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.

Queen of Katwe (2016, Directed by Mira Nair) English 7

Starring David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o, Madina Nalwanga

Continuing Disney’s trend of¬†cultural sports films following McFarland, USA (2015)¬†and Million Dollar Arm (2014), Queen of Katwe tells the true story of Phiona Mutesi, an international chess prodigy raised in Ugandan slums. This is a wonderful movie that benefits from a strong sense of authenticity and effortless performances from everyone.