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Movie Reviews
'Ghostbusters': The Graces of Wraith
But while a sizable portion of the joy is also the sheer outlandishness of it all, it's the whimsical likeability factor of the main characters that ultimately puts it across. McCarthy, who has come into her own as a true original, is superb as the pushy entrepreneur of all gambles and ventures.

'The Secret Life of Pets': Won't be Secret Fur Long
While "The Secret Life of Pets" isn't quite "Lady and the Tramp" (1955), I've no problem mentioning the two kiddy flicks in the same sentence. Both are proof positive that you can learn a lot from the animals, especially the cartoon variety if they're as lovable as Max, a Jack Russell terrier voiced here by Louis C.K.

'The Legend of Tarzan': Doesn't Monkey Around
This latest permutation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' literary hero can glide through the trees with the best of his predecessors. But while the film astutely pays tribute to the movie myth from which it emanates without self-consciously emulating catchphrases or traditional conventions, the substantial action is fashioned in service of the story, and not to please the currently popular trend of violence for its own sake. It remains to be seen if folks not particularly enamored of the legend will...

'Independence Day: Resurgence': Oh No, Not Again
Skipping my usual diatribe and head-scratching inquiry as to why folks would want to see a film about our threatened extermination in the first place, the good news is, if you endure the cartoonish depictions of this second coming, a third is currently in the works.

'Finding Dory': It'll Find You
Watching "Finding Dory," the sequel to the 2003 megahit "Finding Nemo," it occurs that perhaps even children of John Birchers and Ku Klux Klan members exposed to the high-minded sentiments of this sugary tutorial in liberalism will leave the theater a bit more tolerant. However, while colorful, intelligent and starring the witty articulations of Ellen DeGeneres as the winsome title fish, Andrew Stanton and Angus Maclane's undersea metaphor could have better tickled its target audience's...

'Maggie's Plan': Has a Comic Twist
Because it is very New York, sophisticated, intelligent, witty, provocative and well written, I think Woody Allen would like director Rebecca Miller's "Maggie's Plan," just in case he's reading. It is of course about love among the scholarly and introspective, the whys and wherefores therein, with a smart meditation on that emotion as life's essentially indefinable motivator. Though Miller, who wrote the screenplay with Karen Rinaldi, doesn't add to anything Shakespeare has already apprised...

'Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping': Paradise Lost ... Again
"Oh fame, thy time is fleeting." Either someone once said that or I just made it up. All the same, it adequately nails down the gist of "Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping," a satiric mockumentary that hilariously challenges the authenticity of contemporary rock 'n' roll stardom. Written by and starring the troika of Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, it is a copycatting but valid update of the thesis "This is Spinal Tap" (1984) proffered about musical success. That the three...

'Love & Friendship': A Comedy of Manners & Manors
I think it was because I was a sleepy little kid in grammar school who didn't appreciate the advantage of a good education that I didn't fully enjoy writer-director Whit Stillman's "Love & Friendship." I also blame that era, wherein I spent most of my classroom time drawing sketches of cars and baseball stadiums, for not really learning the times table past 8. Only the pocket calculator has saved me from financial ruin.

'The Nice Guys': The Case of the Dueling Detectives
Superb timing on the part of both actors, smartly melded with time-honored cues from the genre their performances astutely explore, quickly ingratiates them to us. Gosling's March is the educated one, a bit polished, a single parent and living with the memory of a tragedy that, by its very nature, can never be fully mitigated. Crowe's Healy, on the other hand, is the rough and tumble sort, proud of his meat-and- potatoes approach and flaunting a rough around the edges demeanor to advertise it....

'The Meddler': Mommy Nosiest
Starring Susan Sarandon as Marnie Minervini, the loving helicopter mom who just can't keep out of her thirty-something daughter's business, it is a sweet cupcake of a movie, drizzled with just enough sour strife to make it satisfyingly real. We all know these characters. Some of them are us, and happy to indulgently play out our anxieties.

'Captain America: Civil War': This Isn't Your Father's Superhero
It wasn't just because "Captain America: Civil War" was unnecessarily convoluted that I grew despondent as I sat through its 147 minutes of confusion. Later I would also be miffed by the lack of clues leading to the surprise conclusion. But I am beside the point. With nary a Smartphone a-texting, the kids around me seemed to love it, totally welcoming the cacophony and esoteric story details. Such is what Father Time wreaks.

'A Hologram for the King': Angst of a Salesman
Director Tom Tykwer's "A Hologram for the King," about a down-on-his-luck American businessman seeking to rectify his life through one big deal in Saudi Arabia, is the sort of film you enjoy while you're watching it, think about a little, and dismiss. The fleeting, two-pronged appeal comes thanks to the everyman charm Tom Hanks imbues in his Alan Clay, a desperate former corporate bigwig, and the inscrutable sociology he runs into whilst attempting to sell the Arab king a holographic...

'Barbershop: The Next Cut': Seriously Styled
The storyline is basic. The Southside is getting worse and worse, the sociocultural casualty of increasing gang violence. Politicians have suggested surrounding it with a wall. Gee, doesn't that sound familiar? Secretly, Calvin harbors thoughts of giving up the fight and relocating to the North Side. However, respect for the neighborhood institution his dad founded, as well as a dedication to his loyal band of cohorts, stirs him to make one last stab at winning back the civility of...

'The Boss': Corners the Funny Business
Somewhat reminiscent of how the great Rodney Dangerfield and other standup artists before him packaged their shtick in feature-length celluloid, the script, while not badly written, is but a vehicle for McCarthy's scattershot criticism of whatever comes to mind.

'Hello, My Name Is Doris': Puts the Sex in Sexagenarian
Doubtless you'll recall from childhood the man or woman in your neighborhood who cast a similar image, someone decidedly afield of the mainstream who scared you just a little, but all the same suggested the plausibility of infinite lifestyles. Well, that's Doris.

 
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