Dark Shadows * * * *
Cert 12A, 113 mins
Yet to be recognised for any of his colourful live-action movies by the Academy Awards, back-to-form director Tim Burton is again unlikely to break his duck with this gothic-infused labour of love.
As ever, his attempts to impress include a rousing score by four-time Oscar nominee and regular composer Danny Elfman, fantastic Pinewood sets doubling up for Maine, fabulous costumes and art design to die for.
There are good performances from his own ‘in-house’ stars like Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Michelle Pfeiffer and plenty of filmic references to keep connoisseurs of his own career happy.
Like its root ’66 TV show Dark Shadows, this film is a heady mix of vampire, werewolf and witch ingredients all bubbling away in a cinematic cauldron.
With lots more to admire visually than the Twilight series has had to offer, Dark Shadows is a treat for eyes and ears, if much less so for the heart.
But it does feel like a natural progression for Vincent Price fan Burton, with Depp’s cursed vampire character Barnabas Collins resembling Bela Lugosi in Mark of the Vampire (1935).
Once a wealthy playboy, Barnabas has been buried alive for two centuries after falling for Josette DuPres (Bella Heathcote) upset the witch Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green).
After the story opens with a ship setting sail from Liverpool in the middle of the 18th century, the action soon moves on to the near-present of 1972 when Barnabas is exhumed into a completely different world to the one he left behind.
Cue everything from a Marc Bolan record sleeve to Ozzy Osbourne singing Black Sabbath’s Paranoid.
There are various period toys and a bubbling lava lamp, too, which particularly fascinates the bloodthirsty Barnabas.
In fact, the only 70s’ icon missing from Collinwood Manor, it seems, is an Arthur Scargill doll.
Of the ladies, Burton’s wife Bonham Carter has fun as the orange-haired, live-in psychiatrist called Dr Julia Hoffman while the teenage Chloë Grace Moretz sprouts lupine fur as Carolyn Stoddard.
She’s the daughter of family matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, brilliantly played by Michelle Pfeiffer.
Reunited with Burton after 1992’s Batman Returns – and despite having been all but ignored by Hollywood for the best part of a decade since What Lies Beneath (2000) – the now 54-year-old star remains a truly striking silver screen presence.
In comparison, Jonny Lee Miller is a low-key, odd choice to play Elizabeth’s black sheep brother, Roger Collins, who shares the big house with ten-year-old son David.
But former Neighbours’ star Bella Heathcote (In Time) enjoys playing her arrival dead straight. After all, as the boy’s new nanny Victoria Winters she does look strangely like Josette...
With Burton fourth-timer Christopher Lee (as local fisherman Silas Clarney) and rock star Alice Cooper (himself) making guest appearances, it feels like we’re watching five decades of Hollywood and TV-series horror mashed up with Top of the Pops-cultutre sensibilities.
As well as Cooper performs Ballad of Dwight Fry and No More Mr Nice Guy, the soundtrack also includes Donovan’s Season of the Witch, Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly, Elton John’s Crocodile Rock and The Carpenters’ Top of the World.
But nothing sounds better than Nights In White Satin (performed by Birmingham’s own The Moody Blues) as it accompanies a throaty VW camper van during the stunning opening credits.
The costumes are by triple Oscar winner Colleen Atwood (Alice in Wonderland / Chicago / Memoirs of a Geisha), the production design is by Oscar-winning Rick Heinrichs (Sleepy Hollow) and the cinematographer is Amelie’s Oscar-nominated Bruno Delbonnel. GY
All In Good Time * * *
Cert 12A, 94 mins
Director Nigel Cole has enjoyed decent hits with Calendar Girls and Made in Dagenham.
But, in both films, there was a sense that something was missing.
And so it is with All In Good Time, an Asian-wedding reworking of Bill Naughton’s 1963 play of the same name.
Three years later it became the 1966 John Mills’ movie The Family Way (in the same year that Naughton’s other well-known play, Alfie, had become a Michael Caine film).
All in Good Time is about the coming together of two families, with the bride going to live at her man’s house and finding her father-in-law is so over-the-top – and lying awake in the adjoining bedroom – that marriage consummation and creating an instant family is proving to be impossible.
The set-up remains a universal one for all young lovers regardless of race and this a throughoughly-likeable, warm-hearted film with good performances.
Harish Patel as the groom’s father Eeshwar is especially funny, while Meera Syal as Lopa will draw her own crowd, even though she commendably underplays her role by comparison.
Amara Karan (The Darjeeling Limited) and Reece Ritchie (The Lovely Bones) make for an attractive couple, Vina and Atul. Adapted by Salford-born actor Ayub Khan-Din, this film is much better than his own West is West (2010), but not as good as his earlier East is East (1999).
Portraying a terraced area of Bolton as a place where white people scarcely seem to exist is an opportunity for cinematic integration missed.
Just like it feels contrived that the same three women would be at the same back yard gate every time a neighbour arrives home. GY
Jeff, Who Lives At Home * * *
Cert 15, 82 mins
The Jeff of the title would definitely see it as a sign that his film is opening in the same week as one starring Mel Gibson.
Jeff (Jason Segel) is a 30-year-old unemployed dope-smoking slacker who lives in his mother Sharon’s basement.
His favourite film is Signs, starring Mr Gibson.
Jeff looks for signs in everything and believes he has to follow them to find his destiny.
When he takes a wrong number phone call from someone looking for Kevin, he sees that as a portent.
But following a bloke called Kevin he sees on the bus can only lead to trouble.
Meanwhile his brother Pat (Ed Helms) is just as much of an idiot, buying a Porsche he can’t afford and driving his wife Linda (Judy Greer) into the arms of another man.
No wonder their mother Sharon (Susan Sarandon) is fed up, although her day is enlivened by the discovery that she has a secret admirer at work.
Sharon can’t believe anyone would be interested in her, protesting “I’m old and flabby” – in reality, of course, Sarandon is looking fantastic for 65.
Jeff, Who Lives At Home is a bit daft and at times it’s quite annoying to watch its cast of quirky but irritating people.
Short but bittersweet and gently amusing, it’s hard to really dislike this film – but, like its characters, it’s also hard to really warm to it. RL
American Pie Reunion * *
Cert 15, 113 mins
Having found the original American Pie (1999) movie about a teenager desperately trying to lose his virginity to be surprisingly warm-hearted, I approached this third sequel with an open mind.
And the hope that it would have a degree of equally endearing maturity.
Now in their 30s, the central characters including Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs), wife Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) and bully boy Stifler (Seann William Scott) still have a strange likeability about them.
Unfortunately, the filmmakers do not trust us to think that might be enough. There’s a lovely moment when the shot of a Y2K magazine cover in a drawer is a 13-year-old reminder of the now preposterous notion that computers might fail to work beyond the end of the last millennium.
Biggs and Scott could have become huge stars on the back of the original movie and Jim’s father Eugene Levy would still offer lots of mileage as the brother of Dustin Hoffman should Hollywood ever pair them together. Levy’s closing gag sums up the fortunes of the lot of ‘em. GY
Beauty And The Beast 2D/3D * * * * *
Cert U, 84 mins
Worthy of six Oscar nominations including Best Picture before there was even a specialist animation category, this wonderfully hand-drawn 1991 Disney film has more than stood the test of time through the computer-generated Pixar era.
It’s also worth noting that one of Beauty’s Oscar nominations was for sound quality – and its two wins were for best score and (title) song.
The story involves Belle swapping places with her captive inventor father (Rex Everhart).
With lines from the clock like ‘If it ain’t baroque, don’t fix it’ and subtle film references galore offering nods to everything from The Phantom of the Opera to Rebecca and Jane Eyre, there are hidden delights galore to make this worth a repeat viewing. GY