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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 seventeen novels to his name, it’s fair to say that author, Nicholas Sparks, has enjoyed a decent amount of success, especially since his very first book-to-film adaptation of the super-cheesy Message in a Bottle back in 1999. Nine of his novels have been turned into big Hollywood motion-pictures – including The Notebook and Dear John – and his latest, a disastrous and a painfully predictable attempt at a romantic drama, is the author’s tenth and quite possibly, most damaging of them all.
The story opens with Sophia (Robertson); a young woman looking forward to moving to New York City, where she plans to pursue her dreams of working at an art gallery right after she graduates. Things soon get complicated when - while attending a bull-riding competition of all things - she lays her eyes on Luke Collins (Eastwood); a handsome and a talented bull-rider who is making a return after suffering a major injury a year prior. The two are quick to connect and soon begin to spend more time with one another.
One night, they come across a devastating car accident and after managing to pull an elderly man named Ira Levinson (Alda) - and his box full of old letters – out of the wreck, the film smacks on another layer to the story. Sending us all the way back to WWII, the film shifts its focus to young Ira (Huston) and a beautiful young girl named, Ruth (Chaplin), and begins to follow their romance; a story filled with plenty of heartache and tragedy to keep hardcore Sparks fans amused.
One thing’s for sure; if you’ve seen one Nicholas Sparks movie, you’ve seen them all. Two pretty people fall in love. Their potential happily-ever-after is challenegd by a series of obstacles and hurdles which they need to find the strength to overcome. Tragedy strikes. Tears are jerked. Roll credits.
The Longest Ride is one of author’s weakest entries, it’s a little too predictable and as the tenth book-to-movie adaptation for the celebrated author, there’s nothing to separate it from the pack or make it more relevant or topical. The story jumps back and forth rather awkwardly between the past and the present and there is very little that connects the two periods together, making us think why bother with the timeline to begin with?
On the upside, the leads – although lacking quite a bit of chemistry – are likable and both Eastwood and Robertson bring enough charm and easygoingness – yes, that’s a real word – into the story. However, their pretty faces aren’t enough to save the day; unsurprising and tediously slow, The Longest Ride is a truly a long ride.
As far as buddy-comedies go, you can do a lot worse than Etan Cohen’s – not to be confused with the other Ethan of ‘Ethan & Joel Coen’ – partially entertaining and exceptionally raunchy Get Hard. Written by the director himself – along with the help of Jay Martel and Ian Roberts – the latest Ferrell & Hart coalition is promising of a few laughs, but, it’s definitely not for everyone.
The story is centered on a cheerfully unconcerned multimillionaire trader, James King (Ferrell) who is unexpectedly arrested for the suspicion of fraud and embezzlement. Outraged and willing to fight for his innocence, James soon finds out that his ‘type of people’ – you know the white-collar ones – are no longer protected by the judicial system and he is soon sentenced to ten years in a maximum security prison.
Scared and worried at what awaits him, James – who has been given thirty days to get his affairs in order - soon comes across Darnell Lewis (Hart); a straight and hard-working African-American who runs the car-cleaning service in the garage of James’ firm. Determined to get as much help as he can get, James turns to the only man he believes knows a thing or two about prison. However, what he doesn’t know is that Darnell – who is more than happy to accept the thirty-thousand-dollars payment – is just as naïve about life in prison as he is.
Get Hard is not original nor is it exceptionally funny. Its lack of creativity shows and its love for conventionality is at times a little hard to bear. However, in the midst of all the vulgarity it so shamelessly finds itself in – the prison-rape jokes as well as sexual assault humor is a little on the excessive side but plenty funny if you allow it to be - there is still enough room for laughter. The jokes – which involve a lot of ‘back-door’ talk and other seemingly offensive behavior which some viewers might find a little hard to sit-through – don’t always land where they’re supposed to but, when they do, the results are rewarding.
The one thing that keeps the movie from falling completely flat on its face is the genuine chemistry between the two leads who have managed to pour in some of their best work into the mix. Ferrell is well, Ferrell and his oblivious and not-as-annoying-as-you-may-think man-child works well against Hart’s snappiness and fast-moving energy and the duo, although, not the most easy-to-love characters, succeed in delivering the laughs.
It’s stupid, funny and rude. It works, almost.