Saturday, May 12, 2012

Dark Shadows

I saw an interview some time back where Johnny Depp admitted whenever Tim Burton calls with an idea, he doesn’t need even need to hear it.  He just agrees.  Burton is a one of a kind director with a taste for the macabre and the quirky.  If Depp is in fact his muse, Depp is a willing one who can match Burton quirk for quirk.

Dark Shadows is a perfect forum for these two brilliant but weird talents to collaborate on for the eighth time.  Depp is a terrific actor whose sometimes gets lost in his idiosyncratic characters.  Sometimes we can forget that he isn’t actually Captain Jack Sparrow or Willy Wonka.  I have a feeling Barnabus Collins may just join that pantheon of eccentric characters.  I think Burton revels in producing roles in which his muse can shine.  The weirder the better seems to be his motto.  I don’t personally like everything these guys make together but I admire their originality and their dedication to the strange and unusual. 

Depp is at his witty best in Dark Shadows.  As Barnabus Collins, a two century old vampire on a quest to restore his family’s reputation and fortune, Depp’s clever fish-out-of-water observations are numerous and chuckle worthy.  Depp often takes his characters over the top but he reins Barnabus in, doling out the humor in just the right dosage.  A young star on the rise, Chloe Grace Moretz steals most of her scenes.  Displaying a barely stifled intolerance of the adults around her, Moretz portrays the perfectly melancholy teen.  Her attitude toward Barnabus seems natural and realistic.  Eva Green continues to build her resume with evil villainesses as the witch who curses Barnabus to his shadowy existence.  It is always nice to see Michelle Pheiffer grace the big screen, even if here character was under written.  Burton’s secondary muse, wife Helen Bonham Carter, rounds out the entertaining cast. 

To be honest, Dark Shadows isn’t an award winning effort.  The story falters and lulls about in a couple of places but if you enjoy the Burton/Depp tandem, then you will enjoy this movie.  It is a chuckle fest with a dark side (pun intended) and is set up for a sequel.  A number of the better lines are already delivered in the myriad of trailers used to promote this film.  Still, I enjoyed the picture and chortled throughout.  The film is also appropriate for all but younger children.  The violence is insinuated and the monsters for more funny than scary. 

Unless you are a huge Burton/Depp, you could probably wait to see the picture on DVD if there are other movies (Avengers, Battleship) on which you would rather spend your theater dollars.  It is an entertaining couple of hours but probably can be enjoyed in your living room as much as the big screen.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012


GIRLS (HBO, Sundays, 9:30pm, Eastern)

This wasn’t a program I was prepared to actually like.  I was pleasantly surprised with this seemingly real show about four young women in their early to mid twenties.  It is sort of on the opposite end of the social spectrum portrayed by Sex in the City.

This is the struggle of these four young women dealing with the day to day grind of living life in New York City.  Paying rent, finding jobs, searching not just for love, but for solid, comfortable relationships, are all themes that transcend not only life in the big city but the life of many college graduates around the country in an economy that isn’t quite healthy. 

Girls is served up on a platter of acerbic wit, piled high with realism and topped off with just the right amount of satire.  Most of the work is due to the real life observations of one talented person – Lena Dunham.  This young gal is a busy person.  She created this gem and writes, directs, produces, as well as holds down the lead role.  HBO and co-producer Judd Apatow have shown great faith in Denham and as far as I’m concerned, she has delivered.

The writing takes into the lives of the four friends played by Dunham, Allison Williams (Brian Williams’ daughter), Jemima Kirke, and Zosia Mamet.  Dunham and Williams as best friends and long time roommates show great chemistry.  The ultra talented Mamet, who played a worldly Bohemian in Mad Men, goes completely opposite here as the innocent, na├»ve virgin.  Kirke’s character (Jessa) was my least favorite right from the beginning but she may actually be the most complex character as the series moves along.

Girls is funny and bawdy without relying on cheap laughs.  The humor and wit is seldom laugh out loud funny but I chuckle throughout each episode.  It is subtle, sexy and smart, and at times, sweet and innocent without even trying.  It is a premium cable program and therefore is not appropriate for all audiences.   I can tell you that I can’t wait for the next episode. 

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