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The Coen Bros. are hit and miss with their comedies, and this is a total miss.

Is it worth $10? No

The Coen Bros. are smarter than this, and better filmmakers than this. They no doubt thought it a cute idea to send up old Hollywood in “Hail, Caesar!” by paying homage to classic movies, but none of it works. Forget about laugh-out-loud funny, I would’ve settled for at least a few ha-has. Is this really the same Joel and Ethan Coen who made “The Big Lebowski,” “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and “Fargo”?

Somehow, it is. The central conceit of “Hail, Caesar!,” which is set in the early 1950s, finds movie studio boss Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) trying to find star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) after Baird is kidnapped. There’s one production day left on Baird’s big budget epic film “Hail Caesar: A Tale of Christ,” and he still needs to shoot his big speech. Communists took him, we learn, and subsequently try to brainwash Baird into accepting their beliefs as his own. If the writer/director Coen Bros. are aiming for sociopolitical commentary on the iniquities of labor laws and fair pay in our modern times, the points fail to connect. But it’s hard to tell if they’re actually trying for that because it doesn’t seem like they’re trying at all for any of it. 

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A literary masterpiece and a dark comedy horror sound like an odd mashup; however, it is surprisingly entertaining, with a whim of English charm and bloody zombie goodness. 


Is it worth $10? Yes


Based on the 2009 Seth Grahame-Smith novel "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies," this film not only immerses you in the Victorian era and the world of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice," it also includes its own take on the undead. 



In a brief backstory, we discover that England was ravaged by a horrible plague which brought the dead to life, craving the brains of the living. The traditional English need for proper etiquette training in both manners and domestic skills has given way to many children being sent away for martial arts training in Japan (for the privileged) and China (for the commoners). Many battles were fought and the land was divided into safe zones in order to try and contain the outbreak. This brings us to the introduction of the Bennet family and their warrior daughters, namely the two oldest, Elizabeth (Lily James) and Jane (Bella Heathcoate).

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"Our Brand Is Crisis" and "The Last Witch Hunter" are also new to Blu-Ray this week.

Spy movies make for juicy subject matter. Whether they’re the action/adventure stories from the Ian Fleming “James Bond” series or the suspense and intrigue stories from John le Carré, featuring more soft spoken desk job types like MI6 agent George Smiley, a gripping story can always be told out of who can be trusted—and who can’t.

“Bridge of Spies” veers off from either of those two forms to tell a more procedural story. In actuality, we get two stories in one movie—and true stories at that. The first is the defense of Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), who is arrested in 1957 as the movie opens and accused of being a Soviet spy. There’s an overwhelming amount of evidence against Abel, and the movie makes no mystery of the man’s guilt. The thankless task of putting on the appearance of a fair and just defense for this open and shut case is lawyer James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks). Donovan was a defense attorney during the post-World War II Nuremberg trials, and the government, in conjunction with the senior partner at Donovan’s law firm (Alan Alda), agree that he’s the best man for the job.

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Daring story of a rescue on the high seas showcases heroism and is an inspiration.

Is it worth $10? Yes

“The Finest Hours” is a harrowing story of death-defying heroics and teamwork. And cold. Bitter, frosty, wet, nasty cold on the high seas that’s so omnipresent you’ll want to bundle up in fear of catching the sniffles.

Huh, “fear.” Such an easy word to throw around and use lightly. No doubt the Coast Guard men who ventured through a blizzard, pounding ocean waves and pouring rain more than 10 miles off shore to rescue the crew of a shipwrecked oil tanker felt fear. How couldn’t they? But in the face of fear duty prevailed, and the inspiring story of “The Finest Hours” is the result.

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Young director’s unconventional perspectives boost Oscar Foreign-Language Film nominee’s power, as it tells a story of personal desperation and dedication during the Shoah.

Is it worth $10? Yes

Hungary’s official entry in the 2016 Academy Awards’ Best Foreign-Language Film competition opens in South Florida on a winning streak. The debut feature by 38-year-old director/writer László Nemes not only reveals his remarkable voice for cinematic storytelling, but it has also already won the Best Foreign-Language Film Golden Globe and stands nominated by the Academy for the same honor (in addition to nabbing the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2015).

“Son of Saul” isn’t a story about the Holocaust. It is a story WITHIN the story of the Holocaust. Though Saul, a physically, mentally strong Jewish Hungarian of about 35 years (played by the wonderfully talented Géza Röhrig), is a prisoner at Auschwitz, one can’t properly say the film is set there. It is, more accurately, set in the man himself.

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Third entry in the mega-successful franchise is fun for kids and nap time for adults.

Is it worth $10? Yes

It’s amazing, but not altogether surprising, that after two movies Po is still a disaster of a panda bear. He’s become a kung fu master and saved his village from dastardly villains more than once, yet he’s still an unorthodox klutz man-child who seems to destroy everything in his path.

Perhaps expecting personal growth from an animated character is too much, but it’s a bit lazy for Po to begin “Kung Fu Panda 3” with many of the same flaws he had in the first two films. I know Jack Black voices Po, and Black’s loveable buffoon screen persona has treated him well through the years, but with Po it’s as if there’s a rule that he has to start every movie inept in some way, only to overcome the ineptitude by accident in the course of saving the day. In this instance, Po has no idea how to take over training duties when Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) decides to retire. Enter cohorts Monkey (Jackie Chan), Crane (David Cross), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Tigress (Angelina Jolie) and Viper (Lucy Liu) for help, but of course there are bigger issues at hand.

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Bradley Cooper’s “Burnt” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.

Once the “Harry Potter” literary franchise was finished, Scholastic Inc. publishing had to look for a new cash cow to turn into movies. With “Goosebumps,” it seems it found one.

Instead of adapting one of the sixty-two books authored by R.L. Stine during the series’ 1992 to 1997 initial run, screenwriters Darren Lemke, Scott Alexander, and Larry Karaszewski decided to include them all. Gnomes, a blob, a werewolf, an invisible boy, an abominable snowman—all of Stine’s most sinister and dastardly creations are brought to life in “Goosebumps.”

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Charlotte Rampling is an Oscar nominee for her phenomenal performance here — it’s not to be missed!

Is it worth $10? Yes

The secrets of a marriage can be a dark, dangerous thing, and in “45 Years” the emotions they conjure mean everything.

In Geoff (Tom Courtenay) and Kate’s (Charlotte Rampling) marriage, things were fine for 44 years, 11 months and about three weeks. That’s a pretty good run. But with their 45th anniversary party mere days away, a bombshell is dropped that rocks Geoff and Kate’s foundation: The body of Geoff’s lover before he met Kate is found in the Swiss Alps. To this point he only knew she disappeared; the discovery of the body sets off a swarm of emotions and discoveries for Geoff and Kate that brings the purity of their love into doubt. Ironically, this all happens as Kate plans the anniversary party, which is supposed to be the ultimate celebration of their love.

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An underwhelming martial arts film elevated slightly by a bittersweet love story.

Is it worth $10? Yes

Ip Man was a real life Wing Chun master and teacher. A legend in his own time, his immortality was cemented when he took on a young Bruce Lee as a pupil. He was so famous that several Kung Fu films were made about him. In 2008, “Ip Man” was the latest re-imagining of the man in cinematic form. With charismatic Donnie Yen in the lead role, it was a huge box office and critical success.

However, I was underwhelmed by the original film. Years later, I gave “Ip Man 2” a chance. While better, I still didn’t love it. Now comes “Ip Man 3,” and it is, supposedly, the last chapter in the highly successful franchise. Is it better than its predecessors? Not really. It’s about par for the course. I was ready to write it off completely, but then it did something surprising that elevated the film from mediocre to…not great by any means, but a little better than average.

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“The Intern” and “Everest” are also new to Blu-Ray this week.

My first awareness of “Straight Outta Compton” starts twenty years ago, on New Year’s Eve 1995 to 1996. I was at a party with three of my friends and they needed to go to the store. I was the only one in good enough condition to drive. One of them had some music to play along the way. It was a cassette tape of N.W.A’s “Straight Outta Compton.” From the moment the first song—the title track—came on and a voice said, “You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge,” I was into it. What followed was a wildly addictive musical hook and some hardcore, hard hitting rapping from Ice Cube, MC Ren, and last but not least, Eazy-E. I should also mention that you have not really experienced the song “Straight Outta Compton” until you’ve had your three drunk Irish friends loudly rap along with it while you’re trying to drive.

White boys from Connecticut though we may have been, there was something in that song that resonated with all of us. Perhaps it was the hook. Maybe it was the words. Or it could have been the raw power and outright anger that drove the song. Most likely it was a combination of all three. It’s rare that a song hits me so hard that I remember my first time hearing it. The fact that I remember the first time for “Straight Outta Compton” two decades later speaks volumes about its impact.

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Recent Articles

Hail, Caesar! *1/2
The Coen Bros. are hit and miss with their ...
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies ***1/2

A literary masterpiece and a dark comedy ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Bridge of Spies
"Our Brand Is Crisis" and "The Last Witch ...
The Finest Hours ***
Daring story of a rescue on the high seas ...
Son of Saul ***1/2
Young director’s unconventional ...
Kung Fu Panda 3 **1/2
Third entry in the mega-successful franchise is ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Goosebumps
Bradley Cooper’s “Burnt” is also new to ...
45 Years ***1/2
Charlotte Rampling is an Oscar nominee for ...
Ip Man 3 **1/2
An underwhelming martial arts film elevated ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Straight Outta Compton
“The Intern” and “Everest” are also new to ...

Best Movie In Theaters Now: The Big Short

Funny, insightful and biting, this drama is a likely Best Picture nominee that’s not to be missed.

Is it worth $10? Yes

The economic collapse of 2008 was horrible, yet many of us have no idea how and why it all went down. This is where “The Big Short” excels: It takes the mortgage crisis that precipitated the fallout and breaks it into small, digestible pieces that are easy to comprehend. Add some strong performances from big-time movie stars, creative flourishes and a few laughs and you have one of the best movies of 2015.

Based on Michael Lewis’ (“Moneyball”) non-fiction book of the same name, the story focuses on three sets of individuals who see the meltdown looming even though the mortgage industry was flourishing in the early to mid-2000s. They are: San Jose money manager Michael Burry (Christian Bale), who in 2005 looked where others weren’t looking and saw that adjustable rate mortgages were going to price people out of their homes in a few years; Wall Street banker Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), who enlists hot-headed hedge fund manager Mark Baum (Steve Carell) and his team so they can all make millions; and upstart money managers Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock) and Charlie Geller (John Magaro), who bring in former banker Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt) for financial assistance and guidance.

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