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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.
There are few actors that commit to their roles as much as Benecio Del Toro, no matter how small; the Puerto Rican actor is approaching his fiftieth birthday, but only seem to be getting better with age, as he demonstrates quite spectacularly at times as one of the most infamous drug-lords of the past century in Escobar: Paradise Lost.
While the title would suggest this is a film documenting the remarkable life of Escobar, it’s not; in fact, he’s almost plays an antagonist in the film – and that’s the movie’s biggest problem. While it never pretends to be an Escobar biography, Del Toro is simply more interesting than the main narrative, which switches from romance, to thriller, to gun-toting action in its 120 minute running time.
Hunger Games’ Josh Hutcherson is technically the lead and the young actor takes on the role of a Canadian thrust into Escobar’s world after he falls for the Colombian kingpin’s niece, played by little-known actress, Claudia Traisac.
While Hutcherson occasionally injects the character of Nick with the right kind of youthful naivety, he cowers in the presence of Del Toro’s portrayal of Escobar, relegating the character to nothing more than a bit-part player – both in Escobar’s world of crime and in the context of the film. It disrupts the flow of the film somewhat; while Hutcherson and Traisac’s on-screen romance takes centre-stage in the first third of the film, by the time Escobar is injected into proceedings, Del Toro’s sheer magnetism leaves little room for you to maintain interest, let alone root for, Hutcherson’s character.
As the directorial debut of Andrea Di Stefano, this is a solid piece of work from the Italian director – but at the same time, there’s a lingering sense that suggests that this project could have been so much more if the eponymous character was also the main one – such is Del Toro’s charisma and Escobar’s endlessly remarkable life story.
Shot entirely in Panama, everything looks as it should be and it further contributes to the aesthetic domain of Escobar, where Nick, rightly, stands out like a sore thumb. But by the end of the film, one can’t help but wonder what Di Stefano and Del Toro could have achieved with an adjusted script.
Like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler before her, Amy Schumer is the in comedienne in Hollywood right now and her first major role couldn’t have come under the conductorship of a better person; Judd Apatow. The man who had a hand in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad and Anchorman is comedy royalty in Hollywood and, as a director, has a knack for bringing out the best in his actors with his very character-driven comedies and does exactly that with Schumer, giving her a perfect platform to introduce herself to the world.
There isn’t exactly much that you could call innovative with the plot of Trainwreck and so all of its enjoyment is owed to the actors themselves. The story follows Schumer’s character, also named Amy, and her toil and trouble in the game of love. Barely functioning as an active member of society, Amy drinks to get drunk, smokes to get high and jumps in bed with strange men to forget – all that despite being in a relationship with a gym-rat ably played by WWE wrestler and occasional actor, John Cena.
Through her work with a magazine, she comes to meet a sports doctor, Aaron Conners (Hader), and end up falling for each other, with the only potential obstacle standing in the way of a future together being Amy’s fear of commitment.
Again, there’s not a lot about the plot that will blow you away; two lovers-to-be come to fall for each other in unlikely circumstances, an event brings to light a problem with one or more of them which builds a barrier between them, before one of them has the courage to make a compromise and they live happily ever after. It’s the basic template that all romantically infused films are based on and there’s no getting away from it, especially when thrown in a hotpot with comedy.
But it’s Schumer and her supporting cast – as well as that Judd Apatow touch – that keep the viewer engaged in what is otherwise a pedestrian story. The humour is sharp and witty, but, most importantly, the characters are very relatable, with the script not falling back on clichés. The viewer isn’t expected to see the characters through rose-tinted shades; it doesn’t boil down people to good or bad; they’re just human.
More important than all that, however, is that Trainwreck is funny, ridiculous, but at times endearing – a perfect recipe for a rom-com.