Upside-Down Magic


Age 7+

Confident female lead stands out in book series adaptation.

Upside-Down Magic” is a movie inspired by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle and Emily Jenkins’s same-named book series. The film departs from the stories in several ways, but the crux of the plot is the same: Teenage Nory (Izabela Rose) and her best friend, Reina (Siena Agudong), overcome personal struggles as they attend a school for magical students. Nory’s unwillingness to view what makes her different from her peers as a problem makes her a fantastic role model for kids. To get her point across, she challenges authority figures and the status quo — but in this case, the ends certainly justify the means. A few scenes show a teen possessed by a foreboding force that eventually consumes her and threatens everyone else, but actual scares are few, and a happy ending awaits. There’s no swearing, but you can expect some name-calling, like “loser,” “dumb,” “dorks” and “stupid,” as well as “butts.” Watching the movie may encourage kids to check out the books, if they haven’t already. (97 minutes)

Available on the Disney Channel and, beginning Saturday, via DisneyNow streaming.

The Speed Cubers (TV-PG)


Age 8+

Inspiring short doc about competition and friendship.

The Speed Cubers” is a short documentary by Sue Kim about the world of competitive Rubik’s Cube speed solving. Two leading solvers are profiled, with the film evolving into a story of friendship and growth, decency and generosity, and overcoming hardships. The seemingly greatest speed cuber of all time is 17-year-old Max Park, a young Californian competitor with autism. His parents, who encouraged his gift for cubing, hoped participating in competitions would help him learn social and emotional skills. Thanks to his friendship with the world champion he unseated, Max took away far more from the experience than they could ever have imagined. This is an inspirational movie that will appeal to all ages. (40 minutes)

Available via Netflix streaming.

The Secret: Dare to Dream (PG)


Age 10+

Self-help book inspires so-so romance; some peril.

The Secret: Dare to Dream” is a romance based on Rhonda Byrne’s 2006 best-selling self-help book, “The Secret,” about the law of attraction’s power to shape a person’s life. Revolving around a family whose members believe they’re unlucky, the film aims to shift perception to show that “you get what you expect” and that bad things can lead to good outcomes. Conversations about those ideas are often delivered to kids and expressed in a way they can understand, without much “magical thinking” terminology. In fact, as much as “manifestation” is the whole point of the movie, that word is never mentioned; nor is “the power of attraction,” and there’s only one utterance of “the universe.” Rather, the movie is focused on seeing life through a positive rather than negative lens. On the other hand, the film gets somewhat in the way of its own message because the main character (Katie Holmes) is struggling financially, and you could argue that the story has men, more than positive thinking, rescuing her on several occasions. A flashback scene includes the moments after a plane crash; while the survivor is bleeding and in peril, no other carnage is seen. You can also expect a bit of mild language (“damn,” “hell”), social drinking and light romance, with only one substantial kiss. (107 minutes)

Available via various streaming platforms, including Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu and cable providers.

Summerland (PG)


Age 10+

Moving, relatable World War II drama about grief and lost love.

Summerland” is a tender World War II drama that focuses on grief in a way that both adults and children will be able to relate to and understand. It centers on Alice (Gemma Arterton), a reclusive writer who has no interest in motherhood until she takes in a young evacuee named Frank (Lucas Bond). While the movie explores the futility and waste of war — including the off-screen death of a parent — it’s primarily about overcoming life’s setbacks. A few tense scenes take place during a London bomb raid (the upsetting aftermath is shown), the theme of death lingers, characters argue and there’s a brief example of bullying between children. Alice, who’s gay, is proud of her sexual identity, even though she’s sometimes nervous how others who are more conservative will perceive her as a result. Flashbacks portray her loving relationship with Vera (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who’s Black, but their skin color is incidental to the story. They share a powerful chemistry, and a few scenes suggest the intimacy of their time together, but nothing really racy is shown. Language is also mild, but Alice does smoke throughout (accurate for the time period). (100 minutes)

Available via various streaming platforms.

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