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A Dog’s Journey (review)

A Dog’s Journey (review)

The original was a sweet tearjerker directed by an accomplished director (my review). Despite TV helmer Gail Mancuso’s best efforts, this weakly-written sequel doesn’t do it justice. The story begins with the return of Dennis Quaid and his beloved Bailey, then transfers the caring canine over to his granddaughter (Kathryn Prescott). It takes several incarnations of the pivotal dog to bring about the predictable happy ending. Although the performances are genuine, the dialogue and situations are strictly Lifetime-movie fodder. Sadly, even most of Bailey’s human observations (voiced by Josh Gad) aren’t clever or cute. Sentimental folks could do worse, but it’s doesn’t hold a bone to the original.

 

(2 / 5)

 

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The Hustle (review)

The Hustle (review)

In an ode to “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” Anne Hathaway (the classy one) and Rebel Wilson (the no-class one) play con artists on the French Riviera. While Hathaway (with some fabulous looks) tries valiantly to grab some comic moments, her efforts are foiled by the sadly unfunny script. Wilson does her usual shtick, which is starting to get tiresome. Overall, the writing is seldom clever and never amusing, while the direction is uninspired. There’s undeniable energy to the whole affair, but it’s about as genuinely amusing as a con artist’s heart.

 

(1.5 / 5)

 

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Red Joan (review)

Red Joan (review)

Most people will probably see the film because it stars Judi Dench. Even though she plays the title role, most of the story is taken up with the younger version of her character (Sophie Cookson).  It’s based on the true story of a woman who shared England’s nuclear secrets with Russia via her lover and his sister. Even though there are 2 romantic entanglements, the constant flashback narrative unfolds with cold objectivity and not much passion. None of the performances are especially potent and the direction by Trevor Nunn, who’s mostly known for this innovative theatrical productions, lacks much real drama. History buffs might enjoy seeing this tale unfold, but others are likely to be disappointed by the competent, but rather flat recounting.

 

(2 / 5)

 

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Tolkien (review)

Tolkien (review)

Does anyone really want to see a biopic about famed author J.R.R.Tolkien? From the almost empty theatre last nite, apparently not. This narrative is a relatively straightforward and decidedly unoriginal approach to the genre, starting with his boyhood, tracking him thru WWI, including the love of his life and ending with his first words of “The Hobbit.” Nicholas Hoult does fine in the title role, but the leaden direction and uninspired writing don’t add much “life” to his life. His experiences weren’t that extraordinary and this film offers no real reason to care.

 

(2 / 5)

 

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Poms (review)

Poms (review)

There have been numerous documentaries and narrative films about seniors doing something unexpected or untraditional for their age. This time, Diane Keaton moves from NYC to a retirement community in Georgia, where she disrupts things by forming a cheerleading group (including Jacki Weaver, Pam Grier & Rhea Perlman). The concept is certainly not inspiring or original. What makes it even more dreary is that none of the characters are especially endearing or sufficiently quirky to make it fun. Top that off with bland writing. There may be some appeal to women above 50, who might relate to the situations and appreciate the empowerment message. Otherwise, it’s a painfully predictable, lackluster endeavor.

 

(1.5 / 5)

 

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Long Shot (review)

Long Shot (review)

The title refers to the unlikely rom-combo of a schlubby but lovable writer (Seth Rogen) with the beautiful, accomplished Secretary of State (Charlize Theron). In her preparation for a Presidential run, he’s hired to help punch up her speeches. Rogen is the comic center of the film, ably dispatching amusing one-liners and taking advantage of his natural underachiever charms. Theron doesn’t shine much with the humor, but she looks lovely and adds a nice contrast. Surprisingly, Alexander Skarsgård adds some funny moments. In addition to the romantic story, there are satirical comments on our country’s political scene. Overall, it’s a sweet little romance with enough laffs to keep it entertaining.

 

(3.5 / 5)

 

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Avengers: Endgame (review)

Avengers: Endgame (review)

When last we were with this group, Thanos made half of the universe vaporize, including numerous superheroes. This highly-anticipated follow-up (and conclusion to 22 films) is not the typical action-packed adventure. It takes 2 hours (yes, it’s 3 hours long) before the big battle begins and it’s nothing special in terms of staging, design or effects. For the first 2 hours, the group of leftover Avengers works to figure how to right the last film’s devastating destruction. If you’re invested in this universe, their conflicts and quests are interesting (with a lighter sprinkling of humor than usual). If not, you’ll be scratching your heads trying to piece it all together. Otherwise, it’s more a conclusion (with a few inevitable farewells) than an exciting addition to the genre. NOTE: Since this is the last in the series, don’t bother to stay thru the credits for a teaser…there isn’t one.

 

(3 / 5)

 

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Amazing Grace (review)

Amazing Grace (review)

In 1972, Aretha Franklin spent 2 nites recording the titular album and it became the biggest gospel LP ever. This film documents the event. The filming is grainy and sometimes sloppy, but it doesn’t matter. It’s all about Aretha and her incredible ability. Backed by a wonderful choir led by James Cleveland and Alexander Hamilton, she makes every note a masterpiece. Not only is the gospel electric, this momentous event reinforces why Franklin is the greatest soul singer of our time.

 

(5 / 5)

 

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Us (review)

Us (review)

Writer/director Jordan Peele is back with another creepy chiller that I liked better than “Get Out” (my review). This one focuses on a happy family starting a vacation near the seaside, but before long an ominous group shows up that looks exactly like them, with much more negative vibes. From there, things get fun, in a suspenseful way. The scares and violence are peppered with Peele’s comic smarts. The father character (Winston Duke) is certainly channeling Peele’s own style. While the concept behind the doppelgangers is promising, there are some question marks that throw the logic off the rails a bit. Still, it’s an inventive and engrossing addition to the genre.

 

(4 / 5)

 

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Captain Marvel (review)

Captain Marvel (review)

Brie Larson dons superhero duds for this latest entry into the Marvel Universe, where she’s pitted against alien races in a battle for the galaxy (nothing new here). It’s more-or-less her origin story, but takes too long to develop what is essentially a set-up for the next one. Some of the visual efx are cool, but many of the action sequences are plagued by that modern preference for blurry shooting and chaotic editing. On the other hand, there are entirely too many slow, dramatic scenes, which really drag things down. Also in the story is the look at the early career of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) before he developed into the man with the eye patch.

 

(2 / 5)

 

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