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(By Gerry Wang)

(Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Christopher Walken; directed by Tim Burton)
by Gerry Wang

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    I've been up some 36 hours doing a paper and it's strange how all of a sudden I've become compelled to spend some time writing backlogged reviews before I collapse in bed. Perhaps it's because I face the prospect of finals week and this is a way to manifest my procrastination. Who knows. Just hope you guys read it and like it, and maybe gimme some feedback.

    One of my favorite pastimes is arguing with someone else over a topic worth debating about. Such as abortion or Democrats vs. Republicans, or What's the Best Movie of All Time. I ain't one of those stubborn bastards. I'll take time to consider your opinion before I organize my rebuttal. So please, go ahead and use the messageboard or e-mail to initiate a round of trash-talking/debate regarding any of my reviews, past, present, or future.

    With that in mind, here's my take on SLEEPY HOLLOW:

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    I actually saw SLEEPY HOLLOW the first weekend it was out. It came out the same weekend as THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, and fuck me I was torn between which movie to watch. On one hand there's Bond and Denise Richards' breasts (maybe that takes two hands), and on the other there's a spooky-looking American folktale done by master director Tim Burton. I chose SLEEPY HOLLOW, and I'm sure glad I did. I will catch Bond on ASF instead.

    SLEEPY HOLLOW is one of the most visually beautiful movies of the year, and its images and atmosphere more than make up for its convoluted plot and ridiculous whodunit ending. Imagine late 18th Century upstate New York during autumn/winter. Imagine the gnarled trees, the foggy mist permeating the night. Imagine the villages w/ rustic looking houses and wooden buildings. Imagine churches, windmills, horse carriages. SLEEPY HOLLOW beautifully captures the past and this is solely thanks to Tim Burton.

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    I've always been a fan of Tim Burton. He makes visually unforgettable movies, but they never really endear themselves to your heart. EDWARD SCISSORHANDS was a kooky fairy tale that I enjoyed, but found too weird for my tastes. Likewise w/ BEETLEJUICE, which just plained creeped me out. These movies have a unique sense of mood and surrealism, like it's in a dream consciousness.

    SLEEPY HOLLOW has this same feel. It literally looks like it was lifted off a painting from the Hudson River school of art. Wasn't Winslow Homer or Winslow Oliver or something like that a painter from there? I don't remember. Those of you taking US History should know. But I really felt like I was in antique New York at the turn of the 19th Century.

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    If only Tim Burton would do more folktales or other folk mythology or fairy tales. Man, anything by the Brother Grimm as interpreted by Tim Burton would whup major ass. Imagine the story of Hansel and Gretel. Think of how creepy that would be. How claustrophobic. How sick and twisted Tim Burton would make it, yet strangely sentimental and gentle-hearted. He's perfect for fairy tales. Give him Rumpelstilskin. Give him the Princess who makes out w/ a frog. Give him the troll under the bridge. Tim Burton will make them masterpieces.

    I'm sure you're all familiar w/ the tale of the Headless Horseman. Washington Irving's mythical villain has entered American culture and is here to stay. To me, the Headless Horseman is the best American folklore villain. Freddy Krueger is a close 2nd. When the Headless Horseman makes his appearances in SLEEPY HOLLOW, the pulse of the movie instantly quickens. There's such a huge sense of overwhelming evil in the Headless Horseman's presence. And Tim Burton milks this by giving his Horseman plenty of decapitations to perform.

    If you get squeamish at watching heads get lopped off, then this movie ain't for you. I counted at least 10-12 beheadings. But I'm sure you guys are all desensitized to this kind of violence. Hell, Mortal Kombat is more graphic than anything in this movie. Each decapitation is a work of art, because it's being done by a badass Headless Horseman, who deftly wields a sword just like Darth Maul. Interestingly, it was Ray Park who choreographed and performed the swordplay in SLEEPY HOLLOW. Ray Park is a god.

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    SLEEPY HOLLOW follows Ichabod Crane, a dweeby, nerdy constable from New York. He champions thought and reason and science, like most Enlightened individuals. One day he's summoned to the town of Sleepy Hollow in upstate New York to investigate the recent beheading murders of members of Sleepy Hollow's prominent family. Ichabod thinks there's a mortal behind this, and that the Headless Horseman is nothing but a legendary figure. Of course, Ichabod will inevitably change his mind once he comes face to face w/ the sheer power and aura of the Horseman. Eventually Ichabod has to figure out a way to stop this Headless Horseman, before he takes the heads of everyone in Sleepy Hollow.

    Johnny Depp does a great job at portraying Ichabod Crane as a quirkly, uptight reluctant hero. He stutters and stammers, and faints when he's scared. It was hilarious. Depp has a great scene in bed after he first encounters the Horseman. He basically is a whimpery little loser. It was so funny, but you can't help but root for him.

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    Christina Ricci as Katrina Van Tassel was only mediocre. I didn't really buy her acting. She seemed like she barely rehearsed her lines or something. But still, she has quite a screen presence for some reason. I guess it's just the way she lights up each frame w/ her nice rack. And the 18th century bodice certainly made them look ever so sumptuous. In fact, everyone had nice racks in SLEEPY HOLLOW, especially Lisa Marie as Ichabod's dead mother. Those dresses will be back in fashion one day, and I for one can't wait. Laetitia Casta......... mmmmmm....

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    So you see, SLEEPY HOLLOW had all the fixings for being The Great Tim Burton movie. It had cleavage, violence, and an endearing protagonist. The colors and cinematography of SLEEPY HOLLOW are unsurpassed in any of Tim Burton's movies. But those movies will probably be more everlasting because they didn't have to deal w/ the convoluted plot and come-out-of-left-field ending that ultimately makes SLEEPY HOLLOW just a great movie, and not excellent to the point of being Oscar-worthy.

    I won't give away the ending, but I'll just tell you how the movie's basically a quest to find out which mortal is controlling the horseman, and for what reason. I find that kinda superfluous. Why does the Horseman need a reason to chop people's head off? Doesn't the fact that someone chopped his off give him enough modus operandi--revenge? And how the hell could a mortal control the Horseman? He's a spawn of hell. You'd need to be some kinda black sorceror to do that. There weren't no black mages in SLEEPY HOLLOW.

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    But besides the ending, SLEEPY HOLLOW does offer first-rate entertainment, and is definitely more worth your money than THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH or END OF DAYS, both of which I haven't seen but have been critically panned. Depp's performance and Tim Burton's lush direction and stage-setting will be worth admission. And don't forget the racks.

Grade: B+
Babe-o-meter: B+ (Both Christina Ricci and Lisa Marie are very doable. But I don't really like Christina as a blond for some reason. Maybe it's because I'm too used to her being brunette).