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Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

The times suit Tim Burton.  With technology catching up to his fertile imagination, Burton has directed some dark quirky crowd-pleasers.  Sweeney Todd finds his morbid creativity at its zenith.  Based on the popular Stephen Sondheim Broadway musical, the story is a perfect fit for his potent talents.  Delivering an aria of terror in a Hammer Horror-esque film, Burton revels in the theatrical drama of Sondheim’s bloodthirsty ode to lust and revenge.
Arriving in Victorian London after serving a trumped up prison sentence, Sweeney Todd (Johnny Depp) seeks vengeance.  His target is Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman)who sentenced him and destroyed his family.  Todd finds a twisted kindred spirit in Mrs Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), owner of ‘the worst pie shop in London’.  Opening a barber shop as a front for his quest, Todd also seeks out his missing daughter Joanna.  Using his razor sharp blades against his enemies, Sweeney Todd ensures that the cobbled London streets are awash in a bloody crimson river.
Burton’s continual success has allowed him to fully utilise his rich ideas. Immersing himself in Todd’s dark universe, he succeeds in exposing the operatic tragedy of his characters.  With every swish of the blade, Todd seems to lose another portion of his tormented soul.  Not realising he is becoming the monster he so despises, he perilously ignores Mrs Lovett’s sinister affections.  Burton’s miniscule use of colour blends well with the searing blackness of the story, creating a film full of monochrome nightmares.
Sondheim’s wonderful music is given a new lease of life here.  Successfully making the transition from stage to screen, the tale is given the deluxe treatment.  The eye catching production design and orchestration show the respect and care the film gives to its source. Whilst the gory visuals may be extreme for some, it shows that Burton is willing to push the envelope when needed to properly tell the story.  The acting is of a high standard, with Depp and Bonham Carter enjoying their disparate souls living a hellish existence.   Edward Sanders is a stand out as Tobias Ragg, a young urchin who unwittingly helps the duo in their nefarious deeds.
It’s heartening that Tim Burton still has the courage to take chances than play safe.  Enriching Sondheim’s expert song-writing, the film’s tale of obsessive revenge excites with its memorable visual flair.  Not for the faint hearted, Sweeney Todd expertly blends theatre and cinema making for a very sinister penny dreadful.
Rating out of 10:  9

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Mockumentaries are an interesting comedic sub-genre.  Satirising someone’s life without actually naming them gives filmmakers freedom to increase the absurdity of their story.  Director Jake Kasdan presents a mocking tribute to various famous musicians with Walk Hard.  Filmed in the style of several recent biopics, Walk Hard is a remorseless attack on Hollywood’s willingness to fit a stock standard formula to its ’subjects’ unconventional lives.
Dewey Cox (John C Reilly) has had a remarkable life.  After tragically sawing his brother in half, Dewey aims to prove himself to his perennially bitter father.  After entering a song contest, he slowly starts climbing to the top of the charts.  Dewey’s traumas never leave him despite becoming the most successful singer of all time.  The pain of divorcing three wives, siring twenty two children and having a bad LSD trip with the Beatles, ensure Dewey’s trips to rehab are many.  Survivor that he is, Dewey climbs out of his cess-pit to a triumphant finale showing that only he is worthy to walk a mile in his shoes.
Walk Hard gleefully skewers the over earnestness of biopics.  Making the most outrageous claims based on little evidence, their basis on actual fact is questionable.  With words written by scriptwriters rather than their subjects, the slickness of their delivery masks the true state of their lives.  Their pompous manner also makes them laughable in their own right.  Walk Hard generally succeeds in satirising these elements, although using a different acting style making for an uneven affair.  Discarding a ‘This is Spinal Tap’ documentary approach, Kasdan has gone into spoof territory, softening the blow on its’ target somewhat.
Keeping crude humour to a minimum, the film shows some genuine wit and good timing, delivering gags at a breathless speed.  John C Reilly has always been a great genre actor, appearing to enjoy his rare foray into leading man status.  Gamely doing anything for a laugh, he also sings the increasingly silly songs with a deadly seriousness making things more absurd.  The costuming is a ghastly delight, with the 60s and 70s wardrobe providing more colour than Dewey’s warped life.
Walk Hard isn’t the funniest comedy ever made, but it’s an amiable time waster.  More or less delivering true laughs, things may have been more successful had it played things straight.  This film may not change your life, but neither did any of the terrible biopics it targets.
Rating out of 10:  6