Watched, Read, Reviewed: July 2019

Happy August! I got my shit together and am posting this on time! It helps that I watched very few movies in July, so this is a short post. I also managed to do separate full reviews of the cinema releases I saw in July, so I’ve posted the links to those. Here’s what I watched and partially read in July…

MOVIES THIS MONTH

MOVIES REVIEWED (ranked best to worst):

Yesterday – 7.5/10
Toy Story 4 – 7.5/10
Rocketman – 7.5/10
Midsommar – 7/10
Spider-Man: Far From Home – 7/10
Ma – 7/10
Child’s Play (2019) – 7/10
Booksmart – 7/10
Annabelle Comes Home – 6.5/10
Brightburn – 6.5/10

MOVIES WATCHED (ranked best to worst):

Midsommar – 7/10

Ocean Waves – As this is a Studio Ghibli film, I’ll devote a full review post to it at some point. I love Studio Ghibli and this was of course good but it’s certainly not the studio’s best. – 7/10

Spider-Man: Far From Home – 7/10

Annabelle Comes Home – 6.5/10

The Brotherhood Of Justice – Figured I’d check out this young Keanu Reeves movie since he’s so popular now that everyone has (finally) realized that Keanu is awesome. Here’s the IMDb synopsis: “A group of high school students, led by a rich boy Derek, is sick of school violence and decides to become underground vigilantes named “Brotherhood of Justice”.” The movie was okay but a little dated, which is fine with me since I love the Eighties (it came out in 1986). What’s funny is that Keanu Reeves was the rich guy (Derek) and Kiefer Sutherland was the nice guy and, knowing their later roles, it’s the opposite of how I see these two actors. Luckily, Keanu was the NICE rich vigilante (he’s too nice in real life to be a bad guy). What was also funny was that Lori Loughlin played his girlfriend and she complained to him that, since she wasn’t rich like him, she had to study and work hard to earn money for college. Ha! I just found that amusing with the college admissions scandal. Anyway, I liked this movie just fine since it’s from my era and I love Keanu but, unless you’re a fan of the Eighties and/or Keanu, you might find this one a little underwhelming. There are better “vigilantes out of control” films. This one isn’t very hard-hitting and doesn’t really address the various issues involved in seeking justice in this sort of way. – 6.5/10

Year Of The Dog – This was an odd one. I was eager to watch this as it was written & directed by Mike White and I love some of what he’s written (School Of Rock and I think some of Freaks And Geeks). This movie was disappointing and probably a little too “indie” for a mainstream audience to get any enjoyment out of it. I see plenty of reviews trashing it on IMDb but, to be fair, I think those people were expecting a mainstream comedy which it SO should not have been marketed as. As an indie film focusing on a woman who goes a little off the deep end after the death of her dog, it’s fine. It’s just a fairly depressing film but the characters aren’t strong enough to really make you care about any of them. I think Molly Shannon did a good job as the woman and I liked seeing Regina King as her friend but the story just didn’t really seem to go anywhere or have any kind of point. But, hey – that’s indie films for you! I think White was better off working with Richard Linklater, who does indie “stories about nothing” that are brilliant due to the characters & dialogue. Unfortunately, Year Of The Dog just felt a bit “So what?”. I’ll give it an extra half a point for Shannon’s performance. – 6/10

Starry Eyes – I hated this. But I don’t feel like trashing it since, well, I assume it’s a low budget film that people worked hard to create and what the hell have I done with MY life? Huh? Nothing! I’ve never made a movie. So they’ve accomplished more than I ever will. Right? Man I hated this movie. I’m never listening to “Horror Twitter” users again. They praise ALL horror movies. I’ll give this an extra half a point for, um, the fact that they made a movie & I haven’t. I’m feeling generous today. Yeah, I realize this isn’t a “review”. I can’t be bothered. I’ve got stuff to do, dammit. – 2.5/10

Re-Watched:

Speed – Keanu Reeves again! I’ve of course seen Speed. Loads of times. But I hadn’t watched it in YEARS so gave it another go. I still think it’s great and remember this movie turning Keanu into a proper action star heart throb. To be fair, Point Break may have done that first but I don’t think that was as big of a mainstream hit (I prefer Point Break – Underrated classic!). Speed is maybe a tiny bit dated in that way that so many 90’s movies are now (man that decade sucked). But, for the most part, it still stands up today and I love the fast pace. You never get bored during this film. I wish action movies nowadays were as good as they used to be… – 8/10

BOOKS, TV, MUSIC, MISCELLANEOUS THIS MONTH

BOOKS READ

No time for reading at the moment so have been working my way through The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt for months. But I’m going on holiday at some point so I’ll bring a nice & easy Dean Koontz book with me!

TV SHOWS WATCHED

Stranger Things – Still working through Season 3 of this. I think I have only two or three episodes left to watch and I cannot get into it AT ALL. The first season was great but it’s gone downhill since. To be honest, they should’ve quit after Season 1. It feels like they’re making shit up as they go along now. It feels pointless.

BLOG PLANS FOR THE COMING MONTH

No plans for any posts in August. I’ll see you again in September!

August Movies I Want To See:

The Art Of Racing In The Rain – I know nothing whatsoever about this movie but it looks like there’s a cute dog in it, so… Good enough reason to watch it! But maybe on Netflix.

Blinded By The Light – I don’t know much about this either but it’s some kind of musical having to do with the music of Bruce Springsteen? Well, I hate Springsteen so I won’t be rushing to this but it might be worth a watch a home. I prefer movies about music that I like (like The Beatles in Yesterday).

The Sun Is Also A Star – YA romance bullshit! So I of course read the book it’s based on (review HERE). And I’m sure I’ll definitely watch this bullshit adaptation at some point.

Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood – I’ll definitely go to this one but am feeling a bit dubious about the subject matter.

Good Boys – Raunchy pre-teen comedy? Meh. Might watch it (but only because I have Unlimited cinema now).

Crawl – This looks a bit ridiculous and I badly want to see it…

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark – This actually looks freaky as shit! Is it aimed at a younger horror audience? The trailer looks good so I’ll go if reviews are decent. Why do I watch so much horror lately?

There wasn’t much music in the movies I watched in July. So, as I thoroughly enjoyed the film Yesterday (watched in June), here’s my favorite song by The Beatles. Even though it unfortunately wasn’t one of the many songs in the movie…

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Watched, Read, Reviewed: September 2018

Happy October, everyone! I won’t be doing a month of horror posts like usual as I don’t have the time but I may try to do a couple of horror-related posts as I watched quite a few “scary” films in the past year. But first I’ll do a quick roundup of everything I watched in September.

MOVIES THIS MONTH

MOVIES REVIEWED (ranked best to worst):

None. I only posted one thing in September, which was My Top Ten Brian De Palma Movies.

MOVIES WATCHED (ranked best to worst):

Mary And The Witch’s Flower – This is the first movie from Studio Ponoc, which was founded by Yoshiaki Nishimura (formerly of Studio Ghibli). Basically, it’s the new Studio Ghibli as several former Ghibli employees have joined Studio Ponoc. Although Hayao Miyazaki has come out of retirement to make another Ghibli film, expected to be released in 2020YES!!! But, if this studio is going to be the next Ghibli and this is their first film, I think things may be alright. We’ll see. It’s certainly not up there with Miyazaki’s work (but nothing is). It’s a good start and easily lives up to some of the non-Miyazaki Ghiblis. It’s of the “kid friendly” variety & reminded me the most of Arrietty. I think I may actually prefer Mary And The Witch’s Flower to that one. I’ll review this in full at some point as I try to review all the anime I watch. – 7.5/10

A Simple Favor – I’ll review this in full sometime. Went in with zero expectations and really enjoyed it. – 7.5/10

The Rose – I’d somehow never seen this movie in which Bette Midler plays a 70s rock star desperate for fame (it’s loosely based on Janis Joplin’s life). This type of movie is right up my alley and I thought it was quite good while Midler herself was excellent. She was nominated for an Oscar for this performance & won a Golden Globe. Yet I never really hear this movie or Midler’s performance mentioned, despite its song (The Rose) being a big American hit. Worth watching if the movie is your type of thing but it’s definitely not for everyone and people who love mainly just current films wouldn’t like the fairly slow pacing of this one. – 7.5/10

Brigsby Bear – Really enjoyed this one as well but it’s truly not for everyone. It’s quirky, a little weird, and indie as shit. But it has a lot of heart and is one of the most original stories I’ve seen in a while. Mark Hamill supposedly accepted his role because he was impressed by the script’s originality (I heard that somewhere but can’t find a link regarding this). It’s a “comedy” drama but the comedy is subtle and, more than anything, it’s just a sweet, feel-good sort of film. I highly recommend knowing as little as possible about it beforehand if you decide to watch it as I think going in blind helped my enjoyment. – 7.5/10

The House With A Clock In Its Walls – Will review in full. It was fun. – 7/10

American Animals – Will also try to review this. I was disappointed. – 6.5/10

The Glass Castle – Finally saw this adaptation after thoroughly enjoying the novel (it was my favorite book I read last year). It was my favorite despite not being at all my usual type of thing (it’s a memoir based on the author’s highly unusual and impoverished upbringing). The book was truly fascinating, however, as her parents’ behaviour was so outrageous that it was equally entertaining and maddening to read about. It was also very hard to not be disgusted by their behavior at times, especially the father’s, but the author did manage to somehow create some sympathy toward her parents that didn’t translate as well to film. Woody Harrelson was good as the father but the movie did leave out some of the things he did that would make it too hard to like him. – 6.5/10

Compliance – This movie is thoroughly messed up, mostly because it’s unfortunately 100% true. I remember hearing about this film when it came out & finding the true story interesting so I looked into it & the Kentucky case (I believe) is what’s shown in this film. This was part of the “strip search phone call scam” that went on for 12 years(!!) across small American towns. From Wikipedia:

“The strip search phone call scam is a series of incidents, mostly occurring in rural areas of the United States, that extended over a period of about twelve years, starting in 1992. The incidents involved a man calling a restaurant or grocery store, claiming to be a police officer and then convincing managers to conduct strip searches of female employees, and to perform other bizarre acts on behalf of “the police”. The calls were most often placed to fast-food restaurants in small towns.

Over 70 such occurrences were reported in 30 U.S. states, until an incident in 2004 in Mount Washington, Kentucky, finally led to the arrest of David Richard Stewart…”

So the point of this scam, I guess, was to see how far people will go when they think they’re being told to do something by an authority figure. It’s scary that so few people questioned the voice on the phone when they were told to do increasingly disturbing things to the female employees who had been targeted. I think viewers won’t believe how far things went in this film and I think it had some bad reviews simply because it’s hard to watch. But, from what I read, nothing is exaggerated (a security camera actually caught it all on film). I’m glad they caught the sick bastard but the scam itself made for a fascinating study in human behavior, I guess. Disturbing. A decently acted film but obviously a hard one to actually “recommend”. It’ll make you angry and the real life girl who was targeted has had a lot of issues since this happened to her. – 6.5/10

Veronica – To quote Wikipedia again, Veronica is a Spanish horror movie “Loosely based on true events from the 1991 Vallecas case where Estefanía Gutiérrez Lázaro died mysteriously after she used a ouija board“. It showed up on Netflix with a lot of people saying “scariest horror movie ever!” and shit like that. I guess it’s the only horror movie they’ve ever watched? It was a well-made film with decent acting but it’s not something we haven’t all seen before. However, I liked the characters which is always a plus as we don’t often get likeable characters in this genre. I felt for this poor 15-year-old girl and her sweet younger siblings she’s forced to take care of since their mother is always working. It made the film an okay watch as the story itself was a little bland (especially as, from what I’ve read, it’s only very loosely based on the “true” story). – 6/10

Tetsuo (aka Tetsuo: The Iron Man) – I’ve been meaning to watch this Japanese film for years as I have a weird fascination with body horror (god knows why – I’m a wuss when it comes to violence). I really wanted to see it before doing the list of My Top Ten Body Horror Movies but it wouldn’t have made the list anyway. It’s only just over an hour long but it felt like it was never going to end. The last 20 minutes or so just go on & on & on (I decided to fast-forward). I suppose this movie was shocking in 1989 but we’ve had The Human Freaking Centipede since then, so… is anything really going to gross anyone out in this fucked-up world anymore? Here’s the IMDb synopsis: “A businessman accidentally kills The Metal Fetishist, who gets his revenge by slowly turning the man into a grotesque hybrid of flesh and rusty metal.” I like weird movies and especially love ones with great imagery but the low budget imagery in this wasn’t good enough to make up for the meandering story and the terrible characters. It’s certainly original and one of the stranger films I’ve seen but I didn’t expect to mostly just find it boring. It’s fucked-up, though. I’ll give it that. It’s one of very few movies I have that I’ll have to keep hidden away – you sure as shit don’t want your kids to ever get hold of this one. – 6/10

The Nun – Meh. I don’t know. This was actually a bit better than the terrible reviews would suggest. I thought it was far better than those idiotic Annabelle movies but far worse than the first Conjuring film. I thought the characters were all fairly strong (as far as horrors go) and I really liked the setting of the secluded old convent or castle or whatever it was. It was fairly creepy & atmospheric and, hell, I think I’m talking myself into liking this one a little more than I thought. I do love a good bit of Satanic horror but there are far better films in that sub-genre. I’ve realized that I’ve watched all of the Conjuring Universe films so far despite not being a huge fan. Here are my reviews & ratings:

The Conjuring – 7.5/10
The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Case – 6/10
The Nun – 5.5/10
Annabelle – 5/10
Annabelle: Creation – 4.5/10

Frozen (2010) – Not the Anna & Elsa Frozen! I didn’t mind this horror film even though it’s a bit ridiculous. Three annoying twenty-somethings are left stranded on a ski chairlift when the resort shuts down for a week (or however long). That’s it. That’s the story. Actually, it ended up being okay and we got to know and like these characters a little. Well, they ended up far less annoying than they were at first at least. They do stupid shit but, to be honest, I’m not sure what I’d do in the same situation. Probably freeze to death. My rating is maybe a little harsh but it did get a bit too silly (and gross) and slightly boring at times. At least it’s far better than that horror movie where three twat twenty-somethings are trapped in an ATM booth thingy by some psychotic killer (in the imaginatively-titled ATM). – 5.5/10

Re-Watch: Bridge To Terabithia – This is actually a great coming of age movie based on a famous American kids’ book. I’d watched it years ago and hesitated when my daughter asked to watch it recently. It’s controversial for stupid reasons (but you know what uptight Americans are like). I don’t want to give away the plot if you know nothing about it but it’s one you need to look into first before deciding if your kid will be okay watching it. Mine liked it a lot. It’s a lovely, heartbreaking story with strong characters. I’ve ordered her the book now as well. I really should have read it as a kid. – 7.5/10

BOOKS, TV, MUSIC, MISCELLANEOUS THIS MONTH

BOOKS READ

I didn’t manage to finish any books in September as I’ve been too busy. But I am finally almost done with The Outsider by Stephen King. Pretty good so far but started out slow & took too long for the weird supernatural stuff to happen (which is what I love the most). Also been reading Nightflyers And Other Stories by George R.R. Martin on my phone (digital library book – I’m so cheap!). But it’s too hard to read it through my cracked phone screen so I might have to look for the actual book instead. #FirstWorldProblems

TV SHOWS WATCHED

None. Okay, I’m lying – I’ve been watching America’s Got Talent on Netflix with the kid. She loves it. It’s a simple family thing to watch but I sincerely hate reality TV for the most part. I make fun of the sob stories and all the contrived, phony, “heartwarming” bullshit. Am I evil??? I like that card magician dude, though. I wonder how far he gets. (Don’t tell me!)

BLOG PLANS FOR THE COMING MONTH

Nothing planned. As I said, I’m too busy to do my usual horror posts. I’m also way behind on my 2018 Blind Spot reviews. I don’t think I’ll manage to watch all twelve this year.

October Releases I Maybe Want To See:

A Star Is Born – This is one of those that’ll be up for Oscars so I should watch it. But I don’t really want to…

Venom – Ha! Horrible reviews so far. I’ll skip it.

Mandy – Curious about this Nicolas Cage horror as the horror fans on Twitter have been raving about it. Sounds extreme. But I can’t say I fully trust any movie starring Nicolas Cage. Not the bees!!!

Bad Times At The El Royale – Jeff Bridges and shirtless Chris Hemsworth looking like some super sexy Jesus dude?? Oh yes. I’ll go to this but have to admit it looks like it may be a bit crap.

First Man – Want to see this but don’t love Damien Chazelle as its director. Am hoping it’s not as millennial as La La Land (sorry!).

Halloween – Will definitely go to this but with low expectations.

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween – Is it sad how much I want to see this?? I want more “scary” family movies!

Bohemian RhapsodyI love Queen and adored Freddie Mercury. This could be good or REALLY bad.

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot – Looks pretty good but probably a Netflix film. Very indie so doubt it’ll get a wide release anyway.

The Guilty – A film from Denmark that I’ve only just noticed when looking up movies coming soon. Great reviews & sounds pretty good.

Slaughterhouse Rulez – We’ll see. Could be awesome! Hopefully it’ll be as good as Shaun Of The Dead.

Suspiria – First of all, remakes piss me off. Make something new, dammit! Second of all, this isn’t an October release in the UK – it’s out in November. WTF??? Not in time for Halloween? Piss off. It’s starring Dakota Johnson anyway so I’m not exactly thrilled despite almost liking its (derivative) “look” in the trailers.

And since it’s now October, let’s listen to the greatest horror score ever from the brilliant John Carpenter…

Happy 5th Blogiversary To Me

Yikes. Five years?! I honestly didn’t think I’d be doing this movie blogging thing for five years.

I want to say a huge thank you to the fellow bloggers who’ve dropped by in these last five years & had little chats with me on my silly movie & book reviews. I’m sorry I’ve been around a lot less this year and hate that it’s becoming almost impossible to spend any time on my blog or on the blogs that I follow. The whole reason for starting this blog was so that I could discuss movies with fellow film lovers since, in the real world, it’s hard to find obsessive movie nerds. You think I talk about movies all day long with people at work? Hell no! (That would be fun, though – where can I get a job like that?). So, thank you again to the special few who were here from the start and are still around and to all the lovely newer bloggers who’ve come along since. I feel like an “old blogger” now!

I always say I need to cut back on the time I spend here and I’ve done that this year but I’ll be doing it even more in 2018. I’d always kind of planned on quitting on my 5th anniversary but I’d miss the occasional movie chats as well as the one other reason I keep this thing going: to use it as a “movie diary” and keep a log of all I’ve seen & read. Because, as well as being a movie nerd, I’m also massive LIST NERD! I now have a record of every movie I’ve watched since 2012. Which is totally not important when the world is f*^%ing falling apart, right?! To psychoanalyze myself, I think it helps keeps me calm in the face of all the bullshit in the world. Or something. Nicely ordered lists! Nicely ordered lists could create world peace!!

So, I do have a plan to keep this blog going with a bare minimum of posts in 2018. I’ll focus only on reviewing 12 more Blind Spot movies (as I’ve thoroughly enjoyed that project) and the 2018 UK cinema releases I manage to see. The main other thing I’ll do is bring back an end-of-month post so I can at least very briefly discuss all I’ve watched in that month. At the moment, the movies I watch at home are getting no attention as I don’t have time for full-length reviews. I’ve watched a lot of really good movies this year and am annoyed to have not even mentioned some of them (For example, I really liked an obscure movie called The Frame. Here’s the IMDb link. I believe it’s still showing on Amazon Video.)

With these blogiversary posts, I tend to do a “Year In Review” post since it’s close to the end of the year anyway. This time, I’m going to do a “Five-Year Review“(!!). One thing I can really thank this blog for is that I’ve seen some TRULY brilliant movies since starting it because of things like my IMDB Top 250 Challenge and the Blind Spot project. Knowing you’ll be writing for a blog kind of helps “force” you to finally watch the more highly acclaimed classics you’d been avoiding for no good reason. Plus there’ve been some damn good new movies released since 2012. SO GET READY FOR SOME LISTS!!!! Let’s see if these can create universal harmony.

Here are some ranked lists of my favorite movies I’ve seen & the best books I’ve read for the very first time since starting this blog in November 2012….

My Top 20 Books Read Since 2012 (No one gives a shit about books so let’s get this list out of the way first.): 😉

Top Twenty:

20. End Of Watch by Stephen King
19. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
18. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
17. All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
16. The End Of The World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker
15. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
14. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
13. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
12. Horns by Joe Hill
11. The Fireman by Joe Hill

Top Ten:

10. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
9. Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
8. The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams by Stephen King
7. Joyland by Stephen King
6. The Martian by Andy Weir
5. Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
4. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
3. The Colour Of Magic by Terry Pratchett
2. Tuf Voyaging by George R.R. Martin
1. 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

My Top 30 Older Movies Seen For The First Time Since Starting This Blog (Movies Released Before November 2012):

Top Thirty:

30. Daft Punk’s Electroma
29. The Return Of The Living Dead
28. Million Dollar Baby
27. The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari
26. Escape From Alcatraz
25. Howl’s Moving Castle
24. The Last Unicorn
23. Ghost In The Shell (1995)
22. Ikiru
21. Natural Born Killers

Top Twenty:

20. The Untouchables
19. The Secret In Their Eyes
18. The Kid
17. Watership Down
16. Grave Of The Fireflies
15. Escape From New York
14. Battle Royale
13. Kiki’s Delivery Service
12. The Great Escape
11. Laputa: Castle In The Sky

Top Ten:

10. Road House (Seriously. How had I never seen this huge slice of AWESOMEBAD?!)
9. Rocky
8. Modern Times
7. Princess Mononoke
6. Akira
5. The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
4. The Bridge On The River Kwai
3. City Lights
2. The Warriors
1. Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind 

(If you only knew how many times I flipped numbers 1 & 2 around…)

My Top 30 New Releases Seen For The First Time Since Starting This Blog (Movies Released After November 2012):

Top Thirty:

30. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
29. Your Name
28. Rush
27. Circle
26. Gravity
25. Robot & Frank
24. The Way Way Back
23. Baby Driver
22. Wreck-It Ralph
21. Edge Of Tomorrow

Top Twenty:

20. Train To Busan
19. The Wolf Of Wall Street
18. The Lego Movie
17. Ex Machina
16. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower
15. It Follows
14. The Babadook
13. Predestination
12. Space Station 76
11. Sing Street

Top Ten:

10. In Your Eyes
9. Frozen
8. Blade Runner 2049
7. Mad Max: Fury Road
6. It
5. Inside Out
4. Guardians Of The Galaxy
3. Arrival
2. Room
1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Yep – I can’t NOT have a Star Wars film as my number one movie released since 2012. I can’t wait for The Last Jedi in a couple of weeks!

As you can see from these lists, I really do have this blog to thank for my newfound love of Studio Ghibli & Charlie Chaplin. I’d seen & loved My Neighbor Totoro & Spirited Away before blogging but decided to watch all the rest of the Miyazaki films for a month of Ghibli reviews. I’d seen no Chaplin at all before 2012. I highly recommend his stuff to all true film lovers, especially City Lights & Modern Times.

Oh yeah! I also discovered a love of Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns, it seems. I loved The Dollars Trilogy (especially the music in The Good, The Bad And The Ugly) and Once Upon A Time In The West. Brilliant! Thank you, blog! 

The other two directors I’ve been trying to further explore are John Carpenter (I’d already seen the majority of his best films, though) and Akira Kurosawa. That’s why they have the only two films in the lists above which I haven’t yet reviewed as I want to devote an entire week (or month) to their work someday in the future.

Okay – it’s time for me to shut up. You all probably stopped reading halfway through my lists anyway. Ha! I don’t know how many movies I’ve seen in these last five years (I’m too lazy to count, although I do have them all listed year by year on my blog pages). But I’d say I average about 100 per year. So… Narrowing it down to 60 favorites out of 500 isn’t too bad! Thank you again, everyone! Especially those who made it to the very end of this post… 😉

Now, as I feel really bad about putting The Warriors in second place after originally having it at number one, I’ll end this post with the ending of the movie. Seems appropriate. All our lives deserve appropriate songs that play over our end credits. Hmm. That sounded a little morbid. Sing it, Joe!

Actually, I want Morricone to score my real life end credits…

Artist Jordan Bolton Puts Objects From Studio Ghibli Films Into Movie Poster Form

It’s Studio Ghibli-related movie art so you know I have to post this… 🙂

I noticed an article about artist Jordan Bolton HERE at creators.vice.com because of my love of anything Studio Ghibli-related. You can see a couple more of his Ghibli object posters at my link to that article.

I then discovered that he’s done of bunch of these movie prop posters for a wide variety of films such as The Shawshank Redemption, Pulp Fiction, Her, and Breakfast At Tiffany’s. Very cool stuff! Bolton calls this series of movie prop posters Objects and you can see them (plus other great movie & music art) on his Tumblr and Etsy pages.

**I’ve managed to finally write my February Blind Spot review! See you tomorrow with my review of my February Blind Spot choice: Watership Down. 

My 2017 Blog Resolutions 

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you’re all having a good 2017 so far. (Okay – it’s the 10th of January. I’m done saying “Happy New Year”). 😉

Like most people, I’ve made my own personal resolutions for 2017. I won’t share those here but they’re my main priority. However, I don’t want to abandon my “online movie diary” completely so I’ve decided on some things I’ll focus on this year in order to keep this blog going. Here are my 2017 Blog Resolutions:

Keep It Short

I ramble on too much (probably because I’m not a writer & I suck with words!). This has kept me from reviewing a lot of the (79!) movies I watched at home last year. This year, I’ll keep any reviews of non-current, meh movies very brief.

One Or Two Posts A Week

Simple: I’ll do a minimum of one or two posts a week. Some weeks there will be more but I won’t stress if I only manage one. I’ll mainly post Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and/or Thursdays.

Blind Spot Movie Reviews

The one blog commitment I didn’t come to regret in 2016 was watching & reviewing the 12 Blind Spot Movies that I chose last January. This is one of my main blog resolutions that I plan to stick to again this year. I’ll be posting my 2017 Blind Spot Choices tomorrow.

Reviews Of New Releases

I’ll again do my best to at least review all the current movie releases that I go to see this year. I’m always pretty good about keeping on top of this so it’s my other main commitment along with doing Blind Spot reviews.

IMDB Top 250 Project

This has been almost entirely on hold for the past couple of years. I no longer want any guest reviews as some became too much of a headache. But I do, from the bottom of my heart, thank those of you who fulfilled your guest review commitments at least once. Sincerely. *Hugssssss!* I got a lot of excellent classics reviewed on my blog thanks to you guys (and it gave me the opportunity to be very lazy for over a year with a guaranteed weekly post I didn’t have to write). 😉 I’m now going to go back to doing this on my own but I’m in no rush. By now, I’ve watched the majority of the Top 250 films that I actually WANT to watch. So I’ll make my goal, hmm… To watch & review four IMDB Top 250 Movies this year. Think I can manage that!

Top Ten Lists

I’ll still do these but not on a regular basis. When I do, I’ll probably continue to post them on a Thursday.

Books & Reviews

I tend to read about one book per month & I kept on top of reviewing them all in 2016. I’ll continue to try to do this but I’ll make my book reviews very brief as well. 

Themed Weeks/Months

I enjoy doing themed weeks and/or months on my blog but I won’t commit to definitely doing any this year. If I’m in the mood & if I have the time, these are the ones I keep toying with:

Studio Ghibli Week: I already devoted all of January 2015 to Studio Ghibli but have since been working my way through the non-Miyazaki films as well. I’ve watched five already so I’ll review them all one week. Probably. I already started 2017 by watching Arrietty. 🙂

Akira Kurosawa Week: I keep putting this off as I don’t know how to go about reviewing these fantastic films (I’ve only watched three so far). But I’ve just bought myself a lovely blu-ray set of five of his samurai films (it was cheap!) so, maybe one week by the year 2021, I’ll actually review all the Kurosawa films that I’ve watched.

John Carpenter Week: Another thing I’ve been putting off for two years! I have, however, watched plenty of his movies in preparation. One of these weeks…. BAM! I’ll suddenly review them all. Maybe. We’ll see.

New York City Week: I’ve watched so many movies based in NYC in the past year & have saved them up to devote a week to reviewing them. 

Rocky Week: To kill two birds with one stone, I’m putting the IMDB Top 250 film Rocky on my Blind Spot list. But, as the hubby keeps telling me how good Creed was, I figure I better watch all the Rocky movies first, right?? Ugh. Are there seven? Well, I’ll try! I do have them all available so I might as well. Considering how much I ended up enjoying Clint Eastwood Week last year, I’m bizarrely looking forward to watching all the Rocky “guy” movies. I’m a weird chick…

Non-Disney, Non-Pixar, Non-Ghibli Animation Month: One thing I really want to focus on is watching more animated films that aren’t necessarily “kids’ films” (although some will be). I’m talking about things such as Ralph Bakshi movies & non-Ghibli Japanese anime. There are also some movies that I’ve been meaning to watch for years, such as Watership Down. I have quite a long list, however, so it’s likely that I’ll watch what I can this year but not review anything until 2018. Hmm… 2018 resolution?! I’ve not even had a chance to break all my 2017 ones yet!

Well. That’s it. So much for my “Keep It Short” resolution!!! There – I’ve broken one already… See you tomorrow with my Blind Spot Choices. 🙂

Studio Ghibli In Real Life – Video Brilliantly Edits Animation Into Reality

LOVE IT. Vimeo user DirectorDT has created a video with Studio Ghibli characters in front of real-life footage. You can read the article about it & watch the whole video here: IndieWire.

I’ll post the YouTube video but know they sometimes don’t work. This video is also missing some of the footage so watch it at the above link instead if you can. Enjoy! 🙂

A Separation (2011) IMDB Top 250 Review & The Films I’ve Watched So Far (Ranked!)

*This is a very short review so I’ve decided to also rank all 42 films I’ve watched so far for my Top 250 Project. Woohoo! 😉

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A Separation (2011) (Persian: جدایی نادر از سیمین‎ Jodaí-e Nadér az Simín, “The Separation of Nader and Simin”)

Directed by Asghar Farhadi

Starring: Leila Hatami, Peyman Moaadi, Shahab Hosseini, Sareh Bayat, Sarina Farhadi, Merila Zarei

Running time: 123 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
A Separation is a 2011 Iranian drama that focuses on an Iranian middle-class couple who separate, and the conflicts that arise when the husband hires a lower-class care giver for his elderly father, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.

My Very Quickie Opinion:

I watched this movie on August 9th, 2014. Whoops! Is it really taking me almost two years to get around to reviewing some of these Top 250 films?? Yikes. 

This is truly going to be a quickie “review” as I don’t remember this film very well (I had to read the full plot synopsis online just now to refresh my memory). This is a very good film, so I can see why it won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2012. It’s a drama with great performances from all involved but it just isn’t my type of thing. I rarely like realistic dramas. I watch movies for escapism, which is probably why a lot of my favorites are sci-fi or fantasy.

I remember thinking the two main actors (the separating husband & wife) were especially good & I felt for their situation, particularly the husband struggling with taking care of his father who has Alzheimer’s. I won’t give away the plot but something happens with the woman who is hired to take care of the husband’s father and that’s just one of several stories woven together. It’s good in that most people watching this will relate to at least one of the stories/characters: whether it’s dealing with an aging parent, marital problems, religious beliefs & customs, etc. I didn’t relate to it any more or any less than I do to American films dealing with the same sort of issues. The themes are universal so it’s certainly worth a watch if this genre is your sort of thing – don’t let it being a foreign language film or my “meh” review put you off. It’s a good, Oscar-worthy film. But it’s just not my favorite genre. Once again, my ratings are based more on personal enjoyment than “worthiness” – I’d rate this one more highly if I rated only on worthiness.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Well, watching A Separation got another Top 250 film crossed off my list & I did say at the start that some might not get lengthy reviews from me. I started this project (details HERE) on 01/01/2013 & my goal is to watch all the IMDB Top 250 movies that I hadn’t yet seen at that point (I’d already seen 100 – those 100 are the ones I’ve let guests review). So I’m very slowly working my way through the rest of that 2013 list. I’ve watched 42 of the remaining 150.

As this review was so short, I thought I’d rank the 42 films I’ve watched so far. Because I’m sad like that. 😉 It’s quite obvious that the ones I’ve loved the most are the Studio Ghibli & the Charlie Chaplin films. I’d already watched a couple of Ghibli films when I started this but I do have this project to thank for introducing me to Chaplin. 🙂

I did keep some Top 250 favorites of mine to be reviewed by me someday instead of guests – things like The Shawshank Redemption & WALL-E (which I did review) and the Star Wars original trilogy & The Princess Bride. This list is only ranking the films I’ve watched since starting this project, not the 100 I’d already seen in the past. Most of my all-time favorite films are in the Top 250 – I just struggle to write about the ones I really love so I haven’t reviewed many of those. How could a review of mine ever express just how awesome Aliens or The Princess Bride are?! 🙂

So here are My IMDB Top 250 Project Movies Watched So Far (Ranked From Least Favorite To Very Favorite): (and I rated them all, too! I need a life…)

42-31:

42. Mary And Max – watched 7/6/13 – Rating: 4/10

41. Slumdog Millionaire – watched 28/4/13 – Rating: 5/10

40. Life Of Pi – watched 15/1/13 – Rating: 6.5/10

39. Warrior – watched 22/8/15 – Rating: 6/10

38. A Separation – watched 9/8/14 – Rating: 6.5/10

37. On The Waterfront – watched 9/9/14 – Rating: 7/10

36. Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? – watched 24/3/13 – Rating: 7/10

35. Paths Of Glory – watched 22/8/15 – Rating: 6.5/10

34. Raging Bull – watched 29/9/13 – Rating: 7/10

33. Unforgiven – watched 17/8/14 – Rating: 6.5/10

32. Dog Day Afternoon – watched 18/1/13 – Rating: 7/10

31. Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid – watched 26/1/13 – Rating: 7/10

Top Thirty:

30. Anatomy Of A Murder – watched 2/8/15 – Rating: 7/10

29. Witness For The Prosecution – watched 12/1/13 – Rating: 7/10

28. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance – watched 9/9/14 – Rating: 7/10

27. A Fistful Of Dollars – watched 28/4/16 – Rating: 7/10

26. Sleuth – watched 5/2/13 – Rating: 7/10

25. City Of God – watched 18/1/14 – Rating: 8/10

24. Bicycle Thieves – watched 5/6/13 – Rating: 7.5/10

23. Rashômon – watched 16/8/14 – Rating: 7/10

22. Shadow Of A Doubt – watched 5/1/13 – Rating: 7/10

21. Notorious – watched 6/5/13 – Rating: 7.5/10

Top Twenty:

20. Sunset Boulevard – watched 7/11/15 – Rating: 7.5/10

19. For A Few Dollars More – watched 14/5/16 – Rating: 7.5/10

18. Rope – watched 4/1/13 – Rating: 7.5/10

17. Howl’s Moving Castle (Hauru no ugoku shiro) – watched 14/9/14 – Rating: 7/10

16. Ikiru – watched 1/1/16 – Rating: 7.5/10

15. Nosferatu (1922) – watched 14/7/13 – Rating: 7.5/10

14. M – watched 26/9/15 – Rating: 7.5/10

13. Once Upon A Time In The West – watched 02/07/13 – Rating: 8/10

12. Full Metal Jacket – watched 11/5/14 – Rating: 8/10

11. The Secret In Their Eyes – watched 23/3/13 – Rating: 8/10

Top Ten:

10. The Kid – watched 19/2/13 – Rating: 8.5/10

9. Grave Of The Fireflies (Hotaru no haka) – watched 1/1/15 – Rating: 8/10

8. The Good, The Bad And The Ugly – watched 16/2/16 – Rating: 8/10

7. The Great Escape – watched 28/10/13 – Rating: 8.5/10

6. The Bridge On The River Kwai – watched 23/6/13 – Rating: 9/10

5. Laputa: Castle In The Sky – watched 7/3/13 – Rating: 8/10

4. Princess Mononoke – watched 25/1/13 – Rating: 8.5/10

3. Modern Times – watched 1/1/13 – Rating: 9/10

2. City Lights – watched 15/2/13 – Rating: 9/10

1. Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind (Kaze no tani no Naushika) – watched 2/11/14 – Rating: 9/10

I highly recommend my Top Ten. No… I highly recommend 38 of these! There are so many true classics here. The bottom four don’t deserve a place in the Top 250 (but I only hated the bottom two – 39 & 40 are decent enough movies). I have to say that the top three are extra special to me & instantly became all-time favorites of mine. It’s sometimes a struggle to “force” myself to watch classic films such as these but I’m rarely disappointed when I do finally make the time for them. 🙂

Hayao Miyazaki art show features stunning illustrations of Studio Ghibli classics

The Sketchpad Gallery in San Francisco recently had an art show called Miyazaki Spirit, celebrating Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli films. Oh MAN I’d love to own some of this art! 🙂

You can check out more of the fabulous pieces from the show at The Verge.


My Top Ten Movies That Are 90 Minutes Or Less


Because sometimes, you like ’em short.

I’m sure we’ve all sometimes chosen what movie to watch based on whichever has the shortest running time. Life is busy and, for movie lovers, it isn’t always easy to find the time to devote to watching a film. And it seems that many of the most critically acclaimed films are at least two hours or more. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Well, luckily, there are some good ones to watch that don’t go to the lengths of Seven Samurai (which is an awesome movie that you really should watch when you have a spare three hours and 27 minutes). So, I’ve gathered some of my favorite cinematic quickies together in this list. And thanks to the hubby for this one as he’s the one who came up with the idea for the list (but, of course, I’ve done all the actual work. as always). 😉

While scouring IMDB for running times, it soon became apparent that certain types of films tend to be the ones that are always short. Loads of animated movies, especially older ones from Disney, are under 90 minutes. Then there are all the old, silent films. Finally, a lot of horror films are also short. So I’ve decided to create two Top Tens as there are way too many short animated films & it’s always hard to know where to put them within a list of non-animated films.

So first, here are My Top Ten Animated Movies That Are 90 Minutes Or Less:

10. The Jungle Book (1 hr 18 min)
9. Yellow Submarine (1 hr 30 min)
8. Heavy Metal (1 hr 26 min)
7. TIE: Sleeping Beauty (1 hr 15 min) & Beauty And The Beast (1 hr 24 min)
6. TIE: 101 Dalmatians (1 hr 19 min) & The AristoCats (1 hr 18 min)

5. The Last Unicorn (1 hr 24 min if I cheat & go by the British version’s running time, which is always shorter anyway due to frame rates per second or something like that) 😉

4. The Iron Giant (1 hr 26 min)

3. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1 hr 16 min)

2. Grave Of The Fireflies (1 hr 29 min)

1. TIE: My Neighbor Totoro (1 hr 26 min) & Toy Story (1 hr 21 min)

Now we have the list that more people will probably be interested in – here are My Top Ten Non-Animated Movies That Are 90 Minutes Or Less:

10. TIE: License To Drive (1 hr 28 min) & Before Sunset (1 hr 20 min)
9. The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari (1 hr 18 min)
8. Robot & Frank (1 hr 29 min)
7. Daft Punk’s Electroma (1 hr 14 min)
6. Videodrome (1 hr 27 min)

5. TIE: Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1 hr 30 min) & Freaks (1 hr 4 min)

4. This Is Spinal Tap (1 hr 22 min)

3. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1 hr 30 min)

2. TIE: City Lights (1 hr 27 min) & Modern Times (1 hr 27 min)

1. Stand By Me (1 hr 29 min)

Other Greats That You Can Watch In 90 Minutes Or Less:
I figured I’d list a lot – all of these are more short movies that I like as well. Use it for future reference if you’re short on time! 😉

Animated:
Corpse Bride (1 hr 17 min), Alice In Wonderland (1 hr 15 min), Lady & The Tramp (1 hr 16 min), Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs (1 hr 23 min), The Rescuers (1 hr 18 min), Cinderella (1 hr 14 min), Peter Pan (1 hr 17 min), Bambi (1 hr 10 min), Pinocchio (1 hr 28 min), Dumbo (1 hr 4 min), The Lion King (1 hr 29 min), South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut (1 hr 21 min), Ghost In The Shell (1 hr 23 min)

Non-Animated:
Airplane! (1 hr 28 min), Ladies And Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (1 hr 27 min), The Kid (1 hr 8 min), Brief Encounter (1 hr 26 min), Exit Through The Gift Shop (1 hr 27 min), Rubber (1 hr 22 min), The Wicker Man (1 hr 28 min), The Purge (1 hr 25 min), Rope (1 hr 20 min), Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle (1 hr 28 min), Office Space (1 hr 29 min), Hobo With A Shotgun (1 hr 26 min), Scrooge (1 hr 26 min), Attack The Block (1 hr 28 min), Primer (1 hr 17 min), Circle (1 hr 27 min)

Horror:
Night Of The Creeps (1 hr 28 min), Tucker & Dale Vs Evil (1 hr 29 min), Zombieland (1 hr 28 min), What We Do In The Shadows (1 hr 26 min)

Happy 3rd Blogiversary To Me

It’s my blogiversary! And I baked you all a cake!

Okay, I lie – I Googled “Studio Ghibli cake“. I couldn’t bake a cake to save my life. Also, my blogiversary was actually on Thanksgiving… Close enough! And I say this every year but I really can’t believe I’ve done this blogging thing for three years now.

As my blogiversary is so close to the end of the year, I always do a little recap of my year so far. The holiday season always gets very busy so I’ve been taking a bit of a break but, up until November, I kept up with my “post once a day every weekday” schedule fairly well. This is actually post number 995 for me so I’m finally almost to 1,000 overall. I haven’t yet reached 1,000 followers like I know a lot of you have recently but that’s also getting close (I currently have 980. Hi all!).

I was very happy to start the year out with Studio Ghibli Month in January. I only managed to review Grave Of The Fireflies plus all the Hayao Miyazaki-directed films (except The Wind Rises… I will do that eventually!) but I’ll still work my way through the remainder of the Ghibli movies at some point. You can find links to all my Ghibli reviews HERE.

The project I didn’t manage was to watch & review as many John Carpenter movies as I could throughout the year (you can see from My Top Ten John Carpenter Movies list that I hadn’t yet seen some popular ones). Well, I’ve only managed to watch TWO & review a whopping NONE. I can say that both of them will be added into that Top Ten: one very high (I’d put it at number three) and one very low, so it may not stay in there after I watch some more. Maaaaybe I’ll make another attempt at that project in 2016. Maybe. 😉

That leads me to the movies I’ve seen so far this year. You can see a very exciting list of EVERY SINGLE MOVIE I’ve seen in 2015, rated & ranked, HERE! Yeah, call me anal but it makes end-of-the-year lists very easy to put together. Here are my Top Five favorites I’ve seen at home & in the cinema so far:

Seen In The Cinema:

1. Mad Max: Fury Road – 9/10
2. Ex Machina – 8/10
3. It Follows – 8/10
4. Inside Out – 8.5/10
5. Suffragette – 8/10

Seen At Home:

1. Escape From New York – 8.5/10
2. Grave Of The Fireflies – 8/10
3. The Last Unicorn – 8/10
4. Escape From Alcatraz – 8/10
5. We Are The Best! – 8/10

I always like seeing which posts & pages get the most views. I don’t like how Worpress has changed Stats so that you can only see year by year instead of overall totals, which I’d find more interesting (maybe it’s different on a computer?). So above is a list of My Most Viewed Posts & Pages for 2015 only.

I’ve learned to accept the fact that my 2013 post of My Top Ten Shower & Bath Scenes In Movies will NEVER DIE. It’s always been & always will be number one. Thanks to the person who shared My Top Ten Body Horror Movies on Reddit (I know who you are! Thanks again! 🙂 ), that post gave me the most views I’ve ever had in a single day. I’m glad that my review for Mad Max: Fury Road has done well, since that movie RULES and that post isn’t pervy in any way. As always, a lot of the most-viewed are due to something pervy (Odd Thomas has a girl, Addison Timlin, in barely-there knickers and Spring Breakers of course has a photo of a topless girl). Believe me, I’m far happier when non-pervy posts get a lot of views. I still find it funny that so many people search for that gnome from Project X

I LOVE GNOMES!!!! I still want one just like that angry little dude. A “fuck you” gnome! Anyway – As you can see, that’s one of My Top Search Terms:

These search terms are the same as usual and, yes, “Mr Peabody & Sherman porn” pops up a lot. Seriously – what’s wrong with people?? Is there really such a thing?! I promise that is NOT on my blog (just a simple review of that crappy kids’ movie HERE). Lucy Deakins, from my review of The Great Outdoors, is always a popular search term (although I’m a bigger fan of her movie The Boy Who Could Fly). 

I knew exactly which posts were responsible for each of these search terms other than “Elyes Gabel shirtless” so I had to search my blog to find he was in World War Z. Sorry – I had no idea who he was & don’t have any photos of him without a shirt! I looked him up & saw that he was Rakharo in Game Of Thrones. Then, as there are approximately 132 characters in each episode of Game Of Thrones, I had to look up Rakharo (he was one of Daenerys Targaryen’s Dothraki “Bloodriders”). Okay, then – here he is with bare arms in Game Of Thrones:

Oh, yeah – I’ve also read a lot of books this year (for me) and even managed to review a few. Here they are! I’ll try to review a couple more of these before the end of the year. Maaaaaaybe.

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
Horns by Joe Hill
NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
The Martian by Andy Weir
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Revival by Stephen King
Florence & Giles by John Harding
The Gospel According To Drew Barrymore by Pippa Wright
The Shock Of The Fall by Nathan Filer
The Unlikely Pilgrimmage Of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Tank Girl by Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin
Tuf Voyaging by George R.R. Martin

Finally, thanks as always to everyone who stops by & “has a chat” with me in the comments. I love that! I didn’t really expect that when I started this blog but it’s the main reason why I still stick around. I’ve finally looked into these stats & see that they’re the top commenters based on the last 1,000 comments. It’s a weird way to do it & I wish WordPress would show more people but thanks to ALL of you, not just those below – everyone has popped up in these stats at some point. 🙂

Hopefully I’ll see you all next year for a 4th blogiversary celebration! Maybe I’ll bake a real cake next time. 🙂

Black And White Icons Inspired By Studio Ghibli Films

I saw these in the middle of October but was sticking to horror-only posts. It’s Studio Ghibli, though, so I had to share! 

These are from graphic designer HWAL & you can see the Studio Ghibli Icons Collection here: Behance. I want this below design as wallpaper! How awesome would a Ghibli bedroom be for a kid?! (Okay, or for me…) 😉

The Last Unicorn (1982) Review

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The Last Unicorn (1982)

Directed by Jules Bass & Arthur Rankin, Jr.

Based on The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

Starring: Alan Arkin, Jeff Bridges, Mia Farrow, Tammy Grimes, Robert Klein, Angela Lansbury, Christopher Lee, Keenan Wynn, Paul Frees, René Auberjonois

Running time: 84 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A brave unicorn and a magician fight an evil king who is obsessed with attempting to capture the world’s unicorns.

My Opinion:

As the parent of a young child but also a movie lover, I’m often on the lookout for kids’ films that I may actually enjoy as well. I’ve sat through enough crappy movies for kids that I think it’s okay to sometimes get to watch one that interests me as well. Right?! 😉 Enter the 1982 film The Last Unicorn which, apparently, is something of a cult classic, has a very high IMDB rating (for its age & the fact it’s animated) of 7.5/10, AND it’s from RANKIN/BASS plus the animators who went on to form STUDIO GHIBLI yet I’d somehow never even heard of it before?!? Holy shit – I was all over this thing when I read about it! It sounded like something that couldn’t be more ME!!! So we got the DVD & for about two months I said to the hubby & kid “Let’s watch The Last Unicorn!!!!” until they finally agreed (probably to shut me up).

Wow. The Last Unicorn is a strange one. I kind of sort of loved it. I can see that, if I’d watched it as a kid, it may now be as special to me as the Rankin/Bass classic Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. No, it’s not as good as Rudolph and it certainly doesn’t beat any of the Miyazaki Studio Ghibli films but there’s something kind of special & “magical” about it in the same way I feel there is about the Ghiblis. Hmm… How should I put this? This movie is so “1982” which, to me, is a great thing while to others it’ll be a bad thing. I’d only recommend this one to certain people who like things such as Studio Ghibli, Ralph Bakshi’s work, Heavy Metal (1981), The NeverEnding Story, and… maybe Labyrinth? I’m struggling to describe this but if you hate all the things I’ve listed, you should probably steer clear of The Last Unicorn. Oh – I’d also recommend it to any bronies! Bronies would love it.

I can’t really get into the plot too much and there are pictures I have to avoid posting that would contain massive spoilers. In the movie, a unicorn (voiced by Mia Farrow) discovers she’s the last unicorn in the world & goes on a journey to find out what happened to the others. She’s joined along the way by a magician called Schmendrick (voiced by Alan Arkin). Talk about an impressive voice cast, we also have Jeff Bridges as a prince, Angela Lansbury (always a favorite of mine) as a witch, and the amazing Christopher Lee who is of course perfect as the evil king who tries to capture all the unicorns in the world.

This movie has so many things that fantasy lovers will like: magic, wizards, witches, kings & princes, mythical creatures including a harpy and a rather scary, demonic Red Bull, talking butterfiles, etc etc. Oh yeah – and a unicorn! I have to say that, although unicorns have come to be seen as a “girl” thing, this movie is every bit as much for male viewers as for female – it’s not aimed just at one sex. In fact, when I mentioned this on Twitter, the response I got was from adult males saying how great this film is. I can see why it’s a cult classic – it’s very unusual and the animation is stunning. The story takes a very unexpected turn (the spoiler I’m avoiding) which I now love but took getting used to at first. It’s nice to not be able to predict what will happen like you can with most kids’ films!

As I mentioned, I found the animation stunning. I was happy just looking up images of this film to be included in this post. I think I may have to change my work computer’s wallpaper from My Neighbor Totoro to this!

Yeah, I’m a mature adult. Give me a break – I literally had a big poster of a unicorn jumping over a rainbow over my bed for years as a young girl. God I was girly for a while! Anyway, as I mentioned, the studio responsible for animating this film (Topcraft) were later hired by Hayao Miyazaki to do my other favorite Studio Ghibli movie (along with Totoro), Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind. The studio’s main members then formed Studio Ghibli. (Thanks for that info, Wikipedia!). Anyone who has been around here for a while will know what a big fan I am of Ghibli & how much I love Nausicaä so you can see why I had to see The Last Unicorn after I read about it.

My six-year-old’s opinion:

I’ve started including my daughter’s opinion on kids’ movies so that I don’t appear as some crazy old person rambling on about “cartoons”. So, I’ll include it again this time but I think it’s pretty obvious by now that this one was more for mommy. 😉 

We watched this a few months ago & the movie held her attention well but she’s not really mentioned it or asked to see it again. I asked last night what she thought of that Last Unicorn movie we watched & the reply was “It was better than I thought it would be!”. lol – What does that mean?! I think she was humoring me when she agreed to watch it, then. How sweet! I do think she’s a little too young for it as some of the themes at the end are too grown-up to fully be understood. There’s nothing I’d consider “inappropriate” but it’s a bit “out there” if your kid doesn’t like weirdness plus the Red Bull may be too scary for the very young who scare easily. I can see it being one she’d rediscover & possibly love in two or three years so I’d maybe recommend it to kids of 8 or so. She does love the young Studio Ghiblis, though, (Ponyo, Kiki’s Delivery Service & of course My Neighbor Totoro) so she was probably better able to handle any strangeness.

Summary:

Hopefully I’ve given a bit of an idea as to what this movie is like – I’m going to include a clip of the opening at the end of this post to give you a better idea. This is one of those movies I’m hoping to “introduce” to people here but it’s definitely not going to be loved by anyone who isn’t into this sort of thing or the other films I mentioned in the review. I also think being over 35 & under 10 would help. This is exactly the type of animated movie that obsessive film lovers my age who have young kids look for. I forgot to mention that this movie includes songs by America that are the very definition of late 70s/early 80s “easy listening”. If you like K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the Seventies, you may be able to handle this film. Or if you’re the type to get that reference.

My Rating: 8/10

**I’m including a clip of the opening of this film to give you an idea what it’s like. If you can’t make it past the song by America at 2 1/2 minutes in without gagging, this movie may not be for you… 😉

My Movie Picks For MovieRob & Silver Screen Serenade’s Cara

 
I recently won a quiz put together by MovieRob for Cara’s blogiversary bash over at Silver Screen Serenade (you can see the post & quiz HERE). Anyway, I correctly named a bunch of lesser known Star Wars characters (because I’m a nerd who goes to things like Secret Cinema’s The Empire Strikes Back). 😉 So my reward is choosing three movies for Cara & Rob to each watch. Here are my picks!:

  FOR CARA:

I e-mailed Cara a little list of about ten movies asking her if she’d seen any of them and was surprised that she’d only seen one. Cara is young and still has plenty of classic movies to see so it was much easier picking three for her than for movie-watching-machine Rob. I’d like Cara to watch:

  • The Terminator
  • One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
  • EITHER: Cinema Paradiso (original version, not the Director’s Cut) or City Lights

*Cara – I’ll let you choose whether you’re in the mood for a silent film or the Italian film my blog name is based on – I love them both! They both have two of the most amazing endings ever. But next quiz I win, you’re watching a Studio Ghibli. 😉

 FOR ROB:

Rob is very hard to choose a movie for because he’s seen everything worthwhile! He’s a movie-reviewing-maniac. So, Rob – I’m not doing this to be mean but you’re going to have to step out of your comfort zone and watch the very few movies on this planet that you possibly haven’t seen. 😉 I know you’re unlikely to like these but, every movie to your taste that I thought of, I checked your blog and you’ve seen it! So… I’d like Rob to watch:

  • A film directed by David Cronenberg that he’s not seen
  • Seven Samurai if he’s not seen it (Rob – as a Star Wars fan, you should really see some Kurosawa if you haven’t)
  • EITHER: One of the Jackass movies or Slither if not seen

*Rob – it has to be a movie you’ve not seen so, if you HAVE seen any of the above, let me know as I have a few alternatives. But you REALLY won’t like those… Lol. (For the record, I like all of the above)

There you go! Cara, I hope you enjoy my picks. And, Rob, I hope you don’t hate me. 😉

 
I’d just like to add that Kelli Maroney favorited my tweet yesterday about My Top Ten Drew Struzan Movie Art Pieces. Did you say “who”?! I forget you’re all only 20. Kelli Maroney from Fast Times At Ridgemont High & Chopping Mall & the AWESOME Night Of The Comet!!! 🙂 (I take every opportunity I can to mention the fact that she & Catherine Mary Stewart follow me on Twitter…) 😉

Thanks also to @videovangaurd @le0pard13 & @RobbinsRealm for retweeting it. Drew Struzan needs more recognition!  

A Galaxy Of Cute

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Aw! SO DAMN CUTE! This piece, entitled “A Galaxy Of Cute” is from artist Jerrod Maruyama. You can check out more of his adorable art (Star Wars as well as plenty of other things) at his website HERE.

I of course also love the below piece of art from him, called “Totoro Garden”. Plus he’s done loads of Disney & Pixar stuff! And lots of anthropomorphic food!!!! It’s like he’s making this stuff specifically for ME! 😉

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Miyazaki’s Movie Posters Make The Best GIFs

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Check out these great Studio Ghibli movie posters made into GIFs by reddit user podrickforking (podrickforking?? Lol). I’m sharing the two I like the most but you can also see what he’s done for Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Castle In The Sky, Porco Rosso & The Wind Rises HERE. 🙂

Spirited Away:

spirited away gif

Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind:

nausicaa gif

Grave Of The Fireflies (1988) Review

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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.

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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?!

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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.

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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.

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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

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Spirited Away (2001) Review

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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: 8.5/10

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Which Movie Should I Review Next – Poll Winners

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Thanks to everyone who voted in my poll asking which movie I should review next. Sorry – I was too sick last week to make a start on the winners but the top two are written now and ready to post tomorrow & Thursday. There were a lot that tied for third place so I’ll work my way through those next.

I’m happy to see that it turns out more of you like Studio Ghibli than I thought. Um… I’ve already done a bunch of those recently! 😉

13 votes:
Spirited Away

9 votes:
Grave Of The Fireflies

7 votes:
Attack The Block
Melancholia
Midnight In Paris
Miracle Mile
Primer (oh god. FYI – I really don’t understand this movie! Lol)

6 votes:
Blue Is The Warmest Color

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Oh! I have a load of books I’ve read & never reviewed either. Maybe I should do another poll. Hmm… Anyone want to hear about any of these?

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

The Good Guy by Dean Koontz

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

The Martian by Andy Weir

Revival by Stephen King

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Horns by Joe Hill

IMDB Top 250 Guest Reviews – More Films Available

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The following films are now available if anyone else would like to do a guest review for my IMDB Top 250 Challenge:

– Life Is Beautiful 1997 (chosen)
– Into the Wild 2007
– Gone With The Wind 1939 (chosen)
– The Elephant Man 1980 (chosen)
– The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King 2003
– The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 2001
– The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers 2002
– Cool Hand Luke 1967
– The Pianist 2002 (chosen)
– All About Eve 1950 (chosen)

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I love the above Spirited Away image from artist Lauren Ashy at DeviantART. Check out the rest of her stuff HERE. 🙂

What A Miyazaki Theme Park Might Look Like

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An artist named Takumi has created his vision of what ‘Tokyo Ghibli Land’ might look like. I’m already desperate to visit Tokyo someday but if this was a reality I’d be booking the flights right now! I especially love the Laputa: Castle In The Sky bit with the Laputan robots at the entrance and of course the My Neighbor Totoro “catbus” monorail. You can see the above image in more detail HERE. Love it!

I’ve not abandoned my Studio Ghibli Project (I was never going to be able to do it in just one month…). I’ll try to review the remaining films I’ve seen soon (Spirited Away, Grave Of The Fireflies & From Up On Poppy Hill) then I’ll work on watching the rest throughout the year. I’ve created a page HERE with links to all my Studio Ghibli reviews so far. 🙂

Porco Rosso (1992) Review

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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”.

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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”!

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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).

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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! 😉

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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.

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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

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Ponyo (2008) Review

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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.

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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.

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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?!

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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.

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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. 🙂

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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: 8/10

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Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) Review

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 🙂

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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.

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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

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CPD Classics: My Neighbor Totoro (1988) Review

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

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

Directed & Written by Hayao Miyazaki

Starring Voice Actors:
Chika Sakamoto
Noriko Hidaka
Hitoshi Takagi

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

Running time: 86 minutes

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

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My Opinion:

Version Watched: Japanese with English subtitles & English dubbed version

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

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

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

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

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

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Summary:

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

My Rating: 10/10

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

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Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) Review

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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: 7.5/10

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