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DC Comics team up leaves a bit to be desired, but it’s just good enough to not feel like a waste of money. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

The opening scene in “Justice League” is, in a word, lame. Batman (Ben Affleck) stops a petty criminal, and then uses the criminal as bait to draw a large mosquito-looking demon to them. The sequence is dark, cartoonish, and doesn’t look impressive at all.

This is not a good start to a movie DC Comics fans can’t wait to see after the tremendous success of “Wonder Woman” earlier this year. Thankfully “Justice League” and its new characters grow on you over the course of its 121 minutes, making it a moderate success that gets better as it goes.

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It’s good, but eager film goers should temper the hype for this indie darling.  

Is it worth $10? Yes 

From capturing the specific comes universal appeal. It's a lesson the coming-of-age stories that linger in your memory apply to vivid effect, and “Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig's solo feature directing debut, is a good coming-of-age story. Which makes it even more confounding how long I spent struggling to become immersed in its singular world.

The year is 2002, and Christine McPherson (“Brooklyn's” Saoirse Ronan), a rebellious 17-year-old, has decided to change her name to Lady Bird; she is no longer to be referred to by her Christian name. Emphasis on Christian: As the movie opens, her mom Marion (a sterling Laurie Metcalf), a hardworking, no-nonsense nurse, is driving her daughter back to Sacramento so the teen can attend her senior year of high school at a Catholic school her parents can barely afford.

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“The Nut Job 2” and “Amityville: Awakening” are also new to Blu-Ray this week. 

I’m like a moth to a flame when it comes to Cold War era spy movies. The intrigue, the double-crosses, the suspense—all set against a backdrop of the barely under the surface tensions between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. that lasted decades. Added bonus if the movie involves paperwork being forged and/or shown, and it takes place in a hot spot like Berlin at a time when the east and west sides were literally right next to each other. The extra special cherry on top of this already delectable cake is if at some point someone uses the word “attache.”

“Atomic Blonde” comes through on all of the above counts. The movie stars Charlize Theron as British MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton. The year is 1989—shortly before the fall of the Berlin wall. When we first meet her, she emerges from a tub full of ice water, covered in bumps, scrapes, and bruises. She gets out of the tub and pours herself some Stoli on the rocks. At this moment all I could think was that I hope those ice cubes weren’t from the tub.

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Funnier than expected, and perfect to get you in the holiday spirit! 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

“Daddy’s Home” (2015) was a predictable lark of unfunny gags, faux machismo, and pandering sweetness. To our surprise, “Daddy’s Home 2” is just the opposite: The gags (except for one) don’t play out the way we expect, the machismo is Mel Gibson-ed up to a new level, and the pandering sweetness is Christmas-themed, which I’m admittedly a sucker for. If you’re looking for something fun to do to inspire holiday spirit with the family this year, look no further.

At the start of director Sean Anders’ sequel, Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) and Brad (Will Ferrell) have the “co-dad” thing down pat. Brad is still married to Dusty’s ex, Sara (Linda Cardellini), and together the three of them are raising Dusty and Sara’s kids, Dylan (Owen Vaccaro) and Megan (Scarlett Estevez). There’s no tension or awkwardness because they got that out of their system in the first movie. Also, Dusty is now married to Karen (Alessandra Ambrosio), who previously had daughter Adrianna (Didi Costine) with Roger (John Cena), so he understands the situation from all sides.

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A dark, disturbing (and surprisingly funny) nightmare. 

Is it worth $10? Yes  

Beginning with the lengthy close-up of an actual surgery, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” doesn’t waste time in making you uncomfortable. A psychological horror film brimming with unease and dread, the film’s soundtrack is comprised of high pitched violins, low throbbing booms, and discordant noises that assault your ears. It all adds up to an unsettling tone long before the film’s actual horror elements kick in. Oh, and it’s also a comedy, a pitch-black comedy.

Colin Farrell stars as Steven Murphy, a cardiothoracic surgeon who’s taken Matthew (Barry Keoghan, recently in “Dunkirk”), a high school student, under his wing for reasons that only become clear as the film progresses. But Matthew is strange-- though, to be fair, everybody in the movie’s weird, Matthew just especially so-- and his increasingly erratic behavior has Steven pulling back on their friendship. Matthew becomes agitated and what happens next is a great hook but might best be left as a surprise. Being vague as possible, it involves the health of Steven’s wife, Anna (Nicole Kidman), their two children, Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and Bob (Sunny Suljic), and an impossible decision Steven may have to make to save (some) of them.

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“The Glass Castle” is also new to Blu-Ray this week. 

Disney/Pixar’s “Cars” series returns to form after the spy movie/idiot plot misfire of the previous installment. Red racecar Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) once again takes center stage at the heart of “Cars 3.” This time he finds himself in a similar situation to that of his mentor Doc Hudson (voice of Paul Newman) in the first movie: He’s the older car, and a brand new breed of younger, faster cars are on their way to taking his place at the top of the racing world.

Not that McQueen is going down without a fight. After being shown up in a race by a hotshot young car named Jackson Storm (voice of Armie Hammer), McQueen is devastated. Adding to the pressure is an ultimatum from Sterling (voice of Nathan Fillion), the new owner of his sponsor, Rust-Eze: Either win the next race or retire into a second career of commercials and guest appearances as the spokescar for Rust-Eze. McQueen wants to avoid this at all costs.

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It’s an action-packed, exciting, and unexpectedly hilarious installment into the MCU. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

What fun!

You’ll be hard pressed to find a better time at the movies in 2017 than “Thor: Ragnarok.” You expect the grandiose visual effects and action, and the story that both stands alone and works within the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). What you don’t expect is the humor. One-liners, physical comedy and even some “Avengers” jabs make the movie hilarious from start to finish, and easily the most enjoyable MCU entry since the first “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014).

After the action-packed and hysterical opening sequence set to the tune of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) visit their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins). The sons are warned that the prophecy of “Ragnarok” is imminent, which means the destruction of their home planet of Asgard. The destroyer is Odin’s first born and the goddess of death Hela (Cate Blanchett), who is so powerful she smashes Thor’s hammer with one hand.

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A fanciful tale of humanity and fate hits your heartstrings and is great for the whole family. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

Warmth and sincerity are hard to fake. When done wrong they’re off-putting, fraudulent to the point of insulting fury. When done right they’re genuine and moving, a welcome reminder of the good that opening one’s heart can do for humanity. “Wonderstruck” does it right.

The film, which is based on a children’s book by Brian Selznick, tells two stories set 50 years apart. For the first 90 minutes they are only thematically connected, then they are literally connected in the conclusion. You may see the ending coming. That’s fine. This isn’t trying to jolt you with surprises, it’s trying to move you with its understanding and sense of wonder.

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“The Dark Tower” is also new to Blu-Ray this week. 

“Kidnap” is different from the usual child abduction and ransom movie in that once it starts, it just keeps going. After an extended opening credit sequence and an unnecessary and overlong scene in which we discover that single mom Karla Dyson (Halle Berry) is a waitress with rude customers, she takes her son Frankie (Sage Correa) to a fair at the local park. It’s there where she turns her back on him for one second (the sadly true refrain of almost every parent whose child befalls tragedy) to take an important phone call (ex-husband is demanding primary custody of Frankie). When she turns around, he’s gone.

Berry plays the scene well as Karla goes from nervous amusement to worry to panic to terror as she starts to think the worst. Her fears are realized when she sees her son get pulled into a car by kidnappers Margo (Chris McGinn) and Terry (Lew Temple). Not wasting a moment, she jumps into her SUV and chases after them, pursuing them on the highways and byways of southern Louisiana. Good thing that the kidnappers are in an aqua colored 1980s car with slats on the back windshield. It seems as though Margo and Terry forgot to look up the meaning of the word “inconspicuous” before embarking on this endeavor.

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A major misfire from three industry titans. 

Is it worth $10? No 

George Clooney, Matt Damon, Julianne Moore. All Oscar winners, all Hollywood royalty, and all part of the absolute misfire that is “Suburbicon,” a mistake of a movie that will be a stain on all of their careers. How could three people who are so good at what they do veer so far off track?

“Suburbicon” is the name of a small town circa 1959. On the surface the Lodge family represents ‘50s Americana as history likes to remember it: Mom Rose (Moore) stays home, son Nicky (Noah Jupe) goes to school, dad Gardner (Damon) works a corporate job. The safe, small community is self-contained and seemingly perfect for raising a child. Yes, things couldn’t be better for the Lodges, save for the fact that Rose was in a car accident and is now bound to a wheelchair. Regardless, Rose’s twin sister Maggie (Moore again) helps out, so all is happy on the home front.

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Recent Articles

Justice League **1/2
DC Comics team up leaves a bit to be ...
Lady Bird ***
It’s good, but eager film goers should ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Atomic Blonde
“The Nut Job 2” and “Amityville: Awakening” ...
Daddy’s Home 2 ***
Funnier than expected, and perfect to get you ...
The Killing of a Sacred Deer ***
A dark, disturbing (and surprisingly funny) ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Cars 3
“The Glass Castle” is also new to Blu-Ray ...
Thor: Ragnarok ***1/2
It’s an action-packed, exciting, and ...

Best Movie In Theaters Now: Thor Ragnarok

It’s an action-packed, exciting, and unexpectedly hilarious installment into the MCU. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

What fun!

You’ll be hard pressed to find a better time at the movies in 2017 than “Thor: Ragnarok.” You expect the grandiose visual effects and action, and the story that both stands alone and works within the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). What you don’t expect is the humor. One-liners, physical comedy and even some “Avengers” jabs make the movie hilarious from start to finish, and easily the most enjoyable MCU entry since the first “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014).

After the action-packed and hysterical opening sequence set to the tune of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) visit their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins). The sons are warned that the prophecy of “Ragnarok” is imminent, which means the destruction of their home planet of Asgard. The destroyer is Odin’s first born and the goddess of death Hela (Cate Blanchett), who is so powerful she smashes Thor’s hammer with one hand.

Read more
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