Frankenweenie (2012) - Director Tim Burton remakes & expands his 1984 short film to feature length. Young Victor Frankenstein loses his loyal dog Sparky in an accident, and is saddened by the loss of his best friend. He’s inspired by his science teacher’s use of electricity to revive a dead frog, and tries the same experiment on Sparky. The dog returns to life, but other kids in Victor’s class find out, and they try to recreate his experiment bigger & better, in order to win the upcoming science fair. Soon the town is overrun with monsters, and it’s up to Victor and his friends to save the day. The movie has a late-night B-movie, retro look (it was filmed in black & white) and the stop motion work & character designs are phenomenal. As always with a Tim Burton project, there are a myriad of visual references to classic horror & sci-fi films. Burton & writer John August are clearly in love with their subject matter in this delightful tale. The voice cast includes includes Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Landau and Charlie Tahan. The movie is now available on DVD, Blu-ray and for digital download. Highly recommended, especially for Burton fans.
Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) – Martha (Elisabeth Olsen) escapes a commune-like cult she has been living with, and returns home to her sister (Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story). As the siblings try and repair their damaged relationship, we flash back to Martha’s time with the cult, and its manipulative leader, played by John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone) in a creepy, arresting performance. Olsen (Silent House) is also first rate at showing us Martha’s inner turmoil & the emotional fallout from her experience. But the film is slowly paced & keeps you a bit too distanced from the characters. Why don't Martha's sister & brother-in-law take her to a professional for help right away when it's clear she's scarred from her experience? And there’s a tonal shift in the last third of the film that makes you feel like you’re watching a different kind of movie, especially when you reach the ending. Some critics loved this film and lavished a lot of praise on it, and it’s clear writer-director Sean Durkin is a talent to watch. But for me it’s an admirable try that falls short of the mark. The movie is now available on DVD, Blu-ray and for digital download.
Hitchcock (2012) – This drama about the making of Psycho (1960) and the romantic & working relationship between Alfred Hitchcock and his wife Alma Reville plays very fast & loose with the facts. But the film is anchored by marvelous performances from Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock and Helen Mirren as Alma. They capture the essence of this famous couple without resorting to caricature. The movie does go a bit overboard in giving Hitchcock a dark, manipulative side in his professional life, and it may not be what really happened during the production of the classic thriller, but it’s recommended viewing for the remarkable acting of its stars. The solid supporting cast includes Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh and James D’Arcy as Anthony Perkins. Worth seeing for movie fans; but take this one with a grain of salt. It’s kind of like watching one of those biographies of actors or musicians Hollywood churned out in the 1940s & 50s, where they never let the facts get in the way of a good story. Hitchcock is available on DVD, Blu-ray and digital download. The film should not be confused with the HBO drama The Girl (2012), a more mean-spirited take on the director and his relationship with Tippi Hedren, who starred in The Birds (1963).
Here are links to the trailers for Frankenweenie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MquUxWXEOLU, Martha Marcy May Marlene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERREgOobLOs and Hitchcock: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rQuRLERl6A. The Frankenweenie trailer is a neat homage to classic horror films of the old school.