House Party (2023)

Reginald Hudlin’s “House Party” is a film that studios have had a hard time duplicating over the years. It’s developed in to awful sequels because the 1990 original was such a simple bit of lightning in the bottle. What worked with the original movie is that it was quite simply, a party movie. It was small in scope, had a minimalist narrative but garnered a ton of life and charisma. Watching the movie is still like going in to a party, with its great highs and sweet lows. Hudlin’s movie is still a classic after thirty years.

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West Side Story (2021)

With Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” he manages to offer up a brilliant, dazzling, and engrossing epic retelling of the original musical. It’s stunning how much Spielberg is able to suck us in using the elements of dance as important and crucial moments of exposition in lieu of endless dialogue. To say that “West Side Story” is a surprise, is an understatement. While Spielberg is a wonderful director, there’s never been any indication he could deliver on a musical. But with his version of “West Side Story” is gives us the classic tale of star crossed lovers, and a race war amidst the back drop of New York. Except what Spielberg does is beautifully recontextualizes the entire tale of the Jets and the Sharks for Modern audiences.

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Encanto (2021)

I am elated that Disney and Piax have begun finding the value in and delving in to tales that revolve around people of color. There’s so much rich heritage in the latinx community involving spirituality, honor, love, and the power of family. There’s so much amazing folklore that could really stand to be passed on to a new generation of movie lovers with great respect as presented in “Encanto.” Although it’s primarily about a Latinx family, it’s deep down about generational trauma, and the burdens that our elders can place on the youth, whether they realize it or not

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You Have to See This! Last Night in Soho (2021)

Streaming On: Vudu, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Apple TV, Google Play Movies & TV

While director Edgar Wright is still fresh in to his career and has churned out so many superb films, his ambition has managed to help elevate him in to a better filmmaker, one of bigger substance and larger scale. “Last Night in Soho” prove it, as it feels like that poppy bizarre sixties thriller that we might have actually seen in the sixties. Perhaps starring Natalie Wood? Maybe Peggy Lipton? “Last Night in Soho” has everything going for it; it’s the type murder mystery that audiences have been craving. It has a unique horror bent, and Wright has delivered on pop culture cult films like “Shaun of the Dead” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.”

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You’re Watching Video Music Box (2021)

The story of Video Music Box is long, long overdue. Video Music Box existed in a world where everyone “wanted their MTV.” While MTV hesitated to play music from people of color well in to the eighties, “Video Music Box” was a New York institution that proudly played music videos and performances from African American and minority artists that were legendary and up and comers, and for that it continues to be heralded by iconic music artists.

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Vivo (2021)

“What difference can one song make?” asks the titular Vivo. The answer is: A huge difference. One song can change the world. It can transport us back in time. It can sadden us, lift us up, and inspire us. “Vivo” is about the value and power of music, and it’s coordinated by Lin-Manuel Miranda, a man who has spent a lot of his career trying to promote the power of music, and how creativity in music can help and shape how we think. “Vivo” is a movie that kids deserve to experience for that fact, alone.

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In the Heights (2021) [Blu-Ray/Digital]

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.

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In the Heights (2021)

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.

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