Kiddie Pool 21/02/18

Family fun for the weekend

Vacation week fun

Let the kids explore hands-on exhibits that show the science behind motion, light, space exploration, the ocean, human genetics and more at the SEE Science Center in Manchester (200 Bedford St., 669-0400, see-sciencecenter.org), which is open daily for the remainder of this week through Feb. 28. Visitors can reserve morning or afternoon sessions in advance, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 2 to 5 p.m. Pre-registration, either via the website or by phone, is required as capacity for each session is limited. Admission is $9 per person ages 3 and up.

While the hours at theChildren’s Museum of New Hampshire (6 Washington St. in Dover; children’s-museum.org, 742-2002) are still limited (Thursdays through Saturdays, 9 to 11:30 a.m. or 1 to 3:30 p.m.) and all visitors must pre-register online, the museum’s website is full of fun activities to keep the kids busy during vacation. There’s a Books Alive literacy program that includes videos of book characters who visit during storytime (Pete the Cat makes an appearance!) as well as craft activities related to the books and characters. It’s also Dental Health Month at the museum, and there are videos related to that, as well as hands-on activities for those who visit in person. Admission is $11 for adults and children over 1, $9 for seniors 65+, and free for museum members and children under 1.

Socialize and exercise

Every Friday from 10 to 11 a.m. the Health Club of Concord (10 Garvins Falls Road, 224-7787) hosts a free Parent and Me Play Date that’s open to the public. Get together with other parents in a safe and fun environment and socialize or just relax while your children play. The next play date is happening Friday, Feb. 19. The club also offers a free kids Zumba class on Thursdays at 10 a.m. when a parent attends the adult Zumba class at 9 a.m. on that day ($15 for non-members; free child care during the adult class). Visit healthclubofconcord.com.

At the Sofaplex 21/02/11

Locked Down (R)

Anne Hathaway, Chiwetel Ejiofor.

A couple stuck in lockdown in London eventually plan a half-baked diamond heist in a movie that is just so much more pie crust scraps than pie.

Paxton (Ejiofor) and Linda (Hathaway) have broken up but are still stuck living together in the same (really pretty, with multiple stories and a garden) London townhome early in the pandemic. Linda, an American, is working remotely at her job as a luxury goods executive and Paxton has been laid off, I think, from his usual job as a delivery driver. After a lot of unnecessary shagginess, we get to the action, which is that Linda has to assist with the pack-up of high-end clothes and accessories from Harrods, which is locking away all its goods during this quarantine era. One of the items she is charged with packing up is a very large diamond that has been sold to a Bad Person and is going to be sent to a vault in New York City where it is unlikely to be even looked at for decades. Coincidentally, Paxton has been tasked by his old employer to help transport these items.

According to the little sneak peek of this movie on HBO Max, the film was not only made in a house with minimal crew during Covid (actors like Ben Kingsley, Ben Stiller, Stephen Merchant, Mindy Kaling and Dulé Hill appear in Zoom or FaceTime sequences) but filmmakers were given access to the inner workings of the closed Harrods. But this gem of a setting doesn’t show up until the last 30 minutes. That’s 90 minutes of not-heisting in this heist movie.

Somewhere here is 72 minutes of a tight, light, fun movie of the “heck, let’s make something” style of Covid-era creation. But way too much time is spent underlining the unhappiness in Paxton and Linda’s relationship and the crazy-making state of being locked down (which, and this won’t be true in 10 years but it is true now, movies don’t need to explain; like, we’re here, we get it). C+ Available on HBO Max

Bliss (R)

Owen Wilson, Salma Hayek.

Wilson is either a man experiencing drug addiction and mental illness or a volunteer caught in an experiment in this odd sci-fi, I guess, movie. Wilson plays Greg, a man who has recently, in his words, messed up his marriage and is spacing out at work but still tries to convince his grown daughter, Emily (Nesta Cooper), that he is OK. But then a meeting with his boss goes fatally wrong and Greg runs to a bar, where he meets Isabel (Hayek), a woman who seems to have the power to move things with her mind. She claims that the world and most of the people in it are not real but that Greg is real and, like her, can manipulate objects after popping some yellow crystals. He stays with her in her tent under the underpass and together they grift food and get into petty trouble. When his faith in her claims about “simulations” and “crystals” starts to falter, she takes him back to the “real” world, which unlike the “simulation” (basically this world, with its pollution and income inequality and muted gray color scheme) is a brilliantly colored place of universal wealth, a healthy environment and so much happiness it’s turned people into ungrateful jerks. There, Isabel is actually a doctor who has developed the Brain Box, a device that sends people to the unhappy simulation existence so they can see how lousy things could be, to appreciate what they have. Greg is her boyfriend or husband or whatever and together they live in a beautiful house, like the one he’s been sketching during his “life” in the simulation. “Real” life is perfect and Greg never wants to leave — but he can’t shake thoughts of his children back in the simulation.

I’m not totally sure what this movie is doing, if it’s trying to say something about the state of our world, how it feels not be able to trust your own perceptions, or something about the reason people fall into addiction. Whatever it’s doing, Bliss is not doing a great job of it. It also never made me care about the central characters of Greg and Isabel. Ultimately, I didn’t really care which world was real; I was just happy when the movie was over and I could leave both of them behind. D Available on Amazon Prime

Palmer (R)

Justin Timberlake, June Squibb.

Palmer (Timberlake) is released from prison and returns to his small hometown to live with his grandmother, Vivian (Squibb), and try to start over in life. The small town-ness makes that extremely difficult — everybody knows his trajectory from promising high school quarterback to man who took part in a burglary that went bad. But his grandmother’s reputation in her church also helps to get him his job as janitor at the local elementary school.

Vivian is strict with Palmer but a giving person; when Shelly (Juno Temple), the woman renting a neighboring trailer from Vivian, takes off, Vivian watches Sam (Ryder Allen), her elementary school-aged son. Sam is sweet and happy despite his family turmoil and loves all things fancy, especially a cartoon princess show and its costumes and toys. This makes school difficult for him but he is confident in his personality and his interests, despite the bullying from kids and some adults — and he has a caring teacher in Miss Maggie (Alisha Wainwright).

When Vivian dies, Sam is basically left alone. Though Palmer initially plans to send Sam to child services, his own childhood experiences with family upheaval lead him to agree to take care of Sam while they wait for Shelly to return. Palmer, Sam and to some degree Miss Maggie, who sort of hovers on the edges (initially, it seems, to make sure Sam is all right but later because, you know, Palmer is played by Justin Timberlake), become a kind of found family, with Sam and Palmer helping each other to find some stability.

For all that this movie has some grim and violent moments, it is a kind and gentle story — but sweet fancy molasses, is it slow. You know the joke that goes “I spent a year in [some boring place] one weekend”? Palmer is the movie version of that. It goes exactly where you think it will but it takes so very long getting there. This movie sets the scene just fine but then hangs around making sure “Do you get it? Do You GET IT?” an unnecessarily long time and it does this repeatedly. You could cut a good 30 minutes out of this movie and lose nothing. B- Available on Apple TV+

Malcolm & Marie (R)

The Little Things (R)

A couple argue in Malcolm & Marie, a movie somewhat reminiscent of the talky (if mannered) indies of the 1990s.

Did you like your Clerks and your Blue in the Face-type movies? This is slicker than those but there is something in it that reminds me of them. Like those movies (with their backstories of being funded by credit cards), this one leans on dialogue in part because of behind-the-scenes constraints. According to media reports, Malcolm & Marie was made during Covid times. So while multiple characters — an actress, past girlfriends, a “white lady from the LA Times” (who becomes a stand-in for all film critics) — and a big fancy party are in the narrative mix, on screen there are only two people at one location.

Malcolm (John David Washington) is a filmmaker ecstatic after the premiere of his new movie. He is so giddy that it takes him a while after he and his girlfriend, Marie (Zendaya), return home to notice that she’s mad. We learn that while introducing the film at the event, Malcolm thanked all the people involved in the film but not Marie. And, in the hours since, the lack of a thank you has become A Whole Thing.

Thus this relatively spare setup digs into relationship stuff, relationships-in-a-Hollywood-environment stuff, ideas about the art of film, ideas about the criticism of film, stuff about who gets to make art with whose life experiences. Has that description made you say “ugh, pass” or “OK, tell me more”? I feel like if you have a low tolerance for this much self-conscious, very movie-scripty talkiness, Malcolm & Marie may not entirely win you over. But I found all of this self-aware movie-ness kind of charmingly spunky even when it’s being A Lot.

Washington joins his father (Denzel Washington) in that group of actors who I just enjoy watching, no matter how good or flawed or adequate the scene they’re in is. He’s fun here and seemingly having fun and also turning in an engaging performance that at times maybe feels a little like an audition for a better movie but it was thoroughly watchable. Zendaya is often fine but not always able to match the heft that Washington brings to a scene, a state exaggerated by the way her character is written and their age difference (Zendaya is 24 and Washington is 36). I’m not sure how much older the movie wants us to believe Malcolm is than Marie or how we’re supposed to think that plays in to their relationship. In a movie so all about who is telling whose stories and why, it’s an oversight that gets in the way.

So, yeah, there’s a lot of talking about what we’re talking about. And it’s not a relaxing good time to watch couples fight. The setup does occasionally border on stagey and the movie continues for a few minutes past the point of its natural ending. But I had enough nostalgia for this kind of chatty movie and Washington delivered enough moments of a fun performance that I had a better than average time. C+

Rated R for pervasive language and sexual content, according to the MPA on filmratings.com. Written and directed by Sam Levinson (son of Barry, and this movie about a movie-maker takes on a whole new entertaining layer when you know that), Malcolm & Marie is an hour and 46 minutes long and is available on Netflix.

Featured photo: Malcolm & Marie

Kiddie Pool 21/02/11

Family fun for the weekend

L.O.V.E. bingo

Have a sweet Valentine’s Day celebration at Chunky’s Cinema Pub. The theater is hosting family-friendly Theater Candy Bingo on Saturday, Feb. 13, at 6 p.m. at its Manchester location (707 Huse Road) and its Pelham location (150 Bridge St.), and on Sunday, Feb. 14, at noon at its Nashua location (151 Coliseum Ave.). It’s traditional bingo with a little more heart — each round will feature Valentine’s Day patterns, like a heart shape and Xs and Os, and there will be Valentine’s Day-themed prizes for the winners, along with traditional boxes of theater candy. Purchase a ticket online to reserve a spot; for $4.99 you get a ticket and a box of Chunky’s theater candy. Turn in your candy to the host to get a bingo card and play a few rounds to try to win back that candy and more. Visit chunkys.com.

Skate outside

Local cities and towns have outdoor ice skating rinks that are free and open to residents and non-residents. The rinks may be open on and off, depending on the temperatures, so call or check the city’s or town’s website or social media before you go. Here are a few local rinks to check out:

Bow Town Pond, 3 Bow Center Road, Bow, 223-3920, bow-nh.com.

• Concord has three public rinks: Beaver Meadow Pond, 1 Beaver Meadow Dr.; Rollins Park, 116 Broadway St.; and White Park Pond & Hockey Rink, 1 White St. Call 225-8690 or visit concordnh.gov. When open, hours are daily from dawn to dusk.

Dorrs Pond, 56 Hooksett Road, Manchester, 624-6444, manchesternh.gov. When open, hours are daily from dawn to dusk.

Ice Skating Rink at Watson Park, 441 Daniel Webster Hwy., Merrimack, 882-1046, merrimackparksandrec.org. When open, hours are daily from dawn to 9 p.m.

Kimball Lake, 47 Kimball Lake Road, Hopkinton, 746-8263, hopkintonrec.com. When open, hours are daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

• Nashua has two public rinks: Jeff Morin Fields at Roby Park, 126 Spit Brook Road (when open, hours are daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. for general skating, and from 8 to 10 p.m. for hockey) and Four Corners, behind Holman Stadium, Sargent Avenue (when open, hours are daily from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and 6 to 10 p.m. for general skating, and before 11 a.m. and between 4:30 and 6 p.m. for hockey). Call 589-3370 or visit nashuanh.gov.

At the Sofaplex 21/02/04

Finding ‘Ohana (PG)

Kea Peahu, Alex Aiono.

Pili (Peahu), a geocaching champion, sets out on a real treasure hunt to help pay her family’s bills in this adventure-packed kid-friendly movie set in Hawaii.

Pili, 12, and her brother, Ioane (Aiono), an older teen, have come to Hawaii with their mother, Leilani (Kelly Hu), to visit their grandfather, Kimo (Branscombe Richard), who is recovering from a heart attack. The visit is their first one back to the family home since the kids were little and their father, who was in the Army, died. Leilani is frustrated to find that Kimo has a slew of bills that need paying, Pili is disappointed that she had to forgo a summer at geocaching camp and Ioane is all teenager-y about the lack of Wi-Fi — though he perks up a bit when he meets girl-teen Hana (Lindsay Watson). Pili is drawn to a journal she finds and a story her grandfather tells her about a long-ago explorer and some hidden treasure. She sets out with new buddy Casper (Owen Vaccaro) to find the mountain where a series of clues from an old journal should bring her to what she’s hoping is enough olden-days pirate-y gold and whatnot that she can pay her family’s bills without their having to sell their Brooklyn apartment (and possibly leave their city lives behind).

Mixing the best parts of The Goonies, the Indiana Jones sense of adventure and some Drunk History-style storytelling, Finding ‘Ohana is plucky fun with moments of well-executed family drama that manages to pretty seamlessly flow with the comedy and action. Other than some kissy business with the teens, the movie feels pretty older-elementary-schooler-friendly without being a chore for adults to sit through (it is just self-aware enough about its Goonies-ness to be charming in its nostalgia). B+ Available on Netflix.

Palmer (R)

Justin Timberlake, June Squibb.

Palmer (Timberlake) is released from prison and returns to his small home town (in, I think, Louisiana) to live with his grandmother, Vivian (Squibb), and try to start over in life. The small town-ness makes that extremely difficult — everybody knows his trajectory from promising high school quarterback to man who took part in a burglary that went bad. But his grandmother’s reputation in her church also helps to get him his job as janitor at the local elementary school.

Vivian is strict with Palmer but a giving person; when Shelly (Juno Temple), the woman renting a neighboring trailer from Vivian, takes off, Vivian watches Sam (Ryder Allen), her elementary school aged son. Sam is sweet and happy despite his family turmoil and loves all things fancy, especially a cartoon princess show and its costumes and merch. This makes school difficult for him but he is confident in his personality and his interests, despite the bullying from kids and some adults — and he has an understanding teacher in Miss Maggie (Alisha Wainwright).

When Vivian dies, Sam is basically left alone. Though Palmer initially plans to send Sam to child services, his own childhood experiences with family upheaval lead him to agree to take care of Sam while they wait for Shelly to return. Palmer, Sam and to some degree Miss Maggie, who sort of hovers on the edges (initially, it seems, to make sure Sam is all right but later because, you know, Palmer is played by Justin Timberlake), become a kind of found family, with Sam and Palmer helping each other to find some stability.

For all that this movie has some grim and violent moments, it is a sweet and gentle story — but sweet fancy molasses, is it slow. You know the joke that goes, “I spent a year in [some boring place] one weekend”? Palmer is the movie version of that. It goes exactly where you think it will but it takes so very long getting there. This movie sets the scene just fine but then hangs around making sure, “Do you get it? Do You GET IT?” for an unnecessarily long time and it does this repeatedly. You could cut a good 30 minutes out of this movie and lose nothing. The slow-pokey-ness of the pacing and the needless repetition of story points (that Palmer’s old friends are jerks, Shelly is a mess, Sam is bullied) cut into the impact of Timberlake’s basically average to above average performance and Allen’s realistic-kid-like performance as Sam. B- — Available on Apple TV+

Penguin Bloom (TV-14)

Naomi Watts, Andrew Lincoln.

Sam Bloom (Watts), an athletic Australian mother of three sons, becomes paralyzed from the bra-strap down during an accident on a family vacation. Months later, the family is still having a hard time coping: Sam is depressed, her oldest son Noah (Griffin Murray-Johnston) feels guilty about how the accident happened, Sam and her husband Cameron (Lincoln) haven’t figured out how to relate to each other and her younger sons, Rueben (Felix Cameron) and Oli (Abe Clifford-Barr), are just generally sort of missing their withdrawn mother. But then they find a young black-and-white magpie on the beach and name her Penguin. The bird and Sam’s role caring for the bird give the family something new and hopeful to coalesce around and help Sam find her way out of her grief.

There isn’t much to this movie, which is based on a true story. It is a pleasant movie with a palatable amount of inspirational storytelling. The Bloom family Australian home has a casual beach feel — which is sort of fun to look at, in an interior design magazine way, and consider things such as how machine washable all the upholstery looks (which feels accurate for a house with three young boys) but how uncluttered the house is (which feels more aspirational than realistic). Nobody’s performance is horrible. And … the bird is cute. There are worse things to fold your laundry to. B Available on Netflix.

The Dig (PG-13)

Carey Mulligan, Ralph Fiennes.

Edith Pretty (Mulligan) hires excavator Basil Brown (Fiennes) to help her unearth archaeological finds in a field on her property in this movie based on a true story of a true dig in Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, England.

The work was sort of a pet project of hers and her late husband’s. He didn’t live to see the uncovering of whatever is hiding in the large and centuries-old mounds in their field and now she has learned she doesn’t have long to live either. The project is also happening as the British Museum is securing all of its treasures elsewhere and another dig is rushing to finish excavation on a Roman site before the country plunges into war with Germany — this is summer 1939 and everybody knows they are weeks away from their world changing.

The Dig starts off as a slow look in on a Downton Abbey-ish world — Edith dresses for dinner by herself at the large country home tended by several servants. She and Brown slowly form a sort of friendship over their excitement about the dig and their desire to keep bigger museums and organizations from taking over. It’s interesting — the process of uncovering what they eventually realize is an Anglo-Saxon ship — but it is also a bit pokey with a lot of character beats that seem to go nowhere. About halfway through, we meet several new characters including Edith’s RAF-bound cousin, Rory (Johnny Flynn, the Mr. Knightley of 2020’s Emma), and a husband-wife archaeologist duo, Stuart Piggott (Ben Chaplin) and Peggy Piggott (Lily James). They add a welcome bit of soapiness to a movie that then becomes surprisingly story-filled and emotionally affecting in the final 30 or so minutes. The Dig is a nice bit of drama based on real history — if you can stick with it. B Available on Netflix.

The Little Things (R)

The Little Things (R)

Three difficult loners find themselves in each other’s orbit during the investigation into a serial killer in 1990 Los Angeles in The Little Things, a pretty standard midwinter thriller movie.

In the mix with horror movies, the occasional goofy comedy and, in February-ish, romance-y movies, the early part of the year usually tends to bring sort of procedural, man-on-the-hunt-for-enemy movies. Sometimes the enemy is the human trafficking organization that kidnapped the guy’s daughter (Taken), sometimes it’s wolves (The Grey). Sometimes it’s a woman on the hunt (Miss Bala). These low-pressure movies fill the space around the Oscar releases that are still coming into theaters during these weeks that, in normal times, are the thick of awards season. And even though everything about movies and awards is all haywire right now, The Little Things still feels like it’s meeting the need for a “police-y thriller starring an older but still credible-as-action-hero actor.”

In this movie, that actor is Denzel Washington, playing sheriff’s deputy Joe Deacon, called “Deke.” He works in the Bakersfield area now but was once an L.A. County sheriff’s detective. He’s sent back to L.A. to pick up some evidence and so we get to see him interact with old friends and coworkers who are basically not happy to see him. He was one of those great but difficult detectives and he left under … circumstances.

He bumps into Jim Baxter (Rami Malek), a rising star detective who also seems pretty difficult. Baxter is tightly wound and cocky — and under a lot of stress as he is the lead investigator in a serial killer case. A handful of women have been found murdered with similar patterns to the violence and state of the bodies.

Aspects of those cases remind Deke of a never-solved case featuring murdered women from his days in Los Angeles, a case that seems to have led to, as we’re told, a divorce and a heart attack and his move to a new city. Because Baxter has heard impressive things about Deke’s investigative abilities and because Deke is still obsessed with that old case, the men eventually start working to solve these new murders together.

Which is how loner number three enters the picture: Albert Sparma (Jared Leto). Even if he never killed anyone, Albert would be described as a “creepy serial killer type.” Violent crime seems to be, whether he actively participates in it or not, a hobby he has really gotten into, with his books on famous serial killers past, his active-at-all-times police scanner, his gross response to seeing crime scene photos and his whole “I am a serial killer” vibe. He is de-Li-ghted when Deke and Baxter take an interest in him. Are they going to Break The Rules in pursuit of him? Would I have ordered a large popcorn and said “heck, why not” to at least a small amount of butter?

You can currently see this movie in theaters or you can make your own popcorn and watch it on HBO Max through Feb. 28. And, sure, go ahead, watch it. This movie is fine. I’ve seen worse things in winter movie viewing. Would I recommend building a whole move night around it? Maybe not; the extremely “what you’d expect” story beats and the general “it’s a grim world out there” perspective of this movie doesn’t exactly add up to anything fresh or surprising. The movie is unnecessarily over two hours long and needed to either shave off a good 30 minutes or add some kind of more substantial subplot to justify its length.

The movie comes off, I think, as generally better than it is because of the lead actors. I could probably watch a made-weary-by-the-job Denzel Washington pick up dry cleaning and search for a missing library book and would find it at least medium-compelling. Rami Malek is every young cop character ever trying to balance the bleakness of the job with a sunny home life. He plays Baxter with just enough weirdness that it gives the character a twitchy edge. Leto feels like he’s at least having fun, throwing All The Acting at his role.

If that doesn’t sound like much of a recommendation it’s because it’s not — it’s more like “if you are already paying for HBO Max and can basically see this movie for free there’s no specific reason to avoid it.” In a normal time, this movie probably would have come and gone with little notice and become a thing you could snooze to on cable six months later. (It was the No. 1 movie in theaters last weekend, according to media reports.) But, hey, silver lining I guess, now you can fall asleep at the slow parts or give up at one of the umpteen flashbacks that very slowly unfurl Deke’s Bad Thing that Happened Back When all from the comfort of your own home. C+

Rated R to violent/disturbing images, language and full nudity, according to the MPA on filmratings.com Written and directed by John Lee Hancock, The Little Things is two hours and 7 minutes long and distributed by Warner Bros. It is available on HBO Max through Feb. 28.

Featured photo: The Little Things (R)

Kiddie Pool 21/02/04

Family fun for the weekend

Celebrate Apollo 14

Celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 14 with the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center (2 Institute Drive, Concord, starhop.com)! According to its website, the center is offering several free virtual activities, including a live online community rocket launch on Saturday, Feb. 6, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Bring a straw rocket, baking soda and vinegar rocket, Alka-Seltzer rocket or any other kind of rocket, then count down together and launch them into the sky. Coming up Thursday, Feb. 4, at 7 p.m. is the Special Star Show – The Apollo 14 Sky workshop via Zoom (free, but registration at starhop.com is required). On Friday, Feb. 5, take the family on the Alan Shepard Driving Tour (the route is available online) and check in via social media. Pinkerton Academy hosts Mr. Aaron’s Space Sing-Along for younger kids on Sunday, Feb. 7, at 9:30 a.m.

Catch the planes

The Festival of Planes at the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire (27 Navigator Road, Londonderry, 669-4820, aviationmuseumofnh.org) has been extended to Sunday, Feb. 7. According to a press release, the walk-through exhibit, which includes aviation-themed toys, models and puzzles, plus vintage aircraft piloted by celebrities like Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse, has been so popular that it will close two weeks later than planned. The toys span the 20th century, from custom-made cast iron planes to today’s mass-produced Hello Kitty airplane toys. In addition, hundreds of collectible model aircrafts are displayed on a new Wall of Planes in the museum’s learning center. This weekend the museum will be open Friday, Feb. 5, and Saturday, Feb. 6, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 7, from 1 to 7 p.m. The exhibit is included with museum admission of $10 per person; $5 for seniors 65+, veterans/active military and students under 13. Members and children under age 5 get in free.

At the Sofaplex 21/01/28

We Can Be Heroes (PG)
Pedro Pascal, Priyanka Chopra. Other adults include Christian Slater and Adriana Barraza. But really, this movie is about the kids.
Missy Moreno (YaYa Gosselin) thought she had a deal with her dad Marcus (Pascal) that he wouldn’t be going on any more superhero missions since her mom passed away. But the day that aliens arrived on Earth, all of the heroes headed skyward to fight them off and all of them got captured. This leaves only their children — most of whom have magic powers, though varying levels of control of their abilities — to save the day.
This is part of writer-director Robert Rodriguez’s Shark Boy and Lava Girl cinematic universe — those kid characters from the 2005 movie are now a grown adult couple with a daughter, the super strong little Guppy (Vivien Blair), who can also manipulate water. Slo-Mo (Dylan Henry Lau) moves super fast but super slowly (it’s a cute visual effect), twins Rewind (Isaiah Russell-Bailey) and Fast Forward (Akira Akbar) can manipulate time, A Capella (Lotus Blossom) can move people and things by emitting different sound waves — and so on. This live action movie has a very Odd Squad energy, if you’ve seen that PBS Kids show, and while there is some cartoony-style violence (little Guppy kicking and punching human-appearing aliens) it’s a fairly peace-loving good-hearted take on little kid X-Men-style superheroes. And, as in the Spy Kids movies, the cast is diverse in an organic way that allows more kids to see themselves in this league of heroes. There’s some good messaging about confidence, teamwork and everybody having their own strengths and abilities as well. B+ Available on Netflix.

Shadow in the Cloud (R)
Chloë Grace Moretz, Beulah Koale. Moretz plays Maud Garrett, a female pilot who was part of the WASP program in World War II (the Wikipedia basics: the Women Airforce Service Pilots were federal civil service employees and they sound like bad-asses and why haven’t there been more WASP movies?). She shows up on a foggy New Zealand military runway with a mysterious bag, orders to get the bag to American Samoa on an airplane with the name “Fool’s Errand” painted on the side of it and a bunch of “it’s classified” responses to the questions of the men on board, none of whom are psyched to have her there. “For her safety” but probably also because it makes her an easier mark for hazing, they put her in the sperry (think a plastic egg stuck to the bottom of the plane with a gun mounted in it) as the plane takes off and begins its travel.
As the movie begins, it’s not clear whether this is a kick-butt lady-at-war movie, an improbable-mission thriller or a supernatural action movie. You’re in luck, it’s all three! The movie gets down to business and comes in at a tidy hour and 23 minutes (of which at least six minutes are credits; the first part of the credits feature images of actual WASPs and their British counterparts and, again, here is your next action movie franchise right here). This might not be the highest-budget movie ever but it makes up for its shortfalls by using Moretz’s spot in the sperry wisely (she’s hanging in the wide-open sky but actually all of the action is taking place in a chair) and keeping some things in shadow for a while. B+ Available for rent or purchase.

Honest Thief (PG-13)
Liam Neeson, Kate Walsh. Really, there are only six characters of any consequence in this movie. Neeson is a guy named Tom, who is a very tidy bank robber, and Walsh is Annie, the lady whose presence in his life leads him to give up bank robbing more or less the moment he meets her. Everybody else is an FBI agent: Nivens (Jai Courtney) and his partner Hall (Anthony Ramos) and Meyers (Jeffrey Donovan) and his partner Baker (Robert Patrick).
After a year of dating Annie, Tom wants to move in with her and spend the rest of their lives together. But he doesn’t want his bank robberies (all committed after banks were closed, no injuries to people and he even patches up and repaints the drywall he cuts through to get into the banks; his no-nonsense crimes earn him the name “the in-and-out bandit,” which makes it sound like he’s a raccoon stealing cheeseburgers) hanging over their heads and so he tries to turn himself in. This would have been a 10-minute movie if Tom hired a lawyer like a normal person; instead, he randomly calls the FBI and talks to Baker, an agent who’s all, “yeah, sure, buddy, you’re the in-and-out bandit.” He tells Tom they’ll get back to him and gives the “go check on this nutjob and his crazy story” task to Nivens and Hall. It takes them a few days but they do go to see him, no more impressed than Baker was, even when he hands them a key to a storage locker where he says the money is. But then they find the cash, cash that Nivens decides is just free money that they can take with no consequences. There are about a dozen reasons this is a terrible idea, and Hall seems to think of a few of them, but he goes along and the crazy plan to steal stolen money from a naive (but explosives proficient) thief quickly goes awry.
This is another movie of Liam Neeson’s “a Man with a Very Particular Set of Skills” oeuvre. This isn’t a good movie in the way Taken was when it first came out and kicked off the “old guy kicking butt” part of Neeson’s career. This isn’t even quite up to the level of the enjoyable silliness of something like The Grey. But it’s also thoroughly watchable, low-pressure enough that you don’t need to give it your full attention to still get your money’s worth, and has just enough fun to justify spending an hour and 39 minutes with it. C+ Available for rent or purchase.

The War with Grandpa (PG)
Robert De Niro, Uma Thurman. Back in the Before times, when families were spending time together in multi-generational groups, there needed to be movies that everyone could see together and be OK with — not deeply enjoy, just be OK sitting through next to your kid or your grandma or whatever. That’s what The War with Grandpa, a movie which came out in theaters this fall and is now available on VOD, is. De Niro is the titular grandpa, forced to live with his family (daughter played by Uma Thurman, son-in-law played by Rob Riggle, and their three kids) after he gets in assorted old-guy trouble (running over the mailbox, a little civil unrest at the supermarket after a run-in with self checkout). He doesn’t particularly like this new arrangement but his grandson, Peter (Oakes Fegley), likes it even less. Peter had to give up his bedroom for his grandfather and now lives in a bat- and mouse-infested unfinished attic. Rather than embracing this situation (which, like, his teenage older sister and elementary school younger sister have to share a room; life’s not that bad, Peter), Peter declares war on his grandpa, to the victor goes the finished bedroom. And sure, Peter has the advantage of understanding how to use the technology that can give his grandfather annoying midnight wake-up alarms, but grandpa has the benefit of knowing how to use a screwdriver and take apart all of Peter’s furniture.
This isn’t a great example of either the “benign family entertainment” or the “old guy comedy” genres — it’s not even the best of De Niro’s entries in this field — but it’s, you know, fine. There is nothing terribly objectionable about the movie and it features fun small roles with Cheech Marin, Christopher Walken and Jane Seymour. B- Available for rent or purchase.

Wild Mountain Thyme (PG-13)
Emily Blunt, Jamie Dornan.
Also Christopher Walken and Jon Hamm — all actors who deserve better than this strange movie that I think is supposed to be a romantic comedy. Whimsy? Is this supposed to be whimsy, I thought as I watched this movie. Rosemary (Blunt) has loved Anthony (Dornan, of Fifty Shades of Grey fame; I didn’t really see it with him in those movies but he’s appealing enough here) since they were kids. They are the sole remaining children living at their parents’ neighboring farms in Ireland and Rosemary is somewhat patiently waiting for the day Anthony will realize he loves her too and their farms can become one or something. Anthony is kind of a twitchy oddball who appears to have spent a significant amount of his life in love (or at least in infatuation) with somebody else. When Anthony’s dad (Walken) starts to prepare Anthony for his impending death, he toys with the idea of giving the farm to his nephew, Adam (Hamm), a handsome American who maybe has a better shot at getting married and continuing the family legacy at the farm. Or maybe Walken-dad is just saying that to get Anthony to propose to poor Rosemary. Or who knows. I think probably this movie thinks that it’s charming — a charming movie about two people who live in their own dream worlds, or something. It’s really more taxing. It’s a lot of accent and wig choices and “quirky” behavior that maybe sounded cute, in a movie pitch meeting, but just comes off as, at best, extremely mannered and movie-like. C- Available for rent.

Outside the Wire (R)
Anthony Mackie, Damson Idris. In 2036, human U.S. Army drone pilot Harp (Idris) is sent to the front lines of an Eastern European conflict to serve under Capt. Leo (Mackie), who is a fancy A.I. robot. Leo is, of course, smart and strong but he’s also sort of moody and maybe a little too certain of his own mental processing abilities — flaws that make you think his makers never saw a single Terminator movie. Harp and Leo are the only ones, for some reason, who can head off on a mission with the goal of keeping old Soviet nukes out of the hands of the region’s warlord (who is played by Pilou Asbæk, former fan favorite-punching-bag Euron Greyjoy of Game of Thrones; poor guy, not really catching any breaks here either).
This movie has A Lot of ideas about war and the morality of war and the morality of drones and the U.S.’s roles in international conflicts and its use of drones in those conflicts. The ideas aren’t terrible as a way to help give heft to an action movie, but this movie doesn’t ever really seem to know what to do with it all. Its characters get some speeches but there is just too much going on for it to ever really build to a coherent point.
I’ll give Mackie, who I like in other stuff, the benefit of the doubt and say the “big tangle of ideas and plots” problem is what hurts his performance. Maybe he didn’t know how he was supposed to play this character, suggested my movie companion. I agree; it’s like Mackie thought “beats me what’s happening here; how about I just riff on Training Day?” Damson Idris might have action movie potential but the movie didn’t give him much to do either; I feel like “stand around and look shocked” was the gist of a lot of his direction. C-

MLK/FBI (NR)
The FBI’s surveillance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quickly moved from investigation of someone they thought had subversive political opinions to what seems like tabloid-y attempts to document King’s alleged extramarital affairs. While documents about the surveillance were recently released, the FBI’s tapes won’t be released until 2027. Should they be released and what should historians do with this information obtained in such a shady, J. Edgar Hoover fashion? Those are some of the questions this documentary addresses as well as an examination of why the government would undertake this surveillance to begin with in interviews from historians, people like Clarence Jones and Andrew Young who knew King and, make of this what you will, former FBI director James Comey. The movie includes a fair amount of footage of King himself, not just the big speeches but interviews and other archival footage that could not feel more modern and relevant. B+
The movie is available for rent and is at some theaters. While it does not appear to have a rating, Amazon gives it “13+” and that feels about right.

The Midnight Sky (PG-13)
George Clooney, Felicity Jones. Clooney also directs this depressing (but pretty!) movie in which a scientist at the North Pole tries to warn a very small crew of astronauts away from returning to a mostly uninhabitable Earth. Whatever disaster has suddenly caused a spread of toxic and radioactive air across the globe is not something anyone seems to believe they’ll survive. Instead, Augustine (Clooney), a scientist who had long advocated for colonizing a life-supporting moon on Jupiter, is desperate to communicate with the crew of the Aether, which is just returning from a trip to that moon. If they head back, they may be able to survive; if they return to Earth, they’re done for, like everybody else. He has stayed behind in the Arctic station where he has been working to try to reach the Aether. He eats alone, sleeps alone and hooks himself up to some medical treatment alone (we learn early on that even without the “event” he didn’t have a long time left to live). At least, he thinks he’s alone. After some mysterious incidents involving food, he discovers that a little girl (Caoilinn Springall) is also at the empty station. Attempts to get someone to come back for this left-behind child fail and so Augustine finds himself caring for her while he also tries to solve the problem of reaching the Aether.
Meanwhile, up in space, the Aether crew thinks a malfunction on their end is keeping them from communicating with Earth — or at least Sully (Jones), the communication technician, seems to believe this. Team leader Adewole (David Oyelowo), Sanchez (Demian Bichir), Maya (Tiffany Boone) and pilot Mitchell (Kyle Chandler), whose wife and sons are back on Earth, seem to be choosing to believe this for now. Though the silence from Earth, even from non-allied countries, is getting to the crew, Sully is pregnant and for her and Adewole thinking about their unborn child seems to help mitigate the tension.
I’ll admit, I’m just not in a place where “world-ending disaster” is fun entertainment and for me this movie doesn’t offer anything artistically intriguing enough to get me over what a bummer it is. Yes, it’s lovely — from its space scenes to its trek by Augustine into the Arctic. And I did on a few occasions think, “huh, Clooney is turning into a more interesting actor as he ages.” But neither one of those elements was enough to get me excited about what I was watching. Though the movie’s trailer blathers about “hope,” this is a pretty hope-free movie (the ending is actually quite dark if you play it out based only on the information we have). And all this woe unfolds pretty slowly; it was hard not to fast-forward (and I will totally admit to both checking my place in the runtime and doing a little desk clearing while the movie was on). Is this fair? Would I have felt differently if I saw this movie in Alternate Timeline Winter 2020-2021, sitting maskless in a theater less than six feet from other patrons? (It was always a Netflix release so there’s a good chance I would have seen this at home in any timeline.) I can’t answer that but I can’t recommend that you spend what precious escape-from-reality time you have with it either. B- Available on Netflix.

Crack: Cocaine, Corruption & Conspiracy (TV-MA)
This new Netflix documentary follows the development and spread of crack cocaine and the government’s response to it from the beginning of the 1980s into the late 1990s — and it does this in about 89 minutes. This is an introductory survey to all of the wider cultural and political issues related to crack, without time to spend too much on any one facet. The documentary does have some good details when it focuses in tightly to look at the human cost, with help from interviews with dealers and those who suffered from addiction, and when it addresses the mid-1990 legislation meant to take on drug-related violence. Former Rep. Charles Rangel discusses the way the legislation was developed and the unintended consequences of some elements of it (such as the penalties for crack possession that were far greater than the penalties for possession of powdered cocaine). This part was interesting, particularly for how many familiar-to-modern-audiences faces (President Biden, Chuck Schumer) show up in archival clips, and I wished we could have seen a deeper dive on just those Clinton-era crime bills. The subject feels like it could sustain an enlightening six-part series. This movie, which speeds away just as a subject starts to get interesting, feels a bit like the Cliffs Notes on that. B —Available on Netflix.

The Fundamentals of Caring (TV-MA)
Paul Rudd, Selena Gomez. The Netflix algorithm decided I had to watch this 2016 movie, so I did and, hey, it isn’t half bad. My two thoughts while watching it were: one, Paul Rudd is good at making a nice guy interesting enough to hang out with for a whole movie, and two, have I seen this movie before? It is the kind of bland pleasantness you could easily see and forget but that doesn’t make it less worthy of a watch, especially if it’s of the “on in the background while you pair socks” variety. Ben (Rudd) is a newly minted professional caregiver but, we learn, an old hand at being stuck in quiet despair. His reasons for this are valid, which is perhaps why he clicks so well with new client Trevor (Craig Roberts), an 18-ish-year-old transplant from England who uses a wheelchair and has a degenerative disease that will likely give him only another decade or so of life. Trevor, who is rigid in his routine and reluctant to leave the house he shares with mom Elsa (Jennifer Ehle), usually takes his frustrations out on the caregivers, shocking or dismaying them. But Ben is beyond shock and dismay, so they begin to get along, well enough that Trevor decides to throw routine to the wind and take a little road trip.
Buddy road movies tend to need a girl, which is where Gomez comes in and she is perfectly fine as Dot, a girl with her own reasons to set out into the world. The Fundamentals of Caring has a few rough moments for those of us who have gone soft and can’t take kid-in-peril situations but it is otherwise sweet, lightly humorous and generally goodhearted, for all that I can totally see myself forgetting I ever saw it. B- Available on Netflix.

Film

Movie screenings, movie-themed happenings & virtual events

Bank of NH Stage in Concord
16 S. Main St., Concord

225-1111, banknhstage.com

Chunky’s Cinema Pub

707 Huse Road, Manchester; 151 Coliseum Ave., Nashua; 150 Bridge St., Pelham, chunkys.com

Red River Theatres

11 S. Main St., Concord

224-4600, redrivertheatres.org

Wilton Town Hall Theatre

40 Main St., Wilton

wiltontownhalltheatre.com, 654-3456

Red River Virtual Cinema Red River Theatres is currently offering indie, foreign language and documentary films via a virtual cinema experience. Recent additions include City Hall, a documentary about Boston city government. See the lineup on the website.

Star Wars Trivia Night Thursday, Jan. 28, at 7:30 p.m. at Chunky’s Manchester, 21+. Reserve a spot by purchasing a $5 food voucher per person.

Dirty Dancing (PG-13, 1987) a 21+ screening of the 1980s film will take place Thursday, Feb. 4, at 8 p.m. at Chunky’s in Nashua, Manchester and Pelham. Tickets $4.99

The Freshman (1925) silent Harold Lloyd film accompanied by live music performed by Jeff Rapsis screens on Sunday, Feb. 7, at 2 p.m. at Wilton Town Hall Theatre. Admission is free but a $10 donation is suggested.

7th Heaven (1927) silent romance film accompanied by live music performed by Jeff Rapsis screens on Sunday, Feb. 14, at 2 p.m. at Wilton Town Hall Theatre. Admission is free but a $10 donation is suggested.

The Bride’s Play (1922) silent film featuring Marion Davies accompanied by live music performed by Jeff Rapsis screens on Sunday, March 14, at 2 p.m. at Wilton Town Hall Theatre. Admission is free but a $10 donation is suggested.

War Horse (National Theatre Live) rebroadcast of the London production at Bank of New Hampshire Stage in Concord, Sunday, March 21, 1 p.m. Tickets $15 for adults, $12 for students.

The White Tiger (R) – Some Kind of Heaven (NR)

The White Tiger (R)

A young man from an impoverished town in India tries to grab his piece of his country’s bright economic future in The White Tiger, a new movie on Netflix.

Balram (Adarsh Gourav) has seen his ambitions crushed all his life. As a child, he loses a chance to go to a good school on scholarship when his grandmother (Kamlesh Gill) forces him to go to work. Later, the social caste system keeps him literally on his knees when dealing with his new employer (Mahesh Manjrekar), who is treated as something of a feudal lord of Balram’s village. Balram heads to the city to serve as a driver not for the man or his horrible oldest son, the Mongoose (Vijay Maurya), but for his more Western-cultured second son, Ashok (Rajkummar Rao). Ashok went to school in America and seems queasy about issues surrounding the way wealthy people treat the people who work for them. Pinky (Priyanka Chopra), his Indian-born but American-ized wife, seems even more uncomfortable with it. Their discomfort does not, however, always translate into being better employers. Nor does Balram always know what to do with himself in their monied urban environment, where he constantly feels his lack of worldliness and simmers with anger even as he is also hungry to find a way into this life. Add this to the fact that his family back home still gets most of his paycheck — their very survival even becomes his responsibility once his employers use them to coerce him into a ruinous decision — and it seems that no amount of eager hard work will allow Balram to get ahead.

Which is, of course, the point. This movie has a lot of the same elements about the grind of poverty as Parasite, but presents them bleaker, if that’s possible. Balram comes to the decision that he basically has no choice but to do things he finds unethical or even immoral; the system doesn’t allow him to be a good person and survive. There is also a fair amount about the idea of being a servant versus an employee; what is the difference between an economic system that allows someone to be employed and one that requires servitude in what again reads as a more feudal sense? All this is presented with humor, bleak humor, but humor and an engaging storytelling style (this movie makes a narration frame and some time jumps work) and a strong performance from Gourav that pulls you in. B+

Rated R for language, violence and sexual material, according to the MPA on filmratings.com. Directed by Ramin Bahrani with a screenplay by Bahrani (from the novel by Aravind Adiga), The White Tiger is two hours and five minutes and is available via Netflix.

Some Kind of Heaven (NR)

Retirees enjoy a new carefree chapter of their lives — maybe — in Some Kind of Heaven, a documentary about four people living at The Villages in Florida.

“An endless cruise with everybody from high school” — what is your response to that statement? If you think “woo-hoo sign me up for the Jimmy Buffett margarita parties,” The Villages, the pre-planned retirement community that seemingly features every kind of amusement in a sort of large outdoor mall/golf course-like setting, might be for you. If it sounds like the kind of “heaven” that you and your philosophy professor buddy figure out is actually The Bad Place, then this movie will reinforce that reaction.

It follows four people living (sort of) at The Villages. The “sort of” is because of Dennis, who is about 80 and lives out of his van. He has come to The Villages with no permanent address and hopes to meet a woman with some money to live with.

Barbara is more organically looking for companionship; she moved to the Villages with her husband, who later died. She seems like she wishes she could return to her home in Massachusetts but as it is she has to work for a Villages medical office to make ends meet. She is just barely starting to get “out there” again, when we first meet her.

Anne and Reggie, a long-married couple, are still together — for better or worse. Anne seems to be left largely alone by Reggie, who throughout the documentary seems to be in the middle of some kind of serious, needs-medical-help episode. (Late in the movie he says an MRI discovered he’s been having small strokes.) He seems to be having delusions (which the movie seems to suggest are either caused by or made worse by recreational drugs he takes) and is making some pretty terrible life decisions, such as choosing to represent himself when he’s facing cocaine possession charges. Reggie rambles on about his spiritual journey and his newfound freedom but Anne goes from looking scared for him to seeming near the point of bubbling over with rage.

Generally, the men depicted here seem to have it better than the women — Dennis is able to float by for a good while and we meet a man whom Barbara likes and who seems to be having a truly great, carefree time. The movie doesn’t get into the gender dynamics of The Villages that much and I wanted to see more. What we’re left with is a “guys get to be 18 again, women have to put up with it” sense of the situation that may or may not reflect any kind of reality. There are a lot of “what about people with some different kind of life experience” or “Villages residents who are 80 versus Villages residents who are 55” questions I had that this movie doesn’t address. It doesn’t have to, necessarily, but since it does seem to want to be making a larger statement about the community, not just the central people, I did want more about the Villages society. There are times when it just feels like you’re watching four people’s misfortunes rather than getting a glimpse at a specific world.

Those stories are very engagingly told. I feel like we get to know Barbara the best and she was the one I found myself cheering on. She seems the least delighted by the Villages as a concept, with its fakey Spanish colonial facades and its million social clubs. Though I could see how this could come off as a purely negative look at the Villages, I feel like this documentary does show people enjoying their lives there and the return-to-college, eternal-tropical-vacation feel of the place. It does seem to be a kind of heaven even if it clearly isn’t everybody’s. B

This movie doesn’t appear to be rated. Directed by Lance Oppenheim, Some Kind of Heaven is an hour and 21 minutes long and is distributed by Magnolia. It is available for rent (including via Red River Theatres virtual theater).

Featured photo: The White Tiger

Kiddie Pool 21/01/28

Family fun for the weekend

Hike by the light of the moon

Beaver Brook (117 Ridge Road in Hollis; 465-7787, beaverbrook.org) has hikes on the schedule this weekend. On Friday, Jan. 29, it’s a Full Moon Hike, which starts at 6:30 p.m. Definitely take the advice to dress in layers; admission costs $15 per person. Recommended for ages 12 and up. Beaver Brook also has kid-focused events during weekdays. See their website for information on multi-week programs, including the Kids Fitness Hiking Club, homeschool programs and events for the pre-K crowd.

More wildlife

The Squam Lakes Natural Science Center (23 Science Center Road in Holderness; 968-7194, nhnature.org) has Wild Winter Walks on the schedule for the next few weekends. This weekend, the walks take place Sunday, Jan. 31, at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. The walks (recommended for ages 6 and up) offer an outdoor look at the center’s animals during the winter. The cost is $10 per person; register online.

Putting on a virtual show

Kids with theatrical dreams might want to check out the Palace Teen Company’s “Take Over Show,” with the teens performing their “Broadway dream roles,” according to palacetheatre.org, where you can buy a $15 ticket to this virtual show, happening Friday, Jan. 29, at 7 p.m.

Crafting and bouncing

Cowabunga’s (725 Huse Road in Manchester; mycowabungas.com, 935-9659) is offering a String Art & Bouncing activity on Friday, Jan. 29, at 6 p.m. The craft is a string-art heart (materials will be provided) and kids will have a chance to bounce while waiting for part of the craft to dry. Tickets cost $15; see the website to reserve a spot.

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