To the Moon and Stars


What to Watch in the Theater:
A Star is Born (R) is in theaters now. It’s a familiar premise, to those who’ve watched any of the previous three versions of this film. Well-established music artist discovers, and falls in love with, a new talent. His career is on the decline as hers is on the rise. Of course there’s new music, to suit the times and the voices, as well as other updates to keep the story fresh. Although the movie was long, the timeline was unclear, which distracted a bit from the story. The music and acting were good, and it’s an entertaining new take on the story.
Our rating: 3.83 out of 5


First Man (PG13) opens today. This movie tells the story of Neil Armstrong’s journey, from test pilot to astronaut to first man on the moon. It was filmed in an interesting way – from home movie style to IMAX, with some breathtaking space shots. The camera shaking during flights is a little unnerving, but you really get a feel for the harrowing experiences early astronauts had with their equipment. There’s some heavy drama here – right from the start – so prepare for some emotional scenes. The film does a good job reminding us of the sacrifices that were made for space exploration, by the astronauts and their families as well.
Our rating: 4.25 out of 5

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
Zoo (PG) is available on DVD. Based on a true story, this movie follows Tom, a young boy in Belfast during World War II. When his zookeeper dad heads to war, Tom enlists an unlikely team to sneak baby elephant, Buster, from the zoo, and keep him safe. It’s a fun tale of new friendships, with the dangerous reality of war looming over them. There are some sad and scary elements to this story, so although it’s a family film, it may be too scary for younger kids.
Our rating: 4 out of 5 

Invader ZIM (TVY7) is streaming on Netflix. This animated series, which originally ran on Nickelodeon during the early 2000’s, has a bit of a cult following. With the aliens-taking-over-the-world premise, scientific experiments and more, we find it hard to believe this is a kids show. But then, it’s just a cartoon, right? Some of the characters act like spoiled children and are really annoying – is there a lesson to be learned here somewhere?
Not rating until we’ve finished all the episodes.

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Aspiration & Inspiration


What to Watch in the Theater:
A Simple Favor (R) is in theaters now. Director Paul Feig is known for his comedies (especially with frequent collaborator Melissa McCarthy), rather than thrillers, but this dark turn works well. The story is compelling, full of plot twists and excellent performances by Blake Lively, Anna Kendrick and Henry Golding. Overachieving mommy vlogger, Stephanie (Kendrick), eagerly bonds with glamorous free spirit, Emily, who mysteriously disappears just a few weeks into the new friendship. Stephanie steps in to comfort grieving husband, Sean (Golding), and his son, Nicky, but finds herself entangled in more than just a new relationship.
Our rating: 4.17 out of 5


Venom (PG13) opens today. This origin story follows investigative journalist Eddie Brock as he loses his job (and girl) and gains a symbiote, which is like a very big parasite that takes over his entire body and talks to him inside his head. This creature was brought to earth by biotech CEO Carlton Drake, who experiments on homeless people in an attempt to find the right human host for the powerful aliens – but his isn’t the only nefarious plan in action. Eddie and Venom (the symbiote) form a bond, as Eddie gains superhuman abilities and Venom gains an element of humanity. There’s some great anti-hero stuff here, with a lot of action sequences, San Francisco scenery, and the best part – humor! We could see this guy getting along with Deadpool – only this is a Sony property, so there’s no attachment to any other Marvel realm (MCU or X-Men), except for the possibility of a Spider-Man crossover, which is why this film stayed in PG13 territory.
Our rating: 4.75 out of 5


The Samuel Project (PG13) opens today. This independent film stars Ryan Ochoa as teenager, Eli, who wants a career as an artist and has a big media project due. After he learns a bit about his grandfather, Samuel (Hal Linden), Eli decides to focus on his family’s story for the project. We see the two bond, as Samuel begrudgingly shares his history, not realizing how much inspiration he’s providing to the younger generation. It’s a story of connection, not only between the two main characters, but supporting ones as well, with some great comedic relief from Mateo Arias. There are important messages here about sharing your story, to ensure it lives on and can continue to impact others.
Our rating: 4.5 out of 5

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
Hilda (TVY7) is streaming on Netflix. This animated series follows Hilda, a blue-haired girl who lives in a magical world full of amazing creatures. We see Hilda deal with issues like respecting others, peer pressure, and making friends. The fact that her interactions may be with humans, or magical creatures, just adds to the fun of learning some important lessons. The animation style includes some homages to Miyazaki’s fantastic beasts, and the stories (at least in initial episodes) are taken directly from the popular graphic novel series they’re based on.
Our rating: 4.5 out of 5

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Fun Comes in All Ratings, Just Be Careful


What to Watch in the Theater:
SmallFoot (PG) opens today. This animated family film is about a community of Yetis coming to grips with the discovery of a mythical creature called a SmallFoot (aka human). There are some interesting parallels to real life, with Yeti characters ranging from believers in the SmallFoot (labeled as kooks), to skeptics, to elders who literally carry the law, and unquestioning followers of every aspect of the history and laws set forth by the elders. It’s a fun movie full of exploration of beliefs, songs, and larger than life characters. There are some great lessons to be learned, but they come about very naturally and in a highly entertaining way. It’s a smart movie, which can be enjoyed by all ages.
Our rating: 4.67 out of 5


Night School (PG13) opens today. We were concerned Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish would compete for laughs, but the pairing works very well, with Kevin playing his usual over-the-top character and Tiffany playing a convincing no-nonsense teacher with wit and heart. The supporting cast brings extra fun to the ensemble, with a lot of laugh out loud silliness and great camaraderie. Our only concern is that the humor is quite a bit more adult than we’d expect for a PG13 film. It’s a good time, but not recommended for the younger kids.
Our rating: 4.17 out of 5

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
Midnight Sun (PG13) is available on DVD. This teen drama follows Katie, played by Bella Thorne, a teen who suffers from a disease that requires her to stay out of the sun, or risk death. She leads a relatively happy life, with her overprotective dad homeschooling her, a best friend who visits often, and her music. When she finally meets the boy she’s been crushing over for years, her world is turned upside down. We’re along for the highs and lows as Charlie (Patrick Schwarzenegger) gives her the time of her life. There are some small plot holes, but they’ve fit quite a happy and sad story into a 90-minute film. Not bad at all for a teen drama where Bella Thorne doesn’t play the mean girl, and sings.
Our rating: 3.67 out of 5 

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan (TVMA) is an Amazon original. Here we get to see how Jack Ryan first went from CIA analyst to working in the field. This larger than life character, that we’re more familiar with from movies, is made more relatable when played on the small screen by John Krasinski. He’s not just some guy from the office (or “The Office,” for all those doubting his casting here) – he was in the military, he’s in good shape, and he quickly learns how to operate in the field. You get a more in-depth telling of the story here, than in movies, as the action is spread out over 8 episodes. We look forward to finishing this season and seeing what happens in season 2 (in 2019).
Not rating until we’ve finished Season 1.

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Relationships Full of Wonder


What to Watch in the Theater:
A-X-L (PG) is in theaters now. This SciFi film is about a boy bonding with a lost dog, only there’s a catch. The dog is really a super advanced artificial intelligence machine owned by the military. So while the boy has made a connection with the robotic animal and they both learn about its abilities, the military is watching, to see how their creation handles the real world. It’s a fun action movie, that’s family friendly and has some heart.
Our rating: 4 out of 5


The Happytime Murders (R) is in theaters now. Don’t let the presence of puppets fool you – this is definitely NOT a family-friendly film. It’s an interesting story about murder, that reunites a human cop and her former partner, a puppet who’s now a private investigator. When the cast of a favorite show starts getting picked off one by one, Phil Philips seems a little too close for comfort. They don’t get along, but Edwards (Melissa McCarthy) is on the case, which brings up their past. It’s an interesting story, with major props for the inventiveness of it all. This is a side of the Henson shop we never expected to see – dirty, gritty, but still creative as ****.
Our rating: 4.25 out of 5


The House with a Clock in Its Walls (PG) opens today. This story, about an orphan boy discovering his uncle is a warlock who lives in a magic house, is an exciting romp full of special effects and excellent casting. Jack Black and Cate Blanchett wield the magic, and Owen Vaccaro (as young Lewis) learns that with great magic comes a LOT of responsibility. Owen is pleased to be learning magic, but he tries to impress the wrong schoolmate and ends up in a bad situation that could lead to the end of the world. There are some pretty scary images for a PG-rated film, so this one may not be for the youngest kids.
Our rating: 4.5 out of 5

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
Sierra Burgess is a Loser (PG13) is a Netflix original. This teen rom com drama follows the title character as she catfishes a guy who’s texting her, thinking that she’s the popular cheerleader, Veronica. They fall for each other via text and phone, but things get complicated when he wants to FaceTime and meet in person. It becomes a modern version of the Cyrano story, with Sierra and Veronica bonding as they help each other mislead boys. The story is full of teen angst and sweet at times, although we don’t approve of the deception and find elements of the story completely unbelievable. It’s still an entertaining version of the classic tale.
Our rating: 2.25 out of 5 (Max gave it a “skip” – others averaged 3.375)

Insatiable (TVMA) is a Netflix original series, about spiteful teen, Patty, who’s trying to re-direct her life after being the fat girl and then getting thin. She still feels fat on the inside, so she tries to prove her beauty by working with Bob, a pageant coach, to win titles and get revenge. Patty is impulsive and does hurtful things to get back at those who hurt her, then feels remorse and has to work to make amends – over and over again. It’s a dark comedy full of over the top performances, where we learn all is not what it seems in this small town. The show is funny, smart, and wickedly entertaining, like a nighttime soap on steroids. Can’t wait to see what season 2 has in store! [Note for fans of Debby Ryan’s work for Disney, this show features very mature content. No “Jesse” here.]
Our rating: 2.83 out of 5 (Jen gave it a “skip” – others averaged 4.25)

Plus box office results, movie news, what’s out on DVD & Blu-Ray and more!