By Nate Bloom
Much More Goofy
The original “Dark Shadows” was a daytime TV soap opera (1966-71) about vampires and other B-movie creepy stuff. It acquired a cult following that remains pretty large until this day. What humor there was in the series was almost always accidental, caused by the demands of filming five days a week on a small budget. Fans of the show came to love its many bloopers, like bats flying around on visible wires.
Famous director Tim Burton has opted to use the TV series as fodder for what a critic for MTV has called, “gonzo comedy.” His movie version of “Dark Shadows,” which opens today, is much closer in style and dialogue to Burton’s own spooky farce, “Beetlejuice,” than to the TV show. Still, the basic plot is ghoulish gothic: In 1752, Joshua Collins and his wife leave England to escape a mysterious curse on their family. Twenty years later, their son, Barnabas Collins is a rich playboy lording around his New England hometown. (Johnny Depp plays Barnabas. This is the eighth Burton film that co-stars Depp). Barnabas begins a romance with Angelique Bouchard, who is played by French actress EVA GREEN, 32, (“Kingdom of Heaven,” “Casino Royale”). Green, the daughter of a non-Jewish father and an Algerian-born Jewish mother, identifies as Jewish, although she isn’t religious.
Barnabas breaks Bouchard’s heart. She’s literally a witch and she casts a curse on Barnabas that turns him into a vampire and buries him alive. In 1972, Barnabas is accidentally freed from his tomb. The living members of the Collins family are a pretty sad lot with oodles of hidden secrets. They include the family matriarch (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her live-in psychiatrist (Helena Bonham-Carter, Burton’s real-life wife). The film’s score is by DANNY ELFMAN, 58, who has scored every Burton film since 1985.
Cohen as Arab Despot
“The Dictator” opens in theaters on Wednesday, May 16. SACHA BARON-COHEN, 40, stars in the satirical comedy as the dictator of a North African Arab country called the “Republic of Wadiya.” His character, General Admiral Aladeen, appears to be based largely on Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. In the words of the studio publicity release: “It tells the heroic story of a dictator who risked his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed.”
Aladeen visits America and culture clashes ensue. If the film lives up to its trailer, it will be Baron-Cohen’s best film. I am curious whether this movie prompts a lot of reactions in the Arab world. “The Dictator” is directed by LARRY CHARLES, 55, who also directed Baron-Cohen’s previous mock documentaries, “Borat” and “Bruno.” Co-stars include Sir Ben Kingsley, Megan Fox, Anna Faris, and B.J. NOVAK, 32 (“The Office”).
On April 25, the Philadelphia Phillies added relief pitcher MICHAEL SCHWIMER, 26, to their big league roster. Schwimer, who had a bar mitzvah ceremony, was briefly up with “the big club” last September. A video of him fulfilling a Phillies’ tradition was featured on ESPN that month: the 6’8” Schwimer had to walk across the Phillies’ ballpark carrying snacks to the bullpen in a “Hello Kitty” backpack. He had to wear a pink feather boa and carry a pink purse. Team tradition requires the “most rookie” relief pitcher to do this.
If you want to see more of Johnny Depp (above) and NATALIE PORTMAN, 31, just “google” “My Valentine” and “Portman” and you’ll find a video of the duo acting out the lyrics of the song “My Valentine.” The song is from “Kisses on the Bottom,” a CD of (mostly) traditional pop music songs sung by ex-Beatle Paul McCartney. “My Valentine” is one of two original McCartney tunes on the CD and is written in the style of a soft ballad from the ‘40s.
“My Valentine” was inspired by a remark made by McCartney’s Jewish wife, NANCY SHEVELL, 51, when they were on vacation and it was raining. She told him to enjoy the day, anyway, and the sun would come out soon. The songs on the CD, McCartney says, were the songs that played in his childhood home. The 14 cuts include six songs by Jewish composers: “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter,” co-written by FRED ALHERT; “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” by HAROLD ARLEN, BILLY ROSE, and E. Y. YARBURG, “Always,” by IRVING BERLIN;. “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive,” co-written by Arlen; and two by FRANK LOESSER: “The Inch Worm” and “More I Cannot Wish You.”