- - Sunday, July 15, 2012

Tim Burton remembers critics back in the day finding his take on Batman rather gloomy.

Mr. Burton’s Dark Knight seemed to be having fun in the sun compared to where the current Batman series has taken the comic-book vigilante on the big screen.

“I recall, at the time, people worried about our version being too dark,” Mr. Burton said of his 1989 “Batman” and the 1992 sequel “Batman Returns.” “It’s like, well, it looks like a lighthearted romp in comparison. ‘Batman on Ice.’ “

Opening next week, “The Dark Knight Rises” wraps up director Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, which launched with 2005’s “Batman Begins” and continued with 2008’s “The Dark Knight.”

Mr. Nolan elevated the superhero genre to grand proportions, with Christian Bale’s Batman becoming a haunted wreck and a hunted fugitive unjustly condemned by the city to which he gave his all to protect.

Mr. Burton’s Batman, played by Michael Keaton, was a dark soul, too, but the films had a levity and a campy quality that has diminished as today’s stream of superhero flicks take their idols and action more seriously.

“The great thing about what comics have done is that you can take something and look at it in different ways,” Mr. Burton said in an Associated Press interview at the Comic Con fan convention, where he showed off footage of his animated comedy “Frankenweenie,” due out Oct. 7.

“It’s like a folk tale or fairy tale. You can kind of revisit things and show things in a different way.”

Mr. Burton, whose biggest commercial success began a decade after his Batman movies with such blockbusters as “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Alice in Wonderland,” is revisiting one of his own early stories with “Frankenweenie.”

The tale of a boy who resurrects his dead dog, Frankenstein-style, started as a live-action short film Mr. Burton directed in 1984. He has expanded on the story to create a feature-length black-and-white update using stop-motion animation, in which puppets are moved and photographed meticulously one frame at a time.

“I felt quite grateful that I got to do the original in live action, because I was, A) a bad animator, and B) not very communicative, so it really forced me to talk,” said Mr. Burton, whose “Frankenweenie” voice cast contains past collaborators, including Winona Ryder, Martin Landau, Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short. “If I’d done stop-motion at the time, which I don’t think would have happened, I probably wouldn’t have been able to move into live action like I did.

“So all these years later, to come back and to do it in, I think, its more pure form, stop-motion, exploring other kids, other monsters, weird teachers, things related to the story that were kind of rattling around, made it feel like it was a new thing. I didn’t feel like I was just revisiting something. It felt like it was a whole new project.”

Bond’s Q to make return in latest film, ‘Skyfall’

There’s good news for gadget-loving James Bond fans — Q is back.

Producers have confirmed that the MI6 quartermaster and expert in high-tech trickery will return in the upcoming Bond film, “Skyfall.”

EON productions said Thursday that British actor Ben Whishaw will play the role made famous by the late Desmond Llewelyn, who played Q in 17 Bond films between 1963 and 1999.

Comedian John Cleese later played the character in two films during Pierce Brosnan’s stint as 007, but Q was absent from Daniel Craig’s first two Bond adventures, “Casino Royale” and “Quantum of Solace.”

Directed by Sam Mendes, “Skyfall” is due for release around the world in the fall.

Mr. Craig will be joined by a cast that includes Javier Bardem, Albert Finney, Ralph Fiennes and Naomie Harris.

Singer Helen Reddy comes out of retirement

Helen Reddy failed to take her own advice for the past few years — she did not “Keep on Singing,” to quote the title of her 1974 hit.

Ten years ago, the “I Am Woman” singer-songwriter gave up on show business and started a whole new life in her homeland of Australia. She got a degree in clinical hypnotherapy, and for the past decade has lived modestly in Sydney.

“I have very wide-ranging interests,” she said in a recent Associated Press interview. “So, singing ‘Leave Me Alone’ 43 times per song lost its charm a long time ago.”

But she couldn’t stay silent forever. Miss Reddy made her return to the musical stage last week, at a club in San Diego and for a high school benefit in the Panorama City section of Los Angeles. She decided to return to performing after being buoyed by the warm reception she got recently when she sang at her sister’s birthday party.

But don’t expect to hear all of the old chart makers during her performances.

“One of the reasons that I’m coming back to singing is because I’m not doing the greatest hits,” Miss Reddy explained. “I’m doing the songs that I always loved. So many are album cuts that never got any airplay, and they’re gorgeous songs.”

Miss Reddy, 70, has been singing since she was a young girl, as part of a well-known show-business family in Melbourne. She didn’t score hugely until her 1971 hit cover of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” the big ballad from the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Over the next decade, she produced 15 top 40 hits, with three reaching No. 1.

Her biggest song was the feminist anthem “I Am Woman” — which ultimately inspired her to retire.

“That was one of the reasons that I stopped singing, was when I was shown a modern American history high school textbook, and a whole chapter on feminism — and my name and my lyrics [were] in the book,” she recalled. “And I thought, ‘Well, I’m part of history now. And how do I top that? I can’t top that.’ So, it was an easy withdrawal.”

Still, that is one of the classics from her catalog that she will sing onstage — or, to be more accurate, recite.

“Sometimes the words get lost in a song,” Miss Reddy said. “And I think the words are very important. So I am reciting ‘I Am Woman.’ And I hadn’t realized, but it’s wonderful acting piece as well. So, that will probably be the end of the set for me.”

She added: “A lot of things that [women] gained during the ‘70s have been lost. And I think it is time to put woman forward in more places.”

• Compiled from Web and wire reports

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