Margaret Perry Movies

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The Dictator

Sacha Baron Cohen being
escorted off the red carpet

Sacha Baron Cohen‘s latest movie made national headlines even before it came to the big screen when the star appeared at the Oscars wearing his dictator costume, accompanied by two curvaceous women soldier characters, and dumping ashes all over the red carpet and Ryan Seacrest. London-born Sacha Baron Cohen first found fame as sketch character Ali G. on Da Ali G. Show in 2000, making a name for himself by subjecting unsuspecting people to comic situations he deliberately orchestrated to offend or ridicule them. He took two of his characters to the big screen in full length features Borat (2006) and Bruno (2009). Sacha Baron Cohen‘s characters and films court controversy because, in many cases, his brash political incorrectness serves to reveal the latent indifference to prejudice that lies at the root of many supposedly civilized western societies. Read the rest of this entry »

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What To Expect When You’re Expecting

Elizabeth Banks, Anna Kendrick, Cameron Diaz,
Brooklyn Decker, and Jennifer Lopez

Because there has been so much discussion in recent years about changing gender roles and about various methods of childbirth, I was surprised by how boringly conventional What To Expect When You’re Expecting actually was. The movie is about a few different families who are preparing for the arrival of a little stranger. Although each story has a different perspective on the experience of getting pregnant and having a baby, the scope is rather narrow. One unmarried young couple accidentally get pregnant after a one-night stand. Another mother who has been trying for years to get pregnant discovers that “the glow” everyone talks about is merely a fantastical rumor – being pregnant sucks to the extreme! Then there’s her gorgeous step-mother-in-law who experiences the easiest pregnancy on record, and in high heeled shoes! Then there’s the couple torn by the fact that they are unable to have children for themselves. As they prepare to adopt a baby from Ethiopia, the husband starts gets cold feet and the wife unexpectedly loses her job. Then there’s the celebrity weight-loss trainer who struggles to juggle her career, her boyfriend, and an unexpected pregnancy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Dark Shadows

Despite a rotten Rotten Tomatoes rating of only 42%, Tim Burton‘s Dark Shadows is still a lot of fun for fans of Burton/Depp collaborations. The film has all the earmarks of a usual Burton/Depp production, though it falls short of being a masterpiece. Tim Burton‘s other half, Helena Bonham Carter makes her appearance as the family’s gin-swilling, gerascophobic psychiatrist. There is also the expected amount of blood, dark eye shadow, and shabby-chic costuming that accompanies a Burton flick. But it is the silky smooth dialogue, and the delivery of same by Johnny Depp, which prevents this movie from slipping into the realms of pure kitsch.

Depp plays Barnabas Collins, a member of the founding family of a Maine sea port, who has been transformed into a vampire and buried in a steel coffin by a jealous witch, Angelique (Eva Green). Barnabas is accidentally recovered from the grave by some construction men and finds himself in 1972. Returning to his family’s estate, he discovers that the family business has been all but ruined thanks to the diabolical manipulations of the ageless Angelique. As Barnabas attempts to defeat his arch enemy once and for all, he falls in love with the family’s nanny, Vicky, the spitting image of his long lost Josette (Bella Heathcote), wooing her with his outdated honeyed phrases. “A name like Victoria is so beautiful,” he purrs in his plummy British accent, ”that I could not bear to part with a single syllable of it.”

Barnabas’ innate “uncoolness,” as describes by Entertainment Weekly, is what ironically makes him cool in the eyes of both the hippies in the film, and the modern audience of hipsters, for whom all things uncool are in fact the coolest of all. It’s this sort of philosophy that can sustain this film through all its faults. There are too many side stories which distract from the main thrust of the plot. There’s a certain amount of gore and sex, but scenes containing these elements are in no way innovative or especially clever in their execution. For fans of Burton/Depp comedy, the script does not fail to tickle the funny-bone, but the jokes are campy at best.

Michelle Pfeiffer as Elizabeth Collins
Johnny Depp and Eva Green
The female characters in this film fall short in passing the Bechdel Test. If they ever speak to each other, it’s only about a male character, usually Barnabas (with the exception of the brief interview with the new nanny). Or they’re at each other’s throats for one reason or another. And the characterizations of the women are far from progressive. The one female character with any power is, as is so often the case in Disney movies, the villainess. She is portrayed much more as a sexualized character than as an intelligently worthy opponent. Another woman character is an insecure alcoholic. One is an escaped lunatic. Another is a teenage brat who doesn’t have a nice thing to say to anybody. The only woman with any semblance of strength, the family matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer), is still dependent on an undead ancestor to restore the family business to its former glory. Although she is clearly an intelligent, hard-working, and caring mother, she is necessarily unable to take care of her family without a man’s guidance.

All-in-all, Dark Shadows was worth the price of the ticket. It’s dialogue is witty, it’s accurately nostalgic, and there are enough elements of Tim Burton‘s classic style to make it more interesting than your average early-summer flick. It’s definitely not for kids; wait for Burton’s pending Frankenweenie later in the summer. But if you’ve got a bored Sunday afternoon to spend on an off-beat sort of movie, go ahead and check it out.

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