Give and Take


What to Watch in the Theater:
The Hate U Give (PG13) is in theaters now. This story follows Starr, who finds herself between two worlds, where she feels like she’s two different people at her mostly white prep school and her mostly black, poor neighborhood. When she’s the only witness to  the killing of her childhood friend by a white police officer, Starr must figure out not only what’s best for her, but how to honor her slain friend and try to make a difference for the entire neighborhood. It’s a powerful movie that should be seen, no matter what your demographic.
Our rating: 4.5 out of 5


Johnny English Strikes Again (PG) opens today. Watching the original and first sequel helps a bit with the backstory of this bumbling spy, but it’s not required to enjoy the antics. Rowan Atkinson’s Johnny English is like a British Inspector Clouseau (from the Pink Panther movies). He screws everything up along the way, and it’s a wonder he makes it out alive. In this installment, English goes old school with the car and gadgets, and stays off the grid so he can’t be tracked by whomever is hacking the government. It’s a fun ride, as always!
Our rating: 4.25 out of 5

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
Little Monsters (PG) is available on Netflix. This “kids” movie was made in 1989, before PG13, and it’s quite obvious. The main issue is the language and one violent scene. Otherwise, it’s a fun story about Brian (played by a very young Fred Savage), who discovers there really are monsters under the bed, and Maurice (Howie Mandell), the monster he traps, who takes him to the under-the-bed world. Lots of pranks and less than stellar special effects, as you’d expect for the time period. Definitely not a Halloween movie for the youngest kids, but older ones might enjoy it, and parents will like the 80s nostalgia.
Our rating: 3.67 out of 5

Gnome Alone (PG) is a Netflix original. This animated film is about a girl named Chloe who discovers her spooky new house is filled with gnomes, who are trying to save the world. Chloe unknowingly makes their job harder, when she tries to impress the mean girl at school. There’s some great voice talent at work here, and although the gnomes could’ve just as well been some other type of creature, it’s an interesting premise with some fun action and good messages.
Our rating: 3.83 out of 5

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Spooky Stuff for Kids & Adults


What to Watch in the Theater:
Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (PG) is in theaters now. Friends Sonny and Sam accidentally bring to life Slappy, a creepy ventriloquial figure from one of Stine’s books. This sequel focuses on ONE of R.L. Stine’s creations, but he helps plenty of other frights come alive as Slappy takes control of Halloween night. It’s up to the kids to save their town, with some help from big sis, Sarah. This fun family adventure also features great comic relief by Ken Jeong.
Our rating: 4.33 out of 5


Halloween (R) opens today. We watched the original 1978 film in preparation for this one, and it turns out that was exactly the right thing to do. This direct sequel to that film takes place 40 years after the events of the original, with Laurie Strode still obsessing over Michael Myers and preparing for his eventual escape. Turns out she’s one smart lady, and not the kook everyone makes her out to be, when Michael DOES escape and another killing spree begins. Much more gory than the original, this movie does NOT disappoint in the scares and twists department.
Our rating: 4.25 out of 5

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
Thoroughbreds (R) is available on DVD. This story about two entitled teen girls who rekindle an old friendship after one euthanizes her horse in a very graphic way, would be better left untold. It was both boring and disturbing, and there was nothing to evoke sympathy to the plight of either of the main characters, who were just each incredibly annoying and uninteresting in their own ways. Solid acting from promising young actresses, and even Anton Yelchin’s final performance couldn’t save this one.
Our rating: Skip this one 

Maniac (TVMA) is a Netflix original miniseries. This sci-fi story takes place in the not-too-distant future, with Emma Stone and Jonah Hill as the lead characters. They each have their reasons for joining a dangerous pharmaceutical trial which taps into their dreams – he for money (and some sort of delusional quest?) and she to satisfy an addiction to one of the three drugs in the trial. We learn more about each of their lives (and how they become connected) as the episodes progress, and look forward to watching the rest of the series.
Not rating until we’ve finished all the episodes.

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

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.

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

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

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