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Thursday, July 23, 2015


I'd like to apologize for not posting a review lately, I've been not only busy with life, but I'm also taking a lot of time preparing a bunch of horror reviews for October, which revolve around a series of films involving a famous giant monster. I've just finished reviewing and editing my rough drafts of three of the films in that series, and now I have 13 more to go, and trying to find the films in their original cut is not an easy task at all. So really the lack of reviews that have been going on this month has to do with the fact that I'm busy preparing a crap load of reviews for October, so for the next few Months, don't expect to see too much reviews. Currently I'm on vacation in Florida, and after visiting the Magic Kingdom on the first day of my visit, I'm deciding to review the only 4-D movie in the park, which is...

 Image result for mickey's philharmagic logo

Before I talk about the premise, and review the film and experience, I want to give you a short little history about the attractions that were in the "Fantasyland" theater before "Mickey's PhilharMagic" and trust me this is all going to add up.

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In 1971 the first attraction that was created for the theater was an audio animatronic show called "The Mickey Mouse Revue" which involved Mickey conducting an orchestra full of Disney characters, as a handful of other Disney characters would appear on the stage above the orchestra pit and sing songs that they sung in the films that they appeared in.

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In 1987, after a 3-D attraction that was shown at "Epcot" called "Magic Journey's" got replaced by another 3-D attraction which was Michael Jackson's "Captain EO"; the attraction was moved to the theater in "Fantasyland" at the "Magic Kingdom". Despite that I have never seen, or heard of it until after looking up this information, I might possibly review this extinct 3-D film in the future, but I make no promises.

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In 1994 as Disney's animated classic "The Lion King" was making it bigger than Disney has ever dreamed of, Disney decided to release a puppet show based on the movie a month after the film's release (Wow, and I thought Disney's marketing towards "Frozen" was terrible!).

As time went by, Disney decided to make an attraction that pretty much combined the elements from the previous attractions in the theater by making it a 3-D movie with Mickey conducting an orchestra that has Disney characters singing classic Disney songs (Including a musical number from "The Lion King") and thus "Mickey's PhilarMagic" was born! However, despite the attraction being called "Mickey's PhilharMagic", Mickey surprisingly isn't the star, in fact, he's hardly in it; the real star of the film is actually Donald Duck. The reason for that is, Mickey is conducting a magic orchestra with his Sorcerers hat but as Donald unpacks all the instruments on the stage, he finds the hat that Mickey left on the podium and despite Donald being told not to touch the hat, he puts on the hat, starts conducting the magical instruments, and all hell breaks loose.

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Before I review the actual film, I just want to tell you real quickly of what I thought about the Queue. Despite that there's nothing shown on a monitor or a Pre-Show before the actual show, the Queue does make you feel that you're going to see an actual live show, despite that you know its going to be a 4-D film since you receive 3-D glasses that are called “Opera Glasses”. From the posters of the previous shows that were performed at the theater; its look and feel of being in a Disney themed Opera house with a gigantic theater stage covered with a huge red theater curtain as we hear the characters getting ready, just really sets up the mood and tone for the stuff that we’re about to witness! I'm not going to act like that this is the first Disney 4-D attraction that makes you feel like you're in a theater about to see an actual live show that's actually shot in 4-D, nor is it doing anything that different compared to other 4-D attractions like "It's Tough To Be A Bug" or "Muppet*Vision 3-D" for example, but neither the less, the atmosphere in the Queue and the theater itself does bring the feeling that you're actually part of this 4-D film.

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As for the film itself, it's actually really awesome! First of all, I love that the film is a concert spin on the classic Mickey Mouse cartoon "The Sorcerers Apprentice", which has Donald in the role of the apprentice instead of Mickey, while Mickey takes on the role of the sorcerer, and the spin on the classic cartoon, along with having a few nods to the cartoon itself is very humorous and clever. My favorite nod to the cartoon is the scene that mimics the ending to the cartoon, while also being original at the same time. What I also admire about the concept is instead of just taking place on the stage, the Magic Hat causes Donald to go from one iconic Disney musical sequence after another, as he chases after the hat and meddles during the songs and what sounds like what could be a cluttered and forced mess with pretty much no thought put into it, is actually done perfectly. The transitions to the musical number are both cool and clever; the humor and slapstick that happen to Donald during the numbers had me laughing non-stop; and the songs that were chosen for the film is great and fit the film perfectly. What really amazes me about the film the most is despite that it's all animated with 3-D animation instead of 2-D animation, the 3-D animation surprisingly doesn't look as computer generated as the animation for "The Simpsons Ride" at Universal for example; the Disney characters with the 3-D animation, as well as the 3-D effects themselves does make the characters seem like they're really there reaching out towards you and the amount of detail that the computer animation puts into animating these classic Disney characters while also staying true to their 2-D designs is really impressive and this is years before "The Simpsons Ride". Even the musical numbers themselves despite being animated with computers, with Donald comically meddling during these classic musical numbers, still manage to bring the spirit and feel of the classic musical numbers that we know and love, while having a perfect balance of originality to these scenes with this gorgeous 3-D animation and Donald's laugh out loud interference's.

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As for the 4-D effects in the show, despite that I was sitting in the way back row, I still felt like I was part of the show feeling that the characters were coming right at me! Aside from the 3-D effects of the characters on the screen that look like that they're right in front of me, along with that impressive 3-D animation, the 4-D effects in the theater itself are actually really impressive. The show's use of air jets and water being sprayed in our faces are used at the appropriate times and do feel effective; the animatronic that we see of Donald at the end of the show is both cool and a perfect humorous way to end the show; and the screen that shows the movie is so big that the 3-D effects for the big screen not only make you feel that you're watching all this live in a concert hall, but the screen itself after a few musical numbers expands around the theater which really takes away the feel of being in a theater despite that we’re still sitting down (Much like in the Universal 4-D attraction "Terminator 2 3-D: The Battle Across Time"). The only 4-D effect I sadly can't comment on is the effect of making you smell the baked goodies during the "Be Our Guest" number since I sadly don't have a sense of smell (Shocking isn't it, but better lose that scent instead of losing every thing else), and incase if you're wondering how I know this, I did some reading into the history of this attraction and saw one or two reviews; and the sources did in fact mention about the scent effect in the film. I would love to tell you what I thought about the scent effects, but sadly that is something I cannot share. One other thing I should mention before I move on to my overall conclusion of the attraction is when it comes to voice acting not only is the voice acting perfect, but surprisingly when they use archive sound clips from the original films, and they don't sound like they were copied and pasted in to this film; they actually do sound like they are actually part of the movie. Even mixing Tony Anselmo's voice acting for Donald along with archive sound clips from Clarence Nash voicing Donald from the classic cartoons, sounds really convincing. What also makes this film so special is Disney got Jerry Orbach to reprise his role of Lumiere for the "Be Our Guest" number, and aside from the fact that Disney decided to bring back the original actor that voiced this famous comical Disney character, this film is sadly the last time that Jerry Orbach will be voicing character since he would sadly die the following year after the release for this attraction.

For a 4-D attraction that I thought wasn't going to wow me as other Disney 4-D attractions did, (In fact when you really get down to it, the concept almost sounds like an episode for Disney's "House Of Mouse") it was actually great! The premise is fun and creative; the 3-D animation is beautiful; the humor is funny; the film's choices of iconic Disney musical numbers fit the 4-D film perfectly; and the 4-D effects themselves are really convincing and effective. It's a really great 4-D film that is so great that I actually feel bad for those who can't see it in "Disneyland", but trust me when I say that going to Disney World's Magic Kingdom alone for that 4-D attraction is indeed worth the price of admission!


Saturday, July 4, 2015


This was indeed a tricky year for me to choose a film for my annual 4th of July review that relates to "JAWS". I didn't know if I should review "JAWS 3-D" since this year marks the 40th Anniversary of "JAWS"; or if I should review a sequel to the "JAWS on land" film "Jurassic Park" since "Jurassic World" just came out. After so many moments of thinking of what "JAWS" related film I was going to review, I've decided to review the film that Spielberg felt that "JAWS" was a sequel to and that film is...

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Before we had a shark terrorizing a summer Island, and Dinosaurs escaping from their cages to cause havoc; we had a giant monstrous oil truck chasing after a traveling businessman on the open road. While this film was made for TV, this is still considered to be the first full length film that Spielberg ever directed, and this television movie did eventually make it to the big screen with a few added scenes to make it longer, so it counts. As much as I am sure the majority of you haven't seen it or heard of it compared to his later two Blockbuster monster movies, is it just as great as "JAWS" and "Jurassic Park"? ON WITH THE REVIEW!

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Unlike Spielberg's later monster films, instead of having a whole cast of characters that we're with throughout the film, we have only one, and that's of course our lead played by Dennis Weaver. He does meet people during this cat and mouse chase, but for the majority of the film, we're just with him and the truck. Weaver's performance throughout the film is excellent. Every single bit of stress, anxiety, paranoia, confusion, and relaxation from his performance is so great and so convincing that you feel just as scared as he is, as well as fearing for his life. Not once did I find myself being bored with the character, or not feeling what the character's feeling, it’s all done very effectively. The crazy thing about the character that Weaver is playing is we really don't know a whole lot about him. We know he's a married businessman with two kids; we know he's a coward for not doing something to a man who nearly raped his wife at a party; but outside of that, we really don't have too much of a background of this character's past, and on top of it, all that stuff that we know about him is all summed up in one scene. However, despite knowing little about the character's life, we still care for him, because Weaver not only sells out the madness of the situation that his character is in, but he also makes this simple character really likable and that to me is good enough. As for the people that Weaver meets throughout his journey and asks for help, while being pretty over the top characters and performances much like the comical extras who play some of the Islanders in "JAWS", they're still fun and do support the insanity of Weaver's character despite that they're not the best of actors.

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Now we move on to the film's monster which is of course the truck. While the idea of a killer Truck doesn't sound as interesting or creative as a giant Shark or a Dinosaur, it's just as plausible. Instead of the Truck being alive as you would suspect, it's driven by a driver who we hardly see but we do see the evidence that it's driven by someone, which is a technique that Spielberg would use for the Shark in "JAWS". All we see from the truck driver are his boots; his hand signaling to Weaver outside of the Truck's window; hardly seeing his face through that fifthly wind shield; and even catching a tiny glimpse of him as he passes by Weaver through his opened window, that's it. We don't know who he is (outside of being a truck driver); what he really looks like; why he's after Weaver; and what he's thinking or planning. This driver is really unpredictable. Some times he taunts Weaver by toying with him or showing off; other times, he's trying to kill Weaver; and in some scenes, we can’t tell if he's toying with Weaver, or actually trying to kill him (like the train track scene for example). All this lack of detail of not seeing the driver and not exactly knowing what he's thinking half of the time, is another huge reason why this film is so suspenseful; all we know is the driver is planning to get Weaver, and looking at the collection of license plates attached to his grill from other states, we can surely tell that Weaver is not the first one to be terrorized by this mysterious driver.

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All the thrills, suspense, tension, and excitement that we all love and admire from "JAWS" and "Jurassic Park" can all be found in this film as well! However, unlike the opening scenes to "JAWS" and "Jurassic Park" where our monster makes its first attack as we don't see the monster at all, this film doesn't start out with our monster. Instead, the film opens up with a POV shot of the car that Dennis Weaver is driving (much like the POV opening shot in "JAWS"), as we spend 5 minutes on the peaceful open road listening to the radio as the opening credits roll, feeling just as relaxed as Weaver is. Once we see the truck a minute or two after the opening credits, that's when all the chaos officially begins. This whole film is one long thrilling car chase from beginning to end where you don't feel safe until its all over. Even when the character stops at places to rest, we still don't feel safe because we don't know if the truck will come back or not, or start attacking while the character is at some of these places where the truck at times also happens to be. I think one of the most suspenseful scenes in the movie is when Weaver is at a Cafe only to find that the truck is parked outside of it, as Weaver tries to figure out who's the guy that's been chasing after him; and the way it’s shot, paced, acted, and edited, along with the music as we hear our characters thoughts in his head really makes this scene tense, as well as making the audience just as curious as he is in finding out who this mysterious crazy truck driver is. As for the effects, I seriously never would have guessed that this film was made for TV, because they look amazing! None of this is shot in a Studio with a green screen effect, its all practical effects on an actual location which is all very impressive, especially when being directed by a guy in his early 20s on a low budget who has a really small amount of time to film all these scenes. In fact some (if not most) of the action were all done in one take, such as the phone booth scene and the cliff scene; and if that's not crazy enough for you on Spielberg's part as a director, the actor not only did most of the driving, but he actually had the guts to do his own stunt as the truck comes after him as he is having trouble getting out of a phone booth! Seriously, Spielberg and Weaver have guts! While the shots; sound effects; edits; music; acting; and the special effects are what make the film such a suspenseful thrill ride, I love that Spielberg chose to use a bright red car, while the Truck is all old, polluted, and disgusting looking to make the two vehicles stand out on this empty dusty highway!

 "JAWS" is the film that put Spielberg on the map, but "Duel" is what introduced us to the awesomeness of Spielberg as a film-maker! Every thing about Spielberg's first monster film "Duel" is just as awesome as his other two monster classics. The character is likable and well acted; the effects are cool; the set-up is creative and exciting; and the thrills and suspense that the film brings, keeps you on the edge of your seat. Spielberg has always felt a strong "Kinship" between "Duel" and "JAWS", as well as showing a "Kinship" between "JAWS" and "Jurassic Park", and these three films really do show it! They may have different characters, monsters, and elements that were not always used in all three films, but they do have a lot in common. They all have the same amount of scares, thrills, suspense, action, and excitement; the effects and style of directing are ingenious; the stories revolve around regular people in a non-stop fight against a giant monster that lives to kill and terrorize; and they all feature the roar of a T-Rex, which is something you really have to listen for in "Duel" and "JAWS". "Duel" is the film that started two great things for the art of cinema, and those two things are Steven Spielberg as a film director (despite that this was made as a TV movie); and the other one is being the start of the famous three epic monster films that Spielberg has directed, which I'd like to personally call "The Spielberg Monster Trilogy".  If you haven't seen the film that started it all, be sure to check it out!


As for those of you who are wondering why I didn't count or even talk about "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" as being a part of "The Spielberg Monster Trilogy", which would have made the trilogy into a series; join me next July 4th!