Big Eyes


Viewed – 25 April 2015  Online rental

I wouldn’t say I have been following the career of acclaimed director Tim Burton all that much of late, having once been a big fan and loving his movies (especially Beetlejuice & Edward Scissorhands), yet his reliance on casting Johnny Depp in everything he does had begun to grate.  So it seemed refreshing to see a movie by him that departs from the weird fantastical world he’s known for and yes, no Depp!

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This true story tells the tale of a painter in the 1950’s called Margaret Keane who’s paintings of doe-eyed girls became a huge thing even though they were credited as being painted by her husband, Walter Keane.  It was a big money-making scam that I can’t say I’ve ever heard of but Burton’s movie tells it in that magical, sugar-coated 50’s style that brings to life an otherwise fairly mundane topic.

Amy Adams is good as Margaret even if I found it hard to sympathise with how she goes along with husband Walter’s plan, and with Christoph Waltz we once again get a very showy and enjoyable turn, even if after seeing this acclaimed actor four times now, it’s becoming clear they’re all slight variations of the same, charming / potentially-dangerous character.   Also I found it hard to believe that Margaret’s daughter would be equally duped by the couple’s scheme, considering she had been her mother’s muse prior to meeting Walter.  Nit-picks aside, this was still enjoyable and whimsical.  Burton’s visual flair, although not as elaborate is still here and the setting, houses, streets, beaches etc. are presented beautifully.  Regular collaborator Danny Elfman also deliver’s a suitable, if not particularly memorable score.

For Burton this was a nice diversion, and for Waltz’ growing fan-base, another entertaining performance.  Yet along with a plot that get’s very predictable, I found little else to make me recommend this one beyond Sunday afternoon viewing.

Verdict:  3 /5

Alice In Wonderland


Viewed – 23 December 2010  Blu-ray

I used to be a huge Tim Burton fan back when he made the likes of Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands and Sleepy Hollow.  I loved his gothic style and imagination.  Combine this with his frequent collaboration with composer Danny Elfman, most notably on the Batman movies, and this movie-fan was in constant awe.   In recent years however I haven’t really kept up with his movies.  The last one I watched was Sweeney Todd, which left me cold, and I haven’t as of yet seen Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. 

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Edward Scissorhands


Viewed – 05 September 2009  Blu-ray

This is such a classic film for me.  Probably best watched at Christmas, this enchanting, modern-fairy tale is so touching and magical yet also strange and off centre in a way only director Tim Burton seems able to convey.  A very personal project for the director, this tells the story of an artificially created man, Edward (a near un-recognisable Johnny Depp) who’s creator (the late, great Vincent Price) dies before he is complete, thus leaving him with scissors for hands.  When a kind hearted avon-lady comes knocking at the spooky old mansion on a hill overlooking the suburban paradise below, Edward is transported into the lives of a group of quirky characters, most notably Winona Ryder’s cheer-leader blonde school girl with a scum-bag boyfriend (former teen movie regular Anthony Michael Hall).

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Very simple at it’s heart, what makes this film so memorable is the almost overwhelmingly innocent performance of Depp’s Edward and the subtle, believable love story between him and Winona Ryder’s Kim.  The moment when she asks him to hold her and he returns a heart-breaking ‘I can’t’ as he goes to embrace her, should be up their with ‘don’t put baby in the corner’ for classic movie moments.  Add to this the enchanting score by Burton regular Danny Elfman and also Burton’s stunning set design (check out the amazing tree sculptures and the Gothic architecture of the mansion, not to mention the pastel colouring of the suburban street), and this is one of those cinematic visions that works on almost every level.  Ok, any believability or logic is mostly ignored and there are some moments that do make you uncomfortable (such as the moment Edward is almost seduced, which sits uneasily within the context of an otherwise kid-friendly movie).  Yet these are small quibbles in an otherwise heart-warming, feel good movie everyone should see at least once.

The blu-ray sadly, is underwhelming with a picture that although decent, is nothing you might expect from the format, and the DTS HD Master Audio track is serviceable at best.  Extras consist of an irritatingly quiet commentary by Burton, and another by composer Elfman, and then we just get a pathetic featurette that offers nothing but for a few talking heads, shot at the time of the production, lasting only four minutes.  A real let down.

Verdict:  4 /5

Batman Returns


Viewed – 09 August 2009  Blu-ray

With all the fuss over last year’s admittedly impressive The Dark Knight, I still came away longing for the old days when Batman was directed by Tim Burton and starred Michael Keaton as the caped crusader.  This 1992 follow up to Burton’s own Batman see’s Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego pitted against two villains (something that grew to a ridiculous degree in the two awful following films) namely Michelle Pfeiffer’s Cat Woman and Danny DeVito’s Penguin.  Great choices following Jack Nicholson’s acclaimed turn as the Joker last time around.

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The Penguin you see, was abandoned as a baby in the film’s classy, eerie opening sequence, and chooses Christmas Eve to make his return to a city that shunned him; Gotham.  Teaming up with corporate big wig Max Shrek (Christopher Walken) he makes a bid for Mayor, whilst at the same time Max’s bumbling secretary Selina Kyle (Pfieffer) is transformed into Cat Woman after Shrek pushes her out of a window following an unfortunate ‘curiosity kills the cat’ incident.

Although on paper complex, Burton’s assured direction and obvious love for the material makes everything flow effortlessly, with startling set design and a quartet of brilliant performances, be it Walken’s menacing Max or Devito’s ghastly Penguin.  But for me Pfeiffer steals the show every time she appears; sexy, playful and mad as hell – the perfect Batman femme-fatale.

It is then sad to watch this with the memory of Christopher Nolan’s two Batman films firmly in my mind.  Nolan doesn’t know how to create the Batman look, his Batman (despite the spot on casting of Christian Bale) is bland and uninteresting, with too much screen time given to the villians – and here, although Michael Keaton’s Batman / Bruce Wayne is less showy and more subtle than the foes he faces, Keaton delivers a confident and convincing portrayal of the tortured soul that is Bruce Wayne – perfect casting.  I will add that I couldn’t warm to Devito’s Penguin, totally unpleasant and one dimensional, with a very basic story arch that is sadly the films main focus.  Also some of the effects work is showing it’s age, although this is masked well with Burton’s incredible eye for gothic imagery, given a greater flamboyance when mixed with Danny Elfman’s superb score – still the only Bat theme anyone needs.

So in closing, if your a Batman or comic-book movie fan, this is an instant recommendation.

Verdict:  4 /5