Tag Archives: 1988

My Neighbor Totoro (1988) Review

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My Neighbor Totoro

Time: 86 Minutes
Age Rating:
Cast:
Chika Sakamoto as Mei Kusakabe
Noriko Hidaka as Satsuki Kusakabe
Hitoshi Takagi as Totoro
Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Mei and Satsuki shift to a new house to be closer to their mother who is in the hospital. They soon become friends with Totoro, a giant rabbit-like creature who is a spirit.

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Having watched and loved Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Princess Mononoke, I had been having great times with the Studio Ghibli movies. Another one of the Ghibli movies that were highlighted was My Neighbor Totoro, naturally I checked it out next. While I don’t quite love it as much as those past movies, it’s still really good.

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The premise of My Neighbor Totoro is nice and simple; two little girls move into an old house in the countryside with their father while their mother is recovering at the hospital. Much like Kiki’s Delivery Service, it is rather light on plot as a whole. It was a nice, charming adventure that while being simple, allowed for an otherworldly tale of childhood and imagination to take place. Despite some of the fantastical things that happen in this movie, the human story is really the backbone to all of this. The film shows you the vibrant life of two siblings getting comfortably settled to their brand-new surroundings during this difficult time for them, and them discovering extraordinary things along the way. It does have beautiful animations and creatures that are loveable, but it’s also a serious tale about real children. This is really helped by the fact that the children actually act like real children. It’s a coming of age tale, as well as a statement on the longevity of innocence. You could call it a ‘vibe movie’ in that its just following the main characters and is fairly plotless. As that, it doesn’t work as well for me as say Kiki’s Delivery Service, but still delightful to watch. Miyazaki creates a universe where childhood perspective of the world take over, and it’s not bound by any rules of traditional storytelling. It’s very much pure, peaceful and family friendly, with endearing characters and wholesome moments. The adventures the lead characters are on aren’t quite the same level adventures as say Spirited Away, and there is no massive obstacle to overcome. It’s not a conflicting or tragic story, but is an honest reflection and heartfelt celebration of life and its little adventures. It changes in terms of the plot in the third act, turning from a plot-free movie to a movie that has a real plot and a serious problem for the main characters. I found it alright, though I get if some people found this a bit jarring and out of place. It’s a very short runtime at 90 minutes but never feels rushed, it does have a slow pace that suits the story.

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This is the fourth movie I’ve seen from Hayao Miyazaki, and once again his work is spectacular. The animation is breath-taking, with some spectacular and beautiful visuals. The locations in this film are terrific, from the vast and mountainous clouds, the grand and detailed fields, and the small and “haunted” houses. The landscape of rural Japan is a character in and of itself. The animation is also very creative, particularly with the creatures that the lead characters encounter. The fanciful creatures including Totoro are freshly imagined, with the 2D animation truly vivid and striking. The composed score from Joe Hisaishi is marvellous and heartwarming as it is soothing.

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My Neighbor Totoro is another solid movie from Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki, with a heartfelt story, endearing characters, and stunning animation. I don’t quite like it as much as the other Ghibli movies I have seen thus far, but I still think that it is quite good. Definitely worth checking out if you haven’t already.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1988) Review

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Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

Time: 90 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Keanu Reeves as Ted “Theodore” Logan
Alex Winter as Bill S. Preston, Esq.
George Carlin as Rufus
Terry Camilleri as Napoleon Bonaparte
Dan Shor as Billy the Kid
Tony Steedman as Socrates
Rod Loomis as Sigmund Freud
Al Leong as Genghis Khan
Jane Wiedlin as Joan of Arc
Robert V. Barron as Abraham Lincoln
Clifford David as Ludwig van Beethoven
Hal Landon Jr. as Captain Jonathan Logan
Bernie Casey as Mr. Ryan
Director: Stephen Herek

Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) are high school buddies starting a band. However, they are about to fail their history class, which means Ted would be sent to military school. They receive help from Rufus (George Carlin), a traveler from a future where their band is the foundation for a perfect society. With the use of Rufus’ time machine, Bill and Ted travel to various points in history, returning with important figures to help them complete their final history presentation.

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I watched the first Bill and Ted a long time ago in history class in school, I remember it being quite silly yet fun. With the third movie out this year, I decided to watch the first two movies of the trilogy beforehand. Having seen Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure again, I don’t think it is great or anything, and it definitely has its problems. However it is very entertaining, and a cult classic for sure.

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At 90 minutes long, Excellent Adventure is quite fun to watch, it definitely helps that the movie is very fast paced. One of the things that I was guessing going back into this rewatch was that it probably hasn’t aged very well, and for a large part that’s the case. There are some elements that don’t hold up especially today (it’s very much a movie of the 80s), and some of the jokes fall flat. With that said, some of the jokes actually do still work quite well and are funny. In fact some of the jokes are so dumb that they actually kind of work. It is quite a dumb, cheesy and goofy movie, it’s really contrived and is a bit of a mess (some sequences are better than others). However it embraces that, and it’s not really a movie where you focus a lot on the action. It throws all theoretical logic of time travel out the window, and that was to the movie’s benefit for sure. It’s simple, light hearted, enjoyable and a fun time. It was particularly fun watching the historical figures interact with and react to many things in the present.

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Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves play titular characters Bill and Ted, and they are pretty much the highlights of the movie, sharing some great onscreen chemistry together. Their characters are kind of dumb but at the same time good intentioned characters, and they are quite endearing and likable. Keanu Reeves is particularly fun as Ted, in his first of many iconic roles. George Carlin also worked in his part as Rufus the time traveller (although wasn’t in the movie that much), as did the actors playing the historical figures that Bill and Ted come across.

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Stephen Herek directs this movie, and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is very much a movie of the times, that being the late 80s, especially when it comes to the soundtrack and the CGI. The CGI isn’t exactly terrible, just quite dated. Though if you go in expecting that, it’s not really a problem. I will say though that the direction is just fine but it could’ve gone a little further or stand out more than it actually did.

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Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is often known as being one of the all time best (or at least most iconic) 80s comedies for a reason. With a great cast, quotable dialogue, inventive and funny scenarios, it was quite a lot of fun and I’m glad I revisited it. While it is very much dated and isn’t anything beyond decent, I do think it’s worth watching if you haven’t seen it already. Having not seen any of the follow ups to Excellent Adventure as of yet, I’m interested to see how they turned out.

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) Review

Time: 163 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1]
Cast:
Willem Dafoe as Jesus
Harvey Keitel as Judas Iscariot
Barbara Hershey as Mary Magdalene
Harry Dean Stanton as Saul/Paul of Tarsus
David Bowie as Pontius Pilate
Director: Martin Scorsese

Jesus (Willem Dafoe), a humble Judean carpenter beginning to see that he is the son of God, is drawn into revolutionary action against the Roman occupiers by Judas (Harvey Keitel) — despite his protestations that love, not violence, is the path to salvation. The burden of being the savior of mankind torments Jesus throughout his life, leading him to doubt. As he is put to death on the cross, Jesus is tempted by visions of an ordinary life married to Mary Magdalene (Barbara Hershey).

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I heard about The Last Temptation of Christ for some time, mainly that Martin Scorsese directed it and that it was really controversial when it was released. I really had no clue what to expect going in. I like Willem Dafoe and Harvey Keitel, and of course I’m a fan of Martin Scorsese. However with the story that has already been done many times before, I didn’t really know what Scorsese would really do with it. I really didn’t expect to love it as much as I did, but it really was fantastic.

The Last Temptation of Christ was actually based on a novel of the same name, which in itself was already pretty controversial. There have been plenty of movies about Jesus, so I wondered what would make this one stand out. The film actually begins with a preface that it’s not based on the gospels and not necessarily biblically based, so you should probably know that going in. The thing that immediately got my interest was the more human take on Jesus, he’s even started out not really sure if he’s truly the son of god, and he’s very much a flawed person, like most people are. I can tell that for some people that would be a deal breaker but if anything for me, that’s what got me on board with the movie from the beginning. This whole movie is a character study following him, and I was invested throughout. Then there’s the last 30 minutes to an hour of the movie which was probably the most controversial part to a lot of religious people at the time. For those who don’t know about that section, I won’t reveal it, but it’s not like The Passion of the Christ where it’s from a bunch of endlessly violent scenes (even though this movie does have some violent scenes). It also never feels like it’s being controversial for the sake of controversy. It’s mainly the exploration of Jesus as a human being, and I found that compelling. This is quite a long movie at 2 hours and 40 minutes, so you have to prepare yourself for that. Thankfully I was wrapped up with what was happening, but if you aren’t invested early on, it might be a bit of a chore to get through.

Willem Dafoe as Jesus Christ does seem like an odd casting for many reasons, but I have to say that his performance here as the conflicted Jesus is amongst his best work. He’s the main lead of the movie, and the movie relied heavily on him working, and thankfully he brought this performance to life and really anchors the whole movie. The most prominent supporting actor is Harvey Keitel who plays Judas, and it’s a different portrayal of him than most are used to. Yes, Keitel is playing the only Brooklyn Judas (and he keeps his accent) and with that he seems a little out of place at times, but he acts his part really well. The rest of the cast do well, including Barbara Hershey as Mary Magdalene, Harry Dean Stanton as Saul/Paul of Tarsus, and David Bowie in a surprise one scene appearance as Pontius Pilate. Now there comes the obvious when it comes to the casting, the Romans sound like Brits and the Hebrews like New Yorkers. While that’s definitely distracting at first, it’s definitely an intentional choice that paid off in the end.

Martin Scorsese directed this excellently as he usually does. For a budget of 7 million dollars, this movie really looks outstanding and still holds up over 3 decades later. The cinematography is stunning, and the production design and costume design is fantastic. Overall on a technical level, it’s really great.

The Last Temptation of Christ is outstanding and one of Martin Scorsese’s finest films. Scorsese’s direction was excellent, the acting was great (particularly Willem Dafoe), and Scorsese’s take on the story is thought provoking and effectively emotional. Even if you’re not interested in religion or the topics, I think there’s a lot that you can appreciate about it, even if it’s just on a technical and acting level. However there’s a compelling story at the heart of it that I’m sure most people can connect with.

Child’s Play (1988) Review

Time: 88 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence and offensive language
Cast:
Alex Vincent as Andy Barclay
Catherine Hicks as Karen Barclay
Chris Sarandon as Detective Mike Norris
Brad Dourif as Charles Lee Ray/Chucky
Director: Tom Holland

Gunned down by Detective Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon), dying murderer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) uses black magic to put his soul inside a doll named Chucky — which Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks) then buys for her young son, Andy (Alex Vincent). When Chucky kills Andy’s baby sitter, the boy realizes the doll is alive and tries to warn people, but he’s institutionalized. Now Karen must convince the detective of the murderous doll’s intentions, before Andy becomes Chucky’s next victim.

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Although not quite on the level of iconic horror movies like Halloween or The Exorcist, Child’s Play is known as a horror cult classic. With a remake now in cinemas, I decided to revisit my thoughts on the original movie, whether or not I actually decide to watch said remake within the next few weeks. Child’s Play was never a movie I got into when I saw it, not that it’s bad but it’s nothing all that great either. It’s a pretty familiar horror movie that doesn’t produce really any quality scares. It is still watchable though, and Brad Douriff’s Chucky is quite memorable (even if he’s not really that scary).

There’s not a whole lot to say storywise about Child’s Play, so I’ll mostly be talking about the horror aspect. It’s a pretty typical horror/slasher movie with the directions the plot goes, and it doesn’t really do much to subvert. It pretty much is what you’re expecting it to be. With that said, at under an hour and a half, it doesn’t overstay its welcome. While obviously being in scenarios with creepy dolls can be unnerving, I don’t particularly have a phobia of them, but I can tell that this would be a nightmare to those who have them. Even cinematic horror dolls like Annabelle seem to be more scary to me. Maybe it’s just because giving him a human voice made it less scary, especially knowing that in this version of Child’s Play at least, it’s a human inside a doll, who acts very much like a human too (when people aren’t watching of course). All the horror is generated from Chucky himself, and so I never found it scary. Conceptually it all sounds scary, but I don’t find myself feeling that way when I actually watch it.

Brad Douriff is mostly just a voice in this movie, but he does well as Chucky. Even if the movie isn’t all that good, you can see why Chucky still managed to be a bit of a horror icon, and I have a feeling that at least half of it is because of Douriff. I will say that as iconic as Douriff made the character, every time he spoke it made the character less scary, and even a little funny at points. The kid played by Alex Vincent is a typical horror movie kid, not the worst and does the job fine enough, nothing special though. The rest of the cast like Catherine Hicks as the kid’s mother and Chris Sarandon as a detective also perform well enough for what the movie required, but again nothing special. Really no one in the cast is terrible but sort of just does what’s needed and nothing more (aside from Douriff of course).

The direction by Tom Holland (the director, not the actor) was fine. The effects on Chucky to make him work still work today quite well today, even if much of the movie feels dated. The Chucky design holds up well, I’ve seen the remake’s design and it looked a little off to me (and not in a good way), the original’s design is legitimately creepy (until it talks of course). With that said, it is a little silly how freaky of a doll design it’s been given, even before the possession they’re disturbing on their own. Now most horror movies don’t get me very scared but this one never even got a reaction out of me. If anything it was more on the ridiculous and silly side, and I found it very hard to take the movie seriously, and it seemed to be aiming to be more serious.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Child’s Play is terrible, I don’t think I’d even say it’s bad, I just don’t think it’s that good of a movie. It’s quite dated, it’s more likely to produce laughs than actual scares, and you don’t really get much from it by the end. But Chucky himself is pretty good (lack of scares aside) it’s a little entertaining and I didn’t dislike it. It is a sort of horror cult classic, so if you are into horror movies, it’s definitely worth a watch at the very least. I haven’t seen the sequels or the remake yet but I hope I like them a lot more.