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By KAREN MARTIN SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

This article was published January 11, 2013 at 2:02 a.m.

young-victor-frankenstein-successfully-reamimates-his-dog-sparky-in-tim-burtons-frankenweenie

Young Victor Frankenstein successfully reamimates his dog Sparky in Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie.

— Tim Burton

Frankenweenie

PG, 87 minutes

Frankenweenie is the story of young Victor (voice of Charlie Tahan) who imaginatively employs the power of science to bring his beloved dog Sparky, who dies after being hit by a car while chasing a baseball into the street, back to life.

Directed by Tim Burton - some of his best work in years, with appealing characters, a compelling story, and witty dialogue by scriptwriter John August - the film uses 3-D stop-motion animation and is shot in black-and-white to set a good-natured ghoulish mood.

Victor, being a science and science-fiction geek (the film is loaded with homages to science fiction and horror movies), isn’t skilled in social graces. But his ingenuity and loneliness for the company of his four-legged best friend guides him to assemble a somewhat sorry-looking creature put together with stitches and love - with a happy bark and loads of personality.

Although Victor tries to hide his homemade creation, his classmates discover his secret. Faced with a formidable challenge, they try to create bigger and more amazing creatures - including a vampire cat and a mummy hamster - as entries in a school science fair, with monstrous results.

The idea for Frankenweenie originated in 1984 when Burton, who worked at Disney at the time, made a live-action short film with the same name about a boy who channels the legendary tale of Frankenstein in an effort to revive his dead dog.

Along with the voice of Martin Landau as Charlie’s inspirational science teacher, Frankenweenie features the voices of Winona Ryder, Martin Short and Catherine O’Hara.

“The black-and-white stop-motion animation, a bit like an animated Edward Gorey cartoon, is impressive - even the tactile fabric of Victor’s pants has a pleasing thread count - as are many of the subtle smaller touches and paeans to Burton’s career,” says our critic Piers Marchant. “Using Winona Ryder as the voice of the disenfranchised goth girl next door is a particularly welcome move.”

A four-disc Blu-ray combo pack includes the film in 3-D, a touring exhibit feature, and a digital copy of the film for watching on computers and portable devices.

Other recent Blu-ray releases:

Cape Fear (1962, not rated, 106 minutes) This is the original film, set in North Carolina, about the terrorizing of lawyer Sam Bowden (Gregory Peck) and his family by a recently released convict, Max Cady (Robert Mitchum), who blames the lawyer for his eight-year incarceration for assault and rape. Directed by J. Lee Thompson (The Guns of Navarone), it also features Polly Bergen, Martin Balsam and Telly Savalas (with hair). “For me, Cape Fear possibly even nudges out Hitchcock’s Psycho as the most taboo-breaking and morally-challenging film of the early 1960s,” says critic Chris McEneany on AVForums.com. The Blu-ray includes production photos and a making-of featurette. Cape Fear was remade in 1991 by Martin Scorsese with Robert DeNiro as Cady and Nick Nolte as Bowden.

Grand Hotel (1932). A big-star vehicle (Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery) that contains Garbo’s famous quote, “I want to be alone,” this is the story of a luxury hotel where a bunch of people with wide ranging backgrounds, motivations and emotional states hang out while complaining that nothing ever happens there. “It’s a talky piece with a limited number of sets,” says James Bernardinelli on the website Reelviews.com. “Admittedly, many of those are lavish - such as the hotel’s swanky lobby - but the action is confined to a few areas. Grand Hotel is about recognizing that almost everyone has a secret and learning what those secrets are … watching so many legendary actors in close proximity is a compensation for the stilted development of the tale.” The film won the 1932 Academy Award for Best Picture.

The Bone Collector (R, 118 minutes) In this grim 1999 thriller directed by Phillip Noyce (Rabbit-Proof Fence, The Quiet American), Denzel Washington plays a quadriplegic forensic specialist who, with the help of a capable young investigator (Angelina Jolie), works to track down a serial killer. “There’s only one good reason to see The Bone Collector, and her name is Angelina Jolie,” says critic Stephanie Zacharek in Salon.com. “Jolie, as a smart and conscientious New York cop who suddenly finds herself shoehorned uncomfortably into the role of forensic investigator, gives so much more than the movie even asks of her. ...The light of her performance shines out through the picture’s leaks and cracks.” With Luis Guzman and Queen Latifah.

MovieStyle, Pages 31 on 01/11/2013

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