Visually impressive remake is sweet but sometimes dark.
“Dumbo” is director Tim Burton’s live-action take on Disney’s 1941 animated classic about everyone’s favorite flying elephant. This version — which stars Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton and Danny DeVito — keeps the original’s spirit while expanding on its story line and kicking things up in the scariness department, thanks to Burton’s signature intensity. The movie’s vibrant, colorful world is peppered with dark, creepy sequences/elements, including a cruel animal handler, a character who’s crushed to death by a collapsing circus tent, armed henchmen who pursue both animals and children, characters in peril/falling from heights and an amusement park attraction that’s aptly named Nightmare Island. There are also some very sad parts, like when Mrs. Jumbo is separated from baby Dumbo, which might prove upsetting for younger/more sensitive viewers. Characters also discuss loss (the main kid characters’ mom died from influenza). Language is minimal (“hell” and one incomplete “s---” are about it), and this version of the film thankfully doesn’t have the racially stereotyped crow characters or a drunk, hallucinating Dumbo. And it has themes of teamwork, compassion and empathy and promotes the idea that our differences help make us special. (115 minutes)
Very graphic content in faith-based abortion biopic.
“Unplanned” is based on the true story of a former Planned Parenthood director who joined the pro-life movement after witnessing an abortion. The film’s complex topic is given nuanced treatment, but ultimately its sympathies lie firmly in pro-life sentiment. Graphic content is all related to abortion, and it’s very realistic and disturbing. Viewers see two “procedures”: a surgical abortion and a chemical abortion (via RU486). In the first scene, a woman cries, and there are images of a well-formed 13-week-old fetus writhing and twisting as if in pain, trying to hold on to the sides of the uterus as it’s sucked out. In the second, a woman retches into a toilet, crying with agonizing cramps while blood and chunks fall out from between her legs; there are bloody smears all over her bathroom. Other scenes show technicians reassembling the bodies of aborted fetuses to make sure there’s nothing left in the mother’s bodies; viewers see a very small realistic dead fetus’s head, face and arm. A physician who performs abortions is shot; viewers see a news report about it, but there are no images of the shooting. A protester holds up a picture of a dismembered infant. Characters kiss, and some drink at dinner/while watching TV, but no one acts drunk. Cursing is mild (“hell,” “damn,” “a--”), but there’s other upsetting language, like when a man yells at a woman that she’s a “baby killer” who “couldn’t keep her legs closed.” Viewers’ take on this film will largely depend on their views around abortion, but it has both messages of compassion and empathy and scenes in which characters are cruel to one another. (106 minutes)
Teen heroines build teamwork in so-so fast-paced series.
“DC Super Hero Girls” is an animated series based on the Web series of the same name and exploring the adventures of DC Comics characters’ teen years. Strong messages about girl power and the value of friendship are prominent in the stories, and their hero work models positive teamwork and appreciation for each member’s unique qualities as well. That said, the characters’ actions aren’t always perfect models; at times the girls come across as materialistic, self-centered and painfully lacking in self-confidence, but by working together, they discover strengths they didn’t know they had. Cartoon violence (punching, kicking, explosions and general metropolitan destruction) marks all of their clashes with villains, but injuries tend to be short-lived. (13-minute episodes)
On Cartoon Network. Also available via Google Play, Vudu and You Tube streaming.
Heartfelt, emotional drama tackles tough issues head on.
“Northern Rescue” is a Canadian drama series about a family trying to cope with and move past the loss of their wife and mother. Their emotional journey involves at different times intense grief, sadness, anger and fear. Teens rebel in potentially harmful ways like drinking and getting high (it’s not shown, but the daughter comes home under the influence) and beating up a classmate (it happens off screen, but her injuries are visible). Expect occasional language like “b----,” “damn” and “sucks.” Teen and adult couples kiss, and there’s potential danger in a main character’s work in search and rescue. This compelling series has strong themes of perseverance and overcoming adversity. (10 43-minute episodes)
Available via Netflix streaming.
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