Animated tale tops new entertainment options

An animated tale of growing up, a familiar role for Liam Neeson and a tale from Tom Clancy make up this week’s new releases.

“Turning Red” Grade 31/2 stars: Taken at face value, this is a colorful tale of 13-year-old Mei Lee (voiced by Rosalie Chiang), a young girl who must deal with the monster inside her. The struggle – that unfolds 20 years ago in a quiet Asian section of Toronto – is told with some of the most stunning visuals Pixar has ever produced and would be reason enough to recommend the film.

Just like past Pixar films, “Turning Red” has a deeper side. The film from co-writer / director Domee Shi is an examination of the emotional and physical transformation a young person faces as they begin to mature. The most obvious manifestation of the change is the “red beast” that Mei faces. The moment in her life when she starts having her menstrual cycle is not as subtle as some of the other Pixar stories but the subject is generally handled in metaphorical terms.

The story is focused on Mei’s changes but it has a very important message for parents. “Turning Red” is a reminder that many parents faced their own versions of turning red when they were younger and should remember those trials as they deal with their children. The film stresses how the best way to hold on tight to a child is to loosen your grip.

“Blacklight” Grade 2 ½ stars: If anyone other than Liam Neeson was starring in this new action movie it would be dismissed as being pedestrian, implausible and passé. Neeson was so good in “Taken” that he has earned a cinema hall pass for each and every production since then that mimics that production. And, he has been in several.

In “Blacklight” (a truly stupid name for a movie), Neeson plays worn-down veteran government fixer Travis Block. In other words, he’s a man who has a special set of skills that make him dangerous to the bad guys of the world.

Neeson has played so many variations on the “Taken” role it has become a second acting skin for him. What that means is either you go with the idea that this is familiar territory made enjoyable by Neeson or reject it as being the same old thing. At least with “Blacklight,” Neeson gets the benefit of the doubt one more time.

“Without Remorse” Grade 2 ½ stars: This is another mix of military and politics by Tom Clancy. This time Michael B. Jordan plays an elite Navy SEAL who uncovers an international conspiracy while seeking justice for the murder of his pregnant wife. It is the origin story of action hero John Clark – one of the most popular characters in author Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan universe.

The film starts with a bang when a squad of Russian soldiers kills the family of John Kelly in retaliation for his role in a top-secret op. He pursues the assassins with the help of a fellow SEAL played by Jodie Turner-Smith and a shadowy CIA agent played by Jamie Bell. His mission accidentally exposes a covert plot that threatens to engulf the US and Russia in an all-out war.

It takes three elements for a Clancy-inspired product to work – interesting story, huge action scenes and strong acting. The “Without Remorse” story is good except for making a few of the characters a little too transparent.

“Without Remorse” is strong enough you will feel sorry if you miss seeing it.

Also new on DVD and Blu-ray as or May 3

“A Week in Paradise”: Woman (Malin Akerman) escapes to the Caribbean to stay at her cousin Fiona’s (Connie Nielsen) secluded resort after her marriage falls apart.

“The Boys in Red Hats”: Documentary looks at an incident involving a high school student and a Native American.

“Ahed’s Knee”: Film director battles against the loss of freedom in his country and the fear of losing his mother.

“Lovecut”: A look at the contemporary challenges of identity and sexuality posed by the digital age through three young couples.

The Rose Maker: One of France’s greatest artisanal horticulturalists is facing imminent bankruptcy.

Available on digital platforms

“Poupelle of Chimney Town”: A young man who lives among the thick smoke from the chimneys of his isolated town yearns to see the stars. Look for it on DVD and Blu-ray May 31.

“Belle”: Shy girl finds her voice in a virtual world. It will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on May 31.

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