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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“The 15:17 to Paris” and “Red Sparrow” are also new to Blu-Ray this week. 

There’s something about the names “Max and Annie” that practically cries out “cute couple who are meant for each other.” For Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) in “Game Night,” it happens to be true.

The movie’s opening montage shows how these two ultra-competitors met during a pub trivia night in college, hit it off, and got married. The one constant in their lives is their regular weekend gathering with their friends to play various games of skill, knowledge, and chance—always in the safety and comfort of their home and always with plenty of Tostitos and salsa on hand.

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Worthy sequel delivers in many respects, but isn't quite as good as the original. 

Is it worth $10? Yes  

Fear and excitement pervade one’s emotions entering “Deadpool 2.” The 2016 original was so brash, hilarious and enjoyable that it’d be easy for its sequel to try too hard (think “Anchorman 2”), which would suck all the fun out of it.

Thankfully, “Deadpool 2” is as vulgar, self-aware and outrageous as we expect. It’s also bigger and better than its predecessor in a variety of ways, with one notable exception: They bungled the villain.

Director David Leitch’s (“Atomic Blonde”) film begins with Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) more righteous than ever, slaying bad guys all over the world. He’s still happy with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), and they’re planning to have a child. Yep, things couldn’t better for our favorite superhero who insists he’s not a superhero.

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

If you dislike anything about “Black Panther” then you’re a hate-filled, bigoted, alt-right, neo-Nazi who is literally worse than Hitler. Buy it before innocent refugees get murdered by AR-15s.

Well, that was the easiest review I ever wrote. Thanks everyone!

Sigh. Yeah, movies were better when they were about entertainment, possibly with some life lessons or messages about human nature thrown in. You know, before hysterical nut jobs on tumblr and twitter started politicizing and weaponizing movies to attack anyone who dare not share their opinion. Can nothing be left alone by these loons? They’re like a cancer. A rectal cancer, to be exact.

Even when I look at “Black Panther” through a political lens, the politics in it aren’t anything that they would support when applied to the United States. When King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), who is also the hero of the title, says, “I am the king of Wakanda, not the king of the world,” it’s a statement that rings very close to one made by our current president, who the tumblrinas are known to object to--if I may state it so mildly.

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Melissa McCarthy goes back to school in this college comedy with a few surprises up its sleeve. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

“Life of the Party” does not get off to a good start. Overbearing mother Deanna (Melissa McCarthy) and her emotionally distant husband Dan (Matt Walsh) drop their daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) off for college. Deanna is tearful, Dan wants to beat traffic and get home. Then, bombshell: Before they leave the driveway Dan tells Deanna he’s leaving her for another woman (Julie Bowen). What’s a divorced, clingy mother to do after 23 years of marriage? Enroll at her daughter’s college and finally get her degree, of course.

These opening moments, including Deanna’s first few days at school, are tired and loathsome. She wears “mom” sweaters, doesn’t know what to make of her oddball roommate (Heidi Gardner), and is made fun of by mean girls. She even tells an embarrassing story about Maddie urinating in her underwear – how does Deanna not know she shouldn’t do this in front of Maddie’s friends?

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Stellar doc about one of the most powerful and influential women in the United States unapologetically champions its protagonist, but the impact of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg cannot be denied.

Is it worth $10? Yes  

When she was a child, Ruth Bader Ginsburg enjoyed playing with the boys, and shared their interests – she was as far from a “girly-girl” as one could imagine. Little did she know how indicative this would be of her future, in which she’d ascend to the (predominantly male) highest court in the land and earn a fierce reputation to boot.

In 97 minutes that fly by, “RBG” tells Ginsburg’s life story in a way that venerates her from the start, and it’s a credit to filmmakers Julie Cohen and Betsy West that by the end we believe she deserves the accolades. The film is not trying to be objective – its sole focus is to champion a life and career well lived. So yes it shamelessly adores, but the facts are what they are, and Ginsburg made the facts a reality. What can be argued is her impact in a larger context, but that’s a debate for another time.

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An air of déja vu pervades this unremarkable coming-of-age tale, set in the mid-1970s, that fails to make viewers feel much empathy for its pudgy protagonist and wastes a sturdy cast that includes Donald Sutherland, Luke Wilson and Judy Greer.  

Is it worth $10? No  

From the opening moments of “Measure of a Man,” it's clear this is yet another of those movies about the summer that changed everything. You've heard this story before, and you've likely seen the generic titles of many, many others like it while scanning through the digital display at the box office of your local multiplex on one of those nights when you're not sure what you want to see, so why not take a chance on the small, obscure dramedy with a couple of familiar names?

This is not one of those unheralded gems, I'm sorry to report, even though, at least on paper, it had all the makings of just such a sleeper. Take, for instance, the main character. Bobby Marks (“The Maze Runner's” Blake Cooper) has a mop of curly hair, a disdain for arrogant “cool” kids, a penchant for candy bars and an aversion to those warm months when class is not in session. How do we know this? “I hate summer vacation,” intones an adult Bobby in voiceover narration, a device that the film's director, British TV vet Jim Loach, uses to state the obvious. Again and again. Think of the TV show “The Wonder Years,” then take away most of the charm.

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“50 Shades Freed” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.

On rare occasions, I like a movie because it is incredibly imaginative and visually stunning, even though the plot makes little to no sense. It is on these occasions that I remind myself to abide by a quote from legendary movie director Stanley Kubrick: “Real is good. Interesting is better.” There is no way, shape, or form that “Batman Ninja” is real, makes sense, or is in the least bit plausible. But my oh my, is it interesting.

The premise that underlies this incredibly creative Japanese animated movie is actually fairly straightforward. After a fight at Arkham Asylum with Gorilla Grodd (voice of Fred Tatasciore) in which the big ape’s time displacement machine activates, Batman (voice of Roger Craig Smith) and his allies Catwoman (voice of Grey DeLisle), Nightwing (voice of Adam Croasdell), Red Robin (voice of Will Friedle), Robin (voice of Yuri Lowenthal), and Red Hood (Lowenthal again) all find themselves transported to feudal Japan. Of course, they are not alone. The Joker (voice of Tony Hale) is also there, along with minions Harley Quinn (voice of Tara Strong), Two-Face (voice of Eric Bauza), Penguin (voice of Tom Kenny), Deathstroke (Tatasciore again), and Poison Ivy (Strong again). Each of them has become a daimyo (warlord in control of a certain area of land) and holds a part of the time displacement machine. Batman and his allies must defeat Joker and his allies in order to get back to present day Gotham City.

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Summer movie season started a week early this year, with “Avengers: Infinity War” hitting theaters the last week of April rather than the first week of May, which is the traditional start of the season.

Why a week earlier? Money, of course. Disney had planned a May 4 release, and waited until other high-profile movies stayed two weeks away from that date before moving to April 27. Those sly foxes at the Mouse House got themselves an extra week of moviegoer’s prime attention!

Of course, it’s not the only high-profile release this summer. What follows is my annual lighthearted look at what to expect on the big screen through July, including The Rock leaping tall buildings in a single bound, a pope documentary, and more “Mission: Impossible.” To borrow from one of this summer’s titles, “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”!

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“Winchester” and “Peter Rabbit” are also new to Blu-Ray this week

“12 Strong” is about the bravery of soldiers, the worry of their wives, their chop-busting camaraderie during the down time, and their cohesion and care for each other during battle time. In other words, it doesn’t do much to move the needle forward in terms of the standard formula for movies about a gallant group of *insert here (police, firefighters, special forces, girl scouts) who eke out a victory in the face of overwhelming odds. While I will say that the formula is wearing a bit thin, I’m not quite sick of it yet and it still works.

The movie wastes no time. It hits the ground running with a quick history lesson starting with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and ends with the infamous September 11, 2001, attacks. I’ll give it points for not dwelling too long on the events of that day and attempting emotional manipulation on those who lived through it and remember it all too well.

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Recent Articles

Solo: A Star Wars Story *1/2
Dreary and labored, it’s yet another ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Game Night
“The 15:17 to Paris” and “Red Sparrow” are also ...
Deadpool 2 ***
Worthy sequel delivers in many respects, ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Black Panther
“Bent” is also new to Blu-Ray this week. If ...
Life of the Party **1/2
Melissa McCarthy goes back to school in ...
RBG ***
Stellar doc about one of the most powerful and ...
Measure of a Man **
An air of déja vu pervades this ...

Best Movie In Theaters Now: Ready Player One

Easily Spielberg’s best action movie since “Minority Report,” and so much fun! 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

What a blast!

From the moment Van Halen’s “Jump” greets us in the opening credits to the very end, “Ready Player One” is as smile inducing as movies come. It’s full of pop culture references and wonderfully creative action, often to the beat of ‘80s rock music. This is director Steven Spielberg at his finest, reminding us that he created the summer blockbuster (“Jaws”) and pure action extravaganzas (“Raiders of the Lost Ark”). We’ve missed this type of greatness from him.

The year is 2045, and society is in ruins. People live in stacked housing in Columbus, Ohio, because it’s the fastest growing city in the world, even though the only direction it can grow is up. To escape the doldrums of reality people enter the “Oasis,” a virtual reality play land created by James Halliday (Mark Rylance) in which individuals can be anything they desire – the only limit is one’s imagination. 

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