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“Bad Samaritan” and “Higher Power” are also new to Blu-Ray this week.

“Avengers: Infinity War” is like a final exam—only way, way more fun. The movie is a culmination of the past 10 years of Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, which kicked off with 2008’s “Iron Man.” All of the superheroes, villains, storylines, and objects (most notably the cosmic “Infinity Stones”) we’ve seen since Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) first blasted his way on to the big screen come to fruition in “Infinity War,” including this year’s earlier entry into the MCU, “Black Panther.” It’s been an amazing ride for the past decade—and it continues to be one.

After being hinted at as the big baddie since his mid-credits appearance in 2012’s “The Avengers,” we finally get to see the Thanos (Josh Brolin) in action. His M.O. is pretty straightforward. In order to achieve peace and balance in the universe, he goes to planets with his loyal minions and wipes out half of the population. But this is tedious, going one planet at a time. It would be much simpler if he could literally snap his fingers and half of the universe would vanish into dust. To do this, he had dwarf Eitri (Peter Dinklage) craft a gauntlet. This gauntlet can hold six Infinity Stones that control various aspects of the universe—Power, Space, Reality, Time, Soul, and Mind. Obtaining all six means that Thanos would become an omnipotent god-like being.

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Giant shark movie doesn’t exactly stink, but sinks anyway. 

Is it worth $10? No 

“The Meg” is a movie at odds with itself. It wants to be a self-aware, tongue-in-cheek monster movie, but it also wants to be an emotional…family film? An intriguing notion, but here it’s pulled off without finesse, resulting in a giant shark movie that lacks…ahem…bite.

Jason Statham stars as Jonas Taylor, a rescue diver and captain who, in the film’s opening, leads an ill-fated expedition to rescue the crew of a sunken submarine. He swears a creature big and strong enough to crush the hull of the immense ship caused him to lose half his crew. He’s not believed.

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Director Spike Lee’s film is a bit long at 135 minutes, but it’s also nicely acted and well told. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

On its own, “BlacKkKlansman” is nicely acted, dramatically engaging, and visually interesting. It’s a good movie. This review is on the basis of those attributes, though it’s clear director Spike Lee is aiming for far more profound (i.e. anti-right) social commentary, and he no doubt alienates half of the potential audience as a result.

Many movies are intended as escapism; “BlacKkKlansman” is the exact opposite. Set in the early ‘70s, it follows a police officer in Colorado Springs named Ron Stallworth (John David Washington, Denzel’s son). Trying to prove himself as a detective, he calls the phone number included in a newspaper recruitment ad for the Klu Klux Klan. He’s convincing. They like him. They want him. He’s African-American.

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“The Death of Superman” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.

There’s something naturally appealing to me about the “middle-aged college student” trope. Perhaps it’s because it serves as an affirmation that age is just a number and that one is never too old for gaining knowledge, getting a degree, and achieving a better life. Or it could be that this trope also shows that one is never too old for over-doing it on agave shots, having promiscuous sex, and doing the walk of shame the following morning. Probably both.

The middle-aged college student in “Life of the Party” is Deanna (Melissa McCarthy), or “Dee Rock” as she later becomes known. Shortly after she and her husband Dan (Matt Walsh) drop their daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) off for her senior year at Decatur University, Dan tells Deanna that he wants a divorce. Anyone who has been dumped and didn’t see it coming--particularly if you were dumped while in the passenger seat of a SUV—will relate to Deanna’s anguish and heart break.

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The visual effects are impressive, but the story isn’t really for kids or adults, and it’s pretty dull.  

Is it worth $10? No  

Walking out of “Christopher Robin,” I struggled to identify its target audience. One would think it’s kids, given the PG-rating and the fact that it’s inspired by beloved children’s stories. But so much of the film is about the adult Christopher (Ewan McGregor) trying to hold onto his job, and keep his wife (Hayley Atwell) and daughter (Bronte Carmichael) happy, that it doesn’t register as appropriate for a seven year-old. Conversely, there’s also not much here for adults, as Christopher’s drama feels half-hearted and there’s little sense of nostalgia for those who loved author A.A. Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh” stories as child.

It plays like a children’s movie for adults, which doesn’t work and doesn’t make sense.

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Documentarian Lauren Greenfield examines society’s obsession with wealth, image and material possessions in this cautionary doc that raises more questions than it can answer. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

The fact that the United States is a nation of avarice and consumption is not a surprising revelation. The question this inspires, however, is intriguing: What does the insatiable desire for money, sexiness, and all things gaudy say about us as a society?

Writer/director Lauren Greenfield’s documentary “Generation Wealth” earnestly tries to answer this question, with only moderate success. Greenfield uses her 20-plus years as a photographer as a way to examine pop culture artifacts, and by extension the populace’s obsession with these items. To her credit, she doesn’t do this by staying behind the camera and judging others; rather, she also looks at herself, her parents, her husband and children to get a sense of how these social mores (especially living in Los Angeles) have affected her life. The results are…nothing revelatory in that the family seems just like everyone else, but in a way, that’s the point.

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

“Tully” is about Marlo (Charlize Theron). Marlo is a miserable woman.

That’s not to say she isn’t sympathetic. As written by Diablo Cody, directed by Jason Reitman, and acted by Theron, we understand Marlo’s plight. On the surface everything seems great. She’s settled into suburban middle class life with her caring husband Drew (Ron Livingston). He just got a promotion that forces him to travel, but when he is home he does what he can to help out with their two kids, eight year old Emmy (Maddie Dixon-Poirier) and five year old Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica). Marlo is pregnant at the start of the movie and due any day. She’s raising a beautiful family in a cozy home in a safe neighborhood. What is there to be miserable about?

For starters, Jonah has emotional issues. When we first see Marlo and Jonah, she is brushing him. At first I thought the kid had a skin condition that required rigorous exfoliation, but come to find out the reason for the brushing is because it helps to relax Jonah. He goes into bouts of frenzied panic and frustration, screeching and yelling. It doesn’t help that he also constantly kicks the back seat as Marlo is trying to drive. His outbursts have caught the attention of the principal (Gameela Wright) of the private school Jonah and his sister attend. She thinks Jonah would be happier elsewhere, and says so in the most roundabout way possible.

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Another spectacular entry in what is probably the best action franchise in movies today. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

No actor working today is more bold, courageous and daring than Tom Cruise. We thought it was cool when he climbed the outside of the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, in the fourth “Mission: Impossible.” Then he literally hung off the side of a plane at the start of the franchise’s next installment. That was mere child’s play compared to what he does in the sixth film, the supremely entertaining “Mission: Impossible – Fallout.”

Here he jumps out of an airplane at 25,000 feet and opens his parachute at 2,000 feet (called a “HALO” (high altitude, low opening) jump). Later, after a helicopter takes off, he climbs up a rope descending from the copter in order to get on board. Once on board, he pilots the copter himself, including a steep descent and 360-degree spin. Yes, he really does all these stunts himself. We take it for granted when he also rides a motorcycle against Paris traffic in an audacious chase; to him (and us viewers) it’s almost routine, and we lose sight of the fact that this sequence would be the highlight of a normal action movie.

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“The Con Is On” is also new to Blu-Ray this week

“Ready Player One” is “Forrest Gump” for Generation Xers. Much like Robert Zemeckis’ Best Picture Oscar winning 1994 movie played on the nostalgia of the Baby Boomers, Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” plays on Gen-X nostalgia, mostly from the 1980s—but with some ‘90s thrown in. It works.

As someone who is part of Gen-X and spent his formative years in the 1980s, half the fun of this movie is spotting all of the cool stuff I remember from my childhood, gasping and pointing to the screen and saying, “DeLorean!” or “The Shining!” or “OMG there’s a ‘Greatest American Hero’ symbol on the side of the protagonist’s visor! So cool!” Even Zemeckis himself gets some nods, not only from the aforementioned DeLorean, which is easily spotted as the centerpiece of his “Back to the Future” trilogy, but also in that what we who remember the ‘80s once called a Rubik’s Cube is now called a Zemeckis Cube.

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A buoyant sequel/prequel to the movie adaptation of the smash Broadway musical leans heavily on its stars' undeniable charisma and splashy, expertly choreographed numbers, especially when it runs out of steam story-wise.  

Is it worth $10? Yes  

“Mamma Mia!” jived its way into the hearts of moviegoers across the globe back in 2008. It also gained a reputation among critics (and quite a few viewers) for the way it showed off some A-listers' pipes, whether they could actually carry a tune or not. In this regard, this reviewer refused to turn into a show tunes snob. Part of the charm of this disarming adaptation of the popular jukebox musical, driven by ABBA's irresistibly kitschy ditties, was to witness Pierce Brosnan warble his way through “SOS” and “When All Is Said and Done.”

If these are cringe-inducing memories you'd like to erase, fear not, dear readers. It's clear the makers of “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” were taking notes. The bouncy, jolly follow-up is slicker, grander and, when it comes to the performers' singing abilities, far more polished. As it turns out, a little too polished. It's a good thing writer-director Ol Parker (“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”) retains much of the joy that made the original a throwback treat, because he's gone too far in the other direction in stepping up the quality of the singing. There's something not quite right here when almost everyone who breaks out into song sounds like a professional talent.

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Recent Articles

Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Avengers: Infinity War
“Bad Samaritan” and “Higher Power” are also new to ...
The Meg **
Giant shark movie doesn’t exactly stink, but ...
BlacKkKlansman ***
Director Spike Lee’s film is a bit long at ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Life of the Party
“The Death of Superman” is also new to ...
Christopher Robin **
The visual effects are impressive, but the story ...
Generation Wealth **1/2
Documentarian Lauren Greenfield examines ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Tully
“Overboard” is also new to Blu-Ray this ...

Best Movie In Theaters Now: Leave No Trace

Minimal drama is a moving story of a father and daughter. 

Is it worth $10? Yes  

At the start of “Leave No Trace,” Will (Ben Foster) and his 13 year-old daughter Tom (Thomasin McKenzie) peacefully co-exist in their home near Portland, Oregon. She’s home-schooled and academically advanced for her age, knows how to cook and provide for herself, and seems happy. To many, this is what a well-adjusted, admittedly socially awkward teenager should look like.

The problem, according to social services, is that they live in a tent in the woods, and are illegally occupying public land. When Will is arrested their situation changes drastically, which prompts two thoughts: 1) Why is anyone telling anyone how to raise their healthy and happy child? And 2) The “system” is rescuing a child who doesn’t need rescuing. If Will and Tom choose and want to live like this, why not leave them alone?

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