Tag Archives: Tim Burton

Beetlejuice (1988, Tim Burton)

How did Beetlejuice ever get past the studio suits? It really says something about eighties mainstream filmmaking and today’s. It’s not just the absence of a likable protagonist—Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis are the main characters for the first forty-five minutes, then hand the film off to Winona Ryder, who carries it until the last quarter, when Michael Keaton finally takes over—but it’s also just really strange.

The script’s a tad tepid. I’d forgotten the conclusion; it turns the movie into a sitcom pilot. I imagine Burton didn’t really care about the script being solid, because he makes the film look spectacular throughout.

It opens with this beautiful shot of a model—Thomas E. Ackerman’s photography is wondrous throughout; it’s a shame Burton didn’t bring him along for Batman—and every subsequent shot is great.

All of the model work is fabulous—even if some of the composite shots are problematic—making Beetlejuice a joy to watch.

What’s not a joy is some of the acting. The script’s weak enough, it’s probably mostly the screenwriters’ fault but still….

Davis and Catherine O’Hara are both bad. Glenn Shadix is, politely speaking, too broad.

But the rest of the cast is great—Baldwin, Jeffrey Jones, Winona Ryder, Sylvia Sidney. Great small stuff from Robert Goulet and Dick Cavett.

And Keaton? He’s funny, but he doesn’t make the movie. The role’s too easy.

But, like I said, Burton’s direction (and the mostly strong performances) make it a joy to watch.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Tim Burton; screenplay by Michael McDowell and Warren Skaaren, based on a story by McDowell and Larry Wilson; director of photography, Thomas E. Ackerman; edited by Jane Kurson; music by Danny Elfman; production designer, Bo Welch; produced by Michael Bender, Richard Hashimoto and Wilson; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Michael Keaton (Betelgeuse), Alec Baldwin (Adam Maitland), Geena Davis (Barbara Maitland), Winona Ryder (Lydia Deetz), Catherine O’Hara (Delia Deetz), Jeffrey Jones (Charles Deetz), Glenn Shadix (Otho), Annie McEnroe (Jane Butterfield), Rachel Mittelman (Little Jane Butterfield), Robert Goulet (Maxie Dean), Adelle Lutz (Beryl), Dick Cavett (Bernard), Susan Kellermann (Grace) and Sylvia Sidney (Juno).


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Vincent (1982, Tim Burton)

I’ve probably known of Vincent since Batman but I’ve never seen it. It also turns out I didn’t know much about it–I though Vincent Price starred in it (he narrates) and I thought it was live action (it’s stop-motion).

Price reading Burton’s narration–it’s a beautiful bit of rhyming, reminding a little of Karloff and The Grinch–opens the film and it’s immediately captivating.

Burton’s use of stop-motion captures the imagination of its young protagonist, but the film’s never cartoonish. It’s far more affecting than if it had been live action because the viewer is able to see the protagonist in his element, instead of being artificially inserted into it through special effects.

It’s hard to believe it’s only five minutes; the stop-motion forces the viewer to pay attention.

Lovely photography from Victor Abdalov.

Burton produces a startlingly impressive piece of work; Vincent is quite wonderful.

3/3Highly Recommended

CREDITS

Written and directed by Tim Burton; director of photography, Victor Abdalov; music by Ken Hilton; produced by Rick Heinrichs; released by Walt Disney Pictures.

Narrated by Vincent Price.


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Mars Attacks! (1996, Tim Burton)

I remember seeing Mars Attacks! in the theater–in those days, the pre-Sleepy Hollow days, I was quite the Tim Burton aficionado. That affection has changed (changed is the polite word) in the last fourteen years, but Mars Attacks! has just gotten better and better on each viewing. At present, it’s my vote for Burton’s most accomplished film (Ed Wood being the other contender).

In fact, it’s almost unbelievable Burton made the film–during the war room sequences, one could feel Strangelove, something I don’t think of with Burton, and his handling of the cast is magnificent. In a lot of ways, Burton does here what Soderbergh tries to do with his populist films and can’t achieve fully–Burton makes a great time, but for himself. The film’s completely indifferent to its potential audience (something I sort of remember from the response when it came out) and just… enraptured with itself.

The Martians don’t show up for at least a half hour–it might be forty minutes–so the cast is instead given the opportunity to create these fantastic characters who may or may not matter later on. I think only Danny DeVito really gets to define himself after the invasion begins.

Everyone in the film is fantastic (I always forget Natalie Portman used to be good), but standouts are Nicholson, Glenn Close, Annette Bening… oh, wait, I’m just listing the cast.

Jim Brown’s really good.

Burton’s direction–his first Panavision, I think–is singular.

Simply put, it’s awesome.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Tim Burton; screenplay by Jonathan Gems, based on his story and the trading cards by Len Brown, Woody Gelman, Wally Wood, Bob Powell and Norman Saunders; director of photography, Peter Suschitzky; edited by Chris Lebenzon; music by Danny Elfman; production designer, Wynn Thomas; produced by Burton and Larry J. Franco; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Jack Nicholson (President James Dale / Art Land), Glenn Close (First Lady Marsha Dale), Annette Bening (Barbara Land), Pierce Brosnan (Professor Donald Kessler), Danny DeVito (Rude Gambler), Martin Short (Press Secretary Jerry Ross), Sarah Jessica Parker (Nathalie Lake), Michael J. Fox (Jason Stone), Rod Steiger (General Decker), Tom Jones (Himself), Jim Brown (Byron Williams), Lukas Haas (Richie Norris), Natalie Portman (Taffy Dale), Pam Grier (Louise Williams), Lisa Marie (Martian Girl), Brian Haley (Mitch, Secret Service Agent), Sylvia Sidney (Grandma Florence Norris), Jack Black (Billy Glenn Norris) and Paul Winfield (General Casey).


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THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED ON BASP | MARS ATTACKS! (1996) / SLEEPY HOLLOW (1999).

Batman (1989, Tim Burton)

Batman‘s an odd success. It has almost constant problems–Kim Basinger’s bad, Jack Nicholson’s phoning it in (but never contemptuous of the material, which makes it a peculiar performance) and the movie never really finishes the story it starts in the first act–but it’s also got constant greatness. Tim Burton’s direction is fantastic–the only scenes he doesn’t wow with are the ones both he and the viewer are bored with–Danny Elfman’s score makes the movie in a way no one’s done since John Williams and the original Star Wars trilogy, Michael Keaton’s mesmerizing and there’s a whole lot of good stuff.

This good stuff occasionally features the badly acting Basinger, mostly in her romantic scenes with Keaton, only because the combination of writing, direction, music and Keaton are so strong, they overpower any of her silliness (and her goofy outfits). The Batman action is all good too, again because of the direction and the music. Batman might have kicked off the contemporary blockbuster, but it does so in a way no one else has ever duplicated. Burton, apparently unintentionally, peppers the film with iconic sequences. It’s hard not to get involved with the scenes, even though they don’t make any sense, when Burton’s really going. The big Batmobile car chase is not a particularly interesting car chase, but it’s spell-binding. Burton’s Gotham City is obviously false–the matte backgrounds and the (excellent) miniatures–but once the viewer accepts it, it’s impossible to leave.

Still, as the film enters the third act, the good isn’t quite overpowering the bad. The bad’s still putting up a pretty good fight. Strangely, it isn’t the Prince music empowering the bad… though it certainly isn’t hurting it.

But more than any other film–with the possible exception of The Last Temptation of Christ and that example doesn’t count because it’s a far more precise moment–the last five or ten minutes of Batman make the movie. It finally delivers. Keaton’s been good as Batman throughout (in the costume) and great otherwise, but when he faces off with Nicholson and the two banter… it’s other-worldly. I think my favorite part is the use of Keaton’s Bruce Wayne voice. He drops the Batman voice a little for the last scene and it works beautifully. The scene’s so good, the illogically, instantly appearing goons he fights before Nicholson didn’t even bother me.

Then there’s the close and the close is perfect. Not even Basinger can screw it up (though she only has a few lines, but her outfit is ridiculous for a photojournalist).

There’s some really good supporting acting in the film. Billy Dee Williams, Robert Wuhl, Michael Gough. Tracey Walter’s pretty good too. But there’s some absolutely atrocious acting as well–both Jack Palance and William Hootkins are astoundingly bad. They’re both so bad, I can’t believe they weren’t recast. Palance wasn’t famous again yet and Hootkins was going to be pulling in a lot of Porkins supporters.

Technically, besides Burton, Elfman and production designer Anton Furst, Batman‘s kind of underwhelming. Roger Pratt’s cinematography is competent but indistinct. Ray Lovejoy’s editing is fantastic though, especially how he cuts the effects sequences together (I love how Batman’s obviously a little model in the Batwing, but it doesn’t matter).

The last time I saw Batman–must have been ten years ago–I was really down on it. But it’s solid. It’s a chore to get through the first third, but after it, the movie’s solid.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Tim Burton; screenplay by Sam Hamm and Warren Skaaren, based on DC Comics characters created by Bob Kane; director of photography, Roger Pratt; edited by Ray Lovejoy; music by Danny Elfman; production designer, Anton Furst; produced by Peter Guber and Jon Peters; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Michael Keaton (Batman / Bruce Wayne), Jack Nicholson (The Joker / Jack Napier), Kim Basinger (Vicki Vale), Robert Wuhl (Alexander Knox), Pat Hingle (Commissioner Gordon), Billy Dee Williams (Harvey Dent), Michael Gough (Alfred Pennyworth), Jack Palance (Carl Grissom), Jerry Hall (Alicia), Tracey Walter (Bob the Goon), Lee Wallace (The Mayor) and William Hootkins (Lt. Eckhardt).