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May 21, 2012

Movies - Dark Shadows and Avengers

Since this weekend is a long weekend up here in Canada (Victoria Day is today, for those of you who don't know), we decided to do a movie day yesterday. There are a bunch of movies we want to see this Summer, so why not get started!

Today's double-bill was Dark Shadows and The Avengers. We'd been wanting to see the latter since it came out but wanted to let the crowds die down a bit. Dark Shadows isn't doing very well, so who knows how long it will stay in the theater here? Avengers has been out for three weeks, so we figured it was a good time to go.

First, let me say that there are still lines for Avengers. Yes, even after three weeks! We got stuck in one, but thankfully we weren't in it for long before they let us in.

Meanwhile, I believe there were around 10-15 people at most in the 12:20 pm showing of Dark Shadows. That is not a good sign.

What did I think of the two movies? They were night and day, and not just in tone. Also in quality.

Dark Shadows was the first one we saw. The trailers made it look funny as hell, with a lot of "fish out of water" scenes of Johnny Depp playing the 200-year-old vampire Barnabas Collins unfamiliar with all of this newfangled 1972 technology. While those jokes are definitely in there, and director Tim Burton does play with the "out of time" aspect of Collins' re-awakening, the movie is much more than that. I felt that the trailers did the movie a disservice. Those fans of the original 1966 soap opera (or the great remake that was done in the early 90s with Ben Cross as Barnabas) know there's much more to the show than that. But if you're not familiar with it? There's a lot in there you wouldn't expect.

There are a great many funny scenes in the movie, but there are also just as many that miss the mark. The wife and I were the only ones in the theater that laughed uproariously at a keyboard music joke (what is with these people we were with?), but other scenes dragged on and weren't funny at all. Then, of course, there was the drastic changes in tone, sometimes within a scene. A scene will be played for laughs throughout most of it and then turn to horror right at the end. I understand that this is probably supposed to be a "dark" comedy, but this movie got a bit ridiculous on that score at times.

There are some great performances in the movie, but they are wasted in a film with barely any character development at all. Michelle Pfeiffer is criminally under-used as the matriarch of the current Collins clan. Helena Bonham Carter is the psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman, a character who only seems to be in the movie because she was important in the series. In the movie, she does nothing and is a total waste of screen time (though Carter's performance certainly can't be faulted). Eva Green as the witch Angelique (the woman who loved Barnabas back in the 1760s and who cursed him to become a vampire) is extremely hot in her role, but over-acts it to an extreme.

There were bits I loved in the movie and parts that I hated, but overall I'd say it's worth seeing if you get a chance. Just don't pay full price, and if you can, wait for HBO or something.

As for Avengers, I have to say something right now.


Yes, that was the comic book nerdgasm that I had when the movie started. This movie is everything a Marvel superhero junkie could want in a movie with some of their favorite characters. These characters, Thor, Captain America, Nick Fury, Iron Man, Hulk, and many others, have all been introduced in various other Marvel hero movies, all culminating in this two and a half hour extravaganza that is beautiful from start to finish. There's everything a comic-book lover could want in there, but it's told so well that it's no surprise so many non-comics fans have also enjoyed the movie.

In fact, there's more character development in this action-fest than there is in the entirety of Dark Shadows. Robert Downey Jr. steals the show as Tony Stark/Iron Man, with constant quips and great dialogue that comes from a combination of screenwriter/director Joss Whedon's brilliance and Downey's excellent touch. Mark Ruffalo is a surprise as Bruce Banner/Hulk, in the sense that he didn't originate the role unlike the other characters in the movie. He brings a very nice, subtle touch to Banner, a man who has come to terms with his dark side and has figured out how to control it.

Needless to say, the special effects are amazing, but somebody like Whedon is not going to make a movie that's all about the FX. The Avengers cares just as much about character as action, and there are quite a few scenes between these disparate heroes who shouldn't get along, but are able to come together for a common cause.

I loved everything about this movie, with just a couple of minor quibbles that are contain a bit of spoilers so I won't go into them here.

All in all, it was a very good afternoon. Dark Shadows was enjoyable enough that I didn't regret going and Avengers more than made up for it anyway. That is a movie that we may very well see again, this time in 3-D. Or maybe not.

Can anybody tell me whether the 3-D is worth it in this one? I heard that they did it in post-production, which rarely turns out good, in my opinion.


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