Journey to Agartha (aka Children Who Chase Lost Voices) (2011) Review

Journey to Agartha (aka Children Who Chase Lost Voices)
星を追う子ども
Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo

Directed & Written by Makoto Shinkai

Starring: Hisako Kanemoto, Kazuhiko Inoue, Miyu Irino

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.

My Opinion:

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 Name and 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:

Oh yeah! And I forgot that the girl’s animal companion in this reminded me very much of the one in Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind:

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…

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Watched, Read, Reviewed: October 2018

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 – 7.5/10
Halloween (2018) – 6.5/10
The House With A Clock In Its Walls – 6.5/10
Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween – 6/10
Jug Face (aka The Pit) – 1.5/10

MOVIES WATCHED (ranked best to worst):

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

Halloween (2018) – Disappointing. – 6.5/10

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

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween – The first one was much better & Jack Black is barely even in this one. – 6/10

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

BOOKS READ

• 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 HouseI 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.

SerenityDiane 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:

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.