Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

Howl's Moving Castle Movie Review

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Howl’s Moving Castle Movie Review

Howl’s Moving Castle is a 2004 fantasy anime film directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It is far from the best that Studio Ghibli has to offer, but still a solid film in its own right.

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I don’t cook!

I’m a scary and powerful fire demon!

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Howl's Moving Castle Movie Review

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I actually liked this one much more upon second viewing as I really did not care for it the first time around. But watching it now, I could certainly appreciate it more. The storyline is admittedly quite good and I particularly loved that it is an alternative historical film. This is early 20th century for sure, but with magic added as a bonus.

The story is fascinating, magical, endearing and as imaginative as you would come to expect from the studio. I loved the magical elements and I really liked some of its themes with aging being particularly well explored.

However, the major problem I’ve had with it is that it is undercooked. The narrative is very problematic as it doesn’t give us too many answers to some really crucial questions such as whether or not Sophie is a witch, Howl’s origin story is left unexplored as is his entire relationship with Suliman.

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Howl's Moving Castle Movie Review

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To me the film just happened and it gave us way too many characters and way too many plot points that some were seriously shortchanged. That is the problem of the script but also of the action as the runtime is more than long enough for it to develop properly. But the action is frequently quite overwhelming that we do not get to spend enough time with some characters and story points.

I liked Sophie quite a bit. She has excellent development and growth in this film and is a likable protagonist for whom you root for. Howl is also very good and interesting as this man obsessed with looks and young age. The relationship between the two is moving and one of the film’s highlights.

The Witch of the Waste is excellent and I ended up liking her quite a bit. Underutilized for sure, but she is at first excellent and memorable as a villain and then quite sweet as their companion. Calcifer is a cartoon character in his appeal and design, but a good one nevertheless and having fire literally be a character was interesting and he was so well animated and very endearing.

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Howl's Moving Castle Movie Review

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Markl is sweet, but entirely underutilized unfortunately. But his relationship with Sophie is heartwarming. Madame Suliman is memorable as the film’s greatest villain, but once again entirely underdeveloped. The voice acting is superb and everyone did a great job across the board.

Howl’s Moving Castle features brilliant animation. Yes, that is certainly one of the standout aspects here. I loved seeing for once the early 20th century in a fantasy flick and the attention to detail is so meticulous that I was transported to that era from the first moment. The costumes look great, the hairstyles, the various imagery is highly interesting and in particular the interiors looked awesome with the castle itself being so well imagined. This anime surely is beautiful to look at.

To me the highlight in terms of the scenes was the beginning and especially the transformation scene which was very intriguing and wonderfully reminded me of fairy tales. The film is very much a Japanese fairy tale which I loved of course. The ending with the imposed end credits was not my cup of tea, but each scene in the house was wonderful and Howl and Sophie’s scenes were all heartwarming.

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Howl's Moving Castle Movie Review

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The action is very well executed even though it is overwhelming. The pacing is frenetic for sure and the film should have been much calmer as its runtime demanded it. Miyazaki’s direction and vision are reliably strong, but he was influenced by ‘Spirited Away’ a bit too much and the film never is comparable to it. The score is also not as memorable as some other scores from the studio. In the end, I liked the film, but it is way too flawed to be considered in the top half with Ghibli’s biggest classics.

Howl’s Moving Castle is admittedly much better upon second viewing and it features excellent world building and attention to detail. I really liked its historical period and the magical elements. The two main characters and their relationship are strong and the animation is magnificent and beautiful to look at. But this is still one of the more flawed Ghibli films with overwhelming action and a problematic narrative that leaves too many things unanswered and too many characters underutilized. Miyazaki was influenced by his ‘Spirited Away’ a bit too much and this is obviously a pale imitation of that classic film.

My Rating – 3.5

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The Cat Returns (2002)

The Cat Returns Movie Review

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The Cat Returns Movie Review

The Cat Returns is a 2002 anime fantasy film from Studio Ghibli. It is one of their most pleasant, most underrated works.

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I respect a woman who stands up for herself.

Even if she does like sticking her nose in other people’s business!

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The Cat Returns Movie Review

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This film is about a directionless teenage girl Haru who, after saving a young cat prince from certain death, is brought to the cat kingdom where she is supposed to marry a prince. I adore this film. It is actually one of my childhood favorites and I still love it now as an adult. The story reminds of Disney Princess movies as here we basically get a Ghibli princess which was awesome to witness.

The plot is similar to ‘Spirited Away’ in a sense that the protagonist is changed after going on a fantastical journey and is now a more responsible, more adult person. I loved that they repeated that journey and message and they did it wonderfully once again. But it is different than the aforementioned film because it is much more fun, childlike and jokey in its approach.

Let’s talk about the characters. Haru is an excellent protagonist. I really liked her and she is such a likable, sweet person. Her mother and her friend are solid for the little screen time that they received, but this is the movie about cats and they are the strongest characters here.

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The Cat Returns Movie Review

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The Baron is absolutely fantastic. This movie is literally a spin-off of ‘Whisper of the Heart’ as in that movie this character was just a figurine, but now we get him in full flesh. I loved that connection between the two movies even if they are the complete opposite of each other. He is badass, cool and like a dashing hero of yesteryear. The relationship between him and Haru is sweet, if a bit creepy when you think about it.

I really liked Toto as he is a wonderful bird. Prince Lune and Yuki are a great couple and I loved her backstory. The Cat King is such a great throwback to classic cartoon villains from decades ago – he is villainous, but very funny and over-the-top which I loved.

And of course Muta is the very best character in this film and the highlight for me. His constant obsession with food brought us many funny moments, his bickering with everyone else was great, I liked his very amusing backstory and the highlight was seeing him get angry mostly for being called fat. He is a phenomenal sidekick for sure.

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The Cat Returns Movie Review

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The Cat Returns is very well animated, but it is just not up to par with Ghibli’s previous classics in my opinion as it is never as moving or as memorable or as artistic. Still, the imagery is frequently beautiful, the action is so well executed, I loved the sky scenes and of course the highlight was the cat kingdom with the castle and especially the labyrinth and the tower. I also really liked the character design of the cats and the cats themselves were fairly realistically portrayed here in both their animal design and their moody, selfish behavior.

The Cat Returns has a bunch of memorable sequences so let me say which ones are my favorites. I loved the beginning and the scene where she rescued the cat prince was so well done. Baron’s little house was so cute and the attention to detail was so overwhelming in there. Overall, the architecture in this film is beautiful to witness.

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The Cat Returns Movie Review

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That scene where the king threw some cats from the window because they did not provide proper entertainment was hilarious as it was basically murder but portrayed amusingly. It was both dark and funny. The labyrinth was of course absolutely fantastic. I loved the king’s cheating and how The Baron realized that. This film is such a wonderful, enchanting adventure and those labyrinth and tower scenes are the best examples of that. And of course the descend through the sky is gorgeous to watch and the ending itself is poignant and emotionally satisfying.

The Cat Returns has absolutely brilliant voice acting. Yes, this is one of Ghibli’s strongest works when it comes to acting as each performance is phenomenal and everybody did a great job with the highlights being Tetsu Watanabe and Tetsuro Tanba as Muta and The Cat King, both very funny characters.

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The Cat Returns Movie Review

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Yes, the humor in this film is absolutely terrific and it probably is Ghibli’s funniest film as I laughed out loud many times while watching it. The film is so poignant, sweet and emotionally resonant while also being very funny and wonderfully childlike in its approach. The only problem is the pacing which is rushed as the film is just way too short in its runtime which was unfortunate. But the dialogue is strong and the score is particularly great with a wonderful closing number. It is one of Ghibli’s best and most underrated films.

The Cat Returns is overly rushed in pacing owing to ridiculously short runtime, but it remains one of Ghibli’s better and definitely most underrated works thanks to brilliant voice acting, excellent characterization (Muta, Haru, The Cat King and The Baron are all great characters), a wonderful story and terrific humor as it made me laugh so many times definitely being the funniest film from the studio. It is wonderfully childlike in its quality, very adventurous and enchanting in its journey and highly resonant emotionally. It is such a wonderful follow-up to ‘Spirited Away’ thematically and such a successful spin-off to ‘Whisper of the Heart’.

My Rating – 4.5

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Three Colors: White (1994)

Three Colors: White Movie Review

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Three Colors: White Movie Review

Three Colors: White is a 1994 French-Polish comedy drama film directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski and starring Zbigniew Zamachowski and Julie Delpi. It is a weak sequel.

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What counts on bridge is memory. And mine is excellent

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Three Colors: White Movie Review

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It is about equality with the film depicting Karol Karol, a shy man who, after being left by his wife in humiliating circumstances in Paris, loses his money, his residency, and his friends. As a deeply ashamed beggar in Warsaw, Karol begins his effort to restore equality to his life through revenge.

The film may sound good on paper, but in the actual execution it is far from good. Whereas the previous film in the trilogy was very much a drama and a tragedy, this is more of a comedy even though the circumstances are not really comedic. It is a black comedy in its style.

And that did not work for me at all. Kieslowski just does not know how to do comedy and he should have done a straight drama instead as the humor here wasn’t great and the film is not funny, at least not to me. I also really did not like its crime elements introduced later on.

Karol Karol is a fine protagonist and I sympathized with him. Zbigniew Zamachowki definitely gave a very strong performance in the main role. Julie Delpi, on the other hand, is just not as memorable as she plays a basic bitch and nothing more than that.

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Three Colors: White Movie Review

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Three Colors: White is weakly directed by Kieslowski and ‘Three Colors: Blue’ was in my opinion a much better, more emotional and overall richer film. Here only the first act worked as it was quite moving in its couple of scenes and I rooted for the main character and felt sorry for him. The movie then lost all of its power when it tried to be funny and it went into an odd black comedy territory that just did not work for me. It isn’t a bad movie, but it is pretty weak overall.

Three Colors: White is much inferior to its predecessor. It is well acted and I liked the first act. But the rest was just not good. The film then went into odd black comedy territory and that just did not work for me as it wasn’t funny and it wasn’t interesting too. It’s a weak sequel.

My Rating – 3

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Black and White in Color (1976)

Black and White in Color Movie Review

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Black and White in Color Movie Review

Black and White in Color is a 1976 Ivorian war film directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud. It is a solid, but far from great Oscar winner.

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Pretty? She’s black like all the others

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Black and White in Color Movie Review

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It depicts French colonists at war with the Germans in Central Africa during World War I. It is an interesting history lesson as I did not know this story and the film told it to me really well which I liked. The story is interesting and mostly very well told.

However, I thought that it was much better as a war film than as a drama about race relations as it doesn’t deal with racism all that well or in a particularly clever way. Some racist remarks from white people are hilarious, but mostly the film was too on-the-nose and it lacked subtlety.

The characterization also needed some work as I do not remember the characters all that well as most are very underdeveloped and do not play particularly major roles in the story. But the acting is definitely very good with each and every actor giving a solid performance.

Black and White in Color is also very well shot and well directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud. I loved its natural scenery and that it followed the traditions of Africans in detail. Rare are movies about Africa and set in that continent and thus this movie should be respected for that fact alone.

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Black and White in Color Movie Review

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But it is somewhat boring in its second act and only the first act and some scenes in the third one are pretty good and the rest is standard, forgettable war drama affair. There are much better war dramas out there and thus this movie falls through the cracks when compared to the classics.

It won the Academy Award for the Best Foreign Language Film and I do not think that it deserved that honor, but then again I am glad that the award went to an African film for once and this is a rare movie from the Ivory Coast that is important in film history making it very interesting, though still it remains highly flawed.

Black and White in Color deals with the war elements pretty well, but not so much when it comes to racism as it can be pretty unsubtle in its approach. It is very well shot and directed, but slow in its pace in the middle section. The characters are weak, but the humor is quite strong at times. Overall, it is a solid but flawed Oscar winner.

My Rating – 3.5

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What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

What We Do in the Shadows Movie Review

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What We Do in the Shadows Movie Review

What We Do in the Shadows is a 2014 New Zealand mockumentary horror comedy film directed by Taika Waititi. It is an original, but admittedly not great film.

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He was an 18th century dandy, so he can be very fussy

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What We Do in the Shadows Movie Review

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This film is a very interesting mix of genres. It is above all a vampire comedy, but with some horror elements and filmed in a mockumentary style. The mockumentary worked to its full advantage as it added a modern, fun touch to it and I really enjoyed it. The horror elements are rare, but solid and as for comedy, the movie can be really funny at times, but not often enough.

The plot with these three centuries old vampires sharing a flat together in today’s world is comedy gold in itself and such an original, creative premise with a particularly authentic approach. But the execution is not as great owing to its uneven quality.

The film takes its time to get there as the first act is not as engaging and it take time to adapt to its offbeat weirdness, at least that was the case with me. The second act is then phenomenal and so energetic, fun and frequently hilarious. That’s certainly the highlight of the film. But then the third act is definitely not as fun and the movie loses its steam there.

What We Do in the Shadows is weirdly paced and for such a short runtime, the filmmakers still did not know how to fulfill that time and thus I agree with some that this was an ingenious idea for a short film and never a feature.

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What We Do in the Shadows Movie Review

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Taika Waititi is excellent here, not so much in the acting role (and no actor is really particularly great here), but as a director, he shines here as this is his vision and his direction and style are phenomenal. The score is actually very good and effective in creating its vampire atmosphere. The same can be said for special effects and sets, both excellent for such a small budget. The film is technically pretty terrific.

What We Do in the Shadows is a highly original, but uneven experiment. Its mix of genres and approaches is very intriguing as it is a mockumentary vampire horror comedy with a pretty good premise. Taika Waititi’s direction and style are great. But only the second act is very strong and quite funny as it takes time to get used to its weirdness in the first act and the film loses its steam in the third act. It would have been much more effective as a short than it is as a feature film.

My Rating – 3.5

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Spirited Away (2001)

Spirited Away Movie Review

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Spirited Away Movie Review

Spirited Away is a 2001 anime fantasy film directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It is the best Studio Ghibli film and one of the best films ever made.

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Once you do something, you never forget.

Even if you can’t remember

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Spirited Away Movie Review

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I have seen Spirited Away at least three times by now and upon this fourth viewing I again confirmed its greatness. Rare are films that get better and better upon each subsequent viewing and this is one of those films. It has an amazing replay factor. I have always watched it in a dubbed version as that is how I first saw it so I cannot comment upon the Japanese sub acting, but the dub is actually one of the better anime dubs.

Let’s first talk about the story and the highlight scenes. This film is obviously influenced by ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and it is a much darker, much better crafted version of it. It managed to eclipse that story due to a sheer epicness of it. It feature an amazing use of Japanese mythology and spirits and every creature here looks great and is highly memorable.

The beginning is excellent and very eerie in its atmosphere. Highly mysterious and otherworldly. All of Chihiro’s first sequences in this world are great and a wonderful build-up for the rest of the story. As for the stink spirit scenes, they are slightly extended, but still very memorable and the character is fascinating. So the film sometimes feels like a series of vignettes, but those vignettes are all fascinating and the editing is great so it still ended up being tight and well structured.

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Spirited Away Movie Review

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Then the story gets much more intriguing with the introduction of Yubaba’s sister. The second act and mostly the latter half of it features a terrific use of build-up to the action and it rises the tension and stakes superbly.

Of course my favorite act is the third one as it is the culmination of everything we had learned previously about this world. That train is just breathtaking, those travelling scenes are transcendent in quality and the imagery is unforgettable.

Then we have the greatest scene from this film which is of course the goodbye scene between Zeniba and Chihiro and then the marvelous dragon flight which includes a great realization and an excellent, fascinating answer to the mystery of how she and Haku met. The final test was great and of course everything about that ending rings awesome. Beautifully filmed and immensely resonant in terms of emotion. The film reward you for taking this long trip with such a moving, deep final scene.

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Spirited Away Movie Review

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Let’s talk about the film’s characters. Chihiro is a one of a kind protagonist and quite possibly the studio’s best creation. She is spoiled, clumsy and childish at first, but upon taking this amazing, fantastical journey, she becomes much more independent, stronger and more responsible and brave. It is an archetypal hero’s journey, but the one done infinitely better than most as it takes its necessary time to develop and thus feels all the more special.

Haku is also excellent despite appearing in not so many scenes. His mystery backstory is intriguing and very well resolved and his dragon form is striking and his job is very well utilized. The relationship between him and Chihiro is never overly emotional and just right.

Yubaba is such a hilarious character. At first menacing and all-powerful, but later deconstructed to a mean old lady. I loved her interactions with each of the characters. Her giant baby is so funny and her story with Zeniba is realistic and a lot of fun. Her sister is the polar opposite of her and a good witch. Loved her and her heartwarming relationship with Chihiro.

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Spirited Away Movie Review

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No-Face is fascinating. He is a famous Japanese spirit, but he can be interpreted as being the metaphor for loneliness which many of us deal with and people are struggling much more these days and thus he is very relatable and endearing. I loved his many forms and how his backstory remained a mystery. I also loved that he stayed with Zeniba in the end as both need some company. Certainly the film resolved each of the characters’ stories successfully.

Boiler Man is very sweet and caring and I just loved everything about his working steampunk environment and those employees of his are so incredibly cute and feisty. Chihiro’s parents serve their purpose and to me Lin is wonderful as this on surface calculated, yet ultimately very caring and good friend to Chihiro. Every character here is great and every spirit and creature is memorable even if they are not too present.

Spirited Away features absolutely breathtaking animation. What is there yet to say that hasn’t already been said? This film utilizes on the power and pure imagination and art of hand-drawn animation superbly and rare are animated films with better animation than this one. Only Walt Disney’s earliest films can compare honestly.

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Spirited Away Movie Review

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The film is colorful in just the right amount, it is both dark and light in equal amount both in terms of animation and atmosphere and it has absolutely terrific character designs with each spirit being fascinating, different and unique. The humans also look great. The various sets are amazing, each one of its locations is beautifully explored and mesmerizing and the action is so well executed.

It has some of the best world building that I have ever witnessed. I felt as if I really went into this spirit world and I felt as if I also learned something and became more adult just like Chihiro. The movie gives the child in all of us the opportunity to dream again and because it is so dark and serious at times while being funny and lightweight at other times, it manages to be perfect for both children and adults. A perfect mix of everything that the best of animation can offer.

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Spirited Away Movie Review

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In terms of the humor, it succeeds. It is rarely used, but quite enjoyable and endearing when it happens. I loved the cutesy factor here, but I also admired the inherent darkness of this world as well as it reach themes which span from growing up to greed (best exhibited in those bathhouses) to environmentalism (refreshingly subdued here for Ghibli) to Japanese folklore. The film truly is very smart and consistently deep and transcendent.

The action is never overwhelming and is excellent and sparingly used. The runtime of two hours is perfect for this film and it never feels long despite for animation long runtime. That is because this world and this story are so rich that they needed more time. And the pacing is excellent.

The tone is diverse and the score is phenomenal! I loved this score and in my opinion the dragon flight scene is the best scene in the movie not in small amount thank to that gorgeous, moving and highly transcendent score which is honestly magical in its quality.

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Spirited Away Movie Review

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The attention to detail is magnificent, the dialogue is terrific and the film is unforgettable in its every aspect. Hayao Miyazaki directed Spirited Away marvelously and it clearly is a work of art and magnum opus from this famous director who was clearly making a masterpiece here. It thankfully got its Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and it is critically acclaimed for all the obvious reasons I stated above. It is the best that both Studio Ghibli and anime have to offer and one of the best overall film of all time.

With breathtaking, absolutely wondrous animation, stellar direction, meticulous world-building with an overwhelming attention to detail, terrific character development and extremely powerful score which is honestly one of the best in film history, Spirited Away is an undisputed masterpiece and one of the rare films that can easily be called art. The story is well crafted with great influences, a diverse tone which ranges from cute and endearing to dark and atmospheric, high emotional resonance and a great character journey for the protagonist. The film manages to be magical, sometimes serious, at times funny, but always engaging and simply fascinating. The entire, wonderful new world is created here with an impeccable attention to detail which is a reason why it has such a lasting appeal and endless replay factor. Consequently, it is a pure masterpiece and undoubtedly one of the best films ever produced.

My Rating – 5

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Dersu Uzala (1975)

Dersu Uzala Movie Review

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Dersu Uzala Movie Review

Dersu Uzala is a 1975 Soviet-Japanese adventure biopic directed by Akira Kurosawa. It is a long, but pretty good film.

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How can man live in a box?

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Dersu Uzala Movie Review

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This is a co-production between Russia and Japan and I liked seeing these two great countries join forces and create this epic. Akira Kurosawa is a great director and he directed this film so well. His direction and the titular Asian character bring the Asian flavor to the film which revolves in Russian Far East with Russian actors. I really liked that mix.

The friendship that develops between a Russian man and this native is heartwarming and very strong. Their explorations of the harsh region are so great and it was very interesting seeing the various different conditions from fog to snow. This is very much a film about nature and the power of it and of course I admire movies that promote that.

The two main characters are very good and I really loved their friendship. The actors also gave such strong performances. But other characters are quite forgettable. The film deals with Dersu’s aging very well and in terms of the themes, it is a familiar, but well realized film.

Dersu Uzala looks absolutely magnificent. It sounds great thanks to excellent score and superb sound design, but the various natural landscapes are beautiful to witness and the film relies heavily on its very harsh and alienated atmosphere and setting to great effect. It is an old tale of man versus nature but well crafted nonetheless.

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Dersu Uzala Movie Review

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The problem with Dersu Uzala is naturally its running time which is just way too long. Two hours would have been enough and I would cut those thirty minutes from it. Sometimes the film was slow and uninvolving and although it is a slow-burn, it still would have hugely benefited from stronger pacing and a shorter runtime. It got the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and I don’t mind its win as it is actually one of the better winners from the seventies.

Dersu Uzala is certainly overlong and it is quite a familiar tale, but well told with a strong friendship between its main characters, excellent direction and great atmosphere thanks to superb sound and wonderful cinematography. It is slow, but moving and it utilizes its interesting setting so well.

My Rating – 4

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My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999)

My Neighbors the Yamadas Movie Review

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My Neighbors the Yamadas Movie Review

My Neighbors the Yamadas is a 1999 anime comedy film directed by Isao Takahata. It is Studio Ghibli’s most underappreciated film.

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My father and mother and grandma and brother all got lost

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My Neighbors the Yamadas Movie Review

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This film is for better and for worse a series of vignettes. That means that it has no story, but just various unconnected segments that tell the tales of the Yamada family through hardships and foolishness. It may seem at first that it is too disconnected, but I honestly found it thematically connected as the film shows the power of family and that the family union can help you stay afloat in this dark and cold world.

Let’s first talk about the characters and then I will touch upon its segments. There are basically only five characters in this movie and those are all the Yamada family members. I love movies with less characters so naturally I really enjoyed this one as well.

Nonoko is their five-year old daughter and although she was less prominent in the second half of the movie, she was wonderful in the first half and so incredibly funny at times. I really liked her and she is such a wonderful kid. Noboru isn’t as likable and is more typical, but still really well developed and his romantic as well as school problems were really well portrayed.

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My Neighbors the Yamadas Movie Review

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Takashi works too much to support his family whereas Matsuko is very much just a housewife so in that regard the film is overly archaic in gender roles and family structure. However, they are still both amazing characters. He is relatable for all great workers whereas she is pretty funny as this clumsy and forgetful housewife. The relationship between the two is great as it is such a realistic marriage filled with love and respect but also childish arguing and bickering.

Of course Shige is the highlight. She is the grandmother in the family and, ironically for the oldest member of the family, she is the most energetic and the most lively of the bunch. And needless to say, the funniest. She made me laugh the most with her many funny lines and actions. And the fact that she is the most adult and responsible and that she basically brings the whole family together was a strong statement on how important the elderly can be. Loved it.

As for its segments, the beginning was too silly and not my favorite. The family losing Nonoko in the shopping mall is easily one of the strongest segments here as it shows how irresponsible parents can be but in a very lightweight manner. Their scenes in the car are great, but Nonoko’s scene with that little, also lost, boy takes the cake as the funniest and most wonderful for sure. She thinks the family is lost and not her and thus they so amusingly and realistically show us the childlike innocence and cluelessness.

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My Neighbors the Yamadas Movie Review

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The next scene shows how the entire family is unorganized and how everybody wants to do their own thing and nobody wants to do the cleaning. Again another truthful segment. The next segment is all about the Yamada marriage and how chaotic it is. The standout scene is the remote sequence as it was hilarious seeing the two fight over TV. A typically silly anime humor is used here to elevate the material superbly.

The male bonding is also pretty solid as a story about the age gap and the distant relationship between fathers and sons. The next two segments focus on Takashi being a great father model but nobody notices that. The next two segments (umbrella and sushi) aren’t as essential but the breakfast scene is hilarious as always having the same meal is unfortunately very relatable to me personally.

Ginger Morning is so funny! It basically showcases the forgetful nature of all five of the Yamadas to a hilarious effect. A great use of situational comedy. The next two segments are about Noboru (school and romance) and although quite well executed, they are not my favorites as he is my least favorite character in the film.

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My Neighbors the Yamadas Movie Review

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The next couple of vignettes center around wonderful Shige and the highlight is the scene in which she takes back the ball that went over the fence to some kids and rewards them with another ball but the two boys eventually come asking for that ball. I laughed out loud here. Such a funny scene. And of course the grandma taking the action against bikers into her own hand was a great subversive scene where the woman takes action instead of the father figure.

The business speech of Takashi’s was very good and of course the ending is so great as it utilizes the power of Que Sera, Sera. I love how Ghibli once again used one of my favorite songs in their movie after Take Me Home, Country Roads in ‘Whisper of the Heart’.

My Neighbors the Yamadas features a very different animation from the regular highly stylized anime style of their other efforts and thus this makes it unique and singular. It employs computer animation in the creation of watercolor, comic-strip style in its animation and the results are wonderful despite the excessive use of the color white. I loved its fluid and simplistic look and the character design is excellent.

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My Neighbors the Yamadas Movie Review

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So My Neighbors the Yamadas is a very uneven film with uneven pacing and quality of the segments which is to be expected from its vignette format. But it is still such a good film that is probably the studio’s most underrated and it was much better to me upon second viewing. It employs a very good score and superb dialogue with many memorable lines. It has no story, but it is observational in message and themes and everyday life thanks to its wonderful slice-of-life storytelling. And the humor is just magnificent and I laughed more than a couple of times. It is another strong work from great Isao Takahata.

My Neighbors the Yamadas is probably the most underappreciated of all Studio Ghibli’s films. Its approach as a series of vignettes instead of a full story definitely led to its uneven quality and pacing, but the film features such a unique watercolor, comic-strip style to it and a superb dialogue and excellent humor with many hilarious lines and situations. The Yamadas are such a wonderful, relatable and endearing family and I’ve spent such a wonderful 100 minutes with them.

My Rating – 4

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Talk to Her (2002)

Talk to Her Movie Review

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Talk to Her Movie Review

Talk to Her is a 2002 Spanish drama film directed by Pedro Almodovar. It is such an authentic, one of a kind experience.

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Nothing is simple.

I’m a ballet mistress, and nothing is simple

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Talk to Her Movie Review

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The film concerns two stories of two men who are in a hospital with their girlfriends who are in a coma. Eventually, these two stories intersect and the two men develop a very interesting friendship with one another. Surely this storyline is very original and unlike anything I’ve seen before. It gets a lot of the mileage from its originality, but it is superbly crafted as well.

This is the kind of flashback structure I like, the one employed in this film. It is very elegant and it benefits from excellent editing that I ended up loving it. Because we did not know much about either of its characters before the tragedies strike, the flashbacks were essential this time around and the level to detail exhibited in them and in the entire film is respectable.

Beningo is a very odd person and the film walks the fine line between portraying him as a sweetheart or as a sick person. I will talk more about the morally ambiguous complexities later, but he definitely is the definition of an ambiguous character and he is done right as he is so well portrayed by Javier Camara and he definitely ended up being the most memorable aspect of the film.

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Talk to Her Movie Review

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I really liked Marco Zuluaga. He is such a likable, charming man and I definitely connected with him the most personally. And Dario Grandinetti gave a phenomenal performance. The relationship that develops between these two has a touch of bromance in it, but it is mostly such a wonderfully offbeat friendship that stems from odd circumstances but still ended up being strong and tragic. Both Lydia and Alicia are less developed, but still having in mind that they are in a coma, they ended up being well realized mostly thanks to those deft flashbacks.

So Talk to Her is a very weird film that is also highly intellectual and emotional. It manages to have the right mix of strong emotion and themes and thus it is both smart and moving, two qualities most important to me. It is thematically and emotionally very rich and complex and its complexities make it such a unique, incredible cinematic achievement.

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Talk to Her Movie Review

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It is a film that showcases the moral dilemmas of this situation. It left the “rape” of Alicia ambiguous even though Beningo probably did it. And this act is portrayed as it could be romantic, but also criminal. His entire character walks that fine line between a sick person and a romantic and the film cleverly portrayed both sides as some scenes were definitely highly moving, but some definitely hinted that his obsession with Alicia might not be very healthy at all.

It portrays how different men and women are and how complex their relationships can be, but it also portrays straight men in a very different light – as emotional, caring and vulnerable. Beningo is a romantic and a very caring, meticulous person whereas Marco is a highly emotional man as evidenced by his many outbursts of crying with which I personally connected as I can be quite emotional too. Almodovar gave us a movie about men for once, straight men, and he succeeded thoroughly.

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Talk to Her Movie Review

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This surely is one of his best films along with ‘All About My Mother’. It isn’t perfect, however, as it has its flaws such as that silent film sequence which was interesting, but just too bizarre to fathom for me personally. I get it, but I did not love it. And I thought it is a drama, not a comedy. But his direction is very strong, the performances are great and the film is very well shot, mostly well edited and superbly scored with such a beautiful score that really moved me.

With excellent performances, highly confident direction from Almodovar and a one of a kind script, Talk to Her truly is a terrific film which is thought-provoking thematically, highly affecting emotionally and all around such an original, complex film. It is not perfect (the silent movie scene was honestly too bizarre for me), but its editing is very good, the flashback structure is deftly employed and the music is simply beautiful and it moved me quite a bit. Emotionally and morally rich and complex, Talk to Her is an incredible cinematic experience.

My Rating – 4.5

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The Piano (1993)

The Piano Movie Review

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The Piano Movie Review

The Piano is a 1993 New Zealand historical romance film directed by Jane Campion and starring Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel and Anna Paquin. It is an extremely overrated movie.

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Undo your dress. I want to see your arms. Play. Two keys

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The Piano Movie Review

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It is about a mute piano player who tries to regain her piano after it is sold. She is in a loveless arranged marriage, but meets another man and the two start a passionate romance. I honestly found the story not all that interesting to begin with and, needless to say, not particularly authentic. Its mid-19th century period and the setting of New Zealand make the difference, but other than that, it is a regular story.

My main problem with The Piano is that it is not romantic. At least it wasn’t for me. It relies too much on erotic scenes and those scenes weren’t as erotic or as romantic as the movie thinks they are. Everyone talks about how incredibly romantic and sweet the film is, but I never felt anything whatsoever and to me it the atmosphere was too cold to make me feel anything.

There are some good scenes such as the ending and some of the piano scenes were quite wonderful, but most of it was honestly not great. The cutting of the finger plot point was unnecessary and too gruesome and the film was obvious in its storyline and character relationships from beginning to end and highly predictable.

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The Piano Movie Review

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This may be the most controversial thing about my review, but I have to be honest and I have to say that even the acting is overrated. I don’t mean to say that these actors were bad, they were definitely quite good, but to me not as great as the showering praise they received would make you think.

Holly Hunter gave the best performance, but her character is too underdeveloped to lead to an amazing performance. So it wasn’t her fault, but the character’s fault. And that is why I don’t blame the actors as the character development here is quite weak. Harvey Keitel is fine in a different role for him, but not great. Sam Neill is typical and Anna Paquin did a good, but not great job and I just really disliked her character. She betrayed her mother and that was just glossed over which was to me highly problematic.

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The Piano Movie Review

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The Piano is definitely well shot, but mostly too dark and its atmosphere is too depressing. The film is well edited and paced, but it was still boring to me in its first half and I found some of the scenes in the second half rushed. It is well scored, but the direction from Campion is quite weak. It got eight Oscar nominations and three wins. The actresses deserved the nominations, but not the wins. And all of the other non-technical nominations were not deserved at all. It is one of the most overrated films from this period.

The Piano is the definition of an overrated movie which is okay, but far from great and I just don’t get the praise that it gets. Almost everything here is just okay and even the acting is not great and Holly Hunter and Anna Paquin did not deserve their Oscars. All of the performances are fine, but not great as the character development is so weak and most of the characters are unlikable. It is a well shot and scored film, but I just never felt anything as it was too cold for me so it utterly fails as a romance. It is a quasi-romantic, quasi-artistic film.

My Rating – 3

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