Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (1989, Directed by Masami Hata and William Hurtz) English 7

Voices of Mickey Rooney, Rene Auberjonois, Gabriel Damon, Laura Mooney, Bernard Erhard

(7-Very Good Film)

Wondrous. Imaginative. Attractive.

A dark children’s fantasy adapted from Winsor McCay’s extraordinary comic strip, Little Nemo follows its titular hero, a precocious young boy with sleeping problems, who finds himself transported to the kingdom of Slumberland.  He’s meant to replace King Morpheus on the throne, but, after falling in with the mischievous Flip (Rooney), Nemo’s carelessness puts the whole kingdom in jeopardy. Beautiful animation and dubiously joyful music add a sense of wonder and menace to this lucid adventure. If you’re a fan of animation or Windsor McCay’s art Little Nemo offers plenty to marvel at, even if it is a little simple story-wise.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(669)

The Lion King (2019, Directed by Jon Favreau) English 4

Voices of Donald Glover, Beyoncé, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Billy Eichner, John Oliver, Keegan-Michael Key, Eric Andre, John Kani, James Earl Jones, Alfre Woodard

Image result for the lion king 2019

(4-Bad Film)

Bland. Needless. Inferior.

        Brian De Palma, famed filmmaker, was once asked about the prospect of duplicating a film. You could do it, he said. Make a “Xerox of a picture, except it would have no soul.” I recalled these words said in an interview with Dick Cavett while watching Disney’s latest remake, The Lion King. Directed by Jon Favreau and featuring a cast full of first-rate talent, this Lion King has no soul, but that’s not the worst part. The worst part is that it’s boring. This is hardly the first remake. There have been hundreds of remakes before and there will be hundreds after, but I can’t name one that seems more unnecessary. The original Lion King came out in 1994 as Disney animation’s first work not explicitly based on any source material. The performances, specifically James Earl Jones’ and Jeremy Irons’, the imagery, the songs, are all iconic. That film will never die. A year or two from now, after it’s finished making a billion dollars, the new Lion King will fade until it’s completely disappeared to the place where all films with no souls go. Twenty years from now, this film will be obscure. We all know the story. Simba is born, son of Mufasa (Jones), and set to succeed his father as king in the future. His Uncle, Scar (now voiced by Ejiofor), jealously plots to usurp his brother and nephew. This is not a live-action remake. The visuals, while impressive, are ill-fitting to Disney adventure. They lack the expressiveness of the cartoon and the excitement of having real animals on camera. The voice performances are also largely disappointing. Timon and Pumba (voiced by Eichner and Rogen) are good, but the rest of the cast bring little to their roles. This Uncle Scar, one of the great Disney villains, is especially inferior.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(664)

 

 

Dinosaur (2000, Directed by Ralph Zondag and Eric Leighton) English 6

Voices of D.B Sweeney, Julianna Margulies, Ossie Davis, Alfre Woodard, Joan Plowright, Della Reese

Image result for dinosaur 2000

(6-Good Film)

Compelling. Minor. Aged.

A meteor crashing down causes all types of displaced dinosaurs to band together in order to find a new home. Aladar, an Iguanodon raised by Lemurs, does his best to help the weaker ones make it as the brutish leader, Kron, practices survival of the fittest. The plot is very simple (some might even say thin), but I find it enjoyable. The characters are strongly defined and the voice work is excellent. Known mostly as a technical marvel when first released, the special effects have naturally aged, but well enough. It’s minor-league Disney but still very enjoyable.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(653)

Ratatouille (2007, Directed by Brad Bird) English 9

Voices of Patton Oswalt, Brad Garrett, Peter O’Toole, Janeane Garofalo, Brian Dennehy, Ian Holm, Will Arnett, Lou Romano

Image result for ratatouille

(9-Great Film)

Unique. Sophisticated. Intelligent.

A rat living in the French country dreams of being a great Parisian chef. What a dumb idea, or else, that’s what I would have said if presented with this idea on paper. The resultant film, however, brought to life with some of Pixar’s finest animation, writing, and voice acting, is a triumph. Remy (Oswalt), the rat with grand ideas, gets his chance in a Parisian kitchen but needs the help of a garbage boy,  Linguini (Romano), to act as a sort of puppet for the operation, seeing as rats aren’t well-received in kitchens. The first step in making this odd story work is the design of Remy and all the rats. Nobody hates rats more than me, but Pixar successfully makes them cute. Secondly, they establish Remy as hygienic. It seems silly but it’s an important part of helping accept him as a chef.  After that, disbelief suspended, Ratatouille is one of the most enjoyable films, animated or otherwise, of the past 15 years.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(646)

Turbo (2013, Directed by David Soren) English 4

Voices of Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Maya Rudolph, Richard Jenkins, Snoop Dogg, Bill Hader, Chris Parnell, Samuel L. Jackson, Michelle Rodriguez

(4-Bad Film)

Rip-off. Inferior. Unfunny.

Turbo (Reynolds) is a snail that dreams of racing in the Indianapolis 500. Seemingly impossible, a miracle leaves him blessed with super speed and gives him the opportunity he’s always wanted. This weaker effort from DreamWorks animation feels like a blatant rip-off of Pixar’s fantastic Ratatouille. What the antithesis of a gourmet chef and fine dining? Rats. What seems like the antithesis of speed? Snails. Their family tells them it will never happen. A human befriends them and helps them achieve their dreams. It’s a completely unnecessary if not downright terrible movie.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(642)

Cinderella (2015, Directed by Kenneth Branagh) English 7

Starring Lily James, Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Hayley Atwell, Holliday Grainger, Derek Jacobi, Stellan Skarsgård

Image result for cinderella 2015

(7-Very Good Film)

Vibrant. Appealing. Winning.

Orphaned through hard-luck and raised by her cruel, unloving step-mother (Blanchett), kind Cinderella (James) cooks and cleans all day long in the house in which she once lived a charmed life, but fate hasn’t completely turned on her as a chance encounter gives her an opportunity with the handsome prince (Madden) who falls instantly in love with her.  A fairly faithful live-action remake of one of Disney’s greatest successes proves to be solid, welcome entertainment even if it is, like all of these remakes, unnecessary. Director, Kenneth Branagh, is, among other things, a great confectioner as a filmmaker. All of his films boast an abundance of style and beauty and Cinderella is no exception. Cinderella is also exceptionally well-cast. I can’t imagine anyone better than Lily James and Cate Blanchett in those roles. It’s a wonderful story slightly less impactful since it’s been told before.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(631)

Finding Dory (2016, Directed by Andrew Stanton) English 6

Voices of Ellen DeGeneres,  Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Idris Elba, Dominic West, Sigourney Weaver, Kaitlin Olson, Ty Burrell

(6-Good Film)

Solid. Entertaining. Amusing.

Long awaited sequel to one of Pixar’s biggest hits, Finding Dory picks up basically where we left off in Finding Nemo. Dory’s (DeGeneres) become like family to Marlin (Brooks) and Nemo, but, spurred on by recurring dreams, she wants to find her parents, lost many years ago. This leads her to a sea life institute in California, and the film, thereon, becomes a series of wacky, endearing new characters. Hank, a short-tempered octopus, and two British, stingy sea lions (voiced by Elba and West) are especially memorable. Overall, the journey is much less epic or surprising-a symptom of being a sequel. That being said, it’s a fun hour and a half. The animation is still the best in the world. The new characters are great, and Dory is still a lot of laughs.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(626)