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.

Loving Vincent

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: PG-13Loving Vincent

Directors: Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman

Producers: Claudia Bluemhuber, Sean Bobbitt

Written By: Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman and Jacek Dehnel

Starring: Douglas Booth, Josh Burdett, Holly Earl, Chris O’Dowd.

Loving Vincent is the world’s first oil painted feature film. It fascinated me from the moment I watched the trailer months ago.

Armand, the postman’s son, a man with little to no aspirations, arrives at the last hometown of the painter to deliver his last letter. The audience dives into the story through his eyes, the eyes of a stranger, providing a fresh perspective as the character’s curiosity, and our own, unravels an unexpected mystery.

Visually stunning, the creators of this piece of art in animated form set out to achieve the impossible, to tell the story of the last days of Vincent Van Gogh’s life through sixty-five thousand paintings.Loving Vincent

The art form of film is different from painting. Painting is one particular moment in time, frozen. Film is fluid, seeming to move through space and time. So, prior to and during the live action shoot the painting design team spent a year re-imagining Vincent’s painting into the medium of film.

Loving Vincent was first shot as a live action film with actors then hand-painted over frame-by-frame in oils. The final effect is an interaction of the performance of the actors playing Vincent’s famous portraits, as well as the painting animators, bringing these characters into the medium of paint.

In an experience like no other, Loving Vincent takes the audience on a journey through his life and death, allowing us to step right into his artwork where we wonder about the meaning behind the scenes unveiling before our eyes.Loving Vincent

Armand sets off in search of the truth and finds that sometimes, a man’s fame is not made of what he set out to achieve during his lifetime but of the legacy that he leaves behind.

Dorota Kobiela had planned to combine her passion for painting and film, for her sixth animated short, and to paint the entire film herself. However, once she expanded Loving Vincent into a feature film the task of writing and directing was such that she had to content herself with directing the [124] painters. Although, Dorota managed to set some time aside to paint a few shots herself.

After falling in love with Polish painter and director, Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman also fell in love with her film project, Loving Vincent.  He has been working with her ever since.

The LEGO® NINJAGO® Movie

GoMovieReviews Rating:
PGThe Lego Ninjago Movie

Directed by: Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher, Bob Logan

Produced by: Dan Lin, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Chris McKay, Maryann Garger, Roy Lee

Screenplay by: Bob Logan, Paul Fisher, William Wheeler, Tom Wheeler, Jared Stern, John Whittington

Story by: Hilary Winston, Bob Logan, Paul Fisher, William Wheeler, Tom Wheeler, Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman

Based on: Lego Ninjago by The Lego Group

Starring: Dave Franco, Justin Theroux, Michel Peña, Kumail Nanjiani, Abbi Jacobson, Zach Woods, Fred Armisen, Olivia Munn, Jackie Chan.

The second spin-off from, The LEGO® Movie, The LEGO® NINJAGO® Movie is based on characters from the Ninjago books, TV series and LEGO® toy-line.

Being a complete novice to the Ninjago world, I took my 5-year-old nephew, an avid fan, to provide some background information (which he enthusiastically supplied, bringing his book full of Ninjago characters).

Thankfully, for a newbie such as myself, the film focussed on the basics of the story, opening with a very human, Jackie Chan as a shop keeper, explaining to a young boy the philosophy and wonder of Ninjago.

And diving into the world of Ninjago, the animation begins:

An evil warlord, Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux) AKA, The Worst Guy Ever, is forever trying to destroy and takeover the city of Ninjago.  He also happens to be the father of, Lloyd Garmadon (Dave Franco), the Green Ninja, who is the secret leader of the Ninja Force.

Constantly having to battle his evil father (who’s also kind of a doofus and the funniest character of the film), it’s a stressful life, being hated by everyone because he’s the son of the villain constantly attacking the city.  Only Lloyd’s fellow Ninjas:The Lego Ninjago Movie

Kai (Michel Peña), Red/Fire

Jay (Kumail Nanjiani,) Blue/Lightening

Nya (Abbi Jacobson), Gray/WaterThe Lego Ninjago Movie

Zane (Zach Woods), White/Ice

Cole (Fred Armisen), Black/Earth

(See how much I’ve learned about Ninjago?!!)

know of his secret identity as a ninja who’s also protecting the city from his father.

Even the warlord himself doesn’t know the Green Ninja’s his son, leading to many funny and awkward moments.

There’s a weird kind of humour here, filled with an abundance of puns, aimed at the pre-teen/teen sense of silly.

The themes of being different at 16 years old, yet trying to fit in – the difficulties of relationships with parents and the advice from Master Wu (Jackie Chan) of finding strength within, are all relevant for teens and younger.

However, butt jokes and the tongue-in-cheek vibe with overlying sarcasm didn’t always gel with the father/son dynamic, as some things, I felt, you can’t joke about.

So, some of the film translated for me, some missed the mark.

What I did appreciate was the clever, added detail like the attack sharks expressing their hunger with, nom, nom, nom sounds (hilarious!), and fire for tears and kids trying to hide thinking they’re hidden but very obviously not (like closing your eyes and thinking no-one can see you) – there’s a real tapping into that funny bone.

And some weirdly wonderful montages of the animation cutting to people doing stuff like slapping their painted bellies to highlight the importance of the, ‘ultra-weapon’.

So, it’s a colourful film, and kinda weird and definitely aimed at a younger audience.

As an adult I had a few laughs, and certainly enjoyed sharing the experience with my nephew.

Despicable Me 3

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: PGDespicable Me 3

Director: Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda

Co-Director: Eric Guillon

Producers: Chris Meledandri and Janet Healy

Executive Producer: Chris Renaud

Writers: Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio

Starring: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Nev Scharrel, Steve Coogan, Jenny Slate and Julie Andrews

Despicable Me 3 continues the adventures of former super villain turned Anti-Villain League agent Felonious Gru, who also starred in Despicable Me (2010) and Despicable Me 2 (2013). I hadn’t seen either of the earlier films so went to see this one with no expectations (although I had a passing awareness of Gru’s minions, those little yellow creatures who don’t talk in any recognisable language).

The preview was packed with parents and their young children, the latter of whom seemed to enjoy the fast-paced action, humour and characters. Occasionally the adult characters’ more reflective moments caused some rustling amongst the younger viewers who obviously preferred the action to be non-stop.

For those familiar with the previous two outings, Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) has married fellow agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig), having adopted three sisters in the first film (Margo, Edith and Agnes). They live in one of those fabulously inventive houses full of gizmos and gadgets, set in a suburb where all their neighbours are boringly normal.

The baddie this time around is a former child star, Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), who is obsessed by his 80s character, to the extent he continues to sport a wicked mullet, the effect of which is ruined by a bald spot. Bratt is intent on world domination (as all villains seem to be) and has a super-secret island fortress and access to a seemingly endless supply of weapons and other incredible inventions. He needs a gigantic diamond to power his mega weapon and this forms the basis of most of the plot.

Gru suffers a change in fortune following one encounter with Bratt, but before he can get too morose about this he is contacted by a long-lost relative who provides him with the inspiration he needs to pull off one last (lawful) heist and do battle with the Bratt. I don’t think it gives much away to reveal that this person is Gru’s identical twin brother Dru (also voiced by Carell), who is optimistic, charming, friendly, and painfully eager to emulate his darker-natured brother.

The animation is eye-catching, colourful and imaginative although not particularly realistic. I was particularly fascinated by the highly exaggerated features of the adult characters, especially Gru with his pointed nose, pencil thin legs and tiny pointed shoes. The minions seemed to be more assertive this time around, and got to do some humorous, inventive things as they branched out briefly on their own adventures.

My favourite character is the youngest daughter Agnes, who absolutely LOVES unicorns. When she gets excited she quivers, trembles and seems to expand with suppressed emotion, and her quest to acquire a real unicorn of her own leads to some joyful moments.

I found the film overall to be amusing and mostly engaging aside from a few lapses in internal plot logic (I don’t care if it’s an animated film, it should still make sense!), but what made it special for me was the choice of music. This included lots of 80s classics such as Bad (Michael Jackson), Take on Me (A-ha), 99 Luftballons (Nena), and a funny riff on When You’re a Jet from West Side Story.

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The LEGO Batman Movie

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: PGThe LEGO Batman Movie

Director: Chris McKay

Producers: Will Allegra, Matthew Ashton

Written By: Seth Grahame-Smith (screenplay), Chris McKenna (screenplay)

Starring: Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson

As a writer, I have learnt to provide feedback with a soft-spoken, gentle delivery. But, as a Spanish national, I have been born with blood that boils easily when, what little patience I have, runs out. My face goes red, steam comes out of my ears and my filters disappear in the process.

I had one such a meltdown watching The LEGO Batman Movie.

And I knew what I was getting myself into because the scars left by The Lego Movie were still tender.

The main qualities of this spin off, following its predecessor steps, are obvious: a great trailer that raises your expectations up to the sky, a great animation team and an incredible soundtrack. Period. But, as the movie went on, one wondered… why would the same creative team make the same mistakes twice? Have they stopped caring about their audience?

I love animation, I really do, because animation delivers full-on entertainment for all audiences and comedy that is flawlessly delivered. It is the sacred place where adults enjoy themselves as their children scream with excitement. But sadly, the creative team at The Lego Movies missed that memo. The comedy walked the fine line between annoying and funny and even the youngest members of the audience could see the story coming. There was no guessing, no reason to care.

As a nerd and Batman fan, I enjoyed the references to the Batman TV series from the 1960s, the pew-pew noises every time a gun fired and how great songs, such as Motley Crue’s ‘Kickstart My Heart’ or Cutting Crew’s ‘(I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight’, blasted in the theatre speakers for my ears delight.

I would lie if I tell you that I recommend this movie whole-heartedly. But I am not a parent, so if your dream afternoon involves to sit two hours in a dark room full of children and to pay for the pleasure of their squeaking company. Please be my guest and knock yourself out!

As for me, I have made a conscious decision, for my mental health sake and the safety of those around me, to put future Lego movies in the too-hard basket. Until the next movie review, over and out!

LIFE, ANIMATED

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: PGLIFE, ANIMATED

A documentary by: Roger Ross Williams

Editor: David Teague

Cinematographer: Tom Bergmann

Composer: Dylan Stark, T. Griffin

Original Animation: Mac Guff

Based on a book by: Ron Suskind

Starring: The Suskind Family: Owen, Cornelia, Walter and Ron.

LIFE, ANIMATION is a documentary based on a book written by Ron Suskind, father of Owen who at age 3 was diagnosed with autism.

This is a story about Owen’s journey from childhood, to his devastating withdrawal at age 3, to his diagnosis of the pervasive developmental disorder of autism, through to miraculously living on his own in assisted residential care. All due to the Suskind family’s persistence and recognition of Owen’s ability to communicate through his understanding of the exaggerated emotional cues shown in Disney films.

Owen’s father, Ron, has used his journalistic skill in portraying the difficulties of autism: the constant overstimulation (due to lack of filtering of the external environment), the loss of understanding of words and the determination to release him from his autism prison.

I can understand how this documentary, directed and produced by Roger Ross Williams (Music by Prudence; God Loves Uganda), has won so many audience awards: Telluride Mountainfilm Festival, San Francisco International Film Festival, Full Frame Film Festival and the list goes on…

Not only a remarkable insight into autism, I found myself constantly smiling.

The Suskinds are just such a loving, supportive family, that every triumph is experienced right there with them. And Owen himself is a genuinely lovely guy. It’s such a pleasure to see him open up and become a young man.

Yes, there are difficulties, and I shed a few tears through-out the film, because that’s life.

I could relate to Owen’s difficulties, the falls we all take. And I could admire his tenacity to keep getting up and keep fighting the good fight: the losing of his voice and then finding it again.

This is a heart-felt story that is shown so well by the directing. And the soundtrack is perfect: there to amplify the moments without becoming intrusive. What amazed me the most was the original animation created by Mac Guff to depict Owen’s own imagined stories.

I could sense the amount of time and care put into this film and I have to say, it has really paid off. The film is a seamless journey, shown with emotion that is real and made relatable to everyone.

I laughed, I cried, I smiled and I learnt something not only about Owen and his battle with autism, I also found an opportunity to reflect on my own life journey.

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