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Sunday, June 20, 2021


Set in a beautiful seaside town on the Italian Riviera, the original animated feature is a coming-of-age story about one young boy experiencing an unforgettable summer filled with gelato, pasta and endless scooter rides. Luca shares these adventures with his newfound best friend, but all the fun is threatened by a deeply-held secret: he is a sea monster from another world just below the water's surface.

Director: Enrico Casarosa

Cast: Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman, Marco Barricelli, Saverio Raimondo, Maya Rudolph, Jim Gaffigan

Release Date: June 18, 2021

Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime

 Animation, Adventure, Comedy 

Runtime: 1h 36min


Luca isn't the groundbreaking by Pixar standards which are admittedly sky high.  It checks all the boxes of a solid Pixar film by being beautifully animated, emotionally moving while touching on childhood moments that will resonate with nearly everybody.  It's story is fairly straightforward, there are light shades of The Little Mermaid, with it's overall theme being fairly simple, so its a film that will be easy for anyone to follow.  Antonio, voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer, is very much a Huckleberry Finn type character who's brash and overconfident to a fault.  Jacob Tremblay plays Luca with an appropriate level of naivete which evolves over the course of the film as he expands his knowledge and his relationship grows with Giuliana, voiced by the film's secret weapon Emma Berman, and Antonio.  Saverio Raimondo is good fun as the local bully who is the sort of the villian of the piece.  Its charming throughout with it's colorful vistas that make the film play like an Italian tourist package, there are even nods to Fellini and Miyazaki mixed in for good measure.  Director Enrico Casarosa clearly loves his home country and it bleeds through in each of the meticulously crafted shots.  After a string of high concept home runs, Luca might feel a little slight by comparison but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable.


Friday, June 18, 2021



The world's most lethal odd couple -- bodyguard Michael Bryce and hit man Darius Kincaid -- are back for another life-threatening mission. Still unlicensed and under scrutiny, Bryce is forced into action by Darius's even more volatile wife. Soon, all three are in over their heads when a madman's sinister plot threatens to leave Europe in total chaos.

Director: Patrick Hughes

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek, Richard E. Grant, Frank Grillo, Tom Hopper, Antonio Banderas, Morgan Freeman

Release Date: June 16, 2021

Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime

Rated R for strong bloody violence throughout, pervasive language, and some sexual content

Runtime: 1h 39min


The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard never really breaks any new ground on the genre and it's script feels hackneyed and lazy but its still manages to provide some good mindless R rated fun.  Patrick Hughes directs his film with a made for standard cable feel to it even with the A list talent.  The action is fast and energetic set in attractive European locales but it all feels disposable like they could have been lifted from a dozen other films.  Thankfully, he's edited this film down to a lean hour and half so it's kinetic energy doesn't become exhausting like the first film.  Ultimately what save this film is the what made the first film work the chemistry of the cast.  Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson are once again set to ten for the duration of the film as curse words and bullets fly.  Salma Hayek gets a much larger role here and it's to the film's benefit since she can play just as rough and loose as her two counter parts.  Antonio Banderas is just as a fun sporting a fabulous blonde wig while doing his best mock James Bond Villain.  It's all decidedly goofy and silly but you get the feeling the cast knows exactly what kind of film they are making, Frank Grillo's over the top Boston accent should be a dead giveaway, and they have fun with it.  The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard isn't going to be topping a lot of people top ten films of the year but it's goofy enough for an enjoyable bit of mindless fun.


Monday, June 14, 2021

Cindy Prascik's Review of In the Heights


My dear reader(s)…if I have any left after my persistent absences: This past weekend I took the opportunity to check out the big-screen adaptation of Lin Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights.

Some ordinary - and not-so-ordinary - days in the lives of the residents of Washington Heights.

Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn’t know from the trailers.

For three days I’ve struggled to write something about In the Heights. It’s an upbeat show that is never weighed down by its more somber moments. In its costumes and choreography is a genuine feel for the community it honors. In its humor is the resilience of people accustomed to smiling in the face of life's challenges. In Anthony Ramos and Gregory Diaz, IV, it has revealed a couple potential superstars. In its tunes are the seeds of what would later become the once-in-a-generation show Hamilton. For all these reasons, it is a movie worth seeing, but…I didn’t love it. I wanted to love it. It feels almost mean not to have loved it. But I didn’t love it. I don’t think the show translated all that well from stage to screen. Some content hasn’t aged well, and not in the kitschy 80s way of Cats (the show, NOT the movie) but in a way that just makes it feel…off…in 2021. Where it attempts to connect to current events (the deportation of DREAMers), it feels contrived. Some of the casting misfires badly. (Has Jimmy Smits ever been this bad before?) There were too many exteriors that looked like low-budget green screen. Perhaps I'm being too hard on it. Perhaps I just miss Broadway too much to accept it on a screen anymore.  Perhaps I should have gotten out to see it in a cinema instead of settling for HBO Max on the biggest TV in my orbit. Perhaps all of the above kept me from getting lost in this movie as I needed to get lost in this movie, but...I didn't love it.

In the Heights clocks in at 143 minutes, and is rated PG13 for “some language and suggestive references.”

In the Heights is a positive, uplifting production. Given what the world has suffered in recent months, that should be enough, but somehow it isn’t. Of a possible nine Weasleys, In the Heights gets six and a half.

In the Heights is now playing in cinemas, and streaming on HBO Max.

Fangirl Points: Stephanie Beatriz! Patrick Page! (And, yes, Jimmy Smits, even though I thought he was terrible in this!)

Until next time…

Thursday, June 10, 2021


In Washington Heights, N.Y., the scent of warm coffee hangs in the air just outside of the 181st St. subway stop, where a kaleidoscope of dreams rallies a vibrant and tight-knit community. At the intersection of it all is a likable and magnetic bodega owner who hopes, imagines and sings about a better life.

Director: Jon M. Chu

Cast: Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera, Olga Merediz, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Gregory Diaz IV, Jimmy Smits

Release Date: June 4, 2021

Genre:  Drama, Music, Musical 

Rated PG-13 for some language and suggestive references

Runtime: 2h 23min


In The Heights is rousing celebration of community heritage and striving for a better life.  Jon M. Chu's film is a vibrant wall to wall musical that's filled with easy to love musical numbers that'll elicit a wide range of emotions throughout its runtime.  The musical numbers written by Lin-Manuel Miranda have an energy to them that feels personal and heartfelt with numbers like 96,000, Paciencia y Fe and Carnaval del Barrio leaving a lasting impact.  Chu's direction takes full advantage of the spectacular choreography during some of the larger ensemble pieces and veers into fantasy in select spots without going full Baz Luhrmann.  The story itself is fairly straightforward but covers a broad array of topics from gentrification, cultural identity and self discovery. This broadness extends to the characters who play more as types than fully realized people.  As such, the characters relationships, especially the main love story, doesn't connect emotionally the way it should.  The impressive part about the film is that it overcomes this shortcoming thanks to it's engaging cast lead by Anthony Ramos who posses a natural performers charisma that shines through the screen.  The supporting cast is made up of an array of Hispanic Broadway actors or singers including Olga Merediz who reprises her role from Miranda's original stage play and shines in spotlight.  The rest of the ensemble are given their chance to shine throughout the film's extensive 2 hour plus run.  Throw in a few moments where you might experience a sensation of déjà vu with the film adaptation of Rent.  That being said, In The Heights feels like more complete adaption of its source material for the big screen. 


Sunday, June 6, 2021



Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren take on one of the most sensational cases of their careers after a cop stumbles upon a dazed and bloodied young man walking down the road. Accused of murder, the suspect claims demonic possession as his defense, forcing the Warrens into a supernatural inquiry unlike anything they've ever seen before.

Director: Michael Chaves

Cast: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ruairi O'Connor, Sarah Catherine Hook, Julian Hilliard, John Noble

Release Date: June 4, 2021

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Rated R for terror, violence and some disturbing images.

Runtime: 1 h 52 min


The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is an effective if less impactful entry in the main series.  Michael Chaves does his best James Wan impression by delivering a film that has a 80s horror feel to it with an opening sequence that pay homage to a horror stalwart.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t maintain that level of intensity throughout its runtime.  There are plenty of strong set ups and jump scares but the story doesn’t ever really find its footing in a meaningful way.  As such the story never produces that sensation of dread or foreboding that top tier religious horror films elicit.  It’s still incredibly watchable due to strong work form Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga.  By this point in the series both actors inhabit the skin of their characters with a palpable level of authenticity.  Outside of the scares, this series has primarily been about this couples marriage and love story.  It’s the beating heart of the story and the main reason these films work even in lesser entries like this.  The biggest issue here is that a lot of the story and tropes have all been done in better films.  It doesn’t really break any new ground and doesn’t explore a tantalizing story thread with John Noble’s character with it choosing for a more straightforward approach.  This third entry in The Conjuring franchise works but most hardcore horror fans will be left wanting for more. 


Saturday, May 29, 2021



A live-action feature film following the evil exploits of Cruella de Vil, the villain from the Disney film, "101 Dalmatians'. 

Director: Craig Gillespie

Cast: Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, Emily Beecham, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Mark Strong

Release Date: May 28, 2021

Genre: Comedy, Crime

Rated PG-13 for some violence and thematic elements 

Runtime: 2 h 14 min


Disney's live action remakes haven't been more than cynical cash grabs.  The films themselves have been bland retreads with little to no innovation to justify their existence.  Craig Gillespie's Cruella manages to break the mold by delivering a visual feast for the eyes and story filled with hefty character development and pathos.  Gillespie channels everything from Tim Burton, Lady Gaga, The Devil Wears Prada and even a touch of Cathy Yang's Birds of Prey to create a vibrant dense character study that exceeds all expectations.   It shouldn't work as well as it does and it'll probably bore plenty of the smaller kids expecting something much lighter and funnier.  Gillespie's direction is impressive but it wouldn't work as well as it does if it weren't for spectacular turns by Emma Stone and Emma Thompson.  Both are clearly having a blast glamping it up as the dueling fashionista with their interactions being the high points of the film.  It's be easy to go broad and coast through the film and it'd still be moderately fun but both actresses give their characters so much lived in depth which makes them all the more interesting.  Throw some award winning costumes and it's a feast for movie lovers who enjoy great performances from stars at the top of their game.  The film even manages to give Cruella's sidekicks more depth and characterization than expected with Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hause turning in strong performances as well.  Once the film ends you are sort of left gobsmacked by the quality of the entire production as your reminded this is still a Disney production which started with the most basic of intentions.  Sure it could have used a few trims here and there but the cast and crew all rise above their trappings to deliver something devilishly delightful.


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