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Dark Shadows: Beautiful but Dull Comedy
Johnny Depp plays Barnabas Collins, the owner of a very successful fishing business and namesake of the town of Collinsport. After incurring the wrath of Angelique (Green), a maid whose love he scorned, he discovers that she’s a witch and finds himself on the receiving end of one of her curses. Driven crazy by unrequited love, Angelique turns Barnabas into a vampire to make him suffer for all eternity. Locking him in a coffin and burying it, he stays there for two centuries until some construction workers stumble across him. Remerging in the 70s, he finds that the family fortunes have been reversed and business is floundering. It isn’t long before he finds out the still obsessed Angelique has taken it upon herself to curse his entire family in retribution for his lack of love.
To get camp right, you really have to commit which, unfortunately, isn’t exactly what this film does. The cast is mostly adequate with the only true standouts being Eva Green and Helena Bonham Carter as a psychologist living with the Collins. Green is fantastically over the top and incredibly funny with her desperate love for Barnabas. The question though is why somebody as electric as her would be obsessed with someone as boring as him. Bonham Carter sadly has quite a small role though to make up for it, she’s outfitted with the best wig in the film. She’s wry and eccentric and generally a blast whenever she shows up.
Barnabas with his ye old English accent, his Gothic clothes and pasty white makeup would be right at home in a number of Depp’s previous collaborations with Tim Burton. Because of this, Barnabas seems stale and familiar. That’s not to say that Depp does a bad job, but it’s gotten to the point where he’s become one with his specific brand of eccentric characters; they’ve become second nature to him and it drains a lot of the novelty and excitement out of the experience.
The music is another issue. The cuts themselves, which include some stone cold classics such as Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Superfly’, make a pretty great mix tape but there’s something off about their use in this film; the onscreen action doesn’t hold its own against the music. On the other hand though, the film is visually gorgeous. The costumes are beautiful and Collinwood, the family mansion, is absolutely stunning whether decked out in 1700s inspired décor or combined with 70s touches such as lava lamps, furry rugs and psychedelic concert posters.
With a cast this stellar and Tim Burton directing, you’d be forgiven for expecting something far more cohesive than this. The film flops about, never finding its rhythm, and is generally a bit of a mess.
It should be pretty clear by now that if you’ve seen one Nicolas Sparks film - Notebook, The Last Song, A Walk to Remember - you’ve seen them all. Continuing in the trend of relentlessly sappy romantic melodramas, The Choice - adapted to the big screen by Bryan Sipe and directed by Ross Katz - will speak to those who are willing to listen. However, those who prefer their movies with a little less cheese might want to rethink their order.
Set in a small idyllic coastal town in North Carolina, the story is centred on Gabby Holland (Palmer); a medical student who has moved away from the chaotic city life for some peace and quiet while studying to become a doctor. Unfortunately, the peace she was looking for is not to be found as she has moved in next door to, Travis Shaw (Walker); a handsome veterinarian, who, along with his on-and-off girlfriend, Monica (Daddario), enjoys throwing loud parties and get-togethers, much to Gabby’s distaste.
At first, the two are at each other’s throats, with Gabby not withholding her obvious exasperation with the hunky neighbour. However, when their significant others - including Gabby’s boyfriend Ryan (Welling) - conveniently disappear from the picture for a few days, it’s not long before the two fall for one another.
Logic, common sense and reality, are nowhere to be found in this idyllic romantic setup, set along a sun-dappled coastline where each sunset is better than the next. For fans of this particular brand of romantic movie, what ‘connection’ the two leads manage to cultivate is satisfying enough. Unfortunately, for those who might be a little bit more grounded and connected to reality, this latest heavy serving of romantic sap just won’t do.
Sticking unremittingly to its formulaic mould, The Choice - boasting all of the worst romantic movie tropes under the sun - is the definition of derivativeness, featuring plenty of hand-holding, eye-gazing and corny romantic exchanges. The leads, although, pretty to look at – this is a Nicolas Sparks movie after all – are just not strong enough to carry the film through; Palmer’s overacting is bothersome at best, while Walker largely serves as the eye-candy of the piece.
All in all, those who enjoy the comfortable predictability that can be found in Nicolas Sparks stories, will definitely find something to like about the author’s eleventh book-to-screen adaptation. It’s everyone else that we’re worried about.
If you’re idea of ‘funny’ is watching Robert De Niro making a complete and utter fool of himself as a filthy and foul-mouthed senior on a ‘life-changing’ journey sexual pursuits, then Dan Mazer’s Dirty Grandpa is a must see. However, if you would rather spare yourself the torture of having the image of the legendary, Oscar-winning actor tarnished for good, then you are advised to look for your dirty laughs elsewhere.
The story is centred on Jason Kelly (Efron); an uptight corporate lawyer who, having given up on his dreams of one day becoming a renowned photographer, is now - rather begrudgingly - working for his controlling lawyer dad, David (Mulroney). When his grandmother dies from cancer, his grandpa Dick (De Niro) - a retired military mechanic whom Jason was really close to as a kid - decides to guilt his grandson into driving him from his home in Atlanta, Georgia down to Florida, so he can honour and fulfil his late spouse’s dying wishes who has asked him to let loose a little.
Only a week away from his essentially arranged marriage to the beautiful but bossy Meredith (Hough), Jason - not wanting to disappoint his recently widowed grandpa - reluctantly agrees. However, he soon discovers that Dick has other reasons for their little road trip, when, after running into a couple of Jason’s friends old from college – including the promiscuous hottie, Lenore (Plaza) – Dick persuades Jason to take a little detour through Daytona Beach; a popular spring break spot for college students, where he can do some serious skirt-chasing and, yes, get laid.
Dirty Grandpa - directed by Borat producer Dan Mazer and first-time screenwriter John Phillips - is neither funny nor smart and watching it unfold on the big-screen is a grating, painful experience. Instead of focusing on offering quality laughs, the film seems more interested in shocking throughout its one-hundred-minute runtime, which include a never-ending stream of racial slurs, genital-based humour and profane-filled one-liners that seem to be on the repeat for most of the movie.
Robert De Niro - in what has proven to be one of his worst roles of his career - is, well, very unlike himself and while some might find his sex-crazed and dirty-mouthed ways novel and, dare we say, entertaining, there will also be many of those who will feel nothing but embarrassment for the seventy-two-year old actor. Efron, meanwhile, is Efron and spends most of the time shirtless.
It’s a rather tiring experience and while its particular brand of toilet-humour has its audience, the sloppiness and the lack of trying in Dirty Grandpa is almost insulting.