Family Films for Spring Break

gnomes

What to Watch in the Theater:
Sherlock Gnomes (PG) is in theaters now. This animated sequel has a lot of fun bits for the whole family, although the plot is somewhat predictable. It’s got some good messages about not taking people for granted, dealing with different personality types, and discovering what’s really important in life.
Our rating: 3.67 out of 5

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Tomb Raider (PG13) is in theaters now. This reboot delves more into Lara Croft’s backstory, in addition to the requisite adventure. It seems like a blend of some other franchises, like the Mummy, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Journey to the Center of the Earth, with the wonderful addition of a kick-butt heroine. Alicia Vikander does a great job with both action and emotion, making us look forward to any sequels that might be on the horizon.
Our rating: 4.5 out of 5

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
The Breadwinner (PG13) This animated film about a family facing hard times in their native Afghanistan, is an eye-opener in its details about the treatment of women there. The story-within-a-story aspect lends a nice element of folklore that parallels the young heroine’s adventures, as she pretends to be a boy in order to help her family survive. We see shades of Mulan and Kubo here. Warning – this movie is rated PG13 for a brief depiction of violence against women.
Our rating: 4 out of 5

When We First Met (TV14) This Netflix original is a fun combination of Groundhog Day, Back to the Future and other iconic films, with its own twist. This film, about a guy making changes to get the girl and life of his dreams, has a great cast (especially Adam Devine) that makes the movie even more fun and heartwarming. Netflix has set the romcom bar high with this one.
Our rating: 4.5 out of 5

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Teens in Precarious Situations

simon

What to Watch in the Theater:
Love, Simon (PG13) is in theaters now. This teen romance with a twist is full of likable characters and some interesting plot devices that make Simon’s journey similar to solving a mystery. It’s a simultaneously sweet and heart-wrenching story about a boy with a secret, risking everything to find himself, and maybe even the love of his life. “Everyone deserves a great love story.”
Our rating: 4.5 out of 5

pacific

Pacific Rim Uprising (PG13) opens today. This sequel is an improvement on the original, with a bigger ensemble cast and more character development. We don’t see the big monsters (Kaiju) until later in the movie, as rogue Jaegers seem to pose the biggest threat this time around. This was a bit of a disappointment, but some good plot twists made up for that. This may not be for everyone, but it’s entertaining if you like mech and monster films – just make sure you see the original from 2013 before you watch this, or you’ll be lost.
Our rating: 4.25 out of 5

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
#RealityHigh (TV14) This exclusive to Netflix film is a teen angst film about a smart girl who suddenly gets the guy of her dreams, and then allows herself to get sidetracked by the popular crowd. It’s a familiar fish out of water story, with lots of social media drama thrown in – kind of like Mean Girls meets a lot of 80s movies. Love, Simon is a better choice if you want see see some high school drama.
Our rating: 2 out of 5

The Clapper (R) This is the story of a man who’s perfectly happy making a living as an audience member for infomercials. His life is turned upside down when a late-night talk show host starts a campaign to find him, and he chooses to go on the air to help find the girl he loves. The cast of this overlooked movie had us hopeful, but they have no chemistry and the story just isn’t that interesting. Better to just skip this one.
Our rating: 0 out of 5

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Lots of Genres, No Clear Winners

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What to Watch in the Theater:
A Wrinkle in Time (PG) is in theaters now. This highly anticipated film, based on a beloved children’s book, is a visually stunning ride full of larger than life (in Oprah’s case, literally) characters – at least that’s how we imagine it’s intended audience of 8-12 year olds might see it. It has good messages, but we wanted more science (enough to inspire kids rather than confuse them) and for the quirky characters to be more fun.
Our rating: 3 out of 5

strangers

The Strangers Prey at Night (R) is in theaters now. It was a bit distracting to see usually squeaky-clean Bailee Madison pulling off a troubled teen. This is a pretty typical slasher film – lots of cliches here, though it could have used more jump scares. It starts off a little slow for this genre, but if you like this type of film, it’s a fairly entertaining 85-minute ride.
Our rating: 3.5 out of 5

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
The Cloverfield Paradox (TVMA) This exclusive to Netflix film is another “chapter” in the Cloverfield universe.  A crew of international astronauts works together in space as a last ditch effort to solve Earth’s energy troubles. They end up in a parallel universe, with an additional crew member and a lot of questions, and the body count starts to mount as they try to get back to their own Earth. As far as SciFi horror goes, it’s suspenseful and thought-provoking, though sometimes confusing.
Our rating: 3.33 out of 5

The Foreigner (R) Jackie Chan’s character goes on a quest to find who’s responsible for a bombing which took his daughter’s life. He uses skills unusual for a restaurant owner, and he’s great at psychological warfare. Showing that he’s a little older now, there are fewer martial arts scenes that usual for a Jackie Chan film, but he’s relentless all the same. Increased volume or captioning during dialogue may be needed, due to thick Irish accents.
Our rating: 3.67 out of 5

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There’s No Such Thing as Too Much Jason Bateman

game

What to Watch in the Theater:
Game Night (R) is in theaters now. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams star as Max and Annie, a highly competitive couple who enjoy regular game nights with their friends. Max’s older brother returns to town and ups the stakes with a murder mystery night, which gets out of hand and turns way too real for the participants. This movie is a fun romp full of great characters, with enough twists and turns to keep the plot moving quickly in all kinds of directions.
Our rating: 4.5 out of 5

darkest

Darkest Hour (PG13) is in theaters and on DVD now. This drama, based on historical events, follows Winston Churchill through his first appointment as Prime Minister, during a pivotal point of WWII for Britain. We see him thrust into a precarious situation in 1940, featuring none other Dunkirk – a very popular subject for movies these days! Gary Oldman’s Oscar-worthy transformation for this role is apparent, and our interest in history has been piqued again.
Our rating: 4 out of 5

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
Step Sisters (PG13) This Netflix film about sorority sisters and competitive dancing rings familiar in a Pitch-Perfect-meets-The-House-Bunny kind of way. It’s got some nice messages about doing the right thing, working together as a team, and being true to yourself – all familiar messages in “college kids learn life lessons” movies. So it’s a little predictable, but the step dance and race relations issues are new ones to the mix, so two out of three of our team members found value in it.
Our rating: 2.33 out of 5

Ozark (TVMA) Continuing our Jason Bateman fest, we watched the entire first season of this super violent Netflix series about an investment advisor who moves his family to Lake of the Ozarks to continue laundering money for a drug cartel and avoid dying. The body count is high, and the plot thickens even more each week. Jason and Laura Linney are perfect in these dramatic roles, and the supporting characters add even more spice to this already piping hot concoction. Can’t wait to see what season 2 brings!
Our rating: 4.5 out of 5

We’re also enjoying season 1 of Arrested Development (TVPG) on Netflix  (also starring Jason Bateman) and will review it once we’ve watched further.

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