Ponyo English dub

Set for release in the UK around April time, Ponyo is going to feature many famous voices and talents. Rumoured to star in the English dubbed version are Tina Fey (star of 30 Rock), Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Liam Neeson, Lily Tomlin, Frankie Jonas, Betty White, Noah Cyrus (little sister of Miley) and Cloris Leachman.

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‘American Psycho’- Bret Easton Ellis

If you’re looking for a good read, something heartwarming or slushy, then (not to sound negative) don’t bother with this one. However, if your more into your sick, gory and like your protagonists a little on the crazy side, then i say read this book and go nuts. Now, a year or so back I had seen the film and rated it a good viewing (one of the main reasons being that a really like Christan Bale perhaps?), but something in my mind was telling me that the film left a lot to be desired. The main character, Patrick Bateman is 26, a vice president of a company on Wall Street, and is very stylish. However, behind his good looks and charm is a serial killer, rapist, mentally challenged, cannibalistic   young man. He is very particular to detail, whether that being in his appearances, his preference in women, and more than anything his taste in music. So a few months back I decided to hunt around for the book, and eventually I bought it on eBay :]

The first few pages took me back however. It wasn’t anything like I had expected, and within the opening chapters I already started to understand Patrick a little bit more, and that was just from the hefty description of his morning and evening routines. We as the the reader are made to believe that he is a gentle man, perhaps a little TOO involved in his personal appearance and the appearances of others also. The book is written in the 3rd person, so we get an insight into his character more just by Ellis’s way of writing. But one of the things that started to annoy me throughout the book was his description of other people’s clothing, and how he always seem to pinpoint who it was made by; whether that being Ralph Lauren or Gucci, etc. I know it may seem a silly thing to get annoyed at, but after the first hundred times of Patrick describing his peers’ suits and the places they were EXACTLY from I started to get a little ticked off. But, that didn’t put me off, not even in the slightest.

American Psycho artwork

American Psycho artwork

Some of the more descriptive pages makes the book what it is. Brutal and savage. The sex scenes are very detailed, and if you get offended easy, then maybe these parts may turn your stomach. The way that Bateman describes his fantasies and what he does to the women he sleeps with could make your skin crawl, especially later in the book. There has only ever been one more book that has phsyically made me feel a little sick (The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks), but this one topped the ranks. However, no matter how disgusted I was with Patrick and his antics, I couldnt put the book down. While I was reading it, it was always on me, and that usually doesnt happen to me. Ellis’s way of using suspence and curiosity within Patrick as a character keeps you on edge. As there aren’t any violent acts in the first 3rd of the book. So if you are like me and have seen the film first will be a bit confusing, but try and overlook this, as it’s definately worth the wait.

‘Grave of the Fireflies’- A work of genius

There aren’t many films nowadays that have the ability to reduce me to tears within the first (approximately) 3 minutes of watching it, but Grave of the Fireflies succeeds, and with flying colours at that. To most people, they wont feel this sadness until towards the end of the film, however after you have seen it a few times, the feeling comes a little too early. This film deserves every little bit of praise that it receives, even known to one reviewer as “one of the greatest war films of all time”, and if you disagree then shame on you.

However, don’t let my rubbish ability to control my emotions put you off. As one of Studio Ghibli’s most respected films, it is remarkably easy to see why. Released as a double feature with Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbour Totoro in Japanese cinemas in 1988, it had an surprisingly poor first response from the public. As My Neighbour Totoro was initially raking in younger audiences with the soft and cuddly characters, Grave of the Fireflies was simply turning them away with a more depressing look on life.

Originally a novel by author Akiyuki Nosaka, it was seen upon as a mini autobiography of him and his sisters at the time of the war in Japan, where one of his sisters died of malnutrition. He writes about the troubles that his family faced and the pain of war, which is captured perfectly in Takahata’s film.

The narrative focuses on two siblings, older brother Seita and young sister Setsuko, as they fight for survival during the Kobe bombings of World War 2. As the audiences is captured by the relationship of the two, we are shown flashbacks showing the two’s fate and how it eventually came to be that way. This, like many other films that use the technique (eg, Moulin Rouge), have a strong and powerful way of fixing an audience straight away, as your more likely to watch it all to find out what happens in the end.

If your assumption of this film is now to stay as far away as possible, mainly because of my synopsis, then change your mind. As it still is one of the most heartwarming films that I have ever seen, and . Imdb even considers the film to be no.190 out of the best 250 films EVER made. So if that isnt enough to persuade you to watch it, or just to love it a little bit more than you should already do, then im not doing a good job.

I’m A Cyborg: But That’s Ok

If you haven’t heard of acclaimed Korean director Park Chan-Wook, then you’re missing out. His films are known to be highly controversial, yet stunning and jaw dropping at the same time. If you are someone who loves unusual and inspiring films like myself then you may just enjoy this one.

I’m A Cyborg (or the Korean name: Saibogeujiman Gwaenchanha) was released in the UK of April this year, and I have had it on my bookshelf since the first week that it came out. Unwatched and untouched. The main reason was my skepticism and somewhat biased opinions of his other works. After watching Chan-Wook’s Vengeance Trilogy, I had extremely high hopes of his newest film I’m A Cyborg. I did some research a few weeks before i actually bought it and heard that it was NOTHING like his previous films. And after the first sequence I got that completely.

The story focuses upon Young-Goon, a slightly pretty (the film doesn’t do the actress justice at all) young woman with a big problem. She believes that she is a cyborg. She has Alzheimer’s Disease and Schizophrenia running in the family, which triggers her belief in her robotic self. Her grandmother also believed that she was something she wasn’t. A mouse. She did nothing but spend her time eating pickled radish and telling her granddaughter that the mice that were in their shed might be her brothers and sisters.

Throughout the film we see flashbacks which explain more about Young-Goon’s grandmother, and the way that she was before her admittance to a home, and also how the rest of the family dealt with her strange obsession. This gives the audience a slight insight of how Young-Goon is in the current part of the film. In a mental institution, she spends her days trying to “recharge” herself and try to find out the purpose of her life.

Straight away she meets an unusual boy, Il-sun, who has also been admitted into the hospital over his schizophrenic anti-social personality. As their friendship blossoms Young-Goon refuses to eat, and slowly her health deteriorates, with her only believing that she needs a “recharge” to be ok. But that isn’t the case. After Young-Goon is given shock therapy to try and get her to eat again, she has hallucinations about killing all of the “white-un’s” (hospital staff) for taking her grandmother away from her in the first place.

Young-Goon and Il Soon

Young-Goon and Il Sun (Su-jeong Lim and Rain)

After many attempts of trying to get his new friend to eat, Il-sun creates the ‘Rice-Megatron’, a device that he pretends to install into Young-Goon’s back that will turn food into electrical energy, so that she can recharge and survive. In reality and her imagination.

Well, after watching this film, and keeping a very open mind, I really enjoyed it. There is a massive difference between this and Chan-Wook’s other works, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The end result of the film gave me a slightly warm feeling inside, which none of the director’s other films have done. Looking at it from an unbiased point of view, some may look at this film as a slightly strange an possibly unappealing storyline, that can boggle the mind at times. But if you give it a chance, you may discover a lovely film that will have you smiling towards the end.

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One of the best parts of the film, in my opinion is Young-Goon’s remake of the christmas carol ‘Silent Night’. As in her mind it becomes ‘Silent Rice’. And you can pretty much guess what the rest of the lyrics are like from that.

Totoro Forest Project

After browsing the internet, as I usually do in my boredom waiting to go back to university, I stumbled across a very interesting website. After reading and studying it, I thought I should share it with fans of Miyazaki and Totoro :]

The Sayama Forest is located in Japan and is approximately 8750 acres. It is a beautiful forest which is said to be the main inspiration behind Hayao Miyazaki’s ‘My Neighbour Totoro’. The forest has been losing land since developments started in the 1970’s and 80’s. But in 1990, when it seemed that all hope in the forest had faded, Miyazaki set up the national trust fund for the park: Totoro no Furusato Fund, to help nurture and care for the forest and its surroundings. Since it has been set up, the trust fund has gained over 1500 strong members, and raised over 3 million dollars. The money that has gone into the fund has being used to buy parts of the developed land back from the city.

Totoros Countryside
The Inspired Totoro Countryside

The Totoro Forest Project is an auction and exhibition to raise money for the Totoro no Furusato National Trust Fund. The event will auction off many pieces of art work, created by acclaimed artists from around the world who specialize in animation and the fine arts.

The auction will be on September 6th ’08 and is held at Pixar Studios in Emeryville. Even though it is still far away for most people to go (me included), there still is a chance to make your donation through the online auction. But if all of it is too expensive, there is said to be a very detailed book of some of the art work available to buy online aswell (but there are limited amounts!). And lastly, a mixture of artwork will be put together at an amazing exhibition in San Fransisco at the Cartoon Art Museum, starting from the 20th Sept. All of the money raised within the auction will go to the trust fund for the Totoro Forest.

Here is a preview of one of the featured pieces of artwork, taken from the Totoro Forest Project Website, by Mike Dutton: ‘Sunset Sky and the Cypruss of Sighs’.

Mike Dutton

Mike Dutton

Check out the Totoro Forest Project’s website for more information on the artists involved and more updated information about the exhibtition and the auction :]

Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea

As you may or may not know, the new Ghibli film, Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea (Gake no Ue no Ponyo) recently graced Japanese theatres this July. It is written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, produced by Toshio Suzuki, and has a delightful soundtrack from Ghibli veteran Joe Hisaishi. It hopefully should be due for release in the UK in April of 2009.

The story centers around a young female goldfish who decides to run away from her home and family situated deep in the sea. She finds herself washed up on shore and is eventually rescued by a human boy, Sōsuke, who is 5 years old and lives on a cliff near the sea. He decides to call her Ponyo, and they instantly become friends. The narrative then unfolds more when Ponyo’s father comes looking for the young goldfish, and she pleads for him to become human so she can spend her time with Sōsuke, as she has started to fall for him. Here we can see Miyazaki’s need for love in his films coming through as usual. He believes that love can occur at any age and no matter what it can succeed.

“Ponyo places Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid in a contemporary Japanese setting. It is a tale of childhood love and adventure” – Hayao Miyazaki

Ponyo the goldfish

Ponyo the goldfish

If you liked My Neighbour Totoro then your more than likely to love this. It’s amazing animation combined with a clever dialogue makes for an incredible view. If you look really close at some images it appears to have been simply coloured in with crayons and pencils, and it makes it seem more childlike, however not in a bad way. The way that colour has been used within Ponyo is a change from usual Ghibli films and shows audiences just how much variation that they can actually achieve. And we can see that if we compare My Neighbours The Yamadas and Ponyo to all other Ghibli films.

Have a look at the trailer below if your still curious. It is in Japanese, however if you don’t speak the language you can still get an idea of the film if you watch closely. Enjoy!

**PONYO OFFICIAL UK RELEASE DATE: HASN’T BEEN CONFIRMED YET. WAS APRIL 3RD BUT IT HAS BEEN PUSHED BACK. WILL UPDATE WHEN I KNOW ANYMORE!**

Play.com are giving you the chance to insert your email address to inform you when Ponyo will be available to pre-order in the UK!

Princess Mononoke

One of the more recognisable films of Studio Ghibli, to some, would be Princess Mononoke. Its amazing and stunning visuals make it one of the best masterpieces of all time, and deserves all the hype it gets.  Proudly being one of Film Four’s top 50 films to see before you die.

Princess Mononoke follows Prince Ashitaka setting off on a journey to cure his mysterious curse given to him when he kills a bore god. On his adventure he meets a young girl, San, who lives with wolf god Moro and her two pups, as they are trying to fight the humans from tearing down the forest. As the story continues, we see the relationship between San and Ashitaka grow, and the consequences of others change their lives forever.

Now the most special thing about Princess Mononoke is the way in which it is made.  Even after ten minutes of the film, i still find it hard to believe that it’s hand drawn. With more CG (computer generated) effects than any other Ghibli film to the current date it was made, it adds to the powerfulness of the narrative. It was mainly used to help the bring out the colour of all the hand drawn cells, and to simply speed up the process of the film, while at the same time making it blend in and look amazing.

San and Ashitaka

San and Ashitaka

Again, the soundtrack to this film is incredible. As other Ghibli films have their chirpy and catchy music, Princess Mononoke includes songs that can easily give you goosebumps, whether watching the film or listening to the music alone (the main theme song is sung by Yoshikazu Mera in Japanese). The difference between Mononoke and other films, when looking at music, would be the way that it doesn’t force music into your ears, it just appears to simply be in the background, adding to the mood of the film.

I think that after seeing Princess Mononoke, I have realised how much that I would love to see a Ghibli film at the cinemas, however, when Tales From Earthsea came out, it was shown in maybe 2 or 3 cinemas across England (and even those we in London and Edinburgh). I doubt, however, that any other Ghibli films in the future will ever come to local cinemas around Britain, which is very disappointing. Even though this may be the case it won’t stop my admiration for the films and the approach they have taken on every story that has been made so far.

If i was to conclude Princess Mononoke, I would note the more beautiful and aspiring parts of the film, and how it makes you feel once you have watched it. The end sequence of the film (i wont give it away), is my favourite one of all time, just for the feeling it gives me alone. The sense that even though all of the characters have lost something in one way or another, whether that being a loved one, their homes, or their forest, they have all gained something whether they know it or not.

My own Totoro’s

As you might have gathered, I am a huge Totoro fan. Its hard to find Totoro toys or collectables in England, so i usually have to order them from other countries. However, one day, when i had my creative head on, i decided to make something that would be simple, easy and effective.

So i gave myself a few days to make my own templates, find materials and create my own Totoro’s and sootballs. The final result was more than i expected and I was so pleased. Even though i made up all of the measurements I think that it came out better than id have hoped. Let me know what you think anyway :]

My Totoro's

Super Smash Bros. Brawl

The Super Smash Brothers series has been around since 1999, however I only started playing when it came out on the Nintendo Gamecube, named as Super Smash Bro.s Melee. Ever since i picked up that controller, chose Link as a character, I have been hooked ever since. And after playing Melee for a large period in my life, i was over the moon to hear that a new SSB game was going to be released.

Two and a half years later, Super Smash Bros Brawl burst onto our Wii’s. After the first intial excitement, i grabbed my Wiimote (unlike some i dont use the gamecube controller) and spent hours with my old character Link, brawling my face off. Unlike the Melee characters, Brawl has expanded the graphics and the series in which the characters are from. My favourite; Link, has being brought forward to be the Twilight Princess Link, which as you can see below has been an amazing difference from the Melee character.

Melee Link

Melee Link

Brawl Link

Brawl Link

Now if you were wondering how the game works or what is its appeal, then its a very simple answer. You fight your opponents until their percentage is so high that you can smash them off the screen. However, its not as brutal as you may think.  Being a traditional Nintendo game we see all the recognisable characters return to the series, such as Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Zelda and so on. Now, being an animated style game, players dont expect to see blood and gore, and they dont get it. It is a family game which you can beat other players to your hearts content.

There are many new features such the Subspace Emissary, which you can play different characters in an adventure mode which can last for MANY hours, so dont try to rush into it at once (like i tried). Solo mode includes Boss Battles where you can pick a character to fight all of the bosses that are in Subspace in a random order. Other new modes include All Star, where again you choose any character, but this time fight all the other characters that you can choose in Brawl in a series of battles. But one of the more better points to Brawl is, of course, the multiplayer mode. With all new ways to play (such as a ‘flower metal 300% curry tiny’ match- which is worth having a laugh at), Brawl can easily be classed as one of the best games for the Wii so far.

However, even though im biased with this game i can still say that it has its negative points. It appears to be a game for more hardcore gamers, only meaning that i can see people getting bored with it easier than say someone who has been playing the series for a while. Just for the fact that younger people do like to have an adventure mode, however the Subspace Emissary could be a little too hard, even on easy, for some. Another con of the game would be its online mode. Many times ive had the game freeze of skip a bit when im playing, which isnt helpful when your trying to kick someone in the face before they get you. So even though it does have a few negative points, it still is one of the best games ive played.

Let me know if you agree or not!