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 clichÃ©s. 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 â€“ from the off-kilter look at the world to a few dark sequences involving a local witch â€“ 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 â€“ an understandable complaint â€“ 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 â€“ namely the mess of metal and humanity that is his lead character â€“ 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 â€“ 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 Aug. 27, 2015
Growing up, the Bay View-based toy maker Peggy Brown has plenty of memories of the classic board game Operation - and her family didn't even own it. Decades later, Brown - along with her friend and fellow toy maker Tim Walsh - are trying to give something back to the man whose legendarily buzz-worthy game gave them so many fun times and fond memories over the years with the documentary "Buzz Heard 'Round the World."
Published Aug. 27, 2015
Considering its reputation as Milwaukee's haunted bar, Shaker's Cigar Bar, located at 422 S. 2nd St., certainly knows a thing or two about old stories coming to life. After giving plenty of historical tours through the years and guiding eager guests to some of the city's ghosts, bar owner Bob Weiss and marketing director Amanda Morden are hoping they've found a new way to resurrect some of Milwaukee's old tales of yore: Hangman Radio.
Published Aug. 26, 2015
Now, with their Internet comedy series "Shangri-L.A.," Milwaukee-grown filmmakers Drew Rosas and Nick Sommer ("Billy Club," "Pester") are the latest to go in search of the worldly utopia. Well, kind of, as the search for dreams brings them to the very real city of Los Angeles - and to Kickstarter to help finish the 11 episode production.
Published Aug. 25, 2015
Yes, the Packers will probably be just fine without Jordy Nelson, who's done for the year with a significant right knee injury. But sometimes, you just need to grieve ... with a collection of Dubsmashes from Olivia Munn and Aaron Rodgers from before the injury that eerily fit this time of great sadness.
Published Aug. 23, 2015
If you're planning on riffing off of one of Hollywood's greatest director's greatest movies, you better know what you're doing. Luckily, the man behind "Phoenix" is the extremely talented German director Christian Petzold, who smartly takes a touch of Hitchcock and twists it into an impressive project all of his own, a brilliantly crafted modern post-war noir carefully cloaked in mystery that slowly but satisfyingly burns to a quiet fireworks display of a finale.
Published Aug. 22, 2015
The jazzy retro style of Guy Ritchie's "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." is slinky fun, but enjoy it while you can because, like a toddler, if you take your eyes off it for a second to grab your drink or glance at your watch or merely blink, it is gone, a whooshing little breeze where it once used to be on screen and in your mind. The projector might as well be one of those neuralizers from "Men in Black."
Published Aug. 19, 2015
Dieter Sturm may not be a household name, but for about 30 years, his work has been all over some of your favorite Hollywood movies. Yes, fitting for a Wisconsinite, Sturm's business is snow, and when a Hollywood production needs to call in anything from a flurry to a blizzard, Sturm and his Lake Geneva-based company Sturm Special Effects bring the storm.
Published Aug. 18, 2015
The first time Indianapolis native and "Big Lebowski" superfan Tom Esterline, Jr. saw the 1998 Coen Brothers cult classic, well, he fell asleep. But then he watched it again. And again. And again and again and so on until he became a superfan - an Achiever - decked in his finest Pendleton sweater and attending as many Lebowski Fests as possible - the next one located right here in Milwaukee this weekend at Cathedral Square Park.
Published Aug. 18, 2015
The combination of bagpipes and didgeridoo is an almost impossibly rare mix - one that belongs almost exclusively to Brother. Unfortunately, the band's upcoming return to River Rhythms on Wednesday night will likely be the final one of its kind, as lead singer Angus Richardson recently announced that he was stepping away from the band. Before his likely final Milwaukee show, we chatted with Richardson and reflect on saying goodbye to Brother.
Published Aug. 15, 2015
Some legendary movies managed to emerge from production fires stronger - "Jaws" and "Apocalypse Now" most famously - but "Fantastic Four" lands far from joining that company. The movie is a mess, one that - even at its best and most promising - plays like a sleepy also-ran before it even gets out of the gate.