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Star-studded and never melodramatic, this story of a man with down syndrome is genuinely touching in all the right ways.

Is it worth $10? Yes

The box office dominance of superhero action movies suggests we demand bang for our buck, and aren’t to be bothered with tenderness and empathy. Yet here “The Peanut Butter Falcon” is, ripe with kindness and a compassion that makes you want to wrap your arms around it and give it a big hug.

At the center of the story is Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a man in his thirties who has down syndrome. With no family to care for him, he’s been cooped up in a retirement home for the last two and a half years. He’s well looked after by Eleanor (Dakota Johnson), but his dream is to escape and attend a wrestling school run by The Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church). One night Zak’s roommate Carl (Bruce Dern) helps him escape, much to Eleanor’s frustration.

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“Brightburn” and “The Hustle” are also new to Blu-Ray this week. 

To call Douglas Sirk’s far-fetched 1954 movie “Magnificent Obsession” a melodrama is an understatement. It’s beyond melodrama. Still it doesn’t quite get to the point of soap opera—though it comes close. The movie nests itself somewhere in the middle of melodrama and soap opera, with a heavy leaning toward the latter.

What saves “Magnificent Obsession” from straight up soap opera is the character arc of the male lead, played by Rock Hudson. His name is Bob Merrick, a millionaire (back when having four million dollars meant a lot) motor company heir, philanderer, and thrill-seeker. The movie opens with Merrick recklessly racing a boat on a lake. To call that thing a boat is another understatement—it’s a hydroplane. That is, it’s single engine jet plane that happens to go on water. Even by 2019 standards it’s pretty cool—and very dangerous.

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Okay Boys might be a more appropriate title.

Is it worth $10? No

Good Boys is basically Superbad with 12-year-olds instead of teenagers; a raunchy tween comedy, instead of a raunchy teen comedy. Imitation may be flattery, but it certainly doesn’t guarantee quality, and Good Boys is nowhere near as funny or inspired as its influence. It’s entertaining enough to pass the time, but mostly just inoffensive. That faint praise is extra damning when you consider just how hard the movie tries to be outrageous. 

Like Superbad, Good Boys takes place mostly over the course of a day, with a plot that riffs on The Nightingale and the Rose. You know, the “I’ll do this for you if you do this for me” kind of thing that just keeps on escalating. Max (Jacob Tremblay), Thor (Brady Noon), and Lucas (Keith L. Williams) are neighbors and best buds. Just entering the 6th grade, their obsessions are the usual ones of 12-year-old boys: girls, looking cool, etc. The film’s shenanigans kick off when the Beanbag Boys (as they call themselves…because they all have beanbags) are invited to a make-out party. Inexperienced and terrified of looking as such, they seek instruction. That innocent quest escalates quickly. Before they know it, the kids skip school and become embroiled in a madcap dash through town to replace a McGuffin, an expensive drone belonging to Max’s dad, which is stolen early in their exploits. Meanwhile, they have an unwanted canister of Molly in their possession and the girls next door are hot on their tail, trying to get their drugs back before a Kendrick Lamar concert that night.     

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It has predictable moments, but director Gurinder Chadha (“Bend It Like Beckham”) smartly uses Springsteen’s music to connect to the main character’s hardships, making this a real winner. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

You don’t have to be a Bruce Springsteen fan to enjoy “Blinded By The Light,” though it certainly helps. Guided by the Boss’ music, this is a story about a dreamer, a Pakistani teenager in a small town desperately seeking a way out. He likes music, and he likes to write. His friend gives him an audio cassette (it’s set in the ‘80s) of a Springsteen album. His life is forever changed.

Lest you think this was made by a Springsteen obsessed New Jersey fanboy, it was not. Far from it, actually. This is based on a true story, and was directed by Gurinder Chadha, who is best known for “Bend It Like Beckham” (2002). Chadha grew up in England, is of Indian descent, and saw her family members face racial oppression because of their skin color. She also, one presumes, eventually found comfort and catharsis in the arts.

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

The “Avengers: Endgame” movie doesn’t mess around, so neither will I. After picking up exactly where the previous installment, “Avengers: Infinity War,” left off and giving Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) some devastating consequences from the infamous “snap” done by Thanos (Josh Brolin), we see Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) trying to make the most of being stuck adrift in space. The situation looks grim, but hope comes in the form of new Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) addition Captain Marvel (Brie Larson).

This is part of what makes the MCU so captivating, and why “Avengers: Endgame” works so well. The pieces of all 22 movies (including this one) over the past eleven years fit together like an elaborate jigsaw puzzle. Each piece, i.e., each movie, is necessary to make sense out of the whole. In this case, you need to have seen “Captain Marvel” in order to understand who she is, where she comes from, what she can do, and why she’s there. Okay, so the “why” isn’t explained all that well in “Endgame” as she does seem to come out of literally nowhere, but it’s less confusing to at least know who she is and not be asking that question when she comes on screen and saves the day. It’s also a genius move on the part of Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, who should be credited for having the grand vision to make this all come together. He set up the franchise to guarantee that fans will see every movie so they won’t have any questions going in to the next one.

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Impressive performances from the three leads make up for the underdeveloped story. 

Is it worth $10? Yes

In “The Kitchen,” the hilarious Melissa McCarthy and Tiffany Haddish’s characters run the Irish mafia after their husbands are sent to prison. Sounds like a humorous spoof of gangster movies, right? Or a farcical look at the shortcomings of male leadership, with a social message reminder that empowering women makes the world a better place for all?  

In fact, it’s none of these things. It’s certainly not a comedy, nor does it try to be, and it’s better because of it. Writer/director Andrea Berloff’s film is a straight drama (with occasional comic relief) about three women (Elisabeth Moss plays the third) who dare to step into a man’s world.

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“The Curse of La Llorona” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.

The opening moments of “Pokemon: Detective Pikachu” feature two young men in a field on the hunt to catch a Pokemon. It’s kind of like the “Pokemon Go” game, only with less risk of getting hit by a car. Plus in this world, the Pokemon are real. One of the young men is played by Karan Soni, and knowing very little about this movie (or the world of Pokemon) I got very excited and said to myself, “No way! Dopinder from the ‘Deadpool’ movies is the star of this show!”

Alas, those hopes were dashed as it’s made abundantly clear that Justice Smith, who plays protagonist Tim Goodman, is the star. Nothing wrong with Smith, he’s a competent enough actor. But he’s no Dopinder, darn it. The point of the aforementioned (failed) attempt to catch the Pokemon is to give Goodman a companion. Everyone else has a Pokemon (dogs and cats are either obsolete or nonexistent in this world) and Goodman’s friend thinks he should have one too. The problem is that the Pokemon has to choose the person as well as the other way around, and Goodman hasn’t found one to choose him yet.

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It’s a “Fast & Furious” spinoff, and one of the biggest, loudest and dumbest movies of the year. 

Is it worth $10? No

You expect a movie like “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” to be big, loud and stupid. Heck, you want it to be, right? But my goodness, you don’t want it to be this big, loud and stupid.

The problem is not necessarily the action, which is grandiose yet mediocre, but the story and character development. The heroes, Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), hate each other. So they bicker. You’re supposed to laugh as they trade insults. You don’t. Hobbs and Shaw are like the middle-aged couple at a party that everyone knows should’ve divorced years ago: Their banter is amusing at times, but they grow tiresome quickly.

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Wistful, perceptive and bracingly unsentimental, Lulu Wang's winning dramedy, inspired by her own family, finds that the lies we tell our loved ones to shield them from pain is something that knows no national borders. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

Movies about dysfunctional families tend to lean toward one of two directions: the warm and fuzzy ones that make you appreciate your relatives, warts and all, and the more ruthless dissections that portray domestic gatherings as emotional minefields where no one gets away unharmed. It takes a skilled hand to tell a story that manages to strike a balance between both sensibilities.

Say hello, then, to “The Farewell,” which pulls off this feat with beautifully observed candor, formal rigor and a reliable bullcrap meter.

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“FAT: A Documentary” is also new to Blu-Ray this week. 

There’s a quality about Seth Rogen that his female co-stars seem to find appealing. He has a way of putting them at ease so that they, in turn, give energetic and effervescent performances. Part of it is the fact that he is high energy himself and very funny. For other actors, the second part of this ability may be charm or elegance, but Rogen has neither of these qualities. For him, it’s more of a beta quality, where he’s all too eager and happy to be subservient to his co-star.

This characteristic of Rogen’s plays out through his role as Fred Flasky in “Long Shot.” After quitting his job at an independent newspaper, Flasky is invited to a party by his best friend Lance (O'Shea Jackson Jr.) and there he reconnects with Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron). In addition to being Flasky’s former babysitter--as shown in an unnecessary flashback since we get all of the details through dialogue--Field is the current Secretary of State under buffoonish President Chambers (Bob Odenkirk). Chambers is a former television actor who wants to try to make it in the movies. As such, he decides that he will not seek a second term and endorses Field for next POTUS.

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Recent Articles

The Peanut Butter Falcon ***
Star-studded and never melodramatic, this story of ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Magnificent Obsession
“Brightburn” and “The Hustle” are also new to ...
Good Boys **
Okay Boys might be a more appropriate ...
Blinded By The Light ***
It has predictable moments, but director ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Avengers: Endgame
“Unplanned” is also new to Blu-Ray this week. ...
The Kitchen **1/2
Impressive performances from the three ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Pokemon: Detective Pikachu
“The Curse of La Llorona” is also new to ...

Best Movie In Theaters Now: The Farewell

Wistful, perceptive and bracingly unsentimental, Lulu Wang's winning dramedy, inspired by her own family, finds that the lies we tell our loved ones to shield them from pain is something that knows no national borders. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

Movies about dysfunctional families tend to lean toward one of two directions: the warm and fuzzy ones that make you appreciate your relatives, warts and all, and the more ruthless dissections that portray domestic gatherings as emotional minefields where no one gets away unharmed. It takes a skilled hand to tell a story that manages to strike a balance between both sensibilities.

Say hello, then, to “The Farewell,” which pulls off this feat with beautifully observed candor, formal rigor and a reliable bullcrap meter.

Read more
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