It's just been a few weeks since the last horse feature hit theaters, the live-action "Dream Horse," and following somewhere behind is "Spirit Untamed." It's a spin-off of the 2002 animated film, "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron," but set in a different era, the Old West, somewhere in the wide-open frontier.
"Spirit Untamed" is harmless, and may be a good way to pass time, or get you and your children out of the Summer heat. But it's surprisingly tame for a movie about a wild animal, and inexplicably clunky-looking for an animated film seeing release in 2021.
Opening this weekend at The Maple Theater in Bloomfield is film intended for the whole family. "Shepherd: The Story of a Jewish Dog" evokes memories of the Oscar-winning 1997 film, "Life Is Beautiful." In that movie, a Jewish father (played by Roberto Benigni) tries to make life bearable for his young child, despite the horrors going on around them.
"Shepherd" may not win the same awards or be quite as highly regarded when all is said and done, but it accomplishes something that is not at all an easy feat: It tells a story about the horrors of WWII, The Holocaust and the affront on Jews living in Germany and Europe at that time, by finding an angle that is accessible for a younger audiences and their parents. It teaches truths through the journey of a dog, and draws incredible parallels between the treatment of this Shepherd and how Jews were treated by Hitler's Nazi army.
I'm not exactly sure why, but the "horse movie" genre continues to thrive. It seems each and every year, we're given at least two (2021 will be no different, with the animated "Spirit Untamed" coming to Netflix this Summer as well).
The latest entry out of the gate is "Dream Horse," and here is the copy/paste description fitting of all horse movies: An unlikely horse, groomed by an unlikely person who is almost entirely out of their element, becomes a sensation after a lot of hard work, dedication and training montages...the evil businessmen of the "establishment" get in the way, but never so much as to knock the film from its PG-rating.
So if horse films are your bale of hay, then you'll probably love the familiar rhythms of "Dream Horse." For everyone else, you'll most likely want to avoid this for the manipulative, steaming pile of horse manure that it is.
The only negative thing I could say about the new documentary, "Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street," is that i didn't like the end...in that I wish it could have gone on forever.
That's how I felt watching it. This incredibly insightful, hilarious and heart-warming documentary is one part origin story, describing how a group of tremendously talented and motivated people all got together at just the right time and place in history to create something timeless. It's also a celebration of what was created, and what was achieved, in a television landscape that was like the Wild West, unexplored and primed for pioneering. Then it's an inspirational trip down memory lane...nostalgia served up in delicious spoonfuls...that made me long for simpler times.
Watching "Street Gang," I was a kid again, and was made to feel thankful that I - like millions of other children - grew up on "Sesame Street." But as an adult looking back, the love and appreciation is deeper by a hundredfold, especially when you realize just how daring, bold and innovative "Sesame Street" really was.
"Sesame Street," as one person puts it in the film, "is Television if Television loved the audience, instead of just trying to sell to it." This love permeates through "Street Gang" and makes it one of the most effective, insightful and yes even important documentaries of our time.
"Sesame Street" has been chasing the clouds away for over 50 years, and tonight, ABC plans to celebrate with a two-hour documentary, aptly named "Sesame Street: 50 Years of Sunny Days." (airing on ABC at 8pm ET).
The deciding factor as to whether a family-friendly comedy is "good," usually comes down to this: Is it something that can be simultaneously enjoyed by kids and adults alike? With "Yes Day," the answer to this question is an emphatic "no."
"The Croods: A New Age," I guess, is harmless fun...that is, unless you decide to go see this in theaters with your family during a global pandemic. It's the follow-up to the 2013 film that no one really asked for, but one that had been kicked around in Hollywood for nearly 7 years before landing at our feet just in time for Thanksgiving (rumor has it, "The Croods: A New Age" will debut on streaming platforms in mid-December but as of now this has not been confirmed).
Who could forget the classic "Star Wars Holiday Special" that aired on CBS during the Christmas holiday of 1978? The answer is, even if you were lucky enough to have seen it when it originally aired, you would have tried forgetting about it almost immediately. The special is famously BAD, despite starring the cast from the films, including Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher. It was so terrible that it never aired again, and has never, ever seen an official release, making it all the more of a cult-favorite item when VHS recordings of it would pop up at conventions years later.
Knowing full-well how legendary that special has become, to commemorate the 42nd anniversary of its airing, Disney+ is releasing an all-new "LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special." This new version features the recent Star Wars heroes like Rey, Finn and Poe in their own "Life Day" adventure. as it honors the entire saga new and old, poking fun at the famous special in which it is based all the while.
You don't quite realize how "soft" and watered-down animated films in America have become over the years, until you see a film from overseas. Cartoon Saloon and Mélusine Productions (an Ireland-Luxembourg-France co-production) brings us the original Apple TV+ film, "Wolfwalkers," a film that is definitely family-friendly but that doesn't shy away from more mature themes.
Plus, it's an absolute stunning visual achievement.
Be careful what you wish for. Yes movie theaters in Michigan are re-opening this weekend, but you'd have to be crazy or quite desperate if you're going to take that calculated risk just to see "The War with Grandpa." It's one of the worst films of the year and one of the worst screenplays in several years.
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