Dench is fabulous in fascinating but underdeveloped story.
"Victoria and Abdul" is a fact-based drama about the elderly Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) and her relationship with Abdul Karim, a Muslim Indian man who starts off as her servant until she elevates his status, scandalizing her family and household staff. Expect occasional strong language ("s---," "bloody," "a--hole") and a couple of disturbing scenes: one in which royal security officers harass a Muslim family and burn their belongings, and another in which a man coughs up blood. A dead body is shown, and a few racist remarks are said in reference to Abdul. It has a clear message about very different people being able to bond over universal experiences and feelings, and curiosity and gratitude are themes. Families who watch together may want to discuss the film's historical context, as well as how fact-based dramas sometimes take liberties for the sake of fiction. (112 minutes)
Language, some sex in tense but funny drug war comedy.
"American Made" is based on the true story of a CIA pilot (Tom Cruise) who doubled as a drug runner in the 1980s. Expect frequent strong language ("f---," "s---," etc.) and a few sexual situations, plus brief nudity (a man moons his family). For a film about drugs, not much actual drug use is shown; characters do drink. And there's a non-graphic car bombing, but otherwise violence is more referred to/discussed than shown. Still, the tension and stress of the high-wire act the main character walks might be too intense for kids. But the main issue for parents may be whether a film this ironic is right for their family. It takes a blunt, hilariously cynical view of 1980s American foreign policy and secret operations, as well as of the war on drugs itself. (115 minutes)
Absorbing doc about snow leopards has mild peril.
"Ghost in the Mountains" is a Disneynature documentary about snow leopards. The title is a reference to the big cats' elusiveness and uncanny ability to seamlessly blend into their mountainous habitat, allowing them to stalk prey and protect their young. The film takes viewers along on an international film crew's long, hazardous quest to record this endangered species in the wild. Their specific goal is to capture the life of a mother snow leopard and her babies in their remote natural environment. Animal-loving kids will be treated to the stark beauty of the harsh Chinese terrain, the highest plateau on Earth, and the magnificence of the cats that survive in the mountains. Cats hunt prey, but no actual attacks are shown. Vultures, hawks and other predators threaten the safety of a lone cub. This is part of Disney's Born in China documentary series. (78 minutes)
Via Netflix streaming.
Predictable teen comedy has cursing, underage drinking.
"#RealityHigh," set in a California high school, tries to combine laughs with reflections on staying true to yourself, taking the moral high ground and the shallowness of popularity. It follows a familiar rom-com plot in which girl meets boy, loses boy and then (spoiler alert) gets boy back. Along the way, a cast of ethnically diverse characters make choices that will supposedly influence their lifelong behavior and values. Expect a comic view of underage drinking, marijuana use and partying, including keggers, tequila, drinking games and bongs (there's even a scene in which the uptight school principal joins in, happy to get stoned with the boys). There's also a lot of swearing, including "s---," "a--," "f---," "b----es" and "slut." Plus, you can expect verbal bullying, an over-the-top villain, insults like "pig breath," some skimpy clothing and a few heartfelt kisses. Bottom line? The only surprise here is a wonderfully engaging lead performance by Nesta Cooper. (109 minutes)
Via Netflix streaming.
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