DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, Jan 31, 2006.

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  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    [​IMG]
    Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride





    Studio: Warner Brothers
    Year: 2005
    Rated: PG
    Film Length: 77 Minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Enhanced Widescreen
    Audio: DD 5.1
    Color/B&W: Color
    Languages: English, French & Spanish
    Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
    MSRP: $28.98
    Package: Single disc/Keepcase





    The Feature:
    Set in a 19th century European village, this stop-motion, animated feature follows the story of Victor Van Dort (voiced by Johnny Depp) and Victoria Everglott (voiced by Emily Watson) who have reached the eve of their arranged marriage without having met face-to-face. Her parents (Joanna Lumley, Albert Finney) are high class but broke. His parents (Tracey Ullman, Paul Whitehouse) are nouveau riche - fish mongers who struck the mother load. So this engagement is intended to keep Victoria's family solvent.

    When Victor and Victoria meet, it's love at first sight. Unfortunately, during the wedding rehearsal, Victor freezes up, can't remember his lines, and flees in humiliation. On the way home, he wanders through a graveyard. While reciting his vows in an attempt to memorize them, he accidentally places the ring on a skeletal finger (which appears to be a stick). He then discovers, to his dismay, that he has married Emily (Helena Bonham Carter), the Corpse Bride. And she's not a cadaver to be trifled with. This earns Victor a trip to the underworld to meet his new in-laws. Meanwhile, Victoria's parents, wasting no time now that Victor has vanished, plot to marry their daughter to a sleazy gentleman, Barkis Bittern (Richard E. Grant).

    Leave it to Tim Burton to buck the trend. When it comes to animation these days, it's all digital. Since the release of his popular collaboration with Henry Selick, The Nightmare Before Christmas, fans have been clamoring for a sequel. Although Corpse Bride doesn't precisely fill that need, it scratches the itch. Selick was not involved in the production (Mike Johnson, who previously worked on the animation teams of both The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach, fills the gap), which supposedly took ten years to complete, but you would never know it. And the animation, which is stop-motion rather than computer generated, looks wonderful. The story is off the beaten path, but it's not as bizarre as Burton sometimes gets (despite indications to the contrary, there's no actual necrophilia). It is suitable for all but the youngest viewers.

    If there's a Burton animated formula, this movie follows it. We spend a lot of time with strange creatures, there's a lot of fantastical imagery, and the composer (in this case, Burton regular Danny Elfman) contributes a few jaunty but forgettable musical numbers. At times, the movie plays like a (dark) comedy (a lot of the satire is subtle and will go over the heads of younger viewers), but there's a surprising tenderness to the proceedings and there are plenty of in-jokes sprinkled around (for example, the brand of the piano played by Victor is a nod to one of the stop-motion trailblazers, Ray Harryhausen.)

    The main characters (Victor, Victoria, Emily) are nicely developed, and we feel for all of them. Emily's tragic tale is touching, as is her plight: a woman murdered before she can fulfill her lifelong dream of reaching the altar. Corpse Bride clocks in at a skinny 77 minutes, so there's no room for extraneous material. I suppose the official title of the movie is Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, presumably to distinguish it from Shakepeare's Corpse Bride or Jane Austen's Corpse Bride.

    The Feature: 3/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Video:
    The film looks great - better, in fact, than many of the recent crop of computer animated motion pictures. The unique look of the characters (the faces are almost all eyes, and the eyes are expressive) works. The background details match those in the foreground. Color de-saturation is also used effectively. The Land of the Living is clearly monochromatic, while The Land of the Dead however, was much more vibrant. Colors were always seemingly accurately. Blacks were deep and rich.

    The film is razor sharp and appears crisp throughout. The image was rock solid as I noticed no signs of shimmering, nor were there any signs of edge enhancement or other compression related issues. As we might expect with such a new release, the print was absolutely immaculate and free of any blemishes or dirt.

    Video: 4.5/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Audio:
    The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride worked well if not just slightly underwhelming. Not a huge action-like film, so don’t expect an explosive soundtrack. However, there is a pleasing soundfield, satisfactorily wide. Elfman’s score and songs are the highlight in this sense. Here, the music sounds solid with nice stereo imaging in the front and pleasing rear envelopment. Most importantly, dialogue seemed natural and bold and was always intelligible. As well, the music was bold but never competing.

    There is occasional rear-surround use which is tactful and never overbearing or gimmicky which includes isolated dialogue. Not much to speak of from the LFE side of things.

    A soundtrack that doesn’t necessarily stand out but does most things very well.

    Audio: 3.5/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Special Features:
    Included are a number of brief but individual segments relating to the film and the various animation techniques used to create it, starting with:
    [*] Inside the Two Worlds includes interviews, behind-the-scenes footage and production drawings with the filmmakers describing the worlds of the living and the dead in the movie and explaining why the land of the dead needed to be so much more colorful. Duration: 4:02 minutes.
    [*] Danny Elfman Interprets The Two Worlds is time spent with the movie's musical and longtime Burton composer. Duration: 4:55 minutes.
    [*] The Animators: the Breath of Life. Find out how an animator approaches his character’s motivation and why individual animators possess unique skills. The stop-motion animation used in the film (a tribute to the most-famous and best-loved stop-motion animator in pictures, Ray Harryhausen, Burton prominently labeled the piano in his film not a Steinway but a "Harryhausen".) Duration: 6:35 minutes.
    [*] Tim Burton: Dark vs. Light. Explore what inspired Burton to bring the Corpse Bride to life about the director through the eyes of the actors and filmmakers he worked with. Duration: 3:35 minutes.
    [*] Voices from the Underworld. Here, we meet the actors behind the voices, and see how they craft their unique characterizations based on their puppet counterparts. Duration: 5:55 minutes.
    [*] Making Puppets Tick. This includes a tour of the puppet workshop. Duration: 6:30 minutes.
    [*] The Voices behind the Voice includes scene-by-scene comparisons of the actors performing their voice characterizations next to the finished shots in the film. Duration: 7:30 minutes.
    [*] The Corpse Bride Pre-Production Galleries is the lengthiest of features which focuses on the development and the design of the assorted puppets involved. Duration: 13:25 minutes.
    [*] And lastly, the Music-only Track has been included. Fans of film scores will enjoy the feature as it presents Danny Elfman’s score in Dolby Digital 5.1 – vocals of the songs however have been eliminated.

    Though the feature may have been better served as one single feature length documentary (a manner in which this reviewer prefers), this choppy collection of mini-featurettes still seems to serve a useful purpose and offers a wide range of interesting and informative production tidbits pertaining to the film.

    Special Features: 3.5/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    **Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**



    Final Thoughts:
    Tim Burton carries on in the dark, romantic tradition of his classic Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas with his most recent offering brought to you just in time for Valentine’s Day. It’s a tale of optimism, romance and a very lively afterlife, told in classic Tim Burton style. Admittedly, your reviewer isn’t the biggest Burton fan in the world. While it is an enjoyable film, those who are not fans of this type of work might want to take a pass. However, those of you who are indeed fans of Tim Burton will not be disappointed.

    Even though I may have had corpse-like feelings for the film itself, the DVD offers fine value with an outstanding audio/video presentation and special features that do an adequate job at offering an inside look at the world of Burton’s animation.

    Overall Rating: 3.5/5 (not an average)
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Release Date: January 31st, 2006
     
  2. Marko Berg

    Marko Berg Supporting Actor

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    Thanks for the review, Herb!

    Nice to see the isolated score feature, although rare nowadays, isn't dead yet. Thank you Warner for offering this option.
     
  3. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    There's no way this film could be as good as William Shakespeare's Corpse Bride. Jane Austen's Corpse Bride -- maybe. [​IMG]

    Nice review, Herb!
     
  4. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    I remember reading Ron's review of William Shakespeare's Corpse Bride...but I can't seem to find it in the archives. Must've been lost in the harddrive crash. He DID give it high grades. [​IMG]

    Great review, Herb. Haven't seen it yet, so I'm looking forward to see how this one stacks up against Nightmare and the other works in the Burton/Elfman catalog.
     
  5. ChrisBEA

    ChrisBEA Screenwriter

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    Loved this in the theaters.

    Haven't seen the disk, but is this really 1.85:1? I recall it it looking more like 1.66:1, the scren really looked to be a lot closer to a TV shape. I also thought it was interesting that this was shot using a commercially available digital still camera! They used a Canon EOS 1D Mark II and made their own mount to use Nikon lenses.
     
  6. Dan Hitchman

    Dan Hitchman Cinematographer

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    It was 1.78:1 as are all WB controlled movies that are 1.85:1 (even if it means cropping in hard-matte situations).

    The film did leave me a bit cold. Yeah, Burton has a knack for off-beat visuals, but his stories/scripts could use some work. He doesn't have writers who "flesh" out his creations. More like they're a bundle of wierd traits & ticks thrown up on screen who "do stuff" in front of bizzare backdrops rather than people or creatures you can bond with who just so happen to be odd, and have real motivation, with a story that moves like it has an actual purpose for being.

    I think Burton's best work for combining the outlandish with drama is Ed Wood. At least I cared about Bela Legosi and his tragic life. Coming up as a tie in close second would be Edward Scissorhands and Beatlejuice (just because I love Michael Keaton's character).

    I watched both A Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride and they both didn't do it for me. And I love quality stop motion, and wish more could be done with the art. I'd also like to see hand painted 2D animation make a comeback as well! Look at Bambi! Just beauty in motion... something even painting on a computer can't copy.

    Why not get a John Lasseter or a Brad Bird to helm the script, even if it's stop-motion? They're both very talented writers and have a knack for blending adult situations with a childlike wonder (so everyone gets something out if it).

    Dan
     
  7. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    Dan, I agree with a lot of what you wrote about Tim Burton. Did you see Big Fish? That might be my favorite Burton film (along with Ed Wood and Nightmare). It's based on a novel, and thus had a complete plot before Burton got involved. [​IMG]
     
  8. DavidPla

    DavidPla Cinematographer

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    I've enjoyed every Tim Burton movie (including "Planet of the Apes") so I will definitely be picking this up.

    I think where a lot of heart in Burton's films comes NOT from the dialogue of the script but the visuals he instills. You don't need dialogue to show a lot of emotion (just take a look at the death scene in "Edward Scissorhands" to see what I'm talking about). The emotion is definitely there, and "Corpse Bride" is no different... he just expresses it visually.

    On that note, I would love to see Burton team up with Pixar one day.
     
  9. Yumbo

    Yumbo Cinematographer

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    watched fist half...amazing visuals, and SOUND. had me jumping a few times.

    Richard E. Grant steals the show (Christopher Lee as well). Can't wait to finish it.
     
  10. Rob Gillespie

    Rob Gillespie Producer

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    Canadian disc has bilingual covers, for those wishing to avoid such unpleasantries.
     
  11. dave bula

    dave bula Stunt Coordinator

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    I loved this film in the theaters, and have been anxiously awaiting the DVD release. I've long been a big fan of Burton & Elfman. Ever since Nightmare Before Christmas, I'd been hoping they'd do another stop action animated musical. The wait was long, but definitely worth it. Other members of my family don't seem to think Corpse Bride is quite as good as Nightmare, but I am more than pleased with this follow up film, and sincerely hope they'll do another one someday.



    Forgettable? Sorry, Herb. Gotta disagree strongly with that statement. I loved the songs, and find them each truly memorable. They seem to take turns getting caught in my subconscious. Elfman, Horrocks, and company sing them quite well too. The Wedding Song is a particularly brilliant takeoff on Gilbert & Sullivan. That Danny Elfman didn't get an Oscar nomination out of this film, let alone Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, is positively criminal. At least the film itself did.

    I have a feeling that this DVD may be safe from the "double-dip-itis" disease that seems to strike the initial DVD offerings for so many current films. Most of the "improved editions" from Warners have replaced bare bones editions that had been on the market for quite a few years. The extras sound pretty good on this one, although a commentary would have been nice. However, I'm very happy that Danny Elfman gets a featurette - his amazing work absoulutely makes this film.
     
  12. Hannes

    Hannes Auditioning

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    The Dolby-Tracks should be encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1 EX. Are all of them flagged? I know that Warner doesn't mention it on the backcover but the title was officially announced in Dolby-EX. It was also in SRD-EX and DTS-ES in the cinemas.
     
  13. John Sparks

    John Sparks Screenwriter

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    All I want is my ANAMORPHIC "Nightmare Before Christmas!"
     
  14. Brian_Pete

    Brian_Pete Stunt Coordinator

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    Does the OAR of Nightmare even allow for an anamorphic version?
     
  15. Dan Hitchman

    Dan Hitchman Cinematographer

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    Yes, you pillarbox to 1.66:1 within the 1.78:1 frame, and anamorphically enhance. Disney does this with many of their animated films now.

    They also need to use a much better IP. It was really grainy and it had some sprocket hole judder.


    Dan
     
  16. Ed St. Clair

    Ed St. Clair Producer

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    So, what knock the Video Score down half a star?
    Thanks.
     
  17. ClaytonMG

    ClaytonMG Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm sorry, but I have to strongly dissagree with the audio review here. The audio in this DVD (flagged Surround EX on all of the 5.1 soundtracks, including the isolated score) is fantastic. It's powerful, spacious, and uses all channels. The dialogue is sharp and crystal clear, the echoes are wonderful and the score is presented very well. As for the LFE, there are a few points where you can feel your sub thud, even towards the beginning.
     

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