Howl’s Moving Castle (2002) Review

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Howl’s Moving Castle was written and Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, it is a fantasy-romance film based on a book of the same name.

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Sophie is a young girl who works in a hat shop with her mother and sisters. One day her sisters are admiring the sight of the famous moving castle that is owned by the wizard Howl.

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While working late into the night Sophie is alone when she is confronted by the Witch of the Waste who mistakes Sophie for her sister Lettie and curses her into the form of an elderly woman.

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Hoping to find a cure for the curse, Sophie seeks out the wizard Howl and becomes a care taker in his castle, she is desperate to get back to her old younger form but the curse prevents her from telling people what happened leaving her to figure a lot of it out on her own.

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There are so many lovable characters in this movie, Howl is voiced by Christian Bale and old Sophie (Jean Simmons) is another one of my favourites but in my opinion no one can top Calcifer a fire demon that had been placed under curse to become Howl’s heart and life line, his fire needs too keep burning or Howl will die, he’s voiced by Billy Crystal who was a perfect casting choice.

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The animation in the film is outstanding and visually its gorgeous, there is a lot of details in many scenes and the design choices are really quite magical, a lot of bounce and stretch animation is used in the film which helps to give the characters gravity and realistic movements.

Howl’s Moving Castle is a fantastic movie that shows the desperation of many people trying to break multiple curses, you really feel the pressure on everyone’s shoulders in this film to either survive or get their old lives back, its a movie full of magic and wonder and is one you do not want to miss.

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The Cat Returns (2002) Review

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The Cat Returns is a Fantasy film that was Directed by Hiroyuki Morita with the screenplay by Reiko Yoshida.

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A shy high school student named Haru rescues a cat in the street before it is hit by a car, she doesn’t realise until afterwards that the cat she saved was in fact a prince and as a thankyou she is now unfortunately lined up to become his wife. Haru is harassed by cats from the cat kingdom who want her as their queen.

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She begins hearing a voice telling her to find a fat white cat who can take her to the home of the Baron (This is the same Baron from Whisper of the Heart) a talented swordsman who can keep Haru safe, Haru is soon kidnapped and taken to the Cat Kingdom leaving the Baron and his assistant Muta to follow the catnappers and rescue Haru from a future she never asked for.

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Plot wise this is a really easy film to follow and its just over hour in length making it a great starting point for introducing new comers to Ghibli films or anime in general.

Not a lot really stands out with this film, I love characters designs but have never really  been a fan of the world, the cat kingdom is quite boring to be honest nothing stands out about it but the characters really bring this film to life.

The king is voiced by Tim Curry who does an excellent job, the witty nature and villainous tone that he carry’s is perfect for this character.

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Anne Hathaway voices our lead and is fantastic, other recognisable names are Peter Boyle, Andy Richter and Kristen Bell.

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There isn’t much to talk about with this film, its no masterpiece and is far from one of the most impacting or epic films in the Ghibli collection however, its still one of my favourites and that is mainly due to its charm and how its a film that is a really easy to follow along with, it being shorter is nice too because some of the longer Ghibli can feel that they drag out a little bit longer than necessary but this one is straight to point and is fun all of the way through, the Cat Returns is a really nice movie and I think that is the best way to describe it, it can be enjoyed by anyone and it’s a film that I try to watch as often as I get the chance.

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My Neighbours the Yamada’s (1999) Review

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My Neighbours the Yamada’s is a comedy film about the daily lives of a Japanese family, it was both written and directed by Isao Takahata.

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Its quite difficult to discuss the plot of this movie because it doesn’t really have one, the film is a viewing of the daily lives of an eccentric Japanese family, the movie shows various scenarios that they have to deal with and this is often portrayed through comedy.

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I will be honest and say that I found a lot of these scenarios very forgetful but some of them were really memorable such as when they accidentally left the daughter in the supermarket which is quite a scary scenario for any family, another example was when the young boy bought cookies for a girl in his class but they were eaten by his sister and his mum.

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So the story wasn’t too great but the animation was really cool and unique, the whole film looks like a children’s colouring book and is a treat to watch, some scenes such as when they are under water or during the motor bike chase show off the wonder of this animation style extremely well and images alone cant do it justice so I would recommend at least checking out clips of the film on YouTube.

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The voice cast was great in this film, the only characters with major dialogue was the family and all of them had a talented voice actor which suited their character very well.

I really struggled to say much about this film, It is really unique and has awesome animation but as a whole its just a little bit boring and I feel that some viewers might end up not enjoying the film as much as others, if you want to tackle the full Studio Ghibli collection or see this for just the animation then give it a watch but otherwise I would say that this is one film you could skip.

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Whisper of the heart (1995) Review

Whisper of the heart is a 1995 coming of age,love film that was written by Hayao Miyazaki and directed by Yoshifumi Kondo.

Shizuku a high school student at the same school as her best friend Yuko.

Shizuki loves books and rents lots of them from the library but a strange coincidence is that every one of the books she has rented have also been previously rented by a man named Seiji Amasawa, she desperately wants to seek out this man.

After riding a train she follows a cat into an antique shop and finds a statue of a cat named the Baron.

Ghibli fans will recognise the Baron from the Cat Returns another film from the company.

Romance is the main theme of the film, our main character falls for a boy who teases her but has a dilemma when the boy Yuko has a crush on falls in love with her instead.

I liked this movie but it is far from one of my favourites, it was entertaining enough to keep me invested but nothing much about it stood out much to me, my favourite part was finding the statue of the Baron and the day dream sequence with the Baron but that was only because of the Cat Returns which is a film I really love.

Overall a good movie but not one I will be returning too often.

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Pom Poko (1994) Review

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Pom Poko is a dramatic comedy film about Raccoons who want to stop a development project that may destroy their home. The film was directed by Isao Takahata

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In 1960 Tokyo Japan, a group of Raccoons are forced to leave their home in Tama Hills after greedy humans knock it down to build a new developmental project. This upsets the Raccoons who want to get revenge on the humans and get back their home.

The Raccoons end up fighting with each-other when they disagree on the best way to deal with the humans, some want to scare them away while others would rather kill them off.

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According to Japanese folk lore, Raccoons are able to transform and this ability is present in the film and plays a major role, many of the Raccoons have forgotten how to transform so they need to practice this ability to have any chance of scaring away the humans.

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While they do well in learning to transform they have to call in the help of three transformation masters, these masters help the Raccoons to pull of a spectacular parade of horrors which is the best scene in the movie. Its filled with strange imagery and weird scenarios.

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I love the transformation scenes of the Raccoons but its the regular formation of Raccoon that is my favourite they are so cute and even though they are animated they are quite realistic in design.

Recognisable names are Jonathan Taylor Thomas who plays Shōkichi and J.K. Simmons who plays Seizaemon.

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Pom Poko is a truly wonderful movie its full of charm and comedy that you will remember for a very long time, It tells its plot through a serious issue that happens to forests and homes of woodland creatures all over the world. You may be a human reading this but you will definitely be rooting for the Raccoons of Tama Hills when you watch Pom Poko.

I hope you enjoyed this review of Pom Poko

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Only Yesterday (1991) Review

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Only Yesterday is a drama film directed by Isao Takahata, it is based on a Manga of the same title.

Taeko is a 27 year old woman who has decided to take a trip to the countryside.

While travelling to her destination on a train she remembers memories of her childhood and her school days.

The main focus of the story is these flash backs. It shows Taeko growing up and learning to live with strict parents, how to deal with bullies and discovering her body when she first has a period.

A lot goes on this film in reality this film is about a child struggling to gain an understanding from her family about why she behaves the way she does and why she is not as good as her siblings when it comes to her school grades.

I normally I don’t like this type of film but I really resonated with this one, I had a good childhood growing up and was luckier than most other children that I knew but so many of the struggles that this little girl went through was very similar to things I had to go through when I was younger. I won’t go into details of my past but I found this film emotional as it reminded me of myself.

Daisy Ridley who plays Rey in the new star wars trilogy voices Taeko in the film and she and everyone else does a great job.

I don’t have too much to say about this film, nothing really was that memorable and I think that if I didn’t resonate with it as much I don’t think I would have enjoyed it, but with that being said in 1991 this was the highest grossing film in Japan so there is obviously an audience for it.

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Kiki’s Delivery Service 1989 Review

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Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, Kiki’s Delivery Service is a coming of age story about a young Witch who moves to the big city.

1008714Kiki is a young witch who has just turned 13, traditionally witches leave home at this age, Kiki leaves her parents and heads to the city of Koriko where she eventually lives after helping out the local baker who gives her a room, Kiki sets up a delivery service to earn a little money to buy food and supplies for herself and her cat Jiji.

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Similar to my Neighbour Totoro not a lot goes on in this film but its the small things that do happen that makes it so memorable, the main plot focuses on a semi love interest for Kiki named Tombo, Tombo is fascinated by Kiki because of her ability to fly on her broom stick, he loves aviation and is keen to fly on his bicycle.

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There are a few things that happen in the film but one of the most memorable was Kiki meeting the painter named Ursula, Ursula has the ability to get close to birds without scaring them, she is a very passionate painter and becomes a good friend of Kiki in the film and later on helps her out when she is upset.

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There are so many great characters in the film but my favourite is Jiji. Jiji is Kiki’s pet cat who joins her on her delivery’s he is able to communicate with Kiki and has some of funniest lines and jokes in the film.

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I really like movies like this where not a lot happens but you really do get hooked on the story and Kiki’s Delivery Service is the perfect example of this. It’s a simple movie with a basic plot but an amazing atmosphere and a cast of characters that will make your heart melt. Kirsten Dunst does and excellent job at voicing Kiki and Phil Hartman stands out as Jiji but all of the cast members did a great job. There is something about the atmosphere of the world of this movie that really draws you in, I would love to visit this city and just just walk around and see all of the great sights.

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I did some research and found out that there is a bakery in Japan that is based on Kiki’s Delivery service, apparently they even sell themed baked goods, I will leave the link below so you check out the article for yourself.

https://www.boredpanda.com/kiki-bakery-studio-ghibli-hayao-miyazaki-yufuin-floral-village-japan/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=organic

I love Kiki’s Delivery Service, its one of favourite films and I try to watch it every year, it truly is magical and is sure to find a special place in your heart. I think it’s one of Miyazaki’s best work and it will always be a very important film to me, its definitely worth giving it a viewing.

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Castle in the Sky (1986) Review

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Castle in the Sky is technically the first movie under the Studio Ghibli name but it is recognised by the company as their second film after Nausicca of the Valley of the Wind.

Its a fantasy-adventure film which was written and Directed by Hayao Miyazaki.

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After an attack on an airship a young girl named Sheeta falls slowly and lands in a small town where she is discovered by an adventurous orphan boy called Pazu, who takes her into his home to take of her, not long after this they are attacked by the pirates who want to steal Sheetas necklace which holds mysterious powers.

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The Pirates are my favourite part of the film they are really funny and often cause epic and comedic chase sequences between them and the two protagonists, another reason I like these characters is because they are not just typical villain characters they do have hearts and at times even help the two children in their adventure to keep Sheeta safe.

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The main antagonist of the film is agent Muska who had originally abducted Sheeta in the beginning of the movie and hunts her down throughout the adventure, like the Pirates he also wants the necklace but his intentions are to use it to take over Laputa (Sheeta’s home land) he is voiced by Mark Hamill in the English Dub of the movie.

While I do like the animation of the film I much prefer its soundtrack, the music was composed by Joe Hisaishi.

The soundtrack is beautiful and matches the theme and pacing of the film extremely well, it has hints of adventure with hidden moments of sadness and wonder which works to emphasise the films emotions.

Castle in the Sky is a fantastic movie it blends various genres together, fantasy, science fiction, steam punk, comedy, action and adventure and it does thsi extremely well for an animated feature, its intense but also charming and romantic, its a film that I feel that no matter what age you are you will love it, its one my favourite animated films and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys fast paced movies with a lot of heart and imagination.

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Nausicaa of the valley of the wind (1984) Review

Welcome to an unusual Christmas series, this year I have decided to discuss the Studio Ghibli feature films collection, some of these films I have already discussed on this website many years ago but I feel its time to update those older reviews. The reason I have decided on this series is because while they don’t have anything to with the holidays I find myself watching them every Christmas and I think they will be more interesting than regular Christmas movies so without further ado lets begin with Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.

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Based on a Manga of the same name Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is a fantasy-science fiction movie based in a post apocalyptic world. The film was directed by Hayao Miyazaki a true legend of film making and animation. This was Miyazaki’s second film after The Castle of Cagliostro in 1979

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A thousand years after an apocalyptic war the land has been turned into a toxic jungle with giant and deadly bugs roaming around and causing trouble for the humans that remain.

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Nausicca the Princess of the Valley of the Wind has the ability to befriend various animals and creatures, she is able to calm the angry bugs that are causing trouble for the humans and her main goal is to find a way for the humans and the bugs to exist side by side in peace.

The Vallley of the Wind is one of most peaceful places left on earth, the rest of the planet are at war with eachother and fighting to gain power and resources after the effects of the war, unfortunately one of these of these other lands decides to attack the Valley of the Wind and kills Nausicca’s father leaving Nausicca to try and keep peace and prevent any other person or bug from being needlessly killed.

 

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I really enjoyed Nausicca’s character, she is a great warrior who also has a plan of action when she needs too, shes emotional and cares a lot about the people and creatures around her but she wasn’t my favourite character in the film that would have to be Lord Yupa a swordsman and secondary father figure to Nausicca, he’s voiced by Patrick Stewart in the English dub and that might be why I like him so much, other noticeable names are Shia LeBouf, Uma Thurman, Frank Welker, Jodi Benson and Mark Hamill.

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I love the art style and colouring used in this film, its dark and gritty with a style of animation that looks like a mixture of anime and a comic book, the rough design of the bugs are my absolute favourite part of the film but I enjoy the beauty of the world in which this film takes place especially the jungle with its plants and trees that are imaginative and full of creativity and are one of the films most standout features.

Nausicca of the Valley of the Wind is an excellent film that takes a world of wonder and throws into land of a chaos, its a tragic movie that shows the effects of humankind and its greed and selfishness that ultimately causes nothing but heartache, corruption and pain to the world that we often take for granted and Nausicca of the Valley of the Wind shows this in ways that will be remembered forever making it a very important part of the history of animation.

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The Polar Express (2004) Review

polar-express-onesheetThe Polar Express is a 2004 animated Christmas movie that stars Tom Hanks and is based on a children’s book from 1985, the film was written and directed by Robert Zemeckis who is known for directing classic films such as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Back to the Future trilogy, Cast Away and Forrest Gump.

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On Christmas Eve night a train pulls up outside of a young boys house and the conductor offers him a free full round trip to the North Pole, the boy was chosen especially to take the train ride as he had become skeptical of the existence of Father Christmas, like most people would he at first declines the offer to ride the train with the strange man but quickly changes his mind when the train starts leaving without him and he quickly boards the train before it is too late, on the train are many other children who have also been chosen to take the trip.
the-polar-express-586393lYou could say that there are four main children in the film, our lead child is not named at all through out the movie and the same goes for our only female lead they are both listed as Hero Boy and Hero Girl in the cast the other two male children who get a lot of screen time are Billy a poor boy who lacks trust in other people and a know it all kid who is named Know it all, the reason I believe for the lead male and female characters not being named is so that the viewer can identify better with the characters, children can watch the movie and can see themselves in the role of these children.

The only other character that I would say is worth mentioning is the Train Conductor who is voiced by Tom Hanks, the conductor seems to be a magical being that has planned everything that has happened on the trip, he even knows what lesson each child needs to learn on the journey to the North Pole causing many to believe that the children were all chosen especially by the conductor as a means of teaching them life lessons and to help guide them in the best directions for once the journey is over.

00000004There are a lot of moments in the film that may leave you asking a lot questions one of the most asked is what was up with the hobo on top of the train?

Many have speculated that this strange character who helps the lead male in various unusual ways is Jack Frost due to his endurance to the cold and his various ice and snow related powers and abilities, this makes a lot of sense and I tend to agree that it is the most logical theory for the character.

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The film could be classed as a musical as it does have a few original songs which in my opinion are nothing special however they are charming and suit the film nicely, if I was to pick a favorite it would have to be the simple yet fun hot chocolate song.

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The Polar Express is a wonderful Christmas film, it has good morales and it doesn’t rely much on Father Christmas as a character which I think is over done in a lot of Christmas films, it will leave you scratching your head after watching it but the the things that are left to speculation make a fun debate and some theories people have come up with for un-answered questions are really interesting, the animation is very good however it mostly shines on smaller details such as the snow and details of the trains architecture than it does the characters but all of the animation is very well done, with a great voice cast and a very creative premise for a Christmas movie the Polar Express is a film that is a must watch around the holiday season.

I hope you enjoyed this holiday review of The Polar Express (2004) if you respect my opinion I will respect yours.

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