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Winner of six Oscars, and one of the loveliest movies you will ever see, "La La Land," debuts on Blu-Ray this week. 

It didn’t win Best Picture, but it could have. ”La La Land” is one of the most vibrant, captivating, and entertaining movies to come out of Hollywood in a long time. The fact that it also tells an emotionally resonant love story with top notch acting from its two stars, Ryan Gosling and Best Actress Oscar winner Emma Stone, is the sweet, delicious icing on an already fabulous cake.

Right off the bat, “La La Land” lets us know what we’re in for. The movie treats us to an upbeat, fantastically choreographed song and dance number featuring dozens of performers stuck in traffic on an LA freeway. If only the real life traffic on the 405 were this much good natured fun. “La La Land” sets the stage of not only where we are and when, but also clues us in to the audio and visual splendor to come. And boy, does it ever come.

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Brie Larson and Armie Hammer headline this misfire action pic. 

Is it worth $10? No 

In the history of movies, I don’t think more characters have survived more gun shot wounds than as seen in “Free Fire.” Bullets connect with various body parts, yet for the longest time, no one dies. You would think professional gunrunners would have better aim. It’s truly remarkable that most of the characters are still around at the end of the film; one guy doesn’t even die from bullet wounds even though he’s been shot multiple times.

Reality clearly wasn’t the impulse behind the creation of “Free Fire,” though in hindsight one wonders what compelled Martin Scorsese to sign on as an executive producer. In that role he’s responsible to oversee the production and ensure it’s completed on time, on budget, etc. He also has creative input, but creatively there’s not much here. A bunch of thugs in a warehouse shooting each other – that’s the movie. What Scorsese contributed and/or thought he could bring is anyone’s guess.

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Lousy script and listless direction sink this Rosario Dawson/Katherine Heigl domestic thriller that's sorely devoid of thrills, logic or common sense.

Is it worth $10? No

There's a potent conceit at the heart of “Unforgettable,” a thoroughly disposable thriller that nevertheless asks an intriguing question: What if that bitter bourgie divorcée with the killer looks, workout bod and perfect posture is actually one putdown away from turning into an impeccably attired killing machine?

It's a scenario brimming with potential, but this Warner Bros. release, directed by veteran producer Denise Di Novi with all the personality of a real estate showing, squanders it by explaining away its antagonist's psychosis, thus leeching off the faintest trace of menace. It's a “Fatal Attraction” clone devoid of mystery, a cut-rate “Hand That Rocks the Cradle” where the evil nanny is actually an aging suburban princess with mommy issues and on-point lipstick game.

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Epic drama satisfies in terms of acting and production quality, but its values may not connect with your own. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

When I was ten years old, my father sat me down to watch “The Godfather” (1972). I didn’t understand most of it, but I was old enough to grasp dad’s intention in showing it to me, which was the emphasis on family. What I’ve discovered since then is that the importance of family is uniquely subjective, and therefore debatable.

Take Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) in “The Lost City of Z.” He’s “unfortunate in his choice of ancestors,” a British aristocrat tells us, yet Percy is steadfast in trying to resurrect his family’s besmirched name. It’s the early 1900s in Great Britain, and Percy’s goal of advancement through military ranks has been rebuffed. He soon finds another path to redemption with the Royal Geographic Society, but there’s a catch: He must be away for years as he creates maps in South America.

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Sanctimonious and ham-fisted, the latest historical drama from “Hotel Rwanda” director Terry George reduces the Armenian genocide to a backdrop for a tepid romance.

Is it worth $10? No

“The Promise” tells the right story from the wrong point of view. It purports to depict atrocities perpetrated by the Ottoman government in what would become the Republic of Turkey, beginning in 1915, resulting in the deportation and systematic extermination of 1.5 million Armenians. It also wants to sweep up viewers in a romance featuring A-listers Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale as two men in love with the same woman. It bends itself backward to have it both ways, a creative decision that's misguided at best, embarrassingly misbegotten at worst. You know what they say about the road to hell.

Director Terry George (“Hotel Rwanda”), who's never met a humanitarian crisis he wasn't compelled to turn into a social problem film, starts off one year before, in the village of Siroun, where Turkish Muslims and Armenian Christians have coexisted in harmony for centuries. His protagonist, Mikael Bhogosian (Isaac), kindhearted and ambitious, is the local apothecary.

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M. Night Shyamalan’s riveting “Split” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.

It’s a curious thing. How did the world’s most iconic restaurant franchise, founded by a man with the last name Kroc, get to be called McDonald’s? The answer, as Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) points out in “The Founder,” is that it is such a warm, family-friendly, quintessentially Americana name that it can’t be ignored the way naming the restaurant Burger whatever can.

Based on a true story, “The Founder” isn’t just about the rights to the name McDonald’s, or to the “Speedy System” that made the walk up method of brothers Mac and Dick McDonald (John Carroll Lynch and Nick Offerman) so ground breaking. It’s about the struggle to bring the vision of one incredibly ambitious and driven salesman to full-fledged reality.

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“The Fate of the Furious” makes for another fun, thrilling ride in the “Fast and the Furious” franchise.

Is it worth 10 dollars? Yes

In “The Fate of the Furious,” our group of gearhead heroes face what might be their final foe. Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) betrays the “family” of mechanophiles as he joins forces with a cyber-terrorist named Cipher (Charlize Theron). Meanwhile, Dom’s former “family” must find a way to stop him and Cipher before they get their hands on nuclear launch codes.

The film features all the familiar faces, and all the actors here give fine performances. Dwayne Johnson returns as the intense cop Hobbs, and The Rock gets plenty of screen time in “Fate.” (Advice: Be a fan.) He gets to kick butt, make the audience laugh, and generally enjoy his role as one of the best characters in the movie.

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A thought-provoking central question keeps us interested even as the story veers away from its strength.

Is it worth $10? Yes

The best movies – the ones that stick with you long after the credits roll – are often ones that pose thought-provoking questions to which there’s no easy answer. “Gifted” is such a movie, and with its quick wit and charm, it wins you over with earnestness in spite of its notable shortcomings.

Here’s the dilemma: Frank (Chris Evans) is the guardian of his seven year-old niece, Mary (Mckenna Grace). Frank’s sister/Mary’s mother made it known she wanted Frank to have Mary before she committed suicide (Mary’s father is not around). Mary is a math prodigy who is clearly too smart for her small Florida town’s public school, which is something her teacher (Jenny Slate) doesn’t have to tell Frank. Even Frank’s neighbor (Octavia Spencer) knows how smart Mary is. But when offered the opportunity to send Mary to a school for gifted children, Frank demurs, insisting Mary receive a “normal” upbringing.

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Strong drama deals with lost love, betrayal, and lingering post-war national sentiment.

Is it worth $10? Yes

Out of nowhere, he appears at the cemetery. Thin, frail, terrible mustache. He places flowers on her dead fiancée’s tombstone. As he passes, the melancholy is unmistakable. His name is Adrien. Her name is Anna. Anna’s fiancée was Frantz, and the movie, aptly titled “Frantz,” is a taut, complex and deep-feeling drama about war, secrets, and redemption.

It’s 1919 in a small German village. The Great War has just ended, and many sons and fathers from this village didn’t return. The locals hate the French, whom they blame for murdering their loved ones. So when Adrien (Pierre Niney) first appears to Frantz’s father, Hans (Ernst Stotzner), who is a doctor, he’s promptly kicked out. But Anna (Paula Beer), who still lives with her would-have-been in-laws, sees Adrien at the cemetery and soon strikes up a conversation with him, and then vouches for him to Hans and Frantz’s mother (Marie Gruber).

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Best Picture Oscar nominee “Lion” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.

The famous names from the early days of the space program are fairly easy to recite and recall—and with good reason. Men like Alan Shepard and John Glen risked their lives by essentially being shot into space at the tip of a giant missile. Their lives relied on the math of the nerds (I use the term affectionately) from NASA—typically seen in documentaries and retrospectives on these early years as middle aged white men in white shirts with short sleeves, black ties, pocket protectors, horn-rimmed glasses, and crew cuts.

Best Picture Oscar nominee “Hidden Figures” takes that standard issue look and gives it a makeover—a huge one. After all, no one can plausibly argue that Katherine Goble (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Best Supporting Actress Nominee Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) are crew cut donning white men. Middle-aged, sure, and Katherine does wear glasses, but the similarities end there.

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Recent Articles

Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: La La Land
Winner of six Oscars, and one of the ...
Free Fire **
Brie Larson and Armie Hammer headline this ...
Unforgettable *1/2
Lousy script and listless direction sink this ...
The Lost City of Z ***
Epic drama satisfies in terms of acting and ...
The Promise *1/2
Sanctimonious and ham-fisted, the latest ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: The Founder
M. Night Shyamalan’s riveting “Split” is also ...
The Fate of the Furious ***1/2
“The Fate of the Furious” makes for another ...

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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