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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.
Zack Snyder wowed audiences back in 2006 with his super-slick fictionalised retelling of the infamous Battle of Thermopylae in 300. Now, the long-awaited sequel is here; bloodthirsty and unforgiving, it's safe to say that 300: Rise of an Empire will not disappoint fans of the first film.
Serving as both a sequel and a prequel, 300: Rise of an Empire takes its attention away from the Spartans and their army of noble men, this time putting its focus on the origins of their enemies and the wider ramifications of the events from the first film. The story is centred on Athenian General, Themistocles (Stapleton); a fearless warrior who, during the Battle of Marathon, fatally injured King Darius I (Naor), the great leader of Persia and father of God-King-to-be Xerxes (Santoro).
Ignited with anger and an incredible desire to spill Grecian blood, Greek-born Persian warrior, Artemisia (Green) plans to transform Prince Xerxes from a fearful Prince into a Persian God-King, to ultimately guide their people into war with the Greeks.
Ten years later, Xerxes is ready to send his troops into battle, concurrently engaging King Leonidas and his 300 Spartan men in the overwhelming Battle of Thermopylae, as well as General Themistocles, who goes on to battle Artemisia's naval army at sea. The fate of Greece lies entirely with Themistocles, whose army is once again devastatingly outnumbered, but whose determination and courage go a long way in their fight for freedom.
Santoro returns to reprise his role as the towering giant that is Xerxes and although the character’s backstory is one of the most engaging elements of the film, the Brazilian actor fails to offer any depth to the complex kind. As the lawful Queen Gorgo, Headey retains a very royal pride intensity as the wife of the fallen Leonidas, while Stapleton – as the film’s lead – delivers just enough to score a passing grade, but ultimately lacks the charm and presence of Gerard Butler.
On the other hand, adding Green into the picture is arguably one of best decisions that the filmmakers could have made; as the trouble-brewing Artemisia, she steals the show.
Sticking to the same visual aesthetic, 300: Rise of an Empire is just as absorbing as its predecessor, with director Noam Murro given the freedom to paint on a much larger – and bloodier – canvas.
Although the thrust and energy of 300 seems like an awfully difficult feature to replicate, there are still plenty of adrenaline-pumping moments behind the blood-stained battles to make 300: Rise of an Empire an enjoyable follow-up.
Taking its cues from David Memet's provocative play, Sexual Perversity in Chicago, About Last Night is a remake of a 1986 Edward Zwick film. Being the latest romantic comedy claiming to take a deeper looks at the age-old subjects of love, sex and relationships, it holds just enough charm and humour to make it an admirable addition to cinema-cheese.
Set on the sunny-streets of L.A, the film follows two best friends; businessman Danny (Ealy) and his motor-mouth best friend, Bernie (Hart). Like many other men their age, the duo’s measure of success lays in how many women they hook up with and they naturally have no interest in looking for or finding ‘the one’.
However, things soon change for them both when Bernie meets the sexy and equally feisty, Joan (Hall), while his best-bud strikes up an immediate connection with Joan's beautiful roommate, Debbie (Bryant).
Time passes by and each couple have shared a fair amount of ups and downs in their respective relationships; Bernie and Joan's hot-headed union is on rocky grounds, while Danny and Debbie – who have moved from a one-night stand status to a full-blown live-in relationship – are questioning whether their relationship will weather the storm of uncertainty and returning exes.
The cast is well-fitted to this type of comedy and, thanks to their on-screen presence, they manage to convey their day-to-day hardships in a way the audiences can easily relate to. Vibrant and infectious, Hart – recently seen alongside Ice Cube in the buddy-cop comedy, Ride Along – puts his over-the-top energy to good use, whilst the dynamics shared with Hall is the movie's key draw. Meanwhile, Ealy's and Bryant's more sedate alliance - told through a gushy, overly-sentimental eye for romance – is satisfying as the meat of the plot, but not as exciting.
Directed by Hot Tub Machine's Steve Pink, the film’s premise is fairly familiar; boy-meets-girl, they share one night of steamy passion, fall in love, move in, before the inevitable question "am I ready for this?" reels its ugly head. However, despite its somewhat conventional and unsurprising setup, the script - written by Bachelorette's Leslye Headland – keeps things relatively light, humorous and, at times, even emotionally stirring.
About Last Night manages to put its own spin of realism and good-natured humour on the forever-entertaining, battle-of-the-sexes; forgettable yet extremely engaging, the dialogue, along with the cast's biting chemistry could easily set this as the best date-movie of the year, thus far.