Film Review: Frankenweenie

Tim Burton offers Electrifying entertainment with Frankenweenie

Tim Burton's Frankenweenie is playing now at Victoria area cinemas.

Tim Burton's Frankenweenie is playing now at Victoria area cinemas.

Expanding upon a short film that Tim Burton made at the very beginning of his career, Frankenweenie is a deliciously morbid delight. Who knew that bringing things back from the dead could be fun for the whole family? Lonely and clever Victor Frankenstein is both a science nerd and an appealing Everyboy.

When his beloved dog, Sparky, is run over by a car, Victor is shattered. A bit later, a science experiment at school inspires him to exhume the presciently named Sparky and give the posthumous pooch a shot of lightning up the old wazoo. Sparky is soon back to his happy tail-wagging self, although Victor tries to keep him away from prying eyes.

A science fair at school is getting very competitive, and when a few of the kids find out what Victor did there is a rash of re-animations as everyone hopes to get top prize. Needless to say, things get way out of hand — including a Japanese kid whose pet tortoise comes back to life as a Godzilla-sized menace. As things build to a climax, the cinematic references proliferate wildly — everything from The Mummy to Gremlins to, especially, the original Frankenstein. This is arguably too much of a good thing, but at least it’s overkill coming from a master of the macabre. A sly mash-up of retro and contemporary, and boasting a nearly black-and-white palette, Frankenweenie is visually inventive. It’s probably too intense for some adults, but older kids will love it. M


Frankenweenie ★★★½

Directed by Tim Burton

Starring Martin Short, Winona Ryder

PG – 87 minutes

Continues at the Captiol, SilverCity and Westshore



Perfectly Potable

Despite all the glorious weather, we have definitely moved into fall — just note the recent release of Swans seasonal Pumpkin Ale. Round in the mouth and not cloyingly spicy, this is an autumn ale you could definitely slurp more than one pint of. They’ve made two batches — about 3,000 litres — with half being bottled and the rest available on tap. There’s probably enough to last until Halloween, but when it’s gone, it’s gone. And that’s a scary thought.



Film Listings:




ARGO – Despite some liberties taken with the facts (mostly at the expense of what Canadian diplomats did to help), this account of a CIA agent who managed to smuggle six Americans to safety from Iran during the famed 1970s hostage crisis is supposed to be pretty gripping. Directed by and starring Ben Affleck. Starts Fri.

SINISTER – Some gruesome “found footage” is at the centre of this horror flick that seems to owe a large debt to The Ring. Starring Ethan Hawke. Starts Fri.




★★ THE BOURNE LEGACY -(Odeon) The hyper-kinetic spy series gets a flaccid and disappointing reboot with a new director and new actor (Jeremy Renner). Co-starring Rachel Weisz and Edward Norton.

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS -(Caprice) Greg is totally ready for summer when suddenly his plans all fall apart. What’s the poor guy gonna do now?

★★★ DREDD 3D -(Odeon/Caprice) Despite being often one-dimensional, this sci-fi thriller set in  a fascist future where supercops act as judge, jury, and executioner has loads of style and a neatly dank visual look.

★★★½ END OF WATCH -(Capitol/SilverCity/Uni 4) Jake Gyllenhaal stars in a gripping and very realistic crime drama about a pair of L.A. cops who are marked for death after they confiscate some drugs and guns from a violent cartel.

★★½ THE EXPENDABLES 2 -(Caprice) Expect lots of manly mayhem as a group of aging mercenaries (played by aging Hollywood mercenaries like Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris and Bruce Willis) go up against a very nasty adversary. This is good, cheesy fun. Note: moves here Friday from the Westshore.

★★★★ FINDING NEMO 3D -(SilverCity/Westshore) The classic Pixar tale of a clown fish from the Great Barrier Reef who goes looking for her missing son gets a ninth anniversary relaunch in 3D. With the great character voices of Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres.

★★★½ FRANKENWEENIE -(Capitol/SilverCity/Westshore) Tim Burton, master of the amusingly morbid, is in fine form in this darkly droll animated tale of a boy who uses lightning to bring his beloved pooch back from the dead. Not surprisingly, there are unexpected consequences. And lots of cinematic in-jokes! See review.

★★★ HOPE SPRINGS -(Odeon/Caprice) Meryl Streep can’t endure her marriage any more and drags her reluctant husband (Tommy Lee Jones) off to intensive couple’s counselling to try to revive intimacy and romance. Although the trailers make this look like a comedy it’s really a dramedy that does a good, although sometimes heavy-handed, analysis of a dying marriage.

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA -(Capitol/SilverCity/Westshore) A hotel where vampires and sundry other monsters hide out from humans gets a big scare when a backpacking dude shows up looking for a room. This animated comedy features the voices of Adam Sandler, Kevin James, and Andy Samberg.

HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET -(SilverCity/Westshore) It’s horror time again as a mother and daughter move to a new town and buy a house right next door to where a young girl slaughtered her parents. And wouldn’t you know it, the nightmare isn’t over yet.

★★★½ LAWLESS -(Caprice) This extremely violent, western-flavoured drama set during the Depression features a clan of Virginia moonshiners who don’t appreciate it when a new special deputy rolls into town demanding a big cut of their profits. Starring Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, and Guy Pearce. Based on a true story.

★★★½ LOOPER -(Odeon/SilverCity/Westshore) This trippy, noir-tinged sci-fi thriller is a stylish mash-up of hitmen and time travel. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Premium Rush), Bruce Willis, and Emily Blunt.

★★ THE MASTER -(Odeon) The latest from Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, Magnolia) stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as the charismatic leader of a cult religion who has an intense relationship with an emotionally damaged man (Joaquin Phoenix). Despite powerful performances and a lush filming style, this drama is a dull and very disappointing misstep from a great director.

★★½ PARANORMAN -(Caprice) In an amusingly morbid slice of family animation, a misunderstood boy who can talk to the dead is the only hope to save his town from an army of zombies and ghosts activated by a centuries-old curse.

★★½ PITCH PERFECT -(Odeon/Uni 4/SilverCity/Westshore) It’s a gals-versus-the-guys vocal throwdown, as competing campus choirs seem to have gone to college only to major in Glee. Although not exactly Oscar bait, this is lots of fluffy fun.

★★★½ QUEEN OF VERSAILLES -(Odeon) Anyone curious about the lifestyles of the filthy rich should enjoy this documentary chronicling the rise and fall of a billionaire couple who spend zillions on an über-mansion inspired by Versailles, only to see their tacky dreams get hammered by the recent financial collapse.

★★ RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION -(Capitol/SilverCity) The ever-gorgeous zombie stomper Milla Jovovich is back for more gory, ass-kicking action in the fifth iteration of this popular sci-horror series.

★★½ TAKEN 2 -(Odeon/SilverCity/Westshore) Liam Neeson reprises his role as a retired CIA tough guy who has to use his nastiest skills when his wife gets kidnapped by the vengeful father of the goon that Neeson killed in the last movie. Well-directed if rather soulless action porn that benefits from its Istanbul setting.

★★½ TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE -(Capitol/SilverCity/Uni 4/Westshore) Clint Eastwood plays an ailing and aging baseball scout who takes his estranged daughter (Amy Adams) along on one last recruiting trip. This predictable but engaging comedy-drama also stars John Goodman and Justin Timberlake.

★★½ WON’T BACK DOWN -(Capitol/SilverCityy) Two mothers determined to fight for the best-possible education for their kids take on an intransigent teachers’ union, in a based-on-real-events movie with a heavy-handed message (that has infuriated unions). If you don’t like the politics, focus on the strong performances from Viola Davis, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Holly Hunter.



Antimatter Film Festival -The 15th-annual festival of international media art and experimental cinema runs Oct. 12-20 at the Vic Theatre (808 Douglas). All screenings by donation (suggested $5-8). Full line-up and schedule at

MOVIE MONDAY – Is screening Dinosaur Maker: An Evening with Bill Maylone. Bill has had a long and distinguished career as an animator in the stop-motion style of Ray Harryhausen, and this special evening will be essentially an illustrated talk, as this great technical artist discusses his career, which began in Victoria in the mid-’70s. By donation. 6:30pm MONDAY in the 1900-block Fort. 595FLIC.

VICTORIA FILM FEST JUDGING -The VFF is inviting the public to a series of screenings of short documentaries to help select the entries for next year’s Fest. The “View & Vote” screenings take place every MONDAY over lunch hour at the downtown public library. For info, call 250-389-0444.





Cinecenta at UVic screens its films in the Student Union Building. Info: 721-8365.


COAST MODERN -(Wed., Oct. 10: 7:00 only & Thurs., Oct. 11: 7:00, 9:00) West Coast modernist architecture is the subject of this Canadian documentary, which combines informed commentary with great visuals of many iconic private and public buildings. NOTE: Filmmaker Q&A after the Wed. show.

★★★ RUBY SPARKS -(Fri.-Sat., Oct. 12-13: 3:00, 7:20, 9:25) Here’s a charming and offbeat romcom featuring a nerdy, lovelorn novelist who writes about the girl of his dreams — only to find her happily living with him one day.

★★★ BRAVE -(Sat.-Sun., Oct. 13-14: 1:00 matinee) Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson provide the voices for Pixar’s animated tale that is set in ancient Scotland and tells of a headstrong young princess who must rely on her courage to undo a beastly curse. Decent entertainment, albeit occasionally a bit plodding.

NEIL YOUNG JOURNEYS -(Wed.-Thurs., Oct. 17-18: 7:00, 9:00) Jonathan Demme’s follow-up to Heart of Gold is another concert film, this one finding the revered Canadian rocker alone onstage at Toronto’s Massey Hall.

FIRST POSITION -(Sun., Oct. 14: 3:00, 7:00, 9:00 & Mon., Oct. 15: 7:00, 9:00) Dance divas will surely enjoy this absorbing documentary look at six aspiring dancers who enter the prestigious Youth America Grand Prix with hopes of scholarships and a career in dance.

ON THE LINE -(Tues., Oct. 16: 7:00, 9:00) The ever-more-contentious Northern Gateway pipeline project is explored via a unique documentary that follows two outdoorsmen as they bike, hike, and raft the entire route. There is a Q&A after the film.





AIR RACERS -(noon, 2 pm, 5 pm & 7 pm, Sun.-Wed.) Paul Walker narrates this pulse-pounding documentary about the world’s fastest race, as amazingly nimble planes negotiate a tricky course at 500 MPH.

★★★ THE DARK KNIGHT RISES -(8 pm, Thurs.-Sat. & 7 pm, Sun.-Wed)

TO THE ARCTIC -(10 am, 1 pm, 3 pm, 6 pm)

★★★½ ROCKY MOUNTAIN EXPRESS -(11 am, 4 pm)



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