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NOW STREAMING: Meg Ryan makes directorial debut with ‘Ithaca’

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STORY WRITTEN BY AMY LONGSDORF
For Digital First Media

Meg Ryan makes her directorial debut with “Ithaca,” an absorbing adaption of William Saroyan’s 1943 novel “The Human Comedy,” which was previously made into a movie starring Mickey Rooney.
This time around, newcomer Alex Neustaedter plays Homer Macauley, a 14-year-old who takes a job as a bicycle telegraph messenger to help provide for his widowed mother (Ryan) and siblings. Over the course of the film, whether bonding with a telegraph operator (wonderful Sam Shepard) or delivering messages of death to the parents of servicemen, Homer learns important life lessons.

Photo by Kent Eanes  -- courtesy of Momentum Pictures "Ithaca"

Photo by Kent Eanes — courtesy of Momentum Pictures
“Ithaca”

Tom Hanks cameos in the film which, among its other attributes, boasts a vibrant score by John Mellencamp. On Amazon, iTunes, Google, Vudu.
Also New To Streaming
Money Monster: Without getting preachy, this real-time thriller from director Jodie Foster dramatizes the fallout of income inequality on a working stiff (Jack O’Connell) who loses his life savings in the stock market. O’Connell fights back the only way he knows how: by taking hostage the TV show host (George Clooney) and producer (Julia Roberts) who recommended the risky stock. Foster does a great job ratcheting up the suspense while unraveling a fascinating conspiracy and charting Clooney’s transformation from a shallow blowhard to a man capable of great empathy. As a bonus, Clooney and Roberts pass the chemistry test with flying colors. On Amazon, iTunes, Google, Vudu.
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Urge: There’s not much urgency in this ridiculous thriller about an evil club owner (Pierce Brosnan) who introduces a handful of young people (Danny Masterson, Justin Chatwin, Ashley Greene) to a designer drug which allows them to live out their wildest fantasies and, eventually, makes them incapable of controlling their violent desires. The characters are so poorly defined that you won’t care what happens to any of them with or without the elixir. The only bright spot is Brosnan who unleashes a maniacal laugh and a mean streak as a figure who delights in the pain of others. On Amazon, iTunes, Google, Vudu.
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Sunset Song: The latest film from writer/director Terence Davies (“The Deep Blue Sea”) is a near-perfect adaptation of Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s novel about the coming-of-age of a Scottish lass named Chris Guthrie (Agyness Deyn). Both graceful and gut-wrenching, “Sunset Song” follows Chris as she attempts to survive her beast of a father (Peter Mullan) and then, following his death, work the family farm on her own. Davies, a poet of love and war, makes every sequence sing. Extras: none. On Amazon, iTunes, Google, Vudu.
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Lola’s Last Letter: Actress Valerie Brady makes her writing and directing debut with this digital-only release about an ex-con (Brady) determined to write an apology letter to Henry, her mysterious pen pal. Co-starring Annamarie Kenoyer (TV’s “Southland” ) and Travis Quentin Young, “Lola’s Last Letter” seeks to seeks the answer the question of how you move on from a tragic mistake. On Amazon, iTunes, Google, Vudu.
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Narcos: Season 2: The addictive Netflix series is back and, in contrast to the first season which spanned a decade in the life of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar (Brazilian actor Wagner Moura), the latest batch of episodes are set over the course of a month as Escobar escapes from prison and is hunted down by the DEA and rival gangsters. According to Entertainment Weekly, “each tightly packed episode moves quickly without sacrificing richness, chronicling the queasy alliances and gross tactics employed to snare Escobar.” On Netflix.

For The Kids
Kulipari: An Army of Frogs: When he was a kid, Trevor Pryce, two-time Super Bowl champ with the Denver Broncos and all-pro defensive end, lived in fear of frogs being crushed on the roads of his native Florida. Years later, Pryce used that anxiety as fuel to write three children’s books about superhero frogs battling scorpions and spiders in the Australian outback. Now, the books have been turned into an animated series which has critics jumping for joy. On Netflix.
Teen Titles
Center Stage — On Pointe: For this sequel to “Center Stage,” Peter Gallager (“The O.C.”) stars as a director at the American Ballet Academy who’s tasked with bringing more contemporary dance styles to the stage. Enter a trio of cutting-edge choreographers (Sascha Radetsky, Ethan Stiefel and “Footloose” veteran Kenny Wormald) with all the right moves. Also appearing is Nicole Munoz who, as the shy Bella, must learn to step out from behind the shadow of her more successful older sister. On Amazon, iTunes, Google, Vudu.
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Honey 3 — Dare To Dance: Here’s another dance sequel, this one a follow-up to the Jessica Alba feature of 2003 and the straight-to-DVD follow-up in 2011. This time around, the action is set at a prestigious South African school where Melea (Cassie Ventura) and her boyfriend are presenting a hip-hop take on “Romeo and Juliet.” But her hopes are dashed when she’s unable to pay tuition and must leave the school. Can she persuade the community to rally behind her? Cue the romantic love triangles and heart-thumping dance numbers. On Amazon, iTunes, Google, Vudu.
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Legends of Tomorrow – The Complete First Season: The threat of baddie Vandal Savage is enough to convince time-traveling rogue Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) to assemble a group of handpicked heroes and villains to help save the world. A spin-off of “The Flash” and “Arrow,” this fun series culls characters from across the D.C. Universe, including Atom (Brandon Routh), Prof. Martin Stein (Victor Garber), Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) and Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell). On Amazon, iTunes, Google, Vudu.

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