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Black Christmas is DOA (Movie Review)

Those looking for wit, thrilling kills, and bite will be let down by Black Christmas. Pitched as a #MeToo-era slasher flick under the Blumhouse brand, the reality is a movie merely paying lip service to a worthy cause. Imogen Poots (Green Room) manages to come out of this unscathed, but the rest of the cast can’t escape too many flat line readings. Also, the dreaded PG-13 vibe is rampant, as this film was clearly aiming for an R rating before it was gutted. Still, I’m not sure a director’s cut can save an undeveloped premise featuring sorority sisters being terrorized by brain-washed, white frat bros. The first lump of coal of the holidays, Black Christmas isn’t naughty or nice… just bland.

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Richard Jewell Is Bare Bones Reporting (Movie Review)

Clint Eastwood’s latest film to tackle a hero who was unfairly scrutinized in the public eye is, for better or worse, exactly what you think it is. The story of a would-be lawman whose instincts to be overly cautious led to the discovery of a bomb that could have killed hundreds at a music fest during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta is told plainly, almost to a fault. There are many sides to this story, but Eastwood only lets his audience sympathize with one of them. If we lived in a vacuum, this would be fine, but in 2019 we most certainly do not. Strong performances and a steady hand by the 89-year-old filmmaker ensures this flick will be enjoyable to many over the holiday break. Still, a bolder film would have at least attempted to illuminate different POVs. As a result, Richard Jewell is more Sully than Million Dollar Baby.

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Jumanji: The Next Level Means Game Over For The Princess Bride (Movie Review)

The follow-up to Sony’s 2017 surprise smash hit, Jumanji: The Next Level is a clever expansion pack for the Jumanji universe. The formula still works, but it’s the chemistry of the cast and fantastic pacing that makes this series a new holiday favorite. Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillian, and Jack Black are all game to hit start along with new addition Awkwafina. Should audiences do the same over the holiday break? Heck yes! Jumanji: The Next Level is big, bombastic, and, when it needs to be, kinda sweet.

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The Goldfinch (Blu Ray Review)

The release of The Goldfinch on Blu-ray offered me a chance to re-evaluate a film I liked well enough in theaters but was mired by poor reviews and a poorer box office. Was the nearly two and a half-hour run time too much or not enough to capture Donna Tartt’s Pultizer Prize-winning novel? As a fan of the story and the talented cast & crew involved, I wondered if my impression would go up or down. This might not be a masterpiece like the famed painting this film is named after but it certainly doesn’t deserve to be obliterated either. This stellar 2K disc will surely please those that did like the film (But why no 4K?).  Still, this an Oscar-bait film that screamed “cinema” and maybe that was the problem.

 

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Frozen 2 Is A Cooler, Darker, Different Kind of Sequel (Movie Review)

Elsa and the gang are back as, apparently, no one could just let it go. Six years after what is arguably the biggest animated zeitgeist flick of the decade, the gal with ice powers, her sister Anna, and snow buddy Olaf are ready for a brand-new adventure – this time in a forest! The mood is “kid dark,” which might be a bit much for toddlers. Others, who have long since worn out their Elsa dresses, now closer to the ripe old age of ten, should be fine. Visually a stunner with decent-ish songs, Frozen 2 is very much a Disney sequel, not a Pixar one.

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Charlie’s Angels Soars Over Previous Films (Movie Review)

Kristen Stewart goes big in writer/director Elizabeth Banks’ Charlie’s Angels, another reboot/sequel/legacy flick. A solid cast, smart action, and funny jokes keep this by-the-numbers tale on the right track. Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie may have nothing to worry about, but these Angels’ own impossible missions are way more engaging than the generic trailers suggested. Although why the soundtrack doesn’t include a banger by the suitably named Charlie XCX, we’ll never know.

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Doctor Sleep Is Intriguing, Horrific and Kinda Disappointing (Movie Review)

The great Stephen King revival continues with a follow-up to one of his most acclaimed works, The Shining. While Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic adaptation is famously hated by King, nearly forty years later, Doctor Sleep arrives based on King’s sequel book of the same name, with influence from Kubrick’s film as well. This time, the director behind the nightmares is horror filmmaker Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House) who’s already made a strong King feature, Gerald’s Game. Can this vehicle for Ewan McGregor and Rebecca Ferguson leave a mark where Danny’s big wheel had once trodden before?

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Last Christmas is Charming, Sing Songy, and Pretty Dumb (Movie Review)

Schmaltzy Christmas flicks are typically the sole property of the Hallmark channel. Still, Universal made a list, checked it twice, and included charming leads Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding, the music of George Michael/Wham!, and a Love, Actually London setting for Last Christmas. Still, perhaps the script could have been checked a few more times? The cast has spirit, but is that enough to bring forth holiday cheer?

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The Goldfinch Flies Onto Blu-ray This December

Nothing is ever exactly as it seems when “The Goldfinch” arrives on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital. Based on the Pulitzer-pize winning novel of the same name the film stars Ansel Elgort and Nicole Kidman. Directed by BAFTA Award winner John Crowley (Brooklyn). The film will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on December 3. The Blu-ray features a Blu-ray disc with the film and special features in hi-definition and a digital version of the movie. The DVD features the film in standard definition and a digital version of the movie. The story concerns a young boy who survives a bombing but keeps a secret into his adult life.

 

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Terminator: Dark Fate Has Better Humor Than Action (Movie Review)

She’s back. After nearly three decades Linda Hamilton, the original Sarah Connor, has reteamed with James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger for Terminator: Dark Fate, a direct follow-up to the iconic 1991 game-changing blockbuster Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The film that flipped the script, setting a high bar for sequels. Is the Cyberdyne Systems 2019 model on par with the first two?

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Countdown Needs A Day One Patch (Movie Review)

Countdown’s success at delivering thrills should have been as easy as, well, downloading an app. By now, there is a formula – perfected by the Final Destination series for random folks doing whatever they can to avoid their untimely demise. Add a spooky shot of The Ring for maximum ticking clock syndrome and presto! After all, not all scary movies need to leave viewers with a sense of dread as they exit the multiplex. A silly high concept boo-fest via a literal “killer app” should have been as fun as Happy Death Day’s Groundhog Day-meets-slasher flick conceit. And yet…

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Maleficent: Mistress of Evil Can’t Cast A Spell (Movie Review)

Angelina Jolie has returned to the big screen. Though she’ll always be “Acid Burn” to this reviewer, as the powerful, horned anti-hero, Maleficent, fans of the original 2014 flick are far more vocal than a ragtag group of rollerbladers intent on hacking the planet. The first film, which felt more like a ninety-minute television pilot, raked in over 750 million worldwide, so a sequel was inevitable. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is definitely more of a film than it’s predecessor, but it’s still a mess.

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Zombieland: Double Tap Is Unnecessary But Still Has Bite (Movie Review)

A decade is a long time for fans to wait to see the next installment of their favorite franchise. That tenth of a century waiting period can pay off big time like with Disney’s release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens… or not (we’re still waiting for Avatar 2). Enter Zombieland: Dobule Tap, a sequel to a surprise hit from 2009. In that time, the undead craze unearthed some bona fide hits like AMC’s The Walking Dead. Was ten years too long to wait for another romp with Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita, and Little Rock? Yes… and no.

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‘Gemini Man’ Is A Flawed, Groundbreaking Experiment (Movie Review)

Ang Lee’s Gemini Man is the kind of film geeks like yours truly not only rush out to see but rush out to see in the best theater possible. In this particular case, there are less than twenty theaters across the country that can offer the premiere experience. So, is the 3D High Frame Rate action extravaganza starring not one but two Will Smiths worth paying the premium ticket price? Read on!

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‘Joker’ Is The Clown Prince We Deserve (Movie Review)

Todd Phillips’ Joker aims to deliver much-needed weight to the comic book genre. It’s an alternate take on the origin of one of the most famous villains in the DC universe. There are no massive CG set pieces. Instead, you have what adds up to two hours of a glum and not at all fun time at the multiplex. Still, free of the many tropes saddling down big-budget superhero flicks, the Joaquin Phoenix-starring film is a darn near triumph of style, performance, and timely resonance. That said, Joker is obviously not for kiddies but for everyone else let’s dive in…

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Gremlins (4K UHD Blu-Ray Review)

The incredible success Steven Spielberg had in the late 70s and 80s was in a word: unprecedented. Only his pal George Lucas could claim similar blockbuster status in the same era. Beyond Spielberg’s great achievements in directing, he also had a knack for spotting budding talent to take on more ideas that would feel “Spielbergian.” After the release of the biggest domestic film of all time, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Spielberg produced many 80s hits like Poltergeist, Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Smack dab in the middle of the Reagan era is Joe Dante’s 1984 horror-comedy hybrid Gremlins. Fans of the tiny creatures that ought never to be fed at night can scream, “Bright light!” as they should order this new 4K package set for release on October 1. As someone old enough to have seen this on the big screen, I can attest this is the best Gizmo’s adventure has ever looked. But first, the film itself….

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Too Chatty Ad Astra Still Worth the Trip (Movie Review)

Quiet, contemplative sci-fi ranks as some of the best in the genre. For many, the entry point began with Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and has continued up to releases seen this decade. Gravity, The Martian and Arrival are stellar cinematic spectacles (Interstellar is pretty good too) concerned with the inner as well as the outer feelings of space and beyond. Director James Gray’s bid to the stars, Ad Astra, can’t quite reach their level, but this is still a must-see for anyone in love with the big-screen experience. It’s just too bad voice-over track can’t be toggled off.

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Hustlers is Engaging, Funny, and Has All The Right Moves (Movie Review)

Tales of con artists have always been a better fit for my taste in the crime genre, over mobsters. My preference for Martin Scorsese’s The Color of Money over his beloved Goodfellas will surprise no one who knows me. To my delight, Lorene Scafaria’s new film, Hustlers, about Manhattan strippers taking as much as they can from Wall Street clients, is one of the most entertaining films of the year.

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