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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.
With films like Hunger Games, Divergent and Twilight finding unbridled box office success, adult feature film adaptations have, to some extent begun, to reach saturation and the latest proves exactly that.
The Maze Runner builds on a genuinely intriguing dystopian setting that fails to offer anything new to the genre as a film, despites the interesting premise of James Dashner’s 2009 book.
Directed by first-time filmmaker, Wes Ball, the story follows Thomas (O’Brien); a young man who finds himself waking up with amnesia and surrounded by an army of equally curious young men. He soon learns that he has woken up in the Glade; a sprawling savannah that is towered off by high – and maze-like – concrete walls.
Just like Thomas, the boys, led by Alby (Ameen) – who has been stuck in the Glade for the past three years – are unable to recall who they are and how they got there. The increasing number of new arrivals eventually led the confused boys to build a functioning mini-society of sorts, that depends on ‘runners’ – the fittest, fastest and most agile of the group – to race into the maze each day and look for a way out. The task is made all the more daunting by the fact that the gates that guard the maze close buy sundown and no one dares imagine what could happen to anyone who gets stuck there with the large monsters known as Grievers who patrol the maze at night.
Thomas initially has a hard time believing the myth, but realises the severity of the situation when one of the boys’ life is put into danger. The group is soon thrown into complete chaos when the first girl to arrive at the Glade, Teresa (Scodelario), shows up with a threatening message, making the boys realise that they can no longer wait for a miracle but, that they themselves must find a way to escape – and fast.
The Maze Runner marks the first and the opening chapter of a planned three-part series that once again sees a group of teenagers fighting for their lives against a mysterious and much superior force. To its credit, though, the story is fairly engaging, as the plot builds on a similar premise to William Golding’s 1954 novel, Lord of the Flies.
The film succeeds in projecting a deliciously claustrophobic tone and the characters are likeable, while even the action is pretty solid throughout.
However, the film plays out like an intro to the series and those who haven’t read the book might feel a little cheated by the fact that the character of Thomas is never really explored and short-changed by the abrupt - and calculated - finale.
Overall, The Maze Runner is a decent, if unremarkable, first chapter to the series and now the pressure is really on for the second.
Hollywood funny-man Vince Vaughn finds himself stepping into another underachieving man-child role in the latest comedy offering from director Ken Scott, Delivery Man. Typecasting aside, this remake – of Scott’s own French-Canadian indie-hit, Starbuck (2011) – manages to retain most of the original’s quirky charm.
David Wozniak (Vaughn) is a charming yet incredibly irresponsible truck-driver who delivers meat for a living. Working alongside his boss and father, Mikolaj (Blumenfeld), and his two, slightly more dependable brothers, Victor (Delaney) and Alesky (Moynihan), David has always been labelled as the black sheep of the family.
Well known for his tendency of taking stupid business risks, David is not only in hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt to a group of thugs, but he has also just found out that his cop girlfriend, Emma (Smulders), is pregnant with their first child.
David is not given much time to adjust to his newest life-changing circumstances; he soon discovers that he is father to over five hundred children. You see, years ago, David was a regular donator at various sperm banks in exchange for cash and the consequences of his actions have come back to haunt him.
Out of his five hundred and thirty three children, one hundred and forty two have filed a law-suit find their prolific father. Naturally, David ignores the legal advice of keeping a low profile, and soon jeopardizes the legal proceedings by going undercover to meet his biological off springs.
Being his usual fast-talking, humorous self, Vaughn doesn’t find himself venturing out of his comfort zone in Delivery Man. Despite failing to deliver gravity and weightiness to some of the film’s more heartfelt moments, he’s still able to carry the plot with familiar wit and charm. As the supportive best-friend, Pratt is incredibly funny, whilst the rest of the supporting cast all offer reliable and a whole-hearted performances.
Adapted from an indie-feature to a full-blown Hollywood remake, Delivery Man succeeds in delivering just enough to do the original justice; however, those who might have already seen the original may have a few doubts. The jokes are there, and although only a few are deserving of real laugh out loud moments, they still manage to entertain.
Unfortunately, Delivery Man is a predictable, one-dimensional Hollywood production. But then again, it’s also pretty harmless and light-hearted; an easy watch, if you will.