Ponyo (2008)

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Ponyo Movie Review

Ponyo is a 2008 fantasy family film directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It is one of Studio Ghibli’s most childlike films and one of their sweetest.

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Ponyo loves Sosuke!

I will be a human, too!

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Ponyo Movie Review

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Confession time – I did not care all too much about this film when I first saw it about five years ago. I thought it was a rip-off of a much better film ‘The Little Mermaid’. However, even though it is similar to that tale, it does have enough crucial differences that it can be said that it is inspired by it and certainly not a copy of it. Upon my second viewing, I find the film much better and it endeared me so much.

I liked that it’s a confined drama as much as it is a fantasy flick. I loved the beginning and the ending, but to me the highlights are the interactions between the two kids in the middle parts which could prove to be boring to some, but to me they stopped the story and they did it beautifully and I loved being in the moment with these kids and on this lovely small island. Some of the later scenes are actually more tedious to me than those in the house.

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Ponyo Movie Review

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Ponyo is just such a wonderful character – she is innocent, sweet, caring and always interested about the world and people around her. Sosuke is a good-natured, sweet boy who is actually the protagonist here and I found him incredibly endearing. As I said, their relationship is phenomenal and so well realized. I cared for both of them so much and just watching them together made my heart melt.

Lisa is just such a wonderful mother and a great role model for all mothers out there. She is a single parent in a way and she manages to do an amazing job with Sosuke. I loved how the two were friends as much as they were mother and son. Koichi as their father is also quite memorable if used sparingly and I adored the signaling scene which is so heartwarming.

Granmamare as this mythical creature-woman is the most fantastical and intriguing part of the film. Fujimoto as the villain of the story is not all that great. He has his moments and I absolutely loved his lair, but he was too weak a villain which is typical for children’s films. And I wouldn’t even call him a villain personally. As for the three grannies, I found their characters somewhat unnecessary, but they still brought quite a lot of charm and humor to the film.

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Ponyo Movie Review

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Ponyo is simply stunning in terms of animation. It is a modernized animation, but still a classic hand-drawn animation in style and approach and I loved that. It is a proof that underwater animation can be just as strong and just as beautiful as CGI. It is a very pleasing to look at, extremely colorful film with a great use of the color blue and especially red.

I loved the various memorable imagery here such as the underwater scenes, the overall island which is unforgettable and the house which is cozy and sweet. My only gripe is the character design. It is mostly excellent, but Ponyo looked weird as a fish and particularly odd as half-fish, half-human with those very unappealing chicken legs. I am definitely not a fan of that design.

So Ponyo is unoriginal in its story, but it does have its authentic quirks and turns. I thought that some of the scenes in the second half were not as interesting as the ones in the first half and the ending was kind of abrupt. The film is slow paced which I definitely enjoyed, but sometimes that approach came at the expense of the story.

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Ponyo Movie Review

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But even though it isn’t one of the studio’s strongest films, it also isn’t one of the weakest. It is so sweet and emotionally resonant that I think not a lot of people could possibly resist it. The voice acting is absolutely terrific on all fronts and the direction from Miyazaki is excellent, though his themes here are his typical themes. I found the pacing great and the dialogue quite good. The score is also very good as is the sound design.

Ponyo is such a charming, cozy and wonderfully endearing family film. It has its problems such as some of the character designs and the unoriginality of the plot, but still Miyazaki added enough quirks and interesting ideas to make it his own story. Ponyo and Sosuke are lovely  characters and their wonderful interactions are the highlights here. I also really enjoyed the slower pace as well as its simply gorgeous, detailed and colorful hand-drawn animation with a lot of memorable, beautiful imagery at display.

My Rating – 4

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The Old Man and the Sea (1999)

The Old Man and the Sea ReviewThe Old Man and the Sea Review

The Old Man and the Sea is a 1999 Russian Oscar winning animated short film that is good, but not great.

The film is very much a straightforward adaptation of this classic story and it doesn’t stray away too much from it which is fine. Of course the selling point here is its paint-on-glass animation which is simply gorgeous. It is so artistic, so beautiful in its colors and so masterfully shot thanks to some incredible camera work that it becomes a moving work of art. It’s as if paintings moved and there are literally hundreds of wallpaper-worthy images and moments here.

I liked how it adapted the and the twenty-minute runtime is almost perfect for this plot. The two characters are also quite solid. However, I strongly disliked the voice acting here. Not only is it not great and the mouth moves oddly and amateurishly but it is also entirely unnecessary for this type of film and the narration is particularly off-putting.

The Old Man and the Sea is foolishly narrated, but still a well adapted famous story fueled by astonishing, artistic and downright masterful animation.

My Rating – 4.1

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Doctor Who Season 15 (1977)

Doctor Who Season 15 Review

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Doctor Who Season 15 Review

The fifteenth season of Doctor Who is unfortunately one of the weakest so far with most of the serials being pretty subpar.

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Doctor, you are getting excited again

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Doctor Who Season 15 Review

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Horror of Fang Rock is easily the best of this bunch. It doesn’t have as good a second half, but the first one is phenomenal and it is a very intriguing in story and setting serial. And also in period as it is a historical piece. I loved the lighthouse and this story is very atmospheric in its approach.

The Invisible Enemy definitely has a pretty familiar, but solid premise which had the potential for greatness, but because the effects are subpar and the execution in dialogue and action is mostly lacking, it ended up being a lost potential.

Image of the Fendahl also starts off in an intriguing manner, but it ends up being rather weak and that is a problem most classic Doctor Who stories possessed. I liked the premise, but I wanted more action and overall more memorable plot and character moments.

The Sun Makers once again features a very good premise, but actually pretty bad execution. The Pluto storyline and the angle on the suns definitely are interesting, but the story is very boring, especially in its second half (again) and I just wish it was not as long.

Underworld is one of those typical Doctor Who stories of dying races and the Doctor’s great role in their history. It is thus very dull, forgettable and probably the weakest serial of this entire season.

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Doctor Who Season 15 Review

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The Invasion of Time definitely has its moments and the humor is sometimes solid, but also overwhelming (and that’s the problem of this whole season) and I just thought it plodded too much and six episodes were not needed for this rather simple Gallifrey storyline. We said goodbye to Leela here and that was abrupt and not as memorable as previous Doctor Who departures.

Overall, this season is one of the worst so far with some solid episodes, but most of the stories are rather weak and uninspired in both pacing and characterization. The Doctor is rather weak here as well and most of the stories are too boring.

 

Worst Serials: The Invisible Enemy and Underworld.

Best Serials: Horror of Fang Rock and The Sun Makers.

 

Worst Episodes: Underworld Part 2, Underworld Part 3 and Underworld Part 4.

Best Episodes: Horror of Fang Rock Part 1, Horror of Fang Rock Part 2 and The Sun Makers Part 1.

My Rating – 3.3

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The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)

The Quatermass Xperiment Movie Review

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The Quatermass Xperiment Movie Review

The Quatermass Xperiment is a 1955 British science fiction horror film directed by Val Guest and starring Brian Donlevy. It is solid, but disappointing.

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Nobody ever wins a cold war

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The Quatermass Xperiment Movie Review

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The storyline is not all that original. It features an astronaut who comes back on Earth infected with an alien form and he starts killing people and animals too. Now it is a pretty effective, interesting film for its time, but now after ‘Alien’ it is nowhere near as exciting.

This film should be analyzed in two different areas: science fiction and horror. First off, as a horror film it is actually very competent. Not only is its score exceptional and pretty menacing tonally, but it also adds a lot to the overall creepy atmosphere of the film. The film sounds and also looks really well and the filming technique of a documentary worked in its favor quite a bit.

It also contains a couple of really graphic, quite disturbing for its time scenes and thus it is easy to see why it actually killed a 9-year-old boy in 1955 in the theatre. To me the best scene is the zoo one which is quite horrific actually and definitely unexpectedly violent. And I have to say that I really liked the infected man as he reminded me pleasantly of the monster in ‘Frankenstein’. The scene with the girl also draws a similar parallel. The emotional connection is definitely strong here.

However, The Quatermass Xperiment fails as a science fiction film as it is just way too ridiculous in its story and particularly dialogue. I just could not take it seriously as a modern audience member. Some of the lines were silly and the film tried to be serious and realistic, but because the dialogue is so silly, it renders the entire film a blockbuster. And it was just never particularly fascinating in terms of storytelling.

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The Quatermass Xperiment Movie Review

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Brian Donlevy is definitely quite memorable as the main character who is very grumpy and overly harsh and I liked that he was different than most SF protagonists. The inclusion of humor is definitely odd, but some parts did make me chuckle nonetheless. So the film is well made and overall quite solid, just not as good as I expected.

The Quatermass Xperiment is a solid, but very flawed sci-fi horror flick. As a horror film, it succeeds. The atmosphere is creepy, the film is so well shot in interesting documentary-like fashion and the score is particularly menacing. A couple of scenes are quite horrific for its time. But it fails as a science fiction tale as the tone is odd, the story is somewhat standard and the dialogue is frequently quite silly.

My Rating – 3.5

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The Daffy Doc (1938)

The Daffy Doc ReviewThe Daffy Doc Review

The Daffy Doc is a 1938 animated short film from the Looney Tunes series. It is such a crazy cartoon.

Daffy Duck got his first whole film here finally. Certainly Porky Pig is there and he is great, but Daffy gets the majority of screen time and I am fine with that. More than fine as he is such a classic character and he has never been this good before. He plays a doctor here and gets Porky to be his patient. He tries to cut his stomach with a saw and the pig runs away.

Yes, that actually happened here. It is a very brutal, adult and incredibly crazy film as not only the duck but also the doctor turns out to be a lunatic in hilarious fashion. I thought the film ended somewhat abruptly plus that inflation gag went on for too long, but the saw scene was unforgettable as well as that “consultation” sequence which is very inventive and so funny.

The Daffy Doc is a very funny, properly loony cartoon with a great emphasis on Daffy Duck who is reliably crazy here in a couple of very inventive scenes.

My Rating – 4.3

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a 2017 epic space opera film directed by Rian Johnson and starring Daisy Ridley and Mark Hamill. It is one of the finest Star Wars films in my opinion.

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Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to.

That’s the only way to become what you are meant to be

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

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Yes, I have to say that, when all is said and done, this is probably my second favorite Star Wars film, just after the unbeatable ‘Empire Strikes Back’. It has its flaws which are actually quite big and I will talk about them all later, but what it does right, it does that remarkably well and we have to appreciate that finally we got a different Star Wars film. It is easy to see why non-fans would find this one better than hardcore fans though.

Let’s first talk about the plot. Yes, ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ is obviously the influence here when it comes to the overall template and the structure of the film. You have your action in the first and third act, but you get slow and moving, serious drama in the second act. That bothered me, but not too much as ‘Empire’ is my favorite SW film and thus I liked this story as well. And also this film does a lot of the things differently which is why it is such an obvious improvement over ‘The Force Awakens’ which was a much bigger and emptier rehash of ‘A New Hope’.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

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The first scene or two bored me with too much action, but I loved the action in the third act and I respected that this film had different, wilder and ultimately more realistic lightsaber duels. But of course the highlight is the entire island storyline with Luke and Rey. I loved it. It was serious, emotional, game-changing and very commendable indeed.

But I also liked the villains for the most part, Poe Dameron and Leia’s arc was also quite good and I ended up really enjoying Finn’s storyline. I do understand why some would object to it as it clearly is some sort of a detour, but it is a lovely detour with two charming characters and a wonderful adventure.

The film has a bunch of interesting themes and it explores them quite well. Not only the religious aspects with the force and the blurring of bad and good guys but also the whole new angle to this universe with a villain which doesn’t belong in any previously established fraction and Rey not having famous parents. Definitely this one changed the game for future entries in the franchise. But I also loved that it touched on some serious themes such as self-sacrifice, honor, cowardice during war, war profiting and even animal cruelty. A very sophisticated script this it.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

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Let’s talk about each character and there is a lot to talk about in this section. Let’s start with Rey. She is definitely less powerful in this entry and whereas she was too strong before, she is now almost too weak and static. But I still ended up loving her story as well as her interesting and weird relationship with Kylo Ren.

Luke is excellent. Whereas Daisy Ridley’s performance was uneven (often weak, but also often very strong), Mark Hamill delivered his best performance yet as Luke Skywalker and this is his defining moment as a character who was very bland before, but is terrific and very complex here. I loved his last scene – quite poetic in its nature.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

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Leia should have been funnier, but she is as elegant and as wonderful as usual and Carrie Fisher gave her last performance here and at least she did wonderfully and was quite likable. Captain Phasma is much more memorable this time around and I loved her fight. Admiral Holdo was excellent and her death definitely left a big impression on me. A very powerful scene.

DJ is entirely forgettable and unnecessary here. The same should be said for the old guard of cutesy characters as C-3PO and Chewbacca are entirely unnecessary here. But I loved that Yoda appeared as he is my favorite Star Wars character and he was wonderful here. BB8 is forgettable, but those Porgs are much better than I expected them to be and I loved the use of practical effects on them.

Poe Dameron is okay, but still too cocky for me. As for Finn and Rose, as I said above, I really enjoyed their separate storyline and I bought them as a couple. They are wonderful together and so much fun. She is particularly strong and such a great new addition to this roster of characters. I loved her backstory and I just found her personality very appealing – she is heroic, but also grounded in reality and highly endearing.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

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Let’s get to the bad stuff now. What they did to Snoke infuriated me. But that is because he was such a perfect Star Wars villain here – incredibly strong, menacing, powerful and with another amazing performance from Andy Serkis and stunning VFX work. He is an undeniable force to be reckoned with and the fact that they threw that away was just unfortunate. That entire scene was a giant plot contrivance. And he remained too much of a mystery. I still do not care all too much for Kylo Ren. I get his complex character and intentions and his scenes with Rey were all stellar, but as a villain he actually bores me and that is why I am not too excited for the ninth movie which is too unfortunate as this one is pretty terrific. Adam Driver is simply phenomenal in the role though.

The Last Jedi is technically terrific. It isn’t too long as its story is excellent and very involving. I loved the slower pace and more sophisticated approach at storytelling and I also loved the dialogue. The score is just a rehash from previous SW scores, but the special effects are amazing and the use of locations and practical effects really added a lot to the viewing experience.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

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The acting is mostly very good and the humor is not too present, but surprisingly fantastic. General Hux is very funny and there are a lot of great lines here that honestly made me laugh quite a lot. But the tone is still pretty well handled and just right. And of course the direction from Rian Johnson is stellar and I do hope that he directs the next film and not J. J. Abrams as he did an infinitely better job.

With excellent action scenes, but most importantly a different approach with more sophisticated, moving and even authentic drama instead of just pure spectacle, The Last Jedi truly delivers. The film’s structure is familiar and the villain contrivance was just unfortunate and thus I ended up not being too excited for the next chapter, but most of the characters got their moment to shine and the highlights include Luke who got his best story yet, Snoke who is very menacing and Rose who is highly endearing. The use of intriguing locations and excellent practical effects added a lot of visual flair to the film whereas unexpectedly strong humor, great dialogue, clever themes and strong emotion all led to what is in my opinion the second best Star Wars film.

My Rating – 4.5

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The Night Watchman (1938)

The Night Watchman ReviewThe Night Watchman Review

The Night Watchman is a 1938 animated short film from the Merry Melodies series. It is a typical short.

This short is typical for Disney but for Warner Bros. it is just derivative and it doesn’t suit their style at all. And I still do not understand why they constantly had the need to make Disney-like cartoons when their own, brand original approach is just as good as Disney’s formula and maybe even better.

Here a rodent watchman has to leave the job and thus he leaves his son to watch over while he is gone. Then the gang of bad guys appear and start tormenting the little guy. It is a serviceable film which is actually very sweetly animated and cuddly, endearing and overall pretty solid, but nothing too original and certainly lacking memorable scenes or gags.

The Night Watchman is cute and endearing, but uninspired in plot and approach.

My Rating – 3.4

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Pather Panchali (1955)

Pather Panchali Movie Review

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Pather Panchali Movie Review

Pather Panchali is a Bengali drama film directed by Satyajit Ray. It is regularly cited as one of the best films of all time. In my opinion, it is quite good, but far from great.

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Can’t an old woman have wishes too?

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Pather Panchali Movie Review

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The film basically depicts the harsh village life of one Bengali poor family during the 1910s. So the movie is definitely an important viewing for those unfamiliar with Third World suffering. I was familiar, but I certainly needed a reminder and the movie did that job really well. It succeeds as a very strong, moving drama that should prove relatable to anyone living in poor conditions or in a small village.

The characterization is solid, but definitely not great. That is fine as the film relied on storytelling and atmosphere more, but I still wanted more memorable characters. Harihar should have received more screen time, Sarbajaya is memorable as well as Durga but Apu is entirely underutilized and forgettable as the protagonist. Indir as this very old aunt is the highlight as her suffering is the most heartbreaking in the movie.

Pather Panchali is technically effective. Satyajit Ray’s direction is definitely superb, especially for a first-time director. It is confident and he showed evident talent for storytelling and social commentary. The same goes for the acting. These are for the most part amateur actors but you don’t see that as everybody did a really good job in their roles which is commendable. They also seemed like real people.

It is also gorgeously shot and scored. I loved its cinematography and the imagery of their village, the dilapidated houses as well as the forest was excellent and it transported you to its time period and setting remarkably well. The score is also fittingly Indian and classical in its tone with the use of more instruments than one which added some variety to the whole experience.

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Pather Panchali Movie Review

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Pather Panchali is in my opinion overly slow and that is its biggest detractor. Some of the final scenes tended to veer too much into melodrama, but overall the emotional connection was there and the film succeeded in terms of plot and characterization. But it is just too slow, especially in some of its middle parts and those dragged the entire film unfortunately. It needed more drama and momentum.

Pather Panchali is overly slow, especially in its middle parts, and thus it is not fantastic in my opinion. But still it is a moving, important look at Indian poverty with some quite heartbreaking moments, very good acting, confident direction and particularly effective cinematography and score which transport you to its time period and setting remarkably well.

My Rating – 4

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Fishin’ Around (1931)

Fishin' Around ReviewFishin’ Around Review

Fishin’ Around is a 1931 Mickey Mouse cartoon. It is such a solid entry.

Mickey and Pluto are on a lake fishing. The sign clearly says “no fishing” but the two completely ignore it. They do not manage to get any fish as the fish here are so clever that they play pranks on the two, but they still manage to escape the man who chases them for fishing in his lake.

This cartoon is unfortunately never as funny as it clearly should have been given the awesome, promising premise. And Mickey is sadly not as present as Pluto is. But Pluto is so funny in his yelps and some gags really worked, though none of it was too original or clever. I still found the film very enjoyable and entertaining. Also the score is fine and the animation is quite solid for its time.

Fishin’ Around is not hilarious, but it is perfectly solid in its premise and execution with a great emphasis on Pluto.

My Rating – 3.5

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Victor/Victoria (1982)

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Victor/Victoria Movie Review

Victor/Victoria is a 1982 musical comedy film directed by Blake Edwards and starring Julie Andrews and Robert Preston. It is a wonderful film.

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Oh, God…

there’s nothing more inconvenient

than an old queen with a head cold

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Victor/Victoria Movie Review

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It is about a jobless singer during the 1930s who gets pressured by her gay friend to develop a new persona. She will be a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman. Needless to say, this story is very original, exciting and just a lot of fun while also containing very sharp social commentary in it.

The film showcases homophobia during the thirties but it above all else showcases sexism and how for women it was even more difficult in a way than for gay men living in this period. When Victoria says that living as a man liberated here, you believe her and that moment truly is the most powerful in the entire film.

But Victor/Victoria handles those themes subtly and stupendously without ever getting in the way of its humor and the humor is terrific. The film features such a great mix of old-fashioned slapstick comedy and more insightful humor such as clever dialogue and back and forth between the characters. Both work to the fullest extent and some of the highlights are the restaurant scene as well as all of the romantic scenes between Victoria and Marchand.

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Victor/Victoria Movie Review

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The film is also a musical and even though it is better as a comedy, it is still quite good as a musical as it features fittingly retro musical numbers that transport you to its wonderful time period really well.

Gay Paree is amusing and, well, gay. The Shady Dame from Seville is repeated throughout and that was a great choice as it is the most catchy and infectiously exuberant number in the film. You and Me is also solid and the other songs serve their purpose, but are somewhat forgettable. But still this soundtrack is pretty good and the score itself is excellent.

The casting is the film’s only and unfortunately big problem. Andrews, Garner and Preston are all magnificent in their roles, there is no doubt about that. But I just never bought any of them in their roles. Garner is not manly enough for the role, Preston isn’t gay enough and Andrews isn’t androgynous at all. And because these three are the most important, essential characters, the fact that I never bought them in their roles was troubling.

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Victor/Victoria Movie Review

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But the acting remains fantastic. Lesley Ann Warren is suitably over-the-top and frequently hilarious as ditzy Norma Cassidy, James Garner is charming as Marchand and Robert Preston is sweet and subtle as Toddy. Julie Andrews definitely steals the show from all of them and deservedly was Oscar nominated. If it wasn’t for Meryl Streep in ‘Sophie’s Choice’, she would have won. She is radiant, beautiful and always wonderful and charming as the protagonist of the film and I simply loved her here. An elegant actress in an elegant role.

Victor/Victoria is a consistently entertaining film which is never rushed and never prolonged. It lasts for just the right runtime and always delivers. I loved its very clever dialogue and couple that with terrific acting and fitting music at display and you’ve got a wonderful homage to the best era in filmmaking. It is also superbly directed by Blake Edwards.

Very insightful in its social commentary but never forgetting to be funny and it truly is hilarious, Victor/Victoria also has fittingly retro, solid soundtrack and it thus succeeds as a phenomenal musical comedy set in wonderful 1930s. The casting is pretty bad, but still everyone did a great job – Lesley Ann Warren is hilarious, James Garner is charming, Robert Preston is likable and Julie Andrews steals the show in a powerhouse performance playing wonderful, elegant and charming Victoria. The movie fires on all cylinders and I’ve had a blast watching it.

My Rating – 4.5

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