Charming prehistoric tribute to “sacred game” of soccer.
“Early Man” is a stop-action animation comedy/adventure directed by Nick Park, the creator of “Wallace and Gromit.” A tribute to — and fictional origin story of — the game of soccer (or “football,” as most of the world calls it), the movie cleverly proposes that the “sacred game” started in prehistoric times, when a meteorite in the shape of a ball was kicked around by titular “early man.” Featuring an all-star British voice cast (including Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams and Timothy Spall), this kid-friendly comedy is a classic underdog sports story, with the Stone Age team fighting to save their small home town from a group of Bronze Age conquerors. Expect lots of physical comedy, some (nonsexual) near-nudity, a silly unintentional kiss between a hog and a man, and the sort of potty humor that moviegoers of all ages either love or hate. There’s a sweet emphasis on teamwork, as well as acknowledgment of female athletes’ contributions to sports. (89 minutes)
Masterful Marvel film has depth, diversity — and violence.
“Black Panther” is the first feature film in the Marvel cinematic universe to center on a superhero of color: African prince-turned-king T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), a.k.a. the Black Panther. As in all superhero movies, there’s plenty of violence — in this case, mostly brutal hand-to-hand combat that gets quite intense, with bloody injuries and even deaths. Although there are a few shootouts with superpowered guns/cannons (as well as some coldblooded killings), the majority of the action features spear- and blade-fighting. That said, some confrontations do include larger, explosive battles and destructive car chases. Language and sexual content are pretty minimal — a few uses of “s---,” “hell” and a couple of quick kisses, respectively. Set mostly in the fictional African nation of Wakanda, the movie features not only the first mostly black ensemble cast in superhero-film history (Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Danai Gurira and Daniel Kaluuya co-star), but also an all-female royal guard and a brilliant female inventor/engineer. Families who see “Black Panther” will have plenty to talk about afterward, from its portrayal of race and gender to the overall importance of having black superheroes as main characters, rather than sidekicks. (140 minutes)
Real-life terrorist attack drama is both awkward and effective.
“The 15:17 to Paris” is a fact-based drama directed by Clint Eastwood about three Americans who stopped a terrorist attack aboard the titular train in 2015. The intense, bloody terrorist attack is shown; viewers will see shooting, fighting, bashing with a rifle butt, choking and knife slashes. Kids also play “war” with very realistic-looking toy guns. Language includes several uses of “s---,” plus “a--hole,” “goddamn” and more, including a brief racial reference. A scene in a nightclub features scantily clad women, kissing, and women dancing on a stripper pole. There’s also a little innuendo. Characters drink beer and wine socially, sometimes resulting in hangovers. A character smokes a cigarette. The three main characters are played by the actual men involved in the incident; their acting is often amateurish, and there are long, awkward/unnecessary stretches. But when the movie gets going, it works. (96 minutes)
Awkward mix of moods in violent sci-fi sequel.
“The Cloverfield Project” is the third in the Cloverfield sci-fi movie series. Violence is the main issue and is fairly strong, with guns and shooting, fighting and punching, deaths (sometimes in gruesome/shocking ways), a creepy disembodied arm and bloody wounds. There are also gross moments — worms bursting out of a man’s mouth, cables running through a woman’s body, etc. — and a woman’s children are said to be dead. Language includes a use of “f---” and a few uses of “s---.” The movie takes place on an Earth that’s rapidly running out of resources, which could spur discussion about ways to slow down that process or find alternative energy sources. “The Cloverfield Paradox” tries to manage many different tones and moods (which is awkward), but its strong cast may make it worth seeing for some teens. Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo and Daniel Bruhl co-star. (102 minutes)
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