Wendell & Wild

Posted on October 27, 2022 at 5:49 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some thematic material, violence, substance use and brief strong language.
Profanity: Some schoolyard language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Fantasy substance use
Violence/ Scariness: Creepy horror-style violence, sad death of parents, zombies, demons, underworld, some grisly images
Diversity Issues: Race, gender, trans, and disability inclusion, negative portrayal of religious figures
Date Released to Theaters: October 28, 2022

Copyright 2022 Netflix
Henry Selick, master of the macabre and of stop motion animation (“Coraline,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “James and the Giant Peach”) has produced another Halloween-ish delight. The movie is as visually stunning and deliciously creepy as we have come to hope for from Selick but the story is not as strong as his Neil Gaiman/Roald Dahl/Tim Burton collaborations, even though it is co-written with Jordan Peele, who co-stars with his “Key and Peele” collaborator Keegan-Michael Key. But it does have a brave young heroine (Lyric Ross as Kat), wildly imaginative visuals that reward a second and third viewing, and some nicely satisfying twists. It is also a welcome animated film with a cast that bridges racial, gender, and disability diversity.

Like Coraline, Kat is a brave girl with instinctive integrity, though something of a loner. We first see her as an eight-year-old, with her loving parents, who own a successful brewery her father describes as “the heart of” their town, Rust Bank. When we first see her parents, they are turning down an offer to buy the brewery after a successful fund-raiser for the local public library, where her mother works. On the way home, their car runs off a bridge. Kat’s parents save her, but cannot save themselves. And she blames herself.

Meanwhile, in the underworld, souls are sent to The Scream Fair,” a ghostly un-amusement park located on the belly of a gigantic devilish guy named Buffalo Belzer (Ving Rhames). His human-sized sons, Wendell (Key) and Wild (Peele) are ordered to spread Handsome hair cream on Buffalo’s head to re-grow his hair. They discover that the cream has some special properties. It tingles their tummies. It gives them a vision of a “hellmaiden.” And it brings dead things back to life.

Five years later, after getting into trouble several times, Kat is sent to a Catholic boarding school bask in Rust Bank. Now with green hair, pierced eyebrow, and a lot of attitude, she insists she has no interest in the offers of friendship from the other students, including “prize poodle” and alpha girl Siobhan Klaxon (Tamara Smart), who has a pet baby goat and wants to call Kat “KK,” and trans boy Raul (Sam Zelaya). “I don’t do friends. Bad things happen to people I’m close to….They die.”

Wendell and Wild dream of building their own, much bette amusement park. Buffalo calls them insurrectionists and sends them to prison. Their only hope is to escape the underworld with the assistance of a hellmaiden. Conveniently, though she does not know it yet, one named Kat has just arrived in Rust Bank, and they have something she wants more than anything…a way to bring her parents back from the dead.

It turns out there is another hell maiden at the school. When she finds that Wendell and Wild have a more destructive plan, Kat learns to accept help from unexpected sources.

It is…strange. The various pieces do not always work together. But it is fascinating to watch, with details that reward repeated viewings and a reassuringly warm heart.

Parents should know that this movie includes creepy and sometimes grisly themes and images including the underworld and demoons, zombies, the dead brought back to life, sad death of parents, corruption including members of the church, brief strong language and fantasy substance abuse.

Family discussion: Why do people want to make money from prisons? Why did Wendell and Wild want to make an amusement park?

If you like this, try: “Coraline,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Beetlejuice,” “ParaNorman,” and “James and the Giant Peach”

Related Tags:

 

Animation Fantasy movie review Movies -- format Movies -- Reviews Stories About Kids Thriller

DC Area — Join Me for a Free Screening of the Family Film “The Railway Children” on September 19 2022!

Posted on September 13, 2022 at 6:47 pm

If you’re in the Washington DC area, you can join me for a free screening of the family film “The Railway Children,” loosely based on the classic book by beloved children’s author E. Nesbit. Three evacuee children are sent by their mother to the rural English countryside to escape the bombings during WWII. A dangerous adventure ensues when they discover injured US soldier Abe, hiding out in the railyard.

RSVP here before Friday September 16, 2022. Hope to see you there!

Copyright 2022 Blue Fox Entertainment
Related Tags:

 

Based on a book Contests and Giveaways Kids Stories About Kids Trailers, Previews, and Clips War

The Tiger Rising

Posted on January 17, 2022 at 5:46 pm

B
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for thematic elements, language and brief violence
Profanity: Schoolyard language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Adult and school-age bullies, sad death of parent, fist-fight, animal shot and killed
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: January 21, 2022

Copyright The Avenue 2021
Imagine the enchantment of this invitation from one lonely, sad, 10-year-old to another: “I know where there’s a tiger.” And imagine the thrill of this observation to someone whose creations have not been noticed: “You are an artist.”

“The Tiger Rising” is based on the best-selling book by Kate DiCamillo, who has called it her most autobiographical book, inspired by her childhood in Florida. In it, a boy who tries to keep his feelings inside meets a girl who pushes a lot of angry feelings out so that she does not have to admit how scared and sad she is.

The boy who discovers a caged tiger in the woods is Rob Horton (Christian Convery), who lives in a run-down motel with his father, following the devastating loss of his mother. Flashbacks show how close they were and how much she supported his gifts as an artist. He is bullied at school and the only person he has to talk to is the motel maid, Willie May (Queen Latifah, who also was a producer on the film).

Rob has developed an itchy, stress-related skin condition and the principal has sent him home until it clears up. As he goes for a walk in the wooded area across from the motel, a raindrop falls on his cheek, reminding him that when he cried at his mother’s funeral he father was harsh: “There’s no point in crying. It ain’t going to bring her back.” Rob Sr. (“True Blood’s” Sam Trammel) is struggling, working as a handyman in exchange for their room at the motel, still grieving himself and ashamed of not doing a better jog of caring for his son. And he is dealing with his own bully, the motel’s owner, Beauchamp (Dennis Quaid). So Rob and his father barely speak to each other.

There is a new girl in Rob’s class at school. Her name is Sistine, “like the chapel.” And she is played by the terrific Madalen Mills of “Jingle Jangle,” perfect for the lively, outspoken Sistine, who has no problem verbally or physically confronting bullies or telling other people what to do. She insists that she will only be in Florida for a few weeks because her father will be coming to get her. Like Rob, she has found herself alone with the parent she was less close to, and her bluster is not as effective at hiding her fear and sadness as she wants it to be.

The tiger belongs to Beauchamp, and he hires Rob to feed it, warning him not to tell anyone. But Rob brings Sistine to see it, and she is immediately determined to set it free. Rob is not so sure.

Writer/director Ray Giarratana has a background in special effects on films like “The Life Aquatic” and “John Wick 3,” and the effects here are exceptionally well done, from the tiger, magnificent in fur and muscle and movement to the subtle animation of Rob’s drawing. It lends a touch of magic that both softens some of the harsher material and helps keep us inside the children’s point of view. Thought their eyes we see that sad and scary things happen. But being honest and finding a way to help each other is what keeps us going.

Parents should know that this movie includes a very sad death of one parent and a description of another parent leaving after and affair. There are adult and child bullies with some schoolyard and rude language. Characters fight and an animal is killed with a gun.

Family discussion: What would you do about the tiger? Why does Sistine call Willie May a prophetess?

If you like this, try: “Hoot,” “The Water Man,” and “A Dolphin Tale”

Related Tags:

 

Based on a book Drama movie review Movies -- format Movies -- Reviews Stories About Kids

The Tender Bar

Posted on December 16, 2021 at 3:21 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language throughout and some sexual content
Profanity: Very strong and crude language
Alcohol/ Drugs: A lot of alcohol, scenes in a bar, drinking and drunkenness
Violence/ Scariness: Tense family confrontations, scuffles
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: December 17, 2021
Copyright Amazon Studios 2021

JR Moehringer’s bittersweet memoir has been turned into a tender movie by director George Clooney. Moehringer wrote about growing up with his single mother in a ramshackle house with a mostly loving but dysfunctional extended family, learning his most important lessons about life and manhood from his bartender uncle Charlie and the regulars at the Long Island bar, improbably named after Charles Dickens.

Ben Affleck reminds us of how good he can be with a subtle, understated performance as Uncle Charlie that conveys a great deal about the character with honestly and understanding. JR (played as a child by Daniel Ranieri) and his mother (a terrific Lily Rabe) drive up to her parents home with a sense of resignation, if not defeat. She and her siblings cannot seem to get away from the house where they grew up. JR’s dad is a radio announcer and disc jockey. He has no contact with his former wife and son and JR thinks of him as just a voice.

JR’s grandfather is grumpy and often harsh. Uncle Charlie has his own issues, but he is there for JR, encouraging in their conversations and giving him an example of a man who can be relied on. His scenes are by far the highlight of the film, which goes astray after JR achieves his mother’s most important goal and is admitted to Yale. The movie spends too much time on his first romance, which like many first heartbreaks, is not as life-defining as JR (both the character and the writer) think it is.

Affleck shines here, perhaps because he does not have to be a leading man who carries the film or his comfort in being directed by his friend George Clooney, perhaps because his best scenes are with a child, and, like his character, we can see how much of what he does is in support of his young scene partner. Clooney skillfully creates JR’s world so that we can see it as adults and also understand how the young JR sees it as well. Like the bar of the title, the film is an oasis of honesty and kindness.

Parents should know that this movie has very strong language and some crude sexual references and a sexual situation.

Family discussion: What were the most important lessons JR learned from his uncle? Who are your biggest influences outside your immediate family?

If you like this, try: the book and Mary Carr’s The Liar’s Club and the Diane Keaton-directed “Unstrung Heroes.”

Related Tags:

 

Based on a book Based on a true story Coming of age Family Issues movie review Movies -- format Movies -- Reviews Stories About Kids Stories about Teens

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Posted on November 18, 2021 at 5:48 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: Preschool
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Extended occult-style peril and violence, sad death, discussion of parental abandonment
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: November 19, 2021
Date Released to DVD: January 24, 2022

Copyright Columbia 2021
They should have called this film “Ghostbusters: Half-life” because we now know that the time it takes to diminish the still-impressive special effects and supernatural action plus a very catchy theme song and off-beat comedy that was cynical but not snarky in the 1984 original to about one-half of the original entertainment value is officially 37 years. Jason Reitman takes over for his father Ivan (who produces) and yet somehow they manage to change what worked in the original, misuse what is new and keep only what shows us how much better the 1984 original was. I mean, how do you put Carrie Coon and Paul Rudd in a movie and not make use of their exceptional talents? How do you make a “Ghostbusters” movie and miss the cynical but not snarky vibe that was the heart of the now-classic? Let me put it this way, but first note: SPOILER ALERT (already spoiled in the trailer, so fair game in my opinion) — when characters from the original show up in this one and say, “Did you miss us?” the answer is “We still do.”

The original film was about three adult scientists played by Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis (the last two co-wrote the film with Rick Moranis, who also appeared in the film), who with a colleague played by Ernie Hudson start a firm that will capture and imprison ghosts and other supernatural creatures. And it captured something of the gritty In Ghostbusters: Afterlife, it is tweens and teenagers who happen upon some of the ghost-busting equipment when a struggling single mom (Carrie Coon) inherits a near-collapsing old Oklahoma farmhouse from the estranged father who deserted her when she was a child. She moves in with her two children, !5 year old Trevor (“Stranger Things'” Finn Wolfhard) and 13-year-old STEM genius Phoebe (Makenna Grace in a lovely performance). They make friends with two local kids Lucky (Celeste O’Connor) and Podcast (because he is constantly recording podcasts), played by Logan Kim. When Phoebe takes a summer school science class with a bored seismologist (Paul Rudd as Gary) who is investigating the unusual earthquakes in the area, he recognizes some of the equipment she found in the house as belonging to the original Ghostbusters. They were so successful in eradicating the ghosts and other creatures (including the gigantic Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man) from New York that there was not much more for them to do.

You’d think Gary, knowing all this, would not want to open up the ghost-trap, but this not the kind of movie where characters behave in a logical manner because the plot requires them to do many dumb things, except when it requires Phoebe to be an expert at everything from lock-picking to analog mechanics. (She does get a little help from a friendly spirit.)

This one doesn’t come close to the original’s exceptionally deft balance of comedy, supernatural effects, and thrills, mostly because appealing as they are, the kids at the center of the story don’t have the raffish charm or gritty setting of the original team. It’s more of a Nickelodeon version (not up to the standards of Walden or Disney), and the underuse of Coon and Rudd is unforgivable. Like the Stay-Puff marshmallow creature update, this film is the pocket-size version, small in scares, small in laughs, and likely to be forgotten by the time you get to the parking lot.

Parents should know that this film has some strong language and extended fantasy/occult peril and violence as well as discussion of parental abandonment.

Family discussion: What surprising history can you learn about your grandparents? Would you listen to Podcast’s podcast? If you were going to make a podcast, what would it be about?

If you like this, try: the original “Ghostbusters” film and the under-appreciate 2016 reboot with Kristin Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Chris Hemsworth

Related Tags:

 

DVD/Blu-Ray Fantasy movie review Movies -- format Series/Sequel Stories About Kids
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2023, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik