DID YOU READ

“Sweeney Todd.”

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"These are desperate times. And desperate measures are called for."
"There’s no place like London!" trills young sailor Anthony Hope (Jamie Campbell Bower) at the outset of "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street." And maybe there isn’t, but it does have its cinematic predecessors. Pile the dankest, dreariest sections of Gotham City, Sleepy Hollow and the town that houses the Wonka chocolate factory together, strip away any colors and scatter lowlifes, prostitutes and beggars on the street corners, and you have what the title character of Stephen Sondheim’s musical describes as "a hole in the world like a great black pit," and the setting of director Tim Burton’s goth apotheosis. His able adaptation of "Sweeney Todd" isn’t just dark — it is black on black (with, okay,
generous splashes of red), in look and in spirit, to the extent that
it’s not so much a return to form for Burton as a step beyond what was
once his usual. In the film, the sky never gets lighter than a chill grey, uniformly hideous
aging wallpaper recoils from the corners of ill-lit rooms, people are arrayed
in pallors ranging from chalky to bluish — and the things they do to each other! Orphan abuse, rape, murder, cannibalism — the wicked are punished, and the wronged are punished, and it’s just what they deserve for being around.

It’s all in line with Sondheim’s gloriously Grand Guignol musical, which Burton and writer John Logan have done a workable job of abbreviating for screen (the most notable excision is the prologue, "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd"). The barber Todd, born Benjamin Barker and played by Johnny Depp, returns to London after years of exile for a crime he didn’t commit, bent on finding his wife (Laura Michelle Kelly) and now grown child (Jayne Wisener) and taking his revenge on Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman), the man responsible for framing him. When this doesn’t work out, he instead sets himself up above Mrs. Lovett’s (Helena Bonham Carter) pie shop, shaving throats or slitting them to provide his partner with filling for her pastries. "Sweeney Todd" is very much a musical, with songs bridged by dialogue that’s often also sung, and it’s unapologetic about the fact save that its leads aren’t really singers. Depp acquits himself fine, with a bit of the 80s rock star to his voice, but Bonham Carter has to speak sing her way through. Alan Rickman is good as the licentious Judge Turpin, but child actor Ed Sanders, playing the urchin Toby, is so much noticeably better than the rest of the cast that the contrast can be jarring. Mostly it doesn’t matter, because "Sweeney Todd" isn’t shot like a musical — it doesn’t stop and pull back for its big numbers; the singing, varied as it is, is folded matter-of-factly in with the rest of the action.

"Sweeney Todd" manages to hum devilishly along, skimming through the side story of the earnest lovers (who are, in their whey-faced way, creepier than anyone else in the universe of the film) and slipping in some nasty visual jokes involving the assisted sharpening of a razor and another a group of women in an asylum. The slaughter, when it begins, is unflinchingly disgusting, gouts of blood spurting through the air, the tenth throat slit given no less attention than the first. (Between this, "Eastern Promises" and "We Own The Night," it’s been a big year for the carotid artery on screen.)

Still, strange as it seems for what should be a heaven-made match of director and material, there’s a note of discomfort to the film that grows as the ghoulish humor finally drops away. Burton’s always been one for the outcast exterior and the cuddly interior — as his films have become more mainstream, more stylistically impressive and less emotionally engaged, his continued attachment to the sentimental has seemed ever more forced, which is why plenty of people, ourselves included, rebelled at the gooeyness of "Big Fish" and the explanatory unhappy childhood invented for Willie Wonka in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." There’s no space at all for softness in the latter part of "Sweeney Todd," and as a result the film seems a little lost, uncertain in what, to avoid spoilers, we’ll leave as a very unhappy ending. In the same vein, the film flubs what might have been its most twistedly poignant segment for an easy joke. As Bonham Carter’s Mrs. Lovett sings "By the Sea," imagining a blissful retirement with her violent love in a coast town somewhere, we’re treated to a serious of "Scissorhands"-bright scenarios in which, to reinforce their unlikelihood, Depp’s Todd glowers and pays her no mind as she leads them on a picnic, a walk along the pier and a day on the beach. It’s funny, but it takes away from the fact that Mrs. Lovett, who, in her terrifying practicality is really more of a monster than Todd, is also expressing the most relatable and sadly deluded human yearnings you get in the whole film. Now that — that is really fucked up.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.