House (Hausu 1977) Blind Spot Review

House (1977)
Japanese: ハウス Hausu

Directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi

Starring: Kimiko Ikegami, Miki Jinbo, Ai Matubara, Kumiko Oba, Mieko Sato, Eriko Tanaka, Masayo Miyako, Yōko Minamida

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A schoolgirl and six of her classmates travel to her aunt’s country home, which tries to devour the girls in bizarre ways.

My Opinion:

Here’s a list of the Blind Spot films I’ve watched this year from my least favorite to my favorite (I’ve finished watching them all! Just need to review the rest):

12. The Last Temptation Of Christ
11. Altered States
10. The Raid
9. The King & I
8. House (Hausu 1977)
7. The Hustler
6. Jackie Brown
5. Wolf Children
4. Ghost In The Shell
3. The Untouchables
2. Watership Down
1. Rocky

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!

My Rating: 8/10

Advertisements

Ancien And The Magic Tablet (aka Napping Princess) (2017) Review

Ancien And The Magic Tablet
(UK Title – Napping Princess: The Story Of The Unknown Me)
ひるね姫 〜知らないワタシの物語〜
Hirune Hime: Shiranai Watashi no Monogatari

Directed by Kenji Kamiyama

Starring Voice Actors: Mitsuki Takahata, Shinnosuke Mitsushima, Tomoya Maeno, Rie Kugimiya, Arata Furuta, Hideki Takahashi, Yōsuke Eguchi

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?

My Opinion:

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.

My Rating: 6.5/10

FYI according to Wikipedia:

“A English-dubbed version was released in the United Kingdom from August 16, 2017; whereas the United States will receive a US-dubbed version sometime later in August.”

Luckily, I saw the Japanese language version with English subtitles. Far prefer seeing the subtitled versions of these films.

Akira (1988) Blind Spot Review

Akira (1988)

Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo

Based on Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo

Starring: Mitsuo Iwata, Nozomu Sasaki, Mami Koyama, Taro Ishida, Mizuho Suzuki, Tetsusho Genda

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.

My Opinion:

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 (Book Review)

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.

My Thoughts:

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.

My Rating: 4/5

Your Name (2016) Review

Your Name (2016)
Kimi no Na wa
Japanese: 君の名は

Directed by Makoto Shinkai

Starring: Ryunosuke Kamiki, Mone Kamishiraishi, Masami Nagasawa, Etsuko Ichihara, Ryo Narita, Aoi Yūki, Nobunaga Shimazaki, Kaito Ishikawa, Kanon Tani

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Two high school kids who’ve never met – city boy Taki and country girl Mitsuha – are united through their dreams.

My Opinion:

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 Wars as 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.

Battle Royale (2000) Blind Spot Review

Battle Royale (2000)
Batoru Rowaiaruis
Japanese: バトル・ロワイアル

Directed by Kinji Fukasaku

Based on Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

Starring: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Taro Yamamoto, Masanobu Ando, Kou Shibasaki, Chiaki Kuriyama, Takeshi Kitano

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
In the future, the Japanese government captures a class of ninth-grade students and forces them to kill each other under the revolutionary “Battle Royale” act.

My Opinion:

Here’s a quick list of links to my 2016 Blind Spot Reviews so far, including where I’d rank Battle Royale:

7. An Education – 7/10
6. Summer Wars – 7/10
5. True Romance – 7/10
4. THX 1138 – 7.5/10
3. Play Misty For Me – 7.5/10
2. Battle Royale – 8/10
1. Natural Born Killers – 8/10

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 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). 😉

My Rating: 8/10

Summer Wars (2009) Blind Spot Review

Summer Wars (2009)
Samā Wōzu
Japanese: サマーウォーズ

Directed by Mamoru Hosoda

Starring Voice Actors: Ryunosuke Kamiki, Nanami Sakuraba, Mitsuki Tanimura, Sumiko Fuji

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.

My Opinion:

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!

My Rating: 7/10

Grave Of The Fireflies (1988) Review

IMG_8859

Grave Of The Fireflies (1988)
Hotaru no haka
Japanese: 火垂るの墓

IMDB Top 250 Rank: 104 as of 01/01/2013

Directed by Isao Takahata

Based on Grave of the Fireflies by Akiyuki Nosaka

Starring Voice Actors:
Tsutomu Tatsumi
Ayano Shiraishi
Yoshiko Shinohara
Akemi Yamaguchi

(English dub voice cast: Adam Gibbs, Emily Neves, Shelley Calene-Black, Marcy Bannor)

Running time: 89 minutes

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.

IMG_9661

My Opinion:

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?!

IMG_9667

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.

IMG_9663

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.

IMG_9664

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.

My Rating: 8/10

IMG_9668

IMG_9662

Spirited Away (2001) Review

IMG_8855

Spirited Away (2001)
Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi
Japanese: 千と千尋の神隠し

IMDB Top 250 Rank: 43 as of 01/01/2013

Directed & Written by Hayao Miyazaki

Starring Voice Actors:
Rumi Hiiragi
Miyu Irino
Mari Natsuki
Takeshi Naito
Yasuko Sawaguchi
Tsunehiko Kamijō
Takehiko Ono
Bunta Sugawara

(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.

IMG_9622

My Opinion:

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.

IMG_9609

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!

IMG_9617

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 TenHowl’s is very pretty but the story is overcomplicated while Spirited Away has a much stronger and more straightforward story & themes.

IMG_9610

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.

IMG_9612

IMG_9605

Summary:

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.

My Rating: 8/10

IMG_9606

Porco Rosso (1992) Review

2015/01/img_8580.jpg

Porco Rosso (1992)
Kurenai no Buta
Japanese: 紅の豚

Directed & Written by Hayao Miyazaki

Starring Voice Actors:
Shūichirō Moriyama
Tokiko Kato
Akemi Okamura
Akio Ōtsuka

(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”.

2015/01/img_8590.jpg

My Opinion:

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”!

2015/01/img_8582.jpg

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).

2015/01/img_8585.jpg

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! 😉

2015/01/img_8584.jpg

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.

2015/01/img_8589.jpg

Summary:

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”. 🙂

My Rating: 6.5/10

2015/01/img_8583.jpg

Ponyo (2008) Review

2015/01/img_8507.jpg

Ponyo (2008) (aka Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea)
Gake no Ue no Ponyo
Japanese: 崖の上のポニョ

Directed & Written by Hayao Miyazaki

Starring Voice Cast:
Tomoko Yamaguchi
Kazushige Nagashima
Yūki Amami
George Tokoro
Yuria Nara
Hiroki Doi
Rumi Hiiragi
Akiko Yano
Kazuko Yoshiyuki
Tomoko Naraoka

(English Dub Voice Cast: Cate Blanchette, Matt Damon, Liam Neeson, Noah Lindsey Cyrus, Tina Fey, Frankie Jonas, Cloris Leachman, Lily Tomlin, BETTY WHITE!)

Running time: 101 minutes

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.

2015/01/img_8542.jpg

My Opinion:

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.

2015/01/img_8543.jpg

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?!

2015/01/img_8554.jpg

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.

2015/01/img_8557.jpg

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. 🙂

2015/01/img_8558.jpg

Summary:

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.

My Rating: 7.5/10

2015/01/img_8544.jpg

Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) Review

2015/01/img_8398.jpg

Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
Majo no takkyūbin
Japanese: 魔女の宅急便

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

Based on Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono

Starring:
Minami Takayama
Rei Sakuma
Kappei Yamaguchi

(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.

2015/01/img_8496.jpg

My Opinion:

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.

2015/01/img_8501.jpg

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.

2015/01/img_8500.jpg

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. 🙂

2015/01/img_8503.jpg

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.

2015/01/img_8505.jpg

Summary:

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.

My Rating: 8/10

2015/01/img_8497.jpg

CPD Classics: My Neighbor Totoro (1988) Review

2015/01/img_8397.jpg

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

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

Directed & Written by Hayao Miyazaki

Starring Voice Actors:
Chika Sakamoto
Noriko Hidaka
Hitoshi Takagi

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

Running time: 86 minutes

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

2015/01/img_8447.jpg

My Opinion:

Version Watched: Japanese with English subtitles & English dubbed version

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

2015/01/img_8435.jpg

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.

2015/01/img_8448.jpg

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!

2015/01/img_8454.jpg

2015/01/img_8451.jpg

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!

2015/01/img_8449.jpg

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?

2015/01/img_8458.jpg

Summary:

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

My Rating: 9/10

2015/01/img_8462.jpg

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

2015/01/img_8460.jpg

Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) Review

2015/01/img_8330.jpg

Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
Hauru no Ugoku Shiro
Japanese: ハウルの動く城

IMDB Top 250 Rank: 189 as of 01/01/2013

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

Based on Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Starring Voice Actors:
Chieko Baisho
Takuya Kimura
Akihiro Miwa

(English Dub Voice Cast: Emily Mortimer, Jean Simmons, Christian Bale, Lauren Bacall, Billy Crystal, Josh Hutcherson, Blythe Danner, Jena Malone)

Running time: 119 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
When an unconfident young woman is cursed with an old body by a spiteful witch, her only chance of breaking the spell lies with a self-indulgent yet insecure young wizard and his companions in his legged, walking home.

2015/01/img_8345.jpg

My Opinion:

Version Watched: In Japanese with English subtitles then the English dubbed version

This is yet another of several Studio Ghibli films in the IMDB Top 250. It’s jumped a massive 40 places from 189 to 149 since I started my IMDB Challenge on 01/01/2013.

For anyone who has never watched a Studio Ghibli movie, there are certain ones I wouldn’t necessarily recommend as an “introduction” to the Ghibli universe. Some may seem very “odd” to the Western world and, although I’m a big fan of the films now, they do take some getting used to. I started on one of the strangest ones (and most loved, it seems): Spirited Away. I found Howl’s Moving Castle the most similar to Spirited Away of the movies I’ve seen so far and, if you’re a fan of one, I think you’ll like the other one as well. I believe I ranked Howl’s Moving Castle above Spirited Away when I did my Top Ten Studio Ghibli Movies (HERE) but that may change when I re-do the list after seeing the rest of the films.

2015/01/img_8333.jpg

Subtitled vs Dubbed:

First of all, I’d like to say that I will ALWAYS recommend watching the subtitled version for every Studio Ghibli film. These movies are so different from the animated films of our culture & hearing the original language really preserves the magic feeling of the Ghiblis. There are a few where I’ve only seen the dubbed version as I saw them on TV and, of course, for the ones aimed at kids where you actually do watch them with a young kid, you obviously have to go for the dubbed version. Howl’s is one of the “not for young kids” ones so I highly recommend the subtitles on this one as I hated the English dub. It wasn’t quite as bad as with Kiki’s Delivery Service (I hated the Americanized cat!) but the annoyingly whispery Christian Bale “Batman” voice was SO wrong for the mysterious Howl (plus I hate Bale!) and Billy Crystal was extremely distracting as possibly my favorite character from the film, Calcifer the feisty fire demon. Now, I absolutely ADORE Billy Crystal & think he can do no wrong but, seeing as I’m a huge fan of Monsters Inc, it was very very odd seeing this strange little character in a Ghibli film sounding exactly like Mike Wazowski. That’s not the fault of Crystal, though – I know they hire big names in order to try to sell the film outside of Japan.

2015/01/img_8338.jpg

Anyway! Howl’s Moving Castle is a weird one. The story reminded me in a way of The Wizard Of Oz where a young girl (Sophie, who in this case happens to have been turned into an old woman by a witch) goes on a strange journey with an odd assortment of characters (it probably helps that there’s a scarecrow called Turnip Head). No, wait – it’s far more messed up than The Wizard Of Oz… It’s more like Return To Oz.

2015/01/img_8342.jpg

With a lot of the Ghibli stuff, it’s the characters that make them interesting as the storylines can be hard to wrap your head around and that was certainly the case for me with Howl’s Moving Castle. I’ve already mentioned Calcifer & Turnip Head but there’s also a cute dog named Heen, a sweet young boy named Markl and the Witch of the Waste, a creepy old woman with a huge face who reminded me of the witch Yubaba in Spirited Away.

2015/01/img_8344.jpg

2015/01/img_8335.jpg

Then we of course have Sophie, another strong young female character like we so often get in Ghibli films (although not the best one – I’d go probably go with Nausicaä), and the intriguing manchild wizard Howl. Howl was a bit David Bowie-like (which I’d certainly not complain about), especially as Jareth in Labyrinth. Howl is kind of a hard character to actually like, unfortunately, until you get to know a bit more about him. Overall, though, I think the true star of the film is probably the “moving castle” itself.

2015/01/img_8331.jpg

Summary:

I struggled with this review. I watched this back in September and have already forgotten a lot of the plot. I do think the story in this one is a little too complicated. I know Laputa: Castle In The Sky had a pretty complex story as well but, for me, I liked that one much more & had a lot more fun watching it. Spirited Away is complicated as well but really has one main theme (growing up) that doesn’t get lost in a convoluted plot like I feel the themes in Howl’s Moving Castle do. This is why I like writing reviews – I’m able to think more about a movie as I write about it and sometimes my opinion changes by the end of a review. Although I certainly enjoyed all the colorful characters and once again being a part of that strange Studio Ghibli “world”, Howl’s Moving Castle hasn’t stayed with me the way other Ghibli movies have and I think I ranked it a little too highly in my Top Ten – I’d put it below Spirited Away now & possibly even Ponyo. Definitely worth a watch for Ghibli fans, especially those who like Spirited Away, but it’s not my personal favorite.

My Rating: 7/10

2015/01/img_8341.jpg

Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind (1984) Review

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/90e/43272996/files/2015/01/img_8229.jpg

Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind (1984)
Kaze no Tani no Naushika
Japanese: 風の谷のナウシカ

IMDB Top 250 Rank: 227 as of 01/01/2013

Directed & Written by Hayao Miyazaki

Starring Voice Actors:
Sumi Shimamoto
Gorō Naya
Yōji Matsuda
Yoshiko Sakakibara
Iemasa Kayumi

(English Dub Voice Cast: Alison Lohman, Shia LaBeouf, Uma Thurman, Patrick Stewart, Chris Sarandon, Edward James Olmos, Mark Hamill)

Running time: 117 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia):
The film tells the story of Nausicaä, a young princess of the Valley of the Wind who gets involved in a struggle with Tolmekia, a kingdom that tries to use an ancient weapon to eradicate a jungle of mutant giant insects. Nausicaä must stop the Tolmekians from enraging these creatures.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/90e/43272996/files/2015/01/img_8257.jpg

Before I Start The Review:

As this is my first review for my Studio Ghibli Project (perhaps I should start calling it a project as I think it’ll carry on for longer than a month), I figured I’d talk a tiny bit about my Studio Ghibli experience. Also, as many Ghibli films are in the IMDB Top 250, a lot of these reviews will also be a part of my IMDB Top 250 Project so I’ll mention it if they’re in the Top 250. Nausicaä was at 227 when I started the IMDB thing and is currently at 198 so I’m happy to see that it’s moved up the list quite a bit.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/90e/43272996/files/2015/01/img_8242.jpg

Here’s my Studio Ghibli experience: The first film I saw was Spirited Away in 2001. It’s a great movie but I don’t think it was the best one to start on as it’s definitely one of the more “strange” Ghiblis. A few years ago I saw My Neighbor Totoro and, of course, loved it. Who doesn’t? But it wasn’t until I watched Princess Mononoke that I really started buying into the whole Studio Ghibli thing and I’ve been working my way through them ever since. Aside from Totoro (which I’ve now seen many times) and Kiki’s Delivery Service (where I’ve seen the subtitled & the dubbed version) and Spirited Away, I’ve only watched the other Ghibli films I’ve seen one time each. I know there are some huge Ghibli fans out there and I’m FAR from being any kind of expert on them as I’m still very new to them. All I really know is that I’ve enjoyed them immensely and I’m very glad to have finally decided to explore them. I want to have the time to watch them all again as I know they’re the types of movies that will only go up in my estimation the more I see them, just as My Neighbor Totoro did. And the one I want to re-watch the most is one that I saw very recently and also one that felt very different from the other Ghibli stuff I’ve seen: Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/90e/43272996/files/2015/01/img_8254.jpg

My Opinion On Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind:

Version watched: In Japanese with English subtitles

I’m never going to be able to do this movie justice with my lack of any true writing skills. Due to this film’s success, Hayao Miyazaki & Isao Takahata were able to start up Studio Ghibli so, although this one isn’t “officially” a Ghibli, it’s considered to be the first one anyway.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/90e/43272996/files/2015/01/img_8241.jpg

It’s very unlike any of the other Ghibli movies I’ve seen so far. It’s based on Miyazaki’s manga of the same name, which he still continued for a while after the release of the film. This movie is kind of like a weird mash-up of Heavy Metal, Dune, and the “sweeter” Ghibli stuff that came later. It’s set in a post-apocalyptic future, which is always a favorite genre for me (what’s wrong with me?!). The title character, Nausicaä, is the princess of The Valley Of The Wind. This post-apocalyptic world is covered by a toxic jungle and large mutant insects. Nausicaä is happiest when exploring the mysteries of the toxic jungle and its insects while flying on her glider. She’s able to communicate with the insects and wishes to find a way for the remaining humans to live peacefully in this toxic land.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/90e/43272996/files/2015/01/img_8231.jpg

I don’t know what it is but this movie just really worked for me on a level that not all the Ghibli films have. I think it’s just very much my type of thing even more than the kid-friendly Ghibli films such as Kiki’s Delivery Service or the more strange ones such as Spirited Away. The environmental & anti-war themes in this are very obvious and, as with a lot of Ghibli films, there’s a very strong female lead which is something I always like in a movie. So, Nausicaä is an excellent role model and the themes are ones that are good to teach kids. However, this is NOT a child-friendly movie. As with all kids, some are more mature than others and it’s down to parents to judge if their kids can handle a movie or not. It’s definitely not one for the very young due to some violence but also the fact that the story is quite complex and epic in scope so they wouldn’t understand or appreciate it anyway. However, I think it’s a great one for older kids (11? 12?) and one that most adults (like me!) would love as well if it’s their type of thing. This is really pretty much a tie for my number one favorite along with My Neighbor Totoro but I just have so much affection for the character of Totoro that I had to put that at number one. However, THIS movie is more my type of film overall.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/90e/43272996/files/2015/01/img_8239.jpg

Summary:

Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind is quite different from the other Studio Ghibli films most of you will have watched but I highly recommend it. I loved the excellent strong female lead and the post-apocalyptic world they created for this film. I loved the different sort of animation style of the insects compared to the human characters which have more of the look of all the later Ghibli films. Oh, and I loved the score which I completely forgot to mention! I thought it so perfectly set the right mood for the film and Nausicaä’s theme (not sure – I think it’s Nausicaä – Requiem? – The la la la la song!) was quite haunting & stuck in my head for days. Oh, I also enjoyed the supporting characters such as Lord Yupa and the totally Pokémon “pet” of Nausicaä’s. (I know nothing whatsoever about Pokémon and if it was influenced by Nausicaä or if it’s something that existed before the movie – just saying they look alike!). Oh, and I don’t know if I should point this out or if I’ll look totally stupid, but… I was a little concerned at first that Nausicaä was wearing no pants. She wears these form-fitting trousers that are so close to her skin color and she bends over her glider all the time and, really, I don’t know why they didn’t just make her pants a different color! I’ve Googled this as I felt stupid but see that I’m indeed not the only one who thought she was pretty much naked from the waist down for half the film. Now that I’ve made myself sound like an idiot, I can inform you all that she IS wearing trousers so that you don’t end up feeling as stupid as I did when you watch it.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/90e/43272996/files/2015/01/img_8250.jpg

Either way, pants or no pants, this movie is an epic adventure that I really wasn’t expecting from a Studio Ghibli film. I’m not sure why it’s not mentioned quite as much as some of the others. I thought it was amazing.

My Rating: 9/10

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/90e/43272996/files/2015/01/img_8234.jpg