Remake of the 1994 Disney classic is computer generated and hits all the same beats of the original, but it lacks creativity of its own and the songs are underwhelming. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

The affection people have for the new “The Lion King” will be the direct result of their love for the 1994 original. Don’t be fooled! This computer-generated update is a stale remake that rarely dazzles. However, it’s just satisfying enough to be worth seeing because the story feels timeless and it still strikes the right emotional cords.

The beloved ’94 film grossed $422 million at the domestic box office, and the 1997 Broadway adaptation is the highest-grossing show in Broadway history with $1.5 billion and counting. If by chance you live under a rock, don’t like Disney and/or have heretofore never cared, “The Lion King” is about a lion cub named Simba (JD McCrary as a child, Donald Glover as an adult) who just can’t wait to be king. His father, King Mufasa (James Earl Jones), mother Sarabi (Alfre Woodard), and father’s assistant, Zazu (John Oliver), are trying to raise him right. Mufasa’s jealous brother Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) isn’t as helpful; Scar orchestrates a scenario in which Mufasa must save Simba from a stampede. Mufasa dies, and Simba is banished from the kingdom.

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“Breakthrough” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.

I have to admit that I have a hard time placing “Shazam!” It’s in the DC Universe, which is made clear by all of the Batman and Superman references, but not of the DC Universe. Does this mean that it’s part of the DC Extended Universe, like “Suicide Squad”? Perhaps, but the one thing that throws me for a loop is the fact that it takes place in Philadelphia. Don’t get me wrong, I like seeing Philly get some love outside of the “Rocky” movies, but when other cities in the DC Universe are named things like Gotham, Metropolis, and Midway City, I can’t help but notice when an actual city name is used. That’s more of a Marvel thing.

But perhaps I’m overthinking this detail for a movie about how fourteen-year-old orphan Billy Batson (Asher Angel) was granted superpowers from a Wizard (Djimon Hounsou) and transforms into an adult superhero (Zachary Levi) by saying “Shazam!” One of the strengths of the movie is how it goes against the grain of the more serious superhero movies from DC. It’s irreverent, witty, and fun—but not in a disrespectful way. Well, kind of, if you stay until the very end after the credits for the “Aquaman” joke, but I have a good feeling that our muscle bound underwater superhero can take it.

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A steamy fling between an Israeli café owner and a Palestinian delivery driver snowballs into a legal maelstrom on both sides of the wall in this gripping procedural inspired by a real case. It runs out of juice near the end, but it's held afloat by strong characters and a topical urgency. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

She gets into his work van in desolate parking lots, and for a few minutes, they enjoy each other's company. Then they go their separate ways, she to her Israeli Army officer husband and playful daughter, he to his pregnant wife and to the judgmental eyes of her in-laws. And it works like clockwork, until it doesn't.

Actually, that's an understatement. It spirals into disaster.

In the pressure-cooker world of “The Reports on Sarah and Saleem,” the pleasures of the flesh are fleeting and short-lived, and they give way to devastating consequences for everyone involved. An adulterous dalliance is the kickoff point for this Palestinian production that takes a clear-eyed, just-the-facts-ma'am approach to a criminal case inspired by true events. Until it stalls at the eleventh hour, this domestic drama, heightened by the pull of a political thriller, hurtles forward like a freight train.

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It’s mildly amusing, only occasionally funny, and criminally underuses the talented Karen Gillan. 

Is it worth $10? No 

The title “Stuber” is a compound of the main character’s name, Stu, and his occupation as an Uber driver. If you think that’s clever, then maybe you’ll enjoy the mildly amusing, only occasionally funny movie that bears its name. Others will be well-advised to skip this mismatched buddy comedy, unless you’d like to observe how 93 minutes can be made to feel like 153 minutes.

The film opens with a solid action sequence. LAPD cop Vic (Dave Bautista) and his partner Sara Morris (Karen Gillan) are tracking a perp inside a posh hotel. There’s a bit too much handheld camera here, but it’s not edited quickly, so you can follow the hand-to-hand combat in the hotel room, hallway, and lobby, all leading to Morris’ death before the opening credits roll. Why an actress with Gillan’s pedigree (she was Nebula in “Avengers: Endgame,” and was part of the smash hit “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”) would sign on for just one scene is odd. Best cynical guess is it was for a big paycheck; best hopeful guess is that she and Bautista were friendly from the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies and she wanted to do him a favor.  

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“The Professor” and “Little” are also new to Blu-Ray this week.

Anyone who knows the devastating, soul-crushing agony of losing a loved one (and the way life works is that eventually that is all of us) will understand the temptation at the core of “Pet Sematary.” Whether the loved one is family, friend, or pet, love is love and loss is loss. It’s not easy letting go. If offered the opportunity to spend more time with a deceased loved one, it would be hard to pass up.

Dealing with death and grief are strong themes in this second adaptation of the Stephen King novel. Parents Louis (Jason Clarke) and Rachel (Amy Seimetz) have differing views on how to approach the subject with young daughter Ellie (Jeté Laurence). Louis favors a more direct nihilistic approach, while Rachel believes in an afterlife. Neighbor Jud (John Lithgow) has an even wilder idea. After Ellie’s beloved cat Church (played in the movie by four very similar looking and very well-trained felines) is hit by a truck, he takes Louis beyond the local pet cemetery to bury the animal in a special place. Later that evening, Church comes back—but he’s not the same.

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Anything after “Avengers: Endgame” was bound to be a letdown, yet this feels like more of a letdown than it should have been. 

Is it worth $10? No  

There’s nowhere to go but down for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) after the critical and box office triumph of “Avengers: Endgame,” so it’s not too big a surprise that “Spider-Man: Far From Home” is a disappointment. It’s short of the humor and charm of Spider-Man’s first solo MCU outing, “Homecoming” (2017), while the story, action and visual effects are serviceable but not impressive.

He may be Spider-Man, but Peter Parker is also a 16 year-old teenager (he’s once again played by Tom Holland, who’s 23 in real life). His crush on MJ (Zendaya) continues, and he has a plan: During their school trip to Europe, he’ll give her a special necklace and proclaim his feelings for her atop the Eiffel Tower (oh, the romanticism of teenagers). This doesn’t work for his chubby buddy Ned (Jacob Batalon), who envisions them scoping for babes together throughout Europe. As happens, this becomes moot when Ned becomes enamored with Betty (Angourie Rice) on the flight there.

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“Escape Plan: The Extractors” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.

I like it when I learn a new term from watching a movie. In the case of “The Best of Enemies,” the term is “charrette.” This is a gathering of community members to discuss an issue. There is a moderator, a chairperson for either side of the issue, and a “senate” of six members on each side who vote on the issue after all deliberation is heard. A two-thirds majority must be reached, meaning that eight “Yes” votes are needed for a resolution to pass.

The charrette, and the issue that brought it about, is at the heart of “The Best of Enemies.” The movie wastes no time in introducing sassy, no-nonsense Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson), a leader in the black community who organizes their struggle for justice in segregated Durham, North Carolina, in 1971. Her opposition is C.P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell), local gas station owner and the president of the local chapter of the KKK who has no qualms about firing shotguns into a white woman’s house for the audacious “crime” of dating a black man. The inciting incident: A fire at the all-black elementary school. The black children need to finish up the year somewhere, which brings up the question of school integration. This question of school integration brings mediator Bill Riddick (Babou Ceesay) down from Raleigh to sort out the issue. His method to resolve the conflict and decide on integration is the charrette, with Atwater as chairperson on one side and Ellis as chairperson on the other.

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It’s clever premise undone by a lame love story.  

Is it worth $10? No 

“Yesterday” has a fantasy premise ripe with possibilities: In an alternate universe, a struggling musician is the only person who has heard of The Beatles. As the band’s music becomes his own, he’s an immediate success. Commentary on fame, pop culture, the music industry and more would make sense here, all accompanied to the classic and iconic Beatles music that people still know and love today.

So what does director Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”) do? He makes “Yesterday” a lame, predictable love story. It’s deflating. Here we are wanting to see how the British Jack (Hamish Patel) will make The Beatles catalogue his own, and constantly we’re reminded of his latent love for his manager Ellie (Lily James). Why immerse us in such trite romance when all around you is a genius conceit waiting to play out?

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“Dumbo” also new to Blu-Ray this week.

Anne Bancroft, revered actress, wife of comedy legend Mel Brooks, and mother of author Max Brooks, has one feature film credit as writer and as director. The name of that film, in both cases, is a superb movie from 1980 called “Fatso.” In spite of the superficial flippancy of the title, this is a movie that dives deep and has a very well written central character, Dominick DiNapoli, played by Dom DeLuise.

Right off the bat we know we’re in excellent hands with Bancroft as a montage of Dom’s upbringing plays under the credits. We immediately see the psychological underpinnings of what would later become an obsessive-compulsive eating disorder for Dom, as his mother medicates Dom with food any time there is stress in his life. This causes him to relate food with happiness and to binge eat whenever unhappy.

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“Captain Marvel” and “Leprechaun Returns” are also new to Blu-Ray this week.

It’s amazing, at least in a hospital such as the one that serves as the setting for “Five Feet Apart,” how many fun and even romantic things there are to do in a hospital. The movie, which takes place almost entirely inside a hospital and follows the blossoming yet forbidden romance between two teens with cystic fibrosis, Stella (Haley Lu Richardson) and Will (Cole Sprouse), shows them meditating in a yoga room, hanging out by the pool, and viewing the city lights from the rooftop. If it wasn’t for the tubes up their noses and the fact that they have to remain a certain distance from each other at all times due to their disease, they could be mistaken for vacationers on a Club Med holiday.

But life for these teens, as well as for their mutual CF-inflicted friend Poe (Moises Arias), is not easy. The disease causes their lungs to fill up with mucus until they eventually drown in their own fluids. There are treatments to help, but the only real solution is a new pair of lungs—but even those only buy another five or so years of life before another transplant is needed.

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Recent Articles

The Lion King **1/2
Remake of the 1994 Disney classic is ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Shazam!
“Breakthrough” is also new to Blu-Ray this ...
The Reports on Sarah and Saleem **1/2
A steamy fling between an Israeli café owner ...
Stuber **
It’s mildly amusing, only occasionally funny, ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Pet Sematary
“The Professor” and “Little” are also new ...
Spider-Man: Far From Home **
Anything after “Avengers: Endgame” was bound to ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: The Best of Enemies
“Escape Plan: The Extractors” is also new ...

Best Movie In Theaters Now: Aladdin

It has obvious flaws, including a weak villain and unimpressive singing voices from the male leads, but it’s full of color and imagination and energy, which makes it a real treat. 

Is it worth $10? Yes            

Recent Disney live action remakes have mostly been misfires (“Beauty and the Beast,” “The Jungle Book,” “Cinderella”), so it comes as a wonderful surprise that “Aladdin” is a toe-tapping, crowd-pleasing winner. It has obvious flaws, yes, but it also has an unabashed joy that wins you over.

Fans of the 1992 animated hit, and/or the 2011 Broadway adaptation, know the story: Urchin Aladdin (Mena Massoud) struggles to survive and lives with his pet monkey, Abu. One day in the marketplace Aladdin happens upon Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) and is immediately smitten. She, however, must marry a prince.

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