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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.
Wally Pfister’s directorial debut – a slow and relatively complicated take on the world of artificial intelligence – falls short of the type of thrill needed to push Transcendence into the major leagues of sci-fi.
Written by a fellow first-timer, Jack Peglan, Transcendence lends its focus to Will Caster (Depp); a prominent leader of the artificial intelligence research who, along with wife Evelyn (Hall) and fellow researcher Max (Bettany), hopes that computers will one day be able to think for themselves and, inevitably, replace humans and the ill-intentioned ways of mankind.
However, Will’s radical way of thinking soon makes him a target for an underground anti-tech terrorist group led by Bree (Mara), who decide to take out the A.I pioneer by shooting him with a radioactive bullet, leaving him to die a slow and a painful death.
Not prepared to let go of her husband just yet, Evelyn reaches out to Max and manages to convince him that the only way they can keep Will and his work alive is to download his brain – and consciousness – into the system, before his body completely deteriorates.
The experiment is a success, but the new computerised version of Will is not the same man they all once knew, but a cold mechanical shell obsessed with accumulating both knowledge and power. With the help of a renowned computer scientist, Joseph Tagger (Freeman,) and FBI agent Buchanan (Murphy), Max begins to look for ways to put an end to Will, while Evelyn, desperate to hold on to the man she once loved, is hesitant to let go.
Pfister, a long-time Chris Nolan collaborator who served as cinematographer for most of his productions, definitely knows how to work the camera and manages to paint Transcendence with a crisp, pallid polish. Everything from the special effects to the choice of framing looks absolutely superb. However, its steely façade doesn’t make up for the shallowness of the story, which goes from confusing to downright ridiculous pretty early on.
In terms of the performances, the cast struggles with their underwritten roles and, consequently, feel utterly disengaged from the story altogether. Showing off a more subdued side, Depp is relatively passive and indifferent in his performance of a man who quickly loses sight of what’s right and wrong as he begins living in his own creation. Freeman and the rest of the supporting cast are underused, while Hall – as Depp’s despairing onscreen wife – is left with little to build with on the emotional side of the story.
In the end, Transcendence flatters to deceive; from the lack of onscreen chemistry and character development to the absurdity which the story quickly escalates to, this latest wannabe sci-fi blockbuster – although pretty to look at – is just a little too dull to stand with the big boys – so to speak.
Tinker Bell, who made her first appearance in 1953’s animated picture Peter Pan, returns in the fifth installation of her popular Tinker Bell franchise, The Pirate Fairy; an infectious and thoroughly charming story of friendship and sisterhood.
Directed by Peggy Holmes, The Pirate Fairy follows the adventures of Tinker Bell – a.k.a Tink – (voiced by Whitman) and her five fairy friends; the Garden Fairy, Rosetta (Hilty), water fairy, Silvermist (Liu), light fairy, Iridessa (Raven-Seymone), wind fairy, Vidia (Adlon) and finally, animal fairy, Fawn (Bartys).
The girls live in Pixie Hollow; a magical fairy community where everyone has been given a duty based on the talent revealed to them at birth. Life is seemingly peaceful for the five friends but trouble soon comes knocking when Zarina (Hendricks), the new fairy in charge of the production of fairy dust, decides to perform a forbidden experiment with the rare Blue Dixie Dust – an important ingredient used to make the fairy’s gold-blue dust powder – resulting in a near-catastrophe at the lab.
Relieved of her position as the Dust Keeper, Zarina flees Pixie Hollow, only to return a year later for the Dixie Dust. It’s now up to Tink and her friends to pursue Zarina, who they soon learn has become the captain of a pirate ship, and convince her to return to where she truly belongs; in Pixie Hollow. However, Zarina’s new friend, James (Hiddleston), a pretend-cabin boy has other plans for the fairies and the fate of Pixie Hollow altogether.
Serving as a prequel to Peter Pan’s 2002’s Return to Never Land, The Pirate Fairy will please fans of the franchise, who will be happy to see their favourite fairy – and her devoted group of followers – return with their peace-loving ways. It’s a simple story with just enough colour and vibrancy to keep things moving along. Although its animations and overall technical quality is nowhere near the likes of Pixar productions, for example, the story is strong enough to compensate for its drawbacks.
Whitman, who has been with the franchise since the beginning, returns as Tinker Bell and once again shines as the determined and lovable leader of the fairies. However, it’s Hendricks – popular for her role as Joan Harris of the TV’s Mad Men – who steals the show as the feisty and the often misunderstood Zarina who manages to get herself mixed up with the wrong crowd.
Similarly, Hiddleston – better known for his portrayal of Thor’s evil brother, Loki – is superb and deliciously devious as cabin boy James whose destiny as Captain Hook is yet to be fulfilled.
Ultimately, The Pirate Fairy is a story about friendship and understanding. It may not be as big or majestic as Disney’s last outing, Frozen, but it’s still engaging enough to stand on its own feet.