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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.
Based on a 2010 novel of the same name – written by the English young-adult fiction writer Andy Mulligan – Trash is best described as a feel-good story that carries a smimilar spirit to Oscar-winning drama, Slumdog Millionaire; similarly, it's a colorful and a slightly strained drama of adolescence and poverty.
Set in Rio Di Janeiro, Brazil, Trash follows the story of Raphael Fernandez (Tevez), Gardo (Luis) and Rato (Weinstein); three fourteen year-old Brazilian boys who live in a lakeside favela and who earn their pennies by sorting trash at the nearby dumping ground.
During one of their routine scavenger hunts, Raphael comes across an expensive looking wallet that, just as luck would have it, is full of cash. While no one is looking, Raphael quickly pockets the cash. However, when crooked police officer, Federico (Mello), turns up desperately looking for the wallet, Raphael realises that there is more to his find than it meets the eye.
As it happens, the wallet, which also contained a flip-book photo of a little girl with coded numbers on the back and a mysterious looking key, is directly linked to a wealthy and seemingly corrupt politician who is currently running for mayor. Realising that they are in way over their heads, the boys reach out to Father Julliard (Sheen) and aid-worker, Olivia (Mara), for help, all the while doing everything they possibly can to evade the hands of the corrupt police force who will do everything they can to get their hands on the wallet.
Trash, adapted to the screen by Richard Curtis, spends most of its running time in Portuguese and does a decent job in portraying the poverty hiding beneath the colourful streets of Rio; the chase scenes through the bustling streets and tight alleyways are particularly enjoyable. However, although pleasing to the eye, the material feels a little forced, a little too pretty around the edges and yes, a bit too Hollywood; if you were expecting more of a harsher look inside the life of favelas, perhaps you will need to revisit movies such as City of God or Elite Squad for a better insight.
Nonetheless, Trash does manage to keep things relatively upbeat and entertaining mainly because of the infectious energy and dynamism brought on by the three leads, who, despite their limited acting experience, hold the entire film together.
Unlike the first two films in the wildly popular cinematic adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ young-adult novels, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I –the first instalment of a two-piece finale – is an underwhelming and slightly hollow watch.
Mockingjay Part I begins shortly after the end of Catching Fire, which saw Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) pulled out and rescued from the games by game-maker, Plutarch Heavensbee (Hoffman), and mentor, Haymitch Abernathy (Harrelson).
Brought underground and aided by the District 13 rebels – led by President Alma Coin (Moore) – Katniss is asked to serve as the face of the growing revolt against President Snow and his tyranny over Panem. However, getting the young-rebel on board is not easy, as Katniss – whose beloved home district was levelled by Snow’s bombers in the previous instalment – is still trying to overcome the loss of her fellow District 12 champion, Peeta Mellark (Hutcherson), who has now become a prisoner of the Capitol.
Desperate to bring Peeta back to safety, Katniss soon agrees to become the ‘Mockingjay’ and operate as a symbol of hope and resistance for the people of Panem.
Just like Harry Potter and Twilight – other similarly structured franchises that have split the big finale into two or three parts – Mockingjay Part 1 feels abrupt. Granted, it’s unfair to judge a two-part film as, essentially, one arc is running through both, but a film released on its own can only be watched on its own and this first part spends its two-hour-plus running time setting up the pieces of the puzzle and building up the story with no payoff.
This is somewhat remedied by returning director Francis Lawrence’s focus on big battle scenes, though once again, there’s no real payoff, no punch-line.
One thing that won’t be put into question is another engaging, emotional and an overall solid performance from Oscar-winning actress, Jennifer Lawrence, who manages to keep the story kicking, regardless of its awkward pacing. Other returning faces, which included Hoffman, Harrelson, Hutcherson and Banks, are all equally reliable and, as the determined President Snow, Sutherland is once again a strong and a dependable villain.