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SYNOPSIS: In the movie “Amsterdam,” the quirky new film starring Christian Bale, John David Washington and Margot Robbie, and now playing in theatres, three friends witness a murder, become suspects, and uncover one of the most outrageous authoritarian plots in American history.

REVIEW: Reviewing “Amsterdam” stings. The production is first rate, from Academy Award nominated director David O. Russell, to the a-list cast to the ambitious script that attempts to link events of the past to today’s headlines. But, and this is what stings, the film is definitely less than the sum of its parts. From the off-kilter tone, part screwball, part deadly serious, to the glacial pacing, which makes the already long two-hour-and-fifteen-minute running time seem much longer, and the script, which casts too wide a wide net in hope of catching something compelling, “Amsterdam” flails about, lost in its own ambition. This is the kind of story, it’s easy to imagine, the Coen Brothers could make look effortless, but Russell does not stick the landing.

SYNOPSIS: In “Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths,” the latest film from Oscar winning director Alejandro G. Iñárritu, an acclaimed journalist-turned-documentarian goes on an introspective journey to reconcile with the past, the present and his Mexican identity.

REVIEW: Iñárritu is a master of cinematographic language, but the mix and match of Silverio’s rambling search for meaning with these flamboyant images, adds up to a showy, self-referential film, one that is too much enamored with itself. The big sequences feel as if Iñárritu is flexing a muscle, pumping the movie up with beefy visuals that exist simply for the sake of filling the screen, not filling out the storytelling.

SYNOPSIS: “Blonde,” written and directed by Andrew Dominik, is an impressionistic look at the rise to fame and the demise of actress Marilyn Monroe.

REVIEW: “Blonde” is an art house biography. Fragmented and often impressionistic, it attempts to take you, not just inside Marilyn’s life, but also her psyche and body. Dominik’s camera does offer never-before-seen views of Monroe, from the considerable nudity to literally travelling inside her womb. But to what effect? The insights into Monroe’s life and career, that she was, essentially, two sides of the same coin, Norma Jean on one, Marilyn on the other, aren’t original, even if their daring presentation is. I’m sure “Blonde” won’t be the last Marilyn Monroe biopic, but it will be the last one I devote three hours to watching. Not because it is definitive, but because I think that everything that needs to be said about the later movie star has already been said.

SYNOPSIS: In “Deep Water,” directed by Adrian Lyne, Ben Affleck stars as Vic, a man whose wife Melinda, played by Ana de Armas, embarks on a series of very public affairs. When she is killed, Vic becomes the prime suspect.

REVIEW: Lyne, in his first film in twenty years, seems unable to tease out the tension from the love-hate story, sexual or otherwise. The repeated affair/disappearance cycle gets old fast and Lyne does little to make us care about any of them, Vic, Melinda or her unfortunate boyfriends. A tepid psychosexual cuckold tale with a side of murder and loose ends galore, “Deep Water” wastes its stars in a movie that does not rise to the challenge of exploring the story’s themes of morality, murder and marriage.

SYNOPSIS: In “Firestarter,” a remake of the Stephen King story, now playing in theatres, a couple desperately try to hide their daughter, Charlie, from a shadowy federal agency that wants to harness her unprecedented gift for turning fire into a weapon of mass destruction.

REVIEW: Set to an interesting score by legendary director John Carpenter (with Cody Carpenter and Daniel A. Davies), who was supposed to helm the original film, the new version gets the soundtrack right, but most everything else feels like a backfire, rather than an accelerant.

SYNOPSIS: In the horror film “The Invitation,” a young American woman takes a DNA test and discovers she has an extended family in England. When she accepts an invitation to attend a lavish wedding in the English countryside, she discovers twisted secrets about her family history.

REVIEW: What begins as a fish out of water story quickly turns sinister as the things that go bump in the night start bumping but don’t expect much more than a few carefully crafted jump scares. Director Jessica M. Thompson keeps the horror strictly for folks who thought “Twilight” was the best vampire movie ever. That’s not to say there isn’t a well-staged scene or two in “The Invitation,” but when the best scene in a vampire romance is a sequence where the lead gets a clumsy manicure, it suggests deficits in the horror department.

SYNOPSIS: “Jurassic World Dominion,” which stomped through theatres worldwide in 2022, takes place four years after Isla Nublar was destroyed. Dinosaurs now live—and hunt—alongside humans all over the world. Will human beings remain the apex predators on a planet they now share with history’s most fearsome creatures?

REVIEW: “Jurassic World Dominion” has lots of dinosaurs and some fan service but misses the mark otherwise. It is a talky dino-bore with none of the suspense that made “Jurassic Park” edge of your seat stuff. The action scenes are murky and few-and-far-between, there’s lots of dodgy CGI and unlike the reconstituted dinosaurs, it feels lifeless. Near the beginning of the film Dern’s character Ellie sees a small dinosaur and coos, “this never gets old.” She clearly hasn’t seen “Jurassic World Dominion.” Luckily Goldblum reappears after a quick cameo off the top to shake things up with his trademarked droll wit in the third act.

SYNOPSIS: “The Lost City” stars Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, Brad Pitt and Daniel Radcliffe in a story about a reclusive author who gets kidnapped by an eccentric billionaire. He hopes she can lead him to an ancient city’s lost treasure described in her latest novel. Determined to prove he can be a hero in real life and not just on the pages of her books, handsome cover model Alan sets off to rescue her.

REVIEW: Not funny enough to be a comedy with some action and not action packed enough to be an action comedy, “The Lost City” is somewhere in the mushy middle. The cast is game but the movie never quite gels.

SYNOPSIS: Kevin Hart (opposite Mark Wahlberg) stars in “Me Time” as a stay-at-home dad whose life is upended by a rare weekend without the family.

REVIEW: “Me Time” wastes its two leads in a sea of wasted opportunities. Individually, Hart and Wahlberg bring the funny, so the comedic combo effect should be doubled, but director John “Along Came Polly” Hamburg keeps his two stars apart for most of the film’s first half. By the time their hijinks really begin, the mix of sincerity and silly has already worn thin. Both actors try hard to elevate the poop jokes and frenetic physical comedy, but are left hanging by a script that attempts to mix-and-match adult concerns with juvenile jokes. The result is a movie that feels like it can’t decide who it is for, the poop joke audience or the buddy comedy crowd. “Me Too” is a childish movie that attempts to examine what it means to be an adult.

SYNOPSIS: In “Morbius” Jared Leto plays Michael Morbius a biochemist who tries to cure himself of a rare blood disease, but when his experiment goes wrong, he inadvertently infects himself with a form of vampirism instead.

REVIEW: It can only be said one way. “Morbius” sucks… more than just blood. Likely undone by a PG-13 rating that must have shaved off some of, what could have been, effective horror elements, it’s a defanged vampire movie with no bite.

SYNOPSIS: In “Where the Crawdads Sing,” a mystery produced by Reese Witherspoon, a young girl, abandoned by her family, and raised in the marshlands of the south in the 50’s, becomes a suspect in a high-profile murder case.

REVIEW: “Where the Crawdads Sing” is a lot of things. It’s a love triangle, a murder mystery, a story of overcoming the odds and yet, none of it really sticks. What could have been a steamy Southern Gothic, ripe with sex and death, is, instead a sleepily paced melodrama that doesn’t deliver on the premise of female empowerment promised by the film’s intriguing lead character.

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