The Descent (2005): I Haven’t Seen the Sequel But I Still Like To Pretend It Doesn’t Exist

I watched this film for one of my classes. Before this class, I only had the vague notion of remembering it on the walls of Blockbuster.

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I definitely remember seeing this on the walls of Blockbuster back when Blockbuster wasn’t a relic of the past.

My title makes it sound like I didn’t like the film, but that’s really not the case. I just thought the original, British ending was very good, complete, and a sequel completely unnecessary and, frankly, missing the entire point. (Similarly, if you ask me about the Maximum Ride series, but I will insist that only three books exist in the series.)

The Descent (Neil Marshall) follows six women who go exploring in a previously undiscovered cave and become trapped within it, where they are preyed on upon by carnivorous humanoid creatures.

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What could possibly go wrong?

Even without the later flesh-eating things that inhabit the cave, it’s still rather horrifying. The first half of the film, you are reminded constantly of the dangers of spelunking and their constant risk of just dying in that cave. Dark, cramped, and completely unknown, that in itself is enough to bother people. Plus, caves are objectively creepy, like mirrors or dolls or clowns.

These women experience all sorts of horrors and the film is filled with all kinds of suspense. The dark, claustrophobic focus of the frame was enough to keep me at the edge of my seat.

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Caves are just kind of scary, even without flesh-eating monsters.

The thing was, it wasn’t so scary. It was rather intense, very suspenseful, and it was thrilling. Flesh-eating humanoid things don’t even come in until nearly an hour into the film, but it still remains intense as the women attempt to find their way out of the cave.

I will put a disclaimer: I tend to be less scared when it comes to corporeal horrors (exception is perhaps clowns). Ghostly things, spirits, possession, etc., those tend to creep me out more. I also find it less terrifying when the creature/monster/whatever is confined to a certain geographical location, like the Appalachians in this case. I don’t live anywhere near the Appalachians, so it makes it easier to put behind me. Stuff like ghosts though? Geography is not one of their limitations and that kind of freaks me out.

The Descent was exciting though. The darkness of the cave and the ferociousness of the crawlers (as I believe they are called in the credits) make it an intense film that did keep me on the edge of my seat.

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Don’t get me wrong, the crawlers were very creepy.

Sorry, spoiler, people die. What was interesting about it were the alternate theories that float around the strange realm of Reddit. Mild spoilers ahead (although nothing that can’t be guessed) though.

Just in case you want to skip ahead to the conclusion.

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There was this theory that suggested that Sarah was the one that killed them all and that the cave was a representation of her broken psyche and that the crawlers never existed. It was not the first thing I thought when I watched it, but the Reddit thread made some pretty convincing arguments if anyone cares to search for it.

I usually roll my eyes at the overused “it’s all in your head” trope, but this thread brought up some evidence that I couldn’t quite counter. I think I may need a little more convincing, but it’s certainly got a start.

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Conclusion: The Descent is exciting and thrilling and suspenseful, but, while having all the classic horror tropes (group lost somewhere without any help coming, people dying one by one, wandering off alone for no discernible reason other than the fact they were in a horror movie), doesn’t quite play off as horrifying as the cover makes it seem; however, it still does not put off the audience as it incorporates interesting turns on some horror tropes and utilizes all the suspense effectively. Bonus points for the all-women cast. 6/10.

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The Hunger Games, Mockingjay, Part 1: Definitely Not Revolutionary

I finally got around to watching this movie. I’d been meaning to ever since it came out, but it just didn’t really happen until winter break.

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Like I get the whole keeping a theme idea, but I swear the covers all look exactly the same.

Directed by Francis Lawrence, we continue the story of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), who had been tragically subjected to the Hunger Games twice, and is now being recruited to be the Mockingjay, a symbol for the growing riots against the Capitol.

It was so slow.

The pace was unbearably slow. All throughout the movie, all I could wonder was how long this was going to last. Around half an hour into the movie, I was already pretty much done. If nothing in particular has happened in thirty minutes, I lose interest very quickly.

I guess the development was good. There were many specific details and gradual showing as opposed to everything being thrust into your face at once, but it was still too slow.

I haven’t seen the second part, but I think I would live if they didn’t split it into two parts.

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Let me deceive you into thinking there are tons of explosions.

The movie, although probably pretty well executed on many other parts, was just grey and bland and flat. The acting was on par with the other movies in the franchise, the setting, special effects, all of that felt pretty on par with the other movies. But the slow pace was blinding.

While watching it, all I could notice was how slow the movie was. It’s two hours seemed to drag on forever. About every ten minutes, I was tempted to just stand up and walk away (i.e., close the browser window). But I stuck through it just so that I could complain about it later.

To me, the slow pace could have been avoided. First of all, everyone probably would have lived if both Mockingjay movies had been combined (I haven’t seen the second part, but at this moment, I’m convinced this would have also worked). Second, there could have been more action, more explosions, more exciting sequences.

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The movie was basically this color the entire way through.

Tons of movies substitute exciting special effects and action scenes for plot. While perhaps useless for a literary analysis of the movie and its themes, it’s usually very successful for entertaining the audience, particularly if the movie has a high budget, which I assume is the case for Mockingjay, Part 1.

Overall, I just felt very dissatisfied, especially since I had been pretty pleased with the previous movies. The music was on point, but it was hard to notice past the sluggish pace of the film. While not an awful film that’s worth detesting, I was still disappointed and I really didn’t enjoy this movie experience.

Conclusion: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 reveals the tale of Katniss and the Mockingjay, but much too slowly, creating a stagnant and sepia-filtered two hours with hardly any action to substitute the lack of plot, resulting in a very bland film that really doesn’t live up to its prequels in the franchise. 3.5/10.

Kingsman, The Secret Service (2015): Bringing Back the Fancy Spy Equipment That All Spy Movies Need

I finally got the chance to watch this movie. I wasn’t sure what it was about, but I had heard good things about it.

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Promising cast, promising poster, I was pretty interested.

Kingsman: The Secret Service (directed by Matthew Vaughn) follows Eggsy Unwin (Taron Egerton) as he is recruited into a secret spy organization that calls themselves the Kingsmen. Samuel L. Jackson is Richmond Valentine, the strange villain, and Colin Firth plays as Harry Hart, the secret agent that takes Eggsy under his wing.

It gave off a Wanted (2008, directed by Timur Bekmambetov) feel, almost. Although very different movies, the execution of its plot, characters, and violence felt very similar.

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I remember this being an excellent movie, I would highly recommend it.

The plot was decent; it was interesting and not unoriginal, but it certainly didn’t make any mind-blowing or groundbreaking revelations. I have no complaints about it, but there wasn’t really anything in there that I would particularly praise. The idea did not break any creative boundaries, but it was something I hadn’t seen in a while and I felt the movie executed it well.

The characters could be said to be interesting, but it was more of their certain, personal characteristics that made them interesting, and not their development. Colin Firth played Galahad extremely well, the experienced and classy gentleman who had taken a liking to Eggsy. However, it felt very two-dimensional. Galahad, or Harry Hart, only had that one facet to him. I felt as if the guilt and backstory could have been more of an important aspect to the movie; it would have provided more insight to how Harry was, as a character. Right now, it felt like Harry was more of an idea of a man, rather than an actual three-dimensional character.

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Very cool, very classy, very badass; all in all, a very good character combination.

Richmond Valentine was very interesting, but again, like Galahad, only because of his certain quirks, like his fashion sense and the lisp. Valentine’s character seemed to only be there for the role of the strange villain, much like those bland villains who are supposed to be smart in spy movies, but a little bit better, because Valentine is certainly more interesting, and also because it’s Samuel L. Jackson. But without those, there would be nothing left of Richmond Valentine.

Eggsy is just not that interesting, let’s be honest. Yeah, the parkour was cool, the street smarts and quick fingers were cool, but other than that, Eggsy did not stand out.

The two-dimensionality of the characters didn’t really bother me throughout the movie though; the cinematography and violence was enough to entertain me.

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The beginning of a wonderful bar fight.

The violence, while more so than some other movies, was not such a big deal, at least to me. Not that it isn’t gory, it just wasn’t as gory. There was a lot of blood, but nothing that really piqued as disturbing. I also really appreciated the music during the violent scenes; although they were certainly morbid, it was a relief the movie did not try to play that angle because it really wouldn’t have worked.

What I really enjoyed was actually somewhat childish–all of the cool, seemingly mundane gadgets the Kingsmen could play with. The gun disguised as an umbrella, the hand grenade lighter, classy shoes with a hidden blade–all of those cool spy cartoons I used to watch when I was younger had manifested into a real movie with intense choreography and bloody violence. I am a huge sucker for many tropes, and mundane objects that turn out to be deadly weapons is one of them.

Conclusion: Kingsman captivates the audience with the perfect spy, a gentleman exterior with a trained fighter hidden, and the entire idea of this is backed with plot and characters decent enough to keep the audience interested, but is not as developed as three-dimensionally as it could have been. Bonus points for the suits. 7/10.

The Suicide Theory (2014): I Am Contemplating About Fate Again

My dad recommended this movie to me, so naturally, I didn’t much of it and just assumed this to be some kind of typical thriller, because that’s usually what my dad likes.

I was wrong though. Sort of.

I wasn’t all that drawn towards it. But it was on Netflix and I didn’t have anything else to do.

Steven Ray (Steve Mouzakis) is very experienced in killing people. Percival Wells (Leon Cain) is a suicidal man that is seemingly invincible; after numerous attempts at suicide, he miraculously survives each one. Wishing to die, Percival hires Steven to kill him.

I had read the small blurb on Netflix before I watched this movie, and I was intrigued by the originality of this idea.

Although a relatively short movie and somewhat slow-paced, The Suicide Theory (directed by Dru Brown) managed to keep me interested throughout. There were some moments that felt a little dragged down to me, but overall, the development felt natural.

But mostly, I really enjoyed how the entire movie is linked through the motif of fate. If you have read my other reviews, you may have noticed that I am a sucker for the themes of humanity and fate in fiction.

Here we have the two unlikely friends bonding through video games.

Steven is a firm unbeliever in things like fate, while Percival is convinced there is a reason why they met. Oftentimes, the attempt at incorporating the concept of fate into a movie or a book falls flat with cliched lines or a very typical and boring hero (although that’s more of a destiny angle). The Suicide Theory thankfully does not fall into that category.

However, as much as I like fate, or at least the discussion of fate, The Suicide Theory didn’t really impress me much on other aspects. The entire movie seemed to be based on a bland, brownish color scheme. Most scenes took place at night or in dark places and it just felt like there was no contrast in the entire visual aspect of the movie.

It felt like the majority of the movie was like this.

I will admit that these scenes held a certain charm to them though, even if it was slightly on the trying-to-be-edgy-and-dark feel. Not that this film isn’t edgy and dark. Sort of.

Steven Ray was definitely dark and edgy though. A somewhat demented killer who lost his wife in a hit-and-run in front of his eyes with his share of deep, personal issues, Steven is very interesting. Everything revealed about him is subtle, but clear; I felt like I clearly understood what was being shown to me without it being shoved into my nose.

Percival is less interesting in this aspect, even if he is the one that can’t die, but his contribution to the movie was also crucial. Aside from the fact that he is one of the main characters.

Percival’s scarred face from his numerous suicide attempts.

The Suicide Theory deserves a lot of credit for its ending, because it actually took me by surprise (sort of), and, if I say so myself, I am not that easily surprised. The first “twist” ending, not so much. I saw that coming about halfway through the movie–one of those twist endings that have become so common that it becomes predictable.

I did not see the second “twist” ending coming. It wasn’t so much of a “twist” that took me by surprise, but it certainly made me blink twice.

Also, it was one of those endings that bring everything full circle, which is something I am also a sucker for. And it fit in really nicely with the whole idea of fate they were stringing throughout the movie.

Conclusion: The Suicide Theory draws in the audience with an interesting premise and manages to keep the audience interested even though the pace was slightly slow and the visual aspect a little bit bland as this atypical thriller presents the idea of fate and the stories of the people that become entangled in it. 6/10.

Mad Max, Fury Road (2015): It Was Madly Awesome That’s What It Was

I had heard lots of good things about this movie and I was very excited to watch it. I understood it had three movies before it, with the protagonist played by Mel Gibson, but I have not seen them. Now I want to though.

The poster did not set me up for what the movie was.

Mad Max: Fury Road (directed by George Miller) is the fourth movie in the Mad Max franchise, following the story of Max Rockstanby (Tom Hardy), who joins up with Furiosa (Charlize Theron) to escape from the tyrannical ruler, the Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Burne), along with his five wives that have been selected to breed his child, leading to super badass action scenes and explosions.

Taken place in a post-apocalyptic desert, I really would have liked to know more about this type of society they were all living in, but I assume I would have to watch the previous movies, which I haven’t, so I’m not complaining.

Also, Nicholas Hoult was in this movie, who I did not recognize until about halfway through when it suddenly occurred to me that this character, Nux, looked very familiar.

This is totally Nicholas Hoult but for some reason I didn’t realize until much later in the movie.

Thinking back, the plot was really good, but it wasn’t anything to the extent of phenomenal. It was fast-paced, interesting, and called for tons of action. It moved along well and I didn’t find any flaws with it, but it certainly didn’t make me grip the edge of my seat, dying to know what would come next.

The special effects, on the other hand, were phenomenal. First off, the road battles all involved giant, rusty war trucks that look like they have really bad mileage but I guess don’t because I think gasoline is a scarce resource in this post-apocalyptic world, so I assume they would have found some way to help their mileage.

While that looked cool in itself, especially the shots from above, when they overturn and explode, that was just amazing.

The pole guys were really neat too.

The action scenes were wonderful. It impressed me in a different way than other action movies or superhero movies, where I am pleased just by the large number of explosions. In Mad Max: Fury Road, the action scenes felt more balanced–in a way. It wasn’t just explosions and it wasn’t just hand-to-hand combat; it was a good balance of both, with a little extra as many of our main characters have superb aim and can create awesome scenes.

And, of course, the flame-thrower guitar can’t be left out. That guy was just plain awesome. What is not awesome about a flame-thrower guitar?

It’s a flame-thrower guitar. Absolutely fantastic.

Although there wasn’t much dialogue throughout, Mad Max: Fury Road managed to impress me with all its characters. I can’t say they were extremely three-dimensional, because I think I may need more back story on that, but they were solid characters.

I wish I had been able to see this movie in theaters, because the special effects, and the sound effects (especially the subwoofer) would have been absolutely mind-blowing, especially amplified on a giant screen.

What I really liked though was how it really just wasn’t what I was expecting. I mean, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was expecting, but it was not the end result. But, this is also coming from someone who hasn’t seen any other of the movies in the Mad Max franchise. So maybe this unexpected result is just me.

Conclusion: Mad Max: Fury Road captures the audience through an engaging plot and interesting characters, accompanied largely by many superb action scenes with badass and rugged war trucks in the yellow desert, maintaining both impressive special effects and a certain aesthetic to it that leaves the movie memorable. Bonus points for the flame-thrower guitar. 8/10.

Jurassic World (2015): My Inner Eight-Year-Old Almost Died of Excitement

I went through a dinosaur phase when I was in elementary school and Jurassic Park (directed by Steven Spielberg) is one of my favorite childhood movies. Needless to say, I was thoroughly excited when the trailer was released.

And this time, it’s not just dinosaurs eating people.

As opposed to the preview-tour-gone-awry in Jurassic ParkJurassic World (directed by Colin Trevorrow) takes it up a notch. The amusement park has been open for several years and it is one of the hottest attractions in the world. And, like many amusement parks, Jurassic World is preparing a new exhibit, the Indominus Rex, which leads to the inevitable: it escapes.

It was awesome.

Awesome, as in tons of dinosaur action, a dramatic soundtrack (composed by Michael Giacchino), and things getting destroyed. Jurassic World is the perfect movie for a fun, exciting two hours. I watched it in IMAX 3D, which was an excellent idea, because what beats high-definition dinosaurs on a giant screen?

If there was a real Jurassic World, I would 100% go. I would probably die, but I would go.

There’s not much to say about this movie. It’s not thoughtful, or deep. It’s simply fun and exciting, especially for Jurassic Park fans. Yes, I can give my normal schpiel on how great the effects were, how the soundtrack fits into the movie with the haunting theme of the original Jurassic Park. I could go on, but it would amount to almost every other movie review I’ve written on an action or superhero movie.

But there was just something else about it. I would watch Jurassic World again with a second’s hesitation. Give me a little more time and I would probably watch it a third time. And I hardly rewatch movies.

I suppose it’s the lack of concentration required for the plot. It’s obviously not a carbon copy of its prequel, but the plot is so similar that I was surprised I still really liked this movie. I mean, dinosaur gets out, chaos, people get eaten, giant dinosaur fight, ending. (I am so sorry if you felt like I spoiled this movie, but trust me, if you like dinosaurs, you’ll probably still enjoy the movie.)

Look at how unbelievably AWESOME this is. I want to go.

The thing with Jurassic World is that the plot really isn’t the focus. I mean, yeah, it plays a major role, but no one is going to go see Jurassic World for a deep, meaningful, and complex plot.

But who cares about plot when there’s awesome dinosaur action? I certainly didn’t.

And now with a new movie out, maybe next time I visit Universal Studios there’ll be a new Jurassic World ride that I can ride on three times in a row. Or wait in a line for two hours just to go on once.

Conclusion: Jurassic World was absolutely fantastic and I don’t really care what anyone else says, I thought it was amazing. But for real now: Jurassic World impresses the audience with high-end computer technology that brings many dinosaurs to life on the screen, and while the plot is somewhat lacking in ingenuity, Jurassic World ends up being a fun, exciting movie that is able to fully entertain the audience for its whole two hours. 9.5/10.

Mr. Lee vs Mr. Lee (2007): Wow, This Is Kind of Boring and…Oh

My mom recommended this 2007 Korean movie (directed by Kwang-jin Shim) to me.

And by “recommended,” I mean that she made me watch it.

You may think this is a heartwarming comedy, but it’s not. In fact, it’s the opposite.

Mr. Lee (Lee Dae-Geun) is an old, old man who is trying to reunite his family to hold a memorial service for his wife, who had passed away three or four years earlier. However, it seems that he had had a falling out with his two sons and daughter, but he seemed to be trying to make amends by bring them all together for the first time in seemingly several years. However, his third son is missing and there seemed to be no way to get in contact with him.

So at the memorial service, his daughter and older son show up with their spouses and they wait for the third son; a man called Agent Koo is currently searching around in an attempt to find him.

I’m not gonna lie. I thought it was really, really boring for the first hour or so. I almost gave up about forty minutes in, but I told my mom I would watch it, so I kept going.

Basically, the first hour consists of the family talking to each other, with the occasional angry outburst, some of which involve conflicts with Mr. Lee’s daughter, who is a devout Christian and refuses to bow in the traditional manner for her mother’s memorial service. Later, it gravitates towards the missing third son’s apparent failure in his business that his siblings and his father had given him lots of money for, which ultimately led to not enough money for the treatment of the mother.

This is Mr. Lee and his family. In order from left to right: Mr. Lee, his Christian daughter, his daughter-in-law, the husband of the Christian daughter and the attempt (and failure) at comic relief, and Mr. Lee’s oldest son.

I may have had a different take on this first half of the movie because I was under the impression that this was supposed to be a comedy, and this wasn’t funny at all, despite a few attempts at comic relief by the daughter’s husband, who often says the wrong things at the wrong time.

I was bored.

And then they had That Scene.

I want people to watch this, so I will not tell you what That Scene is. Besides, you’ll know when it comes up if you watch the movie.

That Scene completely changed the mood of the movie. And the plot too. I was really bored and then after That Scene, I was just really, really sad.

With just this scene that lasted less than a minute, I was suddenly struck by a wave of sadness. The movie just all of a sudden became really sad. Not the tear-jerker sad, but a pitiful, sympathetic, helpless sadness that slowly got worse and worse as more is revealed.

Not many movies have such strong turning points like That Scene. While watching it, while you are staring at the screen for those few minutes, it doesn’t seem like much. In fact, it was just a couple of very simple phrases, some bows, and that was it.

But then, it hits you, and suddenly, the entire movie just became the saddest thing ever.

Conclusion: Mr. Lee vs. Mr. Lee starts out almost unbearably boring, especially if it is mistaken for a happy comedy about a family as the cover suggests, but That Scene will make the entire movie worth it. 6.5/10

Laputa, Castle in the Sky (1986): Where It Makes You Go “Awwww”

Considering I watched this right after Grave of the Fireflies, this was a nice change and made me smile in its cuteness. From the characters, to the slightly cliche plot, and of course, the floating city in the sky, it was a very adorable movie.

You know, the cliched “she literally fell into his life” thing. But it’s cute.

Laputa, Castle in the Sky (directed by Hayao Miyazaki) tells the story of Sheeta and Pazu and their journey to find Laputa, the city in the sky. Sheeta is on the run from Muska while trying to hide her special amulet from all the villains.

Very cartoon-like, almost naive, in a way, Castle in the Sky needs just that to be the adorable and fun movie that it is. Although there are some surprisingly morbid moments, they are dismissed as they always are in cartoons.

The relationship between Pazu and Sheeta is almost borderline romantic, but most of all, they are friends. The romance part is a little bit awkward, depending on their ages, which is very debatable. They look like they could be eleven or sixteen. And then the part where all the flying pirates try to impress Sheeta when she works not their ship is also a little bit weird, depending on the age you see her as.

Like many Studio Ghibli characters, their age is completely open to debate.

The music was also fantastic, like all Miyazaki movie scores. It was actually one that I had already heard, but never figured out which movie it was from, so I jumped up with excitement when it played for the first time.

The overall plot was a little bit cliche, the motivations, even the characters, but somehow, none of it felt cliche. It felt almost natural. It’s only thinking back and phrasing it with my own words that make it sound cliche, but Miyazaki manages to convey this story without sort of awkward lumbering as thoughts of “Oh, this is so predictable” crosses, even if it was a little predictable.

Castle in the Sky is a fun, easy movie to watch. It’s not particularly meaningful, it’s not particularly philosophical. It’s just one of those movies where you watch it for the fun and the happy ending and the cliche moments where everything ends out perfect.

Here’s Laputa.

The scenery in Castle int he Sky was just breathtaking. I mean, just look at Laputa. And really everything else. There’s just that sense of Miyazaki magic in each scene. The colors, the clouds, the everything is just wonderfully beautiful.

The art and cinematography just adds to the fun sense of Castle in the Sky. Paired with the fantastic music, a simple, fun story about a lost princess and her friend and the pirates they meet and befriend along the way is turned from simply a story, to something that actually moved me.

One of the best parts about Castle in the Sky is its simplicity. There’s the good guys, there’s the bad guys. There’s what the right thing to do is, there’s what the wrong thing to do is. This movie doesn’t tackle the grey areas of life; it is a break from all of that, immersing the audience in a simple, black and white story about how good triumphs over evil, as it should.

Conclusion: Happy, cute, fun, and simple, Castle in the Sky makes for a wonderful movie to spend a happy weekend night and hopefully many more weekend nights as the story of Sheeta and Pazu takes the audience for a breathtaking ride along the skies of Miyazaki, adventuring alongside all of the fun characters, cheering as they win and as justice defeats the bad guys. 8/10.

Grave of the Fireflies (1988): Even the Title Makes Me Really Sad

I knew it was about war orphans, and I knew it was going to be sad, but that didn’t stop me from tearing up at the end. And being sad the whole way through.

Even this movie poster makes me sad. Everything about this is so sad.

Grave of the Fireflies (directed by Isao Takahata) without any doubt is a beautiful movie. The animation, the scenery, the music, the everything–it was all amazingly, hauntingly beautiful.

The movie begins with the ending, a dirty and malnourished boy lying in the subway station, weak and helpless. He dies, among the many others in that station alone, and his spirit, surrounded by a red hue, begins to narrate a flashback to when he was alive. Grave of the Fireflies takes place during the air raids in Japan during World War II, revealing the tragic story of Seita (voiced by Tsutomu Tatsumi) and his younger sister, Setsuko (voiced by Ayano Shiraishi), and their struggle for survival after they lose their mother in an air raid.

The story is tragic and moving. One of the most important aspects of the movie I think may be how sad the happy scenes were. We are shown many shots of Seita and Setsuko being happy as they play with fireflies and eat fruit candy drops.

The animation is stunningly beautiful. Everything is stunningly beautiful. Everything about this is stunning.

These scenes are supposed to show happiness, but I only felt sadness. I felt sad that this happiness was only temporary. I felt sad that their lives would never work out the way it should for children. I was sad that they had to go through the horrors of war. I was sad for them.

This is one of the few movies where I really, really felt for the characters. When Seita had to steal from others for his sick sister, when Setsuko made “rice balls” out of mud to give to Seita, I almost felt the sadness physically.

And one of the most powerful motifs was the fruit candy drops. This candy was what gave Setsuko temporary happiness. To me, it symbolized hope. As long as there was a sweetness in life, things could get better. When they had fruit drops, things got a little better already. And if that can get better, then the bigger things can get better. But we all know that it doesn’t happen.

One of my favorite aspects was Seita and Setsuko’s spirits watching the flashback. They are shown as illuminated in a red light.

Throughout the movie, they watch the flashback silently. The animation is just so amazing and I’m already getting sad again.

The spirits simply watch. Seita gives very brief narrations, but most of the time, he watches, holding Setsuko’s hand. To be honest, I’m not sure what exactly about this was so moving to me, but it quickly became my favorite part. It just added so much more to the movie.

I was glad that it was animation. It was realistic, but at the same time, if it were too realistic, say, as a live-action film, I think the impact wouldn’t have been as huge. Watching it animation, you didn’t need to focus on special effects, make-up, facial acting. With animation, you only needed to focus on the plot, the characters, the story of these characters and their lives.

Conclusion: A powerful, moving movie about two World War II orphans struggling to survive on their own, Takahata tugs at the audience with beautiful animation detailing the tragic story of Seita and Setsuko, leaving a powerful impression. Bonus points because it made me so much more sad than almost anything else I’ve watched. And more bonus points for becoming my favorite Studio Ghibli film. 9.8/10.

Avengers, Age of Ultron (2015): Kinda Cliche Plot and Some Corny Scenes But Also an Insanely Cool Movie

Not gonna lie, I am a pretty big Marvel movie fan. No, I’m not a comic book person, but hopefully I’ll read some this summer.

It’s a busy poster, but after all, it’s a busy movie. I have to admit, it’s a bit hard on the eyes though.

I watched this in IMAX, which was one of the best ideas ever (also, I found out when Jurassic World was coming out, so that was pretty exciting).

Avengers: Age of Ultron (directed by Joss Whedon) continues the adventures of the beloved Avengers. The movie starts out with impressive fighting and explosions and the Avengers completely overwhelming dozens after dozens of nameless and faceless soldiers. Later, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) somehow manages to integrate and wake this artificial intelligence into a robot called Ultron (James Spader), that is supposed to help defend the planet.

Naturally, defending the planet is not exactly on Ultron’s agenda. And so, the impressive and very expensive special effects ensue.

Plus the introduction of two new characters, the Maximoff twins, Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen).

Hard to believe Pietro was once that guy from “Kick-Ass.”

I know nothing about them, except for what was revealed in the movie, since I am very not familiar with the Marvel universe of the comic books. As characters, I have to admit, I wasn’t all that…captured by them. Sure, I liked them, but that was more because they had cool powers and they did something other than punching people in the face, which was basically 80% of the Avengers.

But I didn’t see much character. The only defining thing about them was their superpower abilities, but that’s hardly a character trait. And there really wasn’t much to their relationship, other than close siblings.

In all, there was hardly anything special about them. Other than the superhuman speed and telekinesis and mind-manipulating. But those don’t count.

And I liked Quicksilver from Days of Future Past more. But that’s more of a personal preference thing.

However, this did not take much from the movie overall. Because, overall, Age of Ultron was still fun, exciting, and likable.

Huge explosions in IMAX are always fun.

I really liked Age of Ultron. Sure, the overall plot was a bit cliche, some of the Natasha-Bruce (played by Scarlet Johansson and Mark Ruffalo respectively) scenes were a bit on the corny side, but it never took much from the movie. From snarky remarks from the Avengers to impressive action scenes and explosions, Age of Ultron managed to impress and leave me with things to talk about, even if it isn’t the most impressive movie Marvel came out with.

The thing was, Age of Ultron just felt like it was trying too hard. Most of what happened felt shallow, very surface-level stuff. Like, sure, there were amazing and expensive explosions and action scenes, and a plot existed, but other than that, almost nothing. I just wasn’t that captivated by the characters.

And I know that Marvel can have good characters. I mean, Captain America: The Winter Soldier was pretty fantastic, with much more character development than Age of Ultron.

Conclusion: Although not Marvel’s greatest masterpiece, Age of Ultron is fun, interesting, and worth watching as the Avengers return with more villains and action, paving the way for another Avengers movie that is sure to come out and hopefully be just as impressive. 7/10.