Howl's Moving Castle
DVD + Blu-ray
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For the first time on Blu-ray, Disney proudly presents a remarkable Studio Ghibli film from Academy Award-winning director Hayao Miyazaki (best animated feature, 2001, Spirited Away). Howl’s Moving Castle soars like never before with a new HD digital transfer, and perfect picture and sound!
Sophie, a quiet girl working in a hat shop, finds her life thrown into turmoil when she is literally swept off her feet by a handsome but mysterious wizard named Howl. The vain and vengeful Witch of the Waste, jealous of their friendship, puts a spell on Sophie. In a life-changing adventure, Sophie climbs aboard Howl’s magnificent moving castle and enters a magical world on a quest to break the spell. Featuring the voice talents of Christian Bale and Billy Crystal, Miyazaki’s artistry comes to life with inventive characters, unique storytelling, and richly detailed animation. Your whole family will love this epic fantasy on Disney Blu-ray!
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The venerable Hayao Miyazaki, most recently of Spirited Away fame, has again outdone himself with the leisurely-paced Howl's Moving Castle, his film adaptation of Diana Wynne Jones's fantasy novel. This man is an exquisite artist, pure and plain. He once more combines stunning pastoral imagery with quirky yet opulent fantasy sequences. He seamlessly marries the mundaneness of his steam-powered world of science with the wild nature of inexplicable, powerful magic. Another cool thing about his films is that he takes full advantage of the cinematic scope, filling the screen's edges and corners with visual delights.
Howl's Moving Castle is also a gentle love story between the shy Sophie and the brash but irresponsible Howl. And, like Spirited Away, this offering also focuses on the maturity and growing confidence of the female lead, on her bravery and loyalty to her friends. And speaking of friends, the ones she makes are peculiar and wondrous: Calcifer, the belligerent fire demon who is the engine of Howl's castle; Howl's young, eager apprentice Markl; Hin, the court sorceress's asthmatic runaway dog; and my personal favorite, the very obliging, non-talking, animated scarecrow Turniphead.
I pretty much rate the voice actors by how unintrusive they are in the animated film. If I don't notice them, then it means I became so immersed in the picture's goings-on that I fully bought into the reality of the characters. In this film, the English voices are convincingly synchronized with the animation. It's nice to see Jean Simmons and Lauren Bacall back in the cinema, and they do a marvelous job respectively as the aged, fatigue-wracked Sophie and the selfish wicked Witch of the Waste. Emily Mortimer is equally proficient as young Sophie, who initially is lacking in confidence but over time, becomes more assertive and assured. Christian Bale (Batman Begins) correctly plays Howl as dashing, undoubting, reckless and yet, underneath the surface, filled with a certain uncertainty. And Billy Crystal's Calcifer, of course, is perfectly contentious yet endowed with a good heart.
The Special Features are sweeeet: Disc 1 contains: "Behind the Microphone," an informative breakdown of the intricacies of voicing an animated film; an interview with Pete Docter (Co-Director of the English voices); "Hello, Mr. Lasseter: Hayao Miyazaki visits Pixar" feature; and T.V. spots & trailers. Disc 2 has the whole rough storyboard played out to the movie's actual soundtrack.