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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.
Arriving fourteen years after the last Jurassic Park entry, the fourth film in the twenty-two-year old franchise is finally here with Trevorrow’s Jurassic World; a thrilling, but flawed, addition to the series that never really recapture the magic of the original, but still manages to excite and serve as a fitting summer blockbuster.
Picking up twenty-two years after the events of Jurassic Park, the story is centred in and around the dinosaur amusement park on Isla Nublar, belonging to billionaire Simon Masrani (Khan), who has taken the idea from the late John Hammond and turned it into a multi-million dollar reality. Responsible for managing the park’s security is rigid operation manager, Claire (Howard), while her impressively knowledgeable colleague – and love interest - Owen (Pratt) is in charge of training the park’s dinosaurs.
As one might expect when playing god, things quickly go wrong when the genetically engineered Indominus Rex – the park’s latest attraction – escapes from its enclosure leaving Simon and his team of soldiers – led by Vic (D’Onofrio) – to fight of the giant monster.
Having spent over a decade in development limbo, there’s a certain amount of satisfaction to be found in the realisation of what, at times, like a pipedream for diehard fans. Though reception has been mixed, Jurassic World proves to be a thrillingly visualised world. The park and all of its bells and whistles – including a petting zoo and a triceratops ride – are designed with careful detailing and the film succeeds in communicating a sense of awe and wonder.
However, in the harsh light of day, the film just doesn’t have the same impact, when considering the fact that the plot isn’t all that fresh – in fact, the skeleton of the story is the same – scientists play god, things go wrong, step forward hero. Granted, the dinosaurs being substantially larger and smarter adds a grandeur to proceedings, their human counterparts aren’t so lucky.
Performances by both Pratt – channelling his inner Indiana Jones – and Howard are solid, however, most of the characters aren’t explored or fleshed out enough to make you care about the outcome, leaving the mass destruction the hub of enjoyment – and it’s simply not enough.
Considered by some quarters to be Spielberg’s biggest contribution to Hollywood, Jurassic Park has a timeless quality about it; a quality that stacks the odds against a successful sequel even more so. This is a top popcorn movie, so to speak, but just lacks the sheer magnitude in ingenuity of the original. But then again, it has broken several box office records.
Melissa McCarthy can rightly be thought of as a guaranteed box office draw, but even as she continues to climb the Hollywood comedy ladder, there has been more misuse of her comedic talents than fans would care to admit. But, boasting an interesting cast, Paul Feig’s latest action-comedy flick, Spy, puts McCarthy centre-stage and though there’s nothing groundbreaking or even particularly fresh here, there’s a decent amount of humour and brainless fun to be found in its surprisingly effective R-rated offerings.
Though this is the third collaboration between McCarthy and Feig – see comedy hit, Bridesmaids, and last year’s not-so-hot, The Heat – Spy sees the bubbly and versatile actress take a lead role under the writer-director for the first time as Susan Cooper; a sharp and an able CIA analyst who spends most of her day sitting behind computer screens, dreaming of one day going into the field. Essentially, she is the eyes and ears for one of the agency’s best field agents, Bradley Fine (Law), who, unfortunately, is totally unaware of her affections towards him.
Things soon go awry when Fine’s latest mission in Varna, Bulgaria goes bust, leaving the identities of the CIA’s top agents compromised. Seizing the opportunity to show what she’s made of, Susan manages to convince her boss (the terribly underused Allison Janney) to let her go undercover and track down Rayna Boyanov (Byrne); the daughter of a deceased arms dealer who has managed to get a hold of a nuclear device and is the only person on the planet who knows where her father might have hidden it.
Positioning itself as a bit of James-Bond spoof, Spy is engagingly humorous and, at times, brutal in a cartoonish way. It doesn’t take itself seriously and there’s a good dose of just plain silliness and far-fetched ideas thrown into the mix. But it’s still far from perfect; some of the jokes miss the mark – McCarthy’s ‘bodyguard-talk’ being the exception – while the action set-pieces and the visuals aren’t as refined as that of, say, Kingsman: The Secret Service, for example – another recent spy-comedy.
Nevertheless, McCarthy is the heart and soul of the party and as a woman who is constantly judged by her appearance, she manages to deliver a surprisingly heartfelt performance, all the while keeping her comedy acting-chops intact. Meanwhile, Byrne – equipped with a deadpan expression and extravagant hairdos – is equally entertaining and her character’s femme-fatale persona is cleverly lampooned. Law has proven he can adapt and deliver in comedies and does so as a handsome and vain operative, while Statham delivers the role of a wired field agent in surprisingly amusing fashion.
Spy is another fine collaboration between Feig and his go-to-girl, McCarthy; witty at times, brainless at others, not everything seems to gel, but if you’re in the mood for a mindless globe-trotting adventure, then Spy ticks all the boxes for an easy-breezy watch.