Instead of a celebration of classic horror films and the imagination of Tim Burton, Frankenweenie is more a reminder of why “the good old days” seemed a lot better back then.
In the town of New Holland (looking eerily like the sanitized suburb from Edward Scissorhands), a young boy named Victor (voice of Charlie Tahan) loses his beloved dog, Sparky, in an accident. On the eve of an upcoming science fair, his new science teacher, Mr. Rzykruski (voice of Martin Landau channeling Vincent Price), indirectly suggests to him that electricity might hold the key to restoring his dog to life. The experiment is a success, but New Holland is a who’s who of future mad scientists, and a breakthrough on how to reanimate dead pets isn’t going to remain a secret for long.
There’s a lot to love about the works of Tim Burton. From The Nightmare Before Christmas to Alice In Wonderland, his singular dark-and-twisty view of the world is a wonder to behold. Unfortunately, it’s rare that image and setting can carry a film all on its own; in fact, Beetlejuice is one of the actual few examples of any movie getting away this. The problem is that there’s a better version of Frankenweenie already in existence (it’s in the extras of most copies of Nightmare), and this stop-motion version seems to borrow from not only Burton’s own work but every other classic work of black and white horror as well. It could be argued that Frankenweenie is a love-letter to Burton fans, but the finished product looks very weak directly compared to the sheer brilliance of the similarly themed ParaNorman.
This film’s biggest problem is the title; it’s wrong.
It is a period of civil war. The sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis), is under pressure to end the American conflict. His desire to pass a 13th amendment to the US Constitution and abolish slavery for all time can’t be won if the Southern states rejoin the union and block the vote. Even the threat of the amendment brings the South to the bargaining table with a willingness to end the war, but if the amendment doesn’t pass now, it might never come up again. If it passes in spite of the war raging on, it could restore freedom to the galaxy….
Steven Spielberg, only you could be so bold. Let’s be honest: Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter had more to do with the life of Lincoln than this. That said, however, it is an intriguing by-the-numbers account (however dramatized) of the political machine in motion, specifically in the maneuvers required to get an amendment passed in the wake of compromise. Anyone familiar with the musical 1776 knows that the slavery issue has been batted about since the birth of the United States (or, you know, if you read history books or whatnot), but it was tabled then to ensure the South would band together with the Northern states to throw Britain out of the colonies. If you thought the politics and lobbying to get legislation passed is tough these days, get a load of how it was done in 1864.
Think Army of Darkness rather than Van Helsing, an R-rated version of the famous Brothers Grimm tale that’s a bit of ridiculous fun.
After being led by their father into the woods as children, Hansel and Gretel discover a house made of candy and cake owned by a witch. After foiling the witch’s plan to eat them, the siblings get a taste for killing witches and embark on a career to rid the world of their kind. Years later, the adult Hansel and Gretel (Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton) investigate a series of child disappearances in a fearful village, but what they discover could be their undoing as the mystery of their past finally catches up to their present.
While the trailers suggest a takes-itself-too-seriously Van Helsing clone, this film is well aware of how silly the premise actually is. Rather than stoop to slapstick, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters instead creates a world unique to the characters that inhabit it while mirroring the pop culture of our own. The weapons are impossible, but then, so are witches, so the production compromises on that idea. In addition, the film is full of interesting little touches, such as Hansel becoming diabetic from being force-fed too many sweets and a perfectly plausible reason why the siblings have any chance against beings that hurl destructive spells on a whim. It’s a bizarre amalgamation that it ultimately works if just barely.
Almost forty years after the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Leatherface returns (no surprise there) but it’s not a reboot (surprise!)
After a quick recap of the original story, the local sheriff (Thom Barry) fails to keep of bunch of local rednecks from taking the law into their own hands. The only survivor of their wrath is an infant found by a childless couple and kept for their own. Four decades later, twenty-something (huh?!) small-town girl Heather (Alexandra Daddario) learns that the grandmother she never knew existed has willed a substantial estate to her in Newt, Texas. While Heather turns out to be a long-lost member of the Sawyer family, she is by no means the last.
The term “fan service” comes to mind when viewing this film. First of all, this IS a continuation, an actual sequel instead of merely a reboot. While fans of Leatherface/Tommy/Bubba (whatever you prefer to call the face-wearing lumbering ox with an attitude) will be happy to see the big guy back up on the screen, the film sets up an interesting premise clearly aimed at making additional films. While most of the cast is set up to knock down (you know the drill… er, chainsaw), both Leatherface and his surviving relative are surprisingly effective. While neither as gory nor demented as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, it’s nice to see that someone still cares about taking care of one of our favorite monsters.
Denzel Washington’s one-note character is a prisoner of a one-thought plot.
Meet Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington), a second-generation flyboy who spends more time in a bottle than he does asleep, but only barely. After a fateful night of boozing and bedding his unnecessarily naked stewardess Katerina (Nadine Velazquez), he casually does a line of cocaine to sober up before piloting a plane full of passengers to destinations unknown. Faster than you can say “Oscar-bait,” a tragedy occurs, and only Whip could have inverted the aircraft in a last-ditch effort to save the doomed flight before spending the next two hours of screen time deciding on whetheror not he should admit to having a drinking problem (the movie kind of runs on the same way that sentence does).
Realistic or not, this is a hard film to watch and not because of the subject matter. It’s an exercise in futility, especially because we all know how it’s going to end up. After an interesting beginning, the story slows to a crawl with scene after scene of pointless exposition, trying to paint Denzel’s Whip as a well-meaning guy who “just has a problem.” His problem IS the problem, giving audiences no one to root for or even in any way identify with. It feels like an after-school special, complete with “the more you know” lessons learned just in case it wasn’t obvious “that alcohol can be bad” after 138 minutes.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
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4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 41,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 9 Film Festivals
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After taking on crime drama, pulp novelization, blaxploitation, samurai swordplay, grindhouse, and even war films, Quentin Tarantino set his sights on another classic genre to give it his unique sense of spin: the Western.
Just before the American Civil War, former dentist Dr. King Shultz (Christoph Waltz) acquires the assistance of a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx). The deal is simple: if Django can identify three men on the run from the law, he will be set free upon their death or capture and a few dollars in his pocket. As it turns out, however, Django has a natural skill for bounty hunting. After the two become good friends, Dr. Shultz agrees to help Django find and free his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), but to do so, they’ll have to spirit her away from a ruthless plantation owner named Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), a Southerner who does not like to lose.
Writer/director Quentin Tarantino has never shied away from controversial subject matter. In fact, he seems to seek it out, intent in making films however he sees fit and to provoke a reaction that “safe” filmmakers actively avoid. Django is a buddy flick and revenge film driven by love and fueled by farce, a dangerous mix that proves entertaining all the way around. As usual, it’s a character piece, but that doesn’t mean the plot doesn’t have its twists and turns. After deadly serious films like Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds, there is an underlying silliness to Django that threatens to undermine the entire film but happily never derails it.