This weekend we went out to see The Prestige, which was quite good. The next theater over was running The Nightmare Before Christmas in 3-D, and we figured, what the heck? After the first movie, we got tickets for another.

The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of my favorite movies, but for some reason the 3D release didn’t really interest me when I first heard about it. It felt too gimmicky, like when they project a regular movie on an IMAX screen even though the movie itself isn’t really made for that format.

I got a little more interested when I read an article about how they did it. ILM essentially re-did the entire movie as a computer-animated film, matching each frame exactly, then shifted the virtual camera over a bit. One eye gets the original film, and the other eye gets the CGI copy.

I was astonished at how seamlessly they matched. I couldn’t remember which eye got the original, and I honestly couldn’t tell. Most CGI-animated films have a cartoony, sort of vinyl look to them, which would not blend at all, but ILM is used to matching their CGI to photographed actors and sets, which I suppose makes them the ideal animation studio for this sort of thing. It had to be the most effective reformatting of a film that I’ve ever seen—compare it to colorizing movies, or the Star Wars special editions (which were done by the same effects house, but with older technology)—because it didn’t detract (or distract) from what was there in the first place.

Of course, it wasn’t long before I stopped looking at the technical merits and just settled into watching the movie.

Having re-watched it, I’m now very interested to see what director Henry Selick does with the movie adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s book, Coraline

We went to see a screening of Edward Scissorhands tonight. A couple of local art cinemas (both part of the Edwards/Regal chain) have been doing a weekly “Flashback Features” series since summer (or possibly earlier). The first one we went to was The Princess Bride, which was absolutely packed with people who knew the movie so well they were laughing before the jokes.

None of the others we’d been to were anywhere near as full, and we lost track of the series a couple of months ago. Then yesterday I remembered we’d been planning to go see Edward Scissorhands, and figured we’d missed it. (I finally bought the DVD a couple of months ago, but wanted to hold off until after the screening since Katie hadn’t seen it before.) Fortunately, Katie remembered that it was this week, and we were able to make it. (And for once, we made it on Wednesday, so we could go to South Coast Village instead of Rancho Santa Margarita.)

Well, we prepared to turn into the theater parking lot and noticed it was full. Katie was the first to realize why: Johnny Depp. We got in, but I had to park across the street. The crowd was as good as the one for Princess Bride, and there was even one guy in full costume (the normal-clothes version, not the leather and buckles). We were pleased that while they showed “The Twenty,” which I suspect is a contractual obligation, they neglected to turn on the sound! The 15-year-old print was in terrible shape, but the condition was forgotten quickly.

It’s always a risk to go back and watch something you enjoyed when you were younger. Your tastes change as you grow up (or you actually develop a sense of taste). There are some cartoons and movies I refuse to watch because I want to remember liking them. Sometimes they work out. Sometimes they don’t.

Edward Scissorhands still holds up: The contrast between the inventor’s mansion and the pseudo-50s achingly “normal” suburbia, Danny Elfman’s fairy-tale music, the neighborhood’s curiosity, then acceptance, then ultimate rejection of this strange visitor, Peg’s determination to make things work out, Kim’s slow realization that her boyfriend isn’t a very nice guy, and that this scary blade-handed stranger is, the cop’s efforts to smooth things over—all with Tim Burton’s distinctive quirky style.

Back to the screening series, it really brings out the difference between the home movie experience and the theater experience. It’s not just the size of the screen and the volume of the sound. It’s the audience. When you have a few hundred people all watching the same movie, reacting to the same things, you get an emotional synergy that you don’t get with a couple of people at home—or with a few dozen people yakking and answering their cell phones!

We had some free time before seeing Serenity again on Saturday, so we wandered into Hot Topic. (Katie finds T-shirts there from time to time, and it’s always interesting to just look at the slogans you wouldn’t think of actually wearing.) Well, they’ve had a line of Nightmare Before Christmas merchandise for a while, so of course they’ve added a line of Corpse Bride tie-ins. Including this:

Corpse Bride Comforter

OK, I understand the movie-tie-in-on-a-blanket concept. I had Empire Strikes Back sheets when I was a kid. And I understand that they’re targeting the goth audience. But somehow, as much as I liked the movie, the words “corpse” and “comfort” don’t fit together in my mind!

There are two books I picked up recently that demonstrate how not to tell a story with pictures: Teen Titans #27 and the manga of The Nightmare Before Christmas.

First, Teen Titans #27, first half of a two parter by fill-in team of Gail Simone and Rob Liefeld. I’d planned on writing a more thorough review, but Comics Should Be Good beat me to it. And yeah, reviewing Liefeld’s art feels like a cheap shot, but sometimes ya just gotta go for it. Simone’s story isn’t bad, but it’s hard to follow. In particular, there are too many places where the art isn’t about story or action, it’s about showing the heroes or villains in dramatic poses. And yeah, you want the occasional dramatic pose, because you want to show off the costumes. That’s part of the genre. But you need to convey what’s actually happening. As dramatic as the last two pages were, I couldn’t figure out just what Kestrel was doing without looking at the “Next issue” blurb!

And then there are the places Liefeld left out dramatic poses that should have been there. The issue introduces a quartet of teen villains, but only one of them gets a full-body dramatic view, two get only action shots, and one—well, let me put it this way. I had to flip back to the beginning to be sure that there really were four of them and not just three. He’s in two panels with only his head and shoulders visible in the entire book. He’s not named, there’s no sign of powers or special skills, and he’s wearing a shirt and tie. I have to wonder whether Liefeld just didn’t get around to designing a costume since the character gets eliminated halfway through the book.

Anyway, onto The Nightmare Before Christmas. Continue reading