In a really crappy summer and a pretty hectic year in Hollywood, one of the bigger releases in 2021 was “In the Heights.” It’s a movie I’d been looking forward to for a long time, since Lin Manuel Miranda is one of my personal heroes. It’s finally brought to film by director Jon M. Chu after being in literal development hell since 2008. Jon M. Chu is no stranger to films involving dancing and urban settings, thankfully, and we’re given an absolutely dazzling, emotional, and energetic musical.
The COVID Pandemic has changed a lot about what we love about New York City; over the years it’s become something of an environment where opportunities have dwindled and the sense of community has been lost. From Gentrification and the Exodus of its residents, the city just isn’t familiar anymore. “In the Heights” is that reminder that once upon a time New York was about tight knit communities sticking together and beating the odds. And it’s a call to the idea that maybe it all can be reclaimed.
I’m one of the traditionalists that think Studio Ghibli should have stuck to hand drawn animation, but sometimes there’s just no fighting change. With “Earwig and the Witch” there’s so much new, that you’re almost tricked in to forgetting that the movie almost has no real narrative. At all. This is one of Studio Ghibli’s more aimless movies that doesn’t have a whole lot to it. Substantially, the movie packs in some great animation, and it’s quite startling how some of the motion for some scenes looks so realistic. I’m not going to say that the movie is an accomplishment in regards to Ghibli because Pixar has pulled off so much better.
Hell, Dreamworks has accomplished so much more with this medium.
It’s not too often I’m privileged enough to watch an animated rock opera, but Röckët Stähr’s one man production about world fighting for peace through rock and roll is quite the spectacle. One thing you can’t accuse it of is being unambitious, as Röckët Stähr’s does everything in the movie possible. He literally does everything as when the movie comes to a close you can see the impressive list of tasks he undertook to bring his movie to life.
After years of working with Spike Lee, Director Ernest R. Dickerson was ripe to deliver some of his own films with taut social commentary. Out of his entire career, “Juice” is easily one of his best, if not his absolute best. While it’s not quite as darkly satirical as Spike Lee’s films tend to be, “Juice” is very much ahead of its time. It’s very much about economic impact on minority teens, and the idea of toxic masculinity. “Juice” is mainly seen as a crime drama, it’s also about boys growing up in to men and trying to figure out exactly where they fit in.
The day The Smiths separate, a group of teens find themselves lost, more than usual, in this mystery called life. In a misguided attempt at showing the world what he believes in and what has saved him, one of them takes a heavy metal station DJ hostage.
It’s shocking how punk the background of The Go-Go’s is and ended up being. For a band that is known as one of the biggest pop acts of the 1980’s, their roots are deeply embedded in punk rock and heavy metal. Whether or not you think it was homogenized is up to you, but The Go-Gos have a great story, even if you were more of a Bangles or Banana Rama fan.