In the Heights (2021) Movie Review

In the Heights – For Dreamers Everywhere


Director: Jon M Chu

Writer: Quiara Alegria Hudes (Screenplay) Quiara Alegria Hudes, Lin-Manuel Miranda (Musical)

Starring: Anthony Ramos, Melissa Barrera, Leslie Grace, Corey Hawkins, Olga Merediz, Jimmy Smits

Plot: A film version of the Broadway musical in which Usnavi, a sympathetic New York bodega owner, saves every penny every day as he imagines and sings about a better life.

Tagline – Turn Up the Volume on Your Dreams

Runtime: 2 Hours 23 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Story: In the Heights starts as we meet a bodega owner Usnavi (Ramos) who is a member of the Washington heights neighbourhood, where he knows everybody and dreams of a better life away back in the Dominican Republic. Nina Rosario (Grace) who is like a sister to Usnavi is also looking for a better life, one she has spent her whole life working towards, while Vanessa (Barrera) wants to follow her dream to move Downtown near the fashion district and Benny (Hawkins) who has been building his reputation in the area, where he is completely comfortable in.

The four find themselves at different crossroads in their lives, ones which will redefine their futures, be it together or alone, with music guiding them through their struggles, until the Blackout, which will change everything for them all.

Thoughts on In the Heights

Characters & Performances – Usnavi is telling the story of the summer in the heights to a group of children, he runs the bodega and dreams of returning home to the Dominican Republic, he is a confident man until Vanessa comes into his store, the woman of his dreams, the one person that could see him stay. Anthony Ramos is the first of many brilliant performances in this film. Vanessa works in beauty salon where she is dreams of her own life in a better neighbourhood, one where she could find herself walking into a fashion job, with her dreams looking dashed, she will find herself needing to regain her confidence after believing she might never leave the heights. Melissa Barrera gives us one of the star making performances in this film. Nina Rosario is like a little sister to Usnavi, her father has always worked to make sure she had a better future, something she has also worked hard on, only when it comes to her time to make the big decision on the next step, she finds herself stuck unsure of what to do next. Benny works for Nina’s father in dispatch, he is the most popular member of the team, he is the best friend to Usnavi and Nina’s love interest, while the pair do take the back burner to Usnavi and Vanessa, the pair do get the most unique and memorable dance routine. Leslie Grace and Corey Hawkins are both wonderful in the supporting roles too, with the whole cast being great to watch throughout the film.

StoryThe story here follows four people who have different dreams that are all from the same neighbourhood, Washington Heights, where everyone works together to build the community as they will all need to make difficult decisions on what is next in their lives. This is a story that is filled with magic, that takes real life situations to show us just how difficult life decisions can become when they will see a major change coming to the people involved. The story will continue to give us the will they won’t they with both stories and will show us just how the decisions being made could well change everything for them. The story might be slightly longer than it needs to be, but otherwise a truly enjoyable story.

ThemesIn the Heights is a musical that is filled with catchy musical numbers, rhythmic dance routines and a heart that shows life in one of the districts in New York City, Washington Heights, which is the key part of the settings that will help us understand what the film is all about.

Final Thoughts In the Heights is what dreams are all about, knowing what is important to chance through a life we only get one outing in.

ABC Film Challenge – World Cinema – T – Tokyo Tribe (2014) Movie Review

Director: Sion Sono

Writer: Sion Sono (Screenplay) Santa Inoue (Manga)

Starring: Ryohei Suzuki, Young Dais, Nana Seino, Shunsuke Daito, Takuya Ishida

Plot: In an alternate Japan, territorial street gangs form opposing factions collectively known as the Tokyo Tribes. Merra, leader of the Wu-Ronz tribe of Bukuro crosses the line to conquer all of Tokyo. The war begins.

Tagline – Let Sion Sono take you on a tour of Tokyo’s underbelly for a night of turf wars & rap battles.

Runtime: 1 Hour 56 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Way Too Busy

Story: Tokyo Tribe starts as we meet the different Tokyo Tribes around the city, each doesn’t cross into the other’s territory until Mera (Suzuki) looks to make a play on a rival territory, this is the beginning of the one night war between the tribes.

As the war starts, people who have been victims of the gangs in the past look to get their revenge, as chaos is unleashed between the tribes.

Thoughts on Tokyo Tribe

StoryThe story takes us to an alternative Tokyo where tribes run different corners of the city in their own vicious style, when one steps out of place a war between them all starts, leading to a war which will bring them into complete chaos as they look to own the streets. This is one story that is incredibly busy, it has so much going on, it is ridiculous, say that, it does make it difficult to keep up on everything going on through the film, this is one you could watch a couple of times before you get every clever cross over between the scenes involved.

Action/MusicalThe action is great to watch, we get plenty of fights, blood shed added too, though the music is mostly hip hop and rap, which isn’t going to be for everyone.

SettingsThe sets in the film are incredibly designed, from the run down looking streets, to the unique look to each tribes main location, right down to the private rooms, with their unique look to make them standout more than anyone thing else in the movie.

Scene of the Movie – The sets look amazing, is the highlight of the film, they add so much to each scene, even if not much takes place in some.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – While we do have strong female characters, most other women are just pieces of meat.

Final Thoughts This is such an ambitious movie that it could go a little too far with bringing a massive gang war to life, not giving everyone enough time to make an impact in the story.

Overall: Massively Ambitious.

Cats (2019) Movie Review

Director: Tom Hooper

Writer: Lee Hall, Tom Hooper (Screenplay) Andrew Lloyd Webber (Musical)

Starring: James Corden, Judi Dench, Jason Derulo, Idris Elba, Jennifer Hudson, Taylor Swift, Rebel Wilson, Francesca Hayward, Laurie Davidson, Ian McKellen, Ray Winstone

Plot: A tribe of cats called the Jellicles must decide yearly which one will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new Jellicle life.

Tagline – The Must-See Musical Event 

Runtime: 1 Hour 50 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Story: Cats starts when cat Victoria (Hayward) gets abandoned in the streets, when the other stray cats look to welcome her to their world, where they look to compete to enter a new Jellicle life, one that Mr Mistoffelees (Davidson) guides her through, meeting the different cats with different talents to win the attention, while the evil Macavity (Elba) lurks in the shadows, hoping to take this spot, by eliminating any competition.

Thoughts on Cats

Characters & Performances – Victoria is the latest cat to be thrown away by humans, she finds herself entering the Jellicles cat tribe on the streets, she must navigate this world learning the different talents of the other cats, she is the audience’s entrance into this world. This is one of the hardest films to judge performances, because there is so much terrible CGI around the acting, but when it comes to the singing, Francesca Hayward is one of the few stars in the film that manages to bring their a-game to the singing. Macavity is the evil cat that wants to take the spot in the new life, he will take any of the contenders to make sure he is the only one able to be selected using his magic to make them vanish. Grizabella is the outsider that was drawn by Macavity, only to find herself exiled to the outside world, alone, until Victoria offers her friendship. Deuteronomy is the cat the others must impress to get their chance to have a new life, the cats all respect her and she will find time for them. Jennifer Hudson gives us one of the only other good moments through the film with the Memory performance that could well have saved this movie from being completely awful.

StoryThe story here follows a young cat thrown out by their owner, who ends up trying to join a tribe of Jellicle cats looking to have a new life, where she must explore the world to learn what is wanted from the tribe. This is based on the musical that ran for decades and if the story is anything like the film, it does seem confusing because it does seem like a complete mess of a story. It is plenty of just introducing a character for a song and move on, while we do have an attempt of trying to get the message of letting people into life and accepting all, even if that does seem to get pushed away too often.

ThemesCats is a musical with only two songs that stand out, with the rest coming off like talking weird over singing, the special effects are dreadful for a movie with such a big budget, with nothing looking complete, and most looking completely creepy over convincing. The sets are just as confusing, with some being human size, while others are cat scale down size, just what happened.

Final Thoughts Cats, just what happened here?

Saturday Church (2017) Movie Review

Director: Damon Cardasis

Writer: Damon Cardasis (Screenplay)

Starring: Luka Kain, Indya Moore, Mj Rodriguez, Margot Bingham, Jaylin Fletcher, Regina Taylor

Plot: A 14 year-old-boy, struggling with gender identity and religion, begins to use fantasy to escape his life in the inner city and find his passion in the process.

Runtime: 1 Hour 22 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Important

Story: Saturday Church starts as we meet 14-year-old Ulysses (Kain) who has just lost his father, meaning his mother Amara (Bingham) needs to work more leaving Aunt Rose (Taylor) looking after Ulysses and his little brother Abe (Fletcher).

Ulysses gets bullied at school, with his family knowing he likes to cross dress, after he meets Ebony (Rodriguez) he starts to learn about the trans community in the city, where he gets to learn about himself and understand his own gender identity.

Thoughts on Saturday Church

Characters – Ulysses is a teenage boy that has been struggling with his identity, he likes women’s clothing, only his family is against everything he is trying to understand, with his aunt pushing him away more than anyone else. Ulysses meets other trans people who help him understand the stigma he will face in life, but show him that everything will be ok in the end for him. Amara is the over the works mother of Ulysses, not only has she lost her husband, but she needs to support the two boys, she tries to discourage Ulysses, but will learn to accept that his happiness is the most important thing. Ebony introduces Ulysses to the Saturday Church, a place where the LGBTQ community can meet and feel safe, learn how to become accepted in the world that often shuns them. Aunt Rose is against Ulysses not being a straight black man, threatening to beat it out of him, bring even more problems in his life.

PerformancesLuka Kain in the leading role is brilliant, showing the insecurity he is feeling, while showing the delight around the people that bring him to life. While the rest of the cast do a great job showing the struggles they have been through or are going through.

StoryThe story here follows a 14-year-old boy that is stuck trying to figure out his gender identity, where he learns who would be in his life during this stage of his life, where he needs them most. This does show us how difficult it could be for a teenager going through a gender identity crisis, seeing how not having supporting in life, can bring on a form of depression until the support needed is found. It shows us how the stigma around Ulysses can ruin self-confidence, but once embraced he will come out of his shell to become a better man.

MusicalThe musical side of the film comes from the fantasies that Ulysses uses to escape the struggles he is facing in life.

SettingsThe film uses the New York setting to show the different worlds around, showing that in every corner of the city will have somewhere you could belong in.

Scene of the Movie – Musical numbers.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The school attitude.

Final Thoughts This is important drama that shows the struggles people who are struggling with gender identity will face in life, with them needing to find a place they can become themselves in.

Overall: Drama worth watching.

Hamilton (2020) Movie Review

Director: Thomas Kail

Writer: Lin-Manuel Miranda (Screenplay)

Starring: Daveed Diggs, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Jonathan Groff, Chris Jackson, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Lin-Manuel Miranda

Plot: The real life of one of America’s foremost founding fathers and first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton. Captured live on Broadway from the Richard Rodgers Theater with the original Broadway cast.

Runtime: 2 Hours 40 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Beautiful

Story: Hamilton starts as Alexander Hamilton (Miranda) arrives in the middle of the Revolutionary War, where he finds himself as the righthand man to George Washington (Jackson), as they look to gain their freedom from King George (Groff). Alexander is a fighter and finds it hard to step away from the conflict, despite his marriage to Eliza (Soo) and his growing family wanting him to leave the conflict behind.

After the war Alexander is assigned to join George Washington and Thomas Jefferson (Diggs) to try and find a solution to rebuild the country, which only brings more clashes between the men.

Thoughts on Hamilton

Final Thoughts This is a stage version of the largely popular musical Hamilton, one that brings a new look at home the independence of America happened, be it from escaping England’s hold and tries to build themselves are their own country, without the leadership in place. You will need to know the basics of American history before going in, even if this does bring spins to certain parts. When it comes to the music involved, we do get some brilliant songs, that do help cover the weaker songs involved, with the whole cast getting their moment to shine in the musical moments. This is one of the musical that does bring a full range of music, which does have the traditional styles, mixed with the modern music that makes you unsure on what each song will bring you. The opening song isn’t as hooking as many musicals, but once you are past that one, you could find yourself swept away in the play.

Overall: Magical Musical.