Are Depp and Burton washed up? Maybe you should go local!
After "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "Sweeney Todd," and "Alice in Wonderland," you'd think they would be tired of remakes and adaptations, but Tim Burton and Johnny Depp team up for the eighth time in the new movie "Dark Shadows," based on the oddball gothic soap opera that ran in the late 60s and early 70s on ABC.
The results are less than stellar again.
Depp is Barnabas Collins, an 18th-century vampire freed from his coffin in 1972, and most of the film’s funny moments come from his extreme culture shock. Unfortunately for the nearly two-hour movie, most of those scenes appear in the two-minute trailer.
"Dark Shadows" has the talent behind and in front of the camera to be the lusty, campy drama it wants to be, but the movie has a lot of exposition to get out of the way first. When it finally does start moving forward, it lurches and sputters. Key characters disappear for long stretches of time, the pacing is awkward, and some scenes seem to exist in their own universe entirely, having no bearing on the rest of the plot.
Eva Green steals the show as a sexy and wicked witch who’s as cracked as her smile. As usual for Burton, the art direction is a treat and Depp does “weird” really well, but in order for soap operas to work, you have to want characters to get together and break apart. "Dark Shadows" doesn’t accomplish that.
In fact, it has almost no forward momentum at all. Now that’s really odd.
A better bet for this weekend would be the first annual Free State Film Festival, this Friday through Sunday at the Lawrence Arts Center. It's only the first year of the event, but he LAC is showing some of the best new short and feature-length films from prominent local filmmakers, as well as new movies from Sundance Film Festival and SXSW.
At 6 p.m. Friday, the festival’s opening film will be the world premiere of "Rhino," a new thriller-drama with some major acting talent that was shot here in Lawrence and also in Overland Park by KU graduate Patrick Rea.
The award-winning new documentary “Corporate FM,” directed by KU graduate Kevin McKinney is screening at 8 p.m. Friday. This movie took seven years to make and it mourns the death of community-oriented commercial radio at the hands of corporations. One of the radio station controversies at its center is Lawrence's 105.9 The Lazer, a commercial station with huge community ties in the mid-1990s that now is another in a long line of Kiss-FMs that litter the country.
Rea's new feature-length horror movie “Nailbiter,” which received top narrative honors in the Kansas City FilmFest last month, is closing the festival 7 p.m. Sunday. For more info about the Free State Film Festival and its music-based companion festival Spring Into Summer, check out these links.
Speaking of local, the 2012 Robert Altman Emerging Filmmakers Fund is accepting applications by local filmmakers for education grants from now until June 1. I talked with Altman Fund founder and director Justin Gardner about the details of a program that award 10 grant recipients.
How did the Altman fund come about? In 2010, I was a Board member on the Film Commission of Greater Kansas City (still am) and I thought it would be great to figure out a way to do what ArtsKC and Charlotte Street Foundation do, but do it for filmmakers. So through a contact on the Board, I was able to make contact with the Altman family, pitch them the idea and they loved it. The fund’s goal is to be able to help filmmakers better realize their visions, and these classes are a great first step towards building the foundation to do exactly that.
What is the name of the workshop? Why is it important to have a project "ready to go"? The name of the workshop is the FastTrac NewVenture program and it’s designed to help you take a business idea, be it a film project, production business, post FX house or anything pertaining to the business of filmmaking or digital storytelling, and really help build a strong business foundation for that venture. So it’s important to have an idea in mind because you will literally be putting together a very comprehensive business plan for that exact idea.
What will winners of the grant learn how to do? First and foremost, grant winners will learn exactly how to run their business. That’s key because creative professionals never really get the nitty gritty of running a business day in and day out. Second, they’ll learn key business fundamentals, so if they want to start up a business unrelated to filmmaking, they have a great head start. Obviously we want these folks to apply this knowledge to the world of film, but we understand that sometimes film projects take years to accomplish. So these courses are a good way to just empower yourself, in general, to be a savvier business person. Often times, creative professionals may not get how to maximize certain opportunities or their business’s potential.
Is there grant money involved beyond the workshop? Yes there is, and the Fund recently gave $1,000 to filmmaker Tony Ladesich (also showing his short "Two Sisters" af FSFF.) as part of his prize for Best Heartland Short at the AMC Theatres Kansas City FilmFest. In the future, we hope to be able to offer more grants/prizes like this in much the same way that ArtsKC and Charlotte Street do, and we’re currently in fundraising mode to accomplish that. Actually, one of the goals for the application process is to raise funds for the other side of the Fund. That’s why we have an application fee of $10. So the more people apply, the quicker we’ll be able to provide funds for filmmakers to actually make their project. And we feel once we raise around $30K we can begin to do that.
Application deadline is 5pm CST, Friday, June 1, 2012.