Review: “In The Heights” (2021) Warner Bros.

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We all go to the movies for various reasons. Some love the fear and horror, some love thrillers or animation, and then there is the sheer joy of seeing a movie that just makes you smile and want to dance and “IN THE HEIGHTS” is that movie. With it’s joyful incredible large-scaled choreographed dancing and singing, Heights is a cinematic treat for your eyes and ears as well. There has never been a more perfect time to release this film until now in the Summer! baby! Summer! On the serious side, this is an important film for all and it is what we all need as well in our lives, a bit of music, dance, joy and a story about life and a dream.

Starting us off in the way up the A train line in the Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights lives twenty-something Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), a dreamer whose pursuit of that dream is to go beyond the corner bodega store he owns and works at, and head back to the Dominican Republic to re-open the bar his dad once owned. The barrio portrayed here is chock full of colorful characters from all parts of life and the world. Abuela Claudia (Olga Merediz), the always-wise, all-knowing, grandmotherly figure of the barrio; Vanessa (Melissa Barrera), is a young, beautiful, vibrant and optimistic woman with a strong desire to become a fashion designer, along with nail salon owner and queen of neighborhood gossip circle Daniela (Daphne Rubin-Vega). Lastly is Usnavi’s younger cousin Sonny (Gregory Diaz IV), who has ambitions beyond his somewhat slacker style as behind it all, is a quick, highly intelligent young man. And of course there is Benny (Corey Hawkins), best friend to Usnavi, and dispatcher at the local neighborhood service run by the neighborhood’s oldest business owner, Kevin Rosario (Jimmy Smits). Benny meanwhile is thinking he might be promoted and is working towards opening his own business as well. Returning home on that one hot, sweltering July morning is Nina (Leslie Grace), who’s dropped out of Stanford despite the neighborhood’s awe of her being the only one to get away. Her father has been finagling the finances at the cab company to keep Nina at the college, though there are deeper underlying issues that soon surface.

The adaptation, as one would assume, had to alter from the stage production but that job is done by none other than Quiara Alegria Hudes, who penned the musical’s book. Three-time Emmy nominee Christopher Scott really brings the musical numbers to life through such exquisite choreography that you can get lost in. At one point realizing just the enormity of this production and how many people are involved in some of the larger dance scenes left me in awe. In the director’s chair is Jon M. Chu, and his skills shine in this enchanting tale of unity, community and following your dreams, wherever and however they might end up. The music supervisor here is none other than Steve Gizicki, an old personal friend of some 20+ years and he does a fantastic job here.

It’s the little things of ‘In The Heights’ as well. If you’ve ever had a true neighborhood Abuelas’ food then you understand how here, you can almost smell and taste her cooking straight from the film. Or the dancing ~ you feel as though you are there doing the cha cha salsa dancing with them, and trust me, it is no easy feat to dance like that, most especially the ladies part. And if you didn’t feel right at home in the nail salon, well then you my friends, are going to the wrong nail salon. While one or two musical numbers might have stretched and went a bit too long, and it’s also possible the second act feels like it drags a bit here and there in comparison to the first and third acts, these things are minor nit picking as all in all, it’s just truly a very entertaining watch. Lengthy as it is, it’s truly a 2 hour 24 minutes love story. But not just a love story in the traditional sense, but a love story about a city, a place, a time and about it’s people. The senses of it all you can taste, feel and smell – all through the music and dance.

The acting and dancing is out of this world, though I did NOT know Jimmy Smits was a singer! While everyone is shooing Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera and Gregory Diaz IV as the new faces to follow, to put Anthony Ramos as being in that category as well is just a bit on the incorrect side, as he has been putting in the good work since Monsters and Men in 2018, and can we say A Star Is Born co-star anyone? But enough with the young stars as they have wonderful careers ahead of them and were all sensational here. But a standout here that many seem to overlook is our Abuela herself, Olga Merediz, as she is simply wonderful here in her supporting role and I truly hope she is not forgotten about during supporting nomination time, just because she didn’t sing and dance up a storm, she held this group together like a true neighborhood Abuela.

No matter the tiny criticisms, there’s something truly radiating about the film’s vibrancy and joyful enthusiasm – which is, frankly, what we all need right now. And do yourself one last favour before you leave, stay for the post-credit scene.

B+

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Review Screening: Monday, January 7, 2021 ~ Courtesy of Warner Bros.

IN THE HEIGHTS” OPENS IN THEATERS NATIONWIDE AND ON HBO MAX ON FRIDAY, JUNE 11, 2021

REVIEW: “THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART (2019) Warner Bros.

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The Lego Movie took the much-loved plastic childhood toy and built it into meta-comedy franchise that played equally well for kids and adults. Already spawning a more than one spin-off, including the truly not for kids The Lego Batman Movie, now comes the sequel to the original, The Lego Movie 2, which is fast & frenetic in it’s pacing, even if not exactly fresh.

In truth, this “THE LEGO MOVIE 2” doesn’t stray too far from the original, picking up briefly where its predecessor ended, when the Duplo toys arrived to cause havoc. The story then moves on five years; Bricksburg is no more and now our Lego friends live in Apocalypseburg, a Mad Max-style nightmare, complete with a half-buried Statue of Liberty (nod to Planet of the Apes??!!). Only Emmet (Chris Pratt), our orange-vest-wearing construction worker hero, is his same almost annoying, upbeat self. He’s even built a house for his love, the Goth-clothed Lucy (Elizabeth Banks). But then along comes an alien, General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz), capturing all Emmet’s friends and shipping them off to the Syster System to do the bidding of Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish), who wants to get married and zeroes in on Lego Batman (Will Arnett).

Emmet sets out on a rescue mission, but it’s only when he meets Rex Dangervest (also Pratt) – a future version of himself – that he learns to toughen up in this mean world. Once again there is plenty of fourth wall-breaking, plus more pop culture references than you can shake a stick at with everything from 2001: A Space Odyssey, Twilight, to Back to the Future. The cameos even get really weird, with Bruce Willis turning up as a sort of Lego John McClane from Die Hard at one point. The problem with all that, while it might be entertaining for some adults, kids have no idea what these references are and the plot is lost on them, hence they then get bored.

With some cute styled like musical scenes, there are show tunes galore – the best being Catchy Song, which also gets plenty of airtime here. Repetition does weigh it down, with the breakneck pacing ironically causing the film to drag at times, again especially draining for the kids, with Mitchell’s insistence on wham-bam action almost as tiring as Haddish’s talkative shape-shifting Queen.

So all in all, The Lego Movie 2’s insistence on never slowing things down to take a breath can be almost tiring as at times it felt as though there were too many events and gags crammed into a scene. But with Richard Ayoade voicing a talking ice cream, the inventive humour that made the first film special, can still shine through at times. Just probably more for adults than for kids.
Grade: C
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Saturday, February 2. 2019 ~ Courtesy of Warner Bros.
“THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART” IS OUT WORLDWIDE AS OF FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2019

10 top TV shows I’m watching right now

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And you should be too!! It’s been awhile since I’ve done this list and so many shows have come & gone..too many of my favs ending their series runs like Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad, Mad Men & Justified all in the same year for crimeny sakes. Luckily a few good news ones have popped up and I will be updating this every few weeks from now on. Now onto some great TV….
red road
THE RED ROAD (Sundance Channel)
Martin Henderson & Jason Momoa are really outstanding in this show. They play the best hardcore ‘frenemies’ I’ve seen in quite some time in a show that’s refreshingly different from the same ol’ cops & robbers genre.

the blacklist

THEBLACKLIST (NBC)

James Spader.. enough said. He is fantastic here. Add in a now all grown up-looking amazing -from 90210 –Ryan Eggold doing some decent work and Diego Klattenhoff stepping up in a good supporting and you have yourself a pretty damn good show. Megan Boone as the female lead, for some reason can be the only thorn in my side in some episodes though most everything revolves around her. I also love the complete diversity of what this cast does.

goldbergs

THE GOLDBERGS (ABC)
I’m sorry but their “Ferris Bueller” episode a few weeks ago was so so so very spot on and had me laughing harder than I have in some time. Every episode brings me back to what at the time, I thought was the worst period in my life.. turns out it was the best and Wendi McClendon-Covey kills it every single week as the mom. The whole family is just so spot on.. If you’re not watching this show, you clearly didn’t grow up in the best decade EVER!! 🙂
broolyn 99

BROOKLYN NINE NINE (FOX)
SURPRISE! Another comedy for me which is unusual because I’m very picky on my comedies as shockingly enough, I actually prefer them to be funny. And this one is. The whole cast is so deadpan spot on and work so well together I can’t stop laughing each and every episode.

Syfy_12-Monkeys_E

12 MONKEYS (SyFy)
I’m telling you..Syfy channel has been rocking it and really stepped up their game in the last few years. This show being one of the reasons and one of the best ones on TV right now period. Each episode has upped itself a notch and Aaron Stanford, Kirk Acevedo & Amanda Shull truly take this show to the next level. So granted it took me 3 episodes to realize it was based on the Bruce Willis/Brad Pitt movie, but give me a break, that was 1995!!!

broadchurch

BROADCHURCH (BBC AMERICA)
You know I love my British dramas. The first season of this show was mind-bogglingly good. Then they tried the American-ized version Gracepoint with a great cast, including David Tennant whom they said ‘couldn’t be understood by audiences in the U.K. version’ reallly.. I had no problem and still have no problem understanding him, but the U.S. version was quite awful. So now we are on Season 2 and it’s carried on from season 1 so well which I think was the big question everyone had. Could it be as good? The answer is yes.

the good wife

THE GOOD WIFE (CBS)
After a spectacular Season 5 where this show had some of the best writing I’d seen in a while for network TV.. Season 6 came back with a new firm, Florrick, Lockhart & Agos and has been a bit of a roller coaster at times swinging back n forth between good at times, but a bit confusing. But as of this past Sunday, WHOA! Don’t miss this show people.. it’s what Scandal etc. wish they could be.

Vikings

VIKINGS (HISTORY)
So it’s probably not exact history, but then what really is. We don’t know how the Vikings sounded or exactly what language they spoke, but we do know a lot of their history based upon their gods and what happened between them & the Christians. And we know they discovered America way before Columbus did and were amazing navigators & shipbuilders for their time. We also know that they were true warriors and yes, raided other countries to death. Travis Fimmel has found his calling in this role. He is perfect as King Ragnar and Clive Standen as his brother Rollo is just plain badass.. oh did I mention they are hot..well yeah, they are but the show is also reeeally good and Kathryn Winnick as the bad-ass Lagertha tops this cast off showing true girl power. This is not only a well done good show, it’s entertaining as end all.

mad men

MAD MEN (AMC)
Where would we be without Don Draper??!! Much less entertained in my opinion. This show has stunned us, made us look back in our pasts to see where our futures are.. reminded us of a way things were done not all that long ago, and done it so stylishly we’ve all just fell in love with it. The fact that this show is one of the shows I love that is ending, makes it all the harder to look forward to these last episodes. Don, Peggy, Ken, Pete, Betty, Joan, Harry, Roger and all the rest whom we grown so fond of..let’s smoke one last cigarette together while mixing a drink at work..at noon!

justified

JUSTIFIED (FX)
Oh Raylan..oh Boyd.. oh Ava.. how I will miss you so. I wouldn’t know where to begin or end with how much I love this show and how good this final season is. We are at the very end, and 3 things I will miss most.. the witty amazing dialogue, the fantastic acting by Timothy Olyphant, Walton Goggins, Joelle Carter, Jacob Pitts, Erica Tazel and Nick Searcy along with the rest of the absolutely fantastic co-stars & guest stars that have made this show, and the opening song.. Something I never fast forward through. Oh and producers/directors/writers/FX network ~ can you please give Rachel (Erica Tazel) & Tim (Jacob Pitts) there own spin-off show..pretty please.