Film Review: Mary and the Witch’s Flower

Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s Mary and the Witch’s Flower is an enchanting fantasy adventure. The film combines beautiful animation and an entertaining story.

Mary is a young girl living in the countryside with her great aunt. With friends around, one day Mary follows a mysterious cat which leads her to a broomstick and an unusual looking flower…

Based on the story The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart, Mary and the Witch’s Flower combines the charm of Studio Ponoc (founded by Studio Ghibli alums including Yoshiaki Nishimura) and a quintessentially English setting. And indeed, even the fantasy seems to combine the folklore of Britain with the imagination of the Japanese filmmakers. 

The narrative at first seems to be something of a coming of age tale for the protagonist. Mary is a young girl in a new place, who needs to settle into her new life. However, the film develops into something more, thanks to good storytelling. The protagonist is developed well as the film progresses.

Whilst the focus is on Mary, other characters are however developed sufficiently for their roles. Mary and the Witch’s Flower provides contrasting archetypes, yet the villains are not quite as clear cut as they first appear. It is certainly a positive thing that the antagonists do not fully adhere to archetypes. Although the film does follow an expected path, it is by no means totally predictable. The film depicts magic in an interesting light. There is the element of power and control which appears in other fantasy films of this ilk, but also a question of the ethics of its use.

In the English-dubbed version, Ruby Barnhill is well cast as the voice of Mary. She is ably assisted by Kate Winslet and Jim Broadbent. The animation is as lush as one would expect from the studio. Mary and the Witch’s Flower is a great movie for both children and adults. The film is engaging and enchanting.

Previews: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Featurette, More!

This week’s preview of coming attractions includes the latest Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom featurette, The New Mutants, and more…

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Featurette

Ahead of the trailer’s launch tomorrow, this Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom featurette reveals a little bit more about the plot and characters. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard return, and are joined by Jurassic Park royalty Jeff Goldblum. A Monster Calls‘ J.A. Bayona directs this sequel, taking the helm from Jurassic World‘s Colin Trevorrow. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom hits UK screens on 7th June 2018.

The New Mutants Poster

Here is the new poster for the forthcoming The New Mutants. The film is part of the X-Men franchise, and is about the first graduates from Charles Xavier’s school. The film looks like something different from the superhero genre, in that there is an emphasis on horror rather than just action adventure. The New Mutants will be released in 2018.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower Trailer

Mary and the Witch’s Flower is the first feature from Studio Ponoc, formed by Studio Ghibli alums. The film is about a young girl who discovers a flower which gives her the power to be a witch. Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi (When Marnie Was There), the English voice cast features Ruby Barnhill, Kate Winslet, and Jim Broadbent. Mary and the Witch’s Flower is scheduled for release in UK cinemas in Spring 2018.

A Matter of Life and Death Trailer

Here is a trailer for the 4K restoration of the Powell & Pressburger’s classic A Matter of Life and Death. The film was originally released in 1946, and combines fantasy and romance as an air force pilot is given additional time on Earth by an afterlife jury. Starring David Niven, a 4K restoration of A Matter of Life and Death will be released in UK cinemas on 8th December 2017.

Film Review: The BFG

THE B.F.G.

Steven Spielberg’s The BFG is a delightful family adventure. Spielberg maintains the tone of Roald Dahl’s original, which is sure to please fans of the book.

Sophie lives in an orphanage. She stays awake through the witching hour, little expecting any trouble. When a giant pays her a visit, Sophie expects the worst. However, this is no ordinary giant…

The BFG is one of Roald Dahl’s best-known stories. The translation to screen would have been rather a big feat in the past, considering the fantastic set-up. However, with advances in motion capture and CGI, The BFG immerses viewers in its magical world. The film is a visual feast, offering spectacle in spades.

The BFG mixes whimsy with a more emotional context. Sophie is a character viewers will quickly warm to. The title character amuses in his absurdity. Yet there is a sadness to this lone giant. Spielberg eschews his brand of sentimentality for the most part with The BFG. Nevertheless, the sense of loneliness is effectively conveyed as the film progresses. This is something that the protagonists bond over, and a driving force in the movie.

Spielberg tempers this solemn tone with a whimsical edge straight from the original book. The presence of Road Dahl is clear here; filmmakers have not pulled away from their source material. The nods to Dahl’s books, and Quentin Blake’s illustrations are a delight. The only place The BFG falters is in its momentum levels. Although the film never bores, there are not the expected peaks of an adventure film. The one thing that is missing is genuine excitement. There is plenty of wonder, but not enough acceleration.

Mark Rylance delivers a wonderful performance as the title character. Ruby Barnhill is very watchable as Sophie. Penelope Wilton offers an amusing turn, whilst comedy fans may be able to spot a few famous voices amongst the giants.

The BFG should be viewed in 3D for the full spectacle experience. Although more excitement would have been welcome, the film entertains throughout.

Previews: Rogue One Trailer, David Brent and more!

Plenty in this round-up of trailers and posters from this week, including the Rogue One trailer, David Brent: Life on the Road, Ben-Hur and more…

Rogue One Trailer

Here is the Rogue One trailer. The film is the first in a series of stand-alone Star Wars movies. Taking place before the events of Episode IV, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story certainly has the look of the original franchise. Starring Felicity Jones, Forest Whitaker and Riz Ahmed, Rogue One hits UK screens on 16th December 2016.

David Brent: Life on the Road Trailer

The trailer for David Brent: Life on the Road is just as cringe-inducing as you would imagine. Ricky Gervais resurrects his famed character from The Office for this film about Brent’s time on the road as a salesman and amateur rockstar. David Brent: Life on the Road is out in UK cinemas on 19th August 2016.

Ben-Hur Poster

Ben-Hur

Here is the latest poster for Ben-Hur. The film is a remake of the 1959 epic. Starring Jack Huston and Morgan Freeman, the film is about a falsely accused Jewish nobleman who survives years of slavery. Ben-Hur gallops on to the big screen on 26th August 2016.

The B.F.G. Trailer

Here is the trailer for Steven Spielberg’s The B.F.G. The film is based on the Roald Dahl’s classic and features Mark Rylance as the title character and Ruby Barnhill as Sophie. The B.F.G. hits UK screens on 22nd July 2016.

Captain America: Civil War Featurette

Here is a featurette on the upcoming Captain America: Civil War. The video focuses on the film’s main female characters, with Scarlett Johansson, Elizabeth Olsen and Emily Van Camp discussing their roles in the film. Captain America: Civil War launches onto UK screens on 29th April 2016.