Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The Simpsons Reach 500!

Despite my feelings for the show over the past years, you gotta give props to The Simpsons for making it to 500 episodes. Seriously, that’s an amazing achievement that almost dazzles the mind. How was the episode in question? …meh…but hell, they even had a preemptive message for that…
Touchée Simpsons. So instead of the usual critizings I do, let me just say congrats to the yellow family. Like Troy McClure said, “who knows what adventures they’ll have between now and the time the show becomes unprofitable.”
- Moo

Monday, 20 February 2012

The Secret World of Arrietty (A Review)

Whimsical...I've really overused that word to describe Studio Ghibli films... but damn it! Seeing as how I've misplaced my thesaurus, I'll just go on and say it. The Secret World of Arrietty is one frickin' whimsical piece 'o film!

The mere fact that I see posters for this movie fills me with joy
I have so much to thank Hayao Miyazaki and John Lasseter for. Miyazaki for making such fantastical films, and Lasseter for bringing these gems to western audiences. The Secret World of Arrietty is the latest film to pop up from Miyazaki and the hard working folks at Studio Ghibli, and it's everything you'd expect from a Studio Ghibli film in terms of quality. And with Arrietty, Lasseter and Disney are making the biggest push yet for a theatrical release of a Ghibli film outside of Japan (1200 screens in the US alone.) From a producer's standpoint it might be seen as a bit of a gamble, not only because it's a foreign film, but also because it's a 2D animated film in a culture where currently CG toons reign supreme. But Disney has faith this film will do well with western audiences, and after seeing the film myself I would to. Simply put, it's up there with some of Studio Ghibli's best works yet, and that truly is saying something.

First, just a quick note about dubs. I know this film isn't exactly new, having been released in 2010 in it's original Japanese. I also know that some theatres had a choice between the Americanized dub or Japanese with subtitles. Now, normally with anime I'm a "subs b4 dubs" kind of guy, but with a limited release like this I only had the option for the dubbed version where I'm living, so that's the version I'm reviewing. That being said, Ghibli is known to put extra time and effort into quality dubbing, and the voices here (for the most part) weren't distracting and actually fit the characters quite well. Apparently there's also a dub featuring UK voice actors, and I'd be interested to see that version as well as the original Japanese in the future. Now, let's get on with the film!

This picture practically oozes whimsy!
They really couldn't have picked a better source material to push to western audiences. The story is loosely based on the much loved book by Mary Norton, The Borrowers, about a race of miniature people who live in houses and take small things that human's won't notice missing in order to survive. It's a source material many western audiences would have already known growing up, and as luck would have it, it also happens to fit Ghibli's whimsical (there's that word again) style like a glove. 

In just the couple of minutes we're introduced to our titular character, Arrietty, and she is chock full of the type of zest and charm that Ghibli is known for when portraying their heroines. Soon we meet her family: the worry-sick mother and stoic father. And again, I'm reminded of why Ghibli is just a master when is comes to characters, because I instantly love this miniature family. Ghibli knows how to combine a solid script with top notch character animation, making these characters really seem unique, quirky and special. And even though the cast is small (no pun intented) it goes on to give every character a moment to shine, like meddlesome caretaker Hara, her chubby cat, or the wild borrower, Spiller. Shawn, the human boy character was the only character who took me a bit of time to warm up to, but I think that's mainly due to the dubbing, making some of his earlier lines walk a line between charming and creepy. But hey! Without spoiling anything, it's hard not to feel for the guy by the time the end credits roll.

And everybody's jealous of Arrietty's whimsical room
The tone of the film is any interesting one. It's not exactly an "action packed adventure" like Ghibli's Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke, nor is it the graceful, daydream-like pace of My Neighbor Totoro: it's somewhere in between the two. It's a good balance that I feel will appeal to a wide range of people, having quiet moments about loneliness and friendship balanced out with a fight for survival in epic miniature proportions. All of this is wrapped up in a beautiful package. The backgrounds look painstakingly beautiful (especially when seeing the grass and plants from the miniature size of a borrower.) The music is warm and lighthearted. It makes it hard not to get sucked into this tiny world.

If it's being shown where you are, I highly suggest checking this one out in theatres, not only to promote foreign animation, but to show Disney that there is still in fact a market for quality 2D works. This is a true gem for family films. The story is wonderfully heartwarming, and it's a welcome change of pace from the onslaught of American done animated features both in terms of tone and hand drawn beauty. Every element is a joy, and it all works together to make this a charming and magical little story. (That time the pun was intended.)


- Moo

Monday, 13 February 2012


Love it or hate it, Valentines Day is here again! And what better thing to do with your loved one then to sit around Feb 14 and watch some heart warming animated goodies. 
I certainly can’t think of anything better to do. Other than going dancing, going out for a romantic walk, making a special home cooked dinner, or having seeeeee…conds of said delicious homecooked meal. Regardless, I love to love some lovely cartoons about love with my lovely lover. (Love.) So here I present some Cupid-approved cartoons for you and your hunnybun, smoochy-poo or snuggly bear to watch on this V-tines Day. No need to thank me.

Pepé Le Pew
Here’s the thing. If it wasn’t for his natural stink, I think Pepé would actually be quite a catch. I mean he’s romantic, suave, dramatic, spontaneous, and persistant….well, ok, maybe a little too persistant. Yeah, leave it to Looney Tunes to make even sexual harassment hilarious. But seriously though, if you and your partner love to watch endless flirtations and unrequited love with hilarious results, you can’t go wrong with a dashing french skunk and a cat that has a knack for getting a white line painted on her in numerous creative fashions. And hey! It’s a good lesson for the guys too. Guys, it doesn’t matter how great of a man you are; never underestimate the powers of personal hygiene. 
Great Pepé cartoons include A Scent of the Matterhorn and Little Beau Pepé.

Lady and the Tramp
True, many golden-age Disney stuff has to do with love, or finding love, or being in love, but instead of heading straight to one of the many princess movies Disney has, I’m choosing Lady and the Tramp for the most romantic. That’s right. The one with the dogs and the spagetti. Why? Well, in my opinion, it’s the most complete love story. Many of the classic princess movies have the princess long for Prince Bland (honestly, they’re pretty interchangeable) and eventually they wind up together. But Lady and the Tramp? The whole movie is about their love! You see both sides meet, start off not liking each other, then overtime their love blossoming. It’s probably the most developed romantic relationship that ol’ Walt actually worked on. Plus, who doesn’t want to accidentally kiss their sweetheart while being serenaded by a glorious Italian stereotype? That’s romance, baby!

Arnold’s Valentine
Hey Arnold was one of those shows where the main character wasn’t the reason why you watched the show. I mean, sure, Arnold’s a nice kid, but the real draw was the character of Helga. She was interesting, and also what made the show memorable. Her whole shtick was she was infatuated with Arnold (sometimes to the point of being an obsessive stalker) but didn’t know how to deal with those emotions, so she ended up bullying him. Some of the more memorable episodes dealt with her emotional conundrums, but the first one to take it a bit more seriously was Arnold’s Valentine. In it, Helga got an extreem makeover to disguise herself as Arnold’s french penpal in a hope to express her true feelings for him, while at the same time Arnold has to split his night with the disguised Helga, and a date he set up with his elementary school crush. The result is both classic sit-com hilarity, as well as a strangely mature and poignent statement about love and crushes. Especially for a kid’s show in the 90s. And for Nickelodeon. If you haven’t seen it, or it’s been a while since you’ve seen it, I say check this one out. 

Robots in love. Let me repeat that: ROBOTS IN LOVE! It’s hard to think of a concept for a movie cuter than that. Also happening to be one of my favorite movies of all time for it’s script, sound design, animation, as well as simply having a feature length movie with hardly any dialogue, this film also get the nod for being one of the best animated love stories of all time. It’s still too young of a movie to say, but I really do hope the “define dancing” scene from this movie goes down in history as one of the most iconic scenes in animation. Do I really need to say anymore? If you have a heart, it will be melted by the time the credits roll on this one. See it with your significant other, then get ready for some extreem cuddling. Thank you, Pixar!

Happy V-tines, all!
- Moo