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Spirited performances from Damon and Bale highlight the well-told story that is always dramatically compelling and has the right amount of timely humor. 

Is it worth $10? Yes

On its surface, “Ford v Ferrari” is about an unlikely duo trying to design a racecar to defeat the best in the world. It’s not exactly a universal topic. Yet Matt Damon and Christian Bale, under the direction of James Mangold, find a way to make it easily accessible, because it’s also a story about two guys with a shared dream attempting to conquer seemingly insurmountable odds. Indeed, one of the best compliments earned by “Ford v Ferrari” is that you don’t have to be interested in cars (let alone car manufacturing) to enjoy it.

After Enzo Ferrari (Remo Girrone) insults Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) and the Ford Motor Company, Ford owner Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) vows revenge. Knowing Ferrari’s claim to fame is winning the annual 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France, Ford charges Iacocca to build a team, and more importantly a car, that can beat Ferrari.

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A spiffy throwback to mid-budget cat-and-mouse thrillers from the '90s, this crisply paced and elegantly mounted studio programmer handles its twists and turns with aplomb, until heavy-duty subject matter proves to be more than director Bill Condon can handle.

Is it worth $10? Yes

It's hard to believe that Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren never acted opposite each other on the big screen before “The Good Liar.” The veteran British thespians have shown little sign of slowing down, so it's surprising it took this long for their paths to cross. The good news is that fans who are excited about this pairing will find the actors have selected a star vehicle sturdy enough to support their seismic screen presence.

There's bad news as well, but we'll get to that later. Suffice it to say, director Bill Condon (“Gods and Monsters,” “Dreamgirls”) assumes the Hitchcockian duties of adapting Nicholas Searle's novel by slyly wrapping its cat-and-mouse trappings in the comforting veneer of lonely seniors searching for a romantic connection in pre-Brexit London.

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Solid as a rock, but this rock won’t give off any sparks.

Is it worth $10? Yes 

The Report’s subject matter is important. Of course, that doesn’t mean the movie’s automatically good. Important subject matter still has to be presented in a coherent and entertaining manner. Writer and director Scott Z. Burns--who earned his bonafides with screenplays for Steven Soderbergh movies like Contagion and Side Effects (a personal fave)--does his best to turn this story of government investigation into a satisfying thriller, and darn it, he just about succeeds. But a certain something, a certain spark, is missing.

Adam Driver stars in this fact-based thriller as Daniel J. Jones, a U.S. Senate investigator tasked by Senator Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening) to launch an investigation into the C.I.A.’s interrogation techniques used in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. As Jones digs deeper into the facts, a picture becomes clear of what was done to detainees, how and why the C.I.A. used what they called enhanced interrogation techniques (which is a fancy name for torture), and who approved its use. With his continuing investigation, a battle ensues for Jones to have his findings released as he navigates a labyrinth of red tape and government pushback from high up officials who do not want the truth to come out.

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“47 Meters Down: Uncaged” also new to Blu-Ray this week.

One of the great things about movies is their ability to transport us to other times and places. I don’t necessarily mean period costume dramas or galaxies from long ago and far, far away, but those are part of it. Some movies, such as “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” take place in the modern day yet the setting of the movie is so unique and so crucial to the story that, unless you live there, it is akin to being swept away to another world.

The setting for “The Peanut Butter Falcon” is North Carolina in the vicinity of Pamlico Sound. There’s a lot of water, tall grass, and open sky. Many of the men in this area make their living on boats, catching and selling crabs. It’s a distinct community with its own way of life and its own sense of justice, populated by characters who feel authentic based on the way they look, talk, and act.

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Based on the Stephen King’s best-selling 2013 novel, it’s tense, exciting, and a fitting homage to the thrills of its predecessor.

Is it worth $10? Yes

If you’re wondering why they’d make a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s horror classic “The Shining” (1980), you’re not alone. Why mess with the legacy of a movie that many (with the notable exception of author Stephen King) know and love?

When you watch “Doctor Sleep,” which King wrote as a novel in 2013, it all makes sense. This is a tense continuation of the story set many years later, while also being a thrilling homage to its predecessor. Take comfort in knowing, movie fans, that the film is everything a good sequel should be.

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Soccer mom friction is taken to gleefully absurdist extremes in this loopy, pastel-hued portrait of suburban angst that marches to the beat of its own drum with such dogged commitment to its surreal dream logic that you'd have to be a humorless grouch to not fall under its off-kilter spell.

Is it worth $10? Yes

Yes, everybody's wearing braces. Yes, everybody's performing acts of profound silliness, all the time. But what initially stands out in the gauze-lensed suburbia of “Greener Grass” is the sea of pastels splashed across its widescreen compositions. Think 1980s John Waters directing an extended “Kids in the Hall” episode, then add a dash of Lynchian unease and the lushness of Douglas Sirk in his prime, only take out the melodrama and inject a generous dose of ruthless social satire. You with me so far?

Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe, who wrote, directed and star in this improbably buoyant oddity, could have merely expanded their 2015 short by turning it into a series of skits haphazardly strung together, but what's particularly accomplished about their debut feature is that, no matter how nonsensical the scenarios become (and, hoo boy, do they ever), the filmmaking team is dead serious about crafting a sturdy narrative to support their jabs at these well-off folks unraveling inside their manicured homes.

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“Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.

“Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” is a great title for an anthology horror movie in which the run time is comprised of various tales of terror. Alas, to my surprise “Scary Stories” is not an anthology movie. Rather, it is a straightforward thriller about a teenage girl named Stella (Zoe Margaret Colletti) who steals a handwritten book of stories from a creepy old house (is there any other kind in these movies?). She and her friends pay the price for it as the book writes its own new spooky tales based on their deepest fears that come to life and terrorize them.

Much like an anthology movie in which some stories are inevitably better than others, in “Scary Stories” some of the ghouls that attack the main group of characters are better than others. The first one, involving a scarecrow and a teen punk named Tommy (Austin Abrams), is pretty effective in an old school Stephen King kind of way and is a good kickoff for what’s to come. Another effective one involves Stella’s friend Chuck (Austin Zajur). His story involves both a psychological and monster component and is, for me, the freakiest one of all. The stories involving Sarah’s other friend Auggie (Gabriel Rush) and love interest Ramón (Michael Garza) are a bit more ho-hum garden variety campfire tale scares. They’re scary in a more visceral way. The one deviation in theme is with Chuck’s sister Ruth (Natalie Ganzhorn). Her tale sways away from monster horror and into body horror, capitalizing on every pretty teenage girl’s worst nightmare.

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The interminable Terminator franchise must be terminated.

Is it worth $10? No

Terminator: Dark Fate, the latest attempt at reviving the ailing Terminator franchise, has a lot riding on it. After three increasingly crummy sequels, reboots, retcons, whatever, the series is on its last legs. This one needs to be good. James Cameron, who brought us the original two Terminator films, returns, though only as a producer and with a “story by” credit (among five other people, mind). Linda Hamilton, the original hero of the series, who sat out the last three movies, was also convinced to come back. Their inclusion suggests legitimacy, but it’s a paper-thin veneer. This Terminator is no better than the wretched sequels that came before it.

The plot thankfully ignores the last three films completely. Well, more like “thankfully;” everything accomplished plot- and character-wise in Terminator 2: Judgment Day is undone within minutes of the opening credits. What follows is the same crap every Terminator film has done since part one. A terminator, a cyborg, killing machine (a bland Gabriel Luna) is sent back in time to murder somebody who will become important in the future, in this case a young Mexican woman, Dani (Natalia Reyes, whose acting ability is questionable). Luckily, she has protection: Grace, a cyber-enhanced, human warrior also from the future, played by Mackenzie Davis, who looks great in the part but isn’t allowed to register much personality. Linda Hamilton and, eventually, Arnold Schwarzenegger also show up, more haggard and grizzled than before, to help out. Uninspired action transpires, interrupted by long stretches of moping.

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Erivo is terrific as Harriet, but flawed storytelling hinders the rest of this biopic.

Is it worth $10? Yes

Her slave name was Minty, but you know her as Harriet Tubman, the woman who escorted hundreds of slaves to freedom in the 1850s and ‘60s. Her heroism is undeniable, and her legend is undoubtedly a tale worth sharing. It’s a shame, then, that director Kasi Lemmons (“Black Nativity”) didn’t fashion a better movie around Cynthia Erivo’s inspired performance as Harriet.

It’s not a bad movie, it’s just…flawed. Things go unsaid that should be explained, and some things are overexplained when they could’ve gone unsaid. The film, which is based on a play by Langston Hughes and was adapted for the screen by Lemmons, begins in 1849 Bucktown, Maryland. Minty (Erivo) is slave on the Brodess plantation. Her husband John (Zackary Momoh) and father (Clarke Peters) are free and live nearby, but the women in the family are slaves. With the help of a lawyer, Minty and John respectfully ask for their children to be born free, which doesn’t go over well with Master Brodess (Mike Marunde). Soon Minty is for sale, but before she can be sold she runs away, telling the Brodess’ oldest son, Gideon (Joe Alwyn), she will either “be free or die.”

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“The Pretender” also new to Blu-Ray this week.

The utterance of the name of actor Christopher Lee and British film company Hammer Studios more than likely conjures up images of Frankenstein’s monster, or most famously, Dracula. This makes sense given that he played these iconic and villainous characters to much acclaim in Hammer horror movies ranging from the late 1950s to the mid-1970s. The hero of the story in these movies was typically played by Peter Cushing.

This is where “The Devil Rides Out,” aka “The Devil’s Bride,” is a bit of an anomaly. In this Hammer horror movie, released in 1968, there is no Peter Cushing and the hero, a man named Duc de Richleau, is played by Lee in a performance so terrific it makes me wonder why he didn’t play more good guy roles. Though it has been said that playing the villain is way more fun.

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Recent Articles

Ford v Ferrari ***1/2
Spirited performances from Damon and Bale ...
The Good Liar **1/2
A spiffy throwback to mid-budget ...
The Report ***
Solid as a rock, but this rock won’t give off ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: The Peanut Butter Falcon
“47 Meters Down: Uncaged” also new to ...
Doctor Sleep ***
Based on the Stephen King’s best-selling 2013 ...
Greener Grass ***
Soccer mom friction is taken to gleefully ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
“Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” is ...

Best Movie In Theaters Now: Ford v Ferrari

Spirited performances from Damon and Bale highlight the well-told story that is always dramatically compelling and has the right amount of timely humor. 

Is it worth $10? Yes

On its surface, “Ford v Ferrari” is about an unlikely duo trying to design a racecar to defeat the best in the world. It’s not exactly a universal topic. Yet Matt Damon and Christian Bale, under the direction of James Mangold, find a way to make it easily accessible, because it’s also a story about two guys with a shared dream attempting to conquer seemingly insurmountable odds. Indeed, one of the best compliments earned by “Ford v Ferrari” is that you don’t have to be interested in cars (let alone car manufacturing) to enjoy it.

After Enzo Ferrari (Remo Girrone) insults Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) and the Ford Motor Company, Ford owner Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) vows revenge. Knowing Ferrari’s claim to fame is winning the annual 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France, Ford charges Iacocca to build a team, and more importantly a car, that can beat Ferrari.

Read more
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