le 11 août 2015
HOCUS POCUS  [Blu-ray] [US Import] Relive the Spellbinding Fun! They’ll Put a Spell on You!
Conjure up a cauldron of laughs with 'Hocus Pocus' is a fiendishly fun film now on Blu-ray for the first time, featuring an all-new digital restoration with enhanced picture and sound. 1991 Academy Award® Nominee for Bette Midler for Best Actress in ‘For the Boys.’ Sarah Jessica Parker in ‘Sex in the City’ and Kathy Najimy ‘The Wedding Planner’ star in a wild and wacky comedy for the entire family.
When three 17th century Salem witches are accidentally summoned by modern-day pranksters, the 300-year-old trio sets out to cast a spell on the town and reclaim their youth, but first they must outwit three kids and a talking cat. Get ready for a night of zany fun in this bewitching comedy classic – now even better on Blu-ray!
FILM FACT: Accolades: 1994 Saturn Awards: Won: Best Costumes. Nominated: Best Actress for Bette Midler. Nominated: Best Supporting Actress for Kathy Najimy. Nominated: Best Supporting Actress for Sarah Jessica Parker. Nominated: Best Fantasy Film. Nominated: Best Special Effects. Bette Midler said she is ready and willing to return. She also says her co-stars Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy are interested in reprising the roles of the Sanderson sisters as well. Disney has yet to greenlight any sequel.
Cast: Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, Omri Katz, Thora Birch, Vinessa Shaw, Jodie-Amy Rivera, Larry Bagby, Tobias Jelinek, Stephanie Faracy, Charles Rocket, Doug Jones, Karyn Malchus, Sean Murray, Steve Voboril, Norbert Weisser, Kathleen Freeman, D.A. Pauley, Ezra Sutton, Don Yesso, Michael McGrady, Leigh Hamilton, Devon Reeves, Joseph Malone, Jordan Redmond, Frank Del Boccio, Teda Bracci, Peggy Holmes, Jason Marsden (voice), Garry Marshall (uncredited), Penny Marshall (uncredited), Daniel Olsen (uncredited) and Taylor Stanley (uncredited)
Director: Kenny Ortega
Producers: Bonnie Bruckheimer, David Kirschner, Jay Heit, Mick Garris, Ralph Winter and Steven Haft
Screenplay: Mick Garris and Neil Cuthbert
Composer: John Debney
Cinematography: Hiro Narita
Video Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French: 5.1 Dolby Digital and Spanish: 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese
Running Time: 96 minutes
Region: Blu-ray: All Regions and DVD: NTSC
Number of discs: 2
Studio: Walt Disney Home Video
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: "It's just a bunch of hocus pocus," but what's wrong with that, absolutely nothing. Sure, this film is aimed at children, but adults should not be excluded also and the tale is about three evil witches terrorising children is a little rough around the edges, but the spooky spirit of the flick is strong, and it remains a decent example of family entertainment that doesn't completely talk down to its audience. The cast is very solid, and while pretty thin, the plot offers a fair assortment of thrills and laughs.
While cocky teenager Max Dennison [Omri Katz] takes his little sister out for trick-or-treating, the pair run into Allison [Vinessa Shaw], a pretty girl that Max has a crush on. Wanting to impress her, he accidentally resurrects a trio of three hundred year old witches on Halloween night, and it's a very common mistake. Out to drain the city's children of their life force, the three witches Winifred "Winnie" Sanderson [Bette Midler], Sarah Sanderson [Sarah Jessica Parker] and Mary Sanderson [Kathy Najimy] first target Max's young sister, Dani Dennison [Thora Birch]. After momentarily thwarting their spell, the kids all make a run for it, and are soon joined by an immortal talking cat, and proving that all films are made better by the inclusion of an immortal talking cat. Together they try to escape the witches' pursuit and find a way to stop them once and for all.
The script follows a predictable and thin path that sees the kids deal with various spooky obstacles and magic spells. Though very basic, to the writers' credit, they do a nice job of balancing family friendly thrills with a silly, a kind of eccentric sense of humour. Also, despite the intended audience, the film doesn't shy away from some potentially scary content. Why, in the opening scene alone, a little girl is drained of her life force and three witches are hung. Of course, it's all done with a comparatively light tone, but the writers resist the urge to tone down the content too much.
A lot of the humour is derived from the witches' fish-out-of-water predicament, and watching the trio grow accustomed to modern life is entertaining. The three sisters have distinct personalities and the actresses appear to have a lot of fun on screen, and the way they walk together is quite amusing. Their reactions to the modern world can be pretty funny, and even a paved road freaks them out, and their terrified shock at the sight of a little girl dressed up like an angel is priceless. Bette Midler, in particular, seems to relish every second she's on screen, vamping up her presence as Winifred "Winnie" Sanderson with an appropriately villainous persona. On the other hand, Sarah Jessica Parker plays a ditzy, spider eating witch named Sarah Sanderson that sings to children in order to lure them under her spell. So, in other words, she plays herself.
The child actors are also pretty good in their roles. Omri Katz is fairly one-note but appropriately confident, and does a decent job of carrying the forward momentum of the story. Vinessa Shaw is also good, though her role is slightly underwhelmed and Thora Birch is quite adorable as Max's little sister. Together, their relationship forms the heart of the flick, and the brother/sister dynamic is actually kind of sweet. Speaking of brothers and sisters, siblings Garry Marshall and Penny Marshall make a cameo appearance. In a fun little scene, the witches actually mistake Garry Marshall for the devil himself, but after having to sit through this, I'm not so sure they were mistaken at all.
Some of the film's special effects definitely show signs of age, but a lot of the makeup and even some of the CGI work hold up really well. I was expecting to be distracted by the talking cat, but for the most part, the feline character remains convincing enough (and just as awesome as ever). The witches' resurrection scene is particularly fun, with some supernatural effects, and a sequence that involves a zombie pursuing the kids through a graveyard is also full of family friendly scares.
As surprisingly well as the film holds up, there are still some glaring issues with the script. It often feels like there are pieces missing in the plot, and a lot of the developments are very convenient, and how did the children know the witches would meet them at the school? The characters could have been fleshed out more and the drama feels like it needs an extra beat or set piece here and there. Of course, it's kind of silly to hold a children's film under such scrutiny, but these issues do damper the films appeal to some adults.
'Hocus Pocus' has oddly grown in popularity since its release, and remains a Halloween staple on TV every year. It's not exactly a children's movie classic, but I've always been quite fond of the film. Before reviewing this disc, I hadn't seen the film since I was a kid, and while a lot of the script's shortcomings are much more apparent now, I actually still had some fun with this film. Fellow adults who grew up in the nineties might want to check this out for the sheer nostalgia factor, and parents looking for a silly, family friendly "horror" film to show to their children, should definitely give it a shot. It’s clear that everyone involved in making the film had the time of their lives, and that translates on-screen into a family film that’s a thrilling and funny romp from start to finish.
Blu-ray Video Quality – The Disney film is provided with an excellent 1080p image transfer and a respectable 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Though decent overall, the picture is uneven and features a predominantly drab appearance. The source is in great shape with no signs of damage. Grain is visible throughout and has a natural but slightly fuzzy look. Detail is solid, but clarity is a little inconsistent. Close-ups reveal nice texture, but most shots are soft and the picture is quite flat throughout. Outside of some sporadic splashes of vibrant greens and reds, colours are also surprisingly dull and contrast can be a tad low. Blacks are slightly elevated in a few shots and shadow detail can crush. With all that said, there are a few scenes that exhibit nice depth, pop, and vibrancy, especially an early sequence set outside Max's school which features beautiful autumn colours. Thankfully, the transfer is free of artefacts like edge enhancement and noise. 'Hocus Pocus' can look a little fuzzy and dull at times, but there are a few vibrant scenes scattered throughout. As far as I can tell, the shortcomings of the picture are simply inherent to the source, and while not especially impressive the film looks fine for what it is.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The film is provided with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track and though mostly basic, the mix suits the material well without any major problems. Speech is clean but sounds a hair thin in a few scenes. The rousing score is nicely spaced around the room, but outside of music, surround activity is limited. Some appropriate effects do make their way to the surround speakers, especially with all the booming thunder, blowing wind, swooping brooms, and there is decent imaging when appropriate. Unfortunately, the track has a comparatively flat sound lacking the range of contemporary releases. A few of the livelier scenes, especially with the opening and the witches' resurrection, for example, offer a solid soundscape, but for the most part the track has a fairly small scope. There aren't any major technical issues, but outside of the enveloping score and a few isolated scenes, the audio isn't particularly immersive. Still, the witches' cackles come through well enough, and fans should be satisfied.
Finally, 'Hocus Pocus' isn't exactly a family film classic, but it offers a fair amount of kid friendly thrills and laughs. The plot is very basic and thin, but Ms. Bette Midler, Ms. Sarah Jessica Parker, and Ms. Kathy Najimy are memorable in their roles, and the child actors are very solid as well. The video transfer is underwhelming but authentic, and the audio mix is decent but not terribly immersive. With no supplements, this is a release that will only appeal to huge fans and that is why I purchased the Blu-ray because of Bette Midler and the only reason and it is a sort of alright film and I do now and again dip into the film, as it has its moments now and again. But once again there are no decent Extras and not even a Film Trailer, so how cheapskate can they are, still despite this, I am still glad it is another Blu-ray added to my Bette Midler Blu-ray Collection. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom