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The Magic of Aladdin (1989)
a classic, for me at least
Regretfully, I never got to see this play live, but I still loved it on television. My mother taped "The Magic of Aladdin" when I was eight years old and my whole family watched it repeatedly until we wore the tape out in the late '90s. Though I grew up attending amateur productions and have seen several of Ross Petty's recent productions on television, this remains my favourite pantomime of all those I have encountered. I can still quote many of its jokes verbatim.
The marvellous thing about this show is that it can be appreciated on many different levels depending on one's age. As a kid, I liked the singing, dancing, physical humour and broad jokes. But as I watched it over the years, I kept discovering acting subtleties, references and innuendos that had previously gone over my head. The topical humour and eighties fashions aged, to be sure, but everything else stayed fresh.
Despite some reservations, a marvellously engaging and enjoyable programme
After watching bits of "Queer As Folk", a season of the new "Doctor Who", the "Doctor Who" Christmas special (also listening to the accompanying commentary) and the three parts of "Casanova", I think I've figured out what it is that frustrates me about Russell T. Davies's writing: its inconsistency. If it was merely mediocre, I'd simply dismiss it as such--but it's not.
His stories do have characters, scenes, and story arcs that are absolutely wonderful; his attention to detail can be minute; his dialogue can be scintillating in its irreverence and vivacity and his plot development can display astonishing originality. But these moments of brilliance are offset by under-developed secondary characters, unconvincing gaps in the plot, frankly ridiculous surprise twists, huge leaps of logic, jarringly crass jokes, lines intended merely to shock and unexplained dialogue non sequiturs. When I watch his work, I find my reactions alternating between, "Wow, this is great!" and "WTF?"
As for "Casanova" specifically: on balance, I love it. It's funny, engaging, exciting, romantic, sexy, and devastatingly sad at the end. It portrays a compellingly sympathetic Casanova and makes me curious about the real historic figure. While I personally already enjoy a lot of "costume dramas", I applaud this production's efforts to bring a younger and hipper audience to the genre. The acting is fine across the board and the leads (David Tennant and Peter O'Toole especially) are excellent. The innovative direction is effective. Since I knew beforehand not to expect historical accuracy, most of the anachronisms didn't bother me.
My chief complaint aside from the Russell T. Davies stuff mentioned above is probably with the music, the quality of which, like the writing, varied widely in my opinion. Some of it was fantastic, to be sure, but a significant amount was irritating and intrusive. And, call it a personal pet peeve if you will, but I really really dislike the sound of synthesized strings and brass. If it's a choice between what are obviously synthesizers and minimal or no instrumental accompaniment, I almost always prefer the latter.
Return to Oz (1985)
very dark, but fascinating
I've never seen the entire movie all at once, but the bits I've caught on television probably nearly make up the whole thing. This movie is so fascinating and eye-catching, that I can't resist watching it every time I catch a glimpse. The claymation, cinematography, costumes and effects are all marvelous, and create the right sort of fantasy ambience.
I read about five or six of the Oz books as a child and loved them dearly, and this movie makes up for the disappointment I felt with the famous Judy Garland Wizard of Oz. I recognized Tik-Tok, Ozma, Jack and Dorothy as being so much more the way I had envisioned them than the manner in which the Scarecrow, Lion, et al had been realized in the Wizard of Oz movie. Some of the Hollywoodized elements that people expect--the slippers being ruby instead of silver and the "Oz" signs with the z inside the O, for example--are still remaining, but almost everything else is quite true to the books as I remember them.
Yes, it has its faults, but Return to Oz is a very underrated movie in my opinion. I enjoy it more than The Princess Bride.