Thursday, January 31, 2013

Dark Shadows: A Pale Shadow Of Its TV Incarnation

Dark Shadows (2012)

Director Tim Burton and producer/star Johnny Depp decided to take on Dan Curtis' cult Gothic TV soap opera Dark Shadows and pretty much bore us to death.

Writer Seth Graeme-Smith's (famous for the novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) story has absolutely nothing original, or even interesting, to say. He also had way too many characters on his cinematic plate and did not write well for most of them.

In a familiar tale involving bloodsuckers, Depp's 18th vampire Barnabas Collins is let loose upon the 20th century (1972, to be exact) and he makes undead goo goo eyes at the Collins family's new governess, Victoria (Bella Heathcote), who just so happens to be the spitting image of Josette (also Heathcote) the woman he once loved back in the day.  This is supposed to be going on while Barnabas helps the remaining Collins family descendents, led by matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer), reclaim the Collins' family standing in their Maine fishing community.

I say "supposed to" because Graeme-Smith appears to have forgotten to write scenes showing Barnabas and Vicky together and falling in love again (unless Burton and his editors cut them all out).  You know, showing them doing something; spending time together and getting to know each other, rekindling the magic, or making new magic (the montage of rebuilding the Collins fishing biz does not count).  Since he doesn't, when it comes to that point in the movie where Barnabas declares his love for Victoria, we, the audience, cry out "Bullshit!"  Hey, if the movie-makers don't care, why the eff should we?  Also, for being a fish out of water tale, there aren't any quotable lines or truly memorable situations involving Barnabas as the 18th century gentleman in the groovy early 70s (Austin Powers had better and funnier scenes contrasting generation gaps).  There were, perhaps, opportunities, but nothing that sticks with you (Barnabas' fascination with teenager Carolyn's lava lamp just seemed like Depp acting silly, as if he was improvising that day).

This is a very minor effort from Burton.  Visually, it looks like someone trying to copy the style of a Tim Burton film, but it doesn't fully commit to the whimsy of an Edward Scissorhands or the Gothic creepiness of his Sleepy Hollow (featuring Johnny Depp without garish makeup!).   It feels a bit like Burton's Planet of the Apes, a workman-like effort where he was a director for hire there.  The tone was all over the place: dead serious at the beginning, morphing to Depp's silly/goofy manner and dialogue in the modern day scenes.  Also there was a suggested oral sex scene with Dr. Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter, in the Helena Bonham Carter role in a Tim Burton movie) and Barnabas that was totally out of place in this PG-13 movie.

The cast, which includes Chloe Moretz as trippy daughter Carolyn and Jackie Earle Haley as Willie the groundskeeper, is mostly fine, with Eva Green being the standout as forever-beautiful witch Angelique (its really her movie).  I think Depp's Barnabas would have been better played without the goofy pancake makeup and raccoon eyes (the heavy makeup, emphasizing the curves in Depp's face, makes him look like a little boy).  After all, original Barnabas Jonathan Frid did an outstanding job, and even became a sex symbol of sorts, without having to go to such lengths.  Someone needs to tell Depp that he doesn't always need to hide behind elaborate makeup and funny costumes when he plays in fantasy films (look at Alec Guinness in Star Wars).  Frid's plastered-to-his-forehead hair was all Depp needed.  The rest of the character should have been handled with, I dunno, ACTING.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Super(man) Photo

I found this over at MTV Geek (from Empire Online).  Henry Cavill certainly looks like he's made of steel.  I just wish they'd have kept the red underwear...and the "S" curl.

Man of Steel. In theaters June 14, 2013.  Please, in the name of Siegel and Shuster, please be an amazing movie.  We sure could use one.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Music For A Sci-Fi Friday

You like your sci-fi movies/TV shows.

You like your music videos.

Squish them together and you get stuff like Tom Petty's "You Got Lucky," featuring the great Sandman ground car from the short-lived Logan's Run TV show, dusty desert locations and stock footage from Galactica: 1980 (which was just footage from the disaster flick Earthquake combined with Cylon Raider spaceship blasting clips from Battlestar Galactica).

You also get Rick Springfield's  sci-fi headscratcher, "Bop Til You Drop."  Whose idea was it to pair the clean cut Springfield and his upbeat pop tune with a grungy, dystopic future setting, replete with decent miniature models (inspired by the movie Dune?), Metropolis-like slave workers, mutant makeup jobs and Rick's future-mullet?

Friday, January 4, 2013

I Love It When A Movie Comes Together

The A-Team (2010)

After years of development hell, the A-Team, the famed - some would say infamous - 1980's action/adventure/comedy TV series finally came to the big screen.  With it came all the gunfights, explosions, action set pieces and comedy bits for which the series was known (multiplied, like, 100 fold).  And that's more than okay by me.

If you watched pretty much any episode of the A-Team's five season TV run, you know the drill: a group of special forces soldiers are framed for a crime they did not commit, they escape and seek to clear their names.  And those names are legendary in the annals of TV action shows: Colonel "Hannibal" Smith, the A-Team's plan-loving leader (now assayed by Liam Neeson); super suave "Faceman" Peck (Bradley Cooper); the muscle and the mechanic B.A. Baracus (Quinton "Rampage" Jackson); and the always hospitalized but ready to slip away in moment's notice uber pilot H.M. Murdock (Sharlto Copley).

Just as in the TV show created by action/comedy vet Stephen J. Cannell and Frank Lupo, when the bullets fly and the explosives, well, explode, we don't see blood and body parts getting splattered all over the place; this isn't Black Hawk Down or Saving Private Ryan, and it never tries to be.  Director Joe Carnahan knows the movie, like its TV progenitor, is a live action cartoon.  That's not a condemnation, just a simple matter of fact; Carnahan never tries to turn it into Narc 2: The Fugitive Years.  

The A-Team is fondly remembered for its characters, and the film version doesn't simply offer us carbon copies but updated versions with the same traits.  Neeson is commanding as always, but can still have a twinkle in his eye just as OG Hannibal George Peppard did.  Cooper does suave and smooth like he was born to it.  Rampage Jackson was a big surprise for me.  No one can replace Mr. T. who came out of nowhere to mesmerize 80s audiences on the big screen in Rocky III as the unforgettable Clubber Lang, and then on the small screen as the loveable tough guy with the "Bad Attitude."  Jackson was  suitably imposing, but also has a knack for comedy.  I'd love to see Jackson and Dwanye (formerly The Rock) Johnson in a movie together.  The biggest surprise was District 9 star Sharlto Copley as the chatterbox Murdock.  I loved that Copley did a huge variety of accents and sort of throw away bits throughout the film.  Not all of it stuck (the whole "Attention passengers" bit during some aerial distress has kind of been done to death), but most of it did.  I loved a recurring joke about Murdock calming down BA by promising to make his favorite dish of coconut curry tapenade.  BA then inquires, "With toast points?"  Like you would serve the dish with anything else?

The main antagonist, a shady CIA dude played by Patrick Wilson, was also a lot of fun.  He was someone so cocksure of himself and his power that everything was just a silly game to him.  He wasn't aloof about it, like the more boring James Bond villains can be, but had a more "regular guy" attitude about himself (his Call of Duty reference was funny and revealing about the character too).  The real disappointment is Jessica Biel as a dogged Army investigator.  Pretty much any young actress could have played her part.  She brought absolutely nothing to the screen.  (This had always been a problem with the A-Team TV show - women were always victims, or things to be seduced by Face.)  I liked Biel in The Illusionist, but have never liked her in any other movie I've seen.  She's one of those actresses who is famous for being famous (and who she was dating), and not really for any standout acting performance.

The whole thing culminates in a huge fireball of action and explosions amid hundreds of shipping containers at the Los Angeles Port.  The A-Team is big, loud, often funny and a pretty good popcorn and big-ass soda movie.  It won't cure any diseases, or win any awards, but it sure made me forget about my head cold for two hours.  And that's a small miracle in and of itself.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Bad Movies Will Always Be Bad Movies

So I went next door to the library today as my neighborhood takeout joint prepared the large wonton soup that I ordered (best thing for the frakking cold I picked up on New Years Eve) and I nearly picked up the movie Green Lantern.

But then I came to my senses, because, you know, it was GREEN LANTERN.

Nothing about that movie will have improved since I last watched it, not the dull generic script, not the uninspired action and visual effects scenes, not the lousy cast.  Nuthin'.

Sometimes a head cold will make you do stoopid things.  Thank goodness that Emerald Turd was avoided tonight.