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BUENA VISTA

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Henry Selick
Cast:
Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, Catherine O'Hara, William Hickey, Glenn Shadix, Paul Reubens, Ken Page, Edward Ivory, Susan McBride, Greg Proops
Writing Credits:
Tim Burton (story and characters), Michael McDowell (adaptation), Caroline Thompson

Synopsis:
Enter an extraordinary world filled with magic and wonder - where every holiday has its own special land - and imaginative, one-of-a-kind characters! The Nightmare Before Christmas tells the heartfelt tale of Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, and all things that go bump in the night. Bored with the same old tricks and treats, he yearns for something more, and soon stumbles upon the glorious magic of Christmas Town! Jack decides to bring this joyful holiday back to Halloween Town. But as his dream to fill Santa's shoes unravels, it's up to Sally, the rag doll who loves him, to stitch things back together. This critically acclaimed movie milestone captured the heart and imagination of audiences everywhere with its Academy Award(R)-nominated stop-motion effects, engaging Grammy(R)-nominated music, and the genius of Tim Burton. The Nightmare Before Christmas - a delightful treat the whole family will enjoy!

Box Office:
Budget
$18 million.
Opening Weekend
$191.232 thousand on 2 screens.
Domestic Gross
$14.486 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.66:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 75 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 12/2/1997

Bonus:
• Trailer


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The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 21, 2008)

Although it hasn't quite earned a place among holiday classics, Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas probably should. The 1993 film provides a fun piece that offers a fairly standard positive message Ė along the lines of "be happy with who you are" - but wraps it in a nearly perverse package. Despite some potential in that area Nightmare doesn't ever become nasty and it doesn't attempt to offend, so I feel it definitely would be suitable for a pleasant Christmas Eve screening. However, don't mistake it for the usual saccharine holiday fare, for this movie's something altogether different.

And not altogether successful, though it's a pretty solid little film. Actually, Nightmare has grown on me a lot over the years. Initially I found it to be disappointing. My main fault with the film then - and now, actually - stemmed from the fact that I think it tries a little too hard. Danny Elfman writes some interesting lyrics to the film's tunes, but sometimes they seem almost abstractly clever. I appreciated them for their creativity but they seemed more like a mental exercise from a bored English major; I might respect them but I didn't always enjoy them.

I still don't much care for Elfman's songs, but the film works nonetheless. There's enough wit and flair in the characters and the various ways that Christmas rites are misinterpreted to keep me interested. It's quite entertaining to see the way that the residents of Halloween Town mistakenly pervert the holiday tokens and traditions to fit their own world-view. This made me curious to see how the inhabitants of other "holiday towns" Ė the film makes it clear that each holiday has its own city in which that special occasion is the focal point of the residents' lives - would distort different dates.

The combination of Christmas and Halloween is nearly ideal, though, so it's unlikely other variations will be attempted; really, the most interesting possibilities mix Halloween and something else, so they'd just seem like remakes of this film. Anyway, the ghoulish tone that the Halloween Towners give to Christmas is immensely entertaining and delightful.

Though Nightmare depicts some fairly gruesome and grotesque sights Ė a zombie with an axe in his head, for example - the stop-motion animation keeps things cartoony and fairly cute. No one should find these characters offensive or upsetting, and although some younger kids might be troubled by various aspects of the story, older children - from eight or so up Ė will probably be highly amused by the liberties the film takes. Make no mistake - Nightmare is unique.

But not tremendously so, which is actually a positive. Nightmare ultimately stays with the spirit of other holiday films and programs, which will make it more of a perennial in the long run. Something more overtly wicked and nasty would be fun for a while, but it's rare that a Christmas piece that offers a contrarian view can last. A Christmas Story is really the only film that meets those criteria, and it's nothing more than a gentle poke at the season.

One of the reasons why Nightmare succeeds is because it works without much irony. The characters are genuinely confused by but also delighted with the trappings of Christmas and we see that wonder and excitement through our main character, Jack Skellington (spoken by Chris Sarandon, sung by Danny Elfman). The film lacks much of a coherent narrative, as the whole thing essentially just leads up to Jack's inevitable botching of his version of Christmas and his also-inevitable rediscovery of his true self in time to save the day. (Hey, this film is under the Disney banner, after all!) Nonetheless, it provides a lot of fun along the way.


The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio A-/ Bonus D-

Tim Burtonís The Nightmare Before Christmas appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has been not enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Despite the absence of anamorphic enhancement, Nightmare looked pretty good.

The lack of 16X9 coding caused some minor sharpness concerns. Wide shots tended to be just a wee bit soft, and they werenít quite as distinctive as they should be. Nonetheless, the film usually displayed nice definition and clarity. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement remained minimal. Source flaws were absent, though I thought some light digital artifacting occasionally gave the movie a slightly gauzy look.

Black levels seemed solid and deep, with fine definition and darkness. Shadow detail also appeared clean and appropriately dense, but it lacked any concerns related to excessive opacity; the many dimly-lit sequences came through well.

Those latter areas were of great importance in Halloween Town, where a very limited palette was in place; it's a very monochromatic environment where the orange was the only color we see that's not a variation on black, gray or brown, and even that hue looked subdued. However, bright, shiny colors came into play in the Christmas Town segments. Some of those objects spilled over into the Halloween Town scenes - when Jack brings back tokens from Christmas Town - and they looked pretty nice across the board. At no point did the hues dazzle, but they provided satisfying tones.

Special mention should be accorded the scene in which Oogie Boogie tortures Santa Claus. This was shot in a black light motif, and it looked better than the rest of the film. Something about the black light really emphasized details, and the result was a scene that seemed three-dimensional. Overall, the transfer could use an update, but it still earned a satisfactory ďBĒ.

The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack seemed very strong. It offered a nicely blended soundfield in which music and ambient effects cozily surrounded the listener. The forward channels spread out the audio nicely and created a fairly involving image. It wasn't a tremendously aggressive mix, but the split surrounds provided some useful embellishment of the forward spectrum and the entire track seemed well balanced and complemented the material.

The quality of the audio also seemed great. All aspects of the mix sounded clear, clean and natural; I detected no signs of distortion, and it showed a nice dynamic range. Dialogue was exceedingly crisp and natural, and the speech blended well with the images. Effects were clean and distinct and seemed appropriately realistic. The music appeared especially strong. Overall, this was a terrific soundtrack.

In terms of extras, almost nothing accompanies Nightmare. We only get a trailer, and despite the claims on the DVDís case, itís not the "original theatrical trailer". Actually, it's an ad for the video release of Nightmare. I'd assume that it was bundled with other Disney or Touchstone videos and never saw the inside of a theater.

In place of those supplements, here's my own piece of trivia: one name for Jack Skellington is "Halloween Jack," an appellation taken from Bowie's song, "Diamond Dogs". There! An extra extra!

Although Iím not quite sure it qualifies as a holiday classic, Tim Burtonís The Nightmare Before Christmas holds up well after 15 years. It creates a fun, inventive tale that consistently entertains. The DVD offers perfectly acceptable picture quality along with excellent audio, but it lacks substantial extras. While I like the movie a lot, this release doesnít do it real justice.

To rate this film visit the Special Edition review of A NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS

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