10 May 2012

Dark Shadows

Johnny Depp is shown in a scene from "Dark Shadows."
"Dark Shadows," a daytime soap opera that aired from 1966 to 1971 on ABC, was popular in its time, adored by some (now forgotten by more) and unique in that after its run began, it introduced ghosts, vampires, werewolves, zombies, witches and other sorts of supernatural happenings. It might seem a weird choice for a feature film in 2012—but not for director Tim Burton and star Johnny Depp. For them, teaming together for the eighth time, it feels routine, safe.

After all, Burton has been mining "weird" at the movies for more than a quarter century, while Depp has become one of the world's most popular actors by disappearing into outrageous costumes, makeup and hair, and speaking in different variations of an English accent.

So there is a been-there-done-that feeling permeating all of "Dark Shadows," no matter how entertaining it might be at times.

03 May 2012

The Avengers

Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) left, and Captain America (Chris Evans) are shown in a scene from "The Avengers."
Five films in four years, plus an even longer wait for legions of comic book lovers—and the payoff, "The Avengers" (or "Marvel's The Avengers," as the studio insists on calling it), delivers all anyone could hope for.

Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) all are here, mostly ready to take on each other at first, then teaming up to battle Thor's brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), and the army he intends to unleash upon the people of Earth.

More importantly, writer-director Joss Whedon makes sure the people behind the silly names and costumes always are present, as well [-] Tony Stark (Iron Man), Steve Rogers (Captain America), Bruce Banner (the Hulk), Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) and Clint Barton (Hawkeye).

So while the sheer spectacle—this is a vividly shot and designed film, even in dreaded 3-D—is almost overwhelming, especially during the climactic smackdown in which seemingly half of New York City is reduced to rubble, it is the quieter character moments that give the movie its beating heart, that make us care about whether these superhumans (or demigod, in Thor's case) can come together and cause us to think there is a chance they could be unsuccessful once they do.