REVIEW: Epic

A couple weeks ago, instead of going to see The Great Gatsby, my girlfriend and I decided to see a movie called Epic. To be honest, I thought it was by Dreamworks or Disney at first until I did some research on Blue Sky Studios, and I have to say, their production value is really good. 

Okay, on with the review!


Plot:
 
The plot here is interesting, but not something I haven’t seen before. There’s a secret society of miniature people (the human-like Leafmen, the monster-like Boggons, and then the plants and animals are all living as well) that live in the forest, with the Leafmen and Boggons engaged in war that will determine if the forest lives or dies. Mary Katherine (or M.K. for short) goes to live with her eccentric father (who is trying to find the tiny people) due to a request made by her late mother, but after that goes awry, she ventures into the forest and is transformed to a mini size by the Queen of the Forest, Tara, and gets caught up in the war. It’s definitely an interesting angle for the way a forest lives and dies.


The characters all have pretty noticeable arcs, and they’re all pretty solid, although, like most of these movies, love between M.K. and the obvious male love interest happens ridiculously fast. I think it’s sad that that’s something I’ve become accustomed to, but given the relatively short length of the movie (about 90 minutes), I can see why it happens so fast. I wish more movies would take it slow, though.


Acting:
 
The acting is actually pretty good. Nothing really amazing, but nothing bad, either. Not much to say, here. It’s just really solid (except for a few parts, but they’re negligible).


Atmosphere:
 
The animation to build up the atmosphere is really, really good. The way they depict the forest and its secret inhabitants is really nice, and Queen Tara’s control of the forest was really cool to look at. They depict her walking over water with lily pads that instantly move to be under her feet as she moves, she can make tree branches attack with the flick of her wrist – really, the animation is superb. Also, the way things decay is pretty cool, too.
——
If you’re a fan of animated films (or Ice Age) check Epic out. It’s a neat little film that’s really solid. It’s not incredible, but definitely a solid choice if you’re looking for a film to go see.
Rating: 3 out of 5 (stars)
 
Just Sayin’.

REVIEW: The Secret World of Arrietty

It’s rare that I come across a movie that I find absolutely fantastic, but I found one last Thursday when my friends and I went to go see The Secret World of Arrietty, a Disney-translated and dubbed Kari-guarashi no Arietti. 

Based off the award-winning book, The Borrowers, The Secret World of Arrietty starts us off going from the city of Tokyo to the countryside, where a boy named Shawn (Sho) is staying to rest before a heart operation the following week. As he arrives, he notices Arrietty (Arietti), a 14-yeard-old Borrower. In highly stylized fashion, we watch Arrietty nimbly dodge the pet cat, Nina, and escape through a grate into an area underneath the house Shawn is staying. Indeed, the art style and animation are truly marvelous eye-candy, and I found myself enjoying the animation throughout the film. Seeing the world through Arrietty’s eyes makes something as simple as a house an entire world to explore, and explore we do as Pod (Poddo), Arrietty’s father, takes her through a few of the rooms of the house to ‘borrow’ a cube of sugar and tissue paper.

I usually take Japanese animated films and shows subbed. Rarely do I find a dub worth mentioning, and this one is definitely worth mentioning. You can tell Disney took time to make sure they had a good voice acting cast, and did they deliver. What really stood out to me during the opening credits was Will Arnett, whom I know from Arrested Development. All of the cast was great, and I felt each voice fit each character nicely, and they really play off of each other.

The movie moves along a little slow; it takes a long time for Arrietty and Shawn to speak, let alone Arrietty letting Shawn see her. Yet, despite this slow pace, I found myself enjoying it. Many movies today are action-packed and full of quick, high-intensity situations, so it was nice to watch a simple movie that had characters that really grew. You can feel Arrietty’s conflicting emotions as she walks down the nail staircase from Shawn’s room after he saves her, and even tries to convince her father that not all beans (a Borrower mispronunciation of ‘being’) are bad.

The music plays off of this quiet, slow style well. The music, all written and composed by French artist Cecil Corbel, really fits each scene well, and I love a movie with excellent music. I especially love Arrietty’s Song. None of the music is fast or intrusive. It just gently ebbs and flows with each scene, even the more spurring pieces able to stay soft whilst letting you know that the characters are pushing themselves.

The ending is a little abrupt, but understandable. I was wishing it had been a little different, but it didn’t really jar me. It was a good ending to a wonderful film.

All in all, The Secret World of Arrietty is, at its core, a children’s film of friendship, but told in such a way that anyone of any age (or those who love animation) can enjoy. I highly recommend you see this.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Oh, and Hayao Miyazaki co-wrote the screenplay.

Just sayin’.

REVIEW: Panty & Stocking

So, last week I decided to start up watching anime again after a 4-5 month period of nothing but school and Super Smash Bros. Brawl. And since I kinda got hooked onto its music a week or two prior to watching, I decided to watch Panty and Stocking!

Panty & Stocking

A quick summary of the series: two sibling angels (named Panty and Stocking) were banished from heaven for being obnoxious as fuck and now have to keep Daten City safe from evil spirits called ghosts. Upon defeat, ghosts drop ‘Heaven Coins’, and once enough are collected the sisters may return to heaven. To help them is Garterbelt, a priest who runs the local church, and Chuck, who is Gir’s (from Invader Zim) long lost younger brother.

Simple enough, right? WRONG. This anime takes the “obnoxious as fuck” part and plays it hard. Combine that with some American-style animation, some of the best music I’ve heard in ages, and a Gainax plot, and you have yourself one memorable anime.

Let me start out by saying that each episode is split up into two mini episodes ala most 90’s American cartoons. After the first part of episode 1, the first thought that ran through my head was, “This is a lot like Powerpuff Girls.” For those of you who remember and loved Powerpuff Girls, I think you’ll really enjoy Panty and Stocking. It’s got a lot of the core elements of Powerpuff Girls with a little bit of standard Japanese anime style thrown in there.

Let’s dive in!

Art and Animation:

I actually really enjoyed the art style because it’s so PPG-esque. I’m not really a fan of American art when it comes to modern-day cartoons, so this was really refreshing to see American style that I really enjoyed. The animation really fit the series. Everything was quick and jarred, and the sound effects being worded out gave it a kind of comic book feel, which really went with the art style. The only episode I didn’t really enjoy was part 2 of episode 5, where they went with a more traditional Japanese style. Other than that, the animation was great!

Score: 7/10

Plot and Characters:

Let’s start with characters. I enjoyed how they took Panty and Stocking and really played the “fallen angel” bit about them. They swore, they stripped, they beat the shit out of shit and other grotesque demons. And the way they interact with each other, Garterbelt, Chuck, Brief, and their two rivals, Scanty and Kneesocks, are hilarious. I especially enjoyed Scanty and Kneesocks, because they reminded me SO MUCH of MoJoJoJo from PPG. And that kind of character was a great addition midway into the series. And Chuck, because he’s like Gir. What a badass.

And now for the plot. I don’t mind the plot; it’s coherent enough where progression happens. It’s the stupid ending that I HATE. I enjoy the occasional curveball, but not curveballs that don’t make any sense. Gainax decided to do that with Panty and Stocking, and that really disappointed me, especially since I had really been enjoying the series until then. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen the series, but prepare yourself… it’s one hell of a curveball.

Score: 5/10

Music:

Listen to this:

Then to this:

And tell yourself this music isn’t ridiculously good. I love the music. It’s great! It’s PERFECT for this series, and it’s memorable. There’s not a lot of anime where I’ll download an entire soundtrack; I downloaded the entire soundtrack. It fits every scene to a T.

Score: 10/10

Presentation:

A no holds-barred show about two angels who need to get back to heaven? Not a bad idea. It reminds me of PPG; great idea! The way the show speaks to the viewer is pretty clear – make fun of everything that presents itself onscreen with crude humor and a hint of satire. There are a lot of references to everyday things (like going to the bathroom and having “the top” in high school) that get blown out of proportion, and it works.

What doesn’t work is the way the show ends and a few parts of episodes here and there that just didn’t seem to fit (I’m looking at you, Chuck to the Future).

All in all, it doesn’t shy away from its message, and the way it presents itself goes pretty well with the art, the animation, and the music. Some polish, I think, definitely would’ve helped.

Score: 6/10

Overall Score: 7/10

R-Rated Powerpuff Girls. Not bad in any respect, but could’ve really worked on a few things (especially that ENDING!!!)

Chuck’s my favorite character.

Just sayin’.