Fun Comes in All Ratings, Just Be Careful


What to Watch in the Theater:
SmallFoot (PG) opens today. This animated family film is about a community of Yetis coming to grips with the discovery of a mythical creature called a SmallFoot (aka human). There are some interesting parallels to real life, with Yeti characters ranging from believers in the SmallFoot (labeled as kooks), to skeptics, to elders who literally carry the law, and unquestioning followers of every aspect of the history and laws set forth by the elders. It’s a fun movie full of exploration of beliefs, songs, and larger than life characters. There are some great lessons to be learned, but they come about very naturally and in a highly entertaining way. It’s a smart movie, which can be enjoyed by all ages.
Our rating: 4.67 out of 5


Night School (PG13) opens today. We were concerned Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish would compete for laughs, but the pairing works very well, with Kevin playing his usual over-the-top character and Tiffany playing a convincing no-nonsense teacher with wit and heart. The supporting cast brings extra fun to the ensemble, with a lot of laugh out loud silliness and great camaraderie. Our only concern is that the humor is quite a bit more adult than we’d expect for a PG13 film. It’s a good time, but not recommended for the younger kids.
Our rating: 4.17 out of 5

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
Midnight Sun (PG13) is available on DVD. This teen drama follows Katie, played by Bella Thorne, a teen who suffers from a disease that requires her to stay out of the sun, or risk death. She leads a relatively happy life, with her overprotective dad homeschooling her, a best friend who visits often, and her music. When she finally meets the boy she’s been crushing over for years, her world is turned upside down. We’re along for the highs and lows as Charlie (Patrick Schwarzenegger) gives her the time of her life. There are some small plot holes, but they’ve fit quite a happy and sad story into a 90-minute film. Not bad at all for a teen drama where Bella Thorne doesn’t play the mean girl, and sings.
Our rating: 3.67 out of 5 

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan (TVMA) is an Amazon original. Here we get to see how Jack Ryan first went from CIA analyst to working in the field. This larger than life character, that we’re more familiar with from movies, is made more relatable when played on the small screen by John Krasinski. He’s not just some guy from the office (or “The Office,” for all those doubting his casting here) – he was in the military, he’s in good shape, and he quickly learns how to operate in the field. You get a more in-depth telling of the story here, than in movies, as the action is spread out over 8 episodes. We look forward to finishing this season and seeing what happens in season 2 (in 2019).
Not rating until we’ve finished Season 1.

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Relationships Full of Wonder


What to Watch in the Theater:
A-X-L (PG) is in theaters now. This SciFi film is about a boy bonding with a lost dog, only there’s a catch. The dog is really a super advanced artificial intelligence machine owned by the military. So while the boy has made a connection with the robotic animal and they both learn about its abilities, the military is watching, to see how their creation handles the real world. It’s a fun action movie, that’s family friendly and has some heart.
Our rating: 4 out of 5


The Happytime Murders (R) is in theaters now. Don’t let the presence of puppets fool you – this is definitely NOT a family-friendly film. It’s an interesting story about murder, that reunites a human cop and her former partner, a puppet who’s now a private investigator. When the cast of a favorite show starts getting picked off one by one, Phil Philips seems a little too close for comfort. They don’t get along, but Edwards (Melissa McCarthy) is on the case, which brings up their past. It’s an interesting story, with major props for the inventiveness of it all. This is a side of the Henson shop we never expected to see – dirty, gritty, but still creative as ****.
Our rating: 4.25 out of 5


The House with a Clock in Its Walls (PG) opens today. This story, about an orphan boy discovering his uncle is a warlock who lives in a magic house, is an exciting romp full of special effects and excellent casting. Jack Black and Cate Blanchett wield the magic, and Owen Vaccaro (as young Lewis) learns that with great magic comes a LOT of responsibility. Owen is pleased to be learning magic, but he tries to impress the wrong schoolmate and ends up in a bad situation that could lead to the end of the world. There are some pretty scary images for a PG-rated film, so this one may not be for the youngest kids.
Our rating: 4.5 out of 5

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
Sierra Burgess is a Loser (PG13) is a Netflix original. This teen rom com drama follows the title character as she catfishes a guy who’s texting her, thinking that she’s the popular cheerleader, Veronica. They fall for each other via text and phone, but things get complicated when he wants to FaceTime and meet in person. It becomes a modern version of the Cyrano story, with Sierra and Veronica bonding as they help each other mislead boys. The story is full of teen angst and sweet at times, although we don’t approve of the deception and find elements of the story completely unbelievable. It’s still an entertaining version of the classic tale.
Our rating: 2.25 out of 5 (Max gave it a “skip” – others averaged 3.375)

Insatiable (TVMA) is a Netflix original series, about spiteful teen, Patty, who’s trying to re-direct her life after being the fat girl and then getting thin. She still feels fat on the inside, so she tries to prove her beauty by working with Bob, a pageant coach, to win titles and get revenge. Patty is impulsive and does hurtful things to get back at those who hurt her, then feels remorse and has to work to make amends – over and over again. It’s a dark comedy full of over the top performances, where we learn all is not what it seems in this small town. The show is funny, smart, and wickedly entertaining, like a nighttime soap on steroids. Can’t wait to see what season 2 has in store! [Note for fans of Debby Ryan’s work for Disney, this show features very mature content. No “Jesse” here.]
Our rating: 2.83 out of 5 (Jen gave it a “skip” – others averaged 4.25)

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Diversity on Big and Small Screens


What to Watch in the Theater:
The Darkest Minds (PG13) is in theaters now. This dystopian film, based on a YA book series, features a good assortment of characters, led by talented teen Amanda Stenberg. There’s a virus that wipes out the majority of children. Those who survive have varying degrees of powers, which adults feel is threatening, so the kids are either executed or confined to camps, depending on their power level. The story follows a group of children trying to find a place to live freely, never knowing who to trust. It’s an entertaining film, but the theme seems a little played out, as evidenced by its lack of interest at the box office.
Our rating: 3.67 out of 5


Crazy Rich Asians (PG13) is in theaters now. This fish out of water comedy features an all-Asian cast, portraying the insanely rich family and friends of lead Nick Young, and his girlfriend, Rachel, who’s meeting them for the first time, after just learning that Nick’s family is wealthy. It’s a fun romp, including some standout comedic moments from Awkwafina and Ken Jeong. It’s interesting to see how the different family members deal with each other, and feel threatened by a level-headed, non-wealthy outsider. It’s great to see so much talent from the Asian community dominate in this highly entertaining film.
Our rating: 4.83 out of 5

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
To the Beat! (TVPG) is streaming on Netflix. This is director Jillian Claire’s debut, with a story about twin sisters vying against their neighbor/arch nemesis, to be backup dancers in a pop star’s music video. It’s a sweet teen story about family and integrity. Although flawed, it isn’t a bad first effort, and we’re glad to see Netflix is giving lower budget indie films a chance.
Our rating: 3.17 out of 5

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (TV14) is a Netflix original, based on the recent novel of the same name. Teen Lara Jean is horrified to learn that the private love letters she penned to a handful of boys as a sort of diary, were actually mailed to the boys. The aftermath has her entering into a fake relationship with one of the guys, while she tries to figure out her feelings for another. While it may be a bit predictable, the journey is enjoyable, and sure to get teen hearts fluttering. Lara Jean’s family is Asian-American, highlighting again that talented acting community that we don’t see often enough.
Our rating: 4.17 out of 5

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Remembering What’s Important


What to Watch in the Theater:
Disney’s Christopher Robin (PG) is in theaters now. This story, about a boy who grows into a man who forgets how to play, will pull on your heartstrings. It’s a cautionary tale we should all heed, with all our fuzzy Hundred Acre Woods friends along for the amusing and emotional ride. Anyone who grew up with these characters will realize just how wise a “bear of very little brain” really is. Here come the tears…
Our rating: 4.67 out of 5


The Spy Who Dumped Me (R) is in theaters now. This comedy, about a pair of besties who get caught up in international espionage, stars the incredibly funny Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon. The comedy chemistry is gold, and there are some great supporting players along for this incredibly raucous journey. Lots of inappropriate jokes and some violence, but a wonderful plot full of twists and turns, and it’s just so funny! Would love to see more from this pair!
Our rating: 4.17 out of 5

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
Like Father (TVMA) is a Netflix original. Rachel, played by Kristen Bell, gets dumped at the alter for being a workaholic. She then discovers her dad (played by Kelsey Grammer), who left when she was young, showed up to the wedding. They get drunk and end up going on her honeymoon cruise together. Their cruise mates are a great bunch who add fun to the story. It’s a sweet tale of a father attempting to mend fences, and a daughter resisting him at every turn.
Our rating: 3.83 out of 5

Father of the Year (TV14) is a Netflix original. If this is part of Adam Sandler’s longterm deal with Netflix, then we know why it was made. If not, it’s a mystery to us. Two childhood friends wonder which of their dads would win in a fight, and then the dads actually start a fight. David Spade plays an alcoholic screw-up of a dad, with a come and go Boston accent, who continues to mess up his son’s life. Some former Disney child stars and a good soundtrack save the movie from a pretty pointless plot.
Our rating: 3 out of 5

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