Category Archives: helena bonham carter

Dark Shadows 2012

Dark Shadows ~ When I first saw the trailer for this new version of Dark Shadows my thoughts were, “Oh boy, here’s Tim Burton raping another piece of my childhood, just like he did with Batman, Willy Wonka, Planet of the Apes, and tried to do with Superman.” To an extent, I was right, but if I’m absolutely honest, having seen the film, there’s also a lot of love and homage in there too, right next to the blatant disrespect and mockery.

The story for those who don’t know is that of Barnabas Collins, cursed by an ex-lover, also a witch, to become a vampire in the 18th century, imprisoned, released and awoken in the 20th century. This was the basis for the last few years of the late 1960s/early 1970s ABC soap opera cult classic “Dark Shadows.” Tim Burton, a supposed fan of the series, has decided to remake it as a camp comedy horror drama, emphasis on the camp and the comedy. Not that “Dark Shadows” wasn’t camp, mind you, it was, it just wasn’t planned to be. Like all good camp, it took itself deadly serious. That’s not the case here at all unfortunately. Often, as with most of his films, what’s funny to Tim Burton is rarely funny to everybody else.

All the good zingers are in the previews, so don’t go in expecting much more. That said however, in between all the failed jokes are tons of in-jokes and Easter eggs for fans of the show. Tim Burton may have disrespected the TV series, but he certainly did know it backward and forward. He does streamline and he does change many details, but still the love is evident. It’s when he tries to make fun of it and fails that fans and non-fans alike will cringe.

I dislike Johnny Depp’s Barnabas Collins quite a bit. As he sometimes does, it seems as if he made up a character in a improv class and then built a movie around it. Depp might be better off getting together and making movies with that Borat guy rather than raping my childhood with substandard remakes of old soap operas. He does have Jonathan Frid’s speech patterns down however. I have to give props to Helena Bonham Carter’s Dr. Julia Hoffman for the same reason. Her voice is perfect, but her over the top dye job alcoholic drag queen version of the doctor not so much. Fans of the show will laugh their asses off at her, it’s both hideous and hilarious.

Another of my favorites, Jackie Earle Haley is cast brilliantly as groundskeeper Willie Loomis (and yes, I bet that’s where “The Simpsons” got the name from). He is one of the highlights of the flick, both dramatic and comedic. Don’t blink or you will miss the two second cameos by surviving cast members of the soap opera – Kathryn Leigh Scott, David Selby, Lara Parker, and the recently late Jonathan Frid – as guests at the ball/happening with Alice Cooper.

Michelle Pfeiffer is pretty pedestrian for a role she wanted so badly, but she doesn’t have much room to act next to the scene-eating Depp. Same for one of my faves Jonny Lee Miller and newcomer Bella Heathcote – not enough room. I would have loved to have seen more of them, but such is the way of the soap opera. Speaking of over the top scene-stealing, Eva Green from “Camelot” is just absolutely crazy town as Barnabas’ nemesis Angelique. It’s almost as if the actors got drunk and played make-believe as their characters at some points. Also, much like 1989’s Batman, Burton is unable to come up with an ending so it feels like he starts pulling ideas of out his butt. Seriously, the last twenty minutes of this movie are insane, and not in a good way. It’s almost unwatchable.

The problem is that it’s not all bad, and that this really could have been a good movie, and not just that, a good movie, a respectful remake, and it didn’t have to resort to low brow comedy. The credits sequence in the beginning, set to the Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin,” with Victoria Winters coming to Collinsport, is so ABC telemovie that not only would Dan Curtis (creator of “Dark Shadows” as well as more than a few movies of the week) would have been proud, but I was half-expecting to see Kim Darby, Kate Jackson, or Karen Black make an appearance.

There was a lot of stuff to love set amongst the comedic ruins of this flick. I loved both the inside and the outside of Collinwood, the town of Collinsport they built on the set, including the Blue Whale. The bit with Alice Cooper, which in the previews appears to be a one note joke, turns into brilliance by the inclusion of “The Ballad of Dwight Frye” as background for a couple scenes.

All in all, except for the last quarter of the movie, I did enjoy it. It’s not “Dark Shadows,” it’s not the cult classic gothic soap opera of my youth, but I did laugh, I did smile, and I still have my memories. Worth seeing for the curious, the fans, and for those with no point of reference whatsoever. I just would have rather seen the movie it could have been, as opposed to the one it is.

Alice’s New Adventures in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland ~ This 2010 edition of the Lewis Carroll stories was masterminded by Tim Burton and presents a tale that is both a sequel and a re-imagining of the Alice saga. It’s been highlighted with the best special effects CGI and Disney Digital 3-D and IMAX can offer.

There’s been a lot of hype about this movie, and just like its creative predecessor, Avatar, I had the same thought leaving the theatre – where did the money go? Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s up on the screen, but it’s neither in the writing nor in the acting. The plot is at times slow and boring and at best predictable. Title player Mia Wasikowska and Knave of Hearts Crispin Glover aside, the cast sleepwalks through this special effects extravaganza. Wasikowska is someone to watch.

And those that don’t drift through – Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter and Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen, both day-glo nightmares given CGI life – overact and hog the screen mercilessly. And none of it is pleasurable. I cringed when either of these two were on screen. Depp is really only likable for a few moments toward the end, but by that time it was too late.

This is a good film, and a visual spectacle that must be seen – preferably in 3-D and in IMAX to get the ful effect, but I couldn’t help thinking it could have been much better. I mean, if you’ve already spent, let’s say, $300 million, why not invest another five mil to get the script up to snuff? The all-too-brief bright and shiny scenes in which we see the young Alice experiencing the original Wonderland adventures made me yearn to have seen more. Perhaps half that and half this dark Burtonesque Wonderland with the adult Alice would have worked better both visually and storywise.

All in all, this is recommended, but on the whole a disappointment of what could have been. The battle at the end is a sight that is on a scale with the end conflict of Avatar. Definitely see it, despite my small quibbles, and see it on the big screen.

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Tim Burton’s Alice


Johnny Depp? Helena Bonham Carter? Seemingly acid-induced CGI? Yep, sounds like a new Tim Burton film is on the horizon. This time he is trying his creepy hands at Lewis Carroll’s classic with Alice in Wonderland.

With Depp as the Mad Hatter, Carter as the Red Queen, and Mia Wasikowska in the title role, Burton describes this as almost a sequel to the 1951 Disney film of the same name, as a slightly older Alice returns to a Wonderland she doesn’t remember.

The film also features Alan Rickman, Anne Hathaway, Stephen Fry, Crispin Glover and Christopher Lee. Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland opens March 5, 2010.

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Sweeney and the Chipmunks

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street ~ Now I loved the stage play, and the music and Angela Lansbury from that version so I had high expectations for this. And while I didn’t like it, it wasn’t for the reasons that all the other critics seemed to have. Even though I loved Ms. Lansbury, I really had no problem with Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett or her singing, or Johnny Depp’s for that matter. I thought they were just fine. The atmosphere, and the coloring (solidly Tim Burton) were just about on target and the opening is one of the best mood setters for a film I have seen in a long time. My problem is that Sondheim’s score, which is dark and vibrant, different and brilliant – all appears to be one long droning song in this thing, and one that almost never ends. I don’t know what Burton did to Sondheim’s work but it’s butchered in my opinion. The other main obstacle I see here is that Burton seemed content to make a Tim Burton version of the play, rather than what he was supposed to do – make a film version of the play. Props for atmosphere, but that’s about it.

Dark Harbor ~ This is another loser from the insomnia club on Fearnet. A couple picks up a stranger as they vacation at a deserted island cabin. Predictable and sad, and probably the only time I’ve seen a bad performance from Alan Rickman. One of the most boring films I’ve seen recently.

Alvin and the Chipmunks ~ This could have been such a disaster but it turned out to be quite entertaining. The flick puts an updated spin on the old story of songwriter meets rodents. Featuring elements to entice both adults and children, whether you know the characters or not, I loved this. Yeah, it’s a bit predictable, but in a fun way, as opposed to the movie above. Any movie with the same bad guy (comedian David Cross) as Pootie Tang gets a thumbs up from me, and Jason Lee is fun as David Seville – although he has officially lost his street cred as a skater with this flick. Sometimes you can never go home again. My highest recommendation – I may buy this when it comes out on DVD.

Next ~ Another Philip K. Dick adaptation, this one has Nicholas Cage doing his best Nicholas Cage imitation as a stage magician who can see two minutes into the future. Well done scifi with lots of twists. Worth seeing.

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Harry Potter First Impressions

Thanks to the folks at Potterdelphia and the Riverview theatre on Delaware Avenue in Philadelphia I got to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix tonight.

The fifth in the film (and book) series fills the need for every fan of either series. Just the right amount of darkness, characterization, fun, wizardry, bravery and special effects for everyone.

Evanna Lynch brings Luna Lovegood to almost perfect life for the film, and in the category of making the most of small parts, Helena Bonham Carter as the sinister Bellatrix Lestrange and Natalia Tena as Twonks completely steal the show. Harry also gets his first serious kiss, as the kids all appear to be maturing at the same rate this time out.

The special effects are stunning, especially the final battle between the Death-Eaters and the Order of the Phoenix at the Ministry of Magic. Ralph Fiennes still creeps me out as Voldemort. Unbelievably he has found a role even more evil than Schindler’s List‘s Amon Goeth.

I’ll be seeing this flick again, a mark of distinction from me.

And the special boo-hiss award goes to the folks at the Riverview for turning off the air conditioning in the jam-packed theatre once the flick started. It was only 88 degrees outside at three in the morning. What were they thinking???