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Dark Shadows (2012)
"DisapPOINTed!" - Otto
One of the reasons that "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein" and "Young Frankenstein" are perfect horror comedies is because they each have a consistent tone. "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein" plays as both a standard Abbott & Costello comedy and a standard Universal horror film. Bud & Lou play for laughs and the monsters play it straight. The only exception is when Frankenstein's Monster recoils in horror when seeing Costello for the first time. "Young Frankenstein" examines all the clichés of old "Frankenstein" movies, but the characters are always deadly serious.
On the other hand, I've been listening to a lot of old time radio comedy shows featuring horror stars like Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre. Some are really good ("Bob Hope", "Abbott & Costello"), but most of them ("Dinah Shore", "Command Performance") are painful, because they are written by hacks with no love for the genre, who trot out the same references and puns every time. They'd be unbearable if it wasn't for the gravitas brought by the stars Peter Lorre, in particular, could make any line funny.
"Dark Shadows" plays as if a team of writers from the "Dinah Shore Show" were assigned to write a straight horror movie and couldn't resist the impulse to Get a Few Boffos! This could have been *such* a good movie, and it's just crap. It just has no idea what kind of film it wants to be, and the mix it tries for just doesn't mix. Barnabas Collins emerges from his coffin after 196 years and he's *really thirsty*, killing eleven construction workers luckless enough to have dug up his grave. Then he does a lame gag with a McDonald's sign. He brushes his teeth while looking into a mirror which doesn't reflect him. He sleeps hanging upside down like a bat.
There are some chilling moments, as when Barnabas sadly announces to a group of hippies with whom he has been pleasantly (if inanely) conversing, that he will now have to kill all of them. Which he does. It wants to be a straight horror film. It wants to be a fish-out-of-water comedy. And it has NO clue how to put the two together.
Burton also steals the brilliant sex-so-hot-it-trashes-the-bedroom scene from "The Tall Guy", where Jeff Goldblum and Emma Thompson hilariously wrecked an entire room without the benefit of harnesses and stunt people. It's not funny here.
Johnny Depp does what he can with the material. For this picture, rather than channeling Michael Jackson, he's 100% doing Richard Burton as a vampire.
Eva Green is really good as Angelique, though unlike Lara Parker, her eyes are not her most prominent features.
Jackie Earle Haley is good as Willie Loomis, totally played for laughs rather than as John Karlen's angsty, guilt-ridden dweeb.
I love Helena Bonham Carter in most things, and here she's a redhead, so you're not going to catch me saying she's being anything less than magnificent. I started to visualize Grayson Hall (the original Dr. Hoffman) going as far with Jonathan Frid as Bonham Carter goes with Depp, but my inner eyeballs started burning.
Everybody else was OK. Eh.
Original series stars Jonathan Frid, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Lara Parker and David Selby appear in the ball sequence for four seconds.
I'm a huge fan of the original series. I had high hopes because Tim Burton and Johnny Depp kept loudly proclaiming that THEY were fans of the original series. As a straight vampire film with great characters and solid acting, this is a bust. As an episode of "The Birds-Eye Open House with Dinah Shore", it's serviceable. Not a bomb, but incredibly disappointing and not worth seeing.
Dark and Stormy Night (2009)
I Just Want My Thoity-Five Cents.
Okay... "Dark and Stormy Night" is my new favorite movie. It's written and directed by Larry Blamire ("Lost Skeleton of Cadavra", "Trail of the Screaming Forehead") and it's a satire of Old Dark House horror movies. This movie is ten times funnier than "Murder By Death". I loved the movie version of "Clue" (sue me). This is better. I can't even begin to count the strange quotes you're going to be getting from me. The dialogue is rapid-fire and brilliantly off-the-wall. There is a love of and dexterity with language and a dearth of fart jokes.
It has the goddess Jennifer Blaire (Animala in "Lost Skeleton") as wise-cracking reporter Billy Tuesday. As far as I'm concerned, she's right up there with the goddess Jane Lynch.
This also has the goddess Fay Masterson (Betty in "Lost Skeleton") as a British ingénue so helpless she can't sit in a chair on her own and the amazing goddess Susan McConnell (Lattis in "Lost Skeleton") as a mad Scotswoman with the greatest heavily-accented vituperation this side of John Cleese as the French guard in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail".
If you like the Christopher Guest style of ensemble casting, you're going to love this movie. Andrew Parks (Kro-Bar in "Lost Skeleton") is the standard issue tuxedoed British fop. His mom, Betty Garrett (from "Laverne & Shirley") pops in and out of the story with her gorilla (Bob Burns. If you've ever seen a gorilla in a 1960s sitcom, it was Bob Burns.) Jim Beaver (Ellsworth on "Deadwood") is great as the deceased millionaire's safari guide ("Some of the toughest four days I've ever spent.") Actually, there isn't anybody in this movie who couldn't be singled out which of course is what you're shooting for with an ensemble.
I completely love Larry Blamire. In a Non-Threatening, Manly American sort of way, I mean. I watched the film again with the commentary track on. His frame of reference is so like mine, it's frightening. Who else bases a character on William Demarest in "All Through the Night" (a Bogart comedy that flopped because it was marketed as an action film)?
This is a movie for anyone who ever wished the "Carol Burnett Show" had hired the writers from "Your Show of Shows".
"I'd LIKE a ducky."
"Hi everybody my name's Ray Vestinhaus a stranger and my car just happened to break down just outside, can I stay for the reading of the will? (BEAT) Oop."
"I am Dr. von Vandervon. Dr. Van von Vandervon."
"Let the puppy go!" "Come to Nana!" "Let the puppy GO!" "Come to NANA!" "LET THE PUPPY GO!" "COME TO NANA!"
"Let us leave this room of death and mounted heads who once were friends."
It's a Question of Stack-Up
For me, any review of "Once Upon a Mattress" is a matter of how it stacks up to previous versions. "Mattress" was the second musical I ever saw performed on stage when I was a kid. In my twenties, I played Sextimus. I saw the 1972 version on TV (and recently acquired a copy; it doesn't age well) and found the 1964 TV version on eBay -- that is the best version, with an unexpected song and dance routine from Elliott Gould, who is light on his feet and sounds like an American Anthony Newley.
This new version, to use my wife's assessment, is too Disneyfied. It's just OK when it could have been fabulous. It's polite when it should be raucous. Too many gags are blown because they toned down the delivery for film. Also, the secondary parts have been reduced to almost nothing. The Jester's role is so slivered that I wonder why he's in the film.
Tracey Ullman: Very good as Winnifred, but held back. Her British accent in the part is fine, since it establishes her as a foreigner in the kingdom. And she IS supposed to come from a marshland swamp in a northern kingdom.
Dennis O'Hare: Good acting as Dauntless, sloppy diction when singing.
Carol Burnett: Here's the main problem -- she's excellent (especially with the new song written for this version), but restrained. Aggravain is written to be bombastic and overpowering.
Tom Smothers: Very good as the King, but again, this is a part that has been played by Buster Keaton. It was written as basically being a medieval Harpo Marx. All of the girl-chasing has been excised. He's very mellow and charming, but mellow doesn't do it for me with this part. He was fine for "Man to Man Talk". Smothers was as wonderful as he was allowed to be by the director.
Matthew Morrison: Again, a cartoon part played too realistically. But Morrison was very good, and sang very well.
Zooey Deschanel: I liked her. Her voice was beautiful (her diction was sloppy.) She acted rings around Bernadette Peters in the 1972 version. But the problem with a more down-to-earth Lady Larken is that what attracts Dauntless to Winnifred is the fact that WINNIFRED is the very first down-to-earth girl he's ever met.
Michael Boatman: As the Jester - probably a good actor, but who knows from this? The part was cut to a point where he was a glorified extra.
Edward Hibbert: Disneyfied in a politically correct way -- instead of obviously being the Queen's lover-on-the-side, here the Wizard is an old drag queen -- LITERALLY, when he's playing the Nightingale.
The director blew the end of the curse. It's a standard comedy Rule of Three: Jester: Look... the Queen can't talk! King: (struggling) I... (court is breathless) King: (struggling harder) I... (court is breathless) King: (smiling) I can! (court cheers!) Here, the director had Tom Smothers IN THE BACKGROUND saying (very quietly), "I... I can talk. I can talk." Completely killed the bit.
The pantomime with Winnifred trying to get to sleep was rushed into, then screwed up with bad camera cuts.
"The Spanish Panic" is a choreographer's Mount Everest. This choreographer fell off the mountain halfway up.
Much of the material holds up (when the director has the faith to let the cast deliver it properly) and the songs are still charming.
The nice thing will be if kids like it enough to seek out other, better movies of musicals, or to audition for this one when their local theater does it, just because they remember liking this one.
The Mummy's Hand (1940)
A Problem with PROnunCEEation
In the opening exposition scene, two people pronounce the Mummy's name as KAR-is, Kar-IS and Kar-EES. Can't make up their minds.
Similarly, Professor Andoheb has the Mummy kill Dr. PET-ree and Babe rushes in with Steve to find that Dr. PEET-ree is dead. They really needed to get on the same page with this stuff.
Takes a lonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnng time to get where it's going and isn't worth the journey when it gets there. For a Universal programmer, it's just OK. Nothing special. I can see why Lon Chaney (who took over for Tom Tyler after this film) preferred playing the Wolf Man.
The Fantasticks (1995)
"Teller doesn't talk!" - David Patrick Kelly in "Penn & Teller Get Killed"
Let's get the usual remarks out of the way:
1. I saw "The Fantasticks" on Sullivan Street. 2. I've played Hucklebee. 3. I love the show.
The movie was OK. Not special; but OK. This will seem egotistical, but it's not: John Corona & I were SO much better than Joel Grey and Brad Sullivan, and that's on a community theatre level. It's not that we were brilliant, but Brad Sullivan was so completely god-awful that Joel Grey (who at least is competent) was completely sandbagged. Why in the name of David Merrick would you cast someone in a major musical part who can't carry a tune in a bucket? I lamented that "Plant a Radish" was cut from the movie until I saw it as a DVD extra. "Oh. That's why they cut it. The singing sucks."
The young lovers were OK. Jonathon Morris acted wonderfully as El Gallo, danced well... and his singing was OK but breathy. None of the power associated with the role.
The best ones in the movie were Barnard Hughes as Henry & Teller as Mortimer... so of course their parts were heavily trimmed, prompting the heading on this review. Apparently when Francis Ford Coppola was editing the movie, he was shocked and aghast at Teller speaking. Teller is now silent in the film.
Some of the changes from play to film are clever, and there is some beautiful photography. But in a musical, without the voices you're sunk.
Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003)
Yes, I'm awake now...
Beautifully filmed piece of boring crap.
If they had eliminated 30 or 40 of the close-ups of Colin Firth or Scarlett Johansson looking soulful and filled with angst, the film would have been shorter by half an hour.
That's really all I have to say, but I'm told I need ten more lines. So please skip the rest of this. We saw two movies today. "Girl with a Pearl Earring" and "Something's Gotta Give." "Something's Gotta Give" was wonderful. This was not. It had wonderful art direction, but that doesn't make up for the 17th Century Sominex soap opera we had to endure.
The Human Stain (2003)
This is a terrific film.
I wasn't going to add a comment here, but I found myself breezing through the other comments, with the constant "poor story structure" crap. Try "complex story structure" or "unusual story structure." They can't ALL be "The Incredible Hulk", folks. As for the complaint that the movie goes on for fifteen minutes after a climactic event: the film ends when the story does. The story isn't ended by the car incident.
I haven't read the book, so I took the film on its own terms. It's a film for intelligent adults with an attention span. The acting is great. Hopkins plays a character who is tragic in the classical sense: a potentially great man with a fatal flaw (and his is a whopper). Kidman is absolutely believable, Anna Deveare Smith is heart-breaking as Silk's mother, Gary Sinise is spot-on and Ed Harris is spooky (ectoplasmically speaking, not as racial vilification.)
Mad Monster Party? (1967)
I saw this at a kiddie matinee in 1967. It's all right -- I was a kiddie then... and I remember that it was kind of ok most of the way through. Karloff was popular.
My main memory is of the ending. At the conclusion, when Felix and Francesca both turn out to have been built by Dr. Frankenstein and Felix consoles Francesca with "No one's perfect... (click) perfect (click) perfect..." as they sail miserably off into the sunset, no one in that particular audience appreciated it as a parody (ripoff, actually) of "Some Like It Hot", which none of us had seen at that point, being more interested at that age in Abbott & Costello than Marilyn Monroe.
This ROAR went up of "WHAT!? That's STUPID!!!" and we went disgustedly out to be driven home by our parents. The movie was nothing special, but inoffensive, right up until the end. The ending tipped it over into being designated as a bomb.
Johnny English (2003)
Now we know what Don Knotts could have done with a bigger budget.
I love Blackadder II, III, IV, etc.
I love Mr. Bean (though slightly less than Blackadder)
I'm not as fond of the first Black Adder, where Atkinson's Edmund Plantagenet is a bumbling nebbish. This movie is an extension of the nebbish persona.
I would have loved a scathing, witty movie (Blackadder) or a brilliant slapstick film (Bean). "Johnny English" is a Don Knotts movie. I loved Don Knotts movies when I was eight; I was hoping for something better (and funnier) from Rowan Atkinson.
Call Her Savage (1932)
Any film that contains:
1. Clara Bow and Thelma Todd in a catfight
2. Clara Bow in a tight silk shirt where it's obvious that (A) she's not wearing a bra and (B) the set was cold that morning is an instant classic, no matter how meandering the rest of the film is.
Also, after seeing the film, I'm at a loss as to why Clara Bow didn't succeed in talkies. She's a wonderful actress, even when the material veers back and forth between sub-par and bizarre.