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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.
Based on the memoirs of a real-life U.S Navy SEAL, American Sniper is a vivid and intense story of a sniper who became renowned for the one-hundred and sixty confirmed kills obtained during his four tours in Iraq.
The story is centred on the Texan born and bred patriot, Chris Kyle (Cooper); a rodeo-loving, farm-boy who has been raised with a firm belief in moral justice. After watching the harrowing events of the bombings of the U.S embassies in Eastern Africa, Chris decides to join the Navy SEALS, as a way of offering his support and undying service to the country that he loves.
Shortly after, he meets Taya (Miller); a girl who has vowed never to date a marine but goes ahead and does just that. It’s not long before they decide to marry and raise a family; however, after yet another attack on America – and this time on its own soil on September 11, 2001 –Chris is deployed to serve his country in Iraq.
It is there that he earns the title of ‘The Legend’ – thanks to his sharp eye and incredible precision – soon becoming one of the most proficient snipers in U.S military history. However, his so-called ‘talent’ soon brings the unwanted attention of an equally relentless Iraqi sniper, while life at home begins to show signs of strain.
Attempting to portray the emotional turmoil of war and the internal psychological struggles that follow, American Sniper, unfortunately, chooses to illustrate, and perhaps even celebrate, war as spectacle, completely diverting the film from a character-driven drama and turning it into just another full-blown and relentless war-thriller.
Having been criticised by many for its perceived rhetoric as over-patriotic, pseudo-propaganda, Eastwood – who stepped in to direct after Spielberg withdrew – does manage to infuse just enough tension and grit into the proceedings, but the fact that the script takes many creative liberties with the actual story only further serves to undermine the film.
Equipped with a southern-twang and forty pounds of muscle, Cooper embraces his role with a great amount of seriousness and commitment. The action is executed well and there is enough of it to keep trigger-happy audience satisfied, but its heavy-hand and surprisingly cheesy and overly dramatic set-ups – not to mention laughable props – tell a different story; one that mght well leave you feeling bowled over and bemused.
“Be careful what you wish for” is the seemingly ominous message behind the long-awaited cinematic adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway musical, Into the Woods. Directed by Rob Marshall, the story – which manages to intertwine several Grimm fairy-tales into one plot – stays relatively faithful to its theatrical roots and manages to deliver the same twisty, unexpected and deliciously dark happily-ever-afters with just enough panache to be considered a success.
The fact that the adaptation has been produced by Disney bares no reflection on the tone of the film; this is a dark fable mash-up with a much more adult-oriented elements. The story tells of the Baker (Corden) and his wife (Blunt) as they embark on a peculiar three-day quest to reverse the Witch’s (Streep) curse that has left them childless.
In its transition from stage to screen, Into the Woods still manages to retain much of its aura, steers clear of traditional fairy-tale conventions and the story is cleverly told and ingeniously intertwined. The studio has, however, made some major plot changes in an effort to make the film more family-friendly; decisions that were approved Sondheim but haven’t necessarily sat well with fans of the musical.
The star cast (Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Johnny Depp, Anna Kendrick and Chris Pine to name a few) deliver suitably grand performances, that will almost certainly win several Oscar nominations, but if there’s one true star of the show, then that honor definitely goes to young Lilly Crawford, who plays Little Red Riding Hood. Having found acclaim for her stage work in productions of Annie and Billy Elliot, the young actress makes the transition to film with aplomb; she’s magnetic and engaging in what is, remarkably, her film debut.
The special-effects aren’t as polished as one might expect of a big budget Disney production, but everything else about Into the Woods – from the cinematography to Stephen Sondheim’s catchy musical numbers – has more than done justice to the award-winning musical.