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Onward

In this animated film from Pixar, Ian and Barley, two brothers who lost their father to an illness, are given the opportunity to have their father back for one day through the use of an old magic wand. When the spell becomes botched, the brothers set off on an adventure to find the magic stone that will result in being able to see their dad. I liked the movie mostly for its message about parenting and being about to recognize the amazing things we do without even realizing how amazing they are. I would not consider this a film that …

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Soul

In this latest animation effort from Pixar studios, Joe Gardner is a music teacher at a public school in New York City who is a piano player constantly dreaming about jazz music. One day, he gets his break when he gets an opportunity to play with Dorothea Williams, a renowned musician. On the way to his debut, he suffers an accident and, through a series of events, finds himself assigned as a mentor to a particularly precocious spirit who can’t seem to find his way to becoming a body on Earth. The film is quite stunning. The animation is superior; …

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Wolfwalkers

This is the latest animated film by the same director who created The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea. Robyn and her father Bill have stationed in Ireland in 1650 at an outpost overseen by a cruel ruler. Robyn dreams of hunting wolves, like her father. One day, Robyn meets Mebh, who turns out to be a wolf walker, a creature who by day is in human form but at night can leave the sleeping body and roam the world as a wolf. This is a really beautiful film. The story is based on Celtic legend but feels …

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My Octopus Teacher

This documentary follows a year in the life of Craig Foster. Having run against some difficult times, he takes to the snorkeling in the kelp beds of South Africa and befriends an octopus. Through the course of the year, Foster puts together a beautiful collage of life in the kelp beds while researching the life of the octopus. It felt a bit strange sometimes, as it seemed sometimes that the attachment was a bit closer than it should have been, almost romantic, but what stands out is the depiction of the cycle of life Foster captures with his lens. The …

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Blinded by the Light

Javed is 16 and yearns to be a writer. He writes poetry and keeps a journal to the dismay of his father, who emigrated to the UK from Pakistan to have a better life for his family. The film takes place in Thatcher’s England of the 1980s when economic woes rocked the country and jobs were hard to find. One day, Javed discovers the music of Bruce Springsteen, and his world completely flips. The topics the film covers, such as generational culture clash, racism, and economic blight, aren’t particularly new. What makes this film singularly stand out are two things. …

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Alpha

Kodi Smit-McPhee is Keda, a young man who is next in line to become the chief of his tribe. His father has been pushing him to success, but Keda is not really a hunter. One day, Keda and his father go out with the other males from the tribe in what will be his initiation as a successful hunter. While rounding up a herd of bison, Keda finds himself separated from the others and facing a charging bison. The bison ejects Keda over the cliff, and his father believes him to be dead. After befriending a wolf who was abandoned …

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Paddington 2

This film picks up where the first left off. Paddington, the bear, is living happily with his London family, the Browns (Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins are the parents). It is Paddington’s aunt’s 100th birthday, and he wants to get her something special. Mr. Gruber (Jim Broadbent) at the antique store shows Paddington a pop-up book of London, which Paddington decides he wants to get his aunt, but he has to work and save up a lot of money to buy it. The desire to buy the book launches Paddington into a series of adventures. I loved this movie, which …

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Wonder

This film is based on the book of the same name I read last year with my daughter who had this as an assignment. It is the story of a young boy Auggie who has a genetic condition that caused him to have a disfigured face. He has been homeschooled, and now that he is ready to start 5th grade, his parents think this is the best time for him to enter regularly. One thing I loved about the book is the way the story is told, from the perspective of Auggie, his sister Via, his sister’s best friend Miranda, …

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Coco

Animated Pixar Studios film in which Miguel, the son of a long line of relatives who have learned to despise music, aspires to be a musician. He lives with his mother and father, grandmother, and Coco, his old great-grandmother. His idol is Ernesto de la Cruz, who was a popular singer and film star who died young but left behind a trove of beautiful songs. The Day of the Dead is approaching, and his family has all of the pictures and candles ready to remember the deceased relatives. Desperate to find a guitar to enter a local musical talent contest, …

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Beauty and the Beast

Movie based on the children’s fairy tale led impressively by Emma Watson, who plays Belle, the beauty. I really enjoyed the movie. It was very fun, with its music, great costumes, and sometimes dizzying colors and whirling activity during several of the songs (especially “Be our Guest” and “Gaston”). I also just really like the story and the message. Eliza watched it with me and liked it as much the second time (we both liked the Beast when he was a beast before the spell wore off). Thumbs up for a Disney remake that tries to give the story a …

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