Movies of Interest


I only have three movies to discuss this time, but I’m excited for all the summer flicks that are coming up! I’m sure I’ll be doing this blog series a bit more often! So many good movies coming. But for now, I’m still playing catch up with last year’s. ūüėĄ
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Exodus: Gods and Kings | 3.5/5

After watching the trailer I knew I would want to see this. I was nervous that it might turn out to be a terrible adaption¬†like Noah had earlier in the year. But I kept my fingers crossed, and was pleasantly surprised by the film that I got. In comparison,¬†Exodus sticks closer to the original biblical story than Noah did…not super closely of course;¬†I don’t go into Hollywood adaptions of biblical tales and expect a good adaptions anyway–you’re only setting yourself up for disappointment¬†that way. The cinematography and effects were amazing though. I’ve been waiting for a movie to show the plagues and it be realistic, so that was definitely a home run. The overall technical parts of the film were simply fantastic. The only thing that really failed for me was that the characters themselves¬†were flat¬†and didn’t affect me as a viewer. To me, that’s worse than not giving a word for word adaptation. On an overall scale, it was an enjoyable movie for what it was.

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Unbroken | 2.5/5

Disappointed. Everyone was raving over the book and movie when it came out past Christmas. I’m sure the book is a lot better than the movie, or at least I hope it is. Mom and I decided to watch this together, as we were under the impression that it was an inspiring story. We were not that inspired once we hit the end. We followed this young man through trauma and torture for two long hours, waiting and waiting and waiting for that triumphant ending. Instead, it just…ended. Flatly. There was no triumph. There was no emotional punch at the end, like “Wow! He survived! He made it! We’re so touched!” The film completely failed to communicate any positive emotion at the end other than exhaustion. Which is how we felt when it FINALLY ended. No disrespect to the real man himself, please understand. I just think Angelina Jolie’s movie failed miserably at what it was trying to do. I’m sure glad I didn’t go see this on Christmas day.

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Interstellar | 4/5

While I got a few elements that I didn’t expect, Interstellar basically delivered what I thought I would get. Space. Wormholes. Family. Science. Overall it was good, if a bit long. It was much more interesting that Gravity, thankfully. The acting was on point, too; I loved Mathew McConaughy in the lead role! The only person who felt odd to¬†me was Anne Hathaway. Not that she was bad, but because her face and name was distracting–I didn’t even remember that character’s name, I just remember “oh, and Anne Hathaway.” ūüėĄ Overall, it was great movie, a little heady, but enjoyable in its own right. Was it the next Inception? To me, no. Inception was tons more fun. ūüėÄ But if you liked Inception, you should definitely give this a watch!

~Jamie

Movies of Interest


So, I haven’t done this blog series in a while! Totally time for it because I’ve been getting through my want-to-see list pretty steadily this past month. The one thing in common between these¬†movies is that they were all released last year. Which ones have you seen?

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The Edge of Tomorrow | 4.5/5

So, I loved this movie! It follows a major who becomes stuck in a time loop, reliving the same day again and again as he awakens on an army base and goes into battle against aliens. It was SO entertaining and never once got boring! I loved Tom Cruise in the role of the Major and Emily Blunt in her female soldier role. I regret not seeing this in theaters; it would have been an amazing experience! If you enjoyed a good sci-fi story, definitely check this one out!

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Big Hero 6 | 3/5

I have A LOT of problems with Big Hero 6, I’m afraid, and I went in with lowered expectations to see if Disney would surprise me. I guessed the villain immediately because of his nose. The side-characters were gross one-dimensional tropes. Nobody felt like superheroes at the end, just glorified “LOOK AT US WE’RE COOL NERDS” with science-y things they’d made. Honey Lemon was a near carbon copy of Rapunzel except she dabbled in science instead of art (her personality, hair and face looked so similar…she looked cheap.) Disney, stop delivering such poor character¬†quality already. One Pro: Baymax was cute. He was adorable. I want a Baymax.

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Gone Girl | 4.5/5

So, I really want to read the book, now that I’ve seen the movie! It was a great psychological thriller/murder mystery with some great characters, mostly because their depravity is slowly revealed as the movie progresses. I was on the edge of the couch throughout the running time and it went to places I didn’t expect. It was really long, but that turned out okay because I kept wanting more. ūüôā

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The Maze Runner | 4/5

I’m about to watch Divergent as well because I’ve been curious about these other YA dystopian films the people always end up comparing against The Hunger Games. Well, I ended up enjoying¬†The Maze Runner quite a bit! The lack of romance was very refreshing, the maze setting was really cool (I admit I expected more than I got when it came to the maze, but what I did get was okay,) and the end¬†reveal¬†surprised me. The movie did leave me with more questions than when I started, so I’m fidgeting for a sequel with anticipation. I hope the next movie answers my questions!

~Jamie

Me and Harry Potter


715b1ed5ec0956f1db5e008cf3187e5bGrowing up in a Christian environment, there were certain things I¬†just didn’t get to do growing up. My parents sheltered my sister and I more than any other family I knew growing up:¬†I didn’t go trick or treating,¬†I didn’t have many good friends, I didn’t go to Sunday School after my eighth birthday; I didn’t see most of your standard Disney and Pixar movies, I didn’t listen or watch Adventures in Odyssey, and I rarely got to paint my nails until after I reached my mid-teens.

Now, I don’t tell you this to make you feel sorry for me, but to show you where I have come from. It gives gravity¬†to my journey. Growing up, I didn’t get to do a lot of normal things and I saw that as just what my family did.

Although we didn’t much talk directly about big Christian taboo topics, I grew up¬†under a strong, firm impression that¬†magic, especially in fiction, was bad. Like, really, really bad. Magic could look good in fiction, so my parents didn’t even let me read Narnia, even though our pastor’s children were allowed to enjoy them. Magic became something that I feared, in a way, as though Aslan or the play witch’s hat in Wal-Mart at Halloween was going to hurt me with their evil-ness if I looked too long. Sadly,¬†my family¬†didn’t¬†really discuss the topic heart-to-heart that much and besides,¬†most of the time I was too afraid to even ask that many questions. This unspoken-ness lasted till up to only a couple of years ago.

41a5cf2a5e1ffc9da9f19ff9b237d0ecWhen I was¬†about sixteen or seventeen, my dad decided to read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe aloud–“for fun”. We didn’t discuss what had changed in the unspoken family rules, just of all of sudden, years waay too late, it was time to read a children’s fantasy story. It wasn’t that enjoyable; just, randomly, Narnia was “okay” with no explanation.¬†(Mid-teens to late teens was such a confusing period of my life for so many reasons!) This was difficult¬†because Lord of the Rings still seemed forbidden, and–oh yeah, don’t anybody even mention¬†those two really, really,¬†really bad words.

Harry Potter. Oooh, as a child and even as a young adult, it was such a literal “he-who-shall-not-be-named” situation. Harry Potter was¬†our Christian community’s Voldemort.

Although I couldn’t watch Harry Potter¬†then, I knew I would watch it at some point when I was so old nobody could stop me.¬†That¬†wasn’t really a super-conscious decision, though, and¬†I didn’t go about flashing my thoughts¬†off to people I knew: “When I grow up, I’m going to¬†watch¬†Harry Potter!” It was never in the plan to tell anyone even afterwards either. Of course, it took a lot of inward struggle for it to actually come about.

66f8c998c3556a82724246dc5a40f238When my parents separated for a second time¬†in early 2013, I didn’t immediately run to the¬†Harry Potter series–“Dobby is free! Dobby is free!” Even though Mom had and continues to become way more relaxed about things, I still kept away…

You simply¬†don’t walk away¬†emotionally or mentally free from years of fear of trying to make sure people aren’t questioning your Christian conviction by what you are or aren’t avoiding.¬†I was very afraid of what people would think of me for watching¬†Harry Potter–from my confined social circles, I didn’t know anybody who liked Harry Potter, so I felt very outnumbered for a long time.¬†

I was afraid of having to own my decision of choosing to watch those eight movies–especially since during my teen years, my family became very soaked in the Patriarchal culture where fathers were in complete charge of their daughters and, in my personal case, pretty much thought for them too. So, for the longest time, even though I could have investigated, I only dabbled in other shows or movies instead.

dumbledore_edited-1In the mean time, I started maturing. Although it had started back about 2012, my thinking process really changed gear in 2013. I slowly stopped inwardly judging other people for their own personal choices and opinions. I realized everyone’s story is different, so God takes people down different roads at different times in their lives–why should we all look the same and do the same things at the same time?

I learned people are just not going¬†to agree over¬†everything, so I just had to do what I felt I needed to do despite fear. That’s being courageous.¬†I realized I was an individual soul with individual needs that needed to be voiced and that that¬†was okay. I learned the world was not actually black and white but millions of shades of grey. I learned the no matter what, many¬†people in my lifetime are just always going to hold up a yard stick and see how I measure out–but how they feel doesn’t need to tell me how to feel.

I learned that I was not a bad Christian for deciding that I needed to watch Harry Potter and form my own personal opinion for myself. That in and of it self was very monumental.

Finally this past year, I got to meet Harry Potter.

b6117ad8d9bbcacac6dd83ea80a38613Harry was not at all what I imagined him–I’d always known what he’d looked like, of course, but I hadn’t known other things–what his personality was like or¬†what his story was about.¬†He¬†turned out to be quite ordinary while¬†at the same time quite extraordinary. He was an orphan, a survivor of neglect, who, through his gift of magic, was able to be who he meant to be and defend himself from¬†abuse and evil, one new year after the other.

By the time I watched the Harry Potter series, I was tired of trying to mentally weigh¬†EVERYTHING the movies communicated¬†in an attempt to catch some secret agenda they may be¬†trying to feed me. (This¬†was¬†something my dad pushed too hard at my family, making movie watching a chore instead of a family¬†pastimes, and ruining initial movie glows–like after watching the¬†first Iron Man.)¬†In many ways, I’m still tired of having to justify myself for liking certain movies to other people or to myself. However, what with how taboo HP can be perceived, I decided I wanted to say what I thought of it–to own my own choices and let people take me or leave me for how I truly think.

4e8c2d6df1994797d913f2d21a0240d1The world of Harry Potter was¬†full of magic, of course.¬†Magic was everywhere. The fact that most of the films took place in Hogwarts, the school that taught witchcraft and wizardry, simply meant that magic was a strong part of the story. However, I¬†didn’t come away from a Harry Potter movie feeling, “Gosh, they really think magic is something I should be seeking out in my regular life. Maybe If I join the Occult my life will get better.” I never felt that the¬†film series actually¬†promoted witchcraft in real life. The films themselves knew they were a made up story and magic was just a part of that story, like the characters and the made up version of London, ect.

Ultimately, in the end, magic turned out to not be a big issue for me; shocker! It didn’t really matter to me that they attended a school to learn how to control their magic (something they were born with–and isn’t it a good thing to be taught how to properly handle your gifts given to you, guided by teachers wiser than you?) used wands, and other magical items.¬†That¬†wasn’t the make or break element. What I thought was a big deal was the characters themselves. The fact that they actually turned out to be¬†great heroes and role models really, really surprised me and that’s what made the series worth watching.

c14598173a3099105b113e9e45338f1bHarry strove to do what was right as often as he could; he tried his hardest to be respectful¬†of teachers and fellow students, and learned to stand up for what was right, even though he made mistakes. Hermoine was a fantastic student who took her school seriously and who could hold her own ground mentally and emotionally.¬†Ron, and his whole family, was very supportive of neglected Harry; Ron was always a friend who pulled through at the end. When it was all said and done, the cast of characters who weren’t bad guys¬†all upheld decency, kindness, pluck, friendship, bravery, and a will to do good. It was truly surprising to walk away from each movie thinking, “These are actually great characters, why was I supposed to dislike them again?”

I can hear people of my past, saying, “But that’s what makes it so dangerous! It looks so good.”¬†If you’re one of those people, check this¬†article¬†out sometime;¬†I mostly agree with it. I mean, sure, I wouldn’t let my brother watch these till after his eleventh or twelfth birthday and he was critically thinking, but at that point I think it would be a great series he could enjoy.

At that age and up, as young people, the stronger impact comes from the characters who are of similar age. We can watch as they make mistakes and grow from them, in relate-able ways of demonstrating noble character and plucky spirit and it leaves us encouraged. The magical school is simply a unique setting for those uplifting character traits to be put on display.

6fc2a3d620af012ec3b5141b040d4f5cSomething I heard forever, and this would still capture my dad’s thinking, would be¬†“If I want my children to have good fictional role models, I’ll give them¬†Christian¬†books.” Having grown up with many of those type¬†books, I can say that I find great characters and¬†character development strongly¬†lacking in a lot of Christian books, and movies too–I’m sorry, but it’s true. I had a hard to time relating to many of those characters’ journeys or finding them¬†convincing yet¬†was inspired to stand up for myself and what I thought was right, after watching the Harry Potter franchise.¬†The irony is ridiculous here but extremely true.

I cannot cover or defend everything on the element of magic of course, nor would I necessarily want to hash it out for days and days either, but I think you all understand what I value more from a film. To me, I decided that for the story, there was little difference between Harry pointing either a wand or a gun or heavy-duty baseball bat at Lord Voldemort. What mattered most was that he knew Voldemort was evil and needed to be stopped because he was hurting people. So, just like in any other movie I would watch, the characters were the make or break point, and I found the cast of Harry Potter characters to be the making of the series!

bccc2e6cce8e4d824f7c7af2ac902957Now, sure, the Harry Potter series has its dark moments and it isn’t¬†Star Wars or anything,¬†but I enjoyed them all. The final film was especially fantastic and is still one of my top ten favorite movies of all time. The characters carried the series forward in a way that was very satisfying¬†by the time it all¬†ended and¬†Harry himself is my favorite character. He could definitely¬†make my top fifteen favorite fictional heroes. I’m often¬†mad to think about how long I associated his name with an idea of evil, when really¬†he’s a selfless, kind character–someone who dealt with temptation but¬†rose above it, rallied friends together to fight evil, and eventually survived neglectful and verbal¬†abuse.

I have come a long ways since I was a little girl who didn’t understand Narnia or watch a Disney movie that contained a little bit of magic, or couldn’t read Harry Potter like the rest of my generation. Please don’t misunderstand me; this is not me saying “HARRY POTTER IS FOR EVERYONE” because, sure, it’s maybe not, and this is not me saying real witchcraft is something to not be concerned about…but that was never the topic of this blog post anyway. This is only my story of how magic made me stronger.

Nowadays, Harry is a good friend of mine. I own seven of the eight Harry Potter films and I hope to read the books someday. In Hogwarts, I would be sorted into the Hufflepuff house (thank you, Pottermore, for making it official!) a house which I hold in high esteem. On top of it all, I still have a long ways to go in life; I’m still afraid of the dark sometimes and I’m still working on being open about myself. But that’s okay.¬†My story of magic is a very strange one but it’s taken me to a safer place from where I started¬†and left me encouraged in my journey to Spiritual freedom from legalism and fear. I only hope I can continue to be as brave as the little boy who lived beneath the stairs.

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~Jamie

My Summer with Studio Ghibli


studio-ghibliWhat sets this Japanese animation company apart from most other studios is their ability to perfectly capture the precious moments in life; like good food, affection between friends and family, and respect for neighbors and nature. If you are into movies or animation, then most of these films I saw this summer are must-sees, all drawn in the most enchanting animation style!

This summer, I got introduced to Studio Ghibli’s anime films; I ended up watching nearly all of them too fast because they were so good! Even the overrated ones displayed some of the most beautiful animation. I want to bring more attention to these movies, so I’ve compiled single paragraph thoughts on the ones I’ve seen below. they’re¬†presented in the order I watched them and are spoiler-free!¬†I’m also incredibly proud of this post as it took about a month to create, write and design! I don’t do this for everything, so consider this a demonstration of¬†my strong feelings for these films (many of which I now own on DVD!)

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A strong shout out and thank you needs to be said to my best friend,¬†James, for suggesting I give Studio Ghibli a try, and for recommending Whisper of the Heart so many times. ūüėȬ†Ghibli has¬†definitely been a big highlight of my 2014 summer! The studio definitely changed how I look at anime and animation in general and greatly expanded my film world (and Top 100 Favorite Movies list!) Thank you so much, James!

Notes: The only Ghibli films I haven’t seen include Only Yesterday, Ocean Waves, and Tales from Earthsea. I have seen Nausicaa, but since it’s¬†technically not Ghibli, I opted to leave it out. Just a personal choice on my part.

arrietty-disneyscreencaps.com-1368The Secret World of Arrietty || 2010 || G 

“Human beings are dangerous. If we’re seen, we have to leave. My parents said so.”

My first Studio Ghibli film. It appealed to a childhood love of mine for tiny people, so¬†it turned out to be perfect starting point. Arrietty was whimsical, breathtakingly beautiful, and quite endearing. I found it very enjoyable, even though it wasn’t a rousing epic or a heart stopping adventure. It was a very sweet tale that elevated your boring objects like sugar cubes and sewing pins to a completely¬†new¬†perspective within the hands of a Borrower. Everything was just very delightful, from¬†endearing heroine Arrietty (many of Ghibli’s¬†films are filled with some of the most wonderful female leads!) and her unique little family, to¬†the most gorgeous animation. A highlight for me was the original score that was a very gentle Celtic. It definitely lifted the story to special heights as it guided story’s emotion. Overall, this is personally special to me because it was my first Ghibli film, so I give it an extra half a star. ūüôā

Final Comment: A Whimsical Wonder || 5/5  stars

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mimiWhisper of the Heart || 1995 || PG 

“Take me home, concrete roads!”

This was highly recommended to me, a beautifully told coming-of-age story. Set at the point when the libraries were preparing to computerized their systems, Shizuku’s interest in piqued by seeing a familiar name on all her checkout cards-she eventually meet the person and their stories become entwined. The atmosphere of Tokyo’s neighborhoods, antique shops, apartment complexes, and the people who pass by them, made for a very comforting backdrop for the story to unfold and one that I was fascinated to watch.¬†The film handles young romance exceptionally well, never once feeling awkward or weird–a gigantic plus! I loved Shizuku as a female lead and would certainly love to revisit her life in a sequel if it could be handled well. At times, Whisper of the Heart¬†can feel rather slow at the beginning but do not let your impatience get in the way of the perfect character handling and atmosphere. By the end of this movie, I was in puddle of tears from happiness and I’m still trying to figure out how they made such a small ending feel so monumental.

Final Comment: Sneak Attack On The Emotional Zone|| 5/5 stars

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216299-the-wind-rises-1The Wind Rises || 2013 || PG-13 

“Airplanes are beautiful, cursed dreams, waiting for the sky to swallow them up.”

This is one of Ghibli’s most beautiful films to date! I consider it almost a “sin” that Frozen took the Oscar this past year instead of The Wind Rises, especially when I saw how the Academy voted. A loose biopic, the film beautifully depicts the a life of Jiro Hirikoshi, who helped develop aircraft for the Japanese right before World War II and how his life’s passion was taken and used for harm. Airplanes have never been so interesting to me as they were throughout the running time of this film. The romance that developed during the second half ¬†was so heartbreakingly beautiful that I ended up crying from the pure emotion. The animation in and of itself was basically¬†flawless (especially character designs; for the most part, Ghibli creates some of the most pleasant and innocent looking characters I’ve ever seen that’s refreshing to the eyes!) A surprise was hearing John Karinski’s voice in this film (Jim Halpert of The Office, people!) and I actually liked Joseph Gordan Levitt’s acting too! The highlight of this film was simply the entire story¬†and how it was presented. It was incredibly enjoyable and moving to behold in its entirety. Personally, I am still battling my temper that this film is so unknown compared to Disney’s very lacking ice and princess flick.

Final Comment: Oscar Worthy || 5/5 stars

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Qualit¬é: deuxi¬Źme g¬én¬ération.   Titre: Le Royaume Des Chats.The Cat Returns || 2002 || G¬†

“Always believe in yourself. Do this and no matter where you are, you will have nothing to fear.”

As this film is loosely connected to Whisper of the Heart, which I loved terribly, I ended up watching this sooner than later. Sadly, it does not live up to what Whisper of the Heart delivered. The cat, The¬†Baron, who originated in Whisper,¬†was the best part; sadly, the rest of the film I didn’t enjoy half as much. It was a decent kids film, it simply tasted different from the previous three¬†Ghibli films I’d seen. It wandered into more children’s stereotypical territory in a hit and miss type fashion. Overall, it was alright but I probably won’t watch again. (I should note that it is still better than some of America’s¬†extremely cheesy and crude kids movies.)

Final Comment: Meh, Kids Will Like It || 3/5 stars

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Howl’s Moving Castle || 2004 || PG¬†

“Here’s another curse for you – may all your bacon burn!”

Very imaginative and fantastical, Howl’s Moving Castle is one of Studio Ghibli’s more popular films with a very large fan base, which at points has caused me to scratch my head to a degree. Frankly, I think it’s rather overrated but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t an enjoyable watch. I did love the fantasy elements a lot; for example, the magical walking castle was really neat. The cast of characters was great; the fire demon Calcifer (English voice done by none other than Mike Wazowski’s voice, Billy Crystal!) was an imaginative fantasy creature and entertaining without being too silly. Christian Bale was great as the wizard Howl too! The film starts out quite strong, but gets¬†too busy with¬†different story threads¬†during the last half, ultimately failing to¬†resolve a major problem set up in the beginning. So, sadly I was left rather disappointed when the film ended. Still, it’s a good watch, especially for fantasy lovers.

Final Comment: Fantastical but Overrated || 4/5 stars

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neighbor-totoro-disneyscreencaps.com-3771My Neighbor Totoro || 1988 || G 

“There was a great big Totoro!”

Easily one of Ghibli’s most recognizable films, this is one of the best animated films I have ever seen in my life. Not only is it a timeless classic, but it’s depiction of family and sisterhood was pulled off better than in nearly any Disney film I’ve ever seen. This is by far the best and most realistic set of fictional sisters ever and that definitely made the film for me–they were so endearing!¬†Little moments in the girls lives as they moved into a new house, settled into a new community, and glimpsed the forest spirits, was what made¬†the film so monumental in heart and soul–it’s a quiet movie with massive heart. It’s also very entertaining, as little Mei is incredibly adorable and says and does¬†some humorous¬†things. The animation is a little old but it doesn’t hurt the film at all–in fact it has a charming, timeless quality to it that adds to the film’s quaint, sweet atmosphere of childhood. I’ve rewatched this film many times now with my seven-year-old brother and have teared up nearly every time by end. In short, this is a must-see.

Final Comment: Definition of Your Timeless Classic || 5/5 stars

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Ponyo || 2008 || G 

“That’s the most boring goldfish I’ve ever seen in my entire life.”

I fell in love with this movie almost instantly and I would rank it highly among one of my top favorite Studio Ghibli films. The animation of the water blew me away, as it looked so fluid and soft! The world of and above the sea, and their meeting together, was captured in perfect detail, charm, and awe through the story of two little children.¬†Title character Ponyo was enthusiastic and strong-willed without being obnoxious, while the little boy Sosuke was adorably mature, bright, and kindhearted for his age; with such lovable leads, it was very hard not to adore this film! I absolutely loved the flow of the story’s plot and the level of emotion it took me to. The cast of characters was relatively small but also¬†incredibly enjoyable and memorable;¬†Ponyo’s wizard father and Sosuke’s spunky mother were both especially fun characters. In many ways, words fail me to describe how beautiful this movie was. From¬†thrilling adventure, heart-tugging moments of joy, breathtaking animation, and¬†a beautiful score, this was simply a masterpiece. Talk about going above and beyond for a children’s movie!

Final Comment: Favorite Tale From The Sea || 5/5 stars

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Spirited AwaySpirited Away || 2001 || PG 

“I finally get a bouquet and it’s a goodbye present. That’s depressing.”

Boy, this movie is loved to insane heights but I didn’t click with it on the first watch. While I was sick, I gave it a second try.¬†While¬†I still hold¬†to¬†my opinion that it’s kinda overrated, I did enjoy it more the second time through. It is a great feat in the animation universe. Incredibly bizarre yet solid, we get to follow human Chihiro as she becomes¬†stuck in the nighttime world of a bathhouse for spirits, separated from her parents. Yep, this film is your classic fantasy adventure! Although some of the characters are a little ugly to look at, mostly the animation is fascinatingly interesting and hard to look away from. Spirited Away also manages to communicate emotion that gives the adventure some gravity, which overall helped it while on my second watch. I did have a problem with a poorly presented back story of one character, but I cannot go into detail without spoiling things. Overall, it’s… an interesting¬†movie; it will probably grow on me a little bit at a time with each rewatch.

Final Comment: Crazy but Worth The Time|| 4 /5 stars

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kikis-delivery-serviceKiki’s Delivery Service || 1989 || G¬†

“You’d think they’d never seen a girl and a cat on a broom before.”

Kiki’s Delivery Service perfectly captured what a family film should feel like, hitting a well-balanced mark that¬†some animated films miss; it was not too silly yet also not too serious. It was¬†deliciously delightful and quaint, thoroughly soaked in a nostalgia for a simpler time. Kiki was¬†a fantastic character to get behind¬†as her¬†simple journey of becoming an independent young adult¬†unfolded through adventures, mishaps, and lots of heart. Her talking cat Jiji was adorable and funny without being ridiculous or weighing down the film with too much silly dialog. In fact, the whole cast of supporting characters were great! Kiki herself was a big highlight; I really wanted my younger brother to watch this film as she displayed an optimistic, strong will to work hard for herself, without seeming perfect or unrealistic. The film continues to grow on me with each rewatch, of which I’m very happy!

Final Comment: Wonderful Family Film || 4.5/5 stars

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960__castle_in_the_sky_blu-ray_x04_Laputa: Castle in the Sky || 1986 || PG 

“Oh, no! There goes my crystal!”

Laputa: Castle in the Sky is Ghibli’s first film and it’s a great children’s fantasy adventure, packed with space pirates, a lost civilization, a magical necklace, puzzles needing solving and a roller coaster of adventures that almost never stop. However, in some ways, it felt a little young for me, so I didn’t enjoy it ¬†quite as much as, say, Kiki¬†(my brother would LOVE this film though, and I need to show it to him soon!) There was just a tad more silliness mixed in–not in a bad way; it just felt a little hit and miss to me personally. However, for Ghibli’s first official film, it’s pretty decent! Lead characters Sheeta and Pazu are easy to get behind and were fun to follow throughout the story. Mark Hamill’s voice acting as a certain character was a pleasure to hear, too! I’m probably ranking this a little too low but until I can give a proper rewatch, I’ll have to stick with how I feel right now.

Final Comment: Decent Kids Adventure || 3.5/5 stars

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Princess Mononoke || 1997 || PG-13 

“You cannot change fate. However, you can rise to meet it, if you so choose.”

The versatility Ghibli has to tell so many different types of stories is amazing–from children’s adventures to bizarre fantasy to¬†heartfelt drama. Ghibli is a master at their craft of storytelling! This versatility is especially clear in this rather mature epic, Princess Mononoke. Although the environmental theme became so overpowering¬†that it felt more a sermon than a plot theme, the film still delivered a solid fantasy epic. Led by the likable but doomed Ashitaka, we get to watch as he’s caught up in a battle over the forest, some fighting to keep it safe and others wanting what it can give them, with little regard of the spirits that live within it. An extremely fascinating part of this film was that there¬†practically no ‘bad’ side. Nearly all the characters were cast in shades of grey, each having good and bad motivates that gave a very large, telling image of humanity. I hope to revisit this film in the future, to form a more solid opinion of it, and to enjoy the animation, of course.

Final Comment: Preachy yet Epicly Beautiful || 4.5/5 stars

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poppy-hill-disneyscreencaps.com-3998From Up on Poppy Hill || 2011 || PG 

“There’s no future for people who worship the future and forget the past.‚ÄĚ

This made me think of¬†Whisper of The Heart,¬†in a small ways. Poppy Hill, for some reason, isn’t that popular, so I’m among the few who really enjoyed this movie. As a high school attempts to save their clubhouse, we get to peek into the private lives of a couple of students¬†in particular and their budding relationship; all with the backdrop of Japan’s struggle to move forward after WWII without loosing touch with their heritage. Like most Ghibli films, it handles the sweet beginnings of romance wonderfully. As a period piece, the bits of drama throughout the film were enjoyable to watch, as was the look into the Japanese culture. My only complaint was that the end felt a bit abrupt–but only because I wanted see more! Like Whisper, I could have sat for hours watching the lives of these characters if the movie had kept going! So, overall, this was a very pleasant animation!

Final Comment: A Precious Throwback to What Was “Whisper”¬†|| 4.5/5 stars

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Porco-Rosso-porco-rosso-29177479-1200-713Porco Rosso || 1992 || PG 

“I’d rather be a pig than a fascist.”

Drenched in playful romanticism of yesteryear and accompanied by sea planes, air bandits, big Italian families, hidden coves, lost loves, and oh! a man cursed to have the face of a pig? Yes, you read that right; while that part¬†felt random, somehow it still managed to work. Porco was an endearing yet serious character;¬†I found myself drawn into his story and¬†really enjoyed the stay, watching him handle pirates, his delicate sea plane, and eventually fight for honor. The plot, once it got going, was a fantastic ride and beautifully delivered.¬†A special highlight¬†was the smart and optimistic young engineer Fio and I consider her one of Ghibli’s most underrated characters. She was an absolute joy to watch, but I never see her mentioned by most fans. ¬†Overall, except for a less than satisfactory last ten minutes,¬†I was¬†pleasantly surprised by this film¬†and almost instantly in love!

Final Comment: Yes! The Pig Thing Does Work!|| 5/5 stars

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968full-my-neighbors-the-yamadas-screenshotMy Neighbors The Yamadas || 1999 || PG 

“The reason the Yamadas get along fine is because all three adults are nuts. If one of you¬†were normal it would unbalance the rest.”

Very different from Ghilbi’s other films, this film was a¬†comical commentary on your regular, middle class family. Although it’s¬†almost¬†two hours, it plays out¬†like a bunch of shorts, and not your typical,¬†single overarching plot. It was a sweet film, with some fun moments and some wonderful watercolor-like animation,¬†perfectly capturing each family member’s perspective of life. Although I wouldn’t consider it a favorite of mine, I would consider it worth watching if you consider yourself a Studio Ghibli fan or an animation buff in general. It had a very unique feel to how it’s told and how it looks and even its own sense of humor. Being an animation geek myself, I did make the effort to watch this one.

Final Comment: Had Some Good Moments || 3.5/5 stars

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pompoko-4592Pom Poko || 1994 || PG 

“I have no face!”

Of all the Studio Ghibli films I’ve watched, this is the one I’ve liked least of all,¬†and I think it’s almost universally unpopular. Following¬†shape shifting raccoon-dogs fighting for their forest, those shape shifting moments were pretty much the only enjoyable parts for me. Sadly, I didn’t like the rest, as it was unbelievably strange and weird to say the least.¬†You would not believe what part of the male anatomy they decided to animate in this film–I did not care for that¬†part. ūüėĮ The all-too familiar environmental message was quite in-your-face, which I always find intrusive of my mental personal space–if that make sense? Overall, the film felt very odd. It’s the only Ghibli film I actually completely dislike.

Final Comment: I Shoulda Skipped It || 2.5/5 stars

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la-tumba-de-las-luciernagasGrave of the Fireflies || 1988 || NR 

Once again, Ghibli’s ability to deliver a variety of stories is shown by this epicly devastating yet somehow beautiful piece of animation. Following two siblings and their will to¬†survive after their city¬†is bombed near the end of WWII, the price of war is depicted very clearly¬†through their struggles, nothing sugar-coated to say the least. The two main characters are breathtakingly realistic, endearing, and well-balanced. Little Setsuko is a heart-stealer, unbelievably cute and sympathetic. Seita, the older brother, is also an easy hero to get behind as he attempts to shelter his sister from the effects of war. On an overall scale, everything is fantastic in this film, from voice acting, to animation, to story flow. However, I must note that the film got¬†so¬†depressing that I had to stop near the end before finishing it later. The fact that I never want to watch this film ever again lowers the score just a bit. I think¬†everyone should see this at some point in their lifetime but it should not be expected to be an easy watch and rightfully so. Well done, Ghibli, well done.

Final Comment: The Definition of a Tear-Jerker || 4.5/5

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Shall we tally the scores? Out of sixteen¬†movies, there are four that are¬†marked under 3.5 and two the acceptable 4. With the remaining ten films all being above average/raising the bar of the animation genre, with¬†four gaining near perfect¬†4.5, and six claiming¬†5 out of 5 stars, I say, where have you been all my life, Studio Ghibli?! Sure, they’re not perfect, just like every other film, but that’s not why they’re marked so high. What they are is genuine. Imaginative. Relate-able. Gorgeous. Touching. In the end, to me, they’re priceless and well worth the time to share.

This summer will definitely be one I’ll remember¬†as¬†the year I realized I could watch anime and love it. I now happily own¬†(yes, I put my money where my mouth is)¬†My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo, Porco Rosso, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Whisper of the Heart, The Secret World of Arriety, and¬†even Howl’s Moving Castle¬†on DVD. I hope to buy The Wind Rises, From Up On Poppy Hill, and maybe even Spirited Away in the near future! That’s how much I love them and need them accessible, right at my fingertips!

If even one of these films piqued your interest, I strongly recommend you¬†find a way to watch it! Hopefully Studio Ghibli can bring happiness to your life as it did mine! If you’ve already seen some (or all!) of these films, what did you think of them? Did you like them as much as I did? I¬†surely hope that you did!

~Jamie

Top 100 Favorite Movies|10-1


The levels and elements of personal enjoyment, surprise, personal attachment/nostalgia, stand up to rewatches, and personal connection were fundamental in selecting these ten films. I include some personal connection in these reviews so they may look a little longer to read. ūüėõ Finally, a big thank you to my best friend James for inspiring me to attempt this list in the first place.croods-poster-emma-stone

10. The Croods | 2013 | PG

To everyone who assumes that once I’ve made up my mind that I will hate a movie and thinks “of course she didn’t like it then!”: let me present to¬†you The Croods. I blame most of my first hate¬†on the absolutely horrible advertising the film recieved–the films itself has so much more heart and deeper content than just slap-stick humor and modern family jokes. I liked it enough to rewatch it several times.¬†Ultimately, what connects this movie to me so strongly is the story of Eep and her family leaving the cave and¬†“never being afraid.” Almost literally my parents kept my sister and I in a bubble where “everything new was bad” and that everything in the world would result in our deaths. With my mom now trying to give Kayla and I freedom as young adults, I really feel like I’m finally leaving the cave and truly getting to live instead of “not dying.”¬†

Although this movie is pretty temporary here at the bottom of my top ten, I am positive that I will always love this film for it’s message and special-ness to my personal story. (Also the movie features a lot of great elements like meta modern family humor, a teenage guy who isn’t a oily or slick but is actually decent nice person, beautiful animation, Emma Stone, and a creative prehistoric world!)

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9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 | 2011 | PG-13

Considering my history of being opposed to Harry Potter, for one of it’s movies to hold position 9 is pretty darn good if you ask me. This movie is¬†exactly¬†how you want to end a big franchise. It is the strongest Harry Potter film, extremely powerful with emotion, action, and satisfying conclusion. Even though I knew of several deaths, I was very surprised by how much I was moved by¬†them and the ending was so beautiful that I cried during that too. The great battle of Hogwarts is one of the best adventures I’ve seen on screen as well.

On a personal level, getting to the position where I felt free enough to watch Harry Potter without feeling like a bad Christian was big all on its own, so to get a great¬†ending to a beautiful saga is like double the blessing. Although I’m not completely free of fear¬†of what people might think of me, on the other side there is still something very freeing to be able to own my love for Harry and not let what other people think hinder me personally. It’s for these reasons Deathly Hallows Part 2 made it to my top 9 movies!Ben-Hur-1959-movie-poster

8. Ben-Hur | 1959 | G

My most favorite classic epic, Ben-Hur has been one of my favorite stories since my early teens. The themes of revenge and forgivness have never been caputered on such a scope of epicness to me before or since. This is my favorite story tied into Biblical events as we see how Christ’s touch on Judah Ben-Hur’s life eventually effects him in the end. The build to the magnificent and raw chariot race is one of my favorite moments in cinema history. I have always loved Stephen Boyd as Massala and Charlton Heston truly owns Judah Ben-Hur in a way that completely makes the movie.¬†The soundtrack is one of my personal favorites, the cinematography is amazing, and the story and characters are timeless. Truly one of the best epics ever created.beauty_and_the_beast_ver1

7. Beauty and the Beast | 1991 | G

Easily my most favorite fairy tale of all times, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast has been a favorite of mine since I was small. The magic of it’s heart, music, animation and characters has yet to die from my soul. Just like The Prince of Egypt, the songs are not only emotionally moving but they also move the plot forward or really give you a great glimpse into a character’s dimension that will help build the story at the end. I consider this the ultimate princess Disney feature and easily one of Disney’s best, most unbeatable works of art. The animation is flawless and the atmosphere never fails to fill me with intrigue and bated breath. To me, this is the ultimate love story and the impact¬†it still has on me today when I think of heroines, love, selflessness, magic and animation itself is truly special to me.hot_fuzz_ver4_xlg

6. Hot Fuzz | 2007 | R

Easily¬†my favorite comedy of all time (sorry, 21 Jump Street, but the Brits take it.) Hysterically clever, the film delivers laughs that are strongly balanced by fantastic characters, a strong mystery and lots of metaphorical moments that completely respect but laugh at the action genre on a whole.¬†Simon Pegg perfectly captures Nicholas Angel’s rigid love for justice while Nick Frost plays the perfect sidekick Danny Butterman who isn’t too silly and perfectly compliments Angel’s personality—these two characters and actors are one of the most ultimate duos in cinema and¬†TV history. Yes, I just said that. However, the one thing I love best about this movie besides the humor, action spoofy-ness and characters, is it’s Miss Marple/English Village flavored¬†mystery. It¬†hearkens back to my first love–a good old fashioned who-dun-it! Rolled together it creates truly one of the best comedies/action/mystery flicks of all time.Star Wars - A New Hope (1977) Style A by Tom Jung

5. Star Wars: A New Hope | 1977 | PG

I know everyone loves Empire Strikes Back; I love it too. But whenever I think of my love for Star Wars, I always think of A New Hope. There’s just a special place in my heart for the very first Star Wars film and that’s how it beat Empire. This movie is just about the definition of the word ‘classic’. The soundtrack is amazing, the effects still hold up well today and the story’s plot flow is perfection. I love the introduction we receive to Princess Leia, Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker , Han Solo, Chewbaca and of course the droids. Everything plays a role in the film with a solid opening and a conclusive ending which I prefer to the big cliff-hanger, even if that had a great impact on cinema history with Empire. There is so much to love in A New Hope but I really shouldn’t need to go on much longer here :P. There are few movies that can even come to rival the greatness of Star Wars and the impact it’s had on pop culture and intimate lives–myself included! All hail the great sci-fi film of the ages!posters12/11/08

4. Rocky | 1976 | PG

I love a great underdog story and this easily my favorite of them all. However, to me Rocky is more than just an excellent boxing story with a fantastic delivery of one man’s personal struggles in and out of the ring. To me, Rocky presents a strong representation of true manhood. Coming from a spiritual background where outward perfection was strived for more than a humble spirit in many of the men around me, watching Rocky was like a breath of fresh air and a strong reminder to me of what real men are made up of. Strength of body and mind are nothing in a man if they are not clothed in a gentle spirit. Rocky is one of my personal heroes because he is a very gentle man, shown by how he approaches people, goes out of his way to help others in his own way, and steadily attempts to win Adrian’s heart. For these reasons (and the simple fact that this is simply a stunning film) Rocky will¬†always mean the world to me.tlk-new-poster

3. The Lion King | 1994 | G

The only reason The Lion King managed to beat Beauty and the Beast was because of my emotional connection, which even I find strange since I didn’t grow up seeing it a million times or anything. Recently playing the movie in the background of my day,¬†I choked up about six times and got chills at least five and I wasn’t even paying that much attention. These are not even your classic moments like Mufasa’s passing; this is moments like Rafiki speaking to Simba¬†and the log bridge scene during Hakuna Matata. I can’t explain my connection to this film, I only know it’s there. The songs and soundtrack, voice talent, and animation strongly combined with the grown up themes of throne-stealing, murder, and fear, creates one of, if not maybe Disney’s best animated film of all time.0103074_big

2. Thelma and Louise | 1991 | R

One of the best female-oriented¬†films I’ve ever seen; this spoke to me and my own personal situation which is how it became my second favorite movie. I’ve always knew of the names Thelma and Louise; they’ like Lucy and Ethel or Lewis and Clark. ūüėõ But when I finally got around to watching the movie, I was so happy and surprised to discover it was a masterpiece must-see. Themed with timeless invaluable friendship and taking control of one’s own life and choices, Thelma and Louise both empowered and uplifted me as a woman and human being. Humorous and delightful while also being dark and somber, the film delivers a well balanced plot and character journey which I strongly related to because I myself am just beginning to make my own life discions. For more amazing reasons why this movie is fantastic, head over to my latest guest post on J and J Productions when you’re done here!5k8lv1eXe7vbeJ57eXLIKxFamAQ

1. Clue | 1985 | PG

Out of all the genres that could compete to win my number one film, my love for the who-dun-it mystery genre won out, and it actually won very easily. From the beginning of this list, I never had a hard time deciding that Clue would reign at the top. In fact, during the construction of this post, I rewatched Clue with my sister¬†and about twenty minutes in, she turned to me and said, “This feels like it should be your number one movie, Jamie.” I definitely¬†knew then that this movie was truly my cinema soul-mate.

It’s everything I want from a murder mystery;¬†quotable dialogue, a fantastic period setting of the 1950’s, lovable slapstick humor that isn’t too over the top, continuous plot twists, a sly self-awareness of it’s genre, and truly quirky characters (all of them gems but my favorites including Mrs. Peacock, Mr. Green, and Tim Curry as Wadsworth the Butler.) The multiple endings hearkens back to the game board where you can get a different murderer each round; however there is an official¬†ending that wraps up the film perfectly. I’ve rewatched this film countless times and continue to catch¬†little things, expressions, or moments that add to the atmosphere or plot!

Interestingly,¬†I’ve only played¬†the board game¬†a few times¬†and my attachment to the film does not come from the game itself. Growing up, 80 percent of the books I read were mysteries, so it should be no mystery (HA!) that my personal attachment to the genre should transfer to films. Overall, Clue is¬†simply a fantastically enjoyable mystery film. While one will either get it or not get it, either way I highly recommend it, because, after all, it is my number one favorite film of all time.

~Jamie