Film Review: Castle in the Sky (1986)

Also known as: Laputa (alternative title)
Release Date: August 2nd, 1986 (Japan)
Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki
Music by: Joe Hisaishi
Cast: Japanese Language: Mayumi Tanaka, Keiki Yokozawa, Kotoe Hatsui, Minori Terada; English Language: Anna Paquin, James Van Der Beek, Cloris Leachman, Mark Hamill, Andy Dick

Tokuma Shoten, Studio Ghibli, Toei Company, 125 Minutes

Review:

“The earth speaks to all of us, and if we listen, we can understand.” – Uncle Pomme

This is the first official Studio Ghibli movie and the studio was off to a tremendous start with this one.

While the same core creative team did Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, two years earlier, this picture took that style and formula and improved upon it.

Where Nausicaä paved the way for Studio Ghibli to be born, it’s this movie that really became the studio’s foundation and allowed for other great animated features to see the light of day and touch the world.

This is just a really fun adventure film that’s family friendly, sweet and kind of cool.

This should go without saying but the art and animation are incredible and pretty damn flawless. This was one of the best looking animated features, up to the point of its release. Ghibli would continue to improve, though, but their later work still doesn’t diminish the visual look of this one.

This may even be a good jumping on point for those who would really like to dive into Studio Ghibli’s oeuvre.

I liked the story here and it was pretty simple, which is all it needed to be. This didn’t need to be overly complex with an overabundance of details that would be unimportant by the end. This, like all Ghibli films, carries a message in its story and its something that is timeless, meaningful and I think that kids can grasp it.

I don’t really want to give too much away with these movies, though, as I want to encourage people to check them out if they haven’t.

Rating: 8.5/10

Film Review: Angus (1995)

Release Date: September 15th, 1995
Directed by: Patrick Read Johnson
Written by: Jill Gordon
Music by: David E. Russo
Cast: George C. Scott, Chris Owen, Ariana Richards, James Van Der Beek, Charlie Talbert, Kathy Bates, Kevin Connolly, Irvin Kershner, Anna Thomson

Atlas Entertainment, BBC, New Line Cinema, 87 Minutes

Review:

“As for what anybody else thinks, always remember these words and live by them: screw ’em!” – Grandpa

Angus had a pretty big impact on me when I saw it back in the late ’90s. I thought it was one of the best movies of the teen coming-of-age genre. Something about it felt more pure and realistic than the dozens of other films like it and having now seen it, a quarter of a century later, I’m really pleased to discover that not only has it held up but it’s still relevant and even better than similar movies that came after it.

I think that this movie flourished in that it used a cast of mostly unknown teens. Sure, it had Academy Award winners George C. Scott (who refused his Oscar for Patton) and Kathy Bates but they just sort of added legitimacy to the film and probably helped get it in front of audiences that might have otherwise missed it. Plus, they’re both damn good in it and even if their roles are smaller than the teens in the movie, they really have a profound effect on the overall story and Angus’ character arc and personal growth.

The story is about a smart but awkward fat kid who is voted homecoming king as a joke. However, it gives him the opportunity to at least have a dance with the girl he is crushing on, as well as allowing him stand up against the bullies trying to break him down.

It’s a pretty fresh take on the awkward kid trying to win over the popular love interest trope and it’s done remarkably well, which I think has to do with superb writing but also the great performances of the young cast. Frankly, there isn’t a weak link among them and the film’s title character, played by Charlie Talbert, is just great in every scene.

Talbert was a newcomer and this was his first professional credit. Still, this kid held his own sharing scenes with George C. Scott and Kathy Bates and it’s pretty damned impressive.

I think another thing that adds a lot to the picture is the music. The film is full of great tunes from ’90s alternative rock bands and even if it dates the movie, it still sets the tone and allows the viewer to sort of sink into this kid’s world.

Angus is something I should probably revisit more often. It’s absolutely one of the best motion pictures of its type and it’s still good with a message that will always be relevant.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other teen coming-of-age movies of the ’80s and ’90s.