Sequel is as sentimental and emotional as the first film.
“A Dog’s Journey” is the sequel to 2017’s sentimental “A Dog’s Purpose,” both of which are based on W. Bruce Cameron’s best-selling books about a dog (voiced by Josh Gad) that’s reincarnated again and again with the purpose of finding a specific human to protect and love. This time around, Ethan (Dennis Quaid) encourages his beloved dying dog to return to find his granddaughter. There’s less violence in this one, but there’s still an alcoholic, neglectful parent (this time a mother) and an abusive boyfriend who literally crashes into his ex-girlfriend on purpose. Another boyfriend is verbally demeaning and grabs his girlfriend. And, yes, the central dog dies — four times, to be exact, due to sickness, old age and accidents. But couples don’t do much more than hug and kiss, and language is tame (“idiot,” “stupid”). As in the first movie, there are clear messages about empathy and companionship, as well as the power of having a pet with whom humans share unconditional love. (108 minutes)
Poignant, thought-provoking docu about sustainable living.
“The Biggest Little Farm” is a poignant, multi-year-spanning documentary about Southern California filmmaker John Chester (an Emmy-winning documentarian) and his wife, personal chef Molly Chester, who embark on a journey to go back to the land and run a traditional farm. With help from an expert mentor and a team of both experienced and new-to-farming staffers, the Chesters deal with the ups and downs of starting an organic, biodynamic farm just an hour north of Los Angeles on a 200-acre plot that was initially parched earth. While there’s no sex, language, or substance use, you can expect several potentially upsetting scenes of dead animals, including some blood left on the predators. Animals also die from environmental reasons and giving birth, and John is shown loading a gun and chasing a coyote. A beloved dog dies after several years, a human friend’s death from cancer is discussed, and there’s wildfire-related fear. Families will have lots to discuss after the film, from the importance of eating locally, supporting farmers, and understanding how farms work to character strengths like teamwork and perseverance. (91 minutes)
Charming opposites-attract adaptation has romance, language.
“The Sun Is Also a Star” is based on Nicola Yoon’s best-selling, award-winning Y.A. romance about Natasha Kingsley (“Grown-ish’s” Yara Shahidi), a rational, Jamaican-born teen who meets Daniel Bae (“Riverdale’s” Charles Melton), a romantic Korean American student, one fateful day in Manhattan. The movie should appeal to fans of both the book and the two stars, as well as anyone interested in coming-of-age love stories. Expect several passionate kisses, including a couple of heavy make-out sessions, and occasional strong language (one “f---,” plus a few uses of “s---,” “a — hole,” etc.). A fistfight breaks out between brothers that ends with visible bruises on both guys, and a car clips a cyclist and almost hits someone else. Like the book, the movie weaves in historical, cultural and scientific details and explores falling in love and following your dreams. Empathy is a clear theme, and the main characters’ relationship offers welcome diverse representation. (100 minutes)
Bard “biopic” takes poetic license; swearing, mature themes.
“All Is True” is director Kenneth Branagh’s exploration of William Shakespeare’s final years, after he’s returned to his family and hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon. If you haven’t done your homework on the Bard, the film can be hard to follow, with inside jokes that may not connect. It portrays the aged playwright (also Branagh) as a sexist, bisexual patriarch who’s belatedly mourning the son who died 17 years prior, which could be upsetting to anyone who has lost a child or a sibling. Scandals ensue as Shakespeare’s daughters, who feel they’re a disappointment because of their gender, desperately try to give their dad a male heir — but all the sex stuff is fairly veiled/indirect. Curse words (“s---,” “b----”) are used occasionally to punctuate strong emotion. The film sheds light on Elizabethan England, where Shakespeare’s saucy scripts were welcomed in the big city, but, in the Puritan stronghold of the rural countryside, a woman’s only purpose was childbearing — and only a harlot would wear a fabric with color. (101 minutes)
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