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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.
Peter Jackson’s fourteen-year-long Middle-Earth adventure has finally come to a close with the third and final instalment Bilgo Baggins’ journey with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies; a slightly bloated, but generally successful, finale that boasts plenty of action and technical superiority over its immediate predecessors.
Hitting the ground running and wasting no time in plunging audiences in the deep-end, The Battle of the Five Armies begins exactly where the second film left off, with Smaug (once again voiced superbly by Cumberbatch) setting Lake-town ablaze as Bilbo (Freeman), Thorin Oakenshield (Armitage) and his army of loyal dwarf-followers watch from the Lonely Mountain.
After escaping imprisonment, Bard (Evans) slays Smaug, leaving the endless treasures of the mountain unguarded for Bilbo, Thorin and co. to continue their quest. But as news spreads of Smaug's demise, the lure of the mountain's coveted riches triggers an inevitable path to war.
A With a running time of just over two hours, The Battle of the Five Armies is the shortest of all of The Hobbit entries, though it’s also the most ambitious and visually-creative of the lot. The cinematography is exquisite and the CGI techniques seem to have been pushed to their very limit.
The cast is, as always, steadfast and dependable with Armitage delivering a blockbuster performance as Thorin, though Freeman’s usual whimsical nature and superb comic timing is, surprisingly, underused. Similarly, the rest of the cast, including Lilly as the she-elf, Evans, as the newly-emerged leader of Lake-town, and McKellen take a back-seat.
With this being the finale, it plays out like a climax and is heavy on the action and not much else – as a standalone film, it may feel a little hollow for some, but for fans, it's a fittingly spectacular conclusion to the series.
Although there are moments of genuine hilarity to be found in the follow-up to the delightfully raunchy 2011 comedy, Horrible Bosses, it’s hard not to wince at just how eager and desperate it is to please.
Directed by Sean Anders – who also co-wrote the script along with John Morris – Horrible Bosses 2 once again follows the turbulent, and at times abstract, lives of Nick (Bateman), Kurt (Sudeikis) and Dale (Day); three good friends who, after successfully managing to free themselves of their ‘horrible bosses’, are now contemplating starting a new business together with their invention, the Shower Buddy; an elaborate and ever-so-slightly ridiculous shower head inspired by car washes.
Their efforts attract the attention of wealthy retail tycoon, Bert Hanson (Waltz), who offers to fund their business if they can produce 100,000 units. After taking out a loan, renting a warehouse and hiring employees, Hanson takes the stock but back out of the deal, leaving the three friends in six-figure debt.
Considering that their previous plot of murdering their bosses didn’t quite go as planned, the three friends decide to go in another direction; kidnap Bert’s extremely spoiled and arrogant son, Rex (Pine), and ask for a hefty ransom. However, their seemingly bullet-proof plan goes haywire when Rex – a shady figure like his father – quickly turns the tables on the dim-witted threesome with a devious scheme of his own.
Just like many comedy sequels – see Hangover II, Dumb and Dumber Too – the payoff is never quite as satisfying as the first-time around. Relying on the same brand of humour, Horrible Bosses 2 just isn’t as funny as its predecessor and becomes repetitive pretty early on – particularly the crass rape jokes.
Only Chris Pine comes out of the other end with any dignity, bringing his deliciously devious character to life, with the always brilliant Christoph Waltz needlessly tarnishing his recent rich vein of form with what is a completely unnecessary sequel. Though the cast is packed to the rim with popular and likeable actors, all seem to be going through the motions – though the blame for that should fall squarely on the monotonous, tedious and cringingly uncreative script.
At its very core, the film is flawed. Those who wronged our three heroes in the first film were to be condemned to murder. This time round, the son of the man who did them wrong is condemned to a kidnapping. Sequels should build and go bigger than the original; Horrible Bosses 2 bafflingly aims lower.