DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp is a tale of derring-do bad and good luck tale. DuckTales is one of the most popular Saturday-morning cartoons on TV in the 80’s. I didn’t watch it regularly, but my brother and I did watch episodes on VHS. The adventures of Scrooge McDuck and Donald’s nephews Huey, Dewy, and Louie eventually warranted their own movie. The problem was Walt Disney Animation Studios always being responsible for every animated film. After 28 films, DuckTales: The Movie became the first in a new line of Disneytoon productions. Animation was done in France, but it still retains the charming look of the cartoon.
DuckTales: The Movie is officially the final Disney movie to use cel-animation. Although I vaguely remember watching it when I was younger, Treasure of the Lost Lamp is mostly just another adventure. Similar to Indiana Jones, Uncle Scrooge travels to the Middle East to find the treasure of Collie Baba. He’s joined by the mischievous Huey, Dewy, Louie, the adorable Webby, accident prone pilot Launchpad McQuack, grandmother Mrs. Beakley, and faithful butler Duckworth. All characters retain their signature voice actors, but celebrities join the cast as usual.
Treasure of the Lost Lamp is practically a precursor to Aladdin. The story is almost exactly the same except with anthropomorphic ducks. Comedian Rip Taylor voices the fast talking Genie from the titular lost lamp. Similar to Aladdin, Genie grants three wishes to his master and wants to be free. Christopher Lloyd stands in for Jafar as evil shape-shifting sorcerer Merlock. Together with slimey partner/Indian stereotype Dijon, Merlock seizes Scrooge’s Money Bin as he fights to take it back. It’s not a musical, but the catchy DuckTales theme can be heard at the end. Although it failed to launch a franchise, DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp is like a hurricane of fun.
Scrooge McDuck and the Genie
The Kid Who Would Be King is a noble and true take on a classic for the modern world. I don’t think there’s ever been a truly definitive movie about King Arthur. I’ve always known the basics of the story, but The Kid Who Would Be King really made me appreciate Arthurian legend. Although the idea of kids becoming knights of the round table is admittedly silly, the movie is surprisingly epic. Director Joe Cornish does for fantasy what I assume he did for sci-fi with Attack the Block.
I’m so glad I decided to go see The Kid Who Would Be King by myself. Moreso when I realize it was the second to last 20th Century Fox film before the Disney merger. Which is ironic considering how Disneyfied the movie feels. Louis Ashbourne Serkis, son of Andy Serkis is a strong child lead as Alexander Elliot. He mirrors Arthur’s journey in modern day England. Alex pulls Excalibur from a stone pillar, meets a young Merlin in disguise, unites friends & bullies to his roundtable, and sets out to vanquish the evil enchantress Morgana.
Bedders, Lance, and Kaye are a likeable bunch of schoolmates who similarly mirror Bedivere, Lancelot, and Kay respectively. They learn all about the important Chivalric Code to remain honest and virtuous in their quest. Rebecca Ferguson is a menacing Morgana and Sir Patrick Stewart was born to play Merlin. Although Merlin’s younger actor steals the show with his magical snaps and British humor. The young knights learn to fight in time for an eclipse that requires the entire school’s help. The Kid Who Would Be King is honestly a fun, heartfelt, action filled King Arthur for kids.
Merlin casts a spell on Excalibur
Cats (2019) is a jellicle failure for jellicle cats. As popular as the Broadway show is, I always wondered why they didn’t make a movie sooner. The 1998 play put to film doesn’t count. I figured it would be some kind of anthropomorphic animated movie, but no one could’ve expected what we actually ended up with. Despite the combined talent of T.S. Eliot, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Academy Award winning director Tom Hooper, Cats bombed hard at the box-office. It’s truly a spectacular catastrophe with nightmarishly bad special effects, a 19% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a Razzie for Worst Picture. I find it laughable that Cats was seriously released around Oscar season. Even with his experience on Les Misérables, Hooper completely misses the mark. The use of humanoid cat people is both disturbing and uncomfortable. I know the original show was vaguely sexual, but this feels like a furry’s dream come true. Making me seriously question the “kid friendly” PG rating.
The CGI fur never looks right on anyone. It got to a point where the movie was re-released to fix glaring technical errors. Just as bad is the bizzare setting that dwarfs every cat in a giant stage-like moonlit city. To be fair to the show that I’m not the biggest fan of, Cats does cast the right people for each part. The songs are already good, but even those aren’t safe from new renditions. The non-plot is sort of ditched to tie each musical cat introduction together with cringey cat puns. Victoria the White Cat is essentially the lead played by ballerina Francesca Hayward. Robert Fairchild has some attention as Munkustrap, but Laurie Davidson is for some reason given an added subplot as magical Mr. Mistoffelees. James Corden and Rebel Wilson are particularly bad with their forced comedy as Bustopher Jones and Jennyanydots. Her scenes are especially disturbing with the inclusion of human faced mice & cockroaches. Skimbleshanks, Mungojerrie, and Rumpleteazer really feel tacked on in a movie.
Singers like Jason Derulo made sense for Rum Tum Tugger, but he ends up feeling like a cat pimp. Taylor Swift is surprisingly good as the sultry Bombalurina. She’s partially responsible for the Oscar bait song “Beautiful Ghosts.” Idris Elba is much more present as the villainous Macavity, but his brown fur makes him look naked. Not even the respected Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Judi Dench are safe. Although forced to drink from a milk bowl, McKellen is okay as the theatrical Gus. There’s nothing wrong with Dench playing a gender swapped Old Deuteronomy, but her solo is off-putting when she stares directly at the audience. Even with the restraint of bad CGI, Jennifer Hudson puts her all into Grizabella the Glamour Cat. Especially with her rendition of “Memory.” The cult-like Jellicles take her to the Heaviside Layer and I’m reminded just how wrong the story is. Cats has to be seen to be believed.
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is less than Olympian. At least Percy Jackson managed to make it to two films, rather than become a one and done failed franchise. I enjoyed The Lightning Thief well enough, but it felt like it was in the shadow of a certain boy wizard. Unlike Harry Potter, I don’t think Fox had a plan in place. Rick Riordan’s first book was already altered, so they couldn’t ignore the changes that were made. There does seem to be some effort to capture the book, but the title is shortened by 4 letters and the runtime is only 1 hour & 47 minutes. Despite focusing on Greek Mythology, they hired Thor Freudenthal to direct. The cast returns with the exception of a majority of the gods. It feels sort of rushed and less than epic. The centaur Chiron is replaced by Giles himself Anthony Stewart Head and the bigger named Stanley Tucci plays Dionysus.
Percy Jackson’s only real problem is not being the center of attention. It doesn’t help that Poseidon doesn’t even talk to him anymore. Logan Lerman has matured a bit otherwise. His Camp Half-Blood rival is Clarisse, daughter of Ares played by Hunger Games alumi Leven Rambin. Alexandra Daddario is softened a bit and now has blonde hair to match Annabeth from the book better. Hard to believe she played the character the same year she did Texas Chainsaw 3D. Brandon T. Jackson is the same satyr he was before, but Grover disappears when the quest gets going. He’s replaced by Percy’s out of nowhere Cyclops half-brother Tyson played by Douglas Smith. Their quest is to save the Camp when a tree, that was once the daughter of Zeus, is poisoned. If The Lightning Thief was similar to Clash of the Titans, then Sea of Monsters is more like Jason and the Argonauts meets Homer’s Odyssey.
They search for the all-healing Golden Fleece at the Bermuda Triangle. Along the way encountering an Oracle with a less than important prophecy, screwball grey witches driving a magic taxi, and a mail delivering Hermes now played by Nathan Fillion. His demigod son Luke is still the villain who now plans to unleash Kronos on the world. When they get to the Sea of Monsters on a Hippocampus, they get swallowed by Charybdis. Tyson helps when they discover the Golden Fleece in the hands of the original Cyclops Polyphemus. They find him in an amusement park meant to represent Circe’s Island. In the end, the Kronos climax feels like an afterthought for a Titan of his magnitude. As does a last minute cliffhanger that’ll never be followed up on. Since The Titan’s Curse, The Battle of the Labyrinth, and The Last Olympian were all cancelled. Unlike The Chronicles of Narnia, I wasn’t invested enough to feel devastated. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters failed to support its ambition.
Percy Jackson & the Olympians with the Golden Fleece
Preceded by: Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is a fantasy franchise starter that gets things sort of right. Author Rick Riordan wrote the book series for his son with ADHD and dyslexia. When he started learning about Greek Mythology in school, Riordan created a hero steeped in the world. Although it sounds like something I would’ve enjoyed, I never knew about Percy Jackson until the movie came out. Even then I still didn’t embrace the series. Percy Jackson seemed a lot like a Greek Mythology version of Harry Potter right down to 20th Century Fox choosing Chris Columbus as the director. Only after the fact did I realize it was never supposed to be about teenagers or that most fans hate the changes. Percy Jackson & the Olympians follows the children of the gods in the modern world. The Lightning Thief refers to Zeus’ lightning bolt that all the gods think was stolen by the son of Poseidon. Like Riordan’s son, Percy Jackson has ADHD and dyslexia. Something he turns into a strength by having ADHD give him better reflexes and dyslexia allowing him to read Ancient Greek. Logan Lerman has the right young adult look, but I wasn’t too sure about his performance at first.
Percy spends a lot of time in water, but he’s never met his father since it’s forbidden. Instead he lives with his mortal mother and wicked stepfather played by Catherine Keener and Joe Pantoliano respectively. When a Fury attacks him on a field trip, Percy is suddenly thrust into the mythological world. He’s joined by his best friend Grover Underwood who turns out to be his satyr protector. Brandon T. Jackson has his moments, but he’s mostly just the comedic black friend. Similar to Hogwarts, Percy trains at a summer camp for demigods called Camp Half-Blood. Pierce Brosnan plays his teacher Chiron who turns out to be a centaur. Pretty much every mythical creature plays a part, including a minotaur who takes Percy’s mom to the Underworld. In order to get his mom back, Percy sets out on an adventure with Grover and the battle ready daughter of Athena, Annabeth Chase. Played by the lovely Alexandra Daddario. I think I only liked the movie in concept before the adventure started. The introduction to the camp and trio felt a little rushed, but the modern interpretation of every creature they face really grew on me.
Percy has everything he needs when Chiron gifts him a magical pen sword and Luke Castellan, son of Hermes (played by a charismatic Jake Abel) gifts him a magical shield. Along with his father’s flying wing shoes. Luke also gives the trio a quest that was never in the book. They travel cross country to find pearls that will allow them to leave the Underworld when they get there. Uma Thurman is unique as a modern shades wearing Medusa. Her head comes off even in a PG film. They also encounter a Hydra at the Parthenon, Lotus-Eaters at Vegas, and passage to the Underworld in Hollywood. Rosario Dawson is a seductive Persephone and Steve Coogan is a laid back Hades. Working just as well is an immortal Sean Bean as Zeus and Kevin McKidd as a caring Poseidon. Mt. Olympus is a grand location and all the gods are fittingly gigantic. When Percy encounters the true lightning thief at the top of the Empire State Building, they engage in a fight of mythical proportions. One that allows Percy to master water itself. When everything is wrapped up, Percy starts a new life at Camp Half-Blood. Although Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief feels like a Harry Potter clone, Greek Mythology gives it its own distinct voice that’s just as fun.
Percy Jackson creates a trident made of water
Followed by: Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
Rise of the Guardians is a child’s dream come true. All of our favorite legendary childhood figures working together. Since DreamWorks Animation never gets old no matter how grown up I am, I was happy to see Rise of the Guardians. I just had a stronger opinion than usual. The Guardians of Childhood is a book series written by William Joyce and dedicated to his late daughter. The idea of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Sandman, and Jack Frost fighting the Boogeyman sounds like fun. I just would’ve done things a little differently. Some character interpretations or designs are weird even for DreamWorks. Despite having a perfectly good book title, they went with the extremely generic Rise of the Guardians. That can literally refer to anything! Rise of the Guardians practically came and went. Apart from a video game, there were no short films, TV spin-offs, or sequels. It didn’t help that there was already another super team in 2012 getting all the hype. Nevertheless, Rise of the Guardians is a charming watch.
All Guardians are given a purpose by the Man in the Moon. Chris Pine predates Elsa by voicing the mischievous winter sprite Jack Frost. Someone I never thought about or believed in, but Frost is a fun loving lead who just wants to be seen by children. He’s the newest Guardian reluctant to join their team. Since I love Christmas so much, of course I believed in Santa Claus. Alec Baldwin voices a tough, but jolly Russian St. Nick called North who has “Naughty & Nice” tattoos, fierce reindeer pulling his sleigh, and carries swords. It’s certainly different, but it gets a few ho ho ho’s. North leads the team and helps Jack find his center. The North Pole is his base of operations where Yetis run his toy factory instead of dimwitted elves. I frankly never believed in the Easter Bunny or participated in many egg hunts. Hugh Jackman puts a unique Australian spin on Bunny. He’s like a blue furred kangaroo that creates burrows, carries boomerangs, and has a feud with Frost.
Since Easter is coming up, Bunny works hard to prepare his warren filled with walking eggs. I’ve always believed in the Tooth Fairy since I used to put my lost teeth under my pillow. Isla Fisher is a tooth obsessed humanoid hummingbird named Tooth who has her baby tooth fairies collect teeth filled with memories. Jack is especially interested in learning about his unexpectedly dark past. I cherish my childhood dreams, but I never believed in the Sandman. Sandy is depicted as a small, but silent sand communicating master of dreams. He’s the exact opposite of the nightmare of a villain Pitch Black voiced by Jude Law. I had many fears growing up, but the Boogeyman was never one of them. He also wants to be believed in, so Pitch sabotages the Guardians just to gain power. Kids are just as important to the story since they’re the ones giving the Guardians strength. Rise of the Guardians is imaginative with many twists and turns. The 3D computer animation is stylized, but also highly detailed with impressive snow and sand effects. Rise of the Guardians is a joyful Avengers for children.
The Golden Compass is something I deliberately avoided for 14 years. I distinctly remember seeing a trailer for the first time when I was 12. New Line Cinema made The Golden Compass seem like it was connected to The Lord of the Rings, but I now realize that was a desperate attempt to sell the movie to the same fantasy loving audience. When I learned more about the source material, I realized why I shouldn’t watch it. As a Christian, there was no way I’d embrace something with such a strong anti-religious theme. An anti-Chronicles of Narnia if you will. Unlike Harry Potter (which simply uses words like “witchcraft”), His Dark Materials is unmistakable, if a lot less well-known as to why it was mostly banned. English author Philip Pullman is a hardcore non-believer. I knew I wouldn’t like The Golden Compass out of principle, but the movie ended up bad regardless. Even judging it as an impartial film critic. There was studio interference, director Chris Weitz leaving, being replaced, then returning, and criticism from both sides of the compass. Secular fans of the book felt it watered down the themes and Christian/Catholic organizations did the same thing I probably would’ve done. Ultimately, The Golden Compass was a financial disappointment that became another failed franchise starter.
The Golden Compass takes place in an alternate dimension where humans have close animal companions representing their soul called dæmons (subtle). Aside from that, this world also uses blimps as air travel, has flying Witches, seafaring nomads called Gyptians, and armored polar bears in the North. The first noticeable problem with the movie is the hasty exposition for the 1 hour & 54 minute movie. The uncomfortable aspect is the main antagonist being a fictional church called the Magisterium. They silence the existence of Dust that can enter other dimensions and destroy the titular alethiometer golden compasses that are suppose to reveal truth. I was honestly pretty bored and the all-star cast didn’t help. Most characters show up for a little while, then disappear for an extended period of time. Dakota Blue Richards is the young wide-eyed protagonist Lyra Belacqua. Although The Golden Compass feels like a kids movie half the time, its PG-13 rating sometimes comes out of nowhere. Freddie Highmore voices Lyra’s dæmon Pantalaimon who changes animals at will. Daniel Craig is her uncle Lord Asriel who questions the Magisterium. Nicole Kidman is a clearly villainous friend of Asriel named Mrs. Coulter.
After receiving a compass from her college’s headmaster, Lyra willingly joins the strange lady in London. The main conflict is a group called “Gobblers” stealing children in order to cut out their dæmons. Lyra is joined by Gyptians, an aeronaut named Lee Scoresby played by Sam Elliott as himself, a friendly witch queen named Serafina Pekkala played by Eva Green, and an armored bear named Iorek Byrnison with the booming voice of Sir Ian McKellen. Christopher Lee is also in the movie in case it wasn’t already obvious. Ian McShane and Kathy Bates also have voice roles. I’ll admit the polar bears are the only thing I found interesting. Until the special effects get in the way. Despite somehow beating Transformers to win Best Visual Effects, the animals are rarely ever convincing. Sometimes the polar bears look alright, but other times it feels like a Coca-Cola commercial. Iorek becomes Lyra’s protector and she helps him fight his enemy for the throne. When Lyra finds her friends, the movie ends with a last minute battle. Followed by an abrupt happy ending where nothing feels resolved and the sequel baiting couldn’t be more obvious. Can’t say I’m disappointed at the lack of a follow up. I know the TV series His Dark Materials is supposed to be a better adaptation, but I’ll probably avoid that as well. In the end, I felt nothing for The Golden Compass.
Lyra (human) with Iorek Byrnison (polar bear)
Eragon squanders its potential on the most by the numbers fantasy film imaginable. Just about every cliché is covered in the most boring way possible. I remember when Eragon came out. It was part of three trailers that premiered on Nickelodeon. Night at the Museum, Deck the Halls, and of course Eragon. The movie didn’t look terrible, but I didn’t care enough to give it a shot. Fun fact: Eragon is actually the last movie ever released on VHS. It’s a shame Eragon was such a failure, because I can really relate to the book’s author. Christopher Paolini wrote The Inheritance Cycle when he was 18, just like how I’ve created a lot of stories when I was very young.
Although I’d probably hate Eragon more if I knew the source material, there’s still too much that doesn’t work in a serious movie adaptation. The land of Alagaësia or villain Galbatorix are silly sounding no matter the medium. Respected actors Jeremy Irons or John Malkovich are either uninvested or overacting. The titular Eragon is the standard farm boy with no definable character traits. He’s raised by an uncle, gains a wise mentor, and embarks on a quest after becoming the chosen one. Eragon hinges on the reemergence of Dragon Riders.
Saphira is a blue dragon hatched from an egg who grows to adulthood in a matter of seconds, psychically communicates with Eragon, and has the non-threatening voice of Rachel Weisz. I’d say this is a “boy and his dragon” story, but Saphira is barely around. Since Eragon is desperately trying to set up sequels that will never come, the main villain looms in the background while Robert Carlyle takes over as a Rumplestiltskin clone. Every other fantasy box is checked off with a vaguely defined elf princess, a vaguely defined rogue, and vaguely defined world building. The nice scenery and dragon CGI are really the only positives. Other than that, Eragon doesn’t take off.
Eragon rides Saphira
Gods of Egypt is a cross between Clash of the Titans, Thor, The Mummy, 300, a video game, and an overblown CGI mess. I am so baffled by this movie’s existence. Gods of Egypt has honestly become one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. Rest assured it was a Razzie darling upon release. Gods of Egypt desperately tries to be the Egyptian mythology version of Clash of the Titans. The 3D and over reliance on CGI is the biggest proof of that. The difference is that apart from name recognition and overall appearance, I know next to nothing about Egyptian gods.
Gods of Egypt turns every god into 9 ft. tall giants with golden blood and their half-animal forms achieved with truly awful special effects. Anytime a god stands next to a mortal is just as awkward to see. The story follows the conflict between Horus and Set. Every Egyptian god or goddess is depicted including Thoth, Hathor, Ra, Osiris, Isis, Anubis, and Nephthys. The fictional mortal thief Bek and his lover Zaya are also included to ground the fantasy adventure. Even though Set pulling out Horus’ glowing eyes, encountering giant snakes, a riddle making sphinx, and their failed attempt at comedy will make it obvious that this isn’t historically accurate.
Along with the cast that was preemptively accused of whitewashing. Despite the inclusion of Chadwick Boseman and Élode Yung, the director publicly apologized for the decision. I’m not gonna act like the cast makes sense, but an obvious box-office bomb like this isn’t the place to get on a soap-box. Gods of Egypt feels like Thor since the comic book feel is unmistakable. The cast literally includes Robin, Elektra, Black Panther, Leonidas, and Tomar-Re. Although the primary god Horus is played by Jaime Lannister. The Mummy (1999) remains the most successful modern movie set in Egypt. Gods of Egypt is just embarrassing.
Horus (god) lifts Bek (mortal)
Beowulf is ripper, tearer, slasher, gouger. He is the teeth in the darkness, the talons in the night. His is strength and lust and power! He is BEOWULF! And yet I never once knew a thing about Beowulf growing up. I never read his epic poem or heard tales of his legendary battles. The 2007 Beowulf was my first introduction. Although I initially ignored it because something about it looked… off. Later realizing it was the uncanny valley motion capture animation that Robert Zemeckis was strangely fascinated by after making Polar Express. I never thought I’d get into Beowulf, but I always love a good old fashioned larger than life hero’s tale. Beowulf is the hero of Geats known for his impressive feats. Such as slaying ferocious sea monsters.
Although the original poem is very straightforward, a lot of liberties are taken to give characters more flaws. The animation takes some getting used to, but when you do, the action is very exciting. Ray Winstone is unrecognizable as the ripped Beowulf, but Anthony Hopkins, Robin Wright, and especially Angelina Jolie are exact replicas. Hopkins plays Hrothgar, his first of two Scandinavian Kings. He encourages everyone to drink and fornicate. Incurring the wrath of the hideous monster Grendel. Crispin Glover is hidden under an undefinable creature that really pushes the film’s PG-13 rating.
When Beowulf is called, he pushes the rating even more by fighting Grendel while naked. Not sure how they got away with any of that. Then Grendel’s mother shows up. Now she’s a half lizard seductress that a practically naked Jolie plays. Beowulf’s deal with her turns him into a ruthless king with a queen and mistress that makes him less like the poem. The final dragon antagonist has a greater connection to Beowulf and an epic final battle that once again pushes the rating. As fantastical as Beowulf is, there is still a connection to Christianity not found in the poem. Along with themes that require closer examination. Beowulf is a grand interpretation that’s unlike anything I’ve seen before.
Beowulf searches for Grendel’s mother