Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki churns out animated masterpieces the way some 'toon studios churn out crap for the bottoms of Happy Meal bags. His work ranges from the relatively light-hearted romp Kiki's Delivery Service (1989) to the more somber Grave of the Fireflies (1988), which is set in WWII Tokyo and is one of cinema's most vivid depictions of war. American audiences discovered Miyazaki with his 2001 Academy Award-winning Spirited Away, and a holy alliance with Walt Disney Home Entertainment has led to a wide release of his films on DVD, including this year's Nausicaa, Porco Rosso and The Cat Returns. Currently on the big screen is Howl's Moving Castle, which like Spirited Away centers its action around a girl who must make moral decisions amid a surreal and often perilous landscape. Not as breathtakingly lush as Spirited Away, Howl's world is more bleak and war-torn -- but ultimately just as redemptive. Disney released the movie in both subtitled and nicely dubbed versions, with the dubs including Lauren Bacall as the Witch of the Waste, Christian Bale as Howl the wizard and Billy Crystal as Calcifer the fire demon. It's not typical kiddy content, but my own young children, admittedly overfed on frantic fare like SpongeBob and Fairly Oddparents, were easily seduced by Miyazaki's gentle, not-quite-linear narrative.
1:30 p.m., 4:10 p.m., 7:10 p.m. 9:40 p.m., midnight daily
Canal Place, The Shops at Canal Place, 333 Canal St., third floor, 363-1117