John Travolta, right, in a scene from "Gotti." 

John Travolta, right, in a scene from "Gotti."  Credit: Vertical Entertainment/Brian Douglas


1. "Gotti" (½ star) John Travolta’s frequently stalled, years-in-the-making biopic of mobster John J. Gotti (based on a memoir by his son John “Junior” Gotti and directed by Patchogue’s Kevin Connolly) could have been a compelling, almost Shakespearean drama about a family dynasty. Instead, it’s a string of mob-movie cliches made barely tolerable by Travolta’s OK performance. What happened? You’d probably have to ask the more than 40 producers listed in the credits.

2. "A Wrinkle in Time" (2 stars) The good news: Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of the classic children’s novel, featuring a multicultural cast of Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling, Michael Pena and newcomer Storm Reid in the lead role, is a shining example of diversity in a newly woke Hollywood. The bad news: It was also a clunky, confusing, odd-looking mess. Its best effects were Winfrey’s ever-changing eyebrows.

3. "Strangers: Prey at Night" (1.5 stars) Ten years after the depressing home-invasion horror flick “The Strangers” comes this unwanted sequel about masked psychos who chase a family through a trailer park. Horror may be having a new heyday, but boring, overbloody movies like this are the reason people still don’t take the genre seriously.

4. "Ocean’s 8" (2 stars) It’s the all-female version of “Ocean’s 11,” with Sandra Bullock as the leader of a criminal crew. Yet despite the talents of Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter and others, this film never quite sparkles. What’s more, it brings in one of the original male characters to make sure the central heist goes as planned. Isn’t that missing the point?

5. "Solo: A Star Wars Story" (2 stars) This origin story of Han Solo was never going to work: The character is too iconic and Harrison Ford was too perfect in the role. They made it anyway, and the results are what you’d expect: The young Alden Ehrenreich doesn’t quite cut it, and the back story only diminishes the legend.


1. “LA to Vegas” (Fox) Memories are funny — or perhaps memories are selective — but I remember very little of this. The few remnant shards do hint at something that was very tired and very unfunny. I believe the shards are accurate.

2. “AP Bio” (NBC) The lead character — played by Glenn Howerton of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” — is a creeper who clumsily hits on women, drinks too much and hates high school. (He’s also a high school teacher.) It’s hard to see how it could go anywhere but down from there, and it pretty much did — at least in the early episodes; NBC handed it another season, so we’ll see.

The cast of NBC's "Rise."

The cast of NBC's "Rise." Credit: NBC/Virginia Sherwood

3. “Rise” (NBC) This limited series from Jason Katims about an English teacher in a Rust Belt Pennsylvania town who takes over the theater program at Stanton High (from the review) “plods along as a collection of prefabricated moments that demand viewer engagement as opposed to ones that are organically built and which breathe on their own and ultimately succeed on their own.” In a word (or two), this stage drama was stagey.

4. “American Woman” (Paramount) Muddled, plodding, unengaging — this had no perspective other than the obvious one (men are pigs), or a plot much beyond suddenly-single-mom-gets-back-in-workplace.

5. “Here and Now” (HBO) This maddening — and since canceled — misfire was more a collection of fashionable “-isms,” New Age platitudes and magical mystery detours than a dramatic exploration of any of them. Mostly it was just TV drama as bric-a-brac. 


Lil Xan sure is something.

Lil Xan sure is something. Credit: Invision/Amy Harris

1. Lil Xan, “Total Xanarchy” (Columbia): Never mind that he called 2Pac boring. He uses his major-label deal and high-profile collaborators like 2 Chainz and Rae Sremmurd and comes up with choruses like “I got tick tock, tick tock. I got Gucci flip-flops.”

2. Justin Timberlake, “Man of the Woods” (RCA): Even a rollout that included the Super Bowl halftime show could not convince people that this album was interesting. Or that the talented Timberlake actually believed his own interest in country music.

3. Thirty Seconds to Mars, “America” (Interscope): Imagine Dragons with their passion replaced by empty sloganeering.

4. Stone Temple Pilots, “Stone Temple Pilots” (Atlantic): The band’s struggle with the deaths of both Scott Weiland and his replacement Chester Bennington may have hit them harder than they expected.

5. The Decemberists, “I’ll Be Your Girl” (Capitol): Calling the album’s best song “Everything Is Awful” is never a good sign

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