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“Coco” is Not Caca. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

“Coco” must be a good movie. Its screening was anything but ideal: screaming kids, loud preshow music, a late start, and all our phones confiscated beforehand, then returned in a completely disorganized manner afterward (mine was even given to the wrong person). Through all of that, though, I still ended up enjoying “Coco.” That has to mean something.

Taking place in Mexico, the story focuses on Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), a young guitarist who has to hide his musical passion from his extended family who, for generations, have banned music from their household. When Miguel needs a guitar to enter a local talent contest (his grandmother destroys his), he borrows one from the crypt of Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), a legendary singer who secretly was Miguel’s great, great grandfather. But he does so during the Day of the Dead festival, and the theft magically sends him to the afterlife. Having only until sunrise to get back home to the world of the living (if he doesn’t, he will become a permanent resident), Miguel embarks on a voyage with the help of Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal), a drifter in the underworld and fellow musical talent, to find de la Cruz, as only a family member can send him back to the world of the living.   

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Irony: A movie about the creation of a Christmas classic isn’t very creative at all. 

Is it worth $10? No 

There are many problems with “The Man Who Invented Christmas,” and the first is its title. It rings false. You hear/see it and immediately think it can’t possibly be true. We learn director Bharat Nalluri is trying to suggest Charles Dickens’ novella “A Christmas Carol” created Christmas as we know it. That’s fine, but “Christmas as we know it” is darn different from “invented Christmas.”

The film endeavors to show Dickens’ (Dan Stevens) inspirations for the novella, and the hardships he faced in getting it done. For absolutely no good reason the movie starts in 1842 New York City, where Dickens is on a promotional tour. From this prologue we learn that Dickens is a popular writer. If you didn’t already know Dickens is a popular writer, you should go to high school. He did invent Christmas after all.

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“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.

With a title like “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” you know the movie isn’t meant to be taken too seriously. Good thing, too, because it’s absurd almost to the point of all out comedy. The best thing about it is watching two incredibly charismatic actors—Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson—fight, shoot, banter, and in general appear to have a really good time.

Jackson in particular looks like he is having a blast as hitman Darius Kincaid. His infectious smile lights up many scenes, tipping off the audience that he’s enjoying this crazy ride just as much as they are. In comparison, Reynolds’ highly rated professional bodyguard Michael Bryce is more of the straight man, but with the usual Reynolds quips and witticisms thrown in to give him some laughs as well.

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DC Comics team up leaves a bit to be desired, but it’s just good enough to not feel like a waste of money. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

The opening scene in “Justice League” is, in a word, lame. Batman (Ben Affleck) stops a petty criminal, and then uses the criminal as bait to draw a large mosquito-looking demon to them. The sequence is dark, cartoonish, and doesn’t look impressive at all.

This is not a good start to a movie DC Comics fans can’t wait to see after the tremendous success of “Wonder Woman” earlier this year. Thankfully “Justice League” and its new characters grow on you over the course of its 121 minutes, making it a moderate success that gets better as it goes.

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It’s good, but eager film goers should temper the hype for this indie darling.  

Is it worth $10? Yes 

From capturing the specific comes universal appeal. It's a lesson the coming-of-age stories that linger in your memory apply to vivid effect, and “Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig's solo feature directing debut, is a good coming-of-age story. Which makes it even more confounding how long I spent struggling to become immersed in its singular world.

The year is 2002, and Christine McPherson (“Brooklyn's” Saoirse Ronan), a rebellious 17-year-old, has decided to change her name to Lady Bird; she is no longer to be referred to by her Christian name. Emphasis on Christian: As the movie opens, her mom Marion (a sterling Laurie Metcalf), a hardworking, no-nonsense nurse, is driving her daughter back to Sacramento so the teen can attend her senior year of high school at a Catholic school her parents can barely afford.

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“The Nut Job 2” and “Amityville: Awakening” are also new to Blu-Ray this week. 

I’m like a moth to a flame when it comes to Cold War era spy movies. The intrigue, the double-crosses, the suspense—all set against a backdrop of the barely under the surface tensions between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. that lasted decades. Added bonus if the movie involves paperwork being forged and/or shown, and it takes place in a hot spot like Berlin at a time when the east and west sides were literally right next to each other. The extra special cherry on top of this already delectable cake is if at some point someone uses the word “attache.”

“Atomic Blonde” comes through on all of the above counts. The movie stars Charlize Theron as British MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton. The year is 1989—shortly before the fall of the Berlin wall. When we first meet her, she emerges from a tub full of ice water, covered in bumps, scrapes, and bruises. She gets out of the tub and pours herself some Stoli on the rocks. At this moment all I could think was that I hope those ice cubes weren’t from the tub.

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Funnier than expected, and perfect to get you in the holiday spirit! 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

“Daddy’s Home” (2015) was a predictable lark of unfunny gags, faux machismo, and pandering sweetness. To our surprise, “Daddy’s Home 2” is just the opposite: The gags (except for one) don’t play out the way we expect, the machismo is Mel Gibson-ed up to a new level, and the pandering sweetness is Christmas-themed, which I’m admittedly a sucker for. If you’re looking for something fun to do to inspire holiday spirit with the family this year, look no further.

At the start of director Sean Anders’ sequel, Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) and Brad (Will Ferrell) have the “co-dad” thing down pat. Brad is still married to Dusty’s ex, Sara (Linda Cardellini), and together the three of them are raising Dusty and Sara’s kids, Dylan (Owen Vaccaro) and Megan (Scarlett Estevez). There’s no tension or awkwardness because they got that out of their system in the first movie. Also, Dusty is now married to Karen (Alessandra Ambrosio), who previously had daughter Adrianna (Didi Costine) with Roger (John Cena), so he understands the situation from all sides.

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A dark, disturbing (and surprisingly funny) nightmare. 

Is it worth $10? Yes  

Beginning with the lengthy close-up of an actual surgery, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” doesn’t waste time in making you uncomfortable. A psychological horror film brimming with unease and dread, the film’s soundtrack is comprised of high pitched violins, low throbbing booms, and discordant noises that assault your ears. It all adds up to an unsettling tone long before the film’s actual horror elements kick in. Oh, and it’s also a comedy, a pitch-black comedy.

Colin Farrell stars as Steven Murphy, a cardiothoracic surgeon who’s taken Matthew (Barry Keoghan, recently in “Dunkirk”), a high school student, under his wing for reasons that only become clear as the film progresses. But Matthew is strange-- though, to be fair, everybody in the movie’s weird, Matthew just especially so-- and his increasingly erratic behavior has Steven pulling back on their friendship. Matthew becomes agitated and what happens next is a great hook but might best be left as a surprise. Being vague as possible, it involves the health of Steven’s wife, Anna (Nicole Kidman), their two children, Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and Bob (Sunny Suljic), and an impossible decision Steven may have to make to save (some) of them.

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“The Glass Castle” is also new to Blu-Ray this week. 

Disney/Pixar’s “Cars” series returns to form after the spy movie/idiot plot misfire of the previous installment. Red racecar Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) once again takes center stage at the heart of “Cars 3.” This time he finds himself in a similar situation to that of his mentor Doc Hudson (voice of Paul Newman) in the first movie: He’s the older car, and a brand new breed of younger, faster cars are on their way to taking his place at the top of the racing world.

Not that McQueen is going down without a fight. After being shown up in a race by a hotshot young car named Jackson Storm (voice of Armie Hammer), McQueen is devastated. Adding to the pressure is an ultimatum from Sterling (voice of Nathan Fillion), the new owner of his sponsor, Rust-Eze: Either win the next race or retire into a second career of commercials and guest appearances as the spokescar for Rust-Eze. McQueen wants to avoid this at all costs.

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It’s an action-packed, exciting, and unexpectedly hilarious installment into the MCU. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

What fun!

You’ll be hard pressed to find a better time at the movies in 2017 than “Thor: Ragnarok.” You expect the grandiose visual effects and action, and the story that both stands alone and works within the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). What you don’t expect is the humor. One-liners, physical comedy and even some “Avengers” jabs make the movie hilarious from start to finish, and easily the most enjoyable MCU entry since the first “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014).

After the action-packed and hysterical opening sequence set to the tune of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) visit their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins). The sons are warned that the prophecy of “Ragnarok” is imminent, which means the destruction of their home planet of Asgard. The destroyer is Odin’s first born and the goddess of death Hela (Cate Blanchett), who is so powerful she smashes Thor’s hammer with one hand.

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Recent Articles

Coco ***
“Coco” is Not Caca. Is it worth $10? Yes  ...
The Man Who Invented Christmas **

Irony: A movie about the creation of a ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: The Hitman’s Bodyguard
“Valerian and the City of a Thousand ...
Justice League **1/2
DC Comics team up leaves a bit to be ...
Lady Bird ***
It’s good, but eager film goers should ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Atomic Blonde
“The Nut Job 2” and “Amityville: Awakening” ...
Daddy’s Home 2 ***
Funnier than expected, and perfect to get you ...

Best Movie In Theaters Now: Thor Ragnarok

It’s an action-packed, exciting, and unexpectedly hilarious installment into the MCU. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

What fun!

You’ll be hard pressed to find a better time at the movies in 2017 than “Thor: Ragnarok.” You expect the grandiose visual effects and action, and the story that both stands alone and works within the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). What you don’t expect is the humor. One-liners, physical comedy and even some “Avengers” jabs make the movie hilarious from start to finish, and easily the most enjoyable MCU entry since the first “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014).

After the action-packed and hysterical opening sequence set to the tune of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) visit their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins). The sons are warned that the prophecy of “Ragnarok” is imminent, which means the destruction of their home planet of Asgard. The destroyer is Odin’s first born and the goddess of death Hela (Cate Blanchett), who is so powerful she smashes Thor’s hammer with one hand.

Read more
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