Hi, everyone. Pixilated Polly here to take you on a trip to Movie-land. This time, we won’t need Grim’s Wayback machine; the vehicle we will use is that turbo-charged hot rod called imagination.
First, let’s visit Beowulf. Two accomplished writers wrote this movie version of the epic poem. Neil Gaiman (Mirrormask, The Sandman graphic novels) and Roger Avery (screenplay for Silent Hill) began collaborating on the script in May 1997. Upon its completion, Paramount Pictures hired Robert Zemekis (Monster House, House of Wax, Thir13een Ghosts) to direct it. It was decided to film Beowulf in 3-D, using the motion capture technique. Over 300 cameras were used. Zemekis was no stranger to motion capture filming, having directed The Polar Express.
Talented actors were hired to voice the characters in Beowulf. Using a drunken bluster and underlying majesty, Anthony Hopkins provided the voice of King Hrothgar. Robin Wright Penn voiced the king’s demure wife Wealthow. Ray Winstone provided Beowulf’s strong and proud (and eventually humble) tones. Crispen Glover was Grendel. John Malkovich was Unferth. And Angelina Jolie played Grendel’s mom.
I went to see Beowulf on a frigid day in November and was immediately transported to Denmark. As an avid moviegoer, I am ashamed to admit this was my first 3-D experience. And what an experience it was! Beowulf was a 3-D wonder to behold… both beautiful and transfixing. Spears flew from the screen. Leaves spiraled in the wind, birds swept down at the viewer. At first it was a distraction. After I got used to it, I couldn’t imagine watching Beowulf without the 3-D.
In case you didn’t study Beowulf in school, it is set in Denmark in 507 A.D., an epic poem about a king, a monster and a warrior. In the movie, as in the poem, Grendel is the monster, and he wrecks havoc upon the denizens of King Hrothgar’s kingdom. Unable to defeat Grendel, Hrothgar calls for a mighty warrior to destroy the monster. Enter Beowulf, a Geat warrior of legendary prowess. “I am Ripper… Tearer… Slasher… I am the Teeth in the Darkness, the Talons in the Night. Mine is strength… and Lust… and Power! I am Beowulf!” he says. He might be all that, but the one thing this warrior is NOT is modest.
I’m sure it’s no spoiler to tell you Beowulf strips down (Polly almost blushed) to fight and defeat Grendel, who escapes to return to his cave and tell his mom the name of the man who killed him. Mom is angry. Mom wants another son. And thus Beowulf’s troubles begin.
Just let me say this is not your high school Beowulf. This one contains seduction, nudity and Angelina Jolie stepping from the water, dripping molten gold off of every lush curve of her body. It is an adult stop motion picture. An entertainment definitely worth watching.
Beowulf is full of love, betrayal and loyalty. My only complaint is the strange lack of expression on the characters’ faces. Pixilated Polly gives Beowulf – 3 howls of pleasure .
The second movie is The Mist, which is based on a short story by the great Stephen King. In case you can’t tell, Polly is an avid fan of the master. In fact, I’m hoping my copy of DUMA KEY waits in the mailbox at home.
he director of The Mist, Frank Darabont, wrote the screenplay. You might know him from his direction of The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption. When I heard Darabont was on board, I couldn’t wait for the film’s release. But the cast wasn’t as well known to me. Thomas Jane (The Punisher) was set to play the hero David Drayton; Marsha Gay Harden (The Invisible—a decent movie in its own right) to play a villain more dastardly than any of the monsters lurking in the mist. Laurie Holden (the cop in Silent Hill, another good movie) to play Amanda Dunfrey. And Toby Jones (Truman Capote in Infamous) was chosen to portray my favorite character Ollie Weeks.
In The Mist, after a freak storm, a mist envelops a small town in (surprise!) Maine. Inside that mist lurk creatures never before seen by man. Are they from another dimension? Or something created by our scientists for biowarfare? A large group of people is trapped inside a supermarket, unable to escape for fear of being slaughtered. Some people are good, some not so good. By the end of the movie, the ultimate question is “Who are the real monsters?”
Finally, the movie opened. I’m in my nice comfortable seat at Tinseltown Cinema. The first scene flickers on the big screen and Drayton is shown painting a movie poster. When I see its subject, Roland the Gunslinger from the Dark Tower Series, I know The Mist was crafted with respect and affection for King’s work. I’m in for a treat. I’m not disappointed.
The Mist is classic King. Witness the exchange between the group as Mrs. Carmody, the crazy-as-a-fox fanatic, talks about their dire situation.
Dan Miller: What are you saying? What are you proposing?
Mrs. Carmody: If we all prepare… to meet our maker…
Jim Grondin[interrupting her]: Oh, prepare to meet shit! Lady, your tongue must be hung in the middle so that it can waggle at both ends.
Mrs. Carmody: The end of times has come. Not in flames, but in mist.
Jim Grondin: Come here. How about if your ass prepares to meet my size ten work boot! How about that?
So, yes, The Mist is humorous, but it is horror, pure and simple. Terrible things happen. People are killed. Some people do stupid things, and characters you care about die. This is a great short story transformed into a great movie. Pixilated Polly gives The Mist - 4 ½ howls of pleasure.
Last but not least, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. This is another movie I anxiously awaited. Based on a Broadway play… Tim Burton and Johnny Depp collaborating… Depp sings… I knew it would be great. I mean, look at Edward Scissorhands. True, music and horror are an unlikely combination, but it can be done. The Phantom of the Opera is a good example. Sweeney Todd is another, and it doesn’t disappoint.
John Logan (The Last Samurai) wrote the screenplay for Sweeney. Steven Sondheim, who was taught by the renowned Oscar Hammerstein II, did the music. So, already it had an impressive pedigree. Tim Burton (Nightmare Before Christmas) directed it. Then the actors were cast: Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean, Chocolat) as Benjamin Barker a.k.a. Sweeney Todd, Helena Bonham Carter (Big Fish) as Mrs. Lovett, Alan Rickman (All the Harry Potter movies) as Judge Turpin, and Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat) as Signor Adolfo Pirelli.
In Sweeney Todd, Benjamin Barker is a man who loves his family deeply. When Judge Turpin spies Ben’s wife, he desires to have her. He has Ben arrested and sent to Australia, rapes Ben’s wife and, when she takes poison, adopts the baby daughter as his ward. After many hard years, Ben returns to London as Sweeney Todd, a man bitter and full of anger. When he visits the pie shop of old friend, Mrs. Lovett, he discovers his wife is dead, and his daughter a ward of his greatest enemy. Sweeney vows revenge. And blood flows. It not only flows, it gushes, it spurts, it jets and it spatters. Hiding her eyes, Polly was reminded of the scene with the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I can hear Tim Burton shouting, “More blood, we need more blood!” as he directed the killings. That said, the only thing that stopped the abundance of blood from being humorous was Johnny Depp’s acting ability. Seeing that rage, that bitter sadness portrayed with such able intensity, I couldn’t laugh. I could only stare.
Be warned. Burton’s Victorian England is a dark vision of poverty, squalor, greed and lust. Yet he shows us moments of beauty, such as the love Benjamin Barker shares with his family before the Judge puts all to ruin. Or the love the young sailor Anthony Hope has for Ben’s daughter Johanna. Amidst the Stygian despair, there is hope. I like to believe, in all that sadness and anger, there is one happy ending.
Pixilated Polly gives Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street - 4 howls of pleasure .