Thursday, May 17, 2012

Dark Shadows (yes, I liked it!)

So to all those Burton/Depp haters out there…I liked Dark Shadows. And no, it’s not because I cannot help but smiling when I see Tim Burton’s name directing something, or the fact that Johnny Depp is quite possibly my favorite actor of all time…but it sure helps.

There was a time not too long ago, when a movie called Alice in Wonderland came out. I was more excited than any college student could be. I wanted that movie to be so good. I had the poster on my wall for months of Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. For years I had been checking off everything that would be great about that movie – subject matter, director, all actors, composer, check check and double check! But it wasn’t. It was everything I hated about remakes all wrapped up in an ugly box. It was boring, uninteresting, and frankly I would rather not ever see it again. Not on TV, nowhere.

So when another Burton/Depp movie came around I was skeptical. I did not want to excite myself too soon. And Dark Shadows had something even better than Alice did – Chloe Moretz, my current favorite up-in-coming actress. I follow most of every movie she comes out with. I think she’s brilliant at choosing material that has a little bit of an edge to it. So therefore, although I wasn’t running through the streets giddy with excitement, I was very intrigued.

And then the trailer came out. And what a mediocre trailer it was. My heart sank. I didn’t know what to think. This movie just wasn’t looking to be good at all. But I was going to see it. I see all Burton movies, because ever since The Nightmare Before Christmas he has been my idol. My favorite director of all time, Burton has done for me what no other director (except Spielberg) can do – he makes dreams come true. And to me, Dark Shadows was no different.

Though not a perfect movie, Dark Shadows is fantastic campy and fun, in the same light that Beetlejuice or Mars Attacks was. There was also an air of darkness to it, a la Sleepy Hollow which is something I have missed from Burton all these years. Johnny Depp was actually a little bit funny in his quirky way, as well as Chloe Moretz. Helena Bonham Carter proved she can melt herself into any role that’s handed to her, and Michelle Pfeiffer is a goddess on screen. Eva Green was also an interesting villainess, although I had a hard time not connecting her to Ichabod Crane’s mother when she was dressed in her maiden attire. The film was light, playful, and all around enjoyable.

The movie was not perfect, though. The script was a little disjointed with characterization as far as the family (specifically the younger boy and Chloe Moretz’s character) and Victoria went. The pacing was also a little slow at times, which was due to some extremely long lingering cuts. It did not bring out huge laughs like Beetlejuice surely does, but it did make me smile frequently and I chuckled regularly! This movie really felt like old Burton – almost like a parody rather than straight up horror or comedy. Not to mention, the cinematography was stunning – the mansion was gorgeous.

To me this movie proves that Tim Burton still has it in him. He’s not boring yet. His comeback from Alice in Wonderland was no Sleepy Hollow, but it wasn’t awful either. I feel like people have hated this movie for either three reasons:

1. They are too attached to the old show, thus refusing to enjoy Burton’s parody of it (fine, I understand that feeling),
2. They are blinded by their Burton/Depp hatred, or
3.  They expect too much from Burton now, and therefore find anything that remotely feels Burton-y “mainstream” or “overdone.”

(and for my end rant) Yet, no one complains when other people reuse similar film techniques. Gore Verbinski, another director who favors Depp, reuses his unique style in Pirates and Rango. There are definitely not as many haters there. People dislike Burton because he’s the easiest to pick on – his style was so original when it came out, that many people cannot get into it. He’s almost niche, if you will. And his style, like many other directors, will not change. Like it or not, but do not complain about his reuse of it. He is an auteur, and will make movies how he likes them – campy, rich with horror tropes and bright red candy blood all day long. And for these reasons Dark Shadows is good, and it was for that lack of reasons Alice in Wonderland was bad.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Avengers 2012

The Avengers -- 4/5

I have been waiting for this day since I saw Iron Man fours years ago to date. I have seen every Marvel movie since on their opening weekends, and have waited after the credits to get the next hint of what's to come. There were some that blew me away, like Iron Man did as well as the Asgard parts in Thor. There were others I enjoyed, but didn't love like Captain America and The Incredible Hulk. But it didn't matter because The Avengers was where it was at, and it felt like eons waiting for the final product.

Now that it's here, I have not been disappointed. The Avengers, directed by the immensely talented Joss Whedon, was a super hero film like no other. I've enjoyed seeing all these heroes work solo, fighting the evil forces that have been sent to destroy our wonderful planet; however there is really nothing quite like seeing a bunch of heroes work in harmony to defeat a massive threat. It's epic, it's grand, and it's enough to send chills down your spine.

Some nice things about The Avengers was the ability it gave to audience to understand what's going on, especially those who have not been to the theaters to see every new Marvel movie. They explain all that needs to be known during the first act, but not in a way so that it beats the knowledgeable audience over the head with information. The Avengers expects that its audience is intelligent, which I like.

Something The Avengers also did well as pacing. The editing in this movie was fluid. I feel like the smartest editors out there are the ones that are able to work on these exciting action-packed movies. The edits are so smooth and well thought out. Facial reactions cut to at the right moment, zoom ins on object when needed, etc. There was also some stunning camera work as well. This movie had a great production crew.

The dialogue was also phenomenal. It was funny, snappy, and witty. Iron Man and Bruce Banner mostly getting the best quirky dialogue bits. I also quite enjoyed that they became smarty-friends instantly -- so great! I also particularly loved watchnig Robert Downey Jr. tear up Captain America and Thor. 

Now can we talk about Loki? If you have been reading my movie blog for a while, you'd know that I was obsessed with him upon Thor coming out. He really made the film for me. He was a complex villain who was seriously wronged by the hero. And that relationship stands up in The Avengers. When Thor comes barreling out of the sky and snatches up his brother, you can tell by the way they argue that both care about each other, even though they are both furious. Thor admittedly loves his "brother" Loki, and even though Loki tries to hide it, he cares about Thor too in his own way. They fight like siblings. When he tries to harm Thor, he makes feeble attempts in which he knows Thor will survive. Like a brother, he only postpones their ultimate confrontation. There is a terrified part to Loki that I like. He's not 100% evil. There's humanity in him, whether he wants to acknowledge it or not. In the beginning you see him talking to the Other, who threatens his life. Loki's terrified. He's the master of revenge, but at what cost?

Speaking of being the master of revenge, Loki is also just so sinister as a villain. He's ruthless, he's cunning, and oh gods he's sexy too. Perfect villain material here. He's not big and bulky like most of the Marvel baddies we've seen, like Obadiah Stane (Iron Man) or Red Skull (Captain America). He's intelligent, much like Christopher Nolan's Joker, and thus when he speaks the audience is interested in what he has to say. I love Loki, and I really want to see him again in the future. And it's not just because he's attractive, it's because he's personally my favorite villain to date. I suppose it's because in some way he reminds me of a Korean revenge anti-hero. I know what he's doing it wrong, but I root for him anyway. And who wouldn't?

There were some flaws though. It seems like Thor and Captain America get a back seat to Iron Man throughout the movie. This could be partially because the Iron Man movies have been the most successful ones of the Marvel Avengers series thus far, therefore the audience can relate to him more. Though it would seem that Thor should have had a bigger part, seeing as the villain is his brother after all. Also, Captain America is treated as an idiot throughout the beginning because he has just woken up from an icy sleep, which is reasonable I suppose. I also wished they would have explained Black Widow and Hawkeye's relationship a little bit more. Was it romantic? Or was in platonic? Maybe this means they will make a movie just for them! One can hope, they seemed like really interesting characters. I also found Loki going to Germany of all places and making people bow before him a little cliche (WWII allusion much?). And if you didn't get it, Captain America reminded the audience why he was there to begin with.

But other than a few little things here and there, the movie overall was great blockbuster fun. This is what summer movies are all about. So therefore I say, bring it on 2012. Prometheus, The Dark Knight Rises -- I'm ready for you.