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Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

DVDs/Home Viewing

07 Jul 2020
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A confession: I didn’t like Hamilton the first time I watched it on Disney+. The music felt unoriginal; Lin-Manuel Miranda’s face and voice were annoying me; and I had problems following the plot. But … I loved the ending, and really liked the women in the show, especially Phillipa Soo as Eliza Hamilton. I liked those so much that it made me ponder whether I had made some sort of mistake. So, I waited a couple of days and watched it again. During that second viewing, I loved Hamilton from start to finish—and Miranda grew on me to the point that I found him adorable. I am not sure what happened the first time; perhaps I was distracted, or perhaps I was just grouchy. (These are tough times, after all.) This sort of thing has happened to me only a couple of times over 25 years of film reviewing. (I…
29 Jun 2020
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Joseph Gordon-Levitt, after taking several years off from starring roles to become a new daddy, returns with the standard but sometimes tense airplane thriller 7500. Levitt does competent work as Tobias, a nebbish co-pilot on a night flight that includes his girlfriend (Aylin Tezel) on the crew. After a short time in the air, a band of hijackers take hostages and demand entry into the cockpit, banging relentlessly on the cockpit door. Director and co-writer Patrick Vollrath does very well with the film’s first half. Actually, the film is quite good while the plane is in the air. Tobias communicates with the hijackers by banging on his door and via black-and-white video—and it’s scary to watch. The film recalls the tense final moments of Paul Greengrass’ United 93, about a similar, real-life situation on Sept. 11. Once the plane lands, Tobias ends up in the cockpit with one of the…
23 Jun 2020
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Spike Lee follows up BlacKkKlansman, one of his best movies, with another great one, Da 5 Bloods, now out on Netflix. Delroy Lindo and Chadwick Boseman lead a strong cast as Lee examines the lives of five Black veterans before and after Vietnam. Lee and his co-writers send the five characters back to Vietnam to search for the remains of their former platoon leader (Boseman) and a bunch of gold bars they stashed during battle. Boseman appears via flashback; the older actors appear as the same age (with no de-aging makeup or technology) in both time periods—and it’s a style choice that works amazingly well. There’s something deep and moving about seeing these characters at their present age in the war they fought a half-century ago. Lindo does career-best work as Paul, a man who is fraying a bit at the edges and is looking for redemption in the jungle.…
15 Jun 2020
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It seemed as if we were getting a little gift when Disney announced it was sending Artemis Fowl directly to its streaming service: A big-budget, Kenneth Branagh-directed adventure was coming directly into living rooms, because most theaters are closed. What a treat, right? No. As it turns out, the film is awful. You’ll realize within five minutes of viewing that this thing stood zero chance of captivating folks in movie theaters. It would’ve just pissed them off and sent them home grouchy. So this was actually a blessing for Disney: It’s better to just let people be grouchy in the comfort of their own homes, saving them gas and concessions money. The movie, about the titular child protégé (Ferdia Shaw) trying to solve a mystery surrounding his dad (Colin Farrell), makes zero sense from beginning to end. You know Branagh has a mess on his hands when he employs the…
08 Jun 2020
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Pete Davidson—who barely registered on Saturday Night Live during the recently concluded season due to prior commitments and a resulting lack of screen time—comes roaring back with The King of Staten Island, another quality comedy from director and co-writer Judd Apatow. Davidson plays Scott Carlin, a thinly veiled version of himself. The film depicts a scenario of Davidson’s life in which he doesn’t get his big break on SNL and is, instead, an aspiring (and not very good) tattoo artist. As happened with Davidson, Scott’s firefighter father died on duty, and he lives with his mom, Margie (Marisa Tomei), and little sister, Claire (Maude Apatow). Davidson doesn’t have to stretch too much to deliver a convincing performance as a wisecracking, self-esteem-challenged, neurotic guy with a severe case of Crohn’s disease (from which he suffers in real life). He, in fact, nails the part, thanks to deft comic timing and solid…
02 Jun 2020
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Steve Carell and Greg Daniels, both major parts of the U.S. version of The Office, take a satirical stab at Donald Trump’s hankering for a space army in Space Force, a pretty good comedy that I suspect will get better if it gets a second season. The series starts slow, with an uninspired first episode. However, the end of that episode has a funny moment that launches into what counts as the best show of the season—one in which Steve Carell’s newly installed Space Force general must solve a satellite problem using a chimp. The episode is funny—and I found myself fully engaged with the series. The premise provides Carell with a good, goofy base for his comedic strengths, but also provides some realistic family drama involving his Gen. Naird and his justifiably despondent daughter, Erin (Diana Silvers). Lisa Kudrow has a good if small role as his convict wife.…
25 May 2020
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The Lovebirds—the latest Michael Showalter effort—caught my eye before it was originally scheduled to be released in theaters in April. The Wet Hot American Summer co-architect had made his best film as a director a couple years back, The Big Sick, and The Lovebirds has him re-teaming with that film’s star, Kumail Nanjiani. The film wound up being sold to Netflix, and Showalter has taken the romantic-comedy to new, deranged levels here, pairing Nanjiani with Issa Rae—and the two have crazy chemistry. The plot has them as a married couple hitting the skids before being thrust into a nightmarish night after they hit a dude on his bicycle and subsequently witness that dude’s murder. The plot mechanisms are fairly standard; what isn’t standard are the hilarious observations and dialogue that keep this consistently and undeniably funny. The two stars exude an anything-can-happen vibe, even when the script is following a…
18 May 2020
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If you are looking for some good, empty-headed, Adam Sandler-branded fun while coping with the nuttiness in the world right now, please don’t watch The Wrong Missy: It will just depress you. Sandler produced this one on his Netflix deal for buddies David Spade, Nick Swardson and Rob Schneider. Alas, Spade has never looked so bored, and the talented Lauren Lapkus is wasted. Spade plays a business exec who meets a crazy girl (Lapkus) named Missy on a terrible blind date. He also meets Melissa (Molly Sims), his dream girl. When a big business trip comes up, and he’s allowed to take somebody along, he texts the wrong Missy—who shows up on his plane and starts raising hell. Of course, more hijinks ensue. The movie starts off well enough, but quickly devolves into desperate humor with few successful jokes. Instead, there’s lots of barfing, falling down and predictable plot turns.…
12 May 2020
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Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney are terrific in Bad Education, a dark comedy based on the true story of Frank Tassone and the Long Island school-district embezzlement scheme that brought him down. Jackman plays Tassone, a vain superintendent who gnashes his teeth when Pam Gluckin (Janney), one of his co-workers, is accused of embezzlement; he throws her under the bus, so to speak. As the drama plays out, it is slowly revealed that Tassone not only participated in some wrongdoing—but might, in fact, be the ringleader of an even bigger theft. Jackman gives one of his very best performances as Tassone, a consummate sociopath who seriously has no idea what a boldfaced criminal he is. Janney is his equal as Gluckin, who possesses about half of his sociopathic tendencies, but is equally clueless. Supporting-performance greatness abounds from Ray Romano, Stephanie Kurtzuba and Alex Wolff. Director Cory Finley strikes a nice…
05 May 2020
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New Netflix action blockbuster Extraction is heavy on decent pyrotechnics—but light on the dramatic fuel. Chris Hemsworth stars as a mercenary with a dark past, which means he sulks a lot. I don’t think he cracks a smile in the entire film. He finds himself trying to rescue a kidnapped boy overseas. Will his cold heart be melted by the sweet kid, making him less of a mercenary and more of a guardian angel? Take a wild guess. The action scenes as orchestrated by director Sam Hargrave are first-rate. Many things go boom—in ways that are inventive and even exciting. That often makes up for the film’s dull and more-predictable patches. If you personally prioritize action over underlying emotional implications and crying scenes, you will probably enjoy this film. Either way, it’s a pretty vacuous affair. Hemsworth does OK in a film that basically requires him to look both fierce…
27 Apr 2020
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I was in college when the Beastie Boys released Licensed to Ill, and I can say with great confidence that I absolutely hated “Fight for Your Right.” As a result, I hated the Beastie Boys—and I wanted them to disappear. I was still in college not quite three years later when follow-up album Paul’s Boutique was released. I realized that “Fight for Your Right” was a joke I hadn’t previously gotten—and that these nuts were actually supremely talented. Every release from Paul’s Boutique on floored me. Losing Adam Yauch (MCA) in 2012 was a blow as brutal as losing Cobain or Lennon. This guy wasn’t just a talented musician; he was a great man. Spike Jonze’s new documentary took me by surprise in that it is a taped show performed by remaining Beasties Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock) and Michael Diamond (Mike D), with much love going out to Yauch. It was…
20 Apr 2020
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Perhaps the only good thing about this pandemic so far is the fact that I got to watch The Invisible Man so soon at home with my dog. Yeah, I paid $19.99, and that looks steep at first. That’s about what it cost me to see three movies per week, for a whole month, with my AMC club plan, one of the 21st century’s greatest inventions so far. But since movie theaters have gone bye-bye, $19.99 is about what it would cost for a ticket, popcorn and a drink during movie-going prime time for non-club patrons. (Actually, it’s less!) In words, it’s not a bad deal, especially if you have multiple people mulling around the TV set eating starchy foods while waiting to go outside again. Originally, Universal Pictures had big plans for an interconnected Dark Universe, featuring the studio’s various iconic monsters. Johnny Depp, in what would’ve been his…

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