The Squid and the Whale

Viewed – 05 August 2020 Blu-ray

I hadn’t heard of this movie up until now and only stumbled across it when browsing ‘The Criterion Collection’ releases. So a complete blind purchase that although I don’t regret, I don’t feel was entirely worth it. This follows the story of two brothers (one played by a young Jesse Eisenberg) who’s parents separate, leading them to have to spend their time living at each parent’s house … whilst also going through the trials of high school, first love and puberty.

trouble with Mom and Dad…

Jeff Daniels plays the Dad, a respected writer and teacher, who has a close bond with his eldest son (Eisenberg), whilst Laura Linney (Ozark) plays the Mom who gets sort of a bad rap due to having had an affair. William Baldwin also turns up as a tennis instructor. This very ‘indie’ drama, in the style of Gus Van Sant is very authentic and occasionally amusing with decent performances and astute observations of its various themes. It occasionally goes down avenues exploring the effect a breakup has on children that takes some weird turns … what with the youngest kid resorting to masturbation of all things, as a way of acting out (er…ok). Eisenberg also comes off as a bit of a brat, who whilst his usual brand of awkward is less likeable than usual.

For this kind of subject, I felt the movie offered very little we hadn’t seen before and didn’t go anywhere particularly interesting or all that optimistic. It also doesn’t really explore why the parent’s relationship hits the skids. A shame as it’s well acted (especially Linney who I’ve always liked) and has some good moments, but is otherwise forgettable.

The Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection has a an adequate image, thats very grainy and a bit lacking in detail, almost like 16mm – but it does create a distinct ‘look’ that suits the movie’s tone. Sound is clear in 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio and showcases various unusual and obscure music choices. Extras consist of a making of documentary, interviews, audition footage and trailers. We also get a booklet that has an interview and a write up on the movie and it’s production. Not too bad for a movie a little undeserving of such treatment.


(the movie) Poor

(the Blu-ray) Good

Laputa: Castle In The Sky

Viewed – 29 January 2012  Blu-ray

It goes almost without saying, that Studio Ghibli, the animation house that brought us the Oscar-winning Spirited Away has become one of the most respected animation studios in the world, and taking just a glance at their back catalogue reveals a wealth of magical and endearing movies.  Back in 1986, the famed studio was formed to make its first feature-length movie, and so we have this, a magical Jules Vern inspired adventure that proves even over twenty years ago, director and studio founder Hayao Miyazaki was a true talent.

Pazu is a hard-working young boy in a mining community, who one day witnesses a young girl fall from the sky.  Hurrying to her rescue, he soon discovers she is on the run from a group of pirates and the army, who seek the magical properties of her necklace.  Before long a spectacular adventure ensues as Pazu tries to help the girl unravel the mystery of the necklace’s origin and its connection to a fabled city floating in the sky.  Clearly the imagination and artistic style Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli have become known for, was their from the start.  The animation and character on display here is quite breathtaking.  The story borrows from the aviation-mixed-with-science-fiction of Jules Vern, but also reminded me of the Brit fantasy Stardust, which this could easily have been the inspiration for.  The two young characters are easy to like and get caught up in their adventure (voiced well by James Van Der Beek and Anna Paquin), and the mother pirate is a classic Ghibli creation, as is the shady villain, all smart suit and sunglasses.  The action, when it comes is also very exciting (the robot encounter, the various sky battles) and the final act is pretty damn magical.

At over two hours, the movie is quite lengthy for an animation, but doesn’t drag.  I would have liked more revealed about the floating city, and sometimes the comedy was laid on a bit thick.  Yet this doesn’t really spoil what is essentially a well made and enjoyable movie, surely worthy of any animation fans viewing list.

For an older movie, this Blu-ray release from Optimum is difficult to fault.  The colours are vibrant and the detail is very sharp.  It looks like the whole movie has been remastered to show off the format, including a decent soundtrack and some good effects with booming explosions, as well as clear voice work.  Extras include brief behind the scenes featurettes, story boards and trailers, as well as the movie on DVD.


(the movie) 4 /5

(the Blu-ray) 4 /5