Day 338 & Day 339 & Day 340 – Grave of the Fireflies & Toy Story 2 & Toy Story 3

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Movie Title: Grave of the Fireflies

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 29 min.

Rated: Not Rated

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Grave of the Fireflies is one of the most depressing movies I have ever seen. The movie focuses on the fate of two Japanese children during World War II. Seita is a high school aged boy. His father is in the Navy and his mother is raising him in a nice home in a small Japanese city. His sister Setsuko is around 5 or 6 years old and adores her older brother.

As predicted, U.S. bombers fire bombed the city. Their mother went ahead to the air raid shelter, but the two children were trapped behind while trying to store food. The siblings escaped to a distance and watched the house burn to the ground. After the fire is put under control and most of the city is burned to the ground Seita goes to find his mother. He finds her in the hospital horribly burned over nearly 100% of her body. There is no medical treatment available and she is left to sit on a gymnasium floor until she expires. The body is burned almost immediately.

Seita decides to absorb the pain and try to make things livable for his little sister. They go to live with unforgiving relatives who see them as ingrates while taking advantage of them. Seita decides that is it no fit to place live and they go to live in an abandoned hole in the side of a lakeside hill. There they are hit hard by the wartime shortages and the eventual surrender of Japan which leaves Seita temporarily elated. The children must struggle to survive and maintain a hope. It is a struggle that appears to be a losing battle and leads to one of the most tear jerking endings imaginable.

As a student of history, I know of all the Japanese flaws during World War II. The rape of Nanking and the horrors inflicted on the Chinese are comparable to the Holocaust in Europe in terms of statistics. I also firmly believe the U.S. decision to bomb the island into rubble and drop the atom bombs was the right strategic decision. What makes Grave of the Fireflies such a great film is that it removes the political element and puts the entire focus on the human toll of war. The human toll of war is why war should be avoided if at all possible because the human suffering is unimaginable. It is a heart wrenching movie. For an interesting non-fiction take on the events in this movie I highly recommend The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara an extremely interesting character studies on one of the most controversial American figures of the 20th century.

Verdict:

It is a great anti-war movie. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Toy Story 2 (1999)

 

Movie Title: Toy Story 2

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 32 min.

Rated: G

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Toy Story 2 is a solid, if unspectacular, follow up to the original. Woody (Tom Hanks) is trying to save a fellow toy named Wheezy the Penguin who is being sold at a yard sale. Woody is recognized as a classic collector’s item by Al the Toy Collector (Wayne Knight) who insists on having him. But, Andy’s mom won’t budge. Al steals Woody and takes him back to his toy shop. Woody completes Al’s insane collection of Woody related memorabilia including Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl (Joan Cusack) and Stinky Pete the Prospector (Kelsey Grammar) new and in the box.

Al is planning on shipping the whole lot of them off to an obsessive collector in Japan that will pay Al a hefty price. The group will end up in a museum together for a long time. Woody is tempted. Andy is growing up and Woody knows his time with him is short. He is feeling worn out and believes Andy might even throw him away soon. But, Woody’s old gang isn’t willing to let him be lost to the museum and they come to rescue him.

The voice acting of some of the guests is good, but somewhat wasted. Kelsey Grammar is great as Stiny Pete, but I felt like Wayne Knight was severely under utilized. The movie has mature messages about seeking immortality versus living in the now and taking risks which is great. But, Al the Toy Collector could have have been a far more interesting character that focused on America’s conspicuous consumption and unhealthy collecting habits. Instead he is just money hungry. I feel like there is a better story to be told with the character. The regular cast of characters all do their jobs just fine.

Verdict:

Toy Story 2 is not nearly as good as the original and the second act is pretty weak. Despite that it is still a pretty good animated tale from the best in the business. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Toy Story 3 (2010)

 

Movie Title: Toy Story 3

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 43 min.

Rated: G

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Toy Story 3 returned the original group of toys to the big screen for the first time in eleven years. Andy is going away to college and his mom has decreed that he needs to group all his possessions as trash, storage, or something he is taking with him. In a huge mix up the toys destined for the attic were accidentally thrown away by Andy’s mom beginning their quest.

The toys end up in the care of Sunny Side Day Care and the toys think they have landed in heaven. It is run by a benevolent overlord  named Lotso voiced ably by Ned Beatty. Everything seems fine until they realize the paradise they thought they walked into is revealed to be a glorified prison. Toy Story 3 mirrors many prison break stories, but also mirrors the hard luck stories of gangsters often seen on scream. Lotso had a rough life that transformed him into the toy seen in the movie. The majority of the movie is a prison break as the group tries to outsmart Lotso and his minions in order to escape from the day care center. It is a great tale that is reminiscent of some really great escape movies. Pun intended.

The latter half of the movie is touching and the end could bring a tear to your eye if you have a soft spot for nostalgia.

Verdict:

Toy Story 3 is a touching story of letting go and moving on as well as staying connected with the nostalgia of youth. It layers all this in with an escape movie that would make Steve McQueen proud. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Office Christmas Party (2016)

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