Sign in using your account with
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.
Emerging from a lesser-known comic-book line, James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy – Marvel’s tenth, and possibly quirkiest, offering – proves to be a risk well taken.
Set entirely in the galactic immensity of outer space, Guardians of the Galaxy follows the story of Peter Quill (Pratt); a twenty-six-year-old Earthling who was abducted as a young boy and raised by The Ravegers – an alien gang of thieves led by the notorious, Yondu (Rooker).
Far away from home, Peter – a.k.a Star Lord – now roams the cosmos and soon comes across a special orb; a silver infinity stone that holds an incredible amount of power. Unfortunately, he’s not the only interested party and he is soon confronted by Korath (Hounsou); the right-hand man of one of the most villainous terrorists in the galaxy, Ronan (Pace), who wants to use the orb to overthrow a rival civilization run by Nova Prime (Close).
Intrigued by the high interest in his new discovery, Peter turns his back on Yondu, who sends assassin, Gamora (Saldana), to retrieve the orb.
He also soon attracts the attention of bounty hunters, Rocket (voiced by Cooper) – a sly raccoon warrior – and his best pal, talking tree-like human, Groot (voiced by Diesel).
After causing a public disturbance, Peter and his pursuers are soon put in prison and form a temporary bond, along with muscular inmate, Draz (Bautista), in order to break out and prevent the precious stone from falling into the wrong hands.
Written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, Guardians of the Galaxy is refreshingly off-beat, steadfast and full of character. Visually, Gunn paints his intergalactic backdrop with plenty of colour, however some of the CGI tends to feel a little overcooked and the action-scenes – although pretty entertaining– feel a little unrefined.
Pratt – whose character and performance has already drawn comparisons to Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones – proves to be a solid and extremely likable lead, while Saldana uses her trademark femme fatale penchant to great use . However, it’s Cooper as the chatty and cheeky raccoon, Rocket, and Diesel as the human-tree, Groot, that steal the show, adding a whimsy rarely seen in modern comic-book film adaptations.
Without household comic-book names to inject a bit of weight into proceedings, this is a film that could have found itself in the annals of failed comic-book adaptations, alongside Marvel flops such as Daredevil, Elektra and Ghost Rider.
But, armed with a funky 70’s soundtrack, likable characters, a witty temperament and thrilling action, Guardians of the Galaxy has arrived at the perfect time for Marvel, who – despite huge box office earnings with Captain America, The Avengers et al – were in dire need of a fresh canvas.
Despite the fact that so few sequels have ever topped, or even matched, the original, How to Train Your Dragon 2 – the sequel to the 2010 hit and the middle chapter of the three-part trilogy – proves otherwise.
Written and directed by Dean DeBlois, the story is set five years after the events of the first film; the Vikings of Berk are now sharing their skies with their winged-friends and Hiccup (Baruchel) has patched things up with father, Berk’s powerful leader, Stoic (Butler).
Now that Red Death has been defeated, the island is relatively peaceful, but Hiccup – now a fully grown man – is about to face a new set of challenges as his father prepares to pass the torch down to his only heir. However, Hiccup prefers to spend most of his time exploring the uncharted lands beyond the island with his now-girlfriend, Astrid (Ferrera), and his pet-dragon, Toothless, a.k.a Night Fury.
Soon, they come across Eret (Harrington); a dragon thief looking to poach anything he can get his hands on to sell to Drago (Honsou) – a ruthless figure looking to build an army of dragons and assume power over the entire kingdom. After successfully escaping Eret, they end up finding a dragon sanctuary controlled by Valka (Blanchett); a mysterious woman who holds a deep understanding of dragons and the only person who might be able to help Hiccup – and the Vikings of Berk – fight off Drago’s rising threat.
In order to make a worthy sequel, one must first make sure that the story is worth revisiting; the first movie was a big hit so it was only natural that a sequel would follow – one of the basic rules of Hollywood. Moving the story into a new direction and building on its already established premise is the next key to its success.
The setup is much bigger this time and the well thought-out narrative ends up serving as a coming-of-age story – as opposed to an underdog tale of a boy and his pet-dragon – which now follows a young man who is forced to leave the naivety of his adolescence behind and move into the troubling waters of manhood. There are a lot more dragons to play with too and the skies over Berk are livelier and feistier than ever; the animation is refined and engaging and there is never a dull moment.
Baruchel is once again loveable as the hesitant hero and as his tenacious father, Butler – still sporting a strong Scottish accent – is as efficient as ever. However, it’s the addition of Blanchett that adds weight to a story that not only entertains, but also offers a few life lessons on the importance of family, integrity and courage.