Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

I’m not going to go around calling 2016’s The Secret Life of Pets a good movie, because it ain’t. At best, it’s a mid-tier film for Illumination, the animation studio best-known for those damn walking yellow Tic-Tacs with the prominent butt cheeks. Considering that Illumination’s top tier only just surpasses “affable mediocrity”, its middle tier […]

In reviewing Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, I summed up my not-really-a-conclusion thus: “If the next two films are great, this will hopefully seem like an elegant piece of scene-setting. If they’re lousy, this will seem like a huge missed opportunity that wasted too much time getting to the good stuff”. As it turns out, […]

(Almost) every week this summer, we’ll be taking an historical tour of the Hollywood blockbuster by examining an older film that is in some way a spiritual precursor to one of the weekend’s wide releases. Last week: Pokémon Detective Pikachu represents the first time that the beloved video game animals called Pokémon have appeared in […]

Take out the end credits, and UglyDolls is about 80 minutes long. I spent every single one of them trying to figure out what hell was wrong with their mouths. Let’s do an exercise, you and I. Lightly put your hand on your face, right around your cheekbones. I’m serious, please do it. So much […]

One wishes to never have to say anything negative about a Laika film. The company only exists because multi-billionaire Phil Knight, founder and former CEO of Nike, is an indulgent father, and his son Travis wanted to run an animation studio; it’s been a possibility with every new feature that this might be the one […]

Wonder Park is about the importance of never giving up your imaginative spark, and always following whatever weird, idiosyncratic passion is yours and yours alone, and in the process showing the world something incredible that it has never seen. That this message is attached to this movie has broken my irony meter so hard that […]

Nine years ago, How to Train Your Dragon became the first film to demonstrate that DreamWorks Animation could be more than The House That Shrek Built; the first film to eschew the lazy pop culture references, music cues and shticky jokes based on celebrity personae and just go out and make a rich-looking, emotionally resonant […]

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is, I am deeply unhappy to report, a bit better than you should expect of the fourth movie in a franchise of animated comedies for children that double as toy commercials. I am unhappy to report this, because 2015’s The Lego Movie wasn’t “better than you should expect”; […]

First published, with slight alterations, at the Film Experience. Presented now during the film’s limited release in the U.S. First things first: the Brazilian animated feature Tito and the Birds is a preposterously beautiful motion picture. The film’s style is perhaps best described as looking like a digital oil painting, with swirling smears of color […]

Previously reviewed at the Film Experience Many directors have had great years, in which they’ve released two (or more!) tremendously good films that demonstrate the breadth of their skills. But very, very few directors have ever had a years like Yuasa Masaaki had in 2017. This was the year that the animation genius, whose work […]

By the standards of things that have absolutely no intrinsic reason to exist, Mary Poppins Returns sure is functional. It depicts 24 discrete still images per second and everything. The film is the long-awaited victory dance by the Walt Disney Company on the grave of P.L. Travers, who hated the studio’s 1964 Mary Poppins, and […]

It’s certainly more common knowledge 25 years later than it was at the time of the film’s premiere in October 1993 (when Disney did everything in its power to hide the information), but it still bears mentioning that the film which has been marketed since Day 1 as Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas is […]