Sweet visuals and songs are complicated by mixed messages.
“UglyDolls” is about a group of plushy toys who learn they’re worthy of love despite their unconventional looks. While that core message is undeniably positive, other messages weaken its impact, including catchy songs that tell listeners they’re unworthy if they’re “ugly” and that it’s important to follow conventional beauty standards if you want others to like you. Adults are likely to understand that these lyrics aren’t intended to be taken at face value, but that’s much less certain for kids. Happily, other songs have more positive messages — including “your differences make you special.” And characters demonstrate perseverance and teamwork in pursuing their goals. There’s a bit more scary stuff/violence than parents might expect, including hand-to-hand combat (no blood or injuries); several scenes in which characters fall or are pushed from great heights or down dark, scary holes; and a very frightening bit in which dolls are threatened with being “recycled” and are almost shredded by a big, loud, monster-like machine with sharp metal teeth. There’s no sex or romance, but a male character offers his crush a bottle of sparkling wine and asks whether she can feel the “energy” between them. A few characters are stereotyped as “mean girls”; they do the bad guy’s dirty work and talk in a cliched way about boys, hairstyles and makeup. Other characters are more sympathetic, including a doll who’s dreaming of having a child to love her and a girl who’s been trying to appear perfect and learns that she’s lovable even if she’s not. Kelly Clarkson and Nick Jonas co-star. (83 minutes)
Lifeless but violent “psychopathic stalker” movie.
“The Intruder” is a mechanical thriller about a psychopathic stalker (Dennis Quaid) who terrorizes a young couple (Michael Ealy and Meagan Good) who bought his old house. Violence is pretty intense; expect guns and shooting, dead bodies, blood spurts, a man beating up a woman, fighting with knives, stabbing, punching, a character getting knocked over by a car, jump-scares and more. There are two relatively tame sex scenes, in which the partners are half-clothed and covered; kissing is shown. A woman’s naked silhouette is visible through an opaque shower door, a man ogles a woman’s bottom, and a woman tries to kiss a married man. Language includes one use of “f---,” a few uses of “s---” and a few other words. A man drinks several tequila shots in one scene, but otherwise drinking is mainly social and mostly wine. A character smokes cigarettes. (102 minutes)
Iconic superhero reimagined in sometimes-violent anime.
“Ultraman” is an anime series about the classic silver superhero. Its CG animation style uses motion-capture technology for action and fight scenes, making them particularly realistic-looking — and, thus, possibly a bit intense for younger/more sensitive viewers. While the Ultraman franchise has been around since the 1960s, this particular series is an adaptation of the 2011 manga. Expect plenty of violence — hand-to-hand combat, laser fights and more — complete with simulated blood and guts splattering. Aliens and monsters have epic battles with Ultraman; some are shown devouring humans and doing other disturbing things. There are positive messages about protecting the weak and honoring family legacies, but there’s also a disappointing lack of agency among many of the female characters, who seem a bit underused in general. As with many anime series on Netflix, “Ultraman” can be viewed either with subtitles and Japanese audio or in a dubbed-English version (for that, “Hunger Games” star Josh Hutcherson steps into the lead role as Shinjiro/Ultraman). (13 roughly 23-minute episodes)
Available via Netflix streaming.
Concert film of Queen B’s Coachella set has salty language.
“Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé” commemorates the 22-time Grammy-winning Queen Bey’s headlining performance at the 2018 Coachella Music Festival — which marked her return to stage after a rough pregnancy with twins. The theme is uplifting: It’s designed to boost feminists, black women, black men and anyone who feels marginalized. Beyoncé says she personally hired each of her dancers — who represent all shapes and sizes — and musicians to create a show that supports the work of historically black colleges and universities. Jay-Z, Destiny’s Child and Beyoncé’s sister Solange all make appearances. Expect frank lyrics that don’t shy away from sexual references or mature language, including “f---,” “s---,” “a--,” “b----” and the n-word. (137 minutes)
Available via Netflix streaming.
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