Reel Reviews: See free movies this summer

By on June 19, 2019

Now that I’ve got your attention with the whole “free movies” bit, know that donations help support the Lancaster Summer Arts Festival, a city-wide celebration that includes screenings of some better-than-average anime films at Zoetropolis Cinema Stillhouse. Yes, the movies are free!


The 2019 film series kicked off on June 17 with “From up on Poppy Hill” and features a new film every Monday at 6 p.m. through July 22. Set in Japan in 1963, “From up on Poppy Hill,” is a PG-rated, coming-of-age film where Japanese teens look to a brighter future symbolized by the upcoming Olympic games in Tokyo. The critically acclaimed, 2011 film won the Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year and was a resounding success at the Japanese box office.

The series continues June 24 with “Lu Over the Wall,” and I’m most excited to see “My Life as a Zucchini” on July 1. The French film based on the 2002 novel by writer Gilles Paris was nominated for a Best Animated Feature Film Oscar and caught my attention in 2017 when I learned the English cast featured Nick Offerman (a.k.a. Ron Swanson).

“My Life as a Zucchini,” an award-winning stop-motion animated film, will be shown July 1 at Zoetropolis Cinema Stillhouse. Admission is by donation.

Penn Cinema

Speaking of better-than-average anime films, the Studio Ghibli Film Festival is back at Penn Cinema. On July 2, movies from the most productive anime house in Japan resume with “Whisper of the Heart,” another coming-of-age (this time G-rated) adventure. A different Ghibli film shows every month with the fan favorite “My Neighbor Totoro” playing in August and the second highest grossing anime film of all time, “Spirited Away” (over $290 million worldwide) showing in October.

So, plan accordingly. There’s lots of good stuff to take advantage of with the kids other than summer blockbusters.

‘Dark Phoenix’

And with all that hope and feel-good sentimentality about coming films, let me bash it all back to reality with a review of the tragedy that became the X-Men franchise. The Queen of the North should have stayed in Winterfell, because no tragedy falling upon House Stark can match what Sophie Turner (Jean Grey/Phoenix, and Sansa Stark) has to go through in this dying cow of a film, a Marvel film even Marvel fans don’t really want to see (we know because it couldn’t outperform “The Secret Life of Pets 2” for goodness sake).

Why? Because Marvel fans know the Phoenix storyline deserves more. So, without going too far into the “purist” mindset here are a few quips on why this movie is not worth seeing.

The movie is a waste of Jessica Chastain’s talent. Going for social points by adopting a cheap “women power” one-liner is not getting any points. If you’re an X-Men fan you know Storm is the true leader of the mutant force. No Phoenix until the end of the movie. Nobody wants to see Sophie Turner’s face in slow motion explosion, over and over again. Nice try tying in some actual comic book storylines into a movie storyline that has already shredded the original source.

Ugh, put a nail in it. Now that Disney has the reigns of the X-Men I hope they get a well-deserved rest. R.I.P., mutants. Until next time! Psst …Wolverine’s not dead. He’s the new Phoenix! (Read Thor #5).

Agree or disagree? Reel Reviews works like this: 1) Watch a movie; 2) Send suggestions, comments and criticism to Michael at

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