Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Movie Review: Dark Shadows (PG13 - 113 minutes)

At the top of this one, I'm going to plug the Podcast I'm now doing with my friend Keith, in case you'd like to hear me discuss movies with a friend, instead of just reading my movie-based thoughts!  It's pretty entertaining!  Check us out at http://www.hesawshesawfilm.wordpress.com/

Dark Shawdows was a soap opera that aired between 1966 and 1971.  It depicted the wealthy Collins family in Collinsport, Maine as they dealt with strange occurrances in their family starting with Vampires and going on through witches, werewolves, etc. 

The show is available on DVD if you'd like to check it out, and just as an interesting note, Johnathan Frid's Barnabas Collins does not show up until episode 210.  It was filmed live in New York, like any other soap opera, and had a loyal following.  Two membersof that loyal following were Tim Burton and Johnny Depp.

Tim Burton and Johnny Depp are really good friends and feed off each others creative weirdness.  Also, Burton seems to be one of the the only people who will completely let Depp dissappear into a costume/makeup, which he loves to do.  He's gained enough of a reputation now that many directors will let him do it, but in the early part of his career, Burton was one of the few, mainly because, he's equally as weird as Depp. 
Their joint career started in 1990 with Edward Scissorhands and continued through the following:  Ed Wood (1994), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Corpse Bride (2005), Sweeny Todd (2007), Alice in Wonderland (2010), and Dark Shadows (2012).  These films all have a similar theme/vibe to them, slightly offbeat and a little bit weird, allowing Depp to stretch into a memorable character, while Burton crafts a uniquely dark story around it.  My personal favorite of this list is Sleepy Hollow.  I really enjoyed their take on Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman.
It has the same tone that the two have been able to bring to most of their collaborations:  genuine creepiness, some actual horror moments, some tender sweet moments, and finally, but perhaps most important, a cheeky sense of humor.  I have seen almost all of their collaborations (only pieces of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and none of Ed Wood, and pieces of Corpse Bride).   But Sleepy Hollow was definitely my favorite. 

It was with some trepidation that I went to see the new Burton/Depp Dark Shadows.  I have found their last few collaborations to be somewhat self-indulgent and a little pretentious.  But then, I almost always find Depp a little pretentious.  I was concerned with the marketing of this particular movie, because every commercial made it look like a hilarious comedy - and being familiar with the previous collaborations, I knew that it would not be all comedy. 
I liked the movie - it was okay.  To sum up the story:  Barnabas Collins left England as a young man with his parents in 1772 ish.  They settled in Maine, established a profitable fishing company and built their family mansion - Collinswood.  Barnabas spurns the affections of the housekeeper, Angelique, who happens to be a powerful witch, and she proceeds to curse the family with bizarre miseries.  In a final act of vengenance, she kills Barnabas's new love, turns him into a vampire, encourages the townspeople to bury him, and builds her own fishing empire (because, why wouldn't she?).  In 1972ish, a workcrew is building a new McDonalds and unleashes Barnabas, who sets out to fit in to this new strange time, and rebuild his family and their fortune, which has fallen into some disrepair. 
It maintained the sense of humor all the way through, but it also had the creepy tone that I was expecting.  As with all Tim Burton movies, the sets and scenes are beatiful, and look like amazing gothic paintings brought to life.  The house, Collinswood, is gorgeous and lavishly decorated.  The sets they built for Collinsport (yes, the town is named after them too), really look enough like a little New England fishing town that I expected a shark attack at any time.  Thank you, Spielberg, for ensuring that I never think of New England in a pleasant way again.  There were a shocking amount of shots of the ocean slamming against rocks, and by the dozenth time, I was really wondering why they kept showing the ocean.  Watching the original opening for the show above does clarify that, but it probably could have been cut down a little. 

Depp does a wonderful job with Barnabas's "man outside of time" dilemma, all the more increased in it's awkwardness because he's also a Vampire.  Say what you want about him, the man is a good actor - apparently ageless (he still looks 20ish, what is the deal? maybe he really is a vampire?), and knows how to enjoy playing in great costuming and makeup, which this movie definitely has.  I also really enjoyed his conviction to bring his family back to it's former glory - which is Barnabas's main motivation once revived.
Michelle Pfeiffer plays one of the 1972 Collins's, I'm not entirely sure of the relation, I could have almost used a family tree diagram at one point.  She is fantastic as the current matriarch of the family who is trying to hold them together.  Pfeiffer has been very careful about recent choices and is as strong as she has ever been.  Again, if you haven't seen Stardust - netflix it now. 
Johnny Lee Miller (Sick Boy from Trainspotting - and Eli Stone from Eli Stone) is barely in this as Roger Collins.  He does an good job of making Roger irritating, but if you want to see him at his best, rent Hackers again, or Plunkett and McLeane, or really watch Eli Stone - which was underrated. 
Helena Bonham Carter plays the drunken live-in physchiatrist, Dr. Hoffman.  She's very good, and it seems she just keeps getting better, but then she's always good in Burton pieces.  They've been an item since they met making his Planet of the Apes reboot in 2001, and share connecting homes in London and have two children together.  She's equally as weird as he is, and truly understands the tone of his movies and is always entertaining in them (probably the same reason Rebecca Pidgeon is always good in David Mamet pieces - and for the record, the tone in those is difficult to get right, not to mention dialogue pace, but Pidgeon does every time). 
Bella Heathcote does a good job of playing Victoria Winters, which is difficult, because her character was significant, but seemed to get one line of backstory/development. 
Jackie Earle Haley is underused as the drunken butler/family member?  Honestly - I needed that family tree diagram. 
The two children were good, but honestly, I just got really annoyed with Chole Grace Moretz's stoned rebelling 70s teen.  So, perhaps she did a good job?  I don't care what you say, I didn't like KickAss, and I don't like her.  Moving on....
The true scene-stealer in this is Eva Green as the witch, Angelique.  The only other thing I had seen her in was Casino Royale, the first Craig Bond.  She is going to be in the 300 sequel (no, I don't know why they're doing that), and was in The Golden Compass (no, I can't explain why I saw that - the marketing people lied and made it look good - easily one of the worst movies I've ever seen).  I was mostly unfamiliar with her,which is why I found her so entertaining in this.  She is over the top, evil and slinks her way through the movie, harassing Barnabas and Co. while demanding his love and affection.  I particularly enjoyed the scenes in her fishing company board room.  The make-up effects on her during the final battle are amazing and really well done.
There wasn't anything I can pick out as strongly disliking in this movie, except for the fact that it has a good cast, it's billed as an ensemble, and really everyone in the movie is underused with the exception of Depp.  So, it's not an ensemble, it's a Depp movie.  If you're a fan of his, that doesn't bother you.  If you were looking for more from the great cast (which could have been capable of so much more), and more of the family interaction, and a little less Depp, perhaps wait for the sequel (I can't support that, but it seems inevitable).
All in all, entertaining, just not amazing.  Unfortunately, anything released after the Avengers is just going to be, meh.  It's just shy of two hours, and really, might have been stronger at 90 minutes.  If you're a Depp/Burton fan, see it, you'll love it.  If you're not a fan of them - don't, you won't.
6 out of 10.  Gained points for Eva Green - I really thought she was great.  Lost points for the Christopher Lee cameo (at least he wasn't wearing Dooku's short cape).  Gained points for the Alice Cooper cameo.  Lost points for not using the cast to the full of their potential. 
Bonus Video 1:  Clip from the original TV show:
Bonus Video 2:  My all time favorite Tim Burton Movie is Batman (does that even count?).  Second is Beetlejuice.  It's creepy and weird and hilarious. 

1 comment:

  1. Definitely has its moments of fun, but they all start to go away by the last act when the tone shifts from goofy comedy to campy melodrama and takes all of the steam out of its story. Very lazy direction by Burton but definitely not terrible. Good review Jeanette.