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Howl’s Moving Castle: My First Miyazaki

Oh, woe is me for not having seen a Miyazaki film sooner. I’m back again for a few reviews (after vacation back home) and I thought I’d start with a film that, for me, was a revelation and fan-creating film. If only Disney hadn’t have put its grimy paws all over this film and let Studio Ghibli find English voice actors, this movie could’ve surpassed even my expectations. (But Disney is all about them big bones.) But it had Christian Bale, so it’s all good. This wonderful film about growing up

A house with a view.

and finding what you believe in is a more mature answer to the childish wonder we all find in cartoons and fantasy.

In this steampunk-like adventure story, we come across Sophie (Emily Mortimer), a young woman and local hatter in a town ruled by an aristocracy and the army. Magic is an agreed upon phenomenon and witches and wizards roam the countryside. After an encounter with a young, dashing, magical man named Howl (Christian Bale), Sophie finds herself swept away by the man’s charm. After encountering another witch later that night, The Witch of the Waste (Lauren Bacall), Sophie is turned into an old woman (voiced by Jean Simmons) and is not allowed to speak of her curse.

After this terrible twist of “Big”-like events, Sophie travels off into the countryside to escape her mother and what people would think of her. She encounters a wonderfully fun and lovable scarecrow on a stick, and, eventually, Howl and his Moving Castle. Accompanying Howl are his associated fire demon, Calcifer (Billy Crystal), and his apprentice in waiting, Markl (Josh Hutcherson). Acting as a makeshift nanny/homekeep, Sophie attempts to gain everyone’s trust, all the while searching for some way to reverse her curse. It ends up being one wild ride, indeed.

Look at that redonk detail.

I was overall impressed with this film. Like I said, I’ve never seen a Miyazaki film before and my girlfriend owned this one and wanted me to watch it. She was totally right and I wasn’t disappointed. It was a great film. Miyazaki’s style for me is completely original, unusual and quirky. His plot may have been taken from a book of the same name, but it was such a unique and off kilter movie/story/plotline that I loved what was going to happen next. It wasn’t action packed, it wasn’t magic performance filled or anything like that. It was what it was. And I appreciated that immensely.

For the most part, the voices in the film were accurately matched to each of the characters. Christian

Cosplays waiting to happen.

Bale, for the kind of frail character Howl was, was a bit of a stretch. And he wasn’t even allowed to use his British accent! What kind of crap is that when a decent percentage of the rest of the cast was British? Oh Christian Bale, will you ever be able to use your own voice? I enjoyed Billy Crystal and his comedic portrayal of Calcifer. And I was spot on again at recognizing voices when I heard both Josh Hutcherson and Crispin Freeman’s guest voicing of Turnip Head towards the end. Some of the supporting cast and background voices were a bit iffy, but overall I wasn’t disappointed.

Masterful Miyazaki.

I loved the overall feel and message of this film. The style it was going for was just right for the way this movie presented itself. The music was whimsical and the animation is above and beyond a lot of cartoon films that are done here. Why? That’s because of the attention to detail and colorful style that Miyazaki and his animation crew have created with all their projects. The film is beautiful to look at and is a visual journey in itself. Hell, this movie didn’t even need much dialogue did it? I would’ve watched it just as a silent film and enjoyed it just as much. The creative ways in which Miyazaki created a world with unique aspects and inventions left me awestruck. I’m definitely in for some treats with the rest of Miyazaki’s films. I’ll give Howl’s Moving Castle a 8.7 out of 10.


Goemon: The Funimation Crew

I’d like to classify this movie as an anime, but that would be a straight up lie. But, when you watch this, you’ll see what I mean. The plot, the action and special effects, everything in this movie is set up to be an anime. The stylistic violence explodes off the screen and Goemon skirts building tops at a Flash-like pace. There’s love and betrayal, there’s status, loyalty, and duty. Brotherhood plays one of the bigger roles in this movie to a point that really took over the movie. Goemon and Saizo, two ninja brothers at odds, rival and play to each other’s strengths, recognizing each other as friends in the end. And this is all supplemented by an amazing English dubbed cast from the Funimation studios that actually did a good job at dubbing a foreign film. Imagine that.

In a very overly dramatic style, this movie tells the story of a young ruffian who found the ways to honor and strength

The cast and its wonderful costumes that won it some awards.

through the teachings of his slain master, Nobunaga Oda. Slain by who you may ask? Well, the evil┬álieutenant, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (acted by Eiji Okuda, voiced by Chistopher Sabat). In a power move that succeeds, Hideyoshi plans to take the Princess Chacha as well (strange name, but all the same…) and all the power he can grab. With the exchange of a small box that was stolen from the royal coffers, Goemon is set on a chase that will reunite him with his sparring partner, Saizo (played by Takao Osawa, voiced by Troy Baker) and the aforementioned brotherhood is rekindled.

The rivalry rekindled!

What ends up happening leads to three huge fight scenes and the dramatic death of someone in the film. There’s some major slaughter, tastefully done I may add, and some traditional face-off scenes between Goemon and the big baddies. With a bigger political and army related plot at hand, the multi-layered elements of the plot may or may not be lost on you when you check this movie out. But, it also begs the question why a lot of the scenes in this movie weren’t as choreographed as I would’ve liked them to be. The special effects were geared more towards destruction than any sort of blood and kill scenes. It does leave you asking for a bit more than was offered, but the plot makes up for that lack of action sequences.

And for those American audiences who complain, “Why do I have to read a movie? I’ll miss stuff!” Whine no more. This is an actually well done dub. Yes, it’s always awkward to watch a film knowing that the foreign actors can hold their own and don’t need a voice actor trying to translate their feelings and emotions into another language, but this film does it differently. These aren’t any old voice actors. These are some of the best from the most well known English anime/voice acting company in America. Funimation. If you were a kid in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, you’ll know of their talent from Toonami. Dragonball Z, Yu Yu Hakusho, all these anime and more from Toonami were voiced by those Funimation voice acting wonders.

The stunning visual effects at play in the film.

 

Set sail on this epic tale of battle.

Other than that, this is a well done live action… action movie. It has all the elements of an epic and almost feels like an overdone Japanese play or something similar. The special effects give a heightened stylistic element to it and may leave those of us more keen to a Tony Jaa film wanting a bit more fight oriented element to it. But for entertainment value, this movie delivers quite well. The music was well done and the comedy was on cue, and you may actually shed a tear at one point in the movie or another. Either way, check this out dubbed and let me know what you think. It’s at least worth a watch. 7.5 out of 10.