Great action drives this thrill-a-minute reboot.

It’s been 30 years since he’s been on the big screen, and even though he’s played by a different actor, Max Rockatansky is still as mad as can be. I guess that if I had to survive in a post-apocalyptic world and went into a desert wasteland where water is scarce and dispensed at the will of a tyrant I’d be pretty ticked off too.

Tom Hardy plays the title character in “Mad Max: Fury Road,” taking over the role that Mel Gibson made famous in the 1980s. This time Max finds himself the captive of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne—Toecutter in the original “Mad Max” from 1979). Joe runs an enclave in the desert where hundreds of thirsty people claw and fight for every drop of water they can get—that is, once Joe feels magnanimous enough to let them have water.

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This tribal song for the young, aimless and angsty will especially appeal to Efron and electronic music fans. 

Is it worth $10? Yes

Zac Efron is at a tenuous, potentially make-or-break point of his career. No longer a teen sensation but still a heartthrob at 27 years old, it’s imperative that he starts moving on to adult-oriented roles so he can gradually transition to the next phase of his career. If he doesn’t do this, there will not be a next phase of his career.

In “We Are Your Friends” Efron plays Cole, an aspiring DJ who never went to college, sleeps in his friend’s pool house and plays small-time gigs for little money. It’s a smart “transition to adulthood” character for Efron to take on. The almighty box office will ultimately determine his long-term viability, but he’s solid here as a lost soul trying to make his way in a world that isn’t accepting him with open arms.

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Val Kilmer’s performance as Jim Morrison is one of the best you’ll ever see.

The movie is called “The Doors,” but it should really be titled “Jim Morrison.” After all, as it’s pointed out to Jim (Val Kilmer) by more than one person, he is the one that people go to see. The other members of the band--Ray Manzarek (Kyle MacLachlan) on keyboards, Robby Krieger (Frank Whaley) on guitar, and John Densmore (Kevin Dillon) on percussion—are all there to back him up. Jim wrote most of the lyrics for Doors’ songs, and he had a strangely poetic way with words. He knew how to conjure up bizarre images in the listeners’ minds. He also was the front man for the band, and his captivating stage presence packed crowds into concert venues.

Director Oliver Stone makes it clear from the beginning that the focus is on Jim Morrison. He starts “The Doors” on a desert highway in New Mexico in 1949 as young Jim (Sean Stone) sits in the back seat of a car as his family drives past an accident that involves some Native Americans. Morrison is known for having an interest in shamans, mysticism, and mind-altering drugs. This incident in the life of young Jim is crucial, since it’s the catalyst that led him down the path of seeking out the stranger aspects of Midwestern Native American culture, which impacted his life and his art so deeply.

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Not funny, not exciting, not really all that interesting.

Is it worth $10? No

“American Ultra” lost me in its opening scene and never got me back. This is one of those movies in which the ending is immediately revealed and we work back to that dramatic moment teased early on, which is almost always a storytelling mistake. Doing this undermines any drama or tension the film may have, essentially forcing us to think “how did he get there?” as opposed to the much-preferred “where is he going?”, and all for no good reason.

But wait, it gets worse! Not only do we learn where the protagonist, Mike (Jesse Eisenberg), will end up, director Nima Nourizadeh (“Project X”) then gives us a reverse-chronological rapidly edited flashback that show moments from the film all the way back to three days earlier. The big question is why do this? There is no reason to structure the story this way, as it adds nothing to the narrative aside from inevitability. The filmmaker’s hope is that the opening tease will get us hooked and intrigued; seeing a battered and bruised Mike in handcuffs about to be interrogated in a well-lit room, followed by close-ups of random pictures, isn’t nearly enough to draw us in.

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Keep expectations low and you’ll be mindlessly entertained.

Is it worth $10? Yes

The end of the summer movie season comes with an often too familiar fizzle at the box office. This year though, grab your popcorn because there may be a bit of fiz left in the old action flick tank with "Hitman: Agent 47."

Based on the popular "Hitman" video game franchise, this film follows the exploits of the genetically modified assassin, Agent 47 (Rupert Friend), as he is assigned to locate the creator of a special agent program before the rival Syndicate does. To accomplish his goal, he sets his sights on the only woman with possible information on where the creator might be, the creator’s daughter Katia (Hannah Ware). Twists and turns follow, as motives and alliances are questioned and secrets come to light.

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Tense murder mystery will remind many of HBO's "True Detective."

Is it worth $10? Yes

"Marshland" was in the works prior to the first season of HBO's "True Detective." This is a fact of which viewers will have to constantly remind themselves throughout director and co-writer Alberto Rodríguez's noir murder mystery. It is also safe to assume that much, if not all, of the main criticisms or praises for the film will revolve around its eerie similarities to the series.

In both the series and the film, two detectives are assigned the task of solving macabre murders in a swampy setting. In both the series and the film, the duo encounters corruption and a web of crime connected to the original grisly scene. Of course, in both the series and the film, the pair inevitably learns more about each other as the case unfolds.

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This movie about the making of a movie is a movie you absolutely must see.

Movies are enjoyable. At least, they’re supposed to be. Even the sad ones. Some of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve ever had watching movies were movies that had tragic endings. There is something about watching something—happy or sad—that connects with the human experience on a deep, profound level that makes it stimulating. This is why movies have been around for as long as they have, and will continue to be into the foreseeable future.

Making movies, on the other hand, is a lot of hard work. For the director of a movie in particular it is a long, tedious, laborious, stressful process. Few movies about movies capture this as well as acclaimed French director Francois Truffaut’s 1973 comedy/drama “Day for Night.”

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Recent Articles

Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Mad Max: Fury Road
Great action drives this thrill-a-minute ...
We Are Your Friends **1/2
This tribal song for the young, aimless and ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: The Doors
Val Kilmer’s performance as Jim Morrison is ...
American Ultra **
Not funny, not exciting, not really all ...
Hitman: Agent 47 **1/2
Keep expectations low and you’ll be ...

Best Movie In Theaters Now: Straight Outta Compton

It’s one of the best musical biopics you’ll ever see.

Is it worth $10? Yes

What an awesome surprise “Straight Outta Compton” is. If you think this is just another “Behind The Music” TV-quality retrospective of famous musicians, you’d be sorely mistaken. This film has grit, universal appeal and the conviction to tell the story of rap group N.W.A. with startling candor, from vast success to internal dissension to heartbreak.

In 1986 N.W.A. (an acronym that cannot be spelled out by someone who’s white) burst onto the scene with their breakthrough album “Straight Outta Compton.” “Our art is a reflection of our reality,” founding member Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson) says, and true to form the group’s daily lives surrounded by gangs, drugs, abusive cops and other dangers serve as inspiration for N.W.A.’s music. After the release of the hit song “Boyz-n-the-Hood” the group, which also includes Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.) and MC Ren (Aldis Hodge), is signed by manager Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti) to produce a record. Hit songs include “F--- the Police,” “Express Yourself,” “Gangsta Gangsta,” the titular “Straight Outta Compton” and more. Police and authority figures hate their anti-establishment messages, but they’re a huge hit, ultimately selling three million records.

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