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Hustlers (review)

Hustlers (review)

This film is based on a true story about a group of exotic dancers who concocted a scheme to bilk rich Wall Street clients. Constance Wu plays the new girl who’s taken under the tutelage of the accomplished mastermind (Jennifer Lopez, introduced via an amazing dance number and looking fantastic throughout). At first, things are all fun and director Lorene Scafaria has captured the carefree repartee and lively lifestyle with a natural energy. Although there’s too much time spent on the party aspects, once matters gets serious, the drama develops adequately. Anyone expecting hot chicks on the pole will enjoy the first 30 minutes, but there’s more to be appreciated in watching the relationships that develop and the machinations of their crime.

 

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

 

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It Chapter Two (review)

It Chapter Two (review)

27 years later, the grown up gang from the original movie returns to Derby, where the evil clown has reemerged (after a particularly brutal gay bashing…not sure why that was necessary, since it was never resolved or revenged). The movie takes it’s time (169 minutes) resolving the drama and trauma from their childhood. There are regular incidents of the clown and other bizarre creatures creating mayhem and some death, overall more brutal than the original. Although they’re creepy, they’re never scary. Fans invested in the “losers” from the first movie may want to see it for their resolutions, but I found “it” too long and lacking in any suspense.

 

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

 

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David Crosby: Remember My Name (review)

David Crosby: Remember My Name (review)

Crosby reminisces about his life and career with extreme honesty. In addition to his music, he addresses his drug use, multiple illnesses, lovers and enmity from his other band mates. It’s supplemented by a wealth of photos and video from all stages of his career, along with excerpts from his 2017 tour. If you’re a fan of the musician or his famous bands, this might prove interesting. Otherwise, you won’t relate. Not a fascinating look at an era like Echo in the Canyon (my review) because the focus is completely on this one talented but rather complicated man. (Criterion Cinemas only)

 

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

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 47 Meters Down: Uncaged (review)

 47 Meters Down: Uncaged (review)

Interesting fact: 2 of the 4 women who venture on this shark sequel have famous parents (Corinne Foxx, Sistine Stallone), but I can’t tell you if they survive. This time, the teen quartet takes a scuba exploration into a submerged Mayan City, where there happen to be hungry blind sharks. Several things hinder this from being better. So much of the action takes place in murky underwater labyrinths that it’s hard to tell what’s happening (and not in a scary way). Once the first attack occurs, what’s left is pretty much the same jump scare. Then, there’s the whole reality thing, which this plot continuously strains. The movie is never dull, it’s just not original or suspenseful.

 

2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

 

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Angel has Fallen (review)

Angel has Fallen (review)

This is the 3rd time that Gerard Butler has played a Secret Service agent defying all odds to save our President (Aaron Eckhart in the first 2, with Morgan Freeman this time). After Butler’s character is framed for attempting to assassinate the President, he must elude capture while sussing out the true culprit. This excerpt from my review of the previous film still works:

Check your mind at the door and just enjoy an almost non-stop string of well-staged action encounters. Even though plausibility is in short supply and predictability abounds, Butler’s seemingly superhuman ability and gung ho attitude power thru the ridiculous odds. It rips along with few pauses for drama and a boundless body count.

In addition, this movie gets its heart and humor from Nick Nolte’s crusty comic comments. With almost continuous action (despite the chaos cutting which makes it hard to tell what’s happening), this is definitely a big fun by-the-numbers action flick.

 

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

 

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The Peanut Butter Falcon (review)

The Peanut Butter Falcon (review)

A young man with Down syndrome (Zack Gottsagen) runs away from his nursing home to follow his dream of becoming a wrestler. Almost immediately, he encounters a man on the run (Shia LaBeouf) and they team up for a “road trip” that takes place mostly on the water (at one point, their raft clearly harkens back to Mark Twain’s travelers). This is Gottsagen’s movie. His big personality and endless enthusiasm create delight in every scene. In addition, LaBoef once more exposes the depth of his considerable talent. There’s also a parade of quirky Southern supporting roles that add humorous character touches. While the narrative is not completely grounded in reality, the sweet relationship that develops, along with Gottsagen’s spunky charm make this a mildly quirky, but immensely appealing buddy picture.  BTW, it’s supposed to take place in the Outer Banks (and even mentions Richmond), but it was actually  shot in Georgia. (Criterion Cinemas only)

 

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

 

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Ready or Not (review)

Ready or Not (review)

Not sure how to classify this film. Suspense thriller? Murder mystery? Dark comedy? Samara Weaving plays the new bride who undergoes a lethal game of Hide & Seek before she can be accepted into her hubby’s rich, weird family. She undergoes a gauntlet of danger and injuries to avoid her end. The movie has plenty of energy and occassional humor, but not much suspense. Plus, the plotting often seems convoluted. While it’s moderately entertaining, I’m not sure who the audience is or how they’ll react.

 

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

 

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Blinded by the Light (review)

Blinded by the Light (review)

You might guess from the title (or the press) that this movie is inspired by Bruce Springsteen. It’s a full-on feel-good movie, but not before lots of feel bad: Based on the true story of Pakistani teen living in a small English town during the 80s financial crisis. His frustration with his bleak prospects and his father’s strict limits gets him down…until a friend exposes him to The Boss, whose lyrics inspire him to strive for his dreams. Springsteen’s songs play a big part in the narrative, sometimes veering into music video style. Everything about the script, direction and excellent performances strains the melodrama, just as they boost the emotional moments to the point of being corny. I’ve never been a fan of the singer, but this sweet homage to the power of music will leave you grinning, even as you can’t get “Born to Run” out of your head.

 

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

 

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Good Boys (review)

Good Boys (review)

Three sixth graders want to go to a kissing party, but first they have an adventure that includes a drone, drugs, sex toys and lots of F-words. Anyone who’s watched the trailer has seen most of the funniest moments, but there’s a raunchy innocence that keeps it fun. The boys create enjoyable characters and the pace only slows when they take time for the emotional friendship crap. The idea of dropping the classic high school nerd comedy to middle school allows the writers to ramp up the kids’ unknowingly comic responses. It’s not as hilarious as hoped, but it still provides enjoyable pubescent hi jinks.

 

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

 

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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (review)

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (review)

This is yet another bland ghost story with creepy creatures (thanks primarily to producer Guillermo del Toro’s design). It’s set in 1968 and features a group of geeky teens out to solve the mystery of a book that creates stories, while killing its victims. Unlike STRANGER THINGS or IT, the period references lack fun nostalgia and the kids are a bland combo of stereotypes. The title is a misnomer too. It’s never scary…not even a good jump scare. The plot is predictable and the killings aren’t original and definitely not frightening. The original books are written for young audiences, which explains why none of it works for grownups.

 

1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5)

 

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Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw (review)

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw (review)

There’s yet another lethal virus threatening the world and it’s chief guardian is a slightly cyber villain played by Idris Elba. To save the day, Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham are forced to team up, despite their bad blood in earlier Fast and Furious sequels. The contemptuous banter between them is one of the movie’s most enjoyable aspects. Actually, Ryan Reynolds and Kevin Hart (uncredited cameos) provide some of the funniest moments. Then there’s the action. There’s plenty of it, but it’s more about fights than physics-defying stunts, although there are a few of those. Many of these moments land (literally) and some don’t, but there’s still sufficient energy and sass to make it fun. NOTE: Stay thru ALL of the credits for 3 extra comedy bits.

 

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

 

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Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood (review)

Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood (review)

The title means more than a trip back to 1969 La La Land, it also gives writer/director Quentin Tarantino a chance to rework history for his own pleasure. Most importantly, it offers him the opportunity to indulge in a tribute to a bygone time with grand and subtle period references in almost every shot. Leonardo DiCaprio gives a compelling performance as a TV actor at a career low point and Brad Pitt is simply charming as his stunt double/best friend. As they wind their way thru various encounters, Tarantino makes this 161-minute movie longer than needed with the Hollywood tributes, plus lots of driving and walking. Sadly, much of the snap that has defined the writer’s style is lacking and there’s nothing much new in terms of structure or approach. Only the last big scene harkens back to the director’s boffo action style. Even with all this criticism, it’s still enjoyable to watch, while identifying all the fun references. NOTE: Stay thru the early credits for a special commercial.

 

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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