Dark Shadows (2012)


Reveal Yourself, Tiny Songstress!

Today’s movie was requested by my roommate Richurd. When he requested it, I suggested that he may have to wait until November for me to review it since it didn’t really feel like a horror movie. “It has vampires, witches, and werewolves in it!” he exclaimed, and then proceeded to beat me savagely. Once I awoke, I relented and agreed to review the movie as part of the October Horrorthon. The movie itself was one I knew about when it came to theaters, but had exactly zero desire to watch it. I didn’t know the source material and every commercial for the movie I saw fell flat on its face by way of comedy as far as I was concerned. But it’s a request and so I bring to you my review of Dark Shadows, written by Seth Grahame-Smith, directed by Tim Burton, and starring Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Bella Heathcote, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloë Grace Moretz, Helena Bonham Carter, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller, Gulliver McGrath, Christopher Lee, and Alice Cooper.

In 1760, the Collins family moves from Liverpool to Maine to set up a fishing industry, naming the town Collinsport. They make lots of money and all is going well … until their son Barnabas (Johnny Depp) seduces the maid Angelique (Eva Green). She confesses that she loves him, but he does not feel the same. Also, she’s a witch. She takes it out on his family, getting them killed by a falling statue. Barnabas eventually falls in love with Josette du Pres (Bella Heathcote), but the jealous Angelique bewitches her and makes her leap from a cliff. Barnabas tries to follow her, but finds that Angelique has turned him into a vampire. She then gets a mob to lock him in a coffin for 212 years. That’s when a group of construction workers inadvertently frees Barnabas, allowing him to return to his family – matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer), her brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller), her 15-year-old daughter Carolyn (Chloë Grace Moretz), Roger’s 10-year-old son David (Gulliver McGrath), David’s psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), and the manor’s caretaker Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley) – just in time to greet David’s newly-hired caretaker Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote), who is Josette’s reincarnation. But Barnabas will soon find that Angelique is still very much alive, and still very much scorned.

The best thing I could say about this movie is that it lived up to my expectations. The worst thing I could do is define those expectations. But I’ll do it anyway. I can’t say that Dark Shadows was a bad movie, but it’s very far from a good one. If its intentions were to be a horror movie, it was too goofy. If it wanted to be an action movie, it was too boring. If it was to be a mystery & suspense movie as Rotten Tomatoes claims it to be, then I probably shouldn’t have been able to go into the movie knowing exactly how it would turn out. Sadly, I think it wanted to be a comedy, but it also wasn’t funny. It tries to go for a lot of wordplay and dry wit that I’m sure made the British version of this stuff popular (assuming that it ever was, which I have not looked into), but the jokes used in this movie were too dry and lacked wit … or were just stupid. A lot of the movie after Barnabas returns to the 70’s just feels like the pitch for the movie was, “What if Austin Powers … wait for it … were a vampire!” Oh look at him as he doesn’t understand things because he’s been away for a long time! He thinks Alice Cooper is a lady! HILARIOUS! And on top of all that, the movie just wasn’t interesting. The family wasn’t likeable until the very end when they finally became more interesting, but I was long lost by then. All that being said, this is a Tim Burton movie, so the look of the movie is generally worth notation. It has a cool, creepy, dark look to the whole movie, but at a certain point I’m going to require more out of Tim than that. Also, I don’t know if it was intentional because they wanted to pay homage to the British version, but Johnny Depp looked goofy the entire movie. I was not buying that look.

The cast in this movie was filled with amazing names … who didn’t seem to want to try that hard. This is not a surprising performance for Johnny Depp. It’s a little bit like Captain Jack Sparrow without a drinking problem. Michelle Pfeiffer did not seem altogether invested in the movie. Eva Green was a little over the top, but so was her hotness. Chloë Grace Moretz was never interesting to me until the very end where she turned into something interesting … and then did nothing with it. Jackie Earle Haley came close to being funny a few times. I also didn’t like Gulliver McGrath, but more for the way he was written. How the hell is a kid going to see ghosts for his entire life, but freak out when he finds out the guy that’s been living with his family for a few months while being perfectly nice to him is a vampire?

I kind of feel like I wasted a bit of my time by watching Dark Shadows, but hopefully you don’t feel that you wasted time reading my review. This movie was not funny and not interesting, the actors didn’t seem into it, and I wasn’t either. I had/have no interest in the source material, so I have no idea if it holds up, but I do know that there’s not a lot of reason to watch this movie. It’s not an awful movie, but there are better ways to spend your time. Dark Shadows gets “It is with sincere regret that I must now kill all of you” out of “They tried stoning me, my dear. It did not work.”

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Sleepy Hollow (1999)


Watch Your Heads

October Horror-thon continues, as does my pleas to get my friend Loni back into my reviews, with the Tim Burton movie Sleepy Hollow. I wasn’t really sure if this movie was actually intended to be a horror movie when I pulled it out of my collection, but I feel like it holds up. Plus, Johnny Depp is in it, so Loni should be in. Sleepy Hollow is directed by Tim Burton, and stars Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Christopher Walken, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Christopher Lee, and Ian McDiarmid, as well as some stunt work by Ray Park, so I get to reuse so many people that have been in my reviews before and will be again when I lay down some Harry Potter goodness.

1799, New York City, constable Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) is a strange character and investigator of murders. His superiors do not agree of his scientific autopsy techniques, but they dispatch him to Sleepy Hollow to investigate some recent murders. Those murders involve the decapitation of 5 people, with their heads going missing. He gets there to investigate and is greeted by the cleavage of Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci). At first, his scientific mind leads him to believe that a mortal serial killer is using the towns mythos to hide his crimes, taking this movie dangerously close to the other Johnny Depp joint, From Hell. But Crane soon finds out that the killer is actually the mythological creature called the Headless Horseman (at this point, Ray Park). Crane is told that the Horseman was once a brutal and sadistic Hessian mercenary (Christopher Walken, when his head is on) who was beheaded for his brutality and has come back to life because someone stole his noggin and is using it to control him. Crane then systematically suspects everybody in the town until they come up dead and he starts suspecting the next person he sees.

This movie is pretty thoroughly meh, if I might scare Loni off again. There are lots of things that work and a couple things that don’t. The story itself is pretty solid but I found myself drifting out of it from time to time. Tim Burton, as he seems to like doing, has taken a classic story and made it more dark and twisted. This time, he took an older story from the 1800s or so that was then made into a Disney movie. I pretty much only knew about it from the Disney movie, and I don’t even remember that very well because I didn’t like it that much. But this is a story that works as a darker, gory version. Unfortunately, he also felt the need to add in things about how Crane wanted to use science and autopsies in a time where that was frowned upon and things about conspiracies in the small town. I had always heard the story that the Horseman took heads because he lost his and wanted a new one (and who wouldn’t want Johnny Depp’s head, am I right, Loni?), and that story would work on it’s own. And, according to Wikipedia, the Horseman was more than likely Van Tassel’s other suitor, Brom (Casper Van Dien), who killed Crane to get Christina Ricci (which I would totally do as well). Both of those stories work on their own, we don’t need back story about autopsies and conspiracy and some confusing thing about Ichabod’s mother. That stuff was boring. But the Horseman parts were pretty sweet.

As with most Tim Burton movies, the look and atmosphere trump all else. Sleepy Hollow and the surrounding area seem to be practically devoid of sunlight and are constantly drenched in fog and spooky looking trees. The coolest things were surrounding the gore. The decapitated heads were very realistic. I know 1999 isn’t THAT old, but I’ve seen big budget movies that have come out recently that have worse looking heads than this one does. All of those gory effects worked very well. And when Depp starts hacking into the tree that sits over the Horseman’s body, and the tree seems to bleed and have flesh underneath it, that was very well done and creepy as well. The costumes were nice looking as well. I especially loved the cleavage. Also, I wanna get one of them jackets like Johnny wears in this. I like those old style jackets and I need to find one that isn’t ridiculously priced.

The performances are mostly bland or hammed up. And this movie (I think) was going for a horror movie vibe, but had no scares. It had gore, so it could be a slasher film, but most of the main actors seemed to go more for an odd quirky comedy performance, and I didn’t think it fit. I didn’t really get the character Johnny Depp was going for. He was a constable, so you’d assume he’s seen death pretty frequently, and he was a big proponent for autopsies, but he gets squeamish looking at gore. Well, sometimes. Other times he dove right in. Christina Ricci made no real impact on me beyond her hotness. I got really sad when I recognized Dead Dumbledore was in this ’cause he dead now, but he did a fine job at his smaller part. But there were a lot of big actors with smaller parts in this movie. Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) was in this, Rita Skeeter (Miranda Richardson), Vernon Dursley (Richard Griffiths), the dude from Starship Troopers (Casper Van Dien), Spike from Stay Tuned (Jeffrey Jones), Sarumon (Christopher Lee), and Alfred (Michael Gough) were all in this, but all had pretty small parts. Christopher Walken was creepy, but kinda hammed it up as the Horseman. But that explains the greater majority of Christopher Walken performances. Creepy, weird, and a little hammed up.

That’ll do for this review. It’s a decent enough watch with a hit or miss story and matching performances, but you can’t deny the appeal of Tim Burton’s style. I’ll go ahead (get it? a head!) and give this movie “You are bewitched by reason” out of “He was dead to begin with.”

And, as always, please rate, comment, and/or like this post and others. It may help me get better.

Alice in Wonderland (2010)


You’ve lost your muchness.

I had no time to do my review of the 6 Star Wars movies today, so I dipped back into my DVD collection and routed out Alice in Wonderland. Not the animated one, the Tim Burton one. I decided to do this movie in case my friend Loni had lost interest in my reviews. You put Johnny Depp on the end of a hook and Loni will bite every time. So lets get into this here movie. This version of Alice in Wonderland stars Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas X 2, as well as the voices of Michael Sheen, Alan Rickman, Barbara Windsor, Christopher Lee, and Stephen Fry.

I shouldn’t have to tell you too much about this movie. Who doesn’t know the story of Alice in Wonderland? This doesn’t just remake the classic Disney animation with wacky scenery though. It mashes up two of the classic Lewis Carroll novels: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and it’s sequel Through the Looking-Glass. Now 19-year-old Alice (Mia Wasikowska), is an eccentric girl who has been set up for marriage behind her back. When the proposal comes, she jets. She sees a white rabbit in a waistcoat and follows him into a hole, falling down into Underland. Here she meets Nivens McTwisp the White Rabbit (voiced by Michael Sheen), Mallymkun the Dormouse (voiced by Barbara Windsor), Absolem the Caterpillar (voiced by Alan Rickman), and twins Tweedledee and Tweedledum (both Matt Lucas). They tell her she’s the only one that can slay the Jabberwocky and save Underland. She’s not thrilled. Then, the conversation is interrupted by the Red Queen’s army, including the Bandersnatch and the Knave of Hearts, Ilosovic Stayne (Crispin Glover). Iracebeth of Crims, the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter with a giant head), is not happy at the return of Alice because she’s come back to slay her beloved Jabber-baby-wocky and she’s looking to separate some heads from some shoulders. Alice escapes and soon comes to meet the Cheshire Cat (voiced by Stephen Fry). He takes her to meet the March Hare and brings about the moment Loni had been checking her watch and waiting for, the introduction of the Mad Hatter, Tarrant Hightopp (Johnny Depp). Together with the Mad Hatter, Alice makes her way towards the Red Queen to find the Vorpal Sword, then off to meet Mirana of Marmoreal, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), to try to get her reelected as Queen of Underland. And, yes, I did look up all of their full names because they were wacky and I wanted them written in my review.

So the story doesn’t really require very much commentary. Of course it’s great. It’s Alice in Wonderland. This movie can’t really take much credit for that. I absolutely refuse to read without a weapon of some sort pointed at me, so I have no idea how closely they stuck to the source material. I don’t much care either. The movie was interesting all the way through so, much as the Harry Potter series, I don’t care if it’s nothing like the book at all. I’m not sure if it was a choice by Burton or if it was in the books, but parts of this seemed pretty dark for a movie aimed more towards kids. The Bandersnatch get’s it’s eye ripped out, there’s a bird that get’s stabbed in the eye and then gets it’s head crushed by a rock, and there’s a river full of decapitated heads. Hey kids, you wanna watch Alice in Wonderland? No, the one that will give you nightmares. Well then you probably should’ve eaten all of your vegetables at dinner. Now get in here and watch the movie!

As with most Tim Burton movies – and also Guillermo Del Toro movies – the story takes a major backseat to the visual effects. I’m pretty sure both of those guys are probably insane to be able to come up with some of the visuals they use. And it’s okay that they’re crazy because I can just enjoy the visuals of their movies without having to deal with them personally. The movie was in 3D in theaters, but I’m pretty sure no one made me sit through that gimmicky bullshit, and I certainly didn’t watch it like that at home. The landscapes were all rich with imagination; whether it was the lush, colorful forest area or the ruined town, all of it was a pleasure to look at. Some of the visual effects they went with were interesting but occasionally poorly done. I’m talking mainly about the morphing of the people. Tweedledee and Tweedledum were CG fat boys with Matt Lucas’ face plastered on there. The Red Queen had HBC’s head made gargantuan on a tiny body and Cripin Glover was made slightly more tall and lanky than he really is. These effects usually worked but I felt like, on occasion, it looked weird to the point where I noticed it and that’s not a good thing. But it was few and far between. Alice’s size was in a fairly constant state of flux in the movie because of a potion and a cake. This worked well through the movie, but that must’ve been one flexible dress. Also, the Jabberwocky is freaking metal. I wanna make an album and put that guy on the cover.

The performances in the movie were mostly wacky but all pretty good. Anne Hathaway was the stand out for me. Not just because she’s smokin’ hot and I want to make babies in her, but her portrayal of the White Queen was pretty freaking funny as well. She’s got a darkness to her that she’s always suppressing and compensating by going over the top with the prim and proper. Just the way she walked made me laugh. I don’t really know what to make of Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter though. It was good and interesting, but totally wacky. There were parts where you could really connect with him on an emotional level over the tragedy that befell his town and drove him to madness, but then he’d break into a Scottish brogue out of nowhere. And that Futterwhacken thing? Yeah, I could’ve done without that. I also could’ve done without the scene where Johnny said it in a way that made me think he was talking about regular whackin’ … of the penis … vigorously … HBC’s Red Queen was pretty funny as well. She was like a child given power and murderous intent. The funniest characters were Matt Lucas’ Tweedle twins. I liked their crazy way of making words.

All in all, this is still a good movie. There were parts that lost me, either in wacky performances or slightly askew VFX, but the rest of the visuals kept me pretty riveted throughout. The biggest thing holding this movie back is that it refused to tell me how a raven is like a writing desk. I NEED TO KNOW, DAMNIT!! …sorry. I give this movie “You’re almost Alice” out of “Um.”

And, as always, please rate, comment, and/or like this post and others. It may help me get better.