Mary and the Witch’s Flower

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: PG

Mary And The Witch's Flower
©2017 M.F.P

Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi

Producers: Yoshiaki Nishimura, Will Clarke (English version)

Written By: Riko Sakaguchi, Hiromasa Yonebayashi

Based on: ‘The Little Broomstick’ by Mary Stewart (novel)

Starring: Hana Sugisaki, Lynda Freedman (English adaptation)

Pleasantly surprised. Fantastic storytelling, took me back to my childhood, back to the early days when I discovered films were a window into another world, an escape from reality.

The film’s story is based on a children’s novel The Little Broomstick, written in 1971 by the English author Mary Stewart, long before Kiki’s Delivery Service and the Harry Potter series. When I watched Mary and the Witch’s Flower, I did not know that, and even though I noticed certain similarities, to focus on these would not be objective nor fair.

I love Japanese animation and the word ‘love’ doesn’t even scratch the surface of what I feel about it. I grew up rewatching season after season of Dragon Ball and Captain Tsubasa to name a couple. Combine that with films such as Spirited Away (2001) and Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), and you’ll know what I mean. I had expectations, I won’t lie.

The storytelling is strong enough to fly high.  I was skeptic for about 30 seconds but then I was charmed. Popcorn in hand, I became a child again, sitting at the movie theatre and going along with Mary’s adventure.

Mary and The Witch’s Flower is much more than an animation based on a book. It all started when producer Yoshiaki Nishimura was charmed by one bit of dialogue that he read in the original story: “And it wouldn’t be right to use the spellbook to unlock the front door, either. I’ll do it the way it’s used to, even if it does take longer…”

Set in a magical world, Mary goes through many fun and scary adventures filled with heart-beating excitement, thrills and suspense, flying the skies and travelling beyond the clouds. After these dazzling adventures, Mary finds herself without any magical powers, only a simple broom and a single promise she made. This is when Mary discovers the true strength within her.

Unusual harmony with one musical instrument is heard throughout the film. It is the sound of the stringed percussion instrument called the hammered dulcimer. In search of an uncommon musical instrument to set the tone for the entire film, producer Nishimura learnt from animation director Isao Takahata, about the hammered dulcimer, Nishimura decided to make it the central instrument for the film.

After leaving Studio Ghibli at the end of 2014, Yoshiaki Nishimura established his own animation studio on April 15, 2015. The origin of the studio’s name, ponoć, comes from an expression in Croatian meaning “midnight” and “the beginning of a new day”. The current film Mary and The Witch’s Flower is Studio Ponoc’s first feature animation, and involved a large number of creators and staff from Nishimura’s days at Studio Ghibli.

The attention to detail throughout the film makes me excited about what’s to come from the new-born Studio Ponoc, where talented artists and creators who worked on past Studio Ghibli productions have come together to work on director Yonebayashi and producer Nishimura’s newest work.

If I were you, I would be keeping an eye out for them. I know I will.

The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: GThe Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature

Director and Co-Writer: Cal Brunker

Producer and Co-Writer: Bob Barlen

Screenwriters: Scott Bindley, Cal Brunker, Bob Barlen

Producers: Harry Linden, Jongsoo Kim, Youngki Lee, Li Li Ma, Jonghan Kim, Bob Barlen

Starring: Will Arnett, Maya Rudolph, Katherine Heigl, Jackie Chan, Bobby Moynihan, Gabriel Iglesias, Bobby Cannavale, Jeff Dunham, Peter Stormare and Isabela Moner.

Cal Brunker wanted to make A Nut Job 2, Nutty by Nature, bigger and more fun so he took the most loved elements of the first movie and mixed nuts and drama with the deft flick of an artist’s eye to bring to life a little band of insurgent parkland animals, a corrupt greedy human oppressor -and turn it into a visually stunning action packed sequel.

 Stuffed on a fast food supply of nuts from the abandoned basement of Nibbler’s Nut Shop, Surly and his animal friends Andie (Katherine Heigl), stray pug Precious (Maya Rudolph) Buddy (Tom Kenn) live happy, lazy and fat in nut luxury without a survival worry in the world.

Nut feasts of every kind are just one furry paw breath away from the hunter gatherers. But their lifestyle of easy pickings ends explosively one night as the nut shop comes tumbling down in a gas explosion.

Unbeknownst to the animals their survival problems are just beginning.

Surly discovers that the local Mayor, a corrupt self-serving meanie Mayor Muldoon (Bobby Moynihan), plans to get rich by bulldozing their beloved Liberty Park and ripping it apart turning it into a hellish carnival ground full of decrepit rides bought on the cheap.

The animals strike back when they team up with some muscle in the adorable fluff ball form of a tough city mouse and Kung Fu master Mr. Feng and his army of displaced mice. Mr Feng has one outstanding flaw, he absolutely loses it when you call him cute.

Mayor Muldoon brutally enlists pest exterminators to exterminate Surly and his friends. Mayor Muldoon has a pint-sized weapon of his own, his daughter Heather – an armed brat with psychopathic urges, a tranquillizer gun and itching trigger finger.

Heather delights in doing horribly wrong things to animals if she can just get her hands on them.

All appears lost as the animal’s face hunger, homelessness and destruction by a predator they are not equipped to battle

What can go wrong is what makes this film so right for its target audience.

A simple movie with big themes: inclusion, diversity, unity, purpose and quest and we we’re cheering the little guy all the way.

Cal Brunker injects the drama with ever higher stakes with the completely unexpected plot twist of my favourite character, Surly’s best friend a non-speaking rescue rat named Buddy (Tom Kenny).

In his scraggly body Buddy the silent heroic outsider captured my heart as he faces off against the destructive power of corrupt human greed.

Nut Job 2, Nutty by Nature is a thrilling ride with unexpected plot twists.  At one moment I sat misty eyed with shock in the cinema with my 11-year-old daughter, My thought at that moment was, ‘this can’t happen in a kid’s movie!’

As I watched this movie with my daughter I was given the gift of escaping into the movie with the eyes of a child.

My daughter loved A Nut Job 2, Nutty by Nature.

The Nut Job 2 draws you into an enormous canvas of animated movie magic. There is enough colour breathing escapism, relentless slapstick smiling animal chaos and rocket fueled action married with characters we care about that makes Nut Job 2 a perfect school holiday movie.

Darkest Hour

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: PGDarkest Hour

Directed by: Joe Wright

Written by: Anthony McCarten

Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Anthony McCarten, Lisa Bruce, Douglas Urbanski

Starring: Gary Oldman, Kristen Scott Thomas, Lily James, Stephen Dillane, Ronald Pickup and Ben Mendelsohn.

Set over the course of four weeks in 1940, Darkest Hour is based on the true story of Winston Churchill and the immense burden he carried as newly-appointed Prime Minister when Nazi Germany invaded Western Europe.

It’s a critical time in history.  A decision must be made to either fight in another world war against all odds, the Germans surrounding the entire British army on the shores of Dunkirk – or to negotiate with a madman.

The fight on Dunkirk is fresh in the minds of film enthusiasts after the recent release of Christopher Nolan’s memorable, ‘not-a-war movie’, Dunkirk.

Darkest Hour shows a different version of WWII, focussing on the same time in history yet here the story unfolds not on the ground – the soldiers dodging bullets or falling into the icy waters – here, we follow the men making the decisions and observe the politics and strategies of war held behind closed doors.  And with Churchill, sometimes the most important conversation taken on the telephone behind the door of the lavatory.

Darkest Hour is based on the beginnings of WWII, yes, but the story is about the man – Winston Churchill and all his flaws.  A man who has never taken the tube (well, only once during the strikes), a man whose wife (Kristen Scott Thomas) finds him intolerable but loves him anyway.  And no matter his power or position will always know him as, Piggy.Darkest Hour

Churchill never gives up, and it’s precisely his flaws that give him the strength to succeed.

Gary Oldman is every bit deserving of his recent Golden Globe award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama.  See his acceptance speech here.

As Winston Churchill, Oldman’s barely recognisable as he embraces the part and becomes every bit the British Prime Minister affecting all the required mannerisms of the mumbling, alcoholic, cigar smoking, yet brilliant mind and oration of the man.

Ben Mendelsohn finally gets to be the good guy, here as King George VI.  Not the regal performance of Colin Firth in, The King’s Speech (2010) but suiting the tone of the film better with the gritty human nature of the characters used for amusement amongst all the seriousness of the story.Darkest Hour

And there’s not many tricks here – director Joe Wright (Atonement, Hanna, Pride & Prejudice, Anna Karenina) keeping any effects subtle with a sometimes lofty birds-eye-view to convey the overall feeling of politicians seeing the population as small parts to be manuvered for the greater good.

Mostly, this is a character-driven film, focussing on the dialogue and emotion of those who discuss the fortunes of thousands of lives.  We, as an audience, get a window into the world of Churchill as he weighs the cost; to ultimately decide no cost is too much – there is only perseverance to fight until the very end.

So, for all Churchill’s flaws, we are shown true grit and the character required when the world ceases to make sense.  And can the man speak!  The real pleasure of the film watching Churchill use his words to win over a nation, his famous speeches delivered by the believable performance of Gary Oldman.

Would I watch the film again?  Probably not.  This isn’t a thriller that keeps you on the edge, this is a stirring education and insight into just how close we came to losing our freedom.

All The Money In The World

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MA15+All The Money In The World

Directed by:  Ridley Scott

 Written by:  David Scarpa based on the book by John Pearson          

Produced by: Dan Friedkin, Bradley Thomas, Quentin Curtis, Chris Clark, Ridley Scott, Mark Huffam and Kevin J. Walsh

Starring Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer and Mark Wahlberg. 

When a movie such as this is labelled ‘Inspired by True Events’ I can’t stop my mind constantly evaluating which of the events portrayed are true and which are pure speculation.

In this case the basic facts are that Jean Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer) is an American-born British industrialist who negotiated a series of lucrative oil leases with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and was declared the richest American in 1957.

On 10th July 1973, Paul, his grandson, (Charlie Plummer- no relation), then age 16, was kidnapped off the streets of Rome. Paul’s mother, Gail (Michelle Williams) spends the rest of the film negotiating with a grandfather reluctant to pay the demanded ransom.

The film is based on a book on the Gettys written by John Pearson and this adaption from book to film does cause some narrative problems.

Although the kidnapping occurs very early in the film, a series of flashbacks quickly follow in succession, each dated to supply the necessary biographical information about the family’s background. I found this constant interruption of the main narrative quite disconcerting.

This is a film that moves slowly despite the potential for drama of a kidnapping. The tension is muted, crisscrossing between scenes of Paul and the kidnappers and his mother’s increasingly frustrated attempts to convince his grandfather to ‘pay up.’ It is only in the last half hour that the adrenalin really starts pumping.

Christopher Plummer and Michelle Williams give solid if somewhat pallid performances with Williams reprising the mood of her role as Alma, wife of Ennis Del Mar, in Brokeback Mountain – all stoic endurance.

Surprisingly, moments of emotion are few and far between and unexpectedly more often between the young Paul and Cinquanta, one of the Calabrian captors (played convincingly by Romain Duris), who does what he can to make the captivity endurable.

What intrigued David Scarpa, the scriptwriter, about the story were the psychological aspects, how “the obstacle wasn’t paying the ransom and rescuing his grandson – the obstacle was psychological, he just couldn’t bear to part with his money.”

This is a visually beautiful film from Dariusz Wolski, (Director of Photography) renowned for each of the first four films in the record-breaking Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

The Italian landscapes fairly hum with an erotic energy and the lush interiors of the Getty mansions with their shadowy corners and opulent décor are more like scenes captured from the Old Masters that hang on the Getty walls.

The film however, exists in the shadow of that space where art and life often collide. Originally, Kevin Spacey, transformed by elaborate make-up and prosthetics, played the iconic tycoon. But when many men came forward alleging that the actor had sexually abused them, Christopher Plummer was hastily signed on as the replacement.

Many scenes had to be re-shot and interestingly Michelle Williams re-shot all her scenes with Plummer, refusing to accept recompense in solidarity with all those who had allegedly been abused by show business luminaries.

Perhaps this unfortunate interruption of reality goes part way to explain some of the film’s deficiencies and its rushed feeling. Sometimes the action verges on melodrama, especially in the several scenes where paparazzi on steroids surge like locusts around the Getty entourage or the one thousand newspapers delivered by Gail to Getty senior to capture his attention, swirl about him like snow. Nothing subtle here.

In the end Getty senior is a somewhat clichéd portrayal, the lonely old rich tycoon without no attempt to understand the causes of his rigid personality. There’s a deeper story here somewhere but unfortunately it’s tricky to find, much like the Getty ransom.

Products from Amazon.com

Nat’s Top 10 Movies for 2017

It’s a personel moment when a film reaches into your mind to take you on a journey.  And I’m happy to say this is what the films below have given me over the past year.

Being an avid fan of the horror/thriller I was surprised when I realised  IT didn’t make it into my top 10 for 2017.  However, after a re-watch I found that, although a great coming-of-age film (still rating:★★★★), IT was more a monster movie than a thriller with Pennywise a little too animated for my taste.

So, brace yourself because it was more about the suspense and intellectual thrill that tickled the grey cells this year, with a bit of humour thrown in the mix.

10.

MOONLIGHT

Drama ★★★★☆ (4.2/5)

Moonlight is unique in that it’s both raw and subtle, creating something else, a feeling that stays with you that’s beautiful because it’s laid bare.  What a rarity and an experience you won’t soon forget.

9.

DUNKIRK

Action / Drama / History ★★★★☆ (4.2/5)

Nolan has used his talent to bring the true story of Dunkirk to the screen without over-dramatising, allowing us to admire the courage and valour of the civilians of Britain who saved more than 330, 000 soldiers’ lives.

Suspense like a ticking time-bomb.

8.

WIND RIVER

Crime/Mystery ★★★★☆ (4.2/5)

After writing the screenplay for the two highly regarded crime/thrillers, Sicario (2015) – which I gave a 5/5, and, Hell or High Water (2016), Taylor Sheridan has returned as writer and as director (debut) of the crime/mystery, Wind River: a tragedy based on actual events, beautifully told, where each moment, word and gesture show more than just the surface.

7.

GOOD TIME

Drama/Arthouse ★★★★☆ (4.2/5)

The Safdie brothers (Josh and Ben) return with their fifth feature film, building on their gonzo-style street films with Official Selection and winner of the Cannes Soundtrack Award, Good Time.

And I was hooked from the opening scene.

6.

PADDINGTON 2

Comedy for kids but made to be enjoyed by all: Hillarious! ★★★★☆ (4.2/5)

When any thought of reality is overwhelmed with wonder.

5.

BLADE RUNNER 2049

SciFi ★★★★☆ (4.3/5)

Atmospheric and quietly menacing.

And that’s the quality of the film, subtle: complicated emotions yet, made to feel simple.  A kind of gentle unfolding with an underlying darkness driving life into the shadows, but the shadows fighting back, like life…

Ah, don’t you love it when a movie makes you feel all moody when you leave the cinema!

4.

SUBURBICON

Comedy/Crime/Mystery ★★★★1/2

Deadpan delivery of the clever, the very dark and the very funny.

3.

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI

Fantasy/SciFi ★★★★1/2

Rian Johnson also wrote and directed, Looper (2012) and has brought that same attention to the script here, revealing layer upon layer of story to take the audience on a journey totally unexpected.

No other word to describe: Epic!

2.

Miss Sloane

Drama / Thriller ★★★★☆ (4.6/5)

This is a thoroughly absorbing film because its cleverness is combined with an undercurrent of emotion that’s felt without needing explanation. 

Classy and smart all the way – brilliant.

1.

MOUNTAIN

Documentary ★★★★★

Unbelievable as it may be, but a documentary tops my list of best films of 2017: I felt like my soul was being fed by this symphony of poetry, imagery and sound.

A combination of sound and stomach clenching cinematography creates a thrill as people fly down slopes or jump into the air 1000s of feet above the earth, death defying leaps, where there really must be an element of insanity, to even think, yet, it’s not about thinking, it’s about feeling alive.

Enjoy!

Pitch Perfect 3

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MPitch Perfect 3

Directed by: Trish Sie

Story by: Kay Cannon

Produced by: Paul Brooks, p.g.a, Max Handelman, p.g.a, Elizabeth Banks, p.g.a

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Hana Mae Lee, Alexis Knapp with Jan Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks.

Firstly, I admit to being a Pitch Perfect novice.  In fact, a novice to any musical – I really don’t get it and find the idea cheesy: go watch a film clip if that’s what you want.

But, I can be open-minded and am a sucker for a good joke.  And thankfully, Pitch Perfect 3 had more going for it than sometimes out-of-sync, 20-something-year-olds, having their first life-crisis viewed through a soft-focus lens.

Producers Paul Brooks of Gold Circle and Max Handelman and Elizabeth Banks of Brownstone Production have returned after the huge success of the previous Pitch Perfect instalments which made more than $400 million at the global box office.

Writer Kay Cannon, who wrote the first two films of the series, has also joined the team, sharing screenplay credit with Mike White – this time bringing more music and action to the final reunion of the Bellas.Pitch Perfect 3

The story so far shows the girls post-graduation from Barden, embracing their new careers as personal trainers and vet nurses, producers of hip hop artists (where I admit the over-produced version Beca makes to improve a track called, Bend Over was worse than the supposed bad original: picking on the authentic, yo!) to the (speaking of authentic) Fat Amy Winehouse with Rebel Wilson still bringing it with those facial expressions and dead-pan delivery of the disgusting that’s funny cause she’s so cute.

But the girls don’t feel like they’re winning in life-after-college, so when they get an invite for a reunion of the Bellas, they can’t wait to get back on stage again.

And the singing is good.  If the lip syncing was sometimes very bad.

Pitch Perfect 3

Rudy Rose joins the cast in the attempt-to-be-cool villain and lead singer in a band called Evermoist, which competes against the Bellas in a USO tour that involves playing in front of army boys.  Add country band Saddle Up and DJ Dragon Nuts and DJ Looney, the Bellas get their much needed competition, that really becomes more about signing a contract with DJ Khaled, AKA Bill – the simplified name, Billy kinda cracking me up with the script adding some odd-ball humour.  As did Lilly (Hanna Mae Lee) with her truly random behaviour…

It wasn’t until Beca tells Theo (the music exec and key part of DJ Khaled’s crew, so a big deal regarding the competition) that he looks like a turtle, and then to face-off the awkward moment, that I really started to get into the film.

So, really, I think the idea is to have so many different characters with unique personalities, so the audience will identify with at least one?

But what they all have in common is they look like they’re having a good time.

This is a high-energy movie where some noise in the audience is all part of the experience.

The best and most believable performance had to come from competitor’s Saddle Up, also a band in real life and the DJs were pretty good (also real-life musicians – Trinidad James and DJ Looney).  But jeez, I did not get into the Evermoist crew.  But I guess that’s the point, being the villains and all.   Still…

So anyway, the Bellas get back together and jet-set around the world in this USO tour, when suddenly Fat Amy’s long-lost Dad (John Lithgow) finds her in Europe (having been banned from the US for his criminal activities).  And I have to admit, Lithgow pulls off a pretty decent Aussie accent.

So that adds a few twists to an otherwise musical about the usual friendship/finding love formula.

What can I say, a musical, yes, but with some good comedy and odd-ball random moments thrown in for the non-musical fan.

Pitch Perfect 3 was quickly forgotten but fun while it lasted.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MStar Wars: The Last Jedi

Directed by: Rian Johnson

Written by: Rian Johnson

Based on Characters Created by: George Lucas

Music by: John Williams

Cinematography by: Steve Yedlin

Starring: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Benicio Del Toro, Frank Oz, Billie Laurd, Joonas Suotamo, Amanda Lawrence, Jimmy Vee, Brian Herring and Dave Chapman.  

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there was the best episode of Star Wars made to date…

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Episode VIII) is epic people!

This film has everything: fantasy, drama and conflict and betrayal and action with lightsaber fights that last just long enough…

And I was surprisingly emotional through-out the film with General (Princess) Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) filmed and thankfully not animated so she looked so real and so there.

It was such a pleasure to see Carrie Fisher up on the big screen for the final time… See what I mean about emotional?!Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Director and writer, Rian Johnson has spent a lot of time getting the detail of the story right.  There’s new characters mixed with old that keep the story interesting with the familiar and the excitement of seeing new critters adding to the lightness and wonder of this visual story.

Rian Johnson also wrote and directed, Looper (2012) and has brought that same attention to the script here, revealing layer upon layer of story to take the audience on a journey totally unexpected.

And I liked how the film was set both in space and on land – the effects of space fantastic on the big screen and the grounding of seeing the ocean crash into rocks and the salty sand of the desert kicking up red dust visually surprising.Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The island where the previous episode, The Force Awakens, leaves us with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is expanded upon, the thought put into the vastness of the landscape impressive with new sea creatures and those cute Porgs (that look like a cross between a penguin and a puffin) alongside old favourites like Chewbacca.

This episode sees the story unfold around the never ceasing Resistance as they fight The First Order led by Supreme Leader, Snoke (Andy Serkis) as he takes hold of the universe.  The final threads of the Resistance making that final last stand with Rey (Daisy Ridley) seeking the return of the equally resistant Luke Skywalker hiding on his island after losing all faith when his student and best friend and sister’s son, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) turns to the Dark Side.Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Adam Driver has really grown into his role as Kylo Ren (the highlight for me) – the film taking time to explore this new character, making him as deep and fascinating as Darth Vader.

But like life, there’s dark and there’s light.  There’s good and bad in everyone – the conflict of the Force in Luke and Rey and Kylo adding to an otherwise action and suspenseful film.

And, for me, the most suspenseful Star Wars so far.

The Last Jedi is a further exploration into the Dark Side giving this episode a sharper edge and depth – the fantasy element making the story more griping and thought-provoking than the usual Sci-Fi weight of the previous instalments.

And the timing of the story was perfect.  The twists in the tale, many.

Prepare for an epic experience: it’s a long one (2h 33m) but well worth the journey.