Finding Fantasy in Many Genres

serenity

What to Watch in the Theater:
Serenity (R) is streaming on Amazon Prime. This drama/mystery is about Baker Dill (Matthew McConaughey), a fishing boat owner with a past. He lives a small-town life on an island, taking tourists out for fishing expeditions. When his ex-wife, Karen (Anne Hathaway), comes back into his life with an urgent proposition, he has a lot of thinking to do. Things get a little weird, with his unusual long-distance connection to his son, and we start to realize things are not as they might seem. The twists are interesting, although the characters are not as engaging as they could be.
Our rating: 3.33 out of 5

hobbs

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (PG13) opens today. We managed to miss the entire Fast & Furious franchise, but decided to give this one a try, since we’re fans of both Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. We were left a bit curious about the backstory between the two characters and others featured here, that didn’t detract from our enjoyment of this film. The action was sometimes over-the-top, but fantastic and very exciting, and the rapport (or lack thereof) between the two was fun. Vanessa Kirby adds a strong female character, and Idris Elba makes a shockingly good bad guy. This movie stands well on its own, although we’re sure fans of the franchise will enjoy it just as much.
Our rating: 4 out of 5 

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
Time Freak (PG13) is streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime. Asa Butterfield and Sophie Turner star in this romcom with a scifi twist. When Debbie breaks up with him after a year, Stillman builds a time machine, so that he can go back and fix everything that was wrong with their relationship. He takes along his buddy, Evan, and it’s fun to see how that side plot progresses as well. As far as time travel movies go, this one is pretty fun but also thought-provoking. Plus, the technology is a vast improvement on what we normally see in this type of movie, which makes the premise even more interesting.
Our rating: 4 out of 5

The Cat Returns (G) is available for rental. This English dub of the Studio Ghibli classic from 2002 boasts a pretty amazing voice cast, that includes Anne Hathaway, Peter Boyle, Elliott Gould, Kristin Bell, and even Tim Curry. There’s beautiful animation, as you’d expect from a Miyazaki film, as well as many fantasy elements. The story follows schoolgirl Haru (Hathaway) as she saves the life of a cat, and then discovers he’s royalty from the Kingdom of Cats, and she has a reward coming to her. Of course there’s conflict, and plenty of magic.
Our rating: 4.17 out of 5

Plus box office results, movie news, what’s new on DVD and Blu-Ray and what’s coming to Netflix this month.

Successfully Reinventing Stories

lionking

What to Watch in the Theater:
The Lion King (PG) is in theaters now. We didn’t think this “live action” (spoiler alert – there is NO live action anywhere in the film) retelling would measure up to the original, but we were pleasantly surprised. The scenes are so beautiful, it’s like watching a nature documentary. The music is just as good as the original (because it’s all the same songs, plus a new one by Beyonce). And best of all – the lip moving is so well done, it’s not like all those talking animal movies where it’s so horrifying that you can’t stop looking at their mouths. Plus Seth Rogen is absolute genius as Pumbaa, and there’s an awesome homage to another Disney movie. This one can feel the love in our movie collection, right next to the original animated version. Hakuna Matata indeed.
Our rating: 4.67 out of 5

once

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (R) opens today. This Quentin Tarantino film adds a stellar cast to a historically-accurate (or nearly so) 1969 Hollywood. In doing so, fictional characters add their stories, influencing factual characters, so that parts of history play out differently. It’s a perfect example of fact meets fiction. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt acting together so closely is a treat, and Margot Robbie is lovely and talented, as usual. It’s fun to compare that Hollywood to the way it is today, and we enjoyed the portrayals of actors from that time. And of course it wouldn’t be a Tarantino film without some scenes of horrific violence.
Our rating: 4.5 out of 5 

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
Secret Obsession (TV14) is streaming exclusively on Netflix. Brenda song stars as a young woman trying to piece her life back together after an accident, which has left her with a form of amnesia that causes her to forget recent things in her life, like her new husband. Their life seems perfect – if only she could remember it – but was it really? Of course, all is not what it seems, and she’s in serious danger. Although some parts are predictable, the suspense was pretty good, and it was interesting to see how it played out. We did feel there were some loose ends, but not enough to detract from the overall story.
Our rating: 3.83 out of 5

Replicas (PG13) is available for rental. Keanu Reeves stars as a scientist working on a way to load a dead human’s consciousness into an artificial body. When his family is killed in a tragic accident, he must quickly perfect his technology, and pair it with his co-worker’s cloning expertise, to bring them back. Although Keanu isn’t the most believable scientist, this role does suit him, and there’s a lot of exciting stuff going on here, with a great deal of suspense and some twists and turns we didn’t see coming.
Our rating: 4 out of 5

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

Heroes Fight Many Foes

crawl

What to Watch in the Theater:
Crawl (R) is in theaters now. We had pretty low expectations for this one, and were pleasantly surprised. It has a pretty basic premise – father and daughter trapped in a flooding basement during a hurricane evacuation with, of course, large alligators to keep them company. The story was believable enough, and the suspense and feelings it evoked reminded us of the original Jaws. There are still non-CGI monsters that can scare us out of ever wanting to swim in Florida again. Or live there, for that matter. Although some things seemed like they might be implausible, but since we have no experience with hurricanes or alligators, we bought it all and were very impressed.
Our rating: 4.75 out of 5

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
SGT Stubby: An American Hero (PG) is available on DVD. This animated film is based on the true story of a dog who becomes part of a US Army regiment on the front lines in France during WWI. It’s a heartwarming story full of camaraderie between humans and Stubby, who is a valuable asset to his unit. Although some details are changed to enhance the story, the feats accomplished by this dog are amazingly real, and it’s a great introduction for younger viewers to an important part of history.
Our rating: 4.17 out of 5

A World Away (not rated) is streaming exclusively on Amazon Prime. This low-budget SciFi film seems to be a family project – with Blanchard siblings (Rowan is the best-known) and dad as writer/director. It follows a group of middle school kids on their way to the Grand Canyon, when their plane goes into some weird warp that connects them with some aliens who are searching for the glowing stone that is their source of power. It’s a weird story that could be interesting but the production values are so low that we just can’t recommend it.
Our rating: skip it!

Time Bandits (PG) is available on DVD. We dip back into the early 1980s for this one, written and directed by members of Monty Python. We meet a group of little people who are traveling through holes in a map, to pillage their way through important moments in history. They are joined by a present-day boy, Kevin, since there was a portal in his closet. It’s funny, bizarre, and full of some pretty great stars. Sure, the special effects are nothing like the present day, but the writing and characters make up for it.
Our rating: 4.17 out of 5 

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

A Few Things for the Older Crowd

midsommar

What to Watch in the Theater:
Midsommar (R) is in theaters now. This movie follows a group of  young American friends as they join their Swedish friend in his hometown for an important cultural festival. What starts out as a beautiful, welcoming experience quickly turns into a nightmare, as the group splinters, the festivities become very disturbing, and the friends get pulled into situations they never could have imagined. This movie is bizarre and disturbingly gory – not too surprising considering it comes from the writer/director of last year’s Hereditary.
Our rating: 1.5 out of 5

stuber

Stuber (R) opens today. This film stars Kumail Nanjiani as the title character and Dave Bautista as his passenger, a cop who’s just had laser eye surgery. There’s comedy from the get go, as we have a two fish out of water scenario – Stu, the Uber driver, knows nothing of dealing with bad guys, and  Vic doesn’t know how Uber works. They go through some very harrowing situations, with a lot of violence, but there are quite a few laugh out loud moments. It’s fun to watch their relationship develop.
Our rating: 4.33 out of 5 

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
Stranger Things 3 (TV14) is streaming exclusively on Netflix. Season 3 gives us even more 80s references, with the new setting of Starcourt Mall in the summer of 1985. There are some new characters in the mix, as the Hawkins kids pursue the Mind Flayer and get tangled up with some new enemies. The dynamics in the group have changed, and we see the kids maturing, and even dating. We didn’t think this show could get better, but it just continues to shatter our expectations. Can’t wait to see what happens next, no matter how long we have to wait.
Our rating: 5 out of 5

See You Yesterday (TVMA) is streaming exclusively on Netflix. This Spike Lee film tackles the subject of race relations (specifically between cops and young black men) in a more subtle fashion than you’d expect – with a SciFi twist. Young CJ and Sebastian are putting the finishing touches on their time travel science project, when CJ’s brother is killed. They go back in time to save him, but there are complications. The characters are smart and determined, and the young actors do a great job bring us a fresh take on a difficult situation, combined with one of our favorite SciFi themes. Look for a wonderful homage cameo near the beginning.
Our rating: 4.25 out of 5

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

Our hearts go out to the family, friends and fans of Disney Channel’s Cameron Boyce, after his untimely passing. You can view our video tribute to Cameron here.