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ON DVD > WATCHING AT HOME.

Byline: Rob Lowman, Entertainment Editor

Sweeney Todd>

There will be blood.

Not the movie. That'll be out next week on DVD. It's what I thought when I heard that Tim Burton would direct "Sweeney Todd" -- and he didn't disappoint.

Unlike the stage versions of the Stephen Sondheim musical, which depict the stuff in a genteel fashion (the current Ahmanson production uses a red light), Burton wants you to experience the grotesque horror of the story -- even as "The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" is singing a lovely tune while slashing a throat or two.

At first I thought the bloodletting might be overkill. I can think of no better musical, but it is already an extremely dark view of human nature. Burton, though, has made "Sweeney Todd" a cinematic experience. Cast in muted colors and gray (like a live "Nightmare Before Christmas"), it is, on the surface, a story of revenge.

Set in the early 1800s in London, a barber (Johnny Depp, brilliant as usual) is wrongly sent off to a penal colony so a judge (Alan Rickman) can take advantage of his wife. His return 15 years later under an assumed name (Todd) is greeted with the news that his wife is dead and his daughter is now a ward of the judge. At his old residence, he finds that Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), who runs a meat-pie shop ("The Worst Pies in London"), has his old silver-handled razors. The two are quite a pair, but not like the lovers in Sondheim's "Send in the Clowns" -- more like "Send in the Killers."

Depp's Sweeney -- a white streak running through his hair and his eyes sunken -- pulses with rage. Despite her jaundiced view of life, Bonham Carter's Lovett -- her wide eyes dark with circles -- is more practical. When it becomes a question of disposing of Todd's first victim, she has a profitable solution (the macabre but amusing "Priest").

That song -- like a number of the others -- have been shortened for the movie. Burton (with Sondheim's blessing) instead hurtles you into Todd's madness. Though he may have thirsted for justice initially, the barber soon condemns everyone. "They all deserve to die," he says, looking out at London. And as the bodies smash against the basement floor, we are reminded how quickly a soul can become just so much meat. Still, as much of a monster as Todd is, Depp and Burton never reduce him to that. We recognize in him a darkness within us.

The two-disc DVD offers a number of extras; commentary from Depp, Burton and Bonham Carter, who also take part in a press conference; plus featurettes on turning the musical into a film and the derivation of the story.

While Burton and Sondheim may seem an odd pairing, the filmmaker has gotten to the heart of "Sweeney Todd," in what is the best bloody adaptation of a musical ever.

Keep in mind>

The late Tom Snyder was always a bit too smug for my taste, but he was a good, smart interviewer and a positive titan compared to the vast majority of those on today's boob tube. "The Tomorrow Show With Tom Snyder: John, Paul, Tom & Ringo" includes interviews with three of the Fab Four from his late-night talk show that ran in the 1970s and early 1980s. In his 1975 talk with John Lennon -- the last televised interview he ever gave -- the former Beatle discusses his career. There are also interviews with Paul McCartney from 1979 on his success with Wings, and Ringo Starr in 1981, who remembers his bandmate Lennon, who was killed in 1980.

The BBC is offering two box sets of note. "The BBC Natural History Collection" includes four extraordinary documentary series -- the stunning "Planet Earth, "The Blue Planet," "The Life of Mammals" and "The Life of Birds." Also available is "Terry Jones: Medieval Lives," where the historian and Monty Python alum takes some common perceptions of the Middle Ages and turns them upside down.

Those singing rodents get their update in "Alvin and the Chipmunks," a mixture of live action and animation. Jason Lee is the live one, playing David Seville, a struggling songwriter who runs into the mischievous Alvin, the smart Simon and the overweight Theodore when they invade his kitchen. I never found the trio cute, but "Chipmunks" is perfectly serviceable family entertainment.

To mark her 100th birthday, Warner is releasing "The Bette Davis Collection, Vol. 3." It includes "The Old Maid," "All This, and Heaven Too," "The Great Lie," "In This Our Life," "Watch on the Rhine" and "Deception." Next week Fox brings out "The Bette Davis Centenary Celebration Collection" with "All About Eve" -- the mercurial actress' defining role -- "Hush ... Hush, Sweet Charlotte," "The Virgin Queen," "Phone Call From a Stranger" and "The Nanny."

Rob Lowman (818) 713-3687; robert.lowman@dailynews.com

out tuesday>

NEW FILMS

"Sweeney Todd -- The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" ($29.99 and $34.99 for the two-disc collector's edition)

"Alvin and the Chipmunks" ($29.99 and $39.98 for Blu-ray)

"The Good Night" ($24.96)

"What Love Is" ($24.96)

TELEVISION

"The Tomorrow Show With Tom Snyder" ($24.99)

"The BBC Natural History Collection" ($199.92)

"Terry Jones: Medieval Lives" ($29.98)

"John From Cincinnati -- The Complete First Season"( $59.98)

"Murder, She Wrote -- The Complete Eighth Season" ($59.98)

"Martin -- The Complete Fourth Season" ($29.98)

"Father Knows Best: Season One" ($34.99)

"The Cutting Edge: Chasing the Dream" ($26.98)

"That '70s Show -- Season 8" ($49.98)

"Becker -- The First Season" ($36.98)

"Flatt & Scruggs TV Show -- Vol. 5" ($19.99)

"Flatt & Scruggs TV Show -- Vol. 6" ($19.99)

MUSIC

"How to Be a Megastar Live! -- Blue Man Group" ($19.98)

"Andre Rieu in Wonderland" ($24.99)

"Ani DiFranco: Live at Babeville" ($19.99)

"The Osmonds Live in Las Vegas 50th Anniversary" ($19.98 and $34.99 for two-disc set)

OLDER FILMS

"The Bette Davis Collection, Vol. 3" ($59.98)

"The Night of the Shooting Stars" ($26.98)

OUT ON BLU-RAY

"Unbreakable" ($29.99)

"The Last Sentinel" ($14.99)

"Hidalgo" ($29.99)

"Artie Lange's Beer League" ($14.99)

"The Curse of King Tut's Tomb: The Complete Miniseries" ($14.99)

"Coyote Ugly" ($29.99)

CAPTION(S):

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Photo:

Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter play a murderous pair in "Sweeney Todd."
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Title Annotation:LA.COM
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 30, 2008
Words:1048
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