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Boring villain and illogical story makes this worse than “Batman Vs. Superman,” and that’s saying something.

Is it worth $10? No

“X-Men: Apocalypse” is set in 1983. At one point it shows a group of teenagers walking out of “Return of the Jedi” and debating whether it’s better than “Empire Strikes Back.” “At least we can agree the third one is always the worst,” a young Jean Grey (Sophie Turner, “Game of Thrones”) concludes. The line is meant to be a wink-wink to the audience marking the end of this latest “X-Men” trilogy, but it serendipitously turns out to be true for this movie as well – it’s a dud.

Here’s the problem with an omnipotent, all-powerful villain like the titular Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac): they’re boring. Nothing harms them, there’s no Achilles heel, so they logically can’t be defeated. It often takes an illogical, poorly conceived and totally contrived reason for them to fail in their quest for world domination, and that’s exactly what happens in “X-Men: Apocalypse.”

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Ostensibly a comedy, this smug Jane Austen adaptation inspires little mirth.

Is it worth $10? No

Some movies are so unmemorable one forgets them moments after exiting the theater. “Love & Friendship” isn’t one of them. It’s worse. I forgot about it while still watching the movie. Based on a lesser-known novella by Jane Austen, it has the hallmarks of her more famous works (“Sense and Sensibility,” “Pride and Prejudice”), but it never comes close to their level of quality. The notes are all there but the melody isn’t.

“A Vernon will never go hungry.” These words are uttered by the movie’s (anti) heroine, and they basically sum up the plot. It’s the 1790s, England, and Lady Susan (a lively Kate Beckinsale) is recently widowed. With only a notorious reputation to her name, she survives by imposing on (richer) relatives. After living up to her reputation once again, she ends up at her stepbrother’s home. There, she uses her cunning and feminine wiles to try and secure a comfortable future the only way she can: by landing a rich husband. Oh, and if she can find one for her shy daughter, Frederica (Morfydd Clark), that would be great, too. 

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Alice needed to keep looking for a script that is actually coherent.

Is it worth $10? No

If there’s one guarantee in Hollywood, it’s this: If a movie makes gobs of money, there will be a sequel. Thus after “Alice In Wonderland” (2010) earned more than $1 billion worldwide, “Alice Through The Looking Glass” became an inevitability, and thankfully it’s not just a cheap cash grab – the effort is clearly there to do something special.

Too bad they couldn’t pull it off.

With “Alice” director Tim Burton only serving as a producer here, and James Bobin (“The Muppets”) stepping into the director’s chair, perhaps some fall off is expected. After all, “Alice” was perfect fit for Burton’s oeuvre – the story of an outsider helping others, lush visuals, the chance to work with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, etc. Bobin, however, doesn’t (yet) have a style to call his own, and maybe that’s why so much of “Looking Glass” feels like it needs an upgrade.

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A punchline of a title for a seriously well-done film.

Is it worth $10 Yes

While I find it peculiar to have to give a “Weiner” four stars (that will be the only “weiner” joke I make; the media has already run the gamut on them) the new documentary by Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg is a fascinating look inside a “media firestorm.” Set against the backdrop of ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner’s New York mayoral race, the film begins as a straightforward look at a disgraced politician and husband trying to salvage his life and career after a series of very public scandals. However, in a turn of fortune for the directors, a fresh scandal rocks the protagonist in the middle of his campaign. What follows is an unabashedly honest and first-hand look at the effects of bad decisions, political scrambling, and the media’s effect on all of that.

Anthony Weiner was a strong-willed and promising Democrat who tendered his resignation from Congress after a series of photographs of his privates found their way online along with allegations of communications of a sexual nature with multiple women other than his wife, Huma Abedin. Two years later, Weiner attempted to mount a political comeback as he announced his bid for mayor of New York in 2013. At the same time, he agreed to allow a documentary crew to follow him around, 24/7, to document, what I’m certain he hoped would be a portrait of a changed man, a better politician, and someone who is more than a punchline to any number of crude (and ironically appropriate) jokes.

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“Risen,” “Zoolander No. 2” and “How To Be Single” are also new to Blu-Ray this week.

Tales of grave danger and heroism are not only for myths, legends, and superhero movies. Real people face extreme adversity and overcome impossible odds to perform amazing feats of strength, bravery, and determination. Bernie Webber (Chris Pine), whose story is at the center of “The Finest Hours,” is one of those real people, though you wouldn’t know it at first.

When we first meet Bernie, he’s sitting in a car and nervous about meeting a girl named Miriam (Holliday Grainger). Bernie is apprehensive, even a bit shy, and very soft spoken. Later in a conversation with a group of fisherman sitting at a bar, Bernie shows that he is very polite and respectful. Far from a brash, cocky, insolent young man, young Bernie shows that he possesses stout character and humility.

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Gutsy and fresh comedy features great chemistry from Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe.

Is it worth $10? Yes

With so many comedies wasting our time with predictable gags and unfunny desperation, “The Nice Guys” is a breath of fresh air: A crass and creative work that dares to be different and exceeds expectations. If you enjoy fresh, original efforts from two of Hollywood’s biggest stars, this is a must see. 

Of all the things that can be faked in a movie, chemistry is not one of them. Often co-leads are serviceably compatible onscreen, though sometimes their seething mutual hatred is palpable (“Fifty Shades Of Grey”). And at other times, as is the case here, magic happens. Seeing Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling interact is like watching two old friends banter with uncanny familiarity, and more than anything love the other’s company. They’ve never worked together before, but I daresay they will work together again.

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Rowdy sequel to the 2014 hit isn’t quite as funny and carries a heavy-handed feminist bent.

Is it worth $10? Yes

For all its dildo jokes, used tampon throwing, weed-smoking, visible baby-breaching inanity, “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” is also a heavy-handed feminist tale of empowerment and unity. That’s right: This crass comedy that only occasionally connects is sending a strong message to women to live their own way, not how society tells them they should.

So “cheers” to the filmmakers for trying to send the right message. And “jeers” for doing it so poorly.

Listen, I get it: With a female presidential candidate (yes, there is a Hillary joke in the movie) and women’s rights as relevant and pressing as they’ve ever been, the filmmakers didn’t want to take the stereotypical approach in depicting a sorority full of 18 year olds pillow fighting, etc. But the pro-feminist message gets tiresome when it’s as redundant as it is here, and notably distracts from the obscene and absurd comedy going on around it. Director Nicholas Stoller’s heart is in the right place, but the weighty message needs to be done more subtly to make a proper impact in a comedy such as this. Also: If you’re going to show the strength of college girls, perhaps they could at least mention school. Or go to class. Or be seen with a book.

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“Dirty Grandpa,” in which Robert De Niro gets naughty with Zac Efron on spring break, is also new to Blu-Ray this week.

In spite of the fear-invoking title, “The Witch” is not a straightforward horror movie. This is a good thing, because from the opening scene of “The Witch,” in which 1630s New England settler William (Ralph Ineson) and his family are cast out of their community for heretic behavior that is never fully explained, it’s clear that this is no ordinary movie—horror or otherwise. The dialogue is in Olde English, complete with all of the vocabulary and sentence structure inherent to that way of speaking.

The official subtitle of “The Witch” is “A New-England Folktale,” and that is very fitting. The setting is New England at the time of the Pilgrim settlements, and it treats the witches in the classic folk tale mold of having them be malevolent women who live in the woods and commune around a campfire at night to dance naked and copulate with Satan.

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An honest and telling look at our flawed financial system.

Is it worth $10? Yes

The true antithesis of the phrase "greed is good" is looked at through the dramatic backdrop of a scorned investor and his search for answers in "Money Monster."

Lee Gates (George Clooney) flamboyantly hosts the successful cable TV financial show "Lee Gates presents Money Monster." He dishes out stark and entertaining knowledge of the stock market, as well as "sure thing" tips to day traders. Enter Kyle Budwell (Jack O'Connell), an everyday hard worker who lost his entire life savings on one of Lee's tips. With gun in hand, Kyle forces Lee to wear an explosive lined vest as he demands answers from both Lee and the CEO of Ibis Clear Capital (the company whose supposed computer glitch cost the company and investors eight hundred million dollars).

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A good enough drama that, thankfully, shows some restraint.

Is it worth $10? Yes
 
“Write what you know” is a saying that’s hammered into every scriptwriting student’s head in film school. And that’s exactly what Nick Reiner and Matt Elisofon did when they co-wrote “Being Charlie.” It’s a small, personal film based on their experiences staying at treatment clinics, battling substance abuse. I wish I could call it a hidden gem, but it’s not quite that good. The steady hand of a veteran director and the writer’s attention to detail, based on their first-hand experiences, elevate the film, though. It’s not great, but pretty good.

The film isn’t plot heavy. Rather, it’s situational, following the eponymous Charlie (Nick Robinson) as he attempts to make it through another stint in rehab and deal with his family and friends, or better, as they deal with him and his cycles of self-destruction. Much of the film’s tension comes from Charlie’s relationship with his father (Cary Elwes), a famous actor running for governor of California. Charlie isn’t sure if his father mandates his rehab stints because his dad loves him or if he’s more worried that a drug-addicted son could hamper his chances of winning the election.

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Recent Articles

X-Men Apocalypse **
Boring villain and illogical story makes ...
Love & Friendship **
Ostensibly a comedy, this smug Jane Austen ...
Alice Through The Looking Glass **
Alice needed to keep looking for a script ...
Weiner ****
A punchline of a title for a seriously ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: The Finest Hours
“Risen,” “Zoolander No. 2” and “How To Be ...
The Nice Guys ***
Gutsy and fresh comedy features great ...
Neighbors 2 **1/2
Rowdy sequel to the 2014 hit isn’t quite as funny ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: The Witch
“Dirty Grandpa,” in which Robert De Niro ...
Money Monster ***1/2
An honest and telling look at our flawed ...
Being Charlie **1/2
A good enough drama that, thankfully, shows some ...

Best Movie In Theaters Now: Captain America: Civil War

It's the most personal, surprising, and arguably the best Marvel Studios movie thus far.

Is it worth $10? Yes

What’s remarkable about the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), now in its 13th incarnation with “Captain America: Civil War,” is how the scale of the projects and sheer number of characters never seems too big. Sure this is its longest movie yet at 147 minutes, but “Civil War” doesn’t slight anyone, is good for a few laughs and great action scenes, and it progresses the MCU’s overarching story forward in smart and logical ways. I’m not sure anything more could be expected of the $200 million-plus production.

As you’ve probably seen from the onslaught of “Civil War” publicity, the movie pits Captain America (Chris Evans) versus Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.). The reason they’re fighting is a good one: Citing the mass destruction of New York City, Washington D.C., Sokovia (the fictional city ruined in the end of “Avengers: Age of Ultron”), and at the start of this film, Lagos, Nigeria, Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) informs the Avengers that the governments of the world want supervision over the superheroes. Captain America doesn’t want to answer to anyone, and gets Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and later, Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), to agree with him. Iron Man thinks someone keeping them in check is a good idea, and has Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Vision (Paul Bettany), newcomer Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and later, Spider-Man (Tom Holland), in his corner.

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