saw Fight Club I did not see the twist of Tyler and Jack being the same person coming. I remember being surprised, but also very confused. I didn’t really understand how it worked then. On the second viewing it is easy to see a million clues pointing to this from the very beginning. Director David Fincher is very clever in how he orchestrates the film by giving you all these hints. He’s very good at walking that tight rope of not giving away too much. The twist is definitely one of the highlights of the film and why it is so memorable. It doesn’t feel cheap to me as some of these things normally do.

I like the commentary on modern society that the film explores. But it is so obvious that it kind of spoils it for me. It just hits you like a rock over the head over and over and over again. I get that society is emasculating men and so Tyler and Jack start the Fight Club as a way to rebel. But I don’t need five different speeches from Tyler telling me this repeatedly. Focusing on the testicular cancer group at the beginning is funny and kind of clever, but not very subtle. The commentary against consumerism is also interesting, but not particularly original. One reading of the film that I found extremely interesting is that the whole film is about Jack’s desire and struggle to commit to a relationship with Marla. I find that rings quite true and you can read more about that theory here:

Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt)
Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt)

I will say that overall I think David Fincher has done a wonderful job. He is able to set up this dark, grungy, violent world and somehow make it seem appealing and glamorous in its own way. The characters are so funny and eccentric the viewer wants to join the Club. I enjoy the themes and overall message of the film, even if at times I find it to be a little heavy handed. I prefer to think for myself a little bit and to be able to draw my own conclusions instead of being force fed them by Tyler Durden. Although maybe that’s the point. We are in Jack’s head after all. 8.5/10

Funny enough Cinema Sins just posted this video: