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January Movies: Reel Life with Jane

By on January 3, 2012

Movie and DVD/Blu-ray reviews for you and your family

By Jane Louise Boursaw

The new year opens with an old favorite. The classic tale of Beauty and the Beast is returning to theaters in 3D. Also this month: Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher, Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton as squabbling choir singers, and Marley as an adorable puppy. Here’s what’s new in theaters and on DVD/blu-ray in January.


Rated G. In theaters 1/13.

Ok for kids 4+.

Reel Rating: 4.5 Reels

I’m not sure how I feel about classic family movies returning to theaters in 3D. The cynical side of me says they’re just trying to ring every last dollar out of the franchise. And 3D movies aren’t cheap, so you wonder if parents will fork over the cash at the theater instead of just plugging in the DVD at home. But the it’s-all-good side of me is happy that new generations can see wonderful films like Beauty and the Beast as they were intended — on the big screen. We all know the story: Lovely Belle (voiced by Paige O’Hara) is unhappy with life in her small provincial French town and constantly fends off the misplaced affections of conceited Gaston (Richard White). When Belle’s father Maurice (Rex Everhart) is imprisoned by The Beast (Robby Benson), she offers herself instead and discovers her captor to be an enchanted prince. Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, this film also features the voices of Angela Lansbury, David Ogden Stiers, and Jerry Orbach.


PG-13 for some violent images and brief nudity.
In theaters 1/13. Ok for kids 12+.

Reel Preview: 4.5 Reels

Is there anyone that Meryl Streep can’t play? Let’s take stock: Julia Child (Julie & Julia), Karen Silkwood (Silkwood), Susan Orlean (Adaptation), Karen Blixon (Out of Africa) and Anna Wintour (well, if you believe Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada was based on Wintour). Now the queen of stage and screen is playing former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a woman who smashed through gender and class barriers to rise to the top in a male-dominated world. The film follows Thatcher from her early years to her reign as prime minister to her political downfall in 1990. With Streep onboard, this film is a great history lesson about a complex and powerful woman. Directed by Phyllida Lloyd (who also directed Streep in Mamma Mia!), this movie also stars Jim Broadbent as Thatcher’s husband Denis and Richard E Grant and Anthony Head as cabinet ministers Geoffrey Howe and Michael Heseltine.


PG-13 for some language, including a sexual reference.

In theaters 1/13. Ok for kids 11+.

Reel Preview: 3.5 Reels

It’s a choir competition movie! Which means you already know the storyline and ending! But with Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton, expect lots of fun, joy and music. Latifah plays Vi Rose Hill, the director of the Divinity Church Choir in the economically-stressed town of Pacashau, Georgia. She aims to lead the choir to a win at the National Joyful Noise Competition, but fiery G.G. Sparrow (Parton) has her own ideas. Adding to the mix is Sparrow’s rebellious grandson, Randy (Jeremy Jordan), who has an ear for music and an eye on Vi Rose’s talented daughter Olivia (Keke Palmer). Courtney B. Vance and Kris Kristofferson round out the cast of this Todd Graff-directed movie. For anyone keeping track, he played Hippy Carnes in 1989’s The Abyss.



PG for some mild rude humor. On DVD/blu-ray 1/03.

Ok for kids 7+.

Reel Rating: 3 Reels

Sure, we all sobbed our eyes out at the end of Marley & Me, the 2008 movie starring Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston and that adorable dog who left chaos in his wake. And sure, we know how it ended, which means … no sequels. But that doesn’t mean no prequels, and I’m sure we’ll see young Marley outwitting evil real estate developers and witnessing mob hits in upcoming stories. This straight-to-DVD tale, directed by 80’s pop heartthrob Michael Damien (he sang “Rock On”), pairs the pup with pal Bodie Grogan (Travis Turner) and together, they wreak havoc at a neighborhood dog contest. Aniston and Wilson are MIA, so Marley (voiced by Grayson Russell) gets to narrate his own misadventures.


PG for some violent images involving animal life. On DVD/blu-ray 1/03.

Ok for kids 8+.

Reel Rating: 4.5 Reels

Seems like we should be making progress on environmental and animal issues, doesn’t it? Then again, maybe not. Fifty years ago, nearly half a million lions roamed Africa, but that number has dwindled to around 20,000, thanks to poaching and other travesties. To make matters worse, lions, unlike elephants, have virtually no protection under government or international mandates. All this and more is covered in this well-researched documentary from husband and wife team Dereck and Beverly Joubert, award-winning filmmakers from Botswana and National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence. This film is beautiful and moving, with stunning cinematography.


Rated G. On DVD 1/10. Ok for kids 2+

Reel Preview: 5 Reels


Co-produced by the Jim Henson Company, this animated PBS series celebrates exploration, discovery and science among preschoolers. Personally, I think the show is fun for adults, too, because somewhere along the way, we stopped asking “why?” Not so with the energetic and inquisitive Sid, who starts each episode with a new question and sets about finding answers: “What happens to stuff you throw away?” “Why do bananas get mushy?” and “How can I measure a whale with my ruler?” In the case of this DVD, it’s all about motion.


Rated G. On DVD/Blu-ray 1/31. Ok for kids 7+.

Reel Rating: 4 Reels

I wish I was as well traveled as the Buddies. They sure get around, don’t they? This all new story finds Rosebud, B-Dawg, Budderball, Buddha and Mudbud embarking on their biggest adventure yet: to the ruins of ancient Egypt. With the help of some exotic new friends, teamwork and friendship, the Buddies must avoid booby traps, solve puzzles and explore a mysterious tomb – all in search of the greatest treasure known to animal-kind. Bonus features include “Roam,” an all-new music video performed by the cast of Disney Channel’s Shake It Up; and DIGS: B-Dawg Edition – Take a tour of his blinged-out crib. Yes, that’s how the official synopsis described it.


Not rated. On DVD/blu-ray 1/31.

Ok for kids 11+.

Reel Rating: 5 Reels

It’s been 50 years since Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) took on a high-profile case in a racially divided Alabama town in the 1930s. The single dad and lawyer agrees to defend a young black man accused of raping a white woman, and his kids Scout (Mary Badham) and Jem (Phillip Alford) learn a few things about prejudice in the process. Since many middle- and high-schoolers across the country are reading the Pulitzer Prize winning book by Harper Lee, it’s a great time to grab the classic movie on blu-ray.


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.

Jane Boursaw is a family entertainment writer specializing in movies, TV and celebrities. Syndicate her family movie and TV reviews in your publication; visit her at Reel Life With Jane; follow her on Twitter; become a friend on Facebook; email

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