A challenge begins…

So last night began this fun little challenge of mine to watch one movie each in my collection of Blu-rays for each letter of the alphabet. I have devised a working list that I may swap and change as I progress, but I plan to write weekly blog posts detailing what movies I have got though in this endeavour.

So where did I begin? Well there were a few choices for A, but eventually I landed on the rather under-appreciated Studio Ghibli movie ‘Arriety’. I’ve now watched it about 3 times inclusive of last night’s viewing and stand firm on my opinion it’s one of Ghibli’s best. The take on the classic Borrowers story is well done and pretty much sticks to source material and that theme song by Cecile Corbel is utterly enchanting. I still find the sickly kid a bit annoying but everything else, the gorgeous hand-drawn animation and scenery, the characterisation, different moments (the escapade to steal a sugar cube) and sound-design are all utter class.

As you’ll now be aware I chose 80’s French drama ‘Betty Blue’ for B and have chosen to do a full review for that which I’ll leave you to check out. Now onto letter C and beyond. I’ll report back how it all goes soon!

Only Yesterday

Viewed – 13 August 2016  Blu-ray

I love the movies of famed Japanese animation house ‘Studio Ghibli’, which I have made no secret of and collect pretty much anything they have done.  So it was sad to hear about the studio closing and greatly anticipate their final feature ‘When Marnie Was There’ which releases on Blu-ray in the UK in October.  For now I have stumbled upon this much older release which has been given a long-awaited western release outside of it’s native Japan with a brand new English dub for those who don’t favour the original language.


This tells the story of Taeko, a young woman who whilst travelling to the countryside, finds herself reminiscing about her childhood and at the same time trying to figure out her place in the world.  A gentle, whimsical tale not unlike more recent Ghibli movie ‘From Upon Poppie Hill’.  So you’ll find no sorceresses or magic castles in this one folks, as it’s more of a drama about life, love, growing up etc.  It’s all done in an utterly charming way with great voice work from it’s cast most notably The Force Awakens’ Daisy Ridley.  However despite interesting flashbacks and keen observations of puberty, childhood, friendship etc. I did find my mind wondering, and once Taeko reaches the countryside the story does start to plod quite noticeably to the point that watching flower picking, cooking and family meals got a bit boring.

Thankfully the art style, all hand-drawn traditional animation is beautiful – the flashbacks are done in soft-focus almost water-colour and modern day is all vibrant and brimming with detail.  Also the character of Taeko was well realised and I did find myself relating to her, causing me to reminisce over my own schooldays.  Yet it’s a movie that takes a long time to get to it’s point, focusing on the mundane a bit too much (as some Japanese animation has a tendency of doing) and is a story that’s simply ‘nice’ rather than all that engaging.  If you’re a fan of Studio Ghibli it’s still worth a look, but for me, the studio has done better.

The Blu-ray looks lush…very sharp and colourful and only slightly soft I guess when the movie requires it.  The English dub although only in Dolby 2.0 is clear and works well.  This isn’t a particularly atmospheric movie so don’t expect it to wow in that department – although that closing theme song was quite lovely.  The extras are slightly above average for a Studio Ghibli release – storyboards, behind the scenes of the voice casting, a detailed (subtitled) making of and some trailers.  So decent treatment for an enjoyable if not exactly essential movie.


(the movie)  3 /5

(the Blu-ray)  4 /5


Viewed – 06 August 2016  Blu-ray

I struggle reviewing animated movies, now more than ever it seems as I absolutely love all aspects of animation and in recent years we seem to have been absolutely spoilt.  So it’d be easy to automatically praise and gush over a big name animated movie, but my job here is not to do that despite my slight bias and tell you people straight…so I’ll try my best.


Zootropolis (aka Zootopia) is set in a sort of alternative reality where animals have evolved into living like humans, having jobs, going to work etc … and one such animal, a rabbit called Judy Hopps has dreamt all of her life of being a Police Officer.  Soon she’s defying her unassuming, safe-living parents and attending Police Academy.  There she wows her instructors until she gets a job at the ZPD over in the city of Zootropolis.  However being a rabbit, Judy’s quickly met with prejudice from cops more thought to be tigers, rhinoceroses or elephants.  However whilst battling said prejudices Judy befriends a cunning, street-wise Fox who faces similar problems.

ZOOTOPIAThe first thing to be said about this one is that it’s a solid concept, somewhat borrowed from Monsters Inc. as far as it’s blue-collar workers world is concerned, but is presented imaginatively with some great in-jokes and colourful characters.  The city itself also has a great sense of place, with various distinct districts.  The movie aswell looks gorgeous, incredibly colourful and full of little details – nothing unusual for Disney these days, but this is certainly one of the best looking movie’s you can watch right now.   The character of Judy is somewhat clichéd however … all boundless enthusiasm that’s soon brought crashing down to earth and then having to typically prove herself.  Also that message of prejudice and racism is hammered home a bit too thick at times, and could have done with a little subtlety.  It also isn’t as funny as I’d have hoped, going for more of an action and character piece, but with sly Fox Nick Wild this movie at least finds it’s secret sauce and he’s a character I’d sure like to see more of.  So another solid effort from Disney and another top-drawer animated feature to go check out.  This one had a little more going for it than your typical Disney Princess fair, but despite lacking the heart of say… Inside Out I still had a great time.

Verdict:  4 /5

Top Ten 2015

Well dear readers, it’s finally here … following is a countdown of my Ten favourite movies I watched in 2015.  Do take into consideration some may be older than the past twelve months…

Drum roll…


John Wick


Keanu proved he still had it in the action movie stakes (and seemingly doesn’t age).  A tongue-in cheek script and stylish direction proved a simple revenge thriller done very well indeed was all I needed also.


The Tale of Princess Kaguya


Studio Ghibli does it again, with a beautiful water-colour art style and an enchanting Japanese fable and heart warming characters.


Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation


Cruise can still do the seemingly impossible and with chases, gadgets and Simon Pegg, this made for the best summer event flick of the year for me.




There is still room for genuine science-fiction with this thought-provoking study of artificial intelligence.  The sort of movie that would have made Stanley Kubrick proud.


American Sniper


Proving yet again he’s as good behind the camera as in front, Clint Eastwood delivers a powerful true story with a career best Bradley Cooper.


The Grand Budapest Hotel

grand-budapest-hotel feinnes

My introduction to Wes Anderson and one of the most entertaining movies I’ve seen in a long while, and Ralph Fiennes is just sublime.




Mind-boggling it may be but Christopher Nolan’s space epic is full of wonder, awe and ideas that left me floored.


Star Wars The Force Awakens


It may deliver too much fan-service but sets up enough firm foundations of its own and captures the spirit of the movies missing since Jedi, that it’s difficult to fault.


Inside Out


Pixar bounce back, after slight stumbles and deliver a truly heart-warming, ideas-packed event of a movie that genuinely touched and surprised me.




Not that director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu needed to prove his skill, yet this wondrously inventive and yet simple movie impressed and dazzled me with it’s concept and originality with a brilliant Michael Keaton as the icing on the cake.  A movie for fans who truly love movies and movie-making.

Well that was my countdown for 2015.  What were some of your favourites?  Feel free to leave them in the comments and I’ll see you all in 2016.  Bye for now…


The Tale Of Princess Kaguya

Viewed – 18 July 2015  Blu-ray

Following up Hayao Myazaki’s swansong The Wind Rises and perhaps continuing the brittle future of the famed Japanese animation house, this latest offering was a nerve-racking prospect to say the least.  In Myazaki’s absence could Studio Ghibli still deliver?


Isao Takahata (Grave Of The Fireflies, My Neighbours The Yamadas) has created a truly breath-taking example of traditional hand-drawn animation.  The whole movie is presented in a beautiful, minimalistic water-colour style that is really something to behold.  The story (based on a folk tale) follows an ageing bamboo cutter who one day discovers a tiny girl inside one of the bamboo stalks.  Taking her home to his wife, they quickly decide to raise the girl as their own.  Then rapidly and magically she grows into a beautiful young woman.  However on realising that his surrogate daughter should be treated as a Princess rather than a lowly country girl, the bamboo cutter sets forth a plan to have her married off to a wealthy man and truly realise her potential – and his own dreams of wealth.

Kaguya 2This is a very well observed movie, full of that Ghibli character I’ve come to adore (with plenty of fascinating Japanese historical detail) and the story reminded me somewhat of classic Oscar winner The Last Emperor in Kaguya’s journey from free-spirited child to forced-on-her palace rituals.  It’s at times whimsical and full of comical and interesting characters (the four suitors especially) and offers up a gentle love story as well as a powerful coming of age for the title character.  It’s probably too long for what it is, and plods along at times, yet makes up for this in it’s sheer artistry and leads to an ending that I’m not afraid to admit, got me quite emotional.

I was slightly underwhelmed by The Wind Rises, but this was a gentle return to the magic and heart of Studio Ghibli.  Another gem from what was (if rumours of their closure are to be believed) one of the finest animation studios ever conceived.

Verdict:  4 /5