Shows 'N Tunes: Movie, Music, and Game Reviews

So Weird. The Complete Series (1999-2001)

I have been finding that Disney+ is a great way to relive favorite shows of your childhood.  My latest binge was So Weird (TV-Y7), about Fiona, a teenager, on the road with a band for which her mom (Mackenzie Phillips) is the lead singer.  Fiona is drawn to everything strange and unusual, which she constantly stumbles upon, revealing more and more about her father's unexplained car accident when she was a baby.

While revolving around many supernatural occurrences, older kids and their families can enjoy this family adventure/mystery series together.  So Weird originally aired on The Disney Channel in the late 90s, but you can now stream the entire series on Disney+ via the library's Family Roku devices.

Blinded by the Light

What kind of world do we want to live in? From Gurinder Chadha, director of Bend It Like Beckham, comes another feel-good film about coming of age and struggling with familial expectations.

Set in 1980s England, British Pakistani teen Javed discovers the music of Bruce Springsteen, inspiring him to change his life. Loosely based on the memoir of journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, the film Blinded by the Light (2019, PG-13) features Bruce Springsteen's words and music as a character.


Jojo Rabbit

During the final months of World War II, we follow Jojo, a lonely German boy struggling to fit in with the other Hitler Youths. Jojo spends his days trying to prove he is a worthy Nazi and is continually spurred on by his only friend, an incredibly doltish and flamboyant imaginary Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi).  After finding out his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl in the walls of their home, he is forced to choose between loyalty to his country and to his remaining family.

On the surface, Jojo Rabbit (2019, PG-13) seems absurd and insensitive.  In reality, while absolutely absurd, it tells an important story about indoctrination and breaking free of one's upbringing.  Jojo's growth is demonstrated throughout the movie and gives clear guidance to those who are afraid of "the others".

This movie moves between hilarious scenes and heart-shattering moments with a fluidity that will give you awe-inspiring whiplash.  Taika Waititi (who won the 2019 Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay) is one of my favorite directors.  I am convinced nobody could make this movie as well as he did, delicately balancing between ridiculousness and respect.


Honeyland

Hatidze lives with her mother outside of Skopje, Macedonia, the only residents for miles.  She makes her living selling her honey in the city and practicing sustainable beekeeping according to old traditions.  Hatidze's life is forever changed when a Turkish family nearby decides to take up beekeeping, without any regard of her teachings.  With beautiful scenery, Honeyland (2019) is a documentary about how a simpler way of life still exists in today's society, even in the face of modern pressures.

Honeyland has been nominated for both Best Documentary Feature and Best International Feature Film of the Year for this year's Oscars.

In Turkish with English subtitles.

Derry Girls. Seasons 1 and 2

Set in 1990s Londonderry (Derry), Ireland, during the conflict between Northern Ireland and Ireland, Derry Girls (2018-) follows the lives of four teenage girls.  This Irish sitcom includes a mix of teenage angst and modern political climate.

One of the girls' male Protestant cousins comes from London to live with them.  He is the sedate, responsible one who keeps getting dragged into the girls' antics.  The teens attend an all-girls Catholic school, which provides raucous and hilarious scenarios.

The first two seasons are available to stream on Netflix, which you can access by borrowing one of our Rokus.  English subtitles are available for those who have trouble understanding the Irish accents.  Rated TV-MA (includes swearing).



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5-Minute Marvel

Play the fast-paced 5-Minute Marvel game that puts you in the role of your favorite Marvel movie and comic book heroes.  The goal of the game is to defeat a horde of villains bent on destroying the universe.  The villains start easy and get harder as you eventually fight your way to Thanos to decide the fate of the world.  Each hero receives cards with special powers and abilities unique to their hero, which will help in the fight.

With each battle allowed only five minutes (a time gem would be helpful), you will have to be as fast as Quicksilver to win these battles.  The 5-minute clock makes this a quick game that is great for parties and short breaks. There is some reading involved, which makes 5-Minute Marvel (2016) perfect for ages 8 and up.

Lobby Baby

In his 2019 comedy special, Seth Meyers provides plenty of heart with his humor.  Named after the infamous incident of his wife giving birth in the lobby of their apartment building, Lobby Baby (TV-MA) features funny anecdotes mostly about family, relationships, and life.  If politics aren't your thing, Netflix even built in an option to skip over the political comedy.

Former head writer of Saturday Night Live and current host of Late Night with Seth Meyers, Meyers provides sweet and charming stories throughout this hour-long standup routine.  Check out one of our Rokus with Netflix to watch this special.

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The Witcher. Season 1

​Are you looking for something to fill the void after the disappointing final season of Game of Thrones?  The Witcher, a friend of humanity, is here to slay monsters, collect coin, and reignite our excitement in fantasy TV shows.

In The Witcher (2019, TV-MA), Geralt of Rivea is no ordinary man. Subjected to a deadly trial as a child, he became a Witcher, a mutant hunter used to rid the world of scum.  After accidentally invoking an ancient custom at a wedding, he finds his destiny tied with Cirilla, the young princess of Cintra.  After her kingdom is attacked, she must find Geralt to understand her future and her power. Follow Geralt as he tries to slay monsters, navigate relationships, play politics, and find Cirilla.

Henry Cavill is phenomenal as Geralt.  It was the role he was born to play.  The fighting choreography is stellar and will have you wanting to watch it over and over.  The monsters are unique and disgusting and don't hold back.  Be prepared to have the song, "Toss a Coin to Your Witcher" stuck in your head for an eternity.

I have a few small complaints: the writing can be cheesy at times but the actors do their best with what they are given.  In addition, because two of the main characters live extended lives, the timeline skips around and can be confusing.  Despite these flaws, I recommend this to any fantasy lover looking for a show that doesn't pull its punches.

To watch The Witcher. Season 1 check out one of the Rokus for access to Netflix.

 If you enjoy the TV series, check out the books by Andrzej Sapkowski.  And if you enjoy playing video games, look for Witcher III: The Wild Hunt for PS4 and Xbox One.

Tracks

In 1977, Robyn Davidson trekked across Australia, over 1700 miles, with camels that she had trained for the journey.  Tracks (2013, PG-13), starring Mia Wasikowska as Robyn and Adam Driver as National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan, recounts Davidson's trip from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean, with beautiful scenery and a sense of how isolating the Australian outback can be.  A real treat for those who love movies about independent women or travel.


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Lilies of the Field

Sidney Poitier won his first Academy Award for his performance as Homer Smith in Lilies of the Field (1963).  The Arizona desert is home to five German nuns who have come to America to farm and build a life for themselves and the migrant workers in the area.  Filmed in black and white, this movie is a simple story of an itinerant handyman who builds a chapel.

Funny, charming, and sentimental Homer Smith will not be forgotten.  His English classes for the young nuns are especially sweet.  Lilies of the Field is a classic and the entire cast is excellent.  The movie is uplifting, inspiring, and beautiful.


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Sleeping Queens

In Sleeping Queens, all of the world's queens have fallen under a spell forcing them to stay asleep. You will have to send your kings out to help the queens awaken, but be careful other players have knights and potions to steal your queens or to put them back to sleep.  You will have to be cunning to keep all your queens awake and safe.

One of my favorite things about Sleeping Queens (2015) is that an 8-year-old created it, and the fun way it plays shows that incredible passion a child has for games and silly happenstance.  This is a favorite game to play with my friends.  We all enjoy how quickly the game plays, and with simple rules, there are still some great play strategies.  The game is played with a single deck of cards and is quick to learn with no reading involved past the directions.  Some shape matching skills are needed to play; suitable for ages 6 and up.


Yesterday

If you love The Beatles, you need to watch this movie.  In Yesterday, a mysterious worldwide 12-second power outage triggers an alternate reality.  Struggling British musician Jack Malik is debating whether to give up on a music career.  Then, when playing a Beatles classic for his friends, he discovers that in this new universe, the Beatles never existed.  Jack becomes an international sensation with his alleged songwriting prowess.  But is it too good to be true?  Jack discovers what's truly important on his unbelievable journey.

This feel-good film (2019, PG-13) stars Himesh Patel and Lily James, with Kate McKinnon and Ed Sheeran in supporting roles.  Directed by Danny Boyle and written by Richard Curtis.  Listen to the soundtrack on Hoopla or check out the cd for a delightful assortment of Beatles covers.



Maiden

This documentary tells the story of the first all-female crew to participate in the grueling Whitbread round-the-world yacht race in 1989.  Englishwoman Tracy Edwards skippers Maiden over nine months and 33,000 miles.  With tons of footage from the time, current recollections from most of the team's members, and interviews with the male-dominated media and other yachtsmen, Maiden (2018, PG) is an exciting view into the women's incredible journey.

Noelle

Disney+ has finally arrived!  Based on cast alone, my first viewing selection was Noelle (2019, G) which was originally intended for theatrical release, but was later reserved for the launch of Disney+.  It stars Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader as Kris Kringle's kids, Noelle and Nick.  Also in the cast are long-time actors Shirley MacLaine and Julie Hagerty, with comedians, Billy Eichner and Ron Funches.

Nick has trained his whole life to take over for his father as Santa, but as the pressure builds, he takes a vacation on his sister's recommendation.  Unfortunately, Nick took that to mean a one-way trip to the southwest.  Noelle has to venture out from the North Pole to find him, all while learning that Christmas is more meaningful when you focus on giving instead of getting.

Overall, this light-hearted film, albeit slightly predictable, will bring laughter and maybe even some tears to you and your family.  Find other Christmas movies to watch with the family on our website.

View Noelle and everything else Disney you can imagine with a Roku featuring Disney+.


The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

​Though not your typical road trip movie, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert was a huge hit in Australia back in the 90s and quickly became a cult movie with its outrageous costumes and classic disco music.  Featuring veteran actors, Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, and Bill Hunter, this film follows the adventures of a group of drag queens who take their show on the road to the Australian outback.  In need of money, they accept a job to perform in Alice Springs, quite a journey from their hometown of Sydney.

Traveling in a fantastically repainted school bus, they head out on a road trip through the outback, bringing us comedy and drama as they interact with the locals along the way.  The flamboyant crossdressers raise a few eyebrows in the country towns they pass through and while there is some intolerance, there is also education and tenderness.

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994, R) is a highly entertaining lighthearted film, but be warned that it does include a lot of coarse language and will have you humming disco hits for days afterward.

This movie is on our list of favorite LGBTQ films. Discover more on our website.