Ringing Bell (1978)

Ringing Bell Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………….

Ringing Bell Movie Review

Ringing Bell is a 1978 anime film directed by Masami Hata. It is such an underappreciated, masterful move that is one of the finest animated films I’ve seen.

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Someone has to die so that someone else can live. That’s the law of nature

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Ringing Bell Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………….

The film is about Chirin who is an adventurous little lamb. After the wolf kills his mother, he goes after him and requests that he teach him how to become strong like him. He eventually becomes a very strong ram and the two live together and kill mercilessly, but when asked to kill the sheep in his home place, he struggles to do that and confronts the wolf. Yes, that is the plot here and, needless to say, it isn’t a children’s film despite it being categorized as such. It is not only very violent and mature, but also incredibly deep and sophisticated.

I admired its sophistication. The film shows us the wilderness in an extremely realistic manner. This is not your typical Disney animal feature. In fact, it can’t be more opposite to that. It shows you how life truly is for these animals and I loved how it makes a statement telling us that only the strong can survive in nature and the weak are destined to either death or a life full of fear and suffering. That is hard to accept, but truthful.

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Ringing Bell Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………….

But what took me entirely by surprise is the territory to which the movie went in its third act. I never expected it to go that dark and deep. Chirin basically becomes a wolf in his way of life and behavior. However, when he decides not to kill the sheep and confronts and kill the wolf, the other sheep won’t accept him back to the barn as they fear him and they don’t recognize him. He has become something entirely different – not a wolf, not a sheep. And that is the major theme in this film – you can change the inevitable and you can try to become someone you aren’t supposed to be, but that is not going to work out as you can’t fight against nature.

In Chirin we have someone who just doesn’t want to sit back and wait for his death and that is very relatable which is why he’s such a strong character. His journey from an innocent lamb to a strong ram and an almost mythical like creature is so well executed that it is believable and emotionally rewarding. Woe is such a great mentor in a typical anime fashion and I loved that he took his time deciding that he wants to teach him. That was much more realistic than I thought it would have been done. The relationship between the two is so strong and it is as if you are witnessing something truly unique, one of a kind and special unfold before your eyes. And the entire movie feels like that. I also liked Chirin’s mother and her death was of course devastating to watch.

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Ringing Bell Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………….

Ringing Bell is technically phenomenal and superbly animated. The animation here is simplistic, but still exceptional. The character design in particular was the highlight as all of the animals looked very real. The lambs looked sweet and innocent and the wolf and adult Chirin looked so powerful and majestic, not to mention menacing. The backgrounds are also nice and the film is very smooth and polished with some really striking imagery. There were a couple of sequences here that were just breathtaking and so commendable in their apparent artistry and sheer power.

The highlights for me were the death of Chirin’s mother which was very well done and of course that ending is so powerful. I loved the symbol of the ringing bell and that is a perfect title to this movie. That ending was so mystical and a perfect conclusion to this authentic movie. Woe’s death was also really powerful and every scene between those two was just phenomenal. You can easily see the admiration the wolf has for Chirin as he shows some real strength and perseverance and Chirin sees Woe as a father figure and that may seem odd, but was done really well here that it becomes understandable.

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Ringing Bell Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………….

Let’s talk more about those themes of Ringing Bell as I only touched upon them before. Overcoming your weakness is one theme very well explored here, but then you have the laws of nature and how unforgiving and cruel it truly is which is a great lesson for kids and I really would show this movie to children despite its awfully dark tone as it has a lot to teach them. Another great theme here is revenge and how it can destroy your life and overcome you to the point of an obsession. You have the loss of innocence and the turn from childhood to adulthood. And I loved its message about pain. It tells us that life is cruel and it can be quite awful, yes. But by surviving the more darker chapters of your life, you only become stronger which is best described here by ‘the fangs of your heart’. The film is just so deep and layered that it really took me by surprise.

The score is breathtaking! That theme song is just so good that I was just moved by it immensely. The score is awesome, the sound effects are great and that theme song is perfect with or without lyrics/singing. It is also a great showcase of the universality of this movie. It feels Japanese in some areas, but it mostly feels universal in that everyone can appreciate it, no matter the nationality. And that is something that most Japanese and American animated films fail to accomplish.

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Ringing Bell Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………….

Ringing Bell is tonally perfect, going from cute and innocent to dark and violent deftly. The action/fight sequences are so well realized and some of its images are unforgettable. It is thoroughly unpredictable and oh so authentic. The dialogue is amazing in that so much is said in so little lines. The emotion is powerful to the point of being overwhelming and truly I felt overpowered after I finished watching it. That is the effect only true masterpieces can accomplish and Ringing Bell is that masterpiece. It is one of the best animated films of all time and easily the most shamefully underappreciated.

Mature, dark and so honest and just real, breathtaking in its music and oh so unforgettable in its imagery, powerful in its characters and so deep and sophisticated in its themes, Ringing Bill is just fantastic in every aspect. It is a film that deals with the cruelty of nature, the dangers of anger and revenge, the need to overcome your given nature and weaknesses, grief and sorrow and the loss of innocence and it deals with all of those issues in the short running time of 47 minutes which is beyond impressive and achieved by using such powerful dialogue. Its characters are strong and mystical, the animation is phenomenal, the score is beautiful and the tone is admirable. It is one of the best animated films of all time and undoubtedly the most shamefully underappreciated. I was deeply affected by this movie and only true masterpieces can have such an effect on you and I am deeply saddened and frustrated that I live in the world where this film has been seen by just a handful of people.

My Rating – 5

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Down Beat Bear (1956)

Down Beat Bear ReviewDown Beat Bear Review

Down Beat Bear is a 1956 animated short that is the 102nd Tom and Jerry cartoon. It is such a traditional entry.

Yes, we’ve seen this kind of plot done countless times before and done better to be honest. The dancing bear escapes from the circus and there is a reward. He arrives to the duo’s house and Tom wants to call the police, but Jerry continually plays music and the bear dances with frustrated Tom. The stakes are very low here and the film feels repetitive.

But it is still a good film and to me pleasantly old-fashioned. Yes, it is typical, but this kind of scenario still works and the bear is a memorable character. The music is also really good and I liked the animation quite a bit. Tom is great here and I liked Jerry’s amusement at his frustration. It is an entertaining, if far from great entry.

Down Beat Bear is typical and repetitive, but pleasantly traditional and somewhat charming.

 My Rating – 4

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Los Olvidados (1950)

Los Olvidados Movie Review……………………………………………………………………..

Los Olvidados Movie Review

Los Olvidados is a 1950 Mexican crime film directed by Luis Bunuel. It is a very good and important film, but not without its flaws.

The film is a depiction of poverty and crime in the slums of Mexico City and it focuses on children in particular. I found its subject matter to be very important and it is a great history lesson as the film is realistic and depicts everything as it really was back in the day in Mexico. Also, this is one of the rare crime films that I actually enjoyed as the film isn’t violent and it is pretty engaging to watch.

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Just now you remember that I’m your son

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Los Olvidados Movie Review……………………………………………………………………..

Pedro’s character is a deeply tragic one. Everything about him is heartbreaking from his relationship with his mother to his reluctant involvement in a crime to his evident doom. His mother is also an interesting character and of course El Jaibo is despicable, but well depicted. The acting is also pretty good and all of the children gave quite stupendous performances for their age.

Los Olvidados is far from a great movie and now is the perfect time to pinpoint some of its obvious flaws. Let’s just say that this is the type of film that is great in substance, but lacks in style which is weird having in mind the director here is Luis Bunuel. But unfortunately the technical aspects are pretty mediocre and they significantly reduced the quality of this movie.

The cinematography is weak, there isn’t anything remotely memorable here in terms of the imagery and the directing from Luis Bunuel is also quite troublesome. I particularly fault his willingness to go into surrealist territory here. The film is realistic for the most part, but there are some scenes including that prolonged dream sequence that are surrealist in the director’s typical fashion. But the problem is that this movie did not need any of that and that just becomes a bit of a distraction. Those scenes felt like they belong in an entirely different movie.

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Los Olvidados Movie Review……………………………………………………………………..

But thankfully the editing in Los Olvidados is really good and the film is entertaining from beginning to end and its three act structure is well executed. The tone is suitably serious and mature and the dialogue is very good and grounded in reality. I would have liked a more emotional approach, but the movie still has its tragic tone. And I liked its almost documentary like approach as it is essential in painting this real and important issue. Overall, it isn’t great, but I still liked it a lot.

Los Olvidados is far from a great movie as the technical aspects are rather mediocre and Bunuel’s direction is troublesome as his inclusion of surrealist scenes was entirely unnecessary for this movie, but this is still an important and very realistic crime film with an engaging, well crafted plot, realistic characters, good acting and such a tragic ending.

My Rating – 4

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The Merry Dwarfs (1929)

The Merry Dwarfs ReviewThe Merry Dwarfs Review

 The Merry Dwarfs is a 1929 Disney short film in the Silly Symphony series. It is one of the weakest Silly Symphonies for sure.

There is little to enjoy in The Merry Dwarfs, a film that is representative of everything that was wrong with the earliest entries in the series – an overabundance of music and ugly character designs. And sure enough, the dwarfs’ look is rather unpleasant and the music is very annoying. The dance sequences here last for way too long and are just so repetitive and consist of basically the same movements repeated over and over again.

However, even the weakest Silly Symphonies are not bad and this one is no exception. The ending is pretty nice and the entire film has its charm. What is the best aspect in it has to be the animation (besides the character design) as the backgrounds in particular look simplistic, but very endearing and pleasant to look at. It is a somewhat charming and endearing film, but way too slight.

The Merry Dwarfs has its charm, but is way too repetitive, slight and weak otherwise.

 My Rating – 3

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Enter the Dragon (1973)

Enter the Dragon Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………………….

Enter the Dragon Movie Review

Enter the Dragon is a 1973 Hong Kong-American martial arts film directed by Robert Clouse and starring Bruce Lee, John Saxon and Jim Kelly. It is the quintessential, but far from great genre flick.

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Now, you must remember:

the enemy has only images and illusions behind which he hides his true motives.

Destroy the image and you will break the enemy

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Enter the Dragon Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………………….

I liked the plot here and most of all because it involved a martial arts tournament which I love. The story here isn’t particularly original and I’ve seen this countless times before, but it serves its purpose and the execution is quite good. The action is also memorable, the philosophy is solid and the entire third act is a rather great conclusion.

Bruce Lee is of course great here delivering such phenomenal action sequences. His character isn’t particularly likable, but he is the most memorable actor here. As for Roper, he is solid, but rather forgettable. And Williams is an archetypal blaxploitation character. I found the movie’s racism to be very funny, but still extremely ignorant and troublesome. But it is still admirable for having a diverse cast with the main three characters being white, Asian and black and that is certainly commendable for its time.

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Enter the Dragon Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………………….

Let’s talk about the action. Enter the Dragon benefits from an awesome fight at the end and that entire mirror sequence is excellent and I loved that he had to use the advice obtained at the beginning of the film in order to beat Han. However, everything that came before it is not that great. There wasn’t enough action before that last fight and all of the previous fights were forgettable. That is one of the reasons why I prefer more contemporary martial arts films to this one and why I find Enter the Dragon to be good, but frankly a bit overrated as it is far from great and it is just influential, but never perfect.

The film is very well filmed and the cinematography and scenery are both great. I loved the structure of the film and the characters are fine, but definitely forgettable and not particularly likable. The script is good, but not at all sophisticated which was a problem to me.

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Enter the Dragon Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………………….

The editing is really good and the film moves at a brisk, but not abrupt pace. It is entertaining and it is definitely engaging to watch. But it is rarely as exciting as I wished for it to have been. Again, that ending is great, but everything that came before was a bit forgettable. The score is solid as are the sound effects and the acting is serviceable. The dialogue is solid, but the tone is somewhat problematic as the film seems to be light at times, but rarely humorous. It should have either gone full light or full serious tone and it would have been much better. I liked the island imagery and I liked the fight choreography, but the film lacked in terms of the sophistication and detail as it is way too simplistic. And it is too much a product of its time with its drug/crime elements being overly abundant and sometimes the film reminded me too much of James Bond. All in all, Enter the Dragon is definitely a good film, but far from a truly great one and its impact is understandable, but overly exaggerated nonetheless.

Enter the Dragon has good action sequences with the last fight being excellent, that entire ending sequence is superb, the plot is solid and the film is very well made and quite entertaining, but it is still a bit overrated as the characters are rather forgettable, the film is too simplistic and some of its parts are very problematic. It’s a good film, but far from a great one.

My Rating – 4

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Fightin’ Pals (1940)

Fightin' Pals ReviewFightin’ Pals Review

 Fightin’ Pals is a 1940 animated short from Popeye the Sailor series. It is such a refreshing entry.

Yes, here we see for the first time Popeye and Bluto being friends. Not just working together, but as real friends. That was weird, but very interesting and different than usual. But it is mostly done for the better as the two are fighting pals as the title suggests meaning that they love each other, but fight constantly. That is such a great concept that even makes a new theory for their rivalry through the years.

But what isn’t great here is the pacing. This is just an awfully slow, mostly uneventful part and that was a bit annoying to be frank. The outdoor sequences in the forest were finely animated and atmospheric, but still prolonged. It succeeds due to these two, but it’s a shame that they only get two scenes, one in the beginning and one at the end.

Fightin’ Pals is slow, but it has an interesting newfound friendship between Bluto and Popeye and they are so great together.

 My Rating – 4

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The Cranes Are Flying (1957)

The Cranes Are Flying Movie Review………………………………………………………………………….

The Cranes Are Flying Movie Review

The Cranes Are Flying is a 1957 Russian war romance film directed by Mikhail Kalatozov and starring Tatiana Samoilova. It is a masterpiece of Russian cinema.

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Look! Look! The cranes are flying!

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The Cranes Are Flying Movie Review………………………………………………………………………….

It follows a young woman during WW2 and how she struggles when her boyfriend goes to war. This film manages to transcend its admittedly simple and predictable storyline with a perfect execution. Everything here is phenomenal, but what is the most admirable is how anti-war the picture is. I loved its critique of patriotism as well as war in general. The war here is portrayed as damaging to each and every person and that nothing good can come out of it.

That is why it succeeds as a great anti-war film, but also succeeds as a strong romance because this couple is so charming to watch and root for. The tragedy is evident from the beginning, but still deeply impactful. My favorite sequence has to be that ending which was just magnificent to behold. Veronika learns that Boris truly is dead when the soldiers return and the juxtaposition of her devastated face surrounded with joyous people happily reunited with their loved ones was just so powerful, brilliant and heartbreaking. But it then ends on a high and still optimistic note when she gives the flowers to the people around her and gazes upon the sky to see the titular cranes that are the symbol of their everlasting love so greatly established in the movie’s opening scene.

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The Cranes Are Flying Movie Review………………………………………………………………………….

The character development is very strong. Tatiana is such a phenomenal character and a very strong, admirable female protagonist for the time. Her coping with uncertainties over Boris’ fate was so well realized and I found her to not just be a helpless woman waiting for her man, but a strong woman who meanwhile worked at the hospital and never lost hope.

Boris is also really good, excellent for the little screen time that he got. The two are such a great couple which is important for the movie to work. Fyodor Ivanovich is very likable and of course Mark is despicable and I liked how they dealt with him in this movie. That entire subplot worked against all odds.

The Cranes Are Flying benefits from terrific acting across the board. Aleksey Batalov is really good and Vasili Merkuryev is excellent, but of course the standout is Tatiana Samoilova who didn’t start off as strong, but as the movie progressed, became better and better until delivering in spades during the third act. She is beautiful, charming and she managed to carry the entire movie on her shoulders which is so commendable.

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The Cranes Are Flying Movie Review………………………………………………………………………….

Another thing that makes The Cranes Are Flying a classic is its look. The movie is absolutely gorgeous to watch. The cinematography from Sergei Urusevsky is so strong that it manages to become the most memorable aspect of the entire film. The camera movements in the outdoor sequences are phenomenal, both regular and handheld. The imagery is superb and that crane scene is amazing and beautiful, both in the opening and ending.

The film is so polished not just in its cinematography, but also in the direction which is very strong, acting and of course editing. It is masterfully edited with each and every scene lasting for just the right amount of running time. The movie is never abrupt, never dragging and never dull. It is involving from start to finish owing to that superb editing.

The tone is great as it’s wonderfully lightweight and romantic at first and then serious and dark and still ending on a positive, moving note. That ending was heartbreaking, but wonderful and it almost made me cry how powerful it was. The movie isn’t original, but it is so fantastic in almost every way that I thoroughly enjoyed it despite me being somewhat tired of World War II movies. But when you have a movie done this well, you can’t help but appreciate it.

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The Cranes Are Flying Movie Review………………………………………………………………………….

The film is also realistic, it is well established in its characters and all of its plot points and some scenes are visually very intriguing including that supposed rape scene which is very authentic in its look. The dialogue I loved and I respect the movie for its great sentiment. The score is also quite good and the emotion is so strong that it starts to become overwhelming later on, positively so of course. The movie has that timeless quality to it and is just such an undisputed classic that is so far my favorite Russian film.

With deft editing, excellent direction, amazing cinematography from Sergey Urusevsky and such a strong performance from Tatiana Samoilova, The Cranes Are Flying is an undisputed Russian classic that is so moving, heartbreaking and powerful. It is a film that is perfect in almost every way, it succeeds as such a great anti-war film as well as a beautiful romance and it has such a breathtaking ending scene that almost made me cry. A masterpiece.

My Rating – 5

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Muscle Beach Tom (1956)

Muscle Beach Tom ReviewMuscle Beach Tom Review

Muscle Beach Tom is a 1956 animated short that is the 101st Tom and Jerry cartoon. It has some great gags, but is ultimately not as great.

Muscle Beach Tom benefits from some pretty good humor. The opening gag with the cats working out at the beach was phenomenal and visually brilliant. And some of the gags with Tom later on were also solid. I also really liked the plot here and, although stuffed with too many characters, I liked that it had a lot of different things happening in it.

But the problem continues to be the animation. I just don’t care for Cinemascope and here it definitely reduced the quality of the animation and it just looks odd to me. Also, the third act felt subpar when compared with the previous two acts and Tom and Jerry entries of this period continually struggle with focus and energy. This one definitely needed more of those two.

Muscle Beach Tom has some excellent gags and a fine use of all of its characters, but the animation is subpar as is the third act.

My Rating – 4

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Der Fuehrer’s Face (1943)

Der Fuehrer's Face Review

Der Fuehrer’s Face Review

Der Fuehrer’s Face is a 1943 Disney animated short that won an Oscar. It is a very good, famous film, but far from a great one.

Donald Duck has a nightmare in which he is working in Nazi Germany. Yes, this is a propaganda film and I have to say that I always tend to dislike propaganda pictures, no matter which side they take. And this was also troublesome, but I still really liked it as you can’t underestimate its quality and appeal. Donald is absolutely hysterical here as he always is, but he’s also relatable and you feel for the little fellow. His nervous breakdown was well realized and his various frustrated lines here were funny.

The film is quite funny for sure, but it’s also really well crafted with such a good three-act structure and excellent editing. The title song is so catchy and instantly recognizable and the sound effects are great. As for the animation, it is absolutely fantastic, bringing us some of Disney’s most artistic sensibilities as some sequences are quite inspired, especially the later ones. The character design is done in caricature excessively, but the overall animation is fluid and terrific. I had the problem with its ending in which he wakes up and is happy to be living in the USA, that was overly patriotic to my liking. But other than that and the film’s nature, it definitely is a respectable film that earned its status.

Der Fuehrer’s Face is a propaganda, but a propaganda done right with awesome animation, very good humor, a superb use of Donald Duck and a really well crafted plot.

My Rating – 4.3

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Animal House (1978)

Animal House Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………………….

Animal House Movie Review

Animal House is a 1978 comedy film directed by John Landis and starring John Belushi. It is one of the most overrated comedy films ever.

I just really disliked Animal House. There is nothing here to be worthy of its classic status. The plot is typical and the 80s had much better teen comedies than this. It is also way too long, clocking in at almost two hours which is just too long for a comedy film, especially this slight one.

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Dad! Mom, Dad, this is Larry Kroger.

The boy who molested me last month. We have to get married

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Animal House Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………………….

I was bored immensely by it. The humor is so weak. The entire film isn’t horrible as it is somewhat competently made, but the humor is its biggest problem and when a comedy fails to make you smile, let alone laugh, it fails as a film. This type of humor just further proves how mediocre the seventies were for the genre. It is a stupid anarchic comedy consisting solely of ridiculous dialogue that is never funny, stupid yelling and a lot of sexism to boot.

I’ve had a major problem with its representation of women which is just horrible. I don’t have a problem when comedies are sexist if they are funny, but this wasn’t funny at all. In fact, it was painfully unfunny which is why that was a problem to me.

The movie also seemed like a product of its time, but not in a good way. I really dislike this decade, always have and always will. And Animal House is representative of its worst tendencies, presenting people in an animalistic way and that I just wasn’t fond of. It is such an awfully dated movie.

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Animal House Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………………….

Needless to say, I found it to be incredibly overrated. In fact, it just might be more overrated than ‘Airplane!’ and that is really saying something! It is one of the least funny comedies I’ve seen, one of the dullest ones as well and it just goes to show that I don’t care for this period at all.

Animal House is such an awfully dated, plain unfunny and dull movie that has such a dated, really mediocre humor in it, unlikable characters and some of the worst tendencies of its very frustrating decade. It is undoubtedly one of the most overrated comedies of all time.

My Rating – 2

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