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The underappreciated "The Cell" and "Maggie" are strong choices on Blu-Ray this week.

When people talk about “art” films, they usually mean art house films—small, independent features with low budgets. Most mainstream movies are not considered “art” because they are full of special effects, loud noises, quick cut action, and stuff blowin’ up real good. “The Cell,” starring Jennifer Lopez and Vince Vaughn, is a mainstream movie to be sure. But as directed by Tarsem Singh, it’s more than a standard “catch the killer” movie. It’s also a wondrous and colorful realization of an artistic vision—a movie where a director took his imagination and put it up on the big screen.

The risk with such auteurship is self-indulgence. Perhaps the fact that “The Cell” was Singh’s first major feature kept such impulses in check. There is not a single frame in the movie that is overdone, nor a single moment that tries to be clever but winds up undermining what it’s trying to accomplish. Singh’s look for “The Cell” is one of a painting—albeit a terrifying one in some parts—come to life.

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This latest -- and last -- franchise installment promises to tie all the "Paranormal" movies together.

Summer heat getting you down? Can't wait for that cool fall breeze and the Halloween season that comes with it? Then you, dear reader, should check out the trailer for "Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension," the last entry in the successful found footage horror series. It appears another family has found some haunted VHS tapes of young Katie and Kristi, this time being taught some freaky witchcraft by their Grandmother. They also come across a modified camcorder that shows unseen creepy shit in glorious 3D. All hell inevitably breaks loose as Toby the demon starts haunting this family. The filmmakers promise all will be revealed with the family’s ties to witchcraft, how the stories all fit together, and even the face of the unseen demon Toby. It's probably good that the series is ending before it totally loses its luster, especially considering “Paranormal Activity 4” was very disappointing. Enjoy the trailer and hopefully it will give you that chill you need on a hot summer day.

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Indie drama struggles to find something to say about lost souls in relationships.

Is It Worth $10? No

“In Stereo” is the feature length directorial debut of Mel Rodriguez III and is based off a short film that Rodriguez wrote and directed in 2009. This time Rodriguez has filled a 97 minute runtime with brooding, self-destructive characters and labels it a black comedy. The title comes from a line not too long into the film when the protagonist mentions how things are different “when you look at things in stereo. See everything; see the whole mix. You hear it in a new way. Get outside the little bubble you’ve created for yourself. You notice little things you never noticed before.”

The problem with this sentiment is that our protagonist never follows his own advice. From the outset, he is introduced to us with headphones in and sunglasses on, immediately distancing himself from the viewer. From there, he makes a series of poor decisions that do nothing to endear him to the audience.

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As summer 2015 hits its half-way point, plenty of promising titles have yet to hit the big screen.

Thus far the 2015 summer movie season has seen two of the highest grossing domestic opening weekends of all-time, with $208 million going to “Jurassic World” and a not-shabby $191 million to “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (only “The Avengers” stands between them at $207 million).

What do these big box offices grosses mean? Not necessarily that more people are going to the movies than ever before, what with inflation, 3D, large-screen format upcharges and variable pricing playing a role in the high numbers. Rather, the large grosses this year – including a worldwide top five of all time $1.5 billion and counting for “Furious 7” – suggest known commodities are still the way to go in Hollywood, because fans can’t seem to get enough. So in the long-term we can expect more remakes, sequels, adaptations, prequels, rip-offs, etc. In the short term, i.e. the rest of the summer, is there anything original to look forward to? Yes and no.

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The boys take it off (eventually), but this sequel has heart and soul as well.

Is it worth $10? Yes

Not only does “Magic Mike XXL” have more male dancing, bulging biceps, oily, washboard abs and G-string thongs than you can imagine, it also hasn’t lost sight of what made “Magic Mike” (2012) successful: At its core it was about Mike (Channing Tatum) striving to break free from the pleasurable but unfulfilling monotony of male exotic dancing. Logically, “XXL” finds Mike pursuing the life he desires, but allowing himself one more week of fun with the boys before it’s too late.

A note to those attending just for the stripteases: Be patient. It takes a while for things to get amped up. Three years after the events of “Magic Mike,” Mike runs his own furniture designing business. When his old stripper friends pass through Tampa he meets up with them at a hotel, at which point a naked Richie (Joe Manganiello) throws him into the pool. Tarzan (Kevin Nash), Ken (Matt Bomer), Tito (Adam Rodriguez) and Tobias (Gabriel Iglesias) are also there, and tell him they’re on their way to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for the annual stripper convention. That night in his wood shop, Mike starts dancing when Ginuwine’s “Ride My Pony” plays on the radio, going so far as to suggestively drill holes in his table. The next day, Mike leaves everything behind and goes with the boys to Myrtle Beach.

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It tells a good story, but the action is surprisingly underwhelming.

Is it worth $10? No

Here’s something you rarely read about a summer action pic: The story in “Terminator: Genisys” is clever, but the action is meh. Quite boring, actually. What most likely happened is the filmmakers got caught between paying homage and giving the audience something awesome to say “wow” about, and homage won, so it all feels recycled. When you’re the fifth film in a franchise and you feel tired from the get go, not much good follows.

The story, however, is rather ingenious, and not just another reboot. Directed by Alan Taylor (“Thor: The Dark World”) and written by Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier with fond affection for “The Terminator” (1984) and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991), the movie begins with machines created by man deciding mankind is no longer worthy of living. Three billion people die on what’s called “Judgment Day” in 1997. In 2029 John Connor (Jason Clarke), leading the resistance against the machines, sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back in time to 1984 to prevent a killing machine from murdering John’s mother, Sarah (Emilia Clarke, no relation to Jason), before John is born.

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The Jack Nicholson classic helped define a generation in 1970

Stories of the return of the prodigal son are as old as time. Or, at least as old as the Bible, with the most famous example being from the book of Luke. In the classic 1970 film “Five Easy Pieces,” we get another example in the form of Robert Eroica Dupea, played with manic energy and raw, explosive passion by Jack Nicholson. It’s a movie that gives us one of the better rounded characters in the history of cinema. Robert is certainly not perfect. Pretty much everyone will find in Robert things that they do like about him, and things that they don’t. Regardless of how you may feel about Robert at any given time, he is who he is.

This is something that his girlfriend Rayette (Karen Black) grapples with. There are scenes, such as one that takes place in a bowling alley, where he scolds and humiliates her for not being good at bowling. Clearly, she was just there to have fun with him and their friends Elton (Billy Green Bush) and Stoney (Fannie Flagg). Other times, Nicholson turns on the charm as Robert and gives her his sly smile, making her melt and fall in love with him all over again. Their relationship, however, isn’t melodramatic or tumultuous, like something on a soap opera. It’s genuine. These are two people who love each other, flaws and all, and are trying to make it work.

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Recent Articles

Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: The Cell
The underappreciated "The Cell" and ...
Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension Trailer Reaction
This latest -- and last -- franchise ...
In Stereo **
Indie drama struggles to find something to ...
Magic Mike XXL ***
The boys take it off (eventually), but this sequel has ...
Terminator: Genisys **
It tells a good story, but the action is ...

Magic Mike XXL ***

The boys take it off (eventually), but this sequel has heart and soul as well.

Is it worth $10? Yes

Not only does “Magic Mike XXL” have more male dancing, bulging biceps, oily, washboard abs and G-string thongs than you can imagine, it also hasn’t lost sight of what made “Magic Mike” (2012) successful: At its core it was about Mike (Channing Tatum) striving to break free from the pleasurable but unfulfilling monotony of male exotic dancing. Logically, “XXL” finds Mike pursuing the life he desires, but allowing himself one more week of fun with the boys before it’s too late.

A note to those attending just for the stripteases: Be patient. It takes a while for things to get amped up. Three years after the events of “Magic Mike,” Mike runs his own furniture designing business. When his old stripper friends pass through Tampa he meets up with them at a hotel, at which point a naked Richie (Joe Manganiello) throws him into the pool. Tarzan (Kevin Nash), Ken (Matt Bomer), Tito (Adam Rodriguez) and Tobias (Gabriel Iglesias) are also there, and tell him they’re on their way to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for the annual stripper convention. That night in his wood shop, Mike starts dancing when Ginuwine’s “Ride My Pony” plays on the radio, going so far as to suggestively drill holes in his table. The next day, Mike leaves everything behind and goes with the boys to Myrtle Beach.

Read more
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