I think, though, that my ratings would be based more on personal enjoyment and preference rather than a real critical view. For example:
5 stars = “Really really liked it and would watch it again without hesitation.” (taking Pixar films as a comparison point: Toy Story 2, Finding Nemo)
4 stars = “Really liked it.” (The Incredibles, Toy Story 1 and 3)
3 stars = “Liked it.” (WALL-E, Brave, A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc.)
2.5 stars = “It was ok” (Ratatouille, Cars, Cars 2, Up)
2 stars = “Meh. It wasn’t bad, but I didn’t like it.”
1 star = “Forgettable/Boring/Not interesting. I was longing for it to be over.”
0 star at all = “Not even worth thinking about.” Or, “I dislike it so much that I am unable to think rationally about it.” hahah
Most critics would think it scandalous to put Ratatouille and Up on the same level as Cars and Cars 2, and to put A Bug’s Life above them. Cars is often ranked on level with A Bug’s Life. I don’t think Bug’s Life is that bad though. And I really don’t get the critical acclaim for Ratatouille. It’s not horrible, but I don’t feel it was particularly striking. :/
Anyway. I’ll start with the movies I liked, and list them in alphabetical order.
From Up on Poppy Hill (Kokuriko-zaka kara) – ★★★★
Quite nice. A quieter, more “real” Ghibli film, i.e. sans a fantastical or mythical aspect. It leaned more towards the “slice of life” story that seems common in Japanese anime and movies (Ozu Yasujiro’s movies are mostly “slice of life” stories, I’d say); it doesn’t move very fast and isn’t super exciting but really just deals with life as it happens, with a little bit of dramatic spice thrown in. I loved the music. Five minutes into the film I was completely hooked by the score alone. The score and the songs chosen were lovely nostalgic ones – a number of jazzy tunes, at least one gave me the feeling of “a holiday in Paris/Rome”, and Sakamoto Kyu’s “Ue o muite arukou“* (we in the English-speaking world would recognise it as the tune of “Sukiyaki”). The music and the pretty watercolour/acrylic backgrounds contributed very well to the mood of the film. For all that 3D animation can do, there’s simply no matching real painted backgrounds for the storybook feel (like in Lilo & Stitch).
* The song was chosen because the story’s set in 1963, which is when the song was released. Definitely a good choice.
Iron Man – ★★★
Pretty good. Was entertaining and the character arc quite believable. Tony Stark starts off as a real jerk and ends as slightly less of a jerk. It is probably only Robert Downey Jr’s incredible charisma that renders Tony Stark somewhat likeable. The sequences showing how he developed and refined and learnt to use his suit were kinda fun. At least it didn’t feel quite so ridiculously “sudden” (although the way he basically self-manufactured all the metal material for his armour at home was ridiculous in a way). Pepper Potts is cool. haha
(I only just watched this and its sequel last weekend. Lol. Slow.)
Thor – ★★★
One name only needs mention: Tom Hiddleston. hahaha Brilliant turn as Loki. It’s been a long while since I found a villain really interesting. The Thor/Jane relationship was too rushed and seemed really pointless. The designs of Asgard seemed a little too futuristic, but it didn’t bother me much. Thor’s “redemption” felt a little too simplistic – similar to Disney’s Hercules, but somehow less effective. Nice little cameo for Hawkeye, though I would probably have been utterly puzzled by it if I hadn’t seen The Avengers first. I think Loki was really the standout character here though.
Now for those I didn’t like.
Bridesmaids – ★★
Someone explain to me why this was so highly praised? I thought it was an “okay” rom-com type of thing but I didn’t find it particularly fantastic or surprising. Maybe all the hype around it raised my expectations too high. haha
It isn’t that I don’t like romantic comedies (although I watch them less and less now because they pain me) – I really like You’ve Got Mail and Down With Love and When Harry Met Sally, for instance. But I didn’t see what it was about Bridesmaids that had everyone fussing about it.
Cinema Paradiso – ★★½
I also don’t get the hype over this. I’ve heard it lauded quite often, but I found that it dragged, and the main character was too much of a brat for too much of the movie for me to develop any real sympathy for him. I can see how some might like it – for its nostalgic look at cinematic history, for its “coming-of-age” or “growing up” themes, or even for its calm and reflective pace. But the only thing I liked about it was the Ennio Morricone music. :/
Iron Man 2 – ★★
Tony Stark was unbearable for two-thirds of the film and that kind of killed it. It was as though he’d regressed from the previous film. The fact that he was dying for most of the movie doesn’t justify such horrid behaviour. I think I prefer Terrence Howard to Don Cheadle in the role of Rhodes. Cheadle isn’t bad in the role, but I prefer the atmosphere Howard brought to the character – I thought he was a better counterpoint for Robert Downey Jr. than Cheadle.
The Birds – ★★
Uhm. Didn’t like it. Some people like vague endings and inexplicability in movies, maybe, but not me. The complete lack of explanation for the terrible bird attacks just left me with a “Huh? What?” feeling. I suppose it’s meant to generate thoughts and discussion but it was just too devoid of explanation. Possibly my least favourite Hitchcock movie. (I suppose my favourite Hitchcock works are Rear Window or North by Northwest.)
The Secret Life of Arrietty (Karigurashi no Arietti) – ★½
The most boring of the Ghibli films I’ve seen so far. I thought the boy Sho looked too “blank” – he hardly seemed to have any expression on his face; it seemed a bit creepy at times. Didn’t feel a great deal of empathy for Arrietty or her parents either. They weren’t horrible or offensive but I just… I dunno. It simply didn’t work for me.
Wild 7 – ★
Such a disappointment. The trailer looked promising, and it had a good cast. But the movie took far too long to pick up the pace and the climactic gunfight just dragged on and on. Also, the characters felt very ‘flat’ and uninteresting. The hints of romance between Eita’s and Fukada Kyoko’s characters was also very bland and barely even noticeable. I was even more unsympathetic to them than I was to Thor and Jane.