Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler May 9-15: Monsieur Dark Shadows

In Theaters

A singularly slack week is upon us — at least in terms of quantity. We’re only looking at one mainstream release and one art title. Of course, most the world is likely to be resting up after the headlong rush to shell out big bucks to see The Avengers last week. But the week’s two new offerings have something to be said for them.

Unsurprising as it may be, I’ve already seen Monsieur Lazhar (opening at Fine Arts), the last of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominees to make it to town. The review for it is in this week’s paper. It’s a very estimable work — much better than its “teacher who made a difference” cred may make it appear on the surface — and from what I hear it comes under the heading of a crowd pleaser. It’s certainly a very good movie in any case.

That, of course, bring us to the week’s big title — or it will once I note that, for reasons beyond my paygrade (and probably having something to do with the peculiarities of the Weinsteins), The Artist is making a return visit to The Carolina, and even more mystifyingly the Carmike. I guess if you neglected to see it when it first was here — for weeks and weeks — here’s you chance to catch it at last.

Now, that brings us to the sure-to-be-divisive release of the week — Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows. Burton is always at least a little divisive if only because there’s always a group of people ready to bitch that people are fed up with his style and with him casting Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. Of course, the last time we heard that was just before Alice in Wonderland, which went on to gross a billion dollars. (Let’s overlook the fact that it was still one of his less interesting movies.) Of course, there’s no chance whatever that Dark Shadows is going to pull down that kind of money, but since it trades on a popular — on a cult level anyway — old TV series with a cult icon lead character, there’s a block of folks with their knives already sharpened. And since the trailer makes it look like a wholly comedic take on the old show, they’re even more unhappy. Apparently, the film is rather different than the trailer makes it appear.

Personally, I don’t care. I was there and just the right age and with the right set of interests when the original Dark Shadows TV show came on in 1966. And, yes, my friends and I went home from school and watched it — mostly to make fun of how cheap and cheesy it was. Bear in mind, this was daytime TV, which is a nice way of saying “soap opera,” and it had all the production values and polish of The Guiding Light or As the World Turns. All this is to say that I don’t hold the show in any kind of esteem, nor have I any nostalgia for it, and so I don’t care what Burton’s done with it or, if you prefer, to it. I’m more interested in it as a Tim Burton film. And I’ll admit that my feelings about the trailer are mixed — even if it gets bonus points for the T. Rex song — though later explanations about the plot have taken care of some of my reservations. Anyway, I’ll be at the first show on Friday morning. Yeah, I know The Carolina has a midnight show on Thursday, but I’m getting too old for those.

Not much is departing this week — in some cases because not much is opening. Footnote and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen are leaving the Fine Arts. And the disastrously tanked Bully flees the Carmike after a single week. Damsels in Distress — though it proved just as polarizing as I thought it would (oh, I’ve heard about recommending it) — did well enough that it’s holding at the Fine Arts. The surprisingly popular The Deep Blue Sea is staying at The Carolina, while Being Flynn and The Kid with a Bike, while staying, have gone to split shows.

Special Screenings

In celebration of the opening of Dark Shadows, there’s a raft of Tim Burton titles in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. In fact, if you’re intrepid in nature, you could go to the Thursday Horror Picture Show screening of Sweeney Todd at 8 p.m., stick around for Edward Scissorhands at 10 p.m. and go catch the first show of Dark Shadows at midnight. Starting on Friday, it runs:

Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1987) 10:30 a.m.
Beetlejuice (1988) 12:15 p.m.
Batman (1989) 2 p.m.
Edward Scissorhandd (1990) 4:15 p.m.
Batman Retrurns (1992) 6:15 p.m.
Mars Attacks! (1996) 8:30 p.m.
Big Fish (2003) 10:30 p.m.

Saturday:

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) 10:30 a.m.
Mars Attacks! (1996) 12:30 p.m.
Beetlejuice (1988) 2:30 p.m.
Batman (1989) 4:15 p.m.
Edward Scissorhands 6:30 p.m.
Batmam Returns (1992) 8:15 p.m.
Big Fish (2003) 10:30 p.m.

In the realm of the usual suspects, the Thursday Horror Picture Show (as noted above) is screening Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) at 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 10, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina.World Cinema is showing Guillermo del Toro’s Cronos (1983) at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 11, in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. No Hendersonville Film Society screening this week because of Mother’s Day. The Asheville Film Society is running Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels (1941) on Tuesday, May 15, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s paper with expanded coverage in the online edition.

On DVD

Frankly, I consider presenting the list of the “major” titles coming out this week as being in the nature of a friendly warning. I can think of nothing else to say about the appearance of Underworld: Awakening, The Vow and the toxic waste known as Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie.

Notable TV Screenings

I can’t claim that the first two titles — Bedazzled (1967) and The Wrong Box (1966) — that are in TCM’s triple feature salute to Peter Cook and Dudley Moore are out of the ordinary, though they’re both always welcome. However, less frequently seen is Richard Lester’s damn near career-killing surrealist black comedy The Bed Sitting Room (1969), which pops up at midnight. It’s a post-apocalyptic comedy that could only come from the minds of Spike Milligan and Lester. I promise only that there’s nothing else like it.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

28 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler May 9-15: Monsieur Dark Shadows

  1. Dionysis

    “a group of people ready to bitch that people are fed up with his style and with him casting Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.”

    Burton’s style is fine, but I have wondered why Depp (and to some extent Carter) are cast in so many of his films, as good as they are as actors.

    And I have the same view of Dark Shadows (the soap opera) as you. That a film version is now out warrants a big yawn.

  2. Ken Hanke

    I have wondered why Depp (and to some extent Carter) are cast in so many of his films, as good as they are as actors.

    My question is kind of the reverse — why not?

    That a film version is now out warrants a big yawn.

    That it’s Burton would be enough to get me there even if I wasn’t reviewing it, I think.

  3. Arlene

    My knives are sharpened…but they are getting s bit duller. I adored Dark Shadows. Maybe you had to be the perfect age and a female.

    But admiring Burton, I have watched all the damn trailers. I am intrigued. I’m going to try to see it with an open mind.

  4. Xanadon't

    No love for Sleepy Hollow over the weekend, huh? Seems to me that, while I enjoyed it, Mars Attacks probably could’ve done with just one showing in order to make room.

  5. Me

    I know his style is heavy on Edward Gorey but Dark Shadows just looks plain blatant. Anybody notice the upcoming episode of Mad Men is entitled Dark Shadows and its set in the same year the tv show debuted.

    TCM is playing “AFI’s Master Class: The Art of the Collaboration”: David O. Russell and Mark Wahlberg on Wednesday. They are also playing Au revoir, les enfatns, Autumn Sonata and the Bergman documentary Bergman Island.

  6. Ken Hanke

    Maybe you had to be the perfect age and a female

    Well, I was the right age, but I can under no circumstances imagine being attracted to Jonathan Frid, but I’d say the same about Christopher Lee.

  7. Ken Hanke

    No love for Sleepy Hollow over the weekend, huh? Seems to me that, while I enjoyed it, Mars Attacks probably could’ve done with just one showing in order to make room.

    It has to do with the R rating. You’ve been in the Lounge, so you know it’s awfully open and needs supervision for these things. And there’s not enough staff to babysit it. That’s partly why we ran two of the three R rated ones for the AFS and the THPS. Sleepy Hollow has already been a THPS title, hence Sweeney Todd. (Well, yeah, I like it better, too.)

  8. Edwin Arnaudin

    even if it gets bonus points for the T. Rex song

    I get a Pavlovian positive response whenever I hear that song in a film or TV show.

  9. Ken Hanke

    I get a Pavlovian positive response whenever I hear that song in a film or TV show.

    The same is true for me with “Children of the Revolution,” “Cosmic Dancer,” “Jeepster,” and “Dandy in the Underworld.” That said, “Jeepster” didn’t make me like Death Proof. Maybe if it had been “Soul of My Suit,” it’d have been different. I doubt it. Death Proof was pretty much a lox for me.

  10. Chip Kaufmann

    What, no PLANET OF THE APES in the Burton retrospective? It’s rated PG-13.

  11. Xanadon't

    Well here’s hoping Dark Shadows plays better for you tomorrow morning than it did many critics. Have fun!

  12. Ken Hanke

    I didn’t realize you were so steeped in Bolan Ken.

    I have unsuspected depths.

  13. Ken Hanke

    What, no PLANET OF THE APES in the Burton retrospective? It’s rated PG-13.

    How about no?

  14. Ken Hanke

    Well here’s hoping Dark Shadows plays better for you tomorrow morning than it did many critics.

    I truly suspect it will. Why? Because these reasons I’m reading in the negative reviews are the same reasons I’ve been arguing with for about 20 years.

  15. Chip Kaufmann

    I saw DARK SHADOWS Saturday afternoon and am looking forward to seeing it again. The marvelous visual quality of the film along with the myriad references to other horror films and Depp’s completely honest portrayal of Barnabas Collins made it a wonderful experience.

    I suspected that the previews were taking scenes out of context but I had no idea that they would be the most misleading since Disney’s SNOW DOGS. From now on Tim Burton should insist on trailer approval in his contract.

    It was interesting to note that of the 40 odd people who were at my afternoon showing, only 2 of them looked to be under 30. Nobody left and everybody seemed to be enjoying it tremendously.

  16. Ken Hanke

    am looking forward to seeing it again.

    That makes at least two of us.

    40 odd people

    I’m betting some of them were downright peculiar and not merely odd.

  17. Dionysis

    This may be more attention than the film deserves, but I assume there is not much agreement with a review published in the British Telegraph (two of five stars), which noted…

    “All of the director

    • Dionysis

      It’s hard to determine the question of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ given the very subjective nature of art and culture; his take may be wrong in your eyes, but it’s quite possible that he views the film the way in which he described it.

      I guess I’ll not find out myself as I didn’t care for the television series and have no interest in seeing this big-screen treatment. Instead, I’ll see how many negative vs. positive reviews the film generates over the next month or so. And that still won’t really tell much, I guess.

  18. Ken Hanke

    It’s hard to determine the question of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ given the very subjective nature of art and culture; his take may be wrong in your eyes, but it’s quite possible that he views the film the way in which he described it.

    It probably is, but I can bring in reviews — including mine — with a different point of view. So I’m not sure what point is being made — except that some critics hate it and some love it.

    I’ll see how many negative vs. positive reviews the film generates over the next month or so. And that still won’t really tell much, I guess.

    I really don’t think the whole idea of reviews by concensus is of any real value. In fact, unless you know the reviewers, it’s largely meaningless, since you don’t know how much the assembled reviewers reflect your tastes, you don’t know the individual prejudices of the critics, etc. At this point, if you’re going to take this approach, you can be sure it’s going to stay around 40-50 percent good.

  19. Dionysis

    “I’m not sure what point is being made — except that some critics hate it and some love it.”

    That is the point; it’s not a matter of being wrong or right, it’s just one’s own take on the film.

    “I really don’t think the whole idea of reviews by concensus is of any real value.”

    Which is why I noted as much.

    “In fact, unless you know the reviewers, it’s largely meaningless, since you don’t know how much the assembled reviewers reflect your tastes, you don’t know the individual prejudices of the critics, etc. At this point, if you’re going to take this approach, you can be sure it’s going to stay around 40-50 percent good.”

    That makes sense, certainly. I should have been more specific in that I’ll focus on reviews by individuals whose opinions on films seem to track closely with my own over time. That would include not just professional film critics, but film buffs who, for example, write a lot of reviews on Amazon. Simply aggregating numbers of positive or negative reviews is meaningless.

    I definitely take into serious account your reviews (and Justin’s), as well as the comments by several regular posters here. Interestingly (to me) is that I find I’ve agreed with about 85 to 90% of your reviews, but when I disagree, it tends to be that I rank a film lower than you (e.g. The Wolfman). When I disagree with Justin’s reviews (rarely happens), I tend to rate a flick higher (e.g. Captain America). Am I wrong and you two right? I don’t think so; I see it as just different views.

  20. Ken Hanke

    No, liking and not liking is never “wrong,” though I think the review you cited is way off in terms of how he’s reading the film.

    I don’t know that my review of The Wolfman strikes me as an important division. My review is at best mixed and it’s sure not a movie I’d “rassle” anybody over.

    I’d put Dark Shadows entirely in terms of whether or not you tend to like Tim Burton — or more specifically, I suppose, Burton in cahoots with Depp. It’s abundantly obvious that the Brit reviewer doesn’t care for them. (I’ve never felt, for instance, that Roger Ebert is in tune with Burton.) My feeling is that if you tend to like them — you can sweep Alice in Wonderland to one side — you’ll probably like this. If you tend not to, you probably won’t.

  21. Dionysis

    “My feeling is that if you tend to like them — you can sweep Alice in Wonderland to one side — you’ll probably like this. If you tend not to, you probably won’t.”

    I’m not sure where I fall in that continuum then. Some of Burton’s films I really, really like (Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow), some I liked okay (Big Fish, Beetlejuice) and some (Alice, Planet of the Apes, Mars Attacks, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) I really disliked. I guess my views are “evolving.” I find that (for me), Burton’s more original ideas work better than his efforts at re-doing established works. While all of his films are visually impressive, some of them left me cold. Given that, I would not rush out to see any new Burton film without reading the reviews of those whose opinions I respect. I am just not as excited about the next Johnny Depp as a weirdo in the next Tim Burton film as many seem to be. It’s getting stale.

  22. Dionysis

    “My feeling is that if you tend to like them — you can sweep Alice in Wonderland to one side — you’ll probably like this. If you tend not to, you probably won’t.”

    I’m not sure where I fall in that continuum then. Some of Burton’s films I really, really like (Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow), some I liked okay (Big Fish, Beetlejuice) and some (Alice, Planet of the Apes, Mars Attacks, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) I really disliked. I guess my views are “evolving.” I find that (for me), Burton’s more original ideas work better than his efforts at re-doing established works. While all of his films are visually impressive, some of them left me cold. Given that, I would not rush out to see any new Burton film without reading the reviews of those whose opinions I respect. I am just not as excited about the next Johnny Depp as a weirdo in the next Tim Burton film as many seem to be. It’s getting stale.

  23. Ken Hanke

    Well, that last sentence tells me that you probably ought to give this a pass.

    • Dionysis

      Right; as I wrote previously, I didn’t care for the television series and have no interest in a big-screen version anyway, regardless of the director and star.

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