One Day, Terri, Fright Night, Spy Kids 4, The Help upgraded, a flashy car racer and one of the funniest films ever

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THE HELP: A reader took me to task for only giving this film 3 ½ stars. I had gone back and forth on this one and almost gave it 4. Maybe I should have, so I’ll upgrade here. Yes, the civil rights uproar was too far in the background and the film makes familiar, obvious points. But there are many plusses too. Life in this Mississippi society in the early 1960s was well-represented as somewhat insular. The actors were excellent and the friendship portrayed by Emma Stone, Viola David and Octavia Spencer was touching, humorous and realistic.

The film as a whole is moving and satisfying both in detailing the day-to-day annoyances of segregation at the time and suggesting the class prejudices that ran side by side with the casual racism. Also, the look of the film is wonderful because of the beautiful art direction. (The Park, International Village and suburban theatres) 4 out of

SENNA: If you thought films like Gran Prix are unreal and overly dramatic about big-time car racing, check out this true story. There’s as much drama and human emotion, in this documentary as in most any fictional movie. It’s a biography of Ayrton Senna, the Brazilian driver who was world champion on the Formula 1 circuit three times during the 1980s.

Young, handsome and a risk taker, he wowed the fans, became a national hero back home and butted heads repeatedly with Alain Prost, a French rival, and with the staid motorsport establishment. That’s all told through wonderful archival footage, including TV interviews (both lovey-dovey and combative), scrappy drivers’ meetings and races seen from both outside, and in a few cases, inside his car. We get a full portrait of a man pushing himself to the edge because as he says “Somehow I got closer to God.” We’re also there when he comes to realize he’s not immortal and fights for new regulations. There’s also, unfortunately, his final race, which ended in a fiery crash. Even folks not at all interested in motorsports could enjoy this film. It was a winner with the audience at Sundance. (International Village) 4 out of 5

SPY KIDS: ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD: This isn’t one of those small kids’ films. There are mammoth machines, extended chase sequences and elaborate fights against a pack of bad guys and their evil leader. All in all perfect for a grandson or a niece into excitement and action. (A couple of provisos, though. See below).

Jessica Alba plays a retired spy who just won’t quit. At nine months pregnant, she’s driving in a car chase. The contractions are only three minutes apart, she reasons. A year later she takes her new daughter along to battle a super villain called The Timekeeper who is destroying the world by slowing down time. Her husband and her two stepchildren are also drawn in.

They’re the new spy kids. The originals from the first three films are now grown up, although they’ll show up too. As is usual in this series, it’s an entire family that goes on this adventure. That’s part of what makes it appealing to children. There’s also plenty of humor, including Ricky Gervais as the voice of a robot dog, and (inevitably)  a few puke and poop jokes. The story, which brings in history, science and time travel, is unusually complex  so don’t take young kids. Also, careful with any who have issues over lost parents. The film says spend time with your parents now, because later they’ll die. The 3D is good; the 4D is almost useless. That’s the scratch and sniff card you’re given to add smell to a few scenes. It’s hard to work and the odors are weak. (International Village, Oakridge, Dolphin and many suburban theatres)  3 out of 5

More in New Movies

Films about race and poverty in Paris, low-life exuberance in London and Werner Herzog re-tracing a friend’s quest

Also: damning memories from and since the Viet Nam war, an innovative dance choreographer in 3-D, the latest unhinged act by Nicolas Cage and a new but unseen version of The Turn of the Screw

Bad Boys shoot again; Adam Sandler gets loud in Uncut Gems and Clemency ruminates on capital punishment

And for the kids: A superior Japanese anime in Weathering With You, Robert Downey Jr. talking to the animals in Dolittle and your chance to sing along with Frozen II.

1917: a must-see, Just Mercy, a should-see, and Underwater, a don’t-bother

But do check out three others making a welcome return from last fall’s film festival
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