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THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (CE)
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Reviewed by: Zombie Boy

Directed by: Henry Selick

Starring:
Chris Sarandon
Catherine OíHara
William Hickey

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about
The Pumpkin King of Halloween town has a mid-death crisis, and decides the only way to alleviate his lamenting soul is to become the new Sandy Claws. Hilarity ensues.
Is it good movie?
Since the special features section of this review is so lengthy, I will go ahead and gloss over the film itself. I mean, what is there left to say about it?

Jack Skellington is an unhappy Pumpkin King. Same old thing, Halloween in and Halloween out. Ennui permeates his bony form. While out on a bracing walk through the perpetual Autumn of Halloween town, he happens upon a series of gates carved into trees, and is overwhelmed by the site of a Christmas tree. He slips past the barrier and has an epiphany: smiles and happiness of children is possible, and his ego and ambition instantly put himself in the place of the joy giver. He thus becomes a possessed ossification, bent on unraveling the secrets of the yuletide holiday in order to supplant the giant lobster man of the North Pole. Only raggedy Sally can see the folly of this thinking, and attempts to inject reason into the tableau.

The vivid imagination of Tim Burton couples nicely with the sinister/sweet songwriting of Danny Elfman, and ultimately falls into the lap of director Henry Selick and his team of 100-something puppet-makers and manipulators to create the goth-girl masterpiece of the twentieth century, thus ensuring the solvency of Hot Topic clear into the year 3000. The stop-motion animation is a marvelous anachronism in todayís computer-generated playing field, and the 200 or so puppets are amazing and entertaining. For me, however, there is never any emotional engagement. An eerie opera essayed by steel-skeletoned foam-rubber puppets is crazy and ambitious and should be applauded, but I just canít find a compelling reason to watch it twice.
Video / Audio
Video: Widescreen (1.66:1) - original theatrical format. The digitally remastered presentation is pristine. One look at the included original trailer will show you how much noise and grain was removed from the image.

Audio: Dolby Digital 5.0. The disc sounds just as good as it looks. There are not only optional French and Spanish subtitles, but full language tracks for both as well.
The Extras
Disc One

Commentary with Tim Burton, Danny Elfman, and Henry Selick: since all three parts were recorded separately and edited together, the effect is sometimes schizophrenic and sort of hollow. All three stick mostly to nuts and bolts stuff, but there are occasional flights of fancy that are more entertaining, such as Elfman empathizing with Jackís plight at the beginning of the film, vis-ŗ-vis his dissatisfaction with his role in Oingo Boingo towards the end of their career.

Whatís This? Jackís Haunted Mansion holiday tour: this neat feature takes you on a virtual tour of the Disneyland Haunted Mansion attraction, as retro-fitted with NBC gear for the 12-days of Christmas. You can take the tour regular-like, with a special trivia track, or you can watch the lengthy behind the scenes tour, with interviews with the brains behind it, as well as comparisons/contrastings with the original Haunted Mansion.

Tim Burtonís original Nightmare Before Christmas poem, as read by Christopher Lee: exactly what it sound like, with a backdrop of animation based on Burtonís original artwork for the film. Maybe my favorite special feature on the set. You canít beat Lee.

Behind the Scenes making-of Tim Burtonís Nightmare Before Christmas: this 6-part peek behind the curtain totals about 25-minutes and runs the gamut from music to storyboards to puppets to animation. Quite comprehensive.

Disc Two

Frankenweenie: Burton directed this 1984 short film while he was still working at Disney, and it is an adorable take on Mary Shelleyís Frankenstein, featuring a young boy named Victor Frankenstein (Barrett Oliver of D.A.R.Y.L. fame) as a distraught boy bringing his beloved pet Sparky back from the dead. Excellent supporting works is done by Shelly Duvall and an impossibly young Daniel Stern as the parents of the budding mad scientist, and astute viewers will be delighted by the cameo by the late director/actor Paul Bartel (Death Race 2000, Lust in the Dust, Eating Raoul). It is also funny to see early images that would figure prominently in Burtonís later work, most notably Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands.

Vincent: there is no other way to describe this 5-minutes stop-motion short other than delightful. A suspiciously Tim Burton looking puppet named Vincent suspiciously shares Burtonís real life enamoring of Vincent Price, and sees his mundane life through the eyes of Priceís Dr. Phibes and the works of Edgar Allen Poe. Like Frankenweenie it uses black and white to impressively paint with shadows, and sucked me in a lot more effectively than NCB itself. It is also worth note that the short was animated by one-third of the Killer Klowns-creating Chiodo brothers, Steven.

Deleted Scenes: I find it utterly ridiculous to have such short deleted scenes from a movie that is only an hour and ten minutes long, but here they are. Both animated scenes and stuff that only made it as far as storyboards are included.

The Worlds of Nightmare Before Christmas: extensive photo galleries of conceptual drawings of Halloween town, Christmas town, and the real world, as well as the main puppets. Best of all, though, are the test animations of Jack, Sally, and Zero.

Storyboard to film comparison: 4-minutes of split-screen stuff. I always find these things to be Snoozeville, but maybe youíll like it. *shrug*

Posters and Trailers : Coupla movie posters, one teaser trailer and one theatrical trailer.
Last Call
This DVD set is impressively packaged and chocked full of special features. No stone is left unturned here; it even comes with a third disc that contains a digital copy of the film, for downloading to your computer or iPod. If you have even a passing fancy for this film, you really shouldnít pass up this crisp-looking, bright-sounding, and geeked-out accoutrement-laden cornucopia of Nightmare Before Christmas goodness!
ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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