A Veritable Buffet of Movie Options


What to Watch in the Theater:
Welcome to Marwen (PG13) opens today. This movie is based on the true story of Mark Hogancamp, who was brutally beaten almost to death, but learned to live again through the creation of his own little town, filled with dolls who act out scenes that he photographs, thus giving him the therapy he needs. The women in his life support him, and he creates characters in his parallel world that represent them. This is a sad tale of perseverance, with a lot of special effects that bring the dolls to life on the screen. Although visually stunning, we wonder if the CGI-filled trailer will draw people in, expecting a different type of movie. Steve Carell shines in this dramatic  role.
Our rating: 4 out of 5


Aqua man (PG13) opens today. We knew this was going to be a big movie, and it was even bigger in IMAX. Not quite as dark as some recent DC movies, this one was a little campier, like a futuristic SciFi movie underwater, with dramatic camera shots and swelling music. This origin story, for the half-human, half-Atlantean Arthur, presents us with a likable, although at times reluctant, hero. Jason Mamoa fits the role perfectly. We’re not entirely sure about the other characters, including the de-aged trio of Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson and Nicole Kidman. In some ways this draws comparisons to Black Panther – like Wakanda, Atlantis is the thriving city we never even knew existed. It’s a fun watch and we can’t wait to see what Aquaman brings to the DC Universe in the future.
Our rating: 3.83 out of 5

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
The Nun (R) is on DVD. This prequel to the Conjuring series is bookended with clips from some of the other movies, just to set the stage. However, with Vera Farmiga’s younger sister in the main role, there was a little confusion about just how the stories related to each other.  The story centers on a nunnery in Romania, where a sister has taken her own life and been found by one of the local men. The Vatican sends a priest and novitiate to investigate, and they learn that the locals believe the convent is an evil place. They believe they have to vanquish the evil to save the remaining nuns. There were a lot of good jump scares here, but at least one of us felt this movie could’ve been scarier.
Our rating: 4 out of 5

Christmas Inheritance is streaming on Netflix. This story is about a spoiled young woman, the “party heiress,” who is forced to spend time with real people in a small town, as she transforms into a nicer, more giving person. Yes, it’s a familiar story, and one you’d normally expect to find on the Hallmark Channel. We’re not sure why Netflix wanted to venture into this territory, but they definitely nailed the formula. It’s not bad for a holiday redemption story – we were just really shocked to find it on Netflix.
Our rating: 3.33 out of 5

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Do We Need Another Movie About [fill in the blank]?


What to Watch in the Theater:
Anna and the Apocalypse (R) is in theaters now. Although we were split on the rating for this one, we could all agree to describe this film as “Shaun of the Dead” meets “High School Musical.” Teens Anna, John, Steph and Chris find themselves separated from their friends and loved ones when the zombie apocalypse strikes. There’s high school drama, as each has their own issues to deal with, but those fall by the wayside as they band together to journey across town and try to survive their shared ordeal. Of course there’s a lot of violence, but the gore seems less shocking because of the camp-ness. It’s a little distracting when they burst into song while fighting off zombies, but it’s a fun romp full of quirky British stuff, violence, music, teen angst and bad language.
Our rating: 4 out of 5


Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (PG) opens today. Going in, we wondered if we needed another animated version of Spider-man, or another origin story, for that matter. In this film, Miles Morales is a middle schooler who (of course) gets bit by a genetically modified spider. Not only does he gain powers, but he also briefly meets the “real” Spidey, before having to take over for him. The bad guy, KingPin, is trying to open a portal to parallel universes, and in the process, different forms of Spider-Man from those universes make their way into Miles’ Brooklyn one. The characters are interesting, and there are different goals and storylines woven together. Miles is still learning to use his powers, while trying to work with the other heroes. It’s a combination action-adventure and coming of age story that doesn’t disappoint.
Our rating: 4.33 out of 5

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (PG13) is streaming on Netflix. ANOTHER live action Jungle Book? Although there’s some impressive motion capture and a great voice cast, our one and only will forever be the original Disney animated version. We weren’t even big fans of the Disney live action version. This one has a side plot about a hunter and Mowgli’s experiences in the man village, which adds an interesting little twist, but not enough to keep us fully engaged. The human-like facial expressions of the animals are a little too weird for us, although we admire the technology used to produce it.
Our rating: 2 out of 5

Dumplin’ (PG13) is streaming on Netflix. Wait. Didn’t Netflix already DO something about beauty pageants? (Yes, it’s called Insatiable, and it’s an adult-themed series.) In this film, we meet a dysfunctional family headed by former beauty queen Rosie, played by Jennifer Aniston. Her daughter, Willowdean, is mourning the loss of her aunt (Rosie’s sister) who practically raised her while her mom was busy running a pageant. She and her aunt, Lucy, shared a love of Dolly Parton, and the movie is filled with Dolly’s music, including new pieces. Will doesn’t fit the normal profile of a beauty contestant, and decides to enter the pageant as a protest. She’s joined by other misfits from her school, and their journey of self-discovery is a compelling one. Full of healing, inspiration, good music and positive messages, we judge this one a winner.
Our rating: 4.67 out of 5

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Familiar Stories Get Tweaked


What to Watch in the Theater:
Robin Hood (PG13) is in theaters now. This big-budget retelling of the well-known Robin Hood story features some compelling stars, like Taron Egerton and Jamie Foxx, with lavish costumes and scenery. It’s a dark story with modern styling – the costumes and weapons technology are amazing, and the fight choreography is brilliant. Some of us are not big fans of this historical time period in general, and most of us only have the comedy and animated versions of this story to compare. It’s a fun actioner with a bit heavier emphasis on political messages. We think audiences should give this new version of the classic story a chance.
Our rating: 4.33 out of 5


The Possession of Hannah Grace (R) is in theaters now. This movie – about a former police officer and recovering addict who takes a night shift job at the morgue – has all the jump scares you need. But wait, there’s so much more. This is a seriously creepy movie, with an undead corpse that’s possessed by a demon. As if working at the morgue all alone, at night, isn’t bad enough? Megan, played by Shay Mitchell, meets challenges head on, even while doubting herself and trying to prove to herself and others that she can overcome her backstory. Strong female protagonist versus strong female (seriously creepy) antagonist equals a winner – not for the faint of heart!
Our rating: 4.25 out of 5

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
Life-Size 2 (TV14) is available on FreeForm and Hulu. Tyra Banks put her heart and soul into this long-awaited sequel, but took at G-rated movie and made it definitely not for kids. Fans of the original will love it or hate it, depending a lot on their age. The Eve doll character, played by Banks, is still fun and alternatingly clueless and deep, but with a more adult sensibility this time around. We’ve left the original storyline behind, so no Lindsay Lohan, and a different (now grown-up) girl brings the Eve doll to life. Of course this is a redemption movie, with Grace beginning the story as a spoiled party girl who can’t take responsibility for her own life, let alone run her mother’s company. It’s predictable, and there are some fun moments, but overall we just can’t get over going from squeaky-clean-fun to OMG-did-they-just-say-that? TV14 is a bit of a stretch here.
Our rating: 2.33 out of 5

Christmas Wonderland (TVG) is a Hallmark movie. This holiday film stars Emily Osment as Heidi, who left her hometown, and high school boyfriend, to pursue a career as a painter in the big city. She ended up working in a gallery, but not using her own art talents. When she returns to her small town as a favor to her sister, and gets stuck there for a while, she and the old boyfriend have to work together to throw the best Snow Ball dance ever. Of course they clash, and then rekindle, and she re-discovers her passion for painting. Oops – spoilers? Nah – it’s formulaic. You know the story already, the names, places and exact circumstances have just been tweaked to create yet another version of the same tale. And yet, it works. This is what Hallmark excels at – feel-good movies, at Christmas or any time of year.
Our rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Finding Something New


What to Watch in the Theater:
Ralph Breaks the Internet (PG) is in theaters now. In this Disney animated sequel, Ralph and Vanellope journey through the Internet, and we’re along to share in their wonder and confusion. The friends’ relationship is tested, and they have to figure out how to make things work so that both can enjoy their lives. There’s so much to experience, we’ll have to see this one again to take it all in. There are some good messages here, along with a lot of familiar Disney and online references – great fun for the whole family!
Our rating: 4.83 out of 5


Green Book (PG13) is in theaters now. This movie is based on the true story of Dr. Don Shirley, an African-American concert pianist who embarked on a tour of the deep south in the early 1960s. He employed Italian-American Tony Lip to drive him and help get him to his venues. As we observed the heartbreaking prejudice people of color were subjected to, we fought back tears through most of this movie. It’s a glimpse into a very difficult period in this country’s history, a moving story full of anger, violence, humanity, heart and hope.
Our rating: 4.83 out of 5

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
Upgrade (R) is available on DVD. This BH Tilt movie bears more than a passing resemblance to Venom. In a future where drones patrol the streets and criminals are getting weapons embedded in their arms, Grey and his wife are attacked – she is killed and he is left paralyzed. A reclusive billionaire offers him a secret implant that gives him the power to search for his wife’s killers. It’s not bad for a dystopian SciFi tale, with quite a bit of violence (though less graphic than some) and a couple of interesting twists.
Our rating: 3.67 out of 5

The Christmas Chronicles (TVPG) is a Netflix original movie. This holiday film sees Kurt Russell as Santa, who is grounded on Christmas Eve, after a couple of sad kids try to film him, and things go awry. Now they’re in it to save Christmas, and learn a few lessons a long the way. It’s a blend of the Santa Clause movies, Elf, and much more. Not an instant classic, but definitely a fun ride, with lots of cool new Santa tech, and a fun portrayal of the big (not so big) man with the bag (which you’ll never look at the same way). Our rating: 4 out of 5

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