3 stars = Good
Tim Burton's update of the '60s soap opera isn't quite the comic campfest you might be expecting.
It has humor, largely related to Barnabas Collins' 200-year culture shock, but also a body count in the double digits and a circus-like carnal coupling.
Barnabas (Johnny Depp) still has a chalky pallor, parentheses-shaped bangs, a black ring on his elongated right index finger, a distinctive cane in his grasp and a thirst for blood.
The story opens in the Collins' hometown of Liverpool, England, as young Barnabas and his parents set sail in 1760 for what eventually will be Maine. They build Collinsport into a successful fishing hub, but when Barnabas scorns a witch named Angelique (Eva Green), she curses his family, sends the woman he does love, Josette (Bella Heathcote), to her death, transforms him into a vampire and locks him away for almost 200 years.
When he is released from the coffin, he discovers a vastly changed world, but he cannot shake the ghosts of lives past no matter how much he tries to get with the times.
Mr. Depp lives to play these roles and he seems game for anything, from testing sleep alternatives to a coffin and organizing a "happening" to strategically planting those fangs. He needs to make the role his own but he doesn't channel the dark torment that clung to Jonathan Frid (who turns up in a cameo) like some sort of dry ice fog.
If you watch this on Blu-ray and trigger the "Becoming Barnabas" Focus Point (one of nine mini-features), you can hear Mr. Depp talk about how he based his character on Mr. Frid's incarnation "with maybe a few other ingredients."
Cameo player Alice Cooper and others call Mr. Depp a "modern-day Lon Chaney, a man of a thousand faces." The face here included slightly bigger ears and a fake nose bridge to change his profile along with spindly finger extensions.
Another of the Focus Points concentrates on recreating 1972, a period when Ms. Pfeiffer was in high school. Chloe Grace Moretz, 15, calls the '70s her favorite era, even though (or maybe because) it meant orange shag pile carpet for her character's bedroom in Collinwood Manor.
The deleted scenes are throwaways and the idea of a movie about vampires, witches and werewolves isn't novel today. But the production values of the movie are, as you might expect, remarkably high with none of the bloopers ignored on the small screen.
"Dark Shadows" pays homage to its predecessor but, like those vintage bell-bottoms you never pitched, you wish they still fit and made you feel the same way when you shimmied into them after school to watch a Gothic soap unlike anything else on TV. Stopping time, however, is an option only in the movies.
-- Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette movie editor
2 1/2 stars = Average
"People Like Us" proves what many people know. Family trees can be tangled, labyrinthine affairs, but they can also be alive with affection, shared memories and bonds that will not break.
Chris Pine plays Sam, a fast-talking businessman forced to return to his native California for his father's funeral. He misses the service but not the bombshell that comes after.
His father, a music producer of some note, left behind a monogrammed leather shaving kit with $150,000 for a boy who turns out to be Sam's nephew, the child of his half-sister, Frankie. Sam has spent his life believing he was an only child, and now he has a sibling, a nephew and a whale of a decision on his hands.
Should he turn over the cash, which he needs? Inform his widowed mother (Michelle Pfeiffer), who views his father through rose-colored glasses while Sam harbors years of anger? Blurt out the news to unknowing Frankie or her 11-year-old son, Josh (Michael Hall D'Addario)? Or stay in the shadows?
By allowing Sam to delay or avoid the inevitable, "People Like Us" skirts very close to creepy territory.
Rather than creating suspense and drama, director and co-writer Alex Kurtzman's film tends to generate impatience. However, the cast that also includes Olivia Wilde, Philip Baker Hall and Mark Duplass elevates the movie above the cable-TV level.
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-- Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapersmoviereviews