Hello and welcome to the movie blog of author John DeFrank - FilmZ and Guy Sobriquet Malone - Researcher

Streaming Thor: Ragnarok, Annihilation, and Molly's Game --Quick Reviews

Three Brief Reviews co-written by FilmZ and Guy S. Malone, Researcher

Even with Guy S. Malone, Researcher and I sharing writing duties, it's difficult to write film blogs and at the same time keep up with the manuscript for our second novel, grant writing, and various research projects.  Some good movies, like the ones we discuss today, fall through the cracks. And now that all are available for streaming, we're going to take time for mini-reviews.  Depending on your taste, all three are worth your time.  With that intro, here are our mini-reviews.
Enjoy. -- FilmZ

Thor: Ragnarok
If you are an adherent to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), you've probably already seen this third entry in the Thor series; if you're only a casual follower or non-follower, you might have missed it or dismissed it entirely.  Without going into the gory details, Thor (2011) was most notable for misusing Natalie Portman, introducing the charismatic duo of Chris Hemsworth as the stolid Thor and Tom Hiddleston as his mischievous adopted brother Loki, and bringing the powerful Tesseract to the MCU canon.  The sequel, Thor: The Dark World also misused Ms. Portman and is generally considered one of the weaker entries in the MCU.  Conversely, Thor: Ragnarok is one of the strongest of the Marvel series, and it provides the integral jumping-off point to Avengers: Infinity War.  It is also the film where Chris Hemsworth emerges a both a super superhero and a fine comic actor (and it finally admitted it didn't know what to do with poor Natalie and mercifully let her stay home).  Director Taika Waititi takes the team-written plot of two stories that converge in the third act, and by throwing out the chaff and keeping the strong comic and action kernals, he gives us an epic that plays fast and loose with Norse mythology but is loads of fun.

One thread has Thor's sister Hela (an enthusiastically evil Cate Blanchett) along with a mountainous wolf and an army of undead invading Asgard.  Hela shows imposing strength, crushing Mjolnir (Thor's hammer) in one hand and casting him out of Asgard.  That leaves only the blind but imposing bridgekeeper to the Nine Realms Heimdall (Idris Elba), the ethically equivocating Skurge (Karl Urban), and lesser military leaders to prevent Ragnarok (Norse for Apocalypse).  Thor lands on Sakaar, a garbage planet, where he is captured by an alcoholic bounty hunter (Tessa Thompson)
 who coincidentally, is a derelict Valkyrie.  Sakaar's ruler Grandmaster (a delightfully Jeff Goldblumy Jeff Goldblum) is a tin-Caesar who loves gladiatorial contests, and so, Valkyrie knows exactly what to do with Thor.  In Grandmaster's court, we also find Loki, who has escaped servitude by his wiles.  In the gladiatorial pit we find The Hulk, who in human form is Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo).  Between Marx Brothers-style shenanigans and deus ex machinas galore, our friends make their way out of Sakaar and back to Asgard.  The Sakaar thread is more entertaining, the Asgard thread follows the mythology better, and Thor: Ragnarok is the rare action movie where the action is the least entertaining part.  But put together, we have a unanimous high recommendation.
8.5 out of 10 on an Entertainment Scale
7.5 out of 10 on an Artistic Scale

Speaking of deus ex machina and Natalie Portman (see above), Annihilation is writer-director Alex Garland's first outing since his breakout sci-fi hit Ex Machina.  In this case, Garland is adapting from the first novel of Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy.  And he does provide a much better role  for Ms. Portman than Asgardian arm-candy.  Here, she is Lena, a Johns Hopkins biologist, whose class lecture on cells is strangely reminiscent of the real-life Hopkins test subject Henrietta Lacks and is eerily prophetic, as we shall see.  Lena is morose, living a hermit's life, we learn, because her husband has been missing for a year after his top-secret military mission disappeared while investigating the "Shimmer," an iridescent, fog-like veil that has surrounded a coastal salt march after a meteor struck a nearby lighthouse.  One day, her husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) returns, but he is different, and not just because he is spewing blood.  A military unit swoops in and rushes him and her, to a top secret facility with a rear-deck view of the ever-expanding Shimmer.  There, Kane can be studied by a medical team led by Dr. Lomax (Benedict Wong).

With time on her hands, Lena, who we learn is ex-military and prone to revelatory and disturbing flashbacks, joins an all-female team of volunteers to explore the shimmer in order to research it and search for other survivors, rather than remain alone with her thoughts.  All of these women, in fact, have disturbing secrets that compel them to volunteer for the dangerous mission.  Led by prickly psychologist Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), the team consists of a diverse group, including paramedic Anya Thorensen (Gina Rodriguez), anthropologist Cass Sheppard (Tuva Novotny), and physicist Josie Radek (Tessa Thompson).  Armed to the teeth with weaponry and scientific gear they slide into the heart of darkness with the lighthouse-vortex as their goal.  What they find is as mind-boggling as it is mystifying.  Rob Hardy's cinematography matches their hallucinogenic experiences, and we feel the same time-warp as the exploratory team, as Annihilation is simultaneously suspenseful and slow-paced, intense and gloomy.  Trippy revelations abound, and there's a payoff at the end; perhaps if our expectations hadn't been set so high by Ex Machina, we would have joined others in their raves.  As it was, it was still pretty good.
7.5 out of 10 on an Entertainment Scale
7.5 out of 10 on an Artistic Scale

Molly's Game
When we first heard of this film, we were intensely ambivalent.  We are Jessica Chastain fans, but the subject matter, however autobiographical, didn't seem thrilling.  Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, Moneyball, The West Wing) is a gifted writer, but he seems a bit arrogant and misogynistic--and this being his directorial debu, too, well ...   And so, we demurred, waiting until well after the awards season to see it on its second run through the theaters.  Sorkin adapted the film from Molly Bloom's eponymous memoir, a portrayal of a young woman who had trained all her life to become an Olympic caliber skier who then, after a career-ending injury, switched gears to climb the summit of high stakes poker and eventually run the most expensive game in the world.  As one expects from Sorkin, the patter is clever and fast paced, and the athlete-turned-gambling queen delivers soliloquies with depth recalling the Sermon on the Mount.  If you buy that, you buy the film.  For the most part we did, but Sorkin's creative self-satisfaction made Molly's Game run about a half-hour too long.

The film begins with the FBI investigating Molly (Chastain) for consorting with the Russian Mafia, and her Attorney Charles Jaffrey (Idris Elba) asserting that her problems will go away if she just gives the Feds some names.  But Molly has a code, and she insists on taking her (slim) chances in federal court.  We then enter flashback mode to her early years in Colorado, growing up in a family of bright high achievers, driven on by a domineering father (Kevin Costner).  A terrible accident on the slopes that ends her Olympic hopes, she decides to leave everything behind and start a new life, escaping to Los Angeles.  To make ends meet, she lands a job with nasty entrepreneur Dean Keith (Jeremy Strong) who also runs a high stakes poker game involving some of the biggest movers and shakers in Hollywood.  Molly is intellectually gifted and clever enough to know that the job requires a delicate balance between consummate discretion and control while pandering to the players' egos.  Soon she is running the game, successfully building it until one of the players, Harlan (Bill Camp), falls apart and another player, a narcissistic and cruel actor, Player X (Michael Cera) runs her out of her own game.  But Molly is nothing if not resilient and resourceful.  She moves to New York with a mind full of experience and ideas, and she begins anew.  Unfortunately, it is here where undesirable and dangerous influences insinuate themselves into her game.  Also unfortunately, the tightest part of the film was left on the West Coast.  In New York, events build and unravel too fast, and they come back together again with facile convenience, but not before Idris Elba delivers a typical Sorkin monologue with typical Elba passion and conviction.  That performance, along with a convenient but compelling return of her father, save the second half of the film.  Chastain's captivating Molly, Elba's charismatic (if poorly-cast) Jaffrey, and Costner's gripping Larry Bloom save Sorkin's bacon.
7.5 out of 10 on an Entertainment Scale
7.5 out of 10 on an Artistic Scale

The Death of Stalin

The Death of Stalin review by Guy S. Malone, Researcher

Director Armando Ianucci transports his Emmy-winning Veep sensibilities across space and time to the Soviet Union in 1953.  Working from a script he developed with David Schneider, Ian Martin, and Peter Fellows--from a comic book by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin--Ianucci chronicles the events leading up to and following the despot's demise.  And "chronicle" is the correct word in the sense that they nail much of the history, and how better to skewer this terrible period than to hold a mirror up and point out its absurdity?  Of course, horrific is horrific, so the director assembled a brilliant cast of American and English actors and allowed them to amp up their on-screen personas, delivering lines about pogroms and torture without a wink or a nod.

The action unfolds as we follow Stalin's inner circle; a group of men--some cunning, some dim-bulbed, all suck-ups--whose behavior seems more in line with the Marx Brothers than Karl Marx (that was too obvious, right?).  And therein lies the satire: these men wield unchecked savagery in the service of a paranoid and sadistic leader, yet they do so in a casual, almost off-handed manner, saving their emotional investment for currying favor and getting the upper hand on each other.  After a humorous but overlong concert vignette that establishes the level of fear and paranoia among Russian citizens, we settle in at Stalin's (Adrian McLoughlin) country dacha where he relaxes, eating, drinking, and watching American cowboy movies with his inner circle. A thin veneer of forced gaiety shrouds each man's fear of getting on “the list” and results in fawning over their leader, juvenile jealousies, and timid jokes.  Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi) even memorizes Stalin's responses to his jokes and has his wife, Nina (Sylvestra Le Touzel) record which did and didn't work.  That night, Stalin has a stroke and goes undiscovered until well into the next day because the guards are afraid to disturb him, and once he is discovered, his deputies are too fearful to make a decision.  In the end their dithering and frets are for naught; Stalin has died.

And so it begins: the jockeying for succession to become General Secretary, complicated by the need to cope with Stalin's children: the manic Svetlana (Andrea Riseborough) and the maniac alcoholic Vasily (Rupert Friend).  When those two aren't disrupting the worst-laid plans, the plot focuses on the rivalry between between Khrushchev and Deputy Prime Minister Lavrenti Beria (Simon Russell Beale, surprisingly effective at emanating farcical terror), the ruthless head of the NKVD--Soviet secret police.  Where Khrushchev is a hand-wringing improvisor, Beria is a Machiavellian plotter, both men ambitious, but both must move carefully because the nominal successor is the skittish Georgi Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor, a marvelous performance in which he portrays simultaneous pomposity and insecurity).  Another insider is Vyacheslav Molotov (Michael Palin, in full Monty Python form), who was reputedly on "the list" and thus seems more interested in ingratiating himself to whatever successor arises.  This sets Palin up for one of the films highlights: as the leaders sit around the conference table making one of their frequent show-of-hands decisions, Molotov finds himself with the tie-breaking vote; what ensues is 30-seconds of dizzying verbal vacillation culminating in his nervous smile of satisfaction and the bewildered frowns of his compatriots.  Beria does manipulate the decision to put Khrushchev in charge of funeral arrangements while he takes charge of security.  This infuriates Nikita, but ends up working to his favor as Beria replaces the Soviet Army with his own NKVD troops, infuriating our last major player: the proud, bombastic General Zhukov (Jason Isaacs), who responds, “I’m smiling, but I am very fucking furious.”

Iannucci's strength is developing satire seasoned with slapstick while never leaving the reality plane.  In his world, truth is as strange as fiction, and both seem equally plausible.   One area where he departs from film realism is his decision to allow his performers to act as the stereotypical characters we've become familiar with in Boardwalk Empire (Buscemi), Arrested Development (Tambor), a Monty Python sketch (Palin), or in Harry Potter (Isaacs).   This strategy follows even to rejecting attempts at Russian accents in favor of voices ranging from American wise-guy to British upper-class twit.  These gambits have determined the success of the film to some critics.  We bought it; and the film.
8.0 out of 10 on an Entertainment Scale
8.0 out of 10 on an Artistic Scale

Avengers: Infinity War (No Spoilers, Kind of a Review)

Avengers: Infinity War (No Spoilers, Kind of a Review) by FilmZ and Guy S. Malone, Researcher

We're supplementing the writing duties of Guy S. Malone, Researcher, today because, frankly, we need checks to avoid spoilers.  Also, we will only talk about Avengers: Infinity War in the most tangential, abstract way while still making sure you get some helpful information, but we can't emphasize enough that you need to see Avengers: Infinity War ASAP.  There are some serious trolls and idiots who derive sick pleasure out of ruining surprises for people. 

First, let us say that we liked it--a lot.  Brothers Anthony and Joe Russo have multiple Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies under their belts, and they've got the style down pretty well by now.  For substance, they brought along chief screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely from Captain America: Civil War, which featured a dozen heroes.  At the release of that movie, we were worried super elbows would be flying as characters vied for screen time.  As it turned out, my fears were baseless.  But Infinity War featured nearly two dozen heroes; how was that going to work?  Pretty well, thank you, although the 149 minutes run-time helped (and, no, I didn't check my watch).

The very basic, no spoilers premise is: super-villain Thanos (Josh Brolin) has set a career goal of collecting all six Infinity Stones (several of which have been located in previous films).  If he gets them all, he will become virtually indestructible and rule the Universe. 

All that stands between him and his goal are:
The Avengers (Earth and Asgard)- Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), Incredible Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), War Machine/James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), Black Panther/T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman), Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), Falcon/Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), Vision (Paul Bettany), and fledgling Avenger Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Tom Holland).
The Mystical World - Sorcerer Supreme Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Wong (Benedict Wong).
The Guardians of the Galaxy - Peter Quill/Star Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket (Bradley Cooper, Sean Gunn), Groot (Vin Diesel, Terry Notary), Drax (Dave Bautista), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), and Gamora's sister Nebula (Karen Gillan). 

Rounding out the crew of good guys are several other familiar and pivotal characters: Americans, Asgardians, Aliens, and Wakandans--like Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Okoye (Danai Gurira), and others.  So many superheroes and friends splash across the screen that the movie doesn't have room for regular folks, except as backdrop.

How can Thanos possibly defeat such a fearsome array.  Well, first, he is a Titan, so he's imposing in  his own right.  Second, he has bred an imposing gang of family and friends, several of whom would carry a film's archvillainy on their own: Ebony Maw (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), Proxima Midnight (an unrecognizable Carrie Coon), Cull Obsidian (Terry Notary), and Corvus Glaive (Michael Shaw).  Third, every time Thanos picks up another Infinity Stone his powers increase exponentially.

If you have seen even a couple MCU movies, you've got the formula down, and you could probably write a rough outline to be filled in by specifics: a threat is posed; heroes are introduced, individually or as small groups in touching, meet cute, heroic, or humorous ways; each vignette is interspersed with evidence of a mounting peril; Tension mounts to critical mass proportions; a climactic battle that lasts too long ensues in which our super-heroes are poised on the precipice of defeat ... .

Avengers: Infinity War has it all.  To put it into perspective with the other movie in the series, it has more tender and emotional moments than most and barely enough humor to lighten this, the most gravitas-laden of the 19 MCU films extant.  (It would take Guardians of the Galaxy or Thor: Ragnarok-level laughs to balance the tone here, but the weight is intentional.  In several ways A:IW is reminiscent of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, not surprising in that it serves as prelude to the next Infinity War 2.

Ideally, by this time, you have seen all 18 movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) leading up to Avengers: Infinity War, but honestly, you can bag The Incredible Hulk.  Although it's a decent movie, it stars Edward Norton, who was replaced by Mark Ruffalo in subsequent films.  So, 17 movies.  Wait.  Ant-Man pulls a no-show, too.  And some of the movies stray enough from the ongoing mythology that they are not requisite to your understanding and enjoyment of A:IW.  In truth, though it helps to have seen a few, including one from each of the main characters/groups, plus the most recent few.  There is not a lot of exposition to catch the viewer up with what is going on; we are expected to know what is happening from the opening scene onward.  Having said that, is it critical to have seen all 18 precursor films?  No.  In fact, you can get away without having seen any.  Here is what you do:
1) See the movie with someone who has already seen it.
2) Do not, repeat, DO NOT ask questions during the movie.
3) Go out for coffee or drinks afterward and ask away.
4) See it a second time (you will likely want to).

Is Avengers: Infinity War the best of the MCU movies?  A lot of critics say no, but I don't know how we can judge it at all since only half of the tale has been told.  Considering everything mentioned above, I'll have to rate it:
8.0 out of 10 on an Entertainment Scale
7.0 out of 10 on an Artistic Scale

Summer Movie Guide

Summer Movie Guide by Guy S. Malone, Researcher

What better way to spend a sunny summer day than in a movie theater?  Lots of ways, you say?  Then read no further and go darken someone else's blog.  Some folks want to get out of the heat, and if the choice is a dungeon, a cave, or the local cineplex guess where you will find me?  Your darned tootin'.

Below, you will find my assiduously researched and arbitrarily filtered summer movie guide, chronologically ordered by release date.  Included are blockbusters, art-house films, date movies, documentaries ... heck, you will even find movies you couldn't drag me to with Wonder Woman's lasso of truth. I've added my own snark, cynicism, and even fearless predictions (Glenn Close for an Oscar).  All that with an economy of verbiage for which Paul Komisar, my old Philosophy of Ed Prof would approve.

You're welcome,

Guy S. Malone, Researcher

04/27  Avengers: Infinity War - 22 superheroes fight for screen time and against Thanos, who aims to collect all six Infinity Stones so he can rule the Universe.  Too many stars to name, go check IMDb.

05/04  Tully - Dramedy from Diablo Cody, reteaming with director Jason Reitman (Juno, Young Adult); Charlize Theron, a mother of three, is gifted a nanny (Mackenzie Davis) who teaches her how to be a Mom.  Awards Watch.

05/04  RBG - Documentary about the notorious RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, focuses on her 25 years as a SCOTUS Justice, even catching her gym workout. Sure to win some judgments come Oscar time.

05/11  Life of the Party - A mom (Melissa McCarthy) mortifies her daughter (Molly Gordon) when she decides to return to college to finish her degree. With Maya Rudolph.

05/11 The Seagull - Chekhov dramedy, a son's love for his narcissistic mother plays out in rustic Russia.  Amazing cast: Annette Bening, Saoirse Ronan, Corey Stoll, Elizabeth Moss, Brian Dennehy = Awards

05/18 Book Club - Comedy, Diane Keaton, Candace Bergen, Jane Fonda, and Mary Steenburgen use Fifty Shades of Grey as how-to manual with Richard Dreyfus, Andy Garcia, Don Johnson, and Craig T. Nelson.

05/18  Deadpool 2 - Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is back for hard-R-Rated fun, this time battling arch-villain Thanos, er, Cable (Josh Brolin), and Morena Baccarin returns to keep the "merc with the mouth's" ego in check.

05/18  On Chesil Beach - Based on Ian McEwan's dramatic romance novel, a young woman (Saoirse Ronan) struggles with love and freedom in 1960's England.  Emily Watson, Billy Howle

05/25  How to Talk to Girls at Parties - Based on a Neil Gaiman short story, Elle Fanning hitch-hikes across the galaxy, lands in a London suburb, and finds love.  A punked-up Nicole Kidman is in pursuit.  Ruth Wilson.

05/25  Solo: A Star Wars Story - Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke help beat Star Wars into the ground, though I bet this cynical remake rakes in $500 million and gets 90+ from RT and EW. 

06/01  Adrift - Based-on-true-story about a young couple (Shailene Woodley, Sam Claflin) who agree to sail a boat across the Pacific, not counting on crossing paths with a Category-5 hurricane.

06/01  American Animals - Based-on-fact story of four college students plan a heist--from a college library.  Ann Dowd, Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan.

06/08  Hereditary - Horror tale of a family--Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Milly Shapiro, and Alex Wolff--experience gone mad. Sundance hit.

06/08  Oceans 8 - Female Oceans 11, starring Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Matt Damon.  Hopefully, Gary Ross plus great talent equals the ultimate summer popcorn flick.

06/08  Hotel Artemis - in riot-torn future LA, Jodie Foster runs a hospital for criminals; Sterling K. Brown tries to save his brother. Jeff Goldblum, Sofia Boutella, Jenny Slate, and Dave Bautista join the action, sci-fi crime fun.

06/08  Won't You Be My Neighbor? - Documentary about our favorite neighbor, Fred Rogers, from back when neighbors meant something and kindness ruled the day.

06/15  Incredibles 2 - Elastigirl/Helen (Holly Hunter's voice) heads out to save the world, turning  Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson's voice) into Mr. Mom. Voices: Samuel L. Jackson, Bob Odenkirk, Kathleen Keener. 

06/15  Superfly - Trevor Jackson in the title role remake of the 1972 blaxploitation movie.  With Jason Mitchell and Michael K. Williams.

06/15  Tag - Highly-competitive friends annually play a kids game; John Hamm, Annabelle Wallis, Isla Fisher, Ed Helms, Hannibal Buress try to tag elusive Jeremy Renner.

06/22  Boundaries - Pot-dealing dad (Christopher Plummer) thrown out of his nursing home; what's a daughter (Vera Farmiga) to do?  (Saving Grace, Part 2?)  Film recommended by Babs delaCine.

06/22  Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom - Want to know why dinosaurs went extinct?  Oversaturation.  Now, they are rescuing the dinosaurs from a volcano.  Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jeff Goldblum, Ted Levine.

06/29  Leave No Trace - Debra Granik drama, a father (Ben Foster) and his daughter (Thomasin McKenzie), living off the grid outside of Portland, OR are pulled into urban social services and fight to get back to the wilderness.

06/29  Sicario: Day of the Soldado - Sequels of excellent movies don't always work if they forget what made the original good.  Thia looks like twice the killing, half the surprise and intrigue.

07/06  Ant-Man and the Wasp - Sequels of excellent movies sometimes do work if they don't take themselves at all seriously--and if they have cluelessly cool superhero Paul Rudd, plus Evangeline Lilly (Wasp).

07/13 Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation - Drac receives a vacation on a monster cruise so he doesn't have to serve others at his hotel.  Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, Steve Buscemi.

07/13  Shock and Awe - In the wake of 9/11, two journalists (Woody Harrelson, James Marsden) work to uncover the truth about the Bush Administration claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

07/13  Skyscraper - Hostage-team rescuer Dwayne Johnson leaps tall buildings in a single bound, but this time with an inner-world as a war vet with an amputated leg and a tough past. Neve Campbell, Pablo Schreiber.

07/13  Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot - Gus Van Sant dramedy/biopic, Joaquin Phoenix as a man using art to rehab from a life-changing accident.  Rooney Mara, Jonah Hill

07/20  Blindspotting - Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal co-wrote and star in this dramedy about race and class clashing in a gentrified Oakland, CA.  

07/20  Equalizer 2 - Only makes the list because it's Denzel as Robert McCall, delivering very satisfying vigilante justice, but what if it's someone he loves? Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo, Pedro Pascal.

07/20  Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again - Against our better judgment, we mention this, and we believe they had this sequel's name before they made the original. Meryl Streep, Lily James, Amanda Seyfried.

07/27  Mission Impossible: Fallout - All together now: Ethan and his IMF team race against time in a mission gone wrong.  Rebecca Ferguson is back, does the plot matter? Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Simon Pegg.

08/03  Christopher Robin - An adult Christopher (Ewan McGregor) reunites with Pooh (Jim Cummings' voice) who helps him to enjoy life again.  Hayley Atwell; voices of Chris O'Dowd, Toby Jones, Brad Garrett, Sophie Okenodo.

08/03  The Spy Who Dumped Me - Comedy, two best friends (Mila Kunis, Kate McKinnon) become embroiled in international intrigue when one of the women discovers her former boyfriend was a spy.

08/03  The Darkest Minds -  Based on Alexandra Bracken's YA dystopian thriller, four teenage plague survivors develop strange skills and must escape bounty hunters. Amandla Stenberg, Mandy Moore, Gwendoline Christie.

08/03  The Wife -  A wife (Glenn Close) gives up her career aspirations to support her Nobel Laureate husband (Jonathan Pryce). Also, Elizabeth McGovern, Christian Slater.  Close finally scores an Oscar.

08/10  Dog Days - Various Los Angelenos' lives are changed as they are brought together through their mutual love of dogs.  Nina Dobrev, Vanessa Hudgens, Eva Longoria, Lauren Lapkus, Adam Pally, Finn Wolfhard

08/10  The Meg - Guilty pleasure as Jason Statham pursues a shark that makes Jaws look like a minnow to save folks trapped in a submersible.  Bingbing Li, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose.

08/17  Crazy Rich Asians - An Econ prof (Constance Wu) travels to her boyfriend's (Henry Golding) hometown of Singapore to find she is the target of an army of golddiggers who want her man.  Michelle Yeoh.

08/24  The Bookshop - In small-town England in 1959, a woman (Emily Mortimer) opens a bookshop, becoming an unlikely political and social lightning rod of polite tyranny.  Bill Nighy, Patricia Clarkson.

08/24  Papillon - Remake of 1973 Steve McQueen, Dustin Hoffman biopic of Henri Charriere's time on Devil's Island, this time with Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek. 

08/31  Kin - Earthly and alien forces pursue an ex-con and brother, who are in possession of a strange weapon. James Franco Dennis Quaid, Zoe Kravitz, Carrie Coon.
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