Guest Reviews from fellow TCFF Bloggers: Frankenweenie and The Master

I was away at an interactive design conference all day today, folks, but I wanted to introduce you to two fellow TCFF bloggers who’ll be covering the film fest with me. June actually covered TCFF last year for her Girl Producer blog, but this will be the first time Emery will be covering the film fest. She’s currently studying film at the U of M Film.

Thanks June and Emery for your reviews!


Ah a beloved story of a child and his dog mixed with Ghoulish looking people, black and white theatrics, and animal zombies. Wait… what?

Frankenweenie started at a short film that got Director Tim Burton fired from Disney. Yep, fired. So it is only fitting that years later he is hired back and given a chance to revisit his old tale now embraced by Disney.

So what to say about the film? It is definitely true to the Burtonesque nature of things with it’s dark theatrics and beloved stop motion claymation and snappy humor that you have to be quick to catch. And in old Disney fashion there is something for both kids and adults to enjoy. Having seen the short years ago I was excited to see how things played out in the feature version. The thing about Burton is that he always creates fascinating abstract characters and that remains true in this film.

This is a great Halloween film that the whole family can enjoy, just be aware that there are some darker moments in the film that may be unsuitable for those really young.

– review by June Neely


3 out of 5 reels


The Master is a period piece, set directly after WWII, it focuses on a veteran named Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), who is returning home. Either the war wreaked havoc on his mental state (a victim of PTSD) or he is inherently a troubled person. Whatever the reasoning is for his behavior/personality there isn’t a place for him in this post-war environment. This is the case until he meets Lancaster Dodd (the always lovely Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his wife Peggy (Amy Adams), who are the founders and leaders of The Cause; the Cause is a theologically-based group that exhibits traits of a sophisticated cult.

Lancaster recognizes that Freddie needs help and takes him in, believing that he can fix him. The two men’s personalities are dissimilar to such an extent that all of their interactions put you on pins and needles. Each character brings their own tension, and each interaction creates new discomfort – laughter seems to be the most appropriate reaction. Considering Paul Thomas Anderson’s past work, if it wasn’t unsettling and confusing, many viewers would be disappointed.

Over the course of the film, The Cause becomes more and more questionable. Before the release of this film, there were rumors that this was going to be a Scientology movie– P. T. A. based The Cause and Dodd’s character loosely off of L. Ron Hubbard (founder of Scientology) and his original group of followers. Despite resemblances, any connection with the current religion has been denied.

Paul Thomas Anderson is a highly acclaimed writer-director; he is responsible for a mere six feature films, yet all of them have numerous accolades. The acting is award-worthy, but I doubt that this will rake in the awards like 2007’s There Will Be Blood, but fans of PTA will be far from disappointed.

This is not a movie – as in something you would want to see in your leisure for quick (mindless) entertainment – this is a film. The cinematography is breathtaking (I saw it in 70mm – every shot looks like a photograph); this film is driven by its characters, which are genuine and memorable, and though the narrative takes a back seat, it is far from dull.

One of the quirks of Freddie Quell’s PTSD is that he’s a raving alcoholic, and there are a few points during the film where Freddie is shown making his own product. I have found an interview from the Vulture website that discusses the plausibility of distilling and getting intoxicated with household chemicals (worth a read after you go see The Master).

The R rating is deserved; Freddie has bad habits and the audience is given a full serving of his mature lifestyle. I walked out of the theater with my faith in today’s film industry totally restored. I am trying to give away as few plot spoilers as possible, while whole-heatedly advocating everyone to go see this. Waiting for it to come out on DVD is fine and dandy, but missing an opportunity to see this on the silver screen would be foolish.

Fun fact about the film: The Master grossed an average of $146,000 per theater during its limited release (sep. 15 and 16)– the second-highest total for a limited-release live-action film.

– review by Emery Thoresen

4 out of 5 reels

Thoughts about either one of these films? Let’s hear it in the comments!

29 thoughts on “Guest Reviews from fellow TCFF Bloggers: Frankenweenie and The Master

  1. Nice reviews! I have to say that I actually liked “Frankenweenie” more than “The Master” (and I’m not a big fan of Burton). I was absorbed in the love the film showed for classic horror cinema. I also felt this film had more heart than any of Burton’s recent pictures. I just loved it.

    I agree with many of the things said about “The Master” but I think it has its share of problems. I felt it came unglued the closer it got to the end. I also felt that much of the sexual content was forced and did little to add to Freddie’s personal conflict. Overall, this didn’t feel near as polished as “There Will Be Blood”. But it still really blew me away in other areas.

    1. I’m not a big Burton fan either but since I saw Corpse Bride not too long ago, I quite like his animated film style so I will rent Frankenweenie for sure.

      What did you think of the sexual content of The Master, Keith? I’m not comfortable with watching such such scenes, especially on the big screen. I feel that some of PTA’s films are too dark for me.

      1. keith7198

        I was really turned off by the sexual content. Anderson is very in your face with it and I didn’t feel it did anything whatsoever to make Freddie’s character more conflicted. It was so jarring and self-indulgent and it took away from the film in more than one way.

        1. ruth

          Ah I see, that’s what I heard too from another blogger whose views mimic my own. I feel that a lot of directors feel the need to show overt sexuality on screen when an implied notion could’ve been as effective. Self indulgent is how I’d characterize it, too, Keith.

          1. keith7198

            You know talented directors were able to imply sexuality with great effectiveness for years without the overboard explicit material. Here P.T. Anderson goes on and on with it and for me personally it wasn’t a good decision.

    2. Emery Thoresen

      there were many parallels between “The Master” and “There Will Be Blood” – mostly in the character dynamic – but i agree, that it lacks the polish. Maybe on a second viewing more of the flaws would pop out, but the disjointedness felt very deliberate for me. At least for the time being, it has to be the prettiest movie in theaters.
      i haven’t seen “Frankenweenie” yet, but it looks adorable, if you say you liked it more, it makes me much more excited to see it.

  2. Nice reviews. Loved Emery’s take on The Master and I’m very much looking forward to that movie. Frankenweenie is supposed to open over here on Friday, so I’m very excited for that too.

  3. Ted S.

    I’ll give The Master a rent when it comes out on Blu-ray, not the biggest fan of PT Anderson. I would love to see it on 70mm but unfortunately there aren’t any 70mm theaters here in MN.

    Frankenweenie doesn’t look appealing to me but then again I’m not much into animations these days.

    1. I thought Emery saw this at the Lagoon?? Yeah, it’d be nice to have at least one of those theaters here in the cities.

      Ahah, yeah I remember you’re not into animated features. But you like one of Pixar movies right?

      1. Ted S.

        Unless they decided to just show it that night in 70mm, I don’t believe that was shown in 70mm print. I did some research and no 70mm showing in MN. Here’s the complete list of where The Master was shown in 70mm:

        All of the 70mm theaters in MN are have been closed for years.

        Oh yeah, I loved The Incredibles and Wall-E. But as I’ve gotten older, animations just aren’t that interesting to me. I used to love watching cartoons when I was younger.

        1. girlproducer

          Yeah, I think the reason we aren’t into cartoon films as much is because the content/quality of them has changed and plus we are older. Tim Burton is great with bringing claymation to the table but it wasn’t as strong as his previous claymation films. I am also a big fan of the Incredibles.

    2. Emery Thoresen

      i was under the impression that it was only shown in 35mm and 70mm, but as i look through the Landmark Theater site i cant find any details beyond the size of the screens. so i could be very much mistaken, my apologies.
      the appeal of Burton’s animation, for me, is the amount of detail put into all of it. almost like the days of hand drawn cartoons – such a labor of love. aside from that, i agree that they can get tiring.

    3. Emery Thoresen

      following your link, someone posted that the “Uptown theater, Minneapolis, MN will be showing the Master (35mm) 4+ times a day for at least a week starting Friday 9-21-12.”
      since the Lagoon and Uptown are through the same company they must be using the same format.

  4. jackdeth72

    Hi, June, Emory and company:

    Welcome to the mix!

    ‘Frankenweenie’ looks like Old School Burton and well worth a look.

    ‘The Master’, not so much. The whole cult feel I get from its clips and trailers is a bit off putting. Phillip Seymour Hoffman also has a distinct Orson Welles vibe going on, which adds to the creepiness factor.

    1. Hi Jack! That’s interesting that you mentioned Orson Welles, I think Hoffman’s character is supposed to be very creepy, no?

      I didn’t know you’re a fan of Burton. I just saw Corpse Bride and I want to see Nightmare Before Christmas now. Which of Burton movie(s) are you fave?

      1. Hi, Ruth:

        I saw Burton’s original ‘Frankenweenie’ amongst a night of short films including ‘Bambi meets Godzilla’ ages ago. I like the no budget, 1950s look he gives to some projects. Which is one of reasons ‘Ed Wood’ works so well for me.

        ‘The Corpse Bride’ has better jokes. While ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ has better music.

        Most cult leaders are con artists who can ‘Cold Read’ people with just a glance, Know their weaknesses and use those weaknesses to their own advantage. Which is creepy enough.

        Add a Welles-like (‘Touch of Evil’, the later parts of ‘Citizen Kane’) leading man. And ‘serene’ and ‘sedate’ don’t really fit into the menu.

    2. Emery Thoresen

      it takes a lot out of you, depending on your level of involvement. totally understand where your coming from with respect to “The Master.”
      the commercials actually do a pretty good job of setting the tone of the movie, while leaving things to be see in the theater.

  5. Solid reviews June and Emery! I definitely want to check out The Master but I feel I can wait for the DVD and enjoy it at home. Can’t wait for your coverage of TCFF, ladies 😀

    1. Yeah I’m the same way about both of these Castor, more of a rental. Besides, I don’t think I can fit them in with TCFF going on all week long. Hope to see you there next Thursday!

  6. Nice reviews! I’m excited for both of these movies – Burton has been disappointing me for years so I hope Frankenweenie will change that and will show that he can still make fine films and Anderson never disappointed me so I really can’t wait to see The Master 🙂

    1. ruth

      Hi Sati, Burton is not my fave director but you’re right his work seems to be hit and miss. His animated features seem to be really good though, I really like Corpse Bride. As for PTA, I still have to catch up to his work, esp. Magnolia.

  7. Great to hear The Master is shaping up to be the film we all wanted it to be. Tough boots to fill after There Will Be Blood but Anderson’s a terrific filmmaker.

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