Quest for Camelot (1998, Directed by Frederik Du Chau) English 4

Voices of Cary Elwes, Jessalyn Gilsig, Gary Oldman, Pierce Brosnan, Eric idle, Don Rickles, Jane Seymour, Sir John Gielgud, Jaleel White, Gabriel Byrne

WarnerBros.com | Quest for Camelot | Movies

(4-Bad Film)

Smarmy. Unpolished. Cookie-Cutter.

King Arthur: You have reminded us that the strength of a kingdom is not based on the strength of the king, but on the strength of its people.

Even by the late ’90s, Disney still had a monopoly on mainstream animation. Competitors had cropped up. Don Bluth, mainly. Dreamworks was up and coming (they released the fantastic Prince of Egypt this same year), and Warner Bros. was trying their hand at reestablishing themselves as animation giants. Quest for Camelot comes off the heels of Cats Don’t Dance, a film I liked, and spins a fresh tale around the legend of King Arthur and his sword, Excalibur. Kayley’s (Gilsig) father is a knight of the famed round table-loyal and brave-but he dies trying to protect the king from a power-mad, Ruber (Oldman). Once Excalibur is lost, it’s up to Kayley to retrieve it with the help of a blind swordsman, Garrett (Elwes), and a double-headed dragon, Devon and Cornwall (Idle and Rickles). As a passionate fan of King Arthur’s tales, I believe there’s plenty of material here for a good film and I like many of the ideas floating through Quest for Camelot. So naturally with a movie this subpar, it’s all in the execution. Its chief sin? The music is god-awful. Beyond that, everything else is simply mediocre and a couple of notches below the immense standards Disney was setting at the time.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,028)

Over the Moon (2020, Directed by Glen Keane) English 5

Voices of Phillipa Soo, Ken Jeong, Sandra Oh, John Cho, Kimiko Glenn, Cathy Ang, Margaret Cho, Ruthie Ann Miles

Netflix's 'Over the Moon' is an animated musical from Glen Keane - Insider

(5-Okay Film)

Pleasant. Diverting. Derivative.

Fei Fei: When she cries, her tears turn to stardust.

Fei Fei is a young Chinese girl whose mother died and is now upset to find her father (John Cho) remarried. Smitten with the tale of the moon goddess, Chang’e (Soo), that was told to her by her late mother, and eager to escape her home life that now involves a step-mother and brother, Fei Fei builds a rocket that will take her to the moon, where she can hopefully meet the goddess. Positives first: this is a nicely animated film with a culture we rarely see in American films. On top of that, a young girl dealing with the death of her mother and learning to love her new family is a good foundation for a film. I’m surprised, however, that no one seems to notice how similar Over the Moon is to the vastly superior film, Up. I don’t consider it a deadly sin for a movie to borrow from another, but it does lose a great deal of its power by not being fresh. Look at the broad strokes of both films: the main character is in mourning, builds a home-made aircraft, meets and gets disappointed by his/her idol, has an annoying stowaway, meets a friendly, overly chatty dog along the way. It’s blatant to me. This story and its elements aren’t as interesting the second time around.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,025)

Bao (2018, Directed by Domee Shi) English 5

In need of some Christmas feels? You can watch Pixar's 'Bao ...

(5-Okay Film)

Bizarre. Original. Confusing.

Back in the summer of 2018, I eagerly went to see The Incredibles 2 the first opportunity I had. Anxiously, I ran into the theater 15 minutes late, hoping I hadn’t missed any of the movie. I hadn’t, but I did miss the first half of this insane Pixar short called Bao. If you’ve seen Bao, imagine only seeing the second half, and how confusing that would be. Rewatching it, or finally watching it in its entirety, I discovered it does actually make sense, though it’s still rather bizarre. A middle-aged Chinese woman living in Canada cooks dumplings and watches as one comes to life, which she in turn raises as her son. The years pass and the dumpling grows up and has its own life, causing hard feelings between the over-protective mother and her dumpling son. I spent so much time focusing on whether Bao would make sense or have a point (it does, on both counts) that I wasn’t able to enjoy the ride, if you will. It’s all very strange, from the animation to the story. Perhaps this demonstrates a lack of empathy on my part, but this isn’t my story, and a mother sad that her son is moving on didn’t resonate with me, at least, the way it’s told here.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(998)

Ice Age: Collision Course (2016, Directed by Mike Thurmeier) English 5

Voices of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Queen Latifah, Keke Palmer, Adam Devine, Jessie J, Simon Pegg, Wanda Sykes, Nick Offerman, Seann William Scott, Max Greenfield, Stephanie Beatriz, Michael Strahan, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Jennifer Lopez

Ice Age Collision Course – Animated, Comedy, F, UncategorizedTexas ...

(5-Okay Film)

Stale. Mediocre. Uninteresting.

Buck: The mother of all asteroids, screaming towards us. But I got a plan! Who’s with me?

Ice Age is the epitome of milking a franchise until the well runs dry. After the first one, which was charming and felt fresh at the time, each inevitable sequel has been about the same basic quality; not painful, but mediocre. Instead of fresh new ideas, Ice Age returns each time with one or two new characters voiced by some celebrity earning an easy payday (how much did Jennifer Lopez get paid for her three lines in this movie?). This, the fifth installment, follows Manny, Sid, Diego, and company as their world around them collapses (didn’t this happen already? I forget). Meteors are coming. Their unconventional herd looks to Buck (Pegg) and his eccentric plan to save them.  It’s a pretty busy but nondescript 1hour and 20 minutes. Not a miserable time but not a good time either.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(984)

Princess Mononoke (1997, Directed by Hayao Miyazaki) Japanese 10

Voices of (English Dubbing) Billy Crudup, Billy Bob Thornton, Minnie Driver, Claire Danes, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Keith David, Gillian Anderson

Princess Mononoke

(10-Masterpiece)

Epic. Spectacular. Awesome.

Hii-sama: You cannot change fate. However, you can rise to meet it, if you so choose.

We fade in. Keith David’s voiceover sets up the world we’re entering. We’re all of ten seconds into the running time, but it’s clear: this is an awesome movie. The master, Hayao Miyazaki, brings his stunning animation to a unique story about gods and monsters and cursed warriors, with no black and white villains. Its hero, Ashitaka (Crudup), prince of a small village, travels far from home after being cursed from fighting a demon-possessed boar. He stumbles into a conflict between humans (of Irontown) and the forest (the gods and spirits that dwell there) and falls in love with San, a female warrior raised by wolves and taught to hate humans. Princess Mononoke feels like an anomaly in Miyazaki’s career in a few ways. His clear love of flight is nowhere to be found, an adult male protagonist rather than a young girl. There’s a level of violence not seen in any of his other work, as well, but as an anomaly, it only further proves his greatness. He has never stopped evolving though his themes may stay the same. His animation is awe-inspiring (there are a dozen incredible action sequences in this film) and his stories are always infinitely satisfying while never traveling the expected path.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(970)

Only Yesterday (1991, Directed by Isao Takahata) Japanese 7

Voices of (English Version) Daisy Ridley, Dev Patel, Alison Fernandez, Tara Strong, Grey Griffin

Only Yesterday (1991) - Little White Lies

(7-Very Good Film)

Evocative. Contemplative. Beautiful.

Hirota: Rainy days, cloudy days, sunny days… which do you like?

Taeko: …cloudy days.

Hirota: Oh, then we’re alike.

Taeko (Ridley), a young woman from Tokyo, was raised to feel like an anomaly. We see her childhood in beautifully animated flashbacks where her adventurousness was called selfishness by her family and her older sisters were constantly calling her a brat. Now an adult in her late twenties, Taeko, takes a working trip to the countryside where she meets Toshio and thinks back on some of the small but significant moments of her youth. There are a number of interesting aspects to Only Yesterday making it unique, the most conspicuous being its alternating between two distinct animation styles to portray the change in time periods. Less prominent but still uncommon is having such a seemingly passive protagonist. Taeko, mostly because she spends the majority of the film as a child, has her decisions made for her, but we get the sense watching her adult form that she still hasn’t made many choices for herself. The ending, so simple, is a perfectly satisfying turning point.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(964)

The Emperor’s New Groove (2000, Directed by Mark Dindal) English 7

Voices of David Spade, John Goodman, Eartha Kitt, Patrick Warburton Wendie Malick, Tom Jones

Film - The Emperor's New Groove - Into Film

(7-Very Good Film)

Funny. Wacky. Small-scale.

Kuzco: D’oh! You threw off my groove!

Originally intended as an epic musical inspired by Mark Twain’s Prince and the Pauper, The Emperor’s New Groove turns out to be Disney’s first Warner Bros. cartoon. Bearing little resemblance to the hit Disney flicks preceding, it instead features the mischief, irreverence, slyness, and wacky physics of the old Looney Tunes shorts. Kuzco (Spade) is a selfish, tyrannical emperor turned into a llama by his advisor, Yzma (Kitt), in a failed attempt to kill him. Coming to his aid is Pacha (Goodman), despite Kuzco’s promise to build a summer house in place of the peasant’s family home. The Emperor’s New Groove is familiar drama and I can easily point out the comedic influences (again, it’s Looney Tunes), but the film still feels special. It’s an outlier in Disney’s canon. It’s also probably the funniest Disney feature with great voice work to thank for that.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(960)

Whisper of the Heart (1995, Directed by Yoshifumi Kondō) Japanese 8

Voices of Brittany Snow, David Gallagher, Jean Smart, Cary Elwes, James Sikking, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Ashley Tisdale

Whisper of the Heart – IFC Center

(8-Exceptional Film)

Charming. Vibrant. Light.

Shizuku: Stupid jerk, stupid jerk, stupid jerk!

Who knew Studio Ghibli produced so many wonderful light romances? While I ask that rhetorical question jokingly, certain that millions of the studio’s large fanbase have known for ages, I’ve only recently discovered Ocean Waves, Only Yesterday, and this film, Whisper of the Heart. Whisper of the Heart follows Shizuku, a young girl dealing with teenaged romance and all the drama that goes with it. She meets Seiji, a boy at school who is always rude to her, and she’s determined not to like him though the rest of the school believes that they’re a couple. I was most surprised to find that the great Hayao Miyazaki wrote this screenplay as it bears little resemblance, as far as I can tell, to any of his other work. Otherwise, Whisper of the Heart has all of the distinction, the artistry, and the confident storytelling of Ghibli’s work. I see now that they are equally skillful at these lovely small-scale dramas as they are at epic fantasy.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(955)

Ocean Waves (1993, Directed by Tomomi Mochizuki) Japanese 8

Voices of Nobuo Tobita, Toshihiko Seki, Kae Araki, Yuri Amano, Takeshi Watabe, Hikaru Midorikawa

i can hear the sea | Tumblr

(8-Exceptional Film)

Wistful. Lovely. Skilled.

Taku: The whole thing was starting to feel like a bad soap opera.

Though produced by the famed Studio Ghibli, Ocean Waves doesn’t compare to most of the company’s typically grand, epic output such as Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Grave of the Fireflies, or Castle in the Sky. Ocean Waves works on a much smaller scale so that I don’t believe it would be condescending to describe it as modest, or you might prefer “a gem.” Told in flashback, set in the small city of Kōchi, a high school boy, Taku, develops feelings for Rikako, the aloof new girl in school, which causes a rift between him and his best friend, Yutaka, who saw her first. Working with fewer resources (apparently, the film was originally meant for T.V), Studio Ghibli managed to fashion one of their best works. It’s an endearing story, beautifully animated, and told sweetly.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(952)

Onward (2020, Directed by Dan Scanlon) English 6

Voices of Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Octavia Spencer, Ali Wong, John Ratzenberger, Tracey Ullman, Wilmer Valderrama

Pixar's 'Onward' on Disney Plus: The perfect family film to stream ...

(6-Good Film)

Reliable. Promising. Disappointing.

Wilden Lightfoot: Long ago, the world was full of wonder. It was adventurous. It was exciting. And most of all, there was magic.

In an alternate universe closely resembling our own, mythical creatures like elves, pixies, and dwarves have let magic go from the world and are instead reliant on technology and modern invention to get them through their lives. Brothers, Ian and Barley Lightfoot (voiced by Holland and Pratt), live in a suburban corner of this world. They have very relatable problems. Barley’s out of high school and seems reluctant to leave the nest, still living with his mother. Ian lacks confidence. When they discover a magical object that could have the power to bring their deceased father back (for one day), they set out on a quest to find a rare gem needed to complete the process. Onward is solid, sure-footed filmmaking with an ending that strikes the right note. It’s more than anything a film about two brothers bonding, and succeeds in that respect, but I don’t love this film. Full marks for an original premise but the animation giant that is Pixar usually shoots for the moon and Onward doesn’t. It’s more than happy to follow the well-trodden path of family pictures that have come before it.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(928)