Expect hunting violence in tear-jerking ecological tale.
“Storm Boy” is a drama based on a children’s novella by Colin Thiele that’s taught in Australian schools. It’s a pro-ecological tale about a boy’s love for an orphaned pelican and his awakening about the importance of defending wildlife and protecting nature. Everyone in the movie is in mourning — all of the main characters have lost parents, wives and/or children — and the ending is a major heart-wrencher (worse than “Old Yeller,” but not as harsh as “The Yearling”). But beautiful relationships shine through, including that of the boy, his dad and a lonely indigenous man who passes on his tribal customs to the boy. That said, the way the boy and the indigenous man meet might be cause for a talk with your kids: The man approaches the boy in a remote area and assures him that he’s friendly; the next thing you know, the boy brings the man back to his house, where (phew) the man insists on waiting outside, since the boy’s father isn’t home. Expect to see guns in action (hunters shoot and kill birds, and bloody bird carcasses are seen) and adults drinking. Language is minimal, sex isn’t an issue, and themes include compassion, empathy and teamwork. (99 minutes)
Superhero comedy is charming, goofy, with fantasy violence.
“Shazam!” is a DC Comics-based superhero comedy that’s like “Big” meets “Superman,” because the main character is a 14-year-old who’s given a magical gift. He can transform into an adult superhero (Zachary Levi) whenever he says the titular magic word. Despite a few dark moments, this is the DC extended universe’s most lighthearted and tween-friendly film to date. It’s sure to appeal to younger kids, too, but be ready for lots of fantasy action violence, including a few deaths (some via disintegration), scary/disturbing “seven deadly sins” monsters, gun use, chases/pursuits/crashes, property destruction and big fights. Kids are also bullied. Language isn’t constant, but characters do say “a--,” “s---,” “oh my God” and more. And you can expect a little innuendo/suggestive humor, especially in scenes in which characters go into a strip club. More serious themes include abandonment, disability and more. But there are plenty of positive messages about the importance of family (the movie’s example of a loving, caring foster home is refreshing), generosity, courage, teamwork and standing up for others. (132 minutes)
Inspiring story about homelessness has some mature content.
“The Public” is a drama about a group of homeless men attempting to spend the night in the Cincinnati Public Library during a brutal cold snap. Emilio Estevez wrote and directed and stars as the librarian who must make a hard choice. Uplifting and inspiring, the drama takes a warm, compassionate look at the problem of homelessness and simultaneously celebrates public libraries. But it does have some mature material. Language includes sporadic uses of “s---,” “a--h---,” “b----” and more, characters kiss, and a large group of naked men is shown (their bare bottoms are visible). A secondary character is said to be a drug user, a main character is a recovering addict, and a man drinks from a small bottle of booze. One man is punched, a character dies from the cold and there’s a tense police presence, as well as some violent dialogue. (122 minutes)
Preschool show teaches skills, celebrates imagination.
“Charlie’s Colorforms City” is a preschool series that celebrates imagination and creative problem solving while reinforcing viewers’ awareness of shapes, colors and relative size. Inspired by the logo of the classic Colorforms toys, the show follows main character Charlie (voiced by Jacob Soley) as he imagines new places and experiences for himself and his friends. As the story progresses, they build objects that help them overcome challenges. Charlie talks directly to the audience at times, encouraging kids to ponder their own solutions and answers. Themes of resilience, curiosity and self-confidence are less overt than the pre-reading concepts are, but they help round out the learning potential in this colorful, engaging series. (13 24-minute episodes.)
Available via Netflix streaming.
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