Jungle Beat

Posted on June 25, 2020 at 5:15 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated G
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Mild peril
Diversity Issues: A metaphorical theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: June 26, 2020
Copyright Timeless Films 2020

“Jungle Beat” is welcome as a rare G-rated animated feature, even if it confirms the stereotype of “for all audience” films as a bit babyish and slow. Young children may enjoy the colorful jungle animal characters and sweet storyline about hugs and affirmations but anyone over age nine may find that it is overlong and a bit dull. It’s better suited to its original form as a TV series.

A group of jungle animals are surprised to find that all of a sudden they can not only talk but speak fluent English (in the series it’s just pointing and grunting). A new arrival, a purple alien from another planet named Fneep (Ed Kear), has a communications device that gives anyone nearby the power of speech. The animals are very excited and happy, especially the monkey named Munki (David Menkin) and the elephant named Trunk (Ina Marie Smith), Rocky the hippo Rocky (also David Menkin) and Humph the hedgehog (David Guerrasio). They are happy to have Fneep as a friend and offer to help him get back to his spaceship, which has crashed in another part of the jungle.

What they don’t know is why Fneep has come to earth. The people (for want of a better word) of his planet have only one goal, conquering as many planets as possible. This is Fneep’s first time, and if he does not conquer earth, it will be a humiliating defeat. Humiliation is one of what are apparently only two emotions on Fneep’s planet. The other is triumph. There is a funny scene when Freep tries to press the help button on the crashed spaceship letting us know that on Freep’s planet, failure is literally not an option.

The character design is just fair but the animation has some vigor and a strong sense of three-dimensional spaces that keep the action scenes lively. It takes a while to get there but the sweet message of friendship and kindness is delivered sweetly and it is all too rare to see a story where being nice is triumph of its own.

Parents should know that this movie has some mild peril and hurtful parental disapproval.

Family discussion: What does friendship feel like to you? Why didn’t Fneep’s planet know about kindness and friendship? Would you like to explore other planets?

If you like this, try: “Planet 51” and “Monsters vs. Aliens”

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Movies for the Homebound IX: Animation

Posted on May 17, 2020 at 12:17 pm

Every family is familiar with the Disney and Pixar classics, which are ideal for families who are looking for something to watch at home. Here are some outstanding animated films from other studios to add to your viewing list.

The Thief and the Cobbler There’s a bit of controversy about this wonderful movie due to creative clashes, which you can learn more about in the behind-the-scenes documentary and “recobbled” version. But the theatrical release, with voice talent by Jonathan Winters, Matthew Broderick, Vincent Price and Jennifer Beals is a visually dazzling fairy tale that is genuinely enchanting.

Copyright 2016 Focus
Kubo and the Two Strings I am the biggest fan of LAIKA Studios and their exquisite stop-motion films, and it is hard to pick a favorite. “Coraline,” “Paranorman,” “The Box Trolls,” and “The Missing Link” are all beautifully designed with wonderful stories that don’t shrink back from exploring the dark and scary. “Kubo and the Two Strings” is about the son of a depressed mother who sets off with Monkey (Charlize Theron) to find the three pieces of Hanzo’s armor that he will need to fight the evil sisters and their father, who wants Kubo’s eye. Along the way they meet a samurai who has been cursed and turned into a giant beetle (Matthew McConaughey). And they meet and fight three different monsters, a giant skeleton, an underwater garden of eyes, and an enormous, floating, reticulated moon serpent, each giving Kubo a chance to discover his courage and power.mThis is a gorgeous, epic adventure with grandeur, scope, and spectacular settings, every bit of it wonderfully imaginative.

Kung Fu Panda: Jack Black provides the voice for Po, a panda with an unlikely ambition — he wants to be a kung fu master. But he is rejected by the teacher, Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), and the Furious Five; Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Crane (David Cross), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Viper (Lucy Liu), and Mantis (Seth Rogen). Po is not a natural. He says dejectedly, “I probably sucked more than anyone in the history of kung fu…more than anyone in the history of sucking.” He admits to Shifu that he only stayed “because I thought if anyone could change me, make me not me, it was you.” But Po will learn that the source of his strength is what no one can teach him — his sincerity and humility. Po will find within himself the strength, focus, and resolve to face Tai Lung. Followed by two sequels.

Surf’s Up: This story about a penguin (think very cold weather) who wants to surf (think very warm weather) is beguiling, thanks to vibrant visuals, superb voice talent, wit without ironic air quotes or snark, a sweet storyline, and a brisk running time. Like the sport it salutes and the island where it takes place, the movie has a laid-back vibe, taking its story, its humor, and itself lightly.

Spirited Away: Studio Ghibli’s Hayao Miyazaki makes wildly imaginative, almost dreamlike films. Do not try to find a linear narrative, just enjoy the magic. A girl named Chihiro is on her way to move to a new city with her parents when they take a detour to what seems to be an abandoned amusement park. However, the park is filled with magical creatures and her parents are turned into pigs. Chihiro must grow up quickly in this exotic world not only to save her parents, but to survive. Other Studio Ghibli films to try: “Ponyo,” “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” “Princess Mononoke”

Wallace & Gromit Nick Parks’ stop-motion films are delightfully — and literally — hands-on. You can see fingerprints on the charming characters, the dim human Wallace and his ever-patient dog Gromit. All of their adventures are delightful in a slyly low-key manner, but I suggest starting with the first. Wallace is a fan of cheese, so why not go to the moon to find some?

Yellow Submarine: The Beatles have to save Pepperland from the Blue Meanies in this gorgeous musical adventure with some of the world’s best music (“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “Eleonor Rigby,” “Nowhere Man,” “All You Need is Love,” “When I’m 64”) and some of the world’s most glorious animation.

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Animation For Your Netflix Queue Lists Movie Mom’s Top Picks for Families

Scoob!

Posted on May 15, 2020 at 3:15 am

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some action, language and rude/suggestive humor
Profanity: Some schoolyard language, brief strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Cartoon-style peril and action, some scary monsters, no one hurt
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters and issues of diversity
Date Released to Theaters: May 15, 2020

Copyright Warner Brothers 2020
Oh, jinkies, here they are again. You might think that the Scooby-Doo clan has exhausted every possible storyline for the members of Mystery, Inc. or, to put it another way, you might think that they have exhausted every possible variable on the theme of figuring out that what looks like some sort of paranormal phenomenon turns out to be some ordinary (but evil) person who would have gotten away with it except for those meddling kids.

If so, you’re pretty much right. But the gang’s first feature-length animated film sticks to the formula but winks at it a little bit, too. And those who have wondered how the gang first got together will get a chance to see them as kids on the fateful Halloween night when they met and solved their first mystery. You’ll even get to find out Shaggy’s real name.

We first see a lonely young Shaggy, maybe about 10 or 11 years old, walking to the beach and listening to songs about loneliness and a podcast from Ira Glass (as himself) about the importance of friends. The best Shaggy can manage is to start a conversation with two mounds of sand on the beach.

Hiding in one of the mounds with some gyro meat he stole is a puppy who can talk. Soon they are sharing an exotic sandwich that includes gummy bears and tater tots, Shaggy has named him after a packet of Scooby snacks, and they are the best of friends. They go trick or treating together as Shaggy’s favorite superhero, Blue Falcon and his sidekick Dyno-Mutt. When bullies steal his candy and throw it into the local spooky house, three kids come to the rescue: Fred (dressed as a knight), Daphne (Wonder Woman), and brainy Velma as Supreme Court (Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg). The kids retrieve the candy and solve the mystery of the creepy house. “We’ll go into the haunted house this one time, but we’re not going to make a habit of it,” Shaggy inaccurately predicts. In just a few moment, they’ve solved the mystery and unmasked the culprit, who says, come on, say it with me, “I would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for those meddling kids.” Cue the theme song.

And cut to present day, when the Mystery Inc. crew (Zac Efron as Fred, Will Forte as Shaggy, Amanda Seyfried as Daphne, and Gina Rodriguez as Velma) is seeking some investment funds to fix up the van and expand their operations. Simon Cowell (as himself) says he can see the value of Fred (muscle), Daphne (people person), and Velma (brains), but like many observers, he notes that Shaggy and Scooby don’t do much but eat sandwiches and get scared. And so, Shaggy and Scooby go off on their own adventure, which includes a new partnership with Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg), Dyno-Mutt (a delightfully dry Ken Jeong), and his pilot (the charming Kiersey Clemons of “Hearts Beat Loud” and the live action “Lady and the Tramp”). But this is the son of Blue Falcon, not quite the man his father was. Then there’s Dick Dastedly (Jason Isaacs, Lucious Malfoy in the Harry Potter films), who has all of the essentials for a supervillain, cool technology, an evil guy mustache, and a British accent. He’s after Shaggy and Scooby. Can the rest of the Mystery Inc. crew save them in time?

The CGI animation style is a departure from the traditional Scooby-Do Saturday morning aesthetic. But it is colorful, just the right mix of adventure and comedy, it benefits from top-notch voice talent (Tracy Morgan is a very funny caveman) and it is even witty at times, with some meta-commentary along with the usual silly wisecracks. A character describes Shaggy’s use of “like” all the time as “some middle-aged man’s idea pf how a teenage hippie talks.” There are the classic elements the fans will want like an abandoned amusement park and some un-masking, but also some new ideas, like the struggles of Blue Falcon 2.0 to be the hero his dad was. It is traditional enough to please the fans but contemporary enough to address (I’m not kidding) toxic masculinity and of course some nice reminders about the importance of friendship. And of the fun of movies for the whole family.

Parents should know that this film includes extended action-style peril and violence with some scary monsters. Characters use schoolyard language and make some threats and the movie has some potty and body part humor.

Family discussion: Why did Scooby leave when Shaggy asked him to stay? What kind of hero blames other people for his problems? Was there a time when you were scared or made a mistake but then learned to be braver or do better?

If you like this, try: The many, many other Scooby-Doo stories, especially “Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island” and “Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School”

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Animation Fantasy Movies Movies Mystery Series/Sequel Talking animals VOD and Streaming

Sing Along With the Beatles: Yellow Submarine

Posted on April 23, 2020 at 5:32 am

All aboard for the Yellow Submarine YouTube Dress-Up Sing-A-Long Watch Party!

This Saturday, 25th April, join in at 9am PDT (12pm EDT/5pm BST) for the Beatles’ celebration of love, music, and surfacing from strange seas into a beautiful world free of the Blue Meanies!

Dress-up as your favorite character from the film and escape with us to a place where, for a little while, nothing is real. Click the bell to set a reminder on this Watch Page.

Share your photos and videos of you singing along in your costumes at home and tag them #YellowSubLive. Following the film, they’ll be sharing your images and videos on Instagram Stories in the Yellow Submarine Sing-A-Long After-Party. For more info about the event visit: yellowsubmarine.com and check out #YellowSubLive

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Animation Cool Stuff Fantasy For the Whole Family Musical

The Willoughbys

Posted on April 22, 2020 at 4:00 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: Not rated
Profanity: Some schoolyard language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Peril, no one hurt
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: April 20, 2020
Copyright 2020 Netflix

There are oh so many stories for children about orphans and about people who are sent to live in creepy, mysterious old houses. The Willoughbys, based on the book by Lois Lowry, tweaks those and some of the other conventions of children’s stories, and turns some of them upside down. But one key element remains the same: children have an adventure. They are brave, they solve problems, they stick together, and they end up better off than they started. And all of that happens in a movie that is a a delight for the eyes, with wildly imaginative settings and clever details. There’s even a candy factory that’s half Willy Wonka and half Pac-Man.

Deliciously gruesome (but not quite as much as A Series of Unfortunate Events), it is the story of four red-headed siblings who live in a gothic mansion squeezed between skyscrapers, with acid narration from a nearby cat (Rickey Gervais).

The Willoughbys have lived there for generations and their history hangs heavily over them. Literally. There are huge portraits of ancestors, all sporting the thick yarn hair scowling down at today’s Willoughbys.

Also scowling, when they bother to notice them, are the Willoughby parents (Martin Short and Jane Krakowski), who devote all of their affection and attention to each other and can barely be bothered to notice that they have children, much less talk to them or feed them. The oldest is Tim (Will Forte, who worked with director Kris Pearns on “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2”). Then there’s his sister Jane who loves to sing (Canadian pop star Alessia Cara). By the time the twin boys were born, the Willoughby parents couldn’t be bothered to think of two names or provide them with two sweaters. So they are both called Barnaby and share one sweater between them.

In a conventional story of an intolerable home, you might expect the children to run away. But this is a story that likes to turn things upside down. Tim likes the house and is determined to uphold the grandeur he associates with the ancestors and the Willoughby name.  He and Jane come up with an idea: their parents should run away from home. So they arrange an extended trip for their parents, a trip that just might include some dangerous activities.

What they don’t expect is that their parents might send a nanny (Maya Rudolph, delightfully whacky).  Never having been treated with kindness, Tim does not trust her at first. Also, there is an orphan baby left on their front stoop. The children drop her off at a candy factory run by a a man who looks a little foreboding but also like he’s made of candy named Commander Melanoff (Terry Crews).

And so the Willoughby children end up going on an adventure that is colorful,  funny, exciting, and satisfyingly heartwarming. The government’s child protective services are unnecessarily demonized but the message of resilience that we can create the families we want if nature gets it wrong the first time is very welcome.

Parents should know that this movie includes comic peril and violence (no one hurt) and humorously portrayed child neglect and abandonment themes.

Family discussion:  How do Tim and Jane have different ideas about the way to solve their problems? Did you ever misunderstand someone’s words as Tim did with the nanny?

If you like this, try: “A Series of Unfortunate Events” and “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs”

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Animation Based on a book Family Issues Fantasy movie review Movies Movies VOD and Streaming
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