"Black Widow"

"Black Widow" 

Rating system:  (4=Don't miss, 3=Good, 2=Worth a look, 1=Forget it)

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“Black Widow” (PG-13) (3) [Intense sequences of violence/action, some language, and thematic material.] [Opens July 9 in theaters and on Disney Plus.] — After two curious sisters (Ever Anderson and Violet McGraw) in Ohio suddenly get separated from their mysterious parents (Rachel Weisz and David Harbour) when they land in Cuba in 1995 and end up being trained as skilled assassins by the KGB in Cate Shortland’s entertaining, complex, action-packed, fast-paced, violent, humor-dotted, star-studded (William Hurt, O-T Fagbenie, Olivier Richters, Robert Downey Jr., and Olga Kurylenko), 134-minute thriller with splendid special effects and choreography, the Avenger Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) reconnects with her bitter, equally skilled, estranged sister (Florence Pugh) 21 years later in Budapest to take on a power-hungry, misogynist, psychopathic Russian general (Ray Winstone) in his cloud-based Red Room who has thousand of female assassins at his fingertips worldwide using mind control.

“Hydra” (NR) (2.5) [Subtitled] [Available July 20 on Blu-ray™, DVD, and various VOD platforms.] — Kensuke Sonomura’s compelling, convoluted, confusing, twist-filled, well-choreographed, evenly paced, violent, incomplete, 77-minute, 2019 thriller with an abrupt ending in which a former, secretive, highly skilled, reserved Japanese assassin (Masanori Mimoto) takes an unassuming job as a chef at a small sushi bar in Tokyo in order to protect the free-spirited bartender daughter (Miu) of a former criminal associate (Yōji Tanaka) with whom the waiter (Tasuku Nagase) is smitten and then finds himself reluctantly drawn again into his old world as a vigilante hitman for a clandestine group to rid Tokyo of seedy underworld criminals and target of unsavory types {Tomorowo Taguchi, Naohiro Kawamoto, et al.)

“Pit Pony” (NR) (3) [DVD only] — After his older brother (Andrew Keilty) is tragically killed and his widowed father (Richard Donat) is injured in a Canadian coalmining accident in 1901 in this inspirational, heartwarming, family-oriented, heartbreaking 1997 film, a 10-year-old schoolboy (Ben Rose-Davis), who lives with his three sisters (Jennie Raymond, Anna Wedlock, and Ellen Page) in Nova Scotia, enters the coal mines with other miners (Gabriel Hogan, Jonathan Langlois-Sadubin, Joseph Wynne, et al.) to help support the family.

“Racially Charged: America’s Misdemeanor Problem” (NR) (4) [Available on Vimeo and YouTube.] — Mahershala Ali narrates Robert Greenwald’s powerful, educational, eye-opening, poignant, ire-inducing, 35-minute, 2020 documentary, which was inspired by Harvard law professor Alexandra Natapoff’s “Punishment without Crime: How Our Massive Misdemeanor System Traps the Innocent and Makes America More Unequal” book, that examines the unfair, disturbing, racist judicial system in which more than 13 million Blacks and Hispanics are charged annually with misdemeanors such as jaywalking, broken car taillight, and driving with a suspended license that negatively impact many areas, including employment and housing, and consists of archival photographs, historical film clips, and insightful commentary by and about people (such as Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Faylita Hicks, Chris Lollie, Fernando Martinez, Demario Davis, Michael Robinson, and Bradley Haggard) who were unjustly arrested for a misdemeanor and professors Alexandra Natapoff, Paul Delano Butler, Irene Oritseweyinmi Joe, Douglas A. Blackmon, Gaye Theresa Johnson, and Khalil Gibran Muhammad.

“River” (NR) (3) [Opens July 13 on various VOD platforms.] — After the mysterious, tragic death of her mother (Becki Hayes) in Emily Skye’s dark, low-key, award-winning, creepy, well-acted, 93-minute psychological sci-fi thriller, which is based on the short film “River” inspired by “The Signal, Fire In The Sky, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Stranger Things,” highlighted by terrific cinematography, and punctuated by a surprise ending, a grieving, traumatized, mentally-unhinged, nightmare-plagued young woman (Mary Cameron Rogers) tries to get a grip on reality, and when she disappears for over a week, her therapist (Courtney Gains), her manipulative and secretive best friend  (Alexandra Rose), and her friend’s smitten brother (Rob Marshall) become increasingly concerned. 

“Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain” (R) (3.5) [Language throughout.] [Opens July 16 in theaters.] — Morgan Neville’s fascinating, informative, insightful, 118-minute documentary that explores the complex, dark, unhappy man behind the image of outspoken, charismatic, award-winning celebrity chef, author, and host Anthony Bourdain, who died by suicide in June 2018 at 61, as he traveled the world exploring culinary delights and cultures and consists of archival film footage, television clips from shows such as “Parts Unknown” and “No Reservations,” and candid commentary by writer Joel Rose, publisher Karen Renaldi, agent Kim Witherspoon, restaurant owners Philippe Lajaune and Tracey Westmoreland, creative partners Lydia Tenaglia and Chris Collins, chefs Éric Ripert and Dave Chang, brother Chris Bourdain, wife Ottavia Busia-Bourdain, actor Asia Argento, artist John Laurie, cinematographers (such as Todd Liebler, Christopher Doyle, and Zach Zamboni), producer Helen Cho, directors (such as Tom Vitale, Mo Fallon, and Michael Steed), musician Iggy Pop, and friends Doug Quint, Josh Homme, and Alison Mosshart.

“The Sleepless Unrest: The Real Conjuring Home” (NR) (2.5) [Opens July 16 in theaters and available on various VOD platforms.] — Vera and Kendall Whelpton’s intriguing, creepy, dark, 80-minute documentary in which they are joined by the paranormal investigator homeowners Cory and Jennifer Heinzen, who purchased the well-known, allegedly haunted, 300-year-old farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island, in 2019 that inspired the 2013 “The Conjuring” horror film, paranormal investigators Richel Stratton and Brian Murray, property manager John Huntington, and friend and paranormal enthusiast Anthony Cross to spend two weeks using numerous cameras, motion detectors, and paranormal equipment to document their eerie experiences in the house. 

“Terry Fator: Live from Las Vegas” (NR) (3.5) [DVD and VOD only] An entertaining, creative, fun-filled, 71-minute, 2009 film that showcases the incredible impersonating and singing vocal talents of charismatic ventriloquist Terry Fator as he interfaces with his dummies, including Cowboy Walter, Emma Taylor, and Winston the Impersonating Turtle, and pays homage to musical legends Louis Armstrong, Roy Orbison, Elvis, Etta James, and Brooks & Dunn by singing hit songs such as “I Started a Joke,” “At Last,” “Crying,” “Stay’n Alive,” “Don’t Know Much,” “Let’s Get It on,” “Viva Las Vegas,” “Boot Scootin’ Boogie,” “Home,” “Sharp Dressed Man,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Come Sail Away,” “I Got You Babe,” “What a Wonderful World,” “Only You (and You Alone),” and “Don’t Cha.” 

“To Save a Life” (PG-13) (2) [Mature thematic elements involving teen suicide, teen drinking, some drug content, disturbing images, and sexuality.] [DVD and VOD only] After a childhood best friend (Robert Bailey Jr.) unexpectedly wields a gun at school and then tragically commits suicide in this religious, down-to-earth, 2008 film, a popular, grieving, troubled basketball team captain (Randy Wayne) surprises his bickering parents (Laura Black and David Starzyk), his longtime girlfriend (Deja Kreutzberg), and his friends (Steven Crowder, et al.) when he tries to find answers with a Christian group of high school students (Kim Hidalgo, Sean Michael Afable, Bubba Lewis, et al.) run by a compassionate preacher (Joshua Weigel). 

“The Trial of Old Drum” (PG) (3) [Some violence and brief language.] [DVD and VOD only] A heartwarming, family-oriented, cameo-dotted, 2000 film in which a pilot (Randy Travis) reminisces about growing up as a young boy (Bobby Edner) on a Missouri farm in 1955 with his widowed father (Ron Perlman), who is attracted to the town’s newspaper reporter (Alexis O’Keefe), and a faithful golden retriever and one time finding himself hiring a lawyer (Scott Bakula) to defend his dog after his mean-spirited uncle (John Schuck) accuses the mutt of killing his sheep.

“Troll” (PG-13) (1) [DVD and VOD only] When a young girl (Jenny Beck) is possessed by an ugly, wicked troll (Phil Fondacaro), who wants to take over the world, after moving with her parents (Michael Moriarity and Shelley Hack) and older brother (Noah Hathaway) into an apartment building in San Francisco in this silly, inane, horribly acted, 1986 sci-fi film, a witch (June and Anne Lockhart) uses her powers to try and save the family and other tenants (Sonny Bono, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Brad Hall, Gary Sandy, et al.) in the building.

“Troll 2” (PG-13) (0) [DVD and VOD only] In this so bad it’s almost funny 1990 sequel to the 1986 film “Troll” dominated by horrific acting, special effects, and makeup, a young boy (Michael Stephenson) with the help of the spirit of his dead grandfather (Robert Ormsby) tries to save his family (George Hardy, Margo Prey, and Connie McFarland) and his teenage sister’s clueless boyfriend (Jason Wright) when his parents exchange houses with another family (Lance C. Williams, Elli Case, Gavin Reed, and Melissa Bridge) for one month in a small town populated by an evil goblin queen (Deborah Reed) and meat-eating goblins (Don Packard, Patrick Gibbs, et al.).


“Welcome” (NR) (3.5) [Subtitled][DVD and VOD only] A touching thought-provoking, well-acted, 2009 film in which a lonely French swimming coach (Vincent Lindon), who recently divorced his schoolteacher wife (Audrey Dana), befriends a determined, lovesick, 17-year-old Kurdish refugee (Firat Ayverdi) in Calais who desperately wants to reunite with his teenage girlfriend (Derya Ayverdi) in London by traversing the dangerous, jellyfish-infested, ice cold waters of the English Channel.

Wendy Schadewald is a Burnsville resident. 

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