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“Mom and Dad” and “The Florida Project” are also new to Blu-Ray this week. 

It’s rare in movies that a sequel outshines its predecessor. “Daddy’s Home 2” is one of those rare times.

Co-dads Brad (Will Ferrell) and Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) are back, as are their wives, Sara (Linda Cardellini) and Karen (Alessandra Ambrosio), respectively. This family wouldn’t be complete without the kids, so Dylan (Owen Wilder Vaccaro), Megan (Scarlett Estevez), and Adriana (Didi Costine) are back as well. Whose kid belongs to who was a bit confusing in the beginning, since I didn’t remember the 2015 original all that well, but by the end of the movie I think I got it. The only one I knew for sure from the beginning was baby Griffy, played in the movie by three baby siblings whose last name is Wise. He’s the son of Brad and Sara. The rest need to be figured out from context if, like me, you’re a bit lost in the beginning.

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This year there were 341 films eligible for the Best Picture Oscar, but only these nine made the cut.

Which movie will the 7,258 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences choose as its Best Picture? It's a wide open race and tough year to predict, and still too early to tell. (Full Oscar predictions coming closer to Oscar night.)

Below are links to the punchdrunkmovies.com reviews for the nine nominated films. You can find reviews of the Foreign Language Oscar nominees here.

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This movie is a masterpiece. 

Is it worth $10? Yes! 

Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (“Boogie Nights,” “There Will Be Blood”), “Phantom Thread” is a romantic drama with an almost obsessive focus on its two main characters and their relationship, one that dips more than a toe into psychological warfare.

Mousy Alma (Vicky Krieps) enters into an affair with renowned fashion designer, Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis). Their relationship (like most, come to think of it) is based on a push and pull dynamic, a back and forth that is endlessly engrossing as it unfolds. They’re two very different but equally headstrong people who find themselves in love, and the movie traces their attempts at a functional relationship.

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Maybe not the best picture of the year, but one of them. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

“Call Me by Your Name” is a bittersweet depiction of first love in an idyllic setting. The Italian countryside, sunbaked, warm on some days, while gray, rainy, windswept on others, oozes off the screen with a corporeal, you’re there-ness. By film’s end it’s like you’ve visited “somewhere in Italy” (as a title card points out). But the movie’s no mere travelogue. It’s the people that hold your interest amongst all the pretty.

Elio (Timothée Chalamet), a tender 17, spends the summer of 1983 with his family on their sprawling estate in northern Italy. An uneventful summer becomes a memorable one with the arrival of 24-year-old Oliver (Armie Hammer), a grad student staying with the family while working as a research assistant for Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg), an archeology professor. Elio and Oliver have an immediate attraction, but the two dance around their feelings for reasons both obvious and not. As the summer slowly swelters on, the movie follows their pas de deux that grows into a romance.

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A decent movie with a nice aesthetic, but a Best Picture nomination is ridiculous. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

“The Shape of Water” is a dark romantic fantasy directed by Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”), who knows a thing or two about shaping a dark fantasy. But what does he know about romance? Judging from this movie, not much.

Elisa Espinosa (Sally Hawkins) grew up an orphan. She has no knowledge of her past, her parents, or why there are three slashes near her throat that have left her mute. She lives a solitary life but has two close friends: her next door neighbor, Giles (Richard Jenkins), an aging, lonely artist, and her chatty co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer). It’s 1962, and Elisa and Zelda work as janitors in a high security research facility in Baltimore. One day, a holding tank filled with water is wheeled into the facility by Colonel Richard Strickland (a typically menacing Michael Shannon), back from an excursion to South America. Inside the tube? A humanoid amphibian (Doug Jones). Strickland, believing him an abomination, tortures him while the scientists study the creature. But Elisa is drawn to him and forges an immediate connection using sign language to communicate. Soon, an improbable relationship develops, and Eliza embarks on an adventure to save the creature and a chance at true love.

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Another triumph for the MCU, but this time it feels different, and that’s a great thing. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

We first met Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) in “Captain America: Civil War” (2016), and his impact made us want more. Now we have more, and oh boy was it worth the wait. “Black Panther” is timely, smart, and yet another dazzling entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which never seems to take a misstep.

Now the King of Wakanda, a fictional nation hidden in Africa, T’Challa, a.k.a. the Black Panther, reigns in the interest of peace and the protection of his people. He has a strong support system: His mother (Angela Bassett) looks out for him, General Okoye (Danai Gurira) protects him at all costs, and his love interest Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) believes in him. He’s also friendly with the heads of neighboring tribes, including Okoye’s love interest, W’kabi (Daniel Kaluuya). Their community is built on Vibranium, a precious mineral that also powers the Black Panther suit (and Captain America’s shield). Wakandans harness and protect its power because they believe it’s too dangerous for the outside world.

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Brief reviews and an inside look at one of the toughest categories to predict at this year’s Oscars.  
 
This year’s Oscar nominees for foreign language film run the gamut of satire in Sweden to a small squabble leading to a national dispute in Lebanon. These films also allow insight into the issues, policies and customs of the rest of the world, and at times act as a reminder of the virtues and foibles of human nature.

What follows are mini-reviews of the five nominated films, how you can see them now, and who will win and should win the Oscar.

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“Roman J. Israel, Esq.” and “Hellraiser: Judgment” are also new to Blu-Ray this week. 

“Wonder” is the kind of movie that defies an easy description. If the logline on imdb.com is to be believed, “Wonder” is the “incredibly inspiring and heartwarming story of August Pullman, a boy with facial differences who enters fifth grade, attending a mainstream elementary school for the first time.”

This is true. It is that story about that boy, who is nicknamed Auggie and played with tug at your heartstrings vulnerability by Jacob Tremblay (“Room”), an impressive child actor. But it’s much, much more than simply his story. It’s also the story of Auggie’s parents, played by Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts, who make their son the center of their universe and worry about how well he’ll do interacting with children his own age after being home schooled. It’s about Via (Izabela Vidovic), Auggie’s sister, who graciously accepts that her parents give Auggie the most attention and is refreshingly understanding about it. She loves Auggie, is not jealous, and has worked the situation to her benefit to become self-sustaining and independent.

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Children’s flick is amusing but more than a hare predictable. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

“Peter Rabbit” is predictable as it can be, but that’s fine. No one goes into it expecting plot twists. The more important question is: Will children enjoy it, and will parents find it tolerable? The answer for both is: More than you’d expect, but not as much as you’d like.

Based on the early 1900s Beatrix Potter stories, the Sony Pictures Animation film is a mix of live action and animation, similar to how the studio handled “The Smurfs” (2011) and “The Smurfs 2” (2013). This time instead of Smurfs they’ve animated rabbits and an assortment of other wildlife, and given them voices. One of the charms of the film is how self-aware it is that rabbits are talking; you have to appreciate a script that’s willing to poke fun at itself. 

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“A Bad Moms Christmas” and “Suburbicon” are also new to Blu-Ray this week. 

I can’t believe I’m writing this review. With all of the new releases this week, including some major ones, and in spite of the fact that “Victor Crowley” is a sequel/reboot to the “Hatchet” trilogy, I have to give credit where credit is due. This movie resonates with me the most and is the one I have the fondest memories of watching. For that, it earns the top spot as my pick of the week.

“Victor Crowley” stars Parry Shen as Andrew. Shen has been in all three of the previous “Hatchet” movies, playing different characters. For this movie he reprises his role from “Hatchet III,” in which he was one of the lucky few survivors to make it out of Louisiana’s Honey Island swamp alive and escape a painful and bloody death at the hands of deformed serial killer Victor Crowley.

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Recent Articles

Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Daddy’s Home 2
“Mom and Dad” and “The Florida Project” are ...
Best Picture Oscar Nominees
This year there were 341 films eligible for ...
Phantom Thread ****
This movie is a masterpiece.  Is it worth ...
Call Me by Your Name ***1/2
Maybe not the best picture of the year, but ...
The Shape of Water **1/2
A decent movie with a nice aesthetic, but a Best ...
Black Panther ***
Another triumph for the MCU, but this time ...
Foreign Language Oscar Nominees
Brief reviews and an inside look at one of ...

The Best Picture Oscar Nominees

This year there were 341 films eligible for the Best Picture Oscar, but only these nine made the cut.

Which movie will the 7,258 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences choose as its Best Picture? It's a wide open race and tough year to predict, and still too early to tell. (Full Oscar predictions coming closer to Oscar night.)

Below are links to the punchdrunkmovies.com reviews for the nine nominated films. You can find reviews of the Foreign Language Oscar nominees here.

Read more