‘Okko’s Inn’ – an orphaned girl finds purpose on Netflix

An orphaned girl finds purpose when she goes to live with her grandmother, the aging innkeeper of a small spa in a country vacation town known for the healing waters of its natural springs, in the lively animated feature Okko’s Inn (Japan, 2018). Okko, an urban girl who loses her parents in a devastating car […]

‘Ratatouille’ – Food glorious food on Disney+

“I’m a rat, which makes life hard.” That’s an understatement. In Ratatouille (2007), the dynamic animated film from writer/director Brad Bird (The Iron Giant and The Incredibles) and Pixar Studios, Remy (voiced by Patton Oswalt) may be a rat but he’s also a budding gourmand. Where his family is content to raid trash cans and scarf […]

‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’ on HBO Max

Kiki’s Delivery Service (Japan, 1989) carries us into the experiences of a young witch as she charts her path in the real world. Sincere, spirited Kiki has turned thirteen, the age when witches leave the nest for a year of solo training. She’s ready to take on the world with her broomstick and her best […]

‘Princess Mononoke’ – Miyazaki’s mythic masterpiece on HBO Max

“Something’s wrong. The birds are all gone. The animals too.” Hayao Miyazaki recasts the mythic tale of man’s dominion over the Earth with an animist mythology and a conservationist message in Princess Mononoke (Japan, 1997), his rich fantasy of the battle between the forest spirits and the industrial revolution. Set in the era of Japan’s […]

‘The Incredibles’ – super-powered family dynamics on Disney+

Brad Bird works with the computer animation pros at Pixar for the first (but not the last) time in The Incredibles (2004), which drops cartoonishly exaggerated super-heroics into the typical (by all outside appearances) suburban nuclear family, creating a super-powered dynamo of dysfunction and frustration in hiding (they’re in witness protection from years of personal […]

‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’ on Disney+

Wes Anderson turns to stop motion animation for Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), his adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s book. It’s a delight and, animation aside, a Wes Anderson film through and through. Voiced by George Clooney with his perfectly pitched mix of matter-of-fact cockiness and oblivious confidence, Fox is a happily married husband and uncertain […]

Ellen DeGeneres voices Dory in Pixar's animated adventure 'Finding Dory'

Pixar’s ‘Finding Dory’ on Disney+

Finding Dory (2016), Pixar’s sequel to its gorgeous animated aquatic masterpiece, can’t shake off its sequel-ness—it plays like a variation on the theme rather than an original take on the familiar tale—but it’s a Pixar picture with all the care and love and storytelling magic that the studio brings to every project. Which makes this […]

Steven Spielberg directs the big screen adventure adapted from the Herge graphic novels

‘The Adventures of Tintin’ on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video

The Adventures of Tintin (2011), Steven Spielberg’s first foray into motion capture filmmaking, turns the legendary boy journalist and globe-trotting adventurer from the early graphic novels of Herge into a big screen hero, complete with trademark cowlick and best friend canine Snowy watching his back. Spielberg and his collaborators (notably co-producer Peter Jackson) chose to […]

Pixar's animated feature 'Inside Out,' directed by Pete Docter

‘Inside Out’ – An emotional Pixar adventure on Disney+

In Inside Out (2015), the 15th feature from Pixar, feelings are not just the focus of the story. They are the main characters. The primary emotions of preteen girl Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias) get a workout when she’s uprooted from friends and activities in Minnesota, where she’s a devoted member of a hockey team, and […]

‘WALL•E’ – robots in love on Disney+

An animated robot love story with an environmental theme and a slapstick delivery, WALL•E (2008) is a charmer of a film and a delightful piece of storytelling. Directed by Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo) with the animation wizards at Pixar, it takes on the challenge of delivering an animated feature that is predominantly wordless (and even […]