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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.
Loosely based on Walter Isaacson’s 2011 biography of the same name – a book that was approved but never actually read by the man himself - the life and work of the late Steve Jobs is once again brought to life on the big screen, this time, in Aaron Sorkin and Danny Boyle’s engaging, but niche biopic, Steve Jobs.
The story begins with Steve Jobs (Fassbender) getting ready to launch and share the Macintosh home-computer with the world. As he awaits, rather impatiently, backstage for the auditorium to fill, marketing manager, Joanna Hoffman (Winslet sporting a sporadic and an uneven American-Polish accent) is working hard on containing the pandemonium involving a possible failure-to-launch scenario.
Jobs is soon approached and confronted by ex-lover, Chrisann Brennen (Waterston), and his five-year-old daughter, Lisa (Ross) – whom he refuses to accept as his own – who wants to discuss paternity issues, while Apple co-founder and old-time friend, Steve Wozniak (Rogen), is eager to argue the possibility of Steve actually sharing the credit for their success. Meanwhile, Apple CEO, John Sculley (Daniels) has his own bone to pick with Steve, who, by this point has demonstrated that his blinding ambition and drive to succeed will not be hindered by anyone.
Much like its titular character, Steve Jobs is not an easy film to love; those expecting a more straightforward approach to the story – and an in-depth account of the company’s history and a deeper insight into the man who brought it success - might well be disappointed with its minimal setup. However, those who find time to appreciate Danny Boyle’s unique storytelling, which covers three very distinct Apple product launches - debut of Macintosh, NEXT and the iMac which transpired in 1984, 1988 and 1998 respectively – will see that most of the movie’s strengths lie with its somewhat claustrophobic – albeit intimate – and theatrical setup. Padded with a few flashbacks, Steve Jobs is not interested in portraying the ‘early’ years; instead, it attempts to highlight Jobs’ personality and the interactions that occurred between him and his closest associates during a time which was deemed most critical for the company and, of course, for Jobs himself.
Capturing the often sociopathic and ruthless behavior when dealing with colleagues – friends and family not excluded - and his obsessive attention to detail, Fassbender offers a subtle but deeply-layered performance, completely devoid of any mimicry or impressionism. Meanwhile, Rogen manages to strip off his funnyman suit and deliver a poignant portrayal of the Apple I designer, while Winslet is surprisingly unnoticed as a loyal assistant.
It’s a decent biopic that offers a compelling glimpse inside the head of a man who is often referred to as a pioneer and a visionary of the digital age. The film doesn't exactly portray Jobs a nice man, that’s for sure, but stresses on his importance as one of the most famous figures of our time.
Undermined by predictability, culinary drama, Burnt is surprisingly bland and unexcitingly seasoned for a kitchen-based flick that sees Bradley Cooper step into the role of a bad-boy chef on the road to redemption.
Set in London - or at least some Hollywood version of it - the story follows Adam Jones (Cooper); a brilliant but arrogant chef who, after becoming embroiled in the drugs, alcohol and women of Paris, is eager to get his life back on track. After spending a few years doing penance in New Orleans, Adam arrives in London with the hopes of persuading restaurateur and friend, Tony (Bruhl), to give him another chance, so that he can try and build a brand name and give his greatest rival, Reece (Rhys) - who has also set up shop in the area - a run for his money.
Setting out to get his dream-team of cooks, Adam recruits a seemingly rag-tag team, including Michel (Sy) - a sous chef whose restaurant Adam sabotaged - as well as Max (Scarmarcio); an assistant-to-the-chef who has just recently been released from jail.
Directed by John Wells and written by Steven Knight, it is unlikeable characters that haunt this foodie-feature, which spends most of its running time following a fairly conventional setup. Playing to an awfully predictable beat of redemption, Burnt feels overwritten and undercooked at the same time - trying to squeeze in one too many subplots - and apart from a few wonderfully-shot close up food shots, there’s not much that can be considered exciting - or appetising – about watching Burnt unfold or watching one constantly dissatisfied and seemingly conceited chef at play.
Which brings us to the cast of Burnt; apart from Sienna Miller - who plays a single mom and a gifted sous chef with a romantic tie to Adam - and Emma Thomson as Adam’s therapist and counsellor, no one really has the space to perform.
Even Cooper himself fails to connect to the material given; channeling his inner Gordon Ramsey, there’s a lot of ego and profanity at display, but, unfortunately, not a lot of substance or meaning to warrant Burnt as a necessary viewing. This is not the first time Cooper has played the role of a chef; he starred in underrated sitcom, Kitchen Confidential, which was based on a best-selling book by infamous chef, Anthony Bourdain. Though it was cancelled after 13 episodes, the show also showed its main character as rebel with a talent – the only difference being that Kitchen Confidential had likeable characters, a jovial sense of humour and generally more heart. It's a shame; Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Daniel Bruhl, Omar Sy, Emma Thompson is a great cast.