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'Shadows' never finds its tone

"Dark Shadows" (PG-13): While there's not much here that's inappropriate for them, high-schoolers may lose interest in this slow-moving vampire comedy well before it's over. The film's sexual content may be a little too much for middle-schoolers. Johnny Depp is very funny in his pal Tim Burton's riff on the 1960s daytime horror soap opera, "Dark Shadows." Alas, the movie around him never finds its tone, which fluctuates between outright spoofery and the TV show's more somber style. When Depp is on camera as gentleman vampire Barnabas Collins, awakened in the year 1972 after 200 years in a coffin, the film is fun -- at least at first. When the focus leaves him, it becomes campy and tedious. After a while, Depp can't even save it. He is droll, though, in his long nails and cutaway coat, shocked at all things modern and apologizing before drinking people's blood and killing them. Barnabas returns to his family's mansion near fictional Collinsport, Maine. He's determined to help his descendants restore the family business, a fish cannery, and stop their arch rival, Angelique (Eva Green), who is in fact the sorceress who turned him into a vampire. The lady of the house (Michelle Pfeiffer), her friend the sozzled psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), her sullen daughter (Chloe Grace Moretz), and her quiet nephew (Gully McGrath) are invigorated by their gallant undead relative.

Most of the mayhem in "Dark Shadows" is not especially gross or graphic, though Barnabas drinks the blood of several human victims and tosses others around, implicitly killing them. The finale grows more violent, with one character morphing into a werewolf and another cracking and disintegrating before our eyes. The sexual innuendo gets R-ish in one scene with Depp and Bonham Carter, implying oral sex, but it's not explicit. Hippies smoke marijuana while others smoke cigarettes. Dr. Hoffman drinks, and there is rare profanity.


"Marvel's The Avengers" (PG-13): Most teens and their tween sibs will enjoy this witty, raucous ride, which doesn't push PG-13 boundaries much at all. And they can thank their lucky (movie) stars that director and co-screenwriter Joss Whedon was the one to get this gig. His nearly two-and-a-half-hour-long, eardrum-blowing, property-destroying mash-up, based on the Marvel Comics series, keeps humor and characterization simmering nicely amid the 3-D, special effects and mayhem. Occasionally the dialogue sounds robotic, but more often it sparkles.Intermediate string overflow

The mayhem rarely gets graphic. Once or twice we see a character run through with a blade and bleeding. The rest of the violence involves arm-bending, neck-cracking, head-banging, body-hurling fights, and massively destructive car chases and aerial dogfights. The alien spacecraft look like huge mechanical lizards. Younger audience members may recoil to see Bruce Banner morph into the raging Incredible Hulk. The arrows shot by Hawkeye aim for eyeballs, but not graphically. When Tony Stark/Iron Man and aide Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) flirt, there are mild sparks.