REVIEW: Get in the theater for ‘In the Heights’

“In the Heights” is an appropriate name for this film and the stage production its based on.

Not only because it takes place in New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood, but also because it’s an experience that earns high scores.

The film is set in a Latin community and follows several characters, but the main focus is on Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), a bodega owner who dreams of reopening his late father’s beachside business in the Dominican Republic. One of the regular customers to Usnavi’s shop is Vanessa (Melissa Barrera), a young woman working at a salon who wants to pursue a career in fashion.

Early in the film, Usnavi and Vanessa meet up with Nina (Leslie Grace), a Stanford University student whose father owns a taxi company. That company is where Benny (Corey Hawkins), who has relationship history with Nina, works. The four of them spend time with others in the neighborhood and try to navigate their futures during a heat wave across New York City.

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REVIEW: ‘Ma Rainey’s story doesn’t translate well to Netflix

Netflix’s latest picture takes audiences back to the Roaring 20s with a Blues tale based on a play.

Viola Davis plays the titular character here, who was a real life singer. Gertrude “Ma” Rainey was a woman with several hits during the 1920s, including “Black Bottom.”

This movie picks up with her and her band visiting a Chicago office to record that song and others for an album. The movie follows Ma’s experiences, and her band members’, such as Levee (Chadwick Boseman) as the recording session goes on.

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REVIEW: Star power and songs carry ‘The Prom’

For the second year in a row James Corden is starring in a musical during the holiday season. This time, though, he has less fur.

Corden is one of four actors portraying Broadway performers in “The Prom.” Corden plays Barry, who is joined by other theater performers Dee Dee (Meryl Streep), Angie (Nicole Kidman) and Trent (Andrew Rannells). At the movie’s outset, the four are somewhat down on their luck after receiving negative reviews for their latest show.

However, they soon find a way to get good press again by supporting a teenager in Indiana named Emma (Jo Ellen Pellman) who’s come out as a lesbian and has been met with resistance to attending her prom as a result. During their time there, though, the four become supportive of Emma more than just for their own needs.

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REVIEW: ‘Sound of Metal’ is a success thanks to lead performance

The tragedies of losing what you love and giving up what you love are tied together in this film, and it makes for a fairly strong drama.

Riz Ahmed stars as Ruben in the film,  a drummer in a heavy-metal duo, with the other member being his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke). The two have had troubled pasts, including issues with substance abuse, but at the outset of the movie, the two are clean, working gigs and are comfortable with how things are going.

Trouble hits Ruben’s life, though, as he begins noticing issues with his hearing. During a trip to a medical center, Ruben learns his hearing is dropping rapidly, and will likely be lost quickly. To deal with his plight, Ruben is sent an organization for recovering, deaf drug addicts and begins adjusting. At the same time, he is considering a surgery that could restore his hearing.

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REVIEW: ‘Eurovision’ doesn’t have enough laughs to carry it for two hours

Will Ferrell is back with another silly character and this time he’s joined by Rachel McAdams in the co-leading role.

Ferrell portrays Lars while McAdams stars as Sigrit, with the two forming the music duo Fire Saga in this feature from Netflix. The two aren’t exactly the best musicians, and their skills have only earned them local gigs in their small Icelandic fishing town. Despite a lack of superstar success, though, Lars still has a dream of competing, and ultimately winning, the Eurovision Song Contest.

In the movie, Fire Saga finally gets their chance, as they sort of stumble their way into the contest, representing Iceland in the process. Upon their arrival, Lars and Sigrit meet their competitors and learn about how much of a challenge it will be.

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REVIEW: ‘The High Note’ doesn’t earn a high score

This movie may be called “The High Note,” but it never does anything to elevate itself above other flicks in the genre.

The movie stars Dakota Johnson as Maggie, a young woman who works as an assistant to Grace (Tracee Ellis Ross). Grace is a music legend who’s had plenty of hits over her great career. However, lately, her manager Jack (O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson) and others want her to start scaling back, doing just best hits albums and singing at events in Las Vegas. Grace believes she can still make new, great songs, though, and since she produces music at an amateur level as a hobby, Maggie wants to help.

Meanwhile, Maggie also meets David (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) in the first act. David is a guy who seems to have a ton of musical potential, but appears completely content with doing small shows and simple gigs. Because of his potential, though, Maggie decides to try and help David create an album, too.

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REVIEW: ‘Blinded by the Light’ is blinded by cliches

Bruce Springsteen’s music works well in movies, as shown in “Jerry Maguire” and “The Wrestler.” But if just one Springsteen song in a movie isn’t enough for a person, they may find the jackpot in “Blinded by the Light.”

Set in late 80s Britain during the time of Margaret Thatcher’s leadership, “Blinded by the Light” follows the story of teenage student Javed Khan (Viveik Kalra) under a lot of stress. In the midst of a recession, his parents Malik (Kulvinder Ghir) and Noor (Meera Ganatra) who immigrated from Pakistan are struggling to make ends meet.

In the face of financial hardships, signs of racism and pure teenage angst, Javed searches for some escapism. He ends up finding it in the music of Bruce Springsteen. After hearing a few tapes, he becomes hooked and turns into a mega-fan, with the music even inspiring him to become a writer. However, his new style and swagger runs into conflict with the ways of his father.

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REVIEW: One can just move on to tomorrow, because ‘Yesterday’ doesn’t offer much

An Oscar and Golden Globe winning director, a writer with several charming hits, along with a fantastic concept ripe for all sorts of possibilities. On paper, “Yesterday” looked like a slam dunk, which makes it a total shame that it turned out so poorly.

The movie follows a struggling singer named Jack Malik (Himesh Patel), who lives day-to-day playing small gigs with help from his manager Ellie (Lily James). Getting fed up with his lack of success and his dead-end job, Jack considers leaving music all together.

However, during one bike ride home, Jack is hit by a bus at the exact same moment a blackout occurs worldwide. When he wakes up and recovers from his injuries, he comes to find himself in a world where the Beatles never became a band and their music does not exist in the pop culture landscape. Seeing an opportunity, Jack starts singing the songs and claims credit for the work, which of course leads him to his own fair share of fame.

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REVIEW: ‘Rocketman’ convincingly captures Elton John’s passion

Saturday might be the time of week alright for fighting, but any day is a good day to see “Rocketman.”

As the title and my song referencing lede implies, “Rocketman” is a film about the musician Elton John (Taron Egerton). The film focuses on John’s early success, which also, sadly, coincided with his struggles with addiction.

The picture tells both John’s early career story and the development of his psyche over time through a series of song and dance numbers numbers set to the musician’s music.

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Monday Movie Report: Writers Guild winners

One of this award season’s biggest shockers took place Sunday night during the Writers Guild of America award ceremony.

At the annual event, “Eighth Grade,” written (and directed) by Bo Burnham, won the prize for Best Original Screenplay from the WGA. The win was a major upset, beating out the likes of “Green Book” and “Roma.”

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