The Florida Project (2017)

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The Florida Project Movie Review

The Florida Project is a 2017 indie drama film directed by Sean Baker and starring Brooklynn Prince. It is a very strong, deeply affecting movie.

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I can always tell when adults are about to cry

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The Florida Project Movie Review

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The film follows a 6-year-old girl named Moonee who is living in a motel with her problematic mother near Walt Disney World as they are trying to make ends meet. Finally America made a film about poverty as they quite rarely do that subject matter. The movie showcases so well the hypocrisy of modern America – as rich people with their rich children enjoy their time in Walt Disney World, struggling Latinos, single mothers etc. live in a motel nearby in great poverty.

The Florida Project is not in my top ten movies for 2017. It is close, but not in the top ten for one reason alone and that is its overly detailed approach. Sean Baker did not need to show us everything the kids and their parents do and certainly the middle parts can be a bit boring. The film did not need to have a two-hour runtime as an hour and a half was just enough. That was a big mistake and thus the pacing suffered a bit.

But the movie is still so good that it renders those flaws unimportant. Some scenes in the beginning reminded me of my childhood and I connected with these kids on a personal level. It shows us how poor kids can be just as happy as the rich ones and even happier as without electronics they are bound to go outside, play and explore their surroundings. The film portrayed rebellious, bratty children so well and all of the bad things they did rang true for me as I knew kids like that when I was younger.

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The Florida Project Movie Review

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The characters are very grounded in reality and well developed. Halley is definitely problematic with drugs and her prostitution, but she obviously cares for her child as evidenced by the lovely playtimes that they share. That’s why that ending was so impactful.

Speaking of the ending, of course it stole the show. Moonee arrives to say goodbye to her friend and cries and cries but she takes her hand and the two run and run fast, they come to Walt Disney World and enter for the first time. This kind of ending is perfect. It is deeply emotional and heartbreaking, but also fantastical and unrealistic in a way making it a very cinematic conclusion which I loved.

But back to the characters now. Ashley is memorable and Bobby is very well developed, but I found Willem Dafoe’s performance very overrated. He’s good, but not Oscar-worthy. Moonee is of course terrific and Brooklynn Prince gave one of the year’s finest female performances and she should have been Oscar nominated for this great role. Stacey and Scooty are great and the film is at its best when it shows us the kids playing and sharing ice cream with each other. Those scenes are beyond heartwarming. The film surely does understand children.

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The Florida Project Movie Review

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The Florida Project is weakly paced and edited, but definitely well scored and also very well shot. I found the dialogue believable as well as the characters. The story is in the end too detailed, but highly memorable and very emotionally rewarding. It is such a touching film.

The Florida Project is overly detailed in its characters’ activities and its two-hour runtime was excessive and thus some of the middle parts were a bit boring. However, the film manages to transcend those flaws thanks in large part to its evident understanding of children and their behavior with most of their scenes being heartwarming. The central performance from Brooklynn Prince is outstanding and that ending is so heartbreaking and ultimately wonderfully fantastical and cinematic that it’s one of the best and most unforgettable movie scenes of 2017.

My Rating – 4.5

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Trader Mickey (1932)

Trader Mickey ReviewTrader Mickey Review

Trader Mickey is a 1932 Mickey Mouse cartoon. It is a very weak entry.

This film is very backwards in its thinking and in its approach. Not old-fashioned but backwards. Not only is the entire cartoon basically one giant song and dance number and I thought we were done with them by now, but the cannibals are also portrayed as gorillas in a very racist, caricaturist look.

There is no denying that Trader Mickey is energetic and lively. It is. The film is also accompanied by fun music. But that is basically it when it comes to the good stuff, the rest is all bad. The animation is not all that great and the story and gags are literally non-existent. It’s a film that is boring from the beginning to the ending and pretty dated.

Trader Mickey would have been very solid as a 1930 Mickey Mouse entry, but as a 1932 film it is very weak and dated.

My Rating – 3

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God’s Own Country (2017)

God's Own Country Movie Review

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God’s Own Country Movie Review

God’s Own Country is a 2017 British drama film directed by Francis Lee and starring Josh O’Connor and Alec Secareanu. It is a very strong, effective film.

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I want us to be together

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God's Own Country Movie Review

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It follows a young sheep farmer in Yorkshire who is lonely and thus drinks a lot and has casual meaningless sex. But when a Romanian migrant worker arrives, the two start a relationship and he has to change in order to stay with him. Now apparently this story is familiar and I’ve seen similar films before which is why this one never felt original in most ways.

But it was still effective emotionally speaking because it is so well acted and nuanced in its execution. I definitely craved for more dialogue because I am a dialogue-driven person, but still the calmer, mostly wordless approach worked as the film is meticulous in detail, subtle in its facial expressions and very sophisticated that you do understand everything that is going on between these two without them speaking too much.

Marin and Deidre serve their purpose and are very good, but this is the movie that mostly centers just on its two protagonists. I found both Johnny and Gheorghe to be somewhat typical characters and not all that unique, but their relationship is so well developed, so realistic and even deep that they ended up being very interesting to watch.

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God's Own Country Movie Review

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Alec Secareanu is definitely terrific in his role and very nuanced, but I found Josh O’Connor to be the better of the two and basically the focus of the film is mostly on him. He gave a powerful, very underrated performance that is grounded and complex.

God’s Own Country is a country film and thus it has its gruesome scenes. It’s a very interesting film that manages to be both disgusting and beautiful at the same time. The best example of that is when Gheorghe skins the dead lamb and puts the wool on another live lamb to make it warm. The scene is at first overly disgusting and just horrible to watch but then it quickly becomes sweet and simply beautiful. Very weird and I guess it worked as life can be both wonderful and cruel.

But still those animal birth, skinning etc. scenes were too much for me and they did not need to be that detailed. The same goes for the sex scenes. They are mostly too raw, coarse and unromantic but I guess that was the point – to show us how rednecks have sex. That made the film very realistic. That’s how I would describe it best – a realistic, but sometimes too detailed film.

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God's Own Country Movie Review

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The film definitely showcases what’s it like being a gay person in a small village and it did that in a very subtle manner which I appreciated. The highlights are the romantic moments between the two and the final conversation which is moving. The script is sophisticated and the pacing is very good. The direction from Francis Lee is absolutely superb and for a debut he did a remarkable job and is probably the most promising new director of 2017.

God’s Own Country is too crude and raw at times with some of the animal scenes being too disgusting, but that definitely made the film very realistic. I like more dialogue in a film, but still this calmer, mostly wordless approach worked very well here as the performances from both actors are terrific and their interactions are nuanced and thus you understand everything that is going on without them speaking too much. The film is very well scripted but so superbly directed by Francis Lee in one terrific directorial debut.

My Rating – 4

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Naughty Neighbors (1939)

Naughty Neighbors ReviewNaughty Neighbors Review

Naughty Neighbors is a 1939 animated short film from the Looney Tunes series. It is an okay short.

This is basically a remake of ‘A Feud There Was’ which was a Hatfield-McCoy short from the previous year. Both are of very similar quality, but I would honestly give a slight edge to this one as it is more original and different. However, it is still filled with a lot of problems. The cat milk gag is great, but rehashed. The humor here is very rare and only the third act is somewhat amusing. I also found that song in the beginning weak.

But the short is memorable for being cute and romantic at first and then suddenly going into war, violent and fighting territory. The shift is abrupt and interesting making the cartoon very entertaining and crazy which are the usual best qualities for a Looney Tunes cartoon. In that area it succeeds quite a bit, but still it is very uneven.

Naughty Neighbors lacks great gags, but is overall well structured and its shift from romantic to violent is a lot of fun.

My Rating – 3.5

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Ranking Hayao Miyazaki Films

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Ranking Hayao Miyazaki Films List

Hayao Miyazaki is regarded as one of the best animation directors of all time. Many would argue that he is the very best of all time. All of that praise is deserved as he truly is an iconic, brilliant director who has never made a bad film and only a couple of his films are just okay. Most are very good or great. He helped shape Studio Ghibli as he made 9 films for the studio. Here is my ranking of all those Ghibli films as well as two non-Ghibli ones. For the ranking of all Ghibli films including all of their directors, click on this link.

 

11. The Wind Rises

There is no denying that the romance in The Wind Rises works and that the animation is absolutely gorgeous. However, everything else is very subpar. This is further proof that Miyazaki just could not make a film out of his biggest passion – aviation. This story was promising, but the script is entirely unsophisticated and it doesn’t explore its interesting themes at all leading to a disappointing bore.

The Wind Rises Movie Review

 

10. Princess Mononoke

Princess Mononoke is one of the most overrated animated films of all time. The animation is beautiful and the film of course has a great environmental message, but I have just always found it boring to watch, overly epic, too action oriented and not emotional enough. The characterization is particularly weak here.

Princess Mononoke Movie Review

 

9. Porco Rosso

Porco Rosso is another disappointing aviation movie from Miyazaki. It is better than ‘The Wind Rises’ owing to a much more entertaining and better crafted plot, but still that third act was too comedic and the movie is just solid and never great. It is serviceable, but very forgettable when put against other director’s films.

Porco Rosso Movie Review

 

8. The Castle of Cagliostro

This film was a feature debut for Miyazaki and he did prove himself with it. Certainly it has overwhelming action in it plus the humor didn’t work all too well, but the storyline is pretty good and its mix of genres is very interesting – it is a heist, comedy, romance and mystery all in one package. The imagery is quite beautiful as well. It’s a solid film that put him on the map.

The Castle of Cagliostro Movie Review

 

7. Howl’s Moving Castle

Another somewhat overrated film, Howl’s Moving Castle is epic in scope and world building, gorgeous in its animation and filled with a bunch of memorable sequences and a great use of its setting and time period, but the film has too many things left unexplained and the overall affair is overly rushed and underutilized.

Howl's Moving Castle Movie Review

 

6. Kiki’s Delivery Service

This film was never meant to appeal to me. It is for children and especially girls and thus it has very limited appeal. It’s a charming, pleasantly deliberately paced and charming flick with many moving scenes, but the ending was overly bombastic and unappealing and, as I said, the film lacks universality in its approach and execution.

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5. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

Now we get to the really good films. The films up to this point are weak or pretty solid, but from here on we get his best works. This environmental tale is definitely the director’s first signature film and thus incredibly influential for both him and Studio Ghibli which was still not around during that time. It has too much action once again and the supporting characters are weak, but the protagonist is great, the animation is groundbreaking in quality and the world building is splendid.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind Movie Review

 

4. Ponyo

Ponyo is the film that grew on me upon second viewing as I didn’t like it quite as much the first time around. But even though it is derivative in its storyline, it is more than charming and lovable enough to compensate for that. Ponyo and Sosuke are Ghibli’s best couple and just watching them together is bound to get a smile on your face. Its colorful, sweetly simplistic animation and a great setting also help.

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3. Castle in the Sky

The very first Studio Ghibli film is also one of their best. It has its flaws, but Castle in the Sky is for the most part a phenomenal film with a wonderful adventurous story, a lovely sidekick in Captain Dola and breathtaking animation. Once again the world building is amazing and once again its ecological message is resonant.

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2. My Neighbor Totoro

My Neighbor Totoro is a movie for everyone unlike ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’. It’s deceptively simple, but actually sophisticated in its execution which is more slow paced and less action oriented and thus it proved groundbreaking for family films. The characters are very endearing, the animation is stunning and it’s just such a charming, childlike, wondrous film that is difficult to resist.

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1. Spirited Away

Of course there is no denying the fact that Spirited Away is the best film that Hayao Miyazaki has ever made. The character development is fantastic with Chihiro being one of the best film characters of all time, the story is epic, the world building is spectacular and the film is so meticulously detailed that you can watch it over and over again and still find something new to admire. It is also very rich in themes and character growth. Spirited Away is not only the crown jewel of Miyazaki’s filmography, but also one of the very best that animation has to offer.

Spirited Away Movie Review

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The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)

The Castle of Cagliostro Movie Review

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The Castle of Cagliostro Movie Review

The Castle of Cagliostro is a 1979 anime heist film directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It is pretty solid and admirable as the director’s feature debut.

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Lupin! Don’t you dare die before I get to arrest you!

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The Castle of Cagliostro Movie Review

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It follows a gentleman thief named Arsene Lupin III who heads to the small country of Cagliostro and there he attempts to save the princess from forced marriage. This is a very classical, old-fashioned heist flick with comedy, romance and mystery overtones to it. I definitely liked its charming, old-fashioned approach, but I also disliked its overwhelming action.

The film is the best at being a mystery as the exploration of the castle and such scenes are very interesting. The romantic scenes are also fine and the heist action scenes are mostly really well done. But still the chases and fights went on for too long and the movie surely needed a more sophisticated, calmer approach.

The characterization is solid albeit far from great. Arsene Lupin III is a pretty good protagonist. He is fun and amusing, but not particularly likable and overly cocky for my liking. Lady Clarisse is a typical love interest meaning that she is just there to be Lupin’s girlfriend. She’s charming, but a weak female character nonetheless. Others are solid and the villains are competent, but none of them stand out from the crowd in any particular fashion. The voice acting is terrific though.

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The Castle of Cagliostro Movie Review

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The Castle of Cagliostro features animation that most would deem dated nowadays, but for its time it was terrific. This 1979 animation is not as polished and is sometimes too crude, but the character design is solid and some of the backgrounds are very nice. The interiors and the castle are particularly beautiful and some of the film’s imagery truly is arresting. That intriguing imagery definitely helps the plot and mystery a lot in the process.

I found the pacing weak as the film is overly quick and rushed in pace with way too many action sequences. Most of the action is solid and fun, but some of it is overlong and also goofy. The humor definitely is not the strongest and the film is too comedic in my opinion and a more dramatic approach would have been more fitting for this type of film.

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The Castle of Cagliostro Movie Review

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The dialogue is pretty good and the film has its memorable scenes such as that moving ending and all of the scenes in the castle which are the most memorable parts of the flick. The film lacks any themes or message and is thus far from Miyazaki’s later efforts when it comes to sophistication, emotion and also world building. This film does explore and execute its charming setting superbly, but is definitely confined in space. Overall, I liked the film, but it is just solid and never great. For a debut, it is nonetheless very strong and it proved promising.

The Castle of Cagliostro lacks thematically speaking, the characterization is solid but not great and the film has overwhelming action in it, but it is overall a pretty solid feature debut for Hayao Miyazaki with memorable imagery and an interesting story with a fun heist angle to it with comedic, romantic and mystery elements also thrown into the mix.

My Rating – 3.5

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Jeepers Creepers (1939)

Jeepers Creepers ReviewJeepers Creepers Review

Jeepers Creepers is a 1939 animated short film from the Looney Tunes series. It is a very good short.

This is the kind of atmospheric horror, haunted house film that Warner Bros. should make often. So Porky Pig is a hero here. He plays a police officer who has to go into a spooky house to investigate. There the playful ghost awaits to make fun of him. It’s a great premise, but the execution isn’t the greatest as the last gag is typically racist with an annoying black face and the overall film should have been much funnier.

But I still liked it and the ghost is pretty amusing and so well designed. Porky is very memorable here and it was very entertaining watching him get scared by the ghost. The highlights are actually the scenes before he even arrived in the house because they were perfectly slow, noir-like, atmospheric and wonderfully animated with gorgeous black and white animation and great imagery.

Jeepers Creepers definitely needed more laughs, but it is wonderfully animated and atmospheric.

My Rating – 4

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Pokémon (Advanced Battle) Season 8 (2004)

Pokémon (Advanced Battle) Season 8 Review

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Pokémon (Advanced Battle) Season 8 Review

The eighth season of Pokémon is Advanced Battle which is again very flawed, but actually an improvement over its two predecessors.

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Anywhere there’s peace in the universe

Team Rocket will be there to make everything worse

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Pokémon (Advanced Battle) Season 8 Review

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Let’s first talk about the characters. Max is still an annoying brat, but I do commend the show on giving us such a wonderful relationship between sister and brother. Max and May do share some heartwarming moments here.

Speaking of May, I am surprised to find her growing and growing and actually becoming a rather tough Pokémon player. She was at first basically uninterested in any Pokémon, but is by now a rather solid fighter and I am thankful for that. The show truly needs competent female characters.

Ash is stuck in the same place as he doesn’t grow and he doesn’t even get enough new or strong creatures here. I liked seeing Misty again but I am still sad that she is never coming back fully. Brock is still the same – rather funny in romantic adventures, but boring otherwise.

As for Team Rocket, they did not have too many episodes to shine here, but when they did get a spotlight, they stole the show. I particularly liked seeing their boss in one of these episodes which needed to happen as he hasn’t been seen in quite a while.

The animation continues to be the problem. It is better, but not great. I did like however those quizzes in the middle as they now included different questions such as size. I really like that show’s feature as it’s great for the little ones.

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Pokémon (Advanced Battle) Season 8 Review

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This season definitely has its terrific episodes and some are even very strong. It has a couple of excellent fights for sure and also some fine comedic episodes as well. However, we still get a lot of pointless, frustrating filler which is getting annoying by now. But an even bigger problem is that the season relied on old Pokémon from the Kanto region during its second half. I want more new Pokémon and I do not want them to retread the old ones over and over again. Very frustrating.

So in the end, I liked Advanced Battle. It has its annoying filler episodes and the second half is definitely weaker than the first one, but some battles are excellent, May is improving constantly and the overall season is much better than the seventh and sixth one.

 

Worst Episodes: Vanity Affair, Showdown at Linoone, Caterpie’s Big Dilemma and The Saffron Con.

Best Episodes: The Relicanth Really Can, Eight Ain’t Enough and The Scheme Team.

My Rating – 3.5

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Black Water (2007)

Black Water Movie Review

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Black Water Movie Review

Black Water is a 2007 horror film set in Australia. It’s a very solid crocodile horror film which is definitely worth seeing for horror enthusiasts.

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I’ll be back.

That’s what he said

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Black Water Movie Review

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It is set in the mangrove swamps of northern Australia where Grace, her sister and husband are going on a swamp tour. Suddenly, a crocodile attacks them, kills their guide and it is up to the three of them to survive. The story is of course slight, but it works as everything we need is the crocodile and this awesome swamp setting which I absolutely loved.

The characterization is of course the problem as I did not care for either of them and I found them uninteresting and poorly developed. Adam is forgettable and Lee is heroic and likable, but in terms of acting Diana Glenn as Grace easily gave the finest performance with the other two being weak.

The film isn’t scary enough and it’s somewhat slow. However, it benefits from a couple of definitely fantastic scenes such as the entire ending which is so well done and hugely entertaining. The highlight for me was the scene in which the crocodile jumped from the water which was unexpected and a great jump scare so well executed.

They made use of this setting so well and I really liked how the film was shot. Some of the low shots are very effective in building the tension. I wanted more action and much more exploration of the swamp, but still the more grounded approach paid off in terms of realism.

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Black Water Movie Review

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Black Water is admirable for using so little CGI in it which I respected a lot. The crocodile is real and the dead bodies are practical effects. That’s why the film felt realistic and the crocodile is in particular very memorable and such a great, menacing villain.

It’s a shame we did not see more of him, but that approach with less instead of more is classic horror which is interesting. The shots of the croc emerging from the water all stole the show here. And of course the scene where you can hear him eating and crushing the human bones was so creepy.

Black Water needed more scares and the characterization is poor with the acting also being weak. But it’s still a pretty solid croc attack film with a couple of very creepy, so well executed sequences, a great use of its interesting setting and an admirable approach with less action, more realistic scenarios and no use of CGI whatsoever.

My Rating – 3.5

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Peter and the Wolf (2006)

Peter and the Wolf ReviewPeter and the Wolf Review

Peter and the Wolf is a 2006 Polish Oscar winning animated short film that is very strong and an interesting experiment.

This tale has been adapted so many times before in an animated form, but this time around the approach is different – more serious, realistic and with no dialogue and gags whatsoever. It is an overly serious film at times with not a particularly engaging, adventurous tone to it and I wanted better characterization, but still this interesting experiment mostly paid off and I am quite fine with its Oscar win.

I really liked the film’s ending which is beautiful. The film has some very strong scenes such as the tree one of course, but I wanted more of the wolf in the film. He is still memorable but underutilized, Peter is okay and of course the duck, cat and crow are the highlights. The animation is truly terrific and I could see that it was an international production with a solid budget as the stop-motion here is fantastic with excellent character design in particular.

Peter and the Wolf isn’t entirely successful as this interesting experiment on telling this tale, but it mostly succeeds owing to superb animation and some wonderful scenes.

My Rating – 4.1

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