The latest entry in the LEGO movie universe is clearly aimed at kids — no surprise there — but Christy also offers her take on the based-on-true-events tale of a groundbreaking tennis match, opening in limited release, and a documentary on one of the world’s biggest pop stars, currently streamable on Netflix. She also re-examines one of the biggest blockbuster hits of the summer, newly available on DVD. Read on for details.
NOW IN THEATERS
Rating: PG, for some mild action and rude humor.
The third movie in the Lego Cinematic Universe isn’t nearly as zippy, funny, or visually inventive as its predecessors. And if you and your kids are fans of the TV show Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu, you may be disappointed to find how little the film version resembles it. But The Lego Ninjago Movie is the only week’s new release that the whole family can enjoy together, so if you’re planning to see it, you’ll probably have a decent time. The animated comedy follows the adventures of a group of high school students who are secretly ninjas. Specifically, it follows their leader, the green ninja Lloyd Garmadon (voiced by Dave Franco), as he struggles to reconnect with his estranged father, the evil Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux) – a villain who just happens to keep invading Ninjago City. Fred Armisen, Kumail Nanjiani, Abbi Jacobson, Michael Pena, and Zach Woods provide the voices of the other ninjas, but they don’t get much to do; Jackie Chan plays their wise leader, Master Wu. The antics are zany, and the martial-arts battles and big action sequences are played for laughs. There’s nothing scary or inappropriate here, and ultimately, the story is very family-affirming. Fine for all ages.
Rating: PG-13, for some sexual content and partial nudity.
Emma Stone and Steve Carell star in the true story about tennis legends Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, who played each other in a highly watched 1973 match known as the “Battle of the Sexes.” The groundbreaking King was the world’s top-ranked tennis player at the time; Riggs, a self-professed chauvinist pig, challenged her to a match in hopes of proving that men were superior athletes. At the same time, though, the married King began a romance with her hairdresser (Andrea Riseborough), exploring previously untapped lesbian urges that could derail her career if exposed. The film from directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine) focuses intimately and tenderly on King’s affair; we see a lot of kissing and cuddling in hotel rooms and the suggestion that the two women have had sex. There’s also a slight bit of nudity. Because this was the ‘70s, nearly everyone smokes. And overall, the sexist attitudes many men in the tennis world had toward female players (and women in general) may be shocking for younger viewers to hear – but maybe that’s also a potential teaching moment, to show how antiquated and wrong such thinking is. Suitable for ages 10 or 11 and older.
Rating: Unrated, but contains language throughout, some nudity, smoking and discussion of drug use.
Your kids may love Lady Gaga, but they may not be ready just yet for this intimate look at the pop superstar. Director Chris Moukarbel’s documentary, which is also available on Netflix, follows Gaga as she records and promotes her very personal “Joanne” album and prepares for her halftime performance during Super Bowl LI. But we also see her struggling with constant physical pain and lamenting the collapse of her romance with actor Taylor Kinney, whom she’d planned to marry. Gaga cries a lot in the film, making herself vulnerable time and time again. She also curses and smokes throughout the film, and we see her topless several times as she changes clothes backstage or just hangs out with friends. It’s a fascinating profile, with Gaga emerging as a woman and an artist who’s confidently, defiantly herself, even as she’s willing to reveal human frailties. I’d say this is fine for viewers around 11 or 12 and older.
NEW ON DVD
Rating: PG-13, for sequences of violence and action, and some suggestive content.
This movie was a massive hit this summer, making nearly $820 million worldwide, and understandably so. It’s a thrillingly executed, surprisingly emotional blockbuster that has a lot to offer viewers of various ages – but perhaps not young kids. It’s great, but it’s also extremely violent. In telling the origin story of Diana Prince (a hugely charismatic Gal Gadot), the Amazon warrior who’d become a superhero, director Patty Jenkins has pulled off a tricky balance of humor, heart and high-tech spectacle that’s genuinely inspiring. But Wonder Woman also features several long, graphic action sequences. There’s a ton of gunfire, swordplay, and hand-to-hand combat. Many characters die, and while there isn’t a lot of blood (hence the PG-13 rating), the movie definitely doesn’t shy away from showing the actual deaths. We see people in peril – including women and children — during World War I battles. In one scene, a room full of bad guys perish from poisonous gas. There’s also the suggestion of a sex scene between Diana and Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), the American spy she rescues from a crash landing, but all we see is kissing in a hotel room. At over two hours, Wonder Woman also might be too long for many kids. Diana is heroic and brave, idealistic and pure, and she’s usually the smartest and most capable person in the room or on the battlefield. That’s all worthwhile. But I suspect this would be too much just yet for viewers younger than 8 or 9.