It was all over Twitter that the Studio Ghibli movies were gonna disappear from Netflix U.K. at the end of May. Even though I knew I’d already seen all the best ones by far, I’ve still been desperate to watch all the rest for years now as I adore Studio Ghibli. So I watched these remaining four before the 1st of June. The only one I have left to watch, which I want to see the most but have to wait since my family want to see it too, is The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (but luckily I have the DVD).
Well, the Ghibli movies are still on Netflix. Oh well – it got me closer to my goal! 🙂
These four confirm that I had indeed already seen the best. I’ve ranked the four at the bottom of my ranked Ghibli list here on Letterboxd (the only other one at the bottom being Ocean Waves). But one of these was still quite delightful, one was perfectly fine but very forgettable, one had way too many testicles, and one was sadly not worthy of the Ghibli name.
I just want to add that for some stupid reason I completely forgot to mention the coolest thing I’ve done in a very long time back in January. I can’t believe I didn’t mention this in my January roundup post! I’m just not used to doing interesting real-life things that relate to my stupid little movie blog. 🙂 I went to see the live production of My Neighbor Totoro at The Barbican in London. It was absolutely AMAZING. It did the film justice without harming its legacy in any way. The way they represented the soot sprites was so clever and the Totoros they created were perfect. And the Cat Bus! The acting was brilliant as well. They couldn’t have done a better job with such a beloved movie & score. Am happy to see they’ve added more shows now. I’d very highly recommend it to all Studio Ghibli fans. And you almost got a picture of me at it but other people are in all the photos too close to me to cut them out so here’s a photo of the lobby instead. 😉
Now let’s review these rather disappointing Studio Ghibli movies…
My Neighbors The Yamadas (1999) (ホーホケキョとなりの山田くん, Hōhokekyo Tonari no Yamada-kun)
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb) The life and misadventures of a family in contemporary Japan.
A fun series of vignettes with a delightful & very relatable family. The format reminded me somewhat of the Peanuts skits, which I absolutely adore. It’s certainly not up there with the Hayao Miyazaki Ghiblis (of course) and I’d rank it below most of the non-Miyazaki Ghiblis as well but it’s still worthy of the Ghibli name. It‘s just so different from the style & wonderfully bizarre nature of the Ghibli films I love the most, which is why it won’t ever be a favorite for me personally. But it was a very sweet film & a pleasant watch.
My Rating: 7/10
Tales From Earthsea (2006) (ゲド戦記)
Directed by Gorō Miyazaki
Based on Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin & Shuna’s Journey by Hayao Miyazaki
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb) In a mythical land, a man and a young boy investigate a series of unusual occurrences.
Not one of Studio Ghibli’s best (it’s hard to live up to those) but I can’t quite put my finger on why? It has Ghibli fantasy elements that I like & a Ghibli look. It’s a much more straightforward story & far less “strange” than my favorites, so maybe that’s why it’s less memorable? Seriously – I watched this a week ago & I barely remember it already. That’s not something you can say about their films like Spirited Away, etc. It’s a simple story with fairly unremarkable characters. That warlock was pretty cool, though. And quite terrifying, so this one wouldn’t be for really young kids. He was sort of a scary combination of Howl & of the wizard from Ponyo. Most memorable thing about this film. Oh, and the cool dragons too (which are barely in this).
I still enjoyed this & think it’s a good anime film, just not a great Ghibli film. I’d say it’s most similar to The Great Adventure of Horus, Prince of the Sun, which isn’t a Ghibli film but may as well be as it’s from Isao Takahata & was also worked on by Hayao Miyazaki. I liked that one a bit more. Both are worth watching if you’re a very big Ghibli fan like I am & want to watch them all.
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb) A community of magical shape-shifting raccoon dogs struggle to prevent their forest home from being destroyed by urban development.
I expected to like this one the most of these four as it looked the most bizarre, which is something I love about Ghibli. But I think it featured just a few too many testicles for my liking.
I did appreciate the weirdness of Pom Poko, although it’s not the beautiful & magical sort of weirdness that I love in the very best Ghiblis. Some of the humor was fun but the story was far darker than I was expecting. Between all the death & all the testicles, it’s certainly not one for the youngest Ghibli fans. And while I normally prefer memorable films to boring ones (and I will certainly never forget Pom Poko), I just wasn’t feeling this one. I’m glad I’ve watched it as I’ve been wanting to see all the Ghibli films but this isn’t one I’ll have any desire to watch again, which is unlike most of the studio’s other films I’ve happily watched multiple times. So I’ve ranked this below the rather bland & forgettable Tales From Earthsea as I liked that story much more & that one felt more like a Ghibli film to me.
Pom Poko was disappointing but, as I said, at least it was memorable. Seriously, though. What was with the testicles?! Okay – those bits were kind of hilarious. I’m giving this an extra half a point just for the balls.
My Rating: 6.5/10
Earwig And The Witch (2020) (アーヤと魔女, Āya to Majo)
Directed by Gorō Miyazaki
Based on Earwig and the Witch by Diana Wynne Jones
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb) An orphan girl, Earwig, is adopted by a witch and comes home to a spooky house filled with mystery and magic.
Oh dear. This is indeed the worst Studio Ghibli film. But if the Ghibli name wasn’t attached to it, would we all think it was so bad? It’s certainly not the worst animated film I’ve ever seen. I’d say it’s something along the lines of the weakest films from Illumination or DreamWorks such as Sing or Home. You know, the kind of stuff you’ll happily watch once with your young kids to keep them entertained and then hopefully not have to watch a hundred more times if they then decide that’s their favorite movie. But that’s not what we expect from Studio Ghibli, who have made so many gorgeous & brilliant films that I as well as my daughter adore and have watched many, many times. The animation in Earwig is so ugly by comparison. Unfortunately, the character is also quite unlikeable, which I wasn’t expecting. I think they were trying to make her seem “cheeky” and precocious but she crossed the line into slightly annoying too often. The story is okay, I guess. I like a story about witches but it was hard to be interested when I didn’t care about any of the underdeveloped characters. And I can see why people complain about the ending. It just stops so abruptly. Could we not get a little closure? At least a small explanation? I thought maybe we’d get a “here’s what happened next” as they had some images through the credits but they didn’t fill in enough of the blanks.
I don’t know. It’s just a very frustrating film. It’s not absolutely terrible. But it’s not Ghibli. In all honesty, I liked it enough that I’d watch a sequel if it promised to continue the story properly. And I thought the band was actually pretty cool. A sequel could focus more on that and maybe include flashbacks with some cool songs? But I think it’s safe to say that a sequel to the most widely hated Ghibli film is extremely unlikely.
Happy Friday! 🙂 Ending the week with some good films I watched this month.
In The Mood For Love (2000) (Chinese: 花樣年華, 花样年华)
Directed & Written by Wong Kar-wai
Starring: Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) It portrays a man (Tony Leung) and a woman (Maggie Cheung) whose spouses have an affair together and who slowly develop feelings for each other.
Been desperate to see this for years as it’s compared to Brief Encounter, which I love, because nothing beats intense sexual tension. Far sexier than any actual sex scenes. This film looks beautiful and my god her outfits were gorgeous. I wanted this couple to live happily ever after together so bad. Great film. Was hoping to instantly adore it a bit more but am thinking it’s one that will grow on me even more in retrospect. I know it’s one that will certainly stay on my mind.
My Rating: 8/10
I couldn’t find a better image but the above dress changed color as she moved & it was amazing…
La Haine (1995)
Directed & Written by Mathieu Kassovitz
Starring: Vincent Cassel, Hubert Koundé, Saïd Taghmaoui
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) The film chronicles a day and night in the lives of three friends from a poor immigrant neighbourhood in the suburbs of Paris. The title derives from a line spoken by one of them, Hubert: “La haine attire la haine!”, “hatred breeds hatred”.
This was very good and one I wasn’t expecting to fully appreciate as I find it difficult to watch movies with unsympathetic characters. But it beautifully captured social injustice & the resulting civil unrest. Feels just as relevant today, especially as things continue to get even more extreme in parts of America. I really felt for the character of Hubert, who made an effort & just wanted a better life. Loved the film’s strong & deeply affecting ending – it’s one of those endings that will stay with you. I watched this as part of my IMDb Top 250 Project and am glad the project has made me see films like this that I otherwise may have not chosen to watch.
I’ve ranked this fairly high in my list of all foreign films I’ve seen here (excluding anime which is in its own list here).
My Rating: 8/10
I Want To Eat Your Pancreas (2018) (Japanese: 君の膵臓をたべたい, Kimi no Suizō o Tabetai)
Directed by Shinichiro Ushijima
Based on I Want to Eat Your Pancreas by Yoru Sumino
Was eager to see this cherry-blossom-in-your-face YA anime version of the teen-romance-with-terminal-illness subgenre as I love anime & still enjoy YA romance at my advanced age & that poster looked so pretty but, mainly, I loved the title. The title is explained & it’s pretty sweet & everything about this film is typical YA anime romance. Meaning the teens are far too dramatic and borderline annoying (especially the girl) but it has that anime charm that I always enjoy. So I liked this one a lot although it’s certainly not up there with the very best of the YA anime romance films from Makoto Shinkai, whose work this most resembles. So certainly watch this if you like his stuff but I’d also recommend all of Shinkai‘s work including 5 Centimeters Per Second, which this most reminded me of probably thanks to the cherry blossoms. Must admit I’m a sucker for those gorgeous cherry blossoms.
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb) Things go badly for a hack director and film crew shooting a low budget zombie movie in an abandoned WWII Japanese facility, when they are attacked by real zombies.”
This was fun! I found it weirdly…. Wholesome? This is a Japanese horror comedy (or, I guess, a ZomCom) & it’s one where you’re better off not knowing too much before watching it. It also gets better as it goes along so stick with it – I really enjoyed the final act of this movie when it all comes together.
The characters were good & I liked the family of three who are involved in the film (especially the mother who goes a little overboard). And it’s not at all “gory” so is worth a watch if you want a lighthearted ZomCom. This was on Film4 in the U.K. but, sadly, I think it has disappeared by now. Sorry! I should review movies while they’re still available to watch.
My Rating: 7/10
Directed & Written by Danishka Esterhazy
Starring: Katie Douglas, Celina Martin, Peter Outerbridge, Sara Canning
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) It follows a group of girls who live at a “school” which educates them about how to be perfect young women for families that they are told will eventually adopt them. Two girls work together to uncover the truth about their captivity.
No, this movie isn’t exactly the best or most original thing ever made but it IS very much my type of story so I quite enjoyed it. It’s on Netflix. By the way, do NOT look this up on IMDb if you want to see it. The images they show ruin the whole story! WTF? So I knew what was going to happen. But I still enjoyed it.
Being someone who grew up loving The Twilight Zone from a very young age, I’d have guessed the ending of this movie anyway as it’s pretty predictable if you watch as much of this sort of thing as I do. I suppose you younger people may also know what to expect if you like Black Mirror. But this is still worth a watch if you like mysterious sci-fi thrillers.
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) It is a Japanese horror film about a widower, Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi), whose son suggests that he should find a new wife. Aoyama agrees, and with a friend, stages a phony audition to meet a potential new partner in life. After interviewing several women, Aoyama becomes interested in Asami (Eihi Shiina), who responds well to him, although as they date, her dark past affects their relationship.
Well, this was fucked up. To be fair, I knew it was going to be fucked up (it’s why I’ve wanted to see it for years). So I grabbed the DVD a few months ago when I saw it very cheap. I’d say it didn’t quite live up to the hype after all this time but I suppose there’s been more “extreme” stuff since this one (I was surprised it’s a 1999 film as I thought it was a bit more recent). I mean, we’ve since had films like Oldboy which was much more shocking. I absolutely hated Oldboy, by the way – it took things way too far and I found it disgusting but I do realise that it was made for shock value. I wanted to see Audition as I love foreign films & especially love Japanese films and I always like a good horror.
I’d say the movie starts out quite well as we watch this widower go about living his life with his likeable teenage son until a friend of his has the idea to set up a fake movie audition so the widower can interview a bunch of unsuspecting young women to see if any could be a potential new wife. Of course they’re all half his age. I’m always uncomfortable with hints of sexual abuse involving children in movies and wasn’t surprised to find that be a part of this as there needs to be some sort of explanation for a woman ending up being a complete psycho in a film. But does there? Does that always have to be the damn reason? Can we not just be CRAZY for no good reason, dammit?!
Anyway. It’s a good movie & I can see why extreme horror lovers like it as, even though it starts out as a pretty straightforward film, it goes batshit crazy at the end. I do like movies that have a sudden shift like that. But I didn’t like the development of the woman’s character in this. Well, I didn’t feel her character was very developed at all. Why is she doing this, besides the sexual abuse she endured which the movie happily hinted at? For some reason I’d heard this was a feminist film but I’d say it’s the opposite? Plus, the main guy isn’t a bad guy – he’s just lonely since his wife’s death and it was his friend’s idea to set up the fake audition anyway. And god I was SO worried about their adorable dog the whole time.
This review is all over the place… I’m not really sure how I felt. As I said, I think it’s a good film (as in well made) so I’m giving it a decent rating. I did really like elements of it but was disappointed overall as it’s not as good as the hype made it out to be. I’ve not seen any other Takashi Miike films but would possibly watch another based on this. First Love is on Sky & I’m curious about that one. Anyone seen it?
Happy February! Will try to stick to my resolution to at least post these monthly roundups (and hopefully on time) this year.
As January, the absolute dreariest & most depressing month of the year, was extra depressing this year thanks to the C word (not that C word) I watched way too many movies in an attempt to cheer up. So I’ll keep my comments on each brief.
MOVIES WATCHED IN JANUARY (ranked best to worst):
– When Marnie Was There – There are very few Studio Ghibli movies I’ve not yet seen (mainly just have the non-Miyazaki ones left to watch). Desperate to see them all but also hate the thought of running out of them! So finally decided to watch this one & absolutely loved it. It just makes it into my Top Ten (which I need to update now) and is easily a favorite of the non-Miyazaki films. What I really liked was the story – there’s a bit of a mystery surrounding Marnie & I loved finding out her history. It’s a lovely, bittersweet film and was a great one to watch with my daughter, who also really enjoyed it. – 8/10
– It Happened One Night – Although I’ve slowed way down on my 2013 IMDb Top 250 Challenge, I still try to watch a few Top 250 movies a year. This Frank Capra film was one I’d most been looking forward to watching & it didn’t disappoint. Clark Gable & Claudette Colbert were absolutely adorable together. I’m not exactly a girly girl & romance isn’t my favorite genre but I do seem to prefer the relationships in these older films. The couples had great chemistry in movies like these. Delightful movie! I should watch more pre-1970 films than I do. – 8/10
– Black Narcissus(1947) – I thought this was some big classic but I don’t actually know anyone who has heard of it? Well, I think there’s some British TV adaptation right now that I have no interest in. I just know I’d seen images of the eerie looking building & bell high on a cliff lots in the past and have wanted to watch this movie for years based on the images alone. Well, that and the name Black Narcissus because it just sounds cool (named after a perfume if I remember correctly from the movie). Here’s the plot synopsis from IMDb for those unfamiliar with this British classic: “A group of nuns struggle to establish a convent in the Himalayas, while isolation, extreme weather, altitude, and culture clashes all conspire to drive the well-intentioned missionaries mad.”
I enjoyed this one. It’s a beautiful looking film (as I was hoping from the images) and Deborah Kerr as Sister Clodagh is fascinating as the very stern nun in charge. There’s slowly building tension throughout, leading to an intense finale I’m happy had never been spoiled for me. There’s also a bit of sexual tension with a handsome Englishman. Sexual tension in old movies is the best! It’s why I love Brief Encounter. Am very glad I finally got the chance to watch this one while it was on BBC iPlayer (sorry, think it’s gone now). – 8/10
**Decided to up the rating to 8…
– The Secret Of Kells – Having recently watched Tomm Moore’s gorgeous Wolfwalkers and having seen the equally beautiful Song Of The Sea a few years ago, I figured I’d finally check out his earliest animated film. For some reason, this one had appealed to me the least but I think I actually liked it the most. The animation style was of course fantastic (I’d happily put images from these films up on a wall) but I think I enjoyed the story in this one the most. Here’s the IMDb synopsis: “A young boy in a remote medieval outpost under siege from barbarian raids is beckoned to adventure when a celebrated master illuminator arrives with an ancient book, brimming with secret wisdom and powers.”
If you’ve seen the others, I’d highly recommend this one as well. If you’ve seen none of these & like beautiful animation, fun characters & good folklore storytelling, these are all well worth your time. I saw this on iPlayer as well & think it’s still available. Here’s a second image from the film since there are so many great ones to choose from… – 7.5/10
– Bringing Up Baby – Another movie I was happy to catch on iPlayer (it’s still available) and another one I was happy to cross off my IMDb Top 250 list. Sadly this is one that has disappeared from the Top 250 since that 2013 list I’m still working from. This was directed by Howard Hawks and stars Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. It’s one of those romantic “screwball comedies” from that era. I confess I don’t have much experience with this subgenre. I enjoyed this movie but not nearly as much as It Happened One Night. Grant & Hepburn are very cute together. Hepburn is truly the star of the film as the flighty & clumsy heiress with a leopard named Baby. It’s a sweet film & perfect for a rainy Sunday afternoon. – 7/10
– The Dig – This was fine. Not gonna lie – it’s not at all my type of thing but I’m absolutely desperate for current movie releases. Really missing my monthly cinema membership & seeing new releases regularly! I like Carey Mulligan, although her acting in these types of dramas is always a bit same-y, and I liked all of the characters in this (especially the Ralph Fiennes character). Speaking of cinema trips, you know what character I absolutely despised years ago?! That guy in those annoying Cineworld Unlimited adverts! Man, I still can’t believe he’s in actual movies now. I mean, he’s fine in this but he’ll forever be that jerk from those adverts to me (sorry, Johnny Flynn). Where was I? Oh yeah. This movie… The acting is fine, the true story is interesting if you like archaeology I guess, but it’s quite slow and character-driven so won’t be for everyone. I’m being generous with my rating as it’s a good enough movie but I’d never watch it again. – 6.5/10
– Pieces Of A Woman – Again, this isn’t really my type of movie. If I were being honest, I’d stick my next movie above this & The Dig but it’s not nearly as “good” as these two. This one is all about the acting & Vanessa Kirby does put in a good performance. I actually preferred her performance as Margaret in The Crown, though. She’s good in this but I also didn’t feel the performance lived up to the hype. Am I allowed to say that?! I also felt that way about the thoroughly overrated (and throughly boring) Marriage Story. Are people just less picky with Netflix movies or something? Or am I just too picky? Anyway, I did feel for these characters & their terrible tragedy, although they were all very hard people to like. But everyone deals with grief differently & I can understand Kirby’s character becoming so emotionally detached. Not an easy movie to watch and certainly not one I’d watch again. Man, Ellen Burstyn knows how to pick the “I never want to watch this again” movies! Imagine this as a double bill with Requiem For A Dream… Or Surviving!! Ha! Bet none of you youngsters have seen THAT one! (I actually watched that thoroughly depressing TV movie multiple times, though. Loved it. Zach Galligan! Molly Ringwald! River Phoenix! I’m so Gen X). – 6.5/10
– Escape Room – I enjoyed this, even though it was a bit f*^king ridiculous. Especially the very end, but most horror movies like these have stupid endings. I don’t know what to say about this… It’s the usual sort of shit but at least it has a fun idea & the different escape rooms the characters find themselves in are entertaining. When it comes to horror, I lower my expectations a lot as most modern horror sucks. I prefer the classics from the ’70s & ’80s. There have been some good ones in recent years, though (The Babadook, It Follows, and especially the delightfully bonkers Mandy which is very much my type of thing). But the good ones are rare so I’m happy to watch these lightweight & utterly predictable ones to pass the time in between the good ones. This was a bit like the recent Countdown and both have a Final Destination vibe (though not as good as that one, of course). Meh. I liked this. The characters were decent & the story was entertaining. I expect nothing more from this sort of thing. – 6/10
– Tangerine – Not sure how to go about reviewing this one. I can’t relate to the lives of these characters in any way whatsoever but I enjoyed watching this “day in the life” film (I like those) & really liked the main characters played by Kitana Kiki Rodriguez & Mya Taylor. This is from Sean Baker, the same one who did The Florida Project. I quite liked The Florida Project but am still not sure why. Tangerine is very similar. I think I liked it? But I’m not sure why? If you like one, you’ll like the other (and if you hate one, you’ll hate the other). What an in-depth review! You’re welcome. Watch Tangerine if you like a good puke scene! (That was a lot of puke. Gross.) – 6.5/10
– Sputnik – I was excited about this. Foreign sci-fi!! A Russian Alien!! Sadly, I was disappointed. I think it had a good idea (even though, yes, it’s very similar to Alien), the alien dude thing looked good, and the acting was decent. There’s even a mini twist at the very end. But… I dunno. It just didn’t quite work. I can’t explain why, though, as this is totally my type of thing. Maybe my expectations were just too high as one of my favorites last year was a foreign dystopian sci-fi film (The Platform). – 6/10
– Journey 2: The Mysterious Island – This was pretty crap. I think my daughter just really likes to watch movies starring The Rock (me too). You never know what you’re gonna get with these family films, though. Many are rubbish. But then you get one where they actually put some effort in & every age group is actually able to enjoy it. I’m thinking of a recent reboot with The Rock: Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle & The Next Level were loads of fun! Suppose we were hoping for something similar to those but this one was mostly just silly & had dodgy special effects. The tiny elephants were cute, though. I want one! Oh, we also read that you didn’t really need to see the first film first (2008’s Journey To The Center Of The Earth) but I’m thinking it would’ve helped. – 5/10
Movies Rewatched(lots of rewatches during lockdown! I don’t normally rewatch movies often– I’ll be even more brief):
– The Jungle Book (1967) – Classic! Love this one & it’s always been one of my favorites for Disney songs. – 8.5/10
– Despicable Me – I’m a Disney/Pixar/Studio Ghibli girl but I absolutely adore this Illumination film. The relationship between the adorably cheeky girls & hilariously grumpy Gru really makes these films work. AND a brilliant score from Pharrell Williams. AND, of course, the Minions. AND fluffy unicorns. “It’s so fluffy!” – 8.5/10
– WarGames – Hadn’t seen this in years. It has aged better than I was expecting (except for the actual technology, obviously). But it’s still a thoroughly entertaining story and I’ll forever love the ’80s films I grew up on. – 7.5/10
– Howl’s Moving Castle – (Original review HERE). As I said above, I’m a huge fan of Studio Ghibli & especially love the ones directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Howl’s is as visually stunning & weird as all the rest but it’s never been an absolute favorite of mine as the story is just a bit too messy. I do love Ghibli weirdness but it just works better in Spirited Away for me. I’m still not sure what the heck is actually going on in Howl’s but do love the look & its characters (as with every Miyazaki movie). And Howl is hot with his Bowie-ness. – 7.5/10
– Police Academy – I’ll always love the ’80s & its inappropriate humor. This one was even more inappropriate than I remembered! Ha! Filth. Good thing it’s not on the Disney channel – they’d have to slap a huge disclaimer on it since, you know, humans can’t be trusted to judge these things for themselves & must have history censored for them. – 7/10
– National Lampoon’s Vacation – Surprisingly, I also hadn’t seen this John Hughes-written film in years either & was surprised to enjoy Police Academyslightly more. Not quite as good as I remembered but I still enjoyed it. Am just so used to National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation now, which is far superior. – 7/10
– Idiocracy – Again, a film that wasn’t as good as I remembered. I think with this one, I just loved (and still absolutely love) the concept. It’s scarily accurate. Especially after the last four years… We really are turning into a bunch of f*!king morons. The movie becomes more accurate with every year that goes by & for that I think this Mike Judge story is brilliant even if the execution could’ve been better. – 6.5/10
– The Sisterhood Of The Travelling Pants – I really like this movie, even if it’s a little cheesy & “teenager”. Actually, my rating is a bit low as I probably don’t want to admit that I really like these characters & their stories. I like that we get four stories in one here (I always like movies like that – four for the price of one!). Some are better than others. I’ll rank them! The best story is definitely the Amber Tamblyn one where the cheeky young girl befriends her (that girl is the best character in the whole movie). Next is America Ferrera’s divorced family drama as I felt really bad for her (her dad & his new family were assholes & she was far too forgiving!). Next was the predictable Alexis Bledel Greece romance but Greece itself was gorgeous. Last was definitely the boring soccer romance drama (sorry, Blake Lively). Anyway, I like this movie more than I probably should & think my daughter really enjoyed it too. Much better than that Journey 2 crap! – 6.5/10
– The Shallows – (Original review HERE). Not sure why but I really like this Blake Lively shark attack story (more than her boring soccer romance drama – maybe this should’ve been her Sisterhood story!). It has a predictable backstory setup but, hey, the pretty blonde needs a reason to want to survive. Maybe I just like shark attack movies. I do enjoy most any kind of disaster movie… – 6.5/10
– Pixar Popcorn – Of course we watched all of these super short Pixar shorts. For the most part, they’re not nearly as good as the longer ones we get before films (of course), but there are a few really fun ones here. Surprisingly, I liked the Ducky & Bunny ones the most (they weren’t favorite characters of mine from Toy Story 4). But the one where they argue over who is more lovable is hilarious. Here, I’ll rank them since I’m a pathetic, ranking fool!! (from best to “worst” but of course all are good):
1. Fluffy Stuff with Ducky and Bunny: Love
2. Dory Finding
3. Cookie Num Num
4. Fluffy Stuff with Ducky and Bunny: Three Heads
5. Chore Day – The Incredibles Way
6. Soul of the City
7. To Fitness and Beyond
8. Dancing with the Cars
9. A Day in the Life of the Dead
10. Unparalleled Parking
– Modest Heroes (Kanini & Kanino, Life Ain’t Gonna Lose & Invisible) – Watched this collection on Netflix of three shorts from Studio Ponoc, who made the delightful Mary And The Witch’s Flower (from people previously with Studio Ghibli). These were fine but a little underwhelming. The final one, about a lonely guy no one can see, is the best. It’s still worth checking out these shorts if you like anime.
– Canvas – This was a lovely short on Netflix as well about a man who loses his passion for painting after his wife dies. Not as powerful as If Anything Happens I Love You but still good.
BOOKS, TV, MUSIC, MISCELLANEOUS IN JANUARY
– Demon Seed by Dean Koontz – Am a big Dean Koontz fan (did a Top Ten list HERE). Honestly couldn’t remember if I’d read this one years ago but think I only saw the 1977 Julie Christie movie based on it. What was disappointing was that I didn’t realise the version I have is actually one that Koontz later re-wrote to update the technology in it & I assume references to specific actresses. I’m old – I can handle reading about out-dated technology. I’M out-dated technology! Anyway, this book is interesting as I’ve always been fascinated by the thought of machines taking over. (They will, you know!!). But it’s also creepy & very rape-y so not one I’d recommend easily to absolutely anyone. There’s a real “woman hating” thing going on here, but I think part of the point of the book is the dreaded “toxic masculinity”. I do wonder if that was as much a part of the original book or if Koontz put more of that in to fit more with the topics of today. – 3/5
Currently Reading Moon by James Herbert as I enjoyed that freaky deaky The Rats book.
TV SHOWS WATCHED
– Cobra Kai: Season 3– I’ve gone on about how much I adore Cobra Kai in previous posts so I won’t do that again. I’ll just say that I still love it. As expected, many shows go downhill and that’s the case with seasons 2 & 3 of Cobra Kai too but, luckily, I’d say they’re only going slightly downhill. This isn’t Stranger Things, where I couldn’t even finish Season 3. I still loved every moment of Cobra Kai Season 3 & the writing is still sharp and the characters are still strong. But, at this point, they’ve now covered most everything they can from the films and the teens have all fought each other in every way possible so I don’t see where they can easily go from here. But I’ll keep watching because I love these characters (especially Johnny – still can’t believe they turned that asshole around!).
– The Crown: Season 2 & 2 episodes of Season 3: Oh man, I’m really not feeling the new cast in Season 3. Give me Claire Foy back! I hope these get better again, because I thought the first two seasons were great even though I only started watching this to get to the Diana years in Season 4…
– WandaVision: Season 1 – Episodes 1-4 – I’m not a huge Marvel fan, although I’ve watched all the MCU movies and do like the characters. Am not sure what to think of this show but do love how original it feels. Being an ’80s latchkey kid who grew up watching loads of reruns of shows from the ’50s through to the late ’80s, I’ll always be fond of those shows and like that WandaVision is paying tribute to them (although the fake WandaVision shows aren’t as good as the original classic shows they’re spoofing). After episode four, I’m glad the story seems to be going in the direction I was expecting & I’m looking forward to watching the story fully unfold. But I’m hoping we get back to sitcoms next week as I want to see which ’80s one they do!
– History Of Swear Words – This was fine. A fun throwaway show with lots of swearing. I love swearing, dammit. They covered a different word in each episode. Damn was one – how mild is THAT?! That’s not a swear word. Damn. Nicolas Cage was the perfect host for this. Although Samuel L. Jackson would have been better… Whoa – I have to update my Nicolas Cage Top Ten list!! Mandy would be number one now.
BLOG PLANS FOR THE COMING MONTH
No plans besides posting these monthly updates. But I’ve been contemplating doing Top Ten lists again as I always enjoyed those…
What I’m really enjoying is trying to make the time to read movie blogs again. I miss the old days (I’ve been here 8 years) but there are some great new blogs. Have been feeling out of touch on movie releases where release dates are a nightmare thanks to the C word & I’ve not had time to read blogs to keep informed. And an old favorite blogger is back! Yay!! I mean old as in was here when I started… (I’d link him but not sure if he’s keeping a low profile). 🙂
Upcoming Movies I Want To See:
No clue. Are any movies coming out?! As I said, I’m very out of touch. I still need to catch up on 2020 films that haven’t been on U.K. streaming services yet…
As I end these posts with a music clip, I’ll go with a favorite from The Jungle Book as I mentioned loving the songs in that.
2020 is almost over! But apparently Nostradamus predicted an even worse 2021?? Wonderful! Looking forward to that zombie apocalypse…
Here’s what I watched in November.
MOVIES WATCHED IN NOVEMBER (ranked best to worst):
– A Whisker Away – Enjoyed this anime film on Netflix, although it clearly wants to be a Ghibli film. Nothing wrong with that, though – who wouldn’t want their film to be as good as Studio Ghibli?? It’s about a girl who switches places with a cat sometimes, enabling her to be close to and get to know the boy she has a crush on. It’s a decent story even if it’s somewhat predictable (at least as far as anime movies go – maybe not so predictable if you haven’t seen a lot of anime). I’d probably have liked it more if it wasn’t a bit similar to the Ghibli film The Cat Returns, which I’d recommend before this but both were enjoyable & worth a watch. I have to say, though, why the hell are teenage girls in Japanese anime romance movies so damn emotional?? Good god – they’re high maintenance! Not really complaining, though, as I’m used to that now & find it kind of endearing. The girl in this is likeable in that noisy & dramatic anime-teen kind of way. Cute film. I liked it. Is it as good as Ghibli or a film by Mamoru Hosoda or Makoto Shinkai? Of course not, but I’d watch more from the makers of A Whisker Away. – 7/10
– Color Out Of Space – Not sure how to review this. I’m a very big fan of Richard Stanley’s Hardware (I never shut up about it – my review is HERE). So I was very excited about this one, especially as it looked weird & beautiful and Nicolas Cage is finally growing on me thanks to the wonderfully batshit Mandy and it’s based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft. It sounded like it would be right up my alley! Suppose I was hoping for some kind of Hardware crossed with Mandy crossed with Re-Animator film with this one. It’s nothing like them other than it being weird as shit. Yay! I love weird as shit! Not entirely sure what was going on here. Is it about how we’re ruining the environment? Maybe. I guess there’s some sort of message. Wanted to love this one like Mandy & Hardware but it wasn’t as good as I was hoping. It starts out veeeery slow until finally going WHAT THE FUCK near the end. Then it got good. Enjoyed the final bit of the movie even though I’m not entirely sure what point the film was trying to make. And I loved the pinky purple colors I’d seen in all the images of this movie – it was lovely and I wanted more of it. I… think I liked this movie? Even if I didn’t love it. But I think it’ll grow on me, just like Mandy did – I started out not sure how I felt about Mandy but now consider one of my favorites of the past decade. As I always say, I watch way too many movies & far too many are boring & forgettable. I like when a movie is unpredictable or shocking. I’m not sure if I can say Color Out Of Space is a good movie, but I’ll certainly never forget it. I appreciate that. – 7/10
– Dark Waters – Good film about an EVIL CORPORATION. I hate EVIL CORPORATIONS!! Here’s the Wikipedia plot synopsis: “The story dramatizes Robert Bilott’s case against the chemical manufacturing corporation DuPont after they contaminated a town with unregulated chemicals.” So, yeah, they poisoned an entire town & loads of people got ill and some died and it’s a true story & I hate that money has power & is valued more than human life & I hate EVIL CORPORATIONS! I don’t tend to watch true story court room dramas much because, yeah, real life shit like this pisses me off so this isn’t my favorite genre. Good story. Decent acting. EVIL FUCKING CORPORATION. – 7/10
– Begin Again – Why do I watch so many Keira Knightley movies? She annoys the hell out of me. That’s maybe unfair… I blame her annoying character in Love Actually! Ugh. Anyway – when she’s not doing her usual period dramas, she usually makes the kind of chick flicks I don’t mind. This one was fine. Mark Ruffalo plays a bitter record exec whose interest in his career is magically renewed when he hears Knightley singing some boring singer songwriter bullshit song in some club. The movie is pretty predictable, as most romcoms are, but the ending was somewhat unexpected so that was nice. With these movies, it’s more about the characters and if you buy into them and they were fine in this. I also liked how they decided to go about recording an album, even if it was a little cheesy. Um. Yeah. Pleasant enough romcom but I’ll probably forget most of it in a year. – 6.5/10
– The Hurt Locker – Watched this only to get another Best Picture Oscar Winner crossed off my Watchlist. I’ll add it to my full ranked list HERE at some point but it’ll be near the bottom. Meh. It was okay. War movies are admittedly not my favorite but I always end up really liking them when they’re truly good (Full Metal Jacket, The Bridge On The River Kwai, The Great Escape, etc). Those are classics & truly Oscar-worthy types of films. I’ve found so few modern Oscar winners to be the epic classics that the winners from the past were. And as far as war movies go, there are just so many better than The Hurt Locker yet it’s a Best Picture winner? Nah. It’s okay but not the hard-hitting emotional drama I expect from a war film. And Jeremy Renner’s character is an unlikeable asshole. As it’s dealing with a bomb squad, however, it did have some tense scenes that were probably quite stressful to watch in a cinema. So I’ll give it that. Wish I’d cared about the characters… – 6.5/10
– Enola Holmes – This was disappointing. It had some fun moments but I wish it had been better. And is it just me or is Millie Bobby Brown getting a little obnoxious? That’s mean… she’s young. She seems talented so I hope she gets to be in better movies than this one. She did well as its big star, though. Think I’m just maaaaaaybe finally getting bored with the “girl power” thing. It used to be cool. I wanted to be Ellen Ripley! It’s so forced now. Bored with it. Kind of already barely remember this besides Helena Bonham Carter being great as always. Speaking of which, she’s a Suffragette in this and it made me think of her in the film Suffragette. Much better movie. I think, if you have a young daughter, Enola Holmes is a good place to start to get them interested in this sort of thing. I’m sure girls would like Brown’s character. But I think Suffragette would be a great follow-up film. I plan to now watch that one with my daughter as well so she can know a bit more about what it was like for women in that time. – 6/10
– Frequencies (aka OXV: The Manual) – I watched this as I loved the sound of the plot (from IMDb): “In an alternate reality, children learn how lucky they will be (their “frequency”), knowledge which shapes their destiny. The unluckiest boy must parse the mysteries of free will in order to pursue his forbidden love of the luckiest girl.” Wish this had been better & that the characters were more likeable. I suppose that’s hard to achieve, though, in a film where the “luckiest girl” and all the lucky people apparently lack emotions for some reason. I admit I got a little confused by the end, so maybe I’m just not smart enough for this movie. But it also felt like a movie that thinks it’s smarter than it actually is. It was a bit boring but I do appreciate the effort put into an ambitious story on a low budget. – 5.5/10
– Noelle – Ugh. Was hoping this would be a fun new Christmas movie along the lines of Elf. This makes Elf look like a masterpiece. This was actually embarrassingly bad. How are such rubbish movies with such big name stars being made now?? Shirley MacLaine was in this. How do you go from The Apartment to this?!?! Wow – I’m in a bitchy mood today. As if silly, cheerful Christmas movies need to be Oscar-worthy?? I guess you’ll like this fine if you like Anna Kendrick when she plays her usual sort of chipper character. She’s exactly how you’d expect her to be in this one. I’ll be nice & give it an extra half a point for managing to get MacLaine into this. But go watch A Simple Favor instead if you like Kendrick. Her typical chipper character actually worked brilliantly in a dark comedy. – 5/10
– The Martian – Enjoyed this even more on a rewatch. I really liked the book so think I was a tad harsh on the film just because, well, the movies are rarely as good as the books. But this is a very good film with some great edge-of-your-seat stuff & a character you really want to see survive. Not knowing the ending beforehand must have made this a very exciting watch for others. Has definitely gone up in my estimation. – 7.5/10
– Ever After – Yes, I love Drew Barrymore. I grew up with her & try to watch everything she’s in. So I may rate her movies slightly high sometimes but I do think this is a really good variation on the Cinderella story. Still like this one a lot. – 7.5/10
BOOKS, TV, MUSIC, MISCELLANEOUS IN NOVEMBER
TV SHOWS WATCHED
– The Mandalorian: Season 2 – Think November was up to the Ahsoka episode? God I loved that episode! It was brilliant. And it was only the second best episode this season. Not sure if I’m going to do a full review of The Mandalorian in my December roundup as I don’t think I can put into words how much I’ve loved this show. I’ve enjoyed it far more than any movies in the past couple of years. WHY couldn’t they make the sequel trilogies this good??? Look how easy it was to actually please Star Wars fans! Now even more amazed that they managed to make such a mess of the movies.
– The Crown: Season 1 – I admit it – I paid zero attention to the hype around The Crown until I’d heard they started the Diana years. Then I wanted to see it. Didn’t know they’d cover the Princess Diana stuff! Anyway, this show really is very good. Historical dramas aren’t normally my type of thing but I do enjoy them when they’re as good as this. And I think Claire Foy is great as Queen Elizabeth – am not looking forward to whenever it is that they change actresses. Well, I’m someone who is terrible when it comes to history. Always hated the topic for some reason & my knowledge is terrible on anything to do with the Royal family (to be fair, it’s not like I grew up in the U.K. so I can maybe be excused for knowing so little). But it means I’m thoroughly enjoying watching this story. Even though I know there’s a bunch of made-up shit but, hey – they gotta make stuff exciting for viewers…
– Avatar: The Last Airbender – The daughter suddenly decided she wanted to watch this as I think a friend at school is a big fan. Never mind that I’ve been telling her for ages that I’d heard it was very good & that we should check it out. Kids! I’m a cool mom, dammit. As if I’d recommend bad stuff! 😉 Anyway, it’s quite good but I’ve stopped fully watching as I don’t have the time to devote to it. I watch an episode here & there when the kid does but she’s devouring it! I can’t keep up. She loves it. I’ll say the characters are strong & very likeable plus it’s an interesting story so I can see why it has devoted fans.
Well, I can keep this brief as I didn’t really read anything in November other than several short stories in an Edgar Allan Poe collection I have. I absolutely loved The Masque Of The Red Death when I read it a couple years ago, so have been meaning to read more of his work:
– The Facts In The Case Of M. Valdemar – This was a bit morbid. I like! – 3.5/5
– A Descent Into The Maelström – Like The Masque Of The Red Death, this was very descriptive & an enjoyable read. – 3.5/5
– The Gold Bug – A fun little treasure hunt story but could have been a bit shorter. And the language used will be considered problematic now so I’m glad I have a copy from before it gets banned or something. – 3/5
– MS. Found In A Bottle – A fun pirate ghost story. Did he have a thing for pirates?? Wasn’t expecting two pirate stories from Poe. I prefer the gothic creepy stuff. – 3/5
BLOG PLANS FOR THE COMING MONTH
Will try to post my December roundup either end of this week or Monday & then my year-end top ten lists.
Welcome to Day 2 of my 2019 top ten lists that I’ll be posting all week.
I watched more anime than I realized this year, although not as much as I’d have liked. I still love Studio Ghibli above all else but I’ve really enjoyed exploring more anime the past few years. Looking forward to seeing Weathering With You in the cinema later this month, which is from the same director as Your Name.
I won’t have time to review any of the below like I was hoping but I’ve included the links to my original posts where I talked a tiny bit about each of them.
Here are My Top (not quite ten) Anime Movies Watched In 2019 (counting down to my favorite):
These are the Top Ten lists I’ll be posting this week:
My Top Ten Books Read In 2019 (yesterday)
My Top Anime Movies Watched In 2019
My IMDb Top 250 Movies Watched In 2019
My 2019 Blind Spot Movies: Ranked
My Top Ten Movies Watched At Home In 2019
My Top Ten 2019 Movie Releases
My Top Ten Movies Of The Decade (2010-2019)
Starring: Moka Kamishiraishi, Haru Kuroki, Gen Hoshino, Kumiko Aso, Mitsuo Yoshihara, Yoshiko Miyazaki, Koji Yakusho, Masaharu Fukuyama
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb) A young boy encounters a magical garden which enables him to travel through time and meet his relatives from different eras, with guidance by his younger sister from the future.
Mirai is the third film I’ve watched from director Mamoru Hosoda after Summer Wars & Wolf Children. Wolf Children remains my favorite by far as it has the most well-developed characters & lovely animation while Summer Wars has a unique story and style. Mirai was a little disappointing in comparison but there’s still a lot to like about it, not least of which was seeing how much my daughter enjoyed it (it’s her favorite movie of the year – I’m raising an anime fan!).
I’m always a big fan of any stories involving time travel so Mirai’s plot certainly appealed to me. The young boy in the story gets to visit relatives in the past, with the help of his newborn sister’s future self, in order to gain a better understanding of his family and his place within it. It’s a great concept that doesn’t work quite as well as it could have. The stories aren’t as moving as they could’ve been, other than one involving his great-grandfather (who is an animated hottie, by the way – what a stud). I loved that story and wanted more like it. Unfortunately, I don’t think we learn enough about the future selves of our two main brother & sister characters. We don’t know if the boy really changes his ways, either, based on the little we see of his future. I’d have liked to see more of a connection between the brother & sister as this relationship was the main focus of the story.
I think the biggest problem, which didn’t bother me so much but will get on some people nerves, is that the boy is, well, a brat at first. But that’s kind of the whole point of the movie. He’s young (not sure if they say his age – he seems to just be coming out of the toddler stage) and he becomes very jealous of his newborn baby sister and all the attention she receives. If you don’t like kids, as I’ve noticed many people don’t, you’re unlikely to fully enjoy this one. I had a toddler, although I never had to deal with sibling rivalry, and I know they can be a pain in the damn ass. Those tiny humans are insane. So the boy being a little bratty in this didn’t bother me as it felt realistic and having his new sister visit him from the future is a brilliant idea for a story.
Well, I did enjoy this film even though it’s not going to be a very favorite anime movie of mine. I’m sure it’ll grow on me as I’m likely to see it multiple times on DVD thanks to my kid. I feel kind of similar about this one as I did about Makoto Shinkai’s Journey To Agartha, which I reviewed earlier today. I just need something to be as good as all the Studio Ghibli stuff. Or Akira. That’s probably asking too much. I think I’m going through all the anime films too quickly since starting this blog. I’ve watched all the best! I’m afraid nothing will live up to those now. But I’ll still keep watching them just in case…
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb) A coming of age story involving young love and a mysterious music, coming from a crystal radio left as a memento by an absent father, that leads a young heroine deep into a hidden world.
I’d been meaning to watch this film for ages. It was recommended to me by S.G. of Rhyme And Reason a very long time ago & I picked up the DVD right away but then it sat on a shelf for years (like most DVDs I buy). Thanks for the recommendation, S.G.! Like Shinkai’s other work, it’s a lovely film and I really enjoyed it. I have to say I slightly prefer his other films, though, which I didn’t expect as the story in Journey To Agartha is much more “me”.
This anime is from director Makoto Shinkai, who also made Your Nameand two beautiful short films that I watched recently: 5 Centimetres Per Second & The Garden Of Words. I’m still fairly new to anime so I stick to the most mainstream stuff and admit that Studio Ghibli will always be what I love the most. Beyond that, Shinkai & Mamoru Hosoda (Wolf Children, Summer Wars, etc) are the two main directors I’ve been exploring. So far, I think I slightly prefer Shinkai’s work. This is mainly because of his style more than the actual stories themselves: his films are beautiful works of art. They’re all very “teenage love story”, though, so I was looking forward to Journey To Agartha as it sounded like a far more interesting plot. It’s “weird” and much darker than the other Shinkai films I’ve seen.
But I couldn’t really get into this one. I think the reason was partly because I couldn’t help but keep comparing it some of the Miyazaki Ghiblis. It’s a bit of Castle In The Sky crossed with Howl’s Moving Castle and a sprinkle of Spirited Away. Those are brilliant, of course, so nothing from other directors or studios can really compare to them. When I want that sort of style, I watch a Ghibli film. From the little I’ve seen, I prefer when Shinkai has stuck to his own style. Your Name worked really well for him so I don’t think he needs to try to make a Ghibli-inspired film. I also didn’t really connect with the characters in this one in the same way I did with those in his other films (such as the woman in The Garden Of Words – she was a strong character). The story in this was also intriguing but the plot was a little messy (but Howl’s Moving Castle can be accused of that too).
I do think this film really picked up at the end, though. The climactic scene was pretty cool & intense (don’t let your young kids watch this one – it’s aimed at an older audience). And this dude was pretty groovy, even though he’s one of the most obvious Ghibli-inspired things:
Overall, I definitely enjoyed Journey To Agartha but I haven’t yet seen an anime film that I’ve not enjoyed. This one won’t be an absolute favorite, though. I think my expectations may have been a little high as, looking at the images, it looked like one I’d love. However, I’d like to give it another try sometime as I watched it after a crappy night out so probably wasn’t in the right kind of mood. I’ll see what the kid thinks of it once she’s a couple of years older and I’ll see if my opinion changes on a re-watch. For now, I’m a bigger fan of Your Name.
My Rating: 7/10
I’ll be reviewing Mamoru Hosoda’s Mirai later today. I can’t quite decide if I preferred Journey To Agartha or Mirai…
Happy November, everyone! It’s cold. It’s dark way too fucking early. I hate this time of year. It makes me feel like this:
Well, here’s what I watched & reviewed in October…
MOVIES THIS MONTH
MOVIES REVIEWED (ranked best to worst):
Since everyone does the horror thing in October, I mostly just re-posted & reblogged some short reviews I did of horror movies I watched this year. So these are just the brand new reviews that I posted in October.
• Mandy – This is one that will probably grow on me. I’ve seen nothing else like it. I’ve already reviewed it in full HERE. – 7.5/10
• Interstella 5555: The 5tory Of The 5ecret 5tar 5ystem – The above image is from this movie, which I doubt anyone reading this has actually seen. Here’s some info from Wikipedia: “Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem is a Japanese-French anime adventure fantasy science fiction musical film. The film is the visual realization of Discovery, the second studio album by Daft Punk. Interstella 5555 tells the story of the abduction and rescue of an interstellar pop band. The film was produced by Daft Punk, Cédric Hervet and Emmanuel de Buretel with Toei Animation under the supervision of Leiji Matsumoto. The film has no dialogue and uses minimal sound effects.” Yep – this movie is definitely not for everyone. If you absolutely love Daft Punk (I do) and like anime, you may enjoy it but it’s obviously for a very specific target audience. There’s no talking – it’s just Daft Punk songs through the whole movie so it’s like a long music video with a fun story. Is it a good film? Maybe. It’s certainly not perfect but I loved the style and the music. I admit that I love Daft Punk, though, so am likely to enjoy any type of art that they put out. I still prefer their film Electroma, however, which has similar themes regarding humanity & becoming human. I recommend both films but only to massive Daft Punk fans. – 7.5/10
• The Garden Of Words – This (as well as the below film 5 Centimetres Per Second) is a very short anime film from the same director as Your Name (Makoto Shinkai). I liked both of these films a lot. I also went to an anime film in the cinema last weekend (Mirai) from the director of Wolf Children & Summer Wars (Mamoru Hosoda) so I think I’m getting a better idea of whose films I like beyond just Studio Ghibli (but nothing will ever top those). So far, I’m preferring the gorgeous style of Shinkai’s films and the simple human stories, which are often bittersweet. This story revolves around the friendship between a 15-year-old boy & 27-year-old woman who both feel a little lost. I probably liked 5 Centimetres Per Second just as much but felt the characters were a bit stronger in this one, especially the woman. – 7.5/10
• 5 Centimetres Per Second – Also from Makoto Shinkai, this short film reminded me a lot of Your Name when it came to the visuals and the story involving love with too many obstacles. If I was a teenage girl, I’d probably absolutely adore these films as they’re so often about young love and its difficulties (but I’m old & bitter!). I do like the bittersweet mood in Shinkai’s films but, more than anything, it’s the overall look that I love. This film is beautiful and I love movies where the stills (such as below) are works of art that you want to stick on your walls. I’m definitely looking forward to more films from this director, even though they’re often quite “teenage”. – 7.5/10
• Fist Of Fury – I watched Enter The Dragon as one of my Blind Spot movies this year and absolutely loved it so said I’d like to watch Bruce Lee’s other films. I enjoyed this one as well but definitely far prefer Enter The Dragon, which has that completely funky Seventies thing going on (and John Saxon & Jim Kelly, who were groovy as shit). Here’s the Wikipedia synopsis: “Lee plays Chen Zhen, a student of Huo Yuanjia, who fights to defend the honor of the Chinese in the face of foreign aggression, and to bring to justice those responsible for his master’s death.” This one isn’t as “fun” as Enter The Dragon (if you’re looking for that sort of thing in a martial arts film) but it’s a revenge story and I always like a good revenge story. Lee kicks ass (obviously), which I thoroughly enjoyed, but I found that I didn’t care enough about the characters. You need to feel the same desire for vengeance as the characters feel. In Mandy & in Kill Bill, I really wanted to see all those evil bastards get their comeuppance. I just found the story & characters a little weak in Fist Of Fury, especially compared to the main characters in Enter The Dragon having strong personalities and some good backstories. Oh well – I still enjoyed this and plan to watch more like it. Any recommendations, MIB? – 7.5/10
• The Handmaiden – Well, this was a little saucy. This is from director Park Chan-wook, whose work I haven’t seen much of yet (Oldboy, Thirst, etc – I’ve only seen Stoker). As with Stoker, this was a really lovely film to look at but I far preferred the story in The Handmaiden and thought it was a much better film overall (although it felt a little too long). It also starts out very slow and almost Merchant-Ivory-boring-drama-like so have patience if you do watch it. It felt like nothing was really happening for ages and then WHAM!, you suddenly get all kinds of great double crossing and triple crossing and saucy sex and, shit, even some illustrated tentacle porn (!). You never know who you can trust and I liked that the movie kept you guessing after its first twist. And I hated those pervy men! I really enjoyed the story once it finally got going & loved the ending. (To clarify, I just mean the overall ending and not the specific final scene – I’m not that kinky). – 7.5/10
• Bohemian Rhapsody – As this is a current film, I’ll try to review it in full soon. Really enjoyed it but it’s not going to be an all-time classic. – 7/10
• What If (aka The F Word) – I liked this waaaay more than I expected to, considering I don’t go for romantic comedies often and Daniel Radcliffe does nothing whatsoever for me (obviously. gross – he’s a little kid). I’ll never ever see Harry Potter as a romantic lead but I do seem to like the movies that Zoe Kazan has made in this genre: Ruby Sparks was good and I absolutely loved In Your Eyes, which is my favorite romantic movie in a very long time (not counting cartoon romances – those are more believable. Carl & Ellie in Up! WALL-E & EVE!). My point is: I don’t like live action romance often because I don’t find it very realistic. The characters and the things they do feel so phoney. That’s why I enjoyed What If as the two characters felt more real than in a lot of rom-coms. Some things were a little too damn perfect, such as her amazing career as an artist and her lovely home and her cute outfits. Plus the ending we see over the end credits was a bit barfy. But the two main characters themselves had great chemistry, great conversations, and felt like the best friends that they immediately became. I thought it explored the issue of of “can a girl & a guy just be friends” quite well and you could really feel how difficult it was for Radcliffe to maintain the friendship (he’s clearly in love with her but she’s already in a serious relationship). Too bad everyone else in this was annoying, though. Their friends kind of sucked and I especially hated her sister. The two leads were good but the rest were a bunch of twentysomething twats. – 7/10
• Timecrimes – I was really hoping to like this much more than I did (sorry, Brian!). I was intrigued by the following Wikipedia plot synopsis as I freaking love stories involving time-travel-fuckery: “This Spanish science-fiction thriller film stars Karra Elejalde as Héctor, a man who becomes part of a time loop and must stop his other selves from continuing to exist.” The time loop was interesting and hurt my brain just enough to keep me satisfied without leaving me totally lost (like with Primer). I think my only issue was that the main guy was a bit of a selfish prick, especially when it came to his treatment of that poor girl. Oh well – I did still enjoy the story as I do always love this sub-genre. I just got more enjoyment out of the fantastic Predestination & even that complicated Primer in a weird sort of way. Actually, these three films would make for an interesting trilogy of movies if you wanted to nerd-out on complex time travel films one night. – 7/10
• Labor Day – This movie was okay and probably the first time I found Josh Brolin somewhat hot. He didn’t even do it for me in The Goonies, although I was the perfect age to have a crush on him at the time. Here’s the IMDb synopsis: “Depressed single mom Adele and her son Henry offer a wounded, fearsome man a ride. As police search town for the escaped convict, the mother and son gradually learn his true story as their options become increasingly limited.” Kate Winslet, as the depressed mother, once again gives a great performance. I’m not necessarily a fan but do think she’s one of the most talented actresses around and I really felt for her character. I seem to like films involving depressed old women. What does that say about me?! Anyway – Winslet & Brolin had good chemistry & I wanted them to live happily ever after but I can’t recommend this film to many as most would find it a little boring. I suppose it was. – 6.5/10
• The Dinner – Wow. This sucked. I read the book last year (review HERE). It wasn’t the most enjoyable read as the characters were all a bunch of total wankers but they’re actually much worse in the film. The story was intriguing in the book, though, and the film adaptation completely ruins it. At least the book felt somewhat original as each “act” was a different part of a fancy meal (appetiser, dessert, etc etc). That’s not used in the film at all. To be fair, I was so bored by the movie that I ended up playing on my phone (at home) & paying no attention whatsoever so I probably shouldn’t review it. Oh well – I just did. Sort of. Skip this movie. If you’re interested in the story, only read the book. If you want to save your time, I’ll tell you what their asshole kids did so you can skip this. Here you go! SPOILER:
The kids (3 teenage boys who are brothers & a cousin) kill a homeless woman by setting her on fire & filming it. Nice. This is revealed early in the film but is a big secret in the book. Their parents meet for dinner to discuss what to do about it (most want to cover it up). Rich, hateful, disgusting characters and the film does nothing to say that their behavior was wrong. Feels a little irresponsible. – 4/10
• Jug Face (aka The Pit) – What a load of shit. The worst movie I’ve seen in the six-year history of my blog- 1.5/10
BOOKS, TV, MUSIC, MISCELLANEOUS THIS MONTH
• The Outsider by Stephen King – This was okay but a little disappointing. Regulars know by now that I’m a huge King fan and always read every new book of his that comes out. He’s had some really good ones in recent years (I enjoyed the Mr. Mercedes series). This one started out well but it took way too long to get to the weird supernatural shit, which is what I like. The crime was also way too graphic and violent for my liking. Yeah, I love horror stories but don’t love gore or realistic violence and the start of this book was more of a crime novel, which I rarely go for. I don’t want to spoil things but the addition of a character from previous King novels really helped the second half of this book as I like that character a lot. But I felt that all the new characters in this one were a little weak and the finale was too similar to the endings of other King stories. Damn – I’ve just realized I’ll have to update my post where I ranked ALL the King books I’ve read (post HERE). Where will The Outsider go? Probably in the bottom ten. – 3/5
Currently Reading: Bird Box by Josh Malerman & Stories Of Your Life And Others (a collection of short sci-fi stories, including the one made into the film Arrival) by Ted Chiang.
TV SHOWS WATCHED
• The Haunting Of Hill House – I started watching this on Netflix as I’ve really liked some of Mike Flanagan’s films (especially Gerald’s Game & Absentia). I don’t think the TV format works for me anymore. Two episodes in and nothing has happened. I could’ve watched a movie instead in that time! I don’t have the patience or the time.
• Doctor Who– Figured I should give this another try now that there’s a female Doctor. I started watching this just after moving to the UK when the Christopher Eccleston ones started. They were very good and then the David Tennant ones were even better (he’ll always be my favorite). I loved this show for a while but it all turned to shit when Tennant left and I believe different writers took over. I’ve watched the first two Jodie Whittaker episodes. While I think she may be okay (hard to tell yet), the stories were weak as shit. Is that really the best they could do for the first two episodes?! Should I bother continuing?
• Oh, and Grey’s Anatomy has started again. I never like to admit to watching that girly bullshit. My excuse is that the hubby never lets me watch anything good without him so I need something I’m allowed to watch when I’m alone…
BLOG PLANS FOR THE COMING MONTH
Once again, nothing planned due to lack of time. May try to catch up on reviewing all the current films I’ve seen in the cinema. The end of November is also my six-year blogiversary so I’ll try to do my usual blogiversary post (it’ll be far shorter than my five-year post!).
Holy shit – Looks like there are a lot of cinema releases I kind of want to see in November, though. Damn.
November Movie Releases:
• The Nutcracker And The Four Realms – Ha! Maybe not. Dreadful reviews so far, I see.
• Juliet, Naked – Shit, I didn’t realize a Nick Hornby adaptation was coming out. I like his books so I’ll try to read it then catch this on Netflix.
• Widows – Crime drama isn’t a genre I love but the trailer looks good. It’s also a book I may read first and then check the movie out at home.
• Overlord – Not sure on this. Looks like my type of weird shit but, again, think I’ll wait for it on Netflix.
• The Grinch – Ugh. My daughter wants to go so I’m sure we’ll check it out but they better not fuck-up a beloved Christmas TV special from my childhood. At least nothing can be worse than that nightmare Jim Carrey version of this.
• Wildlife – Good reviews but I’ll probably wait for Netflix unless it gets Oscar buzz.
• They Shall Not Grow Old – Does look very interesting – will try to catch this as it’s going to air on TV.
• Won’t You Be My Neighbor? – Again, I’ll probably wait to watch this at home but am interested in seeing this documentary before the Tom Hanks film.
• Suspiria – I’ll go to this but am sure it’ll piss me off. Make something original, Hollywood!
• Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald – I have zero interest whatsoever in this. The first one was shockingly boring.
• Robin Hood – Meh.
• Serenity – Diane Lane! I love her. Oh, Anne Hathaway… I hate her.
• Shoplifters – What’s this?! It’s a Japanese film with amazing reviews. I’ve just watched the trailer & really want to see it but know it’s very unlikely to be showing anywhere near me.
• Ralph Breaks The Internet – This is honestly the only mainstream movie I really want to go & see in November…
• Creed II – I’ve been bugging the hubby to watch all the Rocky movies with me since I really liked the first one. He hasn’t. So I can’t watch this. I mean, WTF? I’m like a fucking DREAM wife. What wife wants to watch the Rocky movies?? Oh, and if he’s reading this: will you please let me watch more Akira Kurosawa films, dammit??? I’ve had that boxset for years.
• The Possession Of Hannah Grace – A horror movie with decent ratings so far? If it’s a horror that’s actually good, I’ll watch it!
• Three Identical Strangers – Intriguing story. I’ll watch this documentary someday.
• Anna And The Apocalypse – Okay, a movie crossover that actually hadn’t occurred to me. Zombie apocalypse musical? Again, it’s a Netflix flick but I’ll watch it eventually.
I have to end with this clip from Interstella 5555, which was Daft Punk’s video for Digital Love:
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb) A businessman accidentally kills The Metal Fetishist, who gets his revenge by slowly turning the man into a grotesque hybrid of flesh and rusty metal.
I did a mini-review of this film recently then remembered it was one of my alternate 2018 Blind Spot choices. I’m way behind on doing those this year & don’t think I’ll manage to watch all 12 films. So this is a re-post of my very short review of Tetsuo.
First, these are the 2018 Blind Spot films I’ve watched so far, from my least favorite to favorite:
I’ve been meaning to watch this Japanese cyberpunk horror film for years as I have a weird fascination with body horror (god knows why – I’m a wuss when it comes to violence). I really wanted to see it before doing the list of My Top Ten Body Horror Movies but it wouldn’t have made the list anyway. It’s only just over an hour long but it felt like it was never going to end. The last 20 minutes or so just go on & on & on (I decided to fast-forward).
I suppose this movie was shocking in 1989 but we’ve had The Human Freaking Centipede since then, so… is anything really going to gross anyone out in this fucked-up world anymore? Here’s the IMDb synopsis: “A businessman accidentally kills The Metal Fetishist, who gets his revenge by slowly turning the man into a grotesque hybrid of flesh and rusty metal.”
I like weird movies and especially love ones with great imagery but the low budget imagery in this wasn’t good enough to make up for the meandering story and the terrible characters. It’s certainly original and one of the stranger films I’ve seen but I didn’t expect to mostly just find it boring. It’s fucked-up, though. I’ll give it that. It’s one of very few movies I have that I’ll have to keep hidden away – you sure as shit don’t want your kids to ever get hold of this one.
My Rating: 6/10
By the way – SPOILER: the dude’s dick turns into this big metal drill-thing. I’m sure there’s some sort of meaning behind that. Kinky fuckers probably love this film. Watch it if you’re a kinky fucker! (I’m not saying I’m a kinky fucker – I just like to watch weird shit).
Wolf Children is the second Mamoru Hosoda film I’ve seen after watching Summer Wars as a 2016 Blind Spot choice (I’m watching these out of order – I really need to watch his film The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. It’ll be a 2018 Blind Spot choice). Summer Wars was fun & I loved the concept but it’s easy to see why Wolf Children seems to be Hosoda’s most critically acclaimed film so far. It’s a beautifully animated film with far stronger characters than most live-action films can manage these days.
My Japanese anime experience is mostly limited to the Studio Ghibli stuff, Akira & Ghost In The Shell. The latter two are clearly more hardcore “grown-up” anime while half of the Studio Ghibli stuff is kid-friendly and half is aimed more at teenagers & up. Wolf Children is like the slighty more grown-up & coming-of-age Ghibli films (Spirited Away is the easiest comparison). It’s not as magically bizzare as the Hayao Miyazaki Ghiblis (what IS?!) but I have to admit that I liked it more than most of the non-Miyazaki Ghiblis. I’ll definitely be watching the rest of Hosoda’s biggest films but know that I’ve now seen the one considered his best. Oh, and FYI: I noticed that his 2015 film The Boy And The Beast is on Amazon Prime Video if you have that. I need to find the time to watch that.
As I said, I can see why Wolf Children has received so much praise. It’s beautiful to look at, especially the scenes set in the snowy woods. The wolf children themselves are absolutely adorable. I want some wolf babies! Okay, maybe not: I have to admit that the wolf/human sex scene was a little disturbing. I suppose teenage Twilight girls would probably like this film… Oh, shit. I’m not comparing this to Twilight! Sorry!!! This is nothing like Twilight!!!!
Human/Wolf sex aside, the love story is tastefully done and the movie is more about the story of the children as they grow up and try to fit in with the other human children in their community. I loved these two characters with their strong & very different personalities (shy & scared brother, bold & outgoing older sister) and the way that their personalities are affected by their experiences as they grow older. I do always love a good coming of age film and Wolf Children is a great addition to that genre. I’m very glad that I added this to my Blind Spot list and finally got around to watching it. There will definitely be some more anime in my 2018 Blind Spot list, which I’ll post in a couple of weeks.
My Rating: 8/10
See you tomorrow with my month-in-review post & next week for all my 2017 year-end lists! I think I keep this blog going only to be able to do the year-end lists. 😉 Love them! I’ll be posting:
– My IMDB Top 250 Challenge Update
– My 2017 Blind Spot Movies: Ranked
– My Top Ten Books Read In 2017
– My Top Ten Movies Watched At Home In 2017 (Release dates prior to 2017)
– My Top Ten Movies Of 2017 (Released in the UK in 2017)
I first heard about Hausu when Anna of Film Grimoire reviewed it (HERE). It looked truly bizarre from the images & I knew I had to see it so it got added to my Blind Spot list. Well, I’ve now finally seen it and I can confirm that it is, indeed, truly bizarre. Love it. We need more truly bizarre movies that are as entertaining as this one!
Er. I have no idea how to go about reviewing this. I read this at Wikipedia, which I found interesting:
“Following the success of the American film Jaws, a proposition came from the Toho film studio for Nobuhiko Obayashi to develop a similar script. To find inspiration for the story, Obayashi discussed ideas with his pre-teen daughter Chigumi Obayashi. Nobuhiko sought her ideas, believing that adults “only think about things they understand … everything stays on that boring human level” while “children can come up with things that can’t be explained”. Several of Chigumi’s ideas were included in House…”
It then gets more specific on what bits in the film were from the mind of the director’s daughter and it’s all the weirdest & most entertaining parts (mainly the ones involving the house “devouring” the girls). Maybe more pre-teens should be consulted when making movies if this is the crazy result! Of course, this came out in 1977 – times were more trippy back then. Also, I love how this movie came about because of the success of Jaws?! Haha! This is nothing whatsoever like Jaws, FYI. People get eaten, so… I guess that’s the connection.
By the way, this is a horror comedy. I highly recommend it as I think this is one of those films that everyone should experience at least once, especially film fans. Just know beforehand to not take it seriously and don’t expect the meandering storyline to fully make sense. This is also from the above Wikipedia link:
“Obayashi recalled that his producer told him that Toho was tired of losing money on comprehensible films and were ready to let Obayashi direct the House script, which they felt was incomprehensible.”
The overall story, which seems to have been written around the director’s daughter’s ideas, is actually better than I expected and involves the aunt the girls are staying with. There’s clearly something not quite right with that aunt. And her cat…
The story, which is messy but fun, isn’t really important anyway. The best thing about this film is its imagery. So many scenes in this movie will forever be stuck in my head. There’s a tiny bit of blood (nothing gory) and some nudity so it’s definitely only for teens & adults but it’s like watching a slightly fucked up cartoon. It’s a good one for someone like me, who likes weird and creepy but struggles with the gory stuff.
Finally, I’ll end by saying that this horror (comedy) movie gets one more thing very right where so many other horror movies fail: I loved the characters. But I’m not talking about well developed characters or anything serious like that. The teenagers who visit this weird house in the countryside are also cartoonish in the way they’re given silly names with matching personalities. That was a lot of fun. Here are their names: Gorgeous, Kung Fu, Prof, Fantasy, Mac, Melody & Sweet. Kind of like the Seven Dwarfs, I suppose (characters I also love). I was especially fond of Kung Fu, who, as you might guess, goes around practicing her martial arts skills the whole time. What else can I say? This movie is weird as hell and loads of fun. I highly recommend it but be patient if you watch it as it starts out very slow. Don’t worry – shit gets crazy once they arrive at the HAUSU!
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB) Kokone has university exams to prepare for, but instead she dozes off. Even when her father is unceremoniously arrested prior to the Tokyo Olympics and the family is hiding away a mystery or two she finds herself taking refuge in sleep where thrills await her. Could there be more to her dreams?
I didn’t know a thing about this movie when looking up cinema times & seeing that something called “Napping Princess” was playing (Which is a crap title – I prefer the American title on this one). I was like “Ohhh. Japanese anime! Let’s go to that!” even though it doesn’t have the greatest IMDB rating (6.3/10). I’ve also since seen the Empire magazine rating (2/5). Bit harsh!! It’s certainly not the best anime I’ve seen but it was entertaining enough & my kid seemed to enjoy it. Although she mainly liked it for the girl’s cute blue toy dog thingy – I think she would’ve liked the movie far less without that character.
I admit to really getting into the Japanese anime thing lately so I’m probably giving this a higher rating than it actually deserves since it’s more my type of thing than most Western animated films (just from DreamWorks, etc – Disney & Pixar are awesome). Napping Princess is far from perfect. I thought the story was a bit too messy & convoluted while the characters weren’t all that memorable. When all I’ve really seen are the very biggest Japanese anime films (Akira, Ghost In The Shell, all the best Studio Ghiblis), this film definitely pales in comparison. Okay – I suppose this movie is like the Japanese equivalent of a DreamWorks movie while the Studio Ghibli stuff is like the very best of the Pixar movies. Ancien And The Magic Tablet is cute, lighthearted fun but I doubt it’ll ever be considered a classic in Japan.
The overall concept of the film is good even if the plot did get a little messy. The main character, schoolgirl Kokone, has bizarre dreams in which she’s a princess with a magic “tablet” (iPad) that enables her to bring things to life (such as the cute blue dog thingy & a Transformer-like motorcycle). In real life, her dad is secretly working on programming driverless cars when he’s suddenly arrested & Kokone doesn’t know why. However, he’s left a tablet (iPad!) behind, which may provide the clues…
It’s a shame more work wasn’t put into the characters. I mean, the Transformers-like motorcycle was kind of wasted – that could’ve been a really cool companion like The Iron Giant or something (I love that movie). Cute blue dog thingy also didn’t have much to do and I don’t remember much about the boy who helps Kokone after her father is arrested. The relationship between Kokone & her father plus finding out more about her mother was done fairly well, though, so that’s one of the story’s stronger points. Without giving anything away, the real world & dream world start to collide toward the end, which is when the story got a little messy but was also enjoyable in a Christopher Nolan Inception-y way. It’s worth a watch if you like Japanese anime & it’s probably fine for most kids ages 8 & up or so. I think it probably wants to be Your Name but tries too hard with a story that doesn’t come together as well as it did in that film. By the way – I definitely DO recommend Your Name if you’ve not seen it… Check that one out before Napping Princess.
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) Akira depicts a dystopian version of Tokyo in the year 2019, with cyberpunk tones. The plot focuses on teenage biker Tetsuo Shima and his psychic powers, and the leader of his biker gang, Shotaro Kaneda. Several parties, including Kaneda, resistance terrorist Kei, Colonel Shikishima of the JSDF and a trio of espers, attempt to prevent Tetsuo from releasing the imprisoned psychic Akira.
This is my final Blind Spot movie of 2016 (see the full list HERE). I’m going to do a post tomorrow ranking & rating all twelve that I watched but I can say now that I’m happy to have ended on Akira. I liked this one a lot, although I won’t even begin to pretend to fully understand what the hell was going on! 😉
I first want to say that I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and that those of you in the UK are enjoying Boxing Day. I prefer Boxing Day – it’s the day when you get to lie around all bloated & just watch TV all day. That’s what you’re meant to do on Boxing Day, right?? I think some people go shopping because of all the sales. Screw that! Okay – back to Akira…
Ummmmmmmm………. I put some Japanese anime on my Blind Spot list as I’ve been meaning to explore this genre more since I have no knowledge beyond Studio Ghibli (which I love). I watched Summer Wars, which I really enjoyed, and know I’ll choose two or three more amines for my Blind Spot 2017 list (I’m happy to take recommendations!). Akira is the biggie, though, so I knew I had to get that one “out of the way”, so to speak. What can I say? I like to dive in at the deep end! And this is certainly the deep end.
For other people, I suppose this movie wouldn’t be the place to start but I think I kind of loved it. And I have no idea why! I can’t explain why or give you any more of a plot synopsis other than the one I used from Wikipedia at the top of this post. It’s an intense film but it immediately grabbed me & I was never ever bored. I’ll admit that I attempted to watch Ghost In The Shell about a year ago. After falling asleep half an hour in (I’m a parent of a young child – this happens a lot when watching movies once the kid is finally in bed), I never went back to it. Well, I’ll try that one again someday – I’m just glad that Akira grabbed my attention from the very start.
I’m not going to say much about this film. It’s the day after Christmas and we’re all exhausted, right? It’s a tough one to explain anyway. Akira is bizarre. It’s at times funny, which I didn’t expect. I really liked the character Kaneda and the fact that it seemed like someone was shouting his name every two minutes. “Kaneda! KANEDA!!!!” Tetsuo was a total dick. I liked those three weirdo kids. It’s dystopian & I love dystopian. It’s also “cyberpunk” which, in looking up the definition, it looks like I’m already a fan of anyway so I suppose that’s partly why this movie appealed to me. Even though I didn’t know what the hell was going on… Oh, and I loved that almost “body horror” ending as well! Fucked up.
As I’m clearly struggling with what to say about this one, I think I’ll explore it again sometime in 2017 & maybe post about it again when I have a bit more experience with Japanese anime. I’ll definitely be watching it again when I get a chance. Akira was a fun, strange watch and I’m very happy to have put it on my Blind Spot list. KANEDA!!!!!!!!!
My Rating: 8.5/10
**See you tomorrow for my ranking of the 12 Blind Spot films I watched this year & to see where I rank Akira. 🙂
Battle Royale by Koushun Takami Batoru Rowaiaru Japanese: バトル・ロワイアル
What It’s About: (via Wikipedia) The story tells of junior high school students who are forced to fight each other to the death in a program run by the authoritarian Japanese government, now known as the Republic of Greater East Asia.
I watched the Battle Royale movie as one of my Blind Spot choices this year (review HERE). I really liked it but my one complaint was that it felt a bit more “shallow” than I’d been expecting. So I picked up the (very thick!) book in the hopes that I’d get more of an in-depth look into why these children are being forced to fight to the death and to also get to know the characters and their motivations a bit better. I now have to say that reading the book if you’ve already seen the movie isn’t necessarily needed…
Don’t get me wrong – I liked the book a lot so I don’t feel like I wasted my time on this (very thick!) novel. I did get to know the characters better, especially the main three that are followed (Shuya Nanahara, Noriko Nakagawa & Shogo Kawada). It was also cool to get a good few pages or sometimes even several chapters (mostly on the best friends of our main character) devoted to each and every one of the 42 students in the Battle Royale program.
However, the film is quite faithful to the book & I didn’t learn much more than I did from the movie. And what did get changed for the film actually worked for the better, I think. This was especially true of the changes to the man in charge of the group, Kinpatsu Sakamochi. I was surprised to find, in the novel, that he actually has no prior attachment in any way to these students while there’s an interesting link in the film. Also, the film pushes the girl (Noriko Nakagawa) front and center a bit more while she’s the least-developed of the main characters in the book & it’s very much the boy (Shuya Nanahara) who is the star. The book’s male characters are better developed overall than its females are but, again, I did appreciate getting to know the extra characters in the book as the movie obviously couldn’t devote time to all 42 of them.
All in all, Battle Royale is a thoroughly entertaining (and gory) book & film. It has a message of sorts but I feel it’s sort of lost in the gore. I can now see why Quentin Tarantino loves the film as it feels like violence for the sake of violence. I do now have to admit that The Hunger Games is indeed very close plot-wise in so many ways that it’s understandable why Battle Royale fans called that series a rip-off. The Hunger Games is Battle-Royale-Lite, though – both are considered Young Adult in their country of origin but the violence is far more excessive in this novel. Just a warning – I doubt anyone will be handing this book over to their 13-year-old to read anyway. I feel kind of “bad” for enjoying this one as the violence seems excessive. But I really liked the main characters & getting to know all the other students, the action and pacing worked well, it was a fairly quick read (despite being very thick!), and that whole Lord Of The Flies setup is still an intriguing one. But you really can just watch the movie if you don’t fancy the (really thick!) novel.
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB) Two high school kids who’ve never met – city boy Taki and country girl Mitsuha – are united through their dreams.
I’m a huge fan of Studio Ghibli but haven’t explored a lot of anime beyond those. I’ll happily take some recommendations for good Japanese anime other than just the Ghiblis! I’ve watched Summer Warsas one of my 2016 Blind Spot choices and still plan to check out Akira. I like the sound of Wolf Children & of 5 Centimeters Per Second (also directed by Your Name’s Makoto Shinkai). Anyway, I’d heard a bit of hype about Your Name and it has a whopping 8.9/10 rating on IMDB so I jumped at the chance to go to a showing over the weekend. Did it live up to the hype? Well, it’ll never top my favorite Ghibli movies but it’s a great film & I can see why its director has been called the “The New Miyazaki“.
I don’t want to give away too much about the plot as I think it’ll be better if you don’t know much beforehand. I’ll say it’s a “teenage love story” but the plot itself is much more complex than just that. I really enjoyed the setup, in which a teenage girl and boy who are unknown to each other & live far apart share an unexplained “supernatural” connection. Maybe I just really love the thought of that as I absolutely LOVED a little known Joss Whedon film called In Your Eyes (in which a man & woman share a telepathic bond). That story goes in a very different direction than Your Name does in the end but the two would make for a great double feature. I highly recommend both of these films, to male & female viewers alike. Don’t let the brief mention of a love story or teenagers put you off: I can tell you that the Your Name audience was very mixed: men, women, teenagers, and a few under 12s.
I do think Your Name will be equally loved by male & female viewers but it’s probably aimed at ages 12 & up. There’s nothing wildly inappropriate for the very young (no violence but one, hmm, “sexy” thing that’s used as a humorous gag throughout the movie) but the story will be hard to follow for anyone under 12. Not gonna lie – I got a little lost a couple of times (something keeps happening in the movie that you can easily lose track of if not paying close attention). I could do with watching this again sometime, which I’d happily do. Sorry to be so vague! I just really did enjoy this story & think it’ll be better for anyone wanting to see this to go into it fairly blind.
Admittedly, teenagers are probably the ones who will most be able to relate to & fall in love with the film’s characters. I can’t find many pictures online but there are plenty of other characters besides just the boy & girl. Their strange relationship is a lot of fun with more humor than I was expecting. We also get to know several of their best friends, who were well developed for fairly small roles and also provide some additional humor. Although fun & lighthearted at first, the film does get more serious about halfway through and this is when it really picks up and becomes something extra special & worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Studio Ghibli. It started out a little slow but I was hooked by the end.
I really like this film as an adult, as did my hubby, and know I’d have loved it as a teen so I can understand its popularity in Japan. I’ve heard it called this generation’s Spirited Away, which I think is a fair comparison but not exactly accurate… Your Name is far less strange than the beautifully bizarre worlds in Hayao Miyazaki’s Ghibli films. I personally prefer the Ghibli “weirdness” of the crazy characters and the unforgettable imagery. If you prefer something more modern and fairly conventional, though, Your Name may be a good place to start if you’re new to anime. This is a very good film that’s convinced me I really do need to explore more within this genre & I eagerly anticipate other films from the same director. Gorgeous animation, characters I cared about, and a fantastic story with the right balance of drama & humor easily makes Your Name one of the most enjoyable films I’ve seen this year.
My Rating: 8/10
**I’m going to include the trailer to entice you just in case my (always beautifully written) meandering didn’t work. 😉 But I stand by what I said in that it would be better to not know much… Watch the trailer if you’ve not really seen any Japanese anime & need convincing! If you’re already a fan of the genre, skip the trailer.
I put Battle Royale on my Blind Spot list as I really have wanted to see it for years. I put it off mainly because I’m kind of a wuss with violence so I was waiting for a time when the hubby could watch it with me (Thanks for finally watching this with me, dude!). I didn’t have to annoy him by asking him what was happening, though. It was of course violent but not “gross” – I was able to watch all of it. However, I think I’d hyped it up too much in my mind all these years as I’m sad to say that I was a bit disappointed with the movie overall.
Now, calm down Battle Royale lovers! I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy it. I enjoyed it quite a bit & I think it’s one that might go up in my estimation once my initial disappointment has worn off. I’ve not read the book so I don’t know how faithful the movie is but I was surprised to find that it was far more shallow than I’d always imagined it must be. Maybe the book is a bit deeper & more of a social commentary? Has anyone here read the book? I have to say that I’m definitely now interested in checking it out to see how it differs as I did really like the story & characters.
I can see why Quentin Tarantino loves this film – it’s a thoroughly entertaining action movie with loads of violence that seems to have no consequence. It’s a Japanese Tarantino movie. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – I like his movies and do, first and foremost, want a movie to actually entertain me. Battle Royale certainly did that but it’s also nice when you’re entertained plus get a little something more as well… Anyway, it’s cool that Tarantino cast Chiaki Kuriyama (below) in Kill Bill as Gogo Yubari. One great thing about Battle Royale is that there were some really kick-ass female characters! I always love that.
It’s interesting that my two favorite Blind Spot movies so far are mega violent but I have to say that I thought Natural Born Killers was the better “film” whereas I think I enjoyed Battle Royale more. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that it’s one that will only go up in my estimation if I watch it again or read the book. I think it may just be that the message was more clear in Natural Born Killers than in Battle Royale (whether or not you agree with its use of excessive violence to show us how wrong it is to glorify violence).
I don’t mean for this review to sound so negative as I did really enjoy the film. I guess I’m still sorting through my feelings on it as I type this but I already know I like it even more now than when I watched it a week ago. It’s extremely rare that I re-watch movies nowadays (no time for that) but this is one I do want to re-visit fairly soon. I think one problem may be that Battle Royale has so many characters that it was hard to keep track of them all on the first watch. It’s also hard to fully develop so many characters but this movie did actually do quite a good job with even some of the lesser characters considering how little screen time they got. The main characters were very strong and the movie did well with them – I’d like to read the book for, hopefully, even more insight into everyone involved. I’m glad I put Battle Royale on my Blind Spot list, forcing me to finally watch it all these years later. I wish I’d seen it at the time as it probably would’ve had more impact on me in 2000 than post-Hunger Games (no, I won’t even begin with that comparison but I see now why people moaned about The Hunger Games being so similar).
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) The film tells the story of Kenji Koiso, a timid eleventh-grade math genius who is taken to Ueda by twelfth-grade student Natsuki Shinohara to celebrate her great-grandmother’s 90th birthday. However, he is falsely implicated in the hacking of a virtual world by a sadistic artificial intelligence named Love Machine. Kenji must repair the damage done to it and find a way to stop the rogue computer program from causing any further damage.
I figured it was time to expand my horizons & watch some anime that’s not from Studio Ghibli for a change. I love Studio Ghibli! I had a little blogathon last year & I reviewed all but one of the Hayao Miyazaki Ghiblis plus Grave Of The Fireflies (you can find the links to all those reviews HERE). Well, I’ve watched some more now so I’ll be doing a “Ghibli Week” at some point soon.
Anyway, I’ve chosen two non-Ghibli anime films for my 2016 Blind Spot Series: Summer Wars and Akira. Everyone has of course heard of Akira so I figured it was about time that I check it out (it’ll be a while – that’ll probably be my December Blind Spot). I didn’t know much about Summer Wars but I’d recorded it off of TV ages ago after really liking the sound of the above synopsis. It’s a bit like Japanese anime Ready Player One! Or Snow Crash! I always love movies about artificial intelligence, plus virtual reality and hacking films are usually loads of fun too. Then, of course, I looked up some of the images from the movie online & was sold on finally watching it.
This movie is a lot of fun. I can’t say it tops any of the Studio Ghibli films for me, though. Well, no – it does actually top some of the non-Miyazaki films like From Up On Poppy Hill & Whisper Of The Heart. What’s really great about it is that it truly is two movies in one. You have the real-world story of Kenji Koiso and the family of the girl he has a crush on plus you of course have the story involving the virtual world of OZ, which is a huge part of many people’s lives (as is the OASIS in Ready Player One).
I preferred the virtual world of OZ (as I knew I would – it has such a great look to it) but was surprised at just how much of the real-world story was in the film as well. I’d say that the story involving Kenji’s girlfriend’s very large extended family (including her grandmother, who is a strong character I really liked) probably makes up more than 60% of the film. The real-world story was also entertaining, though, and I did enjoy it even if it did drag a little bit at times while I waited for them to get back to the world of OZ and the pretty damn cool-looking A.I. called Love Machine.
This movie is very “me” so I was expecting to absolutely love it. I did enjoy it quite a bit but felt somewhat disappointed overall. I think I probably just hyped it up too much in my mind. Also, I’ll admit that I watched this dubbed and, believe me, I far prefer to watch Japanese anime in Japanese with English subtitles as a lot of the “magic” is lost when you see something like this in English. I stupidly assumed that what I’d recorded was in Japanese. Damn. Well, I liked it enough to pick up the DVD if I see it cheap as I’d really like to watch it in Japanese as well. I’ll also now definitely watch this same studio’s The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (which I DID pick up on DVD years ago!). That one will be on my Blind Spot 2017 list and, based on Summer Wars, I’m looking forward to that one as well. I’m happy that I finally watched an anime that’s not from Studio Ghibli and would be happy to watch even more. I’ll gladly take any recommendations as my knowledge of this genre is limited!
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) Set in the city of Kobe, Japan, the film tells the story of two siblings, Seita and Setsuko, and their desperate struggle to survive during the final months of the Second World War.
Version watched: Japanese with English subtitles
Okay – here we are with the movie that got second place when I asked you all to vote for which movie I should review next (Spirited Away won – I reviewed that HERE yesterday). Knowing I would be spending January reviewing a bunch of Studio Ghibli films, I actually watched Grave Of The Fireflies late on New Year’s Eve. Do I know how to party or WHAT?!
And… then I never reviewed it. What can I say about Grave Of The Fireflies that hasn’t been said already? It’s already widely known that it’s one of the saddest & most heartbreaking movies you can watch. I love Studio Ghibli so I knew the time had finally come for me to watch it if I was going to dedicate a bunch of my time to eventually reviewing every Ghibli film on my blog. But I’ve never been one to want to watch a sad movie – I watch movies for their escapism, not to be reminded that humanity sucks. So I had a little bit to drink as it was New Year’s Eve, put on Grave Of The Fireflies, then distracted myself by chatting with a friend through most of it in order to make it a little more bearable (thanks to that person!). It still wasn’t an easy watch although it’s a beautiful film.
I was happy that Grave Of The Fireflies wasn’t at all political (in my opinion). I wouldn’t even say it’s exactly anti-war – it simply tells the story in a very matter-of-fact manner of a young boy & his little sister in the final months of World War II. I’ve looked but I’m not sure of the ages of the brother & sister – I think she’s around 4 & he’s maybe 14? There are a few times throughout the movie where you start to feel a little frustrated with the brother seeming to not always know the best way to take care of his little sister until you then remember that he’s just a child himself and how difficult it would be to try to survive on your own in a war torn country. These kids have nowhere to go and no one to turn to for help – all they have is each other and the boy does everything he can to take care of his little sister.
Grave Of The Fireflies is one of those movies that I think everyone should watch at least once (kind of like Schindler’s List – you need to watch it but maybe don’t watch them both on the same night!). There’s just nothing I hate more than seeing little kids suffer, though, and it’s very hard to watch this little girl go through Hell while always maintaining her innocence and joy at life’s little pleasures (like a couple of fruit drop candies or some fireflies) in a way that only the very young can manage. I recommend this to everyone, not just fans of Studio Ghibli as it’s quite unlike the other Ghiblis anyway, but you’ll need to be in the right frame of mind.
Starring Voice Actors:
(English dub voice cast: Daveigh Chase, Jason Marsden, Suzanne Pleshette, David Ogden Stiers, Susan Egan, Paul Eiding, John Ratzenberger)
Running time: 124 minutes
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB) In the middle of her family’s move to the suburbs, a sullen 10-year-old girl wanders into a world ruled by gods, witches, and monsters; where humans are changed into beasts.
Version watched: Japanese with English subtitles
I know the people who’ve been with me a while will know that I’ve become a pretty big Studio Ghibli fan in the couple of years that I’ve run this blog. Back in January, I started reviewing as many of these films as I could (you can find the links to all the reviews HERE) but they didn’t get a lot of attention & I wondered if Studio Ghibli was as popular amongst movie bloggers as I’d thought. So when I asked in this poll HERE which movies I should review next of all the ones I watched but never got around to, I was surprised that Spirited Away & Grave Of The Fireflies were the two winners by quite a lot of votes. I know it’s weird that I’ve put off reviewing two of Ghibli’s biggest films but I wasn’t sure what to say about either of them. Fireflies because, well… what can be said about that? 😦 And Spirited Away because I KNOW it’s the favorite Ghibli for a lot of people (and the most highly regarded – it won an Oscar for best animated film & is the highest rated Ghibli in the IMDB Top 250 at number 34 currently) but it’s just never quite connected with me in the same way the other films have.
Spirited Away was actually the very first Ghibli I saw back in 2001 (I think – whenever it was first shown in UK cinemas). I don’t recommend it as your introduction to Studio Ghibli as it’s far more “out there” than most the others. Unless you like “weird”… However, I do recommend it if you’re already a fan of the studio and I can see now why it’s so popular even if it’s not my very favorite. I finally re-watched this again in January to see if my opinion would be different all these years later & I can say that I definitely appreciated it a lot more now that I’ve seen so many other Ghibli films. It’s basically just a coming of age story (Ghibli style – with pigs, witches, Susuwatari soot sprites like in My Neighbor Totoro, dragons, and really large babies) & has a good, strong lead female as is often the case with these movies. I think it may be so popular as it’s from 2001 so a lot of you younger bloggers will have been just the right sort of age for it when it came out (I’m guessing it’s a popular one with those who were preteen girls at the time especially). You’ll either absolutely love this one for its weirdness or you’ll be turned off if that’s not your type of thing but it’s certainly another Miyazaki masterpiece and I want to love it as much as I do Totoro or Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind… I really did try to on the re-watch!
Spirited Away is sort of a Japanese Alice In Wonderland. If you like that, you may also appreciate Spirited Away. It certainly has the magical quality & beauty that most the Ghibli films possess (more so, really – it may be the second biggest feast for your eyes after Howl’s Moving Castle). I do think I made a mistake putting it below Howl’s Moving Castle in my Top Ten – Howl’s is very pretty but the story is overcomplicated while Spirited Away has a much stronger and more straightforward story & themes.
With most Ghibli films, there’s usually a small character that I really latch onto. With Princess Mononoke, it was the Kodama. With Castle In The Sky, it was the Laputan robots. With My Neighbor Totoro, it was of course Totoro. While Spirited Away has very rich characters, I didn’t end up loving any of the lesser characters. No-Face was pretty cool, I suppose, but oh so strange. The girl (Chihiro), as I said, is another great female Ghibli character which is a huge part of the reason why I’m such a big fan of the Ghibli films. This is another movie I want my kid to see someday BUT I myself wouldn’t recommend it to those under probably about 10 or 11. For the very young, the witch is too scary as is the entire, cruel spirit world that Chihiro finds herself trapped in plus it’s just far too odd & the themes would be lost on the young. More than anything, they just wouldn’t appreciate this one until they were a little older so I think it’s probably best to wait before introducing them to this one.
I’m really glad I re-watched this one again after watching more Studio Ghibli films. I wish I could love it in the same way others do and in the same way I love some of the other Ghibli films but I certainly appreciate Spirited Away and think it’s deserving of all the praise & recognition it has received. I’d certainly watch it once (or twice) again and know it’s one that would grow on me. Spirited Away should be seen by all film lovers but I’d recommend testing out a couple other Studio Ghibli films first before delving into this one if you’re new to them.
(English Dub Voice Cast: Michael Keaton, Cary Elwes, Susan Egan, Brad Garrett, David Ogden Stiers, Kimberly Williams-Paisley)
Running time: 94 minutes
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) The plot revolves around an Italian World War I ex-fighter ace, now living as a freelance bounty hunter chasing “air pirates” in the Adriatic Sea. However, an unusual curse has transformed him to an anthropomorphic pig. Once called Marco Pagot (Marco Rousolini in the American version), he is now known to the world as “Porco Rosso”, Italian for “Red Pig”.
Version watched: English dubbed version
I’m sorry but I have to use the word “odd” again in a Studio Ghibli review. Maybe I should buy a thesaurus. Hey, does anyone own an actual dictionary or thesaurus anymore? You can just Google everything. I think back to when I was a kid & had a set of encyclopedias… Bet no one buys those anymore! Anyway, Porco Rosso is bizarre. There, I didn’t use the word “odd”!
First of all, I admit to only seeing the English dubbed version of this as it was on TV and I know I NEVER enjoy those as much as the subtitled versions so, therefore, I’ll probably be a little more harsh on this movie than it deserves. This is one of the “not for kids” Ghibli films. It’s hard to know who it’s aimed at… I’d say it’s the most “adult male” one I’ve seen so far. As I’m not male & really not at all interested in WWI flying aces (other than Snoopy), this movie didn’t speak to me the way other Ghibli movies have. It has quite a high IMDB rating & I’m sure plenty of people like this one. It’s just my least favorite of the Miyazaki-directed Ghiblis (I only have one left to watch – The Wind Rises. Will be interesting to see how that compares as that’s about a man who designed Japanese planes for WWII).
Porco Rosso, at least in the dubbed version, is a “manly” man (manly pig? pigly man?). He’s a womanizer & comes across as a bit sexist. He’s voiced by Michael Keaton so it was strange watching this just after seeing Birdman. The voice Keaton uses for Porco Rosso is fairly close to his smart ass superhero “Birdman” voice. There’s a woman who is in love with his character then there’s later a 17-year-old girl who also seems very fond of him (as he seems to be of her). I won’t pretend I didn’t find that a little disturbing. Especially when the girl’s grandfather says something like “keep your hands off my granddaughter” & Porco says “just looking at her makes me tired”. Er… What a pig! 😉
The 17-year-old girl in this, however, is another strong female Ghibli character. She’s an engineer & helps fix Porco Rosso’s plane. I think a big part of the reason I like Studio Ghibli films so much is because of the great female characters so I’m glad we got a decent one in this movie as well. She’s not the main character but she does help make up a bit for Porco’s somewhat sexist & unlikable ways and kind of brings out the best in him by the end.
What can I say? Porco Rosso just wasn’t really my sort of thing. I respect it in the way I do all the Studio Ghibli films but just didn’t love it in the same way I do most of the other Ghiblis. It’s definitely a more adult one and aimed more at males. It’s certainly not a bad film & still a lot better than most movies out there. I wouldn’t recommend it as someone’s introduction to Studio Ghibli but it’s definitely worth a watch for those who are already Ghibli fans. Sorry for the quick & rubbish review but I’m off to see Ex Machina right now – that seems more “me”. 🙂
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) The plot centers on a goldfish named Ponyo who befriends a five-year-old human boy, Sōsuke, and wants to become a human girl.
Version watched: Mainly the English dubbed version – saw the subtitled version years ago
Ponyo is very cute. Cutesy cute! Cute is a funny word, isn’t it? Like with Kiki’s Delivery Service & My Neighbor Tororo, Ponyo is a very kid friendly Studio Ghibli film. I’d say it’s actually aimed at the youngest age range of all as the two main characters are very young but it’s far more strange than Kiki’s Delivery Service so it MAY not be as popular with kids as that one. I guess it depends on the kid and if they like unusual stories or not.
Ponyo is an adorable little goldfish who longs to be human, especially after tasting human BLOOD! Lol. (No, really…). Basically, her father is human but, I think, magic or something so he now lives under the sea with all his “fish children” he had with some sort of huge Goddess of the Sea. Or… Something like that. Am I selling this to anyone yet?!
So… Ponyo’s father, who’s this weird cross between David Bowie & Alice Cooper, doesn’t want Ponyo to become human but she loves a little boy named Sōsuke who helped her & took care of her when he found her stuck in a bottle in the sea. She wants to be human & live with Sōsuke.
Subtitled vs Dubbed:
Ponyo’s Bowie/Cooper father looks super cool yet sounds like… Liam Neeson?! I first saw Ponyo years ago with subtitles, which I always prefer. I’ve only seen the dubbed version since as I have it recorded off TV & it’s the only version I have. I have got to buy the DVD. A character that looks like that dude above should NOT sound like Liam Neeson. And Ponyo, as adorable as she is, is very shout-y in the dubbed version. I’d like to see the subtitled one again to hear what she sounded like as I can’t now remember. The shout-y overexcited thing kind of actually works for this character as she’s still learning to be human and is so very happy. Looking this up I see that she’s voiced by Noah Lindsey Cyrus, Miley’s younger sister. Ha! Well, I don’t think subtlety runs in that family so a shout-y performance isn’t surprising. Like I say, it kind of works but I really wish to stop seeing the dubbed version. Again, though, you’re likely to watch this one with a young kid so you’d be watching it dubbed. Oh! But I have no complaints about Cloris Leachman, Lily Tomlin, and especially Betty White as the three old women. Those ladies ROCK. 🙂
I haven’t really said much about this one. It’s a hard one to describe. It’s odd but also very sweet & innocent. It’s about unconditional love (Sōsuke must prove that he can love Ponyo whether she be a fish or human). I think young kids will love both Sōsuke & Ponyo and will just roll with the slightly odd story as young minds are usually more open to these sorts of things. It’s really not much more odd than a lot of Disney fairy tales. I do recommend this one to kids & to adult Studio Ghibli fans. Of all the Ghiblis, it’s definitely the most “sweet” and it’s hard to not like Sōsuke & Ponyo and seeing a love so pure.
Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) Majo no takkyūbin
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Based on Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono
(English Dub Voice Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Phil Hartman, Janeane Garofalo, Matthew Lawrence, Brad Garrett, Debbie Reynolds, Edie McClurg)
Running time: 102 minutes
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB) A young witch, on her mandatory year of independent life, finds fitting into a new community difficult while she supports herself by running an air courier service.
Version Watched: Japanese with English subtitles & English dubbed version
Well, I already reviewed My Neighbor Totoro on Tuesday so I figured I’d do this one today & will try to review Ponyo tomorrow. I guess this will then be the week of the most “child friendly” Studio Ghibli films (of what I’ve seen so far). 🙂
Kiki’s Delivery Service is one that has really grown on me. Like I mentioned in my Totoro review, I often like a movie even more when I get to see it through a child’s eyes & see how much they enjoy it. Kiki’s is fun and very innocent – it’s a great film for young kids (especially girls). It’s easily the most “Western” of the Ghiblis I’ve seen so, for those of you who’ve been reading these reviews and are still not sure about watching a Ghibli film due to some of them being a little strange, this movie may be a good introduction. It’s not the best Studio Ghibli movie if you’re comparing it to the more “worthy” films they’ve made but I know some bloggers here on WordPress have a lot of affection for it as I think it’s one that some of you youngsters grew up with. I know that I’d absolutely adore it if I’d seen it at a young age.
The story is very simple: a 13-year-old witch must go out on her own for a year to make a life for herself & gain independence. Kiki takes along her talking cat Jiji & ends up living above a bakery where she helps the owner by flying on her broomstick to quickly deliver the goods to customers. She makes several new friends, all of whom help Kiki to find herself & to fit in.
The story is about girls growing up & gaining independence and confidence as well as dealing with feelings of self-doubt. These are great themes for young girls but it’s also such a fun movie that the very young will enjoy just watching Kiki fly around on her broomstick and talk to her adorable cat. Kiki is another strong female role model from Ghibli but as she’s so young she’s unsure of herself at times unlike other characters such as Nausicaä & Princess Mononoke. It makes her feel more human & realistic. In looking for pictures for these Ghibli reviews, I of course see loads of cosplay photos and I’ve seen more girls dressed as Kiki than any other character so far so she’s obviously very popular. I do love her look of a simple black dress, big red bow, broomstick & cute black cat. 🙂
Subtitled vs Dubbed:
I figured I’d mention this like I did in my review of Howl’s Moving Castle as I’d have to say that the English dubbing for Kiki’s Delivery Service is my least favorite of the dubbed Ghiblis I’ve seen. The majority of the characters aren’t too bad and Kirsten Dunst’s Kiki is tolerable, I guess – she just talks way too fast and doesn’t really suit the character that well. However, my main issue was with the cat! I watched the subtitled version first and absolutely loved the cat. He’s funny & has a little bit of an attitude (in a good way). In the dubbed version, he’s voiced by Phil Hartman and he ad-libbed a lot. I found the cat much less likeable and with a little TOO much attitude in this version. Hartman did add some pretty funny lines and I’m sure kids really like his version fine but it just didn’t work for me. Plus I think, as Kiki’s is a far less strange film and has a very straightforward story & characters unlike other Ghibli films, the one thing that keeps it feeling at all Japanese is the original language. In English, Kiki’s Delivery Service almost feels like a Disney movie. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing… These are small complaints, though – I think it’s a very sweet film but, if you don’t have kids and want to watch this one yourself, I highly recommend the subtitled version over the dubbed.
Kiki’s Delivery Service is probably the most kid friendly of all the Studio Ghibli films and a great one for young girls as it has a very realistic female role model. It’s for the young as well as the young at heart. It is aimed more at girls than some of the other films but certainly worth a watch for true Ghibli fans of all ages. It doesn’t have the “magic” of My Neighbor Totoro but it’s still a lot of fun. Do yourself a favor if you’re an adult watching it without a kid, though, and watch the far superior subtitled version.
(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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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?
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
Here’s my Totoro bag I tweeted a photo of while waiting at the bus stop one day. 😉