My Neighbor Totoro

Being a Studio Ghibli fan I knew the character Totoro mostly from it being the mascot of the company but I only watched the movie a few months ago. 

I knew what to expect have previously wathed Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo but the movie still surprised me at moments.

  
My Neighbor Totoro is a really beautiful movie with a great but simple story and captivating characters. Totoro is amazing and the famous scene where is waiting for the bus with the sisters was even better than I though it would be. 

Totoro is the star and the one character everyone who sees the movie will remember the most but even the dust creatures and the smaller friends of Totoro were really well design and the Catbus is in a category of its own. 

If you haven’t seen it yet I recommend it. It may not be for everyone but if you like Japanese anime you’re going to like this movie. 

In 1958 Japan, university professor Tatsuo Kusakabe and his two daughters, Satsuki and Mei, move into an old house to be closer to the hospital where their mother Yasuko is recovering from a long-term illness. Satsuki and Mei find that the house is inhabited by tiny animated dust creatures called susuwatari – small, dark, dust-like house spirits seen when moving from light to dark places.[note 1] When the girls become comfortable in their new house and laugh with their father, the soot spirits leave the house to drift away on the wind. It is implied that they are going to find another empty house – their natural habitat.

One day, Mei sees two white, rabbit-like ears in the grass and follows the ears under the house. She discovers two small magical creatures who lead her through a briar patch and into the hollow of a large camphor tree. She meets and befriends a larger version of the same kind of spirit, which identifies itself by a series of roars that she interprets as “Totoro”. She falls asleep atop the large totoro, but when Satsuki finds her, she is on the ground in a dense briar clearing. Despite her many attempts, Mei is unable to show her family Totoro’s tree. Her father comforts her by telling her that this is the “keeper of the forest,” and that Totoro will reveal himself when he wants to.

One rainy night, the girls are waiting for their father’s bus and grow worried when he does not arrive on the bus they expect him on. As they wait, Mei eventually falls asleep on Satsuki’s back and Totoro appears beside them, allowing Satsuki to see him for the first time. He only has a leaf on his head for protection against the rain, so Satsuki offers him the umbrella she had taken along for her father. Totoro is delighted at both the shelter and the sounds made upon it by falling raindrops. In return, he gives her a bundle of nuts and seeds. A bus-shaped giant cat halts at the stop, and Totoro boards it, taking the umbrella. Shortly after, their father’s bus arrives.

The girls plant the seeds. A few days later, they awaken at midnight to find Totoro and his two miniature colleagues engaged in a ceremonial dance around the planted nuts and seeds. The girls join in, whereupon the seeds sprout, and then grow and combine into an enormous tree. Totoro takes his colleagues and the girls for a ride on a magical flying top. In the morning, the tree is gone, but the seeds have indeed sprouted.

The girls find out that a planned visit by Yasuko has to be postponed because of a setback in her treatment. Satsuki, disappointed and worried, tells Mei the bad news, which Mei does not take well. This leads into an argument between the two, ending in Satuski angrily yelling at Mei and stomping off. Mei decides to walk to the hospital to bring some fresh corn to her mother.

Mei’s disappearance prompts Satsuki and the neighbors to search for her. Eventually, Satsuki returns in desperation to the camphor tree and pleads for Totoro’s help. Delighted to be of assistance, he summons the Catbus, which carries her to where the lost Mei sits. Having rescued her, the Catbus then whisks her and Satsuki over the countryside to see their mother in the hospital. The girls perch in a tree outside of the hospital, overhearing a conversation between their parents and discovering that she has been kept in hospital by a minor cold and is otherwise doing well. They secretly leave the ear of corn on the windowsill, where it is discovered by the parents, and return home on the Catbus. When the Catbus departs, it disappears from the girls’ sight.

In the end credits, Mei and Satsuki’s mother returns home, and the sisters play with other children, with Totoro and his friends as unseen observers.

  

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Gone Girl

After missing this movie in theatres (don’t ask me why) I ended up watching it in Blu-Ray back in January. 

It’s been 5 months and I still remember Rosamund Pyke’s amazing performance. She completely stole the show from Ben Affleck who also gave a solid performance. 

  
The movie differs from the book with several parts missing but the story doesn’t suffer from it and changes are normal when it comes to bring a book to the big screen. 

Click here to see my post about the book.

The day of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne returns home to find that his wife Amy is missing. Her disappearance receives heavy press coverage, as Amy was the inspiration for her parents’ popular Amazing Amy children’s books. Suspicions arise that Nick murdered her, and his awkward behavior is interpreted by the media as characteristic of a sociopath.

Flashbacks reveal that Nick and Amy’s marriage has disintegrated; both lost their jobs in the recession and moved from New York City to Missouri. Nick has become lazy, distant, uninterested and unfaithful. Detective Rhonda Boney uncovers evidence of financial troubles and domestic disputes, a report indicating that Amy wanted to purchase a gun, and poorly concealed evidence of a struggle. She also finds a medical report indicating that Amy is pregnant, of which Nick denies knowledge.

Amy, after discovering his affair, planned to frame Nick for her murder by ingratiating herself into local life, faking a pregnancy, and fabricating a diary describing her fear of him. By using the clues in a “treasure hunt” game she and Nick play on their anniversary, she ensures he visits places where she has planted evidence against him for the police to find. Amy has changed her appearance and name and is hiding in a distant campground, believing Nick will be convicted and executed for her murder, and contemplating committing suicide after his conviction.

Nick hires Tanner Bolt, a lawyer who specializes in defending men accused of killing their wives. Nick meets Amy’s ex-boyfriend Tommy O’Hara, who claims Amy framed him for rape. He also approaches another ex-boyfriend, the wealthy Desi Collings—against whom Amy previously filed a restraining order—but Desi refuses to share any details.

When Amy’s neighbors rob her at the campground she is hiding in, she is left without money and calls Desi: she convinces him that she ran away from Nick because she feared for her life. He agrees to hide her in his lake house, which is equipped with surveillance cameras.

Nick convinces his twin sister, Margo, of his innocence. After Nick’s mistress, his student, reveals their affair at a press conference, Nick appears on a talk show to profess his innocence and apologize for his failures as a husband in the hope of luring Amy. His performance rekindles Amy’s feelings for him, even as Boney formally charges him with murder. Meanwhile, Amy inflicts injuries on herself to make it appear Desi kidnapped and abused her, then seduces Desi and kills him during sex by slitting his throat with a box cutter. She returns home covered in blood, naming Desi as her captor and rapist and clearing Nick of suspicion.

When Boney questions Amy about the holes in her story, she sharply responds that Nick would have ended up on Missouri’s death row and she would have remained Desi’s victim because of Boney’s incompetence. The FBI sides with Amy, forcing Boney to back down.

Amy tells Nick the truth, saying that the man she watched pleading for her return on TV is the man she wants him to become again. Nick shares this with Boney, Bolt, and Margo, but they have no way to prove Amy’s guilt. Nick intends to leave Amy and expose her lies, but Amy reveals she is pregnant, having artificially inseminated herself with Nick’s sperm stored at a fertility clinic. Nick doubts the child is his and says he will undertake a paternity test.

Nick reacts violently to Amy’s insistence that they remain married, but feels responsible for the child. Despite Margo’s objections, he reluctantly decides to stay with Amy. The “happy” couple announces on television that they are expecting a baby.

  

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Pitch Perfect 2

I went to see Pitch Perfect 2 a week after finally watching the first one. I have to say the first was better than the sequel. 

The first Pitch Perfect focus a lot on Beca and her relation with the other Bellas as well her love interest in one of the Treblemakers. We got to meet the Bellas and to care about them. This time around we get a new one that’s a walking stereotype and another one that’s a legacy in the Bellas but we don’t spend enough time with her to care and the relationship with Benji was rushed. 

Personally I think one of the major problems with the movie is Fat Amy that was kind of funny in the first movie where she had less screen time but since Rebel Wilson got famous after that movie she got bumped to one of the leads and too much Fat Amy is not a good thing. When I saw a date scene starting  between her and Bumper I took the opportunity to go to the bathroom and I got back the scene was still going. 

The music is another thing that got worst since the first movie. I actually liked the songs from the first movie but this time around apart from Flashlight there’s not a single song that I remember from the movie and the ones singed by the DSM where near imperceptible to me. 

The few good things I can take from this movie are the commentators played by Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins who where by far the funniest people in the whole movie (I would watch a movie entirely consisted on this 2 commenting on people singing) and Hailee Steinfeld who is always a pleasure to see on screen despite being in a small role. 

  

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Mad Max: Fury Road

I want to start by saying that I haven’t seen any of the previous Mad Max movies making Fury Road my introduction to the franchise. And what an introduction this was. 

The movie wastes no time with introductions and the action starts immediatly and by the time the movie ends it feels it never really stoped. There’s a few quieter moments here and there for character development and to help the story to move forward but the majority of the movie is compressed of amazingly crazy action moments. A lot of action movies wish they had even just a tiny bit of action at this level. 

The acting is great with both Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron topping everyone else. Having seen Nicholas Hoult in several roles from Skins to X-Men is interesting to see him almost unrecognisable as Nux. 

  
Director George Miller says he already as a script for a sequel ready (named Mad Max: Furiosa) and another on the works and star Hardy says that he has a contract to 4 more Mad Max movies so the next few years should be interesting and here’s hoping they managed to make the next ones even better than Fury Road. 

In the distant future the world is a desert wasteland and civilization has collapsed. Max (Tom Hardy), a survivor in Australia, is captured by the War Boys, the army of tyrannical cult leader King Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Designated a universal blood donor, Max is imprisoned and used as a “blood bag” for the sick War Boy Nux (Nicholas Hoult). Meanwhile, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) drives her heavily-armored War Rig to collect gasoline. Furiosa begins driving off route, alerting Joe who realizes that his Five Wives – women specially selected for breeding – are gone. Joe leads his entire War Boy army in pursuit of Furiosa, calling on the aid of nearby Gas Town and the Bullet Farm.

Nux joins the army with Max strapped to the hood of his car, to continue supplying blood. A battle ensues between the Rig and Joe’s forces. Furiosa drives into an approaching sand storm evading her pursuers, except Nux, who attempts to sacrifice himself to destroy the Rig; Max escapes and restrains Nux, but the car is destroyed by the Rig. Waking up after the storm, Max sees Furiosa nearby repairing her Rig, accompanied by the Wives: Angharad, Capable, Cheedo, Toast, and the Dag. Max steals the Rig, but its kill-switch disables the truck. Max reluctantly agrees to let Furiosa and the Wives accompany him, while Nux returns to Joe.

Furiosa drives through Biker gang territory into a narrow canyon, having agreed to exchange gasoline for passage. However, Joe’s forces are close behind, and Furiosa flees while the Bikers detonate the canyon walls to block Joe’s path. Max and Furiosa fend off the pursuing Bikers but Joe’s vehicle evades the blockade and assaults the Rig. Nux boards the Rig while Joe attempts to shoot Furiosa. Angharad, Joe’s heavily pregnant wife, shields Furiosa, but falls from the Rig and is run over by Joe’s car, killing her and his child. Furiosa explains to Max that they are escaping to the “Green Place”, a location she remembers from her youth. Capable finds Nux, distraught that he contributed to the death of Joe’s wife; she consoles him. At night, the heavy Rig gets caught in deep mud. Furiosa and Max slow Joe’s forces with explosives, but Joe’s ally, the Bullet Farmer, pursues the Rig. Nux helps free the Rig while Furiosa shoots and blinds the Bullet Farmer. He retaliates with machine gun fire and explosives. Max wanders into the dark to confront the Bullet Farmer, returning to the Rig with guns and ammunition.

As dawn breaks, the Rig travels through swampland and desert, eventually coming across a naked woman. Max identifies it as a trap, but Furiosa leaves the Rig and states her former clan affiliation. The woman summons her group who realize that Furiosa is a member of their clan, kidnapped with her mother when she was a child. Furiosa is distraught to learn that the swamp land they passed was the Green Place, which is now uninhabitable. The group agree to ride motorbikes across the immense salt flats in the hope of finding somewhere to live. Max chooses to stay behind, but after seeing visions of his dead daughter, he convinces them to return to the Citadel, which has ample water and greenery that Joe keeps for himself, and trap Joe and his army in the Biker’s canyon.

The group begins the journey back to the Citadel, eventually encountering Joe. A battle is waged by the two sides, and Furiosa is gravely wounded. Joe positions his car in front of the Rig to slow it, while Max fights Joe’s son Rictus. Toast is captured and put on Joe’s car, but she distracts him, allowing Furiosa to hook Joe’s mask to his car’s rotating wheels, tearing his face off and killing him. Nux sacrifices himself by destroying the Rig, blocking the canyon, killing Rictus, and allowing Max, Furiosa, and the Wives to escape in Joe’s car. Max transfuses his blood to Furiosa, to help her survive her injuries.

At the Citadel, Joe’s citizens are overjoyed at the sight of Joe’s corpse. Furiosa and the Wives are raised up on a lift by the child War Boys, but Max stays behind. He and Furiosa share a glance of acknowledgment before Max disappears into the crowd.

  

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Pitch Perfect

It took me 3 years but I finally managed to watch Pitch Perfect a week before the sequel premieres in Portugal. 

I don’t remember why I didn’t see it before but I guess it had something to do with Rebel Wilson who I don’t like at all. It’s a good thing she’s not a central character in the movie. 

Pitch Perfect is pretty straight forward and we can see most of the things coming a mile away but the great performances and good musical numbers help the movie stand out among other musical movies out there. 

Anna Kendrick shines above the others as Beca and shows a lot of vocal talent that I found out during Into the Woods. I had no idea she was this good of a singer but I knew she could act having watched her in Up in the Air a few years ago. 

  
The sequel is already out in the United States and I can’t wait to see what will happen next to the Barden Bellas.

At a national a cappella competition, the Barden University’s all-female a cappella group, the Barden Bellas, perform well until Aubrey Posen (Anna Camp) projectile vomits on stage during her solo. They are publicly humiliated, losing any chance of winning. Four months later, newly arrived Barden freshman Beca Mitchell (Anna Kendrick) has no desire to attend college, but she is forced to do so by her father, a professor at the university, with whom Beca has a strained relationship. Wishing she could instead pursue a career in music making, Beca spends her time making mash-up mixes of songs and takes up an internship at the school radio station, where she gets to know fellow freshman Jesse Swanson (Skylar Astin), who is immediately attracted to her.

When Beca’s father discovers she has not been attending classes, he comes to her with a proposition: if she joins a club and still does not want to remain at college after one year, he will allow her to leave school, and he will pay for Beca to move to Los Angeles to pursue her music career. After some persuasion from group leader Chloe Beale, she reluctantly joins the Barden Bellas. Aubrey does not initially approve of recruiting Beca, but yields nonetheless due to a desperate need for members and Beca’s talent. Beca joins alongside a group of other women who do not fit the Bellas’ typical mold: Cynthia-Rose, Stacie Conrad, Lilly Onakuramara, and Fat Amy. Jesse is also revealed to have joined the Bellas’ all-male rival group, the Treblemakers.

The Bellas participate in the southeastern regional competition at Carolina University where, at Aubrey’s insistence, they perform the same medley that helped the Bellas advance to the finals the previous year. In spite of their old set list, the group manages to place second, which gives them the bid to semi-finals. A brief scuffle after the competition leads to Beca’s arrest by the police. Jesse tries to help by calling Beca’s father, who then tells Beca that he will no longer pay for her to move to Los Angeles. This infuriates Beca, which turns her budding friendship with Jesse sour. In the meantime, Beca suggests to the Bellas to try and be more daring, but Aubrey insists that they will win with the repertoire the group has always used in the past.

At the semi-finals, Beca provides an impromptu back-up of one of her favorite songs into the “traditional” song on the Bellas’ set list to reinvigorate the crowd after they seemed to have lost interest. The Bellas come in third in the competition behind the Treblemakers and the Footnotes. Even though the audience seemed to enjoy Beca’s remix, Aubrey becomes furious with Beca, who in turn quits. When the Footnotes are later disqualified from the national competition because the lead singer was in high school, the Bellas are called to take part instead. The Bellas re-form after spring break, with the notable exception of Beca. During rehearsals, Chloe stands up against Aubrey’s stubbornness. The group starts to fall apart, which sparks a fight. Meanwhile, Beca tries to apologize to Jesse, which he declines. Beca then apologizes to the Bellas for her actions during the semi-finals and asks to have another chance, which Aubrey eventually allows. After having a group heart-to-heart conversation, the Bellas decide to adopt Beca’s more modern and original music style. Meanwhile, group leader Bumper leaves the Treblemakers after being offered a job as a back-up singer for John Mayer. With Bumper gone, Jesse persuades the Trebles to let his previously rejected roommate Benji join the group in Bumper’s place.

At the a cappella national competition, the Bellas sing a piece arranged by Beca, which includes “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” a song featured in The Breakfast Club, one of Jesse’s favorite movies. This acts as a more effective apology from Beca, and after the performance, she and Jesse kiss. The Bellas win the national competition, and six months later, auditions for new members take place.

  

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Avengers: Age of Ultron

Ultron, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver and Vision are the great new additions to a cast that already had Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow, Thor, Hawckeye, War Machine, Maria Hill, Fury and Falcon.
A lot as been said about this movie already from the powerful performance given by James Spader as Ultron to the way Black Widow was portrayed in the movie. 

Personally I liked the movie from the great characters (and the actors who play them) to the story itself. It was interesting to see Hawckeye take center stage and shine opposed to the other super/gods. I also enjoyed the fighting sequences with the Iron Man vs Hulk fight beeing my favorite. As a viewer of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I liked seeing the connection between the 2 despite Joss Whedon coming to say that to him Coulsen is dead and he’s never mention in the movie. 

Age of Ultron is the last of the Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 2 featuring the known Avengers cast (Ant-Man is the final Phase 2 movie) and the first movie of Phase 3 is Captain America: Civil War and we already had a little taste of it in the tension between Captain America and Iron Man. Phase 3 promises to be as interesting as Phase 2 was.  Marvel is doing a great job. 

In the Eastern European country of Sokovia, the Avengers – Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Thor, Bruce Banner, Natasha Romanoff, and Clint Barton – raid a Hydra outpost led by Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, who has been experimenting on humans using the scepter previously wielded by Loki. They encounter two of Strucker’s experiments – twins Pietro, who has superhuman speed, and Wanda Maximoff, who can manipulate minds and project energy – and apprehend Strucker, while Stark retrieves Loki’s scepter.

Stark and Banner discover an artificial intelligence within the scepter’s gem, and secretly use it to complete Stark’s “Ultron” global defense program. The unexpectedly sentient Ultron, believing he must eradicate humanity to save Earth, eliminates Stark’s A.I., J.A.R.V.I.S., and attacks the Avengers at their headquarters. Escaping with the scepter, Ultron uses the resources in Strucker’s Sokovia base to upgrade his rudimentary body and build an army of robot drones. Having killed Strucker, he recruits the Maximoffs, who hold Stark responsible for their parents’ deaths by his weapons. Together, they go to the base of arms dealer Ulysses Klaue in an African shipyard to obtain vibranium. The Avengers pursue them, but Wanda subdues the heroes with haunting visions, causing the Hulk to rampage until Stark stops him with his anti-Hulk armor.

A worldwide backlash over the resulting destruction, and the fears Wanda’s hallucinations incited, send the team into hiding at Barton’s safehouse. Thor departs to consult with Dr. Erik Selvig on the meaning of the apocalyptic future he saw in his hallucination, while Romanoff and Banner plan to flee together after realizing a mutual attraction. However, Nick Fury arrives and encourages the team to form a plan to stop Ultron. In Seoul, Ultron forces the team’s friend Dr. Helen Cho to use her synthetic tissue technology, vibranium, and the scepter’s gem to perfect a new body for him. As Ultron uploads himself into the body, Wanda is able to read his mind; discovering his plan for human extinction, the Maximoffs turn on Ultron. Rogers, Romanoff, and Barton find Ultron and retrieve the synthetic body, but Ultron captures Romanoff.

The Avengers fight amongst themselves when Stark secretly uploads J.A.R.V.I.S. – who is still operational after hiding from Ultron inside the Internet – into the synthetic body. Thor returns to help activate the body, explaining that the gem on its brow – one of the six Infinity Stones, the most powerful objects in existence – was part of his vision. This “Vision” and the Maximoffs accompany the Avengers to Sokovia, where Ultron has used the remaining vibranium to build a machine to lift a large part of the capital city skyward, intending to crash it into the ground to cause global extinction. Banner rescues Romanoff, who awakens the Hulk for the battle. The Avengers fight Ultron’s army while Fury arrives in a Helicarrier with Maria Hill, James Rhodes and S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to evacuate civilians. Pietro dies when he shields Barton from gunfire, and a vengeful Wanda abandons her post to destroy Ultron’s primary body, which allows one of his drones to activate the machine. The city plummets, but Stark and Thor overload the machine and shatter the landmass. In the aftermath, the Hulk, unwilling to endanger Romanoff by being with her, departs in a Quinjet, while the Vision confronts Ultron’s last remaining body.

Later, with the Avengers having established a new base run by Fury, Hill, Cho, and Selvig, Thor returns to Asgard to learn more about the forces he suspects have manipulated recent events. As Stark and Barton also leave, Rogers and Romanoff prepare to train new Avengers: Rhodes, Vision, Sam Wilson, and Wanda.

In a mid-credits scene, Thanos, dissatisfied by the failures of his pawns, dons a gauntlet and vows to personally retrieve the Infinity Stones.

   

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Chappie / Ex Machina

I’ve seen Chappie a few months ago and but I still remember thinking what it it could have been with a few changes. 

Chappie is at its best when focusing on Chappie the cute robot that gives the name to the movie. Chappie is like a scared child when is first created and then he starts to understand what’s around him and its interesting to see how he reacts to things. 

Unfortunately the humans surrounding him are more annoying stereotypes than a portrayal of real people with personalities. There’s a few moments that show how much better the movie could have been specially revolving Dev Patel. Hugh Jackman should stick to play Wolverine. 

  
Ex Machina in the other hand does a great job pealing the characters personalities including the A.I. Ava. 

This is a movie that bases itself on a small cast of 3 characters that are fully explored and a very small number of other characters actually appear on screen troughout the movie. 

Chappie ($49 million budget)  had several fight scenes with big explosions while Ex Machina ($16 million budget) had one relatively small fighting sequence (if we can actually call it that). 

Ex Machina‘s ending is really well done and shows just how smart Ava actually is and does a beatiful job showing that not everything she said was lies while Chappie seemed more interested in setting up a sequel. 

  

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