What’s This? ‘Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas’ Soundtrack

sandyclaws-27135On this night before Christmas, I turn attention to one of my favorite albums of seasonal music: the soundtrack from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.,

Yes, you read that correctly. Featuring a bounty of great songs written by Danny Elfman, the onetime frontman of Oingo Boingo, this album is an unexpected holiday gem. Each and every one of the songs was written in a minor key, but they still manage to run a gamut of emotions, from joy to longing, sinister to funtastic.

The 1993 stop-motion animated film was directed by Henry Selick and produced by Burton, who conceived the story in 1982 while working at the studios of Walt Disney Feature Animation. It tells the story of Jack Skellington (voiced by Chris Sarandon and sung by Elfman), the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town — the source of the Oct. 31 holiday. One day Jack wanders into Christmas Town and becomes so fascinated by the candy-colored holiday that he decides to usurp Dec. 25 from Santa Claus.

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All-Star Superman (2011)

While The Man of Steel, the long-gestating latest chapter of Superman live-action films, continues to languish in limbo and new installments of Batman and Spider-Man struggle for attention in the shadow of Marvel’s The Avengers, I decided to take a look at the 2011 animated direct-to-video feature All-Star Superman, which adapts a highly acclaimed print story written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Frank Quitely.

When Superman (voiced by James Denton) saves the crew of the first mission to the sun, he is poisoned by overexposure to the yellow sun that gives him his power. Superman realizes he is slowing dying, and decides to reveal his secret to the love of his life, Lois Lane (Christina Hendricks). It is revealed that Lex Luthor (Anthony LaPaglia) was behind the disaster on the space flight, and he has finally realized his dream to kill Superman, so Supes must put aside his own concerns to save the Earth one last time.
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John Carter of DVDs

I expected Disney to dump the DVD of John Carter on the market quietly, like a Las Vegas gambler burying a body in the desert. But the Mouse House is giving the release top-tier treatment as a 4-Disc Combo Pack (3D BD + 2D BD + DVD + Digital Copy), as well as a 2-Disc Combo Pack (Blu-ray + DVD), a 3D DVD, and a 1-Disc version. Oh, and and On-Demand. All of this on June 5.

Including calling Andrew Stanton the Oscar-winning director of WALL-E (something the ads for the theatrical release never did) and cites star Taylor Kitsch’s FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS connection and Lynn Collins’ role in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

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DVD: Coraline (2009)


Coraline strikes me as a children’s movie that should be watched with a parent close at hand. At several points I found myself thinking, “Wow, that would really scare a kid, wouldn’t it?” Unfortunately, there was no child handy to either correct or reinforce my impressions, so I can only guess. I will admit however, that the younger version of me would have enjoyed this movie immensely – but I have been told that I had a somewhat morbid sensibility as a kid. (One I still cultivate, BTW…)

Coraline tells the story of 11-year-old Coraline Jones (Dakota Fanning), who moves into a new apartment in a creepy old Victorian mansion. Coraline’s parents (Teri Hatcher and John Hodgman) are workaholics who act like caring for Coraline is a burden, hence she is often left to her own devices. In short order she meets a weird local lad called Wyborne (Robert Bailey Jr.) who hangs out with a mangy cat (Keith David). Wyborne gives her a strange old doll with buttons for eyes that resembles her. That night she dreams that a sealed-up door in the living room leads to another world – where lives her “Other Mother” (also Hatcher) and “Other Father,” dream parents who dote on her every whim and ply her with a magical garden and delicious food. But the real difference is, the Other parents have buttons for eyes. Coraline finds herself enchanted by this alternate reality and returns through the portal many times. She is thrilled to be offered the chance to remain in this world – until, thanks to the cat and a morbidly altered version of Wyborne, she realizes that things on the other side may be just a little too good to be true, and staying forever comes at a terrible price.
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DVD: Jennifer’s Body (2009)

Fox-y lady

After actually watching Jennifer’s Body, I have to conclude that this horror movie was itself the victim of some horrible Megan Fox/Diablo Cody backlash, because the flick is really is not bad at all. In fact, it’s a rather good horror-comedy that has some fun tweaking genre conventions as well as Fox’s own bombshell persona. Fox is much different in this movie; nothing like the pure eye candy of the Transformers flicks. Yes, this is a teen horror comedy that is far from horrible.

The story follows sexy Jennifer (Megan Fox) and her best friend, the mousy “Needy” (Amanda Seyfried). After a wannabe rock band bungles an attempt to sacrifice Jennifer to Satan in return for fame, she is possessed by a demon that grants her strength and healing abilities – as long as she feeds its bloodlust. Jennifer sets out chowing down on the boys at school, who are all too easily lured into her honey trap. Problems arise when Needy starts to feel just a little too left out by her pal’s new hobby.
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DVD: The Last Word (2008)

Bentley and Ryder

Whatever happened to Wes Bentley? You remember him, right? He was going to be the Next Big Thing after featuring in a showy role in 1999’s best picture, American Beauty. But he never really caught on. Winona Ryder was once a hot property herself; a rising kid star who had trouble transitioning to adult roles. Then everything went up in flames after a little shoplifting scandal. (How quaint that brouhaha seems now.) Well, these two cooling stars teamed up for a pretty cool indie drama about a man who writes suicide notes for hire via a website.

Evan (Bentley) meets with his clients to learn a bit about them before crafting passages that might capture each person’s uniquely personal pain in the form of an evocative final goodbye. Some clients chicken out, but some follow through; Evan tries not to keep track, but when he notices, he attends the funeral to observe. At one such gathering, he catches the eye of Charlotte (Ryder), the sister of one of his clients. Evan passes himself off as an old college friend of the deceased, and Charlotte pursues him until he agrees to a date. He neglects to confess his complicity in her brother’s suicide, and love blooms. Meanwhile, Evan tries to deal with Abel, a particularly persnickety client played by comedian Ray Romano.
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Up (2009)

As I mentioned in my entry Movies I Loved (and Hated) in 2009, I missed seeing the heralded animated feature Up in the cinema. Well, it finally floated to the top of my Netflix queue, so I cued it up. Here is my review…

Up, up, and away!

Up certainly is an uplifting animated film, but I have to confess that I think it’s overrated. Highly overrated, in fact. There is plenty to like about it: Mr. Fredricksen is a more complicated character than one usually sees in animated movies, and his personal history included more than a little melancholy.

The story sees 78-year-old Carl Fredricksen finally fulfill a lifelong dream to travel by air to South America (His reasons are succinctly explained, and sufficiently tear-jerking.) – by floating his entire house there using more than 20,000 helium balloons. Once up in the air, he realizes he has a reluctant stowaway in Russell, an 8-year-old budding Wilderness Explorer working on a merit badge for “helping the elderly.” Once in South America, Fredrickson and Russell get tangled up in strange events that include lost animals, talking dogs, skyships and a face from Fredrickson’s past.
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The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) DVD

Go Klaatu barada nikto yourself!

This movie could have been called The Day the Earth Still…Out of Boredom.

The 2008 version of The Day the Earth Stood Still is a classic example of a “why bother?” remake. The 1951 original is widely regarded as one of the best science-fiction films ever made, so there was absolutely nowhere for a remake to go but down. And the remakers lived down to expectations.

In both versions, an alien spacecraft lands on Earth with a message for the natives. In the original, Klaatu (Michael Rennie) warned that the warlike human race needed to change its ways since learning to split the atom or risk annihilation by extraterrestrial enforcers worried about mankind’s rambunctiousness. In the 2008 version, Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) was apparently intent on informing our world’s leaders that the human race is a pox upon the Earth, and since only a handful of planets in the cosmos are capable of supporting complex life, the interstellar community is unwilling to let mankind squander this one.

According to director Scott Derrickson, this film is supposed to carry an environmental message, but Klaatu himself points out that Earth has reached the tipping point and can no longer be saved, so even if everyone started driving hybrids, it would do no good. So apparently the message is, go green now, before the aliens get here. However, in the movie, the plot change renders Klaatu entirely moot. Surely his glowing globes could have been dispatched to collect and preserve samples of non-human life without cloning Keanu? Surely Gort could have been activated from orbit to eliminate all traces of humanity. Klaatu is a complete waste of time and effort. Klaatu came to protect the Earth from humanity, so why bother with trying to address mankind’s leaders? Is he some kind of interstellar sadist?
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