It’s Tough to Be a Bird (1969)

It's Tough to Be a Bird ReviewIt’s Tough to Be a Bird Review

It’s Tough to Be a Bird is an Oscar winning animated short film from 1969.

This is basically one of those educational animated shorts that were popular during this decade. Its subject matter are birds and especially man’s relationship with the birds. It uses animation, but also some live-action segments. The animation is solid, albeit nothing spectacular and the live-action segments were much more interesting here.

The film has all of the pitfalls of an educational form as it is overly simplistic and is definitely meant for kids as I knew all of these things except the buzzards and I liked learning more about them. The score is very good and the film is fun and certainly has an amusing tone to it, but clocking in at twenty minutes, it is certainly too long. Its protagonist is one of the best things about this film as he is definitely familiar, but so well designed, Ruth Buzzi did a very good job in the role and this red bird is certainly funny and memorable.

It’s Tough to Be a Bird is typical in its form and overlong, but fun, amusing and certainly very well made.

My Rating – 4

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a 2014 science fiction film directed by Matt Reeves and starring Jason Clarke, Andy Serkis and Gary Oldman. It is a fantastic sequel.

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I always think… ape better than human.

I see now… how much like them we are

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

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This movie is so great and actually kind of incredible because it manages to be better than ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ which was already a fantastic film. But this one is even better and sequels are rarely better. It is great because it prolongs the story and we see the beginnings of the conflict between the apes and humans and it serves as a perfect middle chapter in what I hope is going to be an amazing trilogy.

So the biggest reason why this movie is so incredible lies in its nature. Whereas its predecessor was a science fiction film that started the whole story, this one not only continues the plot, but it also changes its tone and setting. It is much more action oriented, much darker and much more ambitious but still being moving in its tone. It is very much a sequel to ‘Rise’, but it is also kind of its own thing and that is what every sequel should strive for.

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

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Caesar is a phenomenal character and here he becomes absolutely fantastic and one of the all time greatest blockbuster protagonists. Yes, he is that good. We see his struggles with his fellow apes as the leader, but we also see his relationship with humans which is wonderful and he is such a wise, but incredibly strong ape too.

Malcolm is very good and the relationship between these two is beautiful. Dreyfus is somewhat of a typical villain, but still very well realized mostly. Alexander and Ellie should have been better developed, but Koba is of course excellent as the one responsible for the entire war that is now brewing between the two species.

Jason Clarke is likable in the role, Gary Oldman is as good as he usually is and of course Andy Serkis steals the show entirely. His performance is breathtaking and he honestly should have been Oscar nominated for this role as it is that good.

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has a bunch of memorable sequences and I am going to list some of my favorites now. Loved the opening and that bear fight scene was amazing. The chimp baby scene was adorable, of course the scene where Caesar reminisces his time with Will is emotionally resonant, his fight with Koba is exhilarating and of course the entire ending is majestic and the emotional moment Malcolm and Caesar share is just beautiful to witness.

The movie is very well directed by Matt Reeves, very well edited and paced and once again featuring splendid special effects. It looks amazing and sounds great, but the apes themselves look real that it really is one shining example of what CGI could accomplish nowadays. I usually don’t love CGI, but here I did as it was put to brilliant use.

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

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I thought the action was excellent and never felt overwhelming as it was so well done. The emotion is evident from beginning to end and it is the biggest reason why this newly restored franchise is great as you feel for its characters and fear for their lives. But because the script is so good and the dialogue is excellent, you’ve got one whole beautiful package in here. It also seemed realistic and I loved that the apes used sign language and the use of subtitles is great. The film shows us the roots of evil so well and how connected to intelligence it really is.

Evil is born along with evolution and it is a necessary negative aspect that comes from intelligence and leads all wars; the society needs to have cooperation and trust in order to progress – those are the statements that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes makes: a movie which is very intelligent and incredibly emotional (the final scene is beautiful) while still containing a bunch of great action scenes and absolutely superb special effects. It also has one of the best ever protagonists in Caesar. It is one of the best films of 2014 and one of the best sequels as well as blockbusters ever made, the one which trumps even the absolutely amazing predecessor and which raises the bar for the finale leading to what definitely could be one of the best, if not the very best, trilogies of all time.

My Rating – 5

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Buddy of the Legion (1935)

Buddy of the Legion ReviewBuddy of the Legion Review

Buddy of the Legion is a 1935 animated short film from the Looney Tunes series. It is a pretty solid Buddy entry.

Buddy transports to the Arabian desert by reading a book in a store that he was supposed to watch over. I’ve seen this type of film before, but I’ve always liked a premise like that so I liked this film too. It is nothing original and Buddy is as bland as ever when he needed to have been stronger here in particular, but the plot is solid and the ending is very good.

I liked the use of the store and that matron lady was memorable. The animation is okay, if nothing spectacular and the action should have been better. But I liked the Arabian part quite a bit as it was a lot of fun and actually very well executed. The film has ingredients for greatness, but had it had more humor and a more memorable protagonist, it would have been much better.

Buddy of the Legion is solid and fun, but not as great as it could have been anyway.

My Rating – 3.6

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My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

My Neighbor Totoro Movie Review

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My Neighbor Totoro Movie Review

My Neighbor Totoro is a 1988 family fantasy anime film directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It is one of Studio Ghibli’s loveliest offerings.

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Well, I’m not sure,

but I could’ve sworn that I saw

both of the girls up in the treetop, laughing

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My Neighbor Totoro Movie Review

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This has to be Ghibli’s most childlike film and that is okay as it is wonderful and so pleasing and gentle that you gotta love it no matter the age. So basically we follow two sisters as they explore the country and the forest while interacting with friendly wood spirits. Yes, this film apparently doesn’t have a clear storyline, but I have to say that I liked it all the more for it.

In real life, rare are sudden conflicts and there are no villains so this film ended up being rather realistic and an original take on an animated film as I cannot think of any other animated flick that did this. It is a wonderful slice of life story for children and their parents and I myself sympathized with the characters and I loved the country setting. Despite not having a clear plot and goal, the film still explores some themes and the most emphasized are those of sibling love, benefits of living in the country and of course the film is as ecological as you’d come to expect from the director. It reminded me pleasantly of my childhood and seeing the two sisters explore the house and the forest is exactly what I did as a kid so it was relatable to me.

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My Neighbor Totoro Movie Review

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Let’s talk about the characters. Satsuki and Mei are such wonderful child characters whom I really liked. As with ‘Grave of the Fireflies’, the film showcases realistically and nostalgically the powers of childhood and how children really interact. Everything is a wonder to them, their thirst for exploration is never-ending and they even portrayed realistically how boys and girls do not get along at an early age and how boys are much more shy. Very well done.

Satsuki having  to care for Mei also reminded me of the aforementioned film and it again shows us how responsible the role of an older child really is. Mei is cute and sometimes funny, but also at times annoying. A very grounded in reality four-year-old. I loved Kanta and his shy interactions with Satsuki were very amusing and of course the grandmother is lovable.

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My Neighbor Totoro Movie Review

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My Neighbor Totoro is a family slice of life film but it is also very much a fantasy flick. Its creatures are so original in design and authentic that they deservedly stood the test of time and are iconic to this day. The dustbunnies are very interesting and the Catbus is such a fantastic creation that is zany in the best way possible. It obviously influenced J. K. Rowling for her Knight Bus. And of course Totoro is such a lovable creature and the mix of cute and large is memorable and he is cute while also being very funny at times.

Hayao Miyazaki directed this film really well and you cannot deny his strong sense of space and time as both the setting and the fifties are very well portrayed here. I just loved everything about this country. The house is quite memorable and of course the forest is beautiful to behold. I loved how we got to see the country jobs and the various amounts of vegetables and fruit shown here can definitely make you hungry.

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My Neighbor Totoro Movie Review

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Yes, the animation is simply gorgeous as is expected from this magnificent studio. The character design of the humans is very good, but it is the creature design that really makes an impact as it is simple, yet unforgettable. The film is beautiful to look at and again highly advanced for its time as both the water and the light are so realistically portrayed.

As for some of the flaws, sometimes the kids yelled a bit too much for sure and the film can definitely be too simplistic and childish to some. I don’t see how a lot of people can like it. I myself did, but it isn’t for everyone. And even though I really liked the inclusion of their mother’s illness and the third act was more emotional and dark while still ending on a very positive note, I still wished that it was a bit darker and more emotional. I loved the film’s ending for sure, but maybe a more ambiguous ending would have been better.

And I loved the properties of the creatures such as the Catbus flying and Totoro making a tree grow to full size in a matter of minutes, but I still would have liked a bit more explanations and more concise rules for the powers as an adult. Again, that is where being a kid really matters as it leads to a better viewing experience of the film.

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My Neighbor Totoro Movie Review

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My Neighbor Totoro is very well paced and although it may be too slow for some, I actually loved its languid pace and that meant that you can enjoy the power of the animation much more. The level of detail in this movie is truly staggering. The dialogue is also solid and some lines are quite memorable. And I have to mention its score as it is beautiful per usual but this time containing a song and its theme song is so endearing catchy and ultimately fantastic. The film has a big heart and very much a timeless appeal to it. It is one of the most wonderfully childlike films that I have ever seen and certainly one of Ghibli’s best works.

My Neighbor Totoro is a gentle, leisurely, simple slice of life film that offers you a heartwarming look into the eyes of a child without ever succumbing to clichéd conflicts and villains and thus it led to an original, more realistic take on an animated film. The characters are lovable, the creatures even more so and the animation is as brilliant as you would come to expect from the studio with a painstaking level of detail. It is a beautiful movie that is timeless in quality and it’s one of Studio Ghibli’s best.

My Rating – 4.5

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Buddy’s Theatre (1935)

Buddy's Theatre ReviewBuddy’s Theatre Review

Buddy’s Theatre is a 1935 animated short film from the Looney Tunes series. It is a rehashed film.

This is such a shameful rehash of ‘Bosko’s Picture Show’ that I was honestly surprised at Warner Brothers and how they found this acceptable. Very unfortunate and ultimately manipulative as most people would not realize it’s a rehash, both now and then. But it is still so unoriginal and inferior to its predecessor that it is the worst entry in 1935 so far.

Buddy’s Theatre is still a solid film because this premise, even if stolen, lends to a lot of great plot points. I loved the third act with Cookie and it was really funny that Buddy went after her into the screen and eventually we only see him and not her. Hilarious. That entire part is very well done, but the historical slices are not all that memorable.

Buddy’s Theatre has a great third act, but it is such a rehashed entry and I cannot forgive it for that.

My Rating – 3.4

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I Haven’t Got a Hat (1935)

I Haven't Got a Hat ReviewI Haven’t Got a Hat Review

I Haven’t Got a Hat is a 1935 animated short film from the Merry Melodies series. It is such an important entry in the series.

Yes, this film is very important for featuring the first ever appearance of Porky Pig. He is fatter than usual and this first look of his won’t remain for long, but his signature behavior with his famous stutter is already here and he is amusing and memorable. It is easy to see why he became so popular as he is such a different character than usual.

So this film introduces many new characters in hope that some would catch on. It was all done in the backdrop of a school recital which is all fair and square, but it still felt like an overly advertising short and that was obvious from the beginning. I also found its ending disappointing and abrupt. But I really liked its two-strip process and I know it isn’t full color, but the green-red look here was rather pleasing. I liked the songs and Oliver Owl is the most memorable creation here after Porky Pig and I liked his rivalry with Beans. And of course Little Kitty being nervous and having got to pee provided one hilarious extended sequence.

I Haven’t Got a Hat is too much like an advertise, but it features very memorable characters, good humor and it is a great introductory short for Porky Pig.

My Rating – 4.3

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Playful Pan (1930)

Playful Pan ReviewPlayful Pan Review

Playful Pan is a Disney animated short film. It is a highly regular 1930 Silly Symphony.

So Pan has the power to make animals and even plants dance and when a fire starts, he successfully lures the flames into the water and saves the forest. All of this is very typical in execution and although the plot is somewhat stronger and the animation certainly has its strengths such as the great flames, it is still such a dull, forgettable entry.

I liked its score and the animation and the character design of its protagonist is actually solid for once, but as I said, the short is boring as the action/dances become rather repetitive near the end as they are all the same. Some of the sequences with the flames save this from being a total bore as those are rather well executed.

Playful Pan certainly has its moments in terms of animation, but it is dull and repetitive in its very clichéd plot.

My Rating – 3.3

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Buddy’s Pony Express (1935)

Buddy's Pony Express ReviewBuddy’s Pony Express Review

Buddy’s Pony Express is a 1935 animated short film from the Looney Tunes series. It is a fun, solid Buddy offering.

Now Buddy’s shorts are outnumbered by this point as he only has around seven to go and that is understandable as the quality of his entries was always subpar. But this is admittedly one of the better ones that still features totally forgettable Cookie and a first half that is rather unmemorable as a whole, but the second half is more than entertaining enough to recommend it.

I loved some of the gags here such as the grass gag and kissing the horse at the end, both very memorable. Buddy is as dull as usual, but that anthropomorphic dog villain is actually quite solid, although nothing original to brag about. The action is surprisingly strong in its climax and I wish the whole film was as fast paced as those last scenes.

Buddy’s Pony Express is far from great, but rather solid in its action execution plus featuring a couple of good gags.

My Rating – 3.7

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Monkey Melodies (1930)

Monkey Melodies ReviewMonkey Melodies Review

Monkey Melodies is a 1930 Disney animated short film. It is a clichéd early Silly Symphony and one of the worse in the series.

To me Monkey Melodies is one good example of why some people may say that if you’ve seen one Silly Symphony, you’ve seen them all. It is a harsh statement, but this short does not dispel that sentiment at all. You basically have here a bunch of monkeys dancing around and near the end a crocodile attacks them, they manage to escape and they kiss.

The animation is nice and the score is pretty good. The end scene is well done and that is basically it. It is a harmless cartoon which isn’t bad, but it is so typical and so derivative that it doesn’t have anything new or interesting to offer. The dance parts are dull and the film lacks in terms of the gags too. 1930 wasn’t a particularly great year for the series, but this one is still one of the worst there.

Monkey Melodies is well made, but a typical early short in the series with too many dances and a basic plot.

My Rating – 3.2

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Country Boy (1935)

Country Boy ReviewCountry Boy Review

Country Boy is a 1935 animated short film from the Merry Melodies series. It is such a fun, Disney-like movie.

It follows Peter Rabbit and his quest for carrots. He destroys an entire man’s garden in pursuit of the carrots. This is definitely very reminiscent to Disney’s Silly Symphonies and although I do not approve of that similarity, I still liked it as I love cartoons such as this one. The animation in particular is wonderful along with the character design. The score is excellent and the theme repeated throughout is quite competent in accompanying the action on screen.

The first half is great and the second half is a lot of fun. The cartoon is amusing and pleasantly mischievous. But there is one huge problem in terms of storytelling and that is that Peter Rabbit never, ever for once got apprehended for his bad deeds. I do get that maybe it was Warner Brothers’ stamp at originality by including a protagonist who doesn’t get punished, but if that was the case, it again fails miserably as the first half is filled with warnings from others so the direction was clearly going towards lesson learning. Very troublesome.

Country Boy has a very problematic ending, but other than that, the film is a lot of fun and fueled with great animation and score.

My Rating – 4.1

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