May 11, 2012, - 8:09 pm

Wknd Box Office: Dark Shadows, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Giant Mechanical Man, Damsels in Distress

By Debbie Schlussel

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 . . .

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33 Responses

What vitriol! Didn’t growing up blonde and pretty in middle America make you feel special? Perhaps you’ve been nurtured a little too much.

The greatest indoctrination into extremist, bigoted, and radical viewpoints can be claimed by religion. Not just Islam, but Christianity and Judaism. All the major religions have their extremists, bigots and radicals (look at you), why do you spend so much time on Islam? Here’s the thing, though, religion and its institutions are some of the most charitable as well. Why condemn all of Islam when the majority of Muslims are exactly like the majority of Christians and Jews?

Eh, try smoking some pot. God grew that for you in mind.

Ricky on May 12, 2012 at 11:03 am

    Ricky, why don’t you stick to the main topic freaktard! When christians and jews alike start committing terrorists attacks on non-christians and non-jews get back at me, and don’t bring up “Anders Brevik”, that guy’s a loon and a moron like you Ricky. As Jimmy said to you, do you see and hear christians, jews beheading people, stoning people to death, committing acid attacks, executing LGBT people, strapping bombs onto their bodies and blowing people up and say “God/Jesus is good” like what muslims do whenever they commit a terrorist attack and say “Allahu Akbar” (in arabic it means God is good). Go troll somewhere you lunatic nerd.

    As for the film reviews of yours Debbie, I haven’t heard too much about any of the 4 films you linked here on this thread, since you’re a film critic and know what you’re talking about, whenever the two films that you gave a good review, I’ll probably buy those when it comes in DVD a few months from now!

    “A nation is defined by its borders, language & culture!”

    Sean R. on May 12, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    Huh? You must have confused vampires with Muslims.

    pat on May 12, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    Ricky, no one forced you to come to this site. Also, your comments are entirely out of place in this movie review section. If you do not have anything relevant to say about the films being reviewed, why are you here?

    Your insults and ravings hang on you like stale dung and go no further. They impact Debbie not a bit, and make you look like the crudest fool. If you are are a defender of Islam, you have just made it more contemptible and vile through your post here. Take a look and see how many favorable remarks you received for your raving comments. Ricky, you can add this to your stack of failures, which I am going to assume are many.

    Worry01 on May 12, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    Ricky, how is it that she spends so much time on Islam?LMAO!!! Little thing about killing everything around them including each other when it’s convenient.
    Try smoking some more synthetic pot. Some evil chemist grew that with YOU in mind. In your “Occupy” tent with your smelly virgin friends.

    samurai on May 12, 2012 at 8:28 pm

Yeah, because we all know and hear about Christians and Jews behaeding and stoning people, right? Go troll someplace else. I for one, enjoy and value Debbie’s reviews. She has saved me so much time and money!

jimmy d on May 12, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Me thinks thou protesteth too much!

I also put a great deal of weight in Debbie’s reviews because all through the years I’ve read her site, she’s sooo right on the money with what she says of her movie reviews. Lockout was fabulous, by the way. LOVED IT! Give me Debbie’s reviews any day over the drivel that comes from pretty much every other “high brow” reviewer out there. Thanks Debbie and keep up the good work for the majority of Americans who agree with your reviews!

Denise on May 12, 2012 at 1:21 pm

Ricky, get stuffed. You’re a retard and fool and we don’t suffer those sorts here. You think you’re so clever but you’re like 15 years behind us. Get lost.

Tim Burton is GREAT at his art and sets but his movies (which I love for their art) are always lacking in the story-telling. It’s disappointing. I am too young (much to my chagrin) to remember “Dark Shadows” but that show would have been right up my dark alley! I kinda wanna see it but will prolly wait ’til it comes on DVD. In reading about “Dark Shadows” it has made me wanna buy the NEW total episode set (in a coffin-shaped box-set) but it’s over $500.! Can’t reconcile that!

Skunky on May 12, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    I saw a bit of the original series. The actor who played Barnabas Collins was not a Johnny Depp type at all. Barnabas Collins was a tragic, and not a ludicrous one.

    It was an innovative series for its time, and it found an audience quite rapidly even before the advent of vcr’s and dvd’s.

    It would be a collection worth having, if the price were right Skunky.

    Worry01 on May 12, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    Skunky, Netflix has it. I’ve already sent for the first of the discs.

    Burke on May 14, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Debbie review of Depp’s last borefest,”Rum Diary” included this line:

“The Johnny-Depp-I’m-Cool-In-A-Weird-Offbeat-Way act is old,tired and hackneyed. Time for it to retire”

Same thing could more than be said for Depp’s longtime partner-in-cinematic crime,Tim Burton.

Phineas on May 12, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Phineas, you stole my thunder! Seriously, I was just going to make the very same point. Except, I’d add Depp’s tired attempt to appear off the wall and weird, too.

The only good Burton film is Beetlejuice. I would have included the first, and only the first, Batman, but not after Christopher Nolan blew him out of the water with his Batman reinventions.

Jeff_W on May 12, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    Frankly, he would be ideal for a role as a serial killer in an old Dirty Hairy flick;)

    worry01 on May 13, 2012 at 1:33 am

    Say, we Tim Burton fans don’t resemble that remark at all. The man is a great filmmaker — yes, that right, great — albeit possessed of a highly idiosyncratic dark magic-realism that might not appeal to some. But even critics not hooked on him have lauded “Ed Wood,” “Big Fish” and “Alice in Wonderland,” not to menion the first two “Batman” flicks and “Edward Scissorhands.”

    Seek on May 14, 2012 at 12:09 pm

I seriously LMAO (I was tempted to say ‘literally’ but I’m sick of the word) at the ‘Damsels in Distress’ review…hilarious…might have been the beer i’m drinking but still, pretty funny..

thanks Debbie for this and the other reviews, you saved me a few $$ in movie tickets, i wanted to watch at least 2/ of the four you reviewed…

Yossi on May 12, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Well, Ricky got a couple things right. She did grow up blonde and pretty in the midwest. He left out brilliant and talented, though.

Dale on May 13, 2012 at 1:47 am

Thanks for the heads-up, Debbie. Probably won’t pay to see any of them. I’d have to drive 50+ miles to find a theater anyway. Can’t stomach (Chris)Topher Grace. Just saw him in “Double” with Al Pacino, and he was horrendous. Carries with him all the tics, mannerisms, and expressions I couldn’t stand in “That 70’s Show.” Looks like Eric with short hair and a suit.

Unless I am confused by history, I don’t think Debbie grew up as a blonde….

Kent on May 13, 2012 at 2:43 pm

I love debbie blonde or not. I am a longtime colleague of Ricky’s. We both subscribe to the school of getting blazed and not giving a shit. As for as the whole religion thing, i have no problem proslytizing with the tip of my pen. The daughters of most these religous nuts love shacking up in my Occupy tent, and getting passed around like a hookah in Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai’s caravan.

Tdog on May 13, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    Yeah, I am sure you do alot for each other in the tent, and I would guess that it is with Ricky rather than any willing girl. Rapists and beheaders are so awesome and brave, especially when their victims are tied up or have a gun to their heads. You are about as cool as someone taking a dump on a bus, or tossing their Wheaties in a parking lot. As Ricky was told, the weird and belligerent crap does not impress, but only enhances the contempt people have for you. Now, go home and pack Ricky up nicely.

    worry01 on May 13, 2012 at 7:49 pm

For all their too cool for school amateur rebellion, Ricky and Tdog are just common, everyday cowards who stand for nothing. They are exactly the kind the Islamic fascists love because they know they stand for nothing.

Jeff_W on May 13, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    You were correct in referring to it as school age, It is the sort of bravado that most people leave behind at 14, if not earlier. It finally dawns on all but the dullest that the objects of their ridicule are not the joke, but they themselves are. Islamic societies tend to arrest this development to a lesser or greater extent, depending upon how strong non-Muslim influences are.

    Worry01 on May 13, 2012 at 11:50 pm

      Thank you Worry01, Jeff W, Samurai, Sean R, and jimmy d in particular for your hilariously perceptive comments directed towards Ricky and Tdog. I got a good laugh from them. They were so thorough and devastating I have nothing to add (at least about those two).

      Burke on May 14, 2012 at 11:25 am

Will someone tell me why “Dark Shadows,” a late ’60s-early ’70s TV show was remade as a feature film? There are classic vampire stories that have never been filmed. Why not film Cyril M. Kornbluth’s “The Mindworm” or Mary Wilkins Freeman’s “Luella Miller?” Some elderly character actress-Maggie Smith, maybe-could have a grand romp playing Lydia Anderson. Then there’s Count Stenbock’s “The Sad Story of a Vampire.” By today’s politically correct standards, that might be a problem. Some might say it was homophobic: the vampire is gay. Coleridge’s long poem Christabel is about a lesbian vampire and might maske a good film. Hallie Kate Eisenberg could play the title character and who could play Geraldine? Anyone out there, familiar with the poem, want to suggest who might play Geraldine? When I first read the poem, more than 30 years ago, I thought of Blanche Baker and Isabel Adjani. Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s “Good Lady Ducayne” is another fine story that has never been filmed.

Miranda Rose Smith on May 14, 2012 at 6:16 am

    That is easy. In its time, Dark Shadows appealed to a mainstream audience, and that audience was also potentially available for a feature film. You saw something similar with Star Trek. Dark Shadows was able to generate a couple of movies back in its own day as well, namely House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows. And over the past twenty years or so, there have been efforts to revive Dark Shadows in some form.

    The vampire genre does not frequently generate much interest outside of its core fan base. This base would be too small to interest a mainstream studio or production company. Also, if you toss in a gay or lesbian theme into the mix, the potential audience for a cinematic production or play drops even further. In the end, entertainment must pay its way by generating a critical mass of support that would be of interest to investors. Hollywood does produce films with a very explicit message from time to time, but those are almost always big money losers.

    What fans of the more rarefied genres can do is network, write reviews of various works involving their genre, and even as individuals or groups produce their own original works. Internet access has made this process much easier than it was in the past. The Star Trek phenomenon grew without such ready resources.

    Star Trek had a fairly short run because it struggled to retain an significant audience, or so it was thought at the time. There was some controversy over how Neilsen did its audience surveys at the time. What Star Trek failed to achieve during its normal lifespan, it succeeded in doing in its afterlife in syndication. It built up a more than viable fan base that was capable of supporting some rather lavish feature films, starting in 1979. Paramount Studios was strong-armed into making a feature film by a fan base that had networked, attended conventions, supported literary works based on their favorite series, etc. It also did not hurt that Star Wars in 1977 demonstrated that a fairly expensive science fiction feature presentation could generate a hefty return on its investment. The rest is history. A marginal science fiction adventure-drama from the late sixties that was deemed to be a failure sprang up like a Phoenix from the ashes of cancellation a decade later.

    I am not an expert, but that is how an audience is created for films and media that do not look like they were shot in someone’s garage or storm drain.

    Worry01 on May 14, 2012 at 11:20 am

      @worry01 – you say you’re not an expert. True. You are better.

      brickwood on May 16, 2012 at 8:34 am

Miranda, I think the simple answer to your question of why complex, interesting classics like “The Mindworm,” “Luella Miller,” “Cristabel” and the others you mentioned have not been adapted is that Americans don’t really care that much for old things. We’re in love with the new because the new is bright and shiny.

I myself admit I’m a little disappointment that the original Gothic novels by Radcliffe, Lewis and Walpole have never gone to film. That’s where all these horror-supernatural stories began, after all, and there’s nothing weirder, scarier or racier than “The Monk,” not even “Cristabel.”

Personally, I’m grateful that Stuart Gordon came along and made it his life mission to put Lovecraft to film. Maybe there will be someone eventually who will do something comparable with all the important vampire classics.

As I was watching “Dark Shadows” (which I loved) I kept thinking about how glad I was that this film was not another Ann Rice adaptation, since this film was so much lighter and breezier than either “Queen of the Damned” or “Interview With the Vampire.” Maybe that’s the reason the classics you mentioned have been ignored, Miranda; this new film was a campy, kitchy, spoofy comedy, and although “Cristabel” could be written and directed with that angle in mind, it probably would have offended Coleridge (even in his grave) to do so.

Worry01, I have a different take on this film than you do (although I found your thoughtful analysis interesting). Burton chose this topic not because of any thought to what was potentially mainstream, but because he and Depp both loved the original TV soap (as I researched and discovered) and wanted to create an affectionate homage. This is Burton returning to his early roots when he did films like “Attack From Mars” (an homage to fifties sci fi) and “Ed Wood” (an homage to cheap sci fi films–“Plan 9 From Outer Space” in particular).

From my point of view, this film was close to perfect. I’d pretty much given up on Burton after his gratingly progressive “Alice in Wonderland” which wore all its leftist politics on its sleeve, and on Depp also after his “Rum Diary,” an obsequious hagiography of counterculture antihero Hunter S. Thompson. This was far, far better than Burton or Depp’s recent movies (last 20 years). It had a beautifully conservative subtext which mocked hippies, affirmed family business, and perfectly mixed sweetness and traditional values with the grotesque and horrifying–the same blend that made his early films (“Beetlejuice,” “Nightmare Before Christmas,” etc.) so beautifully eccentric and appealing.

Miranda, I think Christina Ricci would be a good fit for Cristabel, and I know she’d have no problem with the nude scenes which would be important in a conscientious adaptation of that poem. As for Geraldine, it would have to be someone malignant and thoroughly evil–how about either the hateful Kate Winslet or Ashley Judd since Jane Fonda and Susan Sarandon are both too old for the role? Michelle Pfeiffer, by the way, was perfect for “Dark Shadows.” She helped set the seventies feeling for the film just as well as the lava lamps and Karen Carpenter background songs.

Burke on May 14, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    Miranda, I think the simple answer to your question of why complex, interesting classics like “The Mindworm,” “Luella Miller,” “Cristabel” and the others you mentioned have not been adapted is that Americans don’t really care that much for old things. We’re in love with the new because the new is bright and shiny.

    Dear Burke: I never see an ad for a remake witout thinking “Instead of remaking soandso, why didn’t they film suchandsuch,” suchandsuch being either a book by the same author or a story on a similar theme.

    I’ll certainly keep an eye out for The Monk.

    Miranda Rose Smith on May 16, 2012 at 2:03 am

      Miranda, I would have liked to see your expression when you discovered that “The Three Musketeers” was being remade once again this last year by Paul Anderson. According to Wiki, this was the twenty-ninth version on film. Of course, it might be that you’re stoic and you wouldn’t have flinched.

      …or the recent “Pride and Prejudice.”

      Burke on May 17, 2012 at 11:20 am

Or rather, Ricci for Geraldine and Winslet for Cristabel. You knew what I meant, I’m sure.

Burke on May 14, 2012 at 1:30 pm

I also saw the recently released “Bullies,” a depressingly shallow and misguided documentary about bullies. It shows kids with strange, fishlike faces being bullied. It also shows gays being bullied. It was made by liberals and it was for other liberals who want to cluck cluck in indignation about how evil and mean bullies are because they often pick on the liberals’ special mascots who have become public surrogates for women who don’t want to have any of their own children themselves (that would be too icky).

Liberals want to solve the problem of bullying by increased regulations and increasing the number of mandated hours in sensitivity training. That’s their panacea. It worked for Mao and it will work for us. But it doesn’t work. What works is allowing parents to choose schools they prefer. When parents get to choose schools and there are real, substantial differences between schools so that the choice isn’t just a masquerade, good things happen. Parents begin to emotionally and philosophically invest themselves in these schools. They buy in, to use a phrase. Schools also evolve and actually get better through competition and diversity of choice. Teachers even begin to believe in the schools.

As a teacher, I have seen what has happened in public schools. When the environment becomes a flood of bad behavior, a sense of helplessness sets in. There’s even a fear of retaliation when there’s so much of it, and stopping inappropriate behavior often means putting yourself on a limb. We are even more afraid of parents with their lawyers. Eventually, passivity sets in. And what’s the solution for liberals? Why more sensitivity training, of course! The whole cycle they want is similar to what happens when liberals get their paws on the government purse and attempt to solve the problem of poverty in the inner city. Of course, their marvelous solutions backfire and create more problems than were even originally there.

In short, “Bullies” is emotionally manipulative propaganda that ultimately feeds into liberal delusions. Like many other artsy documentaries, it begins with the wrong set of assumptions and ends with the wrong conclusions.

Burke on May 14, 2012 at 5:05 pm

I also saw this weekend the recently released “Darling Companion” (Kevin Kline, Richard Jenkins, Diane Keaton, etc.). This is another film that Debbie didn’t review (not that I’m complaining; she still reviews more than any other critic in the country as far as I can tell).

“Darling Companion” is a film by Lawrence Kasdan who earlier did “The Big Chill” and “Grand Canyon.” His specialty is films where virtually nothing happens except a lot of heartfelt and intimate psychobabble. The climax of this picture came when Kline turned to his wife Keaton and told her very slowly and emotionally, “There’s something I want you to know in case I die…and that is that I’ve always admired the way you are with the kids.” She frowns, takes it in and then finally answers, “I want you to know that I’m going to try to be more patient.” They hug. That was the most exciting part of the film. Really.

It’s important to realize, I think, that these films by Kasdan are not simply laughable examples of weak and unpopular filmmaking. In a larger way, they represent a flaw of those in the Baby Boomer Generation who allowed themselves to become infatuated with the sound of their own voices and so replaced faddy intimacy-babble with concrete adult action. Real people don’t immerse themselves in their voices; they do things. Kasdan has embarrassed himself once again because he shows in this movie that he never outgrew a seventies manner of thinking and speaking that is foolish and infantile.

Burke on May 14, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    Hi Burke – just how in hell do these movies get ‘green-lit’ (i.e., funded)?

    I know the answer in one case – Billy Chrystal. He had a couple of hits so the studios then gave him a pile of money to make movies about his ancient relatives. Audiences stayed away in droves.

    brickwood on May 16, 2012 at 8:47 am

Brickwood, in answer to your question, “Bullies” is produced by Weinstein who of course is no idiot. There’s a thriving market for films that propagandize to liberals, and liberals appear to be the ones with money these days to go spend on film tickets since government pay keeps going up and up even while the economy goes down and down. So “Bullies” will probably make good money.

The other film I mentioned, “Darling Companion,” is maybe a vanity project like the one you mentioned with Crystal. It’s full of Hollywood stars, but I suspect these stars participated as a favor to director Kasdan who’s been struggling in recent years. The movie is such a pathetically self-indulgent failure it’s almost worth seeing just for laughs.

There are good films out, too, though. “Beautiful Soul” which I also caught this weekend is a heartwarming, pious picture about a gangsta black who turns to Christ. That got cheers from a pretty crowded theater (full of blacks). My favorite film showing now is “Chimp,” a Disney documentary which is absolutely extraordinary. I loved that film! This is very sophisticated primatology that is both endearing and fascinating–showing everything from territorial skirmishes between rival ape bands to cannibalism of other monkeys to scenes with army ants to pretty interesting tool use that’s been passed down culturally by these chimps for 4000 years. I can’t stand schmaltzy animal films like “Dolphin Tale,” but this one was very good.

Burke on May 16, 2012 at 9:55 pm

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