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“Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” and “Central Intelligence” are also new to Blu-Ray this week.

Were it not for the fact that the bulk of the action in “The Shallows” takes place on and in the water, it would make for a great one-set stage play. Set two hundred yards off shore on a remote and secret beach in Mexico, ex-medical student Nancy (Blake Lively) is enjoying some fun in the sun, doing some surfing. She’s catching waves and sitting on top of the world until a shark attacks her and puts deep gashes in her leg. This traps her out in the middle of the water, with only a decaying whale corpse, some rocks that barely stick up out of the water, and a buoy to keep her safe.

These various set pieces divide the story into clear acts. Here we have a five act structure: the arrival and the surfing, the time on the whale, the time on the rocks, the time on the buoy, and finally the end, which I won’t spoil and only say that it is clever, resourceful, and exciting.

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A vulgar, tasteless remake of a genuine classic.

Is it worth $10? No 

Dear reader, I have a deep, dark secret. Don’t tell anybody, but I much prefer the original “The Magnificent Seven” to its progenitor, Akira Kurosawa’s much-lauded “Seven Samurai.” So, admittedly, this new remake of “Seven” has a lot to go up against. Sadly, it is such a piece of trash it could be put up against “The Adventures of Pluto Nash” and still emit a stronger, more rancid odor. It is a tasteless and vulgar rehash with a dose of sadism and a severe lack of joy.

If you’ve seen either of this film’s antecedents, you’ll be well versed with its plot, though the names and identities have been changed, presumably to protect the innocent (i.e. the originals). 1879, the Old West: the townsfolk of Rose Creek are under siege from rich industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) who, with an army of hired guns, is stripping their land and freedom for gold. After a confrontation with locals turns deadly, Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett), a newly widowed resident, seeks out her own hired guns to take the town back. She convinces Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), a bounty hunter, to join her cause. He rounds up several more rogues and ne’er-do-wells like sharpshooter with a mouth Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt) and the smooth Goodnight Robicheaux (…did I just type that?) (Ethan Hawke) along with a few more stereotypes until the titular seven are complete, and they descend into the stricken town and into a battle with impossible odds.

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Birds, babies and belly laughs are a great combination.

Is it worth $10? Yes

What a cute little confection “Storks” is, an animated tale from the studio behind  “The Lego Movie” that has plenty for adults and will keep kids smiling. There’s nothing special about it, yet everything about it is enjoyable.

For years, storks delivered babies to humans. They had their own factory to make babies and everything. It was good business. But times caught up with them, technology evolved, and about 20 years ago they left the baby business. Now they make package deliveries for Amazon, err, cornerstore.com, and business is booming. With the boss (Kelsey Grammer) about to retire, top delivery bird Junior (Andy Samberg) is asked to take over. All Junior has to do is one thing: Fire Tulip (Kate Crown), a human girl living with the storks because her delivery tracker was broken.

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“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” and “Neighbors 2” are also new to Blu-Ray this week.

As we all know from history, the American Civil War was fought mainly over slavery. The plantation owners in the south wanted it, and the abolitionists in the north wanted it gone. The upshot of this is that the south, which seceded from the Union and became the Confederacy, was upset that the north was bent on taking their property and destroying their way of life.

What most history doesn’t tell us, but what is shown in “The Free State of Jones,” is that the Confederacy were, in addition to being pro-slavery, also a bunch of lying, thieving hypocrites. To wit: The Confederacy tells the farmers of Jones County, Mississippi, where the story takes place, that they will be taxed ten percent of their food and supplies for the war effort. The next thing these farmers know, Confederate bullies ride into their farm and pick it clean. As one disgusted farmer points out, they don’t take ten percent—they leave ten percent. Not only is this clearly theft, it leaves the farmers in danger of starving to death in the winter. The pickle that goes with this crap sandwich is that it is highly hypocritical. The south is fighting for the right to have their own property (albeit the property in this case is slaves, which is appalling, but that is the fact of the time) and not have it taken away—then look at what they do to their own farmers.

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Though not perfect, this is still an important and thoughtful film.

Is it worth $10? Yes 

Edward Snowden exploded onto our media outlets three years ago and has remained in the public conscience since, both in fame and infamy. Despite this, I was only familiar with his name and vaguely knowledgeable of his actions; he was the guy who leaked government information. Oliver Stone’s “Snowden” does a good a job of rectifying my ignorance, and it makes a great case for why this ignorance should be rectified. Still, “Snowden” is a good, not great movie. It’s just a little too dull in stretches. But it does entertain in fits and starts, and when it does, it is a lively, informative film well worth the price of admission.

While hiding out in a Hong Kong hotel room, Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) relays his top secret information to reporters from “The Guardian” newspaper (Zachary Quinto and Tom Wilkinson) and narrates his life story to a documentary filmmaker (Melissa Leo). The film, then, flashes back to his life 10 years prior, covering his time working in different, high priority roles for the CIA, his relationship with the love of his life, Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley), his growing distrust of the government, and his eventual whistleblowing that leaves him hiding out in Hong Kong.

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Drones, witches, and plot retreads oh my! This direct sequel to the surprise hit "The Blair Witch Project," which launched the found footage genre, ups the intensity and gore, but sticks to a very familiar formula.

Is it worth $10? No 

Going with the simplified title of "Blair Witch," a new generation of hapless teens enter the Burketsville Woods to solve the mystery of a few centuries old legends that surround the terrifying area. James Donohue's (James Allen McCune) sister disappeared in 1999 during the original investigation of the haunted woods. After the discovery of a new tape in those same woods, James enlists his documentarian friend, Lisa (Callie Hernandez), long time bud Peter (Brandon Scott), and his girlfriend Ashley (Corbin Reid) to investigate and see if his sister is still alive. He also wants to know what it is that actually lurks in the dark forest. Reality, sanity, and survival all become questioned as the night seems endless, and a familiar cabin beckons them with answers and danger.

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A funny and fitting end to the only romantic comedy trilogy you can think of.

Is it worth $10? Yes 

Hard as it is to believe, Bridget Jones, the bumbling heroine of the solid “Bridget Jones’s Diary” (2001) and the so-so “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason” (2004), is still (gasp!) single. And (double gasp!!) now age 43. And early in the satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, “Bridget Jones’s Baby,” she learns she’s pregnant (not sure if this is another gasp! because she really wants the baby).

Bridget’s (Renee Zellweger) problem is that she doesn’t know who the father is. Within a week she slept with Jack (Patrick Dempsey), a billionaire dating guru, and her old flame Mark (Colin Firth), who’s freshly divorced. It’s a credit to director Sharon Maguire (“Bridget Jones’s Diary”) that the story doesn’t waste much time in having Bridget tell each guy she’s pregnant, and that another man could be the father.

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“The Conjuring 2” and “De Palma” are also new to Blu-Ray this week.  

Upon listening to former General (from the “Hulk” movies) and now Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) lay out his demands that The Avengers team fall under some government oversight, I couldn’t help but think, “So what? This is the big deal that sparks the rift between Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.)?” Seems to me that all Ross is asking is for them to go back to a place they were at just a few years earlier, when they were under Colonel Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and his government agency, S.H.I.E.L.D. The Avengers had no problem with government supervision when they were a part of S.H.I.E.L.D under Fury, so what’s the issue with being supervised again, under the State Dept. and Secretary Ross?

Arguments are made by Captain America and those on his side, like Falcon (Anthony Mackie), that being under government oversight would be too restrictive. Okay, and S.H.I.E.L.D wasn’t? Did Fury let them do whatever they wanted? I don’t think so. For someone who is such an overgrown boy scout and who, in “Captain America: The First Avenger,” couldn’t wait to join the Army and serve his country to combat evil around the world, it seems a strange stance for him to take to once again be a part of that same exact thing. The thrust behind the division of the superheroes in “Captain America: The Civil War” really doesn’t hold up that well in light of even the most cursory scrutiny and applied logic. The fact that no one in the movie brings it up that The Avengers are technically a government-run operation and should have some kind of oversight is amazing. As a matter of fact, how is it that they didn’t immediately get shifted under another government umbrella after S.H.I.E.L.D collapsed?

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After a sluggish start, “Sully” gives its heroes the big-screen recognition they deserve.

Is it worth $10? Yes

The harrowing, death-defying heroics of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and First Officer Jeff Skiles are truly remarkable: In January 2009, after both engines failed, they piloted US Air Flight 1549 to a safe water landing on the Hudson River in New York City. In doing so, they saved all 155 people on board. You may remember this from the news, and be intrigued that a movie is now going to explore their heroism, get inside their minds to understand how they acted, and immerse us in the details of how it all went down.

And then director Clint Eastwood starts “Sully” with the stultifying thud of an inquisition that has all the excitement of an economics conference. It’s Sully (Tom Hanks) and Skiles’ (Aaron Eckhart) first meeting with the National Transit Safety Board (NTSB), and the board members (Mike O’Malley, Anna Gunn, Jamey Sheridan) are questioning the decisions the pilots made. In fairness the NTSB is just doing its job, but in depicting this first Eastwood (“Million Dollar Baby”) emphasizes the investigation (that feels like a witch hunt) just as much as he does the miraculous landing itself, which establishes a flashback structure that doesn’t necessarily serve the movie well.

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A feel-good story about a father and son coping with foreign emotions in a foreign land.

Is it worth $10? Yes

What makes “Morris From America” so effective is that it is equally about adolescence as it is about fatherhood. It portrays the inherent tension and differences that arise between a parent and a teenage child. It also thoughtfully conveys the solace we find in those we love the most.

The film centers on Morris Gentry (Markees Christmas), a 13-year old African American with a deep admiration for hip-hop music, partially because it reminds him of home. His father, Curtis (Craig Robinson), is recently widowed, and his job as a soccer coach permits him to move from New York to Heidelberg, Germany. If the hardships of adolescence aren’t rough enough, Morris actually has a reason to feel out of place. As his father playfully says early on, they are the “only two brothers in Heidelberg.”

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Recent Articles

Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: The Shallows
“Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” and ...
The Magnificent Seven *1/2
A vulgar, tasteless remake of a genuine ...
Storks ***
Birds, babies and belly laughs are a great ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: The Free State of Jones
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the ...
Snowden ***
Though not perfect, this is still an ...
Blair Witch **
Drones, witches, and plot retreads oh my! This ...
Bridget Jones’s Baby ***
A funny and fitting end to the only ...

Best Movie In Theaters Now: Hell Or High Water

“Hell or High Water” is a slow burn, tense and sublime American drama that is superb in every way. It’s highlighted by fantastic writing and even better performances, and is one of the best movies of the year.

Is it worth $10? Yes

If the Old West told stories of good vs. evil and the protection of civilization against all who threaten it, this “New Western” adapts those principles for the present day with noticeably blurred lines. Brothers Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) are as smart as can be when robbing numerous branches of Texas Midlands banks: they wear masks, always use a different car, only take low denomination bills (because 100’s and above are traceable), and they max out at less than $10,000 each time. This keeps them below the radar of the FBI, but puts them in the sights of retiring Texas Ranger Marcus (Jeff Bridges) and his partner Alberto (Gil Birmingham).

In addition to Toby and Tanner’s methodology being smart, their reasons are valid, albeit selfish. Toby knows the bank is ready to foreclose on their family’s land, and he wants to leave it in a trust for his two sons. So he and Tanner are stealing from the bank only to give the money back to the bank to pay off debts.

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