Movie Reviews

Movie Reviews Section

Stay up to date on the latest films with Movie Reviews featured in two short segments — Take Two and Freeze Frame. “Freeze Frame” is a two-minute countdown of films reviewed by Russ Simmons, an award-winning film critic, whose work has been featured on television and in print for nearly two decades. “Take Two” hosts Russ Simmons and Susan Sanders, a former psychotherapist, review independently made films and art-house movies currently showing in Kansas City.

Take Two Air Times:

  • Friday at 12:32 pm
  • Saturday at 5:58 pm
  • Wednesday at 12:30 pm


Freeze Frame Air Times:

  • Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 10:58 am
  • Sunday at 12:30 pm
  • Monday at 12 Noon on “Arts Magazine”

Freeze Frame: “Minions: The Rise of Gru” (PG), “The Forgiven” (R), “Official Competition” (R), “Mr. Malcolm’s List” (PG) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 07/01/2022 |

Is the new "Minions" movie despicable? How about some actors showcases with Ralph Fiennes, Jessica Chastain, Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas? There's also a period romance that plays like a lost Jane Austin story. Russ covers them all in this week's "Freeze Frame!"

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Take Two: “Elvis” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 07/01/2022 |

Filmmaker Baz Luhrmann ("Moulin Rouge") puts his flashy imprint on the life of the King of Rock 'n Roll. "Elvis" stars Austin Butler ("Once Upon a Time in Hollywood") in the title role and Tom Hanks ("News of the World") portrays his manager, Col. Tom Parker.

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Freeze Frame: “Elvis” (PG-13), “The Man from Toronto” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 06/24/2022 |

Tom Hanks in a movie bio of Elvis Presley? Is Kevin Hart really a hitman? Check out this week's movie reviews!

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Take Two: “Spiderhead” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 06/24/2022 |

The new Netflix sci-fi thriller "Spiderhead" stars Chris Hemsworth ("The Avengers") and Miles Teller ("Whiplash") and was directed by Joseph Kosinski ("Top Gun: Maverick").

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Freeze Frame: “Lightyear” (PG), “Spiderhead” (R), “Cha Cha Real Smooth” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 06/17/2022 |

Another gem from Pixar, an oddball sci-fi offering from Netflix, and the winner of the Audience Award at Sundance are covered in this week's movie review segment.

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Take Two: “Hustle” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 06/17/2022 |

The Netflix offering "Hustle" is a sports drama starring Adam Sandler ("Uncut Gems") as a scout for the Philadelphia 76ers who discovers and promotes a promising player he discovers playing street ball in Spain.

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Take Two: “Senior Year” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 06/10/2022 |

Rebel Wilson ("Pitch Perfect") stars in the Netflix comedy "Senior Year" about a woman who wakes up from a 20-year coma and believes she's still in high school.

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Freeze Frame: “Jurassic World Dominion” (PG-13), “Hustle” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 06/10/2022 |

The latest entry in the "Jurassic World" franchise hits the big screen and a basketball drama starring Adam Sandler hits Netflix.

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Freeze Frame: “Hollywood Stargirl” (PG), “Watcher” (R), “Eiffel” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 06/03/2022 |

A movie starring a Lenexa, Kansas native, a creepy horror thriller and a lush romantic drama are all new in theaters or streaming this week.

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Take Two: “Top Gun: Maverick” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 06/03/2022 |


After 36 years, Tom Cruise ("Mission Impossible") returns to the role that made him famous, Maverick the hotshot Navy pilot in "Top Gun: Maverick."

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Freeze Frame: “Top Gun: Maverick” (PG-13), “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” (PG-13), “Montana Story” (R), “The Dreams of Rene Sendam” (Not rated) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 05/27/2022 |

The return of Tom Cruise in "Top Gun: Maverick," a feature-length adaptation of an animated TV sitcom, a strong family drama and a locally-shot experimental film are all under Russ' microscope this week.

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Take Two: “The Duke” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 05/27/2022 |

Jim Broadbent ("Moulin Rouge") and Helen Mirren ("The Queen") star in the low key British comedy, "The Duke." It's the true story of an eccentric who stole an art masterpiece in 1961.

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Freeze Frame: “Downton Abbey: A New Era” (PG), “Senior Year” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 05/20/2022 |

The second feature film from the "Downton Abbey" universe and a Netflix comedy starring Rebel Wilson get the once-over from Russ in this week's movie review segment.

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Take Two: “Operation Mincemeat” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 05/20/2022 |


Colin Firth ("The King's Speech") leads the cast in the WWII spy thriller, "Operation Mincemeat," based on a bizarre true story. 

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Freeze Frame: “On the Count of Three” (R), “Operation Mincemeat” (PG-13), “Happening” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 05/13/2022 |

Russ covers an edgy comedy about suicide, a WWII cloak-and-dagger melodrama and a French abortion drama, are all new in theaters this week.

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Take Two: “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 05/13/2022 |

Nicholas Cage ("Pig") plays Nicholas Cage ("Face/Off") in this wacky and very meta comedy.

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Freeze Frame: “Memory” (R), “The Survivor” (R), “Polar Bear” (PG) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 04/29/2022 |

Russ covers the latest Liam Neeson action flick, a historical drama on HBO Max and a DisneyNature doc about polar bears.

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Take Two: “The Bad Guys” (PG) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 04/29/2022 |

The animated comedy "The Bad Guys" is a sendup of heist movies featuring anthropomorphic animals who have to decide whether or not to go straight.

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FREEZE FRAME: “The Northman” (R), “Everything, Everywhere, All At Once” (R), “The Bad Guys” (PG) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 04/22/2022 |

An ultra-violent take on the legend that inspired "Hamlet," an R-rated sci-fi martial arts action arthouse comedy with overtones of romance and heartfelt family dynamics...and an animated caper movie. They're all covered in this week's movie review segment!

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Take Two: “Father Stu” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 04/22/2022 |

Mark Wahlberg ("The Departed") stars in the true story of boxer-turned-priest, Stuart Long. 

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Freeze Frame: “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” (PG-13), “Father Stu” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 04/15/2022 |

The latest from the wizarding world of Harry Potter and an inspirational drama starring Mark Wahlberg are both new in theaters this week.

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Take Two:”CODA” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 04/15/2022 |


This year's Oscar-winner for Best Picture is the little indie that could. Susan and Russ review the comic drama, "CODA."

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FREEZE FRAME: “All the Old Knives” (R), “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” (PG), “Agent Game” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 04/08/2022 |

Russ covers a couple of new spy thrillers, one starring Chris Pine and the other with Mel Gibson, and a Sega Game movie sequel.

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Take Two: “The Bubble” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 04/08/2022 |

Writer/director Judd Apatow ("Knocked Up") takes aim at Hollywood pomposity in the Netflix satirical comedy "The Bubble." Cast members include Leslie Mann ("Blithe Spirit"), Keegan Michael Key ("The Prom") and Kate McKinnon ("Joe vs. Carol"). 

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Freeze Frame: “Morbius” (PG-13), “The Bubble” (R), “Better Nate Than Ever” (PG), “The Devil You Know” (R), “Apollo 10 1/2” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 04/01/2022 |

Russ reviews a Marvel horror flick, a Netflix showbiz comedy, a Disney+ musical, a gritty R-rated urban drama and a nostalgic Netflix animated entry. How's that for variety?

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Take Two: “The Lost City” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 04/01/2022 |

Sandra Bullock ("Unforgivable") and Channing Tatum ("Dog") star in the wacky rom-com fantasy, "The Lost City."

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Freeze Frame: “The Lost City” PG-13, “Infinite Storm” (R), “All My Friends Hate Me” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 03/25/2022 |

Russ reviews a Sandra Bullock/Channing Tatum comic romance, a harrowing true survival story and an offbeat British horror comedy...all new in this week's lineup.

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Take Two: “Windfall” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 03/25/2022 |

Jesse Plemons ("The Power of the Dog"), Lily Collins ("Emily in Paris") and Jason Segel ("How I Met Your Mother") star in the new Netflix suspense thriller, "Windfall."

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Freeze Frame: “Deep Water” (R), “Windfall” (R), “Master” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 03/18/2022 |

Russ covers an erotic thriller starring Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas, a crime drama with Jason Segel, Lily Collins and Jesse Plemons and a horror entry called "Master."

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Take Two: “The Adam Project” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 03/18/2022 |

Actor Ryan Reynolds and director Shawn Levy, who recently collaborated on the hit "Free Guy," re-team for the sci-fi time travel movie, "The Adam Project." 

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Freeze Frame: “The Adam Project” (PG-13), “Turning Red” (PG) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 03/11/2022 |

Russ gives the 4-1-1 on two new streaming options, "The Adam Project" on Netflix and "Turning Red" on Disney+.

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Take Two: “Cyrano” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 03/11/2022 |

Peter Dinklage ("Game of Thrones") stars in a musical adaptation of the classic French romantic play, "Cyrano." 

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“The Batman” (PG-13), “Lucy and Desi” (PG) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 03/04/2022 |

Russ gives the 4-1-1 on the DC Comics blockbuster "The Batman" and the Amazon Prime documentary "Lucy and Desi."

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Take Two: “tick…tick…BOOM!” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 03/04/2022 |

The Netflix offering "tick...tick...BOOM!" is an adaptation of the Broadway musical autobiography of composer Jonathan Larson ("Rent"). Andrew Garfield ("The Eyes of Tammy Faye") stars. 

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Freeze Frame: “Cyrano” (PG-13), “Studio 666” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 02/25/2022 |

Russ covers "Cyrano," a new musical adaptation of Rostand's classic romantic play, and "Studio 666," a horror comedy starring Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters.

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Take Two: “The Worst Person in the World” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 02/25/2022 |

"The Worst Person in the World" is a comic drama from Norway that's been nominated for two Academy Awards, Best International Feature and Best Original Screenplay.

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Freeze Frame: “Uncharted” (PG-13), “Dog” (PG-13), “The Worst Person in the World” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 02/18/2022 |

Russ fills us in on a video game adaptation starring Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg, a man and dog road movie with Channing Tatum, and an Oscar nominee for Best International Feature.

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Take Two: “West Side Story” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 02/18/2022 |

Does Steven Spielberg's remake of the classic musical "West Side Story" live up to the original? Susan and Russ have very different opinions.

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Freeze Frame: “Death on the Nile” (PG-13), “Marry Me” (PG-13), “I Want You Back” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 02/11/2022 |

Russ gives the lowdown on the latest Agatha Christie whodunit from Kenneth Branagh and a pair of Valentine's weekend rom-coms.

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Take Two: “Lotawana” (Not rated) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 02/11/2022 |

Local filmmaker Trevor Hawkins makes his feature film debut with the drama "Lotawana," shot at Lake Lotawana, Missouri.

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Freeze Frame: “Lotawana” (Not rated), “Flee” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 02/04/2022 |

This week, Russ covers a locally-made feature, "Lotawana" and the Oscar contender "Flee."

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Take Two: “Belfast” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 02/04/2022 |

Writer/director Kenneth Branagh (:Murder on the Orient Express") offers "Belfast," a semi-autobiographical tale of his youth in his native Norther Ireland.

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Freeze Frame: “Parallel Mothers” (R), “The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild” (PG) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 01/28/2022 |

Russ fills us in on the latest from Oscar-winning filmmaker Pedro Almodovar and a new entry in the Ice Age franchise.

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Take Two: “Bruised” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 01/28/2022 |

Actress Halle Berry stars in the Netflix MMA drama, "Bruised." The film also marks her directorial debut.

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Freeze Frame: “A Hero” (PG-13), “The King’s Daughter” (PG) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 01/21/2022 |

The latest movie from Oscar-winning filmmaker Asghar Farhadi and a fairytale starring Pierce Brosnan? They're both reviewed in this week's review roundup from Russ Simmons.

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Take Two: “The Tragedy of Macbeth” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 01/21/2022 |

Filmmaker Joel Coen ("No Country for Old Men") takes a shot at adapting one of the thornier Shakespeare works, with Denzel Washington ("Fences") and Frances McDormand in the major roles.

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Freeze Frame: “Scream” (R), “Drive My Car” (Unrated), “Belle” (PG), “The 355” (R), “The Tender Bar” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 01/14/2022 |

A diverse lineup of movies fills theaters this week. Russ helps sort through the selections that range from a tongue-in-cheek slasher flick to a thoughtful Japanese arthouse entry.

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Take Two: “The Hand of God” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 01/14/2022 |

"The Hand of God," the latest opus from Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino ("The Great Beauty"), is a wistful semi-autobiographical tale of his youth in Naples. 

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Freeze Frame: Russ’ Top 10 movies of 2021! ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 01/07/2022 |

Check out my annual countdown of the Best Movies of 2021!

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Take Two: “The Lost Daughter” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 01/07/2022 |

Oscar-winner Olivia Coleman ("The Favourite") stars in the psychological drama "The Lost Daughter," the directing debut of actress Maggie Gyllenhaal ("The Kindergarten Teacher").

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Freeze Frame: “Licorice Pizza” (R), “The Tragedy of Macbeth” (R), “Red Rocket” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 12/31/2021 |

"Licorice Pizza," a departure for filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson ("Boogie Nights"), "The Tragedy of Macbeth," a departure for Joel Coen and "Red Rocket," a departure of taste are all new for review this week.

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Freeze Frame: “The Matrix Resurrections” (R), “American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story” (PG), “Don’t Look Up” (R), “A Journal for Jordan” (PG), “Even Mice Belong in Heaven” (Not rated) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 12/24/2021 |

Check out Russ' 2-minute review segment for the lowdown on "The Matrix Resurrections," "American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story," "Don't Look Up," "A Journal for Jordan," "Even Mice Belong in Heaven."

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Take Two: “The Unforgivable” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 12/24/2021 |

Sandra Bullock ("Birdbox") goes for a total makeover in "The Unforgivable," a Netflix drama about an ex-con looking for redemption. The cast also includes Vincent D'Onofrio, Viola Davis, Rob Morgan, Richard Thomas and Jon Bernthal.

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Freeze Frame: “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (PG-13), “Nightmare Alley” (R), “Sing 2” (PG), “Swan Song” (R), “The King’s Man” (R), “The Lost Daughter: (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 12/17/2021 |

Russ covers new movie options available in theaters or streaming: "Spider-Man: No Way Home," "Nightmare Alley," "Sing 2," "Swan Song," "The King's Man," and "The Lost Daughter."

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Take Two: “Being the Ricardos” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 12/17/2021 |

Susan and Russ take a look at the new behind-the-scenes drama "Being the Ricardos." It stars Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem as Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, the stars of the classic sitcom "I Love Lucy." Oscar-winner Aaron Sorkin ("The Social Network") wrote the screenplay and directed. 

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Freeze Frame: “West Side Story” (PG-13), “Being the Ricardos” (R), “The Unforgivable” (R), “National Champions” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 12/10/2021 |

Check out Russ' two-minute review segment for the scoop on the new movies "West Side Story," "Being the Ricardos," "The Unforgivable" and "National Champions."

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Take Two: “House of Gucci” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 12/10/2021 |

Director Ridley Scott ("The Last Duel") has assembled an impressive cast (Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Al Pacino, Jared Leto, Jeremy Irons, Salma Hayek) to tell the true story of intrigue and murder within the famed fashion house.

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Freeze Frame: “The Power of the Dog” (R), “The Hand of God” (R), “C’Mon, C’Mon” (R), “Below the Fold” (Not rated) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 12/03/2021 |

The gothic arthouse western "The Power of the Dog" is one of those movies that causes critics to flip and general audiences to shrug. Benedict Cumberbatch leads an accomplished cast in director Jane Campion's adaptation of Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel that tells the tragic tale of a despicable cowboy who makes life miserable for everyone on a 1920s Montana cattle ranch. What makes him tick and will he get his comeuppance? This dark character study is beautifully crafted and skillfully acted. It’s all a bit too ambiguous for its own good. Still, "The Power of the Dog" has a quiet power.

“The lavishly filmed coming of age movie "The Hand of God" is Italian director Paolo Sorrentino's gauzy look back at the joy and tragedy of his early teenage years in Napoli. This autobiographical tale is understandably self-indulgent, but it has a wistful nature that may resonate with some viewers.

Joaquin Phoenix and young Woody Norman are utterly believable in Mike Mills' low key but smart comic drama "C'Mon, C'Mon," the tale of a single man and his troubled nephew who bicker and bond when they are thrown together by circumstance. Its approach comes off as a bit preachy and at times, the movie can be as annoying as fingernails on the chalkboard. In other words, it's like real life. Expect some love for these actors at awards time.

Kansas City-based filmmaker Clayton Scott offers his locally lensed movie debut, “Below the Fold,” available on Amazon Prime and VOD. It’s fictional mystery thriller inspired by real life murders in the Skidmore, Missouri area. Davis DeRock and Sarah McGuire star as reporters who dig up new evidence in a decade-old cold case. While it doesn’t break any new ground, “Below the Fold” shows plenty of potential from a promising new talent.

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Take Two: “The Power of the Dog” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 12/03/2021 |

Benedict Cumberbatch ("Doctor Strange") goes against type in the gothic western, "The Power of the Dog" from filmmaker Jane Campion ("The Piano").

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Freeze Frame: “House of Gucci” (R), “Encanto” (PG) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 11/26/2021 |

Infidelity, scandal, intrigue, murder. These are the topics of many a soap opera. They also emerge in the true story “House of Gucci,” currently available in theaters only. Lady Gaga gives a wily performance as the ambitious and cunning wife of fashion house heir Maurizio Gucci, played by Adam Driver. Director Ridley Scott has put together an all-star cast that also includes Al Pacino, Jared Leto, Jeremy Irons and Salma Hayek to tell this story of the unscrupulous behavior by members of the famous family. Sometimes the dialogue and performances…especially by Leto…seem awfully campy, and Driver’s character and his actions are very murky. Plus, the film never establishes a consistent tone. “The House of Gucci” is certainly entertaining but is never quite as gripping as it should have been.

“Encanto” is the latest animated fantasy from the folks at Disney and it’s also currently available in theaters only. “Encanto” lives up to its name. It’s a charming musical extravaganza that takes place in the mountains of Columbia, focusing on the enchanted Madrigal family that lives in a magical casita. Each family member imbued with a special supernatural gift. All members, that is, except for one. Young Mirabel Madrigal struggles to understand why she is the one who has been left out. Unlike most Disney fairytales, “Encanto” has no villains, but the characters are still faced with considerable personal obstacles to overcome. The animation is stunning, and the soundtrack is full of catchy tunes written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. “Encanto” is a Thanksgiving weekend gift that all members of the family can be thankful for.

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Take Two: “Red Notice” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 11/26/2021 |

Can Dwayne Johnson ("Jungle Cruise"), Ryan Reynolds ("Free Guy") and Gal Gadot ("Wonder Woman") save the big budget Netflix comic thriller "Red Notice." Susan and Russ weigh in. 

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Freeze Frame: “King Richard” (PG-13), “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” (PG), “tick…tick…BOOM!” (PG-13), “Bruised” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 11/19/2021 |

Time for Will Smith to dust off his shelf and make room for an Oscar. In “King Richard,” he gives a riveting performance as the obsessive and galvanizing Richard Williams, the driving force behind the tennis domination of his daughters Venus and Serena Williams. This wildly entertaining biopic transcends the conventions of the inspiring sports movie genre, thanks to a terrific cast and heartfelt execution. "King Richard" serves up an ace.

Who ya gonna call? How about Kansas City's Paul Rudd for "Ghostbusters: Afterlife," a reboot of the classic movie franchise? Fans of the original movies will feel a twinge of nostalgia watching the brainy granddaughter of one of the original Ghostbusters attempt to save the world from an impending invasion of malevolent spirits. While the formula may be a bit too familiar, there is ample humor and some clever twists to compensate. The finale takes a cringeworthy turn, but "Ghostbusters: Afterlife" is still serves up the spirits. 

Lin-Manuel Miranda of "Hamilton" fame makes his movie directorial debut with a sharp and entertaining adaptation of the Broadway musical, "tick...tick...BOOM!" It's the autobiographical story of the late Jonathan Larson, the composer of the smash hit, "Rent." Andrew Garfield plays Larson, experiencing emotional crisis and writer’s block before the ripe old age of 30. It's a well-crafted and well sung celebration of the demanding creative process. 

Halle Berry makes her directorial debut with "Bruised" the story of a washed-up MMA fighter attempting redemption. Her strong performance makes up for some filmmaking missteps and stale dialogue. The movie's no knockout, but Halle is.

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Take Two: Passing” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 11/19/2021 |

Ruth Negga ("Loving") and Tessa Thompson ("Silvie's Love") star in "Passing," based on the 1929 novel by Nella Larsen. It's the story of two African-American friends, one who is passing as white. The film marks the directorial debut of actress Rebecca Hall ("Vicky Christina Barcelona").

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Freeze Frame: “Belfast” (PG-13), “Passing” (PG-13), “Red Notice” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 11/12/2021 |

“Belfast” is a dreamily nostalgic tale from filmmaker Kenneth Branagh, loosely inspired by his own childhood in late 60s strife-torn Northern Ireland. Shot in glorious black-and-white, “Belfast” is a loving tribute to Branagh’s family and the denizens of his close-knit neighborhood as they faced “The Troubles” between Protestants and Catholics. There’s a lot of heart and sentimentality in the story of a young lad whose family faced financial struggles as well as political turmoil. The cast is fine what’s not to like about a score filled with Van Morrison music? “Belfast” is crowd-pleasing Oscar bait.

"Passing" marks the writing/directing debut of acclaimed actress Rebecca Hall. It's a sensitive story set in 1920s New York about the complications that occur between two African American friends, one of whom is passing as white. Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga give strong, subtle performances in this low-key, leisurely paced drama. Hall's approach to the material may be a bit too laid back for full effect, and the finale seems contrived. Still, "Passing" is a thoughtful drama about a particularly thorny subject.

Three big stars use all the charisma that they can muster to save the big-budget action comedy, "Red Notice." It's not enough. The script of this misfire is a mishmash of ideas borrowed from other, better movies from multiple genres. Dwayne Johnson is an FBI agent out to nail rival international art thieves Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot. But The Rock must go on the run when Interpol suspects that he's collaborating with the criminals. The cartoonish tongue-in-cheek approach wears out its welcome as the plot becomes more and more absurd. You can see where Netflix spent its $200 million budget, but they should have spent more on the script and less on the scenery. "Red Notice" should pass without much notice.

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Take Two: “The Harder They Fall” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 11/12/2021 |

"The Harder They Fall" is a Western with an Afro-centric approach. Idris Elba, Jonathan Majors and Regina King star in the feature film directorial debut of British hip-hop star Jeymes Samuel (The Bullitts).

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Freeze Frame: “Eternals” (PG-13), “The Harder The Fall” (R), “Finch” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 11/05/2021 |

What would an Academy Award-winning director do with a Marvel movie? “Eternals” provides the answer: More of the same. Chloé JOW Zhao, who won the Oscar for the low-key drama “Nomadland,” mounts an impressive two-and-a-half-hour spectacle with all the over-the-top action one would expect from a Marvel opus. The problem with “Eternals” is its big, unwieldy and convoluted storyline about an immortal alien race of petulant god-like beings charged with protecting mankind from an evil race of alien “Deviants.” It’s hard to tell the players without a program and the players are rather humdrum. While it delivers the action and eye candy, “Eternals” is middling Marvel.

“The Harder They Fall” is an outlandish tongue-in-cheek homage to Spaghetti Westerns with an all-black cast and a torrent of grindhouse violence. Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba and Regina King lead a terrific ensemble in a decadent, but stylish revenge tale set in the remote 19th-century American West. Rival criminal gangs battle for dominance in an impressive first feature directed by British hip-hop star Jeymes Samuel, better known as The Bullitts. “The Harder They Fall” is a fierce guilty pleasure for fans of the genre. Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone would approve.

America’s dad, Tom Hanks, stars in an offbeat post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama, “Finch.” He plays a dying scientist, one of the last survivors of a natural cataclysm, who builds an AI robot to care for his beloved dog. The trio jumps in a high-tech Winnebago and embarks on a cross-country road trip in a last-ditch survival effort. Hanks is exactly the right actor for this role, and he elevates what is otherwise a somewhat dour movie. The efforts to tug on our heartstrings don’t always work, but “Finch” is a sweet-natured comic drama about what it means to be human.

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Freeze Frame: “The French Dispatch” (R), “Last Night in Soho” (R), “Antlers” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 10/29/2021 |

Eccentric filmmaker Wes Anderson's latest exercise in quirkiness, "The French Dispatch," is a lightweight but eye-popping homage to personal journalism, especially a nod to the writers and editors of The New Yorker. An all-star cast is featured in an anthology of three stories from a fictional news magazine's final issue. Although it's wildly imaginative and employs spectacular art direction, "The French Dispatch" will probably only appeal to an audience already attuned to Anderson's offbeat aesthetic. One could argue that it's an example of style over substance, but "The French Dispatch" still has its oddball charms.

"The Last Night in Soho" is yet another visually arresting film with an almost schizophrenic tone. It starts out as an ethereal fantasy and morphs into a full-blown horror film. Tomasin Mackinzie stars as Ellie, a young fashion student who has dreams of an alter-ego named Sandie who exists in London's Mod 60s scene. This free-spirited lass, played by Anya Taylor Joy, becomes Ellie's artistic muse. However, things go very wrong as those dreams become nightmares that affect Ellie's waking life. Is she crazy, or are supernatural events unfolding? These two young actresses are among the best working today and they're each terrific. You've got to give filmmaker Edgar Wright a lot of credit for his style and vision, even though the final act becomes repetitive and conventional. Still, "Last Night in Soho" is an involving experiment in genre-mixing.

Keri Russell and Jesse Plemmons star in the bleak, one-note horror film "Antlers," inspired by the legend of the Wendigo, an evil mythological creature from Native American folklore. It's plenty creepy and has a few effective moments, but ultimately “Antlers” is more dreary than it is scary.

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FREEZE FRAME: “The Last Duel” (R), “Needle in a Timestack” (R), “The Velvet Underground” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 10/15/2021 |

If the classic Japanese film “Rashomon” were set in medieval France, it would have looked a lot like “The Last Duel.” Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodi Comer and Ben Affleck star in the true story of knights who battle to the death when one accuses the other of raping his wife. What’s intriguing about this examination of historical misogyny is that the story is told three times, from three different perspectives: one from that of each knight and one from that of the victim. Ridley Scott directs from a screenplay by Damon, Affleck and Nicole Holofcener. The production values are impressive, and the cast is fine. The pacing, however, is erratic, which hobbles this overlong epic a bit. Even so, “The Last Duel” is an involving costume saga that should resonate with the “Me Too” generation.

Leslie Odom, Jr. and Cynthia Erivo star in the experimental time travel romance, “Needle in a Timestack,” written and directed by Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley. While the cast is attractive and the premise is interesting, the herky-jerky narrative structure makes one suspect that this one was done in by someone’s misguided editing room tinkering.

If you’re a fan of the late Lou Reed, Todd Haynes’ skillfully made and informative documentary “The Velvet Underground” is right up your alley. The voluminous archival footage, mostly from Andy Warhol’s Factory days, provides an insider’s glimpse into the avant-garde rock band’s troubled history. If you’re not a fan, there’s likely very little in “The Velvet Underground that will change your opinion.

All of your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “Last Night in Soho” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 11/05/2021 |

Filmmaker Edgar Wright ("Baby Driver") offers a unique, genre-blending opus, "Last Night in Soho." Thomasin McKenzie ("Jojo Rabbit") and Anya Taylor-Joy ("Emma") star in an unusual thriller about a fashion student whose muse appears to her in dreams. 

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“No Time to Die” (PG-13), “The Many Saints of Newark” (R), “South of Heaven” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 10/08/2021 |

What do you want in a James Bond movie? Great Bond girls, nasty villains, fast cars, cool gadgets, exotic locales and plenty of action? Well, if so, the 25th installment in the franchise, “No Time to Die," delivers on all counts. It's a wildly entertaining if overlong saga that showcases a tired and world-weary Bond, forced yet again to save the world from imminent disaster. It's an apt swan song for Daniel Craig's solid tenure as 007 and, under Cary Joji Fukunaga's proficient direction, "No Time to Die" manages to create a real sense of peril. The $250 million production budget is all up on screen, too, so see it in a theater if you can. "No Time to Die" is a good time at the movies.

If you were a fan of the TV series "The Sopranos," the prequel film "The Many Saints of Newark" delivers the goomba goods. Others, beware. Allesandro Nivola leads the cast as the conflicted, amoral mobster Dickie Molisanti, a hero and role model for his young and impressionable nephew Tony Soprano, played by Michael Gandolphini, the son of the late James Gandolphini who created the role. While it's absorbing, the storytelling meanders and will strike many viewers as inconsequential. Still, if a two-hour dip back into the world of "The Sopranos" sounds appealing, then "The Many Saints of Newark" is your cup of compari.

Plot holes, cliches and implausibilities engage in a battle royale to thwart the efforts of a strong cast in the misguided drama, "South of Heaven." Kansas City's own Jason Sudekis is fine in a straight dramatic role as a recent parolee who tries to stay out of trouble for the sake of his dying fiancé, played by Evangeline Lily. No such luck. Dark, violent and frustrating, "South of Heaven" isn't the least bit heavenly.

All of your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “The Guilty” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 10/08/2021 |

Jake Gyllenhaal ("Brokeback Mountain") stars in an English language remake of the acclaimed Danish film, "The Guilty." In this thriller, he plays a 911 dispatch officer desperately trying to save a kidnap victim. Antoine Fuqua ("The Magnificent Seven") directs. 

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Freeze Frame: “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” (PG-13), “The Guilty” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 10/01/2021 |

It’s certainly no surprise when a Marvel movie is a box office hit. But the 2018 action flick “Venom,” featuring a villain from the Spider-Man universe, was universally panned. It still drew big crowds anxious to see the deadly alien parasite’s origin story. But “Venom” was an uneasy and absurd mix of gory CGI action and goofy comic bickering between Tom Hardy’s journalist character Eddie Brock and the wisecracking. Brain-eating symbiote that invaded his body. The sequel “Venom: Let There be Carnage” commits many of the same sins as the original movie…and will likely still click with Marvel fans. Go figure. This time out, Eddie attempts to resuscitate his damaged journalistic career by interviewing a notorious serial killer, played by Woody Harrelson. But things get complicated when the killer is invaded by another symbiote and, voilà, Carnage. The A-list cast also includes Michelle Williams and Naomi Harris, but in spite of their efforts, it all seems like retread material.

The 2018 thriller “The Guilty” was a riveting Danish film about a police officer confined to an emergency dispatch room as a disciplinary action. He desperately tries to help a caller who turns out to be a panicked kidnap victim. The Americanized remake stars Jake Gyllenhaal in what is essentially a one-man show. All of the action in “The Guilty” takes place in two rooms at the emergency dispatch center as the officer works to resolve the tense situation while wrestling with his own demons. Gyllenhaal is excellent as the conflicted officer and Antoine Fuqua’s direction is taut. “The Guilty” shows that talent and intelligence are more important than a extensive production values.

Good news for movie buffs, the Liberty-based B&B Theater chain has reopened the Mainstreet Theater downtown in the Power & Light District. More information is available at

All of your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “The Starling” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 10/01/2021 |

Melissa McCarthy ("Can You Ever Forgive Me?") stars alongside Chris O'Dowd ("Molly's Game") and Kevin Kline ("Here Today") in the Netflix film "The Starling." It's a comic drama about grief and reconciliation directed by Theodore Melfi ("Hidden Figures").

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Freeze Frame: “Dear Evan Hansen” (PG-13), “The Starling” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 09/24/2021 |

The acclaimed Broadway musical "Dear Evan Hansen" makes a bumpy transition to the big screen. Ben Platt reprises his Tony Award-winning role as a trouble, outcast teen who tries to gain sympathy by pretending to be the friend of a kid who dies by suicide. Oh, what a tangled web we weave. Social media, peer pressure and the generation gap are all subjects of derision. The popular score is intact, and the songs are well sung by a terrific cast that includes Julianne Moore, Amy Adams, Kaitlyn Dever and Amandla Stenberg. But the inherent artificiality of the musical genre makes dealing with the subject of mental illness seem awkward on film. Some things just work better on the stage. While it doesn't deserve the drubbing it's getting from many critics, "Dear Evan Hansen" is, at best, a well-meaning curiosity. Fans of the show, however, will forgive its flaws. Bring tissues.

Melissa McCarthy gives it her all in the uneven and somewhat heavy-handed comic drama, "The Starling," now streaming on Netflix. She plays a woman suffering from the loss of her child while also dealing with her husband's mental illness. And furthermore, she’s enduring dive bomb attacks from the movie's titular bird. Melissa seeks advice from a veterinarian/psychologist, played with low-key charm by Kevin Kline. While the metaphors and sentiment are all a bit too obvious, McCarthy utilizes both her considerable comic and dramatic chops to help keep "The Starling" grounded, even if it never quite takes flight.

Good news for movie buffs, the Glenwood Arts Theater is finally back in operation. More info is available at

All of your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 09/24/2021 |

Jessica Chastain ("Zero Dark Thirty") stars as televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker in the biopic "The Eyes of Tammy Faye." Andrew Garfield ("Hacksaw Ridge") portrays her husband, Jim.

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Freeze Frame: “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” (PG-13), “Come From Away” (TV-14) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 09/17/2021 |

Although she was often the butt of jokes for critics, the late TV evangelist Tammy Faye Bakker was an inspiration and an icon for many others. With her over-the-top enthusiasm, her warbly singing, her gaudy attire and exaggerated makeup, she became a cultural phenomenon. Jessica Chastain gives an appropriately exuberant performance as Bakker in the new biopic "The Eyes of Tammy Faye." It chronicles her rise and fall as she and her husband Jim Bakker faced both success and scandal. It's the perfect example of a film that relies entirely on the lead performance to carry the day and Chastain's work screams, "Don't forget about me, Oscar." Andrew Garfield is equally good as her ethically challenged husband, Jim. Unfortunately, this conventional film only skims the surface and doesn't provide much insight into Tammy Faye's inner life. But it's got Chastain, and that's enough to merit a "Hallelujah."

"Come From Away" is a filmed recording of a live stage production of the hit Broadway musical now streaming on Apple TV+. It tells the remarkable true story of the tiny island town of Gander, Newfoundland that housed over 7,000 airline passengers from around the world who were stranded after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. While it doesn't quite provide the same level of energy as an actual live theatrical event, "Come From Away" is cleverly staged and well sung. Like the adaptation of "Hamilton,” the filmmakers utilize creative camera movement and placement to prevent the action of a stage play from becoming too visually static on the screen. "Come From Away" is a warm salute to the kindness and generosity of these stalwart, selfless Canadians.

Good news for movie buffs, the Glenwood Arts Theater is finally back in operation this week. More info is available at

Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “Free Guy” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 09/17/2021 |

Ryan Reynolds ("Deadpool") stars as a character in a video game in the over the top action fantasy, "Free Guy." The film also stars Jodi Comer (TV's "Killing Eve") and was directed by Shawn Levy ("Night at the Museum").

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Freeze Frame: “Queenpins” (R), “Kate” (R), “The Lost Leonardo” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 09/10/2021 |

The wacky comedy “Queenpins” is, oddly enough, based on a bizarre true story. Kristen Bell and Kirby Howell-Baptiste star as a couple of Phoenix women who made tens of millions of dollars by counterfeiting manufacturers’ coupons and selling them online. The filmmakers turn the story into an offbeat farce that pokes fun at the inept authorities charged with tracking them down. The cast is fun, but Paul Walter Hauser steals the movie as a self-absorbed loss prevention officer for a grocery store chain. “Queenpins” may be ethically indifferent, but it’s an entertaining lark.

The Netflix thriller “Kate,” on the other hand, is a thoroughly unpleasant experience. Mary Elizabeth Winstead takes the title role in this excessively bloody action flick about a highly skilled assassin who seeks revenge on a man who has poisoned her. Trouble is, Kate only as a few hours to live to exact vengeance. The body count is high, and the believability is low. “Kate” manages to waste the talents of Winstead and Woody Harrelson, who plays her mentor. The only thing the movie has going for it is the interesting Osaka, Japan setting. Coincidentally, the current thriller “The Protégé” covers much of the same territory as “Kate,” but is a much better action option.

The batty world of high-end art gets the face palm treatment in the sharp and enlightening documentary, “The Lost Leonardo.” It deals with the iffy provenance of the famous Da Vinci painting “Salvator Mundi” which brought the highest auction price for any painting in history, $450 million. But the film is really about greed, personal biases, and international financial intrigue. “The Lost Leonardo” is an eye-opening investigative exposé.

Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “Worth” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 09/10/2021 |

Michael Keaton ("The Protege") portrays lawyer Kenneth Feinberg in "Worth," a Netflix original drama. Feinberg was the head of the 9/11 Victims' Compensation Fund, assigned with the unenviable task of deciding what a human life was worth.

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Freeze Frame: “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (PG-13), “Worth” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 09/03/2021 |

The Marvel Cinematic Universe just got a bit more diverse. Newcomer Simu Liu stars in the rousing adventure “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” an impressive visual spectacle that will ultimately tie in with other movies in the ongoing superhero series following the events of “Avengers: Endgame.” Liu plays a martial artist trained to be a reluctant assassin by his estranged father, a powerful criminal obsessed with ten rings which provide him supernatural powers. Can Shang-Chi break the chain of criminality and save his mother’s homeland from destruction? Under the direction of Destin Daniel Cretton, best known for quiet social dramas, “Shang-Chi” is involving and entertaining for its first hour and a half. But like so many other action films, it becomes repetitious and overblown in the final act. Still, “Shang-Chi” is a diverting popcorn movie that should provide Marvel fans with the action fix they yearn for.

Michael Keaton gives an Oscar-worthy performance in the compelling Netflix drama, “Worth.” In this true story, Keaton plays Ken Feinberg, the lawyer commissioned by the U.S. government to head the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. It was Fienberg’s job to figure out how to set aside the appropriate amount of money to give to victims’ families…and get them to agree not to sue for more. In other words, he had to decide what a human life was worth and essentially get the families to agree to that amount. What could have been a stuffy legal procedural becomes a compelling drama as numbers-cruncher Feinberg is forced to do some soul-searching when confronted with the staggering individual tragedies. “Worth” is an intelligent and empathetic drama that’s definitely worth your time.

Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “Stillwater” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 09/03/2021 |

Matt Damon ("The Bourne Identity") and Abigail Breslin ("August: Osage County") play father and daughter in "Stillwater," a drama from Oscar-winning filmmaker Tom McCarthy ("Spotlight").

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Freeze Frame: “Candyman” (R), “No Man of God” (Not rated), “Vacation Friends” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 08/27/2021 |

Who can creep out viewers? The “Candyman” can. Twenty-nine years after the scare-fest “Candyman” dared viewers to “Say my name,” a woke sequel slithers into theaters. This time out, “Candyman” has some social context to go along with the chills, skewering gentrification along with a heap of human bodies. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II plays a painter whose art obsession with an evil supernatural figure becomes his undoing. While it’s well-acted and disturbing, it can’t quite tie all of its themes together. Still, “Candyman” provides the grisly shocks for horror aficionados.

“No Man of God” purports to be based upon actual recorded interviews between notorious serial killer Ted Bundy and noted FBI profiler, Bill Hagmaier. As such, it promises viewers some insight into the mind of a murderer. Luke Kirby and Elijah Wood are fine as Bundy and Hagmaier and the movie is a respectable effort even though it comes off a bit more like a filmed stage play than a movie. If you’re looking for an understanding of Bundy’s twisted obsessions, “No Man of God” doesn’t quite fulfill that promise. By comparison, “Silence of the Lambs” seems more insightful.

If you’re looking for a dumb comedy so that you can turn off your brain circuits for a couple of hours, the Hulu farce “Vacation Friends” might just fill the bill. John Cena and Lil Rel Howery lead the cast in the story of two couples who meet while on vacation in Mexico. They enjoy a week of unbridled hedonism, but their recklessness comes back to haunt them when they return to the States. “Vacation Friends” is shameless, goofy and forgettable.

Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “Sweet Girl” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 08/27/2021 |

Jason Momoa ("Aquaman") and Isabela Merced ("Dora the Explorer) star in the Netflix action thriller, "Sweet Girl."

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Freeze Frame: “The Protégé” (R), “The Night House” (R), “Sweet Girl” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 08/20/2021 |

Maggie Q plays a super-skillful assassin out for revenge in the slick and sleazy action flick. "The Protégé." Samuel L. Jackson does his usual thing as Maggie’s hired-killer mentor and Michael Keaton goes against type as Maggie's nasty nemesis. There's plenty of bloody mayhem under the workmanlike direction of Martin Campbell who cut his teeth on 007 movies like “GoldenEye” and “Casino Royale.” There's nothing here that we haven't seen before, but " The Protégé " is a tolerable time-waster for action addicts. 

"The Night House" commits the cardinal sin for a horror movie: It's dull. Rebecca Hall's stars as a woman whose home may or may not be haunted by the spirit of her late husband who recently committed suicide. The plot offers up some interesting ideas and Hall gives an exceptional, wrenching performance. But none of this prevents "The Night House" from becoming an excruciating and frustrating watch. It wants to be a slow burn, but The Night House” never quite catches fire.

The Jason Momoa action flick “Sweet Girl” is mostly what you’d expect, a by-the-numbers revenge drama. But think again. Momoa chases some baddies whom he believes are responsible for his wife’s death while trying to protect his teenage daughter, played by Isabela Merced. But the filmmaker’s throw some plot twists into this Netflix thriller that are so absurd that you won’t know whether to laugh or throw something at the TV. The real victim here is logic. “Sweet Girl” is a perfect example of a movie that thinks it’s clever but is just too clumsy for its own good.

Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “Beckett” (TV-MA) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 08/20/2021 |

John David Washington ("Tenet") stars in the Hitchcock-like thriller "Beckett," now streaming on Netflix.

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Freeze Frame: “Free Guy” (PG-13), “CODA” (PG-13), “Beckett” (Not rated) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 08/13/2021 |

The star of "Deadpool" and the director of "Night at the Museum" team up and the results are just what you'd expect. “Free Guy” is a visually elaborate comic fantasy with a snarky PG-13 edge. Ryan Reynolds plays a background character in a violent video game who doesn't know he isn't real. Things get tricky when he achieves artificial intelligence and tries to break out and exert some self-control. Reynolds' charisma and a buoyant tone help make up for some over-the-top silliness. "Free Guy" will seem a lot better if you see it for free.

"CODA" was the big winner at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Emilia Jones plays a teenager, the only hearing member of a deaf family, who runs into resistance when she pursues a scholarship to a music school. Oscar-winner Marlee Matlin plays her confused but empathetic mom. While it’s predictable and a bit earthy for a PG-13 movie, "CODA" is a sweet natured and touching drama with terrific performances. By the way, “CODA” stands for Children of Deaf Adults.

John David Washington again shows his leading man mettle in the Hitchcock-like thriller, "Beckett." Washington plays an American tourist in Greece who experiences a tragic accident. He goes on the run after a series of coincidences puts him deep in a political conspiracy and in the crosshairs of the police and criminals. “Beckett” stretches credibility to the limit but is an entertaining and zippy action flick.

The 21st annual Kansas City Jewish Film Festival is taking place through August 21st in virtual formats, that is, any electronic device with a wi-fi connection. The eclectic lineup includes a number of intriguing titles including nine award-winning films from around the world. More information is available at

Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “Nine Days” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 08/13/2021 |

Actor Winston Duke ("Us," "Black Panther") stars in the supernatural arthouse drama, "Nine Days." It marks the feature film debut for writer/director Edson Oda. 

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Freeze Frame: “The Suicide Squad” (R), “Nine Days” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 08/06/2021 |

“The Suicide Squad" is a reboot and reimagining of the disappointing 2016 DC Comics movie "Suicide Squad," about super villains manipulated into serving a shady government agency. Writer/director James Gunn of "Guardians of the Galaxy" fame gives this decadent R-rated action flick a wacky, comedic grindhouse edge. Some of the stars from the first film return to their roles, including Margot Robbie in her third go-round as Harley Quinn, Joel Kinnaman as Col. Rick Flag and Viola Davis as Amanda Waller, the head of the government’s shadowy Task Force X program. New to the cast are Idris Elba, John Cena, Sylvester Stallone and Kansas City’s own David Dastmalchian as Polka-Dot Man. The movie’s tone and execution are much different…and much better this time around. Irreverent and funny in a midnight movie way, "Suicide Squad" is a shameless guilty pleasure.

Actor Winston Duke may be best known for his roles in the comic book movie “Black Panther” and the horror entry “Us.” Duke gives a powerhouse performance in the offbeat supernatural arthouse entry, "Nine Days." He plays a conflicted gatekeeper who decides which souls are granted a chance for life on Earth. The thorny philosophical questions that these candidates are faced with are intriguing and provocative. The notable cast also includes Zazie Beetz, Benedict Wong, Tony Hale, and Bill Skarsgard. While it’s slow moving and its reach exceeds its grasp, "Nine Days" is nonetheless a thought-provoking film about the value of life's individual moments. It marks an impressive feature film debut for Brazilian writer/director Edson Oda.

Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “Jungle Cruise” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 08/06/2021 |

Dwayne Johnson ("Jumanji: The Next Level") and Emily Blunt ("A Quiet Place") star in the comic adventure "Jungle Cruise," based on the Disneyland theme park ride.

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Freeze Frame: “Jungle Cruise” (PG-13), “Stillwater” (R), “The Last Mercenary” ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 07/30/2021 |

Turning a theme park ride into a movie worked box office wonders for Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean.” The Mouse House employs the same template with “Jungle Cruise.” Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt bring plenty of personal charisma to their roles of a charming Amazon boat captain and a spunky English explorer. It’s too bad that their efforts are wasted on such a hokey script. There’s a torrent of Disney visual magic on display in this tongue-in-cheek comic adventure, but the efforts are uninspired. Thanks to its stars, “Jungle Cruise” is a pleasantly forgettable voyage. Just promise me that there won’t be an “It’s a Small World” movie!

The controversial case of Amanda Knox provides the inspiration for the fictional drama, “Stillwater.” Matt Damon stars as a good old boy from Oklahoma who travels to Marseille, France to help exonerate his daughter who is serving a prison sentence for murder. Filmmaker Tom McCarthy’s work is smart, sincere, and empathetic. It’s also overlong and erratically paced. Damon leads a strong cast, but Abigail Breslin is a standout as his imprisoned daughter. “Stillwater” is a compelling movie that could have been even better with some judicious editing.

Jean-Claude Van Damme became a star in the 1980s with a string of martial arts action hits. The 60-year-old kickboxer-turned-actor has a bit of fun with his tough guy image in the silly French action comedy, “The Last Mercenary.” He plays a former special agent known as “The Mist” who comes out of hiding to save his son from mobsters. There’s nothing original in this goofy spoof but “The Last Mercenary” may provide a few nostalgic laughs for undemanding JCVD fans.

Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “I Carry You With Me” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 07/30/2021 |

"I Carry You With Me" won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival. This Spanish language entry is based on the true story of the trials and tribulations of a Mexican who flees to the US to pursue his dream as a chef.

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Freeze Frame: “Old” (PG-13), “Snake Eyes” (PG-13), “Joe Bell” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 07/23/2021 |

Have you ever felt like you’ve aged while watching a movie? That’s the feeling you’ll get if you decide to endure the latest eerie experiment from M. Knight Shyamalan, “Old.” A family goes on a vacation to an island resort only to realize that a strange beach causes them to age a lifetime in a single day. The dialogue is awful, and the plot twists will make your eyes roll. It might have worked as an episode of “The Twilight Zone,” but as a feature-length “Old” just feels, well…old.

“Snake Eyes” is an action thriller that serves as an origin story for the G.I Joe Cinematic Universe. Henry Golding stars as a fighting drifter who joins a Japanese clan and learns the ways of the ninja. His goal is to avenge his father’s murder. Golding is a serviceable hero and some of the fight choreography is impressive. “Snake Eyes” is two-thirds of a pretty good movie, but the plot and action become so absurd in the final third that the whole enterprise goes off the rails.

Good intentions don’t always make for a good movie. Such is the case with “Joe Bell.” Mark Wahlberg is miscast in this true story of a man who decides to go on a nationwide walk to bring attention to the issue of bullying. Reid Miller is very good as his son who was tormented by schoolmates for being gay. But the execution is listless and it’s poorly paced. It’s also unlikely that it will change anyone’s mind on the subject. “Joe Bell” never rings true.

Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “A Quiet Place Part II” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 07/23/2021 |

The long-awaited sequel is now in theaters. Writer/director John Krasinski ("Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan") teams up once again with Emily Blunt ("Jungle Cruise") for another sci-fi horror entry.

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Freeze Frame: “Pig” (R), “I Carry You With Me” (R), “Deep” (TV-MA), “Die in a Gunfight” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 07/16/2021 |

The unconventional career of Oscar-winner Nicholas Cage just got a bit more offbeat.. He gives a brilliant, nuanced performance in his latest film, the eccentric comic drama “Pig.” Cage plays a hermit living in the Oregon woods who goes on a bizarre adventure in an attempt to retrieve his stolen truffle-sniffing pig. Writer/director Michael Sarnoski explores some thought-provoking existential themes, creating a moody, touching and often funny movie. “Pig” flies its oddball flag with honor.

The Spanish language entry “I Carry You With Me” won the Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. It’s a true story about a gay Mexican man who decides to leave his partner and young son behind, and illegally immigrate to the US to pursue a career as a chef. Throughout most of the film, the roles are played by actors, but in the final segment, the roles are played by the real people the actors portrayed. The movie explores the sacrifices the main character makes and grapples with the question of whether his actions were necessary or selfish. “I Carry You With Me” is a very low-key and dreamlike love story.

“Deep” is a Netflix horror film from Thailand about some young med students who agree to take part in a sleep-depravation experiment. But the people behind the study have nefarious motives. The movie is directed more like a pop music video than a horror film, so the scares are negligible. “Deep” is a horror film for the TikTok generation.

If a Quentin Tarantino wannabe adapted a contemporary comic book version of “Romeo and Juliet,” it might look a bit like “Die in a Gunfight.” Diego Boneta and Alexandra Daddario star in this cynical romance that has flashes of inspired decadence but is a bit too self-satisfyingly hip for its own good.

Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “Black Widow” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 07/16/2021 |

The latest adventure from the Marvel Cinematic Universe approaches an Avenger from a different angle. Scarlett Johansson ("Marriage Story") takes the title role, joined by Florence Pugh ("Little Women"), Rachel Weisz ("The Favourite") and David Harbour ("Stranger Things"). Australian director Cate Shortland ("Berlin Syndrome") tackles her first action flick.

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Freeze Frame: “Black Widow” (PG-13), “First Date” (Not rated) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 07/09/2021 |

“Black Widow,” The latest extravaganza from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, plays more like an over-the-top spy movie along the lines of James Bond than a superhero adventure. Scarlett Johansson stars in this action-packed movie that takes place sometime between the events of “Captain America: Civil War” and “Avengers: Infinity War.” If you don’t follow the MCU that closely, no worries. The film also serves as an origin story thanks to multiple flashbacks. “Black Widow” can stand alone for the uninitiated.

While the film has the spectacular eye candy you’d expect given its $200 million budget, the real value of “Black Widow” comes from its cast. Johansson is solid as Natasha, but the movie is stolen by Florence Pugh who is terrific as her long-lost sister Yelena, a highly trained assassin who has escaped the mind control technology used on her by a KGB breakoff organization.

Director Cate Shortland ably emphasizes the story’ strong feminist angle and establishes a credible sisterly bond between the leads. While some of the fight sequences become a shaky blur, “Black Widow” mostly delivers the action goods.

“Black Widow” has bite.

The indie action comedy “First Date” cost less to make than Scarlett’s makeup budget for “Black Widow.” Tyson Brown stars as an awkward teen whose date with a classmate turns into a nightmare when he unwittingly purchases a stolen car. He finds himself in the crosshairs of the cops, drug smugglers and an assortment of lowlife oddballs. “First Date” becomes a bit repetitious, but fans of decadent drive-in fodder will find much to like.

Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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TAKE TWO: “Summer of Soul” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 07/09/2021 |

Known as "The Black Woodstock," the Harlem Cultural Festival of 1969 was captured on film for a proposed TV special. It never happened. That 'lost' footage has been complied into a documentary by the noted musician, Questlove. The resulting film is now in theaters and on Hulu.

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Freeze Frame: “The Tomorrow War” (PG-13), “The Summer of Soul” (PG-13), “Boss Baby: Family Business” (PG) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 07/02/2021 |

Take one part “Terminator” and two parts “Alien,” shake with big budget vigor and you might come up with something like “The Tomorrow War.” Chris Pratt stars in this action-packed sci-fi extravaganza about people transported into the future to save humanity from an extraterrestrial invasion. The trappings are familiar, but “The Tomorrow War” is a fun popcorn movie thanks to great special effects, a likable lead and sharp pacing. Sci-fi fans can check “The Tomorrow War” on Amazon Prime today.

Questlove’s award-winning documentary “The Summer of Soul (…Or When the Revolution Could Not be Televised)” is a stirring and wildly entertaining film that chronicles what was dubbed “The Black Woodstock.” In 1969 the “Harlem Cultural Festival” brought a series of concerts to New York’s Mount Morris Park featuring dozens of top musical artists like Stevie Wonder, B.B. King, the Staples Singers, Sly and the Family Stone and Mahalia Jackson. In addition to bringing the footage to audiences for the first time, Questlove interviews several attendees and artists, and their insights provide substantial cultural, social, and historic context. Great music smartly presented. When it comes to the “Summer of Soul,” what’s not to like?

The animated farce “The Boss Baby: Family Business” is a sequel to the surprise 2014 hit and popular Netflix TV series. It’s a frenetic enterprise that furthers the adventures of two estranged adult brothers, voiced by Alec Baldwin and James Marsden, who’ve been transformed into babies to stop a maniacal educator, voiced by Jeff Goldblum, from turning parents into zombies. Yeah, don’t ask. Though harmless, “The Boss Baby: Family Business” is the cinematic equivalent of a candy-fueled sugar rush.

Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “Fatherhood” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 07/02/2021 |

Comedian Kevin Hart ("Ride Along") takes a dramatic turn in "Fatherhood." Writer/director Paul Weitz ("About a Boy") has adapted the book by Matt Logelin into a Netflix original comic drama.

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Freeze Frame: “F9: The Fast Saga” (PG-13), “False Positive” (R), “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It” (PG-13), “The Ice Road” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 06/25/2021 |

In a scene from the latest in the “Fast and Furious” franchise, “F9,” a character played by Ludacris aptly says, “Nobody’s gonna believe this!” Exactly. Entries in the 20-year-old 10-film franchise have morphed into preposterous over-the-top action fantasies that make “Transformers” movies seem credible by comparison. The script is awful, but you can still enjoy “F9.” Just forget the laws of physics, throw logic out the window and go with the action flow.

Comedian Ilana Glazer makes a big leap into full blooded horror with the unsettling entry “False Positive.” Glazer and Justin Theroux play a couple who have trouble conceiving. They consult a fertility doctor played by Pierce Brosnan who uses a new invitro technique and, voila, pregnancy. But Ilana begins to believe that something is amiss…and she’s right. The tension and paranoia slowly build in this well acted drama. Although the climax leaves much to be desired, for horror fans, “False Positive” offers true creepiness.

She’s an EGOT, having won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony. Eighty-nine-year-old actress Rita Moreno has had a memorable life and career and the documentary “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It” covers her triumphs and failures, both personal and professional. Alternately shocking and inspiring, it’s an involving, eye-opening showbiz documentary.

She endured the rampant sexism of Hollywood in the 50s and 60s, but was additionally challenged as a woman of color, never quite able to break through to the kind of roles she yearned for.

Liam Neeson may be long in the tooth, but he still has action movie mojo. Too bad his talents are wasted in the nonsensical adventure “The Ice Road.” Neeson plays a trucker who hauls heavy equipment over thin ice to try to save some workers trapped in a Canadian mine. Mother Nature and bad guys complicate matters. Creaky dialogue and sketchy special effects make “The Ice Road” a route to avoid.

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Take Two: “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 06/25/2021 |

Actress Rita Moreno ("West Side Story") has had a colorful life and career. The highs and lows of her life and career are examined in the documentary "Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It."

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Freeze Frame: “Luca” (PG), “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” (R), “Fatherhood” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 06/18/2021 |

Even lesser Pixar offerings are better than most of their competitors’ work. Such is the case with “Luca,” a sweet and beautifully animated fantasy about the adventures of some nice sea monsters. Two young ocean dwellers near the Italian Riviera venture onto land and discover they turn human whenever they’re out of the water. It’s no classic, but “Luca” has just enough warmth and humor to appeal to both adults and kids and has a gentle message of tolerance. “Luca” is a minor charmer.

“The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is a sequel to the 2017 comic action flick “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.” Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson and Salma Hayek are back in another goofy, over-the-top and chaotic extravaganza of violence and mayhem. At least they get to riff and blow people away against the background of dozens of beautiful European locales. If your idea of a good time is a high body count, sarcastic banter and a script that bludgeons you with F-bombs, then “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” may be the movie for you. To others, it will feel like being mugged on a rickety roller coaster.

Comedian Kevin Hart goes for a serious change of pace with the comic drama “Fatherhood.” He plays a man struggling to bring up his daughter alone after his wife tragically dies shortly after giving birth. There’s a lot that seems derivative in the familiar beats of the plot, but an appealing cast and the film’s tender nature enable it to gloss over some of its flaws. The real litmus test is one’s reaction to Hart’s performance. Is it earnest or affected? In any case, “Fatherhood” is a tender homage to those who embrace the paternal challenge.

Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “Awake” TV-MA ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 06/18/2021 |

Gina Rodriguez ("Jane the Virgin") stars in the Netflix sci-fi apocalyptic thriller, "Awake." She plays a woman who tries to save her children after a solar flare causes nearly all of humanity to lose the ability to sleep. 

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Freeze Frame “Awake” (TV-MA), “Queen Bees” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 06/11/2021 |

The new Netflix offering “Awake” is yet another apocalyptic sci-fi thriller with a gimmick. After the radiation from solar flares bombards the earth, people lose their ability to sleep. After a few days of universal insomnia, chaos reigns and civilization begins to crumble. A young mother, played by Gina Rodriguez, attempts to protect her children, one of whom is still able to sleep. Seems a shady government agency wants to dissect the little girl to see if they can find a cure. Rodriguez provides a solid performance that anchors the movie, but the action and plot elements seem to be cribbed from a number of other movies in the genre. “Awake” has an intriguing setup but doesn’t live up to its unique promise. If you’re suffering from insomnia, watching “Awake” just might provide the cure.

The lightweight comedy “Queen Bees” could have been called “Mean Girls: The Geriatric Edition.” “Queen Bees” features a sturdy cast of movie veterans doing the best they can to make something memorable out of a very tired premise. Eighty-eight-year-old Ellen Burstyn, one of the greatest actresses of her generation, stars as a woman who reluctantly takes up temporary residence at a luxury retirement home. To her dismay, she discovers that the cliques are worse than those from high school. To her delight, she also finds romance. The venerable cast includes James Caan, Ann-Margret, Loretta Devine, Jane Curtain and Christopher Lloyd, but the limp, overly familiar script and sluggish direction stymie their efforts. It’s like an episode of the “Love Boat” set in a senior center. The cast gets A’s, but “Queen Bees” gets a C-.

Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “Cruella” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 06/11/2021 |

Disney offers yet another live action origin story for one of its animated villains. Emma Stone ("La La Land") and Emma Thompson ("Saving Mr. Banks") lead the cast in a PG-13 rated comedy set in London's Mod 70s. 

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Freeze Frame: “Spirit Untamed” (PG), “Endangered Species” (R), “Chasing Wonders” (Not rated) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 06/04/2021 |

Pre-teen girls comprise the target audience for “Spirit Untamed,” a big-screen adaptation of the animated Netflix TV series “Spirit Riding Free.” Set in the 19th century American west, it tells the story of a young girl who befriends a wild Mustang stallion after she relocates to a small frontier town. They team up to thwart a group of shady wranglers who want to exploit the wild herd. There is nothing notable in the movie’s story or execution, but the voice cast is strong and the theme of female empowerment is prominent. While harmless, “Spirit Untamed” is for undemanding youngsters only.

A dysfunctional upper class American family is hunted by both wild animals and poachers when an African safari goes awry in the action thriller "Endangered Species." Rebecca Romijn leads the cast in this iffy enterprise. While the scenery is spectacular and intentions pure, the CGI animals are a bit sketchy, and the family is so spoiled and annoying that you start rooting for the animals to take them out. Talk about making bad choices. In this movie, logic is the endangered species.

The road to the Outback is paved with good intentions in the low-key coming-of-age story, “Chasing Wonders.” A bright young Australian lad from a family of Spanish immigrants can’t seem to understand why his father is so cold and distant. The family dutifully tends their vineyard makes their wine, but never discuss the reasons dear old dad seems so troubled. This leisurely paced film takes its time to uncover the tragedy at the core of the family dynamic. While very sweet and lovingly filmed, “Chasing Wonders” never quite hits the emotional soft spot it was aiming for.

Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “Blue Miracle” (Not rated) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 06/04/2021 |

The inspirational Netflix movie "Blue Miracle" is based on a true story. A group of Mexican orphans takes on a big task. They team up with a washed-up former fishing champ (Dennis Quaid, "The Right Stuff") in an attempt to win a lucrative fishing contest in a last-ditch attempt to save their orphanage. 

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Freeze Frame: “A Quiet Place: Part II” (PG-13), “Cruella” (PG-13), “Blue Miracle” (Not rated) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 05/28/2021 |

The long-delayed sequel to filmmaker John Krasinski’s wildly original sci-fi horror thriller has finally arrived in theaters. “A Quiet Place: Part II” is a worthy follow-up that seems even more timely as we emerge from quarantine. The blind aliens with acute hearing continue to wreak havoc on humanity as one family tries desperately to remain out of earshot. This PG-13 horror film succeeds thanks to earnest acting, a smart script and sharp editing. “A Quiet Place: Part II” sounds like a winner to me.

Disney has created yet another origin story for one of their most memorable villains. The PG-13 rated offering “Cruella” stars Oscar winner Emma Stone as the titular fashionista we first met in “101 Dalmatians.” Set in London’s Mod 70s, “Cruella” shows how this orphaned waif became a stylish street criminal trying to break into the world of haute couture. While Stone is fine in the role, Oscar winner Emma Thomas steals the movie as a nasty baroness who controls the fashion industry by hook or crook. While the look of the film is sumptuous, “Cruella” is overlong and dramatically clunky. Thank goodness for Thompson. Her presence makes “Cruella” a Disneyfied version of “The Devil Wears Prada.”

“Blue Miracle” is yet another feel-good movie based on an inspiring true story. Dennis Quaid and Jimmy Gonzales star in the tale of a Cabos San Lucas orphanage on the verge of financial ruin. In a long-shot attempt to save their home, the orphans and their guardian enter a lucrative fishing contest, partnering with an aging, has-been former fishing champ. Can they beat the odds? Hey, I said it was a feel-good story, right? Yes, it’s very predictable, but this likable family-friendly fishing movie just might hook you.

Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “Oxygen” (TV-MA) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 05/28/2021 |

Melanie Laurent ("Inglorious Basterds") stars in the French sci-fi thriller "Oxygen," about a woman who wakes up in a cryogenic pod with no idea how she got there. It's the latest effort from director Alexendre Aja ("Crawl"). 

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Freeze Frame: “Army of the Dead” (R), “Dream Horse” (PG), “Four Good Days” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 05/21/2021 |

You can always expect dynamic visuals and plenty of breakneck action from filmmaker Zach Snyder. You can also expect his movies to be overblown, self-indulgent and overlong. “Army of the Dead” is no exception. Dave Bautista stars in this grisly and bloody hybrid movie that plays like “Ocean’s 11” meets “World War Z.” After an alien spreads a zombie infection that infests Las Vegas, a ragtag group of thieves attempts to break into a casino vault and make off with a fortune before they become zombie food. The whole affair is silly, illogical and lacks obligatory humor. But if two-and-a-half hours of visceral gore sounds appealing to you, then by all means, sign up for “Army of the Dead.”

Toni Colette and Damien Lewis star in the heartfelt comic drama, “Dream Horse.” It’s a family-friendly true story about a small-town British grocery store worker who talks her fellow villagers into buying and raising a racehorse. The fact that no one involved had any experience in the field was only a minor deterrent. Yes, this feel-good crowd pleaser is formulaic and totally predictable, but thanks to its veteran cast, genial good nature and well-filmed race scenes, “Dream Horse” avoids becoming too saccharine. If you hear folks complain that they just don’t make ‘em like they used to, tell them that “Dream Horse” is an odds-on favorite.

Glenn Close and Mila Kunis star in “Four Good Days,” a drama now available to stream that was inspired by a true story. Close plays the long-suffering mom of a heroin addict, played by Kunis, who makes multiple agonizing attempts at sobriety. The cast is fine, but the film is a one-note affair that lacks a dramatic arc. “Four Good Days” is well intentioned, but an excruciating watch.

Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “The Woman in the Window” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 05/21/2021 |

Amy Adams ("Hillbilly Elegy") stars in a new Netflix suspense thriller from director Joe Wright ("Darkest Hour"). The supporting cast includes Gary Oldman ("Mank") and Julianne Moore ("Gloria Bell"). 

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Freeze Frame: “The Woman in the Window” (R), “Spiral” (R), “Oxygen” (TV-MA) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 05/14/2021 |

Alfred Hitchcock is long gone, but filmmakers continue to try to recapture the signature style of the master of suspense. “The Woman in the Window,” based on A.J. Finn’s novel, is one of the best and most involving of the many Hitchcock imitations. Amy Adams is excellent as an emotionally disturbed agoraphobic psychologist who may or may not have witnessed a murder out of her front window. A terrific cast, sharp dialogue by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Tracy Letts and skillful direction by Joe Wright all add up to a solid and involving thriller. Hitchcock would have approved.

If you thought that the grisly torture porn “Saw” franchise had run its course, think again. “Spiral” is the ninth installment in the series with a Jigsaw Killer copycat taking over the bloody mayhem. This time out, Chris Rock stars as a police detective who tries to figure out why his colleagues are being mutilated in a mysterious revenge spree. Although skillfully directed by Overland Park native Darren Lynn Bousman, “Spiral” adds little to the genre in spite of its attempts at social relevance. “Spiral” is for hardcore “Saw” fans only.

“Oxygen” is a taut French sci-fi thriller that is definitely not for the claustrophobic. Melanie Laurent stars as a woman who wakes up in a cryogenic pod with no idea why she’s there. In fact, she doesn’t even know who she is. With her pod running out of oxygen, she must quickly try to figure out what’s going on and regain her memory. The only entity she can interact with is with an artificial intelligence named MILO. Laurent gives an enterprising performance and director Alexandre Aja does a commendable job of making the confined space cinematically interesting. “Oxygen” is an appropriately breathless thriller.

Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “Monster” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 05/14/2021 |

A teen is accused of being an accomplice to a botched robbery that left a man dead. Was he involved, or just an innocent bystander? The drama "Monster" stars Kelvin Harrison, Jr. ("Waves"), Jennifer Hudson ("Cats"), Jennifer Ehle ("The King's Speech") and Jeffrey Wright ("Westworld"). 

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Freeze Frame: “Here Today” (PG-13), “Monster” (R), “The Human Factor” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 05/07/2021 |

The teaming of Billy Crystal and Tiffany Haddish promised to be a combo of comic gold. Instead, “Here Today” is a sweetly sentimental drama written and directed by Crystal about an aging comedy writer who relies on a newfound friend when his struggles with dementia become increasingly difficult to hide. The stars are appealing, and the movie has a warm heart even though the schmaltz is laid on a bit too thickly. “Here Today” will have cynics rolling their eyes while others dab a tear or two from them.

Kelvin Harrison, Jr. gives a solid, well-rounded performance in the dark social drama, “Monster.” Harrison plays a teenager who goes on trial as an accessory to murder after a botched convenience store robbery. Was he actually involved, or just an innocent bystander? The answer is slowly revealed in a series of flashbacks as viewers are pulled in and forced to draw their own conclusions before the final reveal. While the filmmaking is sometimes awkward and a number of other films have covered this territory more successfully, “Monster” is a respectable and somber critique of our imperfect justice system.

“The Human Factor” is an informative documentary about the confounding difficulties that U.S. negotiators have faced as they’ve tried in vain to secure peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The filmmakers get the lowdown directly from those who toiled in the shadows for over three decades through multiple presidential administrations. The complications range from profound to petty. The negotiators’ frustrations are palpable as successes come close only to have their hopes dashed time and again. “The Human Factor” is an instructive behind-the-scenes look at a seemingly intractable problem.

Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “Things Heard and Seen” (TV-MA) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 05/07/2021 |

Amanda Seyfried ("Mank") stars in the ghost story "Things Heard & Seen," a Netflix adaptation of  the novel All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage. The supporting cast includes James Norton ("Little Women"), Natalia Dyer ("Stranger Things"), Rhea Seehorn ("Better Call Saul"), F. Murray Abraham ("Amadeus") and Karen Allen ("Raiders of the Lost Ark"). It's from the writing/directing team of Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini ("American Splendor").

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Freeze Frame: “Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse” (R), “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” (PG), “Things Heard and Seen” (TV-MA), “Four Good Days” (R), “YouthMin” (Not rated) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 04/30/2021 |

Michael B. Jordan steps into the role of Navy Seal and CIA operative John Clark in the involving action drama, “Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse.” The plot has been updated from the Viet Nam era to contemporary times to provide an origin story for Clark, who attempts to thwart a plot to instigate war between the US and Russia. Jordan fits the role well and while the plot requires considerable suspension of disbelief, “Without Remorse” is a rousing, high voltage thriller.

“The Mitchells vs. the Machines” is an energetic and snappy animated sci-fi farce about how one nerdy dysfunctional family attempts to save mankind from a robo-apocalypse. It’s a goofy but entertaining family feature infused with a surprising amount of heart.

“Things Heard & Seen” is a creepy, well-acted ghost story. Amanda Seyfried stars as a woman who begins to see apparitions when her self-absorbed husband takes a professor’s job at a small, rural college. The filmmakers create an eerie atmosphere that carries the movie even as it goes a bit off the rails in the finale.

Glenn Close and Mila Kunis star in “Four Good Days,” a drama inspired by a true story. Close plays the long-suffering mom of a heroin addict, played by Kunis, who makes multiple agonizing attempts at sobriety. The cast is fine, but the film is a one-note affair that lacks a dramatic arc. “Four Good Days” is well intentioned, but an excruciating watch

The dotty comedy “YouthMin” is a mockumentary about an inept and egocentric youth minister who takes a diverse group of teens to a Christian summer camp. It doesn’t all work, but it’s a genial indie that could provide inspiration to budding filmmakers who need an example of what can be done on a meager budget.

Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “Minari” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 04/30/2021 |

A Korean-American family starts a small farm in Arkansas in the 1980s. Yuh-Jung Youn won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for this sweet, subtle family film.

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Freeze Frame: “Mortal Kombat” (R), “Together Together” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 04/23/2021 |

Ben Franklin famously said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Today, he could add, “and movies adapted from video games will be bad.” That’s certainly true of the reboot of the franchise “Mortal Kombat.” They tried to make something cinematic out of the game’s plot and themes in 1995 and 1997 to no avail, but Hollywood keeps on trying. This time out, Lewis Tan leads the cast in a well-produced but idiotic and brutally bloody R-rated martial arts extravaganza. An MMA fighter with a strange dragon marking is recruited to help save the world from the evil fighters of the Outworld who intend to enslave humanity. That setup is little more than an excuse to set up a series of fight scenes that become more monotonous as they go along. While the visuals are impressive, “Mortal Kombat” is fatally flawed. If you’re a “Mortal Kombat” fan, your best bet is to stick to the video game.

“Together Together” is the kind of movie the word ‘quirky’ was coined for. Ed Helms stars in this gentle comedy as a single middle-aged man who hires a woman in her twenties, played by Patty Harrison, to be a surrogate mother and give birth to his first child. The movie tracks the ups and downs of their platonic friendship throughout the nine-month gestation period. Both characters are kind-hearted, but more than a bit neurotic. While it’s very low key and doesn’t all ring true, “Together Together” is warm little movie about two lonely souls whose complicated relationship develops in an unconventional way.

Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “Thunder Force” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 04/23/2021 |

Melissa McCarthy ("Spy") and Octavia Spencer ("The Help") co-star in a Netflix superhero spoof, "Thunder Force." It co-stars Jason Bateman (TV's "Ozark") and was written and directed by McCarthy's husband, Ben Falcone ("Superintelligence"). 

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Freeze Frame: “Vanquish” (R), “In the Earth” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 04/16/2021 |

The action thriller "Vanquish" represents the nadir in the distinguished career of Morgan Freeman. The Oscar-winning actor can't save this ridiculous, over-directed mess about a corrupt police commissioner who blackmails a skilled assassin, played by Ruby Rose, into conducting a series of bloody revenge crimes. Writer/director George Gallo uses every filmmaking technique in the handbook of movie cliches in an ill-fated attempt to shore up his terrible script. Absurd and sleazy, "Vanquish" manages to vanquish two hours of your time and innumerable brain cells.

"In the Earth" is a very creepy and unsettling paranoia thriller from noted British horror director, Ben Wheatley. Filmed during and inspired by the Covid-19 pandemic, the plot involves a pair of researchers who venture deep into the woods while the world around them is in lockdown due to a deadly virus. But there are some things that are even scarier in the woods. Wheatley plays on our current fears about the virus as well as our concerns about what’s happening in the natural environment. The cast is solid and Wheatley manages to squeeze more than you might expect from his very modest budget. It's smart and well-crafted, but "In the Earth" is an uneasy and awkward blend of art house horror and grisly midnight movie schlock.

The 25th annual Kansas City Film Fest International is a virtual event once again this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The organizers have coordinated an eclectic lineup of films and events that will appeal to both hard core cinephiles and popcorn movie fans. Movies, Q&As and other events can be screened online through April 17th. More information is available at

Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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“Thunder Force” (PG-13), “Concrete Cowboy” (R), “Voyagers” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 04/09/2021 |

Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer are forces of nature. It’s their personal appeal that propels “Thunder Force,” a silly superhero spoof written and directed by McCarthy’s husband, Ben Falcone. McCarthy and Spencer play two friends who become a dynamic duo when Spencer develops a method to imbue them with superpowers. In many ways, the force with “Thunder Force” is very weak, but its stars find a way to inject the comic into this dotty comic book movie.

“Concrete Cowboy” is a coming-of-age movie with a unique twist. Caleb McLaughlin stars in the story of a delinquent kid whose long-suffering mother sends him to live with his estranged father, played by Idris Elba. He discovers that his dad is a part of a subculture of skilled Black horsemen who live in inner-city Philadelphia. Many of the supporting cast members play slightly fictionalized versions of themselves. While uneven, “Concrete Cowboy” is an engaging tale that benefits greatly from its singular cast and setting.

The sci-fi tale “Voyagers” is like a version of “Lord of the Flies” set in outer space. Tye Sheridan, Lily-Rose Depp and Colin Farrell star in the story of an 80-year mission to colonize an Earth-like planet. Divisions begin to emerge in the young crew and their small civilization disintegrates as some members try to exert their dominance. While the premise is intriguing, the characters are dull and the movie itself starts to feel like an 80-year voyage.

The annual Panic Film Festival returns virtually and in person at the Screenland Armour April 8th through the 18th.  The fest features over 60 new sci-fi, horror and film thrillers from around the world for two weekends! Plus, special events, meet-ups, live trivia and much more. More info is available at

Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of  intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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“Concrete Cowboy” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 04/16/2021 |

Idris Elba ("The Wire") and Caleb McLaughlin ("Stranger Things") star in "Concrete Cowboy," a coming-of-age tale set in the real-life world of Philadelphia's inner city horsemen.

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Take Two: “The Courier” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 04/09/2021 |

Benedict Cumberbatch ("Doctor Strange") stars in a '60s era spy thriller based on a true story. "The Courier" deals with a friendship that develops between a businessman, recruited to spy for the British secret service, and a Russian mole. They worked together during the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

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Freeze Frame: “Godzilla Vs. Kong” (PG-13), “French Exit” (R), “The Unholy” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 04/02/2021 |

Thanks to its childlike enthusiasm and spectacular special effects, “Godzilla Vs. Kong” is a fun popcorn movie adventure even though its storyline and dialogue are below par. “Kong: Skull Island” is still the best of the Legendary Studios MonsterVerse series that has successfully revived the giant monster genre. Ultimately, ”Godzilla vs. Kong” is like watching a WWE smackdown with power lines and skyscrapers instead of ropes and turnbuckles. For maximum enjoyment, try to channel your inner 7-year-old and just go along for the goofy ride.

Michelle Pfeiffer’s icy smooth performance is the main attraction of the eccentric comic drama, “French Exit.” It asks that eternal question, what happens to the idle rich when the money runs out? Pfeiffer plays a New York socialite who escapes to Paris with her shiftless son as her once substantial inheritance dwindles. Once in the City of Lights, she recruits the help of a fortune teller and makes contact with her dead husband, whose spirit has inhabited the body of her cat. The tone of this film is inconsistent and its charm ephemeral. But it’s got Michelle Pfeiffer, and that may be enough for some.

It may be far too early to speculate about what the worst movie of the year will be, but “The Unholy” is probably a viable candidate. Jeffrey Dean Morgan stars as a washed up, alcoholic journalist who hopes to resuscitate his career by covering and exploiting a small-town supernatural phenomenon. A teenage girl, deaf and mute from birth, begins to speak and prophesy after supposedly seeing a vision of the Virgin Mary. Is this miracle the product of good or evil? Even though the dialogue and execution are terrible, the most disappointing thing about “The Unholy” is that it isn’t campy enough to be unintentionally funny. It’s just an unholy mess.

Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “Bad Trip” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 04/02/2021 |

Comedians Eric André ("Rough Night", Lil Rel Howery ("Get Out") and Tiffany Haddish ("Girls Trip") star in the hybrid movie, "Bad Trip." It combines elements of a buddy comedy and a 'Punked'-stye hidden-camera show.

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Freeze Frame: “Zach Snyder’s Justice League” (R), “Nobody” (R), “Bad Trip” (R), “City of Lies” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 03/26/2021 |

Director Zach Snyder’s superpower is that there’s no ‘quit’ in him…even when there should be. His bloated superhero movie “Zach Snyder’s Justice League” drones on and on for over four hours of spectacular but mind-numbing action featuring Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg. Is it better than the original 2017 version that was half as long? Maybe, but Snyder has hauled the DC Comics universe to the R-rated dark side kicking and screaming…and done it oh so slowly.

Bob Odenkirk proves he’s got action movie mojo in the ultra-violent dark comedy, “Nobody.” He plays a disrespected suburban dad who has suppressed his unique past for years. The truth comes out when fate puts him in the crosshairs of the Russian mob. Obviously inspired by the success of the “John Wick” movies, “Nobody” is a wild ride that goes a bit too far but is bolstered by terrific stunt work.

“Bad Trip” is a hybrid movie, a mixture of a buddy comedy and a “Punked”-style hidden camera show. Eric André and Lil Rel Howery are pals on a road trip, pursued by vengeful prison escapee, Tiffany Haddish. Long dull stretches are punctuated by a few hilarious moments in this shamelessly raunchy farce.

Johnny Depp and Forest Whitaker do their best, but they can’t save the disjointed crime thriller, “City of Lies,” a movie that’s been sitting on the shelf for five years. Was the truth behind the murder of Biggie Smalls in 1997 covered up due to a police corruption scandal in Los Angeles? That’s the premise of this story about a former detective and a journalist who tirelessly attempt to uncover the facts, even in a police system designed to protect itself. The fractured, herky-jerky narrative prevents “City of Lies” from becoming the compelling experience it should have been.

Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “The Father” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 03/26/2021 |

Oscar winners Anthony Hopkins ("Silence of the Lambs") and Olivia Coleman ("The Favourite") star in "The Father," a drama about a profound struggle with dementia. It marks the directorial debut of French playwright, Florian Zeller. 

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Freeze Frame: “The Courier” (PG-13), “Rush to Judgement” (Not rated) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 03/19/2021 |

“The Courier” is an understated, workmanlike spy thriller, based on a true story. In the run-up to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the British spy agency MI6 recruited a reluctant businessman named Greville Wynne, solidly played by Benedict Cumberbatch, to travel to Moscow and secretly work with a mole in the Russian government. The aim was to provide the West with info on Soviet Union’s plans for their mobile nuclear missiles. The film’s a slow burn, methodically ratcheting up the tension as well as providing an interesting take on the friendship that developed between the businessman and the mole. That friendship, as it happens, had a profound impact on history. Under the direction of Dominic Cooke, “The Courier” is a bit listless at first but ultimately finds its footing as it builds to a nail-biting conclusion. Well cast and informative, “The Courier” is a modestly engaging cloak-and-dagger history lesson.

“Rush to Judgement” is a skillfully made documentary about an infamous viral video from 2019. Teenager Nick Sandmann and classmates from the Covington Catholic High School were at the Lincoln Memorial after the March for Life in Washington, D.C. At that time, a phone video was shot that appeared to show the kids confronting and intimidating an elderly Native American man. When the video was posted on twitter, news outlets amplified misconceptions about the incident without applying appropriate journalistic scrutiny. Filmmaker Steve Oldfield exposes these missteps through probing interviews and additional video context. Available on Vimeo and video on demand, “Rush to Judgement” is thought-provoking and appropriately titled.

Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “Nomadland” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 03/19/2021 |

Oscar-winning actress Frances McDormand ("Fargo") stars in the drama "Nomadland." It's a drama based on a non-fiction book about indigent senior citizens who travel around the U.S. in trailers in search of employment. The director is Chloé Zhao ("The Rider"). 

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Freeze Frame: “The Father” (PG-13), “Cherry” (R), “Moxie” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 03/12/2021 |

Oscar winners Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Coleman add significant gravitas to the heartbreaking drama, “The Father.” Hopkins plays an elderly gent tortured by dementia and Coleman is his long-suffering daughter who does her best to help him. Writer-director Florian Zeller uses some clever dramatic tricks to give us a sense of the mental confusion and emotional disorientation that Hopkins’ character is experiencing. “The Father” is a touching and empathetic portrait of the painful personal crises of both the patient and his family.

The Russo Brothers have achieved massive success by directing films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They go for something completely different with the edgy crime drama, “Cherry,” based on Nico Walker’s semi-autobiographical novel. Tom Holland plays an Iraq War veteran suffering from PTSD who becomes a drug addict and bank robber. He manages to get his girlfriend hooked, too, while on his predictable downward spiral. It’s a gritty and well-acted drama, but the flashy direction draws attention to itself rather than the characters, weakening the story’s impact. “Cherry” is an over-directed near miss.

The comic coming-of-age drama “Moxie” is a likable if only modestly successful YA movie directed by Amy Poehler. Hadley Robinson plays Vivian, an introverted 16-year-old girl who just tries to get along. However, a new classmate arrives who shakes up her “let’s not make waves” worldview. Vivian is inspired to anonymously create an underground magazine called “Moxie” that addresses the sexism, racism and injustice she sees at her high school. The movie’s heart is in the right place even if all of the puzzle pieces seem a bit too obvious. “Moxie” is an amiable tale of female empowerment.

Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “Moxie” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 03/12/2021 |

Amy Poehler ("Wine Country") directs an adaptation of "Moxie," a 2015 YA novel of the same name by Jennifer Mathieu.

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Freeze Frame: “Coming 2 America” (PG-13), “Raya and the Last Dragon” (PG), “I Care a Lot” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 03/05/2021 |

It’s been 33 years since Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall teamed up for the memorable comedy, “Coming to America.” They join forces once again in “Coming 2 America.” Newly crowned King Akeem of Zamunda, played by Murphy, returns to America when he learns he’s got an illegitimate son living in Queens who is the rightful heir to the throne. There’s plenty elaborate makeup and splendiferous costumes to go along with the broad and goofy gags. While it doesn’t all work, those with fond recollections of the original will find “Coming 2 America” worth the return trip.

There’s a lot of heart to go along with a wealth of Disney magic in the new animated action fantasy, “Raya and the Last Dragon.” Set in a fictional Southeast Asian country, “Raya and the Last Dragon” tells the tale of a teenage warrior who goes on a quest to gather some magical gemstones and revive an enchanted dragon in order to save her country from destructive monsters. Kelly Marie Tran and Awkwafina lead the voice cast in this stunner that works both as a ripping adventure tale as well as an emotionally satisfying fable. Plus, it embraces female empowerment and diversity. “Raya and the Last Dragon” is another gem in the Disney canon.

There isn’t a single redeeming character in the darkly cynical comedy, “I Care a Lot.” Rosamund Pike gives a Golden Globe-winning performance as Marla, a professional guardian who is appointed by courts to oversee the care of elderly citizens. But Marla effectively drains them of all their assets. Things get complicated when she takes advantage of the mom of a ruthless gangster. It’s unnerving to watch as you hope that each character gets their comeuppance. Still, “I Care a Lot” is a sharp takedown of our warped system of elder care.

Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “I Care a Lot” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 03/05/2021 |

Rosamund Pike ("Gone Girl") won a Golden Globe for her performance in the dark comic film, "I Care a Lot." It concerns a corrupt, court-appointed guardian who drains the elderly of their life savings. Other notable cast members include Peter Dinklage ("Game of Thrones") and Dianne Weist ("Let Them All Talk"). 

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Freeze Frame: “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” (Not rated), “Minari” (PG-13), “The Vigil” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 02/26/2021 |

Andra Day makes an auspicious and striking feature film debut in “The United States vs. Billie Holiday.” It isn’t so much a biopic about the iconic jazz vocalist as it is about Holiday’s contentious relationship with the FBI which used her drug abuse as an excuse to censor her performance of the classic protest song, “Strange Fruit.” Sadly, the movie doesn’t live up to Day’s performance. As directed by Lee Daniels, it’s disjointed, meandering and lacks the focus necessary for it to work on an emotional level. But “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” is worth seeing for Day’s acting as well as her choice renditions of Holiday’s classic songs.

“Minari” is the very definition of a pleasant surprise. This low-key family drama from filmmaker Lee Isaac Chung is a semi-autobiographical story about a Korean American family that tries to start a farm in rural Arkansas in the 1980s. Steven Yeun and Han Ye-ri are excellent as the parents of two young kids who face formidable, emotionally wrenching challenges adapting to life in the Ozarks. Most of the story is told through the eyes of David, a seven-year-old boy. “Minari” is a warm and affectionate tale that serves as an apt salute to the fortitude of family.

If the opportunity to be creeped out for a few hours beckons you, then “The Vigil” is right up your alley. A young Jewish man, played by Dave Davis, has distanced himself from his Orthodox culture after experiencing an emotionally wrenching tragedy. He reluctantly agrees to keep vigil over a dead man’s body for a few hours at night, only to be visited and harassed by an evil spirit. This intelligent and unnerving film creates an eerie atmosphere and provides us a final, impressive performance from the late Kansas City native, Lynn Cohen.  

Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of  intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “The Dig” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 02/26/2021 |

Can a movie about an amateur British archeological dig in 1939 be compelling? Susan and Russ fill us in on this period piece that stars Carey Mulligan ("Promising Young Woman") and Ralph Fiennes ("The Hurt Locker").

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Freeze Frame: “Nomadland” (R), “Bobbi Jo: Under the Influence” (NR), “Rock Camp” (NR), “Blithe Spirit” (PG-13), “Flora and Ulysses” (PG) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 02/19/2021 |

Expect multiple Oscar nominations for “Nomadland,” a drama based on a non-fiction book about indigent senior citizens who travel around the U.S. in trailers in search of employment. Frances McDormand is solid, as always, and director Chloé Zhao uses a number of non-actors to play versions of themselves. It’s slow-moving, but “Nomandland” is elegantly understated and effective.

“Bobbi Jo: Under the Influence” is a compelling documentary about a Kansas City woman named Bobbi Jo Reed. A former addict and prostitute, she got clean after years of struggle and founded Healing House, a local charity that has helped over 8,000 people in our area who have had similar struggles. “Bobbi Jo: Under the Influence” is an inspiring, challenging film.

“Rock Camp” is a much more light-hearted documentary. For 25 years, Rock impresario David Fishof has produced the annual Rock n’ Roll Fantasy Camp, where amateur rock wannabes live out their dreams by being mentored by actual rock stars. The movie follows the stories of four such campers. The talking heads include Roger Daltry, Alice Cooper, Gene Simmons, Sammy Hagar and Joe Perry, all of whom seem to be having fun…just like viewers of this movie.

“Blithe Spirit” is a spiritless version of Sir Noel Coward’s 1941 supernatural comic play. The gifted cast includes Dan Stevens, Isla Fisher, Judy Dench and Leslie Mann, but under Edward Hall’s direction, it all seems a bit too forced and calculated. For a much better adaptation, seek out the classic 1945 film version directed by David Lean.

“Flora & Ulysses” is a Disney+ adaptation of the Newberry Award-winning children’s novel. It’s the tale of a young girl and a squirrel with superpowers. There’s a lot of slapstick and broad humor that saps “Flora & Ulysses” of much of its heart.

Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “Bobbi Jo: Under the Influence” (Not rated) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 02/19/2021 |

The new documentary film "Bobbi Jo: Under the Influence," was shot here in Kansas City. It tells the remarkable true story of a woman who was once a drug addict living on the streets of KC. She turned her life around and opened Healing House, a charity that has provided housing and services for more than 8,000 people.

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Freeze Frame: “Judas and the Black Messiah” (R), “The Mauritanian” (R), “Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 02/12/2021 |

Another dark chapter in American history is the focus of the riveting drama, “Judas and the Black Messiah.” Daniel Kaluuya is electrifying as Chicago Black Panther leader Fred Hampton whose organization was infiltrated in the 1960s by a self-serving FBI informant, well played by Lakeith Stanfield. Writer/director Shaka King effectively depicts the personal passions of the story’s central characters as well as the feds’ attempts to undermine their organization. “Judas & the Black Messiah” is an illuminating and instructive social statement.

A strong cast is the main attraction of “The Mauritanian,” yet another true story about injustice. Adapted from the best-selling memoir "Guantánamo Diary" by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, it depicts his detention and torture for fourteen years at Guantánamo Bay without ever having been charged with a crime. Tahar Rahim gives a compelling lead performance and the strong supporting cast includes Jody Foster, Benedict Cumberbatch and Shailene Woodley. Director Kevin McDonald’s approach to the material lacks the drive and urgency that the story deserves, but “The Mauritanian” is still an enlightening and thought-provoking watch.

Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, who co-wrote the bawdy hit comedy “Bridesmaids,” return with the goofy surreal farce, “Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar.” They play friends who leave their small midwestern town for the first time for a vacation at a Florida resort. They get embroiled in an unforeseeable adventure that involves spies, killer mosquitos and Jamie Dornan. ‘’Wacky’ may be the operative word for this work of offbeat PG-13 absurdity. In order to enjoy “Barb & Star,” you have to have an affinity for the surreal sense of humor that Wiig brought to many of her roles on SNL. Just be prepared for a broad, two-hour sketch.

Robin Wright’s assured performance is the best thing about “Land,” which is also the actress’ directorial debut. Emotionally unmoored by a tragedy, a woman retreats to the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains and it proves to be a challenging move.

Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “Malcolm and Marie” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 02/12/2021 |

John David Washington ("Tenet") and Zendaya ("The Greatest Showman") star in the dark interpersonal drama "Malcolm & Marie." It was written and directed by Sam Levinson, creator of the TV series, "Euphoria."

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Freeze Frame: “Malcolm & Marie” (R), “Falling” (R), “Rams” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 02/05/2021 |

John David Washington stars along with Zendaya in the dark and talky drama, “Malcolm & Marie.” Following a movie premier, a filmmaker and his girlfriend muse intermittently argue, make up, make love and argue again. The actors are terrific, but writer/director Sam Levinson’s bitter film plays out like a lesser version of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf.” It’s smart, but it lacks the incendiary humor that could have elevated it. “Malcolm & Marie” is observant but frustratingly repetitious.

Actor Viggo Mortensen makes his directorial debut with the heartbreaking drama, “Falling.” Mortensen, who also wrote and produced, plays John, a gay man whose brutish and abusive father Willis, played by Lance Henriksen, is suffering from dementia. Longstanding issues resurface as the elderly man spews homophobic and misogynist nonsense causing John to recall difficult memories from his childhood. While the film is very well acted and well intentioned, it is a slog to sit through. Henriksen’s character is so unlikeable that he sabotages any potential empathy for his plight. You have to give Mortensen credit though for his uncompromising viewpoint. Still, “Falling” is an agonizing watch.

Sam Neill and Michael Caton play feuding brothers in the lightweight Australian comic drama, “Rams.” Although they live side by side on their family sheep ranch, Colin and Les haven’t spoken to one another for 40 years. When a rare disease appears among their flocks, their relationship is strained further and puts the entire local agriculture community in jeopardy. This is the type of movie that relies on homespun rural charm for its appeal. And, while it doesn’t all work, the capable cast gives the low-key “Rams” a much-needed punch.

Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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Take Two: “Penguin Bloom” (TV-14) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 02/05/2021 |

Naomi Watts ("Birdman") stars in "Penguin Bloom," an Australian family drama based on the book by Cameron Bloom. Watts plays a woman, paralyzed in a freak accident, whose emotional trauma is affected by her son's wild pet. 

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Take Two: “The White Tiger” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 01/29/2021 |

The White Tiger" is a Netflix adaptation of the Man Booker Prize-winning novel by Arivind Adiga. It's a Dickensian tale about a poor Indian lad who uses his wits to rise above his lower caste station.

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Take Two: “Mank” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 01/22/2021 |

Director David Fincher ("The Social Network") focuses on Old Hollywood with his new feature "Mank." Gary Oldman plays acclaimed screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz in this 'warts-and-all" biopic, now showing on Netflix.

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Take Two: “Pieces of a Woman” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 01/15/2021 |

Vanessa Kirby ("The Crown"), Shia LaBeouf ("Honeyboy") and Ellen Burstyn ("Requiem for a Dream") star in the harrowing drama, "Pieces of a Woman." 

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Take Two: “I Am Woman” (Not rated) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 01/08/2021 |

Seventies pop music star Helen Reddy gets the biopic treatment in “I Am Woman.” Australian actress Tilda Cobham-Hervey plays the singer who went through many personal struggles before hitting it big and writing the number one hit “I Am Woman” that became the anthem for the women’s movement.

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Take Two: “Holidate” (TV-MA) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 01/01/2021 |

Emma Roberts ("The Hunt") and Luke Bracey ("Hacksaw Ridge") star in the Netflix rom-com, "Holidate."

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Take Two: “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 12/25/2020 |

The late Chadwick Boseman ("Black Panther") stars in the Netflix adaptation of August Wilson's acclaimed play, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom." The cast also includes Viola Davis ("The Help"), Glynn Turman ("The Way Back") and Coleman Domingo ("Lucy in the Sky"). The director is George C. Wolfe ("Nights in Rodanthe").

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Take Two: “Another Round” (Not rated) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 12/18/2020 |

Acclaimed Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg ("The Celebration") and actor Mads Mikkelsen re-team for the first time since their noted 2012 film, "The Hunt." "Another Round" is a comic drama about an experiment that four high school teachers embark upon. They toy with their blood alcohol content to see how it impacts their daily performance.

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Take Two: “I’m Your Woman” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 12/11/2020 |

Rachel Brosnahan ("The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel") stars in the 70s era neo-noir crime thriller, "I'm Your Woman." Brosnahan plays Jean, a twenty-something whose gangster husband crosses his associates and then goes missing. Jean then is forced into hiding. The film was written and directed by Julia Hart ("Stargirl"). 

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Take Two: “Sound of Metal” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 12/04/2020 |

Riz Ahmed ("Venom") and Olivia Cooke ("Ready Player One") star in "Sound of Metal." Written and directed by Dariius Marder ("Loot"), it's a drama that deals with a rock musician suffering from hearing loss.

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Take Two: “The Last Vermeer” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 11/27/2020 |

Guy Pearce ("Prometheus") portrays the world's most renowned art forger, Dutch artist Han van Meegeren, in the post WWII drama, "The Last Vermeer." This drama explores the time when van Meegeren was on trial for collaborating with the Nazis. Was he a traitor or was he outfoxing the enemy? This historical drama also stars Claes Bang ("The Square").

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Take Two: “Ammonite” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 11/20/2020 |

Kate Winslet ("Blackbird") and Saoirse Ronan ("Little Women") star in "Ammonite," a tale of forbidden romance set in 1800s England. Winslet portrays palaeontologist Mary Anning and Ronan is geologist Charlotte Murchinson in this speculative bit of historical fiction from director Francis Lee ("God's Own Country").

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Take Two: “Let Him Go” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 11/13/2020 |

Kevin Costner ("Yellowstone") and Diane Lane ("Paris Can Wait") reunite for a big screen revenge thriller, "Let Him Go." It's based on the Neo-Western novel by Larry Watson and has been adapted to film by Thomas Bezucha ("The Family Stone").

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Take Two: “American Selfie: America Shoots Itself” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 11/06/2020 |

Filmmaker Alexendra Pelosi takes a snapshot of a divided America in the unnerving Showtime documentary "American Selfie." 

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Take Two: “Radium Girls” (Not rated) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 10/30/2020 |

"Radium Girls" is a very well meaning period drama, but it takes a rather bland approach to a topic that should have been riveting. Actress Joey King ("The Kissing Booth") leads a likable cast in this tale about the young women who brought suit against their employer in the 1920s when they were exposed to deadly levels of radiation while painting clock faces. 

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Take Two: “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 10/23/2020 |

Oscar winning filmmaker Aaron Sorkin ("The Social Network") turns his attention to a notorious legal case. The cast of "The Trial of the Chicago 7" includes Sacha Baron Cohen ("Borat") as Abby Hoffman, Eddie Redmayne ("The Theory of Everything") as Tom Hayden, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II ("Watchmen") as Bobby Seale and Mark Rylance ("Bridge of Spies") as William Kuntzler. 

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Take Two: “Yellow Rose” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 10/16/2020 |

A young Philippine-American girl evades Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents while trying to break into the Austin, Texas country music scene. Broadway star Eva Nobelzada makes her movie debut in this coming of age comic drama.

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Take Two: “Eternal Beauty” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 10/09/2020 |

British actress Sally Hawkins ("The Shape of Water") plays a woman suffering from schizophrenia in the offbeat comic drama, "Eternal Beauty." The cast also includes David Thewlis ("I'm Thinking of Ending Things") and Penelope Wilton ("Downton Abbey"). It was written and directed by actor Craig Roberts ("The Current War").

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Take Two: “Kajillionaire” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 10/02/2020 |

"Kajillionaire" is comic drama from filmmaker Miranda July ("Me, You and Everyone We Know"). Evan Rachel Wood ("Westworld") leads the cast in the story of a young woman who works with her parents as petty scam artists. The ensemble also includes Richard Jenkins ("The Shape of Water"), Debra Winger ("The Lovers") and Gina Rodriguez ("Miss Bala"). 

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Take Two: “All In: The Fight for Democracy” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 09/25/2020 |

"All In: The Fight for Democracy" is a new documentary about voter suppression, both in the past and in the present. Susan and Russ review this new film that focuses on Stacey Abrams and the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial race.

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Take Two: “The Broken Hearts Gallery” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 09/18/2020 |

Susan and Russ cover "The Broken Hearts Gallery." Does this romantic comedy for millennials speak to all generations? Geraldine Viswanathan ("Bad Education") and Dacre Montgomery star in the first feature film from writer/director Natalie Krinsky.

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Take Two: “Words on Bathroom Walls” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 09/11/2020 |

"Words on Bathroom Walls" is a comic drama about teen schizophrenia, adapted from a popular YA novel by Julia Walton. Charlie Plummer ("All the Money in the World"), Taylor Russell ("Waves") and Andy Garcia ("Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again") lead the cast. Thor Freudenthal ("Diary of a Wimpy Kid") directs.

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Take Two: “The Personal History of David Copperfield” (PG) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 09/04/2020 |

Susan and Russ share very different opinions about the latest big screen adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic novel, "David Copperfield." Dev Patel ("Slumdog Millionaire"), Hugh Laurie (TV's "House") and Tilda Swinton ("Suspiria") star in this new version from writer/director Armando Iannucci, the man behind HBO's "Veep."

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Take Two: “Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies” (Not rated) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 08/28/2020 |

Susan and Russ cover (uncover?) a new documentary that lives up to its title. 

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Take Two: “Big Fur” (Not rated) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 08/21/2020 |

A new documentary from KC-based director Dan Wayne focuses on World Champion taxidermist Ken Walker and his efforts to 're-create' a creature he's convinced actually exists...a Sasquatch. This movie works because it's as likably quirky as its subject. 

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Take Two: “Endless” (Not rated) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 08/14/2020 |

Alexandra Shipp ("Love, Simon") and Nicholas Hamilton ("It") star in a romantic paranormal fantasy called "Endless." It's the latest film for young audiences from filmmaker Scott Speer ("Midnight Sun"). Susan and Russ are of one mind on this one.

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Take Two: “The Secret Garden” (PG) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 08/07/2020 |

Susan and Russ review what is at least the seventh movie or TV adaptation of the beloved children's novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett ("The Little Princess"). The cast features Colin Firth ("The King's Speech") and Julie Walters ("Mamma Mia!") and newcomer Dixie Egerickx ("Watcher in the Woods"). Marc Munden ("Mirand") handles the directing chores. 

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Take Two: “The Tobacconist” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 07/31/2020 |

The well known novel by Austrian writer Robert Seethaler provides the basis for the pre-WWII drama, "The Tobacconist" (Der Trafikant ). The film version is directed by Nikolaus Leytner and features one of the final performances from the late Swiss actor Bruno Ganz ("The Manchurian Candidate.")

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Take Two: “Waves” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 07/24/2020 |

A family drama starring Sterling K. Brown, Taylor Russell and Kelvin Harrison, Jr. merits a big agreement between Russ and Susan. "Waves" is the third feature film written and directed by Trey Edward Shults. 

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Take Two: “Never Too Late” (Not rated) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 07/17/2020 |

“Never Too Late” is a comic import from down under starring James Cromwell and Jacki Weaver. Russ and Susan are on the same page on this one. 

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Take Two: “Denise Ho: Becoming the Song” (Not rated) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 07/10/2020 |

The documentary "Denise Ho: Becoming the Song" focuses on a famous pop star from Hong Kong who used her fame to take a stand on the democracy movement. This comes as the prevailing compromise known as "One country, two systems" was approaching its end.

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Take Two: “Lucy in the Sky” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 07/03/2020 |

Natalie Portman ("Black Swan"), Jon Hamm ("Richard Jewell") and Ellen Burstyn ("Interstellar") star in "Lucy in the Sky," a drama about an astronaut's emotional difficulties. Directed by Noah Hawley (TV's "Fargo"), it is loosely based on an infamous incident that involved astronaut Lisa Nowak who attempted to kidnap a romantic rival. Susan and Russ don't see eye to eye on this one. 

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Take Two: “Ford v Ferrari” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 06/26/2020 |

Matt Damon ("Jason Bourne") and Christian Bale ("Vice") star in the action biopic, "Ford v Ferrari," directed by James Mangold ("Walk the Line"). Damon plays legendary race car designer Carroll Shelby and Bale plays driver Ken Miles. The story involves the efforts of the Ford team to upset perennial champion Ferrari in the 1966 Le Mans endurance race.

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Take Two: “Ad Astra” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 06/19/2020 |

The sci-fi epic "Ad Astra" involves an astronaut sent on a mission to find his long lost father on a space station in a remote part of the solar system. Brad Pitt ("Once Upon a Time in Hollywood") stars along with Tommy Lee Jones ("Jason Bourne"). Writer/director James Gray is best known for his crime dramas "The Yards" and "We Own the Night" as well as the adventure "The Lost City of Z."

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Take Two: “Official Secrets” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 06/12/2020 |

Keira Knightly ("The Aftermath) and Ralph Fiennes ("The Grand Budapest Hotel") start in the true life whistleblower drama, "Official Secrets." It's the story of Katherine Gun, a British intelligence specialist who had to decide whether or not to risk her life by exposing incriminating evidence leading up to the invasion of Iraq. Fiennes plays noted lawyer Ben Emmerson who came to Gun's aid. Director Gavin Hood is best known for his acclaimed South African drama, "Tsotsi." 

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Take Two: “Ophelia” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 06/05/2020 |

Daisy Ridley ("Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker"), Naomi Watts ("The Loudest Voice"), Clive Owen ("Gemini Man") and George MacKay ("1917") star in an unusual spin on Shakespeare's "Hamlet." With the story told from Ophelia's point of view, the tale gets a feminist spin from filmmaker Claire McCarthy ("The Turning"). 

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Take Two: “Military Wives” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 05/29/2020 |

Kristen Scott Thomas ("Tomb Raider") stars in "Military Wives," a gentle comedy based on a true story about the spouses of British soldiers who try to cope with their husbands' absence by forming a choir. It's directed by Peter Cattaneo, best known for "The Full Monty."

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Take Two: “Paradise Hills” (Not rated) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 05/22/2020 |

"Paradise Hills" marks the filmmaking debut of celebrated Spanish photographer and designer Alice Waddington. Emma Robers ("The Hunt") stars in this sci-fi thriller about a remote island where uncontrollable young women are sent to be reprogrammed into the perfect bride.

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Take Two: “Sorry We Missed You” (Not rated) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 05/15/2020 |

"Sorry We Missed You" is a working class kitchen sink drama from British filmmaker Ken Loach ("I, Daniel Blake"). The plot involves the modern gig economy in Britain and the difficulties faced by one debt-ridden family. 

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Take Two: “Sword of Trust” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 05/08/2020 |

"Sword of Trust" stars Marc Maron (TV's "GLOW"), Jillian Bell ("Brittany Runs a Marathon") and Michaela Watkins ("The Way Back"). This broad ensemble comedy is about the efforts of several people to sell a sword that may prove that the South won the Civil War. It's the latest from director Lynn Shelton ("Outside In").

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Take Two: “Bad Education” (TVMA) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 05/01/2020 |

Since our local theaters are still temporarily closed, this week's "Take Two" focuses on a new film now playing on HBO. Hugh Jackman ("The Greatest Showman") and Allison Janney ("I, Tonya") star in "Bad Education," a bizarre true story about school district corruption. 

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Take Two: “The Upside” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 04/24/2020 |

Brian Cranston ("Breaking Bad") and Kevin Hart ("Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle") star in "The Upside," and Americanized remake of the French film, "The Intouchables." The cast also includes Nicole Kidman ("Bombshell") and was directed by Neil Burger ("Divergent"). 

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Take Two: “Big Time Adolescence” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 04/17/2020 |

"Big Time Adolescence" is a new Hulu comedy. Pete Davidson of "Saturday Night Live" fame stars as an irresponsible and immature man in his twenties whose best friend is an impressionable teen. 

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Take Two: “Good Boys” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 04/10/2020 |

Jacob Tremblay ("Room") leads a cast of youngsters in the raunchy, R-rated comedy, "Good Boys," now available to screen on HBO. The supporting cast includes Lil Rel Howery ("Get Out"), Will Forte ("Booksmart") and Retta (TV's "Good Girls").

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Take Two: New on HBO-“The Kitchen” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 04/03/2020 |

Since our local cinemas are temporarily closed, this week's episode focuses on a movie new to HBO. "The Kitchen" is a drama set in the 1970s about three women who take over mob in New York's Hell's Kitchen when their husbands wind up in jail. It has been adapted from the DC/Vertigo comic book series. It stars Melissa McCarthy ("Spy"), Elizabeth Moss ("The Invisible Man") and Tiffany Haddish ("Girls' Trip").

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Take Two: “Anna” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 03/27/2020 |

Due to the fact that our local cinemas are temporarily closed, Russ and Susan give their reviews of a new action thriller now screening on HBO. "Anna" is the latest from filmmaker Luc Besson ("Lucy") about a supermodel/female assassin played by newcomer Sasha Luss. The supporting cast includes Helen Mirren ("The Queen"). Luke Evans ("Beauty and the Beast") and Cillian Murphy ("28 Days Later").

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Freeze Frame: “Self-Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker (not rated), “Blow the Man Down” (R), “Big Time Adolescence” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 03/20/2020 |

Due to the fact that most of our local cinemas are temporarily closing in reaction to the coronavirus outbreak, this week’s Freeze Frame will focus on brand new movies that are available to stream on home streaming services.

“Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker” is a 3-hour Netflix miniseries about America’s first self-made female millionaire. Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer takes the title role of the woman who used her tenacity and sales skills to build a business empire of hair care products for African American women. Based on a book by Walker’s granddaughter, the story focuses on the formidable personal and societal obstacles Ms. Walker had to overcome in the early part of the 20th Century.

Spencer is ideally cast in the title role. This enlightening, well-produced drama falters only when it indulges in some fantasy scenes that seem artificial and unnecessary.

“Blow the Man Down” is a wicked and pitch-black mystery new on Amazon. It’s a thriller that exposes the unseemly underbelly of a small, sleepy fishing village in coastal Maine. Sophie Lowe and Morgan Saylor plays sisters who unwittingly uncover their town’s dark secrets when one of them kills a man in self-defense and then they attempt to cover up the incident. The style and tone are very similar to the work of the Coen Brothers, so if their comically dark vision appeals to you, then “Blow the Man Down” is right up your alley.

Pete Davidson from “Saturday Night Live” stars in the Hulu comedy, “Big Time Adolescence,” the story of a charismatic but irresponsible man in his twenties who has the emotional maturity of a juvenile. Appropriately, his best friend is an impressionable 16-year-old, well played by Griffin Gluck. The duo gets into trouble through casual drug dealing. “Big Time Adolescence” is a slight but often amusing cautionary tale.

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Take Two: “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 03/06/2020 |

An Oscar nominee for Best International Film this year, "Portrait of a Lady on Fire" is a French period drama about forbidden love. Noémie Merlant ("Return of the Hero") and Adèle Haenel ("BPM") star in this costume opus set in 1760.

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Take Two: “The Call of the Wild” (PG) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 02/28/2020 |

"The Call of the Wild" is at least the eighth screen adaptation of Jack London's famous adventure novel. Harrison Ford ("Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens") stars in this new version directed by Chris Sanders ("How to Train Your Dragon"). 

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Take Two: “The Photograph” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 02/21/2020 |

Issa Rae (HBO's "Insecure") and LaKeith Stanfield ("Uncut Gems") star in the romantic drama, "The Photograph," written and directed by Stella Meghie ("The Weekend"). The story focuses on the relationship between a museum curator and a journalist that develops when the curator finds a mysterious photo of her late mother that sends her on a mission of discovery.

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Take Two: “Les Miserables” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 02/14/2020 |

The Jury Prize winner at last year's Cannes Film Festival, "Les Miserables" is NOT based on Victor Hugo's classic novel. It's set in contemporary France in the same place where the action of Hugo's novel unfolded 150 years earlier.

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Take Two: “Bad Boys for Life” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 02/07/2020 |

Will Smith ("Aladdin") and Martin Lawrence ("Big Momma's House") reunite for the first time in 17 years in the third entry in the "Bad Boys" franchise, "Bad Boys for Life."

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Take Two: “The Gentlemen” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 02/01/2020 |

In the decadent gangster comedy "The Gentlemen," Matthew McConaughey ("Dallas Buyers Club") stars as an American expat in London running a lucrative marijuana business. Things get tricky when he tries to cash out. The latest R-rated action flick from Guy Ritchie ("Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels") also stars Charlie Hunnam ("Papillon"), Michele Dockery ("Downton Abbey"), Henry Golding ("Crazy Rich Asians") and Hugh Grant ("Florence Foster Jenkins").

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Take Two: “1917” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 01/24/2020 |

Oscar-winning filmmaker Sam Mendes ("American Beauty," "Skyfall") obtained the story for his WWI epic "1917" from stories told to him by his grandfather. Opting to employ a single "point of view" shot for the entire film, Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins ("Bladerunner 2049") create an immersive atmosphere. 

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Take Two: “Uncut Gems” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 01/11/2020 |

Comedian Adam Sandler ("Murder Mystery") takes a dramatic turn in "Uncut Gems," a violent character study about a New York jeweler with a gambling addiction. This arthouse thriller was written and directed by the Safdie Brothers ("Good Time").

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Take Two: “Bombshell” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 01/04/2020 |

Oscar winners Charlize Theron ("Atomic Blonde") and Nicole Kidman ("Boy Erased") play Fox News anchors Megan Kelly and Gretchen Carlson in "Bombshell," a drama about sexual harassment at the cable giant. Margot Robbie ("Once Upon a Time in Hollywood") plays a fictional role as a naive reporter and John Lithgow ("Late Night") portrays the late Fox News honcho Roger Ailes.

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Take Two: “Richard Jewell” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 12/28/2019 |

Director Clint Eastwood ("The Mule") focuses on a controversial true story about a sad sack hero of Atlanta's 1996 Olympics. Paul Walter Hauser ("I, Tonya") plays Richard Jewell, a security guard and wannabe cop who became a suspect in the deadly Centennial Park bombing. Sam Rockwell ("Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"), Kathy Bates ("Misery"), Jon Hamm ("The Report") and Olivia Wilde ("Her") round out the supporting cast.

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Take Two: “Dark Waters” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 12/21/2019 |

In the social drama "Dark Waters," Mark Ruffalo ("Avengers: Endgame") stars as real-life corporate lawyer Robert Bilott who waged a 20-year war with chemical giant DuPont. The company was accused of knowingly poisoning the people of a small West Virginia town with chemicals that leaked from its plant that manufactured Teflon. The cast also includes Anne Hathaway ("The Hustle") and Tim Robbins (TV's "Castle Rock") and was directed by Todd Haynes ("Carol").

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Take Two: “Queen & Slim” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 12/14/2019 |

First-time filmmaker Melina Matsoukas has taken an original script by Lena Waith ("Dear White People") and turned it into a harrowing road movie that deals with contemporary racism. Daniel Kaluuya ("Get Out") and newcomer Jodi Turner-Smith star as a couple who go on the run after a horrible incident occurs while they're on their first date. 

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Take Two: “Knives Out” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 12/06/2019 |

"Knives Out" is a whodunit written and directed by Rian Johnson ("Looper"), that features an all-star cast that includes Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans and Christopher Plummer. 

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“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”(PG) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 11/29/2019 |

Although it's being marketed as a biopic about legendary children's TV icon Fred Rogers, "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" is really about a single incident in the life of a journalist and his encounters with the genial PBS host. Tom Hanks ("The Post") portrays Rogers and Matthew Rhys (TV's "The Americans") plays a writer from Esquire magazine. Marielle Heller ("Can You Ever Forgive Me") directs.

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Take Two: “The Irishman” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 11/22/2019 |

Director Martin Scorsese (“The Departed”) brings his considerable talents to his latest project, a Netflix release also seen in theaters. “The Irishman” stars Robert De Niro (“Raging Bull”), Al Pacino (“The Godfather”) and Joe Pesci (“Goodfellas”) in the tale of a truck driver (and hitman) who serves as a go-between linking the mob and the Teamsters Union.

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Take Two: “Parasite” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 11/08/2019 |

A dark social satire from South Korea, "Parasite" was the winner of this year's top prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Director Bong Joon-ho ("Okja") is a leader of the Korean New Wave. Susan and Russ let us know if the film lives up to the hype.

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Take Two: “Joker” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 11/01/2019 |

Joaquin Phoenix portrays Batman's mad nemesis in “Joker,” undoubtedly one of the more controversial and provocative movies of the year. This character study serves as an ultra-violent origin story. Writer/director Todd Phillips, who is best known for his broad comedies like “Old School” and the “Hangover” trilogy, makes an unorthodox approach in this drastic change of pace.

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Take Two: “Downton Abbey” (PG) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 10/25/2019 |

Fans of the PBS TV series "Downton Abbey" finally have a big screen to get their fix. In this episode that picks up where the series ended, the King of England travels to Downton to pay a visit. Most of the cast members have returned, including Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Elizabeth McGovern and Maggie Smith. Series creator Julian Fellows penned the screenplay.

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Take Two: “Hustlers” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 10/18/2019 |

Jennifer Lopez (TV's "World of Dance") and Constance Woo ("Crazy Rich Asians") play strippers who rip off their Wall Street clients during the financial crisis of 2008 in the drama, "Hustlers." Based on a true story, "Hustlers" was written and directed by Lorene Scafaria ("The Meddler").

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Take Two: “Judy” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 09/27/2019 |

Renée Zellweger gets the role of a lifetime in "Judy," the story of the last sad months in the life of entertainment legend, Judy Garland. The movie is an adaptation of the  Broadway play End of the Rainbowby Peter Quilter. The film also features Jessie Buckley, Finn Wittrock, Rufus Sewell and Michael Gambon in supporting roles and is directed by Rupert Goold ("True Story").

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Take Two: “Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 09/20/2019 |

Susan and Russ take a look at a documentary focusing on one of the most popular recording artists of all time. "Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice" is a musical overview of the singer whom Bonnie Raitt described as "the Beyonce of her day." Talking heads include Raitt, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Peter Asher, JD Souther, Jackson Brown and many more.

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Freeze Frame: “Hustlers” (R), “Official Secrets” (R), “Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken” (PG-13), “Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 09/13/2019 |

Jennifer Lopez gives an assured and charismatic performance in “Hustlers,” the true story of some Manhattan strippers who, during the financial crisis of 2008, began drugging and ripping off their Wall Street clients. Constance Wu plays a stripping newbie J-Lo takes under her wing. The ethics of this female empowerment story are dubious, but “Hustlers” takes an appropriately cynical stab at our money mad culture.

“Official Secrets” is a taut true-life thriller about an incident that occurred in Britain during the leadup to the 2003 Gulf War. Keira Knightly plays an intelligence specialist who leaks a classified document which could have proven that the invasion of Iraq in was illegal. Ralph Fiennes plays her lawyer. The actors are fine and ethical questions are intriguing even though the movie’s pacing falls short.

Documentary filmmaking firebrand Morgan Spurlock is back skewering the fast food industry in “Supersize Me 2: Holy Chicken!” This time, he sets out to open his own fried chicken franchise and raise his own poultry, exposing some of the more outrageous and unsettling aspects of the industry’s farming and marketing methods. It serves up a spicy combo of information, humor and outrage.

“Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice” is a very entertaining documentary that allows the pop music icon to tell her own story as well as providing insight from a number of people who were an integral part of her remarkable career. While it doesn’t delve too deeply, it’s still involving overview packed with terrific music.

Also opening this week, “Freaks” is a sci-fi thriller with Emile Hirsch. “The Goldfinch” is a thriller based on the bestselling novel. Teen gangs battle one another after all adults have perished in the thriller, “Riot Girls.” “Fiddler: Miracle of Miracles” is a documentary about the classic Broadway musical, “Fiddler on the Roof.”

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Take Two: “Brittany Runs a Marathon” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 09/13/2019 |

Comedian Jillian Bell ("Sword of Trust") gives an impressive performance as an overweight Manhattan party girl who makes some dramatic lifestyle changes in the comic drama "Bittany Runs a Marathon." The cast also includes Michaela Watkins (TV's "Transparent") and Lil Rel Howery ("Get Out").

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Take Two: “After the Wedding” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 09/06/2019 |

Two of America's finest actresses offer an English language remake of an acclaimed 2006 Danish film, "After the Wedding. Michelle Williams ("Fosse/Verdon") and Julianne Moore ("Gloria Bell") star in the gender-flipped adaptation directed by Moore's husband, Bart Freundlich ("The Myth of Fingerprints"). 

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Take Two: “The Peanut Butter Falcon” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 08/30/2019 |

Shia LaBeouf ("Transformers"), Dakota Johnson ("Fifty Shades of Grey"), Bruce Dern ("Once Upon a Time in Hollywood"), John Hawkes ("Winter's Bone") and Thomas Hayden-Church ("Sideways") are the 'name' cast members of "The Peanut Butter Falcon," an indie drama from newcomers Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz. But the title role belongs to Zack Gottsagen, a newcomer with Down Syndrome. He plays an escapee from a nursing home who befriends a fugitive (LaBeouf) and embarks on a river raft adventure.

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Take Two: “Maiden” (PG) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 08/23/2019 |

"Maiden" is a documentary about Tracy Edwards and the first all-female crew to enter the harrowing and dangerous Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race in 1989. Many thought they wouldn't survive, let alone finish the grueling race.

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Take Two: “Them That Follow” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 08/16/2019 |

Trouble among some snake-handling Pentecostals in Appalachia is the subject of the unsettling drama "Them that Follows." Walton Goggins ("Tomb Raider") plays a strict pastor of a small mountain flock. His daughter is portrayed by Alice Englert ("Beautiful Creatures") and other members of the flock include Olivia Coleman ("The Favourite"), Jim Gaffigan ("Super Troopers 2") and Kaitlyn Dever ("Booksmart"). 

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Take Two: “The Farewell” (PG) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 08/09/2019 |

Awkwafina ("Crazy Rich Asians") stars in the comic drama, "The Farewell," inspired by the true story of the filmmaker Lulu Wang and her ailing grandmother. A young woman travels to China when she learns her beloved grandmother is terminally ill. Problem is, the family has decided to hide the truth from the elderly lady and to stage a sham marriage to make her feel better. 

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Take Two: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 08/02/2019 |

"Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," the latest effort from writer/director Quentin Tarantino ("Django Unchained"), is an homage to the city and art form he loves. Leonardo DiCaprio ("The Revenant") plays the former star of a TV Western who tries to navigate the changes going on in Tinsletown in 1969. His best friend is a stuntman, played by Brad Pitt ("World War Z") who also serves as his driver. The impressive cast also includes Margot Robbie ("I, Tonya") and Al Pacino ("Paterno"). 

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Take Two: “Under the Silver Lake” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 07/26/2019 |

Andrew Garfleld ("The Amazing Spider-Man") stars in a neo-noir mystery, "Under the Silver Lake." Garfield plays a paranoid man whose beautiful neighbor goes missing. As he tries to solve the puzzle of her disappearance, things get weirder and weirder. The film was written and directed by David Robert Mitchell ("It Follows"). The cast also includes Riley Keough ("American Honey) and Topher Grace ("BlacKKKlansman").

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Take Two: “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 07/19/2019 |

The drama "The Last Black Man in San Francisco" had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 26, 2019, where it won awards for Best Directing and a Special Jury Prize for Creative Collaboration. It marks the debut of writer/director/producer Joel Talbot, based on the true story of his childhood friend, Jimmie Fails. Fails plays himself in this arthouse entry about a man who tries to save the Victorian house his grandfather built.

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Take Two: “Yesterday” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 07/12/2019 |

In "Yesterday," Himesh Patel from the BBC TV series "Eastenders" plays an unsuccessful musician who, through a cosmic fluke, becomes the only living person to know the songs of The Beatles. This high-concept romantic fantasy also features Lily James ("Mama Mia: Here We Go Again"), and Kate McKinnon (TV's "Saturday Night Live"). The film was written by Richard Curtis ("Love Actually") directed by Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire").

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Take Two: “Shaft” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 07/05/2019 |

That bad 'you-know-what' Shaft has returned to the big screen. Samuel L. Jackson ("Captain Marvel") is the titular private dick hero, John Shaft...or does the title also refer to his son JJ Shaft ("Jessie T. Usher from "Ride") and John Shaft, Sr. (Richard Roundtree from "Seven")? This action comedy was directed by Tim Story ("Barbershop").

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Freeze Frame: “Yesterday” (PG-13), “Ophelia” (PG-13), “Annabelle Comes Home” (PG-13), “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 06/28/2019 |

What if the Beatles never existed but you knew all of their songs? That’s the high-concept behind the comic romantic fantasy, “Yesterday.” Himesh Patel plays a wannabe singer who, mystically, is the only person who remembers the songs of the Fab Four and becomes an overnight sensation. An appealing cast, sharp direction and great music help overcome some of the story’s corny elements. As for me, I believe in “Yesterday.”

And speaking of high-concept, how about re-telling “Hamlet” from Ophelia’s point of view? That’s the feminist approach to the involving drama, “Ophelia.” Daisy Ridley plays the tragic heroine who is smarter and more resourceful than Shakespeare would ever have envisioned. Some elements of this revision are downright silly and will no doubt outrage Shakespearian purists. Still, “Ophelia” is an interesting experiment in fan-fiction conjecture.

“Annabelle Comes Home” is the eighth film in the “Conjuring” horror universe. This time out, an unsuspecting teen releases the demonically-possessed doll from her case and evil spirits begin to wreak havoc. It plays like a compendium of horror clichés. “Annabelle Comes Home” is a little too subdued for its own good, but “Conjuring” fans should like it.

“The Last Black Man in San Francisco” won a special jury prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. This critical darling focuses on class struggles and gentrification as a young man tries to save the Victorian house built by his grandfather. Jimmy Fails plays himself in an adaptation of his own story. This arty, slowly-paced film requires patient viewing, but has occasional flashes of brilliance.

Also opening this week, “The Last Whistle” is a drama about s controversial high school coach’s reaction to the death of one of his football players after an intense practice. “The Other Side of Heaven 2: Fire of Faith” is a faith-based Mormon sequel. 

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Take Two: “Ophelia” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 06/28/2019 |

The new film "Ophelia" is a fan fiction-style bit of conjecture based on Lisa Klein's novel that reworks Shakespeare's "Hamlet," but from Ophelia's point of view. Daisy Ridley ("Star Wars: The Last Jedi") takes on the title role with George MacKay ("Captain Fantastic") as Hamlet, Naomi Watts ("Insurgent") as Gertrude and Clive Owen ("Children of Men") as Claudius. It was directed by Claire McCarthy ("The Turning") and written by Semi Chellas ("American Woman").

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Freeze Frame: “Toy Story 4” (G), “Child’s Play (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 06/21/2019 |

It’s nothing less than a cinematic miracle. The folks at Pixar have gone back to an old mine and found more gold. “Toy Story 4” is a brilliantly conceived and executed animated story that works as a comedy, as an action adventure and as an emotionally satisfying conclusion to the series. As usual, Pixar’s animation is flawless, but they’ve focused their efforts on creating a meaningful screenplay that tackles some complex issues. Involving and entertaining, “Toy Story 4” is the best movie of 2019 so far. Expect the box office to go to infinity and beyond.

And speaking of toys, everyone’s favorite homicidal doll has returned. Chuckie is back in a reboot and reimagining of the modern horror classic, “Child’s Play.” Aubrey Plaza plays a single mom who gives her son a Buddi doll and all heck breaks loose. This time out, instead of being possessed by the spirit of a serial killer, Chucky is the product of artificial intelligence gone awry. Mark Hamill…yes, that Mark Hamill…provides the voice of the evil doll. With its emphasis on mordant humor, this version may not play well with some fan boys, but the movie builds enough steam in the wacky, apocalyptic final act to please undemanding fans.

Also opening this week, “Anna” is yet another action thriller about a female assassin from French director Luc Besson. “Pavarotti” is a documentary about the famed Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti from director Ron Howard. “5B” is a documentary about the caregivers who risked all to help AIDS patients in the early 1980s. “The Spy Behind Home Plate” is a documentary about Moe Berg, the professional baseball catcher who was also a spy during WWII. “Thjs One’s for the Ladies” is a documentary about male strippers and the women who love them. And, we’re being offered two different horror anthologies, “V/S/H 2” and “Nightmare Cinema.”

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Take Two: “Late Night” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 06/21/2019 |

"Late Night" is a social comedy from writer Mindy Kaling ("The Office") about an aging talk show host played by Emma Thompson ("Howard's End") who faces forced retirement while her young protégé (Kaling) battles sexism and racism in the writers' room.

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Freeze Frame: “Men in Black International” (PG-13), “Shaft” (R), “Late Night” (PG-13), “The Dead Don’t Die” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 06/14/2019 |

Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson last co-starred in the hit “Thor: Ragnarok,” They re-team to reboot the “Men in Black” franchise with “Men in Black International.” While this wacky sci-fi action comedy lacks the freshness of the previous entries, it retains the goofy spirit of the series. That may not be enough to satisfy fan boys.

After a 19-year hiatus, Samuel L. Jackson returns as the bad ‘you-know-what’ in “Shaft.” The original Shaft, Richard Roundtree returns with newcomer Jessie T. Usher as three generations of tough guys battle a nasty drug lord. “Shaft” is rude and crude and almost plays like a cheap self-parody. I can’t dig it.

The comedy “Late Night” plays like a reworking of “The Devil Wears Prada” but set in the world of late-night TV. Emma Thompson plays an aging talk show host facing forced retirement. Mindy Kaling, who also wrote the screenplay, plays a wannabe comedy writer who invades the largely white, male bastion of the writers’ room, battling sexism, ageism and racism with her comic barbs. It’s a bit too conventional for its own good, but the stars make it work.

Art film icon Jim Jarmusch takes a low-key comic approach to zombie genre with “The Dead Don’t Die.” Bill Murray and Adam Driver lead the cast in the tale of a small town suffering from a living dead apocalypse. The cast and crew probably had a much better time making this self-referential movie than the audience will watching. It’s for indie insiders only.

Also opening this week, Gina Carano and Richard Dreyfuss star in “Daughter of the Wolf,” a thriller about a military vet who tracks down her kidnapped son. Sienna Miller stars in “American Woman” the story of a woman whose teen daughter goes missing. “Perfect” is a sci-fi thriller about troubles at a genetic engineering clinic.

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Take Two: “All is True” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 06/14/2019 |

Kenneth Branagh ("Murder on the Orient Express") takes on the role of the aging Bard of Avon in "All is True." Judi Dench ("Red Joan") plays his long-suffering wife and Ian McKellan ("The Lord of the Rings") portrays his benefactor, the Earl of Southampton.

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Freeze Frame: “Dark Phoenix” (PG-13), “The Secret Life of Pets 2” (PG), “All is True” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 06/07/2019 |

Ever wonder if it’s possible for excellent actors to save stilted dialogue? A game cast gives it their all but there’s only so much they can do with the latest X-Men prequel, “Dark Phoenix.” Jennifer Lawrence, Sophie Turner, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jessica Chastain nearly work miracles with the script, but it’s still a big disappointment. It takes real filmmaking skill to create tension in a story when the audience already knows the fate of the characters. “Dark Phoenix” isn’t quite able to rise from the ashes.

The loveable critters from the 2016 animated hit are back in “The Secret Life of Pets 2.” Patton Oswalt takes over the voice role of Max vacated by Louis C.K. Max and his pal Duke, voiced by Eric Stonestreet, go on a memorable trip to a farm with their family. This beautifully animated movie is sweet and clever but doesn’t quite capture the magic of the first entry and loses steam in the final act. Still, “The Secret Life of Pets 2” will no doubt please the kids.

The sad final days in the life of William Shakespeare are the focus of the melancholy drama, “All is True.” Kenneth Branagh stars as the Bard of Avon as well as serving as director. Judi Dench plays his longsuffering wife Anne and Ian McKellen portrays his wealthy benefactor, the Earl of Southampton. It probably goes without saying that “All is True” is beautifully acted and produced. Trouble is, it’s quite mournful and slow moving. It’s for Shakespeare aficionados only.

Also opening this week, Olivia Cooke stars in “Katie Says Goodbye” a drama about a naïve young woman who becomes a prostitute. “The Child Remains” is a horror film about a haunted inn. John Lithgow and Blythe Danner star in an eccentric senior love story, “Tomorrow Man.”

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Take Two: “Rocketman” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 06/07/2019 |

Actor Taron Egerton ("Kingsman") portrays pop superstar Elton John in this full-blown musical about the singer's personal and professional ups and downs. Jamie Bell ("The Fantastic Four") plays lyricist Bernie Taupin and Bryce Dallas Howard ("The Help") is John's unsympathetic mother. 

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Freeze Frame: New on Netflix Edition-“When They See Us” (R), “The Perfection” (R), “I Am Mother” (NR) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 05/31/2019 |

With the rise of Netflix, I’ve been asked to occasionally depart from our usual Freeze Frame format of reviewing movies in local theaters to cover some of the newest releases available for streaming viewing. So, here goes.

Harrowing and skillfully acted, the Netflix miniseries "When They See Us" is a powerful indictment of one of America’s most notorious miscarriages of justice.

In 1989, a group of teenagers known as the Central Park Five were falsely convicted of rape in a case of police overreach and sensationalization by the press. Written and directed by Ava Duvernay, best known for the Martin Luther King film “Selma,” “When They See Us" may be disturbing…but it’s still enlightening and important viewing.

Allison Williams and Logan Browning give it their all, but their efforts can't save the ugly and exploitive horror thriller, "The Perfection." The talented actresses play cello prodigies whose lives are upended by a violent incident. I suppose that the filmmakers were trying to be campy, but they are never able to hit the right notes. “The Perfection” could have been titled "The Flawed" as gets progressively sillier and absurd with each passing moment.

"I Am Mother" is a well-produced and involving sci-fi effort starring Hillary Swank and Clara Ruggard. In a post-apocalyptic world, artificial intelligence attempts to save humanity...from itself. Naturally, not everything is what it seems. While the premise is very intriguing and the actors are fine, "I Am Mother" never quite gels dramatically.

Opening in theaters this week, “Rocketman” is a musical extravaganza with Taron Egerton starring as Elton John. “Ma” is a horror thriller starring Octavia Spencer as a woman obsessed with some small-town teens. “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” is a big-budget Hollywood special effects spectacle that also features Rodan, Mothra and King Ghidorah.

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Take Two: “Booksmart” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 05/31/2019 |

Actress Olivia Wilde ("Her") makes her directorial debut with "Booksmart," a raunchy comedy starring Beanie Feldstein ("Lady Bird") and Kaitlyn Dever ("Detroit"). They play well-behaved, high-achieving high school seniors who decide to cut loose on the night before graduation. Susan and Russ are on the same page on this whip-smart farce.

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Take Two: “The Intruder” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 05/24/2019 |

Actor Dennis Quaid ("A Dog's Journey") takes a turn to the dark side in the throwback thriller, "The Intruder." Michael Ealy ("Think Like a Man") and Megan Goode ("Shazam!") play a young couple who buy Quaid's home and get more than they bargained for. "The Intruder" was written and directed by Deon Taylor ("Traffik").

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Take Two: “Red Joan” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 05/17/2019 |

Dame Judy Dench takes a supporting role in "Red Joan," an adaptation of a novel loosely based on the true story of a woman who gave British nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union. Sophie Cookson plays the character in flashbacks. Russ and Susan disagree about the effectiveness of this drama.

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Take Two: “Amazing Grace” (G) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 05/03/2019 |

Aretha Franklin's classic 1972 gospel album "Amazing Grace" is the subject of this documentary by Oscar-winning filmmaker Sidney Pollack ("Out of Africa"). Russ and Susan disagree about this chronicle that captures footage as the songs were recorded live at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. The Reverend James Cleveland and the church choir performed as well. Franklin refused to allow the film to be released during her lifetime. The family agreed on the release months after her death.

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Take Two: “The Best of Enemies” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 04/12/2019 |

Critics' Choice Award-winner Taraji P. Henson (TV's "Empire") and Oscar-winner Sam Rockwell ("Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri") star in the true story of Civiil Rights worker Ann Atwater and her unlikely friendship with KKK leader Claiborne Paul Ellis. They confronted one another over the issue of school desegregation in North Carolina in 1971.

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Take Two: “Hotel Mumbai” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 04/05/2019 |

"Hotel Mumbai" is a harrowing true story of the bloody terrorist takeover of the Taj Palace Hotel in 2008. This violent reenactment stars Dev Patel ("Slumdog Millionaire"), Armie Hammer ("Call Me by Your Name"), Nazanin Boniadi ("Ben-Hur") and Jason Isaacs ("The Death of Stalin"). This Indian/Australian production is the feature film directorial debut of Anthony Maras.

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Take Two: “The Mustang” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 03/29/2019 |

"The Mustang" is a Belgian-American drama about a Nevada prison rehab program where convicts tame wild horses for sale to the public. The film project was developed through the Sundance Institute, so founder Robert Redford is given producer credit. Matthias Schoenaerts ("Far from the Madding Crowd") plays Roman, a convict who blooms when given the chance to work with the animals. Bruce Dern, Connie Britton and Jason Mitchell are among the supporting cast members. "The Mustang" marks the feature film debut of writer/director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre’.

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Take Two: “Finding Steve McQueen” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 03/22/2019 |

he strange true story about an attempt to rob $30 million from Richard Nixon's secret illegal campaign fund becomes a strange comic movie. Aussie actor Travis Fimmel ("Lean on Pete") plays Harry Barber, a fan of actor Steve McQueen, who tries to look and act like the famous actor. He joins in a plot with his uncle (William Fichtner from "Quiz Show") to loot a California bank filled with Nixon's cash. Detective Forest Whitaker ("Black Panther") and Lily Rabe ("Vice") are in hot pursuit.

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Take Two: “Greta” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 03/08/2019 |

Acclaimed French actress Isabel Huppert ("Elle") and Chloë Grace Moretz ("Kick Ass") star in the new Hitchcock-like suspense thriller "Greta." It was written and directed by Neil Jordan ("The Crying Game").

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Take Two: “Captain Marvel” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 03/15/2019 |

Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson ("Room") stars alongside Samuel L. Jackson ("Glass"), Annette Bening ("The Kids Are All Right") and Jude Law ("Fantastic Beasts") in yet another Marvel origin story, this time set in the 1990s.

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Take Two: “Fighting With My Family” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 03/01/2019 |

Based on a true story, "Fighting With My Family" is about the life of WWE Superstar, Paige. This comedy focuses on the struggles of a British teenager as she rises to pro wresting fame. The film was written and directed by Stephen Merchant, co-creator of TV's "The Office." Francis Pugh ("Lady Macbeth") portrays Paige, and the film also features Lena Heady ("Game of Thrones"), Vince Vaughn ("Wedding Crashers") and Nick Frost ("Hot Fuzz"). It was produced by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson ("Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle") who also appears as himself.

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Take Two: “Capernaum” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 02/22/2019 |

The Lebanese film "Capernaum" is a social drama about a poor boy who does the best he can to survive on the streets of Beirut. Written and directed by Nadine Labaki, the film is a nominee for this year's Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

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Freeze Frame: “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” (PG), “Fighting With My Family” (PG-13) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 02/22/2019 |

“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” brings the wildly popular animated adventure trilogy to a satisfying conclusion. Hiccup and his faithful dragon Toothless are forced to lead the Viking villagers to a new home when an evil dragon hunter brings an armada to enslave the flying reptiles. While the visuals and action are every bit as spectacular as you might expect, the real surprise is the story. It’s actually quite moving. John Powell’s lush score is a big plus, too, complimenting the impressive visuals with an evocative atmosphere. The filmmakers didn’t quit while they were ahead. They timed it just right.

“Fighting With My Family” is a very pleasant surprise. This funny and heartfelt comedy tells the true story of Raya Knight, a British teenage girl who, through grit and determination, became a WWE Superstar named Paige. Florence Pugh plays Paige, the young girl mentored by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and trained by Vince Vaughn. Writer/director Stephen Merchant and a spot-on cast give this Rocky-style underdog tale enough humanity to overcome some of the sports movie clichés that are inherent in the story. You don’t have to know a piledriver from a cactus clothesline to enjoy it. It’s strange that a movie about scripted matches has such genuine emotion. “Fighting With My Family” is a real crowd-pleaser.

Also opening this week, “Run the Race” is a faith-based movie about the strains and bonds of athletic brothers. “Arctic” is a survival drama about a man stranded in the Arctic after an airplane crash. Mads Mikkelsen stars. “The Wandering Earth” is a Chinese sci-fi opus about the attempt to move Earth when the Sun is about to become a red giant. It’s one of the biggest hits in Chinese cinema history. “The Changeover” is a supernatural thriller from New Zealand.

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Take Two: “They Shall Not Grow Old” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 02/15/2019 |

Director Peter Jackson ("The Lord of the Rings") has taken old WWI film footage, given it a high-tech restoration for the documentary, "They Shall Not Grow Old." The resulting movie is an immersive, involving history lesson.

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Take Two: “Stan and Ollie” (PG) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 02/08/2019 |

Steve Coogan ("The Trip to Spain") and John C. Reilly ("The Sisters Brothers") play the legendary comedy duo, Laurel and Hardy in the gentle biopic, "Stand & Ollie."

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Take Two: “Shoplifters” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 01/25/2019 |

Acclaimed Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda offers a gentle glimpse into the lives of a ragtag group of petty thieves who form something of a family in "Shoplifters." It is a nominee for Best Foreign Language Film at this year's Oscar ceremony.

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Take Two: “If Beale Street Could Talk” (R) ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 01/18/2019 |