Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

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Normally when you think of the animated films from Studio Ghibli, you think about the whimsical and supernatural adventures of characters like Totoro and Ponyo. There is always a sense of magic, from mythical creatures to mysterious new lands. While Grave of the Fireflies still has that wonderful Ghibli animation and it certainly carries with it a sense of childlike whimsy, thanks to the little girl, it isn’t really filled with the same sense of magic.

Instead, Grave of the Fireflies could possibly be one of the saddest movies you’ll ever watch.

The story takes place during World War II, following the struggles of a boy who must now care for his younger siser. Their military father has not returned and their mother is killed in a bombing raid. They struggle with finding food. They struggle with staying safe. They struggle with staying alive. You can’t help but to suffer along with their pain, hoping for even the smallest bit of good news to lift their spirits. But as much as they suffer, the little girl maintains her innocent and caring demeanor.

If you haven’t yet watched this treasure, I highly recommend it. Even if it means you cry your eyes out. If only I had one more candy drop…

Fast & Furious 6 (2013)

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If you thought Fast Five was ridiculous, wait until you get a load of this latest adventure with Dominic Toretto, Brian O’Conner and muscle-bound cop Hobbs. Just about all of your Fast and Furious favorites are back for this latest outrageous jaunt where they discover that Letty is alive.

As you make your way through Fast & Furious 6, you’ll find people jumping from tanks and driving down the world’s longest runway, but the franchise has really departed from its original mandate. It’s not at all about the cars anymore and with the brief exception of one short sequence, it’s not at all about the street race either.

I got in a few cheap laughs, but I’d say that the series has somehow lost its charm. As much as it tries to be faster and furious-er, it just gets louder and even less relevant. Unless you’re a die-hard fan of the franchise, you can probably skip this unnecessary sixth film.

Wu Xia (Dragon) (2011)

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Originally released as Wu Xia and later re-released in western markets as Dragon, this film starts out with an unlikely battle between what appears to be a homely villager and a couple of bandits robbing the general store. As the investigation into the incident progresses, we start to learn that the homely villager may not be exactly who he claims to be, having a far more storied and well-trained past.

There’s some decent kung-fu action for fans of the fisticuffs, including the stereotypical roof-running, and you will get to engage in an almost CSI-like uncovering of the truth as they re-analyze the circumstances of the fatal brawl in the general store.

This allows Dragon (Wu Xia) to depart slightly from the typical Hong Kong kung-fu period piece and the cinematography makes for some good action sequences, but the melodrama and morality can feel heavy-handed and forced. It’s fine for what it is, but don’t expect this film to blow your mind.