Posts tagged Tim Burton
I’m not the target audience for Mark Salisbury’s book Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion. That’s because I never saw the 1970s soap that inspired Tim Burton’s film “Dark Shadows,” and I didn’t find the movie particularly entertaining. I thought it was better than Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland,” but not one of his all-time best. However, I am a sucker for coffee table books, especially ones about movies, which is why I decided to check out Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion. I knew it would be a quick, easy read with lots of big glossy photos and fascinating behind the scenes stories. And it didn’t disappoint!
Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion features a foreword by Johnny Depp, the movie’s lead actor and frequent Burton collaborator, as well as an introduction by Burton himself. Neither of these statements are very long, although Depp’s foreword is especially entertaining. Even if it was ghostwritten, the section captures his unique voice perfectly with statements like “The character of Barnabas Collins possessed a sense of elegance that bewitched me.”
Following these opening statements is a section on the history of how the project came to be, which annoyingly repeats some of the same sentiments expressed in Depp and Burton’s intros. After that, the book delves into original material again, taking a logical approach to organizing itself: Chapter 1 (Cast), Chapter 2 (The Sets), Chapter 3 (Costume, Hair & Makeup, Prosthetics), Chapter 4 (Cinematography, Stunts, Special Effects), and Chapter 5 (Visual Effects, Editing, Scoring).
Each chapter contains a pleasing mixture of behind the scenes photos, concept art, and anecdotes from the cast and crew. Frustratingly though, captions are not placed next to images. Instead there is a single page in the back which has them, forcing you to flip back if you want to know who or what is featured on a specific page. The most hilarious interview snippets come from Depp of course, who is the only person in the book who requires censoring. He drops an f-bomb, which is politely altered so as not to offend readers.
My favorite discoveries mainly involved how the filmmakers created the costumes, sets, and effects for this supernatural flick. I loved hearing about how movie magic was used to create this quirky world. Although it was also intriguing to learn that Michelle Pfeiffer who plays the Collins family matriarch, was a huge fan of the “Dark Shadows” television show and practically begged Burton for a role in the movie.
Perhaps the most bittersweet part of Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion, is its afterword by the late producer Richard D. Zanuck, to whom the book is dedicated. Zanuck had an extremely long and successful career working on many iconic films, so it’s surprising to hear him describe this cast and his crew as one of his all-time favorites. I wonder how much of his statements were derived from truth, and whether he was putting on a kind face for publicity’s sake. Unfortunately we’ll never get the chance to ask him.
Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the film “Dark Shadows” I still dug Mark Salisbury’s book, so if you’re a huge fan of Burton, Depp, the movie, or the television show, you’ll probably have just as much fun with this book.
Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion is available in stores and online at www.titanbooks.com.
Only in Tim Burton’s bizarre world would you find a Dutch town called New Holland, complete with a giant windmill and Hollywood style sign featuring its name. In this topsy-turvy setting for Burton’s latest film “Frankenweenie,” all the children aspire to academic greatness in the hope of winning the school science fair. Either that or they just want to play god. It’s hard to tell.
When Titan Books offered to send me a copy of Lenore: Swirlies, my initial reaction was genuine surprise. I was shocked to finally encounter something zombie-related that I never heard of before. As a rabid enthusiast of all things undead I’m usually well-versed in genre films and literature, yet somehow Roman Dirge’s Lenore series had escaped me. So I decided to take the plunge and read Swirlies, and I’m thankful that I did, because it’s hilarious.
For the uninitiated, Lenore is an undead comic book character created by artist Roman Dirge and named after the titular woman from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.” Lenore doesn’t hunger for human flesh though. She lives in a town called Nevermore (also borrowed from Poe), where she tries to combat youthful boredom with her adorable pal Ragamuffin and her masked friend Pooty.
The title for Swirlies, Dirge’s fourth Lenore installment, comes from Dirge’s penchant for naming his volumes after childhood afflictions. Other Lenore books include Noogies, Wedgies, and Cooties. The author playfully admits though, that he may be running out of words in that category to use for book titles.
In the introduction to Swirlies, Dirge refers to his Lenore adventures as a “carnival of madness,” which a rather apt description for his zany storylines. With quirky humor slightly reminiscent of Tim Burton’s films, Dirge’s heroine and her pals face bizarre problems like a time-traveling cyborg mortician, a creepy stalker, and alimony payments. Although her experience might be outlandish, Lenore is entertaining as a character because she has the naivety and mischievous nature of a child mixed with the teenage sarcastic cynicism of Lydia from Beetlejuice.
Lenore’s tales are interspersed with other short comics starring Dirge himself, which are called “Things Involving Me.” He uses these shorts as opportunities to connect with the reader by recounting amusing anecdotes from his life. One particularly funny moment involves an instance where he was mistaken for a vampire. These autobiographical strips are good for a chuckle, but they also provide a much needed change of pace.
Dirge’s dark sense of humor works most of the time, even when he’s making heavy-handed pop culture references to films like Aliens and The Crow. However it does get a bit too morbid for me at points and it’s certainly not for everyone. Regardless of what you think of his jokes though, the artwork in Dirge’s book is breathtaking. Landscapes and characters are beautifully drawn and inked. You can tell a lot of love and labor went into them, especially the covers for each Lenore section. The art’s quality is reinforced by an old-fashioned hardcover binding and shade of green.
Stylistically the appearance of Dirge’s characters reminded me of the show Invader Zim, which made sense once I found out that Dirge wrote for the show and published on the same comic label as its creator Jhonen Vasquez. My hunch is that fans of the program would get a kick out of this series if they don’t know about it already.
If you like bizarre dark comedy, talking reanimated corpses, and comics that don’t take themselves too seriously, then you’ll probably enjoy Lenore: Swirlies. It’s a quick read that got me to laugh out loud several times and has me interested and reading Dirge’s previous volumes.
Lenore: Swirlies is available now in stores and online at www.titanbooks.com.
You know how “Pirates of the Caribbean” was a Disney ride before it became a Johnny Depp film? Tim Burton’s “Dark Shadows,” which also stars Depp, could easily be the reverse: a movie that inspires a theme park ride. Just like an amusement park attraction, Burton’s flick focuses more on spectacle than it does on substance.
The movie opens with Barnabas Collins (Depp) over-dramatically narrating his back story. In the 1700s, his family leaves Britain to settle in colonial Maine. After arriving, they establish the town of Collinsport and start a lucrative fishing business that allows them to build a palatial manor called Collinwood.
Flashing forward, we see Barnabas as a handsome man with loving parents and the woman of his dreams. He doesn’t remain happy for long; because the jealous witch Angelique (Eva Green), rips away everything that’s important to him. She transforms Barnabas into a monstrous vampire and convinces the townspeople to bury him alive. Unfortunately he sits undisturbed until 1972, when construction workers unwittingly free him.
Barnabas returns home to find his beloved Collinwood in shambles and a group of dysfunctional descendents living there. Once he discovers that Angelique has stripped his family of their wealth and reputation over the centuries, Barnabas vows to restore their good name and to defeat her. Everyone in the Collins clan is puzzled by his strange clothes and mannerisms, but they rapidly embrace his positive thinking and fierce loyalty.
As you might guess, the majority of the humor in “Dark Shadows” is derived from the culture shock that Barnabas experiences as a result missing 200 years of history. It doesn’t get any funnier than Barnabas quoting Steve Miller’s song “The Joker” or reeling in disgust from glam rocker Alice Cooper, who he refers to as “the ugliest woman I have ever seen.” However these jokes start to get old as the movie goes on.
Despite his ugly bowl cut and outdated social skills, Depp oozes his bravado as Barnabas Collins, even when telling someone to kiss his ass, “You may strategically place your wonderful lips upon my posterior and kiss it repeatedly!” Michelle Pfeiffer works well as the present-day Collins matriarch in spite of her lack of intelligent dialogue, but her rebellious daughter played by Chloe Grace Moretz is annoying. Honorable mention should go to Johnny Lee Miller who is perfect as Pfeiffer’s sleazy, thief of a brother and Jackie Earle Haley who’s a riot as the family’s drunken groundskeeper.
Depp isn’t the only Burton regular to return for “Dark Shadows.” Burton’s lady friend Helena Bonham Carter portrays the booze addled psychiatrist living with the Collins family, and composer Danny Elfman handles the music. Stylistically, “Dark Shadows” is very similar to other Burton films, which gives it a bit of a stale quality. Everything is very gray like in “Edward Scissorhands” and the score has a madcap quality to it reminiscent of “Beetlejuice.”
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of “Dark Shadows” is its villain. Green does a fine job as the diabolical Angelique; however her motivations aren’t very complex. When she finally confronts the Collins family in a magical showdown, the special effects are incredibly cheesy. Her cracking porcelain form looks like a cheap rip off from “Death Becomes Her.”
Since I haven’t seen the 60s British soap “Dark Shadows” is based on, I can’t really speculate on its quality as an adaptation. Although I can certainly say this movie isn’t Burton’s finest work. At least it’s funnier and less bizarre than his previous flick “Alice in Wonderland.”
My Grade: C
In all of its high-definition glory, this film is incredibly beautiful, exploring colorful environments inhabited by CG characters and live actors heavily coated in makeup. That being said, Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” is all style and no substance. To entertain its viewers, it relies on lavish colors and whimsical interpretation of the classic characters from the novels by Lewis Carroll. Burton’s version lacks substance though because the motivation for returning Alice to Wonderland is never clearly explained and Alice herself is incredibly bland.
Burton’s version places Alice, from Lewis Carroll’s classic stories, into the rabbit’s hole yet again as a 19-year-old. Unbeknownst to her, she has been brought back by the citizens of Wonderland, who have been suffering under the Red Queen, an evil queen that beheads her opponents. The people of Wonderland believe that Alice will slay the evil monster known as the Jabberwocky, which the Red Queen uses to keep her subjects under control. With the Jabberwocky gone, the citizens hope to restore the former ruler, the White Queen back to power. Under the reign of the White Queen, they can return to the happiness they once knew.
Alice has her own doubts about her destiny and importance to these people, although with enough convincing she comes to blindly accept her role in defeating the Jabberwocky. Burton fails to explain what about Alice is so special though and why these people think that she can save them from the Red Queen. Since Alice never really questions her destiny, or seeks answers its difficult to care much about her.
According to the story, the people of Wonderland are supposed to be created by Alice’s imagination. However for a young woman with a vivid imagination, Mia Wasikowksa does not seem to fit the part. She says things that sound like they should come from a whimsical personality, yet the statements do not seem legitimate. As a result some of her lines sound as if Alice herself does not even buy into what she is saying. Her lack of imagination makes Alice a bland character that is hard to relate to.
Even as the Mad Hatter, Johnny Depp is unable to save this movie. His makeup looks fantastic, though at points his dialogue is hard to understand. Since you never get to know him that well or come to understand why he cares so much for Alice, he is another character that is difficult to identify with. Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” is a clear example of the negative impact when plot takes a backseat to special effects. The end result is a movie that is unclear and uninteresting to the average viewer.
My Grade: C-