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Is there an Echo in here?

It’s no secret that all found-footage genre movies are the same. Grab a couple of characters, give one of them a camera, and expose them to something supernatural that’s content to lurk just off-screen until the last five minutes. Everything else will just fall into place.

But that formula isn’t particularly family friendly, if only because that thing waiting a few feet to the left of the cast is usually plotting their violent doom.

That’s what sets Earth to Echo apart from the pack. It, too, follows a group of characters armed with a camera and a tendency to encounter unknown life forms. But all those familiar parts have been rearranged just enough to make it suitable for a much younger audience.

Overstuffed turkeys

Thanksgiving season is upon us – a time for friends, family, and recklessly indulgent overeating. As we settle into our annual turkey-induced food coma, there’s no better time to take in a festive holiday film. And Free Birds, for better or worse, has the distinguished honor of being one of the only Thanksgiving-themed movies currently on the market.

The film stars Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson as Reggie and Jake, two turkeys who can’t stand the Thanksgiving tradition of watching their neighbors be plucked and served for dinner.

A love story, or a moral mess?

I’m in Love with a Church Girl lays out everything you need to know right there in the title.

Miles Montego (Jeffrey Atkins, who may be more recognizable under his stage name, Ja Rule), is a notorious drug kingpin, but when he meets the church-going girl of his dreams, will he be able to part with the glamour and the money of the drug game?

Classic love, with a teen-lit slant

The intentions of Romeo and Juliet are noble ones. It means to condense Shakespeare down into a simple, easily identifiable package, to create a re-telling that’s more in line with teen romance than classic literature.

Douglas Booth, as Romeo, squints into the camera as though he’s just stepped out of a cologne ad. Hailee Steinfeld, as Juliet, scribbles away in her diary to the tune of twinkling piano ballads. By no means is it an intelligent or novel Shakespeare adaptation, but it’s not meant to be. It’s a stepping-stone for those who need an extra boost into the words of the Bard.

Cloudy, with a chance of laughter

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 is a film about food puns. Of course, it may have the trappings of story, characters and few key themes.

But these elements are just a means to an end, and that end is a jungle crawling with hippotatomuses, watermelophants and fruit cockatiels. It’s a bundle of boundless energy, intent on overstuffing every frame.

Which direction is up?

A nervous, giddy feeling lingers in the air before the start of “One Direction: This is Us.” It doesn’t come as a surprise in a theater crammed full of young women (and more than a few hapless parents).

But those nervous giggles and whispers vanish the moment the opening titles of “This is Us” begin to roll. The theater is stone silent, but only for a moment – a One Direction member darts onscreen for a scant few frames, and the theater explodes with shrieks of hysterical glee.

Different name, more of the same

It’s no secret that the Percy Jackson series is a blatant attempt to cash in on the success of Harry Potter. The similarities are far too numerous (and far too obvious) to ignore. A boy with special powers is prophesized toward greatness; he finds acceptance in a school for the supernaturally gifted and gains two best friends in the process, an intelligent young girl and a goofy comic-relief character.

Swap Potter’s school for witchcraft and wizardry with Percy’s summer camp for the children of Greek gods and you’re all set to start watching.

Don’t rush to see Turbo

Turbo is not a subtle film. Like so many others (Rudy, Rocky – even this summer’s Monsters University), it espouses that with hard work and true passion, anyone can achieve his or her wildest dreams.

But those films dealt out their messages with a deftly human touch. Their heroes did reach greatness, but only for a fleeting moment. Rocky didn’t end his film as the world heavyweight champ, and neither did Rudy end up the quarterback for the Fighting Irish.

‘Monsters U’ proves itself as family gem


Anyone who has seen "Animal House," "Revenge of the Nerds," or any of the countless retreads and spoofs they spawned will surely find something familiar in "Monsters University." Pixar's latest comes from the very same mold, but has been cast in brighter, cuter colors. Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan, the green-and-blue leads of 2001's "Monsters, Inc." (Billy Crystal and John Goodman, respectively) are freshmen at the titular university and face the typical trials and tribulations one would find in any college comedy. Arrogant fraternity jocks, a tough-as-nails dean and a campus-wide scare-off must all be overcome if Mike and Sully are to become the best of friends and blossom into the heroes we know from the original film.

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