Director Malcolm D. Lee's LeBron-James-meets-the-Looney-Tunes adventure, beyond feeling cynical and desperate, may be the most flabbergasting, relentlessly self-promoting entertainment I've ever endured. Lee's movie is constantly selling, yet the only thing it actually gave me was a headache.

With more praise (and some damnation) to come, I suppose the highest compliment I can pay director Cate Shortland's new Black Widow is that, in the grand scheme of things, this Marvel entry could hardly matter less.

Directed by Everardo Gout and written, as all of them have been, by James DeMonaco, The Forever Purge is the fifth and purportedly final (sure, whatever) installment in the popular series of horror thrillers, and offhand, it's hard to think of another long-running film franchise that has gotten more mileage out of being not bad.

F9: The Fast Saga opens like Days of Thunder, middles like James Bond, and closes like a Corona commercial. In between those mile markers, the movie also manages to suggest a lost Indiana Jones sequel, a live-action Road Runner cartoon, a week-ending episode of Days of Our Lives, and a biggest-bicep competition in which the only entrants are Vin Diesel and John Cena. Needless to say, I ate it all up with a spoon.

Promising nights of classical-theatre education blended with beautifully phrased entertainment, Genesius Guild presents its second show of the 2021 season in the July 3 through 11 run of Shakespeare's Life in His Works, a debuting exploration into the Bard's works boasting clips from classical favorites and narration written by 92-year-old Guild founder Don Wooten.

As we discover in Edgar Wright's music documentary The Sparks Brothers, not long after the release of their 21st (!) album, the frontmen for the genre-defying rock outfit Sparks – siblings Ron and Russell Mael – embarked on a live-concert run of all 21 of those albums performed in chronological sequence, one night after another, over the course of 29 days. That's insane.

Had the musical been released last June as originally scheduled, and had there been no pandemic, director Jon M. Chu's film version of In the Heights would no doubt have felt like what it feels like today: a sweet, touching, frequently thrilling bash in which the guest list simply reads “Everybody.” Arriving now, however – and for we Illinoisans, debuting on the very same day the state's COVID-19 restrictions were lifted – Chu's big-screen opus feels like more than a party; it feels like liberation.

There are two absolutely excellent moments in the new horror film The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. Both moments are scary as all get out and boast images that even this longtime genre fan had never seen before, and Julian Hilliard appears to be a remarkable young actor. If director Michael Chaves' fright flick were actually about that kid and his supernatural turmoil, this second sequel might've really been something.

Like me, you may have been missing the sounds of large movie-going crowds laughing together, or sniffling together, or screaming together. Yet it wasn't until my weekend screening of A Quiet Place Part II that I realized what I've really missed at the cineplex over the past 15 months is the sound – or rather, lack thereof – of a sizable audience making no noise at all.

One of the few professional perks to the pandemic hitting when it did was that I had an excellent excuse to avoid reviewing several spring-of-2020 titles I was quietly dreading, among them the computer-animated Scoob!, an update on the numerous Scooby-Doo series I didn't enjoy even as a kid. As if to punish me for my relief, however, director Tony Cervone's movie opened this past weekend at both local cineplexes and both area drive-ins, all but forcing me to finally cave and watch the damn thing. So I did. It was actually pretty good. I suppose I had that coming.