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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.
The follow up to Carlos Saldanha’s vibrant animated feature, Rio – a film that grossed over half a billion dollars at the box office - finds the Brazilian-born filmmaker returning to the pulsating streets of Rio Di Janeiro, before setting off into the wilderness of the Amazon.
Picking up some time after the end of the first film, Rio 2 finds the Blue Macaws, Blu (voiced by Eisenberg) and Jewel (Hathaway), happily married and living a carefree life while raising their three hatchlings, Carla (Crow), Bia (Stenberg) and Tiago (Gagnon), at the Blue Bird Sanctuary.
However, their children’s overly-domesticated habits begin to worry Jewel, who is fearful that her children are slowly losing touch with nature and what it means to be a bird. So, when she hears that there may be a flock of Blue Macaws living in the Amazon rainforest, the family decides to fly across for a vacation and a bit of an investigation.
Once there, not only does the family discover that there is more of their kind in the world, but that the flock is led by none other than Jewel’s long-lost father, Eduardo (Garcia). Jewel soon finds herself toying with the prospect of moving her family there for good, while Blu – who now must prove himself to Jewel’s apathetic and unconvinced father – isn’t too sure whether he’s ready to give up his life in Rio. Meanwhile, Blu’s lifelong nemesis, Nigel the Cockatoo (Clement), who is no longer able to fly, follows the family to the rainforest in search of revenge.
Eisenberg and Hathaway return to reprise their roles as the lovable Blu and Jewel and, although their shared chemistry can still be felt throughout, it seems that their second outing is not as charming as their first. Clement is hilarious as the grouchy Nigel, while all of the supporting characters, excluding Chenoweth’s hysterical performance as Gabi – a poisonous frog hopelessly in love with Nigel – aren’t given much of the spotlight, apart from indulging in a few impromptu sing-offs, including yet another cringe worthy rendition of Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive.
Just like the original, Rio 2 dazzles with its vibrant and bubbly tone; the opening scenes of the New Year’s Eve celebration on the bustling streets of Rio Di Janeiro are breathtaking and Saldanha, succeeds in adapting the alluring and captivating magic of Brazil.
The story, unfortunately, is not as engaging the second time around and Saldanha seems to have sent the story on a downward spiral the minute he decided to step out of Rio and move his flock of birds into the back woods of the Amazon rainforest.
There are still plenty of thrills and spills, but had it not been for the infectious Brazilian music and a handful of interesting characters, this would have been a complete washout.
Working from the sprawling pages of Mark Helprin's highly-complex 1983 novel, Akiva Goldsman's first directorial effort, Winter’s Tale, seems to have spread itself a little too thin, making this overly-sentimental and the highly-incomprehensible, modern-day-fantasy world, a little hard to get stuck into.
Set in the early 20th Century, the story follows Peter Lake (Farrell); a highly-skilled, New York burglar who has been working for evil crime lord, Pearly Soames (Crowe), for as long as he can remember. Growing tired of Soames, Peter decides that it's time to cut loose and with the assistance from a mysterious flying white horse that comes out of nowhere – whom Peter ingeniously names 'Horse' – he manages to escape from his now seething boss.
However, before he leaves the island of Manhattan for good, Peter decides to rob one more mansion. However, during the robbery, Peter is intercepted by the beautiful owner Beverly Penn (Findlay) who, instead of calling for help, offers her intruder a friendly cup of tea.
Peter is immediately smitten, but soon learns that Beverly is dying and only has a few months to live; unable to turn his back on her, Peter follows his heart and pursues the relationship. Meanwhile, Pearly Soames is becoming seemingly obsessed with killing Peter, and turns to the master of evil, in the form of the highly-comical interpretation of Lucifer (Smith), for assistance.
Managing to express just enough sincere emotion to make you believe, Farrell is rather pleasing in the role of Peter. Unfortunately, the chemistry shared with Findlay, best-known for her role in the popular TV series Downton Abbey, unfortunately comes across as superficial and extremely forced. Similarly, Crowe, equipped with a highly-distracting Irish accent and bizarre facial tics, is alarmingly inconceivable as the menacing villain.
Book adaptations are generally hit or miss, and the challenges of capturing the same magic, imagination and literary complexity are aplenty, often demanding the filmmakers to find a middle ground to please fans of the book and mainstream Hollywood audiences alike.
In the case of Goldsman's interpretation of Winter's Tale, the result is a clear miss. Though this is his first directorial role, Goldsman is no stranger to Hollywood; as a scriptwriter, he boasts writing credits on a host of films including Cinderella Man, I, Robot and A Beautiful Mind.
Unfortunately, this undertaking is rushed and at times nonsensical leaving the six-hundred-plus page novel terribly lost in translation.