Story time children! Gather around and crack open a cold one (or get an adult to open one if you can't work the lid). I am about to unfold a tale of deception, redemption and comedy.
Prologue aka "The Setup"
It's often said (by reductionist morons) "There are two kinds of people in this world..." This statement is usually followed by two artificially limited choices considered to be mutually exclusive personality tests. It's generally used to contrast massive sociological, or cultural forces represented by two parallel brands. For example there is Coke vs Pepsi (old fashioned nostalgia vs new wave hipness), Beatles vs Stones (clean cut good guys vs raucous dirty, bad boys), Lennon vs MacCarney (lyrics vs melody), Mac vs PC (arrogance vs nerdery), and Hulk Hogan vs Randy Savage (pro bandana vs pro headband). I could go on forever.
All of these false dichotomy's ignore the third (and statistically biggest) group: "People who don't give a flying f*** about either choice."
For most of my life (while I was old enough to care about such things), there was another "either/or" choice used to define comedy fans: Jay Leno vs David Letterman.
Within the realm of comedy, the contrast is stark. Letterman is cutting edge, biting and sometimes dry. Leno is accessible, inoffensive and designed for mass market appeal. Leno is MacDonald's, mass produced, cost effective and generally the same no matter where you get it. Letterman is that little Indian place around the corner that makes your favourite Tikka Masala and gave you the runs that one time but you keep going back because when it's good, it's REALLY good.
Having recently finished another run through of Bill Carter's "The War for Late Night" (Yeah, I did the audio book. You want to fight about it?), I'm beginning to get a clearer picture on why I'm so fascinated by this story.
I think it's because it's a story that's positively Shakespearean in it's scope and complexity. There are so many complex personalities, behind closed door machinations and seedy stories it would feel right at home in the Bard's catalog. It's positively dynastic in scope because very few entertainment sectors maintain the same players long enough to be so.
One of the other reasons I loved Carter's book so much is it challenged my perspective on the whole scenario. The characters involved are so well drawn (being real people gives them a distinct advantage) and the villains and heroes are never quite as they seem. It all makes for a fascinating tale of broken friendships, unlikely heroes and jokes...lot's of jokes.
So with that we begin our tale with a trip into the past.
Chapter I - The Kingdom of Carson
In the spring of the year 1991, the beloved King Johnny, longtime ruler of the Tonight Show Kingdom, announced that in one year he would abdicate his throne to live out his remaining days in peace. This would bring his illustrious 30 year rule to an end.
It was a tenure chalked full of highlights which are still fondly remembered to this day. A time of mystic mind readers, inappropriate animal interactions, exposed psychics, Jimmy Stewart tears, pancake fights and plaid suit jackets. It was a time of great social change and King Johnny was there every step of the way to make us laugh about it.
King Johnny was not the first to rule the Land of Late Night. The Kindgom was established by the multi-talented Sir Steve Allen in 1953. After 3 years, in 1957 the affable Sir Jack Parr assumed the throne. Possessing a high skill in interviewing subjects, King Jack became colloquially known as The King of Conversation during his tenure.
King Parr's abdication of the throne in April of 1962 led to a multitude of temporary rulers. Sir Groucho Marx, Sir Jerry Lewis & Sir Merv Griffin all had short tenures until a new King could be officially crowned.
Sir Johnny Carson ascended to the throne in October of 1962 to become King Johnny. After a tentative start, King Johnny eventually grew to be embraced by the people as the one true King of Late Night.
While beloved by the populace, King Johnny was known to the court to be a complex and mercurial figure who possessed several charater flaws not often seen by the public. While appearing to the people as a gregarious jokester, King Johnny was also known for having a vindictive mean streak. In 1986, when Lady Joan of Rivers (a longtime friend of King Johnny and official temporary replacement in his absence) attempted to set up her own hold across the way (at FOX) King Johnny took it as a personal affront. When Lady Joan's hold fell in less than a year under the might of King Johnny, she was banished from the Kingdom of Tonight. After the King's son Ricky died in a accident in 1991, Lady Joan wrote a personal note of condolences to the King. Their relationship was never repaired and the two never spoke again. Lady Joan would not be allowed back into the Tonight Kingdom for nearly 3 decades. The prohibition was upheld by successor Kings out of deference to King Johnny.
For better and worse, King Johnny ruled for 30 years and all looked well in the Kingdom of Late Night. In 1982, a new hold was developed in the land of Late Night. Sir David the Duke of Letterman was installed as ruler of the hold ("Late Night") and things were good for a time. Sir David held his King in high regard and the feeling was mutual. King Johnny had privately anointed Sir David as his successor to the throne, should the King have to step down.
Sir Dave, long regarded as one of the brightest and wittiest comics in the land, would grow to cast a long shadow of influence in the Late Night Kingdom. Known for being smart, incisive and uncompromising, Sir Dave was something of an acquired taste to the public. While many appreciated his inventive ideas and outside the box thinking, and equal number found themselves in confusion or disdain of his antics.
Known for being awkward and socially reserved, Sir Dave was rarely seen outside of public performances. Those close to him describe a man prone to mood swings and chilly personal interactions. A man who routinely manifested displeasure in others with cold silence. A man who manifested displeasure in himself with self loathing.
Even with his personality flaws, Sir Dave remained a widely admired King in waiting.
There was another, however, who believed he held claim to the throne. A contemporary and friend of both King Johnny and particularly Sir Dave had been selected to temporarily assume the throne one day a week when King Johnny showed signs of slowing.
Sir Jay Leno was introduced to the Kingdom by his friend Sir Dave Letterman who had come up through the clubs with him. The populace found Sir Jay to be an equal entertainer to Sir Dave, if not an equal wit. Sir Jay's fiery polemics on the absurdities of daily life endeared him to the people. With his trademark thatch of black hair (now slowly going grey) and prominent jawline, Sir Jay Leno instantly struck a chord as a populist.
Sir Jay had come to comedy with a mindset of a working man. He was raised to be hard working and unpretentious and believed strongly in putting in the work for a day's pay. Once he found his calling as a comic, he devoted all of his energy to this pursuit. His talent also caught the eye of King Johnny who requested for Sir Jay to perform for him.
King Johnny was so impressed with Sir Jay, that he installed Sir Jay as temporary steward of the Tonight Throne on Mondays so the King wouldn't be overworked. It was understood that while Sir Dave was designated King Johnny's successor, Sir Jay would be installed in the Late Night hold in the event of King Johnny's abdication.
For a while, all was good in the land of Late Night.
Little did the Kingdom of Late Night suspect, the table had been set for a clash over the Throne that none would walk away from unscathed.
But that's a story for next time...
Stay tuned for Chapter II: The Usurper and the Exile
Welcome to the Three R's where I will revisit, review and riff on movies I kinda, sorta vaguely remember to see if I would still recommend them. Today I'm giving the Three R's treatment to Luc Besson's 1997 bizarre action/comedy The Fifth Element. The movie that springboarded Milla Jovovich into a career of jump kicking things in the face. It also springboarded Bruce Willis into the next 15 years playing the same fucking character he has played since Die Hard.
From what I remember, I enjoyed the movie despite it's silliness. This is getting into personal preference, but it takes a rare action movie to please me without at least a modicum of self awareness and humour. It's a silly genre (that lends itself well to riffing, hence my predilection for it here) and The Fifth Element delivers in that regard.
So, as per usual, if you want to go in fresh, watch the movie first and then come back and see what I have to say. From here on, there be spoilers up ahead. I've decided to dispense with the time codes, because it was too much of a paid having to stop and check the time for every punchline.
- This opening really gives me a hankering to watch "Spaceballs". I'll put it on my list o future movies to cover here.
-Ah Luke Perry...from universal heartthrob to...I don't know. I've got nothing. Who would have guessed that the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie would be the apex of his film career? That's another one I'll have to watch.
-Old bearded guy in a hooded brown robe and white tunic? Did they raid George Lucas' closet? I shall call him Obi-Not-Kenobi. It's a really obvious rip-off though.
-Obi-Not Kenobi is Luke Perry's dad. That's almost as believable as Ryan Gosling turning into James Garner in "The Notebook".
-Fun fact: Sir Alec Guinness, who played Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars hated being in the film and only took the part to pay off his gambling debts.
-Obi-Not is trying to poison an archeologist who has found some hieroglyphics detailing how to defeat a great evil or something. I'm already lost and it's only the first five minutes. That's generally not a good sign.
-The archaeologist (who I have a feeling won't live long enough to get a fun nickname) stubbornly refuses to die. Tweed must have attempted poisoning detection powers. No wonder there are so many hipsters around these days.
-The spaceship that descends hovers over the temple looks like something out of Flash Gordon.
-Ok, I definitely did not remember the giant robots (who resemble turtles more than I remember) having big blue lights on their bulging crotches. Would they still be codpieces, even if they don't have...cods? That's bothersome on so many levels.
-The archaeologist asks the robots "A...are you German?" I'm having trouble deciding if that brilliant or really stupid writing.
-Head Robo Turtle says war is coming and the Stones are not safe on Earth anymore. I guess somebody had better find the Stones and give them some shelter.
-Archaeologist is either dead now or narcoleptic. Totally called it. Tweed is no match for alien robot mind bullets.
-"Take the stones." Head Robo Turtle ordering his subordinates around like some kind of beast of burden.
-Obi-Not promises to get the keys into the right hands after Luke Perry proves to be a gigantic putz and shoots the giant alien Robo Turtles that can kill with their minds. So I guess he is just is just a pretty face huh? He seals them into the chamber that had the Stones in it because they're Robo Turtles so they can't run fast. Now the Robo Turtles can't get no satisfaction.
-Tiny "Zeus" Lister is the President in this movie. He must have beaten Hulk Hogan in the primaries.
-You know, "the Maroon Berets" just doesn't have the same ring to it.
-Ian "Bilbo" Holm is here talking about evil. Somethin strangely familiar about that.
-Tiny Lister is ordering military strikes. I had a nightmare that went this way once.
-The futuristic technology has only the finest in Atari graphical displays. That's what happens when Zeus is your President.
-Oh hi Bruce Willis. I'll be your reviewer today. Will you be trying something new or can I just assume you want the usual?
-John McClean in space it is. Cigarette dangling from his lips? Check. Recently divorced? Check. Down on his luck? Check. Droll one liners? Check. Like to read french poetry? Get the f*** out right now!
-Man, this guy lives in a total dump. He's almost like a pig...in SPAAAAAAAAACE!
-McClean in Space, has a twitchy drug addict come to his door. The guy appears to be wearing a either a solar panel or a cookie sheet on his head. Based on what I've seen of this movie so far, I'm leaning towards the cookie sheet.
-It was actually a photograph of an empty hallway to put over the eyehole, which makes him a slightly smarter crackhead than Rob Ford (TOPICAL!).
-Ian Holm gives more exposition about the big evil that's going to destroy us all if the stones aren't found. It sounds like time is not on their side.
-I forgot the baddies look like melting Yoda puppets. I can hear George Lucas bellowing "Dammit Besson, stay out of my warehouse!" again.
-Gary Oldman is dressed like he's about to attend a post apocalyptic pride march. He has a weird haircut that is shaved all except for one little swatch (mohawk style) that he pulls up through a plastic head mold and flopped over the other side. I have the feeling it'll be a strong contender for the Skrillex Award for dumbest haircut, which I just made up and I'll be giving out at the conclusion of this review. Zorg is also the first nominee for the Lady Gaga Award for strangest costume can our pseudo southern, half helmet wearing baddie make a clean sweep? Stay tuned to find out.
-Gah! The people all have glow in the dark green eyes under black lighting. I was not prepared for that.
-Dumb haircut #2. A guy has what looks to be a game console headset that wraps around the back of his noggin. He has shaved a swath all the way around the back of his head to house this headset. Competition is heating up in this category already.
-They found a "survivor" hand somewhere (I'm too lazy to go back and try to make sense of the exposition) and they're going to reanimate it.
-Once again, you would think technology that was advanced enough to resurrect a dead human being from a severed hand would have something more advanced than Space Invaders graphics.
-I would transcribe some of the sci-fi mumbo jumbo here. But I think if I tried, my fingers would rebel and try to claw out my frontal lobe. All I'll say is the words "slightly greasy atoms" have made me feel dirty to retype.
-They remove the shield and low and behold a naked Milla Jovovich. Also beginning her movie trend of being introduced to the audience by waking up naked in a strange place with no memory of how she got there. Kind of like Charlie Sheen starts each day.
-Considering Milla's costume basically amounts to the clothing equivalent of medical gauze, I'm gonna have to nominate her for a GAGA Award. Little strips of white cloth cover her fun parts. Oh right..."thermal bandages". Suddenly, Luc Besson's "greasy atoms" are looking more perverted by the second.
-Milla's freaking out as if she just woke up naked in a giant glass tube wearing gauze for clothing. I don't want to think of how many disturbing fetishes were launched the day this came out.
-Milla punches through the unbreakable glass and knocks out the dude taunting her. His fault though. He tapped on the glass. DO NOT TAP ON THE GLASS!
-Milla lands in Bruce Willis' (Korbin Dallas) cab. She starts speaking in a language he can't understand. The jokes here are too easy (even for me) so I'll just move on.
-All joking aside. There's a reason beyond Milla's costume that this movie made her a star. She's instantly likable and sympathetic.
-Bruce gets a little rapey trying to kiss Milla while she's unconscious. She puts a gun to his head and he realizes that's not a good idea. The things we missed when we were kids huh?
-Milla's name is Leeloo. I remember loving how she said "Chee-kan! Good!" Still funny after all these years.
-We finally get a look at Zorg. He's ditched the Liberace jacket, but now has added a stiff collar that goes up past his ears. Still Gaga.
-Zorg demonstrates his new gun for the melting Yoda dogs. They give him a case which was supposed to contain the stones but it is empty. I guess Zorg can't always get what he wants.
-Zorg's henchemen are wearing shiny blue skull caps. Worth a mention, but not Gaga worthy.
-Gary Oldman seems to be having a lot of fun. Doesn't hold a candle to his performance as Drexl in True Romance though.
-The stones were given to an alien singer named Pavalaguna by the Robo Turtles (who are the guardians of the stones apparently). So I guess they're going to have to find a way to get to the Honky Tonk Woman and go to her Emotional Rescue. (Is this running joke wearing thin? I feel like I'm beating dead Wild Horses here.)
-Mos Def plays Zorg's top henchman. Interesting because this movie reminds me a lot of the art style of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. He doesn't have a towel here though. Seems odd.
-They have cell phones that last for 1000 years in this movie? Now I know it's science fiction.
-The Maroon Berets (lead by the guy Leeloo knocked out for knocking on the glass) show up and tell Korbin McClean he has to go to Fhlosten Paradise to hear Pavawhatchacallher's performance. Yeah I know I'm not getting any of these names right. It's like a Dr. Suess phone book in this movie.
-Korbin hides Leeloo in the shower while the police (dressed in bulky angular costumes entirely impractical for police work...Gaga nominee!)
-When Leeloo disrobes after getting hosed down in the shower, Bruce and Bilbo turn around to avert their eyes. Bruce has apparently learned respect for women...while they are awake.
-And Chris Tucker is here to give us all a headache. He plays annoying tv personality Ruby Rhod. He is a double nominee for Gaga and Skrillex Awards in this movie. He's wearing an open chested Jaguar print jumpsuit. His hair is bleach blonde with a cylindrical protrusion at the front.
-Now he's singing Lionel Ritchie making Nicole Ritchie the second most embarrassing thing he's ever been linked to.
-I'm also nominating Chris Tucker for the Chris Tucker Award for most annoying presence in a movie. There will be no other nominees. He will win the award even in movies he is not in.
-Tucker's trio of yes men are kind of funny. One of them has half his head shaved right down the middle. Half Skrillex nomination.
-Apparently it's not Mos Def in this movie. It's an english musician named Tricky. The resemblance is pretty uncanny. He's lived up to his name. He tries to check in for the flight as Korbin Dallas but the lady behind the counter says Dallas has already checked in and just lowers through the floor behind the glass and a big security turret comes up from the floor pointing guns at him. This didn't happen to the two white people who were clearly Yoda Dogs in disguise earlier. Apparently some things don't change in the future.
-The flight attendants are dressed like flight attendants from a 60's porno.
-One of the flight attendants is getting freaky with Chris Tucker. I'm all kinds of uneasy with this.
-Airplanes are apparently powered in the future by radioactive material. At least we know where the glow in the dark eyes come from.
-Zorg blows up Mos Tricky for failing him and gets a call from Mr. Shadow. I don't recall who or what this is. Zorg bleeds from the forehead.
-Apparently Fhlosten Paradise is like Hawaii...in SPAAAAAAAACE!
-Korbin and Leeloo get lei'd and check into their hotel room.
-Lee Evans (Tucker/Norm in There's Something About Mary) is a purser showing the blue alien lady singer (dressed in a burka) to her room.
-Chris Tucker has changed into a new getup. This one is a black suit with a giant collar with roses on it. Hard to believe, but this is actually an improvement. His hair is like Crazy Eyes Suzanne from Orange is the New Black but with bugger tufts on top. I have a feeling this awards cerimony is going to be a clean sweep.
-"The Diva" (apparently the movie doesn't even want to take the time to say her actual name) performs. She is a blue skinned alien with tendrils coming out of her. I don't want to think about the fetishes that were created by this scene.
-She sings to Bruce Willas but her seductive charms have no effect on him. If he were William Shatner he'd be half way onto the stage with his pants around his ankles by this point.
-Milla kicks the every lovin’ snot out of the Yoda Dogs. If they are going to go through with an all female Expendables (which has been discussed) she had better be in the cast. She whoops seven shades of Yoda Dog shit out of these guys in a fun scene intercut with the Diva singing an up-beat aria (while Yoda Dogs just get beat-up).
-Zorg brings in the Big F'n Gun to take down Leeloo as the Diva takes a bullet to the stomach. Worst theater experience since Abe Lincoln.
-"The stones are in me." Joke too easy, moving on.
-The stones are in the Diva's stomach. How did they get there? Did she swallow them. They're the size of liter cola bottles.
-Crazy Eyes Chris Tucker continues to be annoying.
-When I was younger, I refused to believe someone as ear piercingly annoying as Ruby Rhod would ever get on television. Now he'd fit right in with the Kardashians. How times change.
-A literal ticking clock just got added to the plot. The "bomb detectors" only go off at a comedically appropriate time. Reminds me of one of my favourite "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" moments when Roger snd Eddie are cuffed together. Roger slips out of the handcuffs while Eddie is trying to saw them off with a hacksaw. When Eddie accuses him of being able to take his hand out of the cuff this whole time Roger says "No, only when it was funny!"
-Zorg gets blown up by the dying Yoda Dogs "for the honour". I prefer to think they're just tired of his shit.
-Leeloo is the Fifth Element, to the surprise of nobody.
-Leeloo space Googles "WAR" in what is actually a very moving scene showing her reaction as a torrent of horrible images floods past.
-They get to the temple and there are four alters to place the stones on.
-The stones are put on the respective alters but nothing happens. Our heroes will have to figure out how to solve this Jigsaw Puzzle.
-Bilbo's sidekick says it's hopeless and we almost hear him sigh and he activates the wind stone with some Ventilator Blues. Little by little they give the stones a Start Me Up using the respective elements.
-Bruce uses his hands as a loving cup and drops a little dirty work on the Earth stone. Gravity gets the Rocks Off but it's enough to activate the stone.
-Bilbo is a fool to cry as he is out of tears, but is able to make the rain fall down by mopping some sweat from his brow. We have some sympathy for the drag queen as Ruby Rhod doesn't have anything to Hang Fire with. Bruce has a single match and is able to play with fire.
-In order to activate Leeloo, Bruce restores her faith in humanity by telling her he loves her. He activates the final stone by telling her I Wanna Be Your Man. (I think I've finally run out of Rolling Stones references)
-We end with President Zeus wanting to congratulate Korbin and Leeloo, but they're busy boning in the glass tube thingie.
And thus ends this descent into madness.
Final Thoughts and Recommendation
Overall, I still really liked this movie. It's flaws have become more glaring over time (Chris Tucker's ear shredding performance is a thousand times more annoying to grown up me) but there's a lot to appreciate here. The movie has a very 1960's sci-fi feel to its look and that works in its favour I would say. This was Milla Jovovich's break out performance and it's easy to see why. Beyond being nice to look at, she manages to make Leeloo a sympathetic and endearing character that I found myself rooting for all the way. She also kicks about 300 metric tonnes of ass as an action heroine so it's no surprise that was the direction her career took her.
I gave Bruce Willis a lot of crap for essentially playing the same character for the past 30+ years. When it works though, it really works and this is one of his better sneering one linery performances.
It's certainly not a flawless movie. The plot is a convoluted mish-mash of pseudo scientific bullpie and dangling plot threads. We never learn what the actual threat to the existence of everything is, or who the Shadow man was that made Zorg bleed from his scalp. There's enigmatic, and then there's "just created to incite the plot" and this certainly steps into the second category.
And Chris Tucker...
It's no surprise, Mr. Tucker makes a clean sweep of the awards in this one. He takes home the Lady Gaga award for worst costume (the leopard print onsie a particular low point) and the Skrillex Award for worst haircut. He creates possibly the most annoying so called comic relief I have ever witnessed. Chris Tucker has done work in the past that I enjoyed, but this is just a misfire in every sense of the word. It was only due to my own sense of journalistic integrity that I didn't just mute his scenes of skip them.
He also gets the Chris Tucker Award for most annoying movie performance ever.
All that being said, I would ultimately recommend this movie. It's a very imaginative work and it doesn't take itself too seriously. Besson's definitely a fimmaker with a distinct irreverant style and that is on display here in full force. Just, try to resist the urge to throw a socket wrench through your tv during the last 30 minutes.
Until next time...Goodbye Ruby Tuesday! It's All Over Now
Welcome to the second installment of Revisit Review & Riff, or as it will now colloquially be known the Three R's. This is a series where I take movies and television shows from my past and see how well they stand up to modern me's taste. These pieces tend to be less review and more free flowing bullshit. Also, keep in mind that movies I review in The Three R's will all be at least 10 years old so don't come crying when I spoil something you've had plenty of time to see. If you want to go in fresh, see the movie first, then come back to read my thoughts.
So, with the disclaimers and preamble out of the way, on to today's movie.
Today, I have on tap a movie I remember pretty fondly from the dying days of the 90's. It's 1999's Sleepy Hollow. Tim Burton's take on Washington Irving's tale of nebbish school teacher Ichabod Crane being terrorized by the nightmarish apparition known as the Headless Horseman.
When you have Tim Burton as your director, it would seem to be a slam dunk. I guess we'll find out.
Quick run down before I get started. Overall my feelings on the film from what I can remember are that it delivers in the weird and gruesome category (which is pretty par for the course for Burton's best works). I remembered the production design and visuals to be top notch (as one would expect from a Burton production). I also remember the story to be over complicated as hell. I remembered Christina Ricci filled out her costume quite nicely. I also fondly remember a decapitated head spinning like a top (good times!). Nowadays I'm a little less enthralled with gore effects and more interested in the subtle elements of horror. Elements like tension, suspense, framing, atmosphere, etc. It'll be interesting to see how it holds up.
Here we go. For your added benefit, I'll be adding Netflix time codes to my observations so you can watch along if you like.
1:50 - I'm always amused when I see those wax stamp seals in period pieces. That had to be a pain to carry for the postman.
2:16 -Martin Landau is in this? I knew there was an incredible collection of elder character actors in this movie (as well as one genuine pedophile, but we'll get to that), but I never noticed him before. Granted, when I first watched this, the only pausing I was doing was to see Christina Ricci's cleavage for uh...research purposes (Yeah, that's the ticket!), not for making long winded digressions two minutes into the movie.
2:27 -Didn't remember the scarecrow with the jack o' lantern head either. Nice touch Mr. Burton.
3:16 -So Martin Landau's driver loses his head (Head Count: 1) and Mr. Landau's first thought is to run out into the cornfield. Has he never seen a movie before? Oh I suppose he hasn't. I'm sure he's read books or tapestries or whatever they used for porn back then. Surely the rules for running into spooky, fogged out cornfields were pretty universal.
3:48 -After a fake out with the Jack o' Scarecrow, Martin gets chopped (Head Count: 2) and that's our cold open folks! All we're missing is Ichabod Crane kneeling over the corpse, a dry one liner and a Who song and we've got us an episode of CSI: Sleepy Hollow. (Yeaaaaaaaaaaahhhh!)
3:48 -Martins stagecoach traveled quite a distance between seeing the scarecrow the first and second time. I know there could easily be more than one scarecrow, but I like the image of the Horseman quietly tiptoeing through cornfield to put the scarecrow into Martin's path before dropping back to he can get behind him.
4:21 -Johnny Depp pulls a bloated corpse out of the water. His complexion is the somewhere between alabaster chalk and porcelain. (Johnny's not the corpse's) A white skinned Depp fishing a bloated gross corpse out of the water. Yup it's a Tim Burton movie.
5:03 -Johnny insists on performing an autopsy on the corpse. The warden...jailer...guy who has a big ring full of keys and bushy eyebrows says "Cut him up? What are we heathens?" before a man caught for burglary gets kicked headfirst down into a cell. SATIRE!
5:04 - 1999 alert! "The millennium is almost upon us. In a few months we'll be living in the 19th century." Either the writer of this movie doesn't know what a millennium is or Ichabod Crane is very forward thinking for a man with a life expectancy of 35. Maybe if you're a giant redwood or a mountain range, 200 years could qualify as "almost upon us". It wouldn't be a 1999 movie without some reference to the millennium no matter how shoehorned in it is.
5:04- It seems like it would be something a studio executive would make a note about.
Executive 1: I've gotta say, this Sleepy Hollow script is great! It's got action, suspense and laughs too! There's one thing it's missing though!
Executive 2: What's missing? Sex?
Executive 1: Are you kidding, we're gonna put Wednesday Adams in a top so tight the audience's grandchildren will be born with erections! The girls too.
Executive 2: So what are we missing?
Executive 1: Scotch! But in regards to the script, you know that thing people are all afraid of, that's gonna wipe out all of our computers and our banks and stuff?
Executive 2: Oh, you mean Y2K?
Executive 1: Yeah the mille-whatchacallit! It's all the people are talking about these days. Put in a reference to that!
Executive 2: Doesn't this take place like 200 years before that?
Executive 1: So what? Nobody will notice, except some idiot on a website 15 years from now. Excuse me while I light this cigar with this hundred dollar bill.
(Executive 1 lights his cigar with a hundred dollar bill)
Executive 2: So did you take all of your money out of the bank before the Y2K hits?
Executive 1: Oh yeah! Can't be too careful you know. I'm also stockpiling non computerized adult entertainment for when the computers go down. When the shit hits the fan, I don't want to be caught with my pants down...while my pants are down.
Executive 2: So how do you keep the missus from finding it?
Executive 1: The same way I keep her from finding it on the computer.
Executive 2: Label the folder "Not Porn"?
Executive 1: You got it! It's in a box in the garage with "NOT PORN" written on the side in big letters. I'm in the clear.
Executive 2: Sounds like you've got it all figured out. Want to have more scotch?
Executive 1: Yes! Scotch scotch scotch scotch scotch scotch!
Where was I? Crap, I'm only five minutes into this movie. Moving on.
5:30 -While I'm counting Tim Burton'y things, here's Christopher Lee (Elderly Character actor count: 2) to play Christopher Lee...as a judge or something.
- Mr. Jailer Warden Whatever's eyebrows appear to be getting blacker and bushier with every scene. Maybe since his hairline is receding, he's trying to rock the "comb-upper" by filling in that forehead space with eyebrow hair. I fear next time we see him, his eyebrows will have become sentient.
7:05 - You know you're watching a Tim Burton movie when: you tense up when Crane grabs his bird in the cage, only to breathe a sign of relief when he lets it go out the window. I swear there was a split second where he stared at it, that Johnny Depp was contemplating going Ozzy Osbourne on the birdie.
7:31 - We've just started the opening credits. Settle in folks, it could be a long one.
9:00 - Johnny has some puncture marks on his hand. If this role had been played by Robert Downey Jr. the puncture marks would be further down the arm. Ba-zing! (But seriously, Mr. Downey has become one of our most treasured actors. His comeback has been very inspirational, just say "no" kids.)
11:35 -"What knockers!" (Young Frankenstein reference for the win!)
12:05 - Speaking of knockers, here's Christina Ricci! (Couldn't have timed that one better) She's playing Katrina VanTassle.
12:37 - And here's Casper Van Deen looking all kinds of uncomfortable in a period movie. Fresh off of his breakout role in Starship Troopers, but before his washed up role in Starship Troopers 3. Who knew that meathead space marine would be the best we would get from him? Oh that,s right. Everybody knew that.
12:41 - Ok, I've been making a lot of jokes about Christina's ahem...Christina's being well presented in this film. I'm gonna stop being a pig here in a second, but good golly miss molly if those puppies were hiked any higher she wouldn't be able to see over them! No wonder I liked this movie so much as a teenager.
Now that I have that out of the way, I will regain my feminist cred by only referencing Miss Ricci's acting abilities. Her heaving, well supported abilities. (That's the last one I promise.)
12:56 - And now I can move on to drooling over Miranda Richardson. She is so fetching, that even in her nails on a chalkboard portrayal of Queen Victoria in Blackadder the Third I thought to myself "I'd still go for it". Probably have to gag her first or something (I meant that in a way that was intended less wrong than it sounds).
14:07 - Thankfully, this collection of ugly old men is here to rescue me from a very weird place. Seriously, it's like an Awesome Character Actor History Museum in this place (plus one pedophile, can't forget about him).
14:27 - So we have Dumbledore (2nd not the 1st), Emperor Palpatine, Alfred Pennyworth (circa Michael Keaton Batman) and Dr. Albert Meinhiemer from Naked Gun 2 1/2. I know they have other long hard to remember names (and powdered wigs), but they don't anymore. Oh also, Jeffrey Jones is here too. You know, the guy who played Principal Rooney in Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Lydia's dad in Beetlejuice and is now a convicted sex offender after a child porn bust in 2003? Oh you thought I was joking about that didn't you? Well, look him up kids and good luck watching Ferris Bueller the same way again. That movie takes a somewhat sinister turn with this new information. With this info in mind (and because according to his Wikipedia page he has failed to register himself a couple of times when moving to new locations) I will be functioning as something of a registry reminding you of his crimes.
16:48 - We finally get to the backstory of the Headless Horseman. During the flashback The Horseman swings his sword around aimlessly in front of a backdrop growling (one of Christopher Walken's least strange performances I must say) and chopping heads off (Head Count: 6 in total including his own, total count).
18:47 - Jeffrey "Pedo" Jones' Reverend character suggests that instead of science "this" is the only book he needs to protect himself from the Horseman, before dropping a Bible on the table next to Johnny Depp. I'm guessing he's a Catholic Priest.
20:44 - We get our first look at the de-headed Horseman as he chases down the town lookout (Jonathan Masbeth) and makes him a foot shorter (Head Count: 7 total).
24:00 - Johnny rocking some steampunk spectacles here. Looks like somebody took his quirky pills today. Now I wish we had seen more Horatio Kane or Gil Grissom galloping around the crime scenes. Now I wish I could unsee that.
25:00 - Dr. Meinhiemer tells Crane this brings the victim list to 5, not 4. Turns out the "Widow Winship", one of the earlier victim was pregnant. No jokes here. Just catching you up on the plot. Also, Crane inherits Young Masbeth as his new gofer/personal assistant/grave digger upper. You know what they say, if you don't want to dig up graves, get a recently orphaned boy to do it for you.
30:45 Crane happens across the Horseman who is holding a flaming jack o'lantern. Crane gets conked right between the eyes in a sequence that legitimately got a "holy s***" out of me when I first watched it. 15 years later, I'm happy to report the pumpkin toss is still a badass sequence.
- Turns out it's just Casper Van Douche playing a prank. I would think in a time when people were routinely hanged for such things, pretending to be a murderous supernatural being would be cause for some punishment. (Foreshadowing!)
31:43 - Crane passes out an hallucinates seeing his mother in a garden because we have to pad the running time out. I remember these flashbacks really killing the momentum of the film when I first saw it. That still holds true.
32:28 - Crane's mother resembles Anne Hathaway and his father resembles Josh Brolin.
33:00 - I promised I wouldn't bring up Christina's boobs anymore (as if they could be hoisted any higher). So I guess we'll just talk about the weather during this next scene. The round, perky weather. Boy it's been hot lately hasn't it? Soooooo hot.
-Also, there's a bunch of exposition in this scene about the backstory between Dumbledore II and Martin Landau in addition to...the weather. The well lifted and supported weather. Turns out pretty much all of the families in Sleepy Hollow are related by blood or marriage. So, it's like Utah I guess.
36:00 - If this were a soap opera, it would be called "The Pale and the Paler".
-Weinhiemer is making a run for it. A bunch of sheep run away. Either they are about to be joined by a Horseman or a Scotsman.
38:00 - And the head, she spins! Weinhiemer's noggin does about four revoloutions before falling off (Head Count: 8.5 total - extra half point given for the dismount).
39:30 - Crane pulls the covers up in bed in a manner that could suggest either he's terrified, or he was just caught having some private time thinking about...the weather.
40:00 - Another flashback dream sequence of Crane and Not-Anne Hathaway. With the amount of weather Mrs. Crane is sporting, I can see why he's drawn to Katrina. Not-Josh Brolin is angry and abusive (like real Josh Brolin) toward Crane's mother because he thinks she was doing witchcraft. The powder wig undercuts what was a very serious scene.
45:23 - Crane goes to see a witch crone (who actually did go Ozzy on a bird). And now she's got a bat! I hope the writer of this movie at least sent Ozzy a thank you note.
46:00 - The witches eyes bug out like she's that pervert wolf in the old cartoons. Granted, I know Johnny's dreamy and all but keep it in your pants lady! Or, keep the snakes in your eye sockets at least. The witch tells Ichabod how to beat the Horseman (he apparently requires the son of a plumber to do so).
46:50 - After that, Crane leaves the cave, with the unmistakable walk of a man who just bricked his trousers.
49:21 - Ah, the bloody tree. I seem to remember this part being later in the film somewhere in the third act, not right in the middle. Of course, last time I watched this I wasn't stopping every five minutes to make stupid comments so it probably didn't feel like it was only half way done.
- Johnny does the first thing any of us would do upon finding a tree oozing blood. Start hacking at it with an axe. By the end he's covered in blood. He should have put newspapers down! (That's two Mel Brooks references. For those keeping score of that...you lead a very sad life.)
52:25 - The first line Casper Van Doorknob says after the Horseman emerges from the blood tree and heads toward town is "Let's split up. You go that way, you go that way." The camera cuts away before he can finish with "What could possibly go wrong."
53:40 - The Horseman crashes through the door of the midwife's family home while she, her husband and son are just chillin. What follows is a very well done sequence where Mr. Midwife tries to fight off the Horseman. He is not successful (Head Count 9.5). The mother hides her son under the floorboards. The door slowly creaks open and the Horseman is standing there holding the husband's severed head. The midwife is cornered and she meets the same fate. In perhaps the most disturbing moment of this movie so far, the head rolls along the floor until it stops with the eyes (still open) over the crack in the floorboards with the son making eye contact. The Horseman goes to leave but his Horseman sense must have been tingling. (How does he hear without ears? Does he have a homing beacon to find these people?) He goes back and smashes through the floorboards grabbing the kid. Kid screams and we see that finally gets the attention of Casper Van Dork. The Horseman leaves the house stuffing the heads into his bag.
-Giving credit where it's due, this scene shows that for all of his goofy eccentricities, Tim Burton can really put together an intense sequence. The action was well done, and there was a nice amount of tension as well. I had forgotten that this movie actually went that dark having the kid get killed (even though it was off screen which I guess is theoretically better, but theatre of the mind can be a powerful thing).
56:00 - Casper Van Dingus shoots the Horseman off his horse. Sure, go walk up to him, I'm sure that'll work out for ya. Horseman sits up like the power of the urn compels him.
56:45 - Horseman could not give less of a flying f*** about Casper Van Dingleberry as he treats him more like an annoyance than an actual threat (much like the people who audition against him, I'm sure).
57:45 - I give Casper Van Doesn't Know When To Quit credit. He is tenacious, Crane tries to jump into the fight and that ends up going about as well as you would think (embarrassing for all involved).
57:56 - Casper Van Dead. (He was cut in half at the waist, so no head count)
58:42 - The movie wants us to think Katrina is doing black magic by putting crows feet in a bubbling cauldron. I know the truth though. You add some carrots and potatoes and you got a stew goin' baby!
59:07 - Weather forecast! Perky with a 90% chance of hummina hummina ha-wa!
59:43 - Oh good, another acid trip flashback sequence. I was actually getting into the story there for a second. Good thing we put a stop to that. Young Ichabod's father locks mother in a pokey thing that pokeys all over her. The whole scene was pretty hokey if you ask me. I guess that would make it a hokey pokey thing, hokey pokey-ing her all around and that's that what it's all about.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: We are now approaching 1 am, or Weird o' Clock as I like to call it. Things may get a little strange from here on out.
1:02:36 - A nice bonding scene with Crane and Katrina. Weather is not a factor for this one. Crane talks about his tyrannical father. When Katrina says that she just wasn't that into Casper Van Decomposing and hints that she might like to do the horizontal hokey pokey with Crane (hopefully not in the hokey pokey thing we saw earlier) she asks Crane "Do you think me wicked?" Crane responds with "No. But perhaps there is a bit of witch in you. Because you've bewitched me."
-I would have gone with "Are you sure there isn't a little Crane in you? Would you like some?" myself, but because he's Johnny Depp he totally pulls it off.
- Ok, I'm trying really hard here to not point out all of the wonderful weather we've been having lately. But Miranda Richardson just showed up and started flaunting her weather all over the place. I'd say it was a bit overcast, but her costume seems to be a little undercast if you know what I'm getting at.
1:03:41 - "Magistrate Phillips: Who tried to cut and run, and lost his head." Put on your sunglasses you smooth son of a bitch, you've earned it.
1:08:03 - "Jonathan Masbeth, was summoned upstairs to serve as witness to the new will. I'm afraid it was his death warrant Young Masbeth." Ok, Horatio Crane you can stop with the wordplay now, the boys father is dead.
1:08:03 - The plot seems much easier to follow now that I'm older. The Widow Winship had a secret wedding and a secret baby with Martin Landau. The Old Boys Club: Dr. Palpatine, His Honour Weinhiemer, Notery Alfred, Dumbledore II and Rev. Jeffrey "I swear I didn't know how that got on my computer" Jones were drawn into the conspiracy due to the nature of their vocations as Doctor, Judge, Notery, Wizard and pedo...I mean Reverend. Masbeth and the Midwife were also aware of the child. Bada boom bada bing. It makes much more sense this time around. Crane has Dumbledore II fingered (according to JK Rowling, Dumbledore would be totally down for that) and sets off to prove it. Well it's nice that we've got all of that wrapped up. Time to call it a night and THERE'S ANOTHER F***ING HALF HOUR TO GO!
1:11:34 - So, it turns out Miranda Richardson is a big old freak, who likes having freaky sex with some freakin' guy in the middle of the freaking freaky woods while freakin' cutting herself. I wonder if she's up to something? Seriously. It's a Tim Burton movie so it's hard to tell what is evil-creepy from what is just normal-creepy.
1:13:24 - Crane and Katrina have the most stoic and reserved star crossed lovers falling out I have ever seen. Boy, the heat and chemistry these two generates is like a three day old fish. There is none is what I'm getting at. They both recite dialog like they're robots. I get that they are going for the flowery, dare I say Shakespearean cadence here, but even Shakespearean actors can bring a little humanity to the words.
1:13:00 - Notery Alfred hanged himself. I can't help but feel that Crane pushed him over the edge with his badgering. Our hero ladies and gentlemen. He's the Nancy Grace of movie detectives, accuse first present evidence maybe.
-Oh, and Miranda Richardson is definitely evil. And somehow that makes her more attractive. Oh man, this is getting weird again. Please something break the tension. Horseman shows up and apparently offs her but we don't see it.
1:17:00 - Palpatine being hit on the head with a cross, while Dumbledore II shoots Rev. Jeffrey "Seriously, I thought they were 18" Jones. That'll break the tension nicely. So far, the Old Boys Club is doing pretty good job of killing each other or themselves.
1:18:00 - Horseman McGyver puts together a makeshift harpoon using some rope and fencepost. Pretty smart for a thing that has no brain connected to it.
1:18:36 - Dumbledore II gets harpooned through the chest and yanked out the window where the Horseman gives him the chop (Head Count: 11 - extra point because f***ing McGyver man!). Final score is Old Boys Club: 3, Horseman: 2.
1:23:19 - Crane figures out the body he thought was Miranda's was not.
-Upon seeing her stepmother still alive, Katrina faints for the second time in less than five minutes. Our heroine ladies and gentlemen!
1:25:00 - For the love of all that good and righteous will this movie just end? Miranda's making the fatal mistake every Bond villain makes by monologueing when she should be just killing Katrina. Next she'll be saying "No Miss VanTassle I expect you to die!"
1:26:50 - So Miranda is chewing the hell out of this scenery (and still looking good doing it...weather balloons and what have you...) but this explanation is taking far too long.
1:27:27 - Turns out the person Miranda was having freaky sex with was actually a real life sex fiend. Rev. Jeffery "I was hacked!" Jones was the one doing the yuck yuck slap n' tickle with her in the woods. I am grossed out on so many levels right now. On the plus side, it seems to have cured my Miranda Richardson fixation for a while.
1:28:27 - Miranda's sister was the witch crone, who Miranda killed by beheading. (Head Count 12) Oh and I forgot to mention she also killed the servant girl, whose body was used as her decoy (Head Count: 13).
1:28:53 - No Miranda is making head puns. That's my shtick. I'm back in love with her.
1:33:00 - Horsemen chases Crane. Katrina and Masbeth into the windmill. Windmill go boom. I've so beyond not caring by this point. This movie should have taken it's bow with Dumbledore being the baddie. No amount of nice weather is worth the extra half hour that was tacked on here.
1:34:32 - Miranda is getting into Mr. Freeze territory with these hammy one liners.
1:36:02 - The transition from when Horseman puts his head on from skull to muscle to veins was pretty well done. Coming from an era in which the seams of early CGI effects become more glaring with each passing year. that's quite an achievement for a 15 year old flick. Kudos effects team.
-There a really quick moment where his eyes and tongue big out like a cartoon character that got stepped on by an elephant. That was pretty awesome.
1:39:40 - To quickly recap the final few minutes, Horseman scoops up Miranda and plants a big wet (red) one right on her lips. Considering he's Christopher Walken and he has razor sharp toothfangs you can guess how that goes. Miranda is slightly less attractive to me now. They go back into the tree of blood I'm assuming to live happily ever after in a nice little cottage by the lake. Crane takes Katrina and Masbeth to New York and we finally got to the end.
Overall, this movie held up surprisingly well for me. It seems that this story more than any other, Tim Burton was the perfect choice for a director. There's a very old school cheesy horror feel to it, which works in the film's favour. There are a lot of positives here. There are several very effective scenes, the action is well done and there are some nice suspenseful moments sprinkled throughout. The production design, atmosphere and setting are all top notch as one would expect from a Burton production. The story, although slow to start, actually works pretty well once it kicks into gear.
One of the major criticisms levied at the film on release was the liberties taken with the story. Ichabod Crane is no longer a dweeby school teacher. He is now Crane P.I. and he's solving gruesome murders rather than trying to woo Katrina. I don't really have an attachment to the original, so I would consider this a fun alternate spin on the tale. The story was definitely padded out with the Old Boy Club conspiracy serving mostly just to give the Horseman a higher body count to make him a legitimate threat. The film was originally conceived as a period piece slasher movie, and Burton certainly retained that aspect. In the original, we don't actually see any beheadings because the Horseman only terrorizes Crane and it's never made clear if the Horseman is real.
The movie does have some problems still. The performances are all over the place. While Michael Gambon as Baltus and Michael Gough as Notery Hardenbrook do admirable work here, Depp and Ricci's performances are beyond lifeless. Seeing as the romance was the central plot of the original, it definitely feels like it got put on the back burner here. These are two actors I really like, but they both really take a backseat to the narrative and setting. As much as it pains me to admit, Christina's cleavage was the most noteworthy thing she contributed here. I really tried not to mention the copious amount of top-boob on display, but it became impossible to ignore. With the amount of gruesome gore in this film I guess it shouldn't be surprising that other exploitation elements crept in. For an example of what Christina can do, check out "The Opposite of Sex" or "Black Snake Moan".
Much like Christina, Johnny doesn't do a bad job so much as he is merely ok. He doesn't distract from the film, but doesn't add a lot to it. For a much more fun Depp performance (in a Burton film no less) check out "Ed Wood".
On the other side of the spectrum, Miranda Richarson chews on so much scenery, I was surprised there was any left on film. Not necessarily that it's a bad thing. After all, this is a cheesy homage to cheesy horror movies so having an over the top villain is par for the course. Her monologue got pretty tiresome and sucked all of the energy and momentum out of the final act.
That leads me to the final problem. Even though the movie is only 90 minutes, it seems like 2 hours. It may have been my over tired state, or the cold medication I took about half way through, but the last half hour for some reason just didn't work for me. I guess it felt like one twist too many. Baltus as the Horseman's handler made sense the way it was described by Depp however, just like any Law and Order or CSI episode, it's never the first suspect that turns out to be the killer.
Well, I guess that's all I have to say about this one. I would still give it a recommendation after all these years. It's far from perfect, but the good parts are really good and the bad are not terribly so.
Until next time...how about this weather we're having?
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Reading some of this stuff the next day is like reading over the late nights texts after a weekend bender.