A fantastic performance by Alicia Vikander is just enough to breathe new life into this “Tomb.” 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

Five years ago the Tomb Raider video-game franchise was rebooted with the release of “Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition.” The game began what would be a trilogy of games telling Lara Croft’s origin story and chronicle some of her first adventures. The release of this film marks the cinematic reboot of the franchise that once starred Angelina Jolie. The story of the movie borrows heavily from the 2013 video game reboot, including plot points, characters, and entire action sequences. However, the one thing from the game missing in the new movie is the excitement. This is not a bad movie, but it is a bad adaptation.

In the movie, Lara Croft discovers mysterious notes left by her father that spur her into action to continue his quest to prevent the spread of a world-ending catastrophe. This leads her on a boat ride into the Devil’s Sea where she shipwrecks on the lost island of Yamatai, at which an ancient Japanese empress, Himiko, is said to be buried. But an evil organization is also on the track of Himiko and are willing to use deadly force and slave labor to reach their goal. No more generic, color-by-number plot could have possibly been created.

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If you want to watch a great movie about hostages and near escapes…skip this and watch “Argo” again. 

Is it worth $10? No             

If you’re going to make a movie about terrorists hijacking an airplane in an effort to bring a country to its knees, it must above all be suspenseful. “7 Days In Entebbe” is not. It’s rather dull, actually, and inexplicably, given the talent, production value, and story involved.

Gregory Burke’s script is based on the true story of a 1976 Air France flight that was hijacked by Palestinian terrorists while on its way to Tel Aviv. If director Jose Padilha’s film is labored because of its faithfulness to true events, that is an unforgiveable mistake. Burke and Padilha are not making a documentary, meaning artistic license is expected in order to tell the story in an entertaining and engaging way. This film is neither.

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Best Picture Oscar winner “The Shape of Water,” “Justice League” and “Call Me By Your Name” are also new to Blu-Ray this week.  

It occurred to me toward the end of “I, Tonya,” when footage of O.J. Simpson is seen briefly on a television screen, that 1994 was a banner year for scandals. While O.J. may have been what occupied the summer of 1994, it’s Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding who reigned supreme over the first half of the year.

Harding is played in “I, Tonya” by Margot Robbie in a performance that garnered her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress and proved to everyone that she has the chops to do some very heavy dramatic lifting. I do hope she keeps playing Harley Quinn in the DC movies though. She’s perfect for the part and looks like she’s having a blast playing it—so I in turn have a blast watching it. There’s no reason she can’t mix the serious with the fun and do both exceptionally well.

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This disaster movie with a heist twist is, well, a disaster. 

Is it worth $10? No 

Sometimes you go to a movie that looks as spectacularly bad as “The Hurricane Heist” because you hope – with foolish optimism – that it’ll be just your kind of trash. Then you watch it and are reminded most trash is not the good kind. What you hoped would be campy fun is actually a global disaster of a motion picture. It’s not even so bad it’s good, which makes it even worse.

Will (Toby Kebbell) is a meteorologist. He’s chases storms in a custom-made truck that he calls “The Dominator.” He’s one of those characters whose gut tells him an oncoming storm is going to be bigger than the experts think, and of course turns out to be correct. Will’s brother, Breeze (Ryan Kwanten), lives in the fictional town of Gulfport, Alabama, which is where a Category Five hurricane is heading.

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This one’s strictly for the kids. 

Is it worth $10? If you have children, Yes. 

“A Wrinkle in Time” is preceded by a short intro featuring the film’s director, Ava DuVernay. It’s a rambling welcome, but something in it caught my attention. The movie is for 12 year olds, she says, the 12 year olds at heart. That term, 12 years old, kept repeating, over and over, like a broken record. As the film unspooled, it became clear why. Her intro was not a welcome, it was a warning: Adults need not apply.

Meg Murry (Storm Reid) is a deeply unhappy girl. Four years prior, her astrophysicist father Alex (Chris Pine), on the cusp of discovering a revolutionary method of interdimensional travel, disappeared without a trace. On the anniversary of his vanishing, Meg is visited by three astral travelers, Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling, and no, sadly, she’s not a doctor). They reveal to Meg that her father has been imprisoned by an evil entity known as The It (voiced by David Oyelowo). Able to fold time and space, the Mrs. Ws take Meg, along with her genius kid brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), and a chivalric friend from school, Calvin (Levi Miller), on a journey through the universe to save her father.  

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Frenemy party goers discuss hot-button topics that amount to little. 

Is it worth $10? No 

“The Party” is a confused movie that tries to be about many things and is effectively about none. At 71 minutes it’s too brief to take on themes such as infidelity, health care, female empowerment, and gay relationships with any kind of substance, and yet it touches on all those hot-button topics in a way that feels perfunctory rather than meaningful.

The drama is presented in black and white, which is a terrible idea for two reasons: 1) It will hinder the film’s box office prospects, and more importantly 2) The story is anything but black and white, anything but something that can lead to a definitive yes or no and right or wrong. Perhaps director Sally Potter intended to provide an omnipresent “gray area” for the characters to inhabit, but you can’t help but think a wide variety of colors would’ve reflected the story better given the myriad issues presented.

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“Thor: Ragnarok,” “Wonder Wheel,” and “The Man Who Invented Christmas” are also new to Blu-Ray this week. 

Generations are an interesting topic. The people in them all tend to be defined by certain traits. These traits are painted on with a very large brush using very broad strokes, but there is truth to them. It’s also interesting to note the overlap. For example, the Baby Boomers born in the early 1960s have more in common with the Generation Xers of the mid to late sixties than they do with their fellow Boomers born in the ‘40s or ‘50s. Likewise, there seems to be an overlap in which Millennials born in the ‘80s have more in common with Gen Xers than they do with Millennials born in the ‘90s.

Of course, the defining characteristics of any generation are very simplistic and over-arching, plus they fail to take into account an individual person’s character and experiences. However, they can be useful as general guidelines for a point in the right direction. That’s how I came to reconcile the fact that while the title character of “Lady Bird,” played by Saoirse Ronan in an Oscar nominated role, is a Millennial--a generation known for conformity and obedience—she behaves like a Gen Xer, a generation known for questioning the status quo and not trusting authority. It’s telling that the action of the movie takes place over the course of Lady Bird’s senior year in a Sacramento High School, from 2002 to 2003. She’s seventeen when the movie starts, so she was born in 1985. Now the rebellious streak makes sense.

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"The Shape of Water" won four Oscars and was the big winner, while fellow Best Picture nominees "Dunkirk," "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" and "Darkest Hour" took two apiece. 

We knew going in that the Oscars were going to be predictable, and by and large they were. The two biggest question marks were Original Screenplay and Best Picture -- Jordan Peele took Original Screenplay for "Get Out," while "The Shape of Water" grabbed Best Picture as well as Best Director, Production Design and and Original Score. This year's indie darling and crowd favorite "Lady Bird" went home empty handed, to the dismay of many.

Below are my thoughts, observations and general musings while watching the 90th Annual Academy Awards:

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A chaotic year in Hollywood has led to a fairly bland awards season, as many of the favorites in major categories have dominated the early accolades. That is, except for Best Picture. That’s anyone’s guess, and what fun it’s been to trace that race’s trajectory this year.

Of course, there’s more reason to watch the Oscars than just the awards. There’s the fashion. The tradition. Host Jimmy Kimmel. And this year in particular there’s the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement, which we can expect to be addressed throughout the evening.

We already a know it’s affected the Oscars a few ways: Tradition holds that acting winners from the previous year return to present the same award to the other gender, but last year’s Best Actor winner Casey Affleck (“Manchester By The Sea”) will not return. You may recall him financially settling sexual misconduct allegations made against him during production of his film “I’m Still Here” (2010), so he voluntarily bowed out of the obligation. Similarly, James Franco was thought to be a shoo-in for a Best Actor nomination for his great work in “The Disaster Artist,” but sexual misconduct allegations by five women shortly before Oscar balloting closed likely eradicated his chance at a nomination.

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“Murder on the Orient Express,” “Darkest Hour,” and “Coco” are also new to Blu-Ray this week. 

Generally speaking, movies, in their drive to show life but with the boring parts cut out, tend to over-simplify. Typically, even a movie with a complex character at its center, like Mildred (Frances McDormand) in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” would short change the supporting players and make them one dimensional. In a lesser developed movie, Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) would be brash and incompetent and his deputy Dixon (Sam Rockwell) would be a stereotypical one-note racist cop with no redeeming qualities who gets some kind of comeuppance at the end. Much to my delight and gratifying refreshment, “Three Billboards” is not one of these lesser developed movies.

The plot is straightforward. Approximately seven months before the start of the movie, Mildred’s daughter Angela (played in a flashback by Kathryn Newton) was raped and immolated in a vicious attack right by Mildred’s home. Willoughby, the chief of police, did a thorough investigation, but not thorough enough for Mildred. In order to motivate him into further action to solve her daughter’s murder, Mildred rents out three billboards from Red (Caleb Landry Jones), the local owner of the billboards. On them she questions Willoughby’s ability to solve the case and asks why the investigation has stalled.

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Recent Articles

Tomb Raider **1/2
A fantastic performance by Alicia Vikander is ...
7 Days In Entebbe **
If you want to watch a great movie about ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: I, Tonya
Best Picture Oscar winner “The Shape of ...
The Hurricane Heist *
This disaster movie with a heist twist is, ...
A Wrinkle in Time **1/2
This one’s strictly for the kids. Is it ...
The Party **
Frenemy party goers discuss hot-button ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Lady Bird
“Thor: Ragnarok,” “Wonder Wheel,” and “The Man Who ...

The Best Picture Oscar Nominees

This year there were 341 films eligible for the Best Picture Oscar, but only these nine made the cut.

Which movie will the 7,258 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences choose as its Best Picture? It's a wide open race and tough year to predict, and still too early to tell. (Full Oscar predictions coming closer to Oscar night.)

Below are links to the reviews for the nine nominated films. You can find reviews of the Foreign Language Oscar nominees here.

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