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"Sleepy Hollow"

Directed by Tim Burton.
Written by Andrew Kevin Walker. 
Starring Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson and Michael Gambon.
Release Year:  1999
Review Date:  11/23/99 

Warning:  the following e-mail contains adult language, violence, brief, "Gratuitous"-like nudity and adult themes.


Yep, you thought you had seen enough this summer, but alas, I'm giving you more!

Thanks to Dave "Laid Back" Lee for supplying the name of the new reviews.  Of course, since he was the only person who actually sent suggestions, I'm glad he came up with some interesting ideas!  The list has swollen to over 130 members, and I have been asked more than a couple of times why the hell I even do this.  Well, in all honesty, the IPO has to be filed, but I will be searching around over the next couple of months to see if I can get the reviews published on a website or hard-copy editorial.  Course, if I can't use the rough language...

Feedback welcome on both the name of the reviews...and the nicknames, which get harder and harder each year.  Since many of you will have complaints about your name, please let me know if you want it changed!!  (Oh, and if you want off the list, just send me a note saying that I can go off and die somewhere.  Appreciate it.)

The saying goes that you should do one thing, and do it well.  And, since I go to the movies almost as much as I go to my job, going to see movies is what I do well and review them I will up to the Oscars early next year.  With that said, I decided to write up the movie I saw Sunday night, as well as two movies that I saw two weeks ago while in the quaint little town of Fountain Inn, SC, home of Beth "Boy or a Girl?" Phillips and her husband, Blanton "Packrat" Phillips.

Tim Burton has made a lot of great movies, and almost all of them fall into two categories:  Michael Keaton movies ("Batman", "Batman Returns", "Beetlejuice") and Johnny Depp movies ("Edward Scissorhands", "Ed Wood").  Add one more to Johnny's list, a different take on the Washington Irving tale of the Headless Horseman.  Now, when I saw this preview, I got the feeling that this was going to have a little more action than some of Burton's other movies, and damn, was I right about that.  The tagline on this movie is "Heads Will Roll", and the studio wasn't lying when they said that.  This movie now may have moved into the decapitation hall of fame, joining other contenders such as "Predator 2", "Braveheart", and "The 13th Warrior."  Regardless, let's make sure we're clear from the outset:  this movie is bloody as shit.  Even in the scenes that don't include heads getting lopped off, Depp and other characters are covered in blood in any number of different situations throughout the 100-minute movie.

Public service announcement:  if you, or someone you know, has young children and they're heading out to see "Sleepy Hollow", GET A FUCKING BABYSITTER BEFORE GOING TO SEE THIS MOVIE.  I'm so sick of seeing small children in R-rated features, it is now starting to get to me.  I'm sick of walking out of a movie theatre and seeing Mommy explain to little Bobby why this murderous horseman is double-fisting a broadsword and a battle axe, chopping the opposition into pieces!  They rate these movies for a reason; why do parents keep taking kids in?

Anyway, I thought this movie was amazing.  The visuals have to be seen to be believed:  the horseman really is frightening, and there is a scene where he invades one of the townspeople's homes and slaughters everybody that I'm still replaying in my head.  The town, the Western Woods, and all of the costumes for the period seem perfect, and nobody does dark better than Burton.  There is a sizable amount of graphic violence, but it is done stylishly and with a DTS/Digital Dolby-equipped theater, the sound accompaniment is unbelievable (Danny Elfman's score doesn't hurt, either).

The way that Burton approaches the story--that of a murder-mystery with a forensics expert (Depp, as Ichabod Crane) attempting to figure out whodunit--was interesting to me even if it didn't make perfect sense.  Crane arrives in Sleepy Hollow with not much to work with:  three of the town's citizens have been found decapitated with their heads...missing, and the town asks Depp to use his scientific methods of reasoning to figure out who the murderer is.  The list of possible killers gets pretty long after it is figured out that the actual killer, a headless horseman, is being controlled by the owner of the dead horseman's skull.  It sometimes seemed like Depp wanted to play the character as a weakling, but he doesn't seem nearly scared enough when the horseman is, say, 10 feet in front of him.  He covers the gamut in terms of emotions during this movie, but many times when he was asked to be scared, Depp's crane simply faints for comic effect.  It didn't always work for me.

But, the complaints are minor beyond that--some cheesy lines (the "bewitched" line comes to mind between Christina Ricci and Depp) and Casper Van Dien, playing Depp's rival in the early going as the boyfriend of Ricci's character:  after "Starship Troopers", I thought this guy had a future.  I was dead wrong!  If you're looking for a good horror/action-adventure, this one fits the bill.

Rating:  $7.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09