Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie (1997)

Around 1996 and in to 1997, the “Power Rangers” pop culture phenomenon had just about died down and Saban entertainment were looking to re-invent the series for a new wave of toy buying tween boys. I was a big “Power Rangers” fan for many years and, like most people my age, I checked out once “Turbo” was introduced. It just felt so tired once they devolved from mystical giant dinosaur robots to… cool cars! Forget a giant dragon that can smash buildings, you have a red car that goes vroom! Of course, I opted out of seeing “Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie” for a very long time, and for good reason. “Turbo” is a movie apparently made on half of the budget of the 1995 movie, and with none of the ambition. You can say whatever you want about the “Mighty Morphin” movie, but it was at least ambitious and tried to take the series in to a bigger scope.

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Revolting Rhymes (2016) (New York International Children’s Film Festival 2017)

In the tradition of “Fractured Fairytales,” directors Jakob Schuh & Jan Lachauer create what is pretty much one of the most inventive and creative twists on the fairytale I’ve ever seen. “Revolting Rhymes” takes all of the classic fairytales and manages to create one shared universe that is not only very funny but makes complete sense. The computer animated film, relies on a lot of subtle comedy and great computer animation that almost looks like stop motion upon first glance. The directors realize Roald Dahl’s book series with great success allowing for a fun twist on fairytales that thankfully is never cloying or obnoxious as films like “Shrek” or “Hoodwinked.”

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Ma Vie de Courgette (My Life as a Zucchini) (2017) (New York International Children’s Film Festival 2017)

Courgette (Zucchini) is a young boy who has had a tough life.  His father is gone and his bother drinks a lot of beer.  One day, something happens to his mother and he ends up placed in a group home.  Through learning to trust others with the other kids in the home, he also learns to love himself and others.

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Mighty Joe Young (1998)

It’s really hard to stack up to the original “Mighty Joe Young” which itself was kind of a simpler take on the giant ape tale. While the original remains untouched, it’s really hard not to enjoy the 1998 remake by Disney and director Ron Underwood. While it can occasionally be silly, it’s still a strong new take on the original film with a great cast, great direction and still very good special effects. This new version from director Ron Underwood strays from the original which was kind of a “King Kong” riff, and transforms it more in to a tale of a woman who watches over a humongous ape named Joe. The writers aim to tackle themes about poaching and wildlife preservation within the fun adventure tale, and most times it allows for an engaging tale of friendship and love.

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My Life as a Zucchini (Ma vie de courgette) (2016)

I truly, truly hope that when “My Life as a Zucchini” comes to the states that people to come to see it. I want people to seek it out, I want people to take their families, and I want everyone to tell others about what is easily one of the best animated movies I’ve ever seen. “My Life as a Zucchini” is simple and it’s short, but its rich in human themes, and complex characters that you’ll fall in love with. Rest assured I fell in love with every single character, and understood even the antagonists. “My Life as a Zucchini” isn’t a film that shoehorns in a villain. It’s merely a slice of life about the pitfalls and emotional turmoil that comes with being an orphan in a very cruel, and often difficult world.

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The Squid and the Whale (2005): The Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray]

Director Noah Baumbach’s “The Squid and the Whale” explores the prospect of a family at war, and a family that will likely always be at war. Director Baumbach has a lot to say about family and how parents can decide what kind of people we ultimately grow up to be. “The Squid and the Whale” is a weird, darkly comic and often demented look at how the eternal grudge of a man and his ex-wife will likely keep their sons at odds with then and one another for the rest of their lives. Director Baumbach contorts the dynamic of a grudging family, but also stays true to a lot of themes that find two sons on a diverging road and a dark path. Jessie Eisenberg is great here as the son of Jeff Daniels’ Bernard, an educated often pompous individual who has a keen sense of attempting to make his equals feel inferior.

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Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Lee Chandler is a man who is literally a hollow individual who spends his entire life going through the motions. He works a hard job as a superintendent for four apartment buildings, gets little to no respect, and falls asleep every night in his basement hole in front of his television. On rare occasions he stops by his local bar to get drunk and engage in fist fights with locals. He may not have died the night his house burned down with his children in it, but he might as well be in his grave. Chandler isn’t a man who has given up any hope of a happy life, but a man who has given up on himself and only himself. “Manchester by the Sea” has every opportunity to be a sickly sweet sitcom about a man learning to live again thanks to his nephew. Until the very end, though, director Kenneth Lonergan’s drama is a somber, incredibly compelling masterpiece that confronts guilt, grief, and the difficulty of dealing with losing someone we loved.

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The LEGO Batman Movie (2017)

“Batman works alone. That’s my motto. Copyright Batman.”

2014’s “The Lego Movie” surprised fans two fold, not just by being an excellent movie, but by turning Batman in to one of the funniest supporting characters in an animated movie since—well ever. “The Lego Batman Movie” initially had me very skeptical as to how far they could stretch the hilarious side character in to his own feature film, and shocking enough Lego Batman’s spin off is fantastic. It’s laugh out loud funny, very clever, and has a bonafide appeal to both hardcore fans and new audiences looking for a giggle or two. Like the original movie that spawned it, “The Lego Batman Movie” garners a myriad absurdity and off the wall hilarity that will keep many viewers laughing almost non-stop, but the writing team also injects a lot of heart. While Batman is a self confident, obnoxious, egomaniac in love with his own vigilante persona, he’s also a man who doesn’t realize much of it is hollow without a family or someone to lean on.

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