dark-shadows-poster

GOING FOR A BURTON?

Tim Burton has always been a very strange director. His films have always looked sumptuous but often they have suffered from either a weak script or poor direction. Dark Shadows was a cult TV series in the US that ran from 1966 to 1971 about an eccentric family in Maine who hid a dark secret, that one of its number, Barnabas Collins, was actually a vampire. The TV series didn’t really get shown in the UK but it has quite a following in the US so it was an obvious choice for someone like Burton to bring to the big screen. I admit that I have never seen the original TV show so expectations were uncertain when I went to see the film. Burton has brought in regular collaborators Johnny Depp (as protagonist Barnabas Collins) and the director’s partner Helena Bonham Carter (as psychiatrist Dr Julia Hoffman) here while the rest of the cast includes Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Lee Miller and Chloe Grace Moretz as the rest of the Collins family. The plot is simple enough: vampire Collins is cursed and entombed in a coffin by witch Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) at the end of the 18th century after he spurns her advances. He is woken up almost two centuries later in 1972, when the family fortunes have dwindled and the town that they gave their name to, Collinsport, is controlled by Angelique, who now runs a huge fishing company. So Barnabas makes it his mission to restore the influence of the Collins family to its former glory while searching for his former love and coming to terms with living in a strange and unfamiliar future. Dark Shadows is a real mess: Depp does have some nice lines and he looks great in costume but any empathy for his character disappears when you watch him dispatch his victims to feed on. The rest of the cast are pretty forgettable: Eva Green looks stunning as witch Angelique but doesn’t have much to play with while Collins matriarch Pfeiffer and her estranged husband Roger (Lee Miller) are totally wasted, appearing as nothing more than flimsy foils for Barnabas’s story. The film’s script is all over the place as well: not scary enough to be a decent gothic horror and not quite funny enough to cut it as a straight-out comedy, the film ends making little sense, dispatching Angelique but setting things up for a possible sequel. Burton is a frustrating director: his ideas are nearly always interesting but he just doesn’t know how to put them all into a cohesive whole. Dark Shadows is worth watching for Depp’s amusing performance but otherwise it’s just the same old thing from Burton. File under mostly forgettable…

















COASTING PART TWO
So Wednesday started with us dropping off copies of TRIPWIRE at the Icv2.com conference which took place at the Marriott. We gave out copies of 2008 and 2009’s Annuals and saw Jeph Loeb give a keynote speech, watched Robert Venditti and Chris Staros discuss the Surrogates‘ move from comics to the big screen, which was fairly interesting when you consider that this was Venditti’s first comic and his day job is helping Staros out at Top Shelf. Jeff Smith talked about how he has resisted a cinematic version of his series Bone, which was pretty funny. I admit we didn’t stick around for the second half of the conference as I was still tired and trying to adjust to the time difference. So we set up for Preview Night and got a decent amount of foot traffic by our table, making a few sales of the new Annual. I saw Richard Taylor from Weta briefly on Wednesday too, which is always a pleasure. I don’t remember where we went for dinner on Wednesday. Thursday was a decent day as we kicked it off with the TRIPWIRE panel, which Rich Johnston and Kody Chamberlain came for, and we even had a good turn out for the audience. Myself and Andy G also met with our Barnes & Noble buyer, James Killen, which went well, I did a press conference with Tim Burton about Alice in Wonderland and I got to do a Terry Gilliam roundtable about Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus. I got some great photos of him and he came across as very approachable. To be honest, if all I did at the whole show was do the Gilliam thing, I would have been satisfied. The weirdest thing about Burton is that, the older he gets, the more he looks like Bob Dylan. Myself and Andy G met with Bill Schanes at Diamond Comic Distributors regarding the whole benchmark thing and, while he was very pleasant, they wouldn’t change their mind, which is their prerogative. So we are looking at other options. I didn’t get to do the James Cameron interview or Peter Jackson but I did a Kick-Ass roundtable that evening and got to see its producer Tarquin Pack again, which was cool. I saw lots of people throughout the show and gave them copies of the magazine and don’t remember looking back which day I actually saw them. Sales on Thursday were steady. So here’s another selection of photos from Wednesday and Thursday…


A CLOSE SHAVE?
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is Tim Burton’s latest effort. An adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s phenomenally successful musical, it stars Johnny Depp as the eponymous psychotic barber, Helena Bonham-Carter as his accomplice Mrs Lovett and a cast of impressive supporting thesps including Alan Rickman and Timothy Spall. I went to see it at a press screening last Friday as it doesn’t come out over here until the end of the month and I found that Sweeney Todd suffers from the same problems nearly all of Burton’s efforts do. It looks stunning and production designer Dante Ferretti, who has worked with Scorsese and Gilliam, does a magnificent job of bringing a gothic Victorian London to fantastic life but there is little emotional connection here between the characters and their audience. Sacha Baron Cohen’s cameo as snake oil salesman Pirelli is pointless and arbitrary. Having said that, Depp is very good indeed: he looks the part, inhabits the role well and his charismatic malevolence is a pleasure to watch on screen, while Rickman as the judge who slighted Todd years ago turns in a masterful performance. Bonham Carter isn’t terrible, although she does feel slightly miscast on occasion. Vocally the cast do themselves proud too as I was fairly skeptical as to whether the musical element would work but nearly all of characters are far too unsympathetic to feel any empathy with them. It is also very bloody and visceral on screen, making it quite unpleasant to watch. So Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is recommended to see once with some reservations…