This has to be a first for me… going to the cinema is frequent enough, but going for a whole day? Shameful! Yet that’s what I did on Saturday 2nd February. Heading over to Braintree Freeport cinema, it seemed the sort of day that was best spent indoors. It was cold, for a start… and with England playing Wales in the opening game of the RBS Six Nations I knew I wouldn’t be sitting restfully at home! So first up, at 11.30am was Sweeney Todd.
I know this story – it was something I had read at secondary school way back in the late seventies/early eighties, so I was not surprised to see so many throat cutting scenes and pie making. What made this film stand out was the acting (although the story is pretty good, too). For a start, the cast was excellent – Johnny Depp in the lead role, Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs Lovett, Alan Rickman as eminently corrupt Judge Turpin and Timothy Spall as his sidekick Beadle Bamford. Fantastic stuff from the start then. The whole film is a grisly portrayal of vengeance as Todd arrives in London to find Turpin and kill him for destroying his life (he has him deported and steals his beautiful wife and daughter). Setting up as a barber, Todd works above Mrs Lovett’s Pie Shop, where the pies are actually pretty grim as meat is scarce and what you can get is too expensive. So begins a partnership between Todd and Lovett – Todd supplies the ‘meat’, courtesy of his cut-throat antics and Lovett cooks the pies which she sells to unsuspecting Londoners. The tale slowly unfolds as Todd works ever closer to Turpin, but things are complicated by a young sailor Todd met on is voyage home. Anthony Hope falls in love with Judge Turpin’s ‘ward’ Johanna, who is in fact Todd’s daughter. Turpin plans to marry his ward, Hope plans to get there first, and Todd plans to kill Turpin anyway! Needless to say Todd achieves his aim, but not without dire consequences to those who he holds dear (and there’s precious few of those). It is a first rate film with excellent acting from Depp, some less excellent singing all round which doesn’t matter one jot and a hugely enjoyable experience overall.
Cloverfield couldn’t be more different. Leaving the previous film with enough time to get some light refreshments it was out of one and into the next.
Cloverfield as a film has been shrouded in mystery since it was first announced. The film with no name turned out to be pretty awful, I thought. A group of teens having a going away party are rudely interrupted when a monster decides the time is right to make an appearance in the middle of Manhatten. Ripping the head off the Statue of Liberty and hurling it into the middle of town seems to cause some disbelief amongst the party goers, but they slowly get the point when the huge creature is seen and the panic starts to set in. Most folk head out of town at that point, but not our intrepid group. After a series of mishaps (the loss of a brother on the Brooklyn Bridge for one) the group decide to head back towards danger to rescue another of their party goers who has managed to leave a message on a cell phone that she is trapped. She is, of course, the love interest of the lead in the film. So begins the sorry journey of rescue and ultimately disaster. One by one the group fall victim to various woes (the best of which is the girl bitten by a smaller creature ‘hived’ off the main dude, and who gradually deteriorates until she eventually dies). The trapped girl is finally rescued and the four remaining make it to the evac site. One gets into a helicopter that leves immediately (we presume she makes it outta there) and the other three board another helicopter which doesn’t make quite so good progress, lingering as they do to watch a stealth bomber drop munitions on the creature which reaches up and swats the helicopter. From there we know the end is thankfully near, as they survive the crash only to discover they are at the feet of the monster (who somehow managed to get from the midst of town to Central Park). The entire film is shown in a very ‘Blair Witch’ manner through the use of a hand held camera being used to document the party 9and subsequent events). At this juncture, however, the cameraman (called Hud), is eaten alive. To cut an already too long story short, the remaining two leave promptly (but not so fast as to forget the camera, of course) and hide under a bridge where they hear the four minute warning. Manhatten is about to be nuked in a bid to rid it of the menace (although there are probably plenty of other reasons to do this, some might say). Needless to say the film ends around about there. Phew… if you are around 15 you might enjoy this film. If you care much about camera work, storylines or acting, you probably won’t. Then again it’ll get rave reviews like Blair Witch – another film I really didn’t enjoy very much.
So from there it was time to eat – a quick trip to Pizza Express (I ought to write another review for pizzaexpressyourself.co.uk) and it was soon time to go back for film number three – No Country for Old Men.
Before I returned to the theatre I took a sneaky peak at the sports bar of the bowling alley opposite. All looked good – England were seven points ahead. I thought it would be close, but that looked promising. How things change!
This was an intriguing film, but one I found entirely unsatisfactory for various reasons. The plot synopsis is simple enough – Llewelyn Moss finds a group of dead Mexican drug dealers in the wilderness of Texas/Mexico border, tracks the ‘last man standing’ to find himdead under a tree with a case containing vast amounts of cash ($2 million, apparently). Fom then on it is a chase as he tries very hard to keep the cash, and a villain by the name of Anton Chigurh tries to find and kill him. To add to this, the Mexican connection keeps sending groups to do the same job. Finally, Tommy Lee Jones is the sheriff amongst this lot who is nearing retirement and wanting to wrap the case up whilst staying alive. The scene is set for a quite enjoyable romp where you would expect the good guys to win and the baddies to lose. Sadly, this is not to be. In an altogether too long film, evil prevails time and time again in the relentless closing in. Javier Bardem plays Chigurh and for me was the best actor on the screen – absolutely the best thing in the whole film, I’d say. However, he evades capture himself, kills relentlessly and narrowly avoids being killed in a car accident right at the end of the film. Oh – if you still care, the Mexicans get the man who after al this time you thought would have found a way to get out of the state and count the cash. The cash… we never see what becomes of it – the assumption is that Chigurh gets it, but once Moss has been killed we never see it again. The film ends with the Sheriff now retired talking about a dream in which he sees himself following his father into the dark. Clearly, it is a metaphor for death, but I’m afraid the film killed any desire I had to keep watching long before this point. I guess the reviewers wil say I am a philistine and what a brilliant piece of cinematography it is. It undoubtedly has merits, but if you like your stories to be complete (all ends tied up), satisfactory and ‘feel good’ then this is not going to be one you’ll enjoy. It is a masterful depiction of relentless evil in the character of Chigurh, but beyond that it left me feeling underimpressed. Sorry.
There was an option to go and see Aliens V Predator Requiem, but by now I had reached the limit. Three films (one good, one bad and one ugly) was enough and no amount of SFX would put that right. I have had a unique day, although I’ll probably try to repeat it with better films another time. Freeport Cineworld is a comfortable enough theatre and the films were such that there wasn’t a lot of youngsters larking about inside (outside is a different matter, as they congregate in the gap between the cinema and the bowling). Johnny Depp remains a top actor in my estimations, but I knew that before putting myself through the experience! All in all it was worth doing as a way of resting and not sitting at home, but I feel a little cheated regarding the last film. And then there was the final score in the rugby to contend with as well. Ah well.