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“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” “Silence” and “Why Him?” are also new to Blu-Ray this week.

Actor Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg have discovered a winning formula: Take a harrowing, tragic, real life event, get as many details as possible about it, and create a riveting docudrama. Easier said than done, but after the superior feats of filmmaking that are 2013’s “Lone Survivor” and 2016’s “Deepwater Horizon” comes another movie in the same vein as the previous two, also released theatrically in 2016: “Patriot’s Day.”

“Patriot’s Day” tells the story of the one hundred plus hour manhunt for the two terrorists who planted bombs at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon. It starts the night before the event as Boston cop Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg) messes up his knee while kicking a door down during an arrest, and ends, as it should, with David “Big Papi” Ortiz dropping the f-bomb during a pre-game speech at Fenway. He’s a legend for a reason, folks.

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Further proof that old TV shows do not need a remake.

Is it worth $10? Nope

“CHIPS” is loathsome. But a funny thing happened as I left the screening. (Should I just go ahead and patent these “leaving the screening” stories?). I stopped by the studio rep to give my reaction, and suddenly, without knowing why, I blurted out, “Well, I didn’t HATE it,” and sheepishly absconded into the night. “I didn’t hate it.” The words still ring in my ears. I don’t know why I said that because, seriously, “CHIPS” is loathsome. 

The movie is an update of the mostly breezy cop show from the late ‘70s about the California Highway Patrol. This update convolutes the simple plots of the TV show, but that’s fine since series episodes couldn’t find enough plot to pad out its run time without resorting to montages of disco dancing and roller-skating.

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“Power Rangers” is a soulless paint-by-numbers job that attempts to evoke far better teen films. 

Is it worth $10? No 

The latest “Power Rangers” product tries to revive the aging, silly franchise by stripping away what made it so beloved. In it, we follow a group of high school teens as they discover they have been chosen as the next in line to save the galaxy by forming the latest iteration of the super-powered group. In order to fully utilize their powers, they must get in touch with themselves and each other. Longtime fans of this property will likely enjoy this slapdash, lazy cash-in (which will likely become its own franchise), while those who care considerably less will find considerably less to love.

The actors here all perform acceptably, and each seems to have fun with their roles. While the teens are serviceable, the clear standouts are Bryan Cranston as Cordon and Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa. Cranston is reduced to what is essentially a voice-acting gig, and Banks hams it up while also managing to come across as pretty freaky and scary in her early scenes.

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This familiar space alien slasher film formula works, but doesn't break any ground. 

Is it worth $10 Yes 

In space, no one can hear you scream...Oh sorry wrong film. But "Life" really feels familiar in a lot of the same xenomorphic ways to “Alien.” Not too many surprises, but a steady stream of action and tension keep things interesting.

A space crew aboard the International Space Station high above Earth intercept a probe, carrying samples from Mars. Crew members find a startling discovery of ancient life that they successfully awaken. The life-form, intent on survival, escapes and puts the entire crew at risk, and possibly even the Earth itself.

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“Sing,” “Live By Night” and “Assassin’s Creed” are also new to Blu-Ray this week.

One of the reasons I am so strongly drawn to the movies of writer/director Pedro Almodóvar is because there is such a sweet sadness to his work. His characters always seem to have a deep, heartfelt, passionate yearning for something that is just out of reach. This drives his characters to exhaust all options in pursuit of what they want. In movies like “Talk to Her,” or either of his ventures with Antonio Banderas—“Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down” and “The Skin I Live In”—the results range from extreme to very, very extreme. Or, in the case of “All About My Mother” and this week’s pick, “Julieta,” the action is more subdued. However, it is just as passionate and character driven as any of his other works. One could even argue that in being less outlandish (for lack of a better word), it is even more so.

“Julieta” is perfectly titled in that it is a movie about one woman—Julieta. She is played in the movie by two actresses: Adriana Ugarte as the younger Julieta and Emma Suárez as the older version. Just before packing up to leave Madrid forever with her boyfriend Lorenzo (Dario Grandinetti), older Julieta has a change of heart and decides that it is better to stay. She writes in a diary about how she met her husband Xoan (Daniel Grao) decades ago, and about the birth and major life events of her daughter Antia, played by Priscilla Delgado as an adolescent and then by Blanca Parés as an eighteen year old.

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Colorful Disney remake looks great, but is certainly not an improvement over the original.

Is it worth $10? Yes

The cartoon is better.

That’s what you’re wondering, right? The new “Beauty and the Beast” is a live action remake of Disney’s (arguably) greatest musical, so the comparisons are certainly fair. The 1991 “Beast” is, with due respect to “The Little Mermaid” (1989), the film that reignited the brilliance of Disney animation, and it was the first animated film nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. So to remake it, as “Dreamgirls” director Bill Condon has done, is to travel in sacred territory. And you know what? The cartoon is better.

To be sure, it’s not for lack of trying. The production design, costumes and visual effects are stunning, so no expense was spared in getting this $160 million production to the big screen. If anything, it feels like too much: The songs (and song lyrics) that are added, Belle’s backstory, a new character and other embellishments all feel like excess. The original is so embedded in our minds that to mess with perfection seems, well, beastly.

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Solid performances can’t overcome a story that sinks when it needs to soar.

Is it worth $10? No

For a movie that highlights the ending in its title, “The Sense of an Ending” doesn’t have much of one. It’s anti-climactic, if anything. This is especially disappointing because the rest of the Ritesh Batra (“The Lunchbox”) directed film deserves better. For most of the 108 minute running time we are intrigued by the personal history of its protagonist, and the cloudy memory that distorts his recollection. It lends itself to a fascinating guessing game of where it’ll go next, only to find out the destination leaves something to be desired.

Set in London, Tony Webster is a churlish, impatient malcontent. Because he’s played with endearing vulnerability by Oscar-winner Jim Broadbent (“Iris”), we like him anyway. He’s divorced from Margaret (Harriet Walter), and his daughter Susie (Michelle Dockery) is pregnant with no father in the picture. But they’re not the source of Tony’s distress. That comes when he gets a letter from Sarah Ford (Emily Mortimer), whose daughter Veronica (played by Charlotte Rampling when older) dated Tony 40 years earlier. There’s a diary from Tony’s old school chum, Adrian (Joe Alwyn) that was left to Tony but is in Veronica’s possession. Getting the diary, and subsequently what’s in it, comprise the bulk of the story.

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“Collateral Beauty” and “Elle” are also new to Blu-Ray this week.

There is a love of language that flourishes throughout all of the best plays, starting with Shakespeare and continuing to present day with writers like David Mamet. Characters spar, dialogue, monologue, make quips, and tell stories mostly through language. Playwriting is a precise art form, where words are key and the playwright is the author.

So, to bring a play as eloquently written as August Wilson’s “Fences” to the big screen, it requires a director—normally a movie’s author—who recognizes the beauty of great language and is able to cast ego aside in recognition of the writer’s supremacy. In other words, it takes an actor to direct a film adaptation like “Fences.” While the movie may officially be a Denzel Washington film, August Wilson’s hand is clearly the most strong and influential one. It makes even more sense given that the movie is from Wilson’s own screenplay that he adapted from his play before passing away in 2005.

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It’s a new take on King Kong with great action and a story that doesn’t quite hold up.

Is it worth $15 (3D)? Yes

At moments, “Kong: Skull Island” showcases spectacular action filmmaking, ripe with energy, style, and splendor – it’s a blast. At other times, it’s spectacularly dumb, infuriating even. It makes you wonder why so many millions would be spent on visual effects when the storytelling needs so much work.

This is not your father’s (or grandfather’s) “King Kong.” It’s a new spin on the giant ape, made to capitalize on our thirst for wham-bang explosive entertainment (not knockin’ it – I have the thirst too!). After this, Warner Bros. has “Godzilla: King of Monsters” planned for 2019, which will lead into a King Kong vs. Godzilla showdown in 2020. Given the studio’s recent struggles with the DC Comics Extended Universe (“Batman v. Superman”), it needs fans to catch on to “Skull Island” in a big way. But after the so-so “Godzilla” (2014) and now this mediocrity, why would they?

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Natalie Portman's Oscar-nominated "Jackie" is also new to Blu-Ray this week.

All right, time to talk about a colorful Disney movie with catchy songs, about an overly protective father who forbids his young daughter to venture too far out to sea, but she does so anyway and ends up battling a giant demon creature in the movie’s climax. No—not “The Little Mermaid.” I’m talking about “Moana.”

This time the young girl in question is not a mermaid, but rather the daughter of a Pacific Island Chief named Tui (voice of Temuera Morrison). Her name is Moana (voice of Auli'i Cravalho). She’s the adventurous type who wants to sail out beyond the barrier reef and across the expansive ocean. She has a mandate to do so, in that when she was a tiny girl, the ocean chose her to find a demigod named Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson) and return a long stolen gem that has put a curse on the islands for a thousand years.

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Recent Articles

Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Patriot's Day
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” ...
CHIPS *1/2
Further proof that old TV shows do not need ...
Power Rangers *
“Power Rangers” is a soulless ...
Life ***
This familiar space alien slasher film ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Julieta
“Sing,” “Live By Night” and “Assassin’s Creed” ...
Beauty and the Beast **1/2
Colorful Disney remake looks great, but is ...
The Sense of an Ending **
Solid performances can’t overcome a story that ...

Best Movie In Theaters Now: Get Out

Jordan Peele’s directorial debut impresses with its twisted take on horror for mainstream audiences.

Is it worth $10? Yes

The terrific Daniel Kaluuya plays a handsome, successful, young Black man in comedian-turned-filmmaker Jordan Peele’s (“Key & Peele” [2012-2015]) haunting directorial debut. In “Get Out,” Kaluuya’s Chris Washington is happily committed to a beautiful woman named Rose (Allison Williams) and to their interracial relationship—she’s White.

The movie hits the ground running with a super-effective and memorable opening scene set to the tune of Flanagan & Allen’s “Run Rabbit Run.” The rest of the film takes us on an uncomfortable and frightening, though enjoyable, trip.

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