I don’t even know where to start when describing how much I loved this movie. As I mentioned the other day, I’m going through Mamoru Hosoda’s movies (I’d only previously seen Summer Wars), and this, well, this is just one of the best animated films I’ve ever seen. I can’t say that the quality of the animation surpasses the last few Ghibli films, but overall, this is just such a fantastic and emotional and enjoyable work. Can’t recommend it enough.
Even though I’ve had this game for a month – it was part of the March lineup of free games through PlayStation Plus – I still didn’t get around to playing it until tonight. Part of it was that the name really turned me off, and also that it had been selected to join the PS+ lineup through a survey, over a game that I wanted to play much more (Assault Android Cactus). But I finally decided to give it try, and I ended up playing for quite a bit of time, and really getting into it. I think the best testament of its fun level is that I was trying to get through a section (the first covert level where you play with just one dude) and I was failing over and over and over again, yet I just kept going and going and going. The deceptively simple aesthetics start looking rather nice when things start blowing up, and the variety of dudes (OK, bros) you play are not only funny (all parodies of famous action heroes) but really fun to play in their own way (except the dude with the dynamite sticks, he kinda sucks).
A lot of people are playing with this right now (it came out outside of Japan on Thursday), and you’re hearing a lot of “what’s the point here,” and the thing is that there isn’t one, really. It’s just a way to spend some time looking at funny things, with a light level of interaction (answering questions, and reading answers from friends) that doesn’t demand too much of your time. Oh, and there’s outfits too. The best feature by far are the photos you can take with your Miis (and Miis of your friends) posing on top of any image. It’s the kind of thing that I would normally imagine that, although I’ve been having a lot of fun with it, I’d probably quickly lose interest (as much as I loved playing Tomodachi Collection, which influenced this, I did drop off after a few weeks), but if they can continuously add new features or mini-games, it might end up keeping me checking in for a while longer.
When I started watching this, I realized that I couldn’t really remember what had happened in the first one, but I did remember liking it. This though, it just tries too hard to establish some sort of “world” for the franchise, focusing too much on powers and the otherworld, instead of on creepiness and scares. There were some interesting bits – how early elements are later explained by who was responsible for what – but I can’t say that I really liked it much, and I’m not interested in watching Chapter 3 now.
I really do want Shyamalan to make a good movie again, and The Visit does have some nice creepy moments, but alas it still falls short overall. The biggest annoyance for me was the setup of found footage (the daughter is making a documentary about what’s happening) which just feels so cliché and uninteresting these days. And I guessed pretty early on where it was all headed. But still, there are some good bits here.
I can’t say that I’m hugely into MOBAs – I’ve barely tried League of Legends and DOTA 2 because they didn’t play great on my MacBook Air, although I should maybe try again on my current MacBook Pro – but I do like to dabble in the ones that come out on console. In the past, I’ve had a lot of fun playing the Guardians of Middle-earth one (the one problem I had with it was that not enough people were playing it, so I was always stuck with bots), as well as Awesomenauts. I was pretty curious about Epic’s Paragon when it was first announced, because it looked like a fun way to play a MOBA (from a 3rd person action perspective – which is not completely new, since Smite does it as well, but I tried that last week and it didn’t really grab me). I’ve played a few matches of Paragon now – the first few with and against bots, and then a couple with real players – and I gotta say I’m having fun with it. My favorite character to play right now is Howitzer (a bunny that rides a mech), but I still want to try playing with a lot of the other characters, to see how they feel. I did feel a bit frustrated in my real-player matches though – people on my team didn’t seem to want to concentrate on doing something, and were all over the place, and so we’d get massacred – but I’m sure that will improve with time.
I’ve been on a Ghibli run of late – the only film left to watch that I haven’t seen yet is The Tale of the Princess Kaguya – but I decided to side track and go through the films of Mamoru Hosoda. The only film of his I’ve seen is Summer Wars, which I really love – and it’s one of my wife’s favorite movies – and I’ve been meaning to watch the rest of his filmography for what feels like forever, especially The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, which came out 10 years ago. The verdict? Wow, what a fantastic film, with a central character I loved to follow on screen, and a story that is told in a novel way (featuring time manipulation). Another interesting point is that although it’s been said to be an animated remake of an older film, my wife noticed that it actually acts as a sort of sequel – the aunt character mentions things that would suggest that she is actually the character featured in the original film. I can’t recommend this enough, and I can’t wait to watch the other two Hosoda movies on my list, Wolf Children and The Boy and the Beast.
So this is the last Ghibli film we’ve gotten, for now, and although on the surface it doesn’t feel as strong as The Wind Rises, I was completely drawn into its story and atmosphere, and enjoyed it just as much as From Up on Poppy Hill, if not more. The main character is one of the most interesting ones we’ve seen in a Ghibli film I feel (flawed in a way Miyazaki’s heroins don’t tend to be), and the Hokkaido countryside setting was so beautiful to take in. It also had a denouement I wasn’t expecting, and quite enjoyed. Definitely one of the best Ghibli films out there.
As I mentioned the other day, I’ve decided to catch up on recent Ghibli releases I’m embarrassed to say I hadn’t watched. Following From Up on Poppy Hill, I watched The Wind Rises, which at the time was possibly going to be Miyazaki’s final film – something he’s said a few times though, and already it seems like he’s ready to work on a new project, although I’m not sure if it’s a film. Although not enjoyable or delightful in the way that most Ghibli films are – because of its subject matter and strong dramatic elements – it is indeed quite a good film, with some terrific imagery. If this is to be his cinematic swan song, then it’s a great one to leave on.