Drive My Car: Listening To Tapes From Your Dead Wife


Written by Luke Barnes


The film follows Yusuke Kafuku, played by Hidetoshi Nishjima, who after the death of his wife Oto, played by Reika  Kirishima, tries to continue on living his life and begins trying to organise a play.

I thought this film was more good than bad. Certainly there is no getting around the fact that this film wont be for everyone, the run time alone is enough to put most off: clocking in at almost three hours and there is no real reason for this long runtime. However, those that stick with it are in for a deep dive into the human soul that in many ways is rewarding.

The characters are all strong and well developed, a pro for the long run time is that many of the characters get explored and are given plenty of focus. I also think the thematic exploration is where this film really shines as it has a lot to say on relationships and grief, most of which is quite insightful. I truly do think the strong point of this film is the writing.

Overall, this film will not be to the taste of many and the long run time will prove testing but there is something worth seeing here.


The writing

The themes

The performances


The run time

The ending is a little vague

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Battle Royale: Katniss Who?


Written by Luke Barnes


A disgruntled teacher and family man, Takeshi Kitano, takes a class of high schoolers out to a remote island to have them fight to the death, with the backing of the Japanese government.

To begin, yes I know this is a contrived and often pointed out view but watching this for the first time I see just how badly Suzanne Collin’s ripped this off with her Hunger Games books that later became films. The similarities go way beyond skin deep, and it gets to a point where you can’t help but stare at the unoriginality of Hollywood.

This film was a lot lighter than I was expecting it to be or had been led to believe it was going to be. There is a tongue-in cheek element to it all that makes the incredibly dark dystopian subject matter feel almost silly in a gallows humour sort of way.

I enjoyed the plot and appreciated the fact that it felt true to life, rather than idealised to a point of being nonsensical, I am talking about you Hunger Games. In reality people would be selfish and self-centred to survive, people would do terrible things to their friends if it meant they could save their own skin. The idea of some kind of chosen one who saves everyone she meets and inspires them to their own greatness is just silly, and again I feel it says a lot about the western liberal image of how a person should be.

Overall, certainly a fun watch.


Fun to watch

A few funny moments

Enjoyable characters


There were a few tonal clashes

Pacing issues

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The Cat Returns: Studio Ghibli Gone Bad?

The Cat Returns is a Japanese animated film directed by Hiroyuki Morita. The plot revolves around Haru (Chizuru Ikewaki), who ends up saving the life of the Cat Kingdoms Prince Lune (Takayuki Yamada), without knowing who he is. After this she is perused by the King of the Cat Kingdom, who is intent on her marrying his son. She then has to venture to the Cat Kingdom, to try and escape the whole situation.

This is the third film in my Studio Ghibli odyssey, and I have to say it is the worst thus far. Of the three films I have seen so far, this is the shortest, which you would think is a mercy, but it is not. There is nothing wrong with the start of the film or with Haru herself, she is fine, it is everything that happens from the Bureau onwards that is the problem. I understand that the Japanese culture might be slightly different from what I am used to, but all the elusions to bestiality made me feel uncomfortable. There is no other way to say it than Haru is attracted to her Cat protector and despite the film turning her into a cat midway through, don’t ask me why, it still feels wrong.

Narratively, the film is a mess, when compared to something like Princess Monokoe or My Neighbour Totoro,       is a complete dumpster fire story wise. Things just happen with no rhyme or reason and the plot is so thin that when these things happen you are left saying wait what. I genuinely believe if this film did not have the Studio Ghibli name attached to it, then it wouldn’t even be considered watchable let alone good.

None of the film feels satisfying either, you don’t care about any of the characters, as they aren’t developed, they are just kind of there, the ending as well adds very little to call it an anti-climax would be an understatement.

Overall, this film just wasn’t for me, I am a cat person, but even still I found precious few things to like about it. I was left feeling uncomfortable and vaguely confused by it and one thing is for sure, that is an hour and 15 minutes of my time I am never going to get back.


It’s only on for 75 minutes.

Haru is okay.


It makes no sense.

The bestiality undertones.

It was a slog to get through.


My Neighbor Totoro: The Spirit Next Door

My Neighbour Totoro is a Japanese animated fantasy film directed by Hayao Miyazaki. The plot focuses on a family that moves to a new house, which is also home to a number of spirits. The two young girls of the family Satsuki (Noriko Hidaka), and Mei (Chika Sakamoto), make friends with the spirits and their colourful leader Totoro. The film deals with the interactions between the family and the spirits.

This film is childhood innocence incarnate, the girls and their relationship with Totoro is so wholesome and pure it reminds me of all the fun I had with my imaginary friends when I was child. Totoro himself is both huge and terrifying, but also cute and cuddly. He is one of the most interesting animated characters I have seen in a long time and that is mainly because we don’t know a lot about him.

Despite all this sweetness and light, there is a hidden darkness behind it all. The mother of the girls is in hospital for unspecified reason and there is a constant threat that she is going to die; which is heart-breaking for the girl’s sake. There is also a scene in the film where it looks like the little girl might be lost or hurt and it genuinely puts you on edge. I think this added aspect gives older people something to enjoy, which makes it a good film for parents and kids to watch together.

There is one scene in the film that bothered me, I don’t know why it was there and it made me uncomfortable. This is of course the bathroom scene, where the dad and two girls are naked in a draw out scene, you don’t see anything, but it is incredibly unnecessary. The scene adds nothing to the film as a whole and it makes you question why it was left in the final cut.

Finally, I loved the colour and animation style of this film and I thought that much like the other Studio Ghibli film I have seen recently Princess Mononoke, every scene could be a painting. The art style is different enough to give to a distinct personality, but there is also a familiarity to it.

Overall, I liked this film it reminded me of my childhood, my only issue with it was that one-bathroom scene that I thought was totally unnecessary. Totoro is incredibly cute.


The art style.

The child-like wonder, but also the more adult moments.

Totoro himself.


That scene.

The cat bus thing was scary and haunting.


Reviewed by Luke

Princess Mononoke: The War For The Forest

Princess Mononoke is an animated fantasy film directed by Hayao Miyazaki. The plot follows Prince Ashitaka (Yoji Matsuda), a young man who becomes cursed after a demon touches him while he is protecting his village: this curse will corrupt and eventually kill Ashitaka if it is not lifted. As such he ventures out into the wilds to find a cure. Along the way he ends up caught in the middle of a battle between the forces of the forest lead by a giant wolf called Moro (Akihiro Miwa), and a giant boar called Okkoto-nushi (Hisaya Morishige) and the humans of Iron Town lead by Lady Eboshi (Yuko Tanaka) who are backed by the might of the Emperor.

This was my first time watching a Studio Ghibli film, shocking I know right, and I just have to say it was fantastic, it was unlike anything I have ever seen before. Each frame of the hand drawn animation looked like a beautiful painting, there were many scenes where I was amazed by the level of detail that had gone in to creating this world. The world itself felt so real, it felt like the kind of thing that could have existed one day years ago.

The relationship between Ashitaka and San (Yuriko Ishida), is beautiful and very wholesome. We see each learn to trust each other more over time and eventually realise the feelings they have for one another. Also, their union represents the coming together of humans and nature, which I think is an interesting contrast, especially in these current times, however sadly it shows that ultimately humans will destroy nature for their own ends, the film suggests an inevitability to it.

The final thing I want to talk about is the Forest Spirit. It is the head of this spirit and its believed mythical abilities that caused the war in the first place, it is the life of the Forest Spirit that the forces of the forest are fighting for. However, the creature itself is the stuff of nightmares, it is deer like in a lot of ways, but it has a human face and the first time I saw it, I’m not going to lie, it scared me a bit; I thought it was going to turn out to be a demon, but no. The spirits haunting eyes will say with you long after you turn the film off; just staring contently into your soul.

Overall, a wonderful experience rich with culture and meaning, I will definitely be checking out more Studio Ghibli films in the future as I thought this was superb.


The balance between nature and industrialisation.

The believable world.

The fantasy elements.

San and Ashitaka.


The Spirit of the Forest will haunt my dreams for years to come.


Reviewed by Luke