Discovering a New Reality

instant

What to Watch in the Theater:
Instant Family (PG13) is in theaters now. This comedy shows the struggles of new foster families, focusing on the difficulties one couple has adapting to their new family, which now includes a teen girl and two younger siblings. Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne deftly communicate the highs and lows of this tale, which is based on a true story. Isabela Moner is great as the angsty teen, and there’s lots of comedy relief provided by other characters, like family members and other couples in the foster parents group. It’s a fun film full of laughs and a big dose of heart.
Our rating: 4.33 out of 5

canyou

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (R) is in limited release. This movie is based on the true story of Lee Israel, a down-on-her-luck author who finds she can make a decent living by forging literary letters, and then selling them. She takes great pride in her work, but unfortunately runs afoul of the law. It’s an interesting tale, and although it’s a different type of role for Melissa McCarthy, we enjoyed her turn in this dramatic role.
Our rating: 4 out of 5

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
Three Identical Strangers (PG13) is available on DVD. This documentary brings to light the real-life saga of identical triplets who discover each other, completely by accident, at age 19.  Although they’re ecstatic to find each other and share their story with the world, their reunion brings up a lot of questions. We learn all about the adoption agency and their deliberate choice to separate the boys and adopt them out to different families. It’s an eye-opening story about manipulation and the bonds of family.
Our rating: 4.17 out of 5

The Princess Switch (not rated) is a Netflix original movie. This holiday movie has a Prince and the Pauper meets Parent Trap storyline, with Vanessa Hudgens playing the dual roles of Duchess Margaret, from fictitious Montenaro, and Stacy, the baker from Chicago. Even though the story is incredibly predictable, it’s fun to watch the two romances – and cases of mistaken identity – play out.
Our rating: 3.83 out of 5

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Fantasy Takes Many Forms

nutcracker

What to Watch in the Theater:
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (PG) is in theaters now. Loaded with lavish scenery, costumes and CGI, this story walks the fine line between an homage to the original Nutcracker story and beloved ballet and the invention of something new and original.  This story takes Clara on a much bigger journey, where she plays a more active role in the new lands she discovers. The visuals are stunning and the cast is captivating, but Disney took a big risk with this film’s overblown budget. We found the blend of old and new to be just right for a new take on a very old tale, with strong female characters and important messages.
Our rating: 3.67 out of 5

fangrin

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (PG13) opens today. This sequel has a bit more action and fewer creatures than the original, with Newt and friends almost taking a backseat to the larger characters of Dumbledore, Grindelwald and Hogwarts itself. There are even more players, all searching for Creedence and his origin, which makes it difficult to tell who’s on which side. The set up for a sequel is more obvious with this one. And although we liked the first better, we look forward to seeing what’s next, and hope to spend more time in Newt’s magical suitcase next time.
Our rating: 4.17 out of 5

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
Daphne and Velma (G) is available on DVD. This prequel shows us how the female half of Mystery, Inc. came to be. It’s fun to celebrate the brains and ingenuity of these two, as their partnership (and friendship) develops. There’s something strange happening to the smartest kids in school, and Daphne and Velma have to work through some of their own issues before they can solve the mystery. It’s a fun origin story, without a lot of the stereotypical Scooby Doo stuff (other than the girls’ outfits).
Our rating: 3.5 out of 5

Hotel Artemis (R) is available on DVD. This is the story of a fictional hotel, where criminals have memberships that allow them to stay and receive medical attention, while laying low. Jodie Foster and Dave Bautista are perfect as The Nurse and Everest, respectively, the only staff at the hotel. An interesting group of characters fills out this very violent story, as we learn how they are connected to each other. It’s a compelling premise that would make a good episodic.
Our rating: 4 out of 5

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Based on Something That Came Before

bohemian

What to Watch in the Theater:
Bohemian Rhapsody (PG13) is in theaters now. True Queen fans will find this film takes a lot of poetic license with the details (especially dates), but that doesn’t take away from the overall celebration of the artistry of this band and its lead singer, Freddie Mercury. The music is a character in itself, gleefully carrying this film back to the 70s and into the 80s, as the story is bookended by Queen’s triumphant Live Aid performance of 1985. It’s not your typical rock ‘n’ roll biopic, with a PG13 rating, but then there was nothing typical about this band. Freddie kept his private life just that, and this movie stays true to that aspect, reveling in the creativity of this legendary group, without revealing too much.
Our rating: 5 out of 5

grinch

The Grinch (PG) opens today. This movie returns the beloved Dr. Seuss story to animation, with a glimpse behind the self-imposed isolation of the Grinch. There’s more of his daily life shown, including a shopping trip into Whoville and his interactions with the citizens, who surprisingly don’t regard him with any fear or disdain. We see more of his relationship with dog, Max, and the devotion they have to each other. This is a much more relatable Grinch than we got in the very dark Jim Carrey live action version – we’re actually rooting for him – and Benedict Cumberbatch is the perfect voice talent for the job. For us, Dr. Seuss’ work just translates better to animation than live action. This is a new family classic we’d be happy to add to our shelf, right next to the original 1966 version.
Our rating: 4.33 out of 5

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
Forever My Girl (PG) is available on DVD. This romance is about an aspiring country singer who leaves his love at the alter, and makes it big on the road. Eight years later, he returns for a friend’s funeral, only to discover he has a daughter. Everything about this movie is predictable, but it’s a pleasant watch, if you like that kind of thing.
Our rating: 2.83 out of 5

Outlaw King (R) is a Netflix original about Scottish king Robert the Bruce. This story takes place shortly after the events of Braveheart, at the turn of the 14th century. As Scotland bows to England, Robert is momentarily in favor with the king, and settles into life with his young daughter and new bride. He organizes a new rebellion, which separates him from his family. The torture and battle scenes are long and graphic – these are incredibly brutal times! There’s some good acting here, but if you’re not into medieval history and/or war movies, this may not be your cup of tea. Warning: Chris Pine’s naughty bits are on display, and there’s some female nudity as well.
Our rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Some Things are More Compelling Than Others

bad

What to Watch in the Theater:
Bad Times at the El Royale (R) is in theaters now. This thriller follows a group of individuals, all staying at an unusual lodge during the off season in the late 1960s. We learn about the occupants of each room, as disturbing events unfold, and see how the guests (and the only staff member on premises) interact and become connected. The story is compelling, as it’s told from different perspectives, with backstories intertwined. There’s quite a bit of violence, but that didn’t detract from the gripping story, which kept us engaged to the very end.
Our rating: 4.67 out of 5

gun

The Old Man & the Gun (PG13) opens today. This movie is based on a true story, about a charming bank robber with no intention of changing his ways. Robert Redford plays the likable older thief, with Casey Affleck as the cop who makes it his mission to find and arrest him. Sissy Spacek plays the later in life love interest. Reminiscent of other recent heist movies starring older actors, this one doesn’t provide many plot twists, but it’s still a pleasant watch.
Our rating: 4 out of 5

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell (TVPG) is a Netflix original series. This show features elaborate confections produced by the owner of a quirky household that includes unusual (somewhat creepy) animal characters. It’s part sitcom, part cooking show, and full of Henson creations. Food AND puppets?!? We’re on board for the long haul with this one!
Our rating: 4.33 out of 5

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (TV14) is a Netflix original series. Based on the darker, more recent comic book iteration, this is not at all the Sabrina we know and love. And boy, do we love us some Sabrina – watched every episode. This one is much creepier and more violent than the sitcom version, and we’re having trouble getting past the first episode.
Not rating until we watch more, if we do.

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