God Bless Us, Everyone

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Instead of doing a traditional ‘best Christmas movies’ list, I thought I would put a slight spin on it. Below are my top three Christmas films, my top three films set at Christmas (where the main plot revolves around something other than Christmas) and my top three films screened at this time of year (but that have nothing to do with Christmas).

Traditional Christmas Films

1. The Muppet Christmas Carol

What is Christmas without The Muppet Christmas Carol? A surprising faithful adaptation of Dickens’ perennial classic (albeit with Muppets and songs), Brian Henson’s 1992 film is heart warming. Tiny Tim is one of the most endearing characters in film history, while the songs and humour make The Muppet Christmas Carol a festive essential.

2. The Nightmare Before Christmas

With beautiful imagery, a great score by Danny Elfman and a charming plot, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas has become a Christmas staple. Jack Skellington does what we all secretly want to do; take over Christmas. Kidnapping the Sandy Claws is not the standard Christmas fare, however it is an awful lot of fun.

3. Scrooged

Another version of A Christmas Carol makes my top three, but for good reason. Yes, the very ending of the film descends into a reservoir of schmaltz. However up to this point, Scrooged is most amusing in its rendition of the Dickens tale by way of a television executive in late 1980s New York. It also features the cutest human Tiny Tim in the form of Calvin.

Films Set At Christmas

1. Batman Returns

‘Come what may, Merry Christmas Mr Wayne’. Batman Returns, set against the backdrop of the festive season, is rather a tragedy. But a fine comic book film, with the festive season rearing its head again and again. Gotham’s own Santa Claus turns about to be not as charitable as you would hope.

2. Gremlins

Subversion is the order of the day in Joe Dante’s Gremlins. The Bedford Falls-esque town is terrorised by small malevolent creatures in this black, Christmas-set comedy. Gizmo is one of the hottest characters ever committed to the silver screen, who wouldn’t want him as a Christmas present?

3. Die Hard

The ultimate Christmas-set action movie, Die Hard is nothing short of iconic. The office Christmas party goes awry, and only one man can save the day. No matter how bad your Christmas Eve may be, it’s a certainty that John McClane’s is worse.

Films Screened At Christmas

1. Labyrinth

I first saw Labyrinth on 24th December 1989. I am not sure if Labyrinth is one of my favourite films because I saw it on Christmas Eve, or if Christmas Eve is my favourite day because that was when I first saw Labyrinth. Whichever way, Labyrinth is a glorious 1980s fantasy musical.

2. The Wizard of Oz

I first saw The Wizard of Oz as a toddler around Christmastime. Needless to say, I was terrified by the Wicked Witch, and confused as to why mother was letting me watch a horror movie at such a young age. Wizard of Oz became a classic because of its constant scheduling in the Christmas period, something that still holds true today.

3. Singin’ in the Rain

My first viewing of Singin’ in the Rain was on Christmas Day. It is another film which has nothing to do with Christmas but is frequently screened in the holiday period. It is easy to see why; memorable tunes, some great comedy and the beguiling talent of Gene Kelly.

Stuff To Look At

A bumper edition this week, with plenty of releases for 2013…

Man of Steel

I have always been more of a Batman child than a Superman one, but I did love the Christopher Reeve movies (maybe not the last one). After 2006’s underwhelming Superman Returns, this new version looks more appealing. Henry Cavil stars as the title character in the first full trailer for Man of Steel, due for release in June 2013.

Oblivion

Ageless Tom Cruise has been getting action-heavy recently, with Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Jack Reacher and now Oblivion. This futuristic thriller sees Cruise’s character Jack Harper battle to save mankind. Also starring Andrea Riseborough, Oblivion will be released in UK cinemas on 12 April 2013.

The Wolverine

The follow-up to X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Wolverine is due for release in July 2013. The film sees Hugh Jackman reprise his role from the X-Men franchise. This adventure is set in Japan, as the above poster suggests. I’m sure a trailer for The Wolverine will be released shortly.

The Lone Ranger

Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter together again, but not in a Tim Burton film? The emphasis in the above trailer is on the fact that it is the same team behind Pirates of the Caribbean. If executed correctly, The Lone Ranger should be a lot of fun, like the first film of that earlier franchise. The Lone Ranger is due for release next year.

The Croods

The latest animation from DreamWorks is The Croods, a prehistoric adventure film. The Croods features the voices of Nicholas Cage, Ryan Reynolds and Emma Stone. From the above trailer, I am liking the monkey. The Croods will be released in UK cinemas on 22nd March 2013.

Broken City

Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe and Catherine Zeta-Jones star in Broken City, a crime thriller set in New York. My first thought on viewing this was ‘Russell Crowe’s weave!’. That aside, this tale of corruption could be quite good. Broken City is out on 1st March 2013.

The Last Stand

What is The Last Stand, you ask? Well it is Arnold Schwarzengger’s return to lead roles on the big screen. Schwarzenegger plays the sheriff of a small town where a notorious drug baron is trying to make his escape. The Last Stand, which also stars Forest Whitaker and Rodrigo Santoro, is out on 24th January 2012.

Hitchcock

Everyone loves a bit of Alfred Hitchcock, don’t they? The eagerly anticipated Hitchcock tells the story behind the making of Psycho. Anthony Hopkins stars as Alfred Hitchcock in the film which also features Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson. Hitchcock is released in UK cinemas on 8th February 2013.

5 Reasons Why The Dark Knight Rises Deserves Another Viewing

The Dark Knight Rises is out on home video from next week. I like the term home video, I hope it is used long after the last person to remember the magnificent video tape is dead. Anyway, Christopher Nolan’s film received its fair share of praise and criticism on its theatrical release. Having seen it a number of times, here are five great things about The Dark Knight Rises

1. A Fitting Conclusion To The Dark Knight Trilogy

The Dark Knight Rises provides an apt ending to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Referring back to events in the previous two films, The Dark Knight Rises wraps up events for all the continuing characters. Moreover the ending of the film is satisfying and in step with what has previous occurred in this Batman universe.

2. The Film Is Well Paced

Despite a common criticism that the film is overlong, I believe The Dark Knight Rises is perfectly paced. Without the substantial build up, the final third of the film would never have the impact it does. The initial slow build allows the characters and plot to develop, and generates tension for a remarkable final third.

3. The Soundtrack Is Excellent

Hans Zimmer’s score for The Dark Knight Rises is a fantastic accompaniment to the on-screen action.  At times bombastic, the score is memorable and an indispensable element of the film. It is also hugely effective, particularly in he scenes where Bruce Wayne attempts the climb.

4. The Film Delves Into The Batman Archive

Like the previous two chapters, The Dark Knight Rises references and borrows imagery from the comics, previous films and televisual outings of the caped crusader. Batman and Bane’s first meeting recalls imagery from the comics, while the reaction to the Bat Wing is not dissimilar to that in Tim Burton’s Batman. Even Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle appears to sometimes have an intonation to her voice reminiscent of Michelle Pfeiffer’s version of the character.

5. The Film Is Very Positive

Some critics have described The Dark Knight Rises as being gloomy, grim and depressive. I disagree with this contention; The Dark Knight Rises is one of the year’s most positive films. It is predominantly concerned with hope, played out most overtly through the Blake character. Rather than gloomy, the film is uplifting in its message, and at times exhilarating.

The Dark Knight Rises is released on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital Download from 3rd December 2012.

Frankenweenie Press Conference

Director Tim Burton, executive producer Don Hahn, producer Allison Abbate and stars Martin Landau, Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short came together to discuss London Film Festival opening film Frankenweenie today. The panel were on good form, with Martin Short impersonating Burton and Martin Landau doing an impression of Alfred Hitchcock. Burton talked about working with the close-nit group. The director has worked with all of the panel on at least one previous occasion. The panel were asked to each offer their first impressions of Burton, which ranged from Catherine O’Hara being late for their initial meeting to Martin Landau seeing Beetlejuice at the cinema and him wanting to work with Burton because of the film.

Tim Burton also spoke about the importance of shooting Frankenweenie in black and white, stating that it gives the film the feel of an old horror movie, even for those too young to have watched them. The director remarked that he still considered himself to be outside the mainstream, despite the commercial success of his films. Martin Landau likened working with Burton to a ‘playground’, while Martin Short praised the director for giving actors the opportunity to express their thoughts.

The BFI London Film Festival runs 10-21 October 2012. Frankenweenie opens in cinemas on 17th October 2012.

 

Film Review: Frankenweenie

Tim Burton could make another film that epitomised his output as a filmmaker, but it would be difficult for him to match Frankenweenie in this respect. For Frankenweenie is quintessentially Burtonesque.

High school student Victor Frankenstein prefers learning about science than playing sport and enjoys the company of his dog Sparky. When a tragic accident occurs, Victor uses the knowledge he has gained from science class to conduct an experiment to bring back Sparky…

Frankenweenie is based on a live-action short film Tim Burton made whilst he worked at Disney in the early 1980s. It is pleasant for fans of Burton’s older work to see him remaking something of his own this time round. A totally original film may have been preferable in terms of output, but at least Frankenweenie is derived from Burton’s original idea.

Frankenweenie is a well executed film. The story has heart, and seems more genuine than some of Burton’s recent efforts. It is a well crafted tale. Despite being based on a short film, Frankenweenie never feels stretched or padded out. It offers more by way of plot and characters to compensate for the longer duration. There is a good mix of humour and the macabre, the latter of which is never really frightening. The film is certainly suitable for family viewing.

Frankenweenie is an unequivocal product of Tim Burton in that it references his own work whilst highlighting his influences. References to Edward Scissorhands, Vincent, The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy stories and others can easily be spotted by those who have a familiarity with Burton’s work. Similarly subjects that have influenced his earlier work are made abundantly clear, with monster movies, gothic horror stories, Universal and Hammer horrors all taking a prominent place.

The fact that it is stop-motion animation and shot in black and white gives the film a quaint feel. It appears that a lot of care has gone into the making of Frankenweenie. Burton has chosen to reunite with Winona Ryder, Martin Landau and Catherine O’Hara, further feeding into the theme of going back.

Frankenweenie could only be the product of Tim Burton, which should inform viewers whether they are likely to enjoy it. The film is sweet, and acts like a homage to Burton’s influences and earlier work.

Frankenweenie opens the London Film Festival on 10th October 2012. It is released in cinemas on 17th October 2012.

Stuff To Look At

A veritable feast for the eyes this week, with the new teaser trailer for The Lone Ranger, excellent posters from the upcoming Frankenweenie, and more besides…

The Lone Ranger

The teaser trailer for 2013’s The Lone Ranger was released this week. Starring Johnny Depp, directed by Gore Verbinski and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, it is unsurprising that the teaser is reminiscent of Pirates of the Caribbean. Also starring Armie Hammer as the title character and Helena Bonham Carter, The Lone Ranger is due for release next year.

Frankenweenie

Frankenweenie will be released in the UK on 17th October 2012, and will open the London Film Festival on 12 October 2012. To promote the release of Tim Burton’s new film, these fantastic retro-style posters have been released. The others can be viewed here. They are entirely in keeping with the style of the stop-motion animated black and white film. To coincide with the release, the exhibition The Art of Frankenweenie will open at the BFI Southbank during the festival.

The Master

One of this year’s most anticipated films will be released in the UK on 16th November 2012, with a special run at the Odeon West End from 2nd November 2012. Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master has been receiving critical acclaim and recently broke the takings per screen record when it opened in the US. The film stars Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams.

The Hobbit

Several images and features from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey have been released in the last few weeks. These include new posters featuring the dwarves and new Hobbit-related apps. But what I want to know is where are the Gollum posters and apps? Until this time comes, here is an image from the film to sate Gollum fans. The first film instalment of The Hobbit will be released on 14th December 2012.

Gambit

Written by Joel and Ethan Coen and directed by Michael Hoffman, Gambit looks like a lot of fun. Starring Colin Firth, Alan Rickman and Cameron Diaz, Gambit is a remake of the 1966 film of the same name. The film will be released in UK cinemas on 21st November 2012.

London Film Festival 2012 Launch

The BFI London Film Festival’s full programme was announced on Wednesday 5th September. This year, the festival is slightly shorter (twelve days instead of fourteen), but screenings will take place at more venues around London. Prior to the launch, it was announced that Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie would open the festival, and the new adaptation of Great Expectations would close it.

There are not many surprises in the programme. One change to this years proceedings is the dividing of films into new categories such as ‘Love’ and ‘Thrill’. I’m not sure exactly how this will pan out for films more difficult to define. The gala screenings offer some anticipated films, such as Ben Affleck’s Argo and Hyde Park on Hudson, starring Bill Murray. Documentaries that look interesting include The Central Park Five, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, and Love, Marilyn. Also to look out for are Seven Psychopaths, Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time, Antiviral and The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

The BFI London Film Festival runs from 10 – 21 October 2012.

Stuff To Look At

Some delights for the eyeballs with Frankenweenie, Monsters University, The Expendables 2 and Pitch Perfect.

Frankenweenie

With these images, you are really spoiling us, Disney. Not content with releasing the first image of Angelina Jolie as Maleficent at the beginning of the week, Disney have also furnished us with new images from Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie. Obviously, I am choosing to share the image of Sparky, the hot piece dog at the centre of the film. Frankenweenie is due for release on 17th October 2012.

Monsters University

I have a terrible confession to make. I have never actually seen Monsters Inc. I know, shoot me down. Many centuries ago, in my brief stint as a ‘Cast Member’ for The Disney Store, we used to sell all kinds of Sully-emblazoned merchandise. Thus, I am aware of the characters and the general happenings of the film, even though I have never watched Monsters Inc. The follow up, prequel Monsters University, is due for release next summer so I have plenty of time to see the original.

The Expendables 2

Of the films out this summer, The Expendables 2 is one I am really looking forward to. With the inclusion of Jason Statham, Jet Li and others, The Expendables 2 is not really an eighties action star reunion. Nevertheless, the film does feature Norris, Stallone, Lundgren, Schwarzenegger and Willis. Not exactly a bad cast. The Expendables 2 is out in cinemas on 16th August and I cannot wait.

Pitch Perfect

What’s this? Another Glee-inspired film about a singing competition? Yes and no. Like Joyful Noise, it is unlikely that the success of Glee did not impact Pitch Perfect being green lit. However, the film seems to have more of an attitude than the television show, so hopefully amusement will trump saccharine sentiment. Pitch Perfect is out in UK cinemas on 19th October 2012.

Film Review: Dark Shadows

Dark Shadows is likely to divide audiences. Those who get on board will find amusement in Tim Burton’s homage to the past.

Barnabus Collins moved to America as a young child with his wealthy family. Barnabus is turned into a vampire by a witch, who buries him in a coffin. When he is set free two-hundred years later, Barnabus sets out to find the Collins family in the alien world of 1972…

Based on the television series which ran from 1966 to 1971, Dark Shadows is a curious mixture of moods. It is not quite a dark comedy, although there is plenty of humour in the first half of the film. This humour is more camp than macabre, as the film slides from a kitsch 1970s lightness to some gothic interludes that border on horror.

There is a perceptible shift in mood from the first half of the film to the second. The second half lacks the humour that makes the first half so enjoyable. That is not to say that Dark Shadows fails to entertain after the half-way mark, but simply that there is a more serious atmosphere. The ending of the film feels a bit drawn out; a snappier climax with more humour would have been welcome.

Dark Shadows is a homage to the television series it is based on, as well to 1970s music and popular culture. The film seems to feature the things that interest director Burton and star and co-producer Johnny Depp, with the inclusion of Alice Cooper, gothic lore and camp humour. Dark Shadows also features many tropes of the traditional soap opera. The film is segmented, giving it the almost episodic feel of a soap. There is also the sudden departure of characters, and those that go missing for a significant portion of the duration, not unlike a television series.

Tim Burton’s film is visually appealing. Colleen Atwood has done a fantastic job with the costumes, while the surroundings appear authentic for the period. The make up and special effects used on Angelique in the finale are fantastic.

Johnny Depp is responsible for much of the film’s humour. Eva Green makes a great vamp as Angelique. Michelle Pfeiffer brings presence as Elizabeth, while Gulliver McGrath shows promise as young David. Bella Heathcote is a welcome addition, looking every inch the Burtonian love interest.

Dark Shadows has several virtues. The only disappointment is that it had the potential to be a lot better.

Stuff To Look At

There is still some time to go before the new trailer for The Dark Knight Rises is unleashed (4th May, to be shown before The Avengers in US cinemas). I am trying to avoid the TDKR scoops/spoilers like the plague. In the mean time, here is some stuff on other upcoming releases.

Dark Shadows

Dark Shadows is out in cinemas on 11th may 2012 and I am really looking forward to it. Warner Brothers have released this fun featurette about vampire history and the film’s televisual past. Dark Shadows is Tim Burton’s first film since 2010’s Alice in Wonderland. The director also has Frankenweenie coming out later this year.

Prometheus

It’s all about the build up to the trailer nowadays. It was announced yesterday that a brand new trailer for Ridley Scott’s Prometheus would air on television during Homeland on Sunday evening. I might have to wait a little longer than that, as I don’t actually watch Homeland. While we wait for that, here is a short featurette on Prometheus and Ridley Scott. Prometheus is out on 1st June 2012.

The Dictator

The Dictator is due for release on 18th May 2012. Sacha Baron Cohen is stepping up promotion for the film, which will hopefully bring the laughs. Above is footage of an Australian television interview with Cohen (in character). Needless to say, there are some silly jibes.

Snow White and the Huntsman

After Mirror Mirror was surprisingly good, Snow White and the Hunstman needs to step up its game. Above is the latest TV spot for the film. I am really looking forward to the film because I like fairy tales and Charlize Theron looks like an amazing Queen. The Florence + The Machine song ‘Breath of Life’, which features in the film, can be heard here. Snow White and the Huntsman is released on 1st June, with previews from the 31st May 2012.

Rock of Ages

I for one am hoping that Rock of Ages will be the hot mess Burlesque was supposed to be. It has all the right ingredients; Tom Cruise as an ageing rocker, an eighties rock soundtrack boasting Journey and Def Leppard, and Catherine Zeta-Jones. I have never seen the musical, but I am looking forward to seeing the film. You can view the trailer hereRock of Ages will open on 15th June 2012.