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The Hitman's Bodyguard

The Hitman’s Bodyguard stars Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Elodie Yung, Gary Oldman, and Salma Hayek.
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Dolphin Tale 2

Having thoroughly enjoyed Dolphin Tale (the true story of Winter, a rescued dolphin who receives a prosthetic tail), I was excited to watch her continuing story in Dolphin Tale 2, which starred the original cast members Nathan Gamble as Sawyer (the boy who bonded with Winter) and Harry Connick Jr. as Dr. Clay Haskett (who heads the rescue and rehab team at Clearwater Marina). In this adventure, we find the marina thriving as a tourist attraction and animal rehab facility with Winter as the main exhibit, but sadly when Winter loses her pool companion, she becomes depressed and refuses to interact with others or even wear her prosthetic tail. USDA regulations state that a dolphin must have a companion, which means she will be moved to another marina if one cannot be found for her, and this is very troubling to Sawyer, who is also facing personal issues of his own. While I found the sequel to be as enjoyable as the original with its wholesome, inspiring storyline, and lessons about determination after set-back and doing the right thing, the film spends a lot of time showing the minute details of the job of a marine biologist and I think this causes the movie to move a little slowly. The animal antics are really fun to watch though and I especially enjoyed the pelican named Rufus. Overall Rating: A-
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Birdman

This year’s Academy Award winner for Best Picture is Birdman, starring Michael Keaton as Riggan Thompson, an actor who is beyond his prime and is hoping to revive his career with a leading role in his own Broadway production. The movie, which is filmed in long, one-shot sequences, brings us into Thompson’s tortured world as he tries to deal with his past, his relationships, and the chaotic and frantic pace of the theater. In the film, Thompson is plagued by self-doubt (which literally follows him around in the form of Birdman, his past iconic superhero role), and also by his need to be loved by the public. The story, which at times is dark and confusing, and weaves in and out of reality, has its comedic moments and will keep you guessing and truly invested in its characters. The acting is superb (supporting actors Edward Norton and Emma Stone are amazing), and if you enjoy intense human drama, you will definitely like Birdman. Overall Rating: B
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Big Eyes

Big Eyes is based on the true story of artist Margaret Keane, played by Amy Adams, and depicts the events of one of the biggest art frauds in history. After leaving her husband, Margaret struggles as a single mother until she meets Walter Keane, (Christoph Waltz) a slick salesman and wannabe artist, whom she marries and subsequently allows to take credit for her much-loved paintings of children with large eerie eyes. In that time period, the 1950s and 1960s, woman were taken less seriously in the art world and struggled in general in the workforce, (this is evident when Margaret goes on a job interview and the man behind the desk asks her if her husband has given her permission to work.) Margaret must deal with the lie that has taken over her life and its consequences, which include a troubled relationship with her daughter, and eventually a widely-publicized legal battle. The movies pace is a little slow and from a modern-day perspective Margaret’s meek behavior can be annoying at times, however, it is an entertaining film and worth watching. Overall Rating: B-
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Kingsman: The Secret Service

Kingsman: The Secret Service is an action-packed spy thriller based on the graphic novel by Mark Millar, which stars Colin Firth as Galahad/Harry and Taron Egerton as Eggsy as part of an all-star cast that also includes Michael Cain, Samuel L. Jackson, and Mark Hamill. The movie is about a super-secret gentleman's spy organization and it's recruitment of a young delinquent who, along with the other characters, must foil the plot of the evil Richmond Valentine (Jackson) and save the world. This movie had a lot of potential and I was very excited to see it, thinking it would be similar to a James Bond film, but with Colin Firth's cool demeanor and dark humor, but I was actually quite disappointed because the film played more like an ultra-violent, unrealistic video game. I will say the movie is laugh-out-loud funny at times and I really enjoyed Samuel L. Jackson as the villain, but it is definitely not family-friendly due to the over-the-top violence and very strong language. This is one of those movies that's really a matter of personal taste; it was entertaining enough, but I was not wowed. Overall Rating: C+
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Home

Home, the newest animated feature from DreamWorks Entertainment, is an adventure tale about a lovable misfit alien named Oh, (Jim Parsons) and his friendship with the lonely and courageous Tip, (Rihanna). Oh finds himself on the run from his own people, the Boovs, purple aliens who have taken over the Earth, while Tip, who managed to escape the invasion, is desperately trying to find her mother, Lucy, (Jennifer Lopez). The Boovs are led by the arrogant Captain Smek, (Steve Martin), who thinks the best way to solve any problem is to run away! The Gorgs, the aliens the Boovs are hiding from, are now threatening the Earth and only Oh can save the planet from destruction. The movie includes great music and teaches important lessons about loyalty, family, and being yourself. Kids will enjoy it, but I didn’t feel it was the kind of film that would draw in adults. Jim Parsons is great as Oh, his character is a lot like his portrayal of Sheldon Cooper but sweeter, and the character of Tip is refreshing, as she is much more realistic than your average animated heroin. All in all, it’s a fun family movie, not really memorable, but worth bringing home for the kids. Overall Rating: B
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Planet Ant

A documentary about leaf cutting ants may not sound very interesting, but the BBC’s Planet Ant turned out to be an absolutely fascinating learning experience. Two scientists, entomologist George McGavin and leaf cutter expert Professor Adam Hart, team up to transport a colony of ants from Trinidad to a man-made habitat in Glasgow, Scotland. The habitat is similar to their own very large colony, with many chambers and caverns; however, this world is made of glass and allows for unprecedented views into the daily life of this very complex society. This film offers up-close observations of these tiny creatures and, through the use of time-lapse cameras, microphones, microscopes, and radio tracking technology, allows the viewer to get a better understanding of how these societies function. It is astonishing to realize that these creatures communicate, have a caste system, are farmers, and solve complicated mathematical problems. The cinematography is incredible, but if looking at ants and other bugs bothers you, then you may want to think twice about this one! I personally got over my squeamishness early in the film and quickly became very interested. This documentary makes you realize that humans are not the only civilized society on this planet. Overall Rating: A+
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Inside Out

Pixar’s newest animated film is Inside Out, an intelligent and moving story about a young girl, Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) and her emotional journey as she deals with a traumatic move to a new city. The movie’s other characters are Riley’s emotions: Joy (Amy Poehler); Sadness (Phyllis Smith); Fear (Bill Hader); Anger (Lewis Black); and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). These emotions run “Headquarters”, the place in all of us where our feelings guide us. At first, Joy tries to keep things positive and works hard to keep the other emotions in check while Riley adjusts to her new home, but soon Sadness gets involved, and a wild adventure through the inner workings of Riley’s mind begins. Although the many psychological references may go over young children’s heads, the film is an accurate metaphor that thoughtfully explains how emotions work in a way children can understand. There are a few painful moments to watch, but those scenes really convey the message that it’s okay to express your feelings, even your sad feelings. This is a great family movie that opens up many opportunities for discussion. It is very entertaining, and I predict it will become an all-time favorite of many. Overall Rating: A+
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Head Full of Dreams by Coldplay

Coldplay's new studio album, and presumably their last, is called, "A Head Full of Dreams," and feels like a sweet emotional journey with the goal of making the listener happy. The songs are full of hope, healing thoughts, and messages of acceptance. The album is also full of collaborations, including the likes of Beyoncé, Gwyneth Paltrow and President Obama. No, I’m not kidding! It seems to flow between a 70's disco feel and Coldplay's millennial sound. My favorite tracks are the title tune, "A Head Full of Dreams," and "Up and Up," which seem to convey Chris Martin's feelings of excitement and optimism after 15 years as a frontman. (The band has announced a tour to promote the album, but has implied they will go their separate ways after that.) Longtime Coldplay fans will probably find this album bittersweet as it seems to be a "goodbye" as well as a prayer for the planet. If you are looking for something upbeat with meaningful lyrics and the classic "piano rock" style, you will definitely enjoy this album. Overall Rating: A
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Grandma

Grandma, starring Lily Tomlin and Julia Garner, is a comedy-drama about Elle, (Tomlin) an aging poet and author who has just been broken up with by her girlfriend, and is still grieving the death of her life-partner of 38 years. Elle gets a surprise visit from her granddaughter, Sage, (Garner) who is in desperate need of $630 by sundown. The two set out on a road trip to get the money and, along the way, reunite with some interesting characters from Elle’s past. Tomlin is an incredible actor, and I was really looking forward to seeing her in her first leading role in 27 years, but I was a little let down. Many of the reviews I read about this movie called Tomlin’s character grouchy, but lovable. I agree with the grouchy part, but not the lovable part! I really wanted to like her character and, although there were a few moments where she let her guard down, even those ended quickly with a cranky and usually somewhat rough remark. That being said, the movie was very well-acted and will appeal to some, although it does touch on many very sensitive and controversial subjects. Even though it is billed as a comedy-drama, it is quite serious and has many heart-wrenching moments that are definitely suited for a mature audience. Overall Rating: B-
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Daddy's Home

Daddy’s Home is a new comedy featuring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg playing dad and step-dad to two kids. Ferrell stars as Brad, a mild-mannered radio executive who desperately wants to bond with his new wife’s children. After a rocky start, the kids begin to warm up a bit, but then Dusty, (Wahlberg), the kids’ biological dad, shows up and does everything he can to derail Brad’s plans. Dusty is cool and rugged, and the kids see him as a rock star compared to Brad, who is nerdy and overly sentimental. The competition soon begins as each man tries to outdo the other in a series of comedic escapades. The movie does a good job of portraying some of the emotions step-parents feel, but in an overly-dramatic way, and unfortunately, some of the jokes aren’t really as funny as they are set up to be. That being said, the plot is engaging enough and there are some really funny scenes and humorous dialog. Personally, I thought the movie was predictable, but worth watching. Parents should be advised that although the film is rated PG-13, there are one or two scenes that may be inappropriate for even older kids. Overall Rating: B-
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Zootopia

Zootopia, a soon-to-be Disney classic, is a beautifully animated comedy-adventure about a world where animals live in harmony, with predators putting aside their carnivorous instincts and prey living peacefully among them. The movie tells the story of Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), who leaves life as a rural carrot farmer and travels to the big city (Zootopia) to pursue her dream of being the first bunny police officer at the ZPD. Judy works hard to be able to join the force only to be treated poorly by the commander because she’s a bunny. She’s put on meter duty but soon finds herself teaming up with a sly fox (Jason Bateman) to stop the mysterious disappearance of some of the city’s carnivores. The humor will appeal to everyone from young children to teens to adults, but this movie is also full of messages. There are references to current social issues including racism and stereotyping. Many of these references may go over younger children’s heads but will definitely resonate with teens and adults. I thought this was a really great movie; it was funny, action-packed, and had a meaningful storyline. Parents should be aware that there are a few sequences that might be a bit scary to some kids. Overall Rating: A+
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Hail, Caesar!

Hail, Caesar! starring Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Ralph Fiennes, as well as appearances by several other big names, is a new comedy-drama by the Coen brothers. This film was very hard to review because it’s one of those movies that leaves you scratching your head. I can’t say whether I liked or disliked this movie. The story follows a day in the life of Eddie Mannix (Brolin) who works as a “fixer” for a major studio during Hollywood’s golden age. When one of his movie stars goes missing (Clooney) he must deal with that, as well as a host of other unrelated issues such as a singing cowboy who can’t speak; an unwed, pregnant actress; and an uptight, testy director. He’s also dealing with his own guilt over whether or not to change jobs to have more time with his family. There is a lot going on in this movie which makes the story a bit hard to follow and, to some, may feel pointless. The characters are likable however, which saved it for me, and there are a few quite bizarre and unexpected scenes that were really hilarious. Overall Rating: C
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Central Intelligence

Central Intelligence, starring Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, is an extremely funny comedy/adventure about two men who went to high school together. Hart plays star athlete, most-likely to succeed, super popular, and all-around great guy, Calvin Joyner. Johnson is the out-of-shape, nerdy, friendless and often bullied Robbie Wierdicht. Fast-forward to twenty years later and Robbie, now Bob Stone, is a changed man, he’s confident, muscular, and successful and Calvin has become an accountant who feels he peeked in high school and is depressed that he didn’t live up to his potential. The two reconnect on Facebook the day before their high school reunion. Bob has never forgotten how Calvin came to his rescue after he was the victim of a really nasty prank and he still adores him. Bob asks Calvin to help him with something; Calvin agrees, but doesn’t realize he’s getting involved with the CIA and international espionage! Hilarious antics ensue and leave the viewer guessing as to what’s really going on. I really enjoyed this movie; it was truly funny and very entertaining. Overall Rating: A+
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Finding Dory

Finding Dory, the much-anticipated sequel to Finding Nemo has finally arrived and it was definitely worth the wait! Dory, (the blue tang fish with very short-term memory), suddenly realizes she once had a family and decides it’s time to go find them. Understanding she can’t go alone she convinces Marlin, (Nemo’s dad) to go along. Dory, Marlin, and Nemo set out with the few snippets of memories Dory can recall and begin a journey that takes them to a conservatory called the Marine Life Institute. Dory, who gets separated from Marlin and Nemo, meets Hank, an escape artist octopus and several other lovable marine creatures at the Institute who try to help her find her mom and dad, while Marlin and Nemo do their best to find Dory, as only two fish out of water can. There are several heart-tugging emotional scenes and the focus is, once again, on family bonds. The animation is beautiful and the voices of Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neil, and Diane Keaton really bring the characters to life. I enjoyed this Nemo film as much as I did the first one and would definitely recommend it! Be sure to wait for the fun scene at the end of the credits! Overall Rating: A+
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Bridget Jones's Baby

The third installment in the Bridget Jones saga is now on DVD. This newest feature finds Bridget (Renée Zellweger) alone again on her 43rd birthday having given up on love and now focusing on her career. Two chance meetings, one with a handsome American played by Patrick Dempsey and the other with the ex-love of her life, Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), result in a baby on the way. The two potential dads then vie for Bridget, placing her in a position very different from the struggles she had in the first two films. The movie has some very funny, typical “Bridget Jones” moments and some very sweet romantic moments as well. Although the premise sounds like it could be tasteless, the story was done well. The language is very strong throughout, however, and some of the references are a bit crude, so the film is rated R. I wasn’t sure I would enjoy this movie, but I really did. I would definitely recommend it. Overall Rating: A
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Doctor Strange

The fourteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is Doctor Strange, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as world-renowned neurosurgeon Stephen Strange. Early in the movie, Dr. Strange loses the use of his hands in a car accident and becomes desperate to be restored. He abandons his life and his love, Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), and he sets out on a journey in search of healing. This journey takes him to Nepal and a mysterious compound called Kamar-Taj. There he becomes the student of The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and quickly learns the mystic arts. As a powerful sorcerer, he must decide whether to return to his life or use his powers to protect the Earth from Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), a former student of the Ancient One who has stolen powerful ancient texts. What follows are some riveting action scenes and a wild adventure into the astral realm. As a fan of the original comic book, I was impressed with Cumberbatch’s striking likeness to the character. The film also had stunning visual effects and subtle humor throughout. This wasn’t your typical superhero movie, and I look forward to the future of the franchise! Overall rating: A+
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A Dog's Purpose

There are many mysteries in life and finding our reason for being is one of them. The new movie, A Dog’s Purpose, explores this quest from a dog’s point of view. The comedy-drama stars Dennis Quaid as Ethan, (with eight-year-old Ethan played by Bryce Gheisar), who saves a puppy from a hot car and names him Bailey. The two go through serious life challenges together and form a deep bond that ends when young adult Ethan (KJ Apa) has to say goodbye to the aged Bailey. But that’s not the end – Baily reincarnates and has a wide range of life experiences with new owners, all the while holding on to his memories of Ethan and wondering what life is all about. Some perilous and touching moments take place as the movie heads toward its emotional conclusion. I thought the movie was definitely worth watching; the canine performers did an excellent job! I have to say this film did make me look at my cats a little differently. Overall Rating: A
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First Man - Movie Review

First Man is the story of Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) and the lead up to the Apollo 11 space mission.
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Midwest Heartland: Theodore Roosevelt to the Homestead Act

This informational video caught my eye since I love to travel and have not had the ability yet to get farther west than Illinois.
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Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express is based off of an Agatha Christie novel.
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Red Sparrow

From the opening scenes of Red Sparrow you must pay full attention to the movie. 
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I Feel Pretty

The movie I Feel Pretty tries to be the quintessential feel-good movie.
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Solo: A Star Wars Story

I need to preface this review by stating that I grew up with the original Star Wars episodes which later came to be known as numbers four, five, and six.
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Happy Xmas

This Christmas CD is not a typical merry and bright compilation of music.
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