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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.
Courtesy of the infamous Blumhouse Productions, The Lazarus Effect is the latest thriller to dabble in the world of the undead, doesn’t have all that much new to show or say. Directed by David Gelb, the film’s rehashed premise – see Joel Schumacher’s Flatliners – lacks energy, leaving audiences with,' well, not very much.
The Lazarus Effect tells the story of engaged medical researchers,Frank (Duplass) and Zoe (Wilde), who, along with their team – Clay (Peters), Niko (Glover) and Eva (Bolger) – have just broken new ground by creating a serum that can bring back the dead. Commence eye-rolling. After successfully bringing a dead dog back to life, the team notice that some of the side-effects of the procedure are a little worrisome; the experiment has led to an increased brain-activity in the canine and particularly aggressive behaviour. Uh-oh!
However, their project is soon shut down by a large pharmaceutical company that has recently bought the company that has been funding them all this time.
Feeling like they’re on the verge of a groundbreaking discovery, Frank and Zoe sneak back into the lab, only for Zoe to be fatally electrocuted, leaving Frank no option but to inject her with the serum – cue mayhem.
Taking place almost entirely in the confines of a small science lab, The Lazarus Effect is strangely short – it clocks in at a brief eighty-three minutes – and it doesn’t take too long before its relatively engaging start descends into a big ball of horror jolts and clichés. Hiding behind dialogue weighed down by gobbledegook, behind the pseudoscience is very little real substance or originality.
Surprisingly, unlike its premise, the acting is solid and the group of young actors manage to create a believable and somewhat likable onscreen group-chemistry. As for Olivia Wilde, she’s definitely the glue that keeps the entire thing from falling apart; creepy and villainous, she makes for one beautiful and genuinely frightening antihero. But not even that can save what is tired and half-baked film – that’s not to mention the outrageously, unsatisfying abrupt ending.
Surprisingly straightforward and refreshingly old-fashioned, Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella – the delightful live-action remake of one of the most popular and beloved Disney’s animated classics – gets it right and proves that there is still room, time and love in our hearts for classic fairytales and the forever enchanting happily-ever-afters.
The skeleton of the story story is as you will remember it. Following her mother’s untimely death, the beautiful and kind-hearted Ella (James) is raised by her loving father (Chaplin) who has singlehandedly brought up his daughter to believe that kindness and generosity is the key to happiness.
After years of loneliness, though, Ella’s father decides that it’s time to remarry, leaving his daughter with no choice but to share her happy-home with an icy and unforgiving stepmother, widow Lady Tremaine (Blanchett) and a couple of equally nasty and spoiled stepsisters, Anastasia (Granger) and Drizella (McShera).
Welcoming her new family into her home is not easy and when Ella’s father dies, things get even more difficult as she is now left completely alone and in Tremaine’s care. Dismissing half of the household staff, Tremaine forces Ella to take over the house chores and to wait on her and her ungrateful daughters hand and foot. Despite the hardships, Ella – who is quickly renamed Cinderella – doesn’t want to leave her home and tries to make the best of things without knowing that her life is about to take on a whole new meaning when she and falls in love with none other than the Kingdom’s prince, Kit Charming (Madden).
Taking on a more straightforward and undemanding approach, Branagh keeps things grounded and simple, but vibrant enough to appeal to the modern audience. Thoroughly enchanting from beginning to end – although there are a couple of subplots which could have gotten a little less attention – Cinderella is sweet, but not syrupy and, unlike other recently released Disney remakes – Maleficent, Into the Woods – there are very little touch-ups, story twists and overall changes done to the original narrative.
The lead performances are equally strong and James – from T.V’s Downton Abbey – is absolutely delightful and her onscreen romance with the similarly charming Richard Madden –Game of Throne’s Robb Stark himself– is believable and truly endearing to watch develop. However, it’s Helena Bonhem Carter as Cinderella’s wacky fairy godmother and Blanchett as her evil stepmother, who truly elevate the film, delivering outstanding performances.
All in all, Cinderella – a story which has been written over three hundred years ago and adapted to the screen about a hundred times since then – is definitely worth the time and attention. Capturing the magic and heart of the 1950’s classic, it proves to be an endearing and truly engaging watch for all ages.