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Strong performances lead this true story that inspires and isn’t as depressing as it looks. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

You can’t blame Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield) for wanting to die. One day he’s strong and virile, playing tennis with his friends and loving life. The next day he’s paralyzed from the neck down and unable to breathe on his own. It’s polio. Now he requires a respirator to breathe and around-the-clock care. Even thoughts of his loving wife Diana (Claire Foy, “The Crown”) and unborn son are too torturous to bear, knowing he’ll never be the father he always envisioned himself being.

“Breathe” tells a sad (and true) story, to be sure, but it’s also one of unexpected hope. Slowly, Robin adapts to his condition, and thanks to caring friends and loved ones, finds happiness within it. If only all of us could be so strong in such a situation.

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Avoid looking up the true story this is based on until after you see it — the drama and emotions will be more powerful, which will make the movie even better. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

Is there a more noble profession than firefighting? “Only The Brave” chronicles the work of the Prescott, Arizona-based Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite firefighting unit tasked with controlling wildfires in the nearby arid terrain. Often gone for days at a time and working differently than would a crew that fights “structure” fires, the Hotshots are a likeable group of 20 whose bravery is matched only by its camaraderie.

The story centers on two men. One is Eric “Bear” Marsh (Josh Brolin), the tough-love leader of the Hotshots whose wife Amanda (Jennifer Connelly) is a horse trainer. Eric works for years to get the unit certified as “Hotshots,” which means the men are front line responders to dangerous wildfires, and approval comes early in the film with the help of Fire Chief Duane Steinbeck (Jeff Bridges).

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Beautiful, intriguing/Ponderous, annoying. 

Is it worth $10? Yes  

Deriving its title from the codename used for Walt Disney World in its planning stages, “The Florida Project” is an art house film depicting the lives of people living in the shadow of that park. Specifically, the movie follows Halley (Bria Vinaite) and her daughter Moonie (Brooklyn Prince), who, with a community of others, take up permanent residence in one of the many motels--presided over by Bobby (Willem Dafoe), the manager—lining the long tourist strip in Kissimmee, Florida, leading to Disney World.  

It’s an austere film with a measured pace. Outside of Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration” over the opening credits (and a symphonic version in the bizarre finale), there is no music on the soundtrack. But the movie isn’t cold. It’s beautiful, even, due to some stunning cinematography. It’s shot on film, and the graininess complements the subject. Kissimmee is, basically, an unending strip mall that doesn’t lend itself to “wow”-inducing beauty, but the movie is punctuated with striking visuals: A rainbow stretching the entire length of the motel, itself popping off the screen with a ludicrously purple paint job; the sun streaming through billowing summer clouds (Florida’s mountain ranges); kids eating lunch on an impossibly large, gnarly tree, moss blowing lazily in the wind.

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“Girls Trip” is also new to Blu-Ray this week. 

The third time’s the charm. At least it is for the “Spider-Man” franchise now that it can be brought into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and done some justice.

One of the best moves toward that end is the casting of Tom Holland as Spider-Man/Peter Parker in “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” The character is 15 years old, and he actually looks fifteen. Holland perfectly encapsulates the body, mind, and spirit of a smart, awkward high schooler from Brooklyn who has to keep up his grades, has crushes on girls, and does what he can to make his guardian, Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), happy. The fact that Parker was bit by a spider and imbued with super powers so he could don superhero tights to fight crime is just an extra added dimension to the character.

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This movie’s so bad you’ll be wishing for your death day. 

Is it worth $10? No 

Multiple times while watching “Happy Death Day,” I wrote in my notes: “Who’s killing her?,” “Why?,” and “Who cares?”. Attempts to humanize “Tree,” as college student protagonist Teresa (Jessica Rothe) is called, are in vain because by the time we learn her backstory we already don’t like her. When she gets killed, we can’t help but think the world is better off. Then she wakes and the whole torturous day starts over again, for her and for us.

I’m ahead of myself. As director Christopher Landon’s film opens, Tree wakes in Carter’s (Israel Broussard) room after a night of partying. She doesn’t remember his name. She leaves, walks through the quad, goes home to be terrible to her sorority sisters (not that they’re peaches themselves), and blows off her father’s phone calls even though it’s her birthday. Later she goes to a party, and is stabbed and killed by a masked person while walking alone. There is no element of surprise here, and darn if you don’t hope the movie will focus on a more interesting character now that this vapid floozy is dead.

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Meh, Blech, Yuck. 

Is it worth $10? No  

“The Foreigner” had potential. An “R”-rated, gritty action picture starring a cast against type Jackie Chan and directed by Martin Campbell, a journeyman director who nonetheless made two good James Bond films, “Goldeneye” and “Casino Royale,” the latter containing one of the greatest action sequences put on film. Sadly, at best, “The Foreigner” is as generic as its title. At worst, it’s a nauseating potboiler.

Chan stars as Quan Ngoc Minh, an unassuming everyman hiding the face of a highly skilled agent. His former self is unleashed when his daughter (Katie Leung, from “Harry Potter” fame, who’s gone faster than you can say Cho Chang) is killed in a London terrorist attack by a splinter group, the “Authentic IRA.” Mind on revenge, Quan begins stalking Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), an uncooperative Irish deputy minister with ties to the IRA, whom Quan believes has information leading to the terrorists.

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“The House” and “Wish Upon” are also new to Blu-Ray this week. 

Tinnitus is a bitch. It’s a constant sound heard in the ear when there is no source present. It’s typically reported as a ringing, but can also manifest itself as buzzing, hissing, whistling, swooshing, and clicking. The sufferer hears it all the time, with no reprieve, and a totally quiet environment exacerbates it because the sufferer concentrates on it all the more. What’s worse is there is no cure for it, only treatments to ease the strain and stress of dealing with it. Hearing devices that provide “white noise” are common to help deal with tinnitus.

Knowing that Baby (Ansel Elgort), the character referred to in the title “Baby Driver,” has tinnitus helps explain why he constantly has ear buds in his ears, hooked up to an ipod. The music helps drown out the tinnitus. The music does more than that though. It provides the soundtrack to his life. Whether he’s dancing around on the sidewalk on his way to get coffee, at home with his foster dad Joseph (CJ Jones), or driving burglars to safety in a get away car, the music is always playing and Baby keeps the beat.

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A fantastic belated sequel that outdoes the original. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

The accepted wisdom in movies is show, don’t tell. “Blade Runner,” though, took that to a whole other level; it didn’t show and didn’t tell. So much of the film is left to interpretation that it leaned into being obtuse. Of course, that mystery is partly why the film has stayed in people’s consciousness for 35 years.

“Blade Runner 2049,” its belated sequel, wisely keeps some of that mystery but expands on the setting and story exponentially, using modern special effects to envelope you in its world in ways the original never could, all while telling a complicated story with a strong philosophical backbone.

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A candy-colored ode to the transformational power of friendship, this breezy product placement gallery, squarely aimed at grade-schoolers (and their moms), gallops to a rousing finale after a formulaic and listless first half. Not for everypony, but it won over this workhorse reviewer. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

The opening shot of “My Little Pony: The Movie” shows it's aiming a little higher than your typical animated toy showcase, literally. A majestic shot of fluffy clouds that recalls the start of Disney's “Hunchback of Notre Dame” is set to The Go-Go's' “We Got the Beat” as it whisks viewers over Equestria, a magical land where anime-eyed, four-legged revelers come together by hoof and by air. The festive scene brings to mind Munchkinland in “The Wizard of Oz.”

The look is clean, the colors are bright, and the potential for a disarming matinee charmer is so palpable, you feel like you can reach across the scene and touch these horsies' manes. Then they start talking, and it's clear director Jayson Thiessen is saddled with a lot of franchise baggage.

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“The Book of Henry” and “Cult of Chucky” are also new to Blu-Ray this week.

I remember the phrase “Dead men tell no tales” as the last thing a ghostly pirate voice says before heading down a mini-waterfall on the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride at Disney. Seeing this phrase as the subtitle in the latest entry in the franchise, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” it made me nostalgic not only for the ride, but also for the “Pirates” movies of over a decade ago, particularly the first two, “The Curse of the Black Pearl” from 2003 and “Dead Man’s Chest” from 2006, which I found to be highly entertaining swashbucklers. Then came the awful, non-sensical, and just downright confusing “At World’s End” in 2007 and the middling, unmemorable “On Stranger Tides” in 2011.

So what was I going to get with “Dead Men Tell No Tales?” Would it be just another cheap cash grab from Disney Studios and Bruckheimer Productions, or would it be a movie that cares to tell a great action-adventure story like the first two movies? The answer is both, but more of the latter than of the former. Thank goodness.

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Recent Articles

Breathe ***
Strong performances lead this true story ...
Only The Brave ***
Avoid looking up the true story this is ...
The Florida Project **1/2
Beautiful, intriguing/Ponderous, annoying.  ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Spider-Man: Homecoming
“Girls Trip” is also new to Blu-Ray this ...
Happy Death Day *1/2
This movie’s so bad you’ll be wishing for ...
The Foreigner *
Meh, Blech, Yuck.  Is it worth $10? No   “The ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Baby Driver
“The House” and “Wish Upon” are also new to ...

Best Movie In Theaters Now: Blade Runner 2049

A fantastic belated sequel that outdoes the original. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

The accepted wisdom in movies is show, don’t tell. “Blade Runner,” though, took that to a whole other level; it didn’t show and didn’t tell. So much of the film is left to interpretation that it leaned into being obtuse. Of course, that mystery is partly why the film has stayed in people’s consciousness for 35 years.

“Blade Runner 2049,” its belated sequel, wisely keeps some of that mystery but expands on the setting and story exponentially, using modern special effects to envelope you in its world in ways the original never could, all while telling a complicated story with a strong philosophical backbone.

Read more
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