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It’s a compelling tale of a talented politician’s downfall, and a chronicling of the media’s turn from covering up for philandering politicians to exposing them. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

"I swear this is true," The Washington Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee (Alfred Molina) says midway through "The Front Runner." "New Year's Eve after Jack died, Lyndon Johnson sits down with a whole bunch of us, pulls us in close and says, 'Boys, you're going to see a whole lotta women coming in and out of my hotel suites. I want you to pay us the same courtesy you did Jack.' And we did."

Oh, how times change. The largely friendly "understanding" between press and politician has become equally adversarial over the last 30 years, in part due to the proliferation of news outlets. It's interesting that as the media has grown Americans' values have also evolved, often reflecting the values of their news source. The byproduct is that it is harder to assess what morals, if any, truly matter to the country as a whole.

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It’s too long and not funny enough, but the visuals and creativity offer much to be admired.  

Is it worth $10? Yes  

“Ralph Breaks The Internet” is full of bold imagination, bright colors and wonderful messages. It’s a movie that approaches its subject matter with inquisitive reverence, daring to ask about the Internet, “what would that actually look like?” and then answering the question(s) in wonderfully inventive ways. This is “Inside Out”-level animated excellence here, and it’s a marvelous visceral pleasure. It’s not a perfect movie – it needs more laughs, and runs tediously long at 112 minutes – but oh is it a treat for the eyes.

Ralph (John C. Reilly), heretofore best known as a wrecker of arcade games, is still the same big loveable doof he was in “Wreck It Ralph” (2012). He and friend Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) hang out all night inside the power strip that gives life to the games in Litwak’s Arcade. All is well in their world until something new is plugged in: A Wi-Fi router. With Vanellope’s game broken and Litwak wanting to throw it away rather than fix it, Ralph and Vanellope venture inside the Internet to find the replacement part on ebay.

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“Rocky” fans take note. The rest? Not so much. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

For many people, “Rocky” is their “Star Wars,” a movie that captured their hearts growing up. For me, “Star Wars” is my “Star Wars.” I’m more of a casual acquaintance of Sylvester Stallone’s long running boxing franchise. Still, “Creed,” the spinoff and continuation of that series, impressed me, and I looked forward to its sequel. “Creed II,” it turns out, is a perfectly okay continuation. As a fan of the series, you should get your money’s worth. But it’s a great example of the law of diminishing returns.

“Creed II” continues the story of Adonis Creed (an impressively bulked up Michael B. Jordan), the son of Apollo Creed, deceased rival/best friend of Rocky Balboa from the (seemingly hundreds of) “Rocky” movies. Adonis’ life is going great; he’s still boxing, fighting for the world championship title in the film’s opening match; Rocky is still his coach, Bianca (Tessa Thompson) still his girlfriend. But a specter from the past comes into their lives: Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), the Russian boxer whose ruthlessness killed Apollo in the ring thirty years prior. Eventually vanquished in the ring by Rocky in a follow-up bout, a shamed Ivan has been living in obscurity, raising his son, Viktor (Florian Munteanu), to be a vicious boxer himself. Drago wants payback, redemption for the humiliating defeat he suffered at Rocky’s hands all those years ago. He aims to get it through his son, who challenges Adonis to a boxing match for the ages, as the next generation grapples with shared tragedy.    

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

I must confess, most movies I watch with an all-Asian cast that take place in locations like Shanghai, Taiwan, or Singapore, usually involve said Asians beating the ever-loving crap out of each other. So it was certainly something different for me to watch “Crazy Rich Asians” and not have a high octane, expertly choreographed fight scene break out every ten minutes or so. That said, while these Asians may not be physically assaulting each other, their words and actions are pretty brutal in their own right.

Receiving the brunt of the abuse is Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), a Chinese-American woman living in New York. Rachel is seriously dating Nick Young (Henry Golding). What she knows about Nick is that he is handsome, humble, and charming. What she doesn’t know is that his family is one of the wealthiest land owners in Singapore and that Nick’s every move—especially in regard to who he’s dating—is juicy page six fodder in the Asian community.

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Joel Edgerton was hardly the best choice to bring this true-life account of a young man's experience at a gay conversion therapy facility to the screen, but even as his flavorless direction keeps a respectful distance from the characters, fine performances from Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe force you to care. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

The white dress shirt is starched and neatly ironed, but it might as well be a straitjacket. As “Boy Erased” opens, Jared Eamons is getting dressed to head over for his first day at Love in Action, a program that aims to stamp out any trace of same-sex attraction from those who choose (or are firmly prodded) to take the plunge. With a little help from the Good Book, of course.

It's evident that Jared, played by Lucas Hedges, wants to do right by his family. There has to be a way to make these urges go away. He was a jock in high school, for chrissakes. Girls found him cute. But when you spend Sunday mornings staring at your dad on the pulpit, it makes this situation even more delicate. Here he is, taking steps to make it all go away. This has to work, right?

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Six short films from Joel & Ethan Coen set in the Old West. If that sounds appealing, you might just be able to forgive its numerous flaws. 

Is it worth $10? No  

There are few filmmakers better than the Coen Bros. at their best (“Fargo”). There are also few more frustrating filmmakers than the Coen Bros. at their most mediocre (“Inside Llewyn Davis”). “The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs” is thoroughly mediocre.

Netflix is hedging its bets with “Scruggs” by releasing it online and in select theaters at the same time, and understandably so: It lacks the bite, sharp writing and social commentary that comprise the brothers’ best work. And because it’s composed of six unconnected vignettes set in the Old West, it also lacks cohesiveness – nothing binds these stories together except the setting, which isn’t enough.

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“Mile 22” and “Alpha” are also new to Blu-Ray this week. 

Jason Statham puts aside his high-kicking, quick-punching escapades as Jonas Taylor, deep dive rescue expert. While this character may not snap kick faces with joyful aplomb as Statham characters often do, Jonas is no less brave and badass. Certainly more so than me. Put it this way: Midway through “The Meg,” he voluntarily swims up to the giant megalodon (fun fact: this means “big tooth”) shark of the title to shoot a tracking device on to its fin. I wouldn’t.

“The Meg” hits the ground running, showing the tragic event in Taylor’s past that forced him to retire to a life of steady beer drinking and shabby boat repair jobs in Taiwan. After things go pear-shaped during a deep sea expedition involving Taylor’s ex-wife Lori (Jessica McNamee), Taylor’s old friends--who are also part of the expedition--Mac (Cliff Curtis) and Zhang (Winston Chao) convince Taylor to go to their deep underwater facility to rescue Lori and her two crew members Wall (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) and Toshi (Masi Oka). He begrudgingly accepts, and lucky for all involved, five years of constant beer drinking didn’t give Taylor a beer belly or inhibit his senses in any way. This fact alone makes it clear that he is no mere mortal.

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A curiously uninvolving portrait of desperate lives set in small-town Montana in the early 1960s, Paul Dano's directing debut aims for kitchen sink realism but never quite overcomes a theatrical archness that's off-putting and consistently distracting. 

Is it worth $10? No 

What's it like to be the son of Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan? After seeing “Wildlife,” the glum and fussy domestic drama from versatile indie darling Paul Dano, I'm still left wondering. This fairly ambitious misfire, based on a novel by Richard Ford, asks viewers to buy the Oscar nominees as the parents of Ed Oxenbould, who played the insufferable brat with a penchant for hip-hop in M. Night Shyamalan's “The Visit.” Let's just say adolescence has not been kind to the burgeoning actor.

Oxenbould's conspicuously gawky looks, which make him look like Dax Shepard's love child, is not the only problem plaguing Dano's precious period piece, but it makes for a lousy first impression. He plays Joe Brinson (Oxenbould), recently relocated with Mom, Jeanette (Mulligan) and Dad, Jerry (Gyllenhaal) to Great Falls, Montana, circa 1960. One detects a certain fatigue from mother and son, trapped as silent witnesses to Jerry's inability to keep a job.

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It’s a colorful reimagining of the Dr. Seuss tale, but it plays tedious and uninspired. 

Is it worth $10? No 

If you’re going to remake “The Grinch,” you’d better have a good reason. There’d better be something more up your sleeve than a cash grab on a popular yuletide title. It’s imperative to bring something new, innovative, and imaginative to a story many of us already love. Otherwise, go away.

To their credit, the creative minds at Illumination Entertainment (which made the “Despicable Me” movies, among others) had some novel ideas for this latest incarnation of “The Grinch.” The problem is there aren’t many good ideas, so the whole thing falls flat.

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This mental illness drama has flaws, but it also has humor and warmth, and isn’t nearly as depressing as it may look. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

If we’re lucky, our parents grow old enough to see us off into the world, watch us graduate, get married, have kids of our own, etc. And if we’re especially fortunate, our parents will enjoy all of the above in good health. Thankfully, siblings Betty (Hilary Swank) and Nick (Michael Shannon) have enjoyed a loving, albeit a bit testy, relationship with their parents. But as we meet them in “What They Had,” their mother’s health has declined to the point that something must be done.

What’s fascinating about writer/director Elizabeth Chomko’s film is its perspective: We’ve seen many movies about Alzheimer’s (a word that is never spoken in “What They Had”) and dementia, but rarely do those stories focus on the effect the disease has on the afflicted person’s children. By taking this approach, Chomko has crafted a story that is relatable and touching, though occasionally heavy handed in ways you don’t necessarily expect.

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Recent Articles

The Front Runner ***1/2
It’s a compelling tale of a talented ...
Ralph Breaks The Internet ***
It’s too long and not funny enough, but the ...
Creed II **1/2
“Rocky” fans take note. The rest? Not so ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Crazy Rich Asians
“Kin” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.  I ...
Boy Erased **1/2
Joel Edgerton was hardly the best choice to ...
The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs **
Six short films from Joel & Ethan Coen set in ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: The Meg
“Mile 22” and “Alpha” are also new to ...

Best Movie In Theaters Now: A Star Is Born

It’s a good remake, and has multiple options that could contend for the Best Song Oscar.  

Is it worth $10? Yes  

There are moments in “A Star Is Born” that give you goose bumps – Lady Gaga belting out a powerful solo, the tender and frail love story on display, the emotional climax that resonates with warmth and beauty. With Gaga starring opposite Bradley Cooper as the leads, it’s easy to see why the film has such pre-release buzz, why it has been dubbed an Oscar contender by some, and why it is considered the best version of this story by others (more on this later).

Those eager to tout its greatness may want to slow down a bit, but the film is undeniably good, especially the chemistry between Gaga and Cooper, and the real emotional stakes that comprise their characters’ relationship. He plays Jackson Maine, a burned out country music star with a crippling drug and alcohol addiction. She’s Ally, a waitress and aspiring singer yet to be discovered. One night after a show, in a bar, he sees her singing “La Vie En Rose” in French and is immediately transfixed, mesmerized by her voice and beauty. As they spend time together they fall in love, and she becomes a star while his stardom fades.

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