The Year Earth Changed (Unrated)

Streaming

Age 7+

Vivid, intense doc shows wildlife changes during pandemic.

The Year Earth Changed” is a nature documentary about changes in wildlife habits during the coronavirus pandemic. Narrated by David Attenborough (“Planet Earth: Blue Planet II”), the short doc features visits to locations across five continents starting in March 2020 and ending a year later. Attenborough offers many examples of how animals thrived during that year without as much impact from human interference — i.e. traffic, noise pollution and travel. There’s lots of beautiful imagery, including various animals exploring empty towns (the most fun is seeing “jackass penguins” roam the streets of Cape Town, South Africa). A sea turtle lays eggs onto the sand; there are close-ups and squishy noises. Violence includes elephants being pushed out of farmlands with gunshots and bright lights. Ominous music plays when leopards eat at their own “lockdown buffet”; sounds of tearing flesh are heard. Sensitive kids may pick up on the potentially bleak outcome if human behavior doesn’t improve post-pandemic, but the film makes sure to focus on positive changes already being made to help animals and humans coexist peacefully. (48 minutes)

Available on Apple TV Plus.

Arlo the Alligator Boy (TV-Y7)

Streaming

Age 8+

Sweet, goofy animated adventure has some peril, stereotypes.

Arlo the Alligator Boy ” is aimed squarely at kids, who will enjoy both its sweetness and its goofiness — but there are some scary sequences to be aware of, too. They mostly involve an ominous “beast”; it’s kept in the shadows for much of the movie, but it threatens others with its large size, ferocious growl and glowing eyes. At one point, the beast drags a man away; at others, it appears poised to attack. The film’s main character, Arlo (voiced by Michael J. Woodard), who’s half alligator and half human, is also chased by characters who want to make him a part of their swamp-creature tourist attraction. They’re depicted as poor and uneducated, which plays into negative stereotypes of Southerners. Arlo’s new friend, Bertie (Mary Lambert), comes to his rescue repeatedly, and they meet some unusual characters on their travels north from Cajun country to New York City, where Arlo hopes to find his birth father. The character Arlo believes to be his father represents big-city wealth and extravagance; there’s some stereotyping of wealthy people being shallow. But Arlo and Bertie find a new family in their friend group and a place where they all belong, despite their differences and regardless of society’s expectations. The characters demonstrate compassion and communication in their relationships with each other. Language includes “heck,” “suckers,” “fart,” “freak.” Arlo experiences a sugar high after crashing into a candy store. A character appears to spit tobacco juice, and another takes a shot of some liquor at his home bar. (92 minutes)

Available on Netflix.

Kung Fu (TV-PG)

Streaming

Age 13+

Action-heavy reboot flips gender roles, has violence.

Kung Fu” is a reboot of the 1972 action series starring David Carradine. This time around, the main character is a woman (Olivia Liang), and many other strong female characters appear throughout the series. Expect lots of martial arts fighting sequences; people get beaten up, bloodied, scarred and sometimes killed. Weapons range from variations on sticks and knives to long swords and guns. Occasional words like “damn” are audible. Characters flirt, and tense family relationships are addressed. With a heavily female and primarily Asian American cast, the show attempts to defuse common stereotypes about Chinese culture by openly acknowledging them and then demystifying them by putting them into a larger context. (45-minute episodes)

Available on the CW channel and cw.com.

Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil (TV-14)

Streaming

Age 14+

Wrenching, raw docuseries is full of triggers.

Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil” is a brutally honest docuseries about the pop star’s drug addiction, near-fatal 2018 overdose, and her reckoning with her traumatic past. Lovato and her family, friends and staff describe the singer’s rapid descent from her very public sobriety to taking heroin, meth and more in the lead-up to her overdose and the anguish they all felt at the time. They spare no details, repeating numerous times that she should have died, and would have if she had been found just minutes later. Her mother describes seeing her daughter on a blood-cleaning machine, with a tube sewn into her neck. Lovato enumerates the lasting physical impact of the strokes and heart attack she suffered. Lovato also talks about two rapes/sexual assaults. Many people in the series use such swear words as “a--hole,” “s---” and “f---” (which is bleeped). (100 minutes)

Available on YouTube.

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