Review: Dark Shadows

Dark Shadows
Dark Shadows

Dark Shadows

3 stars

Starring Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Michelle Pfieffer, Helena Bonham Carter and Jackie Earle Haley

I’m not too keen on Tim Burton. He thinks he holds an imaginary copyright on goth, and does any and everything imaginable to beat the same dead horse over and over again. His last good film was Big Fish, his last good film with Johnny Depp was Sleepy Hollow, 13 years (and 4 partnerships) ago. So that’s why I was pleasantly surprised when this one turned out to be quite enjoyable.

I obviously, being 26, wasn’t around when Dark Shadows originally aired, but way back in the early days of SyFy, when it was still Sci-Fi, they rebroadcast it. And being a weird child who was really into vampires, I watched it. Loved it. I was excited by the prospect of the film, featuring a great cast… but ugh… Tim Burton.

But it was a surprisingly fun movie. It has the all the kitsch of the series, and Burton’s Beetlejuice, but no wink and nod. There’s no joke to be in on, no irony to be had. They all play it straight, and make it work. Depp hasn’t done a memorable character since Cpt. Jack Sparrow (well… Rango‘s really good, but we’ll keep this strictly live action). This comes close to his standard of character development, but it’s just not fully there. I was delighted by Pfieffer. I can’t even remember the last film I saw her in… probably when I watched Batman Returns on DVD a few years ago. She was just fantastic.

High marks go to Eva Green as the villainous witch, Angelique, who cursed Depp’s Barnabas Collins to be a vampire and set the whole thing in motion. She’s so beautiful and sinister… femme fatale defined. She was fantastic. And of course the great Chloe Grace Moretz, one of the most dynamic young performers working today.

What ultimately kept the film together was the solid script from Seth Grahame-Smith, marking his feature film debut as a writer. His sense of story is brilliant. He doesn’t dwell too much on back story or drag it out. This should come as no shock, considering he wrote the novels “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” (and he wrote the screenplay for the movie coming out in June) and “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” His work on this has me excited for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

The downfall of the movie is ultimately Tim Burton. His schtick has gone stale, and, stylistically, this is no different from Edward Scissorhands. Burton somehow turns a film with great performances and a fun script into something bland and generic. I’m beginning to wonder if he’s just crossed over into the realm of sad, self-parody.

It’s a surprisingly enjoyable film, and if you like Burton retreading his old worn out style, then you’ll love this film. I’d just like it if he would make another film like Big Fish… as in step out of the comfort zone and actually try.

Reviews: Safe, The Five-Year Engagement, The Raven



2 stars

Starring Jason Statham, Catherine Chan, Robert John Burke & Anson Mount

One thing I like about Statham is that he has a type of film. He’s found a genre he likes, and he sticks with it- loner action hero. He does it quite well, and I tend to like his films. That’s not to say they’re generally good… but I enjoy them. Safe has some solid action, but is ultimately hindered by a ridiculous plot and sloppy writing.

There was one line in particular that was uttered by two different characters in two different scenes. The characters had no contact during their respective scenes. So in addition to being a well-worn plot, the writers are recycling their own dialogue within their own movie. That was one of the more cringe worthy aspects of the film.

Otherwise, they made the film way more complicated than it really had to be, with plot points being introduced way too late in the game to make them viable to the arc. It’s similar to the problems with The Raid. They hit the third act when they realize they need to a way to tie it all together, and they end up doing so in the laziest way possible.

But credit where credit is due, Statham does a considerable amount of actual acting in this role, playing a broken, world beaten man who does what he has to do out of some sense of redemption. And of course the action is wildly entertaining, it’s what he does best. I just wish he’d pick better vehicles to showcase it. I can’t wait for his return in The Expendables 2. If you absolutely have to see it, I say wait for DVD/Netflix.

The Five-Year Engagement
Jason Segel and Emily Blunt in The Five-Year Engagement

The Five-Year Engagement

3.5 Stars

Starring Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt, Alison Brie

The comedy team of Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller is one of the more productive and hilarious in recent years.  They kicked it off 4 years ago by working on Forgetting Sarah Marshall together, Stoller directed, Segel wrote and starred. They carried that success into getting the prestigious gig of writing  The Muppets last year (which Stoller also directed, and Segel also starred in). Fast forward to this year, and we get their latest offering, which despite a strong cast and solid premise, just isn’t as strong as their previous efforts.

I can’t not like Segel. He’s a very funny guy, and so disarming with it. He’s just a nice guy you’d love to hang out with. Everything he’s in, from How I Met Your Mother to the movies mentioned, he’s just so gosh darn likable. Add into the mix the beautiful and equally charming Emily Blunt, who is always a delight, with Parks & Recreation‘s Chris Pratt and Community‘s Alison Brie, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for comedy gold. But it just goes on too long.

I have no problem with long movies. Some of my favourite movies push the three-hour mark. This one was slightly over 2, and that’s not terrible for a comedy… if they can keep the audience’s interest. Unfortunately the film drags way too much and can’t overcome that fact.

It’s a standard romantic comedy, and you can guess the end of the film with the trailer, but it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey, and they take the long way to get there. During the parts where it drags, there’s also a drought of laughs, which is where I would get lost. It’s right around the middle of the 2nd act, and the 3rd act is slow going. If they would just trim the fat, this would be perfect.

If you’re looking for a good date night movie, this is it, just be warned that it gets a little tedious in the middle.

The Raven
The Raven

The Raven

3 stars

Starring John Cusack, Alice Eve, Luke Evans, Brendan Gleeson

Much like last year’s Anonymous did with Shakespeare, The Raven looks to cast a new light on a famous writer, this time we head to the 19th century and take a look at Edgar Allan Poe. And much like last year’s Anonymous, it’s actually a really good film if you know absolutely nothing about the writer or the times. Having written term papers in college on both men, my enjoyment was a little marred.

This is a sort of departure for Cusack, as he’s not known for doing period piece. I kind of like him as Poe. He really played it straight, with some classic Cusack neuroses thrown in, which was a good choice. I was scared they were going to go over the top gruesome with him, and play him his as more of a caricature than as a man, and I appreciate the restraint.

As someone who didn’t particularly care for V For Vendetta (the message got lost/forgotten), I was quite impressed with director James McTeigue’s vision. Much like Cusack, he played it straight, and just made a really solid thriller. This is the kind of film that if Tim Burton got his hands on it, it would have been a schlocky macabre mess. But McTeigue kept the focus on the cat & mouse between Poe and his adversary (don’t want to spoil it for anyone) and plays out in an almost Holmesian way.

A really solid gothic thriller about the master of horror. It’s not worth full price, see a matinee or a 2nd run theatre.

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