Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
For breakfast: cinammon rolls
It’s hard for me to say this, but compared to the pure genius of Miyazaki’s other films, Howl’s Moving Castle was kind of disappointing. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, not by a long shot. In fact, it’s still leagues above any US animated features (save Pixar of course), but Miyazaki has set the bar so high for himself that you can definitely tell some things don’t quite click with this film. I think it’s mostly due to this being adapted from the novel by Diana Wynne Jones instead of original material by the man himself. The characters could have had a little more depth to them, there’s so much going on it feels like we never really get to know anyone. This was surprising since Chihiro in Spirited Away had outstanding character development, which made for a much more memorable character and a superior film. But, there’s still a lot to like here: the animation is beautiful, it has a good sense of humor, and despite its flaws it still a little touching.
Armitage: Dual Matrix (2002)
Directed by Katsuhito Akiyama
For breakfast lunch: Illegal Pete’s
Oh boy. While I generally liked the inconsistent, yet cool Armitage III: Poly-Matrix…this sequal is just plain bad. Taking place a few years after the first movie, Armitage and Ross Sylibus are living on Mars with their daughter. There’s some convoluted plot about robot riots, the Thirds project being resurrected, and some corporation trying to discover the secret of the Third’s ability to bear children. This movie is filled with bad animation and bad voice acting. I mean, it’s “wow” bad. The animation is stiff and half the movie is badly-timed pan shots over still backgrounds that really manage to bring the production level to a new low. Also, I missed Keifer Sutherland. He really brought something to Ross Sylibus. I suppose some of the action sequences were kind of cool and worth watching, but that’s about it my friend.
Armitage III: Poly Matrix (1997)
Directed by Takuya Sato
For breakfast: French Toast
Armitage is an interesting, somewhat successful animated attempt at a Blade Runner like story. In the not-so-distant future, life-like robots called “thirds” are being brutally murdered one by one. On the case are Naomi Armitage (voiced by Jesse Elizabeth Berkeley) and Roy Sylibus (voiced by the always awesome Keifer Sutherland). The film plays out very choppy and inconsistent, which makes sense since it is just a shorter version of a 4-part series. The animation is fairly cool (kind of disappointed this dvd is NOT anamorphic, pft) and there are some nice action sequences that catch the eye. I won’t go into the plot, because it’s fairly convoluted, but it raises some interesting ethical questions. I may have to track down the Original Video Animation (OVA) to see what kind of important story points this version is missing. Despite being a truncated rip-off, it still manages to be entertaining.
I decided to give my Toy Story THX laserdisc a spin. I must say…not too shabby, even for a dead format. For some reason I just love the warm feeling I get from watching animation on laserdisc. Perhaps it’s nostalgia, but I think it’s pretty fun.
I desperately need to get a scaler at some point though. I think the investment would be worth it.
Forgive the poor quality picture. I need to work out a better screencap system for my laserdiscs.
(Note that this was a review written for Film-Talkâ€™s World Cinema Club, so it contains plot information and possible spoilers.)
My Neighbor Totoro was the third Miyazaki film I discovered after Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away and I was pleasantly surprised to see that he maintained everything I loved about the other two films and yet he created something so different from them. Now having seen most of his films (I still need to watch Castle in the Sky and Howl’s Moving Castle) Totoro is still my favorite, although I hate distinguishing one film over the others because I absolutely love his work. To say this movie is cute doesn’t even scratch the surface of just how adorable this movie is. Miyazaki once again creates a world that overlaps from time to time with the fantastical, as humans interact with spirits and other mythological creatures as if it’s perfectly normal. This time we get to see things through the eyes of two young girls living with their father as thier mother recovers from an illness in the hospital. I think what I appreciate most about My Neighbor Totoro is the fact that it presents its characters in a realistic situation without falling victim to over dramatization or the “message” which plagues most current animated films.