20 Films to See This Week: De Palma, Argento, Burton + More

20 Films, New York

From IFC Center and BAM  to Film Forum and The Film Society of Lincoln Center, check out the 20 films to see this week around the city.

**MONDAY, MARCH 23**

SANTIAGO ALVAREZ SHORTS PROGRAM, Santiago Alvarez
BAM

LBJ (1968, 18min)
79 Primaveras (1969, 25min)
Now (1965, 5min)
Hanoi Martes 13 (1968, 38min)
Ciclon (1963, 22min)

READ MORE 

WESTERN, Bill and Turner Ross
The Film Society of Lincoln Center

Drug cartel violence and border politics threaten the neighborly rapport enjoyed for generations between Eagle Pass, Texas, and Piedras Negras, Mexico. In their trenchant and passionately observed documentary, Bill and Turner Ross render palpable the unease and uncertainty of decent, hardworking folk as they are buffeted by forces beyond their control, including senseless acts of torture, murders committed just outside their homes, and the temporary USDA ban on livestock trade. Drawing on archetypes of rugged individualism and community, Western focuses on Mayor Chad Foster, who presides over Eagle Pass with a winning, conspiratorial smile; José Manuel Maldonado, his kindly Piedras Negras mayoral counterpart; and Martin Wall, a cattle rancher whose Marlboro Man stoicism melts away in the presence of his young daughter, Brylyn. Western firmly positions the Ross brothers at the frontier of a new, compelling kind of American vernacular cinema.

READ MORE 

BATMAN RETURNS, Tim Burton
IFC Center

Tim Burton put the goth back in Gotham for his hit 1992 sequel BATMAN RETURNS, which features a villainess who finds her strength through kinky black bondage wear, a theme song by goth queen Siouxsie and the Banshees and a script by black comedy genius Daniel Waters (HEATHERS). Though it was criticized by parental groups for being too dark, BATMAN RETURNS nonetheless struck a chord with a generation of “middle-American, tortured oddballs” like our guest presenter, performance artist and goth opera wunderkind Joseph Keckler, who remembers being “entranced by the deformed and power-hungry Penguin (Danny DeVito) and even more by the revelation of Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer): undergoing a vampire-like interspecies resuscitation, she transforms from the scattered, apologetic and subservient Selina Kyle to an oversexed vigilante, whip in hand. Still floating around in the collective unconscious of my generation, like trash in the sewers of Gotham, are fantasies of being with her and being her, of coming back to life with claws.” Join us for a fabulously fun screening!

READ MORE 

DEATH LAID AN EGG, Giulio Questi
Anthology Film Archives

Giulio Questi’s giallo-on-acid, a pop art manifesto against mass production, takes the plot of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s DIABOLIQUE and turns it into something truly bizarre. Marco (Jean-Louis Trintignant) occupies the center of a love triangle involving his wife (Gina Lollobrigida) and her luscious niece (Ewa Aulin), at the high-tech chicken farm they run – and this busy man still finds the time to kill prostitutes on the side. This is poultry art at its best!

READ MORE 

FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET, Dario Argento
Anthology Film Archives

A musician accidentally kills the stalker who had been menacing him over the phone. The killing is witnessed by a masked figure, and soon the musician is being blackmailed. One by one everyone around him turns up dead, making him the prime suspect. In this final installment of the ANIMAL TRILOGY, Argento takes his visual stylistics and set pieces to another level. Long unavailable, the film is presented in a rare archival 35mm print. Starring Michael Brandon and Mimsy Farmer.

READ MORE 

____________________________________________

**TUESDAY, MARCH 24**

PARABELLUM, Lukas Valentina RInner
Film Society of Lincoln Center

A Buenos Aires office worker finishes his day, visits his father in a rest home, lodges his cat in a kennel, and cancels his phone service. (Did you overhear the news report of riots and social unrest on the radio?) The next day, he and 10 equally nondescript individuals are transported up the Tigre delta in blindfolds and arrive at a secluded, well-appointed resort for a vacation with a difference. Instead of yoga and nature walks, the days’ activities range from hand-to-hand combat and weapons instruction to classes in botany and homemade explosives. Welcome to boot camp for preppers, the destination of choice for the serious Apocalypse Tourist. Austrian filmmaker Lukas Valenta Rinner handles his material in his home country’s familiar style, with cool distance, minimal dialogue, and carefully composed frames, interpolating the action with extracts from the invented Book of Disasters, a must-read for anyone warming up for the collapse of civilization as we know it. People, are you in?

READ MORE 

CHRISTMAS, AGAIN, Charles Poekel
Film Society of Lincoln Center

A forlorn Noel (Kentucker Audley) pulls long, cold nights as a Christmas-tree vendor in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. As obnoxious, indifferent, or downright bizarre customers come and go, doing little to restore Noel’s faith in humanity, only the flirtatious innuendos of one woman and the drunken pleas of another seem to lift him out of his funk. Writer-director Charles Poekel has transformed three years of “fieldwork” peddling evergreens on the streets of New York into a sharply observed and wistfully comic portrait of urban loneliness and companionship. While Christmas, Again heralds a promising newcomer in Poekel, it also confirms several great young talents of American indie cinema: actors Audley and Hannah Gross, editor Robert Greene, and cinematographer Sean Price Williams.

READ MORE 

ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK (aka THEY ARE COMING TO GET YOU), Sergio Martino
Anthology Film Archives

Jane (the queen of giallo, Edwige Fenech) is plagued by a recurring nightmare after losing her unborn child in a car accident. Her busy husband Richard (George Hilton) deals with it by plying her with pills, while her sister books sessions for her at the doctor. Things take a turn for the worse when the creepy blue-eyed man from her nightmares materializes in real life, and the upstairs neighbor enlists her in satanic rituals. Set in Swinging London, ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK is graced by Sergio Martino’s impeccable camera work and Bruno Nicolai’s terrific score.

READ MORE 

ADYNATA and MAYHEM
Light Industry

Adynata and Mayhem, two crucial works of experimental film from the 1980s, pursue a radical aesthetic agenda not merely on the level of content, but of form. They stand as living, moving arguments for a film language that is not only critical but generative. Rejecting all manner of constricting binaries—East and West, male and female, heterosexual and homosexual—this is not merely a deconstruction of cinema but its reconstruction. “Film has depended on voyeuristic active/passive mechanisms,” Mulvey notes in the final lines of her essay. “Women, whose image has continually been stolen and used for this end, cannot view the decline of the traditional film form with anything much more than sentimental regret.”

READ MORE 

TENEBRAE, Dario Argento
Anthology Film Archives

An American writer travels to Rome to present his new novel only to find himself implicated in a killing spree whose perpetrator is taking cues from his book. In one of his most personal films, the master of horror fires back at the wave of criticism that he was facing at the time. Featuring an outstanding score by Goblin (DEEP RED, SUSPIRIA), an infamous crane shot, and one of the most memorable chase scenes between man and dog ever filmed, this rare uncut 35mm print of TENEBRAE is not to be missed!

READ MORE 

____________________________________________

**WEDNESDAY, MARCH 25**

I AM CUBA, Mikhail Kalatozov
BAM

This retina-dazzling agitprop masterwork is Soviet filmmaker Mikhail Kalatozov’s delirious dream vision of the Cuban revolution, in which the Felliniesque decadence of Batista-era Havana gives way to the explosion of Castro’s guerrilla uprising. A head-spinning mix of Constructivist aesthetics and sensuous photography, I Am Cuba pulses with “some of the most exhilarating camera movements and most luscious black-and-white cinematography you’ll ever see” (Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader).

READ MORE

THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER, Nadav Lapid
Film Society of Lincoln Center

Nadav Lapid’s follow-up to his explosive debut, Policeman, is a brilliant, shape-shifting provocation and a coolly ambiguous film of ideas. Nira (Sarit Larry), a fortysomething wife, mother, and teacher in Tel Aviv, becomes obsessed with one of her charges, Yoav (Avi Shnaidman), a 5-year-old with a knack for declaiming perfectly formed verses on love and loss that would seem far beyond his scope. The impassive prodigy’s inexplicable bursts of poetry—Lapid’s own childhood compositions—awaken in Nira a protective impulse, but as her actions grow more extreme, the question of what exactly she’s protecting remains very much open. The Kindergarten Teacher shares the despair of its heroine, all too aware that she lives in an age and culture that has little use for poetry. But there is something perversely romantic in the film’s underlying conviction: in an ugly world, beauty still has the power to drive us mad.

READ MORE

SPRING BREAKERS WITH 35MM TRAILER PRE-SHOW, Harmony Korine
Nitehawk Cinema

Four sexy college girls plan to fund their spring break getaway by burglarizing a fast food shack. But that’s only the beginning. During a night of partying, the girls hit a roadblock when they are arrested on drug charges. Hungover and clad only in bikinis, the girls appear before a judge but are bailed out unexpectedly by Alien, an infamous local thug who takes them under his wing and leads them on the wildest Spring Break trip in history. Rough on the outside but with a soft spot inside, Alien wins over the hearts of the young Spring Breakers, and leads them on a Spring Break they never could have imagined.

READ MORE 

A BAY OF BLOOD (aka A TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE), Mario Bava
Anthology Film Archives

A wheelchair-bound heiress is murdered, and a chain of killings ensue, as everyone who has a stake in the pie struggles to eliminate anyone standing in the way of the inheritance. The situation is complicated by a group of teens who decide to go camping by the lake on the estate. Widely regarded as a pioneer of the slasher sub-genre, Bava’s high-body-count murder mystery is one of his most influential works.

READ MORE 

DIRTY PICTURES (aka AN IDEAL PLACE TO KILL), Umberto Lenzi
Anthology Film Archives

Dick (Ray Lovelock) and Ingrid (a teenage Ornella Muti) finance their carefree lifestyle by smuggling pornography from Scandinavia into Italy, but when they run out of money they resort to selling dirty pictures of themselves. Soon they are arrested and ordered to return to their country, but car troubles force them to make a pit stop at a villa where the apprehensive lady of the house (Irene Papas) is alone awaiting her husband. DIRTY PICTURES begins as a road film but slowly morphs into a chilling cat-and-mouse game. The result is a standout Giallo from prolific genre master Lenzi.

READ MORE 

____________________________________________

**THURSDAY, MARCH 26**

MERCURIALES, Virgil Vernier
The Film Society of Lincoln Center

With an eclectic assortment of shorts, documentaries, and hybrid works to his name, Virgil Vernier is one of the most ambitious young directors in France today, and one of the hardest to categorize. Taking a cue from Godard’s 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her, Vernier’s most accomplished film to date trains his camera on the Parisian suburb of Bagnolet, shadowing two receptionists (Ana Neborac and Philippine Stindel) who work in the lobby of the titular high-rise. As the girls drift from one enigmatic situation to the next—going to the pool, visiting a maze-like sex club, hunting for new employment—Vernier’s visual strategies and narrative gambits grow ever more inventive and surprising. Beautifully shot on 16mm by cinematographer Jordane Chouzenoux and set to James Ferraro’s haunting electronic score, Mercuriales is that rarest of cinematic achievements: a radical experiment in form that also lavishes tender attention on its characters.

READ MORE

CARLITO’S WAY, Brian De Palma
IFC Center

Named the Best Film of the 1990s by Cahiers du Cinema “’30s-style gangster tragedy about a man doomed to an early grave by his society and his own code. Carlito (Al Pacino) wants out of the rackets, but to get there he has to ‘play Bogart’, running a discotheque, and even then he can’t escape his friends — lover Penelope Ann Miller and lawyer Sean Penn… Pacino looks every inch a movie star, and De Palma provides a timely reminder of just how impoverished the Hollywood lexicon has become since the glory days of the ’70s.” – Time Out (London)

READ MORE 

FOOTPRINTS ON THE MOON (aka PRIMAL IMPULSE), Luigi Bazzoni
Anthology Film Archives

Florinda Bolkan (INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN ABOVE SUSPICION, DON’T TORTURE A DUCKLING) plays an interpreter tormented by a recurring dream about two astronauts stranded on the moon. She soon travels to a distant seaside town and checks in at a dilapidated hotel where, to her surprise, she runs into a series of strangers who seem to know her. Beautifully lensed by the great Vittorio Storaro, this psychological giallo from Luigi Bazzoni not only delivers in terms of style and mystery, but is also an intriguing character study thanks to Bolkan’s inspired performance. Also starring Klaus Kinski and familiar giallo child-star Nicoletta Elmi (DEEP RED, DEMONS).

READ MORE 

THE PSYCHIC (aka SEVEN NOTES IN BLACK), Lucio Fulci
Anthology Film Archives

Following a premonition, a clairvoyant woman (Jennifer O’Neil) tears down a wall in her husband’s country house and discovers a skeleton. Preyed upon by terrifying visions, she sets out to find the truth with the help of a psychologist (Marc Porel), only to realize that her own life might be in danger. One of Fulci’s tightest works, this rare parapsychic horror gem features a score by Franco Bixio, Fabio Frizzi, and Vince Tempera.

READ MORE 

A NIGHT IN A DORMITORY, Harry Delmar
MoMA

1956. USA. Directed by Arthur Lubin. Screenplay by Devery Freeman, Stephen Longstreet. With Ginger Rogers, Barry Nelson, Carol Channing, James Arness, Clint Eastwood. After 10 years as a freelancer, Rogers returned to her former home base, RKO, for this pleasantly feminist comedy Western—which suitably proved to be the last film released by the battered studio. Under Arthur Lubin’s direction, Rogers returns to her plucky, career-girl persona of the 1930s, complete with squeaky voice: she’s a saleswoman with the unenviable assignment of peddling barbed wire to the open-range ranchers of Texas. Carol Channing, in her first credited movie role, is her comically gangly assistant; as her love interest, Lubin cast his personal protégé, an impossibly handsome young Clint Eastwood. This is likely to be the last public performance of this vintage 35mm IB Technicolor print, which suffers from “vinegar syndrome” and displays some warping in its final minutes. 92 min.

READ MORE 

Armen Ra On His Shocking Documentary, Favorite Nightlife Stories, & Theremin

In this holiday-shortened week, with the spring pushing and pushing and pushing its way to free us from this winter of discontent, I am writing about the unusual suspects who toil or play in the clubs as they define their crafts. Yesterday it was FLXX. Today it’s Armen Ra, the master of the theremin. The theremin is a rare, eerie-sounding musical instrument, with its foremost astonishing trait explained by Armen in our interview below. Right now, Aremn is raising loot on Indiegogo for a theremin-infused feature documentary about his life: one of growing up in Iranian aristocracy and, after going on vacation in the United States, being forced to stay there due to the Iranian Revolution. A man from wealth and in exile, his story takes flight when he discovers the magic of the theremin and its effect on people. The fundraiser has six days left, and $4,000 to go to get the feature released.

Armen Ra is a well-known face and figure in the posh NY nightclub scene. His story is of ups and downs and all-arounds. It will shock and awe you. I asked him to tell me all about it
 
It’s been a long road. You are an exile,  being forced to leave Iran and live in a foreign land. Tell me about that transition.
That transition was a complete nightmare. I literally thought it was a nightmare for years. Coming from a sheltered aristocratic background, growing up in the opera, traveling the world yearly, submerged in music and art and literature. Being stuck here was like Gilligan’s Island from Hell. I started making jewelry, doing puppet shows with sets and costumes, learning about the power of beauty. We had been to the US several times already, but I didn’t speak any English. My mother and sister were fluent though, so they helped. I adapted quite fast in every way possible. I had to. It was a sudden survival, and I was unprepared at that age, but you figure things out when you have to.

Drugs, prostitution, alcohol, a zillion demons – not exactly the American dream. How’d you get out of that?
Divine intervention, self discipline, and believing in my own intelligence to eventually conquer the demons that were in reach. The light is always there. We are all light. The substance abuse was knocking holes in my aura, diminishing the light. It was not easy to get a regular job for someone like me at the time, especially when the club scene collapsed. Sometimes I had nowhere to sleep and was living in my friend’s multi-million dollar mansion. I worked at Patricia Field doing make-up, did reception at hair salons, drag shows, and whatever else I had to do to survive. I even worked at Show World in the old Times Square! Until I found a voice through the theremin, I was spiraling downward. I wanted to be great at something, and drag and clubs and doing make-up did not satisfy that urge, that quiet knowing that something else is in store, but what? A gift from the gods…waiting for me to open my eyes, to look up.

Tim Burton, Andy Warhol, Vali Myers, Salvador Dali met you, checked you out… you guys rubbed shoulders.
Being in NYC at that time and living in the East Village, it was inevitable really. I’ve always been lucky in attracting interesting people, and I was just amazed that such incredible people and artists wanted me around. It wasn’t that I had low self-esteem; I was just coming out of years of school and abuse, so it was a fabulous shock. I tell the stories in the film. It really is like mythology, and thankfully its all documented and witnessed. Being 16 and spending hours a day with Vali Myers in her room at Hotel Chelsea with people like Ira Cohen,  Andy Warhol, and Debbie Harry coming and going was insane. Vali would constantly take Polaroids of me and send them to Dali. Befriending Leigh Bowery and Thierry Mugler, dancing with Grace Jones in the Limelight DJ booth,s itting on the floor of Frankie Knuckles’ DJ booth at the World… going to a tranny hooker club with Tim Burton and Francis Ford Copolla. Yes, really. Doing the 1999 MTV VMAs in the Madonna Drag Queens segment; I represented the frozen video, that’s a story! I COULD go on! 

The theremin. You have mastered it, and yet I’ve never heard of it.
The theremin is the first electronic instrument ever. Invented by Russian Physicist Leon Theremin around 1920, it is the only instrument that is played without touching, and one of the most difficult to play. Many people use it as a sound effect. I play it as a classical instrument and a voice. My theremin has an eight-octave range, so she is like the ultimate opera singer. She sounds like Maris Callas from beyond. The theremin was used in many sci-fi and horror movies in the background. I think it fell into obscurity because it was difficult to play properly and was not easily accessible. My intention is to bring this instrument to the foreground where it belongs. It has taken me all over the world and onto some of the greatest stages. The sound affects people, it brings out emotion, and touches the heart like a beautiful voice does.

What is the film about?
The film is channeling sadness and horror into beauty, and music is the alchemy. It’s about being clear enough to receive. We are in THE LAST WEEK of our Indigogo crowd-funding campaign. We’re asking anyone who is interested in seeing this fabulous film made properly to please help support us by making donations and/or especially spreading the word about the film and the campaign. We are working very hard to create a meaningful, beautiful, high-quality work of art. Any and all support is welcomed and much appreciated.

And thank you, Steve. You helped me when I first started working in clubs by believing in me and giving me work of all kinds, and you continue to support what I am doing. I really appreciate it. You’re a real gentleman.

From Bunuel to Burton: The Best Films to See This Weekend

Well, it’s finally Friday. Either time to retire to your bed for the weekend with a stack of movies, a bottle of whiskey, and avoid the world you’ve been immersed in for the past five days—or if you’re not a misanthropic human, it’s time to indulge in a hard-earned celebration of another completed work week. But for those of you looking for a pleasant medium, a trip to the cinema to see one of your favorite old films or catching a midnight screening is always a wonderful way to spend a night. For those of you that have been anticipating, The Hobbit’s release—good for you, the day has finally come. You can now sardine yourself into theaters, throw on some 3D glasses, and hop on that journey. But if you’re in the mood for something a little different, this weekend theaters all over the city will be populating their screens with some wonderful films from Bunuelian dramas, to midnight horror shows, and even a little holiday—dare I say it—cheer. Earlier today we told you about our least favorite films of the year, but now with a slightly lighter heart, I’ve rounded up my pick of the best films showing over the weekend—so you really have no excuse to grab a pack of Twizzlers and lose your troubles in the world on the screen.

edward

Nitehawk Cinemas
Christmas Evil (12:15am)
Kill Bill Volume 1 (12:15am)
Killing Them Softly
Edward Scissor Hands (12pm Saturday)
Marnie (11:45am Saturday)

husbands
Anthology Film Archives
Killing of a Chinese Bookie (9:15 Saturday)
Husbands (6:30)

newsies
Sunshine Landmark
Newsies (midnight)
Rust and Bone
Any Day Now

on the road
IFC Center
Alien (12:10am)
In Search of the Road (6:00pm)
On the Road (8:00pm)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (11:50pm)
They Live (12:05pm)

bunuel
Film Society Lincoln Center
Ghost Graduation (8:15pm)
Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip (11:59pm)
Viridiana (6:15pm)

dead
Museum of the Moving Image
Dead Ringers (6:00pm Sunday)
Children of Paradise (7:00pm today and 6:30pm Saturday)

meet
BAM
Gremlins (6:15 and 9:15 Saturday)
Meet Me in St. Louis (2:00pm, 4:30pm, 6:50pm, 9:15pm Sunday)
Never Say Never Again (6:00pm and 9:00pm)

rocky
Clearview Chelsea
Rocky Horror Picture Show (12:00am) 

Christopher Nolan and Five Other Directors With Favorite Actors

Part four in The Dark Knight Rises trailer series was unveiled this morning, and although this one seemed to pack more bite and excitement than the previous three, my brain immediately shut out the world of Gotham City and floated to Christopher Nolan’s last popcorn thriller, Inception. Now, that could have something to do with the brilliant but almost-identical Hans Zimmer score or the slow-motion, zero-gravity action sequences, but I’m pretty sure it’s just the fact that both films share nearly the same cast, including Joseph Gordon Levitt, Marion Cotilliard, Michael Caine, and Tom Hardy. In honor of the new trailer’s release and the countdown to the film’s premiere, here are some more directors who love to recycle their casts—for better or worse.

When Whit Stillman made his debut feature, Metropolitan, he cast a group of unknown actors like Chris Eigeman and Taylor Nichols. He loved them so much he kept them around in his next two films, Barcelona and The Last Days of Disco. Sadly, by the time he made his latest masterpiece, Damsels in Distress, his usual heroes and ladies had matured past his favorite age bracket. It’s quite easy, however, to see a young Chris Eigemann in Adam Brody as the snarkily charming Fred Packenstacker, and we were excited to spot Nicols and fellow Metropolitan co-star Carolyn Farina turn up in cameo roles.

David Lynch loves to pull from his hat of dedicated actors for his films, whether it be Laura Dern, Justin Theroux, Jack Nance, or Kyle MacLachlan. But when it comes to Lynch, collaborating with the same people only adds to the twisted dreamlike nature of his work. If you are to look back on the lasting images and moments from his oeuvre things can almost blend together—like looking at Twin Peaks‘s Dale Cooper as nothing more than Blue Velvet‘s inquisitive Jeffrey Beaumont all grown up.

But sometimes, casting the same people in everything—especially when the aesthetic and sensibility of the films is so similar—tends to get a little tedious. Tim Burton was putting out brilliant work back in the day with Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice, and Ed Wood. In recent years, however, it seems all he’s done is dress the same people up as Edward Gorey characters and set them in new worlds, which has begun to make everything just look like pastiche of one another. Honestly, it’s become almost impossible to imagine Johnny Depp without a painted-on white face anymore.

Whether you find Wes Anderson whimsically twee and contrived or a masterful storyteller who’s aesthetic vision creates a world far better than ours, the fact that he casts the same actors time and time again has never seemed to ware on his work. Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman seem to always have a place in Anderson’s world, but in a way that never seems too repetitive. The actors he chooses to keep in all his films help breathe new life into each of them and know how to operate in his world of wonder.

Although personally I would have no problem watching a film starring Woody Allen as every character, what defines his iconic work (besides his dialogue and Gordon Willis’s cinematography) would be his signature ensemble casts. In the early days, the films like Annie Hall and Manhattan always featured Diane Keaton and Tony Roberts. Then he seemed to slowly move along to the Judy Davis, Alan Alda, and Mia Farrow crowd (before the whole daughter-wife scandal). And now, with his latest film, To Rome with Love (which comes out net week), we’re treated to Penelope Cruz (who won an Oscar for Vicky Christina Barcelona) once again and more Judy Davis!

‘Abraham Lincoln’: Now With Way More Blood

We’ve learned quite a bit about the upcoming, Benjamin Walker-starring Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter this week, thanks to the New York Times’ take on the flick’s publicity push, which relies heavily on marketing to the armed forces.

But if you haven’t been impressed by the foggy, Tim Burton-produced trailers so far released or the idea of a marketing campaign that preys on active-duty soldier, the latest, more vampire-heavy trailer for the movie, released today should do the trick.

Be warned, the trailer is exceedingly bloody—a reaction, perhaps, to fan complaints that earlier previews were more Lincoln and less Vampire Hunter—but it also has us about 10 times more excited to see the film.

A Surprising Appreciation of ‘Dark Shadows’

I have a confession to make: yesterday I saw Dark Shadows, the new Tim Burton joint featuring, predictably, Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter as well as fresh Burton cast members like Chlöe Grace Moretz, Jonny Lee Miller, and Eva Green. I predicted that it would be awful, and most critics seemed to prove all my points: that Burton’s weird big-budget goth epics have gotten stale and stupid. But still, something drew me to the film—maybe vampiric mind control? And, um, I kind of really enjoyed it!

Like most people my generation, I have never seen Dark Shadows, the extremely popular daytime soap opera that ran from 1966 to 1971. A quick jaunt onto the show’s extensive Wikipedia page reveals it was like a late ’60s version of True Blood: there were vampires, ghosts, werewolves, and witches and was considered a gothic, campy masterpiece—just without the current vampire drama’s gratuitous sex and political subtext. It seems like the perfect source material for a Tim Burton movie (he has, after all, professed that he was a fan of the show, as did Johnny Depp), which, judging from his recent creative pursuits (Alice in Wonderland, Sweeney Todd, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, to name a couple of cinematic clunkers), would surely be a big old CGI mess.

And it was, let there be no doubt! But that was also sort of its charm? I concede that it makes absolutely no sense, is all across the board with a bunch of different bizarre subplots including reincarnation, surprise eleventh hour werewolves, fishing politics. It was somewhere in between the movie version of The Addams Family—lovingly showing the divide between an appreciation for straight-forward gothic sensibility and the modern, normal world—and Jan de Bont’s shitbox remake of The Haunting that featured a CGI-heavy scene in which a haunted fireplace murders Owen Wilson. Yes, the creepy old house that is at the center of Dark Shadows eventually attacks its residents at the hands of Eva Green’s sexy witch, but (spoiler alert!), the scene also has Michelle Pfeiffer shooting Green with a shotgun LIKE A BOSS, and then Green’s body breaks apart in a Death Becomes Her sort of way. It’s the best ’90s movie to be released in the second decade of the new millennium! 

Let’s talk about what makes this shitshow so great: it takes place in the ’70s. It’s so super stylized with ridiculous clothes, wigs, and accessories (I have never seen so many turtlenecks under corderoy blazers); it’s the best ’70s costume design I’ve seen since The Ice Storm, and we all know that the only way that Ang Lee masterpiece could have been improved is if Joan Allen was a witch and had the gumption to punish her cheating husband with dark magic. And the music! The Moody Blues, T-Rex, Barry White. Even present-day Alice Cooper makes a cameo as 1972 Alice Cooper! That is the most stupidly brilliant thing that I wish I could have thought of myself. 

So basically Dark Shadows is a gigantic disaster that entertained the hell out of me. Let’s compare it to another pile of garbage that has captured the hearts and minds of hate-watching Americans this year. As Tara Ariano writes of the NBC musical theater drama, "Smash is the worst TV show I’ve ever loved; it might be the worst thing I’ve ever loved." Well, Dark Shadows is my Smash. I’m not proud that I loved it, but I’m not ashamed, either. 

Movies Opening This Weekend, in Order of How Much We Like Their Trailers

Some people judge a movie based on reviews, other will go see something just because it features a favorite actor. Here, we’re judging this weekend’s offerings based solely on what we see in the trailers and ranking them accordingly.

Hick: Chloe Moretz plays a runaway kid on her way to the bright lights of Vegas. On the way she meets a cast of ne’erdowells including Eddie Redmayne, Blake Lively and Juliette Lewis. It’s a story we’ve seen before, but this trailer is exciting enough that seeing it again doesn’t sound so bad.

A Bag of Hammers: This SXSW-approved indie comedy follows two con men who pose as valets as they steal their way into audience’s hearts. The introduction of a kid promises to schmaltz up the joint and might lead to a saccharine ending, but any trailer that uses The Cure so well is alright by us.

Dark Shadows: Tim Burton and Johnny Depp take on the beloved 1960s and ‘70s daytime creepfest with their signature Goth-lite touch and a cast featuring Michelle Pfeiffer and, as always, Helena Bonham Carter. The trailer doesn’t sell exactly the vampire movie we want to see, but it’s the one they’ve got.

Where Do We Go Now: A subtitled foreign number about women who are attempting to keep their village safe from a religious war and the men who can’t seem to help but start one. This won’t take care of your car-chases-and-explosions needs, but if you’re feeling brainy it could be satisfying.

Dragon Eyes: When a town plagued by drugs and gangs gets a new citizen in the form of martial arts master Ryan Hong… well, you know what happens. The fight scenes promise to be sickening, the rest will be boilerplate.

Girl in Progress: A coming of age story about a kid obsessed with coming of age stories and her immature mom. Eva Mendes had better be making this movie to pay off some sort of debt, because she should know better.

Is Johnny Depp Hollywood’s Sexiest Vampire?

The latest Tim Burton-Johnny Depp collaboration, Dark Shadows, won’t open until May 11, but today a featurette on the film hit the web, showing off some never-before-seen footage and giving us a glimpse into Collinwood, the mansion Depp’s movie family, and the characters played by a supporting cast that includes Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloe Moretz, Eva Green, and Jonny Lee Miller.

But despite the excitement another Burton-Depp collaboration — the pair’s eighth — brings, this isn’t the first time we’ve all been to the sexy vampire rodeo. Take a walk down memory lane with us, will you?

There’s, of course, Alexander Skarsgard’s Eric Northman on HBO’s True Blood, perhaps the hottest bloodsucker—sorry, Vampire Bill—to ever cower from the sun.

And naturally, we have Robert Pattinson’s Edward Cullen in the Twilight films, if you’re into that sort of thing. If not, he has enough brothers, sisters and fake vampire parents that one of them has got to get your blood boiling.

Whether it’s Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt who’s your favorite, it was impossible to walk out of Interview with the Vampire without hoping to end up with one of these fangers clamped onto your neck.

Wesley Snipes’ titular character in Blade might have only been half vampire, but he was all hunk.

Like your vampires more New Wave? Keifer Sutherland and company, in 1987’s The Lost Boys offer eternal evil and Wayfarers. It’s a winning combo.

He might not be the megastar he once was, but Colin Farrell’s flesh-eating neighbor from the recent Fright Night reboot can come over and borrow a cup of sugar from us any time.

Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, More in New Clips from ‘Dark Shadows’

Johnny Depp has been all over the movie news world for the past couple of weeks now, and his two upcoming, much-hyped starring roles in Dark Shadows and The Lone Ranger have a bit in common. They’re both film reboots of popular television programs the Baby Boomers watched as kids. They both involve Depp wearing dramatic makeup.

Instead of the gothic vampire soap opera of the 1960s, the 2012 Dark Shadows, which sports the usual triumvirate of Depp, director Tim Burton and fellow Burton muse Helena Bonham Carter, seems like a ghoulish comic romp served with a side of ’70s cheese. Depp assumes the iconic role of Barnabas Collins, the heartthrob-without-a-beating-heart who the late Jonathan Frid made popular in the original show; Bonham Carter plays Dr. Julia Hoffman, the Collins family’s live-in therapist called upon to deal with the family’s long-lost undead relative. Michelle Pfeiffer stars as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, with Jonny Lee Miller (Dexter) playing Elizabeth’s brother and Chloe Moretz (Hugo) playing her daughter.

Nine new clips from the upcoming Dark Shadows were released this week, including We’re introduced to Elizabeth and Julia, who have a Bechdel test-defying discussion over whatever they shall do with Barnabas, as well as the Collins children, most notably Carolyn (Moretz), who advises Barnabas to book Alice Cooper for a "happening" at the house. There’s also a really creepy scene in which Barnabas asks Carolyn about why she’s 15 and doesn’t have a husband yet, but we digress.

Dark Shadows hits theaters May 11th, but you can check out some of the new clips after the jump.