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74. Tonari no Totoro (My Neighbour Totoro) – Anime April 2018 (#137)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney and with special guests Graham Day and Marianne Cassidy, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every second Saturday at 6pm GMT, with the occasional bonus episode between them.

This year, we are proud to announce Anime April, a fortnight looking at two of the animated Japanese films on the list. We hope to make this an annual event. This year, we watched a double feature of Isao Takahata’s Hotaru no haka and Hayao Miyazaki’s Tonari no Totoro to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of their original release in April 1988. This week, the second part of the double bill, Tonari no Totoro.

Introducing perhaps the most iconic character in Japanese animation, and perhaps one of the most iconic characters in all animation, My Neighbour Totoro is the story of two young children who move to the Japanese countryside in the aftermath of the Second World War and befriend the mysterious eponymous creature who serves as a guardian of the local environment.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 137th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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73. Hotaru no haka (Grave of the Fireflies) – Anime April 2018 (#57)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney and with special guests Graham Day and Marianne Cassidy, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every second Saturday at 6pm GMT, with the occasional bonus episode between them.

This year, we are proud to announce Anime April, a fortnight looking at two of the animated Japanese films on the list. We hope to make this an annual event. This year, we watched a double feature of Isao Takahata’s Hotaru no haka and Hayao Miyazaki’s Tonari no Totoro to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of their original release in April 1988. This week, the first part of the double bill, Hotaru no haka.

Regarded as one of the most affecting animated films ever made, Grave of the Fireflies tells the story of two children caught in the middle of the United States’ firebombing of Japan. Adapted from Akiyuki Nosaka’s semi-autobiographical novella of the same name, Grave of the Fireflies is a harrowing portrayal of the consequences of war, particularly upon those in need of society’s protection.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 57th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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68. Finding Nemo (#164)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every second Saturday at 6pm GMT, with the occasional bonus episode between them.

This time, Andrew Stanton’s Finding Nemo.

When his young son Nemo is abducted, Marlon sets out across the ocean to rescue the boy. Along the way, he encounters a forgetful fish named Dory and embarks upon a series of rich and vivid adventures.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 164th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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Non-Review Review: The Breadwinner

This film was seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2018.

Stories enrich us, stories empower us, stories sustain us.

The Breadwinner is many things. It is a beautifully animated film from Irish studio Cartoon Saloon, a worthy successor to The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, and also the first time that the company have looked beyond Irish shores for one of their feature-length releases. It is a stunning adaptation of Deborah Ellis’ novel, offering a compelling glimpse into Afghanistan as controlled by the Taliban at the turn of the millennium. It is a genuinely affecting tale of a young girl surviving in a climate that seems actively hostile to her very existence.

However, The Breadwinner is also a meditation upon the power of stories. This is not a surprise, it is very much in keeping with the aesthetics and interests of Cartoon Saloon. It is a recurring theme in their work. (As a point of comparison, Pixar Studios are invested in parental anxieties, down to the inclusion of the “Pixar Babies” in the credits of every major release.) Indeed, The Breadwinner might be seen as a spiritual successor to (or the third part of a thematic trilogy with) The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, stories about children reconnecting with the mythic history of their countries.

Indeed, this is one of the most striking and appealing aspects of The Breadwinner is the way in which it finds something universal in its very specific setting. The Breadwinner is a story very firmly anchored in one time and place, but one that should resonate with everyone.

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Non-Review Review: Hotel Transylvania 2

Hotel Transylvania 2 certainly has some moves.

The film might be computer animated, but director Genndy Tartakovsky draws from more a classic style of cartooning. There are several points in Hotel Transylvania 2 where it seems like the film has reverted to a two-dimensional style, with figures standing in silhouette against the background. Even the human characters of Hotel Transylvania 2 take on an elasticity, stretching and distorting in the style of classic Looney Tunes. Hotel Transylvania 2 gets considerable mileage out of this slapstick element.

Drac pack's back...

Drac pack’s back…

It helps that the film is packed with gags. Not all the jokes land as well as they might, with the film leaning a little too heavily on some particularly cheap shots, but there is a sense that Hotel Transylvania 2 is more concerned with getting those jokes into the film than it is with actually constructing a narrative around them. The film packs an impressive quantity of humour into its ninety-minute runtime, with nothing in the film being allowed to overstay its welcome.

That said, the movie hits some speedbumps when it comes to plot and characterisation. Some of these issues are simply structural, with Hotel Transylvania 2 eschewing all but the most basic of set-up and pay-off in favour of energetic cut-away jokes and quick sight gags. Some of the issues are tonal, with the film wrapping up some very uncomfortable plot developments and decisions with a simple “all’s well that ends well” conclusion that ultimately avoids delving too deeply into any of the implications of certain characters’ actions.

Vamping it up...

Vamping it up…

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Non-Review Review: The Penguins of Madagascar

The Penguins of Madagascar is solid family entertainment. It does not rank among the best of Dreamworks’ animated output, nor among the year’s best animated films. However it is a fun adventure movie that moves along at just the right pace – allowing a number of action set-pieces and a solid cast carry most of the weight. The Penguins of Madagascar is fun and solid; it is arguably more fun and more solid than any of the three Madagascar movies that spawned this spin-off.

The Penguins of Madagascar is just what the doctor ordered with the holiday season approaching. It is a film that makes for a solid family diversion, a movie that will appeal to kids without pandering too heavily, and will acknowledge the adults in the audience without losing focus. It is an enjoyable romp, one that delivers almost perfectly on what it sets out to do. It isn’t transcendental or brilliant in the way that The Lego Movie was, but it is more than merely functional.

Cheesy? Sure.

Cheesy? Sure.

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Non-Review Review: How To Train Your Dragon 2

How To Train Your Dragon 2 is a staggeringly beautiful piece of work. Every frame of the movie is elegantly crafted and beautifully composited. It’s a wonderful example of how computer-generated animation is every bit as artistically valid as the classic hand-drawn style. The vistas are breathtaking, the choreography is stunning, the design work is elegant. It’s a wonderful piece of animation that is never anything less than visually amazing.

Structurally, How To Train Your Dragon 2 is well-constructed – perhaps a little too well-constructed. It’s a wonderful demonstration of just how fantastic the sequel structure established by The Empire Strikes Back can be when applied well. The sequel is meticulously put together, carefully and precisely calibrated to strike the right notes at the right time with the right intensity. As far as constructing a sequel goes, How To Train Your Dragon 2 is following some impressive blueprints.

There are moments when it feels like How To Train Your Dragon 2 adheres a little too rigidly to formula, but given how well it pays off, it’s easy enough to forgive.

Sky hopes...

Sky hopes…

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