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Review: In The Heights

Welcome back to the movies! In The Heights is the first movie I’ve seen in an actual movie theater in over 14 months. And while it is premiering simultaneously in theaters and streaming on HBO Max, In The Heights is the type of movie that deserves to be seen on the big screen first; and then perhaps, in repeat viewings at home. Especially if you’re a fan of movie and broadway musicals. The film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2008 Tony-winning musical runs a tad long, but hits all the key notes in terms of story, acting, singing, message and homage.

Review: Profile

If you’re looking for a film that may actually play better on a desktop computer or laptop than in a theater, then look no further than Profile. The story takes place in the confines of a computer screen, which we all have intimate knowledge of these days. Video chats, Skype calls, bandwidth issues, posting cat pictures on Facebook and Instagram, juggling personal and professional accounts. You know the drill. Too bad Profile is being released in theaters first. It’s intriguing, but not compelling enough to warrant a theater experience, even if vaccinated. The film is based on a true story that I (as a former journalist) was vaguely familiar with, and it’s basically a thriller for geopolitical and journalism junkies.

Review: Four Good Days

Four Good Days is a movie about addiction and the toll that the cycle of rehab and relapse can take on relationships and family. We’ve seen it all before — many times in fact. And this one falls somewhere in the middle of the pack, buoyed by solid performances from Mila Kunis and Glenn Close as a mother and daughter navigating issues of trust and love, frustration and disappointment. It’s based on a true story by Pulitzer-Prize winning Washington Post writer Eli Saslow who co-wrote the screenplay with director Rodrigo García (Albert Nobbs, Mother and Child).  For the most part, Four Good Days sticks remarkably close to the narrative featured in the 2016 Post article.

Review: Coming 2 America

Hard to believe it’s been more than 30 years since Crown Prince Akeem Jaffer (Eddie Murphy) and his sidekick Semmi (Arsenio Hall) fled the palace – and an arranged marriage – in the wealthy African nation of Zamunda, and landed in Queens, New York, on a comical quest for true love. The 1988 comedy classic Coming to America was a real gem. Its sequel, Coming 2 America, is more like cubic zirconia. It has a bit of sparkle but pales against the original.

The trip is still worth taking, for nostalgia’s sake and a few good laughs. Just keep the expectations in check.

Quickie Review: Raya and the Last Dragon

The only opinion that really matters here would be that of a kid who likes animated movies. Especially Disney animated movies. And for that particular demographic, Raya and the Last Dragon is a pretty safe bet. The movie stays true to the conventional Disney formula with a story, animation and voices that kids can embrace and parents can easily tolerate. It’s not top-tier classic Disney, but it’s a pleasant enough family-friendly diversion if you have Disney+ with Premier Access (i.e. it’ll cost ya extra). It’s also being released in select theaters, but I still can’t suggest anyone of any age go that route before we reach something close to herd immunity.

Quickie Review: Fatale

When a Hilary Swank movie (Million Dollar Baby, Conviction, Boys Don’t Cry) rolls out this time of year, you’re inclined to think – Oscar bait? I know I did – without knowing anything about Fatale. Lesson learned. Timing isn’t everything – especially during a pandemic. The only award Fatale should be up for is a Razzie, for trying soooo hard to be Fatal Attraction. The performances are solid – elevated by Swank’s presence – but Fatale itself is purely middle of the road material. It’s a psychological thriller/murder mystery that relies heavily on its melodramatic score to intensify the convoluted stakes. It also attempts to pull racial injustice into the mix, though that message too gets lost in the muddled plot.

Review: The Prom

I miss Broadway. And while Hamilton certainly helped fill the void during this pandemic, the historical rapfest isn’t one of those big, splashy, colorful broadway musicals that you serendipitously try to catch after standing in the discount line at TKTS. The Prom fits that particular playbill. Director Ryan Murphy (TV’s Glee) saw the show on Broadway and immediately knew he could adapt it to the big screen (or small screen, as the case may be). Add a hefty dose of star power, make it available on Netflix, and let the party – or prom – commence.

Cinema Clash Podcast: The Climb, Come Away

I wasn’t blown away by Come Away. But I was somewhat entertained by The Climb. To find out why, tune in to this edition of the Cinema Clash podcast!

Charlie and I hash over the mash-up of two childhood classics (Come Away), find common ground on a wry dramedy about friendship and betrayal (The Climb), and chat about other new releases, his kid’s introduction to ParaNorman, a look ahead to Dune, and the possible return of the Has Fallen franchise.

Review: Come Away

I’m conflicted about Come Away. It presents an intriguing concept and has some visual appeal and a solid cast, but I just don’t think we need another spin on one classic, let alone two, that  has already been imagined and reimagined a gazillion times over the years. Plus, it’s tinged with such sadness throughout that I simply felt bummed out watching. Magical escapism as a survival mechanism failed to lift my spirits. 

Quickie Review of a Quirky Short: John Bronco

I have no idea what I just watched, yet I found it quite amusing. John Bronco is a comedy short (37 minutes) that tells the unbelievable story of the rise, fall and ultimate redemption of John Bronco, legendary pitchman for the Ford Bronco. Unbelievable, because it’s fiction. I thought so, but wasn’t 100% sure… until Tim Meadows appeared as Bronco’s manager Donovan Piggot. John Bronco is a mockumentary that creates a legend who never was, yet resembles vintage pitchmen who did exist. Think the Marlboro Man aka Bob Norris, or Robert Conrad pitching Eveready Batteries. Classics in a rugged, golden age of advertising complete with earworm jingles, loyal followers and guest appearances on Carson.