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Movie News & Reviews

Movie review: ‘Into the Spider-Verse,’ excellent adventure has thrills, humor, and heart

Parents need to know that "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" is a funny, original, action-packed animated Marvel adventure that centers on Brooklyn teen Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore), who becomes a new Spider-Man and ends up meeting other Spider-people from parallel universes. It's sure to appeal to Spidey fans of all ages, and it's more tween friendly than the live-action wall-crawler movies, but it's still pretty intense. And while the violence is mostly cartoonish, there are lots of fights that involve weapons (including guns), injuries, and even death. (Spoiler alert: One version of Spider-Man dies, as does an important supporting character.) There's also large-scale destruction, as well as frequent peril, suspense, and mortal danger. Characters flirt a little and occasionally use words like "hell," "dang," "fat," "stupid," and "dumb." But kids won't fail to notice the movie's diverse characters and clear messages about friendship, courage, mentoring, perseverance, teamwork, and (of course!) the nature of power and responsibility. Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, and Nicolas Cage co-star.

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19 great Alexa skills for kids and teens

"Alexa, entertain my kid with high-quality content." If you have an Echo device, you know this is a tall order. Not only is Alexa a finicky listener, but you need to launch specific "skills" to get the device to do what you want. With hundreds of skills in a huge range of categories listed on the Amazon Alexa app or website, it can take some digging to find the good stuff. But if you do dig, you'll be rewarded with some pretty sweet games and activities, including interactive storytelling, math practice, exercise, games to play together, and more.

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Social Security: Understanding spouses’ benefits

Marriage is a cultural institution that exists all over the world. Having a partner means sharing many things including a home and other property. Understanding how your future retirement might affect your spouse is important. When you're planning for your fun and vibrant golden years, here are a few things to remember:

This week's circulars

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Game review: ‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate,’ ultimate warriors

It's been nearly 20 years since Nintendo first gathered up all of its beloved mascots in a single game for the express purpose of having them beat the snot out of each other. The "Super Smash Bros." series started out as a simple concept, but has grown into a full-blown celebration of Nintendo gaming throughout the ages. It didn't look like it could get bigger than the previous "Super Smash Bros." game, but "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate" absolutely lives up to its name and offers the best that the series has to offer.

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Parents @ Play: Building strong families

Building, whether it's with blocks, bricks, paper, metal, pipe cleaners, or anything else, is one of the very best ways for parents and children to spend time together. Here are some new products that will help you keep busy and close during those long, winter evenings.

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Ask Mr. Dad: Tech for toddlers: don’t. But if you absolutely must –

Dear Mr. Dad: A few weeks ago, you talked about how bad technology is for toddlers. My wife and I generally like your advice, but in this case, we think you're wrong. Tech is everywhere – even little kids are learning to code –and we want our baby to be as prepared as possible to survive in the world. And part of that means getting him familiar with smartphones and tablets. But we want to do it right. What do you suggest?

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Living with Children: Kids are no shield from a bad marriage

Just about every marriage has its share of bad times; then again, some marriages simply go bad. The reasons for the latter include abuse, adultery, alcoholism (and other forms of chemical self-indulgence, such as drug addiction), and emotional and/or physical abandonment. Not to say that any one of those can't be overcome, but they are four of the top five reasons why some marriages arrive at a point where there's no going back.

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Ex-etiquette: Ex’s new girlfriend has her way for Christmas

Q. Every year my ex has a Christmas party. He invites me, plus our kids – all adults, yours, mine, and ours, and all have kids of their own. We have done this for years. He hires Santa for the grandkids. It's really fun. This year he has a new woman in his life and I wasn't invited. As a matter of fact, I was told it would be inappropriate if I come. It seems his new person doesn't want me there. My kids are very upset. I don't care that he's seeing someone else. What's good ex-etiquette?

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As Fortnite blows up, parents need to up their game

Does your kid talk endlessly about Tilted Towers and V-Bucks? Do his shouts of "Revive me! Revive me!" ring throughout your home? Have you considered moving to a remote island without internet access to rid yourself of absolutely anything having to do with Fortnite? Welcome to Fortnite frenzy! You're the parent of one of 125 million players of the enormously popular multiplayer third-person-shooter video game "Fortnite: Battle Royale."

Movie News & Reviews

‘The Christmas Chronicles’: Netflix’s edgy Santa adventure is a fun holiday pick for tweens

Parents need to know that "The Christmas Chronicles" is a holiday adventure movie starring Kurt Russell that has enough edgy content to make it best for tweens and up. Characters do risky things like steal cars and climb telephone poles. Strong language includes a few uses of "damn" and "hell," plus insults like "moron." The main characters are grieving their father, a firefighter who died saving others, during their first Christmas without him. A boy starts to tell his younger sister that there's no Santa but doesn't go through with it. Violence is mostly cartoonish mayhem, with no serious injuries, blood or gore shown, but viewers will see punching, shoving, knocking down and characters brandishing a baseball bat and a chainsaw. Characters are in danger, and Santa's CGI elves are cute but sometimes scary, too. A rock'n'roll musical number has slightly sexualized background singers and some innuendo. Holiday messages are mostly about how it wouldn't be Christmas without presents and Santa Claus, but positive themes include family unity and believing in yourself. The movie also sends the idea that it can be OK to do something naughty (even illegal) if it's for a good cause. Santa is portrayed with a gruff exterior, but he cares about the kids and will do anything to save Christmas.

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Game review: BattleTech: Flashpoint gets a 5-star upgrade

Parents need to know that "BattleTech: Flashpoint" is the first paid expansion to Paradox Interactive's BattleTech turn-based sci-fi strategy game for download on Windows- and Mac-based computers. The expansion adds new units, mission types, environments, and story elements to the base game. "Flashpoint" gives players more control over the path of their characters' stories, following choices to their ultimate conclusions. There's plenty of sci-fi violence, including robotic units getting dismembered and human units dying on the battlefield, though there's no blood or gore shown. Some vulgarity (mainly the word "s–t") occasionally appears in the game's dialogue, and multiplayer games have the potential to be exposed to other offensive content via in-game chat.