Maleficent (2014)

My friend Mark likes Maleficent just about as much as I did. An entertaining review. If anyone has a positive review of the movie on their blog I would be happy to reblog that. I’m sure with most my readership being fans of the original most of us don’t care for it at all.

My Live Action Disney Project

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(If this is your first time on this blog, I ask you to read my “About” page first! You can find a link to it at the top left-hand corner of this blog. Thanks!)

When I reviewed Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, I discussed how Disney was making a plethora of live-action adaptations of their animated classics and I prayed that this one in particular would be good.

So, IS Maleficent any good? Let’s find out!

And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!

View original post 1,687 more words

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Babysitting and Disney

I had an interesting experience yesterday.  As most of you know I am single and all of my 5 nieces live many miles away 😦 so my access to little kids in my life is relatively small.  Most of the time when I watch animation I have to guess what little kids like my nieces might think about it or ask them over the phone.  I wish they lived closer and I could take them with me to the theater but it is not the case!

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Anyway, yesterday I got the opportunity to babysit for a friend at church who is moving and needed the kids to be away for the day so they could pack up and clean.  I don’t have that much living space in my house and unfortunately the weather did not cooperate for going to the park or outside activities so we were limited.  We did a lot of drawing.  The older girl who was 4 I think seriously drew for 4 hours maybe more.  It was impressive.

But there was still entertaining the youngest girl.  We made cookies and after that I didn’t have a whole lot else to do with little kids at my house besides stick on my Disney library.  Both of their reactions were surprising. And I know 4 movies is a bit garish for one day but my house is small and I really don’t have much to entertain kids beyond drawing and making cookies so go easy on me!

First thing we saw was a Mickey Mouse Christmas Movie called Mickeys Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse.  The cover looked bad but it actually was pretty good.  It is basically a whole bunch of shorts narrated by Mickey and Donald who is in a grumpy mood.  It was amazing how the minute Mickey came on screen the little girl lit up and gleefully said ‘It’s Mickey!’.  She loved the film. The final segment on Mickey’s Christmas Carol was a little much for her but she didn’t hate it.

Mickey's_Magical_ChristmasThen I put in Jungle Book thinking they would love it.  What surprised me is that both of them were not engaged at all.  I thought they would love the music and the simple story but I ended up drawing  with both as it played.  It didn’t capture either girls attention at all like Mickey.  Even Bare Necessities they were not into.

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Then I put on Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.  I figured it would be a slam dunk.  Again, surprisingly it didn’t really seem to hold their interest that much although they liked it better than Jungle Book.  Once Tigger came on the screen they liked it much better but before that it didn’t do much for them.

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Then next I put on Frozen and I’m not kidding you the littlest girl was sitting with her back away from the TV when the opening chords to Frozen Heart came on and she lit up, a huge smile on her face.  Lana stopped drawing and came in the room right away.  They loved it! I love Frozen but I have never watched it with little girls and was amazed at how much they loved it. They knew every line to every song and sang along with gusto.  It was so much more to use the pun animated than any of the other choices I had played.  Call it recency bias but 2 little girls have spoken and Frozen was definitely the favorite.

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Of the movies these children liked Frozen, Mickey’s Magical Christmas, Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Jungle Book in that order.  Isn’t that surprising (I keep using that word but don’t know any other way to say it?).  Obviously this is only 2 kids and only 4 films but it was interesting to me nonetheless. What have you guys found in your families/kids in your life?  Like I said, I don’t have many in my life, so always interesting to see how actual kids respond to these films that I love. What do they like and does it ever surprise you?  Do they like things that you don’t? I’d love to know.

By the way Ben Affleck better watch out because my Dark Knight is pretty awesome… 😉

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Family Movies I Like that Others Do Not

A popular post on these type of movie blogs is ‘movies everyone likes but I don’t’ or vice versa. You can check out my blogging friend Animation Commendation for his highly controversial picks (Wall-e and Up overrated! Outrage!).  He is focusing just on animation and I have decided to just post about the films I like others don’t.  As I said in my post Jerks, Trolls and Critics my goal in my writing is to be an advocate for film . It is not to tear down what other people love.

So I want to use this post as  a chance to advocate for films that I believe are underrated by critics and fans in general.  These movies are far from perfect and I can understand why people don’t like them but for whatever reason I found something to enjoy while watching them.  Call it nostalgia, call it low expectations but I like the following films that a lot of others don’t like.

In no particular order.

Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything-

Veggietales are kind of like the Christian fundamentalist cousin of the animation world but you know they are done pretty well.  The music is always fun, voicework good and the colors bright and colorful.

Pirates was the first time they tried to do a non-biblical tale (previously they had done Jonah as a feature film as well as their many direct to video films about Daniel, Moses and other stories).

This film could entertain kids of any faith as it focuses on finding heroes and makes a person a hero.

Tomatometer- 39%.  I’d give it a C+ it’s certainly not top tier animation but I still find it entertaining.

The Other Side of Heaven-

I admit this one is easier for me to like because it is about a member of my faith, John Groeberg who went as a missionary to Tonga and had some amazing experiences.

This was also the only film we were allowed to watch on my mission for the Mormon church and having served a mission like Groeberg I relate too it.

So maybe it isn’t for everyone but it’s pretty well made and acted.  I would think the story would be inspirational for those of other faiths but hard for me to know.

But this is my list and I like it so it makes the list!

Tomatometer 29%.  I would give it a B

Lord of the Rings-

Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings has developed a bit of a cult following over the years and I think it is deserved.  It is not perfect and Peter Jackson’s version is definitely better but this is pretty good.  The animation is strong in parts  and weak in others but scenes like the ringwraiths in Bakshi are really well done with a style I haven’t seen in other movies (kind of looks like a hologram)

They pack a lot into the film especially if you like the extended version of the Peter Jackson films and it can feel rushed but I still like the animation and the story is so solid at it’s core that it just works.

Our friend the Nostalgia Critic did a fun compare/contrast between the Jackson and Bakshi’s versions.

Strong language warning

Tomatometer 50%, I would give it a B-

Cinderella 3-

John Lasseter, over at Pixar, says they never do sequels unless they have an idea.  That was the problem with most of the made for video sequels of the 90s and early 2000s.  Most of them are a repeat of the original but with a new character (usually a child of our leads such as Bambi 2, Fox and the Hound 2, Lady and the Tramp 2 etc).  Then there are one’s that continue the story but in incredibly trite and stupid ways. (Pocahontas 2, Brother Bear 2, Cinderella 2, and Hunchback of Notre Dame 2 are the worst examples).  Finally there are sequels that are clobbered together from animated series that came after the movie and these are usually passable, on the Saturday morning cartoon level (Atltantis 2, Lilo and Stitch 2, Lion King sequels, Aladdin sequels etc).

But out of all of them The Little Mermaid sequels are passable but my favorite is Cinderella 3. Cinderella 2 is just her wedding and it sucks but 3 they actually have an idea.

Through a variety of circumstances Lady Tremaine finds the Fairy Godmother’s wand, which she then uses to turn back time and make it so Anastasia’s foot fits the slipper instead of Cinderella.  The Prince now has to marry Anastasia and things seem pretty dire for our heroine.

The animation is on the Saturday morning level but it is passable and the songs are okay.  It’s not great but I enjoyed seeing Lady Tremaine back up to no good and just found it very clever.

Tomatometer is actually high with only 7 reviews at 71% but I still say this counts because the sequels are so generally disregarded and looked down on.

Tomatometer 71%, I would give it a C

North Avenue Irregulars-

I suppose this is probably more forgotten than disliked but I’ve been wanting to make a shout-out to it so here goes.

It is the kind of movie almost never made today.  A live action comedy starring A list talent for families. The story is silly and your enjoyment will probably depend on your taste of slapstick but it makes me laugh.

It was a dream team of comedic women with Barbara Harris, Susan Clark, Karen Valentine, Cloris Leachman, and a long list of faces you will recognize when you see them.

Edward Herrman is a nice foil for the ladies as the Reverend Hill who decides to take down local gambling syndicate using the ladies as the spies and detectives.

It has a pretty high tomatometer of 75% on 11 reviews but I still think it’s one that is easy to criticize but I like it. Great opening credits sequence too.

Tomatometer 75%, I would give it a B-

Disney’s Christmas Carol

Readers of my other blog smilingldsgirl.com kn0w The Christmas Carol is one of, if not my favorite stories ever written.  I make sure to see it at the local theater every Christmas and watch as many versions as I can.  There’s everything from Alastair Sims, George C Scott, to Bill Murray, Muppets,  and Mickey Mouse.

I think what I like about the story is it is about lost causes and how anyone can change their lives if they embrace Christmas (and for me Christ) and decide to be a better person.  It’s a story about redemption and I just love it.

When I heard that Jim Carey was being cast as Scrooge you can imagine my concern with a ham like him taking on my favorite character in literature.  However, he plays it surprisingly straight and there are only a few antics when soaring through space.  The spirits are done very well and there is a ton of the actual script taken from the novel, which is cool.

Some don’t like the stop motion animation but it doesn’t bother me.  It’s a style just like any other and I can go with it. I wouldn’t say this is my favorite version but I still like it.

Tomatometer- 54%, I would give it a B

Cars 2

I wonder sometimes if people really hate this movie or if they just are mad at it because it’s not Up, Wall-e, and Ratatouille.  Don’t get me wrong.  It has major problems but is it really one of the worst movies ever made? While I’m not rushing out to buy the blu-ray I thought it was fun, decent level kids movie and an homage to the spy flicks their parents and older siblings get to watch.

As I said in my Planes: Fire and Rescue review, the world of the Cars and Planes movies is nutty and does not stand up to much examination.  I guess there are car sex or car eggs hatching baby cars in this world?  But then they run out of parts which is strange.  Evidently some models are worthy of saving and others are not?

See how fast you can go down the rabbit hole with this world?  So I suggest just going with it and not diving too deep.  Just enjoy it as an homage to spy movies an leave it at that.

The other beef with this movie I hear is people don’t like Mater. I’m not sure why because I find him funny, as funny as a car can be at least…

It’s beautifully animated and the voicework is all good.  The plot is actually pretty convoluted and complicated involving natural fuel. (Wouldn’t a world of just cars actually like the world to be poluted, that is their life sustaining liquid like we have water, they have oil…Again over-thinking it!

Overall I think the bad buzz is overrated and this movie is an ok, fun time at the movies.

Tomatometer- 39%, I would give it a C

Atlantis: The Lost Empire

We’ve talked a lot about this movie on the blog. I am aware I am in the minority on it.  I thought it was a fun adventure movie with a wildly creative made up world that engaged me the way other good B Summer Adventure movies have like Indiana Jones, the Goonies, National Treasure etc.  I liked the language and culture they created and the troop of explorers was fun and diverse.

The animation is gorgeous especially once they get to the Lost City and we have the blue crystals and their power.  It has a bit of a steampunk feel and all in all I liked it.  I thought it was a fun action adventure, treasure hunting story with a good, exciting ending. It all just worked for me in the spirit of those B adventure movies.  So there you go!

Tomatometer- 49%, My Grade A-

Where the Wild Things Are

This is a movie you either go with and love or hate.  I love it.  It takes Maurice Sendak’s children’s story of a boy sent to bed without any supper finding a land of wild things and turns it into a brilliant movie.

It is the only film I’ve ever seen that captures the brooding quiet nature of childhood.  Some say that makes it depressing but I remember being that kid.  I remember hearing things in school like global warming or war and puzzling at how this could be.  To me it was amazingly refreshing to have a kid who isn’t perky but a real person with all moods.  His behavior when he meets the Wild Things is so authentic to what a kid, especially a boy, would do and I love it!

It’s a brilliant film in how it gives our character an opportunity to confront himself and his mother and realize they are both imperfect but trying. What a beautiful moment that is?

The puppets were the perfect choice as opposed to CGI.  It makes it feel real and palatable and the voicework is PERFECT!

I broke down the movie in more detail on my Where the Wild Things Are Defended post.

Tomatometer is high because of people like me- 72%, My Grade A+

Space Jam-

To be honest I am really surprised the Space Jam tomatometer score so low. This is one of the few spots we can see our Looney Tunes friends on the big screens and I think it is charming.  All the characters like Bugs, Daffy, Yosemite Sam and more are there in this live action/animation combo.  Bill Murray is pretty funny and Michael Jordan is one of the better athletes turned actors (need I mention Shaque in  Kazaam?)

I guess the plot follows a similar underdog theme but is anyone watching this for the intricate plot?  No.  They are watching it to see Bugs, Daffy and others tell good jokes and have a fun time and I think that’s what they get out of it.

Give it a watch through I bet you will agree it’s an entertaining flick.

Tomatometer- 35%, I would give it a B-

Follow that Bird-

Again this is probably more underrated than disliked.  It has a very high tamotometer score in fact but I wanted to give it a shoutout anyway.  Follow that Bird is the first Sesame Street movie and it is a real gem.  Some people might discount it as a only a movie for little children because it is from Sesame Street but if you do that’s a shame because it is very clever and heartfelt.

Big Bird finds out he should be raised with a family and is adopted by the Dodo family making his new name Big Dodo.  Despite having everything with the Dodo’s he isn’t happy, so he runs away.  The rest of the film is part roadtrip and part our yellow bird finding out who his real family is.

It’s a lovely message for kids, there are lots of laughs and real heart too.  I love all of the Muppets movies but this one will be close to the top for sure . I need to do a list of my favorite Muppet’s movies soon.  What are your favorites?

Tomatometer- 91%, I would give it an A

Soul Surfer-

Another Christian film critics were incredibly tough on.  It tells the true story of Bethany Hamilton who lost her arm to a shark while surfing and how she made it back to compete in the pros with one arm.  I will agree that the special effects are not great and it does look pretty obvious where they cut off Anna Sophie Robb’s arm in post-production.

However, if you can get over the technical flaws there is a lot to like . Bethany is an amazing person.  In fact, at the moment she is on The Amazing Race and tearing it up there.  I thought at first she was stunt casting to get sympathy but she has been up for every challenge.  She does with one arm what others struggle with 2.  Everything from rock climbing to balancing tasks she’s been up for and she’s done it all in such a pleasant and happy way.  I like her even more than I did after this movie.

The supporting cast is strong with Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt as her parents and Carrie Underwood as a youth minister. Aside from the arm special effects the rest of the surfing shots are well done and the story didn’t play out exactly as I thought it would and it is an exciting moment when she gets back on the surfboard.

Doesn’t reinvent the wheel but what it does it does well and I enjoy watching it.

Tomatometer- 46%, I would give it a B-

American Tail Fievel Goes West

Most people like the first American Tail but are tough on this sequel.  I would agree it is not as good but I still enjoy it.

This one is not directed by Don Bluth like the original but Steven Spielberg is a producer.

In part 2 we get the Mousekewitz family deciding to leave New York for the promises of the West (streets weren’t paved with gold I see!).  Fievel idolizes Wylie Burp the sheriff of the west who is brilliantly played by the great Jimmy Stewart in what I believe is his last role on screen.

On the way they meet a conniving cat who is trying to get them out there as cheap labor.  Our friend Tiger voiced by Dom DeLuise again shows up and we also get Amy Irving, John Cleese and Jon Lovitz.

In the end, it’s a pretty entertaining story with twists and turns. I enjoy the homage to the western and hearing Jimmy Stewart as Wylie.

The music by James Horner is also wonderful and I particularly love Dreams to Dream.

Tomatometer- 40%, I would give it an A

So that’s my list!  What do you think? Seen any of these?  Do you hate them or think they are pretty good? I’d love your thoughts. Thanks for reading my ramblings.

In Defense of Mary Sue and Gary Stu

As I’ve been doing reviews I keep hearing the same criticism about characters ‘he’s a Gary Stu” or for a girl “she’s a Mary Sue”.  I have to admit I always thought this was a way of describing a boring, uninteresting character in a story.  Turns out the official description is:

(fandom slang) A fictional character, usually female, whose implausible talents and likeableness weaken the story”

So this is basically what we call in Mormon circles a “Molly Mormon”.  Someone who is so perfect it doesn’t seem realistic.  Well, as someone who has been accused of being a Molly Mormon on occasion I suppose I have a unique perspective on this topic.  In fact, I have a little bit of a defense of this much maligned character in stories.

First of all, implausibility is completely in the eye of the beholder especially when we are talking about morality.  For example, being a virgin to some may be seen as impossible or as an ‘unrealistic’ character trait in a story but amongst me and my unmarried Mormon and Christian friends it is very common.

What personally annoys me much more than a character that is ‘too perfect’ is the tendency in especially modern novels to tag on negative traits because the authors are afraid of being accused of Mary Sue’s and Gary Stu’s.  I can think of less examples of this in movies than in books but you will frequently have a novel where a character has an affair tagged on to their story because ‘no marriage is perfect’.

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For example, a book called the Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith drove me crazy because it was about a sweet girl named Ivy who grew up, learned and had a happy family.  At the end of the book she is standing in a field and a man comes up to her and she sleeps with him in the field.  The message in the book is ‘now she is fulfilled’ . Groan.  It ruined it.  Another book with that message which ticked me off is The Awakening by Kate Chopin.  A lot of feminists love it but I hated it.  She is living a perfectly happy life but it’s not ‘enough’ and she has to leave her family and have meaningless flings and suddenly her soul has all of this purpose and meaning.

Give me a Molly or Mary Sue any day over this kind of ‘modern’ character.  Even the ultimate Gary Stu, Superman (who is basically supposed to be a Jesus type) was all ‘modernized’ and made a wounded conflicted character in Man of Steel and I hated it.  Where was the fun? It was so bleak and violent and in the end so off putting. It was not a more complex character just a boring, obvious, everyday character without any of the cheeky fun of the comics.  He even rings the neck of Zod which was so out of place given the Messianic imagery throughout the film. Give me the original cheesy Christopher Reeve version any day over that modern dreck.

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So I hate the opposite of a Mary Sue but let’s talk about the trope itself.  It is often said the Mary Sue is ‘annoying’ in the story.  Again, that is totally relative.  Like beauty, annoyingness is in the eye of the beholder too!

First of all, it entirely depends on the kind of story that is being told.  For example, if I am watching a B summer action movie I don’t want my hero to be all conflicted and complex.  I want him to save the day!  Let’s think about Indiana Jones.  He is handsome, charming and he always figures out the clues that others have spent generations toiling over in a manner of minutes.  Do we care? No, because he’s Indiana Jones and we want to see him fight Nazis, jump over cars, and find the Holy Grail.  That’s what made the 4th Indiana Jones movie so obnoxious (one of the many things) is they kept bringing up all of Indiana Jones frailties, how old he was, and that he wasn’t the same guy as before.  Also, they pushed the trope too far.  In the originals Indy always got beat up bad but would save the day . In the 4th he survives a nuclear explosion in a fridge…Too far!

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Other examples of this type of character are Ethan Hunt, Jack Ryan, Jack Bauer, James Bond, and McGyver.  They are our heroes and we want to see them prevail and not be ‘realistic’.  Sure their talents are implausible and they are charming in the way no man is in real life, but it’s perfect for the type of movie we’ve signed up for.  That’s why  I didn’t mind Milo in Atlantis because it was this type of action, treasure hunting B summer movie that such a character works well in.  The same is true in Goonies.  Do we care that the kids find a ridiculous treasure easily under the city?  No because it’s a fun adventure with a charming troop of hunters.  I thought the troop surrounding Milo was a lot of fun and so I enjoyed the adventure.  The mythos, language and lore they created also compensated for a less interesting lead character.  I didn’t miss or need Milo to be anything more than what he was.

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The same is true with Hercules.  I enjoyed the stuff around Hercules enough that I didn’t need him to be all dynamic and crazy.  Megura, Zeus, Hadeus, Pain and Panic, the music was all fun enough for me to enjoy the picture.  I recognize that isn’t the case for a lot of you but again what annoys one doesn’t annoy another.  What charms one drives another nuts. I was okay with Hercules being an unrealistic guy because he’s a demi-God.  He’s supposed to be that way.  Like Superman, Hercules just have to have a modicum of flair and personality so that  all around him can shine.

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There are also dramatic characters that could be described as ‘unrealistically perfect’ that I are considered classics.  For example, Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird doesn’t make a wrong move the entire movie or book.  He is always loving, kind, honorable and virtuous but I have never heard anyone say that he was a bad character.  He is typically thought of as one of the greatest characters in English literature.  Sometimes we need a character to stand up for right and truth consistently in a story.  I feel like now writers would make Atticus an alcoholic or tag on some other vice to make him more “relatable”.  What a shame that would be.

BOB CRATCHIT

Another example of a Gary Stu that I love is in Christmas Carol.  Bob Cratchit is an implausible character in many ways.  Few men would put up with such treatment and certainly Tiny TIm is a rare angel on earth but they are needed in order for Scrooge to see the error in his ways.  Sometimes an ultimate contrast is what a story requires for the plot to move forward.  If Tim was just kinda sweet and kinda nice than Scrooge would have written him off but his goodness has an effect.   From the moment he see’s Tiny Tim, Scrooge begins to change.

Both Atticus and Tiny Tim are trying to teach us something within the story and they do it very effectively.  So maybe next time you see a ‘Mary Sue’ trope you can stop and say ‘what is the author trying to teach us here?’.  Maybe it will work, maybe not?

The truth is all characters are ‘implausible’ because if we wrote about real life it would be very boring.  Most of us do the same routine every day interrupted by moments of clarity.  A good screenwriter must make craft a tale that is not simply moments but a story and sometimes Gary Stus and Mary Sues are needed for the particular story to progress.

At the very least saying a character is a ‘Gary Stu’ is kind of like saying he is boring or food is gross.  It doesn’t really give me any information.  Why is he implausible?  Why are his traits unlikely and why do they weaken that particular kind of story? I will probably still disagree with you but at least we will understand each other’s perspectives better.

On the Wikipidia article on Mary Sue’s they have an interesting passage about how the fear of the ‘Mary Sue’ label is making some authors hesitant of including female characters at all.  “Smith interviewed a panel of female authors who say they do not include female characters in their stories at all. She quoted one as saying “Every time I’ve tried to put a woman in any story I’ve ever written, everyone immediately says, this is a Mary Sue.” Smith also pointed out that “Participants in a panel discussion in January 1990 noted with growing dismay that any female character created within the community is damned with the term Mary Sue.”

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For example, I did not respond to the character of Pocahontas.  I didn’t find her interesting because she doesn’t really grow and for the type of story they are trying to tell I found her selfish, a poor listener and stubborn in an uncharming way.  She also preaches to people when she talks instead of having conversations. This makes her less relatable and her actions predictable.  You see how that is a more fleshed out description than just attaching some label?

I think that fear is what causes writers like Smith to tag on the adultery or other flaws so they have a defense against the Mary Sue label.  That is not good! The fact is most people I know are probably Mary Sue’s so they exist and are real.  Let’s have stories about these people too!

So, I say think about the story you are watching.  What genre is it and are the character tropes and types appropriate to the story being told? You can still dislike the movie if it doesn’t do those things well but at least it won’t be an automatic Gary Stu or Mary Sue?

Then if a character rubs you the wrong way, if you find them annoying, think for a second about why.  Is it their voice, actions, mannerisms?  What? Let’s dig a little deeper than Mary Sue or Gary Stu.

I mean after all Jesus was the ultimate Gary Stu and he changed the world so let’s be a little more open minded when it comes to these things and not just stick a highfalutin label on things.

Sincerely your friendly neighborhood Mary Sue or Molly Mormon or whatever you want to call me… 🙂

Tale of Princess Kaguya Review

kaguya horizontal 1Lets talk some Studio Ghibli specifically their latest film The Tale of the Princess Kaguya.  Studio Ghibli if you are not aware is the Japanese animation team that has produced anime films such as Spirited Away, My Friend Tottoro, Howls Moving Castle and Princess Mononoke.  They are most known for the works by Hayao Miyazaki, the amazing artist and director.

There has been some talk of Studio Ghibli taking a break with the retirement of Miyazaki but he has talked of retirement before and then finds a reason to make another film so we will see what happens.  In the meantime there is still plenty of talent at Studio Ghibli to draw upon as can be seen by Kaguya which is directed by Isao Takahata.   By the strength of this film, I am very excited to see what Takahata has for us in the future!  (I guess Takahata directed Grave of the Fireflies which is also dark and beautiful).

This is a very different kind of movie than the Miyazaki films and honestly it is going to be a tough sell for some western audiences.  It is very slowly paced.  The only thing I can think to compare it to is maybe Bambi.  There isn’t a strong plot to Bambi but it is beautiful and it tells the tale of a deer growing up to be a prince.  Kagayu is kind of like that.

It has a very different look than other Studio Ghibli films and reminds me more of The Secret of the  Kells or Ernest and Celestine the way it uses watercolor and hand drawn animation to tell the story.  Some may have issues with the film but, nobody can deny that Kaguya looks stunning.

Take a look at the trailer.

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It tells the story of a bamboo farmer who finds a little girl in the bamboo.  It looks like a doll but he takes it home to his wife and the baby miraculously grows very quickly as it is taken care of.

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Kind of like with Bambi when you see him learning to skate or playing with Thumper, in this story you see the baby called Little Bamboo frolicking with her friends.  There are multiple scenes with babies bottoms and women breastfeeding which I guess could bother some people but I think breastfeeding is beautiful so that didn’t bother me.  You see Bamboo playing with frogs, eating melon, chasing pigs, scenes like that which are sweet but some may want more story.

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Little Bamboo’s father finds gold in the bamboo and great silks and kimonos and he feels this is a sign from the Gods that she is of noble birth and must be trained as such.  This leads us to the second half of the movie (it is a very long 2 hours and 17 minutes and it is slow paced so like I said some will find it boring) where Little Bamboo is trained as a lady and renamed by the naming man to be Princess Kaguya.

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This part of the movie is so Japanese and may be a tough sell for western audiences.  In Western films such as Mulan or  Little Mermaid, our heroines Mulan  and Ariel rebel against their fathers and cultural customs and find happiness.  In this film Kaguya repeatedly agrees to do as her father directs whether it is moving to the city, painting her teeth black, listening to suitors, or plucking her eyebrows .

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There is only one moment where she refuses to submit to the Emperor and be his concubine (all the suitors in the movie have multiple wives and concubines so that’s not the reason she refuses).  She has a moment of free spirit that is gorgeously drawn but in the end even the God’s force her to submit.

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This is such a different character arc than I am used to and it was challenging because it didn’t seem like she was a happy person.  She’d have glimpses of happiness but then it would be taken away from her a second later; however, I know that is because I come from a culture that see’s happiness and life very differently, so I try to learn from this culture presented and not be too judgmental of their choices.

To Western eyes the ending feels very bitter-sweet.
To Western eyes the ending feels very bitter-sweet.

Like I said I think The Tale of Princess Kaguya is a tough sell for the average American audience.  It is long.  It has minimal plot and the characters make choices that go against our modern sensibilities.  However, if you can set all that aside you are in for a treat.  It is so beautiful.  The music by Joe Hisaishi is one of the best scores I’ve ever heard.  There are whole sequences when Kaguya is running or when a character is at sea and faces a monster that are stunning.

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There is also something to be said for obedience and submitting your will to a higher power’s plan, even if it makes you temporarily unhappy . As a Christian, I certainly believe that is often the case.  There are many things I do not do which at least seem to give others pleasure because I want to be obedient.  So it does have a valuable lesson to teach.  It’s just not the independence and strong will power we value so much in Western and particularly American culture.

I’d be very curious to know what any of you think if you get to see it.  The US Dubbing is good with Mary Steenburgen, Chloe Grace Moretz, James Caan, Lucy Liu, Beau Bridges, James Marsden and others.  As with all Studio Ghibli films they manage to merge the languages so that it feels like the characters have always been speaking English.

It certainly strengthens my argument of how wonderful 2014 has been for animation because nobody can deny The Tale of Princess Kaguya is one of the most beautifully animated films of this or any other year.  It is gorgeous.  Some people will definitely have issues with pacing and character’s choices but I was able to move past those barriers and really was blown away by it.

See it in the theater if you can not only to get the most beautiful viewing experience, but to support hand drawn animation when you can because the box office is where it really counts.  DVD and blu-ray sales help but when studios are deciding whether to produce movies they look at box office sales, so if you love hand drawn animation it’s time to put your money where your mouth is like I did.  If it is not playing at a city near you (25 cities so far) than follow them on facebook and contact your local theaters.  Let them know you want to see it.

It is going to be extremely difficult to determine this year’s Best Animated Feature for the Oscars because I don’t know how you don’t include this film.  It is awe-inspiring to look at. I think either Boxtrolls or Book of Life is going to lose its spot which is a shame because they are both so inventive and great to look at. I don’t care if I’m the only one who feels this way I just love this year’s films! If Song of the Sea is as great as people say than the Oscars noms are likely to be Song of the Sea, Tale of Princess Kaguya, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Big Hero 6 and The Lego Movie. I would love to see Hisaishi get a nom for best score because it really is outstanding but it’s been a great year in that department too.  A great year for movies!

Here are some more clips if you are still trying to decide whether to see it or not.

As far as a recommendation for kids it is tough.  Certain kids will be very rambunctious throughout the film and like I said there are breasts, baby butts and talk of wives and concubines if that is a concern for parents.  Other than that there isn’t any content that would be offensive.  Nothing is scary or violent.  There are some kids who really love artistic films and sometimes it’s the adults that get antsy! I’ve seen that happen many times.

My niece who really loves Japanese culture and art I think would love it, so it just depends on the kid.  Maybe watch the trailers with them and gauge their interest? But I think it is good for kids to see challenging films on occasion and not the easy to digest but fun films mainstream Hollywood gives them. It’s good for the brain to have to work a little bit harder to appreciate what we view from time-to-time.

Overall Grade- A 

Favorite Simpsons Episodes

If you guys are Simpsons fans I came up with this list of my favorite episodes I thought you might enjoy. Now with the FXX Now app you can watch all Simpsons seasons on your phone or tablet for free. Pretty cool.
Simpsons has been a part of my life almost my entire life. Every Thursdays and then Sundays for years. It is so well written and while the best seasons were 4-10 I still find a lot to enjoy. They make me laugh and in the end it is about a family that really loves each other.

Lisa Simpson is one of my favorite characters ever. She has such a good heart and I just relate to her.
What are some of your favorites?

Smilingldsgirl's Weblog

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For some reason people are nearly always surprised when they find out I love The Simpsons.  Even now in its 25th season it makes me laugh (and is visually stunning these days).  We didn’t have TV for spurts while I was growing up but when I was in high school my sister, brother and I watched The Simpsons every week.

I think my parents allowed it because they recognized how smart it was. The writing encourages thinking, pondering and in the end it is about a family that truly love each other.  Honestly, I would have no problem with my teenage children watching it either. In fact, I look forward to it one of these days.

Just for fun I was thinking about my favorite episodes and a lot of them are in seasons 7-10 because that is when I was in high school and watching it the most regularly. …

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Big Hero 6 Review

Check out my friend’s review of Big Hero 6. We are totally on the same page with this one. It was fabulous!

Drew's Movie Reviews

Big Hero 6 movie posterSynopsis
Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter) is a boy genius who is convinced by his brother, Tadashi (Daniel Henney), to put his gift towards building something to help mankind. When his invention is stolen by a super villain, he uses his intellect to outfit his robot, Baymax (Scot Adsit), and his friends, Fred (TJ Miller), Go Go (Jamie Chung), Wasabi (Damon Wayans, Jr.), and Lemon Honey (Genesis Rodriguez), with high tech gear to stop the mysterious figure.

Review
I was so ecstatic when Disney announced Big Hero 6 because it meant they were beginning to take full advantage of their purchase of Marvel. Although I know a lot about the Marvel comic universe, I know very little about Big Hero 6, other than who they are. But that didn’t matter, I was still excited for the chance to see them on the big screen. On top of creating an animated superhero…

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The A’s and B’s of my Blu-rays

Just thought I would share with you guys a new series I’ve started on my youtube channel.  I am showing you all my blu-ray collection by way of the alphabet (otherwise it would be like an hour long!).

Here are my A’s (2 Disney A’s featured!)

Here are my B’s (1 Disney B featured and some other favorites)

I also did this review of the Disney Movie Club you might find interesting.

And a review I did of the ESPN 30 for 30 5th Anniversary Collection

So check those out if you feel so inclined.  Take care friends! 🙂