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My Week in Movies (9/17-9/23)

September 22, 2012

Just got back from a trip around Europe (visited Ireland, Holland, and Sweden) and on the long transatlantic flight back had the opportunity to catch up on some recent releases.

THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS — Otherwise known as THE PIRATES! IN AN ADVENTURE WITH SCIENTISTS, but, you know. America.

A fun movie with a great sense of humor (although I could have done without the running “scientists are nerds who can’t get chicks haw haw” gag) and fantastic animation. Wonderful to see a return to stop-motion by Aardman, too (their previous film FLUSHED AWAY was 3D animation designed to look stopmo). Not a lot more for me to say, really. I liked it, no major complaints, worth seeing once. If they made a sequel I would check it out for sure.

DARK SHADOWS — Maybe it’s that my expectations were so low — or maybe it’s that I didn’t pay anything to watch it — or maybe it’s because I didn’t have anything better to do — but I found that I didn’t hate DARK SHADOWS. It’s not Burton’s best by far (but then nothing this century has been) — tonally, it’s all over the map, jumping from comedy to horror to (melo)drama at the drop of a hat, and sometimes it can’t even seem to decide which it’s meaning to be.

I know that’s kind of always been Burton’s thing, but in a film like BEETLEJUICE or EDWARD SCISSORHANDS the tones all blend together at once. It’s funny and scary and (melo)dramatic, whereas in DARK SHADOWS the tones are better conjoined with ors.

The film is also trying to do too much. I don’t know the original show (nor should I need to), but it feels like the film is trying to cram an entire season’s worth of story into two hours, juggling so many characters it’s impossible to really get a sense of who any of them are or why I should care, introducing so many plotlines they get picked up and dropped off almost at random, and in the end, though most of the loose ends do wrap up, there’s no clear thematic unity and so I have no idea why Burton wanted to tell me this story.

I do understand why this movie cost $150 million. Aside from the paychecks of all the actors, it’s a period piece (two period pieces, actually — Barnabas’ 1770s prologue and the 1970s main storyline), there’s a lot of digital set extension/environment work, ghosts, transformations, and some pretty destructive, large-scale setpieces, including a truly bewildering sex/fight scene.

What I don’t understand is why someone gave Burton $150 million to make it.

THE INTOUCHABLES — A French film garnering wide acclaim across Europe and nearly unknown over here, it’s the story of a wealthy quadraplegic who takes on an inner city youth as a caretaker, and how they learn about life and love and all of that.

The performances are great and the chemistry between the two leads is wonderful. You really buy the friendship that grows up between them, and I found myself smiling a lot while watching, just enjoying them enjoying each other. Feel-good without being schmaltzy, sober without being maudlin, I can see why it’s getting such acclaim and I expect to see it at the Oscars next year, in the foreign film category at least. It’s not playing very widely in the U.S., but if/when it makes its way to a streaming service at your disposal, I highly recommend it.

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