Top 5 Films of 2016 (It’s Been A Funny Year)

11 01 2017

godzilla-resurgence (Toho Co., Ltd. - 2016)

Since a very young age, I have been a fan of the Two Ronnies. It’s a comedy love that I still carry to this day and continue to enjoy looking back on every now and then. But despite this love for two comedy greats, I have always struggled with Ronnie Barker’s sitcoms. I have seen numerous episodes of Porridge and Open All Hours, but in all honesty have never found them to be all that funny. I have watched plenty of episodes; maybe an odd wisp of laughter here and there, but on the whole, just did not get them. If anything, the only thing that would get a faint pant of air from my lungs would be the spring-loaded till in Open All Hours. Despite this lack of understanding on my part, one thing though that has shined on to me in a way is how sometimes on occasion, I cannot help but at the end of the day say; “It’s been a funny day”. Well, looking back on the movies of 2016, I now cannot help but say “It’s been a funny year”.

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A Funny year is indeed how I feel this year has gone by in terms of movie releases. There have been several high-profile and low profile releases that have caught the eyes of myself and many other movie goers. We have seen live action remakes of animated classics, rebirths of classic comedy, and revolutionary new ideas in already popular genres as well as the usual treasure trove of sequels and heart-warmers. For me personally it’s been a weird one, with a lot of films that I wanted to see being released in the first half of the year, with the second half being a collection of films that I was wavering watching or not. Quite a few of these films were pretty fun and are included in this list, but there have been one or two disappointments. Firstly I did not get to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows or Kung Fu Panda 3 (not forgetting the new Japanese Godzilla film which nobody considers releasing for people living in the UK!), but the big disappointment for me had to be Dad’s Army. It was funny in places; but everything else was just boring by comparison with an acting pool not living up to their own acclaim and a story that was not worth bothering with!

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There have been some high’s thankfully, some of which are unable to be featured in this list and just want to give a quick shout out to (in no particular order): Allegiant, X-Men: Apocalypse, Eddie The Eagle, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. But now the main event; as per usual: films will be rated in ascending order with Number 1 being my favourite and 5 being not as much my favourite but still a good film, and as always, the list applies to films that were released and shown on the big screen between the traditional 12 month period of January to December. So without dragging this on any further, here are my Top Five Favourite Films of the year (yes, this year it is actually 5).

ethel-and-ernest (Cloth Cat Animation - 2016)

5. Ethel & Ernest – Based on the Raymond Briggs graphic novel of the same name, Ethel and Ernest is about the life of Briggs’s own parents as they meet, date, marry and live their lives through the changing face of Great Britain. Originally meant to be shown on TV during Christmas 2016, special big screen showings were done in places around the country including at The Dukes in Lancaster. Before seeing this film I had no idea what it was about, thinking it was When The Wind Blows by mistake (having forgotten what that was called), then my Mam told me differently; a little unsure but still interested I decided to go see it, and really enjoyed it. I liked how it was less a film, more an animated slide show of the lives of an incredible couple living through the hardships of London life during WWII, to raising a son, to a new way of life compared to their own upbringing. I especially enjoyed the shots of WWII city life as most documentaries I have seen have mostly focused on evacuations and the front line, but this instead showed what life was like in a major city. Overall I enjoyed this film a great deal, from its unique form of storytelling to its charming and colourful animation style.

10-cloverfield-lane (Bad Robot Productions - 2016)

4. 10 Cloverfield Lane – If you are like me, then over the last few years you will have been calling out for a Cloverfield sequel since Cloverfield’s original released in 2008. For years I have kept tabs on it to see if such a film was going to happen or not, and so far no official sequel has appeared; a spiritual successor has though. 10 Cloverfield Lane is a very different film to the original Cloverfield. Whilst the first film was a found footage drama about a group of people trying to survive a monster attack on New York City; 10 Cloverfield Lane is about a young lady (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who finds herself in a bomb shelter with two other people, and begins to get cold feet surrounding the older of the two (John Goodman). The film in essence is both a psychological and science fiction horror as for the first good half you get the feeling that something is going on above ground as the characters get used to a new life underground, until the main character finds evidence that suggests that everything underground isn’t groovy either, eventually leading to a tense situation that culminates in a giant twist that makes you rethink everything you have just seen. 10 Cloverfield Lane is a one-of-a-kind film that makes you want to feel out for your Teddy Bear and grip it tight.

Independence Day: Resurgence (20th Century Fox - 2016)

3. Independence Day: Resurgence – Much like number four on this list, if you are like me and absolutely love the Roland Emmerich science fiction film Independence Day, you will have also been hoping that maybe one day there might be a sequel to it; well (two decades later), one has indeed been released. Twenty years after the events of the first film, humanity has used the technology scrounged from the remains of the alien fleet to upgrade their own technology and bolster up defences of planet Earth. This however has not turned out to be all that fruitful however, as the once defeated alien empire has decided to enact a counter attack by sending in a much bigger force than the last one. The first film’s core cast (minus an obvious one) have returned to fight alongside a new cast of characters including (but not limited to); Liam Hemsworth, Jessie T. Usher and Maika Monroe. The film itself was once again packed with a jaw dropping cavalcade of special effects that once again bring the awe and fascination that the first film did so well, but does not content itself by making a simple remake, but a strong sequel that does things a little bit differently and contains several other genres, not just the basic few. Overall I was mightily pleased with the end result.

your-name (Toho Co., Ltd. - 2016)

2. Your Name. – If you look through the prolific catalogue of films produced by Studio Ghibli, there are many highlighted classics. Having recently become a major fan of the studio’s works, I am always on the lookout for new films to watch to add to my growing collection. Some of the films on show though that do not necessarily grab my attention however are the convoy of teen based romantic dramas. In most cases I actually try to avoid them as they don’t really appeal to me. Well this year, I saw a film which was along those lines (not released by Studio Ghibli) while also entwined with a Science Fiction enhanced story that within an instant became one of my favourite films this year. Your Name. is a Japanese Anime film directed by (Makoto Shinkai), which tells the tales of a boy and girl who have never met and live in completely opposite locations miles apart from each other, but for some reason get connected, as when they sleep, they dream the lives of the other, not realizing at first, that in reality they have in fact changed bodies. It is a strange film to begin with that leads to some really funny situations, but things take a sudden turn which causes one character to search out the other and come across a grim reality that makes them attempt to change the course of history. I must say I actually really enjoyed it. I was put off at first by its romantic idea, but upon finishing wanted to give it a standing ovation. It was so different, yet so unique that I was left gobsmacked for one that I enjoyed such a film that I would have normally tried so hard to put off. By failing to look round that I did not properly foresee the science fiction elements that I just so love and the two together created a potent mix that made me leave the cinema with a smile across my face. I absolutely enjoyed this film to its absolute core and it has made me rethink my earlier stance on romantic teen anime films.

deadpool (20th Century Fox - 2016)

1. Deadpool – Just bear with me for a moment as I get my head in the right frame of mind for this one…

With all the super hero related movies that are getting released these days, I think it’s good that we have at least one film that we as an audience can actually connect with. Saving the world is good and all, but what about when you return home and find out that some maniac has kidnapped your girlfriend, I think we can all agree that that is probably far more important! Deadpool is the next major spin-off in the X-Men Film Series and stars everyone’s loud mouthed mercenary as he sets out not to save the world, but rescue his girlfriend and hope he can receive some good plastic surgery in the process. Based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, Deadpool stars Ryan Reynolds in the lead role, backed up with the talents of Ed Skrein, T.J. Miller and Morena Baccarin in what has to be one of the strangest films of all time. Deadpool is not your run of the mill superhero movie, as Deadpool isn’t really a superhero, more just someone rather deadly you don’t want to offend. Deadpool comes wrapped in a neat pile of action, guns, violence, comedy, sexual antics and fourth wall breaking moments to create a truly incredible experience that will have other superhero movies (and super heroes) taking notice. Altogether this film creates a matchless form of cinematic awesomeness becoming not just the most standout film of this year, but also my absolute favourite film of 2016.

GENEPOOL (what was your favourite film of 2016?).





The Entire World Is Waiting For The Power Of Steam – Steamboy

16 11 2016

Steamboy (Sunrise - 2004)

In 2013, animation Director and co-founder of Studio Ghibli; Hayao Miyazaki created a film which he announced was going to be the last before he retired. The film was called The Wind Rises, and it was a film that followed a young man who dreamt of designing the ultimate aircraft, and so the story took us on a history of his young life, career, romantic relation, and a retrospective history of his country, eventually leading the young man to his pivotal moment designing the aircraft of his dreams. There is one slight issue however with the company he works for, being the ones to foot the bills; the only option is to design it to the benefit of a company contract, and at that time in Japan’s history the only contract work for airplane manufacturers (or at least those shown in the film) is to build them for the sake of war. So while the young man does get to design his dream plane, he has to come to the eventual realization of what the plane’s purpose is to be. It is a very interesting idea for a story, looking at great inventors, the things they do; but also what they have to do in order for them to be allowed to build such things!

The Wind Rises (Studio Ghibli - 2013)

Released in 2004 by Toho, produced by Sunrise and Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo; Steamboy is a Steampunk animated action film set in the UK and follows the adventure of a young inventor who has to come to terms with the realities of the world of inventions and of course save the day from threats very close to home. Touted at the time of release as being the most expensive Japanese animated film of all time, Steamboy took 10 years to produce, and is only the second major animated release for Otomo following his milestone film Akira in 1988.

Akira (Toho 1988)

In 1863 in Russian Alaska, inventor Lloyd Steam (Patrick Stewart) and his son Eddie (Alfred Molina) have discovered a pure mineral water, which they believe they can turn into a powerful steam based energy source. During an experiment however, everything goes wrong with Eddie being engulfed in freezing gases, but leaves a strange spherical object being created. Three years later, in Manchester England, great-grandson of Lloyd: Ray Steam (Anna Paquin), a young inventing prodigy receives a strange parcel containing the spherical object plus some designs relating to it. Two men then show up called Alfred (Mark Bramhall) and Jason (David S. Lee) claiming to be from something called the Foundation and who want the ball. Ray refuses to give it to them, and is surprised to see the arrival of his grandfather. Ray makes a run for it, and is eventually chased by a strange steam automotive vehicle, making his escape on his own Monocycle. The chase leads them onto the railway tracks, with the automotive being pushed into a river, and Ray being rescued by Robert Stephenson (Oliver Cotton) and his assistant David (Robin Atkin Downes). Things don’t last long however, as while the train is en route to London, Ray is kidnapped by the Foundation thanks to their Zeppelin.

Ray finds himself in a dining hall, and being introduced to members of the O’Hara Foundation which includes Scarlett O’Hara (Kari Wahlgren), the spoiled granddaughter of the foundation’s chairman, and Archibald Simon (Rick Zieff), a company executive. Ray then meets his father Eddie whose head has been greatly altered by the accident, now with only a few strands of hair and a helmet covering one half of his head, as well as other metal components all along his body. Ray and Scarlett are taken on a tour of the facility dubbed The Steam Castle by Eddie who says he wants to use it to enlighten mankind’s vision of science. Ray is recruited by his father to help finish it off, but when asked to help in assisting to turn off a valve, Ray finds his Grandfather trying to sabotage the whole thing. He tells Ray that the purpose of the castle and the O’Hara’s foundation is to sell weapons to Britain’s enemies at the Great Exhibition the following day and shows Ray evidence of this. The two eventually reach the core of the castle, and pry away a steam ball, one of three used to power the castle, but they are then surrounded. Ray makes an escape but Lloyd is recaptured. Ray manages to run into Robert Stephenson telling him about his father and the steam castle, and hands him the Ball thinking Stephenson can be trusted, but discovers that Stephenson’s motives are near the same; to build an army for the purpose of keeping Britain Great.

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At the Great Exhibition, the O’Hara foundation shows off their weapons to generals from around the world, exhibiting their steam-powered soldiers, miniature aircraft and submersible men. At this moment, Stephenson launches an attack on the foundation using his steam battle tanks. With the exhibition now a war zone, Ray steals the ball back from David, and rigs it up to use it as a sort of jet pack. In the foundation’s control room, Eddie, straps himself into the machine and while under powered orders for the castle to launch. The building sheds its skin to show a great behemoth like structure, a big black floating castle, which then engulfs the city of London in a big freeze. The royal navy in vain try to shoot it down, while Stephenson attempts to pull it down with his trains. Ray manages to get on board the castle reuniting with his father and Scarlett, but is too late to stop Lloyd from shooting Eddie. With Eddie having disappeared into the machine, Ray and Scarlett assist Lloyd in getting the castle back over the Thames as the machine is too unstable and likely to explode. At the last-minute, Eddie having deflected the bullet with his metal body decides to lend a hand, revealing Lloyd’s original intention for the Steam Castle: to be used as a giant theme park. Ordered by his family to save Scarlett and leave, Ray makes his way back to the control room, straps on a jet pack and leaves the castle just as it explodes, sparing most of London in the process.

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Can a film justify its release if it does not have much of a plot? Steamboy is an interesting film; on the one side it’s very well researched, and is somewhat surprising to see a Japanese animated film set in 19th century England and feature locations such as Manchester and (‘of course’) London, as well as feature great moments of a country’s history such as the Great Exhibition and famous faces like Railway Engineer Robert Stephenson. I am not saying this can’t be done, I am just saying how well and detailed it all is but you would not exactly expect for a film from Japan to be set in this country during that period. Of course, this film does also have big outstanding and unbelievable moments, interesting characters and great themes; much like you would expect from the man who made Akira: or should you? That’s the point though of seeing it isn’t it, or at least most might think so, that because this man-made an iconic film from the 1980’s, one of cinema’s all-time great animated films, that is why we should see it; no other reason right? This film is of course heavily touted for being from Katsuhiro Otomo, the same director of Akira; but is that the reason why we should see this film, or should it be that it’s a happy coincidence, and that this film should really be its own thing. I think that is where this film sort of collapses. There are some good things about this film: It does feature big moments of disbelief, and it features themes and ideas as well as argues the differences between progress and greed as well as the blessings of science, but only a little bit really, as all that gets entrenched in delivering the Akira experience, with big moments, wonders of awe and nothing else really. It has it’s moments, moments of philosophy that intrigue that inspire, and the story develops this a little bit; but possibly under the belief that he had to deliver a 19th century version of Akira rather than explore these ideas and create something that was its own identity, Otomo just sort of skipped all that. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Akira, I would just rather watch Akira rather than something that is not a near carbon copy of it (Force Awakens).

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The film’s characters are a real odd bunch and (international released version) are played by some top-notch quality actors. Much like what was stated above, some characters are minor-ly developed and are actually going in the right direction but are lost in what is a rather convoluted and unused plot. The issue that this film has with its characters is that it’s hard at any one point to actually know who is good and who is bad. Ray Steam is obviously the hero of the story, but it’s just obvious if somewhat boring. The character is nicely set up and has reason to explore and discover as he is lost without his heritage and is in a world that he would rather be doing something else in, but other than that there is no real reason for him. He tries to be brave and do the right thing, he is just not a decent enough character to really get behind or enjoy. Someone like Scarlett is a lot more interesting. She actually develops over the film’s timeline, going from a toffee nosed brat to a proper hero and someone worth rooting for. Yes she starts off in a situation where she is horrid and someone you have no affection for, but as the film develops she becomes a good character, so why she couldn’t be the protagonist is beyond me. That is the thing though with this film, there are two solid female characters, Scarlett and Emma (Paula J. Newman), but Emma gets 3 minutes of fame and is never seen again, but she was interesting compared to Ray who is just useless. The issues with good guy bad guy just continue throughout. Yes, the henchmen are bad, but that is their point and Archibald Simon on the other hand is just a pleasant annoyance who can’t stop talking. Robert Stephenson is nicely done, but it’s sad that someone who should be a sort of helper, a guide or assistance in times of such peril turns out just to be as horrid and bad as the somewhat…..Supposed to be…..villains. His assistant David pretty much covers this role with ease, and it would have been more interesting if David per say was the villain out of the two and was something of a manipulator, and so Stephenson could then be the helper, with a villain by his side that needed defeating. Lloyd is of course a good guy but the story does the right thing of teasing his intentions and asking if he is bad or good, and then reveals his intentions correctly and stays that way, I just don’t think the mad professor look really does him any favours. Eddie meanwhile is of course the big bad villain and is voiced brilliantly, and much like Lloyd is teased into his role, but he just keeps changing his mind. His intentions and motives are there as to why he is who he is, but why would the villain suddenly change sides like that at the end. He should be a boss to fight, a hindrance to overcome, not someone who is like: “Oh well, let me give you a hand!”

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The voice acting works in some of the film’s favour, and boasts acting talent like Patrick Stewart, Anna Paquin and Alfred Molina, but it’s not fully utilised I feel. Scarlett is voiced nicely and actually sounds and feels real, compared to Anna Paquin whom does a good job in a male voice role, but in the form of the voice that most people believe how British people speak. Speaking as a British person, I do not speak like that, I have actually yet to meet someone who does. Both Alfred Molina and Patrick Stewart are British; and they don’t speak like that; and they’re in this film! It becomes near offensive the more it gets touted. Maybe instead of hiring people to create a generic voice that does not actually exist, maybe they should hire British actors to do the job, because then it would be a lot more realistic (and less offensive). When it comes to the voice overs in this film the only ones that really do anything I feel are those of Patrick Stewart and Alfred Molina. Patrick Stewart’s character is not seen much of to truly enjoy, but it’s still good when he is on-screen, although possibly a bit loopy and mad. Alfred Molina though I feel really carries this film. It’s a voice of reason and passion, and although the character struggles to really find his place in this film, the voice over does the character tremendous and enjoyable levels of entertainment and justice. It’s just a shame about everyone else really.

The film does have its recovery sections, it’s not all collapsing. The animation is nicely done and works well to really capture the beauty and spectacle of 19th century England, especially London. The fleet of vessels on the Thames, the beauty of the city’s iconic buildings and structures, to the animated engineering of its own infrastructure. Add to this the machines and contraptions of the story’s fictional contents like the steam-powered soldiers, the monocycle, and of course the mighty Steam Castle in all its forms and you have this well-made world which has added benefits. I do think the animation style and colouring loses a bit in comparison to the film’s contemporise like the recent works of Studio Ghibli for example, but when close up the details are superb. The film’s soundtrack Composed by Steve Jablonsky) is an additional benefit too as it creates mostly sounds and ambiance rather than pieces of music. The music does have its moments of grandeur like the launch of the steam castle or the chase within, to moments of peace too like Ray’s theme, Scarlett’s theme, and of course the music behind the blessings of science monologue. Now while not insinuated within the soundtrack itself, there is one piece of music though that does come out in relation to the film: That of its theme from the trailer: Full Force; the adventure and steam-driven music that creates and encapsulates moments of awe and wonder, but creates a level of seriousness and tension to shine out loudly.  Although the film does tout some of that wonderful adventure but still steam punk driven piece of music here or there, it’s this piece of music which shines out for the film’s soundtrack, even though it is really non-existent, but it’s iconic and memorable enough for you to remember it in conjunction with this film.

Generally it feels like something of a shame altogether, because I was expecting more. Steamboy has its likable moments and bits to enjoy, but the story is so convoluted and makes more room for big moments rather than a properly developed plot. It’s one of those occasions where the trailer delivers more than the film. Steamboy is something of a quick storyteller; it just dashes from one thing to another, not developing nor explaining, creating interesting moments but not diving into them sacrificing its potential in the process for something else, but no reveal as to what. It comes with great voice talent but does not really use it effectively, it has interesting characters in the wrong roles and it has spectacular ideas that are just ignored. On the plus side the animation is delightfully detailed, and has music that has its occasions which are used well. Yes it has its big moments which are nicely done and very creative, but a film like this should be more than that. It should not be living in the shadow of its legendary predecessor and working hard to live up to be like its bigger brother. It should be blossoming like a flower, being independent and making its own path, then and only then can it have a chance to be on an equal footing and be appreciated the same way, rather than just being a clone in a different setting.

GENEPOOL





Play it Again Philip

22 06 2016

Philips DVD Player

This past Saturday, I bought a brand new DVD player. Not much in the extraordinary I understand: people buy DVD’s and DVD Players all the time; so why is mine so special? Well, I say this, because, the previous DVD Player I had I received all the way back in November 2005. Yes, I have had the same DVD Player for nearly exactly 11 years. Yet again, maybe not the most extraordinary thing out there to talk about, but given the time I had it for and had become acclimatised too, plus the panic and nerves I created in buying a new one, I thought it could be an interesting blog post (if anyone is interested in history of personal items belonging to other people, sort of like those posts I wrote last year about my Bed).

New Bed with Bedding

Back in 2004, I got into watching Pro Wrestling. Every Saturday morning for a time I would watch WWE Smackdown on Sky One. As time passed by, I bought some WWE DVD’s to watch, however the only DVD player in the house was down stairs, and it was hard to watch any WWE event on DVD on the DVD Player as other people were not necessarily a big as a fan of WWE as I was. After several months, I decided to buy my own DVD Player, and put it in my room with my TV. So, the day after my birthday, I bought one from Currys, took it home, hooked it up to my TV and was able to watch programming. I cannot remember much about that player, except the title screen showed bubbles, the manufacturer started with an S and it had this blue streak across the front of the machine. That machine was pretty problematic as it would not play some DVD’s, would majorly struggle with others, and by October (less than 5 months after buying it), the machine packed in and had swallowed one of my DVD’s (WWE Armageddon 2004). My Mam took me to Currys, but they could not fix it, and the following Monday when I returned, they were able to take out the disc, but the machine had already totalled. As I still had the receipt, I was able to swap it though, and under the advice of a store clerk, I bought the Philips Machine, which worked brilliantly for over a decade.

Philips DVD Player 2

The machine was a nice silvery colour, and the controller was short and fat, but easy to control. It was a wonderful machine. I remember the week I picked it up, going to Currys with the old one after College, swapping it over, watching some DVD’s on it, then breaking my Knee Cap the following Saturday. It’s not the DVD Players fault, it just happened within a few days of each other. Anyway, it was good and I liked it. Back then I had an old TV which my family had previously rented before buying which I then utilised for my room. It was perched on a table which I still have, and the DVD Player was next to it. The early history of the machine was tumultuous as there were some scart issues. The old TV had only one Scart Plug, so over the years when I got more items requiring a socket, I would have to switch from one to the other, which weakened the connection, so it was hard for it to sit in the socket properly, which was even harder when the TV would get shoved aside, which would cause colour issues. At one point I bought a multi scart from Comet which I was assured by a store clerk would work well, but did not, and it was covered by those ridiculous small prints that once the package was opened could not be returned; I wasted some good money on that thing. Eventually however, I received the old downstairs TV (a JVC), which was bigger and had multiple scart sockets, so problem solved in the long-term.

The TV

What followed was many more entertaining and wonderful years of watching DVD’s, until just a few weeks ago. I had begun to re-watch the first season of Arrow on DVD. After playing the episodes, the DVD Player would struggle to reload the menu screen. I just thought that may be due to the disc being a previously used copy, but it just got worse. A couple of weeks ago, I decided to watch Hellboy, but the machine really struggled to load the DVD, it took forever. I cleaned the disc best I could, but once again struggled. I was able to watch it in the end, but I decided to run a test, if it was the DVD, or the player. I took out my DVD copy of Pacific Rim, something I had only run in the machine twice, meaning the disc was still relatively new. I put into the machine, and it did not load. The player was really good for loading a disc in less than about 12 seconds, after 30+, it did not load. I tried to empty the machine, but it even struggled with opening the tray. Luckily I was able to get it out. I then took the DVD downstairs and put it into one of the Players down stairs, and the disc loaded in seconds without a hitch (once I put it in the right way). I tried one more time a week or so later, and it was the same result for the Philips. I did not bother trying it down stairs; it was obvious the machine was dying.

Philips DVD Player Controller

In the end, I decided to buy a new machine. The Philips I had for all that time was a very good machine and had served me well, but even I knew it was time to say goodbye. I did some pre-checking in PC World and Currys, before then deciding that this past Saturday would be the day I would buy a new machine. It was quite handy too as I had been in town before purchasing it to get some books, and watch Princess Mononoke at The Dukes. I went into Currys and had a look. It was nerve-wracking as for one I did not want to spend too much, but two, because the TV was old, it would need some form of old connection as standard in order for me to be able to use it (and three, having previously bought a terrible Matsui from Currys many years ago, was hoping to buy something not so terrible). While I was in Currys I did ponder whether it would be best to get a new TV too, but given my current employment status (desperately looking for work) I knew I would have to raid my savings to buy a new one. So for now it was just the DVD Player. In the end and with some help, it came down to 2 machines, a Sony and a LOGIK. Knowing it would be better to get a more trusted brand, or at least one I had heard of, I went originally for the Sony as it had the Yellow White Red connections in the back, but when someone in the shop said that strangely the box might not contain those cables, I thought in that case I would buy the LOGIK as it had a Scart Connection too (although did not come with the cables, but I could still use the one from the Phillips) plus the coloured connectors and USB (and HDMI I think). After purchasing it plus buying some other bits and bobs quickly, I brought the machine home, and soon after set to work plugging it in.

Philips and LOGIK DVD Player Controller's

It was relatively straight forward in the end, just swap out the Philips, plug-in the LOGIK and then test it. Yeah, pretty simple. When it came to testing it which was simple enough, I knew I needed something good and clear to test it with. The TV is not HD, and frankly I do not care about HD, but I still wanted a clear enough picture. So, I chose the film AKIRA. AKIRA is of course the animated Japanese film from the late eighties, and knowing due to the film’s high sophisticated choice of colouring, knew it would be ideal to test it with. And it worked absolutely fine. It loaded very quickly, and it was a clear picture.

Neo-Tokyo

The controller is a lot thinner than the old one, but still easy to use, and unlike the Philips, does have an open/close button. Once I watched a little Akira, I tried it again a couple of times later, watching an episode of The Detectives, and the video diary of Tim Vine (from one of his DVD’s). Altogether, I like my new DVD player. It’s thin and black and fits nicely where the old one used to be. It’s black so fits in with the Virgin Media box sitting comfortably on top (both are very light, but did not fancy placing the player on top the box, as it’s wider), is quick, and very easy to use. So turns out I did not have to worry so much. So, so far so good. Will it last another 11 years, I don’t know, but as long as it lasts a good comfortably long period, I won’t need to worry about buying another one for some considerable time. So, all in all: good.

LOGIK DVD Player

GENEPOOL (Pop Quiz Hot Shot: What is the above title a line reference too that most people get wrong)?





Random Alphabet Animal Quiz – Answers

2 03 2016

Random Alphabet Quiz 4

Last week, I posted up a quick animal themed quiz. Well now less than a week later the answers are available for you. How many did you get right? Feel free to brag your animal knowledge to your friends by posting on social media (and in the comments if you want to). Anyway, hope you liked it, just fancied doing something different with these quizzes for a change.

  1. What is the common name for the mammal species Vermilingua? = Anteater
  2. What animal is the Pokémon Butterfree based on? = Butterfly
  3. A species of Dinosaur named after Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton? = Crichtonsaurus
  4. An Akita is a large breed of what animal? = Dog
  5. A Jellied Animal that is a popular English dish in the east end of London? = Eels
  6. The Beatrix Potter character Jeremy Fisher was this kind of Animal? = Frog
  7. A large species of Shark, known for being in the book and film Jaws? = Great White Shark
  8. A large species of Amphibious Mammal that is known for being rather volatile despite being a vegetarian? = Hippopotamus
  9. A long-legged wading bird of which there is 28 extant and 2 extinct species of? = Ibis
  10. What breed of big cat is also the name of a prominent UK car manufacturer? = Jaguar
  11. A species of large lizard found on 5 Indonesian Islands? = Komodo Dragon
  12. What species of primate sometimes has rings on its tail? = Lemur
  13. It appears in a series of annoying adverts where it markets soft toys of itself? = Meerkat
  14. A species of whale that possesses a fearsome looking tusk? = Narwhal
  15. What species of animal has Zebra pattern like Legs but is more closely related to Giraffes? = Okapi
  16. A black furred species of Big Cat which is closely associated with the legend of the Beast of Bodmin? = Panther
  17. The name of an extinct subspecies of Zebra? = Quagga
  18. The star animal characters featured in the Studio Ghibli film Pom Poko? = Racoon
  19. An animal known for having a Sting in the tail? = Scorpion
  20. The Looney Toons character Taz is one of these? = Tasmanian Devil
  21. A species of Japanese bird whose guano is used in face creams? = Uguisu
  22. A species of scavenging bird of prey of which there are 30 species worldwide? = Vulture
  23. What large species of marine mammal are recognisable for having two large tusks protruding from its mouth? = Walrus
  24. What animal is commonly sued name for the animal known as Pristella Maxillaris? = X-ray Fish or X-ray Tetra
  25. What animal is involved in a skiing based attraction in the Indian Hill resort of Manali? = Yak
  26. What species of Shark share its name with a species of African Equids? = Zebra Shark

GENEPOOL





My Big Cuddly Friend – My Neighbour Totoro

15 04 2015

My Neighbour Totoro (Studio Ghibli - 1988)

When I was young, I had a lot of Teddy Bears. I loved each one of them and can remember taking them days out with me including the zoo, and on holiday. I still have my Teddy Bears, plus two lovely cats, one of which I have nicknamed Teddy Bear due to how big and cuddly she is. But just imagine that you move into a new house, and in the forest there is a large, and very fury cuddly creature; how would you react? Well, how else, other than give it an extremely large hug.

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Directed by Hayao Miyazaki and produced by Studio Ghibli; My Neighbour Totoro is a Japanese animated film originally released in 1988, about a couple of girls who go on a series of mini adventures, along with a big fury creature called Totoro. While this being a Japanese film, the one being reviewed here is an English Dub release (as that is the one I recorded on Film4).

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Set in the recent history, the film opens with father; Tatsuo Kusakabe (Shigesato Itoi,  Tim Daly) and his two children; Satsuki (Noriko Hidaka, Dakota Fanning) and Mei (Chika Sakamoto, Elle Fanning) moving house. They say a quick hello to a young boy named Kanta (Toshiyuki Amagasa, Paul Butcher) and his family next door before they arrive at their new home. Tatsuo starts to unload into the house while Satsuki and Mei explore their new home. At first they are interested in the discovery of acorns in one of the rooms to which their father suggests could be because of Squirrels. The girls go into the bathroom and first floor to discover dust like creatures moving into the rafters. A local woman who cleans the house called Granny (Tanie Kitabayashi, Pat Carroll) suggests that she used to see them when she was young, and that the dust creatures might move out; to which they do late that night. Satsuki and Mei along with their father go to the hospital the following day to see their mother (Sumi Shinamoto, Lea Salonga) who is recovering there; in which along the way they spot Kanta again who pulls faces at Satsuki.

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The next day, when Satsuki is at school, Mei plays on her own and sees a strange white creature in the garden. She follows it, but loses it, only to spot it again along with a similar blue creature. She follows them into the forest and finds a large, grey, fury creature of the same kind. She calls it Totoro (Hitoshi Takagi, Frank Welker) guessing from what the creature roars, before she falls asleep on its belly. Satsuki returns home, only to discover Mei has gone missing, finding her sleeping in a cluster of trees. Mei tries to show her family the Totoro, but when she looks for it, she cannot find it. Her father tells her that she may have seen a forest spirit, which only appears when it wants to. He takes her and Satsuki to a tree nearby to say hello and thank you before Satsuki writes the first in a series of letter’s to her mum.

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The next day, while Tatsuo is at work and Satsuki at school, Mei is looked after by Granny. In the same class as Satsuki is Kanta and while in class Satsuki spots Mei. The class teacher allows Mei to join the class where she draws a picture of Totoro. That afternoon, they walk home and it begins to rain, stopping on the way by a little shrine. Kanta comes along and offers them his Umbrella before running away. The sisters later on travel to the bus stop to give their dad his umbrella. At the bus stop, Mei starts to fall asleep and while Satsuki keeps her dry under the umbrella, Totoro turns up. Satsuki gives him his umbrella, to which he rather enjoys playing with. He then disappears on a bus that is also a 12 legged cat (Naoki Tatsuta, Frank Welker), giving the girls a little present in the form of acorns, which Mei plants.

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A few nights later, Totoro and the other animals are in the garden performing a ceremonial dance, to which the girls go out to join them. Totoro makes the acorn seeds grow into a giant tree, where the girls and the animals play instruments and enjoy their time with Totoro. The following morning the acorn trees have begun to sprout. While helping Granny one afternoon; the girls receive a telegram which tells them that there is a problem with their mum’s treatment. This leads to an argument between Satsuki and a disappointed Mei. Mei decides to take some corn to the hospital to make her mum feel better, to which end, she goes missing. Granny, Kanta, their family and Satsuki start looking for her, but do not get much luck in finding her. Satsuki goes to the tree in their garden where Mei first saw Totoro, asking him to help find her. Totoro calls the cat bus which takes Satsuki straight to Mei. Once finding her, the bus takes both sisters to the hospital where they see their father with mum who is actually alright. They watch their parents from the tree before secretly putting the corn on the window. Their mother says she thought she saw them there, before seeing the inscription on the corn. The cat bus then takes Mei and Satsuki home, where Granny is happy to see Mei safe as the cat bus disappears from view. As the credits roll, it shows the girls mum coming home, plus what they, Totoro and friends get up to, following the end of the film.

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My Neighbour Totoro is a brilliant film. I watched this film last week and couldn’t help but cry at the end credits. I was just so happy and loved what this film was and what it was about. My Neighbour Totoro is a brilliant piece of animation, it’s art style is one that ranks above many films released since then but also shows how traditional cartoon/paper based animation still has advantages over more digitally made films in the current forms. It is also a very colourful film and uses many different colours to not only show and define but also to represent. But these colours are not at all dark; it’s actually a very brightly colourful film and only appears at a real dark point during the night time scenes or inside a dark room. The film is mostly used shown in a day time perspective and allows the colours to flourish as a result of this. This use of colour really makes the film standout but also makes it more appealing and represents the mood of the film quite well.

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The film’s story is actually rather simple, but is one of its more alluring qualities. Throughout this film I was trying to predict what was going to happen. I was thinking all the time about plot directions, but none of them happened. What is given instead is a nice pleasant setting mixed with something a little different. The film in essence is about a couple of girls who move into a new home, which just happens to be next door to a forest occupied by some magical creatures. That’s it. It’s not the case of some girls who get lost in a forest and are helped out by the creatures, nor is it the case that the animals are threatened and the girls help them out. It’s none of those either. It’s just the case that a couple of young girls make some amazing new friends in the local wildlife. I did partially wonder if the story of the ill mother was going to lead in the direction of A Monster Calls with either the mother dying or the animals helping her get better. No, it’s just an incredibly pleasant film where new friends are made in a brand new place, sort of a combination of what happens when Imagination meets Exploration.

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Then film’s characters are brilliantly done with each one doing their part for the film in their own particular way. The film’s main cast is actually rather small, while there are other minor characters dotted around the place. The character of Granny at first looks like just an ordinary; maybe stereotypical grandmother, like character, but she is very knowledgeable of the area she lives in and comes highly respected. She is also very pleasant and supportive instead of cruel or strict. Her beliefs keep those around her going but also inspire them too. Her caring and supportive side comes as a relief to those around her, particularly Satsuki. The girl’s mother is something of an emotional background weight for the girls, but it’s not necessarily her presence on-screen but off-screen that character carries. The girls go through the struggle and worry about their mother’s illness but their mother’s positivity helps to uplift them. However the struggle for the girls causes an element of friction to them, more so for the film’s later moment. The mother’s sudden illness at the end really pushes a moment for all those around her, particularly the girls. While she is mostly something of an idea and more towards a minor character, the mother is actually more a plot carrier which eventually comes to a head. The father meanwhile is shown as being a lot of fun as well as caring for his daughters. His strong will and exterior is that of being supportive as well as possibly distractive for his daughters to their mother’s issue. The father is also really enthusiastic for legends and beliefs of the area and distils that into the girls by taking them to the tree and while unsure of what the girls see by mentioning Totoro does somewhat believe them. However his open exterior does bring up the pondering issue of how he is feeling regarding his wife. While he is strong for the girls given what everyone is going through, it does make you wonder what he is feeling inside. That’s one of the film’s most interesting achievements, the point that you really do care towards the feeling of its characters.

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Kanta is a strange character. It is obvious of note that he is actually quite shy but tries to hide it through being mischievous and possibly obnoxious. He is however very caring but doesn’t want anybody to know. His place in the lives of the girls starts off with his shyness towards them and continues to be quite withdrawn from them. But he does begin to warm to them slowly but gradually. Beginning with him giving them an umbrella to walk in the rain with, but then turning against his actions to help out the girls when he can after their mother gets sick, by this point he is warming to them, but is still rather shy around them though. Kanta as such is one of the more shy/secretive characters of the film.

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The film though really hangs on the characters of Mei and Satsuki. Mei is young and playful and it’s through her exploration and interest which leads to the discovery of Totoro. She loves those around her and likes playing with her sister in particular. She is however also rather boisterous and moody, which can lead her into troubling situations. Being young though it could be seen as a lack of understanding for her mother’s situation, something that comes to light as she gets more sick. Her relationship with her older sister is strong, but possibly too strong and due to a lack of people her age around, she does struggle coping without her. But here is a level of animosity towards Mei from Satsuki, which comes out when Satsuki shouts at her. Mei though is also rather headstrong and while she feels it unfair that her mother cannot come home yet, her attitude and love for wanting her to get better, plus the corn she got from Granny leads her to getting lost on the way to the hospital, however the desire for her mother to get better is inspirational enough to attempt it. Satsuki meanwhile is not simply a big sister; she is more grown up than that. She presents the feeling that school is something of a release to her as she has become something more of a carer to Mei rather than just her sister. While she is presented as a head strong, playful and rather mature person, there is also a level of vulnerability in that too. While caring for her sister plus writing letters to her mother keeps her hopeful and headstrong, she eventually breaks down as what she truly thinks and feels comes flooding out. She feels very responsible for the things she does and the people round her, but in turn she does drown a little from within. While initially jealous of Mei for seeing Totoro, she too gets to see Totoro later on and helps him out, which leads her to come to trust his abilities, which in turns helps her find Mei and becomes a stronger person thanks to those experiences.

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For me though, the film’s best characters are its non-human characters. The characters of the forest creatures were introduced in a rather interesting way, as they weren’t stumbled upon but more rather suggested. From the films early moments as the soot creatures appear to the sounds of something upstairs leaving acorns behind. While the soot creatures do have a short time onscreen, their early introduction suggests there being something else too. This would eventually come to Mei discovering them, rather than really stumbling upon them. The first sighting is actually rather fun. Mei discovering the small white creature, it running under the house, but then appearing behind her with another one leading the way (one of the film’s best moments). The 2 creatures are rather cute and a bit silly in design, but also very adorable. The 12 legged cat bus is a rather interesting idea but adds to the mystery of the creatures. It is very cat-like in nature and looks as cuddly as the other creatures.

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Unlike the case of other creature based films, the creature of Totoro does appear rather soon, but it means as an audience member; we can get to know him and his friends (almost personally). While his name is in the film title, he does not spend all that much time on-screen. While Tatsuo does suggest that they only appear when they want to be seen, it is also the opposite, them appearing when the girls need some accompaniment. Totoro and the other two smaller ones are actually very friendly and playful but also caring and respectful. When Satsuki is waiting with a sleeping Mei at the bus stop, Totoro appears. While he does catch a bus in the end, he just stands there, but gives Satsuki something to think about but also have someone around, even if they do not talk much. Totoro is also rather silly, something shown at the bus stop when he likes to hear the rain come down on his umbrella.

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Totoro though does show something of the unknown secrets of the world. His own forest friends show an element of variety of the creatures yet to be discovered, as well as those in dreams and fantasies, such as the 12 legged cat. He is not just a creature though, but a caring and respectful friend. When he is given an umbrella, he repays the girls with a present to say thank you, he then helps them to grow the tree by taking them on a mini adventure during the night which leads to an enjoyable time for all. With the new friendship in him from the girls, he grows to care for them and helps in the search for Mei by asking his forest friends to help out. His caring for nature and mystical tradition also shows with him taking part in the ceremonial dance to help grow the acorn tree. While they are all still rather mysterious, their onscreen presence makes them the most enjoyable, defining characteristic of the film, making it so happy and lovely to watch. For the entire film, I was just wanting to jump in a cuddle them; even more so after the film ended. The little kid in me wanted to go on an adventure with them. I just wanted the good feelings the creatures bring to come into my world.

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My Neighbour Totoro makes great use of its music, composed by Joe Hisaishi. The soundtrack though is rather hard to talk about, mostly because it’s easy to join in with and the minute I start thinking about it, I start wanting to sing it. The opening song is nice and cheery and sets the film up rather nicely; starting as it means to go on as it were. It’s a joyous piece as is most of the film’s music. The final piece though stands out the most to me. It’s a catchy song featuring the titular character’s name. As said before, it’s hard for me to talk about it, as I would rather just listen to it instead. The soundtrack is really terrific and will want you to sing along to it, take my word for it, it’s worthy of listening to, even if you don’t watch the film.

All round, I love this film, I really do. I feel like this could easily make its way up in my favourite films listings. I haven’t seen much in the way of films this year, having only gone to the cinema twice this year, but My Neighbour Totoro is better than (Insurgent and Seventh Son) both of them. I have already begun highly recommending this film to all my friends, and started searching for a DVD copy too. This could well become my movie moment of the year, I loved it that much. While it does look basic and is probably more designed for a children’s audience, I feel it is enjoyable for absolutely everyone. Its animation and artistry is fantastic; the music is catchy and enjoyable; the characters, both human and non-human are terrific and brilliant; basically everything about this film is sheer Fantastic and one that everyone, and I mean everyone should watch at least once. I already look forward to the next time I see it, hopefully with people to share it with. I don’t know how much more I can say other than, My Neighbour Totoro is a Great Film starring the cuddliest, most helpful, wonderful friends; quite possibly, in the history of cinema.

GENEPOOL (now just need to see how it compares in the Japanese speaking version).








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