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Kiki's Delivery Service (1989)


What's fantastic about Hayao Miyazaki's earlier films is how magical they feel in their simplicity. As a child watching this film for the first time, I immediately feel in love with it and all of its characters. Magic has been commonly associated with witches for centuries. While they are usually portrayed as evil beings, there are still those who uses their magic for good. In Kiki's Delivery, there are implications that some witches who make healing potions and tells love fortunes. While these skills are impressive, they are nonetheless common and predictable. One of Studio Ghibli's great trait is being able to give new light and meaning in something very simple, rendering it as if it was the most ingenious and interesting concept for all to see. In Kiki's Delivery Service, it's a story about a little witch who simply flies around on her broom and working as a delivery woman.

Like My Neighbor Totoro, the story of Kiki's Delivery Service has no villains and no real plot goal. It's simply a story about a girl going out into the world with everyday life's situation coming her way. Call it a slice of life film with a small touch of magic. The little girl is named Kiki (voiced by Kirsten Dunst) and she has already turned thirteen years old and is old enough to undergo a witch tradition where she must leave her family and her home and make a living for herself somewhere in the real world for a year. It's a tradition that helps young witches find their identity, and at that age, it can very much apply to the story and to the audience very well. Kiki sets out with her little black cat, Gigi (voiced by Phil Hartman), as they settled into a large European-liked town by the sea. It's strange that while there doesn't seemed to be many witches in this film, the normal humans aren't alarmed by their presences. Rather, they became fascinated by Kiki when she flew in. Through sheer forces of both mishaps and luck in one day, Kiki met Tombo (Matthew Lawrence), a boy who's enthusiastic about the concept of flying, and Osono (Tress MacNeille), a bakery owner and welcomed her to live with her and her family.

Kiki began to wonder her special talent as a witch. Since she's not as good with potion making as her mother nor can she predict the future like other witches, Kiki relies on her flying skill. Soon, she decided to take a job in the delivery service. Based on the design and the technology, I would guess that this story takes place sometimes in the 1930s. Before the age of UPS or FedEx delivery, a witch on a broom is your fastest chance of getting any packages delivered.

In essence, the rest of the film focuses on Kiki flying around helping her customers delivering their parcels and making new friends. So simple and plain on paper this plot sounds, but in reality, it is an absolute gem. Like many of Studio Ghibli's films, its a film where the audience gets to enjoy the simple life of a character. Unlike its predecessor, this film's third act is more action-packed. Call it a tribute to the Hindenburg incident of 1937, the final act shows us how our hero grows and mature when the time comes.

As always, Hayao Miyazaki and his film crew painted the scenery and the animation beautifully. The way the buildings of the town was designed would make you wish you want to live in a place like that. The flowing movement of Kiki flying in the sky makes you hold your breath and feel as if you're falling from the sky. Combined all of this with a simple plot and charming characters, Kiki's Delivery Service definitely delivered the right amount of magic for us all. It is simply one of Studio Ghibli's best and most memorable films to this date. We can only hope that it will still be appreciated and loved for generations to come. Like the scene where Kiki's helped an elderly woman bake using a traditional oven over a microwave, some old things are better.


Previously on W.I.T.C.H. Dreams of Lusteria
Kimi's heart has turned cold and murderous as she will stop at nothing to kill her father's murderer, even if it means attacking Will and the other Guardians! Has Kimi's Light been corrupted by the dark path of revenge, or can the Guardians of Kandrakar and Orube stop her before it's too late? Meanwhile, Xuan Wu the Celestial Warrior of Water began her assault on the Northern Water Kingdom of Joseon. Queen Sondok refused to give in, but how long can she hold out until her land is completely frozen in an eternal sleep?

:bulletpink::bulletblue::bulletorange::bulletgreen::bulletpurple:W.I.T.C.H. Dreams of Lusteria, Chapter Six "Reflection of Pain":bulletpink::bulletblue::bulletorange::bulletgreen::bulletpurple:

In this chapter, the final battle between the Guardians and Xuan Wu, the Celestial Warrior of Water, takes place in an epic showdown. During their ordeals, both Cornelia and Kimi struggles to reflect on the pains and misery they've faced these past few years. Meanwhile, Orube investigate the "mole" as she and the Guardians raced to prevent a tsunami-liked flood from destroying the capital city. As they faced the oldest Celestial Warrior, Cornelia must search within herself for the true power of Earth and discover her Virtue.…

:bulletpink::bulletblue::bulletorange::bulletgreen::bulletpurple:Guardians, Unite!:bulletpink::bulletblue::bulletorange::bulletgreen::bulletpurple:


WITCH: Dreams of Lusteria: The New Guardians by Galistar07waterWITCH Dreams of Lusteria: Brave New World by Galistar07waterWITCH Dreams of Lusteria: To Have and to Hold Back by Galistar07waterWITCH Dreams of Lusteria: A Wall of Earth and Iron by Galistar07waterWITCH Dreams of Lusteria: A Heart of Ice by Galistar07waterWITCH Dreams of Lusteria: Reflection of Pain by Galistar07water

Feedback and reviews (on the story's site) are highly appreciated
My Neighbor Totoro (1988)


There really should be more films like My Neighbor Totoro, a film that doesn't require any fast paced narratives, no action-packed action scenes, no villains, no frictions between two characters, no cynical adults, no moral lessons...just pure fun on a summer day exploring for adventure in your own backyard. Unlike Studio Ghibli's previous film, Graveyard of the Fireflies, this movie doesn't tell you anything anti-war related. Rather, it's a lighter film for the family to enjoy.

My Neighbor Totoro is one of the best and well known films for Studio Ghibli, so much so that they've decided to use the spirit monster Totoro and a mini-version of him as a part of their company's logo. It's simply a beloved film about two sisters exploring their new house in the farmland during one late summer. Satsuki Kusakabe (Dakota Fanning), her younger sister Mei (Elle Fanning), and their father Tatsuo (Tim Daly) have decided to move into the rural farmland of Japan one summer. Their mother, Yasuko (Aladdin and Mulan's Lea Salonga), is sick and is moved to a hospital in this district. During a drive towards their new home, they ran into one of their next door neighbors which included a boy in Satsuki's class, Kanta (Paul Butcher). Both Satsuki and Kanta made funny faces at each other, because god forbids that we don't at that age, and Kanta tells the sisters that their house is haunted! Oh dear, is this one of those scary movies? Far from it. Instead of running away, both sisters embraced in it as they try to look for the spirits with keen interest.

Spirits and monsters in this film aren't those scary kinds that live under your bed or lurk in your closets. Instead, they all seemed to be cute and fuzzy creatures. During their exploration around their new, old rickety home, the sisters found a swarm of cute-looking fuzzy balls. Their father think that they might be "dust bunnies", but their new caretaker, whom they affectionately named Granny (Pat Carroll), tells them that they're soot spirits! But there's a bigger spirit out there and he lives in a giant tree under a hidden passage. Mei stumbled upon him one day and decided to take a nap on his big, fuzzy tummy. He doesn't speak, but when he roars, it sounded like "Totoro!" (Transformers' Frank Welker). Turns out, Totoro has two more friends who are smaller versions of himself. (I can tell you that my favorite is the little white one!) They're forest spirits who planted acorn seeds, small little seeds that the sisters treasured like gold.

There is a very sweet moment in the film where the sisters are waiting for their father at a bus stop. To their surprise, Totoro came with nothing but a leaf on his head as a makeshift umbrella. They gave him their father's umbrella and he gleefully jumps down just to hear raindrops on its surface! He calls for his bus, which is alive, has several legs, and is part cat! This film is just so charming that it's hard to believe that it's also very strange!

My Neighbor Totoro is a film based on our childhood experiences, life situation and exploration. It takes place during the 1980's, and there were no iPads or personal laptops to play games with. Instead, children who grew up during that time period actually went beyond their bedroom doors to explore and play outside, armed with nothing but their imagination. This film proves that in our lives, there is a lot more discover in your own backyard than it is in your own room. Our lives doesn't need all the fast paced race-cars for excitement, nor an villains or evil adults to make it interesting. All you need is your imagination, eagerness for exploration, and a little bit of luck of bumping into a Totoro. Before, Totoros were never based on any creatures from Japanese folklore. After My Neighbor Totoro, they're now famous spiritual icons making it big in our pop culture.

Graveyard of the Fireflies (1988)


Today, September 1st, marks the beginning of WWII when Germany Invaded Poland in 1939. However, the war technically began two years earlier on July 7th, 1937 when Japan invaded Manchuria. After the turning point for the Americans on Midway, Japan is slowly, but surely losing the war as it draws closer to their own doorsteps. In the waning days of the second Great War, Japan is being bombed with small, black, rod-liked objects with fiery tails. The structures of Japan's buildings and cities back then were still mostly made of and wood and traditional paper-screened doors. While traditional and beautiful, it does Japan and its people no good during these American air raids.

Two children are left homeless one day after such destructive bombings. The older brother, Seita (J. Robert Spencer) and his five-year-old sister, Setsuko (Rhoda Chrosite) are the focus of the film as they try to survive in a time deeply affected by the war. Buildings are destroyed and burnted after the firebombing attack, setting nearly everything, including their home, neighbors, and schools, to the ground. Their mother, (Veronica Taylor) died during the bombing. With their father away with the Japanese Navy, Seita and Setsuko moved in with a distant aunt (Amy Jones). Their aunt allows them to stay with her, but with food and supplies being severely rationed, she (rightfully) became resentful and openly remarks on their laziness. Tired of her nagging, the two decided to go off and live on their own in a nearby abandoned bomb shelter.

Seeing the setting of Graveyard of the Fireflies, we would think that this would be one of those films where the protagonists suffer through hardships during wartime and will eventually find success and happiness. However, this film is no such thing as it showed the death of Setsuko at the beginning of the film. After dying of starvation, Setsuko is reunited with the spirit of his deceased sister as the two ghosts looked back on how they got here. Striking out on their own, Setsuko does whatever he could to take care of his sister, but even with what little money that they have, food is scarce , forcing him to steal and take whatever he could get to keep them both alive. His pride and stubborn refusal to quit trying will ultimately seal both of their fates.

Graveyard of the Fireflies is perhaps one of the most emotional and realistically tragic film in not just Studio Gibli's history, but in animated film history as a whole. The setting and the story is depressing as it is powerful. When it was first released, it was accompanied by Hayao Miyazaki's more lighthearted My Neighbor Totoro as a double feature. WWII is a very sour topic for most Japanese citizens (even to this date), and it is unsurprising to see that this film turned away most of these audiences, due to its stark nature. Rather than the happy-ending summer fairy tale that is in My Neighbor Totoro, Graveyard of the Fireflies is a bolder film that shows us the reality of life for these two young children trying to survive wartime Japan. It's not shy to show the graphic and emotional scenes. While many critics and fans saw this as an anti-war film, in reality, Graveyard of the Fireflies focused more on the personal tragedies that war gave rise to upon these characters. It doesn't want to glamorize Setsuko's struggle to care for himself and his sister as heroic and honorable, but it shows us how its own society has failed to perform its most important duty to protect its own people.

We know for a fact that Japanese culture and society emphasized on the concept of honor and success. It was unthinkable to even consider complete surrender to the Americans as the war drew closer to an end. The kamikaze pilots were taught to die for their country on purpose, bringing themselves and their family great honor with their sacrifice. Many soldiers, generals, and citizens committed seppoku, rather dying with honor than to see the Americans succeed upon their doorsteps. Seita has this strong sense of pride and honor throughout the film. He's proud of his father's naval career and is most devastated upon the news of Japan's surrender than the news about his father's death. To him, failure is unthinkable not just in war but in his attempt to be care for his sister and be independent. Even when severe signs of malnutrition sets upon them both, Seita is still determined to try harder to make their independence work. His refusal to swallow his pride and going back to his aunt for help ultimately leads to his and Setsuko's death.

Graveyard of the Fireflies seemed to be teaching us that while it's okay to have a great sense of pride and honor in one's life, there is also a downside to it when it comes to your lives and the ones you cared for the most. Is there really shame to admit your defeat? Was it worth it to refuse to give up? War brought on many tragedies, but war is a part of life and it is up to society to do its duty to care and protect its people during such hardship. The death of these two children shows us how far society can fail and that it is still a reality to this date.

This film's director, Isao Takahata, is considered one of Studio Gibli's most popular director next to his friend and colleague, Hayao Miyazaki. While Graveyard of the Fireflies is his most serious film, it's also its own cinematic landmark. In truth, it was based on a novel by Nosaka Aikiyuki who did lived during wartime as a boy and his life was shadowed by guilt like Seita when his younger sister died of starvation. Another surprising factor is that this film doesn't focus on its animation as much in comparison with its other films before and later on, something that Studio Gibli is widely known for. While its artistic quality is still there, there is less details in the smaller things. In a sense, it's a good thing as it tries to focus more of its attention to its story and its grim messages. Anything detailed and glamorous in its animation would take away such thing.

Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986)


Laputa: Castle in the Sky is another spectacular film from Japan, full of fantasy adventure, charming characters, and extraordinary levels of details. Officially the first of Studio Gibli's films, Castle in the Sky takes on both the theme of science fiction with all of its technological, steam-punked-themed airplanes and robots, but also fable with its mysticism and magic.

The name of the floating island castle, Laputa, is taken from the one in Gulliver's Travels. However, it's only the concept of the floating land that's borrowed, but the design, culture, religion, and magic of Laputa itself in this film is all self-inspired by dreams. Dreams is a big theme in this films for all the characters: a band of pirates who dreamt of being rich from Laputa's treasure room, a villain dreaming of being Laputa's new king and ruling the world, and a young boy's dream of find Laputa in order to clear his father's name. But once again, Hayao Miyazaki's love for strong female characters is put into this film as we have a heroine named Sheeta (Anna Paquin), one of the last royal descendants of the Laputian Empire. Wanting to live a quiet live on her farm after her parents died, Sheeta is being chased by evil agents and by a family of comical air pirated, headed by their captain, the old but plucky Dola (Cloris Leachman). The man running the evil government is the cruel, cold, and heartless Colonel Muska (Mark Hamill). Both parties fight each other to capture Sheeta and her magic crystal. Luckily, the magic crystal saved Sheeta after falling towards the earth where she is found by Pazu (James Van Der Beek).

Throughout the film, both orphans are running away from their persuers, all the while learning about the history of Laputa and why the people decided to leave it for the Earth. There are great twists and turns here and there, as we see our two orphan heroes teaming up with the pirates to find Laputa before the evil Muska does. As they learned more about Sheeta's connection with the mysterious floating castle, they learned more about the island's awesome raw power of destruction and how it can corrupt mankind. While there is a small scene that shows us how to value nature over machine, it's power and how it can corrupt us that dominates the story.

Visually, the design of the characters are simple, but stylized. The true details comes in the design of the air ships and the floating castle itself. Rather than resorting to cheap CGI technology, Studio Ghibi prefers to painstakingly draw all of this by hand. It's amazing to see how much love and patience are put into this as you watch parts of the castle crumbling into the ocean.

All in all, Laputa: Castle in the Sky is an enduring film that still withstand the test of time today. Looking back, we're still amazed at the detailed animation that could even rival what we're used to in other films today. The characters are good-hearted and enjoyably evil to the point that you can't help but continue watching. We care about these characters and with all the air of mystery around Laputa, we want to know more about its history and its connection with our characters. Whether you watch it in the original Japanese language or the English translation, you'll find Laputa: Castle in the Sky to be one of Studio Gibli's most wickedly awesome film projects to this date.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)


The name Hayao Miyazaki has been iconic in the film and art industries the past two decades, due to some of his greatest works and artistic style. Some would even go as far as calling him the Walt Disney of Japan, despite his claim that he's not looking to build an empire. Yet it was thanks to Disney and John Lasseter that Studio Gibli films are more seeped into the Western worlds. Yet when Toei Company first aired this film in 1984, there was going to be a dubbed version which sadly butchered it to the last piece until there was no resemblance of the original cut left. Called Warriors of the Wind, the English-dubbed was so heavily edited that any real meaning which the original was trying to invoked was lost. Any meaning that this poor excuse for an English-dubbed version was trying to convey never got out. Due to this great debacle, Miyazaki and his crew were greatly dissatisfied and declared a strict "No-edits" clauses for future foreign releases of their films. It wasn't until 2005 that Disney redubbed the original Nausicaä with an entire new cast, giving it the recognition that it should have gotten years before.

Although only his second major film, Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is actually an adaptation of his manga series of the same name. Despite the cuts and changes from his own source material, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was considered a stunning epic. Grand in its size of story and characters, the film sets in a post-apocalyptic world where nations are still seeking to destroy one another, such as both the Tolmekians and the Pejites. Long gone are the days when the earth was roamed by giant organic robot killers. Considered to be "gods", these giant robots incinerated the world for seven days, leaving nothing alive, not even themselves. When the great Seven-Days of Fire was over, it gave birth to a thousand years of the vast Toxic Jungle with its poisonous spores and atmosphere, as well as its giant mutated insects that dominated the wild. People are terrified of these massive insects and must wear filtered mask whenever they ventured beyond their homes should the spores settled into their lungs. One the small kingdoms called the Valley of the Wind isn't such a place. Secluded from other warring nations, the Valley sits near an ocean where the constant gentle wind keeps them safe from the Jungle's toxic spores and atmosphere. The film centered around the Valley's princess, Nausicaä (Alison Lohman), a young woman who only wished for her people to be safe and for the fighting to stop. Considered a pacifist by many, Nausicaä is also a warrior who can and will fight when needed be. Her people learned to live with the Toxic Jungle and accept its deadly poison that's killing them.

Hayao Miyazaki stated that he's interested in created a character who not only embraced life and peace, but loved life so much that she is fascinated by the giant mutant insects, especially the great monstrous roly-poly bugs, the Ohmus. There is a deep connections between her and the animals, Nausicaä's special sixth sense helped her to survive and divert numerous disasters throughout her adventures. Yet disaster came when a Tolmekian air ship crashed into the Valley one night after being attacked by a swarm of furious, giant bugs. The crash not only brought war to the Valley's doorstep, but also threatened their clean air when it brought spores from the Toxic Jungle. Nausicaä went from being a willing hostage of the Tolkmekians to being a peacekeeper trying to find any way to stop the fighting between two warring nations from destroying her precious Valley. Yet it's not just Nausicaä who was the key character to this story. Along the way, we see greatness in her mentor, Lord Yupa (X-Men's Patrick Stewart), her new Pejite friend, Prince Asbel (Transformers' Shia LaBeouf), and the two Tolmekian invaders, Princess Kushana (Uma Thurman) and Kurotowa (Chris Sarandon). Together with her little fox-squirrel friends, Nausicaä attempts to stop the Ohmus that she loved from stampeding on her Valley and the Tolmekians from awakening an old God from the Seven Days of Fire.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is a grim and serious film that is not only wonderful, but also seductive in its characters and plot. Lethal like the Toxic Jungle's spores, one of Miyazaki's first films is stunningly gorgeous to the point that it's difficult to believe it's all hand-drawn with little to no computer assistance. Based on the first two volumes of his manga, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is considered to be Studio Gibli's first real film (despite being released before the company's official founding date) and it became the film studio's big break. While I would recommend reading the original manga series, the film adaptation is magnificently done. Despite the shortened and less-complex version on screen, this film really has a lot of love and patience. It's painstakingly drawn and animated and the English dubbed casting choice is surprisingly wonderful as well. While I did rant about Shia LaBeouf being too silling in some of his works, I had confessed that his acting performances has gotten better since Transformers: Dark of the Moon. However, this film was dubbed before his first Transformers appearance in 2007, and while his acting performances is a bit goofy, his voice acting is quite charming. As a penguin in Surf's Up, he's adorable. As Prince Asbel here in Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind surprising. Other voice actors, such as Sir Patrick Stewart is known for his iconic role as Professor Xavier in the X-Men film series. While his acting performances is incredible, his voice as Lord Yupa gives this character a wise warrior that naturally deserves the love and respect from the princess and the people of the Valley of the Wind.

This film where Miyazaki's signifature style finally came into focus with its powerful message, strong female characters, and wondrous setting in a world unique on its own.It's an environmental conscious film, an anti-war film, a film about a strong young woman willing to sacrifice herself to ensure the safety of her kingdom and others. Paving the way for future Studio Gibli movies, the story of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is where Miyazaki's signifature style finally came into focus with its powerful message, strong female characters, and wondrous setting in a world unique on its own.

Ant-Man (2015)


If you don't really believe that great things can come in small sizes, Marvel's latest Ant-Man should convince you otherwise. Great superheroes that we often see on the big screen, such as Batman, Superman, Iron Man, and the Hulk embodies that greatness. To us, they always seemed so large in strength and mind, if not larger than life. But we often forget that there are great heroes out there who, not only come in small sizes, but can actually turn themselves as small as possible. Well, how useful can they be at the size of an atom or an ant? As Batman stated in Young Justice (blasphemous of me to reference DC Comics in a Marvel film), "It's the size that make him [The Atom] useful!" Comic creators know and understand this when they created characters such as The Atom for DC Comics and Ant-Man for Marvel.

The story featured Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), an ex-con who's good at breaking and entering facilities to steal certain assets. After his recent release from prison, Scott tries to go straight and make things right with his family, but luck doesn't hold for him. After all, why would anyone want to hire a man who had a criminal past? To make it worse, his first love have decided to move on with her life by marrying a police and they're both trying to keep Scott away from his biological daughter. Try as he might, Scott can't bear to be seen as a bad man in front of his daughter and goes back into thievery when things got tough. Ironic that he's doing something bad for money in order to look good in front of his child. Instead of money, Scott found a strange "biker's suit" in the vault of a wealthy man's home. The man that he stole from is none other than Hank Pym, played by an aged-well Michael Douglas. Pym created a red-liquid in a vial that can shrink particles, such as himself, to the size of an ant. He used to work for S.H.I.E.L.D. back in 1989 with Iron-Man's father, Howard Stark (John Slattery); an aging Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) from Captain America, and the sneering, opportunity-snatching jerk, Mitchell Carson (Martin). Dr. Pym discovered that S.H.I.E.L.D. wants to use his Pym particle without his permission. Fearing that they'll find dangerous ways to weaponize it, he quits and took all of his formula with him and start his own company.

Twenty-six years later, we discovered after being booted out of his own Pym Tech company by his own daughter and former protégé, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) after Pym refused to share all of his knowledge with the latter. In his twisted ambitious craving for greatness, Darren attempted to re-create his mentor's shrinking formula and weaponize it. Sensing great danger based on Darren's psychotic and cynical mind, Hope Van Dyke (Evangeline Lilly) alerted her father and together try to find the next Ant-Man who could help them stop Darren. After seeing him able to steal his shrinking suit, Pym offered Scott a chance of redemption and prove to his own daughter that he's more than a thief. The catch? Become the new Ant-Man and steal something for Pym. Another irony. The entirety of the film consist of Scott being trained for this big operation by his new mentor and possible love interest. The heist itself, is worth it, especially the meticulous plans to break in and steal the Yellow Jacket suit. Throw in some ants via mind-control and three bimbo thieves, and you got yourselves an action-filled heist sprinkled in with the right amount of comical moments. To help make the action more effective, the camera angle shots combined with zooming in and out at the right moment emphasize both re-sizing fight scenes and for comical effects.

The acting performances is quite enjoying. Paul Rudd gives his Ant-Man character a charming streak with enough personality that will make you smile, but probably not as much smart-ass as Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Pratt. Michael Douglas embodies an old man, desperate to make things right like his new protégé while Evangeline Lilly gives us the performance of a woman who's weary of her father's lie and attempt to keep her away from her destiny. In Corey Stoll who gives his Yellow Jacket character the image of an absolute lunatic, and it's clear that Stoll enjoyed it. If only the script made his character more interesting. Like the acting performances, the special effects is top noticed. While it's noticeable to see animators attempting to make the ants cute looking, the best yet is the process to de-age Michael Douglas in the beginning scene. Upon this, I am amazed at how far cinematic technology has come since X-Men: The Last Stand and Tron: Legacy. Like many of Marvel's previous films, Ant-Man is a thrilling, action-packed film with the right amount of violence, humor, story, and character. The film, directed by Peyton Reed, is light, swift, agile, and purely fun and perhaps one of Marvel's best before they go into their third phase.

Forrest Gump (1994)


There isn't a film like Forrest Gump, or at least not one that I've seen yet. It's interesting to see films with such a simple concept could be so good. At the same time, there is a subtle level of complexity that doesn't show itself, despite its brilliance. Its main character, Forrest Gump, is just like that: a very simple-minded man but he has a very interest life. After watching it, once could ask, is it a comedy or a drama? In fact, it could well be both.

Forrest Gump, played by a much younger Tom Hank than we knew today, is a very simple minded-man with an IQ of 75. His mind is so simple, that many people thought that he borderlines mental retardness. The set up is very simple as the film starts with an adult Forrest Gump sitting on a bus bench waiting for his ride. He began to tell his story when a woman took a seat next to him while waiting for her bus. Forrest grew up in a boarding house in Alabama. His mother (Sally Fields) buys him a pair of leg-brace to help his poor body, but she never criticize or complain about his mind. When people called her son stupid, she replies, "Stupid is as stupid does!" After persuading the principal to let Forrest attend regular public school, life became more interesting for Forrest. It started off slowly from meeting the future Elvis Presley to making his first real friend, Jenny. After being bullied by fellow peers, Jenny encouraged Forrest to run, and when he does, his leg-braces miraculously fell off, allowing him to discover his talent to run like the wind. From here, his running skill became a running gag of good luck. First, his speed earned him a college football scholarship. From there, he entered the military and made friends with fellow soldier "Bubba" (Mykelti Williamson). The latter talks nothing but shrimping and offered him a 50/50 deal if they go in business together to create the Bubba Gump Shrimp franchise. During the Vietnam War, Forrest and Bubba served under Lt. Dan (Gary Sinise) and through sheer luck and one bullet to the butt, earned a Medal of Honor. From there, Forrest became a ping-pong champion, and then goes into a shrimping business with the retired Lt. Dan, both becoming increasingly wealthy and even more so when they invested the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company's proceeds into the newly founded Apple Computers (which Forrest thought was just a regular fruit company based on its apple-shaped logo).

A lot of historical events took place in America between the 1960's and 1970's, and through seer luck, Forrest witnessed them all, and even played critical roles in them. He shook hands and met three US Presidents, including Nixon, whom Forrest accidentally caused his downfall at Watergate, served in the Vietnam War, founded a famous company and became a millionaire, and ran a coast-to-coast marathon for three years. But through all of his lucky adventures, Forrest never stopped thinking about his childhood friend and his first love, Jenny (Robin Wright). Her life, unfortunately, isn't as lucky, ranging from an abusing father to an abusive boyfriend, to abusive customers when she worked as a stripper. Forrest's IQ may be 75, hinting that he doesn't know a lot of things about the world, even the concept of love to which Jenny replied, "Forrest, you don't know what love is." However, this isn't true! Throughout all of his adventures and his life, we've seen that Forrest understands enough to take things as it is. Perhaps the best line in this film is spoken by him when he tells Jenny, "I'm not a smart man, but I know what love is."

After seeing this film, I can't imagine anyone else other than Tom Hank playing Forrest Gump. He gives his character such a sweet, gentle, and dignified man who only needs to get rough when he had to protect his friend. When his character has to be unintentionally funny, such as showing President Lyndon Johnson his bullet-wound in the butt, he does it with a straight face. When he has to give a calm and gentle moment during a sad scene, he does it damn well. Forrest Gump is a film about recent American history as seen through the eyes of a man with no malice in his heart, rather a simple-minded and very kind man who just happens to have a lot of luck with very little wit. All in all, Forrest Gump is one of the best films and one of the greatest classics for laughs and a little bit of tears. An ingenious work that should be watched again and again from time to time.

Song of the Sea (2014)


The first time I've heard of selkies was from a children's book back in grade school. From it, I've learned that some versions of these Irish and Scottish mythical creatures are more or less like mermaids. Rather than being part fish, Selkies are part seals. The book I've read as a child depicts a Selkie being forced to marry human after he stole her seal coat/skin, which enables her to become a seal and return to the sea. She bore him several children but without her coat, she could not return to her home in the sea. That is, until one of her children discovered where their father hid her coat a few years later. The Selkie occasionally returns to visit only her children. A bit tragic, but much more of a happy ending than the one in Hans Christian Anderson's The Little Mermaid, right?

Visually splendid, the animated studio Catoon Saloon does not fail to impress its audience by blending some of the most gorgeous artworks with beautiful characters and deeply rooted Irish mythologies. Director Tomm Moore returns from his previous work, The Secret of Kells, by adapting a children's book about a boy travelind distant miles to help heal his dying sister and freeing the stoned faeries. The animation does have a little bit of CGI-imagery to help enhance the flow of the characters' movements and the magic. Like The Secret of Kells, it's hardly noticeable, making the audience believe the entire film is traditionally hand-drawn.

Unlike The Secret of Kells, the story in Song of the Sea is little bit more modern. The film starts off in 1981 on a small island off the coast of Ireland. There lived the lighthouse keeper, Conor (Brendan Gleeson), his wife Bronagh (Lisa Hannigan), and their son Ben (David Rawle). However, Bronagh disappeared mysteriously into the sea upon delivering a newborn child. For the next six years, Conor became a depressed drunk; Ben is embittered by his sister, blaming her for their mother's death; and Saoirse (Lucy O'Connell) has yet to utter a single word. On the night of her sixth birthday, Saoirse borrowed her brother's shell pipe and managed to find a white seal coat. Lured by a pod of seals in the sea, Saoirse dove into the water while wearing her coat and transformed into a white seal. And here I thought harp seals were cute enough, but in this film they are super adorable! Fearing for their safety, the children's grandmother convinced their father to allow them to live with her in the city. Naturally, the children try to find their way back home to their island, and on the way they encountered various Irish mythological figures including the faeries who claims that Ben's sister is a Selkie! They hoped that Saoirse's song would break the Owl Witch's spell on them so that their essences could be free to return to Tír na nÓg. With the Owl Witch and her court of owls stealing mythical creatures' feelings and putting them into jars, the two siblings must race back to their island and get Saoirse's seal coat before she, too, dies like their Selkie mother.

As gorgeous and charming as this film is, Song of the Sea does suffer a bit in its story theme. It's as if the concept of a hero boy trying to saving his ailing sister while fighting against a witch sounded too's as if this concept was borrowed from other stories with its own spin. Yet despite some flaws, Song of the Sea is another beautiful traditionally hand drawn film that speaks to us with its story, touching us with its own heart and emotions. That is art itself and one must agree after seeing how beautiful this film is. It's blissful and awe inspiring. With two films that introduced to us about the beautiful, artful world of Irish mythologies, we pray that director Tomm Moore will return to give us more stories like this in the future.

The Secret of Kells (2009)


It's sad that most people these days often forget how beautiful traditionally animated films were and still is. The Secret of Kells, an animated film produced and animated by three countries (French, Irish, and Belgian), reminds us how much beauty there is still to be discovered when it comes to traditionally drawn animations. I'm not too familiar with most Irish myths and lore as I should, but the fantasy depicted in this film is absolutely superb. The film does well by mixing both Christian religion with that of Celtic myths by establishing a young monk befriending a spirit. Together, they'll bring light into this world plagued by darkness with a mystical book. Did I mention that there will be vikings and monsters in this story as well?

The story takes place in a tightly knit community at the Monastery of Kells where a young medieval monk named Brendan (Evan McGuire) is plucky, curious, and an idealist. However, his strict uncle, the Abbott Cellach (Brendan Gleeson), is obsessed in having walls built around the abbey to prevent vikings' attacks. But these walls doesn't deter his nephew's interest of the outside world. After befriending old Brother Aidan (Mick Lally), a traveler who possessed a precious Book of Kells. His own town has been destroyed by a raid and he travels to Kells for sanctuary. Some of its pages remains to be written and it will be Brendan who must help write them. To do that, Brendan must sneak out and collect nuts in the dark forest in order to make ink, ensuring the birth of the beautiful illustrations in the tome. Armed with only a white cat named Pengur Ban for companion ship, the young monk braved the forest and is cornered by hungry wolves. It is here where he encounters the forest spirit Aisling (Christen Mooney) who saved his life. Together, they brave the darkness and any danger related to Crom Cruach, a deity of death, in order to complete the Book.

The entire animation of this film is like the illustrations of an illuminated manuscript! Think more of the Irish than a bunch of leprechauns because these people have been preserving their legends in stories, songs, and books. There is a tome called the Book of Kells located in Trinity College, and it has been painstakingly illuminated with intricate drawings and writings. Its medieval manuscript preserves the four gospels and literally every, single page is a work of art. The Secret of Kells is no different as watching it frame by frame is like viewing the Book of Kells in great appreciation.

The film should be appreciated and others should copy its example by producing more traditionally hand drawn animated films. It's appealing, gorgeous, breath-taking, and awe-inspiring. It's no wonder that The Secret of Kells was nominated for an Academy Award of that year. It may not have a wide US release, but don't let that deter you from seeing it. It's a beautifully animated film with a very metaphorical story. The plot is unpredictable and may require you to have a little knowledge of Irish fairy tales. It's amazing to see how directors Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey took inspirations from actual medieval illustrations, traditional Celtic knots art, Irish history and legends, gothic backgrounds and transitioned it all into visual wonderland full of rich beauty beyond imaginations.

Inside Out (2015)


One of the best things about Disney Pixar films is that they can come up with a very basic and simple idea and tell it to us in a very interesting way that feels freshly new! Inside Out is another one of their project that turned out colorfully spectacular. I've always heard of seeing peoples emotions through colored auras around their bodies, but actually seeing them personified as colorful characters living inside our brains is a whole new level!

Most of us have gone through a time when we feel shy and isolated from our friends and families. The film's director, Pete Docter, undergo a period of social anxiety when his family was forced to move the Denmark when his father had a new job. Years later, Docter noticed his pre-teen daughter undergoing the same phase as she became more quiet and reserve from her parents. The idea for Inside Out came into existence when Docter took this realization and began to think about the emotions playing inside our heads during this troubling time.

Like what he experienced as a child, Docter's Inside Out is the story of an 11-year-old girl named Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) trying to adjust to her new life when her family has to moved from Minnesota to San Francisco, California due to her father's job. Riley's mind is mostly controlled by five colorful, fuzzy, cartoonish characters, Each is the manifestation of five basic emotions as they try and guide Riley's life with a purpose: Joy (Amy Poehler) is Riley's main emotion, a tall, happy yellow spirit with blue hair and a green dress who does her best to keep Riley's life as happy as possible; Fear (Bill Hader), a purple, bug-eyed spirit with a question-marked hair and a nerdy outfit tries to keep Riley safe from harm; Disgust (Mindy Kaling), a green, stylish and snobbish spirit whose job it is to keep Riley from being poison, physically and socially; Anger (Lewis Black), the red hot-tempered flat-head that bursts into flame whenever he tries to ensure fairness voicing out grievances (CONGRATULATION SAN FRANCISCO, YOU'VE RUINED PIZZA!!! FIRST THE HAWAIIANS AND NOW YOU!!!!!); and Sadness (Phyllis Smith), a depressed, but cute blue spirit in turtle-neck sweater who tries to contribute in their work, much to the disdain of the other four emotions. The emotions control Riley's conscious mind with a small control console, always fighting to hog it, especially Joy, when Riley saw what a bust the move was. I don't blame them, considering how small their new house is (welcome to San Francisco), Riley's new room stinks, their moving truck got lost, Dad's busy with his new job, and all of Riley's old friends are back home in Minnasota.

Our memories are depicted as these spheres, each in the color of the five emotions whenever we're feeling that emotion during an event of that day. Most of Riley's memories are happy each day before the move and every night, these memories are sent to Long Term Memories. After the move, Joy struggled to encourage the other emotions to stay as positive as usual, especially on first day at a new school. But when Sadness accidentally made Riley cry in school, she and Joy struggle for the control before both are sucked through a recall tube and sent to other parts of Riley's mind. With the core memories along with Joy and Sadness, Riley's emotional state of mind soon became more frustrating with only Disgust, Fear, and Anger to control her emotions. To their horror, the five aspects of Riley's personalities are falling apart without the core memories and without Joy, her conscious mind is slowly disintegrating into an empty shell.

The film then concentrate on a mission as Joy and Sadness tries to rushed back to Headquarter with the missing core memories before it is too late, all the while encountering various aspects of characters in Riley's mind including her forgotten imaginary friend, Bing-Bong (Richard Kind), mind workers like Frtiz (John Ratzenberger) whose job it is to sort out faded memories and other mind works. They try to catch the Train of Thoughts which would lead them back to Headquarter, but first, they must go through several realms of Riley's mind including Imagination Land with its French-fries Forest and even an Imaginary Boyfriend who kept saying, "I would die for Riley! I'm from Canada." There's Dream Production which acts like the Hollywood studios in our mind by producing all of Riley's dreams and nightmares.

This is where Inside Out differs greatly from other Pixar's films, everything happening in Riley's mind are nothing more than figurative manifestations of what's going inside to reflect our expressions on the outside. Emotions, memories, and thoughts are really just as intangible as our souls and it's fascinating how Pixar is taking all of this and personifying it in creative ways in this film, rather than working something that already physically exist such as the toys in Toy Story, the robots in Wall-E and the house in Up. The story plot is well scripted as it connects the new events that's happening to Riley since the move to her old life in Minnasota. Riley is growing up and she's undergoing threat changes in her life as she struggles to get used to her new life in California. The emotions has some growing up to do themselves as Joy realized that Sadness isn't there to annoy them on purpose, but her actions to make Riley depress is a signal to others, such as her family and friends, to come and help comfort her in her time of needs.

Inside Out is another great film to be remembered in Disney Pixar's collection. It's lovable characters, dialogues, and scripts are so creative and colorful that it's bursting with emotions. It's enjoyable for me to be sitting in a theater room full of kids and parents laughing at the humor and excitedly looking for the Easter Eggs (there are plenty in this film) but also silently cry when Riley is united with her parents. If you're going to see this film, bring a tissue box because your eyes are going to get watery due to both tear-jerking moments as well as humorous scenes where you'll laugh too hard. As always, do not dawdle at the concession stand but get there early in order to see the short film, Lava, that plays before Inside Out. I thought I've seen it all with Wall-E when it comes to a robot in love, but a volcano yearning for love in Lava? Wow! What an idea! The animation of this tropical volcano island is gorgeous and it really makes me feel more and more eager for the upcoming Disney's princess film Moana next year. And don't get up when the end credits are rolling in because you're going to see the different forms of the five emotions in other characters' heads, including Riley's new teacher, the bus driver, the cool girl, and others.

Jurassic World (2015)


When they first released the trailer for Jurassic World, I just realize what that this million-dollar franchise has denied us for twenty two years: the actual theme park itself. True, when Jurassic Park was first released, John Hammond (the late Richard Attenborough) has a revolutionizing dream to feature his dinosaur theme park to the world. Unfortunately, the theme park never officially open after they tried a testing run with potential endorsers. For all the awesome thrills of watching some of your favorite characters being chased or eaten in the first three films, the thought of never seeing the park officially opened to the public and to us is a bit lamenting. Practically a decade after the third (and horrible) film, Jurassic World finally decided to deliver what we want and more: the park is officially opened like a Disneyland with bigger attractions, bigger dinosaurs, bigger special effects, bigger risks and danger, and more teeth.

At last, we have a film where both dinosaurs lovers like us and those who are familiar with the wonderful world of amusement parks can enjoy a film as if they were part of it. John Hammond's dream of opening this park is finally realized and although he is no longer around, there is a hall named after him in the film as a tribute. Jurassic World is essentially a reboot with newer characters replacing the old ones with a newer concept: they've decided to take the role of "playing God" from the first trilogy and take it to the next level. (The only returning cast from the original film is B.D. Wong reprising his role as the scientist Dr. Henry'd thought he was eaten, didn't you?) Not only are they breeding dinosaurs like they used to, but they've decided to made a new one. Why? Because apparently the guests are starting to view dinosaurs as if they were regular cows or giant elephants that you can ride on and the corporates wanted "bigger and better". Yeah, it's always done with good intention for money, but the ending result is always a huge and bloody debacle.

There always seemed to be the smart dinosaur expert in these films whom no one else bother to listen to. Rather than being a paleontologist, Owen (Guardians of the Galaxy's Chris Pratt), he's a raptor trainer with a good knowledge on carnivorous dinosaurs and a game hunter. Bryce Dallas Howard plays his "love interest", Claire, who's the head of the new and improved theme park. Yet she's such a workaholic, she fails to remember her nephews' ages when they came to visit her. This film should get a hashtag for #WeNeverLearn, because creating a bigger, meaner, meat-eating dinosaurs with crazy superpowers is a huge indication. After three films of trying to play god, they think they finally got it handle enough to go to the next level? As Chris Pratt's Owen said, "These people never learn!" There is also another saying that stated we only learn our lessons once it's too late. Apparently, too late is the part where the ridiculously named Indominus Rex decided to go on an eating and hunting spree in a park filled with over 21,000 people.

Directed by Colin Trevorrow, Jurassic World is a fun dinosaur film with that Spielberg-style filmmaking, yet at the same time, does things its own way. While the dinosaurs are obviously CGI, it's hard to believe its authenticity as real dinosaurs, what with us living in an age where almost everything is easily generated digitally. Trevorrow tries to cover that up with quick paced flashes of people getting eaten by the Indominus Rex with splashes of blood as it chomps on her victims. The CGI may feel a little bit obvious and ridiculous in some parts, but the end result is worth it. At last, the dinosaurs can much on the thousands and thousands of tourists it wants rather than just the those who worked as maintenance and security guards. But this film isn't perfect and isn't without some features that seemed irrelevant to the store. Why do we need to know that the two brothers' parents' divorce is important? Why doesn't this park have any for of evacuation plan should they suffer a dinosaur or weather disaster? Why didn't the Indominus Rex used her cool power of camouflaging and hiding her temperature more often throughout this film? It seemed these questions are soon considered null and void once they deliver the holy grail of dinosaur battle at the end between the genetically altered white dino and the iconic T-Rex tagging with Owen's raptor. The final battle, if anything, is worth the wait.

All in all, Jurassic World  may not be as groundbreaking as the original Jurassic Park 22 years ago, but it's still a great reboot and it does play several homages to the original, reminding us to go back and watch it, especially for the younger audiences who aren't familiar with the classic. Acting wise, the characters throughout this film are mostly likeable. Chris Pratt steals the show by giving us his bad-ass coolness as well as smart-assing personality from Guardians of the Galaxy. The biggest character itself is the actual theme park. We finally get to view the theme park which John Hammond hoped to see, and in essence, it became its own character. Despite some flaws and unnecessary takes, Jurassic World is an impressive, terrific, exciting, and fun sequel that will probably having you jumping out of your seat if you were not already swooped up and eaten by a pterosaur.

Jurassic Park III (2001)


After seeing this film, I only have one main question: Who's bright idea is it to replace the iconic T-Rex with a spinosaurus? True, the real question should have been a: "Why was this film made?" but frankly, Jurassic Park is a one of those blockbuster franchises, so of course sequels are going to be made.

Out of all four films, Jurassic III is considered to be the worst and is considered as the joke in the franchise that almost everyone wants to forget. I can't blame them. Despite the return of one of the main characters from the original film and a small appearance of the iconic T-Rex, Jurassic Park III seemed to be hitting rock bottom. Unfortunately for us, there is no discovery of a great dinosaur skeletal remains to take in with amazement. The first two films were great and fun to ride along, but by the time you're finishd with the third one, you left feeling underwhelmed. While the story plot is definitely darker and a bit faster in its pace, it's also very dull, lacking that magical atmosphere that you would get from its predecessors.

Sam Neill returns to reprise his role as Dr. Alan Grant. Rather than losing his reputation and his work like Dr. Ian Malcolm in the second film, he is still a world-famous paleontologist for surviving the Isla Nublar incident. However, his experience on that island many years ago has left Grant weary against the creatures he once admired.

When a boy named Eric Kirby (Trevor Morgan) went missing after parachuting over Isla Sorna, his parents, Paul and Amanda Kirby (William H. Macy and Tea Leoni) frantically hired Dr. Grant to take them "close" to the island, under the pretense of going on an expensive honeymoon trip. Tagging along is Billy Brennan (Alessandro Nivola), Grant's assistant, as well as a few hired bodies as they are forced to help these two frantic parents. Admittedly, the concept of this story plot is there and has potential as well as the intention on being great, but the end results is quite disastrous. Unlike the first two films, there were a few characters that could care less about, such as the hysterical mother. Yes, people, call me a cold-blooded dinosaur but I actually wished that she would get eaten just so that she could shut the hell up after thirty-minutes in. Even I didn't wish any of the villains from the previous film to die this way.

There is a line somewhere in this film spoken by Dr. Alan Grant that practically highlights what Jurassic Park III is all about: "For best intention? Some of the worst things imaginable has been done with best intentions!" Jurassic Park III was intentionally made to entertain us, but instead, it delivers something duller than dull. While the spinosaurus is considered a dangerous carnivour, having it as a replacement for the T-Rex seemed to be an insult here, and even worse, having it kill the mighty king in a lame fight scene is just another insult to injury. But all in all, Jurassic Park III is still not the worst film to date, counting its luck. It may lack the awe-inspiring magical touch in the first two films, but it was a good attempt to make a decent thrill ride.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)


I don't get why some people and critics find this film to be a recycled version of the original, and frankly, I don't care. I like it a lot and find it enjoyable and fun to watch as much as the first film, if not more. While it's not as epic and groundbreaking as its predecessor, there were still several things to enjoy about it. The Lost World: Jurassic Park (perhaps one of the few films were the series title comes after the film story title), released in 1997, was one of Steven Spielberg's follow-ups to his Academy Award winning film, Schindler's List. Spielberg did confessed that during this film's production, he did felt disenchanted by it, but still it came out as a great "monster" film and that's saying something especially when you're trying to compare it to other lesser filmmakers like Michael Bay.

The story, taken place four years after Jurassic Park, now focused on the wisecracking mathematician Dr. Ian Malcolm with actor Jeff Goldblum reprising his role. It's actually a very nice change, considering the fact that his character was practically taken out of commission after he injured his leg in the first film, reducing him to being a sideline character as the others scrambled to defend themselves against a T-Rex and several hungry raptors. Now, taking the spotlight, Dr. Malcolm returns to this crazy island in hopes of preventing his girlfriend, Dr. Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore) from becoming dino-chow. Tagging along is his daughter from a previously failed marriage, Kelly Malcolm (Vanessa Lee Chester) who could kick a raptor out the door with her gymnastic skill.

After what happened in the first film, the park's former CEO and creator, James Hammond (played by the late Richard Attenborough), hoped to leave his island island as a lost world where the dinosaurs may live their lives in peace and away from human contact. Yet, it's revealed that there is a second island where the dinosaurs were originally engineered before being moved to the park's island. Apparently, making a dinosaur park is his big mistake in Jurassic Park, but sending in people to document these wild creatures in their natural habitat is a new mistake. While his intentions are good, there's a huge difference between documenting nature films about tigers and lions from T-Rex and raptors.

Originally, it seemed that the late author Michael Crichton's The Lost World was specifically written so that it could be turned into a sequel film. Critics hoped that Spielberg wouldn't treat it as a crowd-pleasing project, but that's what happened and they weren't happy about the ending result, or at least most of them. It's a shame since The Lost World: Jurassic Park is a really fun film that expands its focus on a minor character from the first film. Not only is he shoved into the spotlight, but is given both of Sam Neill's character's role as survivor and surrogate father in a dangerous world, without some of the drippiness, of course. All in all, The Lost WorldL Jurassic Park is a monster film, full of intense chasing and surviving scene as these titans are deciding which puny humans (and a few cute animals) will become dino-dinner. There's seemed to be a lot more brutality in how they eat their victims this time, especially when you have two parents T-Rex tearing a guy in halves. Goes to show you that Spielberg isn't shy to show these gruesome scenes in any of his films when needed to be, and with the improvement in the special effects of the dinosaurs, it makes it all more scary and fun to watch. So "hang on to your butts" people, because this sequel is one fun and bumpy ride.

Jurassic Park (1993)


Looking back at the first Jurassic Park  film, some of the tech may seemed outdated to today's technology, especially when you're trying to compare it to the latest Jurassic World. However, many of us are still astonished at the extent of the then-technology, using both computer generated and animatronics, to make these dinosaurs so real and life liked. Some of my most favorite scenes include the part where a T-Rex almost ate the two children while they were in their tour jeep. The children are screaming at the sight of this titanic, carnivorous reptile with nothing more than the jeep's skylight glass pane to protect them from becoming its dinner. Surely Steven Spielberg will have no problem getting his actors to scream and looked as frightened as possible with that thing in your face. I know it's just an anamatronic T-Rex head, but the sheer size of it in your face (and the part where it unintentionally broke a piece of the glass pane) does make it feel all too real. I'll admit that I still feel nervous while going on the Jurassic Park Ride at Universal Studio. The near ending part of the ride is where there is a giant anamatronic T-Rex head over your head and in your face before the boat plunges about 180 feet down always make me feel like one of those two kids in the film.

The story is based on a book of the same title by the late Michael Crichton, and the film surprisingly seems to stand out more than the original book. (This seemed to be a trend after Spielberg's Jaw adaptation.) After so many years, it seems to be able to stand the test of time as many people still remember how biblical of a giant it is. We remember it's legacy, it's pacing, dialogues, and character buildings, and its dinosaurs!

Jurassic Park is about the power of nature and the consequences of man's sin in trying to become gods. The dinosaurs and us humans were separated by a differences of millions years for a reason. Throw in these reptilian titans into our world for our entertainment when they're naturally engineered to follow their ancient instinct to hunt and kill for food isn't going to end well. Eccentric billionaire John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) has built zoos and other types of resorts and exhibits for the world to enjoy. Now he decided to place himself above god's level by turning his own island into a theme park with real dinosaurs! He had his scientists and dinosaur experts extract dinosaurs' DNA in mosquitoes that have been fossilized in amber. As one of the mathematician Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) stated, "The lack of humility in the face of nature is astonishing!" Spielberg does well by showing us how amazing the idea of creating a Jurassic Park is and treating it like Disneyland would rake in more money and raving reviews. But his film is to show us the consequences when you're pushing things too far, especially when you're upsetting the balance of nature. Hammond and his scientists think that they can control the dinosaur population by only breeding female dinosaurs. But unfortunately for them, "Nature finds a way!"

After an accident with a worker who was severely injured, Hammond brought in Malcolm and two other palaeontologists, Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), hoping that their love for dinosaurs and astonishment would endorse his park to the world. These two are the characters to root for as they not only try to survive this island, but must ensure the safety of each other and Hammond's grandchildren, who not only helped the plot when it comes to surviving and outwitting the raptors, but they proves to be good for Alan Grant in teaching him to love and care for children as if they were his own.

Jurassic Park is a film that stands the test of time as it helps cultivate our love and fascinations for dinosaurs. While these giant lizards may be extincted for millions of years, the first of the Jurassic Park franchise reminds us that they still live forever in our imagination. These are powerful and clever beasts and in this film, they'll show us that they will not be easily controlled by humans for their personal entertainment! Looking back, Jurassic Park is a great classic that helped to revolutionize film technology as well as story telling. The characters are wonderfully fun to watch, the plot is exciting, the dialogues and musics are memorable, the dinosaurs are still awe inspiring! If your kids have not seen the original Jurassic Park film, you should really make them sit down and watch it!

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)


Pure Evil has never manifested itself like this before in films before The Silence of the Lambs came along. The way Dr. Hannibal Lecter speaks and gets under your skin is not only bone rattling, but painfully true. He's a deranged killer, but very sophisticated as a character that all fears him. Even when he's contained and strapped down with a binding mask, he's still very dangerous with his words to the point that it will hurt you like you've never felt before and I think Anthony Hopkins does that well in his character.

They called him "Hannibal the Cannibal" because he eats his victims and is a the most dangerous mass murderer, yet he's not your typical monster with a mind that you can analyze just because you have a degree is psychology. Rather yet, Hannibal Lecter IS a psychiatrist who knows how your minds and the minds of other psycho-killers worked. He's already locked up in prison behind plexiglass, and the authorities needed his help to catch another dangerous psycho-mass murderer named "Buffalo Bill" (played by Ted Levine). The latter earned this nickname because he skins his female victims and uses their hides to make himself a woman suite. Apparently, he's not qualified enough to register for a sex-change operation and decided to take matters in his own, sick and twisted hands. But Hannibal won't be so easily persuade to help the authorities to catch "Buffalo Bill". Rather, the FBI decided to send in a young trainee named Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster). She's like a young bird, but will sending a fledgling like her down that dark hall to the last cell on the left be enough to tame the monster that is in Dr. Lecter?

There is a powerful scene at the beginning of this film where we see the young agent walking towards Hannibal's cell to meet him for the first time. The other crazy inmates hissed and lustfully threw vulgar comments at her. But upon Hannibal's cell, you see him standing perfectly still in the center of the room, his arms at his sides and immediately, there is an air of fear and respect. His resting position gives him the power like a lion looking down on its prey, observing them with keen eyes that can pierce your soul. The way he speaks to Starling is so calm and precise that you feel as if he cannot be bothered to humor the intelligence level of your caliber. But Starling is not just any regular cop that can interrogate and interview you. They have a mutual understanding and respect for each other. Hannibal even joked "People might think that we're in love!" to her. Throughout the film, the detective story of finding a homicidal maniac is enticing! Beyond the hunt and the forensic studies these detectives and officers must go through, there is a deeper connection that is more brutal and it hits at the heart.

The film is based on a series of novels, with one book of the same title by Thomas Harris. The title, "The Silence of the Lambs" refers to Starling's desperate dream after a haunting and nightmarish experience as a child. As an adult, Starling works hard to conceal her real accent and tries to give a more respectable authorities to her peers who are policemen several heads taller than her. But upon meeting Hannibal Lecter, the veil she created is easily ripped apart by his brutal observation. He digs deeper and Starling confessed that after her father was killed, she moved in with distant relatives on a farm. There, she could hear the screaming of the lambs that were being slaughtered. Running away in hopes of saving one, she failed to hear the silence of the lambs. Seeing this, Hannibal Lecter slowly, but surely helped Starling track down "Buffalo Bill" so that her mind could be at peace.

The Silence of the Lambs is basically a Beauty and the Beast story with a mystery and detective flavor mixed into it. Sounds crazy, I know, but here it works. Ted Levine gives a great performance as the psycho killer who skins his victims and shoves a moth larva down their throats. The way he picks his victims and treats them as "its" is very disturbing. Jodie Foster may be the main character in this film, but her steadiness and calm is upstaged by Anthony Hopkins as "Hannibal the Cannibal". His character is a classy, frightening, and a very sophisticated villain. Physically, he'll bite off your ears and eat your tongue if you get too close to him. Mentally, he will toy with your psyche and rip your mind apart with words so sharp that you'll still feel the scar for years. Aside from great performances from these actors, The Silence of the Lambs has a great balance between dialogues, suspense, and absolute horror. If anything, it truly deserves its Oscar wins, including one for Best Picture. In 1991, there were two "Beauty and the Beast" films, one produced by Disney Beauty and the Beast, and one called The Silence of the Lambs. Both films were truly remarkable and deep in its tales, but as the more harrowing and complex of the two, The Silence of the Lambs probably deserves its title as Best Picture of that year.

Rain Man (1988)


It's difficult for teachers to help students who need special educations, such as autism. It's even more difficult for parents or siblings who must live with a person that is born autistic. Being autistic doesn't mean that you're mentally retarded, rather your brain is hardwired differently, which can make you brilliant in that skill, you prefer to arrange things in specific orders of your choosing, and you stick to strict personal schedules and routines as a part of a defense mechanism. Needless to say, people who have autism are quite brilliant in some things we only wished we have, but due to certain aspects and characteristics of this condition, it's very difficult for these people to be able to function in the outside world on their own. But does this mean that you can't have a developing relationship with a person who has autism? That's a difficult question because despite what psychology says, we don't really understand the fullness of what autistic are thinking or how they're truly view the world and us in their lives. That question is sparked with the quote, "I know there has to be somebody inside there!" in the film Rain Man.

Starring Tom Cruise as Charlie Babbitt, Rain Man is a film that focused on his developing relationship with an estrange brother he never knew he had. Charlie is a man trying to sell expensive cars, but first has to run through some processing issues. He's a driven man, a workaholic, and unhappy despite having an Italian girlfriend (Valeria Golino), and is about to make some more money selling cars. He's on his way to Los Angeles to clear out a current crisis when he suddenly received news of his father's passing. Charlie never got along well with his father ever since he left and has decided to never drop a word of hello. Returning to Cincinnati for the funeral, Charlie discovered that all his father left him were his father's prized 1949 Buick Roadmaster and some rosebushes. The mansion and the $3 million dollars are going to a trust...but who's receive it?!

Charlie discovered that his deceased father left all of his fortune to Raymond Babbitt (Dustin Hoffman), an older brother he never knew he had! Raymond is an autistic who resides in a special nursing home for those who are handicapped. Being a "high-level" autistic, Raymond must stick to his schedule such as watch television at five and be in bed by eleven. He organizes his books and his baseball card in a very specific order and if anything disturbs these orders or disturb his schedule, he WILL have a meltdown. Yet, despite being unable to function in the outside world on his own, Raymond can calculate square roots and large numbers in a blink of an eye, memorize the phone book, can count 496 toothpicks that has been spilt on the floor in seconds, and even remember the exact dates of specific events, such as the date when his mother died. His mind is quite brilliant in a way, yet Raymond doesn't understand the concept of money nor can he express and comprehend emotions the same way we can.

Furious that he has been denied his share of the inheritance money, Charlie decided to "kidnap" his brother by taking him to L.A. and obtain custody. Yet you don't need Raymond to make it harder, because even if he were to get custody of his brother, he still won't get half of his brother's money. Raymond's antics and autistic mind makes the trip frustratingly more difficult for Charlie as he struggles to get them both to California before he owes his clients a lot of money. Yet, Raymond doesn't want to fly in a plane for fear of plan crashes, demands to have his bed by the window, must have certain foods on certain days of the week, and must wear Macy's underwear.

Rain Man is a film about change and the unchangeable. Charlie, in his selfishness and arrogance, learns something about his brother and himself throughout their long journey across America: Charlie really did remember having a brother, but thought he was his imaginary friend named "Rain Man" who would sing to him whenever he's feeling scared and lonely. Charlie learned how to care for his brother's need and discovered why Raymond was sent away. In discovery a bond with Raymond, Charlie discovered what a selfish jerk and stupid son he was since he left home. As for Raymond, his life is all about sticking to his strict schedule: it has to be unchangeable in many parts, yet by the end of the film, we find that Charlie was able to change at least two things about Raymond.

You must admire Dustin Hoffman's portrayal of Raymond. He doesn't pat it down as the cute and sympathetic character that gets on your nerves unintentionally. Rather, he is the straight to the point, unmoving and incomprehensible character that is complex yet simple. He is what he is, even when he has a severe meltdown for fear of plane crashing or hot water and goes into a mantra until all is calmed to him. The film itself is very charming, funny, and intriguing with its basic concept and execution. All in all, it's a film that teaches us a great deal of many things when it comes to caring for those who aren't just autistic, but disabled in other ways. Raymond was able to teach his selfish brother about being more responsible, compassionate, and patient for those in needs of assistance and care like him and to accept them for the way they are. Rain Man teaches us this as a whole.

Amadeus (1984)


We all know who Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was historically: a musical prodigy. Here was a man who was able to write his first concerto at age four and give a spectacular performance to the Austrian royal family at age 6; memorize the entire score after one hearing, and play it back perfectly as well as improve it with his own twist; does not need to make copies of his score sheets after writing down his first draft (because they lack scratch marks and errors); and was known for some of his most famous pieces, including The Magic Flute and the unfinished Requiem. Yet, not many of us knew of another composer, Antonio Salieri. His work and popularity waned to near extinction in the 19th century and didn't regain some modern recognition until the late 20th century, thanks to this film, Amadeus and the play that it was based on.

Mind you, Salieri was a decent composer during his time, but compare to Mozart, he and many others paled in comparison. Was Salieri jealous of Mozart's natural talent for beautiful music? Perhaps...perhaps not. Although there might have been some indications of a rivalry between them thanks to a small incident to determine which composer would tutor the Princess Elizabeth of Wurttemboug (historically, Salieri was the winner, although in this film, the Emperor wanted to give the job to Mozart). Amadeus and the 1979 play that it was based on tells a highly fictionalized concept of Salieri's strong jealousy against the young Mozart. This film doesn't show you the Mozart you think you knew in music class. After seeing his 18th painting, a lot of you would think that he's a sophisticated man, right? Think again when you see this little man chasing woman's skirt with his white-powdered wig slightly tilted, playing and laughing like a child. In this film, Tom Hulce marvelously brought out the fun in his character as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart by making him as vulgar, boorish, irreverent as possible. You know like his character every time Mozart does his funny high-pitched laugh!

He is nothing like the paragon of virtue that Antonio Salieri (portrayed by F. Murray Abraham) thought him would be. Salieri is now the well-respected Royal Court Composer to the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II (Jeffrey Jones) and a member of 18th-century cultural elite of Vienna, Austria. He thought his life perfect and a reward from God due to his piety. He was loved and liked by all, even tutoring the Emperor Joseph and opera singers, all the while writing and composing several operas. Everything was perfect until Mozart came to Vienna and not only made a mockery of his work, but also kicked him into the shadow while he stood in the limelight. Amadeus is a fun film with great historical characters, yet it's also a tragedy as it tells the demise of not just Mozart (who died at a young age) but also of Antonio Salieri to the point that the world no longer remembers him. Admittedly, Salieri wasn't a great composer, but he was good enough to work with the elites and he can recognize the beautiful work of a genius when he sees one. Yes, Mozart's scores are far more superior, beautiful, and memorable while his paled in comparison. But seeing such great musical talent embodied by God into this little man fills Salieri with hatred, anger, and sadness. It took Salieri an entire night to compose a short welcoming piano piece for Mozart. It took Mozart a minute to rewrite and improve it with such ease. The gift of music came so easily to Mozart and they were so beautiful that upon seeing and hearing them with his own eyes, Salieri's heart is broken.

At the beginning of the film, an elderly Salieri tried to commit suicide and hinted that he killed Mozart because he was jealous of the latter. When a father from a church came to hear his confession, the film moves back in time to an era when he and Mozart were still young men in the city of music. As the elderly Salieri narrates and confessed his story, the film began to observe his life in order to determine whether or not he really did murder Mozart out of spite and jealousy. At first, it seemed to go that way as Salieri recounted all the hatred and bitterness boiling in his heart. So much to the point that we would see him cleverly manipulate people and the situation in order to ensure Mozart's misfortune. His greatest triumph would be tricking the sick and dying Mozart into composing his famous Requiem and plagiarize it as his own once Mozart was dead. Of course this plan failed when Mozart died before he could finish it and is buried in an unknown mass grave.

By the end of the film, you feel nothing but sadness and pity for both men. Mozart may had been condescending and a bit arrogant, but he was young at heart and in the mind and in reality isn't an evil person. His death at a young age is not just tragic for us who would never be able to hear more of his unwritten work, but also for Mozart because his demise was simply cruel and fast. To Salieri, God would rather kill Mozart off than have Salieri share a single ounce of his glory. But it's Salieri that the audience feel for. We can identify with him because we have all had that feeling of jealously and longing when other people's talents surpasses yours, especially in a skill that you're good at. The way F. Murray Abraham portray his character as both the elderly and the young Antonio Salieri truly is remarkable, one that definitely entitles him to winning the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Amadeus is an absolutely spectacular and memorable film that construct its characters, dialogues, settings, acting, and music magnificently. Each scenes is carefully constructed to play well like a music note. Once put together, you have one hell of a magnificent film! It's delightful, fun, tragic, and memorable. Mozart's work may still be remembered for centuries to come, but it's thanks to this film and the play that it was based on brought Antonio Salieri back into recognition.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)


I think there were times when we really did enjoy reading those required literature books in our high schools' English classes. Personally for me, One Flew Over the Cuckcoo's Nest by Ken Kesey was one of them. Like The Godfather or Jaws, it's not difficult to believe that its film adaptation would become a sensation as well as one of the greatest classical motion pictures in film history. Film is after all another media form where many people express themselves or voice their defiance against a corrupted systems by portraying their thoughts and feelings. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is perhaps that kind of film in which its main characters, R.P. McMurphy (played by Jack Nicholson) does several things that may leave viewers puzzled. R.P. is a convict who just transferred to a mental institute by choice. But based on the way he carries himself about in just a positive manners at times, it's hard to believe that he really has gone insane, despite his insistence on it. Then what is he thinking, trying to get himself transferred to a mental prison? Is he looking for some new ways to defy the system or has he forsaken the fact that his freedom is lost? It's a mystery in the film as it was in the novel.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is one of three films that have won all five of the top Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actor for Nicholson, Best Actress for Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched, Best Director for Milos Forman and Best Screenplay for Lawerence Hauben and Bo Goldman. (The other two films that won these five main awards? It Happened One Night and Silence of the Lamb.)

This film isn't about insanity and other mental illnesses. Rather it's about this one man who left a huge impact on the inmates, but not without some dire consequences in the end. Some mental patients are there by choice, others not so much, and one, such as little Billy (Brad Dourif) is there as a favor due to his parents being friends with the institute head nurse. There is also a big inmate of Native American heritage called The Chief (Will Sampson). Yet the Chief doesn't speak, leaving all but R.P. McMurphy to think that he's mute. The mental institute is run by a strict and respectable woman called Nurse Ratched who would do her best to enforce the rules and protocols and does not take lightly in the fact that McMurphy seems to be trying to invoke the concept of anarchy in her lawful system. However, McMurphy is more democratic as he takes his fellow patients and judges them based on face value. He thinks and suggests that their illnesses are choices that can be reverse, encouraging them to take charge by demanding to watch the games, go on a fishing field trip, and getting them to party and let loose with girls (that he snuck in). He's encouraging his fellow patients to stand up to Nurse Ratched, a woman who embodies the meaning of authority. In reality, she's not a bad person, but merely a woman who was taught to be feared and respected, putting frivolous desires such as sexuality aside for duty and responsibility.

Eventually, McMurphy's strong personality and eccentric characteristic got to the rest of the patients, encouraging Billy to speak without stuttering and the Chief to break out from his silence and speak. Yet sadly, for all of his talk about taking action and control, everything goes wrong when Billy committed suicide which later lead to McMurphy's downfall as the system lobotomized him for his attempt to strangle Ratched. The ending is tragic, but McMurphy's legacy survives when the Chief took it upon himself to end him and escape, giving hope to the other patients.

One Flew Over the Cuckcoo's Nest continues to be a great film even to this day, withstanding time with its great cast of performers and great adapted screenplay. Through and through, it continues to do the novel justice.

Gandhi (1982)


There is a great deal of things to describe Mohandas K. Gandhi, the pacifist leader of India's non-violent, non-cooperative independence movement fighting for independence from Great Britain in the mid-20th century, but this one man's entire life cannot be told in a single cinematic story. This film does not and could not film the entire scope of Gandhi's life campaign and briefly made a statement of this at the beginning of the film. Yet despite this, Gandhi is a film that marvelously depicts this one man's effort to promote independence and respect without the means of violence.

This film was produced and made by the late Sir Richard Attenborough (some of you might recognized him as the older brother of the famous naturalist David Attenborough). Throughout watching this film, we saw nothing but an attempt to pay tribute and respect to Gandhi. Through Attenborough's directing and guidance, Gandhi shows a lot of labor of love and effort, showing some of Gandhi's greatest achievements and not shying away from the brutality and violence deaths of those who protested.

The film began on the day of Gandhi's assassination where he was shot and killed by a visitor before depicting his funeral. The film then jumps back many years in South Africa, where a young Gandhi (Ben Kingsley) is kicked off of a train for riding first class because of his skin color. Seeing the injustice in this, Gandhi decided to promote equality and full citizenship for Indians living in South Africa through non-violent and non-cooperative way. His ideal and action is very naive, but through firmness and a strong determination to never strike back against his attackers, Gandhi paved the way the future of a series of campaign that would become iconic and historical.

With his success in South Africa, Gandhi returns to India and found himself reveled and respected by many and is seen as a national hero. Yet his work is not over as Gandhi found himself trying to promote a series of campaign to fight for India's independence, all the while trying to emphasize the concept of a non-violent and peaceful way of protesting. As with each non-violent (and some violent consequences) protest, the news of a little man in a loincloth that he made himself marvels the world. Gandhi sees that his own people are being forced to live as second-class citizens in their own country ruled by British, who they believed, is in their divine rights to do so via a belief called "the white man's burdan". There is a scene where his followers willingly marched towards a group of guards who would beat them without quarter all the while without raising a fist to defend themselves. The scene is brutally shattering, but Gandhi and his people believed in what they do is right. Yet even when they have finally gained independence from the British Empire, true peace is not over as Gandhi weeps in the fact that the new modern India is fiercely divided by Hindus and Muslims, escalating into a series of bloodbath. Gandhi looks on sadly as he tries to implore to the world to stop the violence by fasting, all the while saying, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."

Ben Kingsley as Gandhi, delivers an exceptional and breathtaking performance as he dons a piece of fabric around himself, walking about like a little guru, but speak full of wisdom. Other cast members, such as Trevor Howard, John Mills, and John Gielgud, should also be commended for their performances.

Gandhi isn't a simple film about good and justice triumphant over evil. Rather it is a complex historical story full of violence, madness, and chaos being done and the endurance to fight it all with peaceful concepts. Gandi weeps when the country is torn apart by civil unrest and does die tragically at the hands of a conspirator whom is angered by Gandhi's approach. Gandhi is a film that is worth watching even after all of these years and should continue to be watched by generations whom have only heard of this little man in loincloth through their history books.