New on the big screen for kids and teens this month is a battle for Middle-earth, a cute little orphan, Meryl Streep as a wicked witch, and a beloved bear. Here’s a sneak peek at what’s new in theaters and on DVD and Blu-ray this month. Note that release dates are subject to change.
THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES
Not Yet Rated; Likely PG-13 | In Theaters 12/17 (2D/3D/IMAX 3D) | Ok for Kids 12+ | Reel Preview: 4.5 of 5 Reels | TheHobbit.com | Facebook | Twitter
Peter Jackson’s third movie in “The Hobbit” trilogy, adapted from the books by J.R.R. Tolkien, concludes the adventures of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and the Company of Dwarves. Having reclaimed their homeland from the Dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), the group has unwittingly unleashed a deadly force into the world, and Smaug rains his fiery wrath down upon the defenseless people of Lake-town.
Obsessed with his reclaimed treasure, Thorin sacrifices friendship and honor to hoard it as Bilbo tries to reason with him. Meanwhile, evil Sauron has sent forth legions of Orcs in a stealth attack upon the Lonely Mountain, and the future of Middle-earth hangs in the balance.
Rated PG for some mild language and rude humor | In Theaters 12/19 | Ok for Kids 8+ | Reel Preview: 4 of 5 Reels | Annie-Movie.com | Facebook | Twitter
The delightful Broadway classic comes to the big screen with Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”) starring as Annie, a happy foster kid who’s tough enough to make it on the streets of New York in 2014 (don’t try this at home, kids!).
It’s been a “hard knock” life, thanks to her mean foster mom Miss Hannigan (Cameron Diaz), but everything changes when hard-nosed tycoon and New York mayoral candidate Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx) rescues her from the path of a speeding vehicle.
Stacks thinks he’s her guardian angel, but Annie’s self-assured nature and bright, sun-will-come-out-tomorrow outlook just might mean it’s the other way around. Emma Thompson, Aline Brosh McKenna and director Will Gluck wrote the screenplay for this super cute adaptation, which also stars Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale.
NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB
Not Yet Rated; Likely PG | In Theaters 12/19 | Ok for Kids 7+ | Reel Preview: 3.5 of 5 Reels | NightattheMuseumMovie.com | Facebook | Twitter
You know how all the exhibits come to life at the museum every night? Well, that magic might come to an end unless security guard/CEO Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) can figure out why the Tablet of Ahkmenrah is dying out. To do so, he spans the globe, uniting favorite and new characters while embarking on an epic quest to save the magic before it’s gone forever.
Directed by Shawn Levy, the all-star cast includes Robin Williams (one of his final films), Mickey Rooney (his final film), Rebel Wilson, Ben Kingsley, Dan Stevens, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Skyler Gisondo and Ricky Gervais.
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language | In Theaters 12/25 | Ok for Kids 13+ | Reel Preview: 5 of 5 Reels
Directed and produced by Tim Burton, “Big Eyes” is based on the true story of Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz), one of the most successful painters of the 1950s and 1960s. The artist catapulted to international fame by commercializing his enigmatic paintings of waifs with big eyes. Except … they were actually painted by his wife, Margaret (Amy Adams).
“Big Eyes” tells the story of Margaret’s awakening as an artist, the phenomenal success of her paintings, and her tumultuous relationship with her husband. Also stars Danny Huston, Krysten Ritter, Jason Schwartzman and Terence Stamp. At 87, Keane is still painting today; check out her website.
INTO THE WOODS
Rated PG for thematic elements, fantasy action and peril, and some suggestive material | In Theaters 12/25 | Ok for Kids 9+ | Reel Preview: 5 of 5 Reels | Facebook | Twitter
This big screen adaptation of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical is a modern twist on the beloved Brothers Grimm fairy tales “Cinderella,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “Rapunzel.”
The tales are tied together by an original story involving a baker and his wife, their wish to begin a family, and their interaction with the witch who has put a curse on them. Meryl Streep (The Witch), Anna Kendrick (Cinderella), Chris Pine (The Prince), Johnny Depp (The Wolf) and Emily Blunt (The Baker’s Wife) head up the cast of this gorgeous film directed by Rob Marshall.
Not Yet Rated; Likely G or PG | In Theaters 12/25 | Ok for Kids 6+ | Reel Preview: 4 of 5 Reels | ThePaddingtonMovie.com | Facebook | Twitter
From the beloved novels by Michael Bond and producer David Heyman (“Harry Potter”), this cute family movie follows the comic misadventures of a young Peruvian bear (voiced by Colin Firth) who travels to the city in search of a home.
Lost and alone, he starts to realize that perhaps city life isn’t for him, until he meets the kindly Brown family who offer him a temporary haven. Things are going fine until this rarest of bears catches the eye of a museum taxidermist.
Directed by Paul King, the cast also includes Hugh Bonneville, Nicole Kidman, Sally Hawkins, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi and Julie Walters.
NEW ON DVD/BLU-RAY:
JULIUS JR.: SNOW MONKEY ADVENTURES
Not Rated | On DVD 12/02 | Ok for Kids 3+ | Reel Review: 5 of 5 Reels | Buy on Amazon
For the first time on DVD & Digital comes six episodes of this charming preschool series filled with music, creativity and out of the box thinking for kids. The set also contains a Fisher-Price Julius Jr. figurine (while supplies last). Join the funky monkey and his pals as they take preschoolers on exciting adventures into a magical cardboard box playhouse and through the wondrous Hall of Doors to discover the importance of cooperation and creativity.
THOMAS & FRIENDS: SIGNALS CROSSED
Not Rated | On DVD 12/02 | Ok for Kids 3+ | Reel Review: 5 of 5 Reels | Buy on Amazon
This DVD from the popular tot series includes five episodes from season 18: In “Marion and the Pipe,” Thomas digs Marion out of a deep hole. “No Steam Without Coal” finds Timothy helping Bill and Ben with coal trouble. In “Signals Crossed,” Toby gets confused at Knapford Junction. “Duncan and the Grumpy Passenger” finds Duncan blowing off steam while dealing with a grumpy passenger. And in “Thomas and the Emergency Cable,” Thomas, Annie and Clarabel put on the brakes when a passenger causes confusion and delay. Bonus features include “Engine Roll Call” (extended version); “Searching Everywhere” music video, “Guess Who?” puzzles, and Trailers.
THE LEGEND OF KORRA: BOOK THREE – CHANGE
Not Rated | On DVD 12/02 | Ok for Kids 8+ | Reel Review: 5 of 5 Reels | Buy on Amazon
Book Three of the mega-popular “Legend of Korra” begins with the world entering a new age. Korra discovers that new Airbenders are popping up all over the Earth Kingdom, and she makes it her mission to find them and rebuild the Air Nation. But a group of dangerous criminals who recently broke out of prison have a dangerous mission of their own. The series was voted as IGN’s Best TV Animated Series in 2012 and was the only animated series on the annual list of iTunes Best TV Shows of 2013. Both kids and grownups love it.
THE HERO OF COLOR CITY
Rated G | On DVD/Blu-ray 12/02 | Ok for Kids 4+ | Reel Review: 4 of 5 Reels | Buy on Amazon
This animated tale for the pre-school/kindergarten set follows the adventures of a group of crayons that come alive in a little boy’s room when he drifts off to sleep. Yellow (voiced by Christina Ricci), a timid and fearful crayon, inadvertently awakens two unfinished drawings that threaten to take over Color City. As she embarks on an adventure to discover inner strength and courage, she teams with other crayons and meets fantastical creatures, including Ricky the dragon (Owen Wilson). Filled with valuable life lessons, this sweet movie will entertain and inspire little ones. Directed by Frank Gladstone, the cast also includes Rosie Perez, Wayne Brady, Craig Ferguson and Jessica Capshaw.
CHUGGINGTON: SNOW RESCUE
Not Rated | On DVD 12/09 | Ok for Kids 3+ | Reel Review: 5 of 5 Reels | Buy on Amazon
It’s winter time in Chuggington, and the Chuggers are preparing for the magical Winter Parade, outfitting themselves in colorful lights for a special nighttime processional through town. But when freezing fog traps Koko and a snowy avalanche derails Fletch, Wilson and the Chug Patrol embark on a wild winter rescue. Kids will discover important lessons about safety, responsibility, and teamwork in this and four other episodes.
JANE’S REEL RATING SYSTEM
One Reel – Even the Force can’t save it.
Two Reels – Coulda been a contender
Three Reels – Something to talk about.
Four Reels – You want the truth? Great flick!
Five Reels – Wow! The stuff dreams are made of.