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You’ll be tempted to hit the holiday road one more time with the Griswolds, but only disappointment awaits.

Is it worth $10? No

“Vacation” is the latest example of a movie that reveals all its funny parts in its trailer. It’s a road comedy, so you expect the one-vignette-to-the-next structure, but when you have one clunker sequence after another it creates a grand sense of disappointment. The sad part is it’s not for lack of effort – where the story goes and how it pays homage to the original “National Lampoon’s Vacation” (1983) while still being its own movie makes sense. It just doesn’t translate to the screen.

This is the fifth “Vacation” franchise film, and given that the others were hit and miss it’s no surprise this one would miss too. The first “Vacation” (about a cross-country trip to amusement park Walley World) remains the best of the series, “European Vacation” (1985) is silly and too extreme, “Christmas Vacation” (1989) is my personal favorite, and we don’t speak of “Vegas Vacation” (1997). Through them all is the sense that the patriarch, Clark (Chevy Chase), is a loving father who wants nothing more than to bring his family together with the trip of a lifetime. Accordingly, this is exactly the way Clark’s son Rusty (Ed Helms) approaches his family’s trip in this film, as he takes his brood from Illinois to Walley World in California. To that end, kudos to Helms for nicely channeling some of Chase’s mannerisms, especially as Rusty freaks out. Like father like son.

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"Home" & "The Water Diviner" debut on Blu-Ray this week.

Why do technology designers do things like put the “Send” or “Save” button next to the “Cancel” or “Delete” button? I can’t be the only one who has put a lot of work into something and gone to save it, only to hit the cancel button by accident and lose all of my work. It’s absolutely infuriating. The only thing that is potentially worse is to go to cancel something and send it by accident. In the bright and bubbly animated movie “Home,” that is exactly what happens to our unlikely hero, Oh (voice of Jim Parsons).

Oh—I will not reveal how he got that name because it is pretty funny and should be discovered—is a Boov. The Boov are a race of 3-foot tall aliens with squishy skulls and skin tones that change based on their mood. They travel from planet to planet to avoid the Gorg, who are out to destroy them all. The Boov leader is Captain Smek (voice of Steve Martin), who prides himself on his ability to retreat and hide at the slightest hint of danger. It is the Boov way.

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The biggest event of the summer, if not the entire year, concluded a few weeks ago in San Diego. Here’s what it left us looking forward to!

If you are a lover of pop culture, or anything geeky, then you know it was the San Diego Comic Con. This is where Hollywood goes to show off it's biggest upcoming blockbusters and many new and shiny toys they want you to fall in love with. Add celebrities, comic book artists, writers, tons of amazing things to buy, and the insane lines that come with it, and you've got yourself an amazing event that attracts thousands!

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On-the-street tale of transgender prostitutes fails to connect.

Is it worth $10? No

Talented American writer/director Sean Baker, of the quietly excellent "Starlet" (2012), ventures deeper into L.A.'s sex trade in "Tangerine," about two close friends, transgender women, working as prostitutes. Impressively shot using three iPhones, this film again showcases the young artist's exciting visual style and, not often enough, his skills in creating simmering conflict.

Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) and Alexandra (Mya Taylor) serve as sorts of high-heeled, wild guides through West Hollywood's streets of street drugs and street walkers. Sin-Dee learns that her pimp/"boyfriend" had sex with a non-trans woman (a "fish," apparently, in the parlance of the trade) while the former was briefly imprisoned, and half of the movie focuses on her efforts to find him and, presumably, read him the riot act.

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The performances are great, but everything else is a letdown.

Is it worth $10? Yes

“Southpaw” wastes fine performances from Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams and Forest Whitaker by relegating them to a cliché boxing story that loses its way and never recovers. If the movie were a boxer, it would start strong, rise through the ranks and surprise a few people with great potential, only to fizzle out with poor decisions and neglecting to stick to its strengths.

Writer Kurt Sutter’s (“Sons of Anarchy”) script even goes so far as to have an extended training montage leading up to the big fight in the finale, effectively squandering the good will the story earned up to that point. The last third of the movie just feels odd and off, and wreaks of studio intervention forcing Sutter and director Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”) to provide a “Rocky” ending to a story that’s more “Raging Bull.”

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Finally, a movie that validates the existence of video gamers who've forgotten what the sun looks like.

Is it worth $10? Yes

Children who’re addicted to video games may not realize it, but they’ve been waiting their whole lives for “Pixels.” Now whenever parents or teachers tell them to stop playing video games because “it rots your brain!” or “you need sunlight!” kids can say, “remember “Pixels”? Kids like me saved the world!”

My fellow adults, the kids have a point. “Pixels” is a silly comedy that has an ingenious premise, one that speaks to gamers young and old who spend way too much time playing video games. In 1982 the U.S. sent a space probe time capsule into orbit that included arcade games. The extraterrestrial life forms that received the probe interpreted it as a declaration of war. Not good. Now earth is being attacked in the form of Galaga, Centipede, Pac-Man, Asteroids, Defender and other classic games. This means the people best suited to combat the attacks are the video game champions of the early ‘80s, who’re a motley bunch of adults to say the least.

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Fascinating doc highlights the corruption of good faith and moral ambiguity of the war on drugs.

Is it worth $10? Yes

On paper, “Cartel Land” appears to have a straightforward and compelling premise: The documentary tells the dual stories of a vigilante group in Mexico that fights drug cartels, and of a paramilitary group near the Arizona/Mexico border that strives to keep Mexican drugs (and drug wars) out of the United States. But as with most worthwhile docs, there are layers to the story that contain surprising revelations.

With both groups wanting the same thing, i.e. to fight and eradicate the prevalence of drugs and drug culture in their community, one would think the operational bedfellows would have more in common. What we get instead is an insightful look at two groups on the right side of morality but openly embracing amoral methods to reach their goals. At times you wonder if the people trying to stop the cartels are actually more reprehensible than the cartels themselves, which is shocking and yet, when you consider the circumstances, not.

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Recent Articles

Vacation **
You’ll be tempted to hit the holiday road one ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Home
"Home" & "The Water Diviner" debut on ...
Comic-Con 2015: Five Cool Movies to get Excited About
The biggest event of the summer, if not the ...
Tangerine **
On-the-street tale of transgender ...
Southpaw **1/2
The performances are great, but everything ...

Great Celebrity Cruise & Movies Await!

All aboard!

The Donald M. Ephraim Palm Beach Jewish Film Festival, in conjunction with Scott Grody Travel, is presenting a film festival at sea December 6-13, 2015. The ship is the Celebrity Silhouette, and destinations leaving from Ft. Lauderdale include San Juan, St. Maarten and St. Kitts. There will be six screenings of PBJFF films (two per day each day the ship is at sea) hosted by festival director Ellen Wedner, and there are plenty of "perks" to sign up now, so what're you waiting for? All the info you need is below!

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