Monday Morning Critic – Johnny Depp, Tim Burton & Dark Shadows: Where To Next?

Every Monday morning, InsidePulse Movies Czar Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings an irreverent and oftentimes hilarious look at pop culture, politics, sports and whatever else comes to mind. And sometimes he writes about movies.

With Dark Shadows opening up to under $30 million in the light of the Avengers juggernaut, the power of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp together has to be questioned somewhat. That’s going to be the big story as the reimagining of the gothic soap opera from decades earlier has effectively flopped upon arrival. It’s not that it’s really a massive flop ala John Carter; it’s going to be called massive when it’s more of a small flop based on two things.

The subject matter isn’t going to appeal en masse like a normal Hollywood blockbuster would this time of year. We have to be honest and say that a cult television show from decades earlier, even with Johnny Depp in the lead and Burton behind the camera, isn’t exactly a place to start when it comes to making a hit film. It’s going to be considered an epic fail because the two when given this high level a spot in the summer calendar as one of the first blockbusters to open.

The other thing is the film’s fairly pricey budget at $150 million or so, at least that’s what has been declared. Between filming, and p&a / marketing, there’s a sunk cost of probably $250 million to make back. With Depp’s international drawing powers it’ll get close to getting into the black when all is said and done.

Usually films gross about two and a half times what it grosses in its opening weekend, as well, so most like we’re looking at a $70-90 million total domestic gross with probably 2-3 times that internationally. Depp is one thing internationally when it comes to box office grosses: a rock star. But even rock stars wind up falling out of flavor on occasion. And after eight collaborations, and potentially a high profile flop, Burton and Depp have a loss of face (for lack of a better word) at a minimum.

But that’s not a bad thing. After eight collaborations of working along the same sort of subject material, the gothic comedy for lack of a better genre classification, maybe a different challenge for the two is what would need to get a creative spark. The one unifying thing that has come out from fans and critics who’ve seen Dark Shadows is that this is more of the same: that Burton has essentially been recycling the same bit for a while now and it’s gotten old. Hell, Matt Stone and Trey Parker pointed that out some time ago.

But instead of piling on I’ve decided it’d be interesting to see Burton & Depp again. They both work well together and are friends, of course, so future collaborations are happening whether we like it or not. Me, I’ve decided to come up with a handful of new ideas I’d love to see the two pursue.

Thus I present this week’s challenge: The Top 8 Films Depp/Burton Should Use as a Next Step. Why only eight? Considering they’ve worked together eight times before, it kind of felt appropriate. That and I wrote this column hung over and my head hurt after eight ideas.

8. Moon Knight

Burton has done the comic book character before and changed the way the genre looked for some time. Now Batman is a bit dated BUT back when it was released it was a revelation. With the comic book hero becoming en vogue, and Depp not having played one, why not someone with interesting origins and a darkness to him like Moon Knight? Depp’s name is big enough that you could get $50-60 million for the project; I don’t know much about the comic book character, and Marvel property, but if they can turn Iron Man into a megastar because Robert Downey Jr. owns it then you have a chance of doing the same.

7. Pirates of the Caribbean 5

On Stranger Tides made a crap ton of money without being all that good or necessary. Rob Marshall isn’t guaranteed to return, either, and one imagines Gore Verbinski has moved on after directing the original trilogy. So why not bring in Burton? The film is guaranteed to make cash, you could find a small part for Helena Bonham Carter somewhere and it’s not as if there’s a need for Burton to drastically change a thing. He could make his own Tides as the Pirates series is more or less on autopilot at this point. I imagine a script for the fifth installment is kind of like a Mad Libs at this point.

6. A Remake of Batman

Look, Christopher Nolan is going to be done with the franchise soon enough and Warner Bros. wants to reboot it fairly quickly. There’s still money to be made and still a new and interesting take to be had on Batman/Bruce Wayne as a character as well as plenty of villains from his rogues’ gallery that you wouldn’t necessarily have to repeat any of them. If Warner is key on relaunching Gotham’s defender Burton would be an inspired choice; he knows dark and moody, of course, and already has two films under his belt. Why not try again? With the way CGI, et al, has transformed the way we make films in the near two decades since Batman changed the way we look at comic book films Burton could pull it off again. I don’t think Burton ever got

5. A remake of Rififi

I’m shocked this hasn’t come up before but I’d like to see Burton work with a genre picture that goes against what he’s always done with goofy characters. I’d love to see Depp as Tony in a similar role as John Dillinger in Public Enemies. Rififi was also the first DVD I reviewed in my debut of this very column., too, oddly enough and no one has thought of remaking it for a variety of reasons. I’d love to see Burton take on this film and have at it. Taking on one of the greatest crime films ever made is tough but Burton would at least give an exciting failure if not a brilliant reworking of the material. If Scorsese can take a generic action thriller in Infernal Affairs and turn it into a grandiose, operatic tale of the fall of two men I’d love to see what Burton would do with this film.

4. A Confederacy of Dunces

John Kennedy Toole may have written only one novel, having died prior to its publication, and plenty of people have tried to adapt this into a film and failed. Even Will Ferrell couldn’t get this off the ground in the starring role as Ignatius J. Reilly with David Gordon Green in the director’s chair. It’s been called the film everyone wants to make but no one want to produce; what better challenge for a director who thrives when given tough material? Depp as Reilly would make for the sort of man-child character he thrives on playing while also giving Burton New Orleans, LA, to play with.

3. A Live-Action Beavis & Butt-Head

Johnny Depp has always said that one role he’d love to take on is Beavis in a live-action film; while Mike Judge would probably want to direct I think it could be interesting to see what someone else could do with the two iconic miscreants as opposed to Judge. Imagine Depp and Jackie Earl Haley as the two in a take on them as adults still getting into stupid shenanigans; there’s potential comic gold in there.

2. A Sonny Bono Biopic

Sonny Bono went from being a hit making musician with his wife Cher to a member of Congress is remarkable; Bono remains the only member of Congress to have scored a #1 single on the US Billboard Hot 100 list. On top of that he had a fairly off-beat career as an actor, too, and Depp would be an amusing choice. Bono hasn’t had a biopic done on him, nor has anyone really explored doing one, but with such a unique career Depp & Burton would make for an interesting take on his life. If they can get a biopic on a hack director in Ed Wood, why not the guy behind “I Got You Babe.” Read his Wiki and think about it for a moment: Depp may have to ugly it up but it’d offbeat enough to inspire some creativity.

1. A film version of Hogan’s Heroes

Depp and Burton are skilled with screwball comedy but one of the things that bugged me about Dark Shadows was that we’ve seen Burton do the gothic comedy before, and better. Why not keep the comedy and change the setting? The television comedy was popular but no one has attempted a film from it yet, oddly enough. World War II allows for a similar kind of production as he has done in the past and Hogan’s Heroes could be a fairly humorous film. War films on the whole tend to be many things; a war comedy is hard to pull and I think Depp could be great as the titular Hogan. Plus you could get Christoph Waltz as Colonel Klink, if only because that would make for some epic comedy sequences.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – Drive Angry

I reviewed this back when it was in theatres and it was a bit of a hoot, despite the film’s relatively inherit awfulness. You can read it here if you ‘d like; it was something that as a film I couldn’t enjoy but on a certain level I enjoyed because sometime trash is ok.

The film follows John Milton (Nicolas Cage), a man who escaped from hell to prevent a devil-worshipping cult from killing his granddaughter. Accompanied by a waitress (Amber Heard) and pursued by the Devil’s accountant (William Fichtner), the film follows as Milton raises hell to track down and rescue his granddaughter from those who wish to bring about the apocalypse. Watching the trailer alone it makes you think that this was just a really good version of the fake trailers attached to Grindhouse but this is an actual, honest to God attempt at a campy b-movie with an actual budget.

On DVD it has a bit more of a charm than in theatres; it feels like a crappy direct to video film with a big name cast instead of something in the theatres. Spending the $13 or so to watch it in theatres felt like a rip off because it was the kind of trashy fun you find on DVD instead.

Slightly recommended.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

Battleship – Another staple of the ‘80s comes to the big screen in an adaptation of a board game into a Transformers rip off. And Shia LaBeouf isn’t there to ruin it like he does everything else with the ‘80s.

Skip It – Easily the most spectacularly bad trailer in 2012, it looks like a low rent Transformers film.

The Dictator – Sacha Baron Cohen is back as a dictator who comes to America and has a fish out of water experience. Opens on Wednesday

See It – Cohen has made his name with the faux-documentary but let’s see what he has in a scripted variety.

What To Expect When You’re Expecting – Based off a book or something.

Skip It – Hollywood’s version of pregnancy. I’ll pass.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .

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