It is so good to be back in the movie theatre again. The vulnerability, air conditioning, and the screen of hopeful unpredictability are all part of the magical moviegoing experience that you simply cannot recreate at home with the pause button and ability to leave the action whenever you please (air conditioning optional).
Today, I am grateful to have a healthy community and family where I live, and the next door AMC theatre has opened its doors to features that were supposed to have come out a year ago in a non-pandemic world and premieres that were filmed in vaccinated and controlled environments a year ago as well.
Below, I included “capsule” reviews of the first three movies I saw in the big, dark rooms. Please feel free to add your responses and anything else movie-oriented. Conversation is always encouraged here 🙂
A Quiet Place Part II ***
Although the novelty of understated horror has worn off since the original, this is a decent popcorn thriller, and it was nice to smell the popcorn upon entering the theatre after so long.
Main characters are plot-protected, there’s not a whole lot going on, and most of this has been done before (Signs, 2002).
However, the aesthetic sense of endangerment and jump-scares are executed so seamlessly by writer/director John Krasinski that one remembers why we go to the movies in the first place: It is fun!
(And, I love the popcorn.)
In The Heights ***
Before the movie began, Lin-Manuel Miranda welcomed us back to the theatres and told us to get ready for a celebration of “music, dance, culture, and, most importantly, family.”
I believe he and his production team nailed 3 out of the 4, and, sadly, it was the music that didn’t leave me singing on the way home.
And, that’s just it: Today’s musical isn’t about the showstopper, the hook, or the remarkable melody. Because of the stylistic groundbreaking in Hamilton, rap and its impressive mechanical jabs at scansion are the new thing. Call me old school, but I want a hit I can come back to, sing in the car, and play on the piano. On my shelf, I have a The Phantom of the Opera piano book that contains at least 8 showstoppers that continue to be sung and played at musical auditions (or background music at a bar). Practically every song in The Greatest Showman is a hit. And, if there’s a constant NYC-set comparison to In the Heights, it’s Rent, and Rent has musical numbers that bring the house down. Shoot, even the colloquial east coast/west coast rival in La La Land has an Oscar-winning or deserving song (or two or five).
I cannot aurally recall, hum, or remember one tune from In The Heights. Most of the “songs” are expositional, describing events that are happening right then and there. A central theme, concept, and melodious motif are simply missing. Les Miserables at least had a song (or two or twelve) that pushed the narrative forward while also enveloping a remarkable melody that stayed in your head while driving back home.
This all being said, In the Heights is a timely, welcomed warm hug from the Afro-Latino community living in Washington Heights, NYC. This tenacious family dreams about what can be accomplished in America despite racial injustice and the challenge of earning the almighty dollar. As I write this, Lin-Manuel is apologizing for the brash display of colorism in the end product. I didn’t experience that, but as a white male, I also cannot relate. Instead, I adored these people, their sense of humor, their food, and their backstories that connected to the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Cuba. The location shots, vibrant choreography, and overall tone of exuberance skyrocketed this summer to…well…new heights. It was impossible to not smile.
I just wish there was one tune to remember, look up, or just hum.
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It **
As with most of today’s horror, the good scares are spoiled in the trailer, and what is already a decent, spooky premise is over-stylized, exaggerated, and amplified beyond anything relatable. The fluorescent lights flicker constantly, there are never-ending possessed convulsions, CGI-saturated effects, and every single candle is somehow lit underneath the cavern of doom.
Luckily, there is a decency and sincerity in Wilson and Farmiga’s portrayal of the infamous Warren lovebirds. But, James Wan’s successful concoction of the paranormal in the first two has been made generic by Michael Chaves. Sometimes thrilling, sometimes boring, mostly disappointing…
Less is more, Mr. Chaves.
In movies, less is always more…