Dark Shadows (2012)

3.5 STARS

General Information:

Information below is taken from the following link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1077368/

12   113 min  –  Comedy | Fantasy  –  11 May 2012 (UK)

Director

Tim Burton

Writers

Seth Grahame-Smith; John August

Stars

Johnny Depp; Michelle Pfeiffer; Eva Green

Plot:

After centuries of being buried underground, cursed vampire Barnabus Collins (Depp) returns to Collinswood Manor only to discover that it’s 1972, a dysfunctional family lives there, and that the witch who cursed him to be a vampire is still alive…

Review:

Tim Burton's Dark Shadows

Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows

In my opinion, Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows is the cinematic equivalent of what would happen if Usaine Bolt injured his knee whilst running the 100m, and stopped halfway through. It has a lot of potential, but feels like it should have more story to tell, more strides to make. This film isn’t as funny as the trailer makes it out to be (albeit that sex scene…). Either way, from what I could see from the strides this movie made, there’s a lot of meat (pies) for Burton’s fans to tuck into.

The best part of this film is indeed the opening hour, and it’s very entertaining to watch the story unfold, and perhaps even more fun just to keenly observe Johnny Depp’s excellent performance. The style of the opening 15 minutes is like a cliché fairytale which its effect never decreases, no matter how many times we’ve seen it in the movies, and this is mainly due to Burton’s gothic sensibility. Now, the set-up: Angelique (Eva Green) fancies Barabus, however, Barnabus pays no attention to her, as he’s got his eyes (and other parts, I’m guessing) set on Jossette (Bella Heathcote). Unfortunately for Barnabus, he picked the wrong girl to not fall in love with, because when Josette jumps off a cliff in a moment of hormonal dispair, Barnabus follows suit, but doesn’t die, because, Angelique has turned him into a vampire…and then she puts him in a coffin, wraps chains around the coffin so he can’t escape, and buries said coffin in the ground.

As you do.

A few years later, it’s 1972 – and as if by mere chance, there are people digging near the area where the coffin was buried, they find the coffin, break the chains – and wumfff!, hot puffs of smoke come from the coffin, and Branabus shoots up from the air, bites all of their necks to which he then says something like “sorry, you have no idea how thirsty I am.”

We then get the usual expected stuff of a man from another world/another time not fitting in with the place/time which he’s been put in. Yet what makes this movie special is the fact that Johnny Depp really brings Barnabus alive. Johnny Depp is a physical actor of extraordinary talent, he’s the sort of actor that only has to subtly move a limb or an eyebrow to instantly portray an emotion, and his performance is certainly not wasted here. There’s a section where we see him cross a road for the first time, he staggers across it slowly, arms hunched, little movement per step, and he instantly catches the sentiment of the character. To further add to this is the fact that even though the script may be of average in terms of quality, Depp is given the best lines. Every word that he is given is clearly thought about to portray this unique comic character. For example, that funny moment in the trailer where Barnabus walks behind the television and says in a grand and majestic manner “Reveal yourself tiny songstress!” Nobody else would use the phrase “reveal yourself” (let alone “songstress”) other than a 19th century upper-class vampire.

Johnny Depp's hair in Dark Shadows makes me chuckle...

Johnny Depp’s hair in Dark Shadows makes me chuckle…

There are other great moments in the opening hour. Perhaps the most well-known of these is the sex scene. Barnabus has sex with Angelique, yet in a completely different way. They have sex on the walls, the floors, the ceiling, everywhere, the laws of gravity are smashed in two, sofas are scratched, furniture is knocked over, and no doubt other things have split apart as well. It’s all very camp and funny, and has that 70s feel to it which this film requires.

However, all of this drifts off into the abyss. At the beginning of this review I compared this film to Usaine Bolt only being able to run half of the 100m, I shall refer back to this point again. The movie feels like it has

(a) More story to tell, yet ends too early.

(b) Has little story but tells it over the period of 1 hour 45 minutes.

In my opinion it’s mainly (b) with hints of (a). The film tells the story of Barnabus trying to fit in with a new world by rebuilding the Collins fish empire, to which his rival is (surprise, surprise) the witch. Yet the film never particularly goes anywhere surprising. Of course there’s that “will they won’t they” thing going on between Barnabus and Angelique (which is concluded when the sofa and ‘other things’ are split), but that’s not enough. Sure Depp gives a great performance, but what about the other characters? We have Johnny Lee Miller playing a sarcastic, miserable man, who barely has any lines. We have Helena Bonham-Carter (who is ginger!) but also doesn’t have much involvement, which is a great shame because Bonham-Carter is a damned good actress, and the dryly flirtatious character she portrays I’d like to know more of.

We need more of these two: Johnny Lee Miller and Helena Bonham-Carter in Tim Burton's new film 'Dark Shadows'...

We need more of these two: Johnny Lee Miller and Helena Bonham-Carter in Tim Burton’s new film ‘Dark Shadows’…

As the film drifts on into the second and third acts, it left me wanting more substance. Perhaps it’s to do with the fact that the story concerns itself over rival fish-companies. I imagine it is that, after all, fish are not the most interesting of creatures, and Tim Burton’s gothic style doesn’t suit aquatic animals. But it’s not that. We never really plunge into the heart of the character’s and see what motivates them, and this is alright (since most films don’t involve great character development), but this is a film where the center of the story is about the characters (and the characters are played by actors of great talent).

Dark Shadows is a good film, but it left me wanting more.

Verdict:

Dark Shadows is a good film with strong performances, yet it story doesn’t seem to be explored in-depth and it’s character’s (albeit Barnabus) seem very ‘skim-read’. Either way, the artistry of this film and the visuals will certainly provide for Tim Burton’s fans. If you’re not a big Burton fan, skip this and watch Sweeney Todd instead.

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GREATEST Films of the 90s – PART ONE

Below is part one of my greatest 90s movies list…in no particular order…

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

It resides at the top of IMDbs ‘Top 250 List’, yet this film didn’t have an easy path to get there. Despite critical acclaim, it flopped at the box office, yet due to DVD rentals, word of mouth spread after its initial theatrical release and it is now considered to be one of the greatest films of all time. The Shawshank Redemption is a powerful tale about Andy Dufresne, who is given a double-life sentence for the two people that he was wrongly accused of murdering. There he meets Red, a lifelong friend – and as the journey of Shawshank unfolds, we learn that “hope will set you free”.

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Not putting this gem of a movie on this list would be a crime. Quentin Tarantino’s puzzlebox of a movie is at once mind-blowing, confusing and funny. It tells various stories about crime and redemption which all interlock together so well that it doesn’t even matter if you don’t what the hell’s going on.

Trainspotting (1996)

Trainspotting (1996)

Trainspotting (1996)

Trainspotting is the movie that showed the world that Britain doesn’t just make camp costume dramas; for the content and style of this film shocked the Daily Mail, disturbed audiences, and made them chuckle along the way. Renton is a heroine-addict who decides that he wants to drop his habit, yet his journey isn’t easy, especially when his friends tempt him to come back to his former drug-habit, randomly assault strangers, and accidental murder a baby along the way…what can I say? It’s…darkly funny…

Before Sunrise (1995)

Before Sunrise (1995)

Before Sunrise (1995)

Some say that Kevin Smith’s Clerks is the indie movie of the 90s. I disagree, this one’s better in my opinion. In both films nothing happens, but that’s oddly part of their charm. Two strangers meet on a train and they decide to spend 24 hours together, whilst we follow their conversation along the way. Never boring, constantly intriguing, and very very moving.

Boogie Nights (1997)

Rollerskate sex in Boogie Nights

Rollerskate sex in Boogie Nights

Everyone has a talent or an asset, right? Well, Eddie Adams (aka Dirk Diggler) has a 13 inch schlong. Such an asset becomes very useful to him when having sex with a girl whilst she’s still wearing rollerskates…not only that, it’s also quite useful when you’re a porn star. Boogie Nights tells the story of the rise and fall and rise (?) 0f Dirk Diggler. like to think of it as Pulp Fiction but with more sex, but then again that’s a crude comparison as the film inhabits a strikingly original world of its own. It pays homage to the lurid world of pornography whilst at the same time condemning it. Funny, dramatic, powerful, disturbing, Boogie Nights is a movie that (ahem) aims to please…

GREATEST Films of the 70s – PART ONE

Hans C. Blumenberg described the 60s as “the most dismal and boring decade in cinema history.” A controversial statement. Yet if we look at the films of the 70s, it’s not so difficult to make large comparisons. 70s cinema upped the game, films became riskier, edgier, more violent…oh…and a lot more sex; not to mention casual blasphemy.

Here is the first part to my list of 70s films which I think are the greatest…

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Casually stripping down to our underwear for your entertainment since 1975

The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Casually stripping down to our underwear for your entertainment since 1975

A cinematic mindfuck to say the least. To sum up its ‘plot’ is borderline impossible, however the film is set above others as it has a warm heart of gold. It’s sexy, raunchy, filled with innuendos, funny, stupid, pointless, chaotic, wild, and it’s absolutely brilliant. It tells the story of Janet and Brad – their car has broken down, but by chance, they are near the mansion of a mad scientist known only as Dr. Frank N Furter. Suddenly, Brad and Janet are (quite randomly) stripped down to just their underwear and are forced around the mansion to take part in fun and watch some alien transvestites from the planet Transsexual, in the Universe of Transylvania randomly sing and dance. It’s camp by the way.

Very very camp.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Classic slasher film: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Classic slasher film: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Perhaps the most disturbing (horror) film ever made, if not that, a definite landmark fo 70s cinema. Steeped with controversy from the beginning due to its violent content; the movie still remains today to be as shocking, frightening and brutal when it was released in 1974.

It tells the story of five college friends who go up to their grandpa’s house. Rather unfortunately to say the least, they are hunted down by a cannibal family who enjoy terrorising, chopping, murdering, and eating strangers…

Oh, and the cannibal family also like to make benches and random house-hold objects out of human/animal body parts in their spare time as well.

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Dawn of the Dead is dead funny.....(hahahahahaha, see what I did there?)

Dawn of the Dead is dead funny…..(hahahahahaha, see what I did there?)

When people think of ‘Dawn of the Dead‘, they usually think of a gorey zombie movie which attempts to frighten its audience. Such people have probably never seen the film before, after all, this cult B-movie classic is very very funny.

Four people move into a shopping mall to hide and protect themselves from the increasing amount of zombies that are appearing everywhere. However, these four people soon get too comfortable in the shopping mall and indulge a bit too much. Perhaps one of the best satires ever made next to Dr Strangelove, Dawn of the Dead will have you chuckling as well as thinking.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

John Cleese being very tall

John Cleese being very tall

“We are the knights who say ‘nii!’ ” exclaims an incredibly tall knight, who is clearly Michael Palin in a bad costume.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail is in my opinion the best Python movie, and indeed, the best comedy movie ever made. I ask myself what the bare essentials are for a comedy to be considered a ‘great comedy’. It’s quite simple. You basically have to make me laugh so much that I cry with laughter and have to pause the DVD player in fear that I may die (rather, unfortunately) of having no oxygen. This movie does it with skillful excellence. The jokes are so random, original and stupid that it’s clear that the writers put thought into the puns as opposed to grabbing the cliche film joke book.

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Alex DeLarge looking a tad rapey...

Alex DeLarge looking a tad rapey…

I’d quite happily argue this cinematic triumph to be a landmark in movie making, but then again, I’m a massive fan. A Clockwork Orange is Kubrick’s parable on state control and free-will concerning itself about the day-to-day activities of Alex DeLarge, the movie’s 15 year-old anti-hero with a distinctively creepy stare. His day-to-day activities include assault, rape, trespassing, and consuming drug-infested milk. (Pretty average stuff then.)

A Clockwork Orange is a satire so acidic that if it was a liquid it would probably burn a diamond in two (again, I’m a fanboy). Either way, it’s disturbing funny, thought-provoking, mind-blowingly visual, and will leave you thinking (if not slightly confused and disorientated).

N.B. I shall also be doing other decade lists include the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000-2010…

GREAT MOVIES ESSAY: Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

***CONTAINS SPOILERS***

The twisted nightmare that is Eyes Wide Shut

The twisted nightmare that is Eyes Wide Shut

Eyes Wide Shut is an enthralling movie with an appeal almost impossible to describe. It’s an unerotic movie about sex, a mystery film where there may not even be a mystery, a slow-paced thriller, an unromantic film about love, a realistic dream. It’s a puzzling paradox of a movie bursting with ideas, intrigue and captivating images that linger in the mind. Well, it is for me anyway; I say that because Eyes Wide Shut is Kubrick’s most misunderstood, hated film which never got the praise I think it deserves. Critics called it boring, and claimed it to be not what they expected it to be. The film got bad publicity in the sense that whilst the film was being made, critics made wild speculations, they expected a sleazy erotic thriller, Kubrick’s version of Basic Instinct. Eyes Wide Shut is very far from it, it’s a complex mediation on fidelity, desire and sexual obsession.

What makes Eyes Wide Shut a complex movie is that it oozes slight subtleties from the very start. Around 40 minutes in, it’s obvious that Bill and Alice Harford (excellently played by then married Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise) are facing problems with their marriage and their sex-life. Of course, it is obvious at the party they go to when Alice dances with another man and Tom Cruise has ever-so-slightly suggestive conversations with two girls. It’s all very subtle, but we see the subtext. The man Alice is dancing with wants to have sex with her. And it is evident that the two girls are fancying a threesome. Of course, such subtleties come off excellently as it is clear that flirtations are occurring even when it’s not in the dialogue. Chemistry is excellently shown in the performances, and realism is created almost instantaneously. Subtleties are even shown in the first 2 minutes of the film, when Alice and Bill are getting changed and prepared for Ziegler’s party, Alice says “How do I look.” Bill then replies, without looking at her “You look perfect”. Obviously this took a second viewing to realise this, but such a subtlety shows their developed relationship and suggests that Bill and Alice are drifting apart on an emotional and sexual level.

Also, the most obvious subtlety in the whole film is emphasised in one particular shot which in essence sums up their relationship. This shot was used in the poster campaign for the movie, and if we observe carefully, we see that Bill is in the moment, and enjoying it, whereas Alice isn’t, she has no eye contact with Bill, and looks bored.

Posters of the film has the best shot of the movie on it

Posters of the film has the best shot of the movie on it

However, even though this film may have a seemingly realistic edge, the edge soon becomes softer as the surrealism and dreamlike aspects of the film fade into the forefront. This isn’t merely brought about by the style of the film and the way the film is shot, but perhaps, the film’s narrative structure. After Bill is told by Alice that she almost cheated on him, he goes on an all night sexual odyssey. He encounters many people, and as he moves from person to person, we forget how he got there, like a dream. Dreams are all about the moment, you never remember how you got there, and Eyes Wide Shut feels very much like this.

Of course, the most surreal moment of the film is in the infamous orgy which takes around 70 minutes in. Hands out of your trousers boys, it’s nothing to get excited about. It’s shot in a very mechanical way, we glimpse past moments of very ritualised sex acts, whilst dreamlike eastern music drifts on in the background. It’s not erotic at all. It’s hypnotic yet at the same time disturbing.

Your casual pre-orgy ritual...

Your casual pre-orgy ritual…

'In-yer-face'. Disturbing. Ritualised. The masked orgy in Eyes Wide Shut...

As you do.

Tom Cruise is also surprisingly very good in this movie. He doesn’t ‘dialogue-facilitate’ like he does in most films, he doesn’t just say the words. He is Bill Harford, and he’s quoted on saying that Kubrick brought out this performance in him, he’d go home every night in the mind of Bill, and apparently, that’s not the best place to be. There’s a natural intensity he brings to it. At no point does he ever scream, shout or raise his voice, very rarely in the film does he break down. Yet, we can see him teetering on the edge throughout. He does that rare thing which only some actors can do, where we see the intensity brought out in his eyes.

Stand out performance from Tom Cruise

Stand out performance from Tom Cruise

Nicole Kidman’s performance has often been commented upon, yet she has two big monologues which effectively allow her to engulf herself in the role and develop her character. Cruise is the true star here. Now for the objectivity. Yes Eyes Wide Shut is well-directed, well-shot, well-acted, yet it suffers from one flaw. Length. Kubrick has often been criticised for making long movies (2001 and Barry Lyndon immediately spring to mind). The film is too long, by around 30 minutes, and towards the end it feels as if the dream of Eyes Wide Shut is just dragging itself along. However, Kubrick finished editing the film and died three days after the initial screening of it. It is said that even after the first screening, Kubrick would meticulously keep editing away at it, even when the trailers were being put out. Could this movie have been better if he didn’t unfortunately die of heart failure in his sleep? Either way, Eyes Wide Shut is an intriguing, visually stimulating movie which feels like a sucker-punch to the mind due to the amount of ideas it puts forward and questions that it poses. Oh and the last word of the film, said by Nicole Kidman is perhaps the best final line of dialogue ever.