How to Fix Tim Burton

Earlier this year I did posts on how to fix Superman and Alice in Wonderland. Now I am taking on a great visionary like Tim Burton. In my opinion aside from his animated films he hasn’t made a good movie since Sweeney Todd in 2007. I’m sure he is rolling in his money somewhere but if anyone were to ask my advice here’s what I would say.

tim-burton1. STOP ADAPTING THINGS!– Tim Burton comes from an animation background and his animated films (both producer and director) have still remained great. What’s unique about them? They are original properties!  They come from Tim Burton’s brain!

Let’s look at his track record with adaptations:

Planet of the Apes- clunky, awkward, boring, and aside from Rick Baker makeup Tim Burton’s visual style nowhere to be found.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory- they replace all the whimsy of the Gene Wilder classic with a Michael Jackson version of Wonka. I hated this film so much in the theater.

Alice in Wonderland- long, boring adaptation that trades in the Wonderland nonsense for a prophecy and chosen one with a apocalyptic battle scene and Crispin Glover being creepy, Helena Bonham Carter screaming

Dark Shadows- based off of cult TV show feels like each performer is in a different movie. The tone is all over the place. I didn’t laugh once.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children- just like so many YA adaptations it gets bogged down in exposition instead of creating compelling characters. I was so bored.

So there you have it. STOP DOING ADAPTATIONS!!!!

2. Animate Again– I don’t know how good Burton’s relationship with Disney is after Frankenweenie but I’m sure he can find a studio to work with again. In my opinion Frankenweenie and Corpse Bride are by far the best thing he has done since Ed Wood.

You could say that’s just because I am an animation addict and that would be true but Tim Burton started in animation and some of his most personal projects have been in that medium. His short Vincent feels practically autobiographical.

vincent06The other thing is animation takes time. A live action film can be filmed in as short as a month. Animation is multiple years process and I think Burton needs that to refine his scripts and make sure they are more than style over substance.

I’m not saying never do live action again but let’s get the Burton mojo back with animation. I’m sure Laika would work with him again and that would be awesome.

3. Collaborate- In my opinion Tim Burton’s best movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas, isn’t actually directed by him. It is directed by Henry Selick. Sometimes I wonder if Tim Burton and Zack Snyder both need collaborators.

They are both visionary storytellers. There’s no doubt about it but left to their own devices the stories are muddled and boring.

ed-woodI don’t have any proof but I’ve got to imagine in the early days of Burton he was reigned in a lot more than he is now. At the very least I know Ed Wood was a very collaborative effort between writers Larry Karaszewski, Scott Alexander, director Tim Burton and producer Denise Di Novi.

Working with his muses such as Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter (who has evidently been replaced by Eva Green) you would think would invite collaboration but it does not appear to be the case. Perhaps you get too comfortable and that leads to uninspired work.

Animation is a very collaborative medium so it is no surprise his best work has been there.

4. NO CG-  Now I don’t really mean no CG, but I think CG has kind of ruined Tim Burton.  I can only imagine how much cooler his Alice in Wonderland would have been if he had to literally create the world.

If you think about Edward Scissorhands, Burton created an entire world. Just as an example, his version of suburbia in Edward Scissorhands is full of color and makes a statement about the life just in the color of the paint and the way the castle floats above the small houses.

edward_scissorhands_hillIn his recent Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children the suburb is just normal houses that look like any other houses.

peregrine-houseThe one part I liked in Miss Peregrine’s was the skeleton scene which is made to look like stop motion! It was like a little peak at what might have been.

skeleton5. REMEMBER THE EMOTION– Most of Tim Burton’s early films work (for me at least) not because of visual splendor but because I am emotionally attached to the characters. Big Eyes is the only one of his recent live action films I have connected with on that level (I so wish Christoph Waltz hadn’t ruined that movie with his overacting). Sweeney Todd has it because of the Sondheim music but other than that Tim Burton has had one flat protagonist after another.

Alice's expression through most of Wonderland...
Alice’s expression through most of Wonderland…

Ed Wood is a great movie because we care about Ed making his horrible movies. He is so happy doing what he is doing and that makes you root for him. Edward Scissorhands is heartbreaking. Jack Skellington is likable despite stealing christmas. Frankenweenie breaks your heart in two and I’m not even a pet owner.  The list goes on.

edward-scissorhands2Even a silly movie like Pee Wee’s Big Adventure you laugh but actually care a little bit about him finding that darn bike. I’m not the biggest fan of Burton’s Batman films but particularly Batman Returns has a lot of emotion in it. I mean Penguin’s story is a complete tragedy. I wish we could get a tenth of the emotion from Penguins funeral with the birds walking him into the water in films like Alice in Wonderland or Dark Shadows.

And you don’t have to make the character have Daddy issues to get emotion. Just have a character experiencing something that matters to them. Put on that Danny Elfman score and you’ve got my attention! Corpse Bride gets emotion out of me in Victor playing a piece of classical music. It’s a moment of human connection. That’s all it takes.

corpse-bride-victor-playing-pianoI really do think that Tim Burton is a talented man, a genius when he is on his game. I LOVE Corpse Bride. I LOVE Ed Wood. I LOVE Edward Scissorhands. Pee Wee’s Big Adventure is genius. I thought Sweeney Todd was terrific. Frankenweenie made me bawl my eyes out. I want to like a new movie from him so badly!

So, that’s my opinion on that. You are welcome Mr Burton for the free advice 😉

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Review

peregrine4Man oh man. What has happened to Tim Burton? It has been nearly a decade since he made a film that didn’t make me want to rip my eyes out and yet I still believe in his talent. I know Tim has the ability to be a great storyteller. I’ve seen it in Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands but instead all we seem to get are horrible misfires like Dark Shadows, Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Planet of the Apes, Big Eyes, the list goes on….When I saw the trailer for his latest project Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children I got excited. Could this be a redemption film for Tim Burton?

I was so interested in the film I read the book, which I found kind of boring but it had potential to be a better movie. This could be Tim Burton’s X-Men about a school in Wales for children with special abilities. The school is led by a woman named Miss Peregrine who is part bird. That sounds like a great premise for a Tim Burton movie but much like his recent films it is all promise and no execution.

Let me just come out and say it this movie bored me to tears. It felt like it would never end.

The biggest problem with the film is all the exposition. It reminded me of Last Airbender (never a promising start to a sentence) in the way it took magical lore and made it unmagical by explaining everything. Even the final fight is mostly people explaining their motivations and how they are going to get away with it. Kill me now.

peregrin2I haven’t been so bored in a movie since Warcraft. The trailer makes it seem like you are going to spend all this time with all these crazy fun kids. Not so much. Most of the kids you barely see and when you do see them it is more explaining with ever so brief glimpses at their skills (and absolutely no sense of attachment or heart to these mutant kids).

peregrineEva Green looks the part of Miss Peregrine but is left explaining to Jake how loops work and what the wights are (the school is in a loop repeating the same day and there are all these other loops all around the world…). There’s a scene where she shoots a crossbow at a wight and that should be awesome but it’s not because the script won’t allow it to be.

peregrine5I fell asleep for a few minutes at one point which is never a good sign. Asa Butterfield plays Jake who is grieving over his grandfather who dies in a rather horrific way (pretty scary movie for little kids). But he’s completely bland and the screenplay never allows us to connect with him emotionally.

This movie reminded me a bit of the 5th Wave. A premise that should be epic and exciting but instead is just dull and bland. It doesn’t even have Tim Burton’s signature colors or artistry. There is one fun fight with skeletons at the end but even that is interrupted by a scene with a lot of talking. The film is set in Wales so the cinematography feels foggy and muddled, so I didn’t even enjoy it on a visual level (at least a movie like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which I hate, has a little bit of cool production design). I guess the only thing that looked kind of cool was when Jake and Ella are underwater and one of her bubbles becomes a helmet for him. That’s all I’ve got.

peregrine7There’s a twist with the villain that is supposed to surprise you but since we have spent no time with this person we don’t care. We also get Judi Dench for about 5 minutes to further explain things.

Everyone feels miscast and bored in the film. Samuel L Jackson has a little bit of a fun but he does a lot of explaining too. It’s just some kind of curse on this movie.

I really hated it. It might seem like I am being harsh but I really was that bored. The movie didn’t say anything to me or have a message I could appreciate or anything. I just kept wondering when it would be over and I could go home.

Overall Grade- D-

DO BETTER TIM!!!!

Animated vs Burton Alice in Wonderland

Many of you know I am doing a Disney Canon rewatch over on my youtube channel.  I’ve honestly been surprised how different my experience has been with several films- with my either looking more highly or slightly down on films from my 2014 watch.  I mean there are very few Disney films I don’t like on some level, so I suppose degrees of liking will vary depending on mood/situation.

Anyway, I am up to week 13 which means Alice in Wonderland.  I love Alice in Wonderland and it ended up at #11 in my original Disney Canon ranking.  This time it could end up even higher.  What struck me on this watch is how it is nonsense but nonsense with a purpose.  Alice says she thinks the world would be better if it was nonsense and all books had pictures, right was left, up was down etc.  So when she gets to Wonderland she experiences her vision of what she thinks will be better and it turns out it isn’t.  There’s something interesting there.  How often in life do we think another world/lifestyle would be better but if we walked around in our dream world it might not be so great?

Alice’s journey is non-linear as far as plot.  She meets one character and experiences their version of nonsense.  Whether it is an insane tea party, an angry Queen of Hearts or a blubbering philosophizing caterpillar.  Some people don’t like that lack of structure but I love it.

I actually just read the book for the first time and posted a review on my other blog.  I loved the book as well.  It’s funny, endearing and magical. http://smilingldsgirl.com/2016/03/29/teaser-tuesday-alice-in-wonderland/

The voice cast here may be the best in Disney history and the artwork from Mary Blair and team is geometric and rich in detail.  I love it.

So here is my youtube review of the Animated Alice.

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Now let’s talk about the 2010 Tim Burton version.  I did not like this movie when it came out in the theater but I knew I needed to rewatch it for the upcoming sequel so I tried to go in with an open mind….and boy do I still dislike this movie.

First of all, it entirely gets the purpose of Alice in Wonderland wrong.  She thinks that nonsense is better and she gets a chance to confront that belief.  In this version she is escaping a stuffy proposal because she’s a free spirit. Groan…They keep saying in the film it is her dream but what proof have we gotten of that in the real life segment?  And who dreams of these things?  It makes sense for Alice in the animated film to dream of a world of nonsense but who dreams of prophecies, battles, apocalyptic death and destruction?   That makes no sense where an angry version of nonsense does make sense.

Even if you accept a different purpose for the story, the purpose that they chose is incredibly generic and boring.  Alice is the chosen one we’ve seen in a million other movies who is prophesied to save Wonderland…oh excuse me Underland (gag me).  I mean how many movies from Twilight, Harry Potter, Narnia, Hunger Games do we see this story arc.  What they’ve done is take a bright unusual story and turn it into the most milk toast of stories.

Now about the visuals.  This film won Oscars for visual effects and costumes but to me it looks extremely flat and one-note.  Everything is gray and brown and a lot of it can feel quite garish and gross (how about the mote of heads…). I can see why they are pleasing to some palates but to me it is completely bland and seen it a million times. To me it is remarkable that Mary Blair with essentially black backgrounds gets more creativity and better world building in the animated film than all of this 2010 version accomplishes.

Then we have the performances and characters. Mia Wasikowska is completely generic and boring as Alice.  What is great about Kathryn Beaumont is she seems to have the personality of both a grown up and a child. Here she is a free spirited independent girl- yawn!

As far as the other performances, they don’t realize that in the animated film these characters are on screen very briefly so they don’t ware out their welcome.  Here Johnny Depp as the marose Mad Hatter is very annoying and nobody should want to hear Helena Bonham Carter shrieking for a nearly 2 hour movie.  It’s just awful. The one stand out for me is Alan Rickman as the Caterpillar who is perfect for the part.

I know a lot of people like this film but I really hate it.  On the rewatch I honestly dislike it just as much as Maleficent.  Just not for me I guess.

Here is my video review of 2010 Alice in Wonderland

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I know that is throwing a lot at you guys in one post but I would love to hear your thoughts on either film.  Thanks so much! And if you like my videos please give them a thumbs up and subscribe because each Wednesday I post my Disney Canon reviews. Next up Peter Pan.

Corpse Bride Review

This post was previously published on my column at ldsblogs.com.  I would love if you all checked out that column and maybe added a comment or two.

Welcome as we get a little spooky here on Family Movie Night!  It is October after all! So in honor of the season we are going to talk about Tim Burton’s 2005 film The Corpse Bride.

During this time of year many parents ask themselves a question about how dark is too dark for their children to see.  I know when I was a child there are 2 films that really scared me and they were both Disney films.  The first was Disney’s Return to Oz- an ugly, mean spirited film where Dorothy gets strapped down and give electro-shock therapy (and that’s before she even gets to Oz!).   There is also a queen that has a hallway with heads that she scalps from people and wears when she wants a new look.  Ah the nightmares.

The other movie that terrified me was as odd as it might sound- The Rescuers.  It is an extremely downbeat, sad film from Walt Disney with a little girl who is kidnapped by a horror of a lady and forced to go down in a dark cave all by herself.  There is very little hope for Penny and at one point she is told nobody will ever want to adopt her.  Geesh Disney!

So those were two films that scared me but there are many kids who like both those films.  So how do you know as a parent?  It’s really tough.   My advice would be you simply have to look at the kid in question and see how sensitive they are.  Also what kind of scares does it have?  Is it a ghost story or does it take on more weighty themes?  What’s the overall tone of the film?  Many of my favorite scary movies like today’s choice actually have a very sweet innocent tone but they are set in a scary world.

267130-corpse-brideIn the end it is a touch call for a parent but I think you know in your gut what your kid is ready for and can handle.  Go with that.

That said, let’s talk about Corpse Bride.  This is a really fun ghost story told with stop motion animation and in a mostly black and white Victorian world.   Our main character is Victor who is being forced by his parents to marry a woman named Victoria, who is also being forced into the arranged marriage.

However, the two betrothed meet and find they like each other and don’t mind getting married. Unfortunately, Victor gets nervous and goes into the forest to practice his vows.  In so doing he puts a ring on what he thinks is a twig but in actuality it is a woman in spiritual limbo named Emily, or in other words- the Corpse Bride.

With a ring on her finger Emily thinks her and Victor are married and swoops him off to the Spirit World where we get a terrific song called Remains of the Day. I love how in the Spirit World the colors are more vibrant, even fluorescent in hue.  It feels like a different world than the Victorian one we’ve seen so far.

Victor of course still loves Victoria and he doesn’t know how to get himself out of the situation.  Emily also is a sweet soul who has the best of intentions but also gets her feelings hurt quite easily.  They are pretty well developed characters for this type of film.

Corpse-Bride-1The story is somewhat predictable but the visuals are so lovely creating a scary yet fun mood.  The cinematography by Pete Kozachik moves through the city feels effortless and smooth.  He even came up with a new way to use digital still cameras when filming stop motion.  There also aren’t any dead zones where I am bored or wondering what is going to happen.  I think that is the good thing about stop motion animation- it is so laborious to do there are rarely any wasted scenes.

My favorite part of the movie is the great Danny Elfman music.  He is particularly good at packing exposition into the songs while still making them catchy and easy to sing along too.  As I said, I particularly like Remains of the Day but Tears to Shed, According to Plan and The Wedding Song are all beautiful.  I also think Victor’s Piano Solo is one of the best instrumental solos I’ve ever heard in a movie.

To see the rest of Rachel's reviews, click here.
To see the rest of Rachel’s reviews, click here.

Overall it is a satisfying ghost story with a nice heart to it, beautiful visuals, and great music.  I would be curious to know how your kids react to it and if it is too scary for them.  Please put it in the comments what they think and if you have any suggestions for picks I could use in upcoming weeks I would love to hear.  Let’s get some comments going!

Maleficent: A Review

maleficent-posterLet’s just start this review by saying I was incredibly skeptical going into Maleficent.  The recent fairytale adaptations have been so bad.  In recent years we’ve gotten Tim Burton’s awful Alice in Wonderland, Snow White and Huntsman, Mirror Mirror, Red Riding Hood, Return to Oz have all been dark, gloomy, boring, ponderous pieces of junk.  Yep, that’s what I think.

So I was not excited about Maleficent but I always try to go into a movie with an open mind hoping to be dazzled.  And…

Here’s the trailer

It’s more of the same I’m afraid.  Maleficent basically does to Sleeping Beauty what Phantom Menace did to Star Wars.  It waters down it’s iconic villain to the point beyond recognition making her the hero of the story.  I get that people are complicated and rarely all bad but a fairytale traditionally is a battle of good vs evil.  If it is kind of good vs kind of bad than it ends up being very boring.  Imagine if Voldermort had been really a nice guy after all?  Would that have captured our interest for 8 films and 7 books?  No! Imagine if the Ring of Power was really the ring of goodness and lollipops would Frodo have sacrificed all to destroy it?  No!  In this kind of story we need evil and we need good and then the story builds around that.

So Maleficent starts out with our backstory and we find out that she is a unique fairy, a fully-sized human where the fairies from the original movie are tiny, strange looking creatures (if you thought the old fairies were annoying get ready…). Plus, they change all the personalities of the fairies.  Flora is supposd to be the leader, Fauna is silly and Merryweather is the realist.  In this they are all the same.  If you look at the original the fairies actually are the brains and heart behind defeating Maleficent.  Now they are stupid, negligent and annoying.

fairies

So Maleficent is a joyous happy girl who meets a boy named Stefan who is a human boy that she befriends.

They of course end up  falling in love in a montage and then Stefan returns to the land of the humans.

There is a battle with the king  with the tree people and Maleficent and snoozefest another battle in this type of movie.  I’m so sick of the warrior scenes.  The tree creatures felt like a copy of tree people we’ve seen in a thousand other movies.  I felt that way about most of Maleficent. Seen it all before.

The CGI throughout the movie looks dirty and incredibly fake.  When you think of the stunning artistry of Sleeping Beauty, a movie that took almost a decade to make because the layering of the backdrops and the literary quality to the characters this cheesy seen it all before CGI is an embarrassment.  It’s like with Return to Oz.  Don’t take the brightness and joy of the original and give me a cloudy, murky, CGI ridden world.

So, SPOILER)#$)#@()($)#($)#@($)#($- Don’t read any further if you don’t want to know a few things in the story)

 

So the king wants revenge on Maleficent for the battle and he tells Stefan if he can kill her and bring him her wings than he will be made King.  So we get a pretty good scene where Maleficent and Stefan reunite, cuddle (maybe more?) and then he drugs her and instead of killing her cuts off her wings.

Maleficent-king

Stefan is played by Sharlto Copley who oddly enough I thought looked like Michael Bay.  He’s terrible in the movie.  His accent comes in and out and it feels like bad neighborhood theater.   There is no chemistry between him and Maleficent at any time which is kind of crucial because it is the reason she is bad is because of her broken heart.

Then we get to the day of the christening and the blessings which are so powerfully done in the original.  Instead of a whole ballet like in the original we get a few seconds of Flora giving Aurora beauty and then Merryweather (they change their names here and  make them idiots)  gives her the wish ‘of never being blue’.

That’s not right!!!!  Fauna is supposed to give Aurora the gift of music and then when Maleficent gives the curse Merryweather gives her the gift of being asleep not dead.  In this version Maleficent is the one that curses her to sleep not death!!!

Are you kidding me?  What kind of a lame villain is this?  Cursing her greatest enemy that she will sleep until true love’s kiss?  That’s the lamest curse I’ve ever heard.  Certainly not worthy of Maleficent.

maleficent-fr

So Fauna never gives her blessing I’m not sure why.  I guess they didn’t want to have Aurora singing?  I don’t see why not when you’ve got such a great song from the original which they only use in the credits.

So the the king hides the baby with ‘the idiots’ and they leave her alone for long periods of time where Maleficent looks in on her and is by her side.  This makes no sense.  Even if you felt some guilt if you were angry enough to curse someone you wouldn’t immediately be by their side watching over them.  Grrr

Prince Phillip is in this but very briefly but they try to pull a Frozen twist on it and it is so ridiculous.  In the original the scene where Aurora is transfixed and pricks her finger it is eery and frightening.  Here it is completely boring.  And then we find out that it is the true love of Maleficent that breaks the spell!!!!

maleficent

Are you kidding me? This is the woman who has horns on her head.  She controls minions and locks the prince up in a dungeon and tells him ‘so much for true love!’.

Even if you want to make a more nuanced character you can’t completely change said character.  At least the Star Wars prequels as atrocious as they are didn’t negate the originals completely.  It’s not like Vader was the hero at the end.  No he was very bad and you could see why he would destroy entire planets in the next movies.   This completely changes everything about the original.

I’m amazed this didn’t tick more people off.  I thought it was outrageous.   Shame on you Disney!  Wicked, which started this whole trend, told the story how the wicked witch became wicked.  It didn’t try to change her so she wasn’t wicked at all.

Now that Aurora is awaken by her true love’s kiss (Maleficent) she rules the combined land s of fairies and men in peace with Maleficent by her side who gets her wings back. Groan, groan, groan.

maleficent_ellefanning2So good things about it? Jolie is okayish.  I’ve heard a lot of people excuse her performance.  (Her daughter Viviene is cute as baby Aurora).  But I actually thought she shouted most of her lines and they didn’t sound like a real person and since the point of this movie was to create a real person it was a failure.  I never felt connected to her or sorry for her.  Also her look which everyone loved always looked like a costume not her real body.  Basically Maleficent is supposed to be like Voldemort, the epitome of evil.  She is a she-devil, horns and all.  In this it seemed like someone in a Maleficent costume.  Kind of ready to go to a biker bar with leather all about her.

maleficent2.pngSorry guys. I know a lot of you liked it but I was not a fan of Maleficent.  You cannot go back and completely change the events of a story.  Show another side, fine (although still not a fan) but do not permanently change  the events of the plot.  In the end what they did was a remake of the original and a shoddy one at that.  I honestly thought this was worse than Phantom Menace… It also looks murky and dark, the CGI sucks and the acting is really bad.

Overall Grade- F

Unfortunately it made a lot of money so the trend of butchering my favorite childhood movies is going to continue.  Next up Cinderella which I am slightly more hopeful about because it has already been done so many times since the 1950 Disney.

PS there is no dancing or singing or once upon a dream and considering the original was based on a Tchaikovsky ballet that is another unfortunate change …No sleeping spell over the town and the dragon isn’t Maleficent after all who isn’t killed by the sword of truth but the crow hurt by the evil King Stefan.  Sigh…Yes, they even changed the crow around.