Tag Archives: Tim Burton

ParaNorman (2012)

I’ll prepare you now: I’m about to give this film the lowest rating I’ve ever given. I didn’t really enjoy it at all. It is by far my least favorite film of 2012.

ParaNorman tells the story of Norman, a boy who can see and communicate with ghosts. He is constantly made fun of by his classmates, and his father consistently tries to stifle this gift. One day, Norman’s uncle, who he’s not supposed to talk to, shows up, telling him that he must save the town from the infamous “witch’s curse” that has plagued Blithe Hollow for 300 years. Norman decides to fulfill his duty and goes on a mission to stop this witch from laying waste to the city.

I suppose I can start with the good things…I thought that the animation is well-done and appropriately grotesque. I like that character design differs from person to person (i.e. facial structure, body shape, etc.), rather than all the characters essentially having the same build with only slight variations. The stop-motion in this film is done quite well also, though the style of it is certainly different from the other Academy Award-nominated film, Frankenweenie (read my review here).

I disliked pretty much everything else. The film was filled with what I thought to be pointless scenes (one in which Norman spends two minutes attempting to pry a book from a dead man’s hands comes to mind) and others that just left me asking “why?”, such as the scene in which his uncle’s ghost appears from a toilet in the stall of the school restroom that Norman happens to be occupying at the time…why the toilet? Why then? That’s not a question for the character but for the filmmakers. Everything in a film should have its reason for existing, and I simply can’t find the reason for that scene and for others. The humor found in the movie was typically very unfunny for me, and most of the characters were completely flat and uninteresting, including Norman. I didn’t care what happened to him, and I didn’t understand his motives for anything. Why would he choose to try to fend off this witch based on incomplete information given to him by his crazy uncle? As for the motivation of other characters, why do his sister and other friends suddenly make the decision to stand by his side when the time comes despite having done anything but that beforehand?

Maybe I’m looking too much into this. Maybe I should think, “oh, this is a kid’s film” and approach it appropriately. But kids’ films should be better than that. I don’t know why critics have given this film such favorable reviews, but I did not like it. To be fair, I will probably give this a second chance somewhere down the road…after all, I own it on Blu-Ray. And maybe I’ll change my mind about it, in which case I will let you all know. But for now, I think that ParaNorman is a movie that suffers from poor characters, lame humor, and a lackluster script. While it does contain positive messages about finding the good in people around you, not bullying others because they are different, and being who you are no matter what others say, it’s just not a film that I would recommend.

-Chad

Rating: 1.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG – for scary action and images, thematic elements, some rude humor and language


Frankenweenie (2012)

I was sick of Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie before I ever saw it. The trailer was attached to nearly every film I saw in theaters over the summer, driving it into my head to the point that I would change the television channel whenever the trailer popped up during commercial breaks. I’m not traditionally a huge Burton fan, though I certainly enjoy films like 1989’s Batman and 1993’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (story by Burton, also produced by him, but directed by Henry Selick), and this just wasn’t a film that was on my must-see list. With the approach of the Academy Awards, though, and with Frankenweenie‘s nomination for Best Animated Feature, I finally got a hold of a copy of the film on Blu-Ray and watched through…and I was impressed.

Frankenweenie is based on the live-action short film of the same name from 1984, also directed by Burton, and is about a boy (Charlie Tahan) whose only friend is his dog, Sparky. When Sparky is hit by a car and killed, the boy is understandably devastated…oh, and I forgot to mention that the boy’s name is Victor Frankenstein (hint hint). Victor sets out to bring his beloved best friend back to life and succeeds. Everything is right with the world until the word gets out that Victor has brought back his dog from the dead, and, suddenly, everyone wants in on it. Chaos ensues!

The close bond shared between Victor and Sparky is made very clear from the start of the film, making Sparky’s untimely death all the more devastating, but it also makes it that much rewarding when Victor succeeds in bringing him back to life. Victor’s character arc is a strong one, as he realizes that re-animating the dead is not necessarily the best option and that sometimes it is necessary to let go of the ones that you love – a lesson that we all learn at some point in our lives, whether it’s with a pet or with a friend or family member. Themes such as the strength of friendship and love, persistence, the implications of science, letting go, and family expectation are all addressed throughout the film, making it a sort of educational experience without it ever feeling like preaching.

Where Frankenweenie succeeds the most, however, is in its references to classic horror films – plus a reference to Burgermeister Meisterburger from the 1970 stop-motion Rankin/Bass film Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town. While watching, I found references or allusions to the following horror films or actors: Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Vincent Price, Jurassic ParkGremlinsDracula, Psycho and Godzilla…and I know that there have to be even more than that; I’m not as well-versed in classic horror films as I would like to be. It’s really quite impressive to see so many films referenced in one.

One of the most interesting aspects of this movie is that it is presented in black and white, likening itself back to the typical horror films found in the 1930s-1950s. The lack of color gives the classic sort of “Burton-esque” feel a refreshing new twist, deviating from the vibrant colors and extravagant set designs from more recent Burton films such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Alice in Wonderland. The stop-motion animation is seamless, never feeling like a stop-motion film. 

I was quite prepared to dislike this film…it just didn’t seem to be my cup of tea, but Frankenweenie impresses on both technical and narrative grounds. The voice acting (from actors such as Martin Short, Martin Landau, Winona Ryder, and Catherine O’Hara) is top-notch throughout, and the story is both endearing and slightly disturbing. In my opinion, this is Burton’s best film in some time. Even Danny Elfman’s score is refreshing atypical of his usual work, managing to be more intimate than bombastic (for once). Will Frankenweenie win the Academy Award? It might…but we’ll see.

-Chad

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG-13 – for thematic elements, scary images and action


Spider-Man 2 (2004) – Danny Elfman

After listening through Danny Elfman’s score to Spider-Man (2002) yesterday, I checked out his score toSpider-Man 2 (2004) today. Again, this is in anticipation of the upcoming release of the Spider-Man reboot The Amazing Spider-Man, directed by Marc Webb and starring Andrew Garfield, Rhys Ifans, and Emma Stone.

I didn’t really have any expectations for Elfman’s sequel soundtrack, so I went into listening through it with a fairly open mind. I’m wrapping up my second listen-through as I type; I’m pretty unimpressed.

That’s not to say that I didn’t really enjoy it, though. It just fell victim to the Danny Elfman/Hans Zimmer Effect: it sounds the same as the first. The Main Title, as exciting in the second film’s score as it was in the first’s, is overused throughout, and much of the music seems to be a basic rehash of what was done in the first film’s score. I didn’t feel like I was listening to a different soundtrack like I should have.

That being said, Elfman managed to compose a couple of tracks that stand out as being pretty fantastic. “Doc Ock Is Born” introduces a theme for arguably the best Spider-Man villain, a theme that is used again multiple times throughout the film. “At Long Last, Love”, is a pleasant mix of emotion and themes from the first film – a moment that is appropriate for the main theme to be used. Despite the overuse of the main theme, Spider-Man 2’s score manages to improve just a bit on the first film’s score.

Overall, as enjoyable and fun as Danny Elfman’s Spider-Man 2 score is, it isn’t much different than his score for the first Spider-Man film, with a couple of exception tracks. However, it IS better-composed than the first film’s score, so bonus points for that. If you’re debating on buying it, take a listen to the tracks on YouTube or Spotify first and decide whether it’s different enough for you.

Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)

  1. “Spider-Man 2 (Main Title)” 3:21
  2. “M.J.’s New Life/Spidus Interruptus” 2:31
  3. “Doc Ock Is Born” 2:23
  4. “Angry Arms/Rebuilding” 2:51
  5. “A Phone Call/The Wrong Kiss/Peter’s Birthday” 2:06
  6. “The Mugging/Peter’s Turmoil” 3:21
  7. “The Bank/Saving May” 4:27
  8. “He’s Back!” 1:50
  9. “Doc Ock’s Machine” 1:42
  10. “Train/Appreciation” 6:16
  11. “Aunt May Packs” 2:51
  12. “Armageddon/A Really Big Web!” 6:28
  13. “The Goblin Returns” 1:36
  14. “At Long Last, Love” 2:59
  15. “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” – Performed by B. J. Thomas 3:14

Total Length: app. 48 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad


Spider-Man (2002) – Danny Elfman

I bought this album today in anticipation of the upcoming release of the Spider-Man reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man, starring Andrew Garfield, Rhys Ifans, and Emma Stone.

The score for Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man film, composed by frequent Tim Burton collaborator Danny Elfman, initially unimpressed me. Aside from the Main Title and the occasional awesome musical moment, it felt rather bland. In fact, lots of it was reminiscent of Elfman’s score to Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film; Elfman’s music frequently sounds the same (thus the reason for me dubbing him “a quirky Hans Zimmer”), so this came as no surprise to me.

I must admit, however, that most of the time I was listening today was in my car with the air conditioner on full blast and in the shower, so I was never one-on-one with the music. So, to be fair about it, I put on my over-the-ear headphones so that I could hear every detail and gave it another listen.

This time around, I enjoyed it a lot more. The Main Title was as excellent as ever, but I noticed the more intimate moments found within tracks such as “Revenge”, “Revelation”, and “Farewell”, as well as the more fun/exciting “Costume Montage”, “Parade Attack”, and “Final Confrontation”, closing with a fairly satisfying “End Credits” track.

Overall, while Danny Elfman’s score to Spider-Man (2002) may not be the best superhero score out there (I’ll get to that in a later post!), it provides just what the audience needs to enjoy Spidey’s crime-fighting adventures that much more.

Rating: 2.5 (out of 5)

1. “Main Title” 3:31

2. “Transformations” 3:31

3. “Costume Montage” 1:19

4. “Revenge” 6:13

5. “First Web” 0:56

6. “Something’s Different” 1:17

7. “City Montage” 1:50

8. “Alone” 1:37

9. “Parade Attack” 3:54

10. “Specter of the Goblin” 3:47

11. “Revelation” 2:32

12. “Getting Through” 2:05

13. “Final Confrontation” 7:19

14. “Farewell” 3:11

15. “End Credits” 1:54

Total Length: app. 46 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad