CPD Classics: My Neighbor Totoro (1988) Review

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My Neighbor Totoro (1988) (or My NeighboUr Totoro if you’re in England)
Tonari no Totoro
Japanese:
となりのトトロ

IMDB Top 250 Rank: 165 as of 01/01/2013

Directed & Written by Hayao Miyazaki

Starring Voice Actors:
Chika Sakamoto
Noriko Hidaka
Hitoshi Takagi

(English Dub Voice Cast: Dakota Fanning, Elle Fanning, Tim Daly)

Running time: 86 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
When two girls move to the country to be near their ailing mother, they have adventures with the wonderous forest spirits who live nearby.

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My Opinion:

Version Watched: Japanese with English subtitles & English dubbed version

It seems that My Neighbor Totoro is possibly the most loved of all the Studio Ghibli films. I know I certainly love it, which is why I’ve tagged this one as a CPD Classic. It’s certainly the one I hear mentioned the most and seems to be the one that has been seen by the most people (well, either Totoro or Spirited Away). Like the other Ghibli stuff I’ve reviewed so far in the IMDB Top 250, this keeps going up & has moved 34 places from 165 to 131 since I started the IMDB Project. For me (and I’m guessing most), that’s down to the actual character of Totoro. That big, cuddly, weird, um… thing! I know I have several Totoro items (a bag, a pillow, a keychain). What I wouldn’t give for a stuffed Totoro like Bonnie has in Toy Story 3!

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This is one of the “kid friendly” Studio Ghibli movies. You’re perfectly safe watching this (or Kiki’s Delivery Service or Ponyo) with your kid(s). I admit that I tend to like a movie even more when I get to see it through a child’s eyes and I’ve been able to see how much Totoro makes a 5-year-old smile & giggle. I know Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind is more “me” but nothing can really beat seeing something make a kid happy.

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I feel like I’ve said every Ghibli movie is “odd” in all my reviews so far but I know that puts some people off while it makes others possibly want to watch them even more. I suppose I’d say that Totoro is somewhere in the middle in terms of weirdness. I mean, there’s a catbus. Which is awesome! But, you know… Weird. There’s also the black soot “dust bunnies” (called Susuwatari – yeah, I had to look that up). Oh, and adorable mini Totoros!

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I love the innocence & wonder of My Neighbor Totoro. The two sisters and their relationships with each other and with the “forest spirits” are so sweet. But it doesn’t ever go overboard & get all saccharine like some Disney movies do (as much as I like those). Of course, there’s that crazy theory that Totoro is actually the God Of Death but I think that’s totally ridiculous. I prefer to believe (as Studio Ghibli insists) that these two adorable sisters who are so full of life are truly alive & well. I blame M Night Shyamalan for this stupid theory cropping up about all kinds of different movies!

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Oh, and I also really like the film’s score and cute end credits. Oh! And… if anyone has read any of my other Ghibli reviews so far, I often moan about the English dubbed versions. I’ll ALWAYS prefer the subtitled versions but I’m happy to say that the dubbed version isn’t at all bad on My Neighbor Totoro. I’m talking about the Disney dub – I’ve not seen its first dubbed version which was apparently distributed by, er… Troma Films?! lol. My Avenger Totoro – Toxic God Of Death?

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Summary:

Obviously, like a lot of people, I love My Neighbor Totoro. The story is quite straightforward & simple compared to a lot of the other Studio Ghibli films which can be quite complex and confusing. It still has that magical Ghibli feel, however, with all the weird & wonderful creatures (seriously… a catbus!). I’ll also always love that so many Ghibli films star girls as the central characters & it’s refreshing that they’re not all dopey princesses or wannabe princesses as is often the case when we get female leading roles in animated Western movies. But, most of all, I love the character of Tororo and that’s what has made this film such a huge success.

My Rating: 10/10

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Here’s my Totoro bag I tweeted a photo of while waiting at the bus stop one day. 😉

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CPD Classics: The Shawshank Redemption (1994) Review

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The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Directed by Frank Darabont

Based on Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King

Starring:
Tim Robbins
Morgan Freeman
Bob Gunton
William Sadler
Clancy Brown
Gil Bellows
Mark Rolston
James Whitmore
Jeffrey DeMunn

Music by Thomas Newman

Running time: 142 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
Andy Dufresne is a banker sent to Shawshank State Prison after being convicted of murdering his wife and her lover. While there, be becomes friends with fellow inmate Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding. Through years of hardship, Andy maintains his innocence and never gives up hope.

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Why It’s A CPD Classic:

First off, I’ll point out that this is in the IMDB Top 250 so I figured it would be a good one to do today to help kick off all the guest IMDB Top 250 reviews that I’ll start posting next week (More about that after the review). And what a place to start! The Shawshank Redemption takes the number one spot, having been voted as the best movie of all-time by IMDB users. So why is that….?

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I’m a Shawshank lover. Yep – I’m one of those mainstream masses who is perfectly happy to see Shawshank at number one above the likes of The Godfather and Citizen Kane. Yep – it’s a “feel good” movie. Yep – it may sometimes try a little too hard to be a “feel good” movie. You know what? I don’t care. Because this movie DOES make me feel good! And there’s nothing wrong with that. And most importantly, to me, it has these amazing feel good moments yet it doesn’t feel contrived. Most of us film lovers can see right through that. If Shawshank was guilty of that, it wouldn’t have stayed in the number one spot for all these years. It tells a pretty straight forward story in a straight forward way. I suppose thanks can go to Stephen King for that, my very favorite author and whose adapted works will be featuring more than just this once in my CPD Classics series.

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But clearly the combination of Stephen King & Frank Darabont just WORKS. The Green Mile is also absolutely fantastic and I think The Mist is a great underrated film. Oh, and I have to mention a third very important element: Thomas Newman. I ADORE so many Thomas Newman scores. He’s amazing & doesn’t quite seem to get the credit he deserves. Now isn’t the time to go into him, though, as I think I should devote an entire post to him someday.

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I don’t know if I need to go into any detail with this review. I would assume that most everyone has seen this movie by now and, if not, I think it’s extremely well known what happens in it anyway. I love this film and I’m clearly not alone in feeling this way, although I rarely see it mentioned amongst bloggers here so I’d love to know everyone’s thoughts on this one in the comments below. Is it too mainstream for the blogging crowd? Too obvious & “feel good”? Am I now going to be considered uncool and you’ll all run me out of (WordPress) town?

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I think there are a lot of things that make The Shawshank Redemption such a widely loved film and the movie just gets so many things “right” that they all combine to give us something spectacular: Feel good moments like the beer & opera scenes (which never fail to move me no matter how many times I watch this movie). Andy & Red’s friendship. The lesser characters such as Brooks & Heywood (and the heartbreakingly beautiful “Brooks Was Here” theme from Thomas Newman). Seeing the posters on the wall change, showing the passage of time. Alexandre Dumbass. The pet bird. Rita Hayworth. And, of course, the overall message of hope.

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More than anything, though, I think it’s Stephen King’s story and Darabont’s ability to give us scenes of pure beauty in a movie based someplace as awful as a prison, along with Thomas Newman’s amazing score plus superb narration from the always lovely-to-listen-to voice of Morgan Freeman which may all be most to thank for making The Shawshank Redemption as near to perfection as I think any film could ever really get. That’s why The Shawshank Redemption is a CPD Classic.

My Rating: 10/10

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(That’s the first 10 I’ve given on my site)

IMDB Top 250 Guest Reviews: Thanks once again to all who signed up to help me finish my IMDB Top 250 Challenge by doing guest reviews. I’m still amazed by the huge response and can’t believe I’ve already received some reviews! So I’ll be starting to post them next week (I’ll e-mail you to let you know when yours will be posted). There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone else would like to join in! You can find a list with the remaining movies HERE.

JOHN HUGHES BLOGATHON: Also, a quick reminder that March is when I’ll be having the John Hughes blogathon (so the Top 250 thing will go on hold for a month). I’ve had several reviews so far – thank you everyone! I’d like to receive the rest by the end of this month at the latest so that I can get them all scheduled & let you know when yours will be posted. Reviews can be e-mailed to tableninemutant at hotmail dot com. AND – I’d be happy for anyone to still join!!! You can do any film you want. See more details HERE. 🙂