Film Review: Dark Shadows

Dark Shadows is likely to divide audiences. Those who get on board will find amusement in Tim Burton’s homage to the past.

Barnabus Collins moved to America as a young child with his wealthy family. Barnabus is turned into a vampire by a witch, who buries him in a coffin. When he is set free two-hundred years later, Barnabus sets out to find the Collins family in the alien world of 1972…

Based on the television series which ran from 1966 to 1971, Dark Shadows is a curious mixture of moods. It is not quite a dark comedy, although there is plenty of humour in the first half of the film. This humour is more camp than macabre, as the film slides from a kitsch 1970s lightness to some gothic interludes that border on horror.

There is a perceptible shift in mood from the first half of the film to the second. The second half lacks the humour that makes the first half so enjoyable. That is not to say that Dark Shadows fails to entertain after the half-way mark, but simply that there is a more serious atmosphere. The ending of the film feels a bit drawn out; a snappier climax with more humour would have been welcome.

Dark Shadows is a homage to the television series it is based on, as well to 1970s music and popular culture. The film seems to feature the things that interest director Burton and star and co-producer Johnny Depp, with the inclusion of Alice Cooper, gothic lore and camp humour. Dark Shadows also features many tropes of the traditional soap opera. The film is segmented, giving it the almost episodic feel of a soap. There is also the sudden departure of characters, and those that go missing for a significant portion of the duration, not unlike a television series.

Tim Burton’s film is visually appealing. Colleen Atwood has done a fantastic job with the costumes, while the surroundings appear authentic for the period. The make up and special effects used on Angelique in the finale are fantastic.

Johnny Depp is responsible for much of the film’s humour. Eva Green makes a great vamp as Angelique. Michelle Pfeiffer brings presence as Elizabeth, while Gulliver McGrath shows promise as young David. Bella Heathcote is a welcome addition, looking every inch the Burtonian love interest.

Dark Shadows has several virtues. The only disappointment is that it had the potential to be a lot better.

Stuff To Look At

There is still some time to go before the new trailer for The Dark Knight Rises is unleashed (4th May, to be shown before The Avengers in US cinemas). I am trying to avoid the TDKR scoops/spoilers like the plague. In the mean time, here is some stuff on other upcoming releases.

Dark Shadows

Dark Shadows is out in cinemas on 11th may 2012 and I am really looking forward to it. Warner Brothers have released this fun featurette about vampire history and the film’s televisual past. Dark Shadows is Tim Burton’s first film since 2010’s Alice in Wonderland. The director also has Frankenweenie coming out later this year.

Prometheus

It’s all about the build up to the trailer nowadays. It was announced yesterday that a brand new trailer for Ridley Scott’s Prometheus would air on television during Homeland on Sunday evening. I might have to wait a little longer than that, as I don’t actually watch Homeland. While we wait for that, here is a short featurette on Prometheus and Ridley Scott. Prometheus is out on 1st June 2012.

The Dictator

The Dictator is due for release on 18th May 2012. Sacha Baron Cohen is stepping up promotion for the film, which will hopefully bring the laughs. Above is footage of an Australian television interview with Cohen (in character). Needless to say, there are some silly jibes.

Snow White and the Huntsman

After Mirror Mirror was surprisingly good, Snow White and the Hunstman needs to step up its game. Above is the latest TV spot for the film. I am really looking forward to the film because I like fairy tales and Charlize Theron looks like an amazing Queen. The Florence + The Machine song ‘Breath of Life’, which features in the film, can be heard here. Snow White and the Huntsman is released on 1st June, with previews from the 31st May 2012.

Rock of Ages

I for one am hoping that Rock of Ages will be the hot mess Burlesque was supposed to be. It has all the right ingredients; Tom Cruise as an ageing rocker, an eighties rock soundtrack boasting Journey and Def Leppard, and Catherine Zeta-Jones. I have never seen the musical, but I am looking forward to seeing the film. You can view the trailer hereRock of Ages will open on 15th June 2012.

Trailer Round-Up

Last week was a slow week for trailers, so I decided to carry any forward to this week’s round-up. Despite the teasers for the Prometheus trailer, it is not being unveiled until Sunday. But this week with have the first trailer for Dark Shadows, a new Battleship trailer, Now is Good and a new Mirror Mirror featurette.

Dark Shadows

From the stills released earlier this year, this was not what I was expecting from Tim Burton’s update of 1960s television show Dark Shadows. Set in the 1970s, the film appears to be far more camp than gothic. There is also more comedy than I was expecting. This is not necessarily a bad thing, readjusting expectations to view Dark Shadows as a comedy makes it appear rather fun. Dark Shadows is released on 11th May 2012.

Battleship

From the toy company that brought you Transformers… There are definite parallels between this Hasbro toy product-based film and the Michael Bay franchise. I am hoping Battleship is going to be the hottest mess of the year. It should be suitably ridiculous, and shouldn’t take itself too seriously. Whatever the outcome, at least the presence of Taylor Kitsch and Alexander Skarsgård will make the film easy on the eye. Battleship is released on 11th April 2012.

Now is Good

This looks as if it will be a bit of a tearjerker. Based on Jenny Downham’s novel Before I Die, Now is Good is about teenager Tessa, who is diagnosed with a terminal illness. Dakota Fanning has proved herself to be a capable actress, but her English accent in the above trailer sounds less than authentic. Now is Good is released on 25th May 2012.

Mirror, Mirror

Having undergone a sensible name change, Mirror Mirror seems a very family-orientated film. It is a lot more camp than Snow White and the Huntsman, which is out later in the summer. Above is a featurette about Armie Hammer’s character in the film. Mirror Mirror is out on 2nd April 2012.

Film Review: Alice in Wonderland

Tim Burton’s live action-CGI extravaganza is an entertaining escapade well worth the watch in 3D. A sequel to the Alice stories rather than a remake, it bares little resemblance to earlier cinematic adaptations. In this version, Alice is a nineteen year old who falls down the rabbit hole after running away from an undesired marriage proposal.

Burton’s film features a far more active Alice, one who eventually fights in battle against the Red Queen’s army. Whilst the film features the familiar Wonderland characters, the plot diverges greatly from the 1951 Disney animated feature of the same name. Screenwriter Linda Woolverton has created a quest narrative for the teenage Alice, which contrasts significantly with the whimsy of Carroll’s original stories.

The cast features many of the familiar Burton players, with Bonham Carter making a fittingly over the top Red Queen. Depp is suitably outrageous as the Mad Hatter, although he does play the character with a modicum of sadness. New blood is injected with the welcome presence of Mia Wasikowska and the delightful Anne Hathaway. A particular highlight is Stephen Fry voicing the enchanting Cheshire Cat.

As ever, Danny Elfman produces a score that compliments the visuals perfectly. Generally the 3D works well given the content, although it does look a little flat when compared to recent box office behemoth Avatar.

Alice in Wonderland‘s opening weekend success is unsurprising, considering its first quarter opening and the huge promotional campaign orchestrated by Disney (the publicity of the threatened boycott no doubt helped to boost audience awareness). Nonetheless, as a longtime Tim Burton fan, one can’t help but be disappointed by lack of originality in his recent work. With a reworking of Dark Shadows being reported as his next project, it looks like the days of Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands are long gone.