Flashbacks Everywhere, Except Where Pets Are Concerned


What to Watch in the Theater:
Dark Phoenix (PG13) opens today. The latest (and apparently last) installment in Fox’s X-Men franchise serves as an origin story for Jean Grey. Taking place several years before the very first film, this one features the younger version of the cast, previously seen in later movies featuring the earlier timeline. Confused? Except for some establishing flashbacks to 1973, the bulk of this movie takes place in 1992. The younger X-Men are now teachers, and we see them becoming a cohesive team of superheroes, on call to help America as needed. An accident in space amplifies Jean’s powers, causing her to lose control more often and hurt people she loves (again). But wait! If Jean (Sophie Turner) isn’t have enough inner turmoil, here’s Jessica Chastain as an alien villain, to complicate the plot and provide a reason for an epic fight scene on a speeding train. The story has moments of emotion and action that make the film entertaining enough, but it just doesn’t fit into the franchise well.
Our rating: 4 out of 5


The Secret Life of Pets 2 (PG) opens today. Everyone’s favorite animated pets return in this sequel, with some new additions of course. We get three separate storylines here. A very stressed-out Max visits a farm with his family. Gidget is charged with protecting his favorite toy while he’s gone, and it falls into the wrong hands. Snowball, as alter ego Captain Snowball, meets a new friend who needs his help rescuing another animal. This movie is funny and charming, and it’s great to see each character’s story arc and how they work together. The new characters, including Tiffany Haddish as Daisy, and Harrison Ford as Rooster, are great additions to the ensemble. This is a great one for the whole family.
Our rating: 4.75 out of 5 

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
Chasing Happiness (not rated) is streaming exclusively on Amazon Prime. This is the Jonas Brothers documentary you never knew you needed. Whether you’re a longtime fan, a new fan, or really just never knew about the JoBros, this is an interesting watch. We get to see how they started in showbiz as young kids, and became a singing group. As they revisit their childhood neighborhood, we learn about the important ties that were broken along the way, and how they persevered through many challenges. This film answers many questions about why they stepped back from the spotlight as a group, ultimately breaking up and pursuing their own projects, and why they’ve now chosen to reunite as a band.
Our rating: 4.17 out of 5

Always Be My Maybe (PG13) is streaming exclusively on Netflix. This rom com is a fresh and funny take on the relationship between childhood best friends who lose touch and then rediscover their love for each other as adults. Celebrity chef, Sasha, and small-town band member, Marcus, meet up again as the former is set to open a brand new restaurant in her hometown of San Francisco. The backstory part sweetly sets up this relationship for us, and it’s easy to see why these two must reconnect, even as they’re fighting it along the way. In some ways predictable, it’s still a relatable, comedic movie that will make you smile. The side characters are just as fun as the leads, with Keanu Reeves reminding us that comedy is something he does really well, despite the much darker roles he’s done recently.
Our rating: 4.17 out of 5

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

In honor of the Jonas documentary, Chasing Happiness, check out our blast-from-the-past interview with Frankie Jonas here.

A Lot to Love, in Many Genres


What to Watch in the Theater:
Aladdin (PG) is in theaters now. Although some of us aren’t fans of the Disney live action remakes, we found this musical to be a fun re-telling. We were initially concerned about Will Smith stepping into Robin Williams’ shoes as the genie, but he brings his own flavor to the role, without stepping on any toes. Naomi Scott really shines as Jasmine, with the addition of a female empowerment anthem to the soundtrack. Yes, there’s a LOT of CGI here, but it adds rather than detracts, enhancing the Disney magic of it all. In our library, this one can live in harmony with the animated original.
Our rating: 4.67 out of 5


Ma (R) opens today. A grown woman returns to her hometown with her teenaged daughter, who makes new friends pretty quickly. They are happily astonished to find refuge with a woman named Sue Ellen, who buys them alcohol and offers her basement for their parties. Of course, it’s not that simple, as piece by piece we learn the backstory of how the various characters are intertwined. We were intrigued to see Octavia Spencer as a villain, and this film definitely pours on the jump scares, creepiness, and a bit of gore. While the plot unravels in a pretty obvious direction, there are still some surprises.
Our rating: 4.5 out of 5 


Rocketman (R) opens today. This biopic leans heavily on fantasy to tell the story of Reginald Dwight’s upbringing, and how he became Elton John. There are bound to be comparisons to Bohemian Rhapsody, with overlap in timeframe and management, but there’s no glossing over the sex, drugs & rock’n’roll here – hence the R rating. This is a fun showcase for John’s earlier work, with songs fit in where they are appropriate to the storyline, rather than chronologically. In addition to re-creations of his actual appearances, we get some fantastical production numbers accompanying the biographical info. Taron Egerton really shines, fully embodying the lead superstar role.
Our rating: 4.67 out of 5 

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):

The Perfection (TVMA) is streaming exclusively on Netflix. This is the story of cellist Charlotte, who just wants to make things right after having to pass on her big break to take care of her ailing mother. She inserts herself back into the lives of her former teachers and the prodigy who took her place, Lizzie. Things get pretty twisted from there, including some gross and gory scenes. Plot twists and flashbacks abound, making this movie a compelling and thrilling ride.
Our rating: 4.25 out of 5

Plus box office results, movie news, the latest DVD and Blu-Ray releases, what’s coming to Netflix and Hulu in June, and more.

Overt Violence at the Box Office


What to Watch in the Theater:
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (R) is in theaters now. This shoot ’em up sequel picks up right where Chapter 2 ended, during Wick’s one-hour head start before he’s declared excommunicado by the High Table, and the contract on his head is activated. The body count grows, as he tries to call in favors and establish new alliances. Winston and the Bowery King are punished for helping Wick, and there’s a major battle for control of the Continental. This movie is one long fight scene after another, stitched together by small plot points and questionable allegiances. The choreography becomes a bit tiresome after a while.
Our rating: 3.75 out of 5


Poms (PG13) is in theaters now. Martha moves to a retirement community, essentially just to die, but decides to embark on a bucket list activity – becoming a cheerleader. She enlists the help of her neighbors, and they face a lot of obstacles on their road to a competition. This movie features some amusing, although almost caricature-ish older female characters, although Diane Keaton’s lead role is a bit of a disappointment. There’s a nice blend of old and new generations, and some good messages about friendships.
Our rating: 3 out of 5 


Brightburn (R) opens today. This movie turns the traditional Superman origin story into a horror, with 12-year-old Brandon discovering his superhuman powers, along with the backstory his loving adoptive parents never shared with him before. As puberty hits, he secretly goes on a violent rampage in his small town, resulting in some serious gore (not suitable for anyone who is squeamish). This film moved briskly along and the story was compelling, with some good jump scares.
Our rating: 4.5 out of 5 

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):

Good Sam (TVPG) is streaming exclusively on Netflix. We follow TV news reporter, Kate, as she tries to learn the identity of the good samaritan who keeps leaving sacks of cash on the doorsteps of deserving individuals in need. In the process, she develops relationships with two men, who may or may not be directly involved in the case. Think of this as a Netflix Hallmark movie – not overly complex, but a pleasant enough watch.
Our rating: 3.33 out of 5

Plus box office results and our interview with Dreamworks animator, Simon Otto, about How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.

A Journey with Purpose


What to Watch in the Theater:
The Hustle (PG13) is in theaters now. In this gender-switch re-imagining of the 1988 classic Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Josephine (Anne Hathaway) is a high class con artist and Penny (Rebel Wilson) is a small-time operator. When their paths cross in the south of France, they are adversaries, with each trying to get the upper hand. They work together, but ultimately come up with a winner-takes-all scam. Like the male version, their characters can be a bit annoying and over the top, but that’s the beauty of the con – you never get to see what the person is like on the inside, or do you? This is a fun movie with some good twists.
Our rating: 4.33 out of 5


A Dog’s Journey (PG) opens today. In this sequel, we rejoin Ethan and the reincarnated Bailey on the farm, with the addition of granddaughter CJ. Ethan gives Bailey a new purpose for his future lives – to keep CJ safe – and off we go, watching Bailey die and come back as a puppy again and again. The story is surprisingly fresh, given the repeat premise, with some new story points added to the mix. This one may have sparked even more emotions than the first, given the ties between Ethan and CJ, and Bailey’s desire to protect CJ from all the bad things life had in store for her. Make sure you have some tissues handy – this one, like the original, is a real tearjerker (but in a good way).
Our rating: 4.5 out of 5 

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
Brigsby Bear (PG13) is available on DVD. In this quirky story, James has lived his whole life (20-something years) in a survival bunker, thinking the outside world was toxic. In reality, he was stolen as an infant, and his family has been searching for him. Upon his return, they learn he is obsessed with an educational TV show no one else has seen, called Brigsby Bear. It turns out his captor “father” had produced the show just for him. James sets out to find closure by producing his own Brigsby movie, with help from his new friends, and his family thinks he has issues. James is awkward, obsessive, and sometimes sweet in his naivete, and we were pretty distracted by Mark Hamill as the kidnapper.
Our rating: 3.5 out of 5

Wine Country (R) is streaming exclusively on Netflix. This movie reunites a bunch of SNL women, who play a group of friends that worked at a pizza joint when they were young. They get together in Napa to celebrate one friend’s 50th birthday, and we learn about their issues and personalities. It’s a little predictable that there are communication issues and bad feelings grow within the group, till they get to the breaking point. There’s a bit of raunch, a lot of foul language, and a lot less comedy than this group is capable of.
Our rating: 1.83 out of 5

Plus box office results and our interview with Annie Award-winning Dreamworks animator, Thomas Grummt, about How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.