Dark Shadows

It’s simple: if you are a Depp fan, you must see “Dark Shadows.”

“Dark Shadows” is not Tim Burton’s best film. It has flaws. But it has Johnny Depp in a meaty role as the vampire Barnabas Collins. Depp is the reason to see the movie.

Another good is Eva Green as the witch Angelique. She looks great and she has fun with the role.

The two share a lovemaking scene that’s a classic. It’s not particularly sexy, but the way they literally bounce off the walls is ridiculously outrageous. At the end of their tryst, the room looks more like the site of a violent brawl than that of a hookup.

The story is set in 1972. After spending over two centuries underground in a casket, Barnabas is dug up by a construction crew. As he encounters modern life, he experiences some amusing culture shock.

We, the audience, get to enjoy our time travel backward 40 years to the cars and culture of ’72. “Deliverance” and “Superfly” are on movie marquees; the Carpenters sing “Top of the World” on a TV show. (One notable anachronism: Lyrics are recited from Steve Miller’s “The Joker,” which did not come along until 1973. And the Raspberries 1972 hit “Go All the Way,” which played over the closing credits, was not the original hit version—shameful!)

Since Barnabas spurned Angelique’s romantic overtures in the 1700’s, she turned him into a vampire and sent him to his 200+ year dirt nap. When he comes alive again in ’72, she’s still around and still desiring Barnabas.

Another reason to see the movie is the amazing 15-year-old Chloe Grace Maretz as the daughter of the ’72 era matriarch of the Collins clan. This young woman (best known for “Hugo,” “Kick-Ass” and “30 Rock”) sparkles on the big and small screens. With the right role, she could be an Oscar winner by age 21.

Add in Alice Cooper performing “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” and you have another hook to lure you in.

“Dark Shadows” is uneven and may fall short of some expectations/anticipations. But I like Depp, even in his less-than-awesome movies, and he’s fun to watch here.

Hugo—*Good News, Bad News*

Hey, it’s Martin Scorsese in the director’s chair. Is he capable of making a bad movie? Of course not! “Hugo” is good, but that judgment comes with a few caveats.

First the good news: “Hugo” is set inside an amazing Paris train station several years after World War I. The public spaces of the station and the “backstage” area where Hugo hangs out are fascinating places that have a great look on screen.

The effects in the movie are fun and entertaining, from the subjective camera shot that flies into the station at the film’s opening to the runaway train sequence. If you like 3-D, you’ll enjoy “Hugo’s” 3-D—effective, not gimmicky.

The kid actors are strong. Asa Butterfield, in the title role, resembles a baby James McAvoy with his blue eyes. Chloe Grace Moretz, who impressed in a “30 Rock” episode this year and in “Kick Ass” last year, is his friend Isabelle.

Ben Kingley’s character has a cool flashback to the early days of filmmaking, which caused me to flash back to Mr. Hartsook’s History of Cinema class at Alabama.

Now the bad news: “Hugo” has pacing issues. It starts with good energy, bogs down for a long while and then picks up steam (literally, in scenes with trains) in the last act.

“Hugo” may not be the movie you think it is if you have seen the preview trailer. The movie is not so kinetic as you might have expected and it brings in a major storyline that is barely referenced in the trailer. Jude Law’s screen time in the movie is not much more than in the preview.

Preteens and teens will, I think, like it. Grades from grownups may be mixed. Small children could get restless during segments of the movie, so leave your 5-year-old squirmer with the sitter.

“Hugo” is good. I had hoped it would be better.