Burton's Suburban Fairy Tale
Tim Burton's "Edward Scissorhands" is a modern fable about a young "man" who finds life and love, then has the cup dashed from his hand because he's different from other people.
Edward (Johnny Depp, in fine form) lives in an old castle just down the street from suburbia USA. He's discovered living there alone by the area Avon lady (Dianne Wiest), who brings him home to live with her family. Edward is shy and charming, and has hidden talents he displays as the story unfolds. But his inventor never quite got him finished - so for some reason he has sharp blades in place of human hands.
This "handicap" sets him apart from mainstream society, and also makes him a charming diversion to the staid and stable life in the neighborhood.
His uniqueness makes him a target - or recipient - of the advances of the neighbors, from the bored and horny housewife to the young daughter (Winona Ryder) into whose house and life he has been thrust.
Unfortunately, his presence also leads to healthy doses of jealousy and this proves to be the undoing of his new and idyllic existence. Edward once again becomes an outcast and retreats to his home of old, never more to mingle with the pastel people nearby.
Tim Burton has crafted a marvelous fantasy in "Edward Scissorhands." The film's pastel-colored neighborhood looks wonderfully surreal, with Edward's black and white world standing in stark contrast to it. You really root for Depp's Edward, and you laugh and cry with the movie all the way.
All of the characters are larger than life, with the possible exception of Depp - who's terrific as Edward, the one character who you'd think would be larger than life. Dianne Wiest plays her "mothering" role to perfection, as does Alan Arkin as her preoccupied husband. Winona Ryder is perfectly cast and is vulnerable, rebellious, and "sexy-without-being-sexual" all at the same time.
The Blu-ray disc is presented in widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. For the most part, it looks terrific. There are some grainy shots, and an overall softness we'd guess is deliberate, but overall we're quite happy with the transfer. Audio is dts HD 4.0 Master Audio, and it sounds terrific, much better than on the DVD (which was no slouch itself).
Extras include an audio commentary track by director Burton and another one by often-collaborator and composer Danny Elfman. There's also a featurette on the production, and trailers for other BD releases.
We aren't convinced yet about the "smart menu" that floats over the feature, so you don't have to leave the movie to check out the features. It still blocks at good portion of the screen (at least in this incarnation) and, after all, you're going to leave the movie anyway if you access the special features. But it's interesting if nothing else.
As for Edward, it's a marvelous film!
Edward Scissorhands, from 20th Century Fox Home Video
Beetlejuice on Blu-ray
Tim Burton's Beetlejuice was the movie that first put him firmly in the public's eye. Though he helmed "Pee-wee's Big Adventure" before this comic tale of the undead, he wasn't as much a household word and this movie undoubtedly helped get him the gig helming Warners' Batman.
And now Beetlejuice is back, on Blu-ray, with a very nice presentation.
The movie looks great, right off the top. The main title sequence features a leisurely shot of a "Smalltown USA" that appears frozen in time – and then the camera pulls back and we learn that it really is frozen in time, since it's a beautifully constructed model: a "giant" spider crawls over the roof of a house, putting the scale into perspective and letting us know in no uncertain terms that we are now ensconced firmly in Burtonland, a magical place where the outlandish or just plain weird is the ordinary.
Next we're introduced to our heroes, Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara (Geena Davis) Maitland, who live in the rural New England town of the model, in a lovely old house they love and are planning to restore. But tragedy strikes them, as they die in a freak auto accident and find themselves back in their house, not even realizing at first that they've shuffled off the mortal coil.
Their ugly reality hits home soon enough, including the fact that they can't leave their home lest they find themselves in a strange desert-like landscape populated with strange Dune-like sandworms. They, in effect, are ghosts condemned to haunting their old haunts.
And since life doesn't stand still, their dream home is sold out from under them, with them still inhabiting its spirit, and it's sold to a family from New York City that is a real piece of work. Charles (Jeffrey Jones) loves the place because it fits with his goal of moving away from the rat race for some quality time. His wife, Delia (Catherine O'Hara) – a poseur of an artiste – hates the place and the location, while their daughter Lydia (Winona Ryder) is a Goth-like presence who appears as if she wouldn't feel comfortable anywhere.
The Maitlands hate these boors, and decide to do everything they can to frighten them away. Alas, there isn't much they can do, so in desperation they turn to "bio-exorcist" Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton). And if you think things were weird then, just wait till he goes into action.
Baldwin and Davis are extremely likeable as the ghosts playing host, with Keaton positively chewing the scenery as the cavalry riding to their rescue. That isn't a complaint; the role calls for scenery to be chewed. Jones turns in a workmanlike performance, but O'Hara shines; it's one of her best theatrical roles, and it's a shame the formidable talents she displayed in her SCTV days haven't translated into better big screen success (though we could say that about most SCTV alumni). Ryder plays her lost soul very well, too, in a portrayal that's 180 degrees from her next Burton role in Edward Scissorhands.
As is typical with Burton's movies, Beetlejuice looks great – and the Blu-ray disc doesn't disappoint. The widescreen 1080p (1.85:1) picture is sharp and clean and rich, with excellent contrast, deep blacks and good depth. The only downside to this is that sometimes the seams show through in effects shots, especially the stop motion ones, but somehow that doesn't detract from the fun.
The audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1, and is also very good. All the channels are used well, though the .1 LFE track is the least used, immersing you in the experience.
Warner gives you a relatively sparse selection of extras, however. The highlight is a music-only track that lets you revel in Danny Elfman's fine score, with the three animated Beetlejuice episodes paling in comparison with the live action original.
You also get the trailer.
While we always appreciate an abundance of extras, it's the movie that we're interested in the most, so overall we're quite happy with this pristine presentation on Blu-ray disc.
Beetlejuice, from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment
Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.