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‘Butterfly In The Sky ’Celebrates Reading Rainbow ~ At The Movies With Kasey

Several years ago, when there was a boom in books and movies celebrating Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, LaVar Burton read the audiobook of A Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers. As I listened to his exquisite narration, it seemed only a matter of time before Reading Rainbow got similar treatment. I hope that moment has finally been kicked off with the new documentary, Butterfly in the Sky.

Streaming on Netflix, Butterfly in the Sky uses archival film and new interviews to tell the story of the classic PBS show’s origins and host LaVar Burton’s evolution as a person and performer during Reading Rainbow’s 23 years on the air. The stories told by Burton; co-creators Twila Ligget, Larry Lancit, and Cecily Truett; musician Stephen Horelick; and director Ed Wiseman create a vivid portrait of the love and sense of adventure that infused a program that prioritized kids and their literacy.

The story of Reading Rainbow follows similar beats to the story of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, emphasizing the importance of reaching children and taking their experiences and curiosity seriously. For those of us who grew up watching Reading Rainbow, the documentary offers a heaping dose of nostalgia alongside shocking tales of filming an erupting volcano or a bat cave where a cameraman fell into guano full of carnivorous worms. It is a genuine delight to see LaVar Burton get his roses for a long career doing important work with a steady, authentic presence. Perspectives from those behind the scenes and people who were on the show as children further illustrate how much the program meant to those who made it. Still, directors Bradford Thomason and Brett Whitcomb keep the pace of the documentary moving steadily with energetic clips interspersed with heavier interviews. This attention to pacing keeps the celebration from veering into navel gazing too much.

At a tight 87 minutes, Butterfly in the Sky gives a well-rounded portrait of Reading Rainbow that also left me wanting more. Fortunately, there are plenty of old episodes online.

Butterfly in the Sky was directed by Bradford Thomason and Brett Whitcomb. It runs 87 minutes.

On Hulu, The Greatest Hits takes an interesting premise and follows it to less successful results. In the film, Harriet (Lucy Boynton) is grieving her boyfriend, Max (David Corenswet), who died in an accident. Since his death, when she hears certain songs, she is transported back to the moment when she and Max first heard it. As she pieces together a timeline of songs leading from when they met to Max’s death, she realizes that one song is missing. Her friend, Morris (Austin Crute), therapist (Retta), and a new love interest, David (Justin H. Min), might be able to help her find the song and get unstuck in her grieving process.

While watching The Greatest Hits, I felt annoyed by many creative choices but still engaged in the story. Harriet is basically a Manic Pixie Dreamgirl in a maudlin mood. She walks around with big headphones to block music and accidental time-travel and the look strikes a very 2004 note. Lucy Boynton acts her heart out, but the manufactured coolness of the characters makes the whole production look immature or derivative. I rolled my eyes at how much the first act fluctuates between depressing and romantic and I struggled to see Max as the amazing person Harriet thinks he is. Ultimately, Max is beside the point of the story, and I think that is a weakness in the writing.

That said, even though I thought about turning the movie off a few times, I kept watching because I was curious about how Harriet would resolve the mystery of the missing song. The screenplay takes too long to clarify that she is trying to save Max’s life, but those added stakes help the story come together. I found the ending much more satisfying than much of the journey. Those who love vinyl records, romance, and hipsters may like this movie more than I did, but I enjoyed it despite my qualms with the tone and characters.

The Greatest Hits was written and directed by Ned Benson. It runs 94 minutes and is rated PG-13.

Available on Amazon, The Execution (Kazn), is a Russian film reminiscent of great thrillers from the late-90s/early-00s such as The Silence of the Lambs and Kiss the Girls. Violent and sometimes racy, the story moves around in time as detective Issa Davydov (Niko Tavadze) tries to capture a serial killer who has eluded the police for years as innocent people are punished for his crimes.

The Execution’s nonlinear narrative is sometimes hard to follow and requires subtitles, which are challenging for some viewers. The acting and the cinematography, however, are excellent and the sprawling, slow-burning story builds up the suspense. For viewers trying to find new options, this foreign film feels familiar in its genre, but still creative in its approach.

The Execution (Kazn) was written by Olga Gorodetskaya and Lado Kvataniya and directed by Lado Kvataniya. It runs 138 minutes.

Kasey Butcher

Kasey Butcher

She is proud to be a Ft. Wayne native, a graduate of Homestead HS, Ball State University & Miami University. She became involved with journalism editor-in-chief for her high school magazine. She authors the "At The Movies with Kasey Butcher" review. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer