Tag Archives: Mari Natsuki

Spirited Away (2001) Review

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Spirited Away

Time: 125 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Rumi Hiiragi as Chihiro Ogino/Sen
Miyu Irino as Haku/Spirit of the Kohaku River
Mari Natsuki as Yubaba/Zeniba
Takeshi Naito as Akio Ogino
Yasuko Sawaguchi as Yūko Ogino
Tsunehiko Kamijō as Chichiyaku
Takehiko Ono as Aniyaku 
Bunta Sugawara as Kamaji
Director: Hayao Miyazaki

10-year-old Chihiro (Rumi Hiiragi) and her parents (Takashi Naitô, Yasuko Sawaguchi) stumble upon a seemingly abandoned amusement park. After her mother and father are turned into giant pigs, Chihiro meets the mysterious Haku (Miyu Irino), who explains that the park is a resort for supernatural beings who need a break from their time spent in the earthly realm, and that she must work there to free herself and her parents.

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Spirited Away was the first film from Studio Ghibli that I watched, and also among the first anime movies I’ve seen. It had been on many ‘best films of all time’ list, so I had been meaning to get around to it for a while. I went in knowing nothing, and it turned out to be really great and somehow lived up to all the hype and more.

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I didn’t know much about the movie going in and it turned out to be quite a surprise. So if you haven’t seen it before, I think it’s worth not knowing too much before watching. I can say that it’s very creative and endearing, and while it’s a cliché to say it, it’s quite magical. There’s a lot of imagination on display, it’s really like nothing I’ve seen before. It is a coming of age story about childhood innocence, that combines drama, adventure, comedy, and fantasy all into one film. There’s also so much in this movie to unpack it’s actually astounding.  It’s whimsical but is also surprisingly dark and frightening when telling it’s very mature story about greed and identity, in fact the whole movie is more mature than I thought it would be. There are plenty of themes of environmental pollution, labour relations greed and the passage to adulthood. It’s also a movie full of hope throughout. The plot itself is nicely structured and finely paced while the memorable and well thoughts out characters make the drama more compelling and are cleverly fleshed out in the script. The film does slow down to allow time for main character Chihiro and the audience to the see the beauty of the world. The movie does take time in its roughly 2 hour long runtime for her to take part in seemingly mundane things which does add a lot to the movie, I was invested throughout. One of the ways that the film handles worldbuilding well with a level of richness is the lack of exposition, showing the world, story and characters with the visuals and character actions instead of telling it to us straight up. It’s just all well crafted and put together overall.

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Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, Spirited Away is animated and made absolutely beautifully. It was made in the early 2000s, and it still really holds up well today. It’s not just the movements but also the designs and imagination, as well as the environments. It really lets the visuals speak a whole other language to you as the viewer, the visual storytelling does a lot of the work for the movie without needing characters to speak it. It’s absolutely creative especially on a visual level. I can only imagine how kids felt watching this for the first time, mainly the designs of some of the creatures and people as they were far scarier than most animated movies. The score from Joe Hisaishi also adds a lot to the movie.

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Spirited Away is a much watch for sure. It’s a beautiful and endearing come of age film, that’s animated excellently. If you wanted a place to start watching anime, Spirited Away would be a great place to begin. It’s an extraordinary film that was a complete pleasure to watch, and a movie that I do want to come back to someday.

Isle of Dogs (2018) Review

Time: 101 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence and Coarse Language
Cast:
Bryan Cranston as Chief
Koyu Rankin as Atari Kobayashi
Edward Norton as Rex
Bob Balaban as King
Bill Murray as Boss
Jeff Goldblum as Duke
Kunichi Nomura as Mayor Kobayashi
Akira Takayama as Major Domo
Greta Gerwig as Tracy Walker
Frances McDormand as Interpreter Nelson
Akira Ito as Professor Watanabe
Scarlett Johansson as Nutmeg
Harvey Keitel as Gondo
F. Murray Abraham as Jupiter
Yoko Ono as Assistant Scientist Yoko Ono
Tilda Swinton as Oracle
Ken Watanabe as Head Surgeon
Mari Natsuki as Auntie
Fisher Stevens as Scrap
Nijiro Murakami as Editor Hiroshi
Liev Schreiber as Spots
Courtney B. Vance as the narrator
Yojiro Noda as News Anchor
Frank Wood as Simul-Translate Machine
Director: Wes Anderson

When, by executive decree, all the canine pets of Megasaki City are exiled to a vast garbage-dump called Trash Island, 12-year-old Atari sets off alone in a miniature Junior-Turbo Prop and flies across the river in search of his bodyguard-dog, Spots. There, with the assistance of a pack of newly-found mongrel friends, he begins an epic journey that will decide the fate and future of the entire Prefecture.

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I was looking forward to Isle of Dogs, it was one of my most anticipated films of 2018. For whatever reason, I’ve been having to wait for this film to release here when it was already released a couple months prior everywhere else, however it’s finally here. I’ve seen a few films from Wes Anderson (Grand Budapest Hotel, Fantastic Mr Fox and Moonrise Kingdom) and I liked what I’ve seen from him. With this being the second time he stop motion animated a movie (with the first being Fantastic Mr Fox), I was confident that this would be a solid movie, and that it was. It was pretty much what I expected and maybe a little bit more.

Isle of Dogs is an hour and 40 minutes long and from start to finish I was entertained. You can tell that it is definitely a Wes Anderson story. It has a very unique and original story with quirky characters, deadpan humour which is really funny and unique and is just entertaining overall. I didn’t really have too many faults with it, though there might’ve been a slight overuse of flashbacks, which does halt the story at times. Also some places and characters that the film at times cuts to (AKA characters that aren’t the main characters) really weren’t as interesting as the main storyline/characters. Isle of Dogs is kind of a kids movie, though it does go a little unexpectedly dark at times, so if you have some kids thinking that they’re going in expecting a cute film about a bunch of talking dogs, let’s just say that it won’t be what they are expecting. Aside from some minor faults, Isle of Dogs has a pretty solid story.

There is a lot of voice actors involved (Wes Anderson always seems to have a large and talented cast in his films). Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Liev Schreiber and much more consist of the voice cast, and they all did good jobs as their characters, with Cranston being a particular standout.

As I said, this is the second time that Wes Anderson has directed a stop motion animated movie and once again he did a great job. Fantastic Mr Fox was good, but his handling of stop motion animation was even better here with Isle of Dogs, it is a great looking film. Also on top of the movie feeling like a Wes Anderson written movie, it also feels like a Wes Anderson directed movie. Everything from the framing, camera position, editing, everything here really feels like his film. Now if you’re not familiar with Wes Anderson’s style in his films, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about. It’s really difficult to describe because you can’t compare his movies to anyone else’s. If you haven’t seen any of his movies before, I do recommend giving this a go. If you can’t get into Wes Anderson’s other movies because of his style, chances are Isle of Dogs won’t win you over. There was an interesting decision made, all the dialogue from the dogs are in English, however most of the dialogue by the humans are in Japanese, and a significant amount of it isn’t translated into English. It works most of the time to show the language barrier, but I only say that it works most of the time because often times someone else has to translate what they are saying in English because some of the dialogue contains plot details that we the audience need to know. The film tries to have a mix of untranslated dialogue that we don’t hear (and yet convey the message visually so we still understand what’s going on) while having English exposition explaining everything to us and it didn’t quite work as well as I think it was intended to. I think it would’ve been better sticking with one way, whether that be all human dialogue in Japanese, Japanese dialogue with subtitles or all the dialogue in English, because it felt jarring when they kept changing their method of human dialogue. It’s not a major flaw with the movie, just something that stands out that is worth addressing.

On the whole, Isle of Dogs really worked well. It was entertaining, I could get invested in the story and I just enjoyed watching it from start to finish. If you’re a Wes Anderson fan, I think you’ll definitely dig this. If you haven’t seen any of his movies before, I’d say that Isle of Dogs is a good place to start with his movies. His films may not appeal to everyone but I recommend giving it a go at the very least.