Last night, I attended my first virtual book club meeting. Despite being a massive book person, I’ve never actually been part of a book club before. So, to attend my first one on Zoom wasn’t great. I’m awkward and introverted at the best of times without adding being uncomfortable on camera as well. But, of course, it was mostly fine. I’d read the book in time and, as you’ll have read in my book review on Monday, I really loved the book. I knew before going in that it had been adapted into a film for Netflix but I didn’t want to watch it before reading. Fearing that it might alter my opinion of the book or something. Once I was finished, it seemed like the perfect choice for my TBT film this week. After all, any chance to watch Jane Fonda is something is welcome.
After the travesty of Love Wedding Repeat on Tuesday, I wasn’ quite sure to go with today’s TBT review. In the end, I decided to give Dean Craig a second chance. His Netflix film was his directorial debut, so it’s entirely possible that he just got a bit overexcited. I’d never seen any of his other films. I remember the 2010 remake of this film coming out and having absolutely no interest in seeing it. But would I have an interest in the original? It wouldn’t be the first time America had taken a British concept and destroyed it.
Years ago, I started watching this film but, for reasons I can’t remember now, I never finished it. I also never went back to it. So, in an attempt to justify my Disney+ subscription, I decided to finally finish it. Plus, it seemed like a good companion for my review of The Willoughbys on Tuesday. The stop motion animation is a full-length remake of a short film that Tim Burton made in 1984. The earlier film got him fired from Disney because it wasn’t deemed suitable for a young audience. Of course, Disney changed their tune after Burton found future success as a director. They released his short for home video release in 1992 and as an extra with the DVD of The Nightmare Before Christmas. After signing a two-picture deal with Disney, Burton made a stop motion animation version based on the original film. I’ll be honest, I didn’t really think much of Corpse Bride when I watched that, which might explain my reticence to watch this. I love Burton’s style but sometimes his narratives can be a bit much. But, I can’t resist a good literary homage.
Like the original short, Frankenweenie is filmed in black and white. Mostly because the film is both a parody of and homage to the 1931 film Frankenstein. Meaning it’s based on the super popular gothic tale written by Mary Shelley in 1818. The narrative follows the basics set out by the 1984 short but with a few exciting embellishments. Victor Frankenstein is a boy without many friends. In fact, he only has one. His family’s dog Sparky. After Sparky meets a grisly fate, Victor has the idea tom reanimate him for his science fair project. The idea was given to him by his science teacher. Victor finds a way to bring Sparky to life but his fellow students find out about his revived pet. What will happen when they start to force Victor to give them the secret to bringing animals back from the dead?
Tim Burton wanted to make the original film using stop motion animation but it was seen as too costly. This time, he had the clout to get it done, so we get to see his original artwork come to life. Burton has always had a flair for the gothic and his designs here are glorious. The film pays homage to the horror films he loved growing up and there are plenty of references to catch. Victor’s science teacher, Mr Rzykruski, has been designed to resemble Vincent Price and one of his schoolmates is called Edgar E Gore. We always knew that Burton was a fan of the genre but this film is everything we could have expected. It’s made with love and care, which makes it impossible not to fall for its charms.
It’s not a flawless film and the ending does get a bit messy and muddled. I guess this is to expected when you make a feature film out of a 30-minute short. However, none of these imperfections is so bad that you can’t ignore them. This is a film that is full of energy and fantastic little details. This was a passion project for the director and the end result is a delightful one. The stop motion animation brings the story to life and the world Burton creates instantly draws you in. It’s not the greatest film that Burton has ever made but it doesn’t matter. It’s a lovely story that clearly meant a lot to its creator. And who wouldn’t relate to the story of a young boy desperate to bring back his childhood pet?
As a children’s film, this works on quite a few levels. It has some horror elements in it but there’s nothing too scary that a younger audience won’t be able to enjoy it. It’s got plenty of humour and happier moments to make sure nobody gets too scared. The story is pretty slick and doesn’t waste any time unnecessarily. It might not look the same as the rest but this is a classic Disney film. You could argue that Burton has reigned in his weirdness here, which is a valid point. But I don’t think that matters. This film wasn’t supposed to be about pushing things too far. It was about his boyhood love of horror films and presenting something that could recreate that feeling for a new generation of children. On that basis, it does exactly what it needs to and it does it really well.
I like writing. I know that this won’t come as a shock to you considering I’ve been writing reviews that barely anyone reads for nearly 10 years. I also work as a copywriter. It’s not as if I’ve been keeping it a secret but it’s worth saying. I like writing. I pay attention to writing a lot and I often get jealous of good writing. When I rewatched his film for my post this week, I got irrationally annoyed that Trey Parker and Matt Stone came up with one of the funniest and stupidest lines I’ve ever heard. Seriously, I spent a lot of time wishing I’d come up with it (I was 16 when it came out and a fucking moron. It would never have happened.) and being sad that it would be impossible to get close to it. The line? When Gary gets in the flying limo and says “Okay, a limosine that can fly. Now I have seen everything.” Then Spottswoode replies with “Really? Have you ever seen a man eat his own head?” Greatest line ever. It gets me every single time. It’s so simple, so obvious, and so fucking funny. I’ll never be able to write anything that strong.
My sisters and I grew up watching Gerry Anderson’s supermarionation tv shows. We were obsessed with Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and Stingray. So I have a certain love for puppets. Or at least, seeing puppets gives me a great sense of nostalgia. So, I was all in when it was announced that the creative minds behind South Park were making their own film starring puppets. I remember seeing this film with my friends. I was 16 and we’d gone to see it in Leeds. I specifically remember being a dickhead when Kim Jong-il said the line about friends being in movie theatres and gasping. I was a such an idiot. But I really loved this film. And why wouldn’t I? It’s silly, ridiculous, and has an amazing soundtrack. I listen to these songs now. They’re really good.
This is a film that hasn’t aged that badly either. And, let’s be honest, with the current American president, it might be becoming more relavant every day. Upon its release, there were plenty who praised Team America for its take-down of the liberal elite. The celebrities who lecture people about political issues while they sit in their huge mansions and holding their massive paychecks. And it does. But this is a film that also points out the ridiculousness of the gun toting republicans who think you can shoot your way out of political upset. Even though it doesn’t actually include George W. Bush and co. Within all of the silliness, this film looks into the experience of being an American on the world stage during George W. Bush’s time in the White House. Yes, everyone kind of hates you but you’re still a huge political power. This is the ultimate form of acceptance. Call us whatever you want but you can’t quite do without us.
It has all the trademark depth and intelligence that has become Parker and Stone’s style in the later season’s of South Park. I’m not a huge fan of the earlier sesons but they have turned it into a shewd and important example of social and political analysis. It’s also really funny and not just in the toilet humour sense that it used to favour. They have genuinely funny and clever jokes. Team America is a great mix of childish humour and more thoughful comedy. Take the scenes where real things become part of the scene. The scale of the puppets making a cat into a panther. It’s always going to be funny and it shows the detail of the world they created. As a contrast, the name “Matt Damon” has never been funnier for such a stupid reason.
I was worried that I’d watch this film again and think that I’d outgrown it. I had nothing to worry about. When something is this good and this creative, it will always be enjoyable. The way the pair parody the work of Gerry Anderson by purposefully making everything terrible is great and, though he didn’t approve of the language, Anderson himself thought they did a good job. Do you need any other recommendation than that?
I always worry when American actors take on roles in English period dramas. It just gives them free rein to use received pronunciation in that stereotype that they seem so keen on. The stuff of Downton Abbey. The kind of accent that doesn’t have a hint of geography or personal context. Add Gwyneth Paltrow to the mix and it makes everything even more uncomfortable. I’m still haunted by Sliding Doors where she tried to convince us she was British by saying the word “shagging” on repeat. It just didn’t do it for me, so the idea of her getting her Austen on did kind of fill me with dread. But I also felt like I should watch it. After all, I’d already reviewed Clueless back in 2015. As much as I wanted to rewatch that absolute gem of an adaptation, it felt like I was cheating a bit.
I’m not much of a gamer these days because I don’t have the time. I thought about jumping on the Animal Crossing bandwagon but I haven’t picked up my Switch since my birthday. It’s not worth spending the money for a few minutes use. Maybe when it’s cheaper. Back in the day, I spent most of my spare time playing video games. I’m not one of those gamers who likes MMOs but I enjoyed the classics. I recently started playing San Andreas again for the first time since I was a kid and it’s amazing. Yeah, the graphics are a bit dodgy by today’s standards but you can’t fault it as a whole. When we were kids, my sister and I used to be obsessed with the Tekken franchise. Mostly Tekken 3 on our Playstation. God, we played that game loads. My absolute favourite character was Julia Chang. She did this triple kick that was amazing. But that’s really beside the point. The point is, I’d never seen the Tekken film until this week. I just didn’t want to risk. We all know how terrible films based on video games can be.
As I mentioned on Tuesday, Lady and the Tramp was never one of my favourite Disney movies. Sure the dogs are super cute and it’s a very adorable love story. It just never stuck with me. It lacked the silly humour of the other films, it didn’t have the catchy songs, and it didn’t have a larger than life villain. For a Disney film, it’s kind of grown-up and serious. And though it centres around talking dogs, it’s more of a real-world film rather than a fantasy one. Set in the real world and taking much inspiration from society. Let’s be honest, the thing most people remember most from this film is probably the thing that Disney is trying so hard to cover up. The thing that Disney+ warns is an “outdated cultural depiction”. Aside from the meatball nose push, it’s the most memorable thing about the film. It’s a huge shame.
I’ve had Disney+ since it arrived in the UK on Tuesday but haven’t had much chance to use it yet. Work is still open because, apparently, football kit is now classed as essential. I’m glad to still have my weekly routine but it has prevented me from really getting to grips with the new streaming service. All I’ve done so far is watch random episodes of The Simpsons. Not that it’s a problem because there are some gems in the 31 seasons. However, I’m not really getting the most out of it. So, I decided to watch something from there for my TBT. As soon as I’d finished work today, I searched the list of films. I got to the first one and stopped. It’s been ages since I saw this film and, as a teenager, I played the soundtrack on repeat. How could I not?
In the Marvel vs DC debate, I’ve not been the kind of person who shows loyalty to one over the other. It’s weird. There are characters on both sides that I love and those that I don’t care about. I’m not entirely sure that it’s as much of a thing as it used to be now that so many people have been introduced to graphic novels and comics. Maybe I’m just naive though. I’m just happy to embrace anything well-written and well-drawn. However, that’s only for the comic. When it comes to the film side of things, I’m a Marvel gal all the way. DC films just haven’t had the same impact on me. They’ve just never been able to match the skill and precision that Marvel has become known for. And I don’t say that trying to pretend that Marvel films are perfect because there are still plenty of flaws. It’s just that they have embraced different approaches and have such a tight grip of where they’re going. Some might call it overthinking or overplanning but it’s clearly working. Just look at those box office figures mixed with the critical response.
It’s my birthday today so I decided that my throwback Thursday film this week should be birthday themed. I was so close to watching the awful Jennifer Garner film 13 Going on 30 but I couldn’t face it. Instead, I went with this John Hughes classic. Although now I’m in my 30s, I think I should stop watching these films. They’re so dodgy. You know that thing where the older you get the more you side with the parents in children’s films? That doesn’t happen with John Hughes. You just realise that everyone is kind of awful. I mean the most positive character in Sixteen Candles is Joan Cusack’s character and she doesn’t say anything. But I’m always up for spending the night with Molly Ringwald. She’s such an icon. Her hair, her dress sense, the fact that she never closes her damn lips. Perfection.