Magic (1978) Blind Spot Review

Welcome to Creepy Dolls Week! Let’s look at Magic’s impressive set of names: Richard Attenborough, William Goldman, Anthony Hopkins, Ann-Margret, Burgess Meredith… Wow! This is why I added Magic to my Blind Spot list. Was it as good as the talent involved would suggest?

Magic (1978)

Directed by Richard Attenborough

Based on Magic by William Goldman

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Ann-Margret, Burgess Meredith, Ed Lauter, David Ogden Stiers

Music by Jerry Goldsmith

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A ventriloquist is at the mercy of his vicious dummy while he tries to renew a romance with his high school sweetheart.

My Opinion:

Here’s a quick list of links to my 2016 Blind Spot Reviews so far, including where I’d rank Magic:

9. Phenomena – 7/10
8. An Education – 7/10
7. Magic – 7/10
6. Summer Wars – 7/10
5. True Romance – 7/10
4. THX 1138 – 7.5/10
3. Play Misty For Me – 7.5/10
2. Battle Royale – 8/10
1. Natural Born Killers – 8/10

Of all the impressive names attached to this film, it was actually William Goldman’s that convinced me I should put this movie on my Blind Spot list & finally get around to watching it. Written by the same guy who wrote The Princess Bride, one of the best movies in the history of history??? Oh hell yeah – I had to see this. Plus I admit I have a strange fascination with/fear of ventriloquist’s dummies and this film’s cover has a suitaby creepy one (named “Fats” in the movie). Look at that face! What an evil looking bastard. Can you imagine that thing sitting in your home? Staring at you? Watching you dress? Hogging the remote control? Leaving the toilet seat up? Well, Ann-Margret seemed to find it charming…

Anthony Hopkins is great in this & it’s easy to see why he’s become such a highly respected actor. This is the type of role that can go seriously wrong if not played right but he does the “vulnerable, possibly insane, slowly becoming unhinged” thing perfectly. Then we have the brilliant Burgess Meredith as Hopkins’ high-powered agent who is trying to get a TV show deal for Hopkins & Fats. Aww. I love Burgess Meredith! I’ve had a soft spot for him ever since his various roles in my absolute favorite TV show growing up, the original The Twilight Zone (he just wanted to be left alone to READ!). I suppose I should get around to watching those Rocky films someday, huh? Anyway, he was a delight in Magic & probably my favorite thing about it. He looked weird with a partially shaved head, though.

Speaking of The Twilight Zone, I suppose I have to admit that Magic’s story doesn’t feel totally original as it was done before in things such as, yes, The Twilight Zone as well as in the not-as-well-known-as-it-should-be British horror anthology Dead Of Night. However, this story is often repeated because it’s a damn good one & Goldman has created very strong characters in order to pull it off. I’ll always happily watch the various ways of going about telling this same “crazy ventriloquist OR crazy dummy?” story.

Unfortunately, while I adore movies from the Seventies, this one hasn’t aged quite as well as some. The strong characters stop when we get to the one female in this film: Ann-Margret. She played the role fine but her character is flaky & far too forgiving. But I suppose that’s kind of the point of her character as she’s married to a possessive man, meaning that when she has an affair with Hopkins & he starts displaying bizarre behavior she just puts up with it as it’s the sort of behavior she’s come to expect. It was a different time, though, and I can’t say this hurt the film too much overall. But I couldn’t help but think that I’d kick that crazy dude & his ugly dummy the hell out of my house! No, wait – I wouldn’t let them in in the first place. You are NOT coming into my house with that dummy. I don’t care if we were friends in high school! And don’t send me any social media friend requests, either. Weirdo.

Magic is a good film. It won’t become an all-time favorite of mine but I’m glad I finally watched it. The story is well told with strong characters but I have a feeling it maybe worked slightly better in the book? Has anyone here read it? However, the acting really makes this film far better than it would’ve been had less talented people been involved. I do recommend Magic if it appeals to you in any way as I think it would be worth your time, especially if you’re a fan of Hopkins & appreciate good performances.

My Rating: 7/10

This song is in no way, shape or form related to this film. It’s just now stuck in my head. And I like it. 😉

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Beauty And The Beast (1991) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Steven of Past, Present, Future In TV And Film. Thanks for the review, Steven! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about Beauty And The Beast, IMDB rank 228 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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Animated films. You grow up with them as kids, watch them over and over, and love them to pieces. Sadly, it seems, these films can lose whatever hold they had on you, and become a part of some time long ago, that the kids of today are only just discovering.

The Walt Disney Pictures film “Beauty and the Beast”, certainly reminded me why animated films, newer or classic, aren’t to be discarded once you reach a certain age.

This animated film features the voice talents of Paige O’Hara (“Enchanted”, “Disney Princess Party: Volume Two”), Robby Bensen (“MXP: Most Xtreme Primate”, “American Dreams”), Richard White (“House of Mouse”, “Great Performances”), Jerry Orbach (“Law & Order: Trial by Jury”, “Law & Order”), David Ogden Stiers (“Regular Show”, “Leverage”), Angela Lansbury (“Mr. Popper’s Penguins (2011)”, “Heidi 4 Paws”), Bradley Pierce (“Up in Smoke”, “The LEGO Movie Videogame”), Rex Everhart (“Law & Order”, “Family Business”), and Jesse Corti (“Annie Sunbeam and Friends”, “Handy Manny”).

The film was directed by Gary Trousdale (“The Pig Who Cried Werewolf”, “Scared Shrekless (TV Short 2010)”) and Kirk Wise (“Spirited Away”, “Atlantis: The Lost Empire”). It was written by Linda Woolverton (“Maleficent”, “Alice in Wonderland (2010)”).

The film originally opened on Nov. 22, 1991. It would go on to be nominated for 6 Academy Awards, winning two, four Golden Globe Awards, winning three, and nine Grammy Awards, winning five.

Originally I thought it was going to be difficult to find a copy of this film. The only one my family had, for the longest time, was on VHS, probably the original one bought when I was a kid back in the early ‘90s. I just dated myself. Ugh. Anyway, I didn’t give up. Thank God for both Netflix subscriptions, as the DVD one had the film! However, it wasn’t what I was accustomed to. Since I last saw this film, and I honestly have no idea when that was; for all I know, the last time was in the ‘90s. So, this version was one of the most recent updated versions of the film. I was okay with that, mainly as I’d only heard of the new musical number and hadn’t seen what the animation and coloring would look like in a restored or remastered version. I still got an incredible experience! It seriously makes me wonder why I don’t own this film myself.

The animation, which I immediately fixated on, was incredible! I’m not sure if it’s just because this film is 24 years old (and restored/updated), and the way things are animated is vastly different, but I felt like I was getting something different or special. I instantly fell in love with every aspect that went into bringing this world to life. The detail! The color! Spectacular! Watching these characters move and interact with other characters and the environment was something else. It could also just be telling, in that I don’t usually focus on the way an animated film looks. Certainly not to that level of detail and with the attention I afforded this film.

Much like with the detail of the film, I was able to really focus on the music and lyrics. While in film, Alan Menken (“Galavant”, “Tangled”, “Enchanted”) may not have done much, he somehow delivered incredible, fun, and moving music. Lyricist, Howard Ashman (“The Little Mermaid”, “Little Shop of Horrors”), well, as we now know, wrote amazing songs. I don’t know how best to describe this. I can’t recall if I ever payed that much attention to the music and lyrics before, but this time around, I really, really did. Maybe more than need be, but because of this, I found the lyrics at times funny and highly enjoyable, plus, overall, brilliant! This really explains why, even though I haven’t seen this film much, little pieces of the songs go in and out of my memory, to the point where I must search YouTube for a clip with whatever song is stuck in my head. It also afforded me the chance to see why I love this film more than many of the other animated Disney musical films.

While I pretty much loved every song in this film, including the originally omitted “Human Again”, as well as the darker ones sung by Gaston and his friends, (seriously, listen to the lyrics), there’s only one that stands out the most. That being, “Be Our Guest”.

I think this is mainly because “Be Our Guest”, is so big! That’s the great thing about animation. You can do so much more than in live action. Okay, this may not be entirely true, but let’s just go with it here. Thanks. I love that they even had Belle do a tiny little dance towards the end of the song. I guess I remembered the number a bit differently and thought that this piece just meant something else. It certainly had me getting into the song and dance all that much more, as well as just smiling and laughing and enjoying every moment!!

After the song is over, Belle says, “I figured it out for myself”, for which she’s referring to recognizing that where she is, is an enchanted castle. I found it so fascinating that this very specific thing was mentioned. I don’t know why, but it just stood out for me. Guess it really shows how long ago it was I saw this and what I remember of it.

I don’t think it would be normal if I skipped over a chance to talk about the characters, even if they’re animated.

You always see or hear about surveys, or something, asking which Disney princess is your favorite or which one you are (something like that), and most people seem to have an answer. I usually dismissed this as some silly and obnoxious thing people did for reasons I’ll never understand. I still don’t think, after putting in five minutes of thought, I could tell you. Anyway, after having seen this film I must say that, and I mean this, that Belle is my favorite. I should now throw out that I find many of the Disney princesses annoying, as well as the films they’re featured in, so it makes it easier to pick Belle.

I think most of this love for her comes from the fact that she reads. If that sounds weird, let me add that I’m a big reader. My own personal library now partially lives under my bed, as well as the three other bookcases I have. This probably explains why, when Belle is shown the massive library the beast has, my first thought was, “I want that library!!! So many BOOKS!!!”

Moving on. Maybe this is just some quality I picked out of hers, like with Matilda, that actually carries little actual meaning towards character. I’m not sure. I will say too, that I like her for all the reasons everyone else does. She independent, kind, free spirit, blah blah blah. In the case of the film itself, a large portion goes to O’Hara who had, as I have remembered for so many years, a phenomenal singing voice and the right voice for the character. It’s what makes me love the songs Belle sings so much!

As I’m talking about Belle, I feel it a good time to mention one observation. I love how she just opens up to halfway through the book, but apparently, that’s really the beginning. I know some books have extra pages, that are truly useless, but with her book, that was something else. I think it was something like hundreds of pages before the story actually began. I guess that’s just 1991 for you.

The Beast was an incredibly likable, if not lovable, character. It all has to do with the fact that he’s a very emotional creature? being? thing? Whatever it is, the portrayal of emotions makes him very sympathetic. I was surprised by how quickly he made me feel bad for him. After he catches her in the west wing, he’s so saddened by his outburst. You can see it, and it hits, to me, quite strongly. A kid might not read too much beyond sadness, but I felt much more than I thought I could. You feel so bad for him. It’s so sad!! Fortunately, as is the point of the film, his feelings change and he becomes even more capable of loving, and by the end, you really side with him.

With this version, I loved and didn’t like it, only as it was sort of an awkward placement for a scene, that during “Human Again”, when Belle’s finishing reading “Romeo & Juliet”, you see the Beast just totally taken by the story. Giant paws holding up his head as he listens with attention you don’t really get to see in the rest of the film. This scene, made me so giddy, as you could really see him enjoying this time with Belle! I know there’s plenty of examples of their relationship growing, but somehow those don’t convey the same thing as this one scene does.

Lumier, well, he’s Lumier! I still love Lumier the most. Don’t get me wrong, the other characters are absolutely refreshing as well, but not like Lumier. I’m not entirely sure why, but every time I see Orbach on a “Law & Order” rerun as Lenny Briscoe, I think of Lumier!

And, this wouldn’t be a kids movie without violence! Even if it’s to protect someone from wild animals. Then, there’s the fact that in a kids movie, violence is apparently funny. I got a nice laugh on some of it. I do feel surprised, however, that the animators included such a graphic scene as the knife coming out of the beast. The scene then features a trickle of blood. Really it’s nothing any kid would obsess over, but somehow it just seems shocking. If that doesn’t indicate how long it’s been, I don’t know what will.

Lastly, and just because they’re extra observations, and I even made a note at the top of my page that says, “I’m over thinking most of this film”, I’m including some really random observations. Things which really just made this film a different, yet still enjoyable experience, overall.

– Apparently nobody knew of this prince living in a massive castle. How???
– But, the beast knew there was a village. Or did he just know because of Belle and her father?
– Oh, look! Lumier and Cogsworth sound French! Why are they the only ones?
– Belle has no friends, so she must talk to the chickens. Yeah, that makes sense.
– Everyone’s gotta have a sidekick!
– “How can you read this? There’s no pictures.”
“Well some people use their imaginations.”

Pretty much the sentiment of today’s youth and a lot of people in general. Or, maybe it’s just the people I know that don’t read. Sad on so many levels.

I may watch animated films every now and then, but seldom do I react the way I would if I were still a kid, or as others do when the little kid inside them comes out. Not since “The Lego Movie”, which wasn’t watched all that long ago, have I been so entertained by something animated. Perhaps this newfound love of this film, is telling me I need to revisit my childhood. Maybe I need to spend more time giving new animated films a chance, as I could be surprised by what I’m seeing. There’s a whole genre of film I feel that I’ve been missing for some time, that only now, seems to be acceptable for me to watch again. Animated films, they’re not just for kids.

Spirited Away (2001) Review

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Spirited Away (2001)
Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi
Japanese: 千と千尋の神隠し

IMDB Top 250 Rank: 43 as of 01/01/2013

Directed & Written by Hayao Miyazaki

Starring Voice Actors:
Rumi Hiiragi
Miyu Irino
Mari Natsuki
Takeshi Naito
Yasuko Sawaguchi
Tsunehiko Kamijō
Takehiko Ono
Bunta Sugawara

(English dub voice cast: Daveigh Chase, Jason Marsden, Suzanne Pleshette, David Ogden Stiers, Susan Egan, Paul Eiding, John Ratzenberger)

Running time: 124 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
In the middle of her family’s move to the suburbs, a sullen 10-year-old girl wanders into a world ruled by gods, witches, and monsters; where humans are changed into beasts.

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My Opinion:

Version watched: Japanese with English subtitles

I know the people who’ve been with me a while will know that I’ve become a pretty big Studio Ghibli fan in the couple of years that I’ve run this blog. Back in January, I started reviewing as many of these films as I could (you can find the links to all the reviews HERE) but they didn’t get a lot of attention & I wondered if Studio Ghibli was as popular amongst movie bloggers as I’d thought. So when I asked in this poll HERE which movies I should review next of all the ones I watched but never got around to, I was surprised that Spirited Away & Grave Of The Fireflies were the two winners by quite a lot of votes. I know it’s weird that I’ve put off reviewing two of Ghibli’s biggest films but I wasn’t sure what to say about either of them. Fireflies because, well… what can be said about that? 😦 And Spirited Away because I KNOW it’s the favorite Ghibli for a lot of people (and the most highly regarded – it won an Oscar for best animated film & is the highest rated Ghibli in the IMDB Top 250 at number 34 currently) but it’s just never quite connected with me in the same way the other films have.

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Spirited Away was actually the very first Ghibli I saw back in 2001 (I think – whenever it was first shown in UK cinemas). I don’t recommend it as your introduction to Studio Ghibli as it’s far more “out there” than most the others. Unless you like “weird”… However, I do recommend it if you’re already a fan of the studio and I can see now why it’s so popular even if it’s not my very favorite. I finally re-watched this again in January to see if my opinion would be different all these years later & I can say that I definitely appreciated it a lot more now that I’ve seen so many other Ghibli films. It’s basically just a coming of age story (Ghibli style – with pigs, witches, Susuwatari soot sprites like in My Neighbor Totoro, dragons, and really large babies) & has a good, strong lead female as is often the case with these movies. I think it may be so popular as it’s from 2001 so a lot of you younger bloggers will have been just the right sort of age for it when it came out (I’m guessing it’s a popular one with those who were preteen girls at the time especially). You’ll either absolutely love this one for its weirdness or you’ll be turned off if that’s not your type of thing but it’s certainly another Miyazaki masterpiece and I want to love it as much as I do Totoro or Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind… I really did try to on the re-watch!

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Spirited Away is sort of a Japanese Alice In Wonderland. If you like that, you may also appreciate Spirited Away. It certainly has the magical quality & beauty that most the Ghibli films possess (more so, really – it may be the second biggest feast for your eyes after Howl’s Moving Castle). I do think I made a mistake putting it below Howl’s Moving Castle in my Top TenHowl’s is very pretty but the story is overcomplicated while Spirited Away has a much stronger and more straightforward story & themes.

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With most Ghibli films, there’s usually a small character that I really latch onto. With Princess Mononoke, it was the Kodama. With Castle In The Sky, it was the Laputan robots. With My Neighbor Totoro, it was of course Totoro. While Spirited Away has very rich characters, I didn’t end up loving any of the lesser characters. No-Face was pretty cool, I suppose, but oh so strange. The girl (Chihiro), as I said, is another great female Ghibli character which is a huge part of the reason why I’m such a big fan of the Ghibli films. This is another movie I want my kid to see someday BUT I myself wouldn’t recommend it to those under probably about 10 or 11. For the very young, the witch is too scary as is the entire, cruel spirit world that Chihiro finds herself trapped in plus it’s just far too odd & the themes would be lost on the young. More than anything, they just wouldn’t appreciate this one until they were a little older so I think it’s probably best to wait before introducing them to this one.

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Summary:

I’m really glad I re-watched this one again after watching more Studio Ghibli films. I wish I could love it in the same way others do and in the same way I love some of the other Ghibli films but I certainly appreciate Spirited Away and think it’s deserving of all the praise & recognition it has received. I’d certainly watch it once (or twice) again and know it’s one that would grow on me. Spirited Away should be seen by all film lovers but I’d recommend testing out a couple other Studio Ghibli films first before delving into this one if you’re new to them.

My Rating: 8/10

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Porco Rosso (1992) Review

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Porco Rosso (1992)
Kurenai no Buta
Japanese: 紅の豚

Directed & Written by Hayao Miyazaki

Starring Voice Actors:
Shūichirō Moriyama
Tokiko Kato
Akemi Okamura
Akio Ōtsuka

(English Dub Voice Cast: Michael Keaton, Cary Elwes, Susan Egan, Brad Garrett, David Ogden Stiers, Kimberly Williams-Paisley)

Running time: 94 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The plot revolves around an Italian World War I ex-fighter ace, now living as a freelance bounty hunter chasing “air pirates” in the Adriatic Sea. However, an unusual curse has transformed him to an anthropomorphic pig. Once called Marco Pagot (Marco Rousolini in the American version), he is now known to the world as “Porco Rosso”, Italian for “Red Pig”.

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My Opinion:

Version watched: English dubbed version

I’m sorry but I have to use the word “odd” again in a Studio Ghibli review. Maybe I should buy a thesaurus. Hey, does anyone own an actual dictionary or thesaurus anymore? You can just Google everything. I think back to when I was a kid & had a set of encyclopedias… Bet no one buys those anymore! Anyway, Porco Rosso is bizarre. There, I didn’t use the word “odd”!

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First of all, I admit to only seeing the English dubbed version of this as it was on TV and I know I NEVER enjoy those as much as the subtitled versions so, therefore, I’ll probably be a little more harsh on this movie than it deserves. This is one of the “not for kids” Ghibli films. It’s hard to know who it’s aimed at… I’d say it’s the most “adult male” one I’ve seen so far. As I’m not male & really not at all interested in WWI flying aces (other than Snoopy), this movie didn’t speak to me the way other Ghibli movies have. It has quite a high IMDB rating & I’m sure plenty of people like this one. It’s just my least favorite of the Miyazaki-directed Ghiblis (I only have one left to watch – The Wind Rises. Will be interesting to see how that compares as that’s about a man who designed Japanese planes for WWII).

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Porco Rosso, at least in the dubbed version, is a “manly” man (manly pig? pigly man?). He’s a womanizer & comes across as a bit sexist. He’s voiced by Michael Keaton so it was strange watching this just after seeing Birdman. The voice Keaton uses for Porco Rosso is fairly close to his smart ass superhero “Birdman” voice. There’s a woman who is in love with his character then there’s later a 17-year-old girl who also seems very fond of him (as he seems to be of her). I won’t pretend I didn’t find that a little disturbing. Especially when the girl’s grandfather says something like “keep your hands off my granddaughter” & Porco says “just looking at her makes me tired”. Er… What a pig! 😉

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The 17-year-old girl in this, however, is another strong female Ghibli character. She’s an engineer & helps fix Porco Rosso’s plane. I think a big part of the reason I like Studio Ghibli films so much is because of the great female characters so I’m glad we got a decent one in this movie as well. She’s not the main character but she does help make up a bit for Porco’s somewhat sexist & unlikable ways and kind of brings out the best in him by the end.

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Summary:

What can I say? Porco Rosso just wasn’t really my sort of thing. I respect it in the way I do all the Studio Ghibli films but just didn’t love it in the same way I do most of the other Ghiblis. It’s definitely a more adult one and aimed more at males. It’s certainly not a bad film & still a lot better than most movies out there. I wouldn’t recommend it as someone’s introduction to Studio Ghibli but it’s definitely worth a watch for those who are already Ghibli fans. Sorry for the quick & rubbish review but I’m off to see Ex Machina right now – that seems more “me”. 🙂

My Rating: 6.5/10

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