Tag Archives: Natalie Portman

Tim Burton

Burton is one of those directors who just seems better at his job than he really is. He’s always been able to create stunning and imaginative worlds, and he’s able to get good performances out of his actors. But his scripts (he has written about half of his movies) tend to lack subtlety. Also, it’s hard to find a movie of his that doesn’t star Michael Keaton, Winona Ryder, or Johnny Depp (especially Depp). I like Depp just as much as anyone, but I wonder if using him for nearly every major movie of his has limited their potential.

Mars Attacks!: Man, this could have been so good. Lampooning alien invasion flicks with a monster cast (Nicholson, Close, Bening, Fox, Devito, Brosnan, Portman) should have made this a slam dunk, but there’s not much here that’s actually funny. Amusing at times, and maddeningly flat most of the time, coming off too much like the films it’s supposed to be lampooning.

Grade: D

Batman Returns: Been a long time since I’ve seen this, but I remember feeling quite underwhelmed by Devito’s Penguin and Pfeiffer’s CatWoman.

Grade: D+

Batman: It’s impossible to compare this to Christopher Nolan’s movies as they shoot for completely different styles. While Nolan’s movies go for the more modern “realistic” superhero, Burton was obviously going for a comic book feel. He does this mostly well. Nicholson’s Joker is really good. Keaton is solid as well. Unfortunately, I’m not a huge fan of comic books so that likely affected my enjoyment.

Grade: C+

Beetle Juice: Ghosts hire an exorcist to rid their home of the new alive tenants. Not terribly funny these days, but I still enjoy watching it thanks to the imaginative world Burton creates and a very enthusiastic performance by Keaton. Alec Baldwin is good as usual and Geena Davis and Winona Ryder hold their own.

Grade: B-

Edward Scissorhands: An isolated scientist creates Edward (Johnny Depp) and gives him scissors for hands until he can finish the real hands. Unfortunately, he dies before he can do so, and the naive Edward rolls into town. His brief celebrity ends quickly as the prejudiced town members turn against him. Great performance by Depp, but like Pleasantville, it’s easy to choke on all the allegory being shoved down one’s throat.

Grade: B+

Other Tim Burton Movies You May Have Seen

Big Fish
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Alice in Wonderland
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Sleepy Hollow
Planet of the Apes (2001)
Dark Shadows
Ed Wood
Frankenweenie
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure

George Lucas

Lucas isn’t too bad of a story creator. After all, Raiders of the Lost Ark was mostly his idea, though no doubt having Spielberg and Kasdan around helped. But the guy can’t write good dialogue and other than the occasional special effect, the guy can’t direct a scene very well either. Granted, Lucas has almost no experience with directing outside of the Star Wars movies. The guy is obviously very skilled at surrounding himself with the right people, creating a multi-billion dollar cash cow. But when he takes full creative control of anything, it’s usually bad news.

Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones: The awfulness of this movie can be proven by one of the worst lines in movie history, also written by our friend George Lucas. “I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here everything is soft and smooth.” Yes, an adult wrote that line. I’d be willing to wager that 90% of the Star Wars fan fiction has more competent writing than this movie does. A terrible bridge between the other two prequels, Attack of the Clones is cringe-worthy when it’s not boring your synapses into a coma. The only thing that saves this movie from an F rating is some fairly well done battle scenes, including a kick-ass one-on-one fight with Yoda.

Grade: D-

Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace: My expectations were actually pretty low when I went to see this as I had already heard the blah reviews coming in. Those expectations were met and then some. Jar-Jar Binks is a problem, but he’s barely more annoying than C-3PO. The problems lie in the directing and the awful acting of Jake Lloyd who got to play kid Darth Vader. The casting wasn’t all bad, as I quite enjoyed Liam Neeson and Ian McDiarmid. Even Ewan McGregor plays an okay Ben Kenobi. But Natalie Portman is wooden, though I’m not sure how much of that is her versus how her character was written. George Lucas ain’t exactly strong with character depth.

Grade: D+

Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith: A mild improvement over the previous two films, if only because of the improved story. Much like the second movie in the original trilogy, nothing much good happens to any of the annoying heroes. Perhaps Lucas is better at writing dark than happy. Fairly solid connections to the fourth movie in the series, with only a couple of annoying continuity things.

Grade: C

Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope: For the record, this review is for the original version, not the retrosuck updates Lucas made in the 90’s and ongoing. The pantheon of space operas, this movie mesmerized me as a child and I still enjoy watching it today. If I’m flipping channels I’ll almost always stop. The story is very simple, with clearly divided lines of good and evil and fairly flat characters. The dialogue is as terrible as anything Lucas has done. “My name is Luke Skywalker. I’m here to rescue you!” is pretty lame stuff. Princess Leia’s lines are nearly universally cliche. The directing of the actors is also obviously flawed. Now Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill aren’t the world’s best actors, but they’re better than they are here. What helps Lucas out is that the actors, especially Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford, really appear to be enjoying themselves. And, naturally, Alec Guiness is fantastic as Ben Kenobi. I know he was upset that he was most remembered for this short role and not the rest of his career, but he was really good here and if it weren’t for this movie, I may not know who he is.

What Lucas did do right is direct some pretty incredible special effects. It still amazes me how realistic the spaceships look for 1977. There are some glitches, but nothing too distracting. And, of course, John Williams’ score is epic. The opening trumpets still give me chills, and the sound effects are solid. Finally, the confrontation with the death star is wonderful. “All right kid, now let’s blow this thing and go home.”

Grade: A 

Other George Lucas Movies You May Have Seen

THX 1138
American Graffiti