Tim Burton

FRANKENWEENIE

Editor’s note: Halloween comes early with this week’s release of Frankenweenie. For some delicious review snacks to go with your candy corn, here is a re-run of our Fantastic Fest review of the film, published just two weeks ago, on September 20, 2012. Since 1984, Tim Burton has directed fifteen feature films. And according to my research assistant Siri, eleven of those fifteen went over well (and were made “Fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes) with critics. So it’s not outside the realm of possibilities that Burton could be considered a great director. Unfortunately for the man behind Edward Scissorhands and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, a number of those not-so-fresh movies have come in recent years. Alice in Wonderland was a messy 3D “experience” and Dark Shadows was laughable, and not in a good way. If you ask any movie-loving member of the internet community what they think of Tim Burton these days, the answer is more than likely to skew negative. That’s because we have the collective short term memory of Leonard from Memento when it comes to directors. Lucky for us, 2012 Tim Burton still remembers the guy he was in 1984, and has since returned to direct Frankenweenie, his black-and-white stop-motion ode to classic monster movies and the bond between a boy and his dog, based on the 1984 short of the same name.

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Drinking Games

Fans of the original Dark Shadows television series may not have been wild about the Tim Burton big-screen adaptation of the story, but those who like Burton’s many collaborations with Johnny Depp should be interested. Depp plays the legendary Barnabas Collins, who was turned into a vampire by a scorned witch. After returning home to his family home of Collinwood after being asleep for almost 200 years, he faces a new world of 1972 and his old adversary… in color! This vampire comedy hits Blu-ray and DVD this week, so you can check it out for better or for worse. At least you’ll be seeing it in the appropriately-themed month of October, rather than when it hit theaters in May.

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Tim Burton directing Frankenweenie

No matter how much it may seem to be true in the age of The Internet, a director is not the sum of his or her most recent work. Often we find ourselves caught up in the fast-paced “what have you done for me lately” societal convention and we forget about what someone may have given us in a different time. Such is the plight of Tim Burton. Taken as a whole, his filmography may ultimately stand among the elite of his generation. Edward Scissorhands, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Batman, Ed Wood and Beetlejuice amongst his more iconic works. His gothic style and ability to connect us to the loner at the heart of many of his tales have become a hallmark of his long, successful career. But it’s a career tainted with a few more recent miscues. Ask a number of internet movie lovers what they think of Tim Burton’s movies, and long-term amnesia sets in. All we seem to remember are the recent failures, not the successes of our childhood. These were the thoughts running through my head moments prior to sitting down with the director for the first time in my career. There, just outside a large wooden hotel conference room door, I was uncharacteristically nervous. Sure, he’s just another director, a public figure — one who has more to lose if he says the wrong thing than I do if I mess up a question — but he’s also a filmmaker and artist whose work could be seen as landmarks […]

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Fantastic Fest: Martin Landau

Actor Martin Landau has been in the business of making movies and delighting audiences for over 50 years. There isn’t much, at this point, that he’s not seen. From working with directors named Hitchcock and Coppola to winning an Oscar in the role of Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, he’s had more than a few moments worth remembering. It’s the kind of talent that demands reverence. The kind of man you’d like to sit with and listen to for hours on end. No questions. No soundbytes. Just stories. The premiere of Frankenweenie at Fantastic Fest 2012 brought just that kind of opportunity. Before I was even able to sit down at the table for our interview, there was an energy about him. There, in an otherwise large and empty conference room at the Austin Four Seasons hotel, sat a man ready to tell me a story. Before I made contact with the seat, he was already off like a shot. While he may not be as physically nimble as he was earlier in his career, never has a mind been sharper. And in me, he found a captive audience ready to listen and share.

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Austin Cinematic Limits

I have been anxiously awaiting Fantastic Fest 2012 (September 20-27) ever since the carnivalesque tomfoolery of the Fantastic Fest 2011 closing party. Year after year, Tim League and the Fantastic Fest programmers have totally blown me away with their impeccable curating of genre films. And the parties… Oh, the parties! If my liver could talk, the stories it would tell… If history serves, Fantastic Fest 2012 will continue to expand upon its awesomeness, so this year will probably be ten times more amazing than last year’s festival. The announcements that Fantastic Fest has made so far with the first wave and second wave of programming have already solidified the fact that this will be the best damn Fantastic Fest of them all. First off, Tim Burton will be in attendance at the world premiere of Frankenweenie on the opening night of Fantastic Fest 2012. Sure, I have not been a fan of most of his recent work, but that makes him no less of a cinematic genius in my mind. And, while on the subject of this year’s festival guests, I pretty much peed my pants with excitement when I heard that Rian Johnson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt will be coming to Fantastic Fest with their film Looper. Color me thrilled!

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Culture Warrior

Enduring cultural figures like Batman endure precisely because of the slight but notable changes they incur over time. Batman has had a long history in the moving image, and while the character has maintained both the central conceit of being a crime-fighting detective, the cinematic Batman of seventy years ago bears little resemblance to the Batman we’re familiar with today. The character and his myth have been interpreted with variation by a multitude of creative persons other than Bob Kane and Bill Finger. In the moving image, Batman has been embodied by a range of actors including Robert Lowery, Adam West, and George Clooney, and Batman has been realized by directors and showrunners prone to various tastes and aesthetic interpretations like William Dozier and Christopher Nolan. While Batman is perhaps best-known by a non-comic-astute mass culture through the many blockbuster feature films made about him, including this summer’s hotly anticipated The Dark Knight Rises, the character’s cinematic origins are rooted in the long-dead format of the movie serial. Batman first leapt off the page in a 15-part serial made in 1943 titled Batman and another six years later titled Batman and Robin. These serials did not influence Batman’s later cinematic iterations realized by Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher as much as they inspired Batman’s representation on television. Batman’s presence in film serials and on television have had a decisive and important impact in terms of how mass audiences perceive the Batman of feature films. At the same time, these serials […]

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FRANKENWEENIE

The only thing in life better than Fantastic Fest would be winning the lottery while you’re at Fantastic Fest. Like every year, we’ll be covering the hell out of it with a preternatural dedication that often requires us writing our reviews with straight jackets on. That’s a lot harder than it sounds when you’re also singing karaoke and drinking a high quality concoction of hooch. The full fest line up hasn’t been announced yet, but it will undoubtedly be full of movie goodness, and the opening night film promises to set the tone. The flick? Tim Burton‘s forthcoming Frankenweenie – which promises a return to stop motion, a returning to working with John August and a return to a story from his youth that finally gets a feature-length treatment. The movie hits theaters October 5th, but Fantastic Fest attendees will see it before anyone else. Hopes are high here because Burton seems to have lost his way as of late, crafting stuff in his wheelhouse that feels stale, but perhaps the solution to the rut is to dig deeper into it. To return to the kind of magic this morbid magician built his name on. It’s a hell of a way to kick things off. And this poster for the fest is a great way to celebrate the end of everything:

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Have we learned no lessons from Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”? Nothing about the consequences of playing God and reanimating the flesh? The inevitable disasters that accompany messing with the lines between life and death and–ooh! cute puppy! Fine, you can’t blame young Victor Frankenstein (voice of Charlie Tahan) for bringing his beloved pup Sparky back to life in Tim Burton‘s Frankenweenie – the dog is the kid’s best friend, after all. And damn if this second trailer for the film doesn’t make zapping life back into the dead look easy…too easy. Burton’s long-awaited feature take on the ‘weenie has already gifted us with one adorable trailer, but this longer take on some familiar material now presents a major obstacle for Victor and Sparky’s continued happiness – namely, pesky neighborhood kids who want to reanimate the dead too. Whatever happened to safe stuff, like playing video games and eating ice cream? It’s alive, it’s aliiiiiiivvvveeeee…after the break.

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Benjamin Walker in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

“The joke ends in the title” has been a popular selling point for the makers of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Now, with the film out in the world, there will inevitably be question over that statement. However, what no one can question is the all-out seriousness the cast and director Timur Bekmambetov took Seth Grahame-Smith‘s material. There is no 21st century irony in sight here. Namely, there’s the lead of the film – Benjamin Walker, who goes as straight-faced as one can in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. No matter how ridiculous the situation – Lincoln running on top of horses or, you know, killing vampires – Walker never winks or smirks at the silliness. Here’s what Benjamin Walker had to say about the melancholic superhero nature of Abraham Lincoln, adjusting to makeup, and how the film is a Lincoln biopic which just so happens to have blood-thirsty vampires roaming around:

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Last week, the utterly shocking news broke that not only was Warner Bros. pursuing a Justice League movie, but it also was in no way at all ever influenced by the unbridled financial success of Marvel’s The Avengers. We can all believe that, can’t we? After all, we read it on the internet. With Man of Steel coming out next year and a no-brainer Batman reboot coming now that Christopher Nolan’s movies are wrapping up this summer, this is an opportunity for Warner Bros. and DC to set a new stage. Plus, with adaptations of The Flash and Lobo, and the potential for a Green Lantern reboot, Warner Bros. and DC have things laid out for them to work out very similar to the pre-Avengers line of films. But this is Hollywood, and so many things can go potentially wrong with a project like this. Here are seven ways Warner Bros. can avoid a potential disaster as they develop this film series.

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Pacific Rim

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a collection of all the things you’ll be talking about tomorrow with your friends. Assuming you have friends. We hope you do. If not, we’ll be your friend. We begin this evening with the first image from Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim, featuring Idris Elba looking badass in a suit that, if our guess is right, allows him to control giant robots or something. Everything about this film makes it a giant, sloppy, wet orgy for nerds. We cannot wait.

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Culture Warrior

“If Michael Bay directed Raiders, the Ark would be opened in the first act, and people’s heads would explode through the rest of the film.” I don’t typically seek out wisdom from Twitter, but this below-140-character observation (made by @krishnasjenoi and retweeted by @ebertchicago) struck very close to something that’s been occupying my mind as we enter the fifth week of the summer movie season. Though the statement works better as a fun hypothetical critique than a contestable thesis (in other words, there’s no way we’ll ever really know, thank goodness), the sentiment feels relevant. Though the modern Hollywood blockbuster has been a staple of studios’ summer scheduling for almost forty years, the films that become blockbusters don’t look or feel very similar to the films of the 70s and 80s that somehow paradoxically led to today’s cavalcade of sequels, franchises, adaptations and remakes. Criticizing Hollywood’s creative crisis is nothing new. But with the mega-success of The Avengers and the continuing narrative of failure and disappointment that has thus far characterizes every major release since, it seems that this crisis has been put under a microscope. The moment where unprecedented success is the only kind of achievement Hollywood can afford and the well of decade-old franchises and toy companies become desperately mined for material is something we were warned about. But Hollywood’s creativity-crippling reliance on existing properties is not the only, or even the primary, problem faced by mass market filmmaking’s present moment. The bloated numbers sought after each and […]

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Benjamin Walker in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Poor ‘lil Stevie Spielberg. Come Oscar season he may have a tough act to follow with his Daniel Day Lewis-starring Lincoln pic, the one which probably won’t feature Lincoln’s finest achievements: chopping off vampire heads, marrying Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and getting Anthony Mackie to somehow be your sidekick. All in all, that’s quite the life, as this bloody red band trailer for Timur Bekmambetov‘s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter shows. Check out Abraham Lincoln acting like a “mad man”:

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What is Movie News After Dark? This week it’s a series of second stringer fill-ins trying not to run things into the ground while regular columnist Neil Miller disappears for a while due to reasons both glamorous and mysterious (in true Lohan fashion, he’s cited both “exhaustion” and “being dehydrated”). And today it’s a laundry list of Internet people still crushing on Joss Whedon’s superhero extravaganza, The Avengers, because Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows shit the bed this weekend and we haven’t had anything shiny to come along to steal away our fickle attentions yet. Let’s get to it. The above image comes from an artist named Hannah, who has proven that her finger is firmly on the pulse of the Internet by paying tribute both to the death of beloved children’s author Maurice Sendak as well as the work of beloved nerd-God Joss Whedon by mashing up Sendak’s artistic style with the cast of The Avengers. Is cute, no?

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Boiling Point

The Avengers is kind of a major success. What, you hadn’t heard? Of course you did. Avengers box office is on the tips of tongues, internet screens, newspapers, and even within the pages of Time Magazine. You don’t make a billion dollars that quickly without garnering a lot of attention. With attention comes discussion. People always want to be included in the discussion, it helps get a little bit of that attention directed their way. If at this point you feel the need to point out the hypocrisy of this entire thing, go for it. What do I care? In attempting to be part of the discussion and gather up some of that sweet, sweet spotlight, everyone has been discussing the Avengers box office results and asking the question we all ask of super hero teams and double rainbows: What does it mean?

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Dark Shadows, the old ABC gothic soap opera, is such natural material for Tim Burton and Johnny Depp that you almost wonder why they bothered. Of all the movies and TV shows to remake, it’s perhaps the most logical choice for the men who brought us Beetlejuice and Captain Jack Sparrow, respectively, not to mention Edward Scissorhands and other offbeat luminaries in their partnership. Lighthearted macabre quirk is the tandem’s specialty and the primary operating mode of their new movie, a visually-pleasing haunted house/vampire comedy. But even if Dark Shadows is a case of safe, smooth sailing for its makers, it’s still far more spirited and thoughtfully made than most summer movie counterparts.

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Aural Fixation - Large

With Dark Shadows set to hit theaters this weekend, Warners hosted a small Q&A this past Tuesday to highlight what will be composer Danny Elfman and director Tim Burton’s fourteenth film together. I am notorious for getting lost on studio lots (I once accidentally wandered into a background shot during the filming of Private Practice while looking for a screening room), but I was pleased (and relieved) when I arrived and realized this event was being held outside making it easy to find (although the long line of Elfman fans flanking the venue was also a pretty clear indicator). It was a nice change of pace to be outside on a warm afternoon and seemed to put everyone in a good mood. While the Q&A was moderated, the goal of the afternoon was primarily to open the floor up to the fans and have them ask the questions. This can be a precarious opportunity when the questions are unfiltered (and sometimes cringe worthy) as anyone who has attended a Q&A can attest to. However this afternoon the questions (save for a few – no, Oingo Boingo will not be getting back together) were incredibly thoughtful and interesting. Elfman noted that doing events like this are something he gladly takes time to do as he loves interacting with fans and this was clear as he took every question seriously and gave each person his undivided attention when answering. The event was also to commemorate the release of Elfman and Burton’s 25th Anniversary […]

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If you’ve ever seen a Tim Burton movie, you know the guy is probably pretty awkward. At the very least, he’s gotta be soft-spoken, right? Which begs the question, “How interesting can a Tim Burton-only commentary be?” Well, we’re here to answer that very question with this week’s Commentary Commentary. In honor of Dark Shadows, Burton’s latest collaboration with Johnny Depp, we’ve decided to go back and delve into their first pairing, Edward Scissorhands. Burton took the commentary duties by his lonesome here, and I’m sure amid all the fumbling of words and general gracelessness there’s enough to pack in here to hold our interest. At the very least it’ll be an entertaining car wreck. So here, without further ado, is everything we learned about Edward Scissorhands from listening to its director, Tim Burton, speak on it. We didn’t learn Tim Burton is a strange guy. We knew that one already.

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Finally, readers, the summer movie season is upon us. So far this year has been solid, but sorely lacking in mega-blockbusters. John Carter did not deliver for the fifteen people who saw it and The Hunger Games, as successful and good as it was, wasn’t an epic actioner or packed with real spectacle. Yet there’s much promise in the action department for the summer of 2012, and it’s starting off just right, with something we’ve all been anticipating. Hopefully the rest of the summer will follow that film’s mighty lead…

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Dark Shadows and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter don’t fit the bill of your average summer blockbuster. An adaptation of a slightly obscure soap opera about a vampire? We don’t see those often enough in the summer season. A hard-R actioner featuring one of our greatest presidents shredding vampires to bits? That’s another unheard of type summer tentpole. Although Tim Burton and Johnny Depp’s names alone can create money out of thin air, Dark Shadows is not the sort of film we often see as a May release, and the same goes for June’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. The man partly responsible for these two going-against-the-norm pictures is author/screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith. Grahame-Smith had to tackle some difficult tasks when it came to making these two projects – like making an accessible Dark Shadows film and adapting his own epic and tonally tricky novel, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Here’s what Seth Grahame-Smith had to say about writing for the screen, the soap-operatic tone of Dark Shadows, and the straight-faced badassery of Abraham Lincoln slaying vampires:

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