“The Hate U Give” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.

The engine strains as it’s pushed to its limit. The thin steel shell of a vehicle shakes and buckles under the pressure. Inside, a mortal man tries to remain cool, calm, and collected, monitoring various indicators that ensure him that all is well and he is not going to suddenly die in a fiery heap.

Yes, I am describing what it was like to drive my first car over 50 miles per hour. However, I am also describing the experience of test pilot/engineer/future astronaut and American hero Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) as he pilots the experimental X-15 jet through the various layers of the Earth’s atmosphere in the opening moments of “First Man.” I was luckier than Neil in that I wasn’t 140,000 feet from the ground and didn’t have to worry about “bouncing” off of said atmosphere. For a perspective in how sickeningly high up this is, note that commercial jet liners cruise at an average altitude of 30,000 feet. Neil was up to nearly five times that height.

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It’s not awful, but most should give “Glass” a pass. 

Is it worth $10? No 

Writer/Director M. Night Shyamalan built his career with a solid set of patient, slightly off kilter thrillers (“The Sixth Sense,” “Unbreakable,” and “Signs”). But I got tired of his shtick--gimmicky twist endings, a distracting visual style that bordered on incompetent, etc., a while ago. To my surprise, I actually enjoyed his last film, “Split,” and as “Glass” is his direct sequel to that movie, I was optimistic. But was that hope misplaced? For better or for worse, “Glass” is definitely a Shyamalan movie, a superhero story as seen through his esoteric lens. It has its moments, but it’s not particularly exciting or rewarding.

Picking up after “Split,” itself a stealth sequel to the Bruce Willis starring “Unbreakable,” “Glass” throws together the main characters from those films, creating a real world-esque “Avengers” team-up movie. David Dunn (Willis), 19 years after his journey into discovering his powers in “Unbreakable,” has aged but is still a mostly invulnerable vigilante with incredible strength, roaming the streets of Philadelphia, do-gooding with the help of his son, Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark). As the movie opens, he’s searching for The Horde (James McAvoy), the murderous antagonist (antagonists?) from “Split,” who has 24 distinct personalities, one of them with superpowers of his own. This early portion of the movie plays best as we catch up with these characters, some of whom we haven’t seen in a long time, and watch them interact/intersect for the first time.

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Coogan and Reilly are solid as the titular pair, but film is dramatically uneven and not as funny as you’d expect. 

Is it worth $10? No  

Famous comedians who’ve faded from the limelight present a paradox: We know they’re funny, but haven’t seen them in a while, so we presume they’re retired. Or dead. And wonder, what happened to them?

“Stan & Ollie” knows this, yet never figures out how to handle it. Stan Laurel (Steve Coogan) and Oliver Hardy (John C. Reilly) were the biggest comedy stars in Hollywood in the 1930s, much to the delight of studio boss Hal Roach (Danny Huston). But director Jon S. Baird’s film is not about their heyday; instead, it focuses on the duo’s 1953 stage tour of the United Kingdom, long after they faded from glory on the big screen.

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“Goosebumps 2” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.

LAURIE: It was the boogey man.

LOOMIS: As a matter of fact, it was.

So goes the exchange between terrorized babysitter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and psychiatrist turned vigilante Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) at the end of director John Carpenter’s 1978 seminal slasher masterpiece “Halloween.” These happen to be some of my all-time personal favorite closing lines in all of movies, and coupled with shots of the empty streets and dark, quiet back yards in the Haddonfield, Illinois neighborhood where one Halloween evening turned into a bloodbath, it reiterates the theme of the movie: The boogeyman is real, he is out there, and he cannot be stopped.

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A strong first half gives way to a cliché-ridden conclusion, but Julia Roberts is in top form throughout. 

Is it worth $10? Yes  

“Ben Is Back” asks a fascinating question: What do you do when there’s little reason for hope, yet you can’t bring yourself to give up? The construct of the question manifests as a loving mother (Julia Roberts) welcomes her recovering heroin addict son (Lucas Hedges) home for Christmas even though she knows he could easily relapse, and is a danger to the family.

It’s Christmas Eve in upstate New York. It’s cold with a gray, overcast sky, but snow is on the ground and there are happy holiday vibes in the air. After morning errands, Holly (Roberts) returns home with teenage daughter Ivy (Kathryn Newton) and young twins Lacey (Mia Fowler) and Liam (Jakari Fraser). In her driveway is her oldest son from her first marriage, Ben (Hedges). He’s not supposed to be there, and aside from Holly, everyone is wary about his arrival, including her husband Neal (Courtney B. Vance).

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

“Mid90s” is no normal coming of age story. This is fitting, because Stevie (Sunny Suljic), the thirteen year-old Los Angelino at the center of the story, is no ordinary kid.

Stevie is angsty and angry to the extreme—even for someone his age. The reasons for this are laid bare in the opening moments as his abusive jerk of an older brother Ian (Lucas Hedges), who is around five years older and much bigger than Stevie, gives Stevie a pounding and warns him to stay out of his room. We get the impression that this is a typical part of Stevie’s existence.

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Here are the ten best movies of 2018, followed by a number of superb honorable mentions. It was a solid year at the movies, which should make for a competitive and fun awards season.

For as good a year as it was for dramas, indies and foreign films, it was an even better year for blockbusters, especially Disney’s. Yes, the studio took a hit with “Solo: A Star Wars Story” underperforming, but in the last 11 months three of its releases became one of the top ten highest grossing films of all time. “Black Panther” is third on the list after earning $700 million, “Avengers: Infinity War” is fourth with $678 million, and “Incredibles 2” ranks ninth with $608 million. Thus even with various streaming outlets, home video releases, and more TV than ever before at our disposal, it seems as if the blockbuster movie is alive and well, which means we’ll keep getting more of the same.

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We wouldn’t appreciate the good movies as much without the bad for comparison. And surely, the below titles are as stink-tastic as they come. Below are the five worst movies of 2018, ranked from “best” to the absolute worst. It’s not always good to be number one.

5) Solo: A Star Wars Story
Boy the “Star Wars” movies have gone downhill since Disney took over in 2012. This is the worst thus far, punctuated by a horribly miscast Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo, who doesn’t have the looks, charm or swagger to pull off the character.

4) The Happytime Murders
Fans of the Broadway musical “Avenue Q” will understand what director Brian Henson (son of Muppets creator Jim Henson) was going for with this vulgar mash-up of puppet and detective movies, while the rest will simply hate it without recourse. None of it was funny, but it might be bad enough to get Melissa McCarthy a Razzie nomination. So, there’s that.

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A bawdy, cheekily subversive romp that pokes fun at early 18th century sexual mores and the Darwinian politics of running a monarchy, Yorgos Lanthimos' fish-eyed costume lark is a hoot and a half, at least until it hits a tone-shifting wall late in the game.  

Is it worth $10? Yes  

What kind of period piece is “The Favourite”? So glad you asked. It's the kind of British monarchy tale that shows a scheming lass knocked to the ground, twice, in order to convey how women were regarded as property for men to do as they please. Then it proceeds to stage that treatment as a running gag. It's a female-empowerment comedy of bad manners in tea-and-crumpets clothing, “Dangerous Liaisons” with naughtier zingers. Think of what an auteur like Pedro Almodóvar might have done to “Barry Lyndon,” then add a healthy dollop of misanthropy, and you get the impertinent picture. A lot of it is so wrong, yet it (mostly) feels so right.

That misanthropy comes courtesy of director Yorgos Lanthimos, the Greek enfant terrible who  assaulted moviegoers' sensibilities in movies like the deadpan dysfunctional family comedy “Dogtooth” and the dystopian satire “The Lobster,” the latter of which imagined a not-so-distant future where you get turned into an animal of your choosing if you're unable to find a life partner. “The Favourite” is the first Lanthimos joint I've seen where he is not a credited screenwriter, but even as whole chunks of it play like he came into this project as a hired gun, it also shows the idiosyncratic filmmaker can work well with others and still retain his cheerfully pessimistic voice.

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Too much of a screed to be a great movie, the film’s anger is still palpable and ultimately rousing. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

Who is Dick Cheney? It’s a simple question with a seemingly simple answer; he was America’s vice president from 2001 until 2009. But who was he as a person, what made him tick, and what did he do in the White House for those eight years? Harder questions to answer, certainly, especially for a secretive man like Cheney. “Vice” valiantly attempts to answer these questions, and through its comedy via Oliver Stone prism, it answers some of them more successfully than others.

“Vice” is a polemic, a righteous assault on a corrupt, self-serving government, which, unfortunately, is our government. As such it’s anything but subtle. Anger rarely is. “Vice” works best when it uses all of the cinematic tools at its disposal to clearly lay out how Cheney and his assorted white men of power abused their influence. It’s anger is palpable and often disturbingly funny.

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Recent Articles

Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: First Man
“The Hate U Give” is also new to Blu-Ray ...
Glass **
It’s not awful, but most should give ...
Stan & Ollie **
Coogan and Reilly are solid as the titular ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Halloween
“Goosebumps 2” is also new to Blu-Ray this ...
The Upside **
Lame when it comes to drawing laughs and ...
Ben Is Back **1/2
A strong first half gives way to a ...
Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Mid90s
“Hell Fest” is also new to Blu-Ray this ...

Best Movie In Theaters Now: If Beale Street Could Talk

It’s a beautifully made film from director Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”), as the music, narrative structure and performances (especially Regina King) are outstanding. 

Is it worth $10? Yes  

What a heartbreaking film “If Beale Street Could Talk” is, in all the best ways a movie can be heartbreaking. None of it is melodramatic – all the emotions are earned, be they for pain, desperation, or yearning. What’s more, the love we see on screen is pure, and the challenges to that love are tragic.

Based on the 1974 James Baldwin novel, it tells the story of Tish (newcomer KiKi Lane) and Fonny (Stephan James), childhood friends who in 1970s Harlem fall in love. She’s shy, introverted, reserved. He’s a bit more outgoing, gentle and strong. We easily see why they love one another, and it’s clear that if you’re going to root for any couple to succeed, it’s them. In flashbacks we see their initial moments together are tender and awkward, as many first dates and sexual encounters can be. This also makes them relatable and real. Soon, she’s pregnant. They’re ecstatic, her family is ecstatic. Here they are, these young, impoverished kids, makin’ a go of it in this crazy world.

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