“The Nut Job” stars Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Gabriel Iglesias, Jeff Dunham, Liam Neeson, and Katherine Heigl. Released on January 17, 2014, the film is about a purple squirrel who recruits a group of park animals to help him rob a nut shop.
The film is directed by Peter Lepeniotis, who served as an animator for films such as Toy Story 2 and Dinosaur. It is based on the 2005 animated short, Surly Squirrel, by Lepeniotis. With the release of the animated sequel, The Nut Job 2, heading our way, I decided to look back at its predecessor to see whether or not it is worthy of spawning a new animated franchise. The last time I saw this film was actually more than three years ago during its original theatrical run. I remember not liking it for a few reasons, including the main character. Looking back at it now for the first time since then, it’s possible that my opinion may change a little bit, but let’s find out, anyway.
The story takes place in a fictional town of Oakton City, where a group of furry animals are facing a food shortage issue. Because, you know, animals need food to survive the harsh wintery days. But when a thieving purple squirrel named Surly (Arnett) makes the situation even worse, he wound up being banished from the clan. He later comes across a nut shop and decides to steal every piece of nut that is stored in the building, but he might need a little help from the other animals if he wants to accomplish that goal. To put it in a more simpler perspective, it is a kid-friendly version of every heist film that we’ve seen countless times. Not only that, but it also expresses the theme of friendship. While the little ones will be entertained by the cartoonish shenanigans from the park animals, it sadly didn’t do any favors for movie buffs and animation lovers alike. The film’s story has plenty of predictable and mediocre moments that are destined to get nitpicked by almost everyone, and it doesn’t get any better as it went on. There were a few things that I found entertaining, however, including the end credit sequence where the characters dance to PSY’s hit song “Gangnam Style”, but that’s about it. I wonder if the sequel will include another song from PSY. The animation wasn’t something to write about either. While not as bad as…Oh, I don’t know, Norm of the North, it does look pretty bland and uninteresting. I think the biggest offender of this film would have to be the characters. Ranging from obnoxious to forgettable, these animals gave me a hard time to grow attached to them during their quest to retrieve some nuts. On the plus side, the cast did a decent job with their vocal performances. I thought Arnett was a good choice to voice Surly because his voice matches his rude personality almost perfectly. The only downside to this is that his mean-spiritedness can be a bit much for those who wanted a more respectable animated character that their kids can relate to. This is one of the reasons why I didn’t like the film that much, and after watching it today, my reason remains unchanged. Probably my least favorite character in the film would have to be the idiotic Grayson, voiced by Brendan Fraser. At some points, he’s a glory-hogging nutcase (no pun intended), but later on in the film, he can become a big pain in the butt. This squirrel will make you tear your hair apart the moment he appears onscreen. My respectable tip to all you future voice actors out there: Loud and annoying does not always equal funny, so be careful. The only character that is actually smarter than the other animals is Andie, voiced by Heigl, who teams up with Surly to secure the nuts. That reminds me, why isn’t she the main character? The humor has some chuckle-worthy moments here and there, but during certain times, they just included the “nut” lines just to force in a laugh from the kids.
Overall, “The Nut Job” has its share of moments that the younger viewers will go nuts for, but it will also make movie buffs and animation lovers go nuts for all the wrong reasons. With its mediocre plot, uninteresting animation, and characters that are either annoying, mean-spirited, or just plain forgettable, this is one heist that is best left undone. I don’t think it’s necessary for the filmmakers to develop a sequel to this unless they got something that’ll make it a bit better than the original. I highly doubt it, but I won’t know for sure until I see it for myself this weekend. If you’re interested in seeing it, it’s available to watch on Amazon Prime as of this writing. Otherwise, go watch the adult-rated heist films.
“Kiki’s Delivery Service” stars Minami Takayama, Rei Sakuma, Keiko Toda, and Kappei Yamaguchi. Released on July 29, 1989, the film is about a young witch who moves to a new town and uses her flying ability to run a delivery business.
The film is directed by Hayao Miyazaki, who also directed films such as Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, and Spirited Away. It is based on the 1985 novel of the same name by Eiko Kadono. The next film in my list of classic Studio Ghibli reviews is, of course, another animated classic that I remembered watching when I was little. There have been plenty of coming-of-age stories that reflect on the challenges that people went through as they grow older, but what if one of them is actually a witch? It sounds pretty bizarre on paper, but that idea managed to win over critics and audiences alike upon its release. The film also became the first Studio Ghibli film to be released under the partnership between Disney and Studio Ghibli in 1998, with the English cast including Spider-Man star Kirsten Dunst as Kiki, comedian Phil Hartman as Jiji, her feline companion, and Matthew Lawrence as Tombo. So, what made the film soar above expectations during its original release, and how exactly did I feel after viewing it for the first time on the big screen? Let’s find out. For this review, I will once again be looking at the original Japanese dub of the film.
As I said before, the story is a simple coming-of-age story about a witch named Kiki (Takayama) who sets off on her own to a new town in order to earn a living. However, it does involve a lot of themes that a lot of people, including myself, can really relate to, such as adolescence, independence, and confidence. The story offers a few misadventures or challenges that Kiki has to face while living in a new city by herself, like running a delivery service and losing her flying powers during the film’s climax, but they all serve a purpose in establishing its themes, and they work perfectly. This is probably one of the most relatable and thought-provoking stories that Miyazaki has created because there are a lot of adolescents who are also going through that phase themselves, especially my older sister when she moved out of the house a couple of years ago. What’s even better is that they added some fantasy elements into the story for the kids to enjoy while also keeping it more grounded for the mature fans of animation. The Japanese voice cast was wonderful in terms of bringing their splendid characters to life, especially Takayama as Kiki. As a reviewer, I found Kiki to be a remarkable and well-written character for a reason. Yes, she is a witch that can fly on her broom, but in terms of of the challenges she’s facing in the film, she is also described as a vulnerable and independent person just like us, and I thought they did a really good job in developing that type of character. Kiki’s feline companion, Jiji, was also a good character in terms of providing the right amount of comic relief. For the Japanese version, the filmmakers classified Jiji as a female cat in the form of Rei Sakuma, while for the English version, they described Jiji as a male cat in the form of Phil Hartman in the Disney dub and Kerrigan Mahan in the 1990 Streamline English dub. Gender swap in an anime, ladies and gentlemen. The animation still remains as one of Studio Ghibli’s stronger aspects, and looking back at it now, it still looks amazing after 28 years of release. From its gorgeous sceneries to Kiki’s flight sequences, the animation did wonders in providing a brilliant experience while also showcasing plenty of depth in the characters themselves. Like My Neighbor Totoro, Joe Hisaishi’s musical score in “Kiki’s Delivery Service” has a sense of innocence and wonder that is unique to listen to, and it still sounds great today.
Overall, “Kiki’s Delivery Service” is a splendid delivery that’ll cater to young kids, adolescents, and adult fans of animation. The story and the characters were well-written and thought-provoking, the animation looks great as always, and the score is wonderful to listen to. It does sound like I’m sugarcoating it a bit, but I got to be honest with you, I still had a lot of fun watching this film again, especially on the big screen. It was charming, funny, and best of all, relatable. A highly recommended film to die-hard fans of Studio Ghibli and to those who enjoy watching Japanese animation.
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” stars Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, and Kodi Smit-McPhee. Released on July 11, 2014, the film has Caesar struggling to keep his community of intelligent apes alive while the humans search for a way to survive the aftermath of a plague.
The film is directed by Matt Reeves, who also directed Cloverfield and Let Me In, and it is a sequel to the 2011 film, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. With the success of Rise, multiple sequels were being discussed to continue the story of Caesar and his ape family. Rupert Wyatt, the director of Rise, decided not to return to direct Dawn due to his concerns about the release date and handed over the reigns to Cloverfield director Matt Reeves. Cloverfield and Dawn are the only two movies I’ve seen that Reeves directed and while I did enjoy Cloverfield for its tone and its entertaining found-footage style, it was actually Dawn that got me captivated with Reeves’ storytelling. I only saw this film twice in the theater and I can not tell you how much this film affected me on the inside. In fact, I actually liked it a lot more than Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which usually doesn’t happen a lot with sequels. Keep in mind that it’s about a group of CGI apes. Looking back at it now as a critic, I still happened to love every minute of it.
The story takes place ten years after the events of Rise, with the ALZ-113 virus wiping most of the human population off the face of the planet. The remaining survivors who are immune to the virus built their own safety zone in San Francisco to protect themselves. Meanwhile, Caesar (played by Serkis) and the apes built their own civilization in the woods near the city so they can live their own lives without any humans hunting them. Unlike its predecessor, this sequel tends to be a lot darker in terms of its tone and the stakes that these characters are facing. It’s violent in some occasions, but that doesn’t mean it lacks the emotional depth and the message that it’s getting across. That’s one of the reasons why this sequel is a big hit for me. They provided the action spectacle to showcase the consequences of violence, not just for the sake of entertaining its audience. Matt Reeves was a great choice to direct this film because of his ability to develop not just the human characters, but also the apes. When I finished watching this film, I realized that, in my own assumption, these characters, both human and ape, are not described as heroes or villains. They are described as beings who are driven by their own emotions to make the choices that either help or hurt themselves and those around them. Koba (Toby Kebbell), Caesar’s lieutenant, is a good example because his anger towards the humans for experiment mistreatment lead him towards a darker path (no spoilers in case you haven’t seen it yet). The way they executed this type of development was something that other directors should take note of if they’re planning on making something like this. This is one of those things that really affected the way I see summer blockbusters. The entire cast delivered some great performances from start to finish. Jason Clarke was pretty impressive as Malcolm, one of the humans who befriended Caesar, and Gary Oldman delivered an affective performance as Dreyfus, the leader of the remaining human survivors who wanted the one thing that the apes also want: survival. Andy Serkis takes center stage as he once again provided the voice and motion capture for Caesar, and he stole the entire show like he did in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I still love the way they developed Caesar for this film because of the responsibilities he had as the leader of the apes. He knows what the humans did to the apes, but he refuses to wage war on them because if that happens, then he and his community will suffer unimaginable losses and their chance at living in peace will die with them. I can tell you one thing, no one can make this character feel more real than Serkis himself. The visual effects also made an upgrade compared to its predecessor. In my review for Rise, I said that the visuals were impressive, but looking back at it six years after its release, there were some occasions where the CGI on the apes looked dated. Here, however, the visuals still looked amazing after watching it again now. Everything about the visuals, including the apes, made the experience much more thrilling and realistic than any other sci-fi blockbuster. The musical score by Michael Giacchino was also very clever in showcasing the emotion from certain scenes without being forceful.
Overall, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is not only one of my favorite sequels in years, but also one of the most stunning and well-developed summer blockbusters that anyone has ever made. The film managed to kick it up a notch with its tone and the action without losing sight of the character development and the emotion that it’s going for. The performances were great, Andy Serkis was brilliant as Caesar, and Reeves’ storytelling was nothing but pure genius. Now that I’m caught up with the first two films of the reboot series, I think it’s safe to say that I’m ready to fight in the war. Not the actual war, the war for the planet of the apes. Why would I want to fight in a real war? That’s just messed up. If you like Rise of the Planet of the Apes and are familiar with the 1968 version of Planet of the Apes, I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed with this. Apes…together…strong.
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” stars James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, and Andy Serkis. Released on August 5, 2011, the film is about a chimp who leads an army of apes on a revolution against the humans.
The film is directed by Rupert Wyatt, who also directed The Escapist and the 2014 remake of The Gambler. It is a reboot of the Planet of the Apes film series. With the latest Planet of the Apes film coming out on July 14, I decided to look back at the first two films that form the Planet of the Apes reboot series, which showcases the events that lead up to the 1968 original. Now, normally I would watch the original and its sequels first, and then move on to the reboot series, but for some reason, I just didn’t have enough time to watch all of them before War for the Planet of the Apes comes out, so I decided to shorten up the film marathon a bit and start with this. Before this film, I wasn’t that very familiar with the franchise to begin with since I’m more focused on the recent releases, but the marketing for it managed to grab my attention. I saw it in the theater with my father and I remembered loving every minute of it. While I haven’t found the right time for me to check out the original Planet of the Apes film, I did manage to grow attached to the franchise via the prequel films. Looking back at it now, I still find it to be a great introduction to the reboot series that not only delivers on the science fiction thrills, but also on its story.
The cast delivered some great performances, including James Franco as Will Rodman and Tom Felton as Dodge Landon.
Andy Serkis was absolutely brilliant as Caesar. His expressions and his unique ability to bring his characters to life are perfect examples of his motion capture performance.
Rupert Wyatt’s direction was solid in terms of mixing in emotion and character depth with its usual blockbuster thrills.
The visual effects, mostly the motion capture on the apes, were pretty impressive, but watching it again now, they do look a bit noticeable at times.
The film has its cliched messages about messing with something they can’t control.
Final thoughts: “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is still a science-fiction treat that relies on strong themes and character-driven moments without sacrificing the thrills and the visual flair that most action blockbusters are known for. Lead by a talented cast, Serkis’ memorable performance as Caesar, and Wyatt’s direction, this 2011 reboot to the sci-fi classic still holds a place as one of the rare reboots that actually works. If you’re a fan of the Planet of the Apes franchise or a simple newcomer to the film series, I would highly recommend it.
“My Neighbor Totoro” stars Noriko Hidaka, Chika Sakamoto, Shigesato Itoi, Sumi Shimamoto, and Hitoshi Takagi. Released on April 16, 1988, the film is about two young girls and their encounters with some friendly wood spirits.
The film is directed by Hayao Miyazaki, who also directed films such as The Castle of Cagliostro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and The Wind Rises. With the latest Transformers film out of the way, along with a new film from last weekend, it’s time for me to once again review something from the good old days of animation. No, I’m not reviewing another Disney classic. Not yet, anyway. I’m talking about the good old days of Japanese animation, mostly from Studio Ghibli. To those of you who are new to my blog, back in January, I saw and reviewed another Studio Ghibli classic, Princess Mononoke, in celebration of the film’s 20th anniversary. With the success of the special theatrical events of that movie and Spirited Away, Fathom Events teamed up with acclaimed distributer, GKIDS, to form a series of special two-day events known as Studio Ghibli Fest 2017 in order to bring some of Studio Ghibli’s beloved classics to the big screen, with this film being one of them. With no other new releases to get to until next weekend, I decided to take the opportunity and witness one of their films for the first time in the theater. Totoro was one of the animated films that I remembered watching throughout my childhood when it comes to my experience with Studio Ghibli. I somehow remembered the Fox Video English dub of the film, but the Disney dub of it, with Dakota Fanning and Elle Fanning voicing Satsuki and Mei, respectively, was something that I adored the most. Maybe it’s because it has Disney in the title and I adore watching Disney films. Now that I got a chance to see it on the big screen, does it capture the same theatrical experience as Mononoke? Like I did with Princess Mononoke, I will be looking at the Japanese dub of the film because unsurprisingly, the original dub is the way to go when watching Studio Ghibli films.
To describe a film like this, this is one of those animated features that don’t involve any types of violent conflict that they’re mostly known for. Rather, it forms a simple, yet imaginative, drama that connects to both children and adults alike. Recently, we have several animated films for kids that contain certain sequences that may frighten them or contain some type of humor that they’ll soon understand when they reach adulthood, but it feels nice to see something that’s as sweet, charming, and safe as Disney’s Winnie the Pooh. You’re probably wondering why I’m comparing Winnie the Pooh to a Studio Ghibli film. Well, why shouldn’t I? They’re both kid-friendly. The film’s story has this unique blend of fantasy and realism that managed to entertain kids as well as adults like myself, and after less than 30 years of release, I still love how they tell this type of story. While the kids will enjoy its sense of imagination and joy, the adults will appreciate the film’s portrayal of its themes, such as the realities of life. To be honest, I happen to enjoy both of these things. The Japanese voice cast did a solid job voicing some very likable characters, such as Hidaka as Satsuki and Sakamoto as Mei. Takagi provided the voice of Totoro, the king of the forest that resides right next to the girls’ new home. If I could explain Totoro in just a few simple words, I would say that he’s a big, furry, cuddly teddy bear…who happens to be a part of the Studio Ghibli logo. A lot of people love Totoro when it was first introduced to the public, and I can fully understand why. He is so adorable and innocent. Every time I see him on screen, it just leaves a big smile on my face, and I’m pretty sure everybody will feel the same way. The animation in the film still looks amazing from start to finish, especially the designs of the creatures, and the musical score by Joe Hisaishi is undeniably remarkable for matching its innocent and fun tone.
Overall, in a world filled with animated films that involve violence, cartoonish slapstick, and some rude humor, “My Neighbor Totoro” still remains as one of those perfect animated features that rely on innocence, imagination, and most of all, storytelling. Like Winnie the Pooh, I would consider “Totoro” to be a harmless and entertaining film that younger kids can enjoy before they watch some of the other animated features that might be a bit scary or mind-numbing compared to this. As for me, I still love the film because of its animation, the characters, its sense of imagination, and Totoro himself. If you’re asking me which dub I prefer the most, well, you’re asking the wrong guy because I happen to enjoy both versions of Totoro, the Japanese dub and the Disney dub, for different reasons. I might be able to watch both of these versions again if I have the time, but right now, I would highly recommend the film to anyone who’s a fan of animation and to those who are big-time fans of Studio Ghibli. If you haven’t seen it yet, then for goodness sake, find the right time to do so, because it’s that good.