Thursday, March 04, 2010

The oeuvre of Tim Burton

With Alice in Wonderland in theaters Friday, it's time to go through a different kind of looking glass and review the films of Tim Burton.

Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985): Burton's first feature-length theatrical film may still be his best in terms of sheer entertainment value. I don't think he's made a happier film. GRADE: A

Beetlejuice (1988): My, Michael Keaton certainly was unhinged, wasn't he? And was this the last time Alec Badlwin was that genteel? And remember when Winona Ryder was a great emerging talent? GRADE: A-

Batman (1989): To this day, I have never quite understood why people went apeshit over this movie. Sure, Nicholson is great, but the direction is fussy, and many of the action scenes are cluttered. The biggest problem? Kim Basinger was a boring love interest. It was Burton's most popular film - and the one that seems the least like him to me. GRADE: B

Edward Scissorhands (1990): Burton rebounds with a beautifully touching film that is sill my personal favorite of his. It would be his one film to get an A+ from me, if only Anthony Michael Hall weren't such a shallow nemesis. GRADE: A

Batman Returns (1992): Superior to the 1989 Batman in almost every respect, this film is much more Burtonesque, and his quirky humor comes through much more strongly. The Peguin (Danny DeVito) was a washout as a villain, but Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman cut me to ribbons - in a good way. GRADE: B+

Ed Wood (1994): What if a filmmaker had all the drive of Orson Welles - and none of the talent? That's the question Burton explored in his most personal film, about the legendarily awful director. Martin Landau deservedly won an Oscar for his wonderful portrayal of Bela Lugosi, but I wish the supporting characters were a little more interesting. GRADE: A-

Mars Attacks! (1996): No, not everything in it works, but dammit, I find those little green buggers a complete hoot. ACK! ACK! ACK! GRADE: A-

Sleepy Hollow (1999): My, my,  Tim does love the decapitated head, doesn't he? Underrated. GRADE: A-

Planet of the Apes (2001): Not quite as bad as most people remember, the film does boast some good performances and action scenes, but that ending tried too hard to "gotcha!" GRADE: B-

Big Fish (2003) Has some absolutely wonderful moments, but for me, the sum of the great parts doesn't quite add up to a fully satisfying whole. GRADE: B+

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) : Inevitably, people focused too hard on comparing it to the Gene Wilder/Mel Stuart film, which still wasn't fair, because the two movies, and the two Wonkas, are such different animals. This version is certainly better directed, and I suspect it's closer to what Roald Dahl wrote, but it makes a critical mistake by giving Wonka a sob backstory. GRADE: B+

Corpse Bride (2005): Fun, but pales in comparison to The Nightmare Before Christmas (directed by Henry Selick) beccause the story is less compelling and the songs are much less memorable. GRADE: B-

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007): For all of it's power and bluster, the film simply didn't stay with me. Maybe I'm just not a big fan of the source material. GRADE: B-

I'm not sure yet when I will get to Alice in Wonderland, but I will review it in this space as soon as possible. In the meantime, tell me what you think of Burton's oeuvre.

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