THE MEG

As you might expect, The Meg is dumb. But it’s fun dumb. It’s dumb in the way its characters always choose the option that will put them in the most jeopardy. This is not necessarily good for their lifespan, but it’s good for those of us watching from our cushy recliners. I, for one, appreciate the action set pieces sparked by their dumb choices. I think The Meg incorporates just about every big monster cliche, but so what? You’re treated to great sets and a great monster. A perfect summer movie. Feel free to turn up your nose. I had a great time. (No FF — seen in theater)

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RAMPAGE

As expected, a truly dumb movie. But, as a kaiju fan, I had to see it. Though the effects are good, it possesses none of the mythic undercurrents of the Tojo films and suffers for it. The trio of giant monsters lack gravitas — they’re just dumb animals who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. George, the albino gorilla, has a “Mighty Joe Young” vibe, but that can’t save the film. Instead of hubris, the plot turns on humdrum avarice. The Rock gives his usual solid performance (sorry) but Jeffery Dean Morgan steals every scene he’s in. FF=2

BOMBSHELL: THE HEDDY LAMARR STORY

I found this documentary fascinating. A brilliant, beautiful, and very troubled woman. Her revolutionary technology could have shortened WWII if it hadn’t been shelved — supposedly because its inventor was a woman and, really, what do women know about radio frequencies and guidance systems? Definitely worth your time.  FF=0

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

Even though it contains sly dark humor, this is by no means a feel-good film. McDormand nails her part as a mother whose only remaining emotion is rage. Starting with “Cheers,” Woody Harrelson has always been a better actor than he seems (because he doesn’t seem to be acting), and Sam Rockwell proves again why he’s my favorite male actor these days. One plot turn made me groan aloud but they were only playing with my expectations (which made me very happy). This film totally engaged me.  FF=0

PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN

I found the story fascinating, and it explained many of the kinks in the early Wonder Woman comics (the author was into bondage, lived in a menage a trois, and released all his fantasies onto the page), but it simply didn’t gel as a film.  (I hate to be one of those annoying anachronism nerds, but they annoy me. In a 1920s scene, Marston says he was in the OSS during WW1, but the OSS wasn’t formed until WW2 was underway. Such a simple fact check.)   FF=1

LA MANTE

If I had to logline this 6-episode French/Netflix thriller I’d say it’s “Silence of the Lambs” meets “Se7en.” (Keep in mind that loglines are never entirely fair or accurate.) It’s well paced and incorporates pretty much every plot twist imaginable. Def worth a look.
FF=2

DARK

Finished season 1 of this Netflix/German co-production last night. Very “Lost”-ish in theme with “Twin Peaks”-ish characters. This must have been fun to write but a nightmare when it came to keeping the character relationships straight. As with any time-travel story (that’s not a spoiler — you know early on), the plot has holes and paradoxes. One warning: Although deliberately paced (read: “slow” — could have been compressed to 8 episodes instead of 10 with no loss of story or character), you must pay attention. This is not a series to watch while reading a book or playing a game on your phone. I know because I didn’t pay close attention to the early episodes and had a helluva time keeping the characters straight at their varying ages later on. I hope the director gets over his love affair with his rain machine for the next season. Do I recommend it? Depends on your patience and your ability to suspend disbelief. You might love it or your screen might be damaged by the shoes you toss at it.  FF=1