Shrek (2001, Directed by Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson) English 9

Starring Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow, Vincent Cassell

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(9-Great Film)

Funny. Clever. Unforgettable.

The persecuted Ogre, Shrek (Myers), meets the always-talking Donkey (Murphy), and they set off on an adventure to rescue the beautiful Princess Fiona (Diaz) from a tower guarded by a fierce dragon. Their task is to bring her to tyrannical Lord Farquad (Lithgow), so he can marry her, and become a king. In exchange, Shrek will have his land granted back to him.¬†After maybe a few dozen viewings in my life, watching Shrek will never be fresh again. No matter how long I go without seeing it, as soon as it’s on, I will know it line for line. It’s hard to recapture the feeling of when I first saw it in theaters, and was so blown away by how funny it was, but Shrek remains a wonderful movie. So well-written, animated (though somewhat diluted by time), and performed, with iconic voice work from its stars. The best spoofs to me are ones that poke fun at their genre, but also tell a great story within that genre (Scream, The Incredibles, The Princess Bride). That’s definitely the case with Shrek.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

Smallfoot (2018, Directed byKarey Kirkpatrick) English 5

Voices of Channing Tatum, Zendaya, Lebron James, James Corden, Gina Rodriguez, Common, Danny Devito, Yara Shahidi

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(5-Neutral Film)

Uninspired. Competent. Obvious.

I wish these animation studios, if even just occasionally, would risk making a terrible movie for the sake of reaching for greatness. Mix it up. For every three bland, guaranteed-to-turn-a-profit pictures they produce, how about make one where they take a chance? Instead, they’ve settled in, satisfied enough to make lucrative mediocrity. Everyone knows Pixar is still king of the mountain. Walt Disney Animation Studios is doing great work again (though their upcoming slate bears too many sequels), and Laika is making special movies (go watch Kubo if you’re unfamiliar with their work). Meanwhile, Dreamworks, Sony, and Warner Bros. keep giving us unexceptional, uninspired offerings, and I’m bored of it. Smallfoot, Warner Bros.’ latest, imagines a world where yetis are afraid of humans (does it sound like Monster’s Inc. to you too?), though they’re told by their village leader that humans, or smallfoots, don’t exist. Channing Tatum voices Migo, a skeptical yeti, who meets a human, but without evidence, is unable to prove it. He,then, sets out to find the legendary smallfoots, and show his people that they’re real. It’s a fine story, with enough humor and colors and cookie-cutter songs to entertain, but I’m remembering that Warner Bros. animation was once a powerhouse producing Looney Tunes shorts and features, and now, no matter how much money this makes, they are completely irrelevant. Everything about this feature is just okay, and I find that sad.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

Mac and Me (1988, Directed by Stewart Raffill) English 3

Starring Christine Ebersole, Jonathan Ward, Martin West, Danny Cooksey, Jade Calegory, Lauren Stanley

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A young alien, given the nickname Mac (mysterious alien creature), crash lands on Earth, separated from his family. Discovered and befriended by brothers Eric (bound to a wheelchair) and Michael, Mac looks to reconnect with his family. If this premise sounds awfully similar to E.T: Extra-Terrestrial, it’s because Mac and Me is a blatant rip-off of that classic, released just six years prior. Add to that, Mac and Me is a lousy rip-off, devoid of any imagination, and damned by poor design for the central alien figure. There are two especially bad scenes: one where Eric loses control of his wheelchair and falls off the side of the cliff, and another set in McDonalds, where everyone begins a choreographed dance number. The latter is mind-blowingly bad. Baffling, really, and not the only embarrassing moment of product placement. The former is unintentionally hilarious. Surprisingly, the acting is professional, keeping Mac and Me out of the seventh circle of movie hell where The Room and Troll 2 live. Third-rate. Shoddy. Laughable.

Teen Titans Go! to the Movies (2018, Directed by Peter Rida Michail and Aaron Horvath) English 6

Voices of Greg Cripes, Scott Menville, Khary Payton, Tara Strong, Hynden Walch, Kristen Bell, Will Arnett, Nicholas Cage

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Theatrical film given to the cast of the popular cartoon television series, Teen Titans Go! stars Robin, Raven, Beast Boy, Starfire, and Cyborg working desperately to be taken seriously and get their own film (like Wonder Woman, Superman, Green Lantern, and Batman). Although no more than an extended episode of the show, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies had the children in the theater in stitches, and I laughed out loud several times, myself. As much meta humor and sly references as a Deadpool movie. Fun. Colorful. Funny.

We’re Back: A Dinosaur Story (1993, Directed by Simon Wells, Ralph Zondag, Dick Zondag, Phil Nibbelink) English 5

Voices of John Goodman, Walter Cronkite, Julia Child, Rhea Perlman, Jay Leno, Kenneth Mars, Felicity Kendal, Charles Fleischer, Martin Short

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Rex (Goodman), once a vicious predator, transformed by a scientist’s invention into a kind dinosaur, travels to the 20th century to fulfill children’s dreams. He joins a group of transformed dinosaurs meant to visit the Museum of Natural History, but they get sidetracked after meeting two runaways who get locked into a dangerous contract at a spooky circus. There’s plenty here for children to enjoy, but We’re Back lacks the intelligence, depth, and artistry of the best animation, many examples of which were coming out at about the same time as this film (The Lion King in 1994 and Aladdin in 1992). Pedestrian. Harmless. Childish.

Lifted (2006, Directed by Gary Rydstrom) English 5

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An alien experiences his first day on the job controlling the spaceship while his boss observes. Pixar short with all the trademark qualities (clever idea and no dialogue), but lacks the trademark appeal. I think it comes down to the character design which is fine but fairly traditional. Every aspect of the animation is well-done, but feels like it’s been done before. Droll. Conventional. Meh.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower (2017, Hiromasa Yonebayashi) Japanese/English 6

Voices of Kate Winslet, Jim Broadbent, Ruby Barnhill, Lynda Baron, Ewen Bremner, Morwenna Banks

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A perennially bored young girl with flowing red hair, Mary (Barnhill), stumbles upon a rare and valuable flower known as a “fly-by-night,” which gives magical ability to the one who finds it, though for a limited amount of time. Next thing she knows, Mary’s being whisked away to a school for the magically gifted, where she discovers a dangerous plot led by the school’s headmistress, Madame Mumblechook (Winslet) and a professor, Doctor Dee (Broadbent). The story is unfulfilling, relying to heavily on the astonishing animation. As brilliant as that aspect of the film is, it serves what could possibly have been a short story stretched out to feature length. Beautiful. Disappointing. Passable.