"Tick, Tick… Boom!" stars Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp, Robin de Jesús, Joshua Henry, Judith Light, and Vanessa Hudgens. Released on November 12, 2021, the film is about a theatre composer who endures a quarter-life crisis.
The film featured the directorial debut of Lin-Manuel Miranda, who composed music for productions like "In the Heights" and "Hamilton". It is based on the semi-autobiographical musical of the same name by Jonathan Larson. When you get close to a specific age, and you're not getting anywhere with your career, there's a good chance you might be on your way to awards glory. Today, I'm looking at another film that's pleasing its audiences with its drama and a whole bunch of musical numbers. Not only that, but it is also another movie that sees another musical jumping from the stage to the screen. This time, with Lin-Manuel Miranda in the director's chair for the first time. If you can't tell already, I've been constantly amazed by Miranda's previous works, notably in the music and acting departments. So seeing him take on the role as a filmmaker made me feel both ecstatic and curious as to how he'll pull it off. Based on the reviews it's been getting, it appears that his directorial debut may be as delightfully dynamic as his music. Now that I found the time to watch it on Netflix, let's see if it lives up to the hype.
The film takes place in 1990, where Jonathan Larson (Garfield) was preparing for a new musical called Superbia while working at the Moondance Diner. He hopes to succeed in the production before his 30th birthday like his idol Stephen Sondheim (Bradley Whitford). When tasked with writing a new song for Superbia, he feels pressured as he only has one week to come up with something grand. With the support of his friends and his girlfriend Susan Wilson (Shipp), Jonathan will have to race against the clock to accomplish his goal. The events are narrated by Larson, who performs the rock monologue of the same name at the New York Theatre Workshop. While the film is based on Larson's life, it includes several fictional sequences for dramatic (and musical) purposes. So it's no different than any other fact-based film. For a film adaptation of a musical to succeed, especially the dramatic ones, it needs two things: a story that lives up to the source material and an emotional core powered by its themes and songs. Some of them succeed with those qualities like "Grease" and "In the Heights", while others hit plenty of sour notes regarding their execution, including 2019's "Cats". I would consider "Tick, Tick… Boom!" to be one of the movie musicals that succeed in a significant way. I would even call it the best movie musical of the year. Aside from his work on Rent, I knew little to nothing about Jonathan Larson and his career before watching the film. Now that I viewed it, I felt that I learned plenty about the late theatre composer, even though some scenes are fictional. This was all thanks to its riveting screenplay by Steven Levenson, who also wrote "Dear Evan Hansen" and Miranda's direction. It explored Larson's creative struggle in an energetic and highly distinctive way. It also wasn't afraid to show off its dramatic side during the second half regarding the dialogue. There were times where the two different tones were at risk of overshadowing each other. Still, Miranda provided enough stability in his style to envision a lively and fun musical with a timely message. It represented a creative process that every writer has been through when coming up with something new. More importantly, it showed that time plays a crucial role in the story regarding Larson himself. He was constantly on the clock to write a new song, only to realize later on that his time was also running short on his friends. It's always important to find the right time to work on your career and support your loved ones. I thought this message was handled very well in the film and should resonate well with many people finding success. Another thing that impressed me the most was the cast, especially Andrew Garfield as Larson. This might be the best performance of Garfield's career so far, outshining his previous role in "The Eyes of Tammy Faye" by a mile. I could think of a bunch of reasons why I loved his performance, but I'm only giving you readers a few. He's immensely charismatic, his dramatic chops were terrific, and his singing voice was so heavenly that he deserves to have a solo album. Yeah, he's that good. Alexandra Shipp and Robin de Jesús also delivered outstanding performances as Susan and Michael, respectively, regarding their speaking and singing. Vanessa Hudgens was just as talented as ever as Karessa Johnson, who accompanies Jonathan with his monologue and Superbia. Since her "High School Musical" days, Hudgens has impressed me in almost every movie she's in, and her role here is no different. Then there were the songs, which Larson himself wrote. Spoiler alert: they were ecstatically marvelous. Each song was highly engaging and emotional without slowing the film down, and the musical numbers that accompanied them were wonderfully directed by Miranda.
Overall, "Tick, Tick… Boom!" is a time bomb that explodes with emotion and joyous music. From Garfield's show-stealing performance to the musical numbers, the film is a vigorous and thoughtful depiction of a writer's creative process. Lin-Manuel Miranda has been churning out some great music for as long as I can remember. This movie showed that his role behind the camera might be just as admirable as his songs. If you have Netflix and are familiar with Jonathan Larson's work, this is the production that deserves your attention this awards season.
“Encanto” stars Stephanie Beatriz, John Leguizamo, Maria Cecilia Botero, Diane Guerrero, Jessica Darrow, Angie Cepeda, and Wilmer Valderrama. Released on November 24, 2021, the film is about a young woman who attempts to save her magical family.
The film was directed by Bryon Howard and Jared Bush, both of which directed "Zootopia". It is the 60th film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios. Wow. When someone says we each have a special gift, they really mean it. The wonderful world of Disney has returned with another original animated movie that got every family together for Thanksgiving. The best part? It's about a family. But wait! It gets better. It's about a family with superpowers. I could already smell a potential crossover with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This film sees the Mouse House's attempt to transport its audiences into the fantasy realm of Colombia, continuing its impressive track record in providing stunning worlds based on cultural history. This is one of the things I loved about some of Disney's recent releases like "Moana" and "Raya and the Last Dragon", and I'm pleased to see that continue with "Encanto". But as usual, the film would have to have more than just world-building to receive its seal of approval. So was the film magical enough for me to recommend to everyone? Let's find out.
The story takes place in a town in the mountains of Colombia. A family, known as the Madrigals, resides in a magical house that grants each member a unique ability such as super strength and communicating with the animals. Unfortunately, the only person who didn't get a special gift is Mirabel (Beatriz), a quirky young woman whose only ability is being ordinary. One day, the house begins to fall apart, resulting in the Madrigals losing their powers. With time running short, Mirabel must go on a perilous journey to restore their magic before it vanishes forever. It's very easy to know what to expect from a Disney animated movie, mainly the musical ones. You got the charming characters, a mixture of comedy and drama, and toe-tapping songs that'll likely become infectious earworms in the future. It's a formula that has been working wonders for 84 years, and to no one's surprise, it has also worked in "Encanto". Disney has always taken the phrase "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" seriously regarding its formula, and the results usually turn out extremely well in its favor. The same should be said for the studio's 60th animated feature. You read that right. They made 60 of them, and trust me. They will be more in the future. "Encanto" is an enchanting blast of color and magic that represents a good depiction of Colombian culture and the importance of family. Although, I wouldn't call it one of the studio's best. Compared to the likes of "Zootopia" and "Raya and the Last Dragon", "Encanto" went for a more straightforward approach in its plot and scale. Most of the film occurs in the Madrigals' Casita and the village, where Mirabel attempts to solve a mystery behind Casita's impending doom. The characters never went anywhere else beyond those settings. There are also no surprising reveals in its story, and they're certainly no shocking villain twists. It's just a simple animated film that relies more on family drama rather than high-stakes conflict. On the one hand, it was another suitable change of pace for people who're tired of Disney delivering mature themes and turning likable side characters into cold-hearted assholes, like Prince Hans from "Frozen". Eight years, and I still flipping hate that guy. On the other hand, it can lead to some moments that were easy to predict or lacked the distinctiveness in its narrative. Now, I don't mind by-the-numbers storytelling as long as the narration quality is good enough to be enjoyed by kids and adults. That's pretty much one of my main rules of reviewing films like this. Fortunately, "Encanto" managed to be more than good enough as it delivered a thoughtful and entertaining story filled with gorgeous visuals, fun characters, and inspiring messages. While it may seem like a Colombian version of "X-Men" on paper, the film is more along the lines of a family drama about a gift that's more powerful than super strength and weather manipulation: appreciation. "Encanto" is another film that celebrates people's differences and teaches audiences to appreciate what they do have instead of what they should have. That is the case with the main character Mirabel. Despite being the only Madrigal without a gift, she always strives to help her family in a time of need, even though her family didn't give her enough credit. She didn't care about getting her powers herself; she only focused on putting her family ahead of her needs. That alone is what makes Mirabel another strong and charismatic role model that'll inspire many kids for years to come. She's wonderfully bizarre and incredibly relatable due to the direction and Stephanie Beatriz's remarkable performance. The fact that she isn't a Disney princess makes this element a whole lot better. At least, in my eyes. The film also gets major props for having a supporting cast with Hispanic heritage, including John Leguizamo and Wilmer Valderrama. Like Beatriz, they all did an outstanding job with their roles, especially María Cecilia Botero as Abuela Alma Madrigal. Leguizamo was also surprisingly enjoyable as Bruno, Mirabel's excluded uncle who can see the future. Bruno wasn't in the film that much, but the writers made a noticeable effort in making his role essential to Mirabel's quest. In addition to the characters, the story is also powered by its beautiful animation. From its imaginative visuals to the vibrant backgrounds, the animation is just as dazzling and energetic as a fiesta. It may not be as immersive as "Raya and the Last Dragon", but the animators worked with what they had regarding its limited environments, and the result was nothing but spectacular. The songs in "Encanto" were written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who also helped with the film's story. If you've listened to Miranda's other music from his previous works, you'll already know what he's offering here. While the songs may not be as unforgettable as the ones from "Frozen" or "The Lion King", they're still enjoyable enough for me to dance along to in terms of the film's style and Colombian music.
Overall, "Encanto" is another delightful and thoughtful piece of Disney magic. It's not the most ambitious in terms of storytelling, but in cases like this, it didn't have to be. It just needed to be thoroughly entertaining for the kids and respectively tolerable for their parents, and the film managed to accomplish that goal with ease. This is another solid hit from Disney due to its voice cast, animation, strong messages, and decent musical numbers. It's another family movie that I would highly recommend to…well, all types of families.
"Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City" stars Kaya Scodelario, Robbie Amell, Hannah John-Kamen, Avan Jogia, Tom Hopper, Neal McDonough, and Donal Logue. Released on November 24, 2021, the film has a group of people surviving a zombie outbreak.
The film was written and directed by Johannes Roberts, who also directed films such as "Hellbreeder", "The Other Side of the Door", "47 Meters Down", and "The Strangers: Prey at Night". It serves as a reboot of the "Resident Evil" film series, which is based on the video game series of the same name by Capcom. It looks like someone was late for the Halloween party. While the families got together to celebrate Thanksgiving, these people came together to battle the undead. When it comes to video games, "Resident Evil" has always been known for its compelling stories, characters, and creepy horror imagery. Unfortunately, the franchise is also known for its slew of mediocre but successful film adaptations that were as brainless as the zombies themselves. With how much money these movies made, it should come as no surprise that Hollywood wants to keep the undead train going, whether we like it or not. It wasn't that long ago when Paul W.S. Anderson concluded the far-fetched video-game-based franchise in cruddy fashion with "Resident Evil: The Final Chapter". A movie so headache-inducing and so cheesy that it made me feel dead inside. Despite its issues and the title, that film was successful enough for Hollywood to continue the franchise with a reboot that looks more faithful to the games than its predecessors. I haven't played a single "Resident Evil" game throughout my life, mainly because I get easily scared with horror games compared to horror movies. However, my experience with the films is good enough to look into this latest installment of the famous zombified franchise. So was this film scary and fun enough to get the series back on track, or was it proof that it should've stayed dead? Let's find out.
The film centers on Claire Redfield (Scodelario), a young woman who returns to Raccoon City to reunite with her brother Chris (Amell). Claire attempts to warn Chris that the Umbrella Corporation has poisoned the city's water, causing the people to experience unpleasant side effects. Claire and Chris will have to survive against the horde of flesh-eating zombie-like creatures and escape the city before it gets decimated. During the process, they join forces with rookie police officer Leon S. Kennedy (Jogia) and STARS members Jill Valentine (John-Kamen) and Albert Wesker (Hopper). The "Resident Evil" films have been known for straying a bit too far from the games by focusing solely on Milla Jovovich's character Alice (who was created for the movies) and making them overblown, mindless action blockbusters. "Welcome to Raccoon City" seeks to fix those problems by focusing on the games' characters and adapting the stories from the first two "Resident Evil" games. This means that things are about to get a whole lot darker. These elements should please fans who didn't like the direction from the previous films, but it also needs something to lure in casual audiences. With the exception of "Detective Pikachu" and "Sonic the Hedgehog", movies based on popular games usually fail to impress both audiences due to some of the changes made and the filmmaking qualities like direction and screenplay. "Welcome to Raccoon City" was able to maintain the elements that worked in the first two games, including the atmospheric horror vibes and grim tone. Unfortunately, they're not enough to help the film survive the zombie apocalypse. While it may prove to be a tolerable installment for fans of the series, the movie is nonetheless a murky and thinly-plotted reboot that once again struggles to connect with general audiences like its predecessors. Regarding the direction, Johannes Roberts had the right idea on what made "Resident Evil" a classic for gamers. The atmosphere in its production design was fittingly bleak and nightmarish, and the zombie and creature designs were appropriately accurate to the ones from the games. It felt like an authentic experience of being in the middle of an outbreak, similar to the games. However, Roberts lacked the consistent thrills needed to pack a horrifying punch in the scenarios despite getting the elements right. What started as a good mixture of fun B-movie horror antics and adult-rated zombie action slowly descents into an underwhelming cup of nostalgia juice that's packed with mediocre dialogue, bland characters, and forgettable action scenes. Well, there was one scene involving Chris fighting off the zombies in the dark that was nicely directed by Roberts. Other than that, the action sequences did very little to raise the tension in the horror vibes. Another thing that didn't sit with me was the third act. From its brief climactic showdown to an ending that screams "Is that it?", the finale was a brutal tease that rushed through specific plot points without any hint of satisfaction whatsoever. Instead of making me feel relieved, the third act made me feel like an insipid corpse. On a positive note, aside from the production design, the actors that played our favorite "Resident Evil" characters were just okay. They're far from awards-worthy, but they're also not highly horrendous, especially Kaya Scodelario and Robbie Amell as Claire and Chris Redfield, respectively. Avan Jogia also didn't do too bad as Leon Kennedy, even though he doesn't look anything like the character from the games. As for Tom Hopper as Albert Wesker, let's just say that he tried.
Overall, it's clear that "Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City" shows some love for the fans. Sadly, it forgot to share that love with casual moviegoers as well. Roberts did a suitable job at sticking close to the source material regarding its atmosphere and production design, unlike Paul W.S. Anderson's take on the franchise. Otherwise, it is another disappointing entry in the action-horror franchise. It's a film that's so busy catering to the fans, it forgot to provide a strong substance for newcomers to join in on the fun. Despite a fine cast, the film gets killed off rather quickly by a plague that's filled with weak dialogue, underwhelming sequences, bland characters, and a rushed finale. As someone who hasn't played the games, I don't think I'll be heading back to this zombie-infested world anytime soon.
"8-Bit Christmas" stars Neil Patrick Harris, Winslow Fegley, June Diane Raphael, David Cross, and Steve Zahn. Released on HBO Max on November 24, 2021, the film is about a boy who sets out to get a Nintendo Entertainment System.
The film is directed by Michael Dowse, who also directed films such as "FUBAR", "Goon", "Stuber", and "Coffee & Kareem". It is based on the novel of the same name by Kevin Jakubowski. It's never too early to celebrate Christmas, especially during Thanksgiving. We all had that feeling of getting our hands on that popular item for the holidays, mainly a new gaming system. It was a feeling that had us doing whatever it takes to get that specific gift for ourselves or our loved ones. Trust me. I've been there. It's a tradition that has happened for many Christmases. The 1980s is no exception, especially when you take the Nintendo Entertainment System into account. This latest comedy from director Michael Dowse depicts a family-friendly representation of that scenario while attempting to become the next holiday classic for Warner Brothers. The film's concept got me into watching it, but it also made me skeptical due to Dowse's involvement. Following some decent movies like "Goon" and "Stuber", the filmmaker fumbled extremely hard with Netflix's "Coffee & Kareem", a tasteless film that's as painfully humorless as its title. At least, in my eyes. Dowse's recent film did look a bit more tolerable than that train wreck based on the trailer, but as usual, my expectations were kept low just in case the same didn't apply to the final result. With that said, let's see if the film is good enough to start the holidays early.
The film focuses on Jake Doyle (Harris), a father who tells his daughter one of his finest childhood memories. In the late 1980s, a young Jake (Fegley) had his eyes set on Nintendo's brand new gaming system. He made it his mission to make sure that he gets the console for Christmas. Although, it is easier said than done as Jake will have to survive every obstacle imaginable to receive the ultimate prize. Think of this film as "A Christmas Story", but instead of a kid wanting a BB gun, you got a child seeking to get their hands on a video game system. At least with that, you don't have to worry about your kid shooting their eyes out. However, you do have to worry about their addiction. Warner Brothers has a pretty good track record in providing plenty of classics to spread some holiday cheer, especially for families. Whether it's films like "A Christmas Story" and "Elf" or television specials like "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer", the studio has something for everyone to watch every holiday season. Of course, it takes more than just Christmas cheer to make a film or television special a holiday tradition. It also needs a good story, plenty of humor and charm, and a tiny hint of imagination. Those are the key ingredients crucial to making this film worthy enough to earn a spot in the "Holiday Hall of Fame". Fortunately for me, "8-Bit Christmas" just happened to have those ingredients. While it doesn't reach the same heights as the other holiday classics like "Elf" or even "Home Alone", the film managed to accomplish something that "Home Sweet Home Alone" failed to do: provide a fun, nostalgic, and charismatic holiday treat for the ages. The most common flaw that would probably bug every viewer is that it shared the same plot as the 1983 holiday classic. The kid wants a popular item for Christmas and is determined to get it, with the events being narrated by the older version of that kid. That's it. Despite its unoriginality, the story in "8-Bit Christmas" has enough Christmas cheer to deliver some consistent laughs and an appealing sense of innocence. The film's screenplay by Kevin Jakubowski (the same person who wrote the novel it's based on) not only paid respectable homage to the kid-centered movies from the 1980s, but it also contained a healthy mixture of comedy and heart that's as joyful as playing Super Mario Brothers. More importantly, it had a heartfelt message that would surely resonate with many young viewers who are excited to get something for Christmas themselves. The cast did pretty well with their performances, including Neil Patrick Harris, who channeled his inner Ralphie Parker to narrate the film's events regarding his role as the adult version of Jake. Long story short, I was pleased with the final result. He's no Jean Shepherd, but he came pretty close. Winslow Fegley also did a fine job with his performance as Jake, and Steve Zahn once again proved himself to be a likable presence onscreen in terms of his role as John Doyle, Jake's father. I also appreciated Michael Dowse for not making me want to rip my ears off. The film saw Dowse seamlessly blending its sincere moments with child-like wonder and humorous dialogue, which might be more suitable for him than what he did with "Coffee & Kareem". I was slightly disappointed that he missed a huge opportunity to throw some visual video game gags into its tone. This could've been the holiday version of "Scott Pilgrim" if he'd done that. Otherwise, the humor we got now was good enough to earn my laughs.
Overall, "8-Bit Christmas" is cheerful and witty enough to earn itself a high score, even though it's far from the next Christmas classic. Its derivative plot may have cost it some points, but that didn't stop me from playing this game further. This is another worthy film to watch during the holiday season thanks to its entertaining cast, Dowse's suitable direction, and its blend of comedy and heart. So if you and your family are looking for something new to watch this holiday season and have HBO Max, try giving this one a shot. It's no "Christmas Story", but it's also not something that'll rot your brain like our video games.
“King Richard” stars Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton, Tony Goldwyn, Jon Bernthal, and Dylan McDermott. Released on November 19, 2021, the film chronicles the father of tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams.
The film was directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, who also directed “Monsters and Men” and “Joe Bell”. The Williams sisters are some of the greatest players in tennis history, impressing everyone with their extraordinary skills on the court. You might be wondering how they’re able to rise to the top and maintain their successful careers. Well, you can thank their father for that. This latest biographical drama is going for Oscar gold this year with its depiction of the young Williams siblings and their rise to stardom. However, the story it’s telling isn’t just from the perspectives of the sisters. It’s also from the point of view of their father, Richard Williams, who’s willing to help them reach their goals. I wasn’t overly familiar with the Williams and their careers in tennis. Heck, I don’t even watch tennis, let alone play it, but Will Smith’s involvement and strong word of mouth already made this a must-see for me. With that said, let’s see if this film is inspiring enough to score some points on the court.
The story centers on Richard Williams (Smith), a father raising his two daughters, Venus (Sidney) and Serena (Singleton), along with his three step-daughters in Compton, California. The film explores his journey to train Venus and Serena to become professional tennis players. With the support of his wife Brandy (Ellis), Richard attempts to change the tennis world while maintaining his family bond. The film had a lot of stuff to cover regarding Richard and his daughters, including his training, the family drama, and Venus competing with the pros. It’s a movie that explores their determination while delivering some inspiration and craftsmanship in its story and characters. If that’s what you’re searching for, then you came to the right place. While its sports biopic formula isn’t entirely new, “King Richard” made a strong effort in representing its compelling storytelling and, more importantly, its star power. It’s a highly entertaining and incredibly thoughtful tale about a father who balances success with family despite an obstacle or two. One of the best things about the film was its depiction of Richard Williams. It portrayed Richard as an honorable and caring father regarding what’s best for his daughters, but he’s also a flawed person whose decisions didn’t appeal to everyone, especially the coaches. This added complexity to this character, making him someone that audiences, including myself, would invest in, not just Venus and Serena. The film is all about Richard’s “plan” to make his daughters champions and his journey to accomplish it. The movie handled this character with near perfection, primarily due to Zach Baylin’s screenplay and Will Smith’s incredible performance. This is possibly one of the best roles Smith has ever done regarding his commitment and nuance. Like his portrayal of Bennet Omalu in “Concussion”, Smith’s acting for Richard was so distinct that he disappeared into the role altogether. You don’t see an actor playing an actual person. You only see Richard Williams. If this doesn’t get Smith into the awards race, I can assure you there will be trouble. Aunjanue Ellis was also excellent as Brandy, and Jon Bernthal was suitably talented as Rick Macci. I would also give a massive shoutout to Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton for their outstanding performances as Venus and Serena, respectively, especially Sidney, who made every shining moment count. Even though the plot seemed straightforward and a bit overlong, Reinaldo Marcus Green made sure that every scene was well-paced and included a superb mixture of comedy, drama, and heart, not just for the characters but also the scenarios. If the filmmaker wasn’t recognized for his previous works, I’m willing to bet that he will for this movie. I thought Green did a fantastic job representing a story that’s both dramatic and safe without overdoing one or the other. More importantly, he provided charisma and sincerity in the cast’s chemistry, mainly Richard and his daughters. I highly enjoyed the scenes involving these characters regarding the humor and performances, which add to the film’s charm.
Overall, “King Richard” made an incredible impression on the court narrative-wise and cast-wise. Despite its formula, the film managed to come out on top with its thought-provoking story, fantastic cast, solid screenplay, and Green’s superb direction. It’s a film that didn’t need to be overly serious with its themes to be a masterpiece. It just needed to be a fun, light-hearted, and uplifting experience to get audiences cheering. As long as the story is well-executed and the cast is engaging, that’s all it needed to make itself watchable, and I believe “King Richard” fits that description almost perfectly. If you’re a fan of feel-good sports movies and Will Smith himself, this film is definitely worth checking out.