Pratfall-heavy take on holiday tale is fun but no classic.
“Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch” is an animated adaptation of the classic holiday story, featuring the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch as the legendary Christmas curmudgeon. The movie is appropriate for most younger viewers, with many more scenes of physical comedy and pratfalls than genuine peril (though there is a scene in which it looks like the Grinch will fall over a mountain — but of course is saved). Expect lots of falls from heights, catapulting through the air, speeding on sleds, etc. The Grinch ends up in his underwear in a brief scene, and a naked Who is seen behind a cookie that’s strategically placed to obscure anything inappropriate. Like Seuss’s original, this is a story about kindness, love and generosity being the true meaning of Christmas. (90 minutes)
Hedges leads strong cast in moving, mature conversion drama.
“Boy Erased” is a drama based on Garrard Conley’s memoir about being forced to attend faith-based conversion therapy after coming out as gay to his Arkansas preacher father. From writer-director-actor Joel Edgerton and starring Lucas Hedges, Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman, the movie tackles mature themes, including sexual identity, the evangelical Christian position on LGBTQ rights, date rape, suicidal ideation and therapies that attempt to force people (in this case, a college-aged teen) to stop “choosing” to be gay. Language is occasionally strong, with a few uses of words like “f---,” “s---” and the gay slur “f-----.” Characters drink and smoke pot, and there’s kissing/embracing and sex talk. A young man is raped by his friend, another character dies by suicide (off-camera) and a family is told to hit their son/brother with a Bible. Ultimately, the movie stresses the importance of accepting people as they are and encourages honesty and encouragement between parents and kids. Parents and teens will have plenty to discuss after watching. (114 minutes)
Smart, funny series teaches kid-friendly science concepts.
“Brainchild” is a science-inspired educational series that teaches kids about concepts like the senses, neurology, marine biology and gravity through entertaining visual aids, expert insight and fun facts. All of the topics are presented at a level that’s relatable for kids (especially young tweens), using experiments and creative presentation strategies to reinforce the material. And the youthful host and helpers (a science expert and a sleight-of-hand magician) keep the show engaging throughout. Not only does this series aim to teach kids about science, it also undermines stereotypes about science enthusiasts in the form of its young cast members, two of whom are female. Plus, it offers strong social and emotional messages about self-esteem, self-identity and being your best you. (13 approximately 23-minute episodes)
Available via Netflix streaming.
Thrilling update of spooky comic is pure teen empowerment.
“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is a dark drama about a teen girl (Kiernan Shipka) with magical powers. The show’s TV-14 rating is apt; violence is mature but not overly scary. Characters are killed, there are stabbings with spurting blood, images of witches hang from a tree and a character jokes about eating human flesh while standing over the body of a recently murdered teen. Gothic imagery — bats, fog, cemeteries — may spook younger brothers and sisters. A teen is bullied for having an androgynous gender presentation. Sexual content, outside of loving kisses between Sabrina and her boyfriend, Harvey, involves talk about virginity and why it’s a requirement for a new witch, as well as an orgy that occurs at Sabrina’s home (she’s not involved). Language is infrequent: “b-----d,” “a--hole,” “hell,” “bulls---” and made-up slang with a vulgar edge, like when Sabrina calls fellow witches “succu-b-----s.” A character is called “freak.” Women and people of color have strong roles with agency; a main character is non-binary. Sabrina in particular is tough but kind, stands up for herself and for others against intense opposition, and she’s a great role model for teens and tweens. That said, this magical world is darker, bloodier and sexier than Harry Potter. Think “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” with even more focus on the occult and evil. (10 approximately hour-long episodes)
Available via Netflix streaming.
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