The Wind Rises (2013)

The Wind Rises Movie Review

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The Wind Rises Movie Review

The Wind Rises is a 2013 historical romance anime film directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It is one of Studio Ghibli’s worst films.

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Airplanes are beautiful, cursed dreams,

waiting for the sky to swallow them up

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The Wind Rises Movie Review

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Yes, this one is pretty weak for the studio’s standards. When I first watched it, I thought it was solid, but now upon second viewing, I find it only okay and nothing more than that. The film is about a plane designer during the thirties and WWII and the fact that this movie is a failure overall is honestly pretty baffling to me on two fronts.

Firstly, you would think that for a director who is literally obsessed with aircraft and flight that he would at least make one great movie during his career in regard to that subject matter. But as evidenced by this film and also ‘Porco Rosso’, he never managed to make use of his greatest hobby and turn it into an all-time classic which is a shame and a puzzle to me. But maybe that is exactly why this film failed because it has too many of those airplane details that are nowhere near as interesting to us than they are to Miyazaki himself. The mechanics of flight bored me here.

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The Wind Rises Movie Review

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And secondly and more importantly, I cannot understand how he did not utilize on this particularly effective premise. You’ve got a guy whose dream is to make aircraft and he ends up making them for war purposes and the movie could have given us his personal dilemma and the struggle between art and profit/bad usage and the question of whether or not he did the right thing. But the film never gave us any of that and what we got are instead are endless boring conversations, overly detailed plane descriptions and too many dream sequences.

The character development is pretty weak. Jiro is pretty bland for a protagonist and not particularly interesting or likable. But Nahoko I definitely liked quite a bit. She is charming and very likable. The relationship between the two is actually the strongest point of this film and whenever it centered on romance, the movie was charming and pretty good. But as a historical or war drama, it failed on multiple levels. The other characters are all forgettable, but the voice acting is certainly very good.

The Wind Rises is gorgeously animated, there is absolutely no denying that fact. This is actually one of the best animated Ghibli films in quite a while as its animation is frequently breathtaking, very detailed, consistently polished and beautiful to watch plus above all else it is colorful and very pleasing to the eye. The clothes, the sky, the planes, the flights and especially the various imagery on that hill and some interiors are all lovely to behold.

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The Wind Rises Movie Review

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This film is extremely boring. I have to be honest and say that. Not only does it last for two hours, but it is also extremely slow paced and uneventful with not too interesting conversations and a very standard historical storyline that doesn’t delve deeply enough into its themes. That is why the film bored me tremendously and it is actually one of the dullest animated films that I have ever watched.

The Wind Rises has simply breathtaking animation with frequently gorgeous imagery and the romance is quite appealing. However, everything else is either standard or mediocre historical period piece. The film features a very intriguing premise, but it never delves deeper into its themes as the characters are bland and the conversations are mostly uninteresting. It is one of the worst Studio Ghibli films and frankly one of the most overrated and dullest animated films that I have ever seen.

My Rating – 3

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Movie Review

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars Movie Review

Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a 2008 animated sci-fi action film which is the only animated entry in the franchise. It is also the weakest one.

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Master Kenobi, always chasing after Skywalker. How predictable.

Anakin leaves quite a mess, which always leads me to you, Ventress

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars Movie Review

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I really did not care for this film although I have to say that it is far from the levels of worst proclaimed by most critics and audiences. Certainly it is mediocre, but never truly bad and of course far from horrible. But still it remains the weakest Star Wars film right in the alley of ‘Attack of the Clones’.

So it follows Anakin who gets himself a Padawan named Ahsoka. The two must help Jabba the Hutt’s son in the ongoing titular war. So let’s first state those rare positives here. I liked the interactions between Ahsoka and Anakin even though they are boring. And I really liked the villain Asajj Ventress. She is badass, powerful and all the lightsaber duels with her were the highlights of the film.

But the rest of the action is entirely forgettable and not to mention overwhelming. The movie is frenetic in pacing and filled with action scene after action scene to the point where it became very exhausting and incredibly dull to watch.

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars Movie Review

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Obi-Wan is okay, but Anakin’s story here does not match the rest of the prequels and he is portrayed as overly good and thus this entire film is one big, sugar-coated lie. Count Dooku is very good, but Yoda and Mace Windu as well as all of the others are underutilized. But I liked Jabba’s son and he was endearing. As for Ahsoka, I do realize that she is an important character, but here she came off as rather unappealing, dull and just your regular, boring protagonist with no personality whatsoever.

The voice acting here is quite weak. I have to commend the actors on doing the voices that are so similar to the actual actors from the prequel trilogy, but still the performances lack any emotion to them and are so flat.

And that brings me to the movie’s worst aspect – its animation. Wow, does this film look bad. Certainly the backgrounds are okay, but the character design and the animation of the humans is simply horrible as they look like robots and they move and talk in such a robot-like, puppet manner that threw me off completely. Rarely have I seen worse animation than this one.

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars Movie Review

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So The Clone Wars not horrible, but the dialogue is overly simplistic, the script is pretty weak and the overall film is of TV quality which is obvious as these act as four initial episodes of a future show. It shows and they made a mistake for putting it in the theaters.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars has a very good villain and some memorable action sequences, but most of the action is still boring and highly overwhelming. The script is quite weak, the characterization is slight and the dialogue is rather simplistic. But its worst offender is its animation which is okay in backgrounds, but absolutely horrible in humans who look and act like robots. It isn’t a terrible film, but it is very mediocre.

My Rating – 2.5

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Loving Vincent (2017)

Loving Vincent Movie Review

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Loving Vincent Movie Review

Loving Vincent is a 2017 animated biopic directed by Hugh Welchman and Dorota Kobiela. It is a solid, but far from great effort.

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Days seem like weeks to me.

Days are weeks

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Loving Vincent Movie Review

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The film is about the life and mostly death of Vincent van Gogh. It is presented as an examination/investigation sort of movie with a lot of flashbacks. I liked that structure and the flashbacks were the highlights here for me. However, the film is very limited in its scope. It not only is very concerned about his death, but not enough about his actual life and especially art. The art element is thoroughly lacking here and they needed to put more of that into the film.

Another problem the film has is its uninvolving nature. It is honestly a somewhat boring film which is not particularly engaging or easy to get lost in and is not overly suited for those not interested in the subject matter. The entire storyline is also very standard and although definitely solid and far from bad, it is also far from great and not only uninteresting, but also not particularly original, deep or memorable.

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Loving Vincent Movie Review

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Loving Vincent is worth seeing just for the animation alone and honestly that is its only selling point. But it is definitely brilliant in that regard. It is the first ever oil painted animated feature and also the first ever entirely painted animated film and in that way it is definitely groundbreaking, audacious and to be respected.

The film is influenced by the works of van Gogh obviously and although I am not a fan of his paintings, I really liked the animation here. Certainly the movements make the colors blurry, but witnessing the paintings beginning to move is truly a transcendent experience unlike any other in animation. The colors are excellent and the film is very atmospheric and it transports you into its time period and his works remarkably well.

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Loving Vincent Movie Review

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It is a very artistic film, but honestly those black and white sequences I liked even more as they are very noir-like in style, moody and polished. Those were the highlights for me in terms of both animation and story. But the characters are forgettable and the voice acting is nothing to write home about and it took me out of the movie at times. It is not a long film, but it is definitely pretty dull and thus far from best when it comes to 2017 animation.

Loving Vincent features stunning, artistic and groundbreaking fully painted animation that should be appreciated how difficult it was to put on film. Watching the film is like witnessing the paintings move which truly makes it a unique experience plus those black and white scenes were even more interesting to me both plotwise and visually. But the storyline, although serviceable, is very typical and not particularly engaging, the voice acting is far from great and the film is too narrow in its scope and too slow paced to be enjoyed more.

My Rating – 3.5

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From Up on Poppy Hill (2011)

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From Up on Poppy Hill Movie Review

From Up on Poppy Hill is a 2011 anime drama film which is Studio Ghibli’s 17th film. It is directed by Goro Miyazaki and it’s definitely one of their weakest outings.

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There’s no future for people who worship the future,

and forget the past

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From Up on Poppy Hill Movie Review

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Now we have the flaw and the boarding house storyline here. That is one story. The other one is familial drama about rediscovery and ancestry. To me both did not work honestly. So let’s first talk about the former. It is overly Japanese and by that I mean that it is a historical drama which does not give you enough context and I myself am not acquainted with the boarding houses and that part of Japanese history and I was thus lost in this story and plus not all too interested too.

As for the familial drama, it is moving and sweet for sure. However, there is no denying that From Up on Poppy Hill is basically one giant Japanese soap opera. Certainly a Ghibli soap opera is better and smarter than other soap operas, but at its core it remains a soap opera and those I dislike tremendously which is why I had a huge problem with this story.

The first twist was typical and the second twist was more interesting, but it brought us back to where we started off. And the whole intertwined family history and discoveries of their ancestry were just way too soapy for my personal taste.

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From Up on Poppy Hill Movie Review

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I also did not care all too much for these characters. I have to be honest – none of them were interesting to me. The adults are all basically just plot devices and rarely anything more than that. As for Umi and Shun, they are endearing and certainly a lovely couple, but that “will they, won’t they” as well as “are they related or not” drama ruined their otherwise sweet relationship. The voice acting is admittedly terrific and pretty resonant, but the characters themselves leave a lot to be desired.

If there is one thing From Up on Poppy Hill does so right is its animation which is to be expected from the caliber of the studio. I loved it. The attention to detail is overwhelming and does it recreates its 60s period so well, I really liked how polished it looked and the highlights include the sea scenes, the houses and mostly the boarding house which looked splendid and filled with a lot of detail.

Another aspect which resonates strongly here is of course the score. It is absolutely lovely and actually quite different than most other Ghibli scores as it feels tonally and stylistically different and unique and thus I appreciated it even more. The theme that repeats throughout the entire runtime is gorgeous and so charming.

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From Up on Poppy Hill Movie Review

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The film is sweet at times and emotionally resonant, but not fulfilling owing to its soapy drama. The dialogue is as good as it can be, but the script is just very weak and troublesome and I cannot imagine how anyone could have this movie in their favorites when it comes to Studio Ghibli. It is in my opinion their worst film of all time which is not to say it is bad as they have never made a bad film, but it is just only okay and nothing more than that which is super disappointing.

From Up on Poppy Hill is beautifully scored and gorgeously animated, but every Studio Ghibli film has amazing animation and score and that is to be expected from their caliber. But other than those great aspects and a couple of moving scenes, this film is easily their worst with uninteresting characters and a story which is simply a giant, implausible soap opera and unfortunately never anything more than that.

My Rating – 3

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Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Sleeping Beauty Movie Review

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Sleeping Beauty Movie Review

Sleeping Beauty is a 1959 animated musical fantasy film which is Disney’s 16th feature film and certainly one of their very best. It’s such a classic.

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Now,  father, you’re living in the past.

This is the 14th century!

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Sleeping Beauty Movie Review

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This fairy tale is actually incredibly dark and thus the movie is also pretty dark, but much milder than the original tale and thankfully so. It is an updated, modernized and frankly much better version of the story. Again Disney made the ultimate film from this story and thus made it their own.

It was a risky, somewhat odd fairy tale to film and thus I hugely appreciate the filmmakers for managing to craft it so well and make a coherent feature film out of it. For a film where most of the characters spend sleeping, it is rather involving and intriguing to watch and that sleeping, dreamlike state is beautifully conveyed thanks to an awesome atmosphere, wonderful score and stellar animation but more on those later.

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Sleeping Beauty Movie Review

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The film is definitely childlike in its first half, especially with the fairies, but is very dark, atmospheric and mature in its second half and I loved that shift in tone and it was very well handled. Both halves are excellent and both achieved what they set out to do.

As for the characters, many argue that Aurora is a weak character, but as a princess who is only in a movie for just about 18 minutes, I honestly can’t blame her and I think that she is actually pretty well developed for little screen time that she received. She is beautiful, wonderfully animated and, for such a short time she is in the film, you manage to see why everybody would love her so much. I do realize why nowadays feminists criticize her and yes, she did fall in love with a man she did not know. However, she clearly objected to being betrothed and that progressive side of her should not be forgotten.

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Sleeping Beauty Movie Review

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Aurora is more of a plot device than an actual character and there is nothing wrong with that and that choice paid off and worked really well for the film. But when you really think about it, the fairies are the protagonists of this film. They are the ultimate Disney fairies and some of the best sidekicks of all time.

They transcend the role of the sidekick stupendously as they not only help Aurora, but also Phillip and basically save the whole kingdom. Plus all three are strong, so well developed, unique characters and I loved the emphasis on them as they are so charming. Fauna is so sweet and of course the fight between Merryweather and Flora about the color of Aurora’s dress (pink or blue) is so much fun and I loved it. They share such wonderful dynamic together and all of their scenes are either very endearing and moving or just a lot of goofy, cartoony entertainment. They provide the necessary humor and childlike nature to an otherwise more serious, dark film.

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Sleeping Beauty Movie Review

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But the kings are also quite goofy and funny in their own right as well as their drunk, wine-obsessed servant. That scene almost comes off as a detour, but it is so pleasantly cartoony, amusing while also being grounded in reality in its portrayal of 14th century kings that it worked for me. And I loved the father’s argument with his son with that line about the 14th century being hilarious. It’s again a rather progressive, unfairly forgotten element to this film.

Prince Phillip is without a doubt the best of the early princes. Not only is he given most to do, but he also has a distinct, present personality and is much, much better than all the previous princes. He is a strong character in his own right, a true hero and I loved that, but I also loved his look as he is very handsome and well dressed. He’s very likable and his horse Samson is also quite endearing.

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Sleeping Beauty Movie Review

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And as for Maleficent, what is there to say that hasn’t yet been said about her. She is menacing, genuinely creepy, so well developed, beautifully animated and wonderfully cast – Eleanor Audley once again gave a standout performance after her terrific performance in ‘Cinderella’ as horrible Lady Tremaine. She is one of the rare villains who never made a mistake, is always menacing and pose definite threat to the protagonists. She is such a memorable and authentic character with unforgettable looks and voice, a standout in this film and easily one of the very best Disney villains of all time. Plus Diablo is an excellent, very helpful henchman.

Sleeping Beauty has beautiful animation. It is absolutely gorgeous to behold with a painting like, artistic quality to it and a style that is truly original and distinguishes itself from their other animations. The character design, the style, the movements – everything is polished, fits the time period and feels like a work of art. I do think that more Disney films should have utilized on this painting style as it worked like a wonder here and helped create its ominous and dreamlike atmosphere so well. It isn’t as stupendously detailed as Disney’s earliest films, but still I liked its style a lot and it is in my opinion one of the studio’s most artistic endeavors. The highlights include the forest, Maleficent’s look, her very creepy and unforgettable castle and the wonderful cottage in the woods which looks so cozy and charming. I do think that the film was obviously cheaper in terms of budget (the still backgrounds are noticeable), but still I loved that painting quality to it and it fits the storyline extremely well.

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Sleeping Beauty Movie Review

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Sleeping Beauty is definitely a musical. It only has two true songs with a couple of minor ones as well, but it relies so much on the score to tell its story that it definitely is a musical, but a different one than all the previous Disney films. The score from Tchaikovsky is of course beautiful and again complementing the film’s dreamlike feel perfectly. It was a terrific choice to include his compositions and I adored this score to pieces. It is also quite diverse in style – ranging from thrilling and eerie to dreamlike to playful and comedic.

The Skumps Song, One Gift and Hail the Princess Aurora are all very short pieces which could not be called songs, but they all serve their purpose and accompany their scenes very well. I Wonder is of course the weaker of the film’s two musical numbers. Now I like this song and it is quite sweet, very well sung and with solid lyrics, but it is just too short in length and overall a standard princess fare.

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Sleeping Beauty Movie Review

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Once Upon a Dream is a masterpiece. This song is just beautiful. The score is brilliant of course, but the added lyrics are so well incorporated and I loved each and every word here. That scene is the standout of the entire film and easily the most romantic scene in all Disney films. I loved the singing of both the prince and the princess and thus it succeeds as an incredible duet, but it is its ethereal, dreamy and timeless chorus that transcends it to the ranks of all-time greatest film songs. It is a perfect ballad, an impeccable waltz and the second best Disney song of all time just after Part of That World from ‘The Little Mermaid’.

The pacing here is sometimes a bit problematic, but mostly better than the troublesome pacing in ‘Snow White’. The voice acting is simply terrific and the direction is superb. Some of the imagery is iconic and visually this is truly a moving work of art. The action near the end is also excellent and thrilling to behold. The tone is diverse and well handled and the humor is not all too great and far from hilarious, but definitely charming and very endearing. I liked the dialogue as well plus the film is emotionally resonant, most especially in its wonderful finale.

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Sleeping Beauty Movie Review

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The finale is awesome, but every scene with Maleficent and her castle stole the show. Of course the forest scene is the highlight for me, but the dragon fight is amazing too. All of the action set pieces are certainly magnificent but the highlight is that very last battle between Phillip and Maleficent. And of course the spinning wheel sequence is so incredible – eerie, otherworldly and impeccable. The film truly is close to perfection even though it is very short in length. It truly belongs among the five best Disney films of all time.

With beautiful, truly artistic painting-influenced animation, brilliant score and an outstanding, simply iconic song in Once Upon a Dream, Sleeping Beauty is one of the best Disney films of all time and a moving work of art. The characters are excellent – the fairies are charming and of course Maleficent is one of Disney’s ultimate villains not only in her looks but also her voice and actions. It is an atmospheric fairy tale with a dreamlike, eerie and almost ethereal quality to it. A lot of the scenes here are unforgettable and the film achieves so much in so little time that it truly is a masterpiece in the world of animation.

My Rating – 5

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Dumbo (1941)

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Dumbo Movie Review

Dumbo is a 1941 animated fantasy film which is Disney’s fourth animated feature. It is one of the better and most charming Disney outings.

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What’s the matter with his ears?

I don’t see nothin’ wrong with ’em. I think they’re cute

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Dumbo Movie Review

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The story is obviously a tale of discrimination against those who are different. It examines that theme really well and is obviously highly emotional in some scenes. I liked the film in terms of storytelling as it is very short and thus very effective and getting to point and never dragging.

I do realize that nowadays the circus setting is not as pleasant, but it was timely for the forties and I thought it was very well explored. The film showcases how the animal circuses worked and I really liked that. It has its fantasy elements and it also is a musical as it has quite a lot of musical numbers for its short runtime, but it is above all else a nice family drama that is very emotionally resonant and consistently sweet and endearing without ever being cloying.

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Dumbo Movie Review

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Let’s talk about the characters. The character development here is very strong as is expected from Disney’s Golden Age. Each character is well emphasized and properly developed and in that way the film is basically a rich character drama. The voice acting is also top-notch across the board.

Dumbo continues the tradition of Disney’s silent protagonists and of course I adored the little fellow. The choice to not have him speak paid off significantly as he is all the more endearing that way. It is impossible not to fall in love with this little elephant.

His mother is so sweet and all the scenes between the two are instantly heartwarming and pulling on the heartstrings. The human characters appear scarcely and rarely are fully seen on screen, but that worked as they are still well utilized but never taking the focus off of our animal stars.

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Dumbo Movie Review

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Mr. Stork is quite likable and I liked the anthropomorphized Casey Junior quite a bit. Those elephant “ladies” are a bit too on-the-nose, but they are still excellent and serve finely as the film’s only antagonists as the movie has no villains which was also a terrific choice. Some may consider the crows to be the villains, but I find them to be animal sidekicks and great ones at that.

I do realize that they may seem racist for today’s audiences as they obviously have those black accents, but I think people exaggerate too much. They are actually not stereotypical in my opinion but fully developed characters who helped our main duo significantly and not to mention that they are incredibly funny and unforgettable in behavior and many great lines.

Timothy Q. Mouse is definitely somewhat similar to Jiminy Cricket from ‘Pinocchio’, but still he is an excellent character. I loved how he cared for Dumbo and how he constantly tried to cheer him up and helped him. Their scenes are so lovely and he is such a nice, wonderful soul. The parody here is that he is a mouse and Dumbo is not afraid of him and I loved that they made fun of that stupid myth.

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Dumbo Movie Review

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Now in terms of animation, Dumbo is not great. That aspect is actually the film’s weakest one. I do not think it is bad and it is actually pretty good, but it is just not up to par with the studio’s three previous artistic achievements and some later movies as well. The reason why it isn’t as artistic is obvious – Disney opted to make a somewhat cheaper flick to capitalize in the troublesome war years and to recuperate from the losses of their two previous efforts.

That is why the film looks much less artistic and much more cartoony than Walt’s usual films in this period. The backgrounds are charming, but overly simplistic and less detailed. However, that is not to say that the film doesn’t have its terrific elements. The character design is one of them as all elephants, the mouse and crows look great. And of course the drunk sequence is amazing and so incredibly imaginative, crazy and just downright unbelievable and simply unforgettable. That is the only truly artistic, inspired animated scene in the film and it’s an all-time classic one at that.

Dumbo is definitely a musical which is all too often forgotten, but shouldn’t be as the film has a pretty terrific, very underrated soundtrack in its own right. The score itself is excellent and fitting in its setting and period, but the songs are mostly fantastic with three of them being classics by this point.

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Dumbo Movie Review

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I will first talk about the weaker numbers. Song of the Roustabouts serves its purpose in terms of imagery and plot point, but is entirely forgettable and somewhat annoying. Clown Song is actually pretty amusing, but way too short of course. Casey Junior also serves its purpose, but is again forgettable. Look Out for Mr. Stork is accompanied by a great sequence, truly wonderful. However, the song itself is somewhat dated and dull.

But let’s talk about the classics now. Pink Elephants on Parade is my least favorite of the three great songs here because it does not have enough singing in it, but the score itself is awesome, highly catchy and very atmospheric thus accompanying its wild, crazily nightmarish, imaginative sequence oh so well. This is the weirdest scene in the movie and it works because the animation is absolutely stellar and because the song is very strong.

Baby Mine is of course highly touching. This is one of the saddest Disney scenes of all time as watching Dumbo touch trunks with his mother who is confined is just heartbreaking. The scene works as it stops the entire story in its tracks and you are left with pure heartfelt emotion and such a terrific, gorgeously sung and simply beautiful musical number.

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Dumbo Movie Review

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And the standout one is of course When I See an Elephant Fly which is simply amazing when you think about it and oh so underrated when it comes to Disney’s classic songs. It is a jazz song which is in style and execution different than your usual Disney song and is thus highly original, but also phenomenally sung, infectiously catchy and with simply hilarious lyrics. I love it and I was happy that it got repeated in the end sequence.

Speaking of the ending, I have to talk about one film’s flaw which is minor but still relevant. It runs for just about 64 minutes which is basically an hour which is just too short. It is short, but sweet and it wouldn’t have worked if we got another thirty minutes as the story is too simple. However, the entire third act with the flying felt way too rushed. The rest of it was greatly paced, but that part was definitely abrupt. The circus action scenes were somewhat prolonged and not my favorites, but the highlights are the beginning, the ending, the crows scene, the mother-son reunion and the pink elephants scene.

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Dumbo Movie Review

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I loved the direction, the dialogue and the storyline – all are great. The film is simple but never simplistic. It works because its emotion is genuinely felt and because it has its charm in setting, music and characters. It is thus in the line of ‘Cinderella’ which is lower 4.5 rating, but still in the top twenty for the studio overall.

Dumbo is a great charmer. It is rushed in its third act and definitely short, but sweet. The animation isn’t as artistic as other films of its period, but it is still quite charming and highly imaginative and weird in the pink elephants sequence. The film is simple, but never simplistic and its emotional impact is undeniable as some scenes are truly touching. The characters are highly endearing as well with the crows, the protagonist and Timothy Q. Mouse being the highlights. The soundtrack is also pretty great and underrated as Pink Elephants on Parade, Baby Mine and When I See an Elephant Fly are all classics. In the end, Dumbo is one of Disney’s less ambitious, but sweetest and most endearing flicks.

My Rating – 4.5

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The Secret World of Arrietty (2010)

The Secret World of Arrietty Movie Review

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The Secret World of Arrietty Movie Review

The Secret World of Arrietty is a 2010 fantasy anime film directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi and produced by Studio Ghibli. It is a pretty good film in its own right.

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Arrietty, you’re a part of me now.

I’ll never forget you, ever

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The Secret World of Arrietty Movie Review

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Just as was the case with ‘Ponyo’, at first I thought it was just solid, but now I found this film to be pretty good and actually kind of underrated. It really is such a pleasant tale filled with wonder and a lot of heart. It is about Little People or Borrowers who reside in one family’s house but when one sick boy discovers them, the family has to move and the relationship between the human boy and Borrower girl develops.

I liked the story here. It is somewhat simplistic and lacks thematically speaking, but it serves its purpose and it is very well crafted and actually quite impactful both emotionally and in terms of the coziness factor. It is a very slow paced film but its leisurely pace really worked as it put me in the mood and world of the film so well.

The character development is not particularly strong here. It is good, but not great. Arrietty herself is overly good in my opinion, but still likable and her relationship with Sho is so good. I loved their romance and how well it developed. Sho is also quite sweet and I liked how the film ended on a positive note that maybe he will recover from his heart condition in the future.

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The Secret World of Arrietty Movie Review

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Spiller is solid but underdeveloped and her parents are quite sweet and likable. I liked Sadako Maki quite a bit and I loved Niya so much. She actually helped Sho get to Arrietty to say goodbye and that was a wonderful moment. It is rare for cats to be portrayed as heroes in an animated film and thus I really enjoyed her character here.

Haru is the film’s weakest link. She really weighs this whole affair significantly in my opinion. So she is basically the villain of the movie but the kind of overly goofy and cartoony villain who felt overly traditional and childish. There is nothing wrong with that type of villain, but in this story she did not have a place as the film is otherwise more mature and serious. I just never bought her obsession with Borrowers and why she wanted to get rid of them.

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The Secret World of Arrietty Movie Review

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The Secret World of Arrietty is expectedly gorgeously animated. I adored the film’s polished and computerized, but still traditional 2D animation. The film has rich details and it explores the house (both large and miniature) and the yard stupendously. It transports you to the same world but gives you a different, miniature perspective with confident cinematography and attention to realistic detail. I loved how the house looked, but the highlights were the yard and especially those gorgeous flowers and leaves.

Every Haru scene is weak, but the highlights include the elevator scene, the conversation in the field between the two and of course the ending. The ending is so wonderful and emotionally resonant as I’d come to care for these characters and it is perfect as it left us on an ambiguous, but still hopeful note.

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The Secret World of Arrietty Movie Review

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The voice acting is definitely stellar with everyone doing a great job. The direction from Hiromasa Yonebayashi is pretty great and he is an underrated Ghibli director who also directed amazing ‘When Marnie Was There’. This film flows well and it has that elegant, slower and serious approach that I only wish that in the dialogue and story it was more mature and sophisticated.

The Secret World of Arrietty is a somewhat too simplistic tale and Haru definitely weighed this film down quite a lot as she is such a goofy, cartoony villain who is a contrast to the film’s more mature style and approach. However, this is still a very good Studio Ghibli offering with such a charming story, likable characters and a couple of emotionally resonant scenes with a great finale. Its fittingly leisurely pace brings you fully into this world along with its simply gorgeous, highly detailed animation and excellent direction from Hiromasa Yonebayashi.

My Rating – 4

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Ponyo (2008)

Image result for ponyo gif

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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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Tales from Earthsea (2006)

Tales from Earthsea Movie Review

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Tales from Earthsea Movie Review

Tales from Earthsea is a 2006 fantasy anime film directed by Goro Miyazaki. It is not one of Studio Ghibli’s strongest films, but still a solid fantasy.

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But only to men is it given to know that we must die,

and that is a precious gift

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Tales from Earthsea Movie Review

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It is based on the book by Ursula K. Le Guin and that is evident, especially near the end. The film suffers from being too short. Yes, it is a two-hour long film, but I had the impression that it was ridiculously rushed at times and obviously trimmed for movie treatment. It is an overly epic and detailed story that needed more time to develop properly.

But thankfully the first half is slower in pace and particularly engaging. To me that is the highlight of the film as it flowed really well, it was very involving to watch and quite mystical and magical. But the film definitely stumbles near the end with a somewhat abrupt conclusion and rushed approach at concluding this story. The plot holes are sometimes evident too.

I loved that Tales from Earthsea is a period piece but with magic, wizards and dragons. It is an epic fantasy work which is surprisingly mature and brutal for a Studio Ghibli film which usually does not go into such dark territories. The film is at its core about death and it is has a pro-life message which was great. It also has some inevitable environmental themes. But it also includes drugs, attempted rape and violence which was unexpected, but well done for the most part. The ripping of the arm was unnecessary and too brutal though…

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Tales from Earthsea Movie Review

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Let’s talk about the characters. The character development here is surprisingly solid for such a maligned Ghibli film which is not great, but certainly not bad as the studio never made a bad film and this one is perfectly solid and quite underrated. I found Prince Arren to be a very strong and not too heroic protagonist which I always appreciate.

I wanted more from Sparrowhawk. He was so cool, but he never got enough action sequences unfortunately. The henchmen were goofy but memorable and those two gossipy women were hilarious. I liked Tenar and I loved that Therry was the savior in the end. She really got a moment to shine in the end which was great.

As for Lord Cob, he is your typical gender-bending anime villain, but those always work and he truly is one of the standouts here. He was so well animated and designed and with such a creepy voice. His quest for immortality is typical but still well realized. And he is just a very menacing presence felt throughout the entire film.

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Tales from Earthsea Movie Review

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Tales from Earthsea is gorgeously animated. Not as artistic as some earlier Ghibli efforts, but still beautiful to watch and absolutely magnificent at times. The attention to detail is expectedly spectacular, I loved the English look of the towns and villages and both the imagery and action sequences were terrifically animated.

The action is very good here and not at all excessive. The end battle was very memorable, but rushed. The pacing is off as at first the film is slow but later on it becomes somewhat abrupt. The direction from Goro Miyazaki is obviously problematic as this is his first effort, but still he showed promise here. The voice acting is terrific, the dialogue is solid but somewhat standard. The standout remains the villain, that beautiful song that stops the film at the middle and of course the entire interesting first half.

Tales from Earthsea is definitely problematic in direction and pacing. It has familiar themes and it is obviously overly rushed in its second half which is much weaker than the first one. But still for a much proclaimed “worst Studio Ghibli film”, it is actually pretty solid and not bad at all. The animation is frequently gorgeous, the first half is very interesting, the action sequences are excellent, the film is admirably dark in tone and the characterization is quite good with the villain being very memorable and menacing.

My Rating – 3.5

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The Lego Ninjago Movie (2017)

The Lego Ninjago Movie Movie Review

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The Lego Ninjago Movie Movie Review

The Lego Ninjago Movie is a 2017 animated action comedy film starring Dave Franco and Jackie Chan. It is a hugely underappreciated flick.

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You ruined my life!

That’s not true! I haven’t even been a part of your life,

how could I ruin it? I wasn’t even there

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The Lego Ninjago Movie Movie Review

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Certainly a story about a ninja who has a villainous father who abandoned him is rather familiar. There is no denying that. But it is so well executed that I didn’t mind it all that much. I found the relationship between the two to be really sweet and strong. It’s the heart of the film. It is a very engaging, wonderfully entertaining watch.

Lloyd is a pretty good main character and I liked his struggles and how well they were depicted. Dave Franco’s voice is somewhat too mature for the role but still he did a really good job here. The ninjas are solid. They are actually rather fun and dynamic as a team, but definitely underdeveloped and underutilized individually.

The mother is typical as is her story, but I still ended up liking her and I wanted more of her. Master Wu is a lot of fun. He is that typical Asian master character and the movie made fun of him really well and he himself is particularly funny at times.

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The Lego Ninjago Movie Movie Review

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But of course Lord Garmadon steals the show. He is amazing! His story is definitely familiar, but again so well done that I didn’t mind it too much. And because the film takes its time to get there and it develops the father-son relationship fully, his character entirely worked and he changed throughout the course of the film and not too suddenly. But above all else has he amazing one-liners and he made me laugh so many times, especially during the film’s first half.

The Lego Ninjago Movie is expectedly superbly animated and once again the various Lego pieces seem real and not at all like CGI which definitely adds a lot of cute, real appeal to the entire viewing experience. I liked the character design and the jokes surrounding their hook hands were so funny. Garmadon in particular looked great and very memorable. The imagery is awesome, the tech looked fine and the city is fittingly Asian influenced and fueled by great attention to detail.

The problem with this film apart from the familiarity lies in its second half. I did like the family drama and, once again, it was really well done and with mostly strong dialogue. However, the film became too dramatic and less comedic and thus it lost its edge. The first half is much better and much funnier and there lie some of the film’s best moments.

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The Lego Ninjago Movie Movie Review

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I liked the role of the kitty, really well done. But despite a solid work from Jackie Chan, those live-action beginning and ending scenes did not do much for me. Meowthra was great, the Volcanic Lair was awesome and the film had a bunch of memorable set pieces. The action is really well executed too and surprisingly not at all overwhelming as I expected. Overall, the movie took me by surprise and it is actually one of the best animated films from this very weak year. It is weaker than ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ but certainly better than ‘The Lego Movie’.

The Lego Ninjago Movie definitely lost its steam in the second half and the entire story is very familiar, but still well done with a lot of heart and strong characterization. I loved that the film did not have overwhelming action but it relied more on characters and certainly Lord Garmadon steals the show as he is so hilarious. The movie is funny, but also a lot of fun from start to finish leading to one of the year’s most underappreciated films.

My Rating – 4

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