When I first saw the trailer for Tim Burton's feature-film remake of the 40-plus-year-old vampire soap opera, I wondered whom it was for. After seeing the film, I still don't know.
I mean, maybe the idea behind taking this campy, culty pop-culture property and winkily making it a comedy about characters unstuck from their proper time was to repeat the success of The Brady Bunch Movie? The difference there is that even people who never watched The Brady Bunch at least were aware of who the characters were and, if nothing else, were familiar with the theme song. Dark Shadows may have been a phenomenon in its day, but in 2012 the people who aren't tired of vampires yet want them to be tragically brooding or legitimately scary, not the foppish buffoon of Johnny Depp's Barnabas Collins. Since it's set in the '70s, the jokes are mainly of the "Hey, remember this dumb thing?" variety (see also: The Wedding Singer). And if there was a reason for Chloë Grace Moretz to be involved at all, I would love an explanation.
This movie is terrible. Don't see it.
New and Notable
People Like Us
After the death of his father, Chris Pine learns he has a half-sister, played by Elizabeth Banks. Yay! He has to give her a share of his unexpected windfall of an inheritance. Boo!
Michelle Yeoh is luminous playing Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi in this biopic. (Shout-out to my 1992 "Remarkable Women" calendar for helping me to get the spelling on her name right the first time!)
Sure, a film about paranormal hoax debunkers confronting the real thing seems intriguing, but there must be a reason that a movie with a cast this fancy (Robert De Niro, Sigourney Weaver, Cillian Murphy, Elizabeth Olsen) barely played in theaters.
Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You
A poor little rich boy gets a life coach (Lucy Liu). I guess every generation gets the Harold and Maude it deserves.
Cowgirls n' Angels
James Cromwell trades pigs for horses in the story of a plucky tween determined to become a rodeo trick rider.
An immigrant musician struggles to survive in New York in this lyrical festival favorite.
We Are the Hartmans
Passionate drinkers band together to keep a beloved neighborhood bar from closing, while Richard Chamberlain does bong rips with a local clergyman in his hospital room. So it's that kind of movie.
Vincent D'Onofrio brings his D'Onofrionics to this thriller about a psychopath (D'O, duh) who abducts a kid and keeps him chained up in the house for well, what appears to be many, many years. It's directed by Jennifer "Boxing Helena" Lynch, to give you an idea of how messed up it will probably be.
In a dying Irish town full of quirky locals, four idiots decide to turn their fortunes around by stealing a truck full of Viagra. Linda Hamilton plays an American investigator, so I guess James Cameron's alimony payments were set before he made Avatar.
A high school football star horribly injured in a game gets sent back in time for a do-over, which seems to entail getting lots of pep talks from his coach (Kurt Russell). If Looper has you in the mood to explore more time travel on film, maybe this is for you.
Opportunistic Backlist Revival Theme of the Week: Horror Comedies
While the zombie movies of a few weeks ago are either back or never left, the occasion of Dark Shadows leading off the new releases — plus the imminence of Halloween — has evidently inspired a collection of horror comedies, including The Addams Family, The Haunted Mansion, Hocus Pocus, The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Witches, The Corpse Bride, and the best of the bunch, Ghostbusters. (Oh yeah: The Twilight movies are all in the mix, too, so I guess Time Warner is including unintentional horror comedies as well.)
"In Theaters" VOD Picks
How to Survive a Plague
David France directed this amazing documentary about the efforts of ACT UP to fight AIDS in the '80s, and about the ways the group splintered in the '90s. It can be tough to watch (of course), but it ultimately leaves one feeling both hopeful and awed by the evidence of what committed activism can really accomplish.
Weird Indie of the Week
I will happily watch just about any dance movie you can throw at me, but "doggie boogie" is ridiculous, and dog dance studios are not a thing.
Early VOD Premieres of the Week
Jack & Diane
Magic Mike co-star Riley Keough undergoes an extreme makeunder for this unusual teen love story, also starring Juno Temple.
You can tell this is a movie because gawky dorkus Tobey Maguire has no interest in his wife, Elizabeth Banks, and every other woman in Seattle finds him totally irresistible.
Patton Oswalt and Johnny Knoxville play feuding brothers whose troubled relationship reaches a crisis point when a scout troop gets kidnapped, I guess? It's confusing.
In this found-footage thriller, some dumb kids learn the hard way why you leave crime-solving to the professionals.
FOUR WORDS: NAZIS FROM THE MOON. I realize that sounds like a kick-ass logline, but man, does this trailer look bad.