Tag Archives: Studio Ghibli

A summer kid geek must-list: from ‘Star Wars’ Night to ‘Teen Titans’ (for Gusto)

“Teen Titans Go! To the Movies” (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

I wrote this kid geek guide to summer for the Buffalo News Gusto section.

With “Star Wars,” “The Avengers” and superheroes more ubiquitous than ever before, it’s a great time to be a kid geek.

This list features some new films, a few annual movie events and even treats for fans of Japanese animation. Grab your Spider-Man hoodie, pack your lightsaber, and clutch your Totoro closely — it’s going to be a great summer.

Buffalo Bisons “Star Wars” Night, 6:05 p.m. June 2 at Coca-Cola Field

“Star Wars” night is a Buffalo tradition, and it continues to grow — literally. Last year’s event even included an enormous Jabba the Hutt in the concourse.

Characters from Rey to Captain Rex appear, “laser swords” are plentiful, and it culminates in a special scoreboard movie and explosion-like fireworks. Best for ages 5 and up; it’s a long night, and little ones might grow restless during the game.

 “Incredibles 2,” opens June 15

Family superhero saga “The Incredibles” is one of Pixar’s most enduring favorites. This sequel to the 2004 hit has been years in the making, and if the trailers are any indication, it will be worth the wait. Bob Parr, a.k.a., Mr. Incredible, must care for baby Jack-Jack while his wife, Helen, a.k.a., Elastigirl, is taking on the world’s supervillains. No MPAA rating yet; expected to be PG.

Studio Ghibli Fest, June through August at Regal Elmwood and Transit Center

Fathom Events screens a different entry from Japan’s Studio Ghibli animation studio each month in the summer. “Pom Poko,” June 17, 18 and 20: Isao Takahata’s film is the story of a fierce battle between raccoon dogs and developers; rated PG. “Princess Mononoke,” July 22, 23 and 25: Hayao Miyazaki’s epic classic about a young warrior; rated PG-13.

“Grave of the Fireflies,” Aug. 12, 13 and 15: This is a harrowing WWII drama for older kids only. It is unrated, but PG-13 equivalent for mature thematic material, war violence, disturbing images and language.

Green Acres Ice Cream Free Outdoor Family Movie Night and Kids Pajama Party, dusk on Wednesdays from July 11 to Aug. 15 at Green Acres Ice Cream, 4357 Broadway, Depew.

Green Acres has hosted a free film series for several years, and as usual, there are some gems. One is “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie” (Aug. 1). In this animated adaptation of Dav Pilkey’s beloved book, two elementary schoolers hypnotize their principal into believing he is an underwear-and-cape-clad superhero.

The rest of the schedule isn’t geek-fare, but it’s good for kids: “Ferdinand,” July 11; “Coco,” July 18; “Despicable Me 3,” July 25; “Paddington 2,” Aug. 8; and “The Nut Job 2,” Aug. 15. Ratings vary, but all films should be fine for ages 7 and up.

“Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation,” opens July 13

This animated film franchise has been a treat. In this third film, Dracula (voiced by Sandler), his daughter, son-in-law, grandson and monsters like Frankenstein and the Wolf Man take a monsters-only cruise ship. Best of all? Mel Brooks returns as the voice of Drac’s father. No MPAA rating yet; expected to be PG.

“Teen Titans Go! To the Movies,” opens July 27

Big-screen superhero bummers like “Justice League” got you down? There’s a far more cheerful and kid-friendly alternative in the Cartoon Network series “Teen Titans Go!” The first feature film based on the DC Comics series sees Robin, Cyborg, Beast Boy and friends take on the villain Slade (voiced by the great Will Arnett). Rated PG for action and rude humor.

Buffalo Bisons Superhero Night, 6:05 p.m. on Aug. 11 at Coca-Cola Field.

If the Bisons’ popular “Star Wars” night has a rival, it is this event centered on your favorite superheroes. Characters from the Superhero Alliance of Western New York are available for photos, and kids are encouraged to dress up. Fireworks bring the battle vs. good and evil to a close. Best for ages 5 and up; it’s a long night, and little ones might grow restless during the game.

Review: ‘When Marnie Was There’ is another exquisite film from Studio Ghibli

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“When Marnie Was There” recently came to Buffalo’s North Park Theatre in both its subtitled and dubbed versions, and I was thrilled to review the former. I gave it 3 stars.

“When Marnie Was There” is, in every way, exquisite – exquisitely sad, exquisitely haunting, exquisitely lovely. The latest, and, supposedly, final release from Japan’s Studio Ghibli animation studio might not be a Ghibli classic, but it is a fine creation in every way.

It’s a somber tale, one based on the classic children’s novel by author Joan G. Robinson and directed by the mega-talented Hiromasa Yonebayashi. The director of 2010’s “The Secret World of Arrietty,” Yonebayashi was an animator on such Ghibli classics as “The Wind Rises,” “Ponyo,” “Howl’s Moving Castle,” “Spirited Away” and “Princess Mononoke.”

Like those gems – all directed by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki – “When Marnie Was There” is a hand-drawn film of great ambition and stunning beauty. Here is a film about adolescence, friendship and memory centered on a young adult but told without the cheap humor that sinks so many animated efforts.

This is heavy, emo cinema, and that does make for an occasionally exhausting experience. It also lacks the epic scope of Miyazaki’s “The Wind Rises” or the poetic significance of recent Ghibli release “The Tale of Princess Kaguya.” But this involving story has its own offbeat charm.

Young Anna is the main character, a smart, sad-eyed young girl whose asthma leads her foster parent to propose a summer in the country. Here, it is hoped, Anna can heal and perhaps emerge from her shell.

She is in many ways a frustrating central character, one who is easy to pity, but also quick to annoy. One scene in particular, when she harshly tells off a good-natured girl, makes it hard to consider her as wise as one might like.

Yet Anna also feels completely believable, gripped with the ebb-and-flow emotions of youth.

Seemingly doomed to outsider status, one day Anna spots a pale, blonde-haired girl in a mansion by the sea. After several attempts, Anna finally meets this strange figure named Marnie.

The girls see something special in the other, and become fast friends. Something is not quite right, however. Marnie seems to disappear often, and continually speaks in dreamy, fanciful ways: “I’m desperate to get to know you,” “You’re my precious secret.” “It’s OK to cry. Just know that I love you.”

Discovering who Marnie is, and why she has entered Anna’s life, is the film’s central mystery. Yonebayashi slowly peels away the story’s many layers before finally laying it bare in “Marnie’s” final stretch.

The answers are not particularly surprising, but they are moving, if a bit overly melodramatic. “I’m sorry, it’s a sad story,” says a character in “When Marnie Was There,” and she ain’t kidding.

This sadness means “Marnie” is not a film for young children. The themes – abandonment, familial loss, adolescent panic – are simply too hefty for little ones. But older children and teens who enjoy introspective drama will swoon over the story of Anna and Marnie.

Note that “Marnie” is being presented at the North Park Theatre in both English dubbed and Japanese language-English subtitled versions. I watched the subtitled version, and would strongly recommend it. Having watched my share of dubbed films, subtitles are almost always preferable.

The lead voices in the Japanese language version – Sara Takatsuki as Anna and Kasumi Arimura as Marnie – give wonderful performances. They may lack the star status of dubbed-version leads Hailee Steinfeld (“True Grit”) as Anna, Kiernan Shipka (“Mad Men”), John C. Reilly, Ellen Burstyn and Kathy Bates. But stars add little to a project like this one.

However you see it, “Marnie” is lovely. Cinephiles around the world are hoping this is not the end for Studio Ghibli, but if it is, “When Marnie Was There” provides a fitting conclusion.