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“Captain Marvel” and “Leprechaun Returns” are also new to Blu-Ray this week.

It’s amazing, at least in a hospital such as the one that serves as the setting for “Five Feet Apart,” how many fun and even romantic things there are to do in a hospital. The movie, which takes place almost entirely inside a hospital and follows the blossoming yet forbidden romance between two teens with cystic fibrosis, Stella (Haley Lu Richardson) and Will (Cole Sprouse), shows them meditating in a yoga room, hanging out by the pool, and viewing the city lights from the rooftop. If it wasn’t for the tubes up their noses and the fact that they have to remain a certain distance from each other at all times due to their disease, they could be mistaken for vacationers on a Club Med holiday.

But life for these teens, as well as for their mutual CF-inflicted friend Poe (Moises Arias), is not easy. The disease causes their lungs to fill up with mucus until they eventually drown in their own fluids. There are treatments to help, but the only real solution is a new pair of lungs—but even those only buy another five or so years of life before another transplant is needed.

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John Lithgow and Blythe Danner share an affable chemistry, but tonal issues leave the film missing its mark.  

Is it worth $10? No 

“The Tomorrow Man” attempts to be about many things, and succeeds at few. Ed Hemsler (John Lithgow), a divorced retiree living on his own, spends most of his money on a secret bunker inside his house that will shelter him during the coming apocalypse. This is not a foreseen apocalypse by anyone else, mind you – it is merely based on Ed’s paranoia that life on Earth is coming to an end. As far as character development goes, this is as poor as it gets. You can’t base a movie on a character’s eccentric belief without giving him a reason to think it!

Ed meets a kindred spirit, or so he believes, in Ronnie Meisner (Blythe Danner). She’s a widow who also lost her daughter to a rare disease. She buys things she’ll never have a use for, and doesn’t throw anything away. She’s lonely. Ed is a loner. At first he sort of stalks her, but she relents and spends time with him. Turns out he’s a pretty good guy, and they grow to care for one another.

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Sophie Turner is all dressed up with nowhere to go in this lackluster and dour “X-Men” adventure that too often relegates its protagonist to second fiddle to her (predominantly male) counterparts and pushes viewers away from her emotional journey, capping off the iconic mutants' 20th Century Fox-produced franchise on a maddeningly perfunctory note. 

Is it worth $10?  No 

It wants to spread its wings and glide above other comic book-based tentpoles' more juvenile storylines, but “Dark Phoenix,” the final chapter of the long-running “X-Men” franchise, merely ekes out an uninspired mishmash of material considerably better handled in prior entries. It's a shame, considering it possesses all the ingredients for satisfying summer multiplex fare.

But that good time at the movies promised by the series' 12th entry (if you count the snarky “Deadpool” films) is going to have to wait. Instead of eliciting elation from viewers, “Dark Phoenix” amounts to an attractively lensed wallow in frustration. Making his feature directing debut, longtime “X-Men” screenwriter Simon Kinberg ostensibly focuses on Jean Grey (“Game of Thrones'” Sophie Turner), leader Charles Xavier's powerful right hand and a beacon of goodness who stands in sharp contrast to other mutants' impulse to rebel against a human race that hasn't always treated them with kindness.

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It’s cute and cuddly in all the right ways, and there’s plenty for pet-loving children to enjoy. For adults, not as much. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

Cute and amusing with a fun soundtrack, “The Secret life Of Pets 2” – the sequel to the 2016 animated hit that grossed $368 million – delivers as expected in all the cuddly ways your kids and grandkids are anticipating. It’s a high-energy, often adorable cartoon that’s bound to inspire a hug for your pet at home as well.

It’s 86 quick minutes, most of which takes the form of a triptych before it comes together in the last act. One storyline follows a Jack Russell Terrier named Max (Patton Oswalt, taking over for Louis C.K.) and his Newfoundland buddy Duke (Eric Stonestreet) as their owner Katie (Ellie Kemper) finds a husband named Chuck (Pete Holmes). Katie and Chuck have a baby. Max is at first jealous of the baby, then they bond and he becomes overprotective. This all happens in the first 15 minutes. Max, Duke and the family head out to visit Chuck’s uncle in the country, where they meet Rooster (a funny Harrison Ford), a Welsh Sheepdog who teaches Max to be a man. Or an adult dog. Whatever.

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“The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” and “The Kid” are also new to Blu-Ray this week.

By now it is legend among “Batman” fans that when the villainous Joker first appeared in 1940 as Batman’s arch-nemesis, “Batman” creator Bob Kane based the visual on the main character in the 1928 silent film “The Man Who Laughs.” One look at Gwynplaine, the man alluded to in the title so expertly portrayed by actor Conrad Veidt, and the connection is immediate. The similarities, however, are only skin deep. Whereas Kane’s Joker is maniacal and murderous, Veidt’s Gwynplaine is a sweet, tortured soul and a decent man.

“The Man Who Laughs,” based on the novel of the same name by Victor Hugo and directed by Paul Leni, starts off with Gwynplaine as a young child, portrayed by Julius Molnar. The year is 1690 and his father, also played by Veidt, is a Lord who refuses to kiss the ring of King James II (Sam DeGrasse). For this indiscretion the corrupt king and the wicked jester Barkilphedro (Brandon Hurst) condemn the Lord to death in one of the most infamous of all medieval torture devices, the Iron Maiden. Before executing him, the king informs the Lord that a band of gypsies took his son and performed surgery on him to give the child a permanent smile for the rest of his life. Left orphaned and on his own, young Gwynplaine finds his way to the shelter of philosopher Ursus (Cesare Gravina), bringing along with him a young baby who he rescues from her dead mother. Oh, and also, the baby is blind. This is all in the first ten minutes of the movie. Sounds about right for a story based on a novel from the same man who wrote “Les Miserables” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

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Admirably somber, visually arresting and dumber than a bag of hammers, this unusually grim and often nonsensical entry in the iconic franchise benefits from an overqualified A-list cast and seamless CGI. It's an agreeably entertaining mess of a summer spectacle that nevertheless delivers the kaiju mayhem. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

The fate of the world takes a backseat to one family's grieving process in “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” a direct sequel to Gareth Edwards' 2014 Spielbergian monster mash that avoids that flavorless movie's decision to leave the bulk of the creature clashes for the very end, long after this critic had checked out.

But while this new entry in the kaiju franchise begun by Japan's Toho Co., Ltd., has plenty going for it, narrative cohesion and logic are far down the ladder in director/co-screenwriter Michael Dougherty's list of priorities. Characters' choices tend to be questionable at best, foolhardy and self-defeating at worst. It ends up mattering less than it should, since the flimsy plot amounts to little more than connective tissue between the set pieces, and those certainly succeed in sparking your inner child's insatiable desire to see big monsters smash things up good. It's at that visceral level that this Warner Bros. Release, only the third “Godzilla” completely produced by a Hollywood studio, works best.

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There’s not much suspense, the story is predictable, and the characters act illogically. It’s the triple whammy of awful horror movies. 

Is it worth $10? No

“Ma,” the latest from the horror aficionados at Blumhouse Productions (“Get Out”), is part psychological thriller, part horror, and part mess. It’s full of convenience, contrivance, and predictability, with nary a moment of tension throughout. This studio has set the bar high for its releases, and this film is not up to its standards.

It has an interesting premise, but one senses writer Scotty Landes and director Tate Taylor weren’t sure how it should play out. Maggie (Diana Silvers), the new teenager in town, befriends cool kids Haley (McKaley Miller), Andy (Corey Fogelmanis), Chaz (Gianni Paolo) and Darrell (Dante Brown). They like her, she likes them, it works. Outside a liquor store they find a passerby named Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer) to purchase them alcohol. All good – Sue Ann doesn’t even keep the change.

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For many, summer movie season is the best time of the year. Most of the high-profile sequels and spinoffs come at a time when it’s hot outside, cool inside, and the theater has new movies every week that you can’t wait to see.

No studio, of course, plays to the crowd better than Disney, which holds the record for the most money a studio has grossed in a single year, just north of $3 billion. It crossed that threshold twice, in 2016 and 2018. It may cross $3 billion again in 2019 – by the end of the summer!

Consider: “Avengers: Endgame” has already grossed more than $800 million, “Aladdin” just hit theaters, and “Toy Story 4,” “Spider-Man: Far From Home” and “The Lion King” (which is expected to have the highest grossing opening weekend of the summer) are still to come. With “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” arriving in October, “Frozen II” in November and “Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker” in December, the heretofore unheard of $4 billion is certainly within reach for the year.

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It has obvious flaws, including a weak villain and unimpressive singing voices from the male leads, but it’s full of color and imagination and energy, which makes it a real treat. 

Is it worth $10? Yes            

Recent Disney live action remakes have mostly been misfires (“Beauty and the Beast,” “The Jungle Book,” “Cinderella”), so it comes as a wonderful surprise that “Aladdin” is a toe-tapping, crowd-pleasing winner. It has obvious flaws, yes, but it also has an unabashed joy that wins you over.

Fans of the 1992 animated hit, and/or the 2011 Broadway adaptation, know the story: Urchin Aladdin (Mena Massoud) struggles to survive and lives with his pet monkey, Abu. One day in the marketplace Aladdin happens upon Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) and is immediately smitten. She, however, must marry a prince.

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“Isn’t It Romantic?” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.

Soft spoken, insecure Viking leader Hiccup (voice of Jay Baruchel) is back with his trusty black-colored night fury dragon Toothless at his side in “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.” As the movie opens, he raids a ship of dragon trappers with the purpose of setting the captured dragons free so they can live with him and the rest of the rescued dragons in his village. Far from a loner, he embarks on his mission with the help of faithful friends Snotlout (voice of Jonah Hill) and Fishlegs (voice Christopher Mintz-Plasse), as well as twin comrades Ruffnut (voice of Kristen Wiig) and Tuffnut (voice of Justin Rupple). Given that this isn’t the most competent group of Vikings to ever go on a raid, it’s good that Hiccup’s comparatively smarter and more capable girlfriend Astrid (voice of America Ferrera) is also there, and the proceedings are carefully watched over by Hiccup’s dutiful mother Valka (voice of Cate Blanchett). 

This opening sequence is a great way to reintroduce all of the main characters and get re-acquainted with the world of the “How to Train Your Dragon” series. The only notable ones missing from the first few minutes are Gobber (voice of Craig Ferguson) and Eret (voice of Kit Harrington), who we see again in the Viking village after the raid, and Stoick (voice of Gerard Butler), who fans of the series will remember is now deceased, but shows up in some flashbacks.

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Recent Articles

Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Five Feet Apart
“Captain Marvel” and “Leprechaun Returns” ...
The Tomorrow Man **
John Lithgow and Blythe Danner share an ...
Dark Phoenix **
Sophie Turner is all dressed up with ...
The Secret Life Of Pets 2 **1/2
It’s cute and cuddly in all the right ways, ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: The Man Who Laughs
“The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” and “The ...
Godzilla: King of the Monsters **1/2
Admirably somber, visually arresting and ...
Ma *1/2
There’s not much suspense, the story is ...

Best Movie In Theaters Now: Aladdin

It has obvious flaws, including a weak villain and unimpressive singing voices from the male leads, but it’s full of color and imagination and energy, which makes it a real treat. 

Is it worth $10? Yes            

Recent Disney live action remakes have mostly been misfires (“Beauty and the Beast,” “The Jungle Book,” “Cinderella”), so it comes as a wonderful surprise that “Aladdin” is a toe-tapping, crowd-pleasing winner. It has obvious flaws, yes, but it also has an unabashed joy that wins you over.

Fans of the 1992 animated hit, and/or the 2011 Broadway adaptation, know the story: Urchin Aladdin (Mena Massoud) struggles to survive and lives with his pet monkey, Abu. One day in the marketplace Aladdin happens upon Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) and is immediately smitten. She, however, must marry a prince.

Read more
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