So we meet again, Mr. Burton. It seems like only yesterday when your bloodless, soul-sucking vampire melodrama "Dark Shadows" provided the content for my first review on this very website. I didn't have many nice things to say back then, but considering you have "Frankenweenie" coming out this weekend, I'm thinking we start fresh.
As a sign of good will, here are five Tim Burton movies that I actually quite enjoy and give merit to the director's reputation of quality and creativity.
It's ironic that my favorite Tim Burton film is one that features so few of Burton's typical clichés. It's not bathed in perpetual blacks and whites. Color is used for something other than showing the gaudy horrors of suburban life. Johnny Depp is nowhere to be found (it's actually the last time Burton hasn't collaborated with his superstar muse).
Perhaps that's why 2003's "Big Fish" feels so refreshing, sweet and heartfelt, as opposed to wrung through his usual trite visuals and characters. It certainly still feels like a Burton film – from the off-kilter look at the world to a few dark sequences involving a local witch – but it plays like something Burton actually cared about and put feeling into making, instead of a Disney-financed remake.
For those who find its emotions a little schmaltzy – an understandable complaint – consider this: Steven Spielberg almost directed it. The sentimental goop could've been a whole lot thicker.
It's easy to hate on 1990's "Edward Scissorhands" since it's essentially a handbook for all of things Burton (save for the fact there's no Helena Bonham Carter). It's also easy to hate it for what it created, but in doing so, it's also easy to overlook that it's a really well-made and well-told story. Depp is very good in the almost mute title role, one of his first big performances that showed his potential as a serious actor. Burton's imagery – namely the mess of metal and humanity that is his lead character – is actually imaginative and often beautiful. Once again, it's the kind of Burton film that feels like the result of inspiration instead of branding.
"Ed Wood" is one of Tim Burton's least popular films. It's not because of quality, but due to the fact most people just don't think of it when the topic of Burton movies comes up. It's probably because it's easily the least like the rest of the director's work. Burton's style and aesthetic has never been based in reality, so the concept of him doing a biopic seems absurd.
However, the results are pretty impressive. Depp delivers a charming performance as the legendarily inept director, and Burton fills Wood's life story with several entertaining characters, including a profane Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau). It's a sweetly presented tale about the love of film, no matter how bad the movies may be.
Watching "Batman" now in a post-Christopher Nolan universe is admittedly difficult. "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight" are two of the best comic book movies ever made, and the third one, while deeply flawed, is perhaps one of the most ambitious entries in the genre. But if Nolan has almost perfected what an adult comic book film could be, Burton laid down the groundwork with his 1989 rendition of the Caped Crusader.
The director's dark inclinations fit surprisingly well with the hero, and the combo of Keaton and Nicholson make for good sparring partners. Burton is not much of an action director, but his gripping version of Batman led to the bold movies we have now, while standing up pretty well on its own. It's too bad the bridge between Burton and Nolan had to be built by Joel Schumacher.
"Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"
Let's get this point out of the way right away: Yes, Depp and Bonham Carter are not great singers. Calling them good is even a bit of a stretch. It seems apparent that Burton wanted to hire actors for their acting abilities, rather than for vocal talents. It backfires in some regards, but it also works since Depp and Bonham Carter are very good in their exceptionally heavy roles.
"Sweeney Todd" is certainly a grim tale, and Burton doesn't hold back, showing a seemingly endless string of gushing bloody slit throats. The film almost plays like an endurance test, but it's made pleasing by Burton's usual visual panache, some sinister performances and Sondheim's hauntingly beautiful music – a rare Danny Elfman-free production. It may not be the most polished of musicals, but as a whole, it doesn't hit many wrong notes.
1 comment about this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Matt Mueller
Published April 21, 2015
Welcome back to Unceremonious Overqualified Movie Dump Theatre. The most recent entry: "Child 44," which features an impressive roster of stars but was cut down to a mere 510 theaters just a few weeks before its release. It was a bad omen and unfortunately an accurate one as well, as the apparent lack of confidence from the studio equals a lack of quality on the screen.
Published April 20, 2015
The Maine is currently on the road right now, touring in support of its latest album "American Candy," released just last month on March 31. Its current tour lands at The Rave on Wednesday, April 22. Before then, OnMilwaukee.com got a chance to chat with guitarist Jared Monaco about the new album, as well as his appreciation for The Rave and ... NSYNC.
Published April 18, 2015
Before the fairy tale riff "Peter and the Starcatcher" starts its run at the Milwaukee Rep on Tuesday, April 21, OnMilwaukee.com got a chance to chat with director Blake Robison about this particular Peter Pan retelling, making actors fly and why revisionist fairy tales are currently all the rage.
Published April 17, 2015
The Wisconsin State Fair's Main Stage lineup this summer features some of the biggest names the celebration has wrangled up in recent note. And the biggest of the bunch - or at least certainly the most unusual - is tightrope artist extraordinaire Nik Wallenda. OnMilwaukee.com got a chance to talk one-on-one with the stuntman about preparing for another life-threatening performance and being in a highwire family dynasty that shows no sign of stopping.
Published April 17, 2015
The Riverside's distant past will become the present as the legendary theater will play host to two screenings of the beloved 1942 classic "Casablanca" Friday and Saturday night. And to complete the blast to the past vibe of the event, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra will perform Max Steiner's famous score alongside the movie.
Published April 15, 2015
Eugene Ionesco's 1950 play "The Bald Soprano" - the first the famed playwright ever wrote - is an absurdist classic. It's one of the most performed shows in France with a permanent repertory spot at Theatre de la Huchette since 1957 and a large number of interpretations. It's safe to say, however, that few to none of those interpretations featuring digital actors getting beamed in like "Star Trek" characters.
Published April 14, 2015
The Blue Man Group is famous for several things: funky instruments, those old Intel ads, Tobias Funke proclaiming that "I blue myself!" on "Arrested Development" and, of course, the whole being covered in blue paint thing. But one of the crucial elements of the Blue Man Group is that they don't talk. So imagine my surprise in getting to interview a Blue Man (at least the transcription would be easy).
Published April 14, 2015
Tomorrow night, after weeks of anticipation and online voting, the Milwaukee Awards for Neighborhood Development Innovation (MANDIs) will name the winners at a ceremony at the Potawatomi Event Center. However, there's still 24 hours left to learn about these community-impacting individuals and organizations and vote for the Wells Fargo People's Choice Award before the polls close and the numbers are tallied up.
Published April 13, 2015
For 100 minutes, writer-director David Robert Mitchell's breakout indie horror flick "It Follows" manages to maintain a continuous feeling of impending, skin-shivering dread. The smart, suspenseful result is the best kind of nightmare, one from which you want to wake up but are too eerily entranced to actually do anything about it.
Published April 11, 2015
Completing the franchise's evolution from street racing box office surprise to global dominating live-action cartoon, "Furious 7" is basically Hollywood's version of a turducken. It's a greasy, gaudy monstrosity, a monument to excess and absurdity - all pretty much cooked to lip-smacking satisfaction.