Can’t get a Better Neighbor then Totoro

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My Neighbor Totoro is film directed by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki.  It came out in 1988 in its native Japan, but did not make its way to the US until 2004, and then it was rereleased by Disney in 2006 with a new voice over.

The story follows two young girls (Elle and Dakota Fanning) and their father (Tim Daly) as they move in to a new house in the country so they can be close to their sick mother (Lea Salonga).  The girls soon meet some new friends that just happen to be forest spirits.  The largest being Totoro.

Hayao Miyazaki once again proves that he is a master of his craft.  The only negative thing I can say about this movie is that the plot is amazingly simple, and since the girls are mostly just reacting to the world around them it would be hard to call them protagonists, but it is so cute, and lovingly made that those are just minor gripes, and what kids really control what happens to them anyway.

I love pretty much every movie Hayao Miyazaki has ever done, and even then this is one of his better films.  If you want to watch something incredibly cute then this movie is for you.

Almost Star Trek’s Final Frontier

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Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was made in 1989, 20 years after the end of the TV show.  It was so bad that it almost ended the Star Trek franchise.  This movie was directed by Captain Kirk himself William Shatner.  Shatner got a chance to redeem himself by directing the next movie.

The movie starts off on Nimbus III (think Tatooine).  A giant dirt hole that is supposed to be the planet of peace where The Klingons, The Federation, and The Romulans are supposed to work together to build the world, but of course they don’t and everyone just fights a lot.  A man named Sybok kidnaps the ambassadors from the three governments, and unless a ship is sent he will kill them.  Of course they send the Enterprise to help them.  Then Sybok steals the Enterprise and is off to the great barrier at the center of the galaxy to find God.

This movie has all sorts of problems: The plot is bad, the special effects are bad, the acting is bad, and the directing isn’t great.  They really just should have scrapped this one and called it a day

I am glad that in this movie they decided to go out and explore something, but it is so anticlimactic when they get there.  They build up the great barrier as some sort of impenetrable wall that nothing can get through, and then they just fly through it without any problem, and it is not just because the Enterprise is awesome because a Klingon Bird of Pray does the same thing like two minutes later.  Oh yeah there are Klingons in this movie for some reason, don’t worry they are pointless so you can forget about them.

This movie was the low point for the series for awhile, but sadly it gets worse in a few films.  If you haven’t guessed it by now, you should skip this movie.  Luckily the next movie isn’t that bad, so there is hope.

Investigate the ParaNorman

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ParaNorman is one of three major stop motion animated films from 2012.  Made by Laika Animation Studio it was nominated for best animated film, and my buddy Daniel thought it should have won.  I think he was right.

Norman is a boy who can see ghosts, and unlike most people this doesn’t freak him out, but it does cause him to get bullied quite a bit, and makes him a loaner.  Things get worse for Norman as he starts having strange premonitions about zombies, and a crazy uncle that tells him he is the only one that can stop a witches curse.  This causes him to get bullied even more.  Thankfully a boy name Neil befriends him, and helps him with his troubles. It is not often a movie about zombies is so moving, but considering all the trouble our culture has with bullies, you really feel bad for the way Norman gets treated, and you are very happy for him when he comes in to his own and saves the day.

The stop motion is great, and Laika has improved since their last stop motion movie Coraline.  There are so few stop motion studio’s left it is good to see a new one doing so well.

If you are looking for a quirky film, with more charm and heart then most movies could dream of, then you should give ParaNorman a try.  I am sure you will be glad you did.

Can you Survive the Evil Dead?

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Evil Dead (2013) is the remake/sequel to the popular The Evil Dead (1981).  The Evil Dead spawned two sequels already, and they are thought to have created the genre of horror comedy, but this new movie goes back to the first film and is straight up horror.  This is the first movie in the franchise not to be written and directed by Sam Raimi, but by new comer Fred Alvarez who was hand picked by Raimi.  This movie was OK, but never lives up to the classic series that Raimi created.

The story is that five friends go up to a cabin in the woods to help a drug addict, Mia played by Jane Levy, kick he habit.  The friends agree that they will not let her leave until the worst of the withdrawals have subsided.  When they get in the cabin they soon find that it has been used for something weird.  There are a bunch of dead cats hanging in the basement, and a book wrapped in barbed wire.  Of course one of them reads the book out loud, even though the writing in the book says not too, and releases evil.

I like using the drug addiction as the reason they are up in the woods, because it makes it believable when the first person to see the random evil things happening is the drug addict, and the friends think she is either hallucinating or just trying to get them to let her leave, and Fred Alvarez knows how to shoot a horror scene.  Never flinching is showing the audience something awful, but the problem is that you only should do a remake if there is something add, or something that they couldn’t do before, but that is not the case here.  In The Evil Dead the violence was already ramped up to 11, so ramping it up to 12 wasn’t all that necessary.  The charm of the first movie (if horror movies have charm that is) was the movie was so low budget that it added a campiness to the whole thing.  In Evil Dead the only camp left is that cast makes every dumb choice possible, and they do make dumb choices.

Here are some guidelines for you if you are in a cabin in the woods.  If there are dead cats hanging in the cellar: leave.  If there is a book wrapped in barbed wire and bound in human flesh: do not read it, especially out loud, and if it tells you not to because something will eat your soul.  If something is chasing you, use the open door to the outside not the crack in the wall.

These is some good news though, and that is Sam Raimi has decided to make Army of Darkness II (The Evil Dead IV), and that means more Bruce Campbell Camping it up while killing the undead.  There is also a plan to have Mia and Bruce team up at a future point when they merge the two universes and that sounds like fun too, so if we have to have one OK horror movie for all that to happen, then so be it.