Still catching up. November and December will be together. Still have games and anime to catch up on, aside from anime films, which are here. Quite a few films, more than I thought I watched, and I didn’t care too much for most, but I did for a few, so let’s go through it.
When Marnie Was There + Rewatch – Yes, I actually watched it twice during this time period, once in May, and again in November. This is my 2nd favourite Studio Ghibli film from the last two decades (accounting for the fact I haven’t watched a couple of the Takahata films), with the favourite one being Princess Mononoke. This is a perfect capstone for Studio Ghibli, or at least to the Miyazaki style of movie-making. It’s small and heart-felt and magical. I wrote a bigger editorial about it that is heavily spoilerific, but I strongly recommend this film to anyone and everyone, of every age. I do recommend the sub strongly here – the dub acting is fine, but it completely changes the nature of the thing. 9/10.
Avengers 2: Age of Ultron – This movie really made the 3D not fun. And it wasn’t even the fault of the 3D itself, but that the glasses the cinema uses for 3D makes everything appear darker, and then when there was the fight in the belly of the ship, I just couldn’t tell what was going on, because it was dark shapes across dark backdrop. As to the movie itself, it was sort of alright? James Spader is always fun, but being robbed of his facial expressions hurt. The twins and their sacrifice was a good moment, leaning heavily on moments we didn’t care for. Likewise, The Hulk rampaging in the city and being calmed by Black Widow? Another solid moment, but which wasn’t properly built up, and that was essentially the issue with the film as a whole, where it felt terribly stitched-together, rather than a coherent piece. Too many storylines, and none of them really given the room needed to breathe. Eh.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Rewatch) – After rewatching Summer Wars for the umpteenth time in April, it was time to return to this film and see what I think of it. The structure and plot are fine, but I feel like we haven’t been given enough time with the characters, and the film spends so much time playing around with the premise and sheer joy of jumping around time that when it comes back to tying up all of the plot-lines, and even the characters’ emotional lines, they’re sort of either left dangling or picked up haphazardly. It’s a grudging 8, because some aspects and technical aspects still pull through. This shot made me think of the very long shot in Summer Wars, when I rewatched, and is a good way of showing how one is running out of time, if you’ll excuse the pun. Grudging 8/10.
Japan Animator Expo shorts 1-3 – Shorts, giving a chance to various upcoming or prominent animators to create shorts and get better known, and to display anime’s talent. Got through 3 shorts, planned to watch one a day, but you know how plans are. The first, Dragon Dentist, was pretty good, and I could’ve seen myself wanting it to be 30 minutes instead. It was also very good looking. Hill Climb Girl was just alright, and Me! Me! Me!, well, that was something alright. I shared my thoughts about it here.
Kung Fury – “So bad it’s good” never worked for me, and if something is intentionally bad it doesn’t magically stop being bad. Yes, I sometimes laughed at it, even where they intended, but I was facepalming in a non-ironic manner most of the way through. 3/10, will not watch again. The David Hasselhoff song was nice though. The link leads to the official video on YouTube, it’s 30 minutes. Have fun going back to the 80s as they never were.
The Wind Rises – Beautiful film, great music, can definitely see the touches of the Ponyo art-style. It’s unlike any of Miyazaki’s other films, and in terms of a Studio Ghibli film it most reminds me of Whisper of the Heart. Also reminds me somewhat of A Beautiful Mind. It’s not concise, and there’s not as much of an organized message. It’s much wider in scope, and it has a lot more going on there that it gives time to, and true to Miyazaki fashion lets those moments breathe, and take as long as they need to – which again, detracts from a specific and “sharp” focus, but creates a wider scope drama, a reflection of someone’s life. I liked it. 8/10.
Mad Max: Fury Road – When I watched this film, all amazed and overjoyed, I had to think back to my experience with The Hobbit 3: The Battle of the Five Armies, where I commented a 45 minute non-stop fight was way too long, and lost all sense of excitement and tension, and that a film needs to give us downtime before we can get amped again. And yet, Mad Max has somehow done the impossible, making Redline, Dead Leaves, and other “non-stop action fests” seem like children flailing at toys. I don’t even know to explain why it was so good, or how such a thing is allowed to be. But non-stop action that kept me glued and tense and wanting to see more. The would-be romance sub-plot between the boy and one of the girls was meh, but thankfully it wasn’t given much time. I’ll probably get the Blu-Ray for this. I need to watch this every several months. If you want to see action well-done beyond how well-done pure action should be allowed to exist, then watch this film. In anime, the closest thing I can think of is the last two episodes of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.
Little Witch Academia 2: The Enchanted Parade – 2013’s Little Witch Academia was magical, and joyful, and brings tears to my eyes every time I rewatch it. So how did I feel about the sequel? I thought it wasn’t as good. It had its own themes of appearances and old versus new, it had its nice set-pieces that called out to Fantasia’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and it had new characters that weren’t fully fleshed out but had nice moments. It’s its own thing, and even if it’s not as “special” or just plain good as the first, I’m still glad I watched it. 7.5/10.
Antman – This was a pretty “by the book” film, that is more in line with Guardians of the Galaxy than some of Marvel’s more recent films, but also reminds me of the early Spidermans. An irreverent silly movie, with some action. I enjoyed it a lot more than a lot of Marvel’s other films. It’s not as meaty, and a lot of the humor goes for simple gags and obvious crass jokes, but it was still more enjoyable than explosion and fight-fiestas with overdark characters.
The Secret World of Arrietty – This film is by the director of When Marnie Was There, which impressed me a lot, so I decided to give it a whirl. It’s pretty, and Arrietty was so cute and precious. It looked good, and it sounded good, and it had a couple of characters and some adventure there, but aside from the set-pieces, it just felt a bit shallow. I didn’t feel either Arrietty nor Shou were fleshed out enough, and their interactions felt lacking as a result as well. The house-helper? She was straight out of Disney, a two-dimensional caricature, which could be fine for a background character, but she was given too much time for that. I would’ve liked this film with 20 more minutes spent not on Arrietty walking around and showing us our world from her perspective (which was very impressive, I’ll admit), but interacting, or expressing herself. She didn’t feel like a fully realized character. And this small and would be intimate story relied on characters, and without characters to carry it, I was left disappointed. 6/10.
Children Who Chase Lost Voices – I’m basically always split on Makoto Shinkai’s films, either really loving them, or feeling left cold by them. This film still deals with his most common (only?) of themes, of distance between people, and while the film still has his amazing backgrounds, it seems to take much more after Studio Ghibli films, with elements, shots, and sometimes entire scenes that were lifted from Nausicaa, Princess Mononoke, or Castle in the Sky. The film is very pretty, but once more, the focus is almost entirely on the experience and adventure, rather than the characters and their stakes. I feel this is one movie where 30 more minutes of nothing but letting the characters be themselves would’ve done a lot for the film. 6/10.
Aura: Maryuuinkouga Saigo no Tatakai / Aura: Koga Maryuin’s Last War – I honestly don’t have a lot to say about it. Great sound, good voice acting, next to no animation, underwhelming direction (Kishi Seiji), and a serviceable story. Another story about chuunis, bullying, and finding your place in the world, your place with others. A couple of good moments, but most of it was telegraphed, rote, and flat. 6.5/10.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Play) – Went and watched it in a theatre. Plenty of good actors on stage, but things felt pushed too far. Too far into histrionics, or too far into cold and uncaring exteriors. Yes, that is some of the point, but the whole thing ended up feeling very indulgent, and it dragged on and on, and wasn’t all that enjoyable. There were a couple of good moments, and I know that Maggie is supposed to talk endlessly to fill in the silence, but… I didn’t think too highly of it.
Tsukimi no Ie (La Maison en Petits Cubes / House of Small Cubes) – In my quest to get through MyAnimeList (Anime’s most popular IMDB-equivalent)’s top 30 stand-alone films (no sequels/adaptations), I watched this artistic short, which feels exactly like one of the many cartoon shorts I’d watch yearly at the comic and caricature festival. Pretty nice as they go, with some neat “messages” about how we can try to find replacements, but we’ll always be aware they’re not the original, reflections on how our life expands and shrinks based on the people in it, and how the present is built on the foundations of the past. It was also nice in an audio-visual experience. Top 30 stand-alone MAL movie-list material? Maybe not, but a worthy 12 minute watch, certainly. 7/10.
Colorful – Colorful’s writer understands emotions, and people, and there were a couple of moments in the film without any words where I found myself smiling at the screen, and smiling at the characters. I could see how the movie had emotionally resonant content. The problem is the movie is saddled with lacklaster direction, bad voice acting, and animation that is worse than “no budget” anime series, which stood out even more in a film. There’s good content in this film, but just very little of it came through due to botched execution. 5.5/10.
Mr. Robot – I want to say Mr. Robot is the modern Fight Club, but Fight Club is still pretty darn modern. Well, more technologically bent Fight Club, and less focused on the underlying rage and anger. The drama in this show is pretty good, the characters well done, and the stakes feel real. The twists and reveals kept me hooked, even if the “villains”, those who only wish for personal gain over the suffering masses were too caricaturized. Yeah, this show went far, and then went farther in its hyper-ridiculous depictions of lack of morals and restraint, and did so in order to impugn the ruling elite, but at some point it didn’t feel real. You can only push so far, you don’t have to make them metaphorical killers, literal killers, and sexual deviants. That aspect felt quite Shakespearian. Recommended? Yes, just as Fight Club was.
The Blacklist Season 2 episodes 20-22, Season 3 episodes 1-8 – Fun trash continues. Though I’ve been having less fun with the latest season, and also think it’s not as good, not only just not as enjoyable. The specific premise of “running away and on the loose” gives less time for James Spader, and I actually enjoyed the episodic structure of the show. Could be “Not worse, just different,” with me having been perfectly fine with the previous format. And now we’re on a major cliffhanger, until after the season of holidays is past. And I want to see what’s happening!
Pushing Daisies Season 2 episode 3 – Still only one episode. And finally the whole gang is going to be back. This episode was deliciously funny and touching as this show ever was, which is why I save these episodes for when I need them.
Any television series, films, or plays you’ve watched recently and would like to discuss? Jessica Jones will have to wait for my write-up, but what did you think of it?