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Earwig and the Witch | Review

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Studio Ghibli can probably be considered as the world’s greatest animation studio. It never kowtowed to basic expressions of animation and continued to push the boundaries of hand-drawings to sweep away audiences in the studio’s ever-imaginative worlds (see Spirited Away). Even their simplest productions, such as Isao Takahata’s My Neighbors the Yamadas, had an aura of magnifying wonder to them. Their latest film, Earwig and the Witch, is the studio’s first fully 3D animated feature…and should be their last. Directed by Gorō Miyazaki, son of the great Hayao Miyazaki, the film follows the story of a young girl named Earwig (Kokoro Hirasawa) who gets adopted by a witch named Bella Yaga (Shinobu Terijama), so she can become her “apprentice” by helping her with spells. Bella Yaga’s abusive tenure forces Earwig to learn spells on her own with Thomas (Gaku Hamada), the talking cat, so she can finally be the one who controls the household. While the plot isn’t necessarily bad, Earwig and the Witch‘s cyclical structure makes for a pretty dull viewing experience, not particularly improved with its cheap-looking 3D animation.

Studio Ghibli's first CG movie, 'Earwig and the Witch,' is an insult |  Engadget

As I’ve mentioned in my previous paragraph, Studio Ghibli has essentially perfected the art of 2D, hand-drawn animation by crafting fully realized fictional worlds, which exalted the purely freeing imagination of many of their film’s child protagonists. In Spirited Away, we’re essentially seeing the entire world through Chihiro’s eyes–our eyes widen at seeing its incredibly detailed food and larger-than-life characters. That’s just but one isolated example of the many memorable images Studio Ghibli pictures has embedded in our minds over the years. So for (G.) Miyazaki to use fully synthesized/3D animation for his picture feels like a pure insult at what his father, Toshio Suzuki, Yasuyoshi Tokuma, and the late Isao Takahata have brought to the table for the past 35 years.

Sure, there’s a somewhat valid argument to say that the studio needs to “modernize” itself or at least experiment with a cheaper, more popular form of animation–but when that same studio has been revolutionizing the way audiences perceive animated drawings for 35 years, is it essential? It also doesn’t help that the 3D animation presented in Earwig and the Witch looks cheaply constructed and devoid of any movement, charm, and personality. The animation is placated on the screen without any proper direction or visual creativity. The sequences that could make the *best* use of 3D animation, particularly when Earwig enters The Mandrake (Etsushi Tokoyama)’s lair, are mediocre-at-best-, and the mostly boring, repetitive sequences of Earwig being constantly berated by Bella Yaga have no soul. Imagine that: a Studio Ghibli without any soul. How is that possible? Simple. Use 3D animation because it’s the only type that’s lost its value as more and more audiences become accustomed to the prospect of more realistic-looking characters (and worlds) inside computer-generated imageries.

Earwig and the Witch review: Ghibli's first 3D movie is better than it  looks - Polygon

It also doesn’t help that the film’s plot is extremely unengaging. We observe Earwig being constantly berated by Bella Yaga for most of the runtime, without any character progression from both protagonists. At some point, you may wonder in what direction the film is going–and you’ll quickly realize that the entire film only serves as a pretext for a sequel. Everything you’re watching is tediously written exposition, which acts as chapter 1 out of 152 of a story that’ll likely never get completed. It wouldn’t have been a problem if we didn’t spend so much time with the character doing the same chores, without an ounce of development or…direction, where the audience would see a clear path to a satisfying ending, but that never happens. At least the voice cast seems to bring a quasi-form of life to the picture–with Kokoro Hirasawa delivering a charming performance as the titular character, bringing lots of energy and heart to an inexpensively crafted character. The same can be said for her sidekick, Thomas, who shares the entire movie’s funniest lines, most notably in a hilarious scene where he has to confront his worst fear: worms. The comedic timing is spot-on and is the only time where the animation somewhat works within the context of the physical humor presented on-screen.

By Studio Ghibli’s standards, Earwig and the Witch is a terrible film, stripping away the one thing that made the studio stand out above every type of corporate made animation by major motion picture studios, while also turning the soulful imagination of hand-drawn paintings with lifeless, vapid and unresponsive 3D video-game cutscenes. To have a Ghibli film in 3D is showing to the audience small signs that the studio might become creatively bankrupt if they continue in that direction. Thankfully, Hayao Miyazaki has a new movie coming soon; crafted the way it should be done. Let’s just hope Goro won’t continue down the path of lifeless 3D and direct his next film the same way his father is doing it.

 

Earwig and the Witch is now available to rent or buy on video-on-demand and on Blu-Ray and DVD.

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Animation

Marvel’s What If…?- Season 1 Episode 8 Review

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What If…?  is the latest Marvel Studios project to arrive on our small screens on Disney +.

The animated anthology series, created by Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia writer A.C. Bradley and Marvel vet Bryan Andrews flips the script on the MCU as following the creation of the multiverse in Loki’s first season finale, What If…? reimagines famous events from the films in unexpected ways.

After last weeks party with Thor, What If…? is back with the penultimate episode which truly showcased some of the best animated sequences that the series has offered this far. Yes we’ve seen some great animation such as the Zombie episode but in episode 8 they really had a chance to go full on with incredible mind boggling visuals. 

This weeks episode continues from that epic cliffhanger aka the entrance of Ultron, and in this Universe we get to find out what would happen if Ultron ultimately uploaded himself into the vibranium body he had made for him in Avengers: Age of Ultron. This moment erases the creation of Vision. 

“The entire Multiverse at your fingertips, and you spent all your time up there? Wow. Isn’t this more fun than just watching? And to be honest, a lot less creepy on your part. The boundaries of the multiverse are irrelevant to beings like you and me. I didn’t evolve by staying inside the lines. Run, watch, it doesn’t matter. From here, I can see everything. No one can stop me now.”

Ultron to the watcher

What If… Ultron Won?

Synopsis

Natasha Romanoff and Clint Barton seek to destroy the killer-robot Ultron following a cataclysmic event.

Review

In Moscow, which is now an apocalyptic wasteland Natasha Romanoff and Clint Barton are the only survivors of the nuclear catastrophe. They spend the remainder of their days outrunning Ultron sentries as they infiltrate KGB archives and attempt to find intel regarding an AI that can take on Ultron.

We are then shown the moments leading up to the catastrophe as Ultron successfully uploads himself into Visions body. Loaded with the mind stone, the AI manages to kill Thor, Bruce Banner, Steve Rogers and once again Tony Stark. Ultron now powerful unleashes Earth’s entire arsenal of nuclear weapons in order to eradicate the planet. 

When Thanos arrives on Earth with the other five Infinity Stones, Ultron effortlessly kills him and takes the stones for himself and eventually becomes aware of the other worlds in the universe. But even that’s not enough for this maniacal android as he senses the Watcher’s presence, for the first time he starts to attack our not so silent observer. The pair battle their way through the Multiverse crashing through multiple realities, including one where Steve Rogers aka Captain America becomes the President of the United States. 

Marvel’s What If [Disney +]

Finally we also get to see Jeffrey Wright’s Uatu The Watcher hesitate to intervene as he helps in the sidelines inside the Nexus of All Realities. He certainly puts up a brave fight, and at the right moment escapes after his giant bald head is almost crushed. Realising that he’s out of options, the Watcher asks episode four’s Dark Strange Supreme for help. Lets hope he can stop the Multiverses impending doom. 

The show is certainly positioning itself for the grandest finale as the eighth episode sets up for what seems to be an explosive one indeed . This episode truly introduces us to a great threat in the form of this new version of Ultron and I for one can’t wait to see the Guardians of the Multiverse next week. 

 

 

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My Little Pony: A New Generation

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Like many cinematic universes so called phases, My Little Pony has come in stages. My Little Pony: A New Generation is the latest adventure based on Hasbro’s toy range created over 35 years ago. Its become one of the company’s biggest brands on toy shelves around the world, so with this latest interpretation of the franchise now in its fifth generation takes off as a fully CGI standalone film on Netflix. 



Set in the same world and years after the events of the Friendship is Magic series, A New Generation shows that Earth ponies, Unicorns, and Pegasi all live in fear of each other. But one earth pony Sunny voiced by Vanessa Hudgens has been raised differently and believes that the different species can be trusted, and she wants to build bridges so that they can all be friends again. However when a young unicorn, Izzy (Kimiko Glenn) , turns up in Maretime Bay, Sunny helps her escape. Going against her community, including childhood-friends-turned- local-law-enforcement Hitch (James Marsden) and Sprout (Ken Jeong), Sunny sets out with Izzy to contact the Pegasus community. There, they befriend Princess Zipp (Liza Koshy) and Pipp (Sofia Carson) and start to unravel the story behind the separation of the various pony communities. 

© 2021 Hasbro, Inc.

The new generation of Ponies set out on an adventure to prove that friendship is for every pony. this is my introduction to the franchise which seems to be a new renaissance for My Little Pony, but all jokes aside it truly was a lot of fun. It’s full of colour and positivity with themes of overcoming your fears and overall the powerful magic of friendship. You could also easily see the political messages in this film, however the target audience aka the young viewers will skip past that and enjoy the sweet characters and sparkly tone and songs featured in the film. 

Speaking of music, many of the songs find parallels with real life as the New Generation characters sing about welcoming others rather than building walls as a marching mob of ponies brainlessly out of fear follow their leader. Another aspect shows how a sheriff’s badge creates an unhealthy power dynamic. The film never gets too heavy as we are in Equestria, with its visually rich magical settings, heart and humour and great music. 

The star-studded voice cast truly bring these ponies alive. Vanessa Hudgens, Kimiko Glenn, James Marsden, Sofia Carson, Liza Koshy, Elizabeth Perkins, Jane Krakowski, Phil LaMarr, Michael McKean and Ken Jeong make up an impressive cast that performs a variety of songs ranging from edgy rock tunes to full on Broadway showstoppers. 

© 2021 Hasbro, Inc.

The animation is magical as the filmmakers have brought these Ponies into the CG world for the first time. They have built a colourful and modern take as each pony is given the same amount of care, making them look unique from one another, they’re very expressive thanks to the animators.



There’s tons of details that make the film aesthetically pleasing, such as the gold marbled city where the pegasus’ live to the old lighthouse that’s home to Sunny overlooking Maretime Bay. It’s also filled to the brim with product placements but with a pony twist. For example the film advertises Judgment Neigh, complete with an Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminator inspired unicorn.

© 2021 Hasbro, Inc.

My Little Pony: A New Generation is surprisingly pleasing to the eyes and young children no doubt will especially enjoy it.

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Marvel’s What If…?- Season 1 Episode 7 Review

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What If…?  is the latest Marvel Studios project to arrive on our small screens on Disney +.

The animated anthology series, created by Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia writer A.C. Bradley and Marvel vet Bryan Andrews flips the script on the MCU as following the creation of the multiverse in Loki’s first season finale, What If…? reimagines famous events from the films in unexpected ways.

What If..? is back with a brand new episode, for weeks we’ve been left sobbing and emotionally drained from watching our favourite MCU heroes suffer devastation after devastation. Following Killmonger’s rise to power last week, episode 7 puts Thor in the spotlight and certainly takes an upbeat approach, imagining what would have happed if Odin returned baby Loki to the Frost Giants and thus making Thor grow up as an only child, though no mention of her Majesty Cate Blanchett aka Hela The goddess of Death. 

More than battles won or lost, it’s relationships that truly define a hero. The people who shape them, their stories. Thor and Loki, a brotherhood so strong and pivotal, it would change the fate of a universe. Their childhood taught Thor many lessons. But in another universe, instead of raising the Jotunheim prince, Loki, as his own son, Odin returned him to his people. Without his trickster brother to keep things, let’s say, lively, Thor grew into a very different prince

The watcher

What If… Thor Were an Only Child?

Synopsis

Thor, who never learned to be a good hero, throws an out of control intergalactic party on Earth.

Marvel’s What If [Disney +]

Review

This was such a fun episode as it made me laugh from beginning to end. It also ends with an excellent cliffhanger, which seems to be setting up the epic finale. 

In this alternate Universe growing up without a pivotal relationship can really affect you as without Loki, Thor becomes a reckless Party Prince with a bad boy attitude. And when his father falls into Odinsleep and his mother Frigga goes away, Thor’s arrogance simply continues to grow as he decides to throw a huge party on Midgard aka Earth, where he believes Heimdall won’t be able to detect him. 

Marvel’s What If [Disney +]

Inviting all from the Nine Realms, he creates the biggest party ever witnessed on Earth. Many easter eggs and cameos appear thanks to the original actors voicing their characters. The standouts being Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, and Kat Dennings.

Also voicing their characters are Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Clark Gregg, Frank Grillo, Taika Waititi, Karen Gillan, Jaimie Alexander, Seth Green and Jeff Goldblum fabulously returning as the Grandmaster. 

Prince Loki of Jotunheim arrives in Las Vegas to join Thor’s party. He certainly towers over Thor and the other partygoers in his frost giant form.

With Thor taking over Earth with all his party-going antics, S.H.I.E.L.D step in to rain on his parade. Maria Hill uses Jane and Darcy to stop Thor however Jane hooks up with the God of Thunder, so Hill eventually calls upon someone with a bit more firepower, Captain Marvel. 

Both go head-to-head which creates an epic showdown with plenty of thunder and Lightning. But ultimately in the end there’s one relatable thing that does manage to stop Thor, his mother. Frigga who after being sought out by Jane arrives in the nick of time. 

Marvel’s What If [Disney +]

Her arrival prompts Thor to clean up his act, he enlists the help of his party guests to clean up Earth. As the episode comes to an end it shows that Thor and Jane’s relationship develops further as they both agree to go on a date. However there’s one thing The Watcher didn’t see, That Cliffhanger. Overall Episode 7 is a jam-packed one with delightful and crazy moments. 

 

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