The Parent Trap (1998, Directed by Nancy Meyers) English 8

Starring Lindsey Lohan, Dennis Quaid, Natasha Richardson, Lisa Ann Walter, Elaine Hendrix, Simon Kunz

Image result for the parent trap 1998

(8-Exceptional Film)

Lovely. Charming. Light.

Annie from London and Hallie from California (both played by Lindsey Lohan) meet at a summer camp in Maine and realize (rather slowly) that they are identical twins. One is raised by their dad, Nick Parker (Quaid) and the other by their mom, Elizabeth James (Richardson). Having never met half of their parentage, the two decide to switch places with the ultimate idea of getting their parents back together. Unfortunately, a beautiful gold digger, Meredith (Hendrix), has her hooks in their dad. Lohan pulls the trick off nicely, creating distinct personalities for both characters, and Quaid and Richardson do a nice job as the parents, making us care about them ending up together right along with their screen daughters. Writer/Director Meyers has a deft touch with light comedies. Fantastic family romantic comedy.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Little Match Girl (2006, Directed by Roger Allers) English 10

Image result for little match girl disney


Consummate. Moving. Beautiful.

Based on a story by Hans Christian Andersen (how many great Disney films has he inspired?), this short follows a young orphan girl as she looks to sell matches from her box for money to live on. Later that night, having not sold any, she strikes up all the matches to find their warmth replay the best memories of her life, and she’s able to sink off into a world of fantasy as life leaves her body. This is an incredibly sad story, all the more so since it eschews the traditional Disney fairy tale ending. It’s beautifully animated and moving. The perfect short.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Get a Horse! (2013, Directed by Lauren MacMullen) English 6

Image result for get a horse

(6-Good Film)

Nostalgic. Zany. Fast.

Attempting to update a classic Mickey Mouse cartoon for modern times, this short starts off with Mickey in a quintessential premise. The big bully, Pete, is after Mickey’s girl, Minnie, and it’s up to Disney’s greatest creation to save her. Complicating matters, and putting a new spin on the material, is the breaking of the fourth wall, almost literally. Mickey breaks through the theater screen and becomes a three-dimensional figure. The short then sees Mickey using the fourth wall and his bag of tricks to stop Pete. Much of the short is clearly designed to show off the then-booming trend of 3-D. Thankfully, the film avoids being outright gimmicky. It’s a solid piece of animation, though Mickey looks a whole lot better in 2-D.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Sanjay’s Super Team (2015, Directed by Sanjay Patel) English 5

Image result for sanjays super team

(5-Okay Film)

Miscalculated. Underwhelming. Mediocre.

Uniquely personal short film from the Pixar team, relating a scene from the writer/director’s childhood with his father. Young Sanjay, like most kids, fantasizes about superheroes. A battle between his modern fantasies and the Hindu traditions of his family ensues when his father’s prayers conflict with a favorite television program of Sanjay’s. The hyper-cartoonish art style, while lovely, seems at odds with the material, and the main action feels designed to keep younger kids’ attention. I would have preferred a simpler design and telling of Sanjay’s story. Still, a decent enough short film.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Spirited Away (2001, Directed by Hayao Miyazaki) English (Dubbed) 10

Voices of (English Dubbing) Daveigh Chase, Jason Marsden, Suzanne Pleshette, David Ogden Stiers, Lauren Holly, John Ratzenberg

Image result for spirited away


Sweeping. Stunning. Magical.

A somewhat bratty ten-year-old girl, Chihiro (Chase), gets lost in a magical world of witches, strange creatures, and spirits, where she finds work in a bathhouse. In my opinion, the apex of Miyazaki’s artistry, the closest comparison is Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland. Typical of his work, there are no black and white characters. I love that Chihiro is never really fazed by the array of otherworldly monsters.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Watcher in the Woods (1980, Directed by John Hough) English 5

Starring Bette Davis, Lynn Holly-Johnson, Kyle Richards, Carroll Baker, Benedict Taylor, David McCallum

(5-Okay Film)

Strange. Creepy. Disappointing.

Disney was trying things at the time (1980). I prefer the risk-taking, despite it not always working, over the cookie-cutter polish they’re churning out right now. The Watcher in the Woods is not particularly well-acted, nor is it a well-crafted ghost story, featuring a family that gets what seems like a bargain on a mansion, but finds out too late the reason why.  There’s an unresolved thirty-year-old tragedy haunting the grounds. As a Disney production, the film entertains solely on strangeness and the performance of Bette Davis. One of the creepier kids movies made. I just wish they pushed it further.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Nacho Libre (2006, Directed by Jared Hess) English 7

Starring Jack Black, Ana de la Reguera, Héctor Jiménez, Silver King, Carla Jimenez, Richard Montoya, Peter Stormare

Image result for nacho libre

(7-Very Good Film)

Silly. Eccentric. Winning.

How amusing do you find the thought of Jack Black doing a Mexican accent? Or Jack Black playing a luchador? Your enjoyment of Nacho Libre starring Black as Ignacio, a cook at a quiet monastery who dreams of making it big as a wrestler, will likely depend on your answers to those two questions. Nacho Libre is a kind of a one-joke film. It milks all of the humor it can from its premise and does little beyond it. Rather than that being a complaint, I actually consider the film a triumph in style. Director, Jared Hess, who was coming off of Napoleon Dynamite at the time, has a very distinct visual approach and I’m a fan. On top of the idiosyncratic humor, the story ultimately manages to be fairly involving as well.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-