Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before: A sweet young woman, tortured and abused by her evil stepmother and stepsisters, enjoys an enchanted (but brief) evening with a handsome prince, only to scurry off mysteriously at midnight. Director Kenneth Branagh tells this classic fairy tale in rather straightforward, live-action fashion — there’s no self-referential irony, no transformation of Cinderella (Lily James) into a sword-wielding warrior princess — but his film is lively and visually sumptuous. Cate Blanchett is formidable as Cinderella’s stepmother but there’s an actual explanation for the origin of her cruelty. Parents die, as is always the case in such stories, so there are a few heavy, emotional moments. Mainly, though, this is a solid way to introduce kids to this enduring story. My 5-year-old son insisted he thought it was “boring,” but the little girl we brought with us to the screening absolutely loved it. I recommend it highly for all ages.
Rating: PG, for language, thematic elements and smoking images.
This enlightening and entertaining documentary shines a spotlight on a group of session musicians who played on many of the most important and enduring rock and pop hits of the 1960s and early ’70s. For starters, they performed on the Beach Boys’ entire, groundbreaking album Pet Sounds and pretty much all of the Phil Spector Wall of Sound tunes. Director Denny Tedesco made the film to honor his late father, guitarist Tommy Tedesco, and his talented colleagues. There’s some language here and there and pretty much non-stop smoking in the archival photos, but nothing terribly shocking or inappropriate. Fine for pretty much all ages, especially the kids in your house who are into music.
Rating: PG, for mild action, some rude humor and brief language.
Security guard Larry (Ben Stiller) and his historical pals travel to London to solve the mystery of their mobility in this third and (theoretically) final film in the Night at the Museum trilogy. Everything here is pretty tame (and often lame). The giant, marauding dinosaur skeletons might seem briefly scary for very young kids. The miniature Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan characters find themselves in peril when they get stuck in an air-conditioning vent, but it’s played more for physical comedy than anything else. And there is the vague threat that these museum pieces might transform into their formerly inanimate selves — including the playful, adorable Capuchin monkey — in a way that’s sort of sad, but resolves itself quickly. The movie itself isn’t all that great but it’s a harmless pick if you’re looking for something suitable for all ages.