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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.
Written and directed by the Syrian-born director, Sam Kadi, The Citizen sets out to highlight the hardships faced by Arab settlers in the US during the aftermath of 9/11. Despite appearing at several international film festivals, the film unfortunately falls short in both complexity and spirit.
After winning the green-card lottery, Lebanese immigrant, Ibrahim Jarrah (Nabawy), arrives in New York City on September 10, 2001. Determined to leave his troubling past behind, he is ready to live the American Dream.
Soon after arriving, Ibrahim checks into a Brooklyn motel where he finds himself saving a young woman from an abusive boyfriend. The girl in question is Diane (Bruckner); a pretty, young waitress who is instantly taken by the soft-spoken stranger and offers him a tour of the city as a way of saying thank you. The pair is quick to bond, but the next morning, their worlds change forever.
Almost immediately after the tragic events, Ibrahim is apprehended by US government officials and is held for questioning - for a total of six months - about his ties and connections to a mysterious cousin he mentioned on his arrival. However, with no substantial evidence, he is set free, only to face prejudices at every corner.
Painted with a soulful and a sorrowing mettle, Egyptian actor, Nabawy, proves to be a fairly likable lead. Quiet, courageous and mannerly, Ibrahim’s character is easy to connect to as a gutsy underdog who is putting everything on the line to better himself. And although his execution lacks bite and passion at times, he still manages to sustain the geniality of his character throughout. Bruckner, on the other hand, falls back on her television soap-opera experience and stands out like a sore thumb in what is generally a solemn and hushed tone.
The real issue with The Citizen, however, is that it plays out like shoddy TV-movie, especially in terms of aesthetics. The plot moves along with a sense of urgency, but is never really fleshed out and is dramatically uneven. Though the central character’s rocky road is one that any empathetic person should engage with, the audience is told how to feel and is never given the chance to recognise the wider issue of immigration and equality.
By anchoring itself so lucidly to the events of 9/11, The Citizen never really gets to fully develop; its ready-packaged message is delivered in the most inorganic of ways and ends up being conventional in its sentiments.
Malcolm D. Lee’s sequel to his 1999 directorial debut, The Best Man, reunites fans with the now much-older college friends as they prepare for the upcoming Christmas holidays.
The film picks up fifteen years after the events of The Best Man, centring on Harper Stewart (Diggs); a one-time successful author who is struggling to make ends meet. Fertility treatment bills for his now pregnant wife, Robyn (Lathan), have set the couple back and Harper is unable to rely on the money from his decreasing book sales.
Meanwhile, his former best-friend and celebrated NFL star, Lance Sullivan (Chestnut), is on the verge of retirement. A devoted family man who shares his life with loving wife, Mia (Calhoun), and their four picture-perfect children, Lance puts his energy into having one last hurrah to cement his legacy before he steps out of the spotlight
With Christmas is just around corner, Mia sends out invitations to their shattered group of friends to spend the holidays with her and the family at their lavish estate; troubled couple, Julian (Perrineau) and Candace (Hall), party-girl and a reality TV star, Shelby (De Sousa), career-obsessed commitaphobe, Jordan (Long), and bad boy, Quentin (Howard).
Naturally, it doesn’t take much for tensions to rise, and the group soon finds itself between dealing and healing old wounds, which ultimately resurface questions of deceit, infidelity and secret sexual pasts.
The Best Man Holiday’s biggest strength lies in the hands of the cast, whose chemistry and wit infuse soul into the story. At the heart of it all is Diggs, who delivers a sincere performance of a man in search of forgiveness, while Lathan – as his pregnant wife – is just as charming in her role of a woman trying to support her husband through troubled times. Chestnut is a tad theatrical in some of the film’s more emotionally-charged scenes, unlike Calhoun, who handles her role with a welcome grace. However, the true star of the picture is Howard; funny and incredibly engaging, the Oscar-nominated actor has some the best lines and steals the show.
With so many characters, each with their own personal sup-plot and arc, the film strikes the perfect balance between them and every character gets apt screen time.
Although the story ends up bouncing from the funny to the dramatics in a blink of an eye towards the end, Lee manages to keep things interesting, despite the predictable plot and cheesy sentiment.