Tim Burton

1982
Vincent 65
[ A 7 year old daydreams about being Vincent Price, alone and tormented in a mansion full of spider and bats. The narration in rhyme (by Price himself) instantly calls to mind the original “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” cartoon, but this early Burton short still possesses much of his unique style. The amusingly macabre stop-motion animation is like a demo for “The Nightmare Before Christmas”. ]

1984
Frankenweenie 62
[ A suburban Frankenstein homage (not unlike “Edward Scissorhands”) with a touch of “Lassie”, this is further proof that Burton found his voice right away, balancing heartfelt sentimentality with offbeat humor and gothic atmosphere. ]

1985
Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure 27
[ This was the overgrown hyperactive kid’s jump from TV to the big screen, and it was a hoot… emphasis on WAS. I don’t know if it’s the movie that has aged badly or if it’s me, but I’m no longer finding Paul Reubens’ schtick funny. In fact, the dude can get pretty darn obnoxious! As for Burton, his presence behind the camera can barely be felt amongst all the hysterical silliness. I guess one could enjoy this – hey, I did myself at some point – but it left me bored and slightly annoyed. ]

1988
Beetlejuice 76
[ Now we’re talking! This is as silly and hysterical as “Pee-Wee”, but it’s also dark and twisted and funny, too. Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin play a couple who are really protective of their home – even after they die! With the help of a sleazy ghoul played with delirious glee by Michael Keaton and plenty of amusingly gruesome special effects, they will try to scare away new house owners Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O’Hara and Winona Ryder. This is the rare movie that leaves you wanting more: more bizarre make-up jobs, more bump-in-the-night Danny Elfman music, more gothic chic production design, more Harry Belafonte “possessed” sing-alongs and a LOT more of Keaton’s demented performance. ]

1989
Batman 24
[ I never liked “Batman”. Never, not even when I was a kid. Sure, the Danny Elfman score is perfect and the art direction is pretty good… But we don’t really get under the Dark Knight’s skin, there’s no drive to the narrative, it’s just “boo-hoo, they killed my parents, I’m so pissed…” and then nothing. Michael Keaton looks constipated, Kim Basinger does nothing but be blonde and bland, then you’ve got an annoying loser reporter and Billy Dee Williams talking politics (???). There’s a lot of wandering around, a lot of standing and “meaningfully” looking off into the distance… There’s not a single action scene that gets the adrenaline pumped up, it’s just a couple of kicks and punches and gunshots. You never feel the rage that must push Batman to go out every night and beat up criminals, he’s just this dull rich guy. And then there’s the ugly all-black rubber-muscles costume, the inexplicable use of Prince songs and Jack Nicholson’s unbearable performance. Nicholson totally takes over the movie, hamming it up like there’s no tomorrow… Which is okay I guess, considering he’s playing an insane clown killer, but this is supposed to be “Batman”, not “Joker”! Give me any of the Marvel flicks over this any day. ]

1990
Edward Scissorhands 93
[ review ]

1992
Batman Returns 68
[ Almost right away, you just know this is gonna be a lot better than the first film. You recognise the great score and art direction, but the winter/Christmas motif enlivens the dark atmosphere and you feel that Burton is more confident with the material. The Bruce Wayne character is still barely sketched, but Michael Keaton is more imposing in the part and while Danny DeVito can be as obnoxious as the Penguin as Nicholson was as the Joker, Michelle Pfeiffer is incredible sexy badass fun as Catwoman and Christopher Walken is his usual oddball self. This is still not on the level of most of the Marvel movies, but it might be the best DC adaptation yet. ]

1994
Ed Wood 94
[ review ]

1996
Mars Attacks! 65
[ review ]

1999
Sleepy Hollow 58
[ review ]

2001
Planet of the Apes 65
[ review ]

2003
Big Fish 72
[ review ]

2005
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 60
[ review ]

Corpse Bride 46
[ Here’s another stop-motion extravaganza from Burton, following in the footsteps of “The Nightmare Before Christmas” which, contrary to popular belief, he didn’t actually direct – Henry Selick did. Maybe that’s why this new flick, co-credited to some Mike Johnson dude, isn’t as exhilarating. That, or the fact that it revolves around an arranged wedding and the rehearsal of vows and other boring stuff, or that the protagonist is a bumbling nerd instead of a badass singing skeleton. It’s still a well crafted, moody little picture, but it comes short in laughs and wonder, the songs are forgettable and, well, it’s just not that good. ]


2007
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street 74
[ Aww, so close! This could have been Tim Burton’s third masterpiece (after “Edward Scissorhands” and “Ed Wood” which, not so coincidentally, also star Johnny Depp). In fact, in many ways, this is one of the purest doses of Burton ever delivered: fanciful art direction, stylish cinematography, dark and twisted motifs, an alienated protagonist who gets to express himself through his art (here, the art of shaving!)…

I loved it all but somehow, it left me wanting more. Maybe it’s the Stephen Sondheim source material that’s the problem. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like musicals (love em!), I just find this particular one to be a hit and miss affair. I’ve seen the 1982 Broadway version on DVD and I had even more problems with it, as I found the songs to sometimes lack melody and the story to be a bit thin. Barber gets everything stolen from him, returns under a new identity, gets his revenge (but at a price), the end. To fill it up, Sondheim added this whole romantic subplot about Todd’s long-lost daughter and a young sailor, but that felt like just that, filler. Thankfully, the film skims that part, keeps its focus on the Demon Barber most of the time and plays up the horror angle; Burton could have easily borrowed the title of PTA’s latest, There Will Be Blood!

So we got this rather simple revenge story, which is ultimately kind of a Grand Guignol Count of Monte-Cristo, and it works fine, lean and mean as it is but… Again, something’s missing and, again, I think the songs are it. I can vouch for My Friends and especially Epiphany (it’s been stuck in my head since I saw the film yesterday), but that’s about it. Maybe further viewings will make other numbers stand out, but so far most of the music kinda blends together in my mind, and some tunes downright bored me. But in spite of this, that sheer Burtonity really thrilled me, as did the performances by Depp, Helena Bonham-Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall and Sacha Baron Cohen. ]

2010
Alice in Wonderland 70
[ review ]

2012
Dark Shadows 23
[ It starts out pretty rough, with nearly 10 minutes of dry exposition about how Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) was turned into a vampire by witch Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) and locked into a coffin for some 200 years. Then in 1972, we follow a young woman (Bella Heathcote) who is to become the new governess of the Collins, now constituted of matriarch Elizabeth (Michell Pfeiffer), her teenage daughter Carolyn (Chloë Grace Moretz), her brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller) and his son David (Gulliver McGrath). Oh, and there’s a doctor lady living with them, because there needs to be a role for Helena Bonham Carter, I guess. When Barnabas is freed and returns to the family manor, he’s a bit of a fish out of water, which is played for laughs a little… But this is hardly a proper comedy. It’s rather dark, gothic, really, with touches of campiness, yes, but not enough for this to be anything close to a rowdy romp. In fact, I found it rather dull. It’s not funny, it’s not scary… It’s got a good cast, sure, but no one makes much of an impression (Eva Green comes the closest). It may just be the most pointless thing Burton has ever made. ]

Frankenweenie

NEXT: BIG EYES (2014)