Film Review: Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Release Date: November 17th, 1999 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: Andrew Kevin Walker, Kevin Yagher
Based on: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
Music by: Danny Elfman
Cast: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Jeffrey Jones, Christopher Lee, Richard Griffiths, Ian McDiarmid, Michael Gough, Marc Pickering, Christopher Walken, Ray Park, Lisa Marie, Peter Guinness, Martin Landau (uncredited)

Mandalay Pictures, American Zoetrope, Paramount Pictures, 105 Minutes

Review:

“Villainy wears many masks, none so dangerous as the mask of virtue.” – Ichabod Crane

This is one of my favorite Tim Burton movies and every time I watch it, it just makes me wish that he did more straight up fantasy horror films.

This is Burton’s take on the famous story by Washington Irving but it takes the Sleepy Hollow legend and makes it a lot darker and more badass than other adaptations. For many, the classic Disney animated version is probably the one they’re most familiar with. This Sleepy Hollow is very different.

I love that this is gothic horror at its core and you can see the influences of Hammer Films, as well as those Edgar Allan Poe movies with Vincent Price. In fact, Burton does more than homage Hammer, here, as he also includes some Hammer legends in the film: Michael Gough and Christopher Lee, to be specific.

This also features Ian McDiarmid and a visually obscured Ray Park, making it the only movie to feature Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and Darth Maul: Star Wars can’t even claim that.

Anyway, the film is led by Johnny Depp and I love him in this. He plays a sort of whimsical, awkward character and his version of Ichabod Crane shows early signs of what Depp would later create as his most famous character, Captain Jack Sparrow.

I love the humor in this movie and I don’t think that it would’ve worked quite the same way without Depp. Here we have a great investigator that has to get down and dirty… and often times bloody. The humorous bit is that he’s a germaphobe and winces every time he has to do something unsettling or gross. It’s a reoccurring gag throughout the film but it works every time and it isn’t overused.

Depp also has Christina Ricci to play off of and I always like when these two are together. I honestly wish that they worked together more often, as they have real chemistry and always tend to accentuate each other’s performance.

The rest of the cast is padded out with some immense talent between Christopher Walken, Michael Gambon, Miranda Richardson, Martin Landau, Jeffrey Jones, Richard Griffiths, Lisa Marie and Casper Van Dien, who had just come off of the cult classic Starship Troopers.

I enjoy the look and tone of the film and my only real complaint about it is that it seems a bit too drawn out. The story is too complex and should have been refined and tweaked to bring the film down to around 90 minutes. It doesn’t really need more than that but at the same time it could’ve also used a bit more head chopping and action.

Apart from that, the only other negative is that the CGI looks cheesy in two parts but both of those moments happen really quick and it doesn’t wreck the film. I just found it a little bit jarring in those split seconds and it does pull you out of this period piece setting.

In the end, this is still pretty solid and it’s one of the highpoints of ’90s horror, as the decade came to a close and gave us a new millennium full of subpar, mostly shitty horror.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other gothic horror films around 2000, as well as other Tim Burton films with Johnny Depp.

Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

Also known as: Pirates 4 (informal alternative title), P.O.T.C. 4 (promotional abbreviation)
Release Date: May 7th, 2011 (Anaheim premiere)
Directed by: Rob Marshall
Written by: Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio
Based on: the Pirates of the Caribbean amusement park ride by Walt Disney, characters by Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio, Stuart Beattie, Jay Wolpert, On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane, Kevin R. McNally, Sam Claflin, Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey, Stephen Graham, Richard Griffiths, Greg Ellis, Keith Richards (cameo)

Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Walt Disney, 137 Minutes

Review:

“[comes out of his quarters and glares at Sparrow] Gentlemen. I be placed in a bewilderment. There I were, resting. And upon a sudden, I hear an ungodly row on deck. Sailors abandoning their posts, without orders, without leave. Men before the mast, taking the ship for themselves. What be that, First Mate?” – Blackbeard

I haven’t seen this Pirates of the Caribbean movie since the theater and frankly, back then, it left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.

It’s not that this is a bad movie, it’s just a pretty boring one that feels smaller than its predecessors and seems to spend more time dilly dallying than getting down and dirty.

Now that’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of action sequences, there are. But with Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan not appearing in this film, it just feels like it’s missing depth and narrative richness.

I guess the trade off is that you get to spend a lot more time with Jack Sparrow, as he has to fill in the blanks and carry this picture without his familiar co-stars.

But, at least, Geoffrey Rush returned as Barbosa and honestly, he’s my favorite character in the franchise.

Apart from that, we get Penelope Cruz, whose role is pretty forgettable. Especially, since she didn’t return for the fifth film.

The villain is played by Ian McShane and while I love him in just about everything he does, he doesn’t seem to do much in this movie until the end. He sort of avoids action until the final fight and just spends most of his time giving speeches and orders to a slew of one-off, disposable characters.

I like that this tapped into the Fountain of Youth story but it gets a lot of that legend wrong. I guess the plot is based off of an ’80s swashbuckling novel but I’ve never read it and I’m not sure how close this film’s story is to it. But I was anticipating seeing the characters romping around Florida, as opposed to Caribbean caves with magic gravity-defying water.

Anyway, this is an okay adventure film to kill a few hours but it pales in comparison to the trilogy of films that came before it.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Pirates of the Caribbean movies.