‘Real Steel’ with Hugh Jackman on Netflix

Distill Rocky and The Champ, add a dash of The Rumble in the Jungle, shake well and serve in larger-than-life rock ’em sock ’em robots. That’s basically what you get with Real Steel (2011), and somehow all those second-hand pieces come together in a rousing (if awfully inevitable) underdog story. Ostensibly based on the same […]

‘Ponyo’ – Hayao Miyaki’s ‘Little Mermaid’ fable on HBO Max

Part Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid, part ecological fable, and part children’s fantasy come to life, Hayao Miyazaki’s Ponyo (Japan, 2008) is a gentle storybook film, a simple, sweet tale animated with a delicacy unique to animated features. Ponyo is a water sprite, a curious undersea creature and daughter of the sea gods who […]

Sylvain Chomet's animated film of a Jacques Tati script

‘The Illusionist’ on Criterion Channel

With The Illusionist (France, 2010), animator Sylvain Chomet (of the delirious The Triplets of Belleville) transforms an unproduced script by they great French auteur Jacques Tati (Mon Oncle) into a tender tale of a French magician and a Scottish girl in the theater-folk society of London as the old world of stage performance gives way […]

‘Big Hero 6’ on Disney+

Big Hero 6 (2014) is an adaptation of a Marvel Comics title but the filmmakers thoroughly transform it into a Disney feature, complete with issues of loss and family at the center of the creation of a student superhero team, with the spark of Pixar in its visual invention and knowing wit. The comic book […]

Brad Bird directs the animated feature based on the Ted Hughes book

‘The Iron Giant’ – A boy and his robot buddy on HBO Max

“I’m the luckiest kid in the world,” cheers adolescent Hogarth, halfway to sci-fi heaven in the hand of a friendly ten story robot— a clanking metal man who acts like a combination little brother, big brother, and playful puppy dog all rolled into one magnificent structure who looks like he stepped off a vintage cover […]

‘Where the Wild Things Are’ – a dreamy Maurice Sendak adaptation on HBO Max

Maurice Sendak’s masterpiece of a picture book comes to the screen in Where the Wild Things Are (2009), a film as unique and heartfelt as the book itself. Director Spike Jonze (whose vision received the blessing of Sendak) and co-scripter Dave Eggars expand and reimagine the story of the defiant Max, a young boy in […]

Paul Rudd is Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man. in the Marvel superhero movie directed by Peyton Reed.

‘Ant-Man’ – Marvel gets small on Disney+

Ant-Man (2015) hit theaters with a slightly different approach for a Marvel superhero movie. It’s more playful and comic, with a reluctant hero who has a motley crew of buddies and a mentor with a sly sense of humor as well a drive for justice, and while the stakes are big (stopping a tech giant […]

Angelina Jolie is ‘Maleficent’ on Disney+

Maleficent (2014) does sort of a “Wicked” number on the story of Sleeping Beauty’s evil sorceress, casting her as the tragic figure of a dark fantasy (but not too dark for children—barely) of a revisionist fairy tale. Angelina Jolie plays the adult Maleficent, a fairy who watches over and defends the natural and supernatural wilds […]

Taika Waititi’s ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ on Netflix

Based on title alone, you might expect Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) to follow the mockumentary spoofing of Taika Waititi’s previous film What We Do in the Shadows, his deadpan portrait of ancient vampires as eternal idiots on the fringes of Wellington nightlife. In fact it’s a coming of age comedy with a heartwarming soul […]

‘The Muppets’ return on Netflix

The Muppets (2011) brings the felt comedy stars back to the big screen for a new comedy that asks the eternal questions: What becomes a Muppet in the days of CGI and motion capture animation? Can their brand of innocent whimsy and madcap nonsense hold the attentions of a new generation of fans? And does […]