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.

only-yesterday

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.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3 /5

(the Blu-ray)  4 /5

Advertisements

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?

Kaguya

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

This year’s disappointments


The end of the year is approaching and as always with this blog I will be posting my personal Top Ten, based on movies I have seen in the last twelve months.  It’s very difficult as a complete amateur movie critic as I am literally unable to watch every new movie that hits cinemas, so compile my list from the newest movies I have seen during the year, even if some came out the year before etc.FROZEN

Compiled below are a few movies that left me wanting, movies that although not a disaster, could have been much better – or were hyped to be much better.  You may or may not agree with my choices, and feel free to comment.  But for now these are my disappointments of 2014…

RoboCop

Remakes are never that great granted, but wasn’t this classic sci-fi thriller ripe for an update?  So what do we get … a re-tread of the original, but seriously watered down and completely devoid of both the violence and the social commentary that made the 1987 original so memorable.  Paul Verheoven must have been offended how much the director ‘didn’t get’ his vision, and even some pretty decent action and not-bad casting could not save this.

Frozen

When will I stop hearing about this pretty, fun but utterly generic Disney movie?  One memorable song, some fun comedy characters but typical Disney Princess fair that lacked ideas and originality.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good movie – but as good as EVERYONE goes on about …. no.  Give me Beauty & The Beast any day of the week.

Godzilla

This did a lot right, it did a lot wrong too.  A monster-mash that takes most of the movie to actually happen, and decent casting that is all but wasted.  Bryan (Breaking Bad) Cranston – that’s all I need to say, but nooo, let’s make Kick-Ass the star instead.  Wrong!  Great effects work aside and some nail biting moments, but overall this could have, should have been much more.

Jack Ryan – Shadow Recruit

Simple, how do you mess up a perfectly decent reboot of a popular franchise?  How about only one action sequence of any note and the casting of Keira KnightleyChris Pine, fresh off Star Trek does a good enough job, but this was mostly Bourne-light with a clichéd story and not enough boom for my buck.  Could have been superb, but was mostly ‘meh.

Wolf Creek 2

Rave reviews don’t mean a decent experience I am quickly realising.  I wasn’t the biggest fan of WC #1 but this promised everything that movie lacked, like a faster pace and tons more gore and violence.  Yet an overly tongue-in-cheek tone and way too many one-liners just killed this for me.  Could have been a first rate shit yourself slasher, but instead I got a second rate piss myself farce.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Still despite the best intentions this reboot of the blockbuster franchise still underwhelms.  I can’t get used to Andrew Garfield as Spidy/Peter Parker and even the casting of Jamie Foxx is embarrassingly poor.  The overly kiddie-friendly tone doesn’t help either.  Great special effects though.

The Wind Rises

Studio Ghibli is always an event to me, and their animation style can never be faulted.  However with this rather personal swan-song for director Hayao Myazaki the subject seemed rather niche and the characters not overly compelling, and the whole movie despite being well done, lacked that spark that makes Ghibli great.  Stunning to look at but not that memorable, even more disappointing considering it’s the famed director’s final movie.

X-Men Days Of Future Past

Another highly acclaimed movie, another one that left me feeling cold.  The plot was muddled, relied too heavily on you knowing what happened in all the other X-Men movies, and some fun time travel mechanics and a great cast of characters couldn’t save this fun, action-packed but ultimately confusing and messy movie.  Never get tired of Mystique kicking ass though.

There you go.  I may add to this list if December throws up any further disappointments, but with The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies, Exodus: Gods & Kings and also Guardians Of The Galaxy all to come (hopefully), maybe that won’t happen.  Also expect my definitive end of year Top Ten around New Year’s eve.

Ramblings…


Well it’s a bit of a lazy Sunday so thought I’d write something on here.  This past year has had a few ups and downs … personally I’ve gone through some depression.  However I think I have overcome most of it, and looking to a future where such a thing isn’t at the forefront of my thoughts (at least not as much).  I’m concentrating on more positive things, like friends, family and my job, hobbies etc … things that make me happy.  I suppose it’s all about appreciating the good things in life, rather than focusing on what’s missing from it.

In the coming months, as far as this blog is concerned, I have some stuff to look forward to.  On the gaming front Destiny is just around the corner … preloaded it on my Xbox One last week, and well it’s been agonizing waiting for it to unlock but it will finally be available on Tuesday.  I’ll report back on this long awaited, much anticipated game next week.  Also got Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare pre-ordered, along with Sunset Overdrive.  Both look amazing.

Destiny_Game_Concept_Art_13b

The Netflix challenge has hit the skids a bit, as I was feeling like it was less about movies I wanted to see, and more about doing the challenge, so not sure if I will go back to it.  An interesting ‘experiment’ none the less.    Some movie’s on the horizon include reviews of the Blu-ray release of Spirited Away, one of my favourite Studio Ghibli movies … add to that Hayao Myazaki’s swansong The Wind Rises.  I also have the 15th Anniversary of The Green Mile pre-ordered, so will finally give my opinion on this much loved prison drama. 

spiritedaway

Towards the end of the year, it’s possible I may own a PS4.  Can see that happening.

In other news:  I have been closely following the news on my favourite band Garbage and looking forward to what they have planned for next year.  They intend to re-release their debut album to mark it’s 20th anniversary, as well as their sixth studio album that they have been working on for the past year or so.  Also a tour has been hinted at and if they make it back to the UK I have, to name one of their best tunes, made a ‘vow’ to see them this time around.  Exciting times to be into this band who seem to really be in their element these days.

Garbage-band-2012

Well enough from me for the time being.  Please remember to check back often for movie reviews and general ramblings and I’ll make sure to keep the content coming.  I appreciate all my visitors and subscribers, those that press ‘like’ or offer their comments etc.  Makes this little blog really mean a lot to me.

Craig.