Family Fun with a Serious Dose of Girl (and Dog) Power

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What to Watch in the Theater:
Captain Marvel (PG13) is in theaters now. This is the long-awaited backstory for the most powerful Marvel hero AND the first standalone female superhero movie in the MCU. Those are big shoes to fill, but this movie does not disappoint. We get not only a new character, but possibly (hopefully) a savior for the Avengers. Carol Danvers (or Vers, as she’s known for most of the film) is incredibly strong but also flawed, trying to piece together her memories and gradually make sense of the last six years of her life. This movie pairs 90s style with pop culture references, gives us a glimpse of the past for familiar characters, and provides a whole lot of action. Questions are suitably asked and answered, and we can’t wait to see how Captain America fits in with the rest of the Avengers. Don’t miss the opening credits homage to Stan Lee, and OF COURSE, stay till the very end of the credits for clues to the continuation of the story.
Our rating: 4.33 out of 5

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Wonder Park (PG) opens today. This heartwarming animated film follows June, whose vivid imagination takes over her childhood – and home – when she joins with her mother to design an amusement park and populate it with fun characters. When her mom gets sick and has to leave home for treatment, June turns her back on the project, removing all reminders of that happiness from her life. June comes across a real Wonderland in the woods, where the characters are in danger and the park is in disrepair, and she helps them bring the place back to life. The park is full of fun characters, and the journey helps June cope with her mom’s absence. This is great family-friendly entertainment that shares a message about the important role wonder plays in our lives.
Our rating: 4.75 out of 5

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Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase (PG) opens today. This modern re-telling of the first Nancy Drew book has a very different aesthetic is very different from the 2007 Emma Roberts vehicle. Nancy is younger and perhaps more relatable in this one, but doesn’t face the consequences for her crimes (pranking, picking locks, etc.). Although she IS helping people with her sleuthing, this gives a mixed message when she’s so easily excused and thus comes across as irresponsible. Nancy is always an inspiring character, using her brain to follow clues and help people along the way. This would make a good TV series (reboot), with each story wrapping up in less time.
Our rating: 3.67 out of 5

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
Benji (TV-PG) is streaming exclusively on Netflix. Joe Camp, creator of the much-loved 1974 original and all its sequels, teams up with his son and Jason Blum (that was a surprise!) to bring back the furry friend we didn’t know we’d been missing. While it will be nostalgic for parents who grew up with the original, this movie stands in its own right, because the tale of connection between kids and dogs is timeless. There are no talking dogs here, just an incredibly talented Benji, who springs into action to save the kids who took him in. He fills a void in the family’s life with love and devotion, and keeps the audience engaged with good clean family entertainment.
Our rating: 4 out of 5

Plus box office results and our interview with Matt Johnson, Visual Effects Supervisor for Mary Poppins Returns (available now on digital and out on DVD/Blu-Ray/4K Ultra HD March 19th).

There’s Something Fishy Going On

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What to Watch in the Theater:
Greta (R) is in theaters now. This suspenseful film is carried by an over-the-top performance by Isabelle Huppert in the title role. Chloe Grace Moretz plays a young woman named Frances, who befriends a lonely older woman after returning a purse she found on the subway. The relationship takes a turn when Frances discovers that Greta is manipulative, but it’s too late – she’s already become the object of Greta’s obsession. This thriller pushes all the right buttons, with jump scares, suspense, and a title character whose actions we can’t anticipate –  yet without a lot of gore. Even Jennifer liked it, and she doesn’t do horror films.
Our rating: 4 out of 5

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Cold Pursuit (R) is in theaters now. Liam Neeson’s character, Nels the small-town snowplow driver, exacts revenge on the drug dealers who killed his son. This isn’t your typical Neeson action film – he has NO prior training in special ops or anything. He’s just an angry guy bent on payback, who knows where to bury the bodies. It’s not just violence, but also a bit of comedy, as title cards help us keep up with the rising body count. Nels unknowingly sets off a turf war between rival drug cartels, which makes the premise even more interesting. And there’s a touch of sweetness, involving a young son. Neeson says it’s his final action film, but we’d be down for more like this.
Our rating: 4.5 out of 5

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
The Meg (PG13) is on DVD. We just HAD to watch it, after interviewing HP about the special effects! An undersea research facility (and the rest of the ocean) is in danger, after an experiment unknowingly unleashes a behemoth of a shark (actually a prehistoric megalodon) from the previously unexplored depths of the ocean. Jason Statham’s character, Jonas, is their only hope. It’s a fun actioner full of everything you’d expect – a billionaire, a father/daughter research team with granddaughter in tow, team members with a wide variety of personalities, an ex-wife, a giant beast, lots of people in a lot of danger, and a flawed hero. We’re not going in the ocean any time soon!
Our rating: 3.83 out of 5

The Little Mermaid (live action 2018) (PG) is streaming on Netflix. This film is NOT a live action remake of the classic Hans Christina Andersen (or Disney) tale, and we’re still not really sure what it IS. Perhaps and attempt at a new fairy tale, about a little girl with an ailment, her loving uncle, a circus, and a real mermaid in jeopardy. Aside from the low-budget production values (they must’ve spent it all on Shirley Maclaine’s wrap-around), the story goes from plodding to confusing, with a song thrown in the middle and a hint of romance. It’s a mishmash that’s hard to get through.
Our rating: Skip it!

The Little Mermaid (1989) (G) 30th anniversary edition is now available on DVD/Blu-Ray/digital/4K. This Disney classic returns with some new bonus features, including behind the scenes footage, Alan Menken and some Disney leading ladies, and lots of fun facts about the movie. You can also watch it in sing-along mode – if you don’t already know all the words to the catchy soundtrack! Disney princesses have certainly evolved in the last 30 years, with new goals beyond marriage to a prince. Still, this fun family film is a great addition to any video library, and we thoroughly enjoyed revisiting it.
We recommend this movie.

Plus box office results and what’s new on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Fighting for Our Loved Ones

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What to Watch in the Theater:
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (PG) is in theaters now. Hiccup, now Chief of Berk, has to move his entire town to keep both the humans and dragons safe. Toothless is distracted by a Light Fury, which brings both romance and danger into his life. Hiccup searches for the mythical hidden world that could bring salvation for the dragons, although it comes with a difficult choice. There’s a creepy new villain and more dragons than you could possibly imagine. It’s a fun and fitting way to wrap up the story of these beasts and the humans who love them.
Our rating: 4.33 out of 5

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Fighting with My Family (PG13) is in theaters now. This movie is based on the true story about a young female wrestler who aspires to be a WWE champion. Paige comes from a wrestling family, and shares the same dream as her brother. Their relationship is put to the test when she gets a shot at greatness and he’s left behind. This is a fun and heartwarming tale about family and what it takes to make your dreams a reality. The British family of wrestlers is the best part, although we Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson does have that infectious smile. They did change some of the details of the story (like timing) to make this movie, but as you’ll see in the credits, the heart of the story is accurate.
Our rating: 4 out of 5

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
Kevin Hart’s Guide to Black History (TVPG) is streaming exclusively on Netflix. We love the idea of bringing historical facts into a comedy setting – it’s a fun way to learn new things, and reach people with material that would otherwise be boring to them. This hour-long special features sketches about history, which are introduced by Kevin Hart as if he’s sharing them with his young daughter. The sketches are quite funny, but the wraparounds with Kevin are a little forced, and it’s obvious he’s reading something he didn’t write himself. Still worth a watch, for the funny parts and history lesson, but not Kevin’s best work.
Our rating: 3.33 out of 5

The Breaker Upperers (TVMA) is streaming on Netflix. This comedy from New Zealand has an interesting premise about friends who run a business that breaks up relationships. They go to some outrageous lengths to play out the different scenarios, and this part is pretty funny. When things start to go awry in the relationship between the friends, we found it less funny. There are a lot of adult topics here, the humor is different and it’s a little difficult to follow at times – partly because of the accents and cultural differences. If you’re already a fan of these imports and/or actors, go for it. Our team just found that it wasn’t a good fit for us.
Our rating: 1 out of 5

Plus box office results, movie news and what’s new on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Choosing Your Own Best / Alternate Life

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What to Watch in the Theater:
Isn’t It Romantic (PG13) is in theaters now. Natalie (Rebel Wilson) bumps her head and wakes up in a PG-rated romantic comedy, where everything in her life has turned around, making it almost perfect. She’s never been a fan of the movie genre, but as she begins to embrace her new self-confidence (and romance), she embarks on a journey to self-discovery, full of rom com cliches. While poking fun at the genre, this movie turns out to be the best kind of rom com – full of important messages about loving yourself and not needing the perfect romance to live your best life – with lots of laugh out loud moments.
Our rating: 4.83 out of 5

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Happy Death Day 2U (PG13) is in theaters now. This movie picks up where the last left off, so you definitely need to see the first before this sequel. Tree ends up back in her birthday loop again, but things are VERY different this time. A science experiment causes her to be living this day in an alternate universe, which means the killer is different, and other parts of her life are better AND worse. She has to die over and over (again), to help with the experiment AND make a big decision about her own fate. This one is just as fun as the first, with fewer horror elements and more relationship drama.
Our rating: 4.25 out of 5

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
Uncle Drew (PG13) is available on DVD. We’re generally not sports people, and even less so basketball people, so this movie surprised us. Dax (Lil Rel Howery) struggles to put together a team for a big tournament, and ends up rounding up a dream team from the past. It’s more about the journey than the actual game (although the game play, full of real superstar athletes who look like old geezers, is amazing). It’s fun to see the characters come to life and how they interact. There’s a lot of comedy, some heart, and oh yeah, some pretty great basketball.
Our rating: 4 out of 5

The Umbrella Academy (TV14) is streaming exclusively on Netflix. This series is reminiscent of the X-Men, and based on the Dark Horse comic of the same name. After kids with powers are mysteriously born on the same day, an eccentric billionaire adopts 7 of them, and assembles them into a superhero team. We join the story years later, as the remaining children return following the mysterious death of their father figure. Their long-lost time-traveling brother returns as well, with a mission to stop the fast-approaching apocalypse. We’ve watched a couple of episodes, and are still learning the backstories and powers of each sibling, but we’re definitely intrigued.
We’ll continue watching this show.

Major League (R) is available on DVD. This 1989 movie centers on a baseball team whose owner wants to move them from Cleveland to Miami, but she can’t do that unless attendance at the park drops to really low levels. She purposely recruits a batch of problematic athletes, in the hopes that they’ll be in last place. The personalities clash and they’re terrible at baseball, but they want to get better!  It’s definitely R-rated in humor and language, but it’s a fun film full of misfits who learn to work together toward a common goal.
We recommend this movie.

Plus box office results and what’s new on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Watch the video from the Isn’t It Romantic premiere here.