Category Archives: tim burton

Lego Batman: The Movie – DC Super Heroes Unite

Lego Batman: The Movie – DC Super Heroes Unite ~ I am always wary of movies, books, and even potato chips that have long titles and subtitles, and this one is a doozy. I shouldn’t have worried though, because it’s Lego, and Lego is always cool, even when I can’t play their video games.

From the get-go, this was good. The opening is a Lego take off on the opening credit sequence of Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman, and even uses Danny Elfman’s great score (and later John Williams’ Superman music). And if that’s not cool enough, it has Clancy Brown wonderfully reprising his role as the animated Lex Luthor. What’s not to like?

The story is simple enough, and accessible to new viewers perhaps not savvy to the DC Universe continuity. Luthor joins up with the Joker to defeat Superman, Batman and Robin, destroy Gotham City, and win the Presidential election. Throw in guest stars from the Justice League and Batman’s Rogues Gallery, along with that clever Lego sense of humor, and you’ve got a very entertaining flick for all ages.

Of course it has all the charm and wonder of the animated Lego stuff, that coolness of hey-I-could-build-that and a wink-wink slyness that the characters know they and their world are made of Legos. The cityscapes and sets of Gotham and Metropolis are stunning. The best part is Luthor’s weapon, which is a gun that literally takes Legos apart.

Watching this I can’t help thinking that this could probably not only be better than Warner Bros’ upcoming Batman/Superman movie, but quite possibly could serve as an excellent script or template. If only…

ParaNorman

ParaNorman ~ I wasn’t sure what to think of ParaNorman when I first saw previews for it. It kinda struck a comedic animated cross between The Sixth Sense and Hocus Pocus. It certainly had to be more than just a clever title, right? After seeing it, I’m still not sure. Maybe it’s a bullying parable gone wildly astray after too many trips through the Hollywood idea machine. Maybe not.

In a town founded on the legend of a particularly nasty witch trial, Norman is a horror obsessed little boy with a non understanding family, few to no friends, and the ability to see dead people. Yep, just like little Haley Joel Osmont, he sees ghosts, but most of them are harmless. Except for the ghost of the witch who cursed the town. And in the words of Remo Williams, the adventure begins.

The character designs are grotesque but interesting, and refreshingly don’t stink of Tim Burton’s mind. This is a world where everything is crooked, askew, making it a treat to view. I only wish there were more to the story. There is one neat twist but much of the rest is fairly predictable.

This might be a bit intense for the kids, unless they like horror and monsters. Good watch if you wait for cable or DVD, and if you go to the theatre, save your money and see it in 2D.

Alyas Batman en Robin

Alyas Batman en Robin ~ This film, made in the Philippines in the early 1990s, is hard to describe. On one hand it is the stuff of legend, like Andy Warhol’s Batman, or the also Filipino Alyas Batman at Robin from 1963, something few people in the United States have even ever seen. On the other it’s just bizarre. Though made in the Philippines it has many of the hallmarks of a Bollywood film – comedy, drama, romance, and people spontaneously breaking into song and dance.

The plot has criminals taking on the identities of their idols – the Penguin, and the Joker, among others – to rob banks. To counteract this, two men, I am unsure if they are brothers or father and son, dress up like Batman and Robin, and have their car souped up to look like the Batmobile. Hilarity, romance, as well as song and dance numbers ensue, as one would expect.

For an unauthorized film using DC Comics characters, some of it looks good, not great, but some is better than that prime time NBC “Challenge of the Superheroes.” The costumes are plays on the 1966 TV series rather than the Tim Burton films of the time. Comedian Rene Requiestas as the Joker reminds me of Prince’s alter-ego Gemini, and not in a good way.

All in all this is probably worth a look for the curious. If you watch it in the wrong mood, you’ll be horrified, but if you watch it with the right attitude, you’ll be satisfactorily entertained.

Dark Shadows 2012

Dark Shadows ~ When I first saw the trailer for this new version of Dark Shadows my thoughts were, “Oh boy, here’s Tim Burton raping another piece of my childhood, just like he did with Batman, Willy Wonka, Planet of the Apes, and tried to do with Superman.” To an extent, I was right, but if I’m absolutely honest, having seen the film, there’s also a lot of love and homage in there too, right next to the blatant disrespect and mockery.

The story for those who don’t know is that of Barnabas Collins, cursed by an ex-lover, also a witch, to become a vampire in the 18th century, imprisoned, released and awoken in the 20th century. This was the basis for the last few years of the late 1960s/early 1970s ABC soap opera cult classic “Dark Shadows.” Tim Burton, a supposed fan of the series, has decided to remake it as a camp comedy horror drama, emphasis on the camp and the comedy. Not that “Dark Shadows” wasn’t camp, mind you, it was, it just wasn’t planned to be. Like all good camp, it took itself deadly serious. That’s not the case here at all unfortunately. Often, as with most of his films, what’s funny to Tim Burton is rarely funny to everybody else.

All the good zingers are in the previews, so don’t go in expecting much more. That said however, in between all the failed jokes are tons of in-jokes and Easter eggs for fans of the show. Tim Burton may have disrespected the TV series, but he certainly did know it backward and forward. He does streamline and he does change many details, but still the love is evident. It’s when he tries to make fun of it and fails that fans and non-fans alike will cringe.

I dislike Johnny Depp’s Barnabas Collins quite a bit. As he sometimes does, it seems as if he made up a character in a improv class and then built a movie around it. Depp might be better off getting together and making movies with that Borat guy rather than raping my childhood with substandard remakes of old soap operas. He does have Jonathan Frid’s speech patterns down however. I have to give props to Helena Bonham Carter’s Dr. Julia Hoffman for the same reason. Her voice is perfect, but her over the top dye job alcoholic drag queen version of the doctor not so much. Fans of the show will laugh their asses off at her, it’s both hideous and hilarious.

Another of my favorites, Jackie Earle Haley is cast brilliantly as groundskeeper Willie Loomis (and yes, I bet that’s where “The Simpsons” got the name from). He is one of the highlights of the flick, both dramatic and comedic. Don’t blink or you will miss the two second cameos by surviving cast members of the soap opera – Kathryn Leigh Scott, David Selby, Lara Parker, and the recently late Jonathan Frid – as guests at the ball/happening with Alice Cooper.

Michelle Pfeiffer is pretty pedestrian for a role she wanted so badly, but she doesn’t have much room to act next to the scene-eating Depp. Same for one of my faves Jonny Lee Miller and newcomer Bella Heathcote – not enough room. I would have loved to have seen more of them, but such is the way of the soap opera. Speaking of over the top scene-stealing, Eva Green from “Camelot” is just absolutely crazy town as Barnabas’ nemesis Angelique. It’s almost as if the actors got drunk and played make-believe as their characters at some points. Also, much like 1989’s Batman, Burton is unable to come up with an ending so it feels like he starts pulling ideas of out his butt. Seriously, the last twenty minutes of this movie are insane, and not in a good way. It’s almost unwatchable.

The problem is that it’s not all bad, and that this really could have been a good movie, and not just that, a good movie, a respectful remake, and it didn’t have to resort to low brow comedy. The credits sequence in the beginning, set to the Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin,” with Victoria Winters coming to Collinsport, is so ABC telemovie that not only would Dan Curtis (creator of “Dark Shadows” as well as more than a few movies of the week) would have been proud, but I was half-expecting to see Kim Darby, Kate Jackson, or Karen Black make an appearance.

There was a lot of stuff to love set amongst the comedic ruins of this flick. I loved both the inside and the outside of Collinwood, the town of Collinsport they built on the set, including the Blue Whale. The bit with Alice Cooper, which in the previews appears to be a one note joke, turns into brilliance by the inclusion of “The Ballad of Dwight Frye” as background for a couple scenes.

All in all, except for the last quarter of the movie, I did enjoy it. It’s not “Dark Shadows,” it’s not the cult classic gothic soap opera of my youth, but I did laugh, I did smile, and I still have my memories. Worth seeing for the curious, the fans, and for those with no point of reference whatsoever. I just would have rather seen the movie it could have been, as opposed to the one it is.

Jonathan Frid Dead at 87

News came today that actor Jonathan Frid passed away last week from natural causes. He immortalized the role of gentleman vampire Barnabas Collins in the Gothic soap opera “Dark Shadows” in the 1960s and early 70s, as well in a theatrical film. Frid was 87.

Like Dick Clark, who passed away yesterday, Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins was a big part of my childhood. I have very vague memories of the show when it was actually on the air originally (I’m not that old) but I know my sister was a big fan. I can remember it being on when I came home from school in the afternoon, and I recall the haunting theme music from those days as well.

My real association with “Dark Shadows” corresponded with my first TV, a tiny black and white number I put on my bedside table. Local channel 48 had begun showing reruns of the show at 11:30 every night, starting from the episode where Branabas was introduced. Now “Dark Shadows” was on the air before that, and even had supernatural elements, but the show didn’t really start rolling until everybody’s favorite vampire showed up. I would watch whatever 48 was offering before at 11, be it “Mary Hartman,” “Fernwood 2night” or “All That Glitters,” and stay tuned for “Dark Shadows.” It was, in many ways, the best hour on television back then. I can still remember the credits rolling just before midnight on the supposedly still DS set and seeing the coffin shake or a prop fall. Hey, the show was cheap, but serious in its way, and well loved.

Now Tim Burton and Johnny Depp are remaking the show as a campy movie spoof. I’m sure you’ve all seen the preview. I’m not going to comment, but I know that Jonathan Frid had seen it, and sources say he knew they would put their own spin on it. He actually even has a small walk-on cameo in the film. Time will tell. Jonathan Frid will be missed.

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes ~ As a kid growing up in the 1970s, Planet of the Apes was very important to me, and probably to most kids of my generation. I remember asking to stay up to watch the movies on CBS, and their creaky continuity. I remember the lame TV show. I remember the girl across the street who got the Mego PotA treehouse for a gift. It’s instilled in my childhood, like the “Brady Bunch,” Marathon bars, and the “Six Million Dollar Man,” PotA was the 1970s.

All that said, you can imagine my disappointment with the Tim Burton remake, and especially that effed up ending swiped from a bad Kevin Smith comic book. When I heard they were making a prequel to it, my heart sank. A prequel to a bad movie is never a good idea, and besides, let’s get real, the original prequels to PotA weren’t that great either.

In truth, prequels rarely work, especially when we already know the story. Viewers might just give a pass to a prequel because it’s not going to tell them anything they didn’t already know. I already know the origins of Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man, you don’t need to tell me again. In most cases they aren’t even needed, and sometimes even hurt the property. Case in point – Star Wars.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes surprised me though. It hooked me first with an intriguing trailer before throwing the title at me. I wanted to see it before I even knew it was PotA. Finally, I’ve got hold of it on DVD. Let’s see if my instincts were right.

From the start, there are homages , both verbal and visual, to the original series of movies. Much like the preview, the movie itself grabbed me right away. James Franco, in less than annoying mode, is a geneticist searching for a cure to Alzheimer’s, testing on apes, and inadvertently succeeds with a chimp named Caesar that he raises himself. John Lithgow gives a wonderful performance as Franco’s afflicted father as well. Andy Serkis does his usual as does Tom (Draco Malfoy) Felton, so much for typecasting.

If you know the mythos, you can connect the dots, but there is still a strong emotional story here, not just a this-is-how-we-got-here vibe. The CGI effects make for the needed realism of the tale. While the ape masks and make-up of the original PotA were state of the art for the time, sadly now, they are just, well, ape masks and make-up. These apes look real and emote real, it’s very stunning. In fact it’s a tribute to the power of CGI done well that the scenes of Caesar and other apes are so hypnotic.

I really dug this flick. When all hell really breaks loose, and the apes begin their ‘rise,’ I was ten years old again. Yeah, it’s that good.

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Somebody’s Been Watching Way Too Much Tim Burton…

Just the introduction of Scarygirl made me want to run out of the mall Hot Topic I was trapped in and throw up whatever hallucinogenic drug I had accidentally swallowed. Then I realized I was neither at the mall nor at a Tim Burton movie marathon. I was in my living room with the downloaded demo of Scarygirl. Sigh. At least I can delete it when I’m done writing about it, or at least that’s how I felt before playing it.

Scarygirl is based on the gothic graphic novel by Nathan Jurevicius and can probably be found at Hot Topic more often than your local comics shop. No offense meant, but it is 2012, and this whole Goth thing was over some time ago, like probably about the time “South Park” got wind of it. If you’re still Goth now, you’re either a vampire, living in the past, or really really committed – or all three. Again, no offense, The Bride leans that way sometimes, and I still love her.

Scarygirl is the story of a Goth chick who looks like a Tim Burton ragdoll and meets a friendly octopus who’s kind of obsessed with her. There are bunnies and owls and all manner of oddities along her way, but Scarygirl is a Goth chick with a mission, and that mission is to find out what’s what with a nightmare she keeps having. I think. I kinda dozed off.

Now all that said, gameplay is something else altogether. It’s still looks like Tim Burton threw up all over the screen, and the images are a bit disturbing, but it was fun, and even though it was a demo, I got a lot of play out of it, and for me, that’s saying something. It’s a fun world to explore, notably more fun to me than say Little BIG Planet or certainly Incredible Hulk. This is a platformer (see, I’m learning) definitely worth playing, thumbs up from the Non-Gamer.

RIP Michael Gough

For a couple generations of movie-goers, Michael Gough is best known as Alfred Pennyworth in the Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher films in the Batman franchise, but he has had a long and distinguished career in television and film. Today, at 94, he passed away of old age in London, surrounded by family and friends.

Gough appeared in over one hundred and fifty productions including several Hammer horror films, animated and live action features by Tim Burton, Trog, Konga, The Age of Innocence, “Doctor Who,” “The Avengers” and many BBC mini-series. He’ll be missed.

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Quickies 7-15-2010

Surge of Power: The Stuff of Heroes ~ This campy comedic superhero film is badly acted and directed, in an almost unintended Rocky Horror or Lost Skeleton of Cadavra way, but its script and heart are in the right place. If you rent it, stay with it. The most intriguing part of the flick is its gay-centric cast and community, a trick that really works well, and doesn’t overpower the rest of the movie. Look for fun cameos by Noel Neill, Lou Ferrigno and Nichelle Nichols as well as Marv Wolfman and Len Wein. Tom Tangen is hilarious as multiple characters, writer Vincent J. Roth is charming in the title role, and do not miss the costume party. This is a lot more fun than it at first seems, check it out.

Empire Records ~ This cult favorite pseudo-remake of FM, only at a record store instead of a radio station, is a pleasant surprise. While painfully predictable, it’s also a lot of fun and has a killer soundtrack. Great Gwar cameo and bonus, Renee Zellweger not only sings, but her eyes are open for most of the movie.

Pirate Radio ~ Great sixties soundtrack, but wow, not a great movie at all. It also has a terrific cast, most of which is wasted here. I think this is the first Richard Curtis flick that I haven’t liked. I guess everyone misses sometimes.

Franklyn ~ Really? Darkman meets Dark City with just a touch of Repo! The Genetic Opera thrown in for good measure – really? This is what you were shooting for? This is pretty, this is stunning, but it is very much style over substance. There were whole sequences that were so boring that I fell asleep. It’s a steampunk Tim Burton wannabe visual overdose without much story to support it. Eye candy, but that’s all.

Killers ~ This one was quite a surprise for me. I was fully expecting a mindless romantic comedy here. I don’t like Ashton Kutcher and as I don’t watch “Grey’s Anatomy,” I have no point of reference for Katherine Heigl. She was painfully adequate for 27 Dresses but that called for that type of performance. But Killers, other than being a bit more predictable than I would have liked plotwise, is a lot of fun. I really enjoyed this romantic dark comedy with a twist. And director Robert Luketic should definitely be plugged in to work on the Bond films because he has the eye needed. Recommended.

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Alice’s New Adventures in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland ~ This 2010 edition of the Lewis Carroll stories was masterminded by Tim Burton and presents a tale that is both a sequel and a re-imagining of the Alice saga. It’s been highlighted with the best special effects CGI and Disney Digital 3-D and IMAX can offer.

There’s been a lot of hype about this movie, and just like its creative predecessor, Avatar, I had the same thought leaving the theatre – where did the money go? Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s up on the screen, but it’s neither in the writing nor in the acting. The plot is at times slow and boring and at best predictable. Title player Mia Wasikowska and Knave of Hearts Crispin Glover aside, the cast sleepwalks through this special effects extravaganza. Wasikowska is someone to watch.

And those that don’t drift through – Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter and Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen, both day-glo nightmares given CGI life – overact and hog the screen mercilessly. And none of it is pleasurable. I cringed when either of these two were on screen. Depp is really only likable for a few moments toward the end, but by that time it was too late.

This is a good film, and a visual spectacle that must be seen – preferably in 3-D and in IMAX to get the ful effect, but I couldn’t help thinking it could have been much better. I mean, if you’ve already spent, let’s say, $300 million, why not invest another five mil to get the script up to snuff? The all-too-brief bright and shiny scenes in which we see the young Alice experiencing the original Wonderland adventures made me yearn to have seen more. Perhaps half that and half this dark Burtonesque Wonderland with the adult Alice would have worked better both visually and storywise.

All in all, this is recommended, but on the whole a disappointment of what could have been. The battle at the end is a sight that is on a scale with the end conflict of Avatar. Definitely see it, despite my small quibbles, and see it on the big screen.

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