Sunday, February 28, 2016

Porco Rosso

Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Starring Shûichirô Moriyama/Michael Keaton (Kurenai no Buta), Tokiko Katô/Susan Egan (Jina-Sama), Bunshi Katsura Vi/David Ogden Stiers (Pikkoro-oyaji).

Bottom line: Porco Rosso was so cute and so much fun; I highly recommend it especially for kids.

In Porco Rosso, we follow an Italian WWI pilot who was cursed to look like a pig. The story consists of Porco fending off sky pirates and the attacks of an American ace in the inter-war period.

This is a Miyazaki movie so, if you’re familiar with his movies, it won’t surprise you to hear that the animation is wonderful. It’s colorful and happy. Porco’s introduction and the introduction to his relationship with the pirates give you a good indication of the tone of the movie.

We see Proco lounging on a secluded beach. He is called on the radio to go fend off some pirates who are robbing a cruise and, to make matters worse, they’ve captured a class of schoolgirls!

Now, I cringed when I heard “schoolgirls” because, you know, I thought hyper-sexualized high school girls (aka early Brittany) but it was just elementary school children. I suspect it was a translation thing or maybe a cultural terminology issue. Anyway, we cut to the pirates and the one groans, “Do we have to take all 15?”
“Oh course! We can’t split them up from their friends!”
And then they go on to let the kids climb all over the plane while being “kidnapped.”

Even when Porco comes to the rescue the scene is light-hearted. Porco shoots out the pirate-plane’s engine and even lets them keep a little of their loot to pay for repairs. “I don’t want to be putting them out of a job,” Porco explains.

I saw the English dubbed version. I’m generally a proponent of original audio with subtitles but, in this case, the dub was perfectly good for the movie. Michael Keaton does a great job of voice acting Porco. The voice of Meg from Disney’s Hercules is the voice of Porco’s love interest. Do you remember Everybody Loves Raymond? Well, Raymond’s brother (the one with the deep voice) is a pirate alongside the voice of Patrick Star from Spongebob Squarepants. The daughter in Father of the Bride voices the spunky engineer. It’s a solid B-grade cast.

When I was describing the cast to a coworker, he said that a mark of a good B-grade cast is when you say, “Do you remember that show? Well, the side character from that show was in this.” That is, you know the actor not through their name but through a point of reference.

I would highly recommend Porco Rosso especially for kids. It’s fun and happy and I’ll probably see it again at some point. Thanks for reading! I’m on a Miyazaki kick at the moment so I will probably write a review about another soon. What about you? Are you looking forward to seeing anything in the near future?

Saturday, February 27, 2016


Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Starring Tomoko Yamaguchi (Risa), Kazushige Nagashima (Kôichi), Yûki Amami (Granmamare).

Bottom line: Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea is an adorable Miyazaki movie but because of the odd story, I wouldn’t recommend it as someone’s first Miyazaki movie.

If you aren’t familiar with Hayao Miyazaki, he’s like the Japanese Walt Disney. He and his studio, Studio Ghibli, are responsible for Spirited Away, Grave of Fireflies, Princess Mononoke and others. Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea (henceforth referred to as Ponyo) is one of their most recent films. I love Miyazaki movies, particularly how they animate water; Ponyo’s defining characteristic is that it’s about the sea so, naturally, it was on my to-watch list.

Plot wise, Ponyo feels pretty thin. There is a fish that wants to become a little girl. Only through true love can this happen…and also only through true love can she save the world from being flooded.

There isn’t too much else to say about this one, quite honestly. The animation is beautiful, Ponyo (Nara) and Sôsuke (the little boy, voice by Hiroki Doi, who finds Ponyo) are adorable, and the music is great, and it has a happy ending.

If you were unfamiliar with Miyazaki, I wouldn’t recommend this as your introduction to his movies because of the odd plot. I’d start off with something like Spirited Away or Kiki’s Delivery Service, and then after a little while, add Ponyo to your queue.

My wife and I have been watching a couple of Miyazaki movies so I’ll be writing some reviews about them in the next couple days. Next up: Princess Mononoke and Porco Rosso.

I checked on the cast of voice actors for both the original Japanese cast and the American dub. Looking at the cast, you can tell this was definitely a big budget movie; Matt Damon (Kôichi), Betty White (Sôsuke grandmother), Tina Fey (Sôsuke’s mom), and last but not least, the voice of the villain is Liam Neeson! We watched the original Japanese audio and it was great but, if you prefer dubs, I think Ponyo would be a good experience. Although, now that I’m thinking about it, Liam Neeson’s voice is so distinct I wonder if it would break my suspension of disbelief.

In writing this, I was going to include some links to my other reviews of Miyazaki movies but, in looking at my previous reviews to my shock, I don’t have any! So, I’ll have to build upon Ponyo to do a little series of Miyazaki movies. So, until then, thanks for reading! Please let me know, in the comments, your thoughts on Miyazaki!

Saturday, February 20, 2016


Written and directed by Imtiaz Ali. Starring Ranbir Kapoor (Zed) and Deepika Padukone (Tara).

Bottom line: Tamasha’s best quality is its music and there are a bunch of songs that are smoothly incorporated into the movie.

Tamasha opens to a play; a clown is talking to a robot walking on a treadmill. The clown touches the robot on its heart causing it to malfunction and step off the treadmill. The clown speaks to the audience saying the robot has a story to tell. We cut to a boy being scolded for not doing well in school. You might be able to guess where this is going: the boy is forced into a safe, responsible mold, going to school to become a scientist (or something) even though he wants to be an actor.

During the preceding intro credits sequence, the boy spends his last few rupees to hear a story from the park’s resident storyteller. The storyteller mixes up his story but justifies it by saying it is always the same story, just different characters. It’s pleasant to hear that because Tamasha’s story is just like all the others but its execution is what differentiates it. Anyway, fade to black. Open to Corsica, France, where we are introduced to the love story.

If you’ve read my other reviews for Bollywood movies, you might be familiar with my general lack of understanding when it comes to the genre. Tamasha, however, would be a solid movie for someone not familiar with this style of movie. Sometimes in Bollywood movies they break into songs at, to me, odd times, or they have these over-the- top plot points that I don’t quite understand. In the case of Tamasha, it felt closer to a Hollywood musical.

In the initial love song for example, Zed (Kapoor) and Tara (Padukone) are talking about their plan to have a weeklong fling (sans physical contact) and never meet again. Amidst the festival going on around them, they exchange clever lines and then break into song. The song conveniently lines up with what the festival musicians are playing. Speaking of songs, I loved the music from this movie; the songs are catchy and fun.

The movie opens to the stage play and then jumps back in time to see Zed as a child. It then jumps back and forth in time to show how various plot points play out. Unfortunately, the best example will give away spoilers, so I’ll wait until later to discuss it.

The performances of Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone were perfectly fine, except for a point that I will discuss in a bit. I must say that they both have this look, where their eyes tear up but they don’t cry. They do it well and they do it several times throughout the movie.

The only thing I didn’t like was how Zed was portrayed when he was breaking out of his mold. I don’t think there are any major spoilers in this next part. Have you ever seen Office Space? It was the movie about a guy who hates his cubicle job and then, through a botched professional hypnotherapist session, stops caring. He shows up late and has a new generally chill but disconnected demeanor. Zed, as you might’ve expected, experiences a similar existential crisis. Instead of shouting, “I quit!” or just quitting, he just becomes an insane jerk. Not just kooky but I’m-not-going-to-be in-a-relationship-with-you-because-you-might-murder-me insane.

Part of his morning routine is to hold the elevator door open for a little old lady. Once he starts to snap, he smiles at her as he lets the door closes. He shouts at his boss and makes a general scene. Is it too much to ask that protagonists in this situation address their concerns coolly? I mean, instead of flipping out, couldn’t he have just started writing a screenplay or taken up acting in his free time?

This doesn’t detract too much from the total movie, however. Overall, it is fun, colorful, and happy. At about two hours and twenty minutes, Tamasha is a long Bollywood film but it only drags in the last scene or two. I’d recommend this movie to someone who is even mildly interested in Bollywood. One strategy, I’ve come to use for selecting Bollywood movies, is to first listen to some of the music videos for the movie. If you like the songs then check out the movie, otherwise, pass on it.

If you are interested, here are some links to the videos on YouTube:

Whew, I’m sorry for the delay with the reviews, peeps. Writing is not too different from exercise, it’s just working out different muscles; it’s arduous at the time but really satisfying. In the comments below, let me know what you think of those songs!