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It might no longer be Robert Redford's swan song from screen acting as originally advertised, but this lovely character study, based on the true story of a gentlemanly bank robber in the early 1980s, still works as a career capper and heartfelt tribute to the iconic star. 

Is it worth $10? Yes  

2018 might have more powerful works of cinema. It might have stronger award-season contenders. But it's doubtful most of them will be as lovable as “The Old Man & the Gun,” the latest from “A Ghost Story” auteur David Lowery. This thoroughly winning portrait of real-life career bank robber Forrest Tucker was originally billed as Robert Redford's final screen performance (though the Oscar winner has since wavered on that claim), but make no mistake: Lowery is the real standout here.

The film opens with police chatter, followed by a ticking clock, which suggests we're about to see a tense caper. Not quite. Despite its slim running time, this “Old Man” is mellow and laid back, and all the more enjoyable because of it. Based on David Grann's New Yorker article, the movie sets its comfort-food tone from the get-go, by depicting the most courtly bank robbery imaginable. Tucker (Redford, crinkly eyes and radiant smile wielded for maximum effect) suavely holds up a bank and makes a smooth getaway circa 1981.

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It’s a fascinating story and a good movie, but Armstrong is such a joyless bore that he’s sometimes hard to root for. 

Is it worth $10? Yes  

The biggest shortcoming with “First Man,” director Damien Chazelle and star Ryan Gosling’s follow-up to their Oscar-winning “La La Land,” is that the main character, Gosling’s Neil Armstrong, is a stiff. A bore. Joyless. We barely see him smile. Extremely intelligent and emotionally closed off, Armstrong lacks humor, warmth, and even affection for his family. When asked what extra item he wishes he could take to the moon on Apollo 11, he dryly replies, “more gas.”

Even if you understand why Neil is like this (and he has good reasons), he’s still a difficult protagonist to root for. The emotional heavy lifting is left to Claire Foy (“The Crown”) as Neil’s wife Janet, who cares for their two boys as Neil puts in long hours at NASA. Foy does what she can, but it’s hard to make an impact as the one-note nagging wife of a man risking his life for his work.

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A woman's struggle for authorship in a male-dominated society is given a lighthearted but nuanced spin in this frothy costume drama that gives Keira Knightley and Dominic West meaty roles as the iconic French novelist and her credit-hogging hubby.  

Is it worth $10? Yes  

She stares dumbfounded at the empty page, wondering what on earth she's going to write about. She hasn't been in Paris long, but Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette hasn't exactly been bowled over by the intellectuals her husband Henry keeps company with. The snobbery and shallowness she has to put up with makes her miss the natural beauty of her native Saint Sauveur even more. Wait a minute. The country. A girl. Pow! Just like that, Colette has found something to write about. And then Henry, the very man who encouraged her to put quill to paper, tells her no one would buy such feminine musings.

It will be a very long and arduous road for the budding author to find her voice, but “Colette,” a pert and scintillating biopic about the prolific pensmith, stage actress (and mime) makes that journey a pleasure, thanks to director/co-screenwriter Wash Westmoreland's light touch and a cast that appears to be having a ball bringing Paris in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to life.

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This 1994 camp classic may not necessarily be Palm d’Or material, but its over-the-top visuals, intriguing plot, and cinematic clichés make for what is ultimately an entertaining sci-fi treat.

Roland Emmerich’s 1994 action sci-fi film received mixed reviews when it was released. The Movie Maestro noted that some audiences praised its B-movie aesthetics, while others pointed out its heavy use of Hollywood clichés. It's impressive for such polarizing work, though, as it made $196 million globally, inspired a TV spin-off and even garnered a cult following. Plus, excerpts of Emmerich's interviews were previously shared by Punch Drunk Movies when the director revealed that he is planning to reboot the Stargate franchise.

The movie's plot comes straight from the '90s Hollywood rulebook. It follows Egyptologist Daniel Jackson (James Spader), who was called by the U.S. military to investigate an ancient site. Jackson discovers that the ruin is actually a stargate – a wormhole to another planet. He meets Col. Jack O’Neil (Kurt Russell), and together they enter the stargate with a band of soldiers. In this other world, they meet ancient-looking humans overseen by an alien 'god’ named Ra.

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“Skyscraper,” “Hotel Artemis,” and “Hotel Transylvania 3” are also new to Blu-Ray this week.

It’s not easy being a teen. It’s especially hard to be a shy, introverted, thirteen year old girl with a doughy body and acne. In spite of this, horny boys in her age group will still want to see her naked—and they’re not shy about disclosing this desire. The other girls aren’t that much better. They’re self-obsessed, shallow, vapid, and mean. Good thing there’s dad—the one person in her life who gives her unconditional love and support. The catch is that she regards him as an embarrassment and shuts him out as much as possible. Poor guy—he’s just trying to connect.

This, in a nutshell, is what “Eighth Grade” is all about. As a first time full-length feature from writer-director Bo Burnham, it’s auspicious and impressive. I have a feeling that a lot of Bo’s experiences reflect that of Kayla (Elsie Fisher), the awkward thirteen-year-old at the movie’s center. This is up to and including the fact that kids in middle schools today have active shooter drills in addition to the usual fire drills. Oh, the times in which we live.

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It’s poisonous, alright.

Is it worth $10? No 

I went to dinner before seeing “Venom.” It was a crummy meal. Even the beer was flat. “Venom” is a lot like that beer.

Based on the Marvel comic book character, “Venom” stars Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock, a reporter working out of San Francisco. Looking vaguely disinterested, the talented, British actor plays Eddie with a dodgy American accent, sounding like he’s trying to imitate…Mark Wahlberg? Brock’s covering a story about a string of homeless disappearances when he’s asked to interview Carlton Drake (a weaselly Riz Ahmed. More annoying than remotely scary), genius CEO of the Life Foundation, a shady bioengineering corporation searching the galaxy for habitable planets.

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The Oregon Trail spreads across the screen in all its unvarnished splendor in this off-kilter Western that aims to deconstruct the genre without diminishing its casually Darwinian appeal, rewarding viewers' patience and giving John C. Reilly the chance to give one of his very best performances. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

Gunfire erupts in the dead of night as “The Sisters Brothers,” a new Western with zero plans of romanticizing the genre, opens. Moments later, a burning horse gallops into the dark void, There is no aesthetic allure to the bloodshed, no atmospheric music score to give the shootout a mythical grandeur. From the get-go, it's clear director Jacques Audiard wants to stamp out the signposts viewers associate with Old West screen yarns. And he takes his sweet ol' time doing so.

But stick with this quirky, refreshingly character-driven oater, even as it brandishes its relative lack of incident like a sheriff's star. This ramshackle tale moves to its singular, just-rolled-out-of-bed rhythms. It revels in awkward pauses, those in-between moments that studio productions are all too willing to leave on the cutting room floor. It's as if Audiard (“A Prophet,” “Rust and Bone”), a celebrated French helmer here making his English-language debut, wants you to become frustrated with its titular duo, to reach out through the screen and whack them in the back of the head.

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It’s a good remake, and has multiple options that could contend for the Best Song Oscar.  

Is it worth $10? Yes  

There are moments in “A Star Is Born” that give you goose bumps – Lady Gaga belting out a powerful solo, the tender and frail love story on display, the emotional climax that resonates with warmth and beauty. With Gaga starring opposite Bradley Cooper as the leads, it’s easy to see why the film has such pre-release buzz, why it has been dubbed an Oscar contender by some, and why it is considered the best version of this story by others (more on this later).

Those eager to tout its greatness may want to slow down a bit, but the film is undeniably good, especially the chemistry between Gaga and Cooper, and the real emotional stakes that comprise their characters’ relationship. He plays Jackson Maine, a burned out country music star with a crippling drug and alcohol addiction. She’s Ally, a waitress and aspiring singer yet to be discovered. One night after a show, in a bar, he sees her singing “La Vie En Rose” in French and is immediately transfixed, mesmerized by her voice and beauty. As they spend time together they fall in love, and she becomes a star while his stardom fades.

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“Leave No Trace” and “The First Purge” are also new to Blu-Ray this week.

“Sicario: Day of the Soldado” starts off with a timely event that speaks to our current societal fears. A group of Mexicans are illegally crossing the border into the United States. One of them is a Muslim extremist who blows himself up rather than be caught. We then cut to a non-descript, run of the mill department store in Kansas City filled with people. We see three suspicious-looking men enter into the store. Moments later it blows up. Putting two and two together, we extrapolate that these terrorists got into the United States through our porous southern border.

Based on the opening scenes, it looks like “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” is going to go with the theme and be a “Build that wall!” the movie. It’s doesn’t. After some intel on the bombers is collected by CIA Agent Matt Graver (Josh Brolin), he is brought in by Department of Homeland Security official Cynthia Foards (Catherine Keener) to meet with Secretary of Defense James Riley (Matthew Modine). They hatch a plan to stop the smuggling of people across the border by starting a war between two drug cartels in the area. In classic government style, this will be done through a false flag operation in which they kidnap Isabel (Isabela Moner), the youngest daughter of the Reyes cartel, and make it look like the rival Matamoras cartel is behind it.

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Inspired sight gags and competent voice work keep this pleasant animated musical from leaning too much on its to-thine-own-self-be-true message. It hews to overly familiar beats and is hampered by an unremarkable start, but this sunny portrait of interspecies relations strikes a family-friendly balance between funny and serious. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

That cold breeze you feel as you're watching the pat mythology that opens the easily digestible animated yarn “Smallfoot” is a pervasive sense of déjà vu. Yes, you've been to this frigid, remote village before, only a few years ago it was populated by vikings in fear of large scaly monsters. The latest matinee fare from Warner Animation Group turns that premise on its head, by filling a Himalayan village cut off from the rest of the world with Yetis (aka Bigfoot, er, Bigfeet?). And the titular creature they mention in hushed whispers is the most dangerous of all: human beings.

Sounds like a decent enough concept, right? But “Smallfoot,” directed by veteran screenwriter Karey Kirkpatrick (“James and the Giant Peach,” “Chicken Run”), stumbles out of the gate with a first act that is so perfunctory it may as well have been put together by an android. It appropriates the more annoying aspects of the computer animated adaptations of Dr. Seuss' books, down to some of the Yetis' oval heads and, most distracting of all, eyes placed too close together.

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Recent Articles

The Old Man & The Gun ***1/2
It might no longer be Robert Redford's swan ...
First Man ***
It’s a fascinating story and a good movie, ...
Colette ***
A woman's struggle for authorship in a ...
Extra Blu-Ray Pick Of The Week: Stargate
This 1994 camp classic may not necessarily ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Eighth Grade
“Skyscraper,” “Hotel Artemis,” and “Hotel ...
Venom *
It’s poisonous, alright. Is it worth $10? ...
The Sisters Brothers ***
The Oregon Trail spreads across the screen ...

Best Movie In Theaters Now: A Star Is Born

It’s a good remake, and has multiple options that could contend for the Best Song Oscar.  

Is it worth $10? Yes  

There are moments in “A Star Is Born” that give you goose bumps – Lady Gaga belting out a powerful solo, the tender and frail love story on display, the emotional climax that resonates with warmth and beauty. With Gaga starring opposite Bradley Cooper as the leads, it’s easy to see why the film has such pre-release buzz, why it has been dubbed an Oscar contender by some, and why it is considered the best version of this story by others (more on this later).

Those eager to tout its greatness may want to slow down a bit, but the film is undeniably good, especially the chemistry between Gaga and Cooper, and the real emotional stakes that comprise their characters’ relationship. He plays Jackson Maine, a burned out country music star with a crippling drug and alcohol addiction. She’s Ally, a waitress and aspiring singer yet to be discovered. One night after a show, in a bar, he sees her singing “La Vie En Rose” in French and is immediately transfixed, mesmerized by her voice and beauty. As they spend time together they fall in love, and she becomes a star while his stardom fades.

Read more
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