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A huge part of being a parent boils down to one simple word: “No.”

Raising children to be functional members of society requires that the adults responsible for their well-being make clear the simple reality that we can’t always get what we want. It’s the way the world works, like it or not … and many kids lean hard toward the “not” in that equation.

This isn’t because parents and guardians LIKE saying no. The truth is that their lives would likely be easier in the short term if they eschewed the word more often, but it is the long term with which they must concern themselves. Like it or not, “no” is a part of parenting.

But what if, for just one day, it wasn’t?

That’s the central premise of “Yes Day,” a Netflix family film based on the children’s book of the same name by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld. Directed by Miguel Arteta, it’s the story of one family’s adventure that takes place when the parents decide to embrace a recent parenting trend involving a single day in which they must say yes to their kids.

It’s a charming, albeit slight film; an agreeable enough hour-and-a-half that likely won’t stay with you after the credits roll. Still, there’s nothing wrong with a kids’ movie that leans into the sensibility of its target demographic. There are some fun moments and a few laughs and a lesson or two ostensibly learned, resulting in an inoffensive family-friendly offering that will go down smoothly.

Published in Movies

Robert De Niro is one of our greatest living actors. The history of American film simply cannot be told without including a number of his films. He has seven Academy Award nominations for acting – five in Best Actor, two in Best Supporting Actor, with one win in each. He is a titan of cinema.

However, he is ALSO a working actor who has long shown willingness to undertake projects that won’t get him anywhere near the Oscar stage, making loads of films that are far more populist than prestigious.

His latest film is “The War with Grandpa” … and you can probably guess into which category this one falls.

The family-friendly comedy – directed by Tim Hill from a screenplay by Tom Astle and Matt Ember (adapted from Robert Kimmel Smith’s book of the same name) – is pretty standard fare, tame kid stuff that aims to be inoffensively entertaining. It’s the kind of film that young viewers will likely find delightful and that older audiences will find more or less tolerable.

That said, the film sports a shockingly strong cast; De Niro leads the way, but we also have Uma Thurman and Christopher Walken, among others. While the quality of the performers can’t fully make up for the generally generic quality of the film, it certainly doesn’t hurt – in lesser hands, this movie could have been just plain bad. Instead, we get a perfectly pleasant, albeit forgettable 90ish minutes.

Published in Buzz

Few literary characters are as beloved as the famed detective Sherlock Holmes. From his beginnings in the tales spun by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to the multitude of stage and screen adaptations we’ve seen featuring the character over the ensuing decades, audiences have lone adored the eccentric crime-solver.

Of course, with a century’s worth of stories, it can be difficult to find new ways to bring the character to life. We’ve seen so many iterations – in what ways might one breathe new life into the Holmesian mythos?

Well … how about a sister?

“Enola Holmes,” newly streaming on Netflix, offers viewers a new path through this well-worn landscape. Based on the first book in a series of young adult novels by Nancy Springer, the film is directed by Harry Bradbeer from a script adapted by Jack Thorne. It introduces us to the titular Enola Holmes, a teenage girl whose intellectual talents are comparable to those of her far more famous older brothers.

There’s an undeniable charm to this film, a basic wholesomeness that is utterly appealing even as it occasionally veers into the realm of the cornball. It is goofy and fun, with a healthy sprinkling of empowerment and a top-notch collection of supporting talent, all in service of an absolute star turn from Millie Bobbie Brown, who plays the titular Enola and offers up a performance that is indicative of great things to come.

Published in Movies

One thing that the Disney oeuvre has long been known for is the ubiquity of their princesses. While not EVERY Disney movie features princesses, we’ve seen enough to understand it for the tendency that it is.

Another thing that Disney is known for – though not for as long – is superheroes. As the stewards of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the powers that be at Disney have embraced the various tropes of that particular genre as well.

It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of us that they’ve decided to bring the two together.

“Secret Society of Second-Born Royals” – a Disney original currently streaming on Disney+ - seeks to bring these nigh-ubiquitous entertainment elements to bear in the same film. Directed by Anna Mastro from a script co-written by Alex Livak and Andrew Green, the superhero/princess mashup plucks elements from both genres and blends them together into an inoffensive smoothie that will go down easy and then promptly be forgotten.

Overall, it’s a (relatively) successful effort, though your mileage will almost certainly vary. It’s charming in its way, though the production values leave something to be desired. Kids will probably dig it, while parents will be able to tolerate it well enough. It’s not good enough to care about or bad enough to avoid – an adequate time-passer that leaves the door open for more.

Published in Movies

Full disclosure: I dig talking animal movies. Always have. Do I recognize that these movies are often not good? Reader, I do. And I don’t care. Give me animals relating their thoughts and I will almost certainly watch.

“The One and Only Ivan,” the new film currently streaming on Disney+, is actually one of the better examples of the genre I’ve seen recently. The field has largely been crowded with dogs feeling feelings (a subgenre I particularly dig), so it was nice to watch a different animal having feelings – namely the titular Ivan, a silverback gorilla.

Based on the 2013 children’s novel of the same name, this story is a charming and occasionally dark story of a small-time animal circus based in a mall. It’s a story about the value of friendship, the importance of self-expression and what it means to be free. It’s also a bunch of CGI animals talking to each other (though not to the humans) and engaging in friendly banter while coming to terms with what it is that they really want – and what they might be willing to do to get it.

Published in Movies

If you’re looking to make a kid-friendly action movie, you’re limited in many ways. Ultimately, this means that there are only a handful of basic ideas that are feasible. Filmmakers take one of these concepts, slap some cosmetic changes onto it and call it a movie.

One of the go-tos for kiddie action is “Parents have a secret and kids are the only ones who can save them.” We’ve seen it a million times.

Better make it a million and one.

“The Sleepover,” a new original movie from Netflix currently streaming on the service, is the latest to throw a coat of paint and a few accessories onto that baseline idea and let her rip. Now, there’s a certain base level of competence that comes with Netflix films, so this film’s floor is pretty high. Unfortunately, it’s rare that the company’s originals far exceed that base level, so the ceiling is fairly low.

And so we get “The Sleepover,” a reasonably-executed and largely soulless collection of dopey kid jokes and slightly-off adult banter featuring a couple of decent action sequences. The story is thin and the film features a couple of actors you recognize giving inoffensive performances; basically, it’s the exact kind of disposable cinema we largely expect from Netflix.

Published in Movies
Monday, 17 August 2020 11:13

‘Magic Camp’ abracada-blah

There was a time that Disney was an absolute dynamo with regard to making family-friendly live-action fare. The 1960s and ‘70s were marked with scores of light, forgettable films aimed at kids, movies that were simple, disposable entertainment.

Once the animation renaissance of the ‘90s hit, those live-action offerings largely vanished. Big Mouse’s annual entry into the cartoon arena proved wildly lucrative, so the studio largely eschewed the sorts of Dean Jones- or young Kurt Russell-led films that they had spent 20-plus years churning out.

In a way, the Disney+ movie “Magic Camp” is something of a throwback to those die-cut assembly line films with a distinct Disney Channel Original Movie flavor profile. It’s got a cast featuring a couple of notable actors and a handful of generally adorable kids in a narrowly focused summer camp setting. It’s a familiar formula revolving around familiar characters; there’s a distinct feeling of boxes being checked throughout.

That said, one imagines that young viewers will find a lot to like about this movie. There’s a good deal of silliness and some simple story arcs involving both kids and adults that will prove accessible. Again, there’s nothing particularly exciting about this movie, but there are worse ways for your child to spend a couple of hours.

Published in Movies

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