'Dark Shadows' for Burton and Depp

JohnnyDepp_SHOLLOWAccording to The Hollywood Reporter, it looks as though Tim Burton and Johnny Deep’s next project will indeed be the long-expected DARK SHADOWS feature film.
As a child, Johnny Depp was a big fan of the the Dan Curtis produced Gothic soap opera, which featured the tragic and romantic vampire Barnabas Collins, played with theatrical  èlan by series star Johnathan Frid.
The ABC show was the cross-generational TWILIGHT of  the  late 1960’s – early 70’s, attracting children, and teens, who would rush home to watch its mix of monsters and the mundane, as well as the  adult women who were the usual audience for afternoon dramas.
Several years back, Warners Brothers had made an abortive pilot for the WB Network, which is now merged with the remains of of UPN  as The CW Network.
Now, after three or more years of development, Warners has set an April 2011 start date for the project. The screenplay was written by John August, with the latest draft by Seth Grahame-Smith.
Richard Zanuck, Graham King and Christi Dembrowski are set to produce.

1960's American Gothic
Jonathan Frid and Grayson Hall — American Gothicism

In addition to the original half-hour daytime series, Dan Curtis made two modestly budgeted feature films HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS (1970) and NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS (1971) for MGM.
In 1991, NBC ran a revived 60-minute version of the series starring Ben Cross as Barnabas Collins. Despite generally favorable reactions, the Dan Curtis/MGM Television show— often interrupted or pre-empted by Gulf War coverage—only lasted a single season.

The 'Superman' That Wasn't

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Make-up/Fx Artist Steve Johnson’s Facebook Page displayed a number of pictures of suits that were developed for Warner Brothers’ Tim Burton directed version of the never-filmed SUPERMAN LIVES.
This would have been a film inspired by the Death of Superman arc in DC Comics, and would have starred Nicolas Cage (GHOST RIDER) as the Man of Steel.
I would speculate that these were to be Cage’s “resurrected” Superman outfits, after being “killed” by Doomsday. (Or was it a giant robot Spider?)
My opinion? Superman fans may have dodged a bullet with the collapsed of this film, based as much as from the casting, script excerpts and rumors as from these pictures. The suits actually look pretty good, but perhaps not acceptable as the iconic Superman. 
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Click To Enlarge

There are a number of additional pictures at the site linked above.

Burton will adopt Addams Family after all

The cast of the classic 1960s television version
The cast of the classic 1960s television version

Back in March, a representative for Tim Burton denied that he would be directing a 3-D stop-motion version of THE ADDAMS FAMILY, saying “There is no truth to the story. Tim has not lined up any of his upcoming projects.” However, that second sentence seemed to leave the door open to the possibility that the project might be lined up sometime in the future, and now Mike Fleming at Deadline.com is reporting that Burton co-produce and direct the film, based on a screenplay by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (who scripted Burton’s ED WOOD). The ADDAMS FAMILY film will be made for Illumination Entertainment, the family-oriented division of Universal Pictures, which created this summer’s hit DESPICABLE ME. Burton will also be producing the non-genre BIG EYES, a docu-drama about artist Margaret Keane.
Fleming quotes Karaszewski:

“Both of these projects are based on artwork that Tim absolutely loves,” Karasewski told me. “The retrospective in New York of Tim’s own artwork showed how much of an influence Charles Addams was to him. We want the tone to be as darkly funny and subversive as the Addams drawings, and we’ve come up with an approach that nobody has ever done before.”

The cartoons by artist Charles Addams have previously inspired a 1960s television show, starring John Astin and Carolyn Jones; two theatrical films in the early 1990s, starring Raul Julia and Angelica Huston; a 1998 DTV movie, starring Tim Curry and Daryl Hannah; and another series that ran during 1998-1999 season. All subsequent adaptations have been largely influenced by the first television series, which was notable for the passionate relationship between Morticia and Gomez, at a time when most television husband-and-wife relationships were conspicuously sexless. It will be interesting to see whether the script by Karaszewski and Alexander really does take a the adaptation in a new direction.

Alice in Wonderland: Blu-ray Review

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When released earlier this year, ALICE IN WONDERLAND immediately revealed itself as one of Tim Burton’s lesser projects. Burton is a great talent who alternates between more ambitious and personal projects that he develops to suit his own unique tastes (A NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS) and big-budget studio blockbusters, which hopefully earn enough cash to induce Hollywood to keep indulging him on his less commercial projects.  Unfortunately, the studio-originated films tend to be  action flicks (like PLANET OF THE APES and this one); and rather like another eccentric visual stylist – the late, great Mario Bava – Burton has proven time and again that his forte does not lie in directing action set-pieces.
The Tim Burton sensibility is a perfect match for bringing Lewis Carroll to life; unfortunately, when the screenplay gets around to creating a story to take place in this world, it becomes awkward and dull, delivering exposition in a big information dump – a disappointing development, considering that screenwriter  Linda Woolverton previously scripted Walt Disney’s high-water mark in traditional animation, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1990). Although giving full bloom to Burton’s visual aesthetic, ALICE IN WONDERLAND ultimately opts for layering Lewis Carroll’s source material with an out-sized tea-kettle full of generic fantasy-action heroics that seemed lifted from the Harry Potter films and/or THE LORD OF THE RINGS. It is as if some nervous studio exec at Walt Disney Pictures realized that the original material would be great draw for little girls but but decided that soldiers, swords, and dragon-slaying were necessary to draw in the boys.
Alice in Wonderland (2010)This would not have been so bad, if Woolverton’s screenplay had been able to integrate the required elements, but they feel awkwardly shoe-horned into a narrative that can ill support them, leading to a generic, predictable quality lacking in much-needed surprises. Rather cleverly, the scenario suggests we are seeing a sequel to the familiar story, beginning with a prelude, set in the real world, which depicts the young Alice haunted by recurring nightmares of Wonderland; years later, Alice, now a young adult (Mia Wasikowska), is maneuvered into  an arranged marriage with an upper-class twit obviously wrong for a young woman of her unorthodox sensibility. This sequence has a nice Jane Austen feel that contrasts nicely with the later fantasy land stuff; it’s all about social conventions and marrying well. Will Alice do what is expected of her by her family and society, or will she rebel?
Alice in Wonderland (2010)Opting for flight over fight, Alice ends up down the rabbit hole again, finding herself in Wonderland – which, we are told, is actually called “Underland” by its inhabitants. Here, Alice once again finds herself expected to act in a certain way – in this case, to be a champion who will slay Jabberwock, a terrifying creature that keeps the Underland populace from rising up against the tyrannical Red Queen (Helana Bonham Carter, giving it her all).
ALICE IN WONDERLAND presents a direct parallel between the two sets of expectations that Alice faces, suggesting that she will defy them in the fantasy world as well as in the real world. Instead, the story builds to her doing the predicted thing, which seems to be a terrible miscalculation in terms of Alice’s character arc. The script tries to justify this by suggesting that Alice is learning to do the impossible (i.e, contravene conventions and take her own path), but it is too clear from the beginning that Alice considers herself (thanks to her late father’s tutelage) a defier of convention.
Flanked by the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) and the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), Alice (Mia Waskikowska) suits up to slay the Jabberwock.
Flanked by the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) and the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), Alice (Mia Waskikowska) suits up to slay the Jabberwock.

What the script really needed was to give us an Alice a little less sure of herself (currently, her only doubts are about the reality of Underland, which she initially dismisses as a dream), and once in Wonderland, the inhabitants should have paralleled their real-world counterparts more closely, by telling Alice that she cannot possibly be the champion who will slay the Jabberwock – that way, she could defy convention by proving them wrong, instead of in the end reluctantly accepting the role forced on her by circumstance.
Burton is renowned as a visual director, but that renown tends to miss the mark, praising him for form over content, when his real strength is the ability to create worlds in which the strange scenarios make sense or at least seem appropriate. That is certainly true for ALICE IN WONDERLAND. Realized with stunning computer-generated imagery (which extends not only to creatures and characters but also to the vast majority of the settings), Underland is an on-screen marvel well worth visiting. Though not totally convincing, the stylized unreality is perfectly appropriate for Wonderland, setting the perfect tone of the fantasyland. (The one exception is the Red Queen’s over-sized head, which is too ghastly to be enjoyable viewing.)
The Cheshire Cat
The Cheshire Cat

Not only is ALICE IN WONDERLAND technically beautiful. In spite of its fantasy accouterments, Underland feels real, or at least believable; across the board, the actor’s performances are pitched at the right level, one that makes sense in the context of the imaginative landscape in which the story takes place. The most perfectly realized character, in terms of design, effects, and performance, is the wonderful Cheshire Cat, whose smooth voice (by Stephen Fry) echoes the visual grace with which the cat glides, floats and disappears – some of the most splendid computer-animation ever seen.
In a film where Wasikowska is more or less the straight-man (excuse me, straight-person) role, the rest of the cast vies for eccentricity. This they manage to do without becoming overbearing, but of course the battle is lost before it begins, thanks to the presence of Johnny Depp and Crispin Glover, actors whose penchant for the unusual is perfectly suited to their characters (the Mad Hatter and the Knave of Hearts, respectively). Too bad the film could not be bothered to do something more interesting with this potentially wonderful on-screen pairing; the two share little screen time, which is mostly wasted in a generic scuffle or two, instead of a challenge to see who can one-up the other in terms of whacked-out zaniness.
Depp as the Mad Hatter
Depp as the Mad Hatter

Speaking of generic scuffles, there is a brief moment when the Mad Hatter, confronted by the Red Queen’s minions, defends himself by hurling rollers of silent fabric at the advancing soldiers. For a brief moment, ALICE IN WONDERLAND feels on the edge of breaking out of its generic rut and leaping to the next level of Fant-Asia style fight choreography, in which the graceful flow silken robes, colorful ribbons, and intricate tapestry are as important as (an in fact, sometimes replace) the swish of  sword. This was the kind of action exuberance that was needed to match the amazement level of the production and character design.
Too bad it’s a false alarm, and the film settles back into generic action mode, climaxing with an unconvincing confrontation between Alice and the Jabberwocky, which ends with a would-be Schwarzenegger-style bon mot. “Off with your head” is no match for “Hasta la vista, baby.” Worse, it makes no sense when delivered to the Jabberwock; it could only work if said to the Red Queen (whose signature line it is). There certainly would have been some satisfaction in seeing that awful, bulbous head severed from its mis-sized body. But that would have been a bit too horrible for a family-friendly fantasy film. As with much of the film, it’s another sign of good potential squandered.


Walt Dinsey Home Video’s Blu-ray disc of ALICE IN WONDERLAND offers a beautiful 1.78 transfer that perfectly captures the surreal beauty of Underland. There are language and subtitle options for English (for the hearing impaired), French, and Spanish. The bonus features are divided into two categories: “Wonderland Characters” and “Making Wonderland,” each of which includes multiple chapters featuring interviews with the cast and crew.
“Wonderland Characters” includes these brief chapters:

  • Finding Alice
  • The Mad Hatter
  • The Futterwacken Dance
  • The Red Queen
  • Time-lapse: Sculpting the Red Queen
  • The White Queen

Alice in Wonderland (2010): Helana Bonham Carter as the Red QueenThe interviews contained therein are about what one would expect from traditional promotional previews, but the behind-scenes-footage of the actors cavorting about on green-screen stages (onto which Underland was later added by the special effects artists) is worth seeing on its own, providing a stunning glimpse of the extent to which ALICE IN WONDERLAND was created in the computer, despite the presence of live actors. The time-lapse application of the Red Queen’s makeup is interesting to watch, and it is surprising to learn that the Mad Hatter’s triumphant Futterwacken Dance was not a creation of CGI; it was performed by a dance double, whom the filmmakers had discovered on YouTube.
The “Making Wonderland” chapters include:

  • Scoring Wonderland
  • Effecting Wonderland
  • Stunts of Wonderland
  • Making the Proper Size
  • Cakes of Wonderland
  • Tea Party Props

Alice in Wonderland (2010): Crispen Glover as the Knave of HeartsThese chapters get a bit more into behind-the-scenes details of interest to fans with a yearning to learn the processes of film-making. Danny Elfman is a particularly good interview in “Scoring Wonderland.” As informative as the pieces are, some obvious questions are left unanswered, such as why some of the Underland cast (e.g., Helena Bonham Carter) wore actual costumes, while most of characters (such as Crispen Glover’s Knave of Hearts) were shot with the actors in green motion-capture leotards, onto which computer-generated costumes were added later. For those less interested in technical details, the “Cakes of Wonderland” is an amusing look at a pair of bakers hired to provided actual edible cakes scaled to different sizes, depending on how large or small Alice happens to be in each scene.
The Blu-ray disc is also BD-live enabled, allowing Internet access to additional features.
ALICE IN WONDERLAND (theatrical: March 5, 2010; home video: June 1, 2010). Directed by Tim Burton. Screenplay by Linda Woolverton, based on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. Rated PG. Cast: Johnny Dep, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas, Michael Sheen, Stephen Fry, Alan Rickman, Barbara Windsor, Paul Whitehouse, Timothy Spall, Marton Csokas, Tim Pigott-Smith, Michael Gough, Christopher Lee.
Alice in Wonderland (2010): Anne Hathaway as the White Queen Alice in Wonderland (2010): The Cheshire Cat Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Disney announces new Frankenweenie release date

The 1984 version of FRANKENWEENIE
The 1984 version of FRANKENWEENIE

Walt Disney Pictures has announced that  FRANKENWEENIE, previously scheduled for a 2011 debut, will instead make its bow on March 9, 2012. Based on Tim Burton’s live-action short subject, the feature-length remake is in stop-motion and 3-D. Obviously inspired by the classic horror films that Universal Pictures released in the 1930s (most notably FRANKENSTEIN and THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN), the story has the titular dog brought back to life after being run over by a car; in keeping with the old-fashioned tone, FRANKENWEENIE is in black and white. The original film, a half-hour in length, was shot back in 1984.
Release date: March 9, 2012

Laserblast – June 1 Home Video Releases: Alice in Wonderland and The Wolfman

Apparently Hollywood has cast some spell that blasted open the doors to their vaults, unleashing a blood-thirsty horde of horror, fantasy, and science fiction titles that are winging their way into video stores this June 1. Not only do we get two major theatrical releases (THE WOLF MAN and ALICE IN WONDERLAND); we also get a cauldron-full of older titles back on Blu-ray and direct-to-video flicks, plus a diabolical dozen (and then some) double-disc releases. It’s more cinefantastique than you can hold at bay with all your garlic and crosses, but don’t fear – we’re here to warn you away from the worst and direct you toward the best.

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ALICE IN WONDERLAND is sadly disappointing – one of director Tim Burton’s blockbuster entertainments that suffocates under its own weirdness. It’s visually interesting, to some degree, but dramatically dull and listless. It arrives on DVD, Blu-ray, and a 3-disc combo set that includes both of the previous discs, plus a third disc offering a digital copy for your computer. Bonus features include:

  • Finding Alice
  • The Mad Hatter
  • Effecting Wonderland
  • The Futterwacken Dance (Blu-ray only)
  • The Red Queen (Blu-ray only)
  • Time-Lapse: Sculpting the Red Queen (Blu-ray only)
  • The White Queen: an interview with Anne Hathaway
  • Scoring Wonderland: Composer Danny Elfman and Tim Burton discuss the music (Blu-ray only)
  • Stunts of Wonderland (Blu-ray only)
  • Making the Proper Size (Blu-ray only)
  • Cakes of Wonderland (Blu-ray only)
  • Tea Party Props (Blu-ray only)

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THE WOLF MAN was likewise disappointing, but at least its home video release offers the promise of an unrated director’s cut, which supposedly restores essential elements of the story. This turns out not to be the case; the longer cut is simply longer, not really much better. Both the DVD and the Blu-ray include this cut and the original theatrical version. Unfortunately, the DVD offers only a series of 5 deleted or extended scenes as a bonus feature; if you want any of the behind-the-scenes featurettes about the makeup and special effects, you have to purchase the Blu-ray.
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So much for the big guns. What else is out there? Two new direct-to-video titles make their debut, CORNERED and TIME COP 2. The later stars the great Jason Scott Lee (DRAGON: THE BRUCE LEE STORY), who really deserves to be in something better. There is also something called “Jackie Chan Presents GEN-Y COPS,” a 2000 Hong Kong action flick about terrorists who abduct a “deadly lethal attack robot.” And interesting for its title if nothing else is EASTER BUNNY, KILL! KILL – a 2006 indie effort that showed up at some film festivals and made its VOD debut this April; now you can see it on DVD.
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Steven Spielberg’s 2005 version of WAR OF THE WORLDS arrives in a new Blu-ray presentation, as does the Kevin Costner vehicle DRAGONFLY. Other oldies surfacing from the crypt include John Carpenter’s VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, GHOST DAD with Bill Cosby, Clint Eastwood’s FIREFOX (a full dub Ac3 Dol Ecoa repackaging), and THE HITCHER II: I’VE BEEN WAITING, which is actually a sequel not to the recent Platinum Dunes remake but to the 1986 version of THE HITCHER, with C. Thomass Howell reprising his role, this time in opposition to Jake Busey (who may or may not be the Hitcher played by Rutger Hauer the first time around). Right about now, most of you are probably asking yourself, “They made a sequel to THE HITCHER? When?”
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For some reason, Tuesday, June 1 sees a deluge of double bill DVDs. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has created a label titled “Dreadtime Stories Double Feature,” which offers up four installments this week. The most high-profile is the pairing of HOLLOW MAN (the execrable Paul Verhoeven variation on the invisible man) with FLATLINERS (Joel Schumacher’s execrable attempt to make a sophisticated supernatural thriller about the near-death experience). Also on the Dreadtime Stories menu are double bills of CANDY with THE SHE CREATURE, THE WOODS with THE CRAFT, and RING AROUND THE ROSIE with DEATH TUNNEL.
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Is that all the double bills for this week? Not by a long shot! Several previously released single-disc DVDs have been packaged together at discount prices (two for the price of one-and-a-half), providing double bills of SILENT HILL with ULTRAVIOLET, BRAM STOKERS’ DRACULA with THE GRUDGE, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND with STARMAN, I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER with I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, THE NET with JOHNNY MNEMONIC, and several others. And if two films are not enough for you, there’s the ULTIMATE 6-MOVIE SCI-FI MARATHON featuring “Androids, Aliens & the Fountain of Youth.” Included are such memorable titles as THE ANDROID AFFAIR and IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE II.
Believe it or not, this merely scratches the surface. All told, over 35 horror, fantasy, and science fiction titles are being released on DVD or Blu-ray this week. You can find them all in the Cinefantastique Online Store.

Jolie wants to be Maleficent for Tim Burton

DigitalSpy.com recycles an unconfirmed report in the Los Angeles Times that Angelina Jolie would like to play the title role in MALEFICENT for director Tim Burton. The proposed remake of Disney’s SLEEPING BEAUTY would be scripted Linda Wolverton, who performed similar duties for on Burton’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND remake.

Alice beats Repo Men at box office

A fantasy film continues to rule the box office, with Tim Burton’s remake of ALICE IN WONDERLAND toping the chart yet again this weekend. Meanwhile, the science fiction film REPO MEN opened without much heart (or liver or kidneys). ALICE took in $34.5-million, raising its worldwide total to $565.8-million. REPO bowed with a meager $6.2-million.

Burton will not adopt Addams Family

This morning, Cinematical posted a retraction-denial regarding an article posted yesterday, which had stated that Tim Burton would be making a 3D stop-motion version of THE ADDAMS FAMILY. The source of the news was Deadline Hollywood. MTV followed up on the story and got this response from Burton’s reps:

“There is no truth to the story. Tim has not lined up any of his upcoming projects.”

Placing special emphasis on the second sentence, MTV’s Adam Rosenberg speculates that “not lined up” does not mean “out of the question” and suggests the project could be something Burton is tentatively considering for the nebulous future. But it would have to take its place in line with numerous other projects, including the feature film version of DARK SHADOWS and a 3D stop-motion version of his old short subject, FRANKENWEENIE.

Laserblast, March 30: Sherlock Holmes, Alice In Wonderland, I Sell the Dead

SHERLOCK HOLMES is the big genre film laserblasting its way into video stores on March 30. Although the genres in this case are primarily mystery and action-adventure, the film follows in the tradition of THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, flirting with an allegedly supernatural villain who claims he will return to life after being executed. The trailers made this one seem like a buddy movie, emphasizing raucous rowdiness over ratiocination, yet enough of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s concept for the great sleuth survives to make this one worthwhile for Holmes fans. You can now check it out on DVD and in a combo pack containing a Blu-ray disc, a DVD, anda digital copy for your computer/iPod.
The other theatrical release making its home video debut is I SELL THE DEAD, which appeared in a handful of art house engagements last year. This episodic horror-comedy doesn’t quite hold together for its entire length, but it is a good-natured throwback to the old-fashioned, atmospheric approach, with echoes of Universal and Hammer, mixed with enough modern mayhem to create an amusing off-kilter vibe. Now on DVD and Blu-ray.
Arriving a bit late to cash in on the theatrical release  of the live-action Tim Burton film, ALICE IN WONDERLAND re-emerges from the Disney vaults, this time in a 2-disc special “un-anniversary edition.” Although well loved, this is not necessarily Disney animation at its finest. Still the brand-new bonus features should be worth checking out.
VAMPYRES is a ’70s Euro-trash item about lesbian vampires that promises “chilling atmosphere, shocking bloodshed, and…torrid sexuality.” Somehow, I doubt it will be as found as it sounds.
So obscure it doesn’t even qualify as a cult film is GIRLY (shortened in America from the British original: MUMSY, NANNY, SONNY, AND GIRLY). The title sounds like a sexploitation, and the marketing suggests horror, but this is really a quirky black comedy about a brother and sister who lure men back to their home, where adults Mumsy and Nanny cluck with approval over their “games,” which have lethal consequences for their guests. Director Freddy Francis (who helmed some enjoyable horror films for Hammer and Amicus in the ’60s and ’70s) considered this one of his best efforts, but it’s hard to see why. Although initially intriguing, the eccentric English humor goes only so far toward sustaining interest, and the plot (vaguely similar to THE BEGUILED with Clint Eastwood) needs stronger characters or more engaging performances to prop it up.