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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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Seth MacFarlane's foul-mouthed teddy bear is more offensive than ever, and we love it.

Is it worth $10? Yes

There are a handful of absolute winner, downright hilarious moments in “Ted 2,” but the best might just be a throwaway gag that comes early on at a wedding reception. After a reference to snorting cocaine and the suggestion that “nobody will notice,” director Seth MacFarlane cuts to a guy jumping rope really fast, who then in one motion stops, punches someone in the face and leaps head first out a glass window. The moment is so random, free and out there that I laughed so hard I cried. 

Fans of MacFarlane’s hit Fox TV show “Family Guy” (and I am one) are used to this type of absurdity, so the outlandish silliness is par for the course. MacFarlane is the guy who sang “We Saw Your Boobs” while hosting the Oscars in 2013, after all. If you want anything resembling maturity in your comedy, look elsewhere.

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A movie caught between funny and serious, succeeding at neither

Is it worth $10? No

“The Overnight” opens with a heavy breathing and groaning couple played by Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling having passionate sex. Good start. Then, to the horror of most and the familiarity of those who have young children, the couple is interrupted by their son, who’s wearing a Superman cape and wants to play.

This scene, like almost every scene in the film, is grounded in seriousness but has a slight humor about it. The problem is we’re not sure if we’re supposed to laugh or be aghast, and it can’t be both. “The Overnight” takes itself too seriously to be a comedy, and it’s got too much outlandish extravagance to be a clear drama.

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Recent Articles

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 ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Five Easy Pieces
The Jack Nicholson classic helped define a ...
Here's What's Coming The Rest of the Summer
As summer 2015 hits its half-way point, ...

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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