Tim Burton

Ed Wood

With the popularity of films like The Room, Birdemic: Shock and Terror, and Sharknado (now with a 2 behind it!), it seems that some people tend to like bad movies more than they like good ones. However, long before Tommy Wiseau or James Nguyen were directing films, and before Tara Reid was even born, there was a magical man named Edward D. Wood, Jr. Even with his terrible sense of plot, sequence and cinematic structure, Ed Wood managed to give his own flavor to his films, culminating in the granddaddy of all bad movies: Plan 9 From Outer Space. In 1994, Tim Burton directed Ed Wood, telling the story of the infamous director and how his friendship with horror movie legend Bela Lugosi helped breathe some life into both of their careers. The 2004 DVD release of the film includes a commentary with Burton, edited together with his filmmaking cohorts, which delivers a comprehensive look at the film’s creation. It has been 55 years since the release of Plan 9 From Outer Space, and it’s been 20 years since the release of Ed Wood. Before Burton really hit the skids with movies like Planet of the Apes and Dark Shadows, here’s a brighter (even in black and white), more inspirational time in his career that we can all learn from.

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Tim Burton in Death of Superman Lives

I’m not going to rehash the story of when I met Kevin Smith while working a movie theater box office in the mid ’90s and how he told me about the experience of writing a Superman movie (those days filmmakers didn’t have to be guarded about things being easily spread on the Internet after chatting with fans). You can read what he said then in a piece I wrote early last year on the Kickstarter campaign for The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? Now it’s time to see what Smith says now, in the first trailer for the documentary, which is about the failed project. Also in this trailer are a lot of other prominent people who worked on Superman Lives, including director Tim Burton (who is nearly driven to suicide talking about the sad fate of the film on camera), Lorenzo di Bonaventura (then the Warner Bros. exec who greenlit the movie; now producer of the Transformers and G.I. Joe film franchises), production designer Rick Heinrichs (Oscar winner for Burton’s Sleepy Hollow), Wesley Strick (screenwriter who took over from Smith), special effects artist Steve Johnson (who went on to do Spider-Man 2) and costume designer Colleen Atwood (a three-time Oscar winner, including one for Burton’s Alice in Wonderland). There’s no interview with Nicolas Cage, unfortunately, but there is footage of him being fit for his costume, and some test footage of his version of Superman flying. Check out the trailer below.

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Batman-1989-Logo

If you were around and old enough to know anything in the summer of 1989, you remember what a phenomenon the release of Batman was. Tim Burton‘s comic book movie was almost as significant to blockbuster history as Star Wars, only in a different way. The DC superhero adaptation was sort of a peak for Hollywood’s aims in the wake of the surprise game changer of 12 years prior. Warner Bros. went all out to sell Batman as an event long ahead of its June 23rd opening and then used that hype to in turn sell the world on Batman merchandising, especially to those who weren’t already hardcore fans. There’s very little about today’s blockbuster and fan culture that wasn’t around for Batman 25 years ago. Even the Internet was involved. To commemorate the anniversary of the movie that sent America into a frenzy of Batmania, I’m not going to highlight a bunch of scenes we love or controversially compare it preferably to The Dark Knight or champion Michael Keaton’s return to the cape and mask after he returns to the black and white stripes of Beetlejuice. Instead I’ve selected a bunch of my favorite ridiculous facts about Batman, many of which are mostly crazy for how similar the preconception and reception was way back then to what we commonly see with tentpoles today.

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Warner Bros. Entertainment

When Tim Burton’s Batman hit theaters 25 years ago, it was more than just a pivotal film in the superhero genre. It was a pivotal film in any genre — largely due to its phantasmagorical sets and vehicles. The 1989 vision of Gotham City, the Batmobile and the Batwing all sprang from the dark, fertile imagination of the film’s Oscar-winning production designer Anton Furst. Watch some of Furst’s earlier films and it’s easy to see how his and Burton’s aesthetics would play well with each other. For The Company of Wolves, Neil Jordan’s 1984 horrific take on the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, Furst created a world that merged storybook fantasy with gothic gloom. For Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, he created crumbling sets and morphed actual locations in the UK into a war-ravaged Vietnam. In Batman, Furst’s vision would synthesize fantasy and realism into a dystopia crawling with life. Like the Los Angeles of Blade Runner, Batman’s Gotham City is a retro-futurist hellscape. Its look is influenced by Art Deco, Streamline Moderne and Brutalist architecture. Batman’s stalking grounds are layered with trash and caked-on soot, giving it the feel of NYC at its sleaziest and most decadent. The best of times and the worst of times. It’s as if Furst took a once-gleaming dieselpunk metropolis and smeared it into the sticky floor of Travis Bickle’s taxi.

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the small one

This is another edition of Short Starts, where we present a weekly short film(s) from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career. I can’t actually confirm that Frozen co-director Chris Buck had a hand on The Small One, an animated short released 35 years ago this month. Only his Wikipedia entry connects him to the film, noting that it was uncredited work. And he’s not included in any extended credits to be found for the production, which is known to have involved other new recruits like Henry Selick and Jerry Rees. In one interview, Buck acknowledges that he was a trainee at the studio starting in the summer of 1978 but that his first assignment was as an “in-betweener” for The Fox and the Hound. Well, maybe he still breathed in an area in which Don Bluth and his team were making this little-remembered movie. If it’s not really either his short start or his earliest work for Disney, which he’s worked for on and off over the decades, just skip ahead to another possibility I’m featuring this week. This is still a good time to look at The Small One, regardless. The anniversary of its debut will be December 15th, the date it arrived in theaters attached to a re-release of Pinocchio. The pairing seems a bit strange considering The Small One is about a cute little donkey, whose drawn appearance resembles the jackasses in the 1940 classic, and the latter is the stuff of nightmares. For kids […]

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nightmare-commentary1

When it was released twenty years ago, The Nightmare Before Christmas was not an immediate success. However, over the following two decades, it has become one of the most beloved holiday movies, and composer Danny Elfman admits that autograph seekers inevitably have The Nightmare Before Christmas merchandise for him to sign above all other films he has worked on. When the 15th Anniversary 2-Disc Collector’s Edition DVD was released in 2008, Elfman joined in with producer Tim Burton and director Henry Selick to record a commentary track. This track, along with many of the other bonus features, is also included on the 3D Blu-ray, which was released in 2011 (and likely all other annual releases as Disney moves forward). Seeing as we’re at the half-way point between Halloween and Christmas, and since it is the 20th anniversary of the film’s release, it seemed appropriate to revisit the film and hear what the filmmakers had to say about the production.

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Beetlejuice

Tim Burton had a bizarre start to his career. He spent over a decade making short films and dabbling in conceptual design and puppetry, but he broke out quick with a big screen adventure for a man-child TV star. He then delivered a ghoul for hire before transforming that same actor into a superhero who has become the center of a multi-billion dollar franchise. Burton graduated quickly, and he did it with some head-shaking choices. Now there’s a rumor that he’s interested in directing a sequel to Beetlejuice (that presumably doesn’t go Hawaiian). It’s not all that surprising considering that he gave his tacit blessing to Seth Grahame-Smith‘s desire to create a blueprint for a new adventure with the animated corpse nearly two years ago. When we spoke to Grahame-Smith shortly after that development, things were all still tentative, but the screenwriter wanted to be careful about engaging both Burton and Michael Keaton to ensure that the project had the bare bona fides necessary not to get laughed out of the room. Common wisdom would seem to say that Burton should and will stay away from the director’s chair on this one. He’ll take a producer credit to keep fans from totally wetting the bed, but his true involvement will be as an old master letting some young pupil snatch the pebble from his hand, and then opening a gallery show of his conceptual set designs at the Bell Lightbox. Common wisdom would also say that a rut-stuck Burton doesn’t […]

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stamp

What is Casting Couch? It’s the daily column that’s back with the first load of casting news for July, and if you love the CW’s 90210, then prepare to get excited, because two of the actors mentioned are apparently on that show, which apparently still exists. Tim Burton keeps making his upcoming biopic of Margaret and Walter Keane, Big Eyes, look more and more interesting by branching outside of his usual stable of actors and bringing in more and more talented people who we’ve yet to see him work with. The latest name he’s signed up, according to a report from THR, is screen legend Terence Stamp. He’ll be joining the film as art critic John Canaday, who is said to have been openly appalled at the way Walter Keane used his wife’s work in order to con his way into art world fame.

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schwartzman

What is Casting Couch? It’s the casting news column that’s actually going to go a day without reporting on any Veronica Mars confirmations. It does have some news about Cillian Murphy though. It seems like Tim Burton’s next project, Big Eyes, is finally seeing him break away from his usual stable of actors in order to work with interesting names he doesn’t have any experience with. For everyone other than the biggest fans of Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter wearing silly wigs, that’s go to be seen as good news. Especially when the names he’s recruiting are exciting as Jason Schwartzman, who The Wrap is reporting has joined the film as a San Francisco art gallery owner named Ruben. Everyone loves Jason Schwartzman, so add him to a cast that already includes Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz, and there starts to be so much love going around that we’re going to have to worry about how to contain it.

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nicholas-cage-superman-lives

Few franchises have crashed and burned as spectacularly as the Superman films, which reached their nadir with 1987’s fourth installment, The Quest for Peace, which grossed barely a tenth the box office of Richard Donner’s classic origin story a decade earlier. SUPERMAN’S DIMINISHING RETURNS Superman (1978) $134M Superman II (1980) $108M Superman III (1983) $60M Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) $15M With Tim Burton’s dark, gritty Batman demolishing box office records in 1989, Warner Bros. had no reason to think audiences would respond to the brighter, more colorful Man of Steel mythos – at least, not until 1992, when DC Comics’ bestselling “The Death and Return of Superman” cycle put The Daily Planet’s most famous reporter back on the front page. In the comics (later turned into a 2007 animated film, Superman: Doomsday), Superman is killed by a creature called Doomsday, before being resurrected after a three-month publishing hiatus which became a publicity magnet. Deciding that the death-and-rebirth story merited a movie, Warner placed a full-page ad in the trade press announcing a working-titled Superman: The New Movie, with Batman producer Jon Peters at the wheel, and screenwriter Jonathan Lemkin (Lethal Weapon 4, Devil’s Advocate, Demolition Man), at the typewriter.

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ritter

What is Casting Couch? It’s the casting news roundup that always keeps its promises. Yesterday we promised we’d be back soon with Cinderella’s second evil stepsister, and today we deliver. Given her spindly, spider-like limbs, her silky black hair, and her porcelain skin, it was probably only a matter of time before Krysten Ritter ended up acting in a Tim Burton movie. The girl is basically goth catnip. So, appropriately enough, a report out of Deadline is saying that she just joined Burton’s next project, Big Eyes. This one will see Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams portraying 50s and 60s art sensations Walter and Margaret Keane, and Ritter playing Margaret’s outgoing friend, DeeAnn, who urges her to come out of her shell and stop letting her fast-talking husband take credit for her weird paintings of kids with big eyes.

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Death of Superman Lives

Thanks to Kickstarter, there continues to be an increase in documentaries being made about movies. On top of that, there also seems to be a trend lately for filmmakers to look at failed movie projects, as if inspired by the heartbreaking 2002 release Lost in La Mancha. Currently on the festival circuit is the must-see doc Persistence of Vision, which is about the decades-long disaster of The Thief and the Cobbler (see my thoughts on that and some clips here), and recently funded and now in the works is Science Fiction Land about the canceled movie that wound up at the center of Argo. Now, we may get to learn the full story on another collapsed production, Tim Burton‘s Superman Lives, via the proposed new project of director Jon Schnepp (The ABCs of Death; Cartoon Network’s Metalocalypse). It’s another “unmaking of” doc titled The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? And yes, Schnepp is attempting to finance this movie through Kickstarter, where he formerly had a hand in one of the most successful crowd-funding campaigns for film ever (for the animated Grimm Fairy Tales series, which he’s directing). He’s already amassed a lot of background material and concept art for the failed Superman movie, since he’s been collecting the stuff passionately over the years, and now he just needs to conduct interviews and put it all together to tell the story of what went wrong. He hopes to talk to attached stars Nicolas Cage and Sandra Bullock, as well as […]

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Pinocchio

Early this year Tim Burton said he wouldn’t know a good script if it was thrown at him. Based on some of his recent works, that self-deprecation rings a little too true, especially considering how all over the place Dark Shadows was. Frankenweenie was a return to form for clean, simple, if slight, storytelling, but now it appears that Burton’s attempting to step up his game on the script front. Pushing Daisies creator Bryan Fuller took a crack at Burton and Robert Downey Jr.‘s potential Pinocchio project early on, and now another screenwriter of equal talent is getting involved. Frequent Matthew Vaughn collaborator Jane Goldman (Kick-Ass, The Woman in Black) is close to signing on to pen a new draft for Warner Bros.’ live-action version of the classic puppet tale. According to THR, Goldman’s involvement may seal the deal with Burton and Robert Downey Jr., who both have yet to officially sign on. Burton and Goldman have had ties before, so her involvement makes sense beyond her talent for genre films. If the project moves forward, we’ll see Downey playing Geppetto, who goes on a journey to find the missing Pinocchio. This isn’t the only Pinocchio film in the works either, as Fox has The Three Misfortunes of Geppetto and Guillermo del Toro is working on a stop-motion animated picture. I would usually take a del Toro interpretation over a Burton one, but with his project drawing in such reliable screenwriters, it’s hard not to gain interest in a Burton film which may actually have a story.

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Reject Recap: The Best of Film School Rejects

Last weekend seems like such a long time ago. It seems like it was in another galaxy far, far away, in fact. We now live in this strange new world in which Disney not only owns Lucasfilm but is also putting out a new live-action Star Wars movie in two and a half years. And yet, that’s still not the biggest thing to happen in the last seven days. This is, of course, the destruction of Hurricane Sandy, which has affected the film industry to a degree. For one thing, as we reported, it destroyed a major piece of movie memorabilia — the HMS Bounty replica used in Mutiny on the Bounty and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest — and two human lives with it. Also, a number of films that opened or were supposed to open in limited release in New York City this weekend have been delayed until power is restored to the venues hosting them. Meanwhile, individuals without electricity in the wake of the storm have been unable to read FSR all week. The least of their problems, obviously, and I’m not saying it’s any priority of theirs to catch up with our content, but if they are looking to do so once they can, the recap is here. Seriously, though, join us in helping the people in need post-Sandy by maybe skipping just one movie and donating the ticket money instead. If you are catching up or looking for highlights, let us first remind you of our […]

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Star Wars

You know the story. At this point it’s basically the new shot heard ‘round the world: Disney has bought Lucasfilm for $4 billion, George Lucas is retiring from the Star Wars game, and three more Star Wars films are planned for production starting in 2015. Lucas and the new Lucasfilm president, Kathleen Kennedy, have stated that they have archives of story treatments for more books, TV shows, and films… but with Lucas stepping back from the property, who are they going to get to direct these next three episodes in the ongoing Star Wars adventure? Let’s take a look at some candidates, whether they be likely, unlikely, or long shots.

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Tim Burton is not a fan of the horizontally-challenged. That’s the conclusion I reached from watching Frankenweenie, an otherwise very pleasant return to form for for the director. What isn’t so pleasant is how every paunchy character — the mayor, the gym coach, and the chubby kid whose name doesn’t matter — is cackled at by Burton and turned into a visual punch-line. Burton portrays these characters in a way that seems antithetical to how most people perceive him and his films… with a casual dash of mean-spiritedness. The one constant in Burton’s films, aside from Johnny Depp obviously, is that he’s always championed the outcasts and made them the eventual heroes of their worlds. Think of the Goth cutter Edward Scissorhands defeating the jock bully, the goofy Amish kid saving the day in Mars Attacks, the friendless Charlie Bucket outlasting the truly bad kids to win the chocolate factory, etc. Looking back at his work, though, it seems clear that Burton himself has been acting the bully when it comes to even the mildly obese. They’re made to be clumsy, goofy, obnoxious and irritating, and if they don’t exist strictly as a visual gag they’re almost sure to be a villain. Can you think of one overweight hero or true good guy in his films? I can’t. Why would a man so feverishly in favor of defending and uplifting outsiders himself single out a specific group of people to consistently bully throughout his career? Hell if I know, but […]

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31 Days of Horror - October 2011

They said it couldn’t be done. A fifth year of 31 Days of Horror? 31 more terror, gore and shower scene-filled movies worth highlighting? But Rejects always say die and never back away from a challenge, so we’ve rounded up the horror fans among us and put together another month’s worth of genre fun. Enjoy! Synopsis In the live action short film that inspired the full-length stop-motion film in 2012, young Victor Frankenstein turns to the powers of science and electricity to bring his dog Sparky back to life. After his experiment is a success, the young boy must try to hide the cute, misunderstood monstrosity from an easily frightened neighborhood.

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Over Under - Large

By the time 1993 rolled around, Tim Burton already had projects like Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, and Edward Scissorhands under his belt, and had firmly established himself as an auteur director of quirky, weird films. It was probably that year’s The Nightmare Before Christmas – a movie that Burton produced and didn’t even direct – that firmly established him as being a filmmaker with a cult of personality following, and has become his most enduring work, however. A stop-motion animated feature directed by Henry Selick (with strong creative input from Burton) and produced by Disney’s Touchstone Pictures, The Nightmare Before Christmas mixed up Halloween and Christmas imagery in iconic ways (Mickey Mouse has his fingers in all the holiday pies), it captured the imaginations of an entire generation, and it can still be seen advertised all over the backpacks and binders of eyeliner wearing teenagers to this day. That same year another Halloween-themed family film came out of another wing of the Disney conglomerate called Hocus Pocus. But, despite that fact that it starred a trio of actresses who were fairly big names at the time, it hasn’t enjoyed nearly as much attention over the years as Nightmare. And, unless you happen to be a devotee of the movie Newsies (which I know some of you are), chances are you’ve never heard of its director, Kenny Ortega. Sure, Hocus Pocus still gets played on the Disney channel around Halloween every year, as it’s probably cheap programming for the company, but […]

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Boiling Point

Before we even start one might ask, “Does Tim Burton need defending?” Obviously, he does (or else why would I write this?), and he needs it because the Tim Burton of today is not the Tim Burton we know and love. Or is he? Dun dun dun! Virtually everyone you come across will have a soft spot for his early works like Edward Scissorhands, Batman, and Beetlejuice and many hold a great respect for his work on Ed Wood and Big Fish. But after a series of perceived missteps, it’s as though Burton’s stock with more movie-savvy people has dropped, even as he’s garnered some serious monetary success.

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Frankenweenie

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news column that’s taking it easy on this Friday evening. Expect fun, happy thoughts heading your way in the news rundown below… We begin this relaxed Friday evening edition of MNAD with a shot from the Frankenweenie art exhibition currently going down at Disney’s California Adventure. Our friends at ScreenCrave posted some shots from around the gallery. As you know, I was quite fond of Frankenweenie. And I like art shows.

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