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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.
Arriving six years after Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland took the box-office by storm – the film ended up earning over a billion dollars despite receiving mixed reviews - the adventures of Wonderland continue with a story that serves both as a prequel and a sequel, in James Bobin’s visually exciting, but rather empty, Alice Through the Looking Glass.
Three years after sailing around on her late father’s ship, Alice (Wasikowska) returns to London to learn that there has been some significant changes in her mother Helen’s (Duncan) living situation and that, on top of everything else, she is now at risk of losing her father’s ship for good. However, before she gets a chance to deal with the situation at hand, which finds her at direct conflict with her ex-fiancé Hamish Ascot (Bill), Alice is contacted by the caterpillar-turned butterfly Absolem (voiced by the late Alan Rickman) whom she decides to follow through a magic mirror leading to Wonderland.
Once there, Alice learns the Mad Hatter (Depp) who, as a result of believing that his family is still alive, has now begun to age rapidly and is slowly dying. Tasked by the White Queen (Hathaway) to save their land by going back in time, Alice decides to pay a visit to Time himself (Cohen); a half-man, half-machine King of clockwork who is not so keen of allowing Alice to use the chromosphere to travel back and save Hatter’s parents from. Refusing to accept defeat, Alice steals the device and sets on her journey, though she soon learns that changing the past doesn’t come without consequences.
Written by Linda Woolverton and directed by The Muppet’s James Bobin, there’s a significant change in the story’s visual dynamics which finds Tim Burton’s shadowy, gothic style in Alice replaced by a psychedelically vibrant and colourful backdrop that is both pleasing and exciting to watch. However, unlike the obvious work and creativity put into bringing energy and precise technicalities into its visual – the use of 3D actually pays off - the writing comes off as a lazy.
Woolverton’s screenplay is confusing at times and the characters, despite their whacky and imaginative surroundings, fall surprisingly flat. At twenty-six years of age Wasikowska seems a little too old to be wandering around Wonderland. Although typically weird and zany in their reprising roles, her co-stars Depp, Bonham-Carter and Cohen, fail to rise to the occasion.
Shiny and exciting to look at, Alice Through the Looking Glass is, overall, a disappointing revisit to Wonderland which, despite its best efforts, fails to make a lasting impression.
As far as remakes are concerned, Paul Feig’s reboot of the 1984 supernatural comedy classic, Ghostbusters, is one of the better ones out there. Arriving twenty-seven years after the release of the first sequel, the Bridesmaids director has been given the honours of reintroducing the story to the modern audiences of today. The result? An entertaining and an admittedly funny reboot which, although nowhere near as spunky as the original, still has its own charms to lean back on.
The story begins with Dr. Erin Gilbert (Wiig); a respected physics professor who is only days away from receiving tenure at the Colombia University. However, she is soon pulled back into her previous life as a paranormal investigator when her old friend Aby Yates (McCarthy), who has decided to re-publish the book about ghosts they wrote together many years ago without her permission, returns to her life.
Worried what the release of the book might do to her academic career, Erin decides to confront Abby. However, she soon finds herself joining her old friend - and Abby’s new research partner, Jillian Holtzmann (McKinnon) - on a paranormal investigation at a reportedly haunted-house, during which they experience their first ghost-sighting.
Unfortunately, their encounter is labelled as a publicity stunt, forcing the three ladies - who soon welcome MTA employee, Patty Tolan (Jones) into their team - to create a plan of capturing ghosts as proof they exist. Meanwhile, creepy hotel janitor, Rowan (Casey) has been busy planting devices around NYC with the intention of opening the portal between the living and the dead.
Those who were not exactly on board with the idea of the all-female remake might not be completely taken in by Paul Feig’s latest attempt of bringing a modern twist to the beloved ghost-chasing franchise. However, the story’s amusing and refreshing stance, as well as its energetic vibe and slick special effects, are, overall, strong – the sum of its parts are, at least.
Stepping in for an all-male lead cast are four undeniably funny female comedians who show the willingness and the confidence in carrying the movie. Offering plenty of laughs and ghost-ass-kicking skills, McCarthy - delivering a pleasantly reserved performance - and Wiig are the strongest of the bunch with Jones and McKinnon falling as a close second. Unfortunately though, pointless cameos from the original cast never really resonate and actually distract and Casey’s villain is not as, let’s say, villainous as the story demanded him to be. In addition, the running gag on Hemsworth’s version of a dumb-blonde secretary is funny but, wears out thin pretty early on.
Nevertheless, Ghostbusters still manages to deliver. Embracing the spirit of the original whilst playing with its own modern bearings, the story serves to be a solid and thoroughly enjoyable take Ivan Reitman’s supernatural classic that even most of its hardcore haters might find hard not to love.