Movie Review : 300 – Rise of an Empire

 

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Way back in 2006, the world was treated to a modern re-telling of the ancient Greek tale of the Battle of Thermopylae. It is a story of such heroism that their names echo down through time. We had CGI enhanced men…..lots and lots of men….abs crunched to eye watering perfection …. little leather outfits hanging from swaggering hips….lots of blood and swords and yelling and………..oh my! And at the helm, their  Scottish Spartan King Leonidas (Gerard Butler).

Having defeated the Spartans, the Persian forces head towards the city of Athens. Aussie Greek general Themistocles (Stapleton), after trying in vain to unite the Greek states, leads the Greek forces in a naval battle against the King/God Xerxes (Santoro) and the fantastically evil and ruthless Artemisia (Green).

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Dark Shadows [M]

 

Director: Tim Burton

Starring : Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green,  Jonny Lee Miller, Helena Bonham Carter, Bella Heathcote, Chloë Grace Moretz, Gulliver McGrath, Jackie Earle Haley

Running Time :  113 minutes

Release Date :   In Cinemas Now

‘Every Family Has It’s Demons.’

200 or so years ago, the beautiful, young but poor Angelique (Green) was cast aside by the very well to do yet cold hearted Barnabas Collins (Depp) in favour of a more socially acceptable bride-to-be. The Collins family is ‘the’ family in town. They own and run everything and the town is even named after them. Unfortunately for Barnabas, Angelique is a rather powerful witch and she curses him in the most creative of ways…..she curses him to be a vampire and then has him shut up in a coffin so he can live with the pain of his loss (well it’s losses really, isn’t it?) for all eternity.

Fast forward 196 years and the Collins family is still living in their huge mansion on the hill but are rather down on their luck. All that’s left of this once powerful family are siblings Elizabeth (Pfeiffer) and Roger (Miller) and their children Carolyn (Moretz) and David (young Aussie to watch McGrath). They share their home with psychiatrist Dr Hoffman (Bonham Caret), a creepy old butler (Haley), the new Governess Victoria (Heathcote) and an ancient housekeeper who is silent throughout the entire movie.

Barnabas is dug up and thus resurrected by some construction workers and returns to his ancestral home. He divulges his secret to Elizabeth and shows her where the family gold and jewels are stashed. He then sets about helping his family reclaim their former glory.  The only problem is the Collins family has a very hostile competitor in the town. Angelique is still with us, looking completely gorgeous for a 220 year old woman, and does not play well with others.

Angelique is still in love with Barnabas and wants him back. All will be forgiven, all will be well, if only he will just say yes to her. Barnabas may be a wealthy 200 year old vampire but he is still a man. Let’s leave it at that, shall we….

Dark Shadows was marketed as a bit of a comedy, a quirky Tim Burton/Johnny Deep pic.  This director/actor pairing has to be one of the most controversial movie making duos of recent years. People seem to either love or loathe them. There will always be those who don’t have much of an opinion but of those who do, there is rarely any middle ground. I happen to love them. Except for Willy Wonka. I cannot even bear to talk about the travesty that was Burton’s ‘vision’ for Willy Wonka.

But back to Dark Shadows. I am not quite sure what this was. It was very, very Burton with its rich, lush scenery and elaborate costumes. His penchant for his young heroines to be floating around in gorgeous floor lengths gowns and dresses is something I look forward to in each movie. The attention to detail is, as always, quite extraordinary and nuanced. A bright and shiny macramé room? Fabulous!

It is not quite comedy, not quite Gothic horror, not quite drama, not quite camp……yet it is a mixture of all these elements. The music is just as mixed a bag. The score can be quite dramatic and Gothic yet the contemporary soundtrack is mind bending. The Moody Blues & The Carpenters is so completely out of place that it works beautifully. Be on the look out for an amusing musical interlude provided by Barnabas Collins himself.

The acting is superb as you might expect from a cast of this calibre. Many of them are completely underused and even superfluous to the plot. Pfeiffer is wonderful as the family matriarch and Bonham Carter does quirky neurotic like no one else can. Moretz’s petulant Carolyn has a few fine moments but her character’s twist is…….well it’s just lame. Completely unnecessary and baffling.

The stand out is clearly Green’s Angelique, who she plays to divine bordering on absurd campiness and drama. She is all red lipstick, blonde hair, long legs and flashing eyes. She struts through every scene and eclipses all those around her. Even the outrageous Depp in his quirky element is no match for her.

I liked this movie. I found it entertaining and great fun. I have not seen the original so can make no comparisons to either the series or the re-imagined series that followed. I wish it had gone a little more Beetlejuice on us. It did promise to a few times and I was YAY……….then it swept off in another direction. But I liked the eclectic mix. I think the plot could have been trimmed and then trimmed again but that’s just a Burton thing. Lots happening on screen and little time to take a breath.

I would like to see Depp take on a dramatic role. Give the Burton/Depp bromance a rest for a few years. I have loved Johnny for a long time now and it’s time to put away your crayons….as fun as they may be….and try something new. But until they find that picture hanging in that attic, I guess he can get away with it all.