Whoo, November has been a wild month. It turns out I have a full slate of Anniversary Reviews to do, and not enough time to do them all separately. So I decided to do a super-mega edition!
Note that this is not the thing I do with things that I can;t write about. This'll be longer than that. It'll just be condensed.
1. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (the film) turns 10 this month
I'll save my opinions of the plot for the review of the book. Here, we're just talking about the film. All-in-all, it was a faithful retelling of the book. Streamlined well. Like the book, one of my lesser favorites, though I appreciate it more in light of what followed (for different reasons).
I remember hearing a rumor that Rik "Drop Dead Fred" Mayall had been tapped for Peeves in this movie, which would have been perfect casting. Sadly, Peeves is absent in all of the films (in my opinion to their detriment).
I also remember picturing Jim Carrey as Lockheart when I read the book and had a hard time reconciling Kenneth Branaugh in the role before I saw it. Naturally, however, Branaugh was fantastic, proving that the strength of the films was always in the casting.
Still, the one thing that makes it hard for me to watch this film is that it was Richard Harris' swan song. Nothing against Micheal Gambon, who did a fine job in the end, but Harris WAS Dumbledore and will always be Dumbledore. It's Harris I hear in my head when I read the books, Harris I imitate when quoting. He does look very sick here, though, and it pains me thinking that we should have known we were losing him.
Hogwarts would never be the same after this movie, for better or worse.
2. Disney's Aladdin turns 20 this month
For a while, this was my favorite Disney movie (it's slipped far as I've gotten older, but it's still in my top 10). I agree with the Nostalgia Critic that, at the time, it was very much the "boy's" Disney flick (though I was never shy about loving Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast).
It was my first real glimpse at the comedic genius that is Robin Williams, and thusly one of my first education into the wide world of pop-culture references (and what in blazes they mean). It also introduced me to Gilbert Gottfried. Basically, this is a hilarious movie.
It's also the last time we get to hear Howard Ashman's lyrics, and even then through only half the songs. Alan Menkin's writing partner had passed away during development (he was given a touching memoriam during the credits of Beauty and the Beast). So it was the end of an era and the songs would never quite reach that quality again (with the notable exception of Hunchback, but that's a different review).
It's kind of an odd duck in the Disney Renaissance of the early 90's, but it's still incredible.
3. Bram Stoker's Dracula turns 20 this month
It's not necessarily a great movie, but Francis Ford Coppola's adaptation of Dracula is probably my favorite one. Why? Because, aside from a greater emphasis on romance, this is the most direct adaptation of the original novel.
The novel was great, but every other adaptation (including the classic Lugosi one) just guts the story and twists it into a knot. This film follows the book very closely, excepting a few minor details, and it's all the better for it. It;s most major deviation is just an addition, not a total change of events (it could be argued that it's a change of character motivation, but it works here to make the character well-rounded).
The cast is great, save one or two. Gary Oldman? Incredible! Anthony Hopkins? Incredible! Richard E. Grant? Incredible! Tom Waits? Incredible! Sadie Frost? Pretty okay! Winona Ryder? ...not her best but...not terrible! Keanu Reeves? Uh.....well, I think he's trying, bless him, but...wasn't there anyone else available?
I'll admit at times it gets a little too arty for its own good, trying to amp up tension by showing disjointed imagery and letting the creepy Wojciech Kilar (?) score worm into your brain. Still, I enjoy it immensely and is the film Dracula I think of most fondly.
4. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 turns 20 this month
About 20 or so years ago, I received one of the best Hanukkah presents I can remember. It was my very first video game system: a Sega Genesis, packaged with the very first video game I have ever owned, Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
I remember falling in love with the first Sonic because one of my dad's Tai Chi students had it and I'd play it while the lesson was going on. At first I was dismayed that I got 2 and not 1, but as I found out 2 was infinitely better because it introduced Miles "Tails" Prower (note: it took me YEARS to get the joke of Tails' true name. Look at it for a second, I'll wait).
Kind of like how Nintendo kids grow an affinity for Luigi when the bigger kid always nabs Mario, my father used to play Sonic and I always had Tails. But I always thought tails was cooler, anyway.
As I got older, and I came back to the game every once in a while (my Sega still works to this day, though it can get a little temperamental at times), I realized just how superior the level design was compared the rest of the series before and since. It had the best area diversity, the best layout, and the absolute best music. A few years back I came across some dance covers of the Sonic 2 score and even though I'm not a fan of dance, the original melodies shine through. My favorites happen to be Oil Ocean and the Robotnik theme (ESPECIALLY Robotnik). Sonic 2 gave me my love of Midi covers and video game music.
In the main game, it took me a good seven years to get past the fat man at the end of Casino Night Zone. If anyone else has that problem, here's a hint: Use the pinball flippers to become a ball and bounce on top of him without touching the side or bottom of his craft.
Well, see you all in December!