Posts tagged Johnny Depp
I’m not the target audience for Mark Salisbury’s book Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion. That’s because I never saw the 1970s soap that inspired Tim Burton’s film “Dark Shadows,” and I didn’t find the movie particularly entertaining. I thought it was better than Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland,” but not one of his all-time best. However, I am a sucker for coffee table books, especially ones about movies, which is why I decided to check out Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion. I knew it would be a quick, easy read with lots of big glossy photos and fascinating behind the scenes stories. And it didn’t disappoint!
Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion features a foreword by Johnny Depp, the movie’s lead actor and frequent Burton collaborator, as well as an introduction by Burton himself. Neither of these statements are very long, although Depp’s foreword is especially entertaining. Even if it was ghostwritten, the section captures his unique voice perfectly with statements like “The character of Barnabas Collins possessed a sense of elegance that bewitched me.”
Following these opening statements is a section on the history of how the project came to be, which annoyingly repeats some of the same sentiments expressed in Depp and Burton’s intros. After that, the book delves into original material again, taking a logical approach to organizing itself: Chapter 1 (Cast), Chapter 2 (The Sets), Chapter 3 (Costume, Hair & Makeup, Prosthetics), Chapter 4 (Cinematography, Stunts, Special Effects), and Chapter 5 (Visual Effects, Editing, Scoring).
Each chapter contains a pleasing mixture of behind the scenes photos, concept art, and anecdotes from the cast and crew. Frustratingly though, captions are not placed next to images. Instead there is a single page in the back which has them, forcing you to flip back if you want to know who or what is featured on a specific page. The most hilarious interview snippets come from Depp of course, who is the only person in the book who requires censoring. He drops an f-bomb, which is politely altered so as not to offend readers.
My favorite discoveries mainly involved how the filmmakers created the costumes, sets, and effects for this supernatural flick. I loved hearing about how movie magic was used to create this quirky world. Although it was also intriguing to learn that Michelle Pfeiffer who plays the Collins family matriarch, was a huge fan of the “Dark Shadows” television show and practically begged Burton for a role in the movie.
Perhaps the most bittersweet part of Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion, is its afterword by the late producer Richard D. Zanuck, to whom the book is dedicated. Zanuck had an extremely long and successful career working on many iconic films, so it’s surprising to hear him describe this cast and his crew as one of his all-time favorites. I wonder how much of his statements were derived from truth, and whether he was putting on a kind face for publicity’s sake. Unfortunately we’ll never get the chance to ask him.
Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the film “Dark Shadows” I still dug Mark Salisbury’s book, so if you’re a huge fan of Burton, Depp, the movie, or the television show, you’ll probably have just as much fun with this book.
Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion is available in stores and online at www.titanbooks.com.
You know how “Pirates of the Caribbean” was a Disney ride before it became a Johnny Depp film? Tim Burton’s “Dark Shadows,” which also stars Depp, could easily be the reverse: a movie that inspires a theme park ride. Just like an amusement park attraction, Burton’s flick focuses more on spectacle than it does on substance.
The movie opens with Barnabas Collins (Depp) over-dramatically narrating his back story. In the 1700s, his family leaves Britain to settle in colonial Maine. After arriving, they establish the town of Collinsport and start a lucrative fishing business that allows them to build a palatial manor called Collinwood.
Flashing forward, we see Barnabas as a handsome man with loving parents and the woman of his dreams. He doesn’t remain happy for long; because the jealous witch Angelique (Eva Green), rips away everything that’s important to him. She transforms Barnabas into a monstrous vampire and convinces the townspeople to bury him alive. Unfortunately he sits undisturbed until 1972, when construction workers unwittingly free him.
Barnabas returns home to find his beloved Collinwood in shambles and a group of dysfunctional descendents living there. Once he discovers that Angelique has stripped his family of their wealth and reputation over the centuries, Barnabas vows to restore their good name and to defeat her. Everyone in the Collins clan is puzzled by his strange clothes and mannerisms, but they rapidly embrace his positive thinking and fierce loyalty.
As you might guess, the majority of the humor in “Dark Shadows” is derived from the culture shock that Barnabas experiences as a result missing 200 years of history. It doesn’t get any funnier than Barnabas quoting Steve Miller’s song “The Joker” or reeling in disgust from glam rocker Alice Cooper, who he refers to as “the ugliest woman I have ever seen.” However these jokes start to get old as the movie goes on.
Despite his ugly bowl cut and outdated social skills, Depp oozes his bravado as Barnabas Collins, even when telling someone to kiss his ass, “You may strategically place your wonderful lips upon my posterior and kiss it repeatedly!” Michelle Pfeiffer works well as the present-day Collins matriarch in spite of her lack of intelligent dialogue, but her rebellious daughter played by Chloe Grace Moretz is annoying. Honorable mention should go to Johnny Lee Miller who is perfect as Pfeiffer’s sleazy, thief of a brother and Jackie Earle Haley who’s a riot as the family’s drunken groundskeeper.
Depp isn’t the only Burton regular to return for “Dark Shadows.” Burton’s lady friend Helena Bonham Carter portrays the booze addled psychiatrist living with the Collins family, and composer Danny Elfman handles the music. Stylistically, “Dark Shadows” is very similar to other Burton films, which gives it a bit of a stale quality. Everything is very gray like in “Edward Scissorhands” and the score has a madcap quality to it reminiscent of “Beetlejuice.”
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of “Dark Shadows” is its villain. Green does a fine job as the diabolical Angelique; however her motivations aren’t very complex. When she finally confronts the Collins family in a magical showdown, the special effects are incredibly cheesy. Her cracking porcelain form looks like a cheap rip off from “Death Becomes Her.”
Since I haven’t seen the 60s British soap “Dark Shadows” is based on, I can’t really speculate on its quality as an adaptation. Although I can certainly say this movie isn’t Burton’s finest work. At least it’s funnier and less bizarre than his previous flick “Alice in Wonderland.”
My Grade: C
Writer/director Bruce Robinson’s The Rum Diary is much like a Caribbean vacation: a carefree getaway filled with significant rum consumption. However the film, which is based on Hunter S. Thompson’s novel by the same name, takes this relaxed attitude to the extreme, with a story that drifts along aimlessly like a rudderless boat.
You’re probably not surprised or even dissuaded if you’ve seen other drug addled Thompson adventures like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Where the Buffalo Roam. But since The Rum Diary was written before these yarns, when Thompson wrote for a Puerto Rican newspaper in his youth, it sets slightly more serious expectations for a cohesive tale.
In this mission, they are moderately successful; “On Stranger Tides,” is not the best “Pirates of the Caribbean,” but it’s certainly not the worst either. Marshall is able to breathe some excitement back into the tale by returning it to the swashbuckling spirit of the original. Without the love story between Will and Elizabeth to bog things down, he is able to concentrate on Captain Jack’s daring escapes and quick-witted skills in battle, things that made the first film so much fun.
At the opening of “On Stranger Tides,” Captain Jack has arrived in London to rescue his friend Gibbs from the gallows. Jack’s cunning allows them to escape temporarily, however they soon find themselves under arrest by King George’s soldiers. George, who is hamishly portrayed by Richard Griffiths, asks Sparrow to quest after the fabled Fountain of Youth, since he has heard Jack has a map to it. In trademark fashion, Jack refuses the offer, choosing instead to make another improvised breakout. This leads King George to hire Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) Jack’s old nemesis turned privateer, to find the fountain.
While in London, Jack runs into an old love interest, Angelica (Penelope Cruz), who convinces him to join her, on her own quest for the Fountain of Youth. Sparrow unwittingly climbs aboard the vessel of Angelica’s father, Blackbeard (Ian McShane), and the three embark upon the dangerous journey to find the mythical landmark. Meanwhile, the Spanish learn of the fountain’s existence, so it becomes a race to see who will arrive first to take advantage of the healing waters: Blackbeard, Barbossa, or the Spanish.
Johnny Depp returns in solid form, as Jack Sparrow, hardly showing his absence from playing the character. What’s interesting about Jack Sparrow in “On Stranger Tides,” is that we get to see him experience something he never has before: remorse. It’s clear that in the past he wronged Angelica, and now that he’s with her again, he feels the need to make things right, which does not seem like Jack’s usual style. Sadly, even though Depp has nailed down the character of Jack Sparrow, he possesses a distinct lack of chemistry with Penelope Cruz, someone who we’re supposed to believe he still loves. This absence of fireworks between them makes their relationship unbelievable and detracts from the movie as a whole.
The much shorter running time of 137 minutes, makes “On Stranger Tides” more engaging and easier to sit through than its predecessor “At World’s End.” However series scribes Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio still manage to waste time on needless character setup, that they could use to better explain the mythology behind the Fountain of Youth. They unnecessarily reintroduce the character of Captain Jack Sparrow, as if the audience has forgotten him, without fleshing out how the Fountain’s magic works and why it’s important to each side. With all this extra white space, the film does not come together as tightly as the first one. Instead it creates a story that is visually stimulating but not emotionally investing.
My Grade: B-
As a whole, the documentary focuses much more on Jim Morrison than the entire band itself. It replays many of the same events retold in Oliver Stone’s film about the group, but makes them watered down and less interesting. There should be more about the other members’ personal influences through interviews and analysis of their musical styles by experts on the subject. DiCillo also loses focus on The Doors with ramblings about the life and culture of the 60s that are best left to more general documentaries.
Having Johnny Depp narrate the film seems like an incredibly logical choice because even though Depp is not a rock star, he oozes a certain smooth appeal and charm that Jim Morrison has in his day. Poor Johnny has to read from a miserable script, filled with little enthusiasm or verbal flair, ultimately detracting from his presence as our omniscient guide.
“When You’re Strange” does effectively tell us about Jim Morrison, through interviews with him and concert film of his onstage antics. Personally I found out more about Morrison’s aspirations as a poet than I knew of before and I did learn a new fact about the song “La Woman” I was unaware of before. Morrison’s lyric in the song “Mr. Mojo Rising” is actually an anagram of Jim Morrison.
This film is meant more for the casual fan of The Doors than the die-hard one because it contains little information that is outside public knowledge about the group. If you are a die-hard fan though, you are probably just be excited to watch the band perform on the big screen and for that aspect I can agree it was worth seeing. Unfortunately “When You’re Strange” hardly focuses on the band itself, spending too much on Morrison and the 1960s. A little more specific direction in this documentary would have made it much more engrossing.
My Grade: B-