May 11, 2012, - 8:09 pm
Wknd Box Office: Dark Shadows, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Giant Mechanical Man, Damsels in Distress
The new movie I liked best this weekend is the one that had the smallest budget, but a lot of class and charm, which I cannot say for any of the others.
* “Dark Shadows“: I didn’t hate this movie based on a late ’60s/early ’70s TV soap opera, as at least one commenter predicted I would. But, while I looked forward to seeing it, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. On the other hand, it is chock full of camp, style, and kookiness, and parody. Too chock full of those things. . . to the point that it feels like a stuffed turducken with too many other animals crammed in along with it. The movie was waaaay tooo loooong, and it just became silly and boring at a point. It seems that everything–including the kitchen sink–is thrown in, including an appearance and performances by Alice Cooper. I like campy, unusual stuff, but I”m not sure I’d pay $10 to see it, as it’s neither a great nor tight movie. And I’m not quite sure what the plot actually was. It seemed like everything happened and yet nothing really happened to move things along. And at times, it was a comedy, other times a thriller, and other times something else. It’s sort of just weird. It wasn’t horrible. It was okay.
I saw it after the screening of a far superior small-budget, independent film, so perhaps I was spoiled for it. I was also disappointed that–with all the violence, gore, and a kinky sex scene between a vampire and a witch–it was only rated PG-13, instead of the R that it richly deserved. The movie has some funny lines, and it’s worth seeing (if you are a woman or gay) for the fashion, colors, and set design. It’s not really aimed at men, though some may enjoy it if they must be dragged to the movies by a wife or girlfriend and choose something other than “The Avengers.”
The story: the Collinses, an immigrant English family settles into a seaside community in Maine and becomes wealthy after building a fishing and cannery business in America’s early years. But a servant (Eva Green) who is in love with the family’s son, Barnabas (Johnny Depp), is upset that he spurned her love, and as she is secretly a witch, she kills his parents and turns him into a vampire. Then, she tells the town he is a vampire, and they bury him in a chained coffin. Flash forward to the early 1970s, when construction workers accidentally free vampire Barnabas, who returns to his ancestral home to find his descendants, including Michelle Pfeiffer, in what has become a dowdy unkempt mansion.
Barnabas helps the family return to their former wealth, but his real goal is to destroy the witch, who made him a vampire and destroyed his life. She’s now the fishing and canning magnate in town and has put the family’s rival business out of business. But not for long. Also in the mix is a mysterious young woman who answers an ad to become a nanny for a young Collins boy. What is her connection to the woman Barnabas loved in the past and who was sent to jump off a cliff by the evil witch?
The movie is mildly entertaining, but should have been tightened up and shortened. At this point, it’s unwieldy and overstuffed, but not like a good comfortable chair. More like a 30-course meal, when all you wanted was a tasty snack.
Watch the trailer . . .
* “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel“: This is “The Love Boat” for old people with British accents, set in India. And just as annoying and cheesy. Senior citizens are not the typical movie demographic, and Hollywood largely shuns them. This movie–which was a hit in Great Britain–attempts to fill that void. It’s a shame, though, because it’s low-brow with a high-brow set of accents and actors to put lipstick on the pig. Seniors deserve better, as do we all. And it’s predictable and vulgar. There is one character who declares he is gay and goes to see the man he had sex with as a kid in India and whose life he believed he ruined after the two of them were discovered by their families when they woke up. And there is a lecherous old man seeking to find women to sleep with. Ditto for some of the women, too.
The story: a bunch of England pensioners (that’s the British “high brow” term for retirees) have no future in England and are seeking a new life for the rest of their lives. Each sees an online ad to live cheaply at the luxurious “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” in India. So, there they go, finding a dump that doesn’t look like what was advertised. Instead of “The Love Boat’s” Captain Stubing, there is a young Indian man (Dev Patel), who seeks to make a success of what is a rundown hotel once operated by a relative and now owned by himself and his brothers. He longs to be a success and is fighting off his mother’s desire to have him return home to Delhi and enter an arranged marriage. Instead, Patel loves a woman who looks like a double for his real-life girlfriend and “Slumdog Millionaire” co-star, Freida Pinto.
As for the English guests, one is a widow, another never married. There is a couple who lost their life savings by investing in their daughter’s internet company. And there is an old woman in a wheelchair who needs a hip replacement (or something like that). And the randy old guy plus the gay guy seeking forgiveness from his childhood lover. Yup, I know–it sounds dreadful. And it is. We are shown each of their stories and how those interweave, just like a bad episode (were there any other kind?) of “The Love Boat.” And all is neatly resolved at the end, minus Gopher and Isaac, etc.
Long, slow, and boring. But if you’re old, I guess they figure you’ll be down with that. Sad. I don’t think anyone wants to see old people–or people of any age–in these weird sexual situations and stories. Even old people. Oh, and this should have been rated R, too. But it was PG-13, as well. Not that anyone under 50 will want to see it. No one over 50 should either.
One other thing: the movie is produced by our anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, apartheid friends in the government of Dubai. Yup, ImageNation Dubai made this awful piece o’ crap. I wonder how the gay thing goes over. But, hey, as long as they are promoting the gay stuff to non-Muslims, what do they care? But Muslims would never ever be hypocrites, right? If you go see it, you are putting money in the pockets of those who boycott Israel and all Jews with an Israeli stamp in their passport. And money in the pockets of those who welcome HAMAS/Iran arms dealers to stay in their hotels. Skip it.
Watch the trailer . . .
* “The Giant Mechanical Man“: This is one of the only Michigan Film Tax Credit boondoggle projects I actually liked (and if it couldn’t be made without being subsidized by Michigan taxpayers, it should not have been made). It’s cute, classy, and funny. It’s a chick flick/romantic comedy worth seeing, even though it’s gotten little press. It hits all of the notes just right, rarely done in these kinds of movies. And a plus: it mocks phony, New Age motivational speakers and advice providers.
Jenna Fischer (TV’s “The Office) plays a woman without direction who is struggling to survive economically. She works as a temp but gets fired by the temp agency and cannot make her rent. She has no choice but to move in with her yuppie sister (Malin Akerman) and her sister’s dentist husband, who try to set her up with their friend, a pretentious (is there any other kind?) motivational speaker and author (Topher Grace). At the same time, Chris Messina is a misunderstood mime with a street performer act. He dons silver make-up, a giant silver suit and hat, and stilts and performs outside in the winter downtown (the movie was filmed in Detroit, but isn’t set in any particular city). He has a fed-up shallow and materialistic girlfriend who seeks money and status and dumps him. But he’s a guy with class. He chastises two men who are engaged in filthy talk in front of a bartender at his girlfriend’s work party (just before the dumping). Soon Messina and Fischer end up more and more in each others’ lives and they are introduced when they both take jobs beneath them at the local zoo, in order to get by. And they fall for each other.
I’ve probably undersold the movie with my description, as it’s a lot better than it sounds . And funnier. It’s a short, entertaining, enjoyable movie filled with charm and humor. Both lead actors are terrific. And it speaks to the place in which a lot of people find themselves at one point of their lives or another. It’s a shame it’s only getting limited release and mostly in arthouse theaters. When it comes out on DVD, this will make a fun rental.
Watch the trailer . . .
* “Damsels in Distress“: This is one of those weird, pretentious arthouse movies that is just plain silly and boring, but pretends to be smart and high-brow. Don’t believe the hype. What was under two hours seemed like seven. At first, this seems like it will be a funny parody of college life and “well-intentioned” girls who seek to free their campus from its previous tradition of male domination and from its current state of depression and suicidal tendencies. There are some funny lines. But it degrades into stupid anti-male sexism without a point. And it quickly becomes clear that the movie is going nowhere at five miles an hour. It’s just too ridiculous and dumb to be put into words. Don’t waste your time. “Damsels” is an elitist time bandit. Pretending to be something classy and worthwhile, it’ll steal two hours of your life you’ll never get back. And ten bucks better spent on coffee.
Watch the trailer . . .
Tags: Alice Cooper, Barnabas Collins, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Chris Messina, Dark Shadows, Dev Patel, Dubai, Eva Green, Freida Pinto, Giant Mechanical Man, ImageNation, ImageNation Dubai, Jenna Fischer, Johnny Depp, Malin Akerman, Michelle Pfeiffer, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Giant Mechanical Man, Topher Grace, Vampire, witch