Can Ya Dig it?

Shaft officially marked the beginning of the Blaxploitation era. Since it’s Black History Month, I thought I’d talk about the original black action hero. John Shaft is a black private dick that’s a sex machine to all the chicks. He is the man who will risk his neck for his brother, man. The cat that won’t cop out when there’s danger all about. This cat Shaft is a bad mother (shut your mouth), well you get the idea. He’s a complicated man, but no one understands him but his woman. Shaft is such a black icon that I was shocked to learn he was originally written as a white man.

The original novel depicted John Shaft as a white private detective, but all that changed when newcomer Richard Roundtree was cast in the part. Suddenly Shaft was a take charge leading man that African Americans could root for. Shaft was a dignified presence with a groovy afro and stylish turtlenecks draped in leather trench coats. The movie itself was very low budget, but so successful that it launched a whole line of movies with a mostly all black cast and crew. Although Shaft is actually a pretty slow building old fashion detective film.

John Shaft jokes around with the police chief, has a run in with some Harlem gangsters, and agrees to help find the big bosses kidnapped daughter. Starting a race war between her Italian mob kidnappers and the black men Shaft recruits from Harlem. All the while living up to his sex machine status by sleeping with women of any race. Shaft is actually pretty subtle for Blaxploitation. People won’t remember Shaft’s 1971 movie as much as his badass theme song. Isaac Hayes became the first black composer to win an Oscar with his Best Original Song winning “Theme from Shaft.” A hip composition with funky beats that build up to those iconic lyrics. All I can say is “Right on” Shaft.

1. Shaft

John Shaft takes aim

Followed by: Shaft’s Big Score!

Working at the Car Wash

Shark Tale is the movie equivalent of “Sleeping with the fishes.” Next to Antz, the second most obvious DreamWorks Animation copycat movie is definitely Shark Tale. It only came out a year after Finding Nemo, but it’s obvious which one is better. Shark Tale is objectively the worst DreamWorks animated movie ever made. It has a serious identity crisis that mixes everything that worked for Shrek with serious adult themes, a celebrity cast, and lowest common denominator pop culture references. Think “gangster” meets “gangsta” with anthropomorphic humanoid fish people. I know it’s technically bad, but I still really enjoy Shark Tale even now. Not enough to think it deserved a Best Animated Feature nomination (it was a slow year), but I was 9 when my dad took my brother and I to see it. So it was still a prominent edition in my DVD collection. Even though it took me several years to fully understand the bizarre amount of mob movie references.

I wasn’t even into hip hop at the time, so my main draw was Will Smith. He bares an uncomfortable resemblance to his bluestreak cleaner wrasse character Oscar. Smith does his thing, but I’m sure he’s just as embarrassed as most of the other celebrities in the movie. Shark Tale is at least 60% fish puns (Katie Current for example). Complete with fish themed real world advertisements. Oscar is a lowly tongue scrubber at the local Whale Wash. He uses get rich quick schemes in an effort to reach the top of the reef. Renée Zellweger brings her usual best to angelfish Angie. The typical nice girl coworker secretly in love with the lead. Most fish give Oscar a hard time including his boss’ right hands Ernie and Bernie the Jamaican jellyfish. Despite being a kids movie, several gangster movie/TV heavyweights lend their voice to shark mob families. Robert De Niro is shark Don Lino and Martin Scorsese himself voices Oscar’s pufferfish boss Sykes. Oscar’s biggest problem is getting in deep with loan sharks and having to pay back his boss at the seahorse track. Which attracts the attention of Angelina Jolie as sexy lionfish gold digger Lola.

The plot kicks in when Oscar’s story intersects with Don Lino’s sons Frankie and the far less fearsome Lenny. Pre-Po Jack Black voices gay metaphor Lenny who just wants to be a vegetarian. He also dresses like a dolphin later on if it wasn’t obvious. When Frankie is killed by an anchor, Oscar takes credit as the “Sharkslayer.” Turning him into a rich somebody, but when Lenny swims back into his life, they become unlikely friends and keep the lie going. Until the mob catches up to them and the lie comes out. Ending in another big Shrek or Shrek 2 style party complete with a hip hop version of “Car Wash” sung by fish Missy Elliot and jellyfish Christina Aguilera. Apart from some genuinely fun bits like the shrimp scene, it’s mostly a bunch of unnecessary gross out gags. The computer animation has the underwater look, but it’s actually pretty ugly to look at. Fish faces will probably creep out the uninitiated. The hip hop soundtrack has several classics, but it’s just as out of place as everything else. Shark Tale is a fishy guilty pleasure that DreamWorks probably wants to forget.

6. Shark Tale

Oscar makes a plan with Lenny

Do Right By Me

The Color Purple did right by its source material. The 1982 novel was frequently banned, but that wasn’t enough to keep African American author Alice Walker from winning a Pulitzer Prize. The movie was made only 3 years after the book was published with none other than Steven Spielberg as director. It was his first serious drama, even though people thought it should’ve had a black director. Despite being Jewish and understanding the material well enough to do the film justice. I’m always impressed by Spielberg’s ability to turn even the most tragic stories into fully engaging epics. Apart from its reputation, I actually never knew much about The Color Purple growing up.

It’s the tale of two African American sisters growing up in the South at the turn of the 20th Century. A saga that spans approximately 40 years. Like most black women at the time, Celie is constantly mistreated by the men in her life. The PG-13 rating makes the darker themes easier to get through, but no less uncomfortable. Racism is present, but that’s not the primary focus. The only person who cares about Celie is her close sister Nettie. Unfortunately, Celie’s life takes a turn for the worst when her abusive father gives her to the equally abusive Mister and he separates the sisters for what seems like an eternity. The ensemble cast of respected black performers delivers some of their best work.

Whoopi Goldberg makes her breakout feature film debut as Celie. Effectively showing her progression from timid maid to strong independent black woman. Oprah Winfrey makes her film debut too, by practically disappearing in the role of the strong-willed Sophia. Even the much more irredeemably cruel Mister and Old Mister are fleshed out with Danny Glover and Adolph Caesar in the roles. The final ingredient was Margaret Avery holding the family together as singer/showgirl Shug Avery. SPOILER ALERT! It was satisfying to finally see Celie stand up for herself and just as emotional to witness her tearful reunion with her sister. The Color Purple had 11 Academy Award nominations, but not a single win. Ironically, it lost Best Picture to another female focused film with Africa as a setting. The Color Purple may have been overlooked, but that doesn’t make it any less deserving of appreciation.

The Color Purple

Celie and Nettie in a field of purple flowers

A Bad Kitty

Puss in Boots is Zorro with way more cat jokes. After stealing the show several times, Antonio Banderas was finally promoted to lead character in his own spin-off. A Puss in Boots movie had been in development ever since his debut in Shrek 2. With the Shrek franchise coming to an end, this was the only way DreamWorks Animation could continue with the world. Turns out a more focused swashbuckling adventure was exactly what they needed to regain a Best Animated Feature nomination. Puss is every bit the troublemaking Latin lover he’s always been, but now crude pop culture jokes can’t distract from his potential.

Puss in Boots was once an orphan living in the fictional Spanish town San Ricardo. His mama Imelda loved him and an act of bravery earned him his signature pair of boots. Until a terrible betrayal made him a legendary feline outlaw. Puss in Boots pretty much uses any remaining fairy tales not used in the Shrek films. Puss tries to clear his name with magic beans that lead to the Beanstalk containing a goose that lays golden eggs. The beans are in the possession of a villainous married Jack & Jill voiced by Billy Bob Thornton & Amy Sedaris. They don’t have much character outside of Jack wanting a baby. Puss’ bean job is thwarted by his female boot wearing black cat counterpart Kitty Softpaws. A role that could only be filled by Salma Hayek. It’s a Desperado reunion afterall.

The final piece of the puzzle is Humpty Dumpty himself. A bad egg voiced by Zach Galifianakis who has a history with Puss. Humpty is an eggy Da Vinci who was also an orphan obsessed with finding magic beans. Kitty is working for Humpty and they make a deal to retrieve the golden eggs with Puss. Except Humpty is really in it for revenge. With the Giant pre-defeated, their only obstacle is the baby goose’s giant mother. An elderly Jack tells Puss the whole story. In the end, Puss saves the town, redeems Humpty, and romances Kitty. With the influence of Guillermo del Toro, Puss in Boots was way better than it needed to be. The computer animation is still heavily detailed like Shrek, but it makes the presentation that much better. Puss in Boots is a bad kitty in a good movie.

21. Puss in Boots

Puss duels

Spin-Off of: Shrek 2

It’s a Fairy Tale Life

Shrek Forever After is stronger than Shrek the Third, but not by much. There’s still no competition between Shrek and Shrek 2. Even with the intention of making it The Final Chapter. DreamWorks Animation had changed so much since 2001 that their style barely matched the original movie anymore. DreamWorks finally found their own voice separate from Disney & Pixar and were no longer making movies out of spite. So a fourth and final Shrek movie wasn’t exactly special in 2010. Unlike Toy Story 3 released the same year, Shrek Forever After almost completely lost its adult appeal. Gone was the innuendo and occasional profanity of their glory days. Shrek is a family ogre with his wife Fiona and babies Fergus, Fargel, and Felicia. His swamp is a tourist attraction, Donkey, Dragon, and Puss in Boots drop by for playdates, and no one fears Shrek like they used to.

Shrek Forever After was the last major film role for Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy was stuck making kids movies, and Cameron Diaz was nearing the end of her career. Antonio Banderas was frankly the only actor getting something out of the final installment. With all other villains used up, Rumpelstiltskin became the primary antagonist. Just not the ordinary looking one from Shrek the Third. This Rumpel is cartoony with an annoying voice, a giant goose, several mood wigs, and a penchant for making sleazy deals. When Shrek’s goofy life pushes him too far, he makes a deal with Rumpel to have a day as a real ogre. Things come full circle with an It’s a Wonderful Life twist. As Shrek unknowingly gave up the day of his birth, he finds himself with one day to set things right. Since King Harold and Queen Lillian once made a deal with Rumpel, he inherited their kingdom. In this alternate reality, witches run rampant, Donkey is a cart mule, Puss is a fat cat without boots, and Fiona rescued herself from the tower. Gingy, Pinocchio, the Three Little Pigs, and Big Bad Wolf are also dealing with the dystopian fairy tale kingdom.

Shrek tries to convince Donkey they’re friends, but most importantly, he tries to make Fiona fall in love with him. Easier said than done, since Fiona is now a cynical ogre warrior leading a resistance of ogres. The only time we see ogres other than Shrek or Fiona. Most of them are voiced by a celebrity cast that has their moments, but don’t make much of an impact. Things take a turn when Rumpel hires the Pied Piper to capture the ogres. Fiona starts to come around, but she doesn’t love Shrek just yet. Not until he helps her fight Dragon and take down Rumpel. I was sad to see Shrek go, but of course they live happily ever after. Ending with a party in the swamp set to “I’m a Believer,” followed by a montage of past movies. I saw every Shrek movie in theaters from age 5 to age 14. The far advanced computer animation was the main reason for it seeming out of place. Aside from a Christmas & Halloween special, stage musical, and several minor appearances, Shrek Forever After was the last we’d seen of the lovable ogre. Shrek Forever After did its best to go out on a high note.

18. Shrek Forever After

Shrek makes a deal with Rumplestiltskin

Preceded by: Shrek the Third

Ogre Babies

Shrek the Third is the royally designated third installment in the ever growing Shrek franchise. I continued to enjoy all DreamWorks Animation movies regardless of quality, but even at 11 I couldn’t pretend to enjoy Shrek the Third. It wasn’t half the classic that Shrek or Shrek 2 were. Similar to the closely released Spider-Man trilogy, the first movie is great, the second movie is better, and the third movie is a complete disappointment. Shrek the Third has its moments, but their mistake was forgetting what made Shrek so good in the first place. There’s an overreliance on childish humor, pop culture references are more cringy, and the soundtrack isn’t that memorable. My brother and I were still on board and Shrek the Third was actually the last movie our dad took us to see as a chaperone. Even though we were starting to see movies by ourselves at that point, my dad still wanted to see what came next for Shrek. I’m not sure if it’s the director change, but Shrek the Third barely feels like the same franchise. Even with Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, and Antonio Banderas returning, none of them are as funny as usual.

Naturally the next choice of villain has to be Rupert Everett returning as Prince Charming. He’s on a quest for revenge against Shrek for killing his Fairy Godmother mother and taking his kingdom from him. So Charming devises a plan with other fairy tale villains at the Poison Apple to seize the throne. Villains include Captain Hook, the Evil Queen, Rumplestiltskin, enchanted trees, dwarfs (for some reason), and other ugly stepsister Mabel voiced by other talk show personality Regis Philbin. Another problem with Shrek the Third is their over reliance of celebrity voices outside of the main cast. Meanwhile in Far Far Away, Shrek is forced to do kingly responsibilities with his wife Fiona, Donkey, and Puss in Boots’ help. Donkey’s dronkey babies are featured characters now too. Since Shrek is still just an ogre, he’d much prefer someone else be king. After Frog King Harold’s seriously drawn out death, Shrek, Donkey, and Puss set out to find the remaining heir. King Arthur of course. Things just get complicated when Shrek and Fiona’s marriage makes the next obvious progression. As Shrek deals with the nightmare of being an ogre father, Fiona is having her own ladies only party. The most on the nose Disney jab by far is the somewhat unflattering use of various Princesses.

Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Amy Sedaris, and Cheri Oteri join the cast as Snow White, Rapunzel, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. In a group that also includes Queen Lillian, Doris, and already familiar fairy tale creatures Gingy, Pinocchio, the Three Little Pigs, and Big Bad Wolf. Their material is especially lame, but the badass scene with the Princesses is pretty fun. Rapunzel is unsurprisingly working with Charming since she wasn’t a Disney Princess at the time. All the while Shrek, Donkey, and Puss visit Worcestershire Academy where we’re treated to a whole bunch of Arthurian high school jokes. There’s teenage Gwen and Lancelot, but Shrek is only here for Artie. Justin Timberlake does his thing, but he was really more singer than actor at the time. Artie’s main purpose is helping Shrek explore parenthood. They get help from a cooky Merlin voiced by Eric Idle who accidentally causes Puss and Donkey to switch places. It doesn’t add much. The climax is Charming attempting to assassinate Shrek live on stage. Artie uses diplomacy to turn the villains to good and Dragon finishes off Charming. Ending with Shrek and Fiona having ogre triplets back at the swamp. The only moderately memorable song is Puss and Donkey singing “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” during the credits. The computer animation has an old fashioned charm, but most of it was wasted on a lackluster story. Shrek the Third should be kept far far away from the franchise.

10. Shrek the Third

Shrek and Fiona get dolled up

Preceded by: Shrek 2 & Followed by: Shrek Forever After

Far Far Away

Shrek 2 is the first of many DreamWorks Animation sequels. After a minor slump of poorly performing traditionally animated movies, Shrek 2 became the highest grossing animated movie at the time. With a nearly billion dollar box-office gross. Ensuring the studios exclusive focus on computer animation for years to come. If Shrek is the Toy Story of DreamWorks, then Shrek 2 is their Toy Story 2. Even after 3 years, Shrek 2 managed to be a rare sequel that matched or even surpassed the original. Ogre mania was in full effect once again in 2004. The only major Shrek media at the time was the Universal attraction Shrek 4-D.

Which took place immediately after the first movie with the ghost of Lord Farquaad haunting the cast. With that plot thread out of the way, Shrek 2 made an effort to do something different. While at the same time polishing its computer animation. So they did a fairy tale take on Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Sensing a hit, the three main stars Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, and Eddie Murphy all requested a raise. Shrek 2 doubled the Disney parodies, pop culture references, and songs on its contemporary soundtrack. While remaining sincere enough to earn another Best Animated Feature nomination. They lost to Pixar again, but that doesn’t make Shrek 2 any less of an accomplishment…

4. Shrek 2

Shrek, Donkey, and Fiona travel to Far Far Away

Shrek 2 was every bit the childhood favorite Shrek was. It was just a prominent edition in my DVD collection instead of VHS collection. Since 3 years passed, I was 8 years old when my dad took my brother and I to see Shrek 2 in theaters. I remember the experience a lot better since there was a couple of chatty old ladies in the audience. That didn’t take away from the absolutely hilarious sequel. It helped that I was older and able to pick up on pop culture references a lot better. This time there’s way more than just friendly jabs at Disney. Once upon a time, Princess Fiona was cursed by a witch to become an ogre every night. What we don’t know is that her parents made a deal with a Fairy Godmother to have Prince Charming rescue her. Right off the bat I recognized Rupert Everett’s devilishly charming voice as Prince Charming. Like Fiona, Charming is another direct critique of Disney Princes. Since Charming is a pompous airhead who only cares about his looks. He’s a little late in saving Fiona when he discovers the Big Bad Wolf in her place.

Shrek and Fiona are already well into their honeymoon at the Witch’s gingerbread house. Shrek farts his way back into our hearts with a romantically gross honeymoon with appearances from Little Red Riding Hood, the Little Mermaid, fairies, dwarfs, and parodies of The Lord of Rings and Spider-Man. It’s a delightfully cynical sequence set to the catchy tune of Best Original Song nominee “Accidentally in Love” by Counting Crows. Unlike most fairy tales, Shrek 2 takes place after happily ever after. Shrek and Fiona are happily married, but face relationship problems when they receive a royal invitation from the King and Queen of Far Far Away. Of course Donkey is still around to talk everyone’s ear off. Shrek reluctantly takes the far far away trip in their onion carriage to see the In-laws. It’s just as awkward as you’d expect. Adding to the already perfect cast are the respectable John Cleese and Julie Andrews as King Harold and Queen Lillian.

They’re admittedly shocked to see Fiona married to an ogre, but the Queen isn’t dismissive like the King. Their royal feast is a hilarious comedy of errors made better by Donkey’s presence. Unfortunately, it’s not what Fiona was hoping for. So she unintentionally contacts her Fairy Godmother with a tear. The Fairy Godmother is quite the character. She’s showy with a demanding attitude and treats her job like a business. I’m not too familiar with Jennifer Saunders, but she was perfectly cast as the normally good fairy with an ulterior motive. Turns out the Fairy Godmother is Prince Charming’s mom who made a deal with the King in exchange for his own happily ever after. The King reluctantly honors their deal by hiring a sleazy hitman to wack Shrek. He enters the Poison Apple full of fairy tale villains like Captain Hook, enchanted trees, the Headless Horseman, and one of the ugly stepsisters. Doris is made funnier by her masculine appearance and Larry King voice.

The King hires a shadowy figure with a Spanish accent and has Shrek meet him in the forest. Shrek tries to make an effort with Fiona’s parents after reading her diary full of “Mrs. Fiona Charming” passages. Shrek and Donkey instead come face to face with the biggest scene stealer in Shrek 2. Puss in Boots is an existing fairy tale character who actually faced an ogre in his story. Antonio Banderas turned him into an adorable orange swashbuckling latin lover cat with a feathered hat, sword, and cute little boots. Puss is by far the best new character since the original trio. He humorously attacks Shrek, but melts his heart with his signature cat eyes. Donkey is understandably threatened by another talking animal companion. Fortunately Puss was just what their duo needed. Shrek is willing to do anything for Fiona, so he uses Donkey’s tear to contact the Fairy Godmother.

They travel to her potion factory with hopes of making Shrek the man of Fiona’s dreams, but the Fairy Godmother is definitely the villain of the story. Instead they break into her potion stash and Puss obtains “Happily Ever After” potion. A potion that’ll make you and your true love beautiful. Shrek and Donkey take the potion with gassy results. “Better out than in I always say.” I’ll never forget my shock when they both wake up the next day. Shrek is turned into a handsome human and Donkey is turned into a majestic stallion for the remainder of the movie. Fairy tale lasses faun over Shrek and he’s finally accepted by villagers. The spell was also an opportunity to get Fiona back to human form. Unfortunately, Prince Charming got to her before Shrek did. Fairy Godmother manipulates Shrek into leaving and wallowing in the Poison Apple. However, things change when they discover Godmother’s plan to force Fiona to fall in love with Charming using a love potion.

The royal ball is a star studded affair hosted by Joan Rivers herself with the likes of Hansel & Gretel, Tom Thumb, Thumbelina, and Sleeping Beauty as guests. Meanwhile, Gingy, Pinocchio, the Three Little Pigs, Big Bad Wolf, and Three Blind Mice are all at the swamp watching the show on the Magic Mirror. They turn to a hilarious parody of Cops called Knights where Shrek, Donkey, and Puss are maced by a pepper grater and sent to the dungeon. One Mission: Impossible parody later, the fairy tale posse frees the trio with the help of Pinocchio’s lady’s underwear. The next plan is to use Gingy’s relation to the Muffin Man to bake a giant gingerbread man named Mongo. The action packed climax is full of great jokes like the Starbucks gag and Mongo’s Godzilla roar, but it’s made better by the best rendition of “I Need a Hero” ever recorded. Every fairy tale creature uses their skills to get the Fairy Godmother’s wand. It seems like it’s too late when Charming kisses Fiona, but luckily the King made the right decision. He sacrifices himself to deflect Fairy Godmother’s magic onto her and he’s revealed to have been the Frog Prince all along.

The Queen still accepts him for who he is and so does Fiona. Shrek and Fiona turn back into ogres, but Donkey doesn’t have much of a choice. It’s still a fiesta though, so Puss and Donkey team up to deliver another infectious final party number of “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” And they once again lived happily ever after. Until a mid-credit scene cameo for Dragon that reveals why she was absent. Turns out Donkey and Dragon somehow managed to have mutant dragon-donkey babies. The weirdness doesn’t stop there. The DVD also came with a bizarre American Idol parody short called Far Far Away Idol. Where Simon Cowell himself has you vote on performance’s done by the movie’s fairy tale contestants. Shrek 2 can’t touch the original, but it is a major improvement. The computer animation is so much better with a much larger cast of humans. Existing characters like human Fiona are polished a bit with a more refined appearance. Hair, clothing, and Puss in Boots’ fur were given the most attention to detail. Far Far Away is a great new location that sets up an even more epic conclusion. Shrek 2 accidentally became the most successful computer animated DreamWorks movie ever made.

5. Shrek 2

Shrek travels with Donkey and Puss in Boots

Preceded by: Shrek & Followed by: Shrek the Third

What are You Doing in My Swamp?!

Shrek is the greatest subversion of fairy tales I’ve ever seen. Although it’s technically their fifth production and second computer animated film, Shrek will always be the poster ogre for DreamWorks Animation. Since Shrek was the first animated movie to win the much needed Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Making them genuine competition for Disney and Pixar. I may have grown up loving all things Disney, but DreamWorks was never far behind. Despite the obvious heated rivalry between the studios. Shrek! was originally a crudely drawn children’s book by William Steig.

Steven Spielberg himself bought the rights with the intention of making it a traditionally animated movie. Former disgruntled Disney chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg promptly acquired the rights to Shrek and intended to make a computer animated movie with Chris Farley as the ogre. When Farly passed away, the role was recast instead. So fellow SNL star Mike Myers took over and the rest is history. The humorous spin on fairy tales may take several jabs at Disney, but Shrek works because they never forget to tell a sincere story with a genuinely lovable unlikely hero. We have Shrek to thank for popularizing innuendos in kids movies, pop culture references, and upbeat pop music soundtracks for animation…

2. Shrek

Shrek explains layers to Donkey

Shrek was a very prominent edition in my VHS collection growing up. The tape included a fun karaoke short film. I was 5 when Shrek came out in 2001, but I remember every detail of seeing it. My dad took my brother and I to see it in theaters and we’ve been watching it non-stop ever since. We bought Shrek toys, merchandise, and I frequently quoted the movie around the school yard. Shrek is practically the animated movie of my generation. Since its inspired countless memes and a large internet presence. DreamWorks really knew what they were doing when they created Shrek. Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful princess trapped in a castle guarded by a dragon awaiting true love’s kiss. At least that’s how it would start if Shrek wasn’t the one reading the fairy tale.

With a flush of a toilet we’re given one of the greatest animated character entrances of all time. As Shrek goes about his gross morning routine to the tune of “All Star” by Smash Mouth. Shrek is the most iconic ogre of all time. He’s a fantasy creature that hasn’t gotten much attention in the past. Shrek is large with distinctly green skin, trademark horn ears, a snazzy fairy tale outfit, and is far less hideous than his book counterpart. Although Chris Farley gave it his all, Mike Myers will always be Shrek. Using his signature Scottish accent was a stroke of genius that made Shrek an even bigger icon worthy of imitating. Like most ogres, Shrek spreads fear and just wants to be left alone in his swamp home. Until fairy tale creatures end up on his doorstep.

All well known fairy tale creatures are outlawed by the kingdom. There’s the Seven Dwarfs, Tinkerbell, the Three Bears, the Three Little Pigs, and even Gepetto giving away a lying Pinocchio. I love Disney, but I can’t resist a good joke at their expense. The most out of place creature is a certain talking jackass named Donkey. Eddie Murphy is no stranger to voicing animated comic relief, but his comedy stylings are perfectly suited for the adult edge of DreamWorks. When Shrek and Donkey literally run into each other, it starts one of the funniest buddy duos in animation history. Their initial meeting is so quotable that Shrek was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. A rare Oscar acknowledgment for animation. Shrek sees Donkey as just another annoyance at first, but they’re forced to be together when his swamp fills up with even more fairy tale creatures. Including the Three Blind Mice, the Big Bad Wolf, the Good Fairies, and so much more.

They’re all thrown out of the kingdom by the villainous Lord Farquaad. A not so subtle jab at current Disney chairman Michael Eisner. Farquaad is a diminutive little creep who hates fairy tale creatures and wants to be king. John Lithgow makes him all the more hilarious with his torture of poor Gingerbread Man Gingy. Their “Muffin Man” exchange is comedy gold. Farquaad uses the Magic Mirror to find a princess à la The Dating Game. His choices are Cinderella, Snow White, and the original Princess Fiona. His scene stealing minion Thelonious helps him make the obvious choice. Farquaad’s kingdom is a further jab at Disneyland complete with mascot and an annoyingly catchy “It’s a Small World” parody. Shrek starts to win over the crowd when he and Donkey beat a bunch of Farquaad’s knights pro wrestling style.

Although his only intention was getting his swamp back, Shrek is instead sent on a quest to rescue Princess Fiona. Shrek and Donkey eventually make it to the dark and spooky castle. The Dragon seems like a major threat, but all that changes when Donkey discovers she’s a girl dragon. Starting one of the weirdest interspecies relationships in movie history. Shrek makes it to the tallest tower, but an ogre wasn’t exactly what Fiona was expecting. Of course the most Disney jokes come from Princess Fiona. Whether she’s exploding a bird with her singing or awaiting true love’s kiss. However, Fiona is a tough sassy princess with a red braid and signature green dress. Cameron Diaz rounds out the early 2000’s cast with some of her best work yet. Fiona judges Shrek for being an ogre until she overhears him talking to Donkey at night. Shrek has layers just like an onion and only wants to be accepted.

So Shrek and Fiona start to bond over their shared grossness. Gross out gags work really well when the lead character is an ogre. Fiona shows another side of her when a French Robin Hood tries to sweep her off her feet, then sings his impromptu theme song. One Matrix parody later, Fiona shows off her unexpected fighting skills. They may be an ogre and a human, but Shrek and Fiona’s unconventional budding romance is genuinely sweet. Until sundown ruins it for the both of them. Since it turns out Fiona secretly becomes an ogre every night. A misunderstanding keeps them apart, but Donkey talks some sense into Shrek, and Dragon helps them stop the wedding. Farquaad is finally defeated when Dragon eats him and the spell is broken with true love’s kiss.

Except the twist is Fiona remaining an ogre and both of them accepting each other for who they are. A big fairy tale party breaks out as Shrek and Fiona are married to the infectious tune of “I’m a Believer” and they lived happily ever after. Shrek has a strong story, hilarious jokes, and an awesome soundtrack, but none of it would’ve mattered without equally amazing animation. The computer animation has aged surprisingly well since 2001. The Pacific Data Images animation used by DreamWorks was pretty much on par with Pixar. The difference was how realistic they tried to make hair, fur, clothing, and skin. Although humans can be a bit rough at times, they make up for it with several well rendered fairy tale backgrounds and locations. Shrek is a pop culture phenomenon that put DreamWorks on the map.

3. Shrek

Shrek bonds with Princess Fiona

Followed by: Shrek 2

May the Odds be Ever in Your Favor

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is the epic finale that made me more relieved than excited. Any excitement I had was lost when they forcibly split Mockingjay into 2 parts. My brother and I were still prepared to finish it, but the conclusion wasn’t at all what I was expecting. Despite Part 2 bringing back the much needed action, it’s still a lot of wandering and barely any actual rebellion. Which is mostly thanks to how Suzanne Collins wrote the final book in her trilogy. It’s not a straightforward final battle like most YA franchises. Katniss Everdeen is recovering from her injuries, but ready to kill President Snow once and for all. After being declared dead one of several times in the movie. It’s during Finnick and Annie’s wedding that Katniss says goodbye to Prim and has Johanna cover for her.

Except that everyone was expecting Katniss to go off on her own. So she’s joined by Boggs, Gale, Finnick, her “propo” film crew, and a whole cast of disposable soldiers. The Capitol is pretty much deserted, apart from hourly messages from Ceasar and/or Snow. The Capitol is configured like a Hunger Games arena with pods unleashing a different hazzard onto the rebels. It’s made worse by the sort of deprogrammed Peeta coming to fight with them. Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, and the rest of the primary cast continue to give fine performances, but they do seem to be relieved that it’s over. SPOILER ALERT! They make it past gun turrets, oil, and pale zombie Mutts, but sadly Boggs, Finnick, and every disposable soldier is killed. A tiger lady helps them get closer to Snow’s house, but it’s once again not what I was expecting. Katniss and Gale hide amidst the Capitol and peacekeepers, but most of them are bombed by sponsor parachutes.

Although it’s probably more impactful in the book, Prim’s death seems to come out of nowhere. It’s not until Katniss yells at her cat Buttercup that I felt genuinely sad. The final confrontation between Katniss and the dying Snow is just a conversation in his flower garden. There’s still an execution, but Katniss fires her bow & arrow on Coin instead. Since she was secretly more like Snow than she let on. Their deaths finally bring peace back to Panem. Haymitch reads a letter from Plutarch to Katniss due to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s passing and they both say goodbye to Effie. They return to live in District 12 where a mostly cured Peeta reconnects with Katniss. And just like every other YA franchise, Katniss and Peeta’s story ends with them having children of their own. Mockingjay – Part 2 may have lost some of its impact, but I suppose there are worse games to play. “May the odds be ever in your favor.”

5. Mockingjay Part 2

Katniss takes aim

Preceded by: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

The Hanging Tree

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 is proof that splitting a final book into 2 parts is a bad idea. It worked for The Deathly Hallows and sort of worked for Breaking Dawn, but Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay is only a 390 page book. The breaking point they chose means an almost complete lack of action in Part 1. Katniss Everdeen fires precisely one arrow in the entire 2 hour movie. My brother and I were still on board for the “finale,” but this is when I started to question the franchise as a whole. At least director Francis Lawrence and the stellar cast continue to make it watchable. Mockingjay – Part 1 has no Hunger Games just like the book. Instead the focus is on the much needed rebellion against the Capitol. The only action you’re gonna see. President Snow and his peacekeepers threaten all of Panem, so the once thought destroyed District 13 mounts an offensive.

Pretty much nothing happens other than Katniss refusing to be the Mockingjay and complaining about Peeta every chance she gets. Peeta, Johanna, and Annie are all prisoners of the Capitol. So Katniss is most concerned with their rescue. Even though Peeta is being used for propaganda interviews with Caesar. Since Josh Hutcherson is mostly relegated to looking more and more sickly, Liam Hemsworth steps up as the primary leading man. Giving Gale and Katniss more reason to get together. Mahershala Ali is also a trusted ally as Katniss’ bodyguard Boggs. Katniss’ main obstacle is District 13 President Alma Coin played by the series last veteran actress Julianne Moore. Most of her scenes are with Plutarch, who needed a few minor rewrites due to Philip Seymour Hoffman passing away. Although Beetee supplies Katniss with an explosive bow & arrow, the only thing they want her for is to make propaganda videos.

So she’s joined by Natalia Dormer as “propo” director Cressida and her futuristic film crew including silent avox Pollux. A sober Haymitch shows up to help make the “propos” more natural along with Effie. She’s not in this part of the book, but the filmmakers liked the idea of her in the drab District 13. The only minor action Katniss sees is in the devastated District 8. The only thing Part 1 has going for it is the music. There’s a catchy song from Lorde, but most importantly Jennifer Lawrence struggles to sing “The Hanging Tree” in the ruins of District 12. The rebellion heats up when the Capitol bombs District 13 and Katniss has to save Prim (who foolishly went to save their cat Buttercup). After more nothing, Katniss contacts Snow in an attempt to block out their rescue attempt. Finnick reunites with Annie and Johanna is in bad shape, but Peeta is easily worse off. Since he was brainwashed by the Capitol into attacking Katniss. Mockingjay – Part 1 is a first act masquerading as a full movie. “May the odds be ever in your favor.”

4. Mockingjay Part 1

Katniss leads a revolution

Preceded by: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire & Followed by: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2