Top 5 Halloween Movies for the non Horror Fan

I’m not a big horror movie fan, though I am married to one. Here’s our top 5 favorite Halloween themed films that provide him with enough spook and me with enough laughs.

5) Beetlejuice- While I grew up with a more family friendly Beetlejuice via the Saturday morning cartoon, Keaton is hilarious as the ghost with the most. Burton perfectly blends the right amount of quirk and goth to make this one of his strongest films. Those unfamiliar with the film will be surprised to see Geena Davis and a crazy young Alec Baldwin as the main protagonists as the newly dead having to figure out the afterlife. I approve of any ghosts that use Harry Belafonte in their haunting.
http://amandalovesmovies.com/2012/10/08/beetlejuice/


4) Young Frankenstein- Mel Brooks’ spoof on the Universal Frankenstein films of 30s is one of his strongest works. With Brooks regulars like Gene Wilder and Madeline Kahn the cast had such a fun time Brooks kept writing new scenes so they wouldn’t have to stop filming.
http://amandalovesmovies.com/2012/10/18/young-frankenstein


3) Evil Dead 2- Definitely the most gruesome entry on the list, this campy classic has a strong sense of humor as well. Bruce Campbell pays tribute to the Three Stooges with lots of physical comedy as he fights his own evil hand. Maybe not for those with a weak stomach (there’s so much blood Raimi had to start changing the color to avoid an X rating) but it’s one of the best combinations of horror and comedy in film history.
http://amandalovesmovies.com/2012/10/26/512


2) The Addams Family & Addams Family Value- The all together ookey family is the perfect fit for modern times, allowed to be as creepy as they want. With strong plots and endless quotable dialogue, these films stand out from the many classic television show movie adaptations that flooded theaters in the 90s. Raul Julia, Anjelica Huston, Christopher Lloyd, and a very young Christina Ricci all deliver memorable performances and the special effects help bring the whole kooky gang to life.
http://amandalovesmovies.com/2012/03/30/the-addams-family/


1) Shaun of the Dead- this zombie spoof has one of the cleverest scripts of the past decade. Just as much about growing up as it is about the zombocalypse, Shaun of The Dead should what real people would do when faced with the undead. Filled with plenty of references to classic zombie films, and peppered with callbacks to itself, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
http://amandalovesmovies.com/2012/03/17/shaun-of-the-dead

Beetlejuice

In the late 80s, early 90s Saturday morning cartoons were a big deal and one trend was shows based on hit movies, even though some of the film weren’t exactly family fare. One of my favorites growing up was Beetlejuice, which followed the adventures of “the ghost with the most” and his best friend, the gothy mortal Lydia. While Beetlejuice was gross and rude, he would do anything for Lydia. Imagine my surprise when I finally saw the film and watched Beetlejuice try to forcibly marry Lydia, and he’s a total creep, and then there’s these other people who aren’t in the show. I would really love to have seen the pitch for this one. Remember that decaying sleazebag Michael Keaton played? I have a feeling kids are going to love him!
Adam and Barbara Maitland (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) are happily married couple who love their home and their lives only to lose it all when they drive their car off their bridge in order to avoid hitting a dog. They return to their home but realize something isn’t right. They quickly piece together that they are dead and they are trapped in their house. Their house is sold to a family, The Deetz, from Manhattan. While dad Charles (Jeffery Jones) is looking forward to the rest and relaxation country living will bring, wife Delia (Catherine O’Hara) plans to make herself at home by redecorating the house to her aesthetic, much to the Maitlands horror. However, they are helpless because only the youngest and spookiest Deetz, Lydia (Wynonna Ryder) can see them when they attempt to scare them out of the house. In an act of desperation, they unleash Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton) who promises to rid the house of the Deetz family but has his own agenda. Eventually the two families find a way to live together peacefully with Bettlejuice far, far away.
This is good example of how much fun Tim Burton can (could) be when he’s working with the right subject matter. I think what makes this work is that you have the normal Maitlands mixed with the bizarre Netherworld and the wacky Deetz family. That balance makes the whole film more special. The afterlife is given so much personality in Burton’s vision, with all the characters in the waiting room exhibiting the cause of their death. The cast is also perfect with Catherine O’Hara getting in touch with her inner villain as the vain Deila, Ryder is the moody girl next door as Lydia, and Michael Keaton named the vile Beetlejuice as his favorite role of all time. He gets to really “go there” with this character, looking as gross as possible, sounding as weird as possible, doing whatever he wants with his body. Keaton’s an actor I always get excited when he shows up in a film. He’s really fun to watch and I’d love to see him have a comeback.
While the cartoon will always have a special place in my heart, Burton’s less kid friendly feature is everything that was magical about the director. Definitely a much watch as we approach Halloween.

The Batman Movies

What got me into this. My short takes on all the theatrical Batman Movies.

Batman the Movie (1966)
Pros: It’s Campy
Cons: It’s Campy
In short. No point getting into specifics, It’s a 90 minute long episode of the 60s Television series. If you like the show you’ll like the movie, if not then you won’t.
Fun Fact: One of the many quirks of this series was Ceasar Romero’s refusal to shave his mustache for the role of the Joker, In fact you can see it through the make-up

Batman (1989)
Pros: Michael Keaton is a great Batman: unassuming, intimidating, and even subtle at times. The music is awesome, It seems as close to the original comics as you can get with a movie and even though I prefer other versions more Nicholson is a good Joker.
Cons: I like it at the beginning but towards the end it loses me. I actually owned it growing up yet I almost never watched it. To me the tone is a little off. At times it’s very serious but at others its too goofy and unrealistic. Plus I can’t tell what time period it’s supposed to take place in; The fashion and aestetics clash. Plus why Prince??????
In Short: I understand why comic fans and 80s junkies like it and at the time it was the best example of a comic book movie, but to me it hasn’t aged as well as it could. Good movie, just not my taste.

Fun Fact: Thanks to smooth negotiating deals with salary and box office, Jack Nicholson walked away with $50 million make him the highest paid actor for a movie. He held this record until 2011 when Johnny Depp collected $75 million for Pirates of the Caribbean 4.

Batman Returns (1992)

Pros: It’s a very Tim Burtony movie. It has a distinct and interesting visual style. Keaton’s great as always. Walken is fun to watch. The Penguin and Catwoman are fascinating to watch and the action is pretty good. Growing up it was actually my favorite Batman movie. I even scored some of the happy meal toys before McDonald’s cancelled it due to parents complaining. It doesn’t take itself as seriously as the last movie so when it dips into the silly comic book stuff it’s not as jarring. Plus it’s got penguins and penguins are cute.
Cons: It’s a VERY Tim Burtony movie, and he’s not exactly the guy you want to give total creative control to. While I tolerate the goofy stuff more it DOES go too far eventually and becomes depressing and weird. While interesting the Penguin becomes disgusting and unpleasant and Catwoman is a little annoying at times. Also parts of the story make no sense (would anybody really want the penguin to be mayor?) and the script is AWFUL at times (“mistletoe” and “ointment”)
In Short: While not technically good it’s very interesting and memorable. I don’t really recommend it to most and I understand why it alienated a lot of people. However if you’re a Tim Burton fan or like weird movies it might make a guilty pleasure. The refined adult in me is appalled by it, but the sick child in me loves it.

Fun Fact: Sean Young was originally cast as Vicky Vale, but a horseback riding accident left her unable to play the part. This time around feeling gypped out of what could have been her big break (In her mind) she wanted the role of Catwoman so badly she would dress up in costume and show up uninvited to the studio. It got so bad Tim Burton took to hiding under his desk to avoid speaking to her.

Batman Mask of the Phantasm (1993)

Including it here since it did have a Theatrical release (albeit a short one)
Pros: Great visual style. Kevin Conroy is awesome, Mark Hamill is awesome. Great Story with a pretty effective mystery to it. Does not pander to us. Treated us more like adults than some of the live action movies did.
Cons: It’s a cartoon so adults will laugh at you for liking it. I remember as a child thinking it was a little boring and grim. Also NO HARLEY QUINN! Will she EVER be in theatrical Batman film?!?!
In Short: It’s an under-appreciated little gem that is actually better than most of the live action theatrical films at the time. It’s a cartoon, but a really well-done cartoon.

Fun Fact: This is the only Batman film to get two thumbs up from Siskel and Ebert. Siskel gave thumbs down to Batman & Robin. Ebert gave Thumbs down to Batman, Batman Returns Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. However Gene Siskel stated that he didn’t like Mark Hamill as the Joker (Boo!).

Batman Forever (1995)

Pros: I loved this movie when I was a kid. It has a lot of good action scenes and its a very visually pleasing movie. Basically a bright a colorful neon light show. Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey are very entertaining to watch and it brings you on a fun ride of a story. It’s pretty much what we wanted in a comic book movie back then
Cons: As an adult I realized how pandering this movie is. The dilemmas are really dumbed down and symplified and everything else is exaggerated to the point of sillyness. While Carrey is funny (as pre-majestic carrey was) the Riddler really doesn’t have a character beyond his usual schick. Val Kilmer is dull as Batman, Kidman plays the world’s worst psychiatrist, O’Donnel is distractingly too old for the part of Robin in the story (Would social services and charities really bother with him?). I also realized that Jones as Two-Face is really derivative of Nicholson’s Joker. (The goofy schemes, the laughter, the henchmen, falling to his death, and killing Robin’s parents). Also where do the villains get all their stuff????? and Bat nipples….
In Short: The movie is like a cheap chocolate bar you got as a kid. At the time you loved it and now it would still hit the spot in a childish way, but when you had your first Godiva you realize how gypped you were. Entertaining but has nothing substantial in it.

Fun Fact: Ironically Christian Bale auditioned for the part of Robin in this movie.

Batman & Robin (1998)
Cons: As a serious entry this movie fails at everything. Everything bad about Batman forever is amplified. The scenarios are beyond ridiculous. The ice puns. All the actors know it’s bad and deal with it in their own way. Poison Ivy is annoying (I like Uma Thermon and i know she’s trying to have fun, but she’s awful in this), In another movie Clooney would’ve been a good choice but here he clearly doesn’t care, O’Donnel is a whiny brat, Bane is a joke. The action scenes are essentially like watching a toy commercial. Batman appearing in public at a sexist auction and whipping out a Bat credit Card….
Pros: As a spoof or parody it’s hilarious. Schwarzenegger is an enjoyable doofus. If you’re a fan of stuff like MS3K this is a great movie for riffing. It’s enjoyably bad crap. Also it was so spectacularly bad it forced the studio to abandon this sinking ship of a franchise and start from scratch.
In Short: The worst Batman movie. It’s bad, spectacularly bad and if that’s your thing this movie is ripe for the riffing.

Fun Fact: Had this film not failed at the box office there was another film set to be made called Batman Triumphant. Rumor had it the villains would have been The Scarecrow and Harley Quinn, however the same rumor stated they would be played by Howard Stern and Madonna…..

Batman Begins (2005)
Pros: It’s very realistic and believable. It accomplishes the near impossible task of making a movie about a man who dresses up as a bat and fights crime plausible. The training segments are awesome. It actually explains where he got those wonderful toys, Morgan Freeman made them! The cast is great. Love Cain, Freeman, Murphy, Neeson. Gary Oldman is PERFECT as Jim Gordon and even though Christian Bale isn’t my favorite Batman (It’s fun to mock, but I actually don’t mind the growl), but you can tell he REALLY cared about this part.
Cons: The first and second halves feel like completely different movies. The fight scenes are a disorienting mess (it’s intentional, but I don’t like it). The Scarecrow has a disappointing departure. Even though she’s not that bad, Katie Holmes does seem like the odd one out in terms of acting prowess. At times the dialogue is a bit pretentious at a time when the franchise didn’t have the right to be.
In Short: There are kinks to iron out, but the film proves to be one of the best and most realistic origin stories of any comic book hero and it provided a solid strong foundation to take story of Batman to incredible heights.

Fun Fact: The part of Alfred Pennyworth was offered to Anthony Hopkins who turned it down.

The Dark Knight (2008)
Pros: HEATH LEDGER!!! He gives one of the greatest performances of a villain in film history. Every time he’s on screen you can’t take your eyes off him, too many awesome moments to mention. You feel he’s not just playing a part, you feel he is this character. The design, voice, mannerisms, lines, and actions are all perfect for the Joker in this universe. Cain, Freeman, Bale, Eckhart and Oldman are all great. The action scenes learned their lesson from the last movie and are allowed to be awesome and coherent. Music is awesome. The story is intriguing and the moral dilemmas are valid and thought-provoking.
Cons: It might be a little too long and analytical for some and some of the nit-picky things from Batman Begins are still there. Gyllenhaal is just ok but still better than Holmes. A little sad watching when thinking about Ledger’s tragic death. He did such a good job and didn’t get to see the praise.
In Short: I am in love with this movie. The best Comic book movie in my opinion and even if you don’t like everything else about the movie Ledger has earned every bit of praise he got.

Fun Fact: The Joker’s face paint was reportedly designed by Heath Ledger himself, who used white clown makeup and cosmetics from a drugstore.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Pros: Christopher Nolan was smart enough to end his story of Batman with a bang instead of having it continue until people got sick of it. Bane is awesome and bad-ass. I actually liked Hathaway as Catwoman(even though they never call her Catwoman) more than I thought I would. Joseph Gordon Levit is a welcome addition to the ensemble. The action scenes and destruction scenes are incredible. It has some pretty effective twists. Christian Bale is at his best and it ties up the loose ends of the story with a satisfying resolution.
Cons: At times it’s hard to understand what’s going on. There’s a lot of story they’re trying to get through and it may take a second viewing to get it all. Some may not like Banes voice (Yes he does sound like a mix of Sean Connery and Darth Vader) along with Bale’s voice (I’ve just accepted this is how this Batman roles) A few things can be interpreted as plot holes or contradictions but I think any Nolan apologist (which I am) can rationalize it. No matter what it will be looked on as a step down from the last one. The most unfortunate of all is we’ll always be haunted by the tragic events in Colorado when viewing or remembering this film.
In Short: It’s not as good as the last one and it’s definitely nit-pickable, but to me it’s a great movie and a satisfying conclusion to a great series of films. Much better people than me have summed up the implications and lessons of the events associated with this film. All I have to say is RIP to everyone we lost and condolences to all loved ones.

Fun Fact: Anne Hathaway originally thought she was auditioning for the part of Harley Quinn.

Dark Shadows

Wasn’t planning on seeing Dark Shadows at all, let alone in the theater, based on the somewhat painful looking trailer and the fact that I have grown tired of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp’s dependency on one another, but my mother requested we take her as a birthday gift and how can I say no to that? I went in filled with dread after reading the bad reviews the film received, but I left fairly satisfied. While it’s a far cry from the duo’s earlier collaborations Edward Scissorhands or Ed Wood, it was more enjoyable that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Alice in Wonderland.

Depp is clearly enjoying himself in this film and the scenes of his Barnabas Collins encountering modern technology are all pretty fun. However, Depp’s career has been plagued by his love of campy characters which don’t allow him to show is true gifts as an actor. While he certainly has banked enough cash over his career to ensure he never has to do anything he doesn’t want to do, it’s clear that his main concern at this point is having a good time, not making art. While Depp, Burton, and Helena Bonham Carter obviously enjoy working together, you get the impression that they are holding each other back.

I found Chloe Grace Moretz as Carolyn Stoddard painful to watch and listen to. I’m not terribly familiar with her work (I think the only movie I saw her in was Hugo) but I find it a bit disturbing she has become the go to teen actress for more mature teen roles. It’s like she plays all the characters other teen actresses aren’t allowed by their parents to take on. I hope she has good handlers because she seems like a Hollywood tragedy waiting to happen. She slinks through every scene as a total sex kitten and hisses every line of dialogue. It’s a bit tiresome but did remind me how confusing your early teens can be when you first start wanting to be sexy and adult.

I’ve never been a big fan of Michelle Pfeiffer but I couldn’t take my eyes off of her in this film. Her hair, her costumes, she is very inch perfection in the role. But she isn’t just well-aged eye candy, she has great chemistry with Depp and she brings the right about of icy, dry wit to female head of the Collins family Elizabeth.

I couldn’t decide how I felt about Eva Green in this movie. There was something very alien to her in this film, which could have been the result of the extreme costuming and make-up. She reminded me of Lisa Maria, Tim Burton’s former love and frequent muse. Also, her voice didn’t match her body to me. She is a Brit playing an American, so it is literally isn’t her voice. Helena Bonham Carter looks great in the film but a lot of what’s supposed to be fun about her, doesn’t really work for me. Why would they trust this woman who is clearly unstable with the care of an all ready troubled young boy. Was the doctor at all like this in the show?

While this is far from the worst film Burton and Depp have worked on together but their frequent misses have grown tiresome and it might be best for everybody if they let some tire pass before they work together again.

Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure

Last night I saw a movie for the first time that I’m surprised I missed as a child, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. I’m not sure how I made it this long without seeing it, but there were a lot of essentials I didn’t get around to until adulthood. I did watch Pee-Wee’s show when I was little, but then his “sex scandal” hit when I was six or seven and Pee-Wee became a pariah. While my mother thought the whole thing was much ado about nothing, it was hard to be pro-Pee Wee in those days. Luckily, Paul Rubens was able to return to Hollywood (albeit it mostly as creepy weirdos) and Pee-Wee himself has become acceptable once again, so I could watch his big-screen debut in a bar in Brooklyn with a bunch of other 20 somethings.

Pee-Wee Herman is man-child who lives in a kid’s dream house and has the coolest bike on the block. His bike is so awesome that fellow man-child, the spoiled rotten rich brat Francis, will stop at nothing to have it. While running a few errands, Pee-Wee returns to find his bike missing and is willing to do whatever it takes to find it, including traveling to Texas based on a psychic’s reading.

This is Tim Burton’s directorial debut and you can see the beginnings of his signature style all over this film. Burton loves quirky loners and while you laugh at Pee-Wee when he calls himself a loner and a rebel, he fits the definition. He seems to prefer solitude, entertaining himself in his playground of a home and definitely marches to the beat of his own drum. The mise-en-scene is very early Burton. Pee-Wee’s house could easily be nestled between the house from Beetlejuice and house from Edward Sissorhands. While he is now know for darkness and gloom, his earlier work had more of a circus theme. This was also the first film for frequent Burton collaborated Danny Elfman. Burton and Paul Reubens discovered Elfman when he was in the 80s band Oingo Bongo and asked him to do the music for the film. Burton and Elfman have now worked on thirteen more films together.

This film can be equally enjoyed by children and adults. This is mostly due to the fact that, while Pee-Wee is completely over the top, everyone he encounters plays it completely straight. It also has moments that are somewhat adult while still being kid friendly, like the Tequilla scene. I hate when kids’ movies slip dirty jokes in there to “keep the parents’ entertained”.  A well-constructed story doesn’t need that.

This film features cameos from pre-Saturday Night Live Phil Hartman and Jan Hooks, who worked with Ruebens in the improv group The Groundlings, where Rubens developed the Pee-Wee Herman character. Hartman also co-wrote the script. There is also a random performance by Twisted Sister. If you’ve never seen this film or it’s been awhile, I’d suggest checking it out. It holds up surprisingly well and isn’t dated at all.