Positive messages, some scary stuff in sweet, sparkly romp.
"My Little Pony: The Movie" (not to be confused with the same-named 1986 movie) will appeal to young kids — especially fans of the "Friendship Is Magic" TV show — and is full of positive messages. But it does have a few scenes that could frighten very young/sensitive children. Equestria (the pony homeland) is under attack by big, skunklike villains who come out of the sky in airships that make dark clouds that blot out the sun. And ponies are shown in mortal danger — i.e., falling out of one of the airships — but are saved. An evil pony emits dangerous electrical sparks from her horn; at one point, a pony picks up a skull, and a bug crawls out and across her face. Otherwise, the movie is loaded with great take-aways — support your friends, work together, don't give up, etc. — as the ponies band together to drive out their rivals and put on a big Friendship Festival. Expect a couple of mildly rude moments — two belches and a butt-scratch joke — and a few scenes in which characters appear to be attracted to each other or jealous. But overall this is a sweet, gentle movie ideal for young grade-schoolers. (99 minutes)
Mountain-trek peril in non-scary but well-acted romance.
"The Mountain Between Us," based on Charles Martin's same-named novel, tells the story of two strangers (Idris Elba and Kate Winslet) stuck in the snowy wilderness after a tragic plane crash. Expect scenes of mountain-trek peril, but there's no graphic violence. (Spoiler alert!) Post-plane-crash injuries are shown, there's some danger to a dog, and one character's leg is caught in a bear trap. A sex scene includes near-nudity, but it's not even close to explicit. The primary concern for younger viewers will be tension/worry over whether the main characters (including the dog) can survive. But it's not exactly a nail-biter, and the characters — who exhibit courage and perseverance — never really show any realistic effects of weeks of deprivation, making it a fairly "safe" experience, as survival stories go. (112 minutes)
Great reboot encourages curiosity about science and nature.
"The Magic School Bus Rides Again" is a reboot of the popular '90s series "The Magic School Bus," itself inspired by the Scholastic book series of the same name. Most of the characters are the same, with the notable exception of the original Miss Frizzle passing the torch to her younger sister, Ms. Frizzle (voiced by SNL's Kate McKinnon). Each episode introduces a broad scientific concept (ecosystems, for instance) and follows the class as they embark on a magical field trip to learn about the concept in a hands-on way. A parallel story involves a lesson that one or more of the characters learn from the experience. Although the educational content is fairly one-dimensional, the show does a great job reminding viewers of the importance of cultivating their curiosity and learning from it. (13 25-minute episodes)
Via Netflix streaming.
Visually appealing backstory boasts strong female lead.
"Star Trek: Discovery" is a prequel to "Star Trek: The Original Series." The story is set 10 years before Kirk and Spock first embark on the USS Enterprise and sees the start of battle between the Federation and the Klingons. Expect plenty of violence in the form of explosions and phaser fights, with multiple prominent character deaths. The story also raises questions regarding authority and subservience in war. Happily, there's a strong female lead in Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), who's unflappable under pressure. This series benefits from modern visual effects and diverse casting and is likely to have appeal even for sci-fi fans who aren't Trekkies yet. (15 one-hour episodes)
Streaming via CBS All-Access and on CBS television.
Common Sense Media helps families make smart media choices. Go to commonsensemedia.org for age-based and educational ratings and reviews for movies, games, apps, TV shows, websites and books.