Thursday, August 25, 2011

Birthday Special: TOP 10 Tim Burton Films

Happy Birthday Tim Burton! (Born: August 25, 1958) I have always loved Tim Burton's films since I was young and he has directed some of my favorite movies! Once a former animator for Walt Disney Studios, Tim Burton is a successful writer, producer, director and even sometimes actor (Singles (1992)). Many of his movies are brilliant examples of his unique artistry and creativity! Tim Burton has made some of the strangest and darkest movies in the last 30 years! This is my list of the Top 10 Tim Burton movies, including some of my favorite films. Enjoy!

#10 Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985) - This was Tim Burton's first major motion picture and Pee-Wee Herman's (Paul Reubens) first movie. The childlike talent of Reubens' character with the darkly, twisted visuals of Tim Burton was a perfect combination. The character of "Pee-Wee Herman" first appeared in Paul Reubens' adult-oriented, one-man show The Pee-Wee Herman Show (1981), (which he would later reprise on Broadway in 2011). A year after the Big Adventure movie Pee-Wee would later appear in the popular children's TV show Pee-Wee's Playhouse (1986-1990). Pee-Wee also appeared in one other movie, Big-Top Pee-Wee (1988) before the literal "death" of the character in 1991 when Reubens was accused of indecent exposure in 1991.

#9 Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) - Of the many projects with director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp, one of the most unique is the movie adaptation of the musical "Sweeney Todd". Whereas movie musicals are in short supply since the 1960's, Sweeney Todd seemed an appropriate subject for Tim Burton, it's dark, it's twisted, there is a LOT of blood and a lot of singing of course! With Helena Bonham Carter (Burton's latest companion) as Mrs. Lovett whose questioningly addictive meat pies and Sweeney Todd (Depp), a bloodthirsty barber driven by revenge makes Sweeney Todd a dark, entertaining and somewhat disturbing story.

#8 Edward Scissorhands (1990) - The first among many Tim Burton films which star Johnny Depp. Depp stars as Edward, an artificial boy, leather clad, mop-topped, freak with a passion for topiaries created by Vincent Price. When discovered by an Avon salesman, Peg (Dianne Wiest) she brings Edward home to her suburban home and her daughter Kim (Winona Ryder). Soon he starts cutting womens' hair and falls in love with Kim. Soon realizing that normal people will never truly accept him, he is chased back home by a mob and presumed dead after an accident. While Edward himself is both mysterious and frightening, the story is quite romantic. The ultimate story of humanity's fear of the unknown and dangers of conformity make Edward Scissorhands one of Burton's best films and established Depp and Burton's long-time collaboration for years to come.

#7 Mars Attacks! (1996) - In this parody of classic sci-fi movies based on a series of 1960's Topps trading cards, Martians arrive on Earth. Although they seem peaceful at first, a horrible invasion begins, which can only be stopped by the warbling yodels of country music...? Mars Attacks is a quirky and hilarious movie with a star-studded cast which includes: Jack Nicholson, Pierce Brosnan, Glenn Close, Danny DeVito, Martin Short, Michael J. Fox , Sarah Jessica Parker and a young Natalie Portman!

#6 The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) - While not directed by Burton himself, "Tim Burton's:" The Nightmare Before Christmas is in fact pure Burton. Directed by Henry Selick and produced and based on a story and characters created by Tim Burton, "Nightmare" is a beautiful stop-motion animated feature set in the dark and twisted world of Halloween Town. When Jack Skellington (voice:Chris Sarandon/songs:Danny Elfman)"The Pumpkin King" grows tired of the same old thing every year, he discovers a magical door to Christmas Land and devises a plot to kidnap Santa Claus and takeover Christmas in his own creepy way! With incredible animation and ingenious songs by long-time Burton collaborator Danny Elfman, "Nightmare" is a favorite holiday movie!

#5 Batman Returns (1992) - Following the phenominal success of the first Batman (1989) movie, Tim Burton was set to direct another delightfully dark sequel with the addition of two of Batman's most popular villains: The Penguin (Danny DeVito) and Catwoman (Michelle Pfieffer)! The grotesque Penguin and the seductive Catwoman added much to the already dark and disturbing story. Although the sequel had a bigger budget and earned a bigger salary for Michael Keaton (Batman), producers at Warner Bros. soon decided to bring in director Joel Schumacher for the third movie, Batman Forever (1995). While successful to most fans, it was a joke, and the fourth movie, Batman & Robin (1997), would soon prove to be a horrific end to the first Batman franchise.

#4 Ed Wood (1994) - In this quirky bio-pic of Hollywood's Worst Director of All Time: Edward D. Wood, Jr., Tim Burton directs this entirely black-and-white story based on Ed Wood's biography "Nightmare of Ecstasy". Johnny Depp plays Ed Wood alongside Martin Landau's Oscar Winning performance as Bela Lugosi. Burton was the perfect director to pay tribute to the worst director, who oddly enough is remembered fondly for directing some of the worst and best B-Movies of the 1950's and 60's such as Bride of the Monster (1955), Night of the Ghouls (1959) and of course Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)!

#3 Beetlejuice (1988) - One of Burton's most well-known movies, Beetlejuice is a black comedy on death. Starring Michael Keaton as the disgusting and vulgar Beetlejuice (oops, I said it three times! LOL), a self-proclaimed bio-exorcist who wants to "help" recently dead newlyweds Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara Maitland (Geena Davis) remove a live family from their house. Their plan soon backfires as the "ghost with the most" becomes uncontrolable and wreaks havoc on the living! Brilliantly dark and funny with Burton's distinct touch, Beetlejuice is one of my favorite Burton movies!

#2 Sleepy Hollow (1999) - Although "loosely" based on the timeless novel by Washington Irving with a little inspiration from Disney's animated short, Sleepy Hollow is one of Tim Burton's most successful and big budget blockbusters! Full of Gothic atmosphere and blood, Sleepy Hollow is a new spin on the classic tale with Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) as a police constable from New York who is sent to the town of Sleepy Hollow to investigate a series of bizarre decapitations.  He soon becomes involved in a complex plot of conspiracy, murder and black magic. Christina Ricci stars as Katrina Van Tassel with a group of Burton regulars including veteran actor Michael Gough (which would be his last movie) and Christopher Walken as the Headless Horseman with stunts by Ray Park.

#1 Batman (1989) - Batman, one of the greatest comic book crime fighters of all time finally gets a blockbuster movie which redefined the comic book movie/summer blockbuster! Tim Burton's dark vision of Gotham City brought the Dark Knight to life, with music by Danny Elfman and the perfect cast of Michael Keaton as Batman/Bruce Wayne and Jack Nicholson as The Joker. The Batman movie was one of the defining movies of my childhood and established my lifelong love of the Caped Crusader. While Jack Nicholson almost stole the show as the Clown Prince of Crime, it established Tim Burton as one of the biggest directors of the last few decades and paved the way for many of his films!

Saturday, August 13, 2011


R.I.P. HELLBOY (1944-2011)
Hellboy is DEAD! After 18 years of being one of Dark Horse Comics' most popular characters, his reign has finally come to an end! When the latest Hellboy storyline "The Fury" (written by Mike Mignola and art by Duncan Fegredo) was released back in June, fans had no idea it would be his last. This Wednesday saw the release of issue #3, the final chapter in "The Fury" and this message from Mike Mignola himself on the Dark Horse Comics website) confirmed the demise of Hellboy.
It has been a busy year for Hellboy, since being lost at sea (see: "The Third Wish") he has been in England along with Alice Monaghan, his new lover. When he was invited by witches of England to be the new king...he of course declined. The witches then reluctantly accepted a new queen, Nimue, who declared herself Goddess of War! Now she has gathered together an unholy army whose purpose is the destruction of all life on Earth! The only one who stands in her way is Hellboy, who has recently discovered he is descended from King Arthur!? While the noble dead have risen from the grave to follow their new king against Nimue's army, Hellboy gave his left eye to Baba Yaga (see: "Darkness Calls") in order to get past Nimue's army and into her tower where she transforms into the Dragon of Ragna Rok!
"The Fury" is the culmination of one of the longest Hellboy storylines ever, only to end with the ultimate battle of good vs. evil and the apocalypse! "The Fury" also marks the return of the Ogdru Jahad and Hecate. "The Fury" is one of the best Hellboy storylines ever and although creator Mike Mignola admitted that the death of Hellboy was inevitable this is not really the end of Hellboy... With the epic final confrontation and demise of Hellboy in "The Fury", fans should not be too discouraged as we eagerly await the return of Big Red in "Hellboy: In Hell" in 2012!

Sunday, August 7, 2011


 While this summer has already been overly saturated with comic book/superhero movies there is one that has been highly anticipated particularly since the new Marvel Studios started their latest run of movies since Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk in 2008 along with various sequels (Iron Man 2)and reboots (X-Men: First Class) )and not to mention, the release of Thor back in May has finally paved the way for Marvel to introduce the last and certainly not least member in it's superhero movie pantheon: none other than Captain America: The First Avenger!
When Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) goes to enlist in the army during World War II he finds that he is unacceptable (not-surprisingly) due to his frail and scrawny physique, but as he displays an immense tenacity and ambition to fight for his country he attracts the attention of a secret government program to create super-soldiers and volunteers for a procedure that turns his weak form into Captain America! As he now possesses incredible strength and stamina he unfortunately starts out as merely a USO sideshow but when action calls he steps in and soon becomes a powerful force against the Nazi's Hydra division led by The Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) who has harnessed the power of an ancient artifact to develop a terrible weapon that will change the outcome of the war unless Captain America can stop him!
I have been a big fan of the latest Marvel movies and was looking forward to this movie with much excitement, however there was always one aspect of this movie that bugged me from the moment it's star was announced: the fact that Captain America was going to be played by Chris Evans who already earned Marvel movie fame with his role as Johnny Storm, a.k.a. "The Human Torch" in two of Marvel's "Fantastic Four" films including The Fantastic Four (2005) and The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007). Evans had already well established himself as the sarcastic Human Torch and I thought it would be hard to accept him as both Torch and Cap...however, I was wrong! Evans successfully pulls off the All-American/Boy Scout Steve Rogers/Captain America with a flair and not without a little CGI help to make his pre-Captain America-self appear small and scrawny! As always with any great hero there is a great villain and Hugo Weaving as The Red Skull is perfectly suited to the sinister super-villain and his appearance is as close to the comic book as ever.
Director Joe Johnston (Hidalgo (2004), The Wolfman (2010)) seemed like an unlikely choice to direct the greatest American superhero movie but with his pre-directing experience alongside greats like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg he was a prime candidate. Captain America: The First Avenger is one of the best Marvel superhero movies this summer next to X-Men: First Class and completely buries the competition with the very disappointing Green Lantern movie. Now that Cap has finally been revealed, Marvel Studios can now make way with The Avengers (2012), directed by Joss Whedon, which will include Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and of course Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), in what is sure to be the ultimate Marvel movie! (We shall see...)

What do you get when you have James Bond and Indiana Jones fighting aliens in The Old West...? You get Cowboys & Aliens! Director Jon Favreau (Iron Man 2 (2010) Iron Man (2008), Zathura (2005) put two action movie greats, namely Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones, Han Solo) and Daniel Craig (James Bond) together for a truly unique take on the Western movie, combining a Sci-Fi alien invasion with cowboys and Indians! When Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) wakes up in the middle of a desert with no memory and a strange device attached to his wrist it leads to one bad situation after another when aliens invades a small Arizona frontier town. Based on the 2006 Independent graphic novel from Platinum Studios. While the movie is based on the comic, surprisingly the film actually has very little to do with the comic retaining similar theme and story but including very different characters. Despite the story's source material, Cowboys & Aliens is a surprising mixture of the cowboys and Indians Western with the "War of the Worlds"-like alien invasion. Harrison Ford stars alongside Craig as Woodrow Dolarhyde a ruthless cattle baron and former Civil War Colonel. Olivia Wilde (Tron: Legacy) stars as the mysterious and seductive Ella Swenson. Craig and Ford make a great combination in this exciting movie. Cowboys & Aliens has all the alien intensity of Independence Day (1996) with the Old West drama of Unforgiven (1992). It is hard to take the outrageous scenario seriously, but the intense story and incredible characters make for an amazing experience!

 "The Planet of the Apes" series is one of the oldest and longest running Sci-Fi franchises, through many sequels, TV shows and remakes, it was long thought that the franchise was long gone. However, with the trend of franchise reboots and prequels it was the right time for "The Planet of the Apes" to beat it's chest in theaters again with Rise of the Planet of the Apes! At a genetic research laboratory in San Francisco, Will Rodman (James Franco) is using chimpanzees to search for a cure for his father's (John Lithgow) Alzheimer's Disease. After an incident involving an ape test-subject, Will takes a newborn chimp home to raise and experiment on named Cesar. After years of experimentation, Cesar grows incredibly intelligent but restless in wanting to escape from captivity and Will is forced to put Cesar in a primate sanctuary. Soon, Cesar releases his fellow apes and leads a rebellion against the humans!
Directed by independent director Rupert Wyatt, who is co-founder of Picture Farm, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is essentially a prequel to the "Planet of the Apes" series which started in 1968 with the first movie: Planet of the Apes (originally based on the novel Monkey Planet by Pierre Boulle), directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and starring Charlton Heston, now a Sci-Fi classic! Since then the series has included: Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972), Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) also including the TV series Planet of the Apes (1973) and Return to the Planet of the Apes (1975) AND not to mention, the 2001 remake of Planet of the Apes directed by Tim Burton and starring Mark Wahlberg!
 Rise of the Planet of the Apes is an amazing movie, with an intensely cerebral storyline, sympathetic characters (both ape and human) and amazing CGI effects. Although Cesar isn't a real chimpanzee, the motion-capture effects provided by none other than Andy Serkis, who was made famous for providing motion-capture performances for Gollum in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (and the upcoming The Hobbit) as well as another famous ape in King Kong (2005), are phenomenal! Although Cesar is completely CG, he is an incredibly convincing character. Even though we humans should feel appalled at the plight of humans as apes rise to take over the planet, Cesar and his ape-kind are incredibly sympathetic and touching creatures. Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a surprisingly incredible movie and I only hope they can successfully jump start a new "Planet of the Apes" series or trilogy!