My Top Ten John Ratzenberger Movies

Happy Birthday to John Ratzenberger, who turns 70 today.

Ratzenberger was of course first mainly known for playing Cliff Clavin on Cheers & then for doing voices in the majority of the Pixar films. Thanks to this, he probably has the absolute best Top Ten of the many actor/actress top ten lists that I’ve done on this blog. I’m sometimes scraping the bottom of the barrel for the bottom of these movie lists but all (12! Ha!) of the movies in Ratzenberger’s list below are absolutely brilliant.

As usual, I’m ranking these in order of my favorite film instead of performance. Favorite performance? I’m not sure but I do love his school of fish in Finding Nemo. So here are My Top Ten John Ratzenberger Movies that I’ve seen:

The Remainder:

17. Cars 2
16. Planes
15. Cars
14. The Good Dinosaur
13. Finding Dory
12. Monsters University
11. Brave

Top Ten:

10. Ratatouille

9. A Bug’s Life

8. Up

7. Inside Out

6. TIE: Spirited Away (dubbed) & Finding Nemo

5. The Superman Movies (I & II)

4. Monsters, Inc

3. The Toy Story Movies

2. WALL-E

1. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back

The biggest John Ratzenberger movie I’ve not seen is Gandhi. It’s an alternate on my Blind Spot list so I’ll get around to it someday!

Here’s a fun compilation of some of his Pixar roles:

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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CPD Classics: WALL-E (2008) Review

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WALL-E (2008)

Directed by Andrew Stanton

Starring (mostly voice) actors:
Ben Burtt
Elissa Knight
Jeff Garlin
Fred Willard
John Ratzenberger
Kathy Najimy
Sigourney Weaver
MacInTalk

Music by Thomas Newman

Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Pixar Animation Studios

Running time: 98 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The story follows a robot named WALL-E, who is designed to clean up a waste-covered Earth far in the future. He falls in love with another robot named EVE, who also has a programmed task, and follows her into outer space on an adventure that changes the destiny of both his kind and humanity.

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My Opinion:

This will probably be about the most recent CPD Classic as films need to stand the test of time a bit first. However, I do admit that there are occasionally “instant classics”. To me, WALL-E was indeed an instant classic.

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I get super excited about every single Pixar movie that comes out (I LOVE Pixar!) but WALL-E was the one I was the most eager to see as, from clips released before the film, WALL-E looked so completely adorable & loveable plus the film sounded like a very interesting (and brave) concept. And sci-fi! Yes! I even went into London to see it as early as possible because I could NOT wait. And, boy, was it worth the journey!

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The entire beginning of WALL-E, before he leaves Earth, is an absolute masterpiece. Complete & total perfection. Sometimes I put the DVD in just to watch the beginning again. And again. From the second the Hello Dolly music starts to when we’re zoomed down to Earth & see WALL-E continuing to do his job on this desolate planet – Oh my god – There’s a big smile on my face just writing about it. Then the very grown-up Thomas Newman score kicks in and it’s quite dark and almost eerie and you know you’re in for a very different kind of kids’ film. Then, bloody hell – there’s no talking! For AGES. And it’s brilliant! Leave it up to Pixar to get away with that. The beginning of WALL-E is just so… I dunno. Epic! Cinematic! (It’s times like these I wish I was a proper writer!). Like in the old days where they made these sweeping epic dramas like Gone With The Wind & shit. The beginning of WALL-E is easily up there with things like that and I don’t think it gets the credit it deserves, probably because it’s an animated film. And sci-fi. The start of WALL-E, in my opinion, blows away every movie of the past ten years. Probably even 20. Maybe even 30!

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WALL-E, as a character, can’t get any better. Completely loveable and adorable. I never thought I could love another little robot as much as R2-D2! How can these two little robots that don’t even talk (much) have way more personality & character than most human beings? I love WALL-E’s childlike innocence – it’s so genuine & pure and makes you wish that every human could have that same curiosity and thirst for knowledge & experience & love. Love! Because WALL-E is a love story and, I don’t care what anyone thinks, is probably my all-time favorite cinematic love story (it’s close between this and Carl & Ellie in Up. Woohoo Pixar!). I found WALL-E & EVE’s romance more genuine & believable than any in those girly romantic comedy type movies that mostly get on my nerves. I get annoyed with people who moan that WALL-E is some preachy movie about the environment and how fat & lazy & wasteful we all are. Really? Um, no. That’s just the backdrop for a unique love story & a story about appreciating the little things in life. Argh! These people are missing the whole point!! (Sorry. I get passionate about WALL-E because I’ve had a lot of people tell me they do NOT understand my love for it.) 😉

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Unfortunately, (and I hate to say anything at all negative about this movie) once WALL-E leaves Earth, the rest of the film just doesn’t live up to the beginning. But it would be very hard to match the brilliance of the start so I can’t complain too much. I really really want to love the rest of the movie as much but it goes downhill with the appearance of the humans, who aren’t that likeable (mainly because they’re not very developed but, obviously, the movie is focusing on developing the personalities of WALL-E & EVE). There are still wonderful scenes (the space dance with Thomas Newman’s beautiful “Define Dancing”) and anything involving the other robots (especially cute little clean-freak M-O).

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Yeah – I just mentioned Thomas Newman again just like in my review for The Shawshank Redemption. Is it a coincidence that he’s scored some of my all-time favorite films? I think not! He’s brilliant and I love the WALL-E score, although much of it is very different from other scores he’s done. It’s very quirky but I think it fits the film perfectly. Because, I admit, it’s a quirky film and I know it’s not for everyone. But I adore it and the beginning is a true masterpiece that I honestly don’t think I’ll see another film come even close to topping in my lifetime. That’s why WALL-E is a CPD Classic.

My Rating: 9.5/10

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