A Longing for Something More Suffuses Only Yesterday

 Review of Only Yesterday, Directed by Isao Takahata If you saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens—and who hasn’t?—and were impressed by the young actress who played Rey, Daisy Ridley—and who wasn’t?—then you might be interested in her latest film. No, it’s not Episode VIII of Star Wars, which has just started production. Instead, it’s Only Yesterday, a 1991 film from Japan’s Studio Ghibli, just now receiving a 25th anniversary release in North America.The English-dubbed versi … [Read more...]

Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet Can’t Transcend a Tired Framing Story

 Review of Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet, Directed by Roger AllersMany consider Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet a profound literary work, but the animated film adaptation of Gibran’s book traffics in easy laughs aimed at the younger set. Whether it’s a guard hitting his head on a window frame, an older character cracking wise after a bird eats a wedding cake or a sheep upending a stern character, Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet (that’s the full title of the film) is clearly trying to achieve a delicate … [Read more...]

When Marnie Was There Travels the Road From Hate to Forgiveness

Review of When Marnie Was There, Directed by Hiromasa YonebayashiStudio Ghibli—the force behind the brilliant animated films My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away and The Wind Rises, among many others—returns to movie screens this summer with When Marnie Was There. A new film from Hiromasa Yonebayashi, who directed the studio’s earlier The Secret World of Arrietty (2010), the low-key When Marnie Was There is a gentle, dreamlike picture that makes for pleasant viewing, although it doesn’t linger l … [Read more...]

Lasseter, Miyazaki and Moore: “Song of the Sea” Expands Ranks of Great Animators

Review of Song of the Sea, Directed by Tomm MooreIn the arena of contemporary animation, the dominant names are Pixar chief John Lasseter (American), and Studio Ghibli co-founder Hiyao Miyazaki (Japanese). But with two features now under his belt, Irishman Tomm Moore has made his bid to join the ranks of the world’s elite animators.Moore’s The Secret of Kells (2009) imaginatively adapted a story from Irish mythology through two-dimensional, hand-drawn animation that felt surprisingly cont … [Read more...]

A Gift From Heaven, but Only for a Short Time

A Review of The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, Directed by Isao TakahataShe arrives unexpectedly in a glowing piece of bamboo in the middle of a forest, and she brings joy to the lives of an older couple.“Heaven must have sent her to me as a blessing,” declares the bamboo cutter who finds her. The child is so small she fits in the cupped hands of the bamboo cutter, but she begins to grow quickly.There’s magic all around in The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, and the film—based on a 10th ce … [Read more...]

The Book of Life: Brilliant artistic imagination clashes with blasé humor

Review of The Book of Life, Directed by Guillermo del ToroThe Book of Life is one of those films that should have been quite good. The components are there. Producer Guillermo Del Torro’s brilliant visual imagination is clearly evident. Stylistically it is a mashup of Spongebob Squarepants and Toy Story, full of charismatic puppet-like characters distinct from anything I’ve ever seen before. Set around the Day of the Dead, where families happily gather to remember their ancestors, it wond … [Read more...]

Of Family and Training Dragons

How to Train Your Dragon 2, directed by Dean DeBloisThe first How to Train Your Dragon, which came out way back in 2010, was something of a surprise. In addition to the impressive animation and thrilling action--par for the course for these kinds of movies--it had wit, beauty, and a story with real emotional depth. Dreamworks had clearly learned something from Pixar, and the result was pure gold.Now comes the sequel, the crucible that proves whether we have a legitimately engaging m … [Read more...]

It Never Hurts to Help: Life Lessons from Eek! The Cat

Review of Eek! The Cat, Created by Savage Steve HollandThanks to the miracle of Youtube and the unerring good taste of my husband, I've recently been introduced to a delightful little animated gem by the name of Eek! The Cat (later known as Eek! Stravaganza). From 1992 to 1997, while my brother and I were up to our eyeballs in Looney Tunes re-runs on ABC, this Canadian cartoon was airing on Fox. Don't get me wrong—I cherish my memories of Saturday mornings with Bugs and Daffy. But I'm sorry t … [Read more...]

Everyone who has ever loved Legos should see this movie

Review of The LEGO Movie, Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher MillerThe LEGO Movie begins just a few clicks away from facepalm status with a series of childish comedy-laced scenes that make us think “Oh please, not another hour and a half of this!” The cliché jokes start immediately: “Of course there’s a prophecy,” which is true “because it rhymes.” The bad guy is named “Lord Business,” and our protagonist, Emmet, is a brick-headed construction worker who needs an instruction manual to get … [Read more...]

The Lion King: Disney’s Almost Christian Tale

Review of The Lion King, Directed by Roger Allers and Rob MinkoffAs my kids continue to grow up, my wife and I continue to revisit our youths and indulge in a little nostalgia by popping in another Disney classic every few weeks. Then I blog about them. I previously found Snow White lacking, Bambi interesting, and Beauty and the Beast weird. The Lion King (1994) stands head and shoulders above the rest. This is probably the best movie in the Disney opus (not counting Pixar).The Lion King … [Read more...]