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“Pacific Rim: Uprising” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.

I once watched an episode of “Judge Judy” where she admonished a woman for not reading the fine print before signing a contract. Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) in “Unsane” could have used the same advice.

Not that Sawyer is without issues. She was forced to move away from her hometown of Boston after an incident with a stalker. While she may be physically free of him, she is not mentally free of him. She still has flashes where she sees his face. These flashes come at inopportune times, like just as she is about to get into some love making with a random stranger.

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The fragile male ego is as daunting an obstacle as any of the other challenges faced by the women of a rural French community living in the shadow of World War I in this impeccably crafted period piece that's quietly absorbing, at least until some soap opera plotting threatens to derail it.

Is it worth $10? Yes

“The Guardians” is a film about the daily grind of farm life. It's about the sweat that trickles down the brow of an aging worker as she plows the field. It's about serene vistas that help take one's mind off faraway bloodshed from which loved ones may not come back. It's a film about wistful glances and emotional exhaustion. But most of all, this rigorous, old-fashioned wartime epic is about stamina and resolve in the face of adversity.

The latest feature from Xavier Beauvois, the director of the Cannes-winning faith-themed drama “Of Gods and Men,” follows the Sandrail household throughout World War I, as family matriarch Hortense (a nearly unrecognizable Nathalie Baye) and her daughter Solange (Laura Smet, Baye's real-life daughter) struggle to upkeep the Paridier farm while her two sons Constant (Nicolas Giraud), a former schoolteacher, and Georges (Cyril Descours) are off fighting “the Krauts,” as the pupils Constant left behind call them.

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It’s not “incredible,” but it is a worthy sequel you will enjoy.

Is it worth $10? Yes

“Incredibles 2” has outstanding action sequences, charming humor, and a nice message. It also showcases crisp animation in addition to the whimsy, wonder and warmth that pervades all of Pixar Animation’s productions. It is as enjoyable a crowd pleaser as they come, great for the whole family and an ideal summer “school’s out” escape.

Fans of “The Incredibles” (2004) will recall the film ends with the super-powered Incredibles family on its way to the rescue after “The Underminer” starts wreaking havoc in the city. “Incredibles 2” picks up right there, with Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), teenager Violet (Sarah Vowell), youngster Dash (Huck Milner), and baby Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile) as well as friend Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) saving the day.

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“The Strangers: Prey at Night” and “Sherlock Gnomes” are also new to Blu-Ray this week.

Those of us who know Lara Croft from previous “Tomb Raider” movies and the popular video game series most likely remember certain key aspects about her: the British accent, the pony tail, the money and the mansion, as well as her acrobatic abilities, well-honed fighting skills, and prowess with wielding dual pistols. As played by Alicia Vikander in this version of “Tomb Raider,” all she has is the British accent. The rest she needs to work on. Even the pony tail.

Director Roar Uthaug’s movie takes us back before Lara Croft became the one we all know. This is an origin story that begins with Lara getting pummeled in a boxing ring by an opponent, stealing an apple because she can’t afford anything to eat, and getting arrested because she crashes into a police car during an illegal bicycle race. The reason she is in the race in the first place is because she needs the money.

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This is what a great, twisted horror movie looks like. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

“Hereditary” is notably uninterested in horror movie conventions, and is much better because of it. It’s R-rated, yet never gory. It has adult themes, and super-freaky supernatural stuff happens, but never in a predictable way. Best of all, there are zero jump scares. None. The time-honored, woefully overdone trope of surprising an audience with sudden peril is pleasantly absent here, as is the only thing worse than a jump scare: a fake jump scare. If nothing else, this film is to be appreciated for not being cheap and easy.

To be sure, writer/director Ari Aster isn’t reinventing the genre, but he does demonstrate impressive poise in his feature film directorial debut. As it opens we learn of the death of 78 year-old Ellen. Her daughter, Annie (Toni Collette), grandchildren Peter (Alex Wolff) and Charlie (Millie Shapiro), and Annie’s husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne) prepare for Ellen’s funeral. As can happen, the family seems perfunctorily sad she’s gone, and in fact Annie comments that she thinks she should feel worse. No one cries. Ellen was liked, but was also a cold person with whom only Charlie felt close, and at 13 and likely dealing with her first death, Charlie probably doesn’t know what or how to feel. Annie does ultimately end up in grief counseling, where she meets Joan (Ann Dowd), who ironically once purchased a welcome mat from Ellen. Small world indeed.

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All-star, female led ensemble has just as little success as the men did in the “Ocean’s” sequels.

Is it worth $10? No

There’s a reason the George Clooney/Brad Pitt “Ocean’s 11” trilogy felt played out by the end – it’s hard to come up with original ideas for heist movies. Yet here we are with a Sandra Bullock/Cate Blanchett spinoff entitled “Ocean’s 8,” which woefully fails to breathe new life into the franchise.

Bullock plays Debbie Ocean, the sister of Clooney’s unseen and now deceased (or is he?) Danny. Bullock is fresh out of prison, and we learn that she spent her five years in the slammer plotting a heist. To pull it off, she needs a team. Enter long time friend Lou (Blanchett), computer hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna), jewelry expert Amita (Mindy Kaling), fashion designer Rose (Helena Bonham Carter), pickpocket Constance (Awkwafina), and Debbie’s old accomplice Tammy (Sarah Paulson). You’ll notice there are only seven women listed here. No, I didn’t forget anyone. The eighth person becomes predictable as the movie plays, but nonetheless should not be revealed in a review.

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Ethan Hawke delivers the performance of his career as a frail small-town pastor grappling with a crisis of faith and an ecological awakening in writer-director Paul Schrader's potent character study. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

The faithful look to their clergy for spiritual guidance, to provide tranquility and solace to those seeking counsel in matters of the spirit. They make rough waters quiet. They push forward and spread stillness in turbulent times. So what happens when a man of a cloth finds himself stifled by his collar? When he finds his resolve shaken to the core?

Reverend Ernst Toller of First Reformed Church in Snowbridge, N.Y. tries to give voice to his despair by starting a diary. Anecdotes from his daily routine, liturgical ruminations and institutional grudges are put on paper in neat longhand. And so he whiles away those hours in the dead of night, fueled by an altogether different kind of (bottled) spirit at his desk when he should be sleeping or perhaps working on a sermon, as his house of worship nears its 250th anniversary.

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“A Wrinkle in Time” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.

The setting for a movie like “Death Wish” is of the utmost importance. For a story about a vigilante roaming the streets and doling out his own brand of justice to the criminal underworld, the city he inhabits must be filled with crime and violence. So Chicago is perfect, and the choice couldn’t be more timely.

The opening moments are filled with voice over clips from news sources, citing the high number of violent crimes and shootings in the city. Shortly afterward, in a sequence of energetic long takes, we see a police officer rushed into the emergency room for a gun shot wound. The attending surgeon is Dr. Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis). He does what he can, then while consoling the officer’s partner, he’s told that the shooter now needs to be looked at. While Kersey is walking away, the partner asks if he is really going to save the life of the criminal who shot his partner. Without looking back, Kersey responds, “If I can.”

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

The high concept pitch to the studio for “Annihilation” must have been something like: It’s “Legend” meets “The Blair Witch Project” with a dash of “The Descent” and some heady “2001: A Space Odyssey”-esque sci fi thrown in. Or, that’s how I would have pitched it. I’ll unpack these references later for those who may be unfamiliar.

“Annihilation” stars Natalie Portman as Lena, an ex-Army soldier who now works in the private sector teaching biology at Johns Hopkins. The movie is her story, told in flashback to a very inquisitive man in a hazmat suit (Benedict Wong). Seems that Lena is the lone survivor of an expedition to explore a strange phenomenon that’s appeared over a wooded area, which has been dubbed “The Shimmer.”

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Dreary and labored, it’s yet another misstep in the Disney-owned “Star Wars” saga. 

Is it worth $10? No  

You know "Solo: A Star Wars Story" is off to a bad start when you have to read an essay before it begins. Not in the form of scrolling text, as is normal for an "Episode" film in the "Star Wars" franchise, but in staid blue text, appearing after we're reminded the story takes place "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away." It's a set up for what's to come, but none of it is relevant: Names of places, objects being smuggled, etc., are MacGuffins, and easily discerned from the opening moments without the aid of the literary information preceding it. Spoon-feeding the audience isn't necessary, but this is what the “Star Wars” movies have come to: Catering to “everyone” and taking few artistic risks along the way. This movie is enormous, ugly and dull, an all-out disappointment that no one asked for in the first place.

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Recent Articles

Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Unsane
“Pacific Rim: Uprising” is also new to ...
The Guardians **1/2
The fragile male ego is as daunting an ...
Incredibles 2 ***
It’s not “incredible,” but it is a worthy ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Tomb Raider
“The Strangers: Prey at Night” and ...
Hereditary ***1/2
This is what a great, twisted horror movie ...
Ocean’s 8 **
All-star, female led ensemble has just as ...
First Reformed ***1/2
Ethan Hawke delivers the performance of his career ...

Best Movie In Theaters Now: Hereditary

This is what a great, twisted horror movie looks like. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

“Hereditary” is notably uninterested in horror movie conventions, and is much better because of it. It’s R-rated, yet never gory. It has adult themes, and super-freaky supernatural stuff happens, but never in a predictable way. Best of all, there are zero jump scares. None. The time-honored, woefully overdone trope of surprising an audience with sudden peril is pleasantly absent here, as is the only thing worse than a jump scare: a fake jump scare. If nothing else, this film is to be appreciated for not being cheap and easy.

To be sure, writer/director Ari Aster isn’t reinventing the genre, but he does demonstrate impressive poise in his feature film directorial debut. As it opens we learn of the death of 78 year-old Ellen. Her daughter, Annie (Toni Collette), grandchildren Peter (Alex Wolff) and Charlie (Millie Shapiro), and Annie’s husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne) prepare for Ellen’s funeral. As can happen, the family seems perfunctorily sad she’s gone, and in fact Annie comments that she thinks she should feel worse. No one cries. Ellen was liked, but was also a cold person with whom only Charlie felt close, and at 13 and likely dealing with her first death, Charlie probably doesn’t know what or how to feel. Annie does ultimately end up in grief counseling, where she meets Joan (Ann Dowd), who ironically once purchased a welcome mat from Ellen. Small world indeed.

Read more
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