#9 Kit Kittridge: An American Girl
#10: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
Directed by: Patricia Rozema
Written by: Ann Peacock and Valerie Tripp
Starring: Abigail Breslin, Julia Ormond, Chris O’Donnell, Jane Krakowski, Joan Cusack, Max Thierot, Stanley Tucci
Music by : Joseph Vitarelli
Release Date: June 20, 2008
Synopsis: Set during the Depression, this film focuses on Kit Kittridge – a young girl who has her heart set on being a news reporter. Along with her friends, she spends much of her time up in her treehouse writing news articles to pitch to the editor of the local paper. When her father is forced to travel to Chicago to look for work, Kit’s mother takes in boarders at their home to make ends meet. Kit and her friends have the chance to meet many new people in this environment, including some of the local hobos – whom many other people are prejudiced against. When their savings is stolen, Kit and her friends realize it is up to them to clear the names of their hobo friends and find out who the real thieves are.
Why it made my top ten: This movie just made me happy. I had an American Girl doll growing up (not Kit) and it’s nice to see at least one of the books has been made into a decent film. I hear the next movie is going to a musical, and that makes me kind of afraid…but anyway.
Abigail Breslin is definitely going to be a big actress in the next few years (like she isn’t already). She does a great job of bringing Kit to life – complete with unstoppable enthusiasm when it comes to pitching her ideas to friends and editors. While not the main characters, her parents (played by Ormond and O’Donnell) helps keep the film’s desperate setting in perspective. While Kit might be having a grand old time investigating mysteries, her parents help you see that there is still a depression going on. The other supporting cast members add color and flavor to a film that could have fallen into the realm of sickeningly sweet, but surprisingly manages not to.
Like my number 10 pick, I also appreciated this film because of how in-depth a period piece it is. Everything in the film brings to mind that you’re in the 1930’s during the Depression – from the people’s wardrobes, to small storylines throughout the film, to the music. The fact that this is a children’s movie doesn’t harm it in the least – it’s a film that any family can enjoy together.
Favorite Scene: The Club initiations
Tagline: “Prepare for Awesomeness.”
Directed by: Mark Osborne, John Stevenson
Written by: Jonathan Gauthiers, Glenn Berger
Starring: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Ian McShane, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, Randall Duk Kim, and the always awesome David Cross
Music by : Hans Zimmer, John Powell
Release Date: June 6th, 2008
Synopsis: An overweight panda named Po gets chosen as the new Dragon Warrior, despite the fact that he knows no Kung Fu. Too bad, then, that the fierce Tai Lung has broken out of prison, with Po being the only one who can stop him.
Why it made my top ten:
Dreamworks has finally made a film that isn’t bogged down with tired pop culture references. Make no mistake – Kung Fu Panda is very funny, but it earns its laughs legitimately – it’ll still be just as funny in 10 years as it is now. It’s also breathtakingly gorgeous – this was one of the first films we watched on our new tv, and the animation is absolutely superb. It helps, too, that the voice work for the film is top-notch, with almost everyone fitting their roles perfectly.
Of course, all of this would be moot, if it weren’t for one simple factor – if your film has “Kung Fu” in the title, then you’d better be ready to give us some freaking Kung Fu. Luckily, this film delivers.
The battles here are some of the most inventive and creative fight scenes that I’ve seen in quite some time. They take full advantage of the fact that this is an animated film, while still adhering to the hallmarks of a great Kung Fu sequence. By using characters that represent the different styles of Kung Fu they’re able make the fight scenes both an homage to the great Kung Fu films that came before as well as a making them a complete blast to watch. The ending falls a little flat, and the moral of the story is a little too heavy handed, but these are small complaints – Kung Fu Panda kicks butt.
Favorite scenes: The jailbreak of Tai Lung. An absolutely perfect action scene, and one that lets us know just how skilled and terrifying the villain really is.
Oscar Chances: It’ll be nominated for Best Animated Feature, but it won’t win.