Hayao Miyazaki keeps delivering gem after gem with each of his films that I watch.
I have watched Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and the masterpiece Princess Mononoke, since these films were released on Netflix.
Each of these films provide an epic fantasy or steampunk world for the viewer to get interested in.
The exception to this is Kiki’s Delivery Service, where the focus, as the title suggests, is on a delivery service.
That is not to say there is no fantasy in the film because there most certainly is, as the star of the film is Kiki (Minami Takayama), a witch who, as the coming of age tradition of witches dictates, travels to a new area to help the inhabitants.
Settling in the seaside city of Koriko, Kiki discovers the citizens are not quite used to witches so decides to start a delivery service to help the people and support herself.
Accompanied by her cat Jiji (Rei Sakuma), Kiki meets a wide assortment of interesting characters and goes on quite a few adventures in her new environment, taking the seemingly mundane job of a delivery service woman and transforming it into something magical.
Along with Kiki, the film has more interesting characters like the pregnant baker who takes her in (Keiko Toda), a kind grandmother whose grandchild simply does not deserve her (Haruko Kato), and a young boy who Kiki is in equal parts annoyed and intrigued by (Kappei Yamaguchi).
But it is Kiki who truly shines, as her relationships with these characters culminate in an entertaining finale, where her character development truly shines.
A slice of life anime film that delivers plenty of heart warming and funny moments, Kiki’s Delivery Service is another good film by Hayao Miyazaki.
And so one of the greatest animated series of all time has come to an end.
What a wild, depressing, existential ride it has been.
Why Netflix decided to pull the pin on BoJack Horseman I will never understand but I am at least thankful that they gave creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg and the other writers enough time to end the show right.
And end it did, with the second half of season six bringing an end to the character arcs of BoJack (Will Arnett), Diane (Alison Brie), Todd (Aaron Paul), Princess Carolyn (Amy Seradis), and Mr Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tomkins) amazingly.
All five of these characters get great sendoffs that fit their storylines well.
As set up in the first half of the final season, many of BoJack’s past misdeeds catch up with him, especially the death of Sarah Lynn.
One thing I believed coming into this second half was that BoJack would have truly changed for the better and try to make amends for all he had done.
Well, now I can see that I clearly overestimated BoJack because he is still the painfully flawed, yet somehow still sympathetic, character he has always been.
We even learn some disturbing facts about some of the things he did that honestly made me feel a little guilty for sympathizing with him.
But the way his story ends is perfect for him and can even be viewed as a punishment of sorts.
Then there is Diane and Princess Carolyn who both get fantastic endings as well that left me very touched.
As for Todd, he continued to be as insightfully wacky as ever in the conclusion of his story, making the simple nursery rhyme of the Hockey Pokey inspirational.
The last of the main cast in Mr Peanutbutter, who I was honestly concerned about in the first half of the season.
I thought they were backtracking on his character arc but, thankfully, they follow through on it in this half, giving him a satisfying conclusion as well.
Then there is Hollyhock, with the way her relationship with BoJack developed in the wake of her learning about his horrible actions being realistic, yet heartbreaking.
As well as the characters, many of the episodes are incredible as well, especially the last two.
The fifteenth episode, “The View From Halfway Down” is actually pretty horrifying at times and is easily one of the show’s best episodes.
And then there is the finale, the perfectly titled “Nice While It Lasted”, which wraps up all the character arcs and ends on a note that hits you right in the feels.
There is a lot to love about the second half of the final season.
However, sadly, it is not perfect.
I, for one, was disappointed about how various characters got sidelined.
This is most obvious with Gina who it felt like the show was hyping up to be one of the people who exposed BoJack.
However, she and the trauma she suffered from her experience are never brought up again apart from a blink and you’ll miss it moment.
But, even though I was disappointed by this aspect, there is still so many amazing things about this final season and BoJack Horseman as a whole.
In fact, I think there is only one thing that I can say that will sum up my feelings about the show having ended. BoJack Horseman is gone and everything is worse now.
I honestly thought that after Joker there was no 2019 film that could provide a performance that would rival Joaquin Phoenix’s.
However, after finally watching Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story on Netflix, I can say he now has some stiff competition.
Every single actor does an incredible job in this film, which follows a couple going through a divorce and trying to make things easy for their son, only for their divorce proceedings to escalate.
Both Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver are flawless as Nicole and Charlie Barber and are natural Oscar contenders, especially Driver who blew me away in so many scenes, like the one where he gives an impassioned song.
Again, if Joker had been released any other year then Driver would have an Oscar in the bag with this performance.
Complimenting the actors’ performances is the character writing for both Charlie and Nicole, with the film showing both of them to be flawed people who the audience can sympathize with and decide who is more at fault for the failure of their marriage.
And it’s not just the actors that are great but the cinematography as well with both long, extended takes and quick cuts being utilized to for dramatic and thematic effect perfectly.
Baumbach did an amazing job directing this film.
The only minor criticism I can think of is that it did take me a little bit to relate to Charlie and Nicole because of their celebrity status, which initially felt slightly alienating.
But, this issue I was having did quickly dissipate because of how the story and character arcs played out, along with the great the performances and cinematography so I can hardly fault the film. Marriage Story is an emotional, highly crafted film that is definitely one of the best of the year.
Martin Scorsese has had a long career of fantastic crime dramas from Goodfellas, to Casino, to The Departed, to many more.
As such, coming into The Irishman, I felt like I was going to see another riveting film on par with many of his prior movies.
Honestly, though, this expectation may have been a bit naive.
That is not to say that The Irishman is bad because it is certainly a good film, but there was nothing about it that made it feel like I was seeing something new.
The most impressive thing about the film is its fantastic de-aging effects, which allows the characters played by Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci to age across the decades that the film depicts.
The only problem I had with the effects was that sometimes the actors’ eyes looked a little off but, Aside from this, it was flawless.
The Irishman follows the crime fueled life of Frank Sheeran (De Niro), a man who “paints houses”, a euphemism for murder in the criminal underworld.
Under orders from his friend Russel Bufalino (Pesci), Frank eventually comes to know and befriend the leader of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino).
The film then follows these three characters through Frank’s experiences in the criminal underworld and the fatal effects these experiences have.
For starters, the three actors all do a really good job with their characters, especially De Niro and Pacino because I could really feel the bond that their characters had.
The friendship between Sheeran and Hoffa, and what it ultimately culminates in, is the most interesting part of the movie for me; even if the outcome may not be true to life because no one really knows how these events really unfolded.
Another impressive thing about The Irishman is how it goes about portraying Sheeran’s supposed murders, with them often being quick and realistic, lacking an over dramatic feel, although this works in the film’s favor.
However, despite these good things, I still cannot say The Irishman is anything spectacular.
For one thing, the film is way too long, coming in at 209 minutes.
The over three hour runtime was not exactly warranted and I felt quite a few scenes could have been condescend or cut.
Also, as I said, The Irishman does not really add anything all that new to the crime drama genre.
I felt like I was watching just a typical crime film rather than one directed by Scorsese.
Still, the film is enjoyable and I would recommend it based off the great performances and amazing de-aging effects.
If you don’t mind the over three hour runtime then you should give it a watch.
I enjoyed the first two seasons of The Dragon Prince.
While I did find the first season to be flawed in its animation and some of its story telling, I found season two to be a real improvement.
Well, season three continues to improve on its animation and story, becoming the best season so far.
Created by Aaron Ehaz and Justin Richmond, the story now follows Callum (Jack DeSena) and Rayla (Paula Burrows) on their journey to deliver the Dragon Prince Zym to his mother and end the war.
While this is going on, Callum’s younger brother Ezran (Sasha Rojen) struggles as the new king of Katolis, with Viren (Jason Simpson) and the mysterious Aarvos (Erik Todd Dellums) scheming to take power.
The first thing I have to praise the third season of The Dragon Prince for is its scale.
The story now feels like an epic, and after the final enthralling last episode, “The Final Battle,” I have no idea where the series is going next.
Just as good as the story are the characters who are more investing than they ever have been.
A perfect example of this is my new favourite character Soren (Jesse Inocalla).
Honestly, I did not care much for Soren prior to this season but he really blew me away here with his character development.
This culminated in a scene is the final episode that left me both feeling shocked and having a lot of respect for him.
Almost as good are Callum and Rayla, with their relationship being a primary focus.
When the possibility of a relationship between the two was first hinted at last season, I was actually unsure if it could work.
However, the depiction of their relationship definitely proved me wrong because the two are perfect for each other.
Along with these characters, others like Viren, Aarvos, and Claudia (Raquel Belmonte) all have standout moments.
I also really enjoyed Amaya’s storyline and I was very happy to see she got more screen time than last season.
And then there is Ezran whose storyline, unfortunately, has a problem.
As well as this, there is also a deus ex machina in “The Final Battle” that I found to be particularly egregious.
I think these two problems could have been easily fixed, but to explain why I will need to get into spoilers so I will leave that for the end of the post.
However, although these problems do stick out, they are not enough to ruin the season, which has plenty of things to make up for it like the story, other characters, and the animation.
Speaking of, the animation this season is amazing.
Unlike season one there was no moment where I was taken out of a scene because of poor animation.
As well as this, the season also manages to be incredibly funny with one reference to Avatar: The Last Airbender leaving me laughing harder than I have in a while.
So, all in all, the third season of The Dragon Prince is definite the best so far.
It has a great story, great characters, amazing animation, funny jokes, and I cannot wait to see where it goes.
There have been some concerns that Netflix may cancel it but, hopefully, these fears turn out to be for nothing.
Spoilers: So, I want to discuss the two big problems I have with season three and state how I think they could have been fixed.
The first issue is Ezran being usurped as king by Viren and then going back to help Callum and Rayla in the span of a few episodes.
This made his subplot of learning to become king feel kind of unnecessary.
The second problem I have is the dues ex machina in “The Final Battle” where Queen Aanya (Zelda Ehaz) shows up out of nowhere with her army to save the day, apparently being convinced by Corvus (Omari Newton) and Opeli (also Paula Burrows) to come and help.
The thing is that Aanya seemed to be pretty against fighting in season two so it really does not make sense for her to come and help now.
In order to fix these two things I would suggest a change in the story.
Instead of Ezran immediately going back to Callum and Rayla when he is dethroned, he instead travels with Corvus and Opeli to meet Aanya and ask for her support.
We could see Ezran learn to negotiate with her and maybe Aanya decides to help him because she sees the good in him, unlike Viren who she could tell was untrustworthy.
This would both make Ezran’s king storyline more important and make Aanya showing up to help make more sense.
Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal pretty much traumatized me as a child.
I remember seeing a Skeksis crumble to dust in the opening minutes of the film and being absolutely terrified.
Now, years later, the Jim Henson Company and Netflix have released a prequel series to the original creepy, puppet, fantasy movie, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. Directed by Louis Leterrier, I came into this series with a vague sense of the original movie, since I think I was 12 the last time I watched it.
Well, Age of Resistance made me want to go back and watch that film because the Netflix series is fantastic, delivering a riveting story with great characters, music and puppetry.
The Dark Crystal movie came out in 1982 so a lot of time has passed and this has given the creators the chance to improve on the puppetry and CGI.
The way the practical effects merge with computer generated effects is perfect, giving Age of Resistance a grand sense of scope.
The story follows three Gelflings; castle guard Rian (Taron Edgerton), the cave dwelling Deet (Nathalie Emmanuel) and Princess Brea (Anya Taylor Joy), learning that their lords, the Skeksis, are not so benevolent as they thought.
Realizing the threat the Skeksis pose to the world of Thra, the three Gelflings set out on their own individual journeys to stop the Skeksis and the Darkening they have caused by abusing the Dark Crystal.
I came to care about all three of these Gelfling, who are all magnificently voice acted, with my favourite probably being Deet.
I liked her arc from beginning to end and also really enjoyed her friendship with the Podling Hup (Victor Yerrid).
Another thing I surprisingly enjoyed was the Skeksis themselves, who are over the top evil in the best of ways.
The Emperor (Jason Isaacs) is a commanding overlord, and The Scientist (Mark Hamill) uses his genius in cruelly malevolent ways.
By far the most investing Skeksis is Simon Pegg’s backstabbing Chamberlain.
With his constant “MMMMMMMs!”, he is as delightfully two-faced as I remember him being in the original movie.
As for the music, it further highlights the majesty of the world of Thra, and the danger whenever the characters’ lives are at risk.
Speaking of, there are a lot of deaths.
I have heard some describe this series as Game of Thrones with puppets and that is fairly accurate; although this should have been expected, given where the original movie starts off.
However, there are a few things that stop Age of Resistance from being perfect.
One is the fact that it is sometimes hard to take certain dramatic scenes seriously because, well, the characters are puppets.
Granted, these moments are few and bar between but they still happen.
By far the biggest problem, though, is that many of the characters seem to have changes in motivation at the drop of a hat.
Seladon (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is a prime example of this; but easily the biggest instance of this is in episode four where at least four characters’ motivations seem to change almost instantaneously with no buildup.
Still, these issues do not ruin the experience as The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is a well made show with a great story and characters, and brilliant effects, both practical and computer generated.
I highly recommend it, especially for fans of The Dark Crystal movie.
I loved the first season of Mindhunter. Created by Joe Penhall, and with many episodes directed by David Fincher, The Netflix series hooked me right off with its disturbingly realistic portrayal of actual serial killers.
I was eagerly anticipating the second season, and we finally got it now, two years later.
The second season picks up with Holden Ford (Jonathon Groff) recovering from his encounter with Ed Kemper (Cameron Britton) at the end of the first season.
After getting released from a mental hospital by Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), Holden meets back up with the team, consisting of Tench, Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) and Gregg Smith (Joe Tuttle), in their studies of serial killers.
What follows is a season that sees the characters interviewing a wide ranger of terrifying murderers, like David Berkowitz (Oliver Cooper), and those who manipulate others to kill, like Charles Manson (Damon Herriman).
Most terrifying of all are the investigations into the BTK killer, Dennis Rader (Sonny Valicenti), and the Atlanta child murders, which eventually becomes the main focus of the season.
Just like the first season, what makes Mindhunter season two so scary is its horrifying realism.
Again, no murders are shown but the aftermath of these crimes, and the way they are explained by both the killers and surviving victims is horrifying.
This leads to one particularly disturbing scene when Tench is interviewing Kevin Bright (Andrew Yackel) a survivor of the BTK killer.
The way this scene is shot is so particular, the acting from Yackel so tragic, and the sound design so unnerving, that is makes the scene horrifying to watch, even though no violence is taking place.
It is particularly disheartening to hear Tench make assumptions about BTK, only for us to know he is completely wrong, meaning they are further away from stopping him.
Speaking of Tench, he has the best story this season, with a tragic family event that makes his interactions with the killers even more personal.
A scene where a confrontation takes place between Tench and Manson is particularly illuminating to Tench’s character.
It is not all great, though, because compared to last season Mindhunter season two does fall short.
There are quite a few plot lines that are dropped like Ford’s panic attacks, which are quickly forgotten about, and the cat Carr was feeding last season, which is oddly left out of entirely.
As for Carr, herself, she does not have much of a role in the back-half of the season, and a romance storyline she has feels a bit too similar to Ford’s relationship from the previous season as well.
However, these problems do not diminish how great Mindhunter is.
It is still a creepy show, with great fictional characters and terrifying real killers.
I am already looking forward to season three.
Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of the big classic anime.
Not only do a lot of people love the series but it also helped shape anime into what it is today.
So, with the anime being released on Netflix, I knew I had to check out.
And what did I think of it?
Well… its complicated.
After watching Evangelion, I had honestly no idea what I thought about it.
There were things I liked about the show and things I did not, and my mixture of feelings was blended into an anime with great symbolism, well done and problematic animation, along with a downright bizarre ending.
You probably all know the plot by now but, for those who do not, Neon Genesis Evangelion is set in a world where giant monsters known as Angels pose a threat to all of humanity.
In order to combat them and stop a world ending event known as the Third Impact, a group of children are chosen to pilot robots known as Evas to combat them.
Our main character is Shinji Ikari (Casey Mongillo), a 14-year-old boy whose father, Gendo (Ray Chase), leads Nerv, the organisation that runs the Eva program.
Shinji is called in by his estranged father to pilot Unit 2 and help save the world.
From there the story unfolds into an in depth character study of Shinji and his allies, along with plenty of Eva vs Angel fights spread out.
Speaking of these characters, I found them to be a bit of a mixed bag.
Shinji is a relatable protagonist, and I found his growing bond with his guardian Misato Katsuragi (Carrie Keranen) to be very well done.
But then there is the emotionless Rei Ayanami (Ryan Bartley) who was difficult to connect with a lot of the time, and Gendo, who both deserves the terrible father award and has pretty much no resolution with Shinji by the end.
And finally there are the characters who my opinion changed of over time.
A prime example of this is Asuka Langley Soryu (Stephanie McKeon), who I could not stand at first, until her backstory was revealed in an episode that sent her spiraling into a deep depression that I found very sympathetic.
However, while the characters were a bit hit or miss for me, I found that the symbolism and themes of Evangelion were usually spot on.
The director, Hideaki Anno has talked about how the anime expresses his experiences dealing with depression and this can clearly be seen with many of the characters.
Then there is the Christian symbolism, which is everywhere and incredibly well handled.
I have no idea what it means but I do not think we are supposed to.
Despite these themes, though, I honestly was not able to become fully immersed in Evangelion’s story until episode sixteen but, from that point on, I was fully on board.
Some really great episodes came after this point, my favourite of which is definitely episode nineteen, “A Man’s Battle”, which had plenty of amazing character development and the best action of the anime.
This is helped by the great animation of the episode, which details all of the epic battle moments.
The animation is far from perfect throughout, unfortunately, as there are constant still shots that go on for long periods of time with nothing moving.
The worst of these comes in the first few episodes when there is a shot of Shiji and Misato staring at each other at a train station that feels like it goes on forever.
Sadly, the still images are not the only problem with Evangelion’s animation because it becomes quite obvious that they had almost no budget left by the final two episodes, with literal drawings being used.
Speaking of the ending, I had heard that it was not very good but I was not expecting the confusing, absurd, drug trip that I got.
I literally laughed out loud at the ending because of how nonsensical it felt.
The ending is not completely terrible because it does do justice to the characters’ inner psychology, especially with Shinji, however, there is no narrative cohesion whatsoever in these final two episodes.
I understand that the movie End of Evangelion (which I will be watching and reviewing soon) explains the ending but that is not good enough in my mind.
When watching a finale you need to understand what is happening without needing a follow up movie to get it.
Still, I will not say that the ending ruined what came before.
Overall, I found Neon Genesis Evangelion to be a good anime.
I cannot say that it affected me on the level that it obviously did countless other people but I can recognize its significance in the anime world.
Without Evangelion anime would be in a very different place to where it is now and for that it should be recognized.
Stranger Things is one of Netflix’s biggest shows and there was much excitement surrounding its third season.
I enjoyed the first and second season a great deal and was hoping that this third one could live up to them.
Well, I am happy to say that Stranger Things season is probably my favourite so far.
Dropped on the fourth of July, the Duffer brothers take the story in an interesting direction with plenty of great character moments, laughs, horror, and, of course, nostalgia.
After defeating the Mind Flayer, our central characters are no longer kids, growing into their teenage years where they begin to value dating over Dungeons and Dragons, much to Will’s (Noah Schnapp) dismay.
However, when the evil force returns because of experiments committed by stereotypically evil, cold war Russians, it is up to Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and her friends to find a way to stop it once more.
The first few episodes start off slow before it all builds towards an epic conclusion.
Much like the previous seasons, this one has the characters split up into multiple groups, giving them all a chance to shine.
The relationship troubles of Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Eleven are endearing, as is Eleven’s friendship with Max (Sadie Sink), which is a nice change of pace considering Max was treated unfairly for no reason back in season two.
Then there is Hopper (David Harbour) and Joyce (Winona Ryder) who make a great pair again, especially with Hopper’s hilarious anger issues.
The best group of the entire season though has to be Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Steve (Joe Keery), Erica (Priah Ferguson) and new character Robin (Maya Hawke).
These four characters have plenty of hilarious scenes that had me clutching my stomach with laughter.
Not only that, they have plenty of great emotional moments as well, with one conversation between Steve and Robin, in a bathroom, giving me a feeling that a life long friendship had been sparked.
This season is sadly not all laughs though because there is plenty of horror to be had with the Mind Flayer’s new weapon.
The CGI is handled very well for this disgusting creature, which begins to influence many characters, including Billy (Dacre Montgomary).
Which reminds me of another thing I love about Stranger Things, character redemption.
The Duffer brothers are able to take characters that seem irredeemable at first only to turn this original perception of them on its head.
Billy is one such character because, even though he is a villain this season, he is made a very relatable one by the final episode.
Sadly, he is also where an issue I have lies.
There is an ultimately pointless subplot where Billy tries to have an affair with Mike’s mum and it has absolutely no impact on the story, feeling like a complete waste of time.
This took up so little screen time though that it is forgivable.
Season three of Stranger Things is almost certainly my favourite season of the bunch, and I am excited to see where it goes from here.
Even if some people do have more issues with the season than I do, they still have to admit that there is nothing as terrible as the “Lost Sister” episode of season two.
Although I did enjoy the first season of Netflix’s The Dragon Prince, I did find it to be a frustrating experience.
Created by Aaron Ehasz and Justin Richmond, there was a lot to love about season one but its animation and story telling left much to be desired.
Thankfully, I think season two improves and even fixes many of the series’ prior failings.
The biggest issue of season one, for me and a lot of other people, was the animation, with the frame rate being so abysmal that it took me out of many scenes.
This season, however, the animation has been improved greatly.
There are still a few instances of odd animation but it very rarely took me out of the moment and looks great most of the time.
Another element of the show that it improved on is the story.
While there was a lot to love about the story telling in the first season, I found some elements were introduced too abruptly and some story points felt a little odd.
Not for this season though because it all flows naturally.
Admittedly, the first few episodes are a bit of a slow burn but once the season hits episode five the story becomes highly engaging, with fantastic scenes and character moments.
Episode five, “Breaking the Seal,” and episode six, “Heart of a Titan”, are probably the best of the season, allowing me to care for characters I had not previously like Harrow (Luc Roderique) and his wife Sarai (Kazumi Evans).
Speaking of the characters, almost all of them have fantastic arcs.
Callum (Jack DeSena) has one of the best, with him struggling to regain his magic, the one thing that made him feel like he had purpose, which made me sympathize a lot with him.
Then there is Claudia (Racquel Belmont), who goes down a very dark path in the final episode, which has me excited about what will happen with her next season.
We even get some new characters who are just as great as the old ones.
There is the young leader Queen Aanya (Zelda Ehasz), who reminds me a lot of Lyanna Mormont from Game of Thrones, and a funny blind pirate named Villads (Peter Kelamis).
My favourite new character of the season is, without a doubt, the intimidating new villain Aaravos.
He is voiced by Erik Dellums, the voice of Koh in Avatar: The Last Airbender, which makes him even more threatening. Aaravos is already one of the most interesting characters in The Dragon Prince and I found his storyline with Veren (Jason Simpson) to be the best of the season.
What is not the best storyline of the season, however, is definitely Soren’s (Jesse Inocalla).
It is clear the writers were trying to make us sympathize with his character this season but, given his actions, I found it extremely hard to.
Although, they did redeem him somewhat by the end of the season.
Another small negative I have is the way the season ends.
The final episode, “Breathe”, ends pretty suddenly, making it a jarring experience.
It is not a huge issue but I think they should have ended the season on a different scene.
Overall, the season season of The Dragon Prince is a big improvement on the first, animation and story wise.
I can now confidently say that I am invested in this story.