A Double Feature Review!
Black Widow is a great Marvel movie — half spy thriller, half superhero flick all packed with action throughout. Our MCU hero finally gets her time to shine in a worthy solo picture. Scarlett Johansson is strong as ever, while Florence Pugh steals every scene. Along with great performances from both David Harbour and Rachel Weisz. An entertaining standalone adventure. Black Widow is the first MCU movie back in theaters since 2019's Spider-Man: Far From Home. The COVID-19 pandemic led to a 2020 drought for Marvel, so it was a little refreshing seeing one of our favorite Avengers back on the big screen. Director Cate Shortland's (Lore and Berlin Syndrome) superhero film travels back in time, taking place after the events of 2016's Captain America: Civil War. During this time the Avengers have broken up, giving Shortland a chance to focus solely on Natasha Romanoff's (Johansson) story. I don't want to go into too much detail as far as the plot goes because I was to keep this review spoiler-free.
I will say, Black Widow had one of the best opening sequences in the MCU franchise, along with a killer opening title sequence (a cover of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Think Up Anger, featuring Malia J). Pugh also steals the show with every scene she's in, continuing her winning streak for grandeur performances (2019's Midsommar and Little Women). There are some flaws with this film, particularly with the final act. These action sequences seemed a little messier than the rest of the movie, along with trying to wrap up loose ends for the plot. However, these are minor, and they did not hold down the film as a whole. Black Widow also broke several pandemic box office records upon release, including $80 million for its opening weekend theatrical release. In addition, the film made $60 million in Disney+ global revenue in its opening weekend and has grossed over $270 million worldwide, becoming the sixth-highest-grossing film of 2021. All-in-all, it felt great seeing a Marvel flick back on the big screen, along with a worthy solo film for Johansson herself.
Black Widow is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned) Some Language | Intense Violence/Action | Thematic Material.
See in theaters, or watch on Disney+ via Premium Access.
Directed by Cate Shortland
Starring Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz, Ray Winstone, and O.T. Fagbenle.
In The Heights
I understand the hype now. In The Heights is a joyous celebration of community and culture. This vibrant and dazzling musical will sweep you off your feet. It’s a summer sensation that will have you dancing in the air. In The Heights is a story of family and dreams — Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) put the Latino community front and center. Based on Miranda's groundbreaking 2008 Broadway musical, In The Heights is a musical wonder that will capture your eyes and fill your heart. It's a fact that Latinx representation has been lacking in Hollywood over the years, so to see a big-budgeted Hollywood musical with a Latinx cast was refreshing. My wife, Glynis, is Peruvian-American, while my younger sister, Tatiana, is Colombian-American. Telling these stories is critical and will continue to be an important perspective for the future of filmmaking.
In The Heights takes place in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City — a neighborhood known for a large Dominican population on the upper Manhattan side. Translating a musicals stage production to film is no easy task, but Chu wonderfully executes that task. Our story follows a variety of characters throughout, but at its core, the story centers around Usnavi (a perfect Anthony Ramos). Usnavi is a bodega owner who looks after Abuela Claudia (a powerful Olga Merediz), the neighborhood matriarch and woman who raised him after his parents passed away. Merediz's song "Paciencia y Fe" will send chills down your spine and bring tears to your eyes. Usnavi dreams of winning the lottery someday so he can escape to the shores of the Dominican Republic. We also follow the stories of Vanessa (a strong Melissa Barrera), the girl Usnavi has a crush on working at the neighboring beauty salon; Benny (a captivating Corey Hawkins), a dispatcher; and Nina (a mesmerizing Leslie Grace), who has just returned from Standford after dropping out.
This is a close-knit community, as we see everyone's dreams sung out on the screen before your very eyes. In The Heights is beautifully shot and remarkably orchestrated throughout — capturing the magic of celebration and heritage. It's a shame that this film disappointed at the box office, only grossing $40 million against a $55 million budget. Don't let this discourage you from seeing this movie because it really does dazzle. In The Heights blends Latin culture, from its music to its more authentic touches — it even tackles DACA, Usnavi's cousin, Sonny (Gregory Diaz IV), is a "Dreamer." In The Heights deserves your attention, so make sure you watch this film if you have not done so already. Let the music speak to your soul.
In The Heights is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned) For Some Language and Suggestive References.
Directed by Jon M. Chu
Starring Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera, Olga Merediz, Jimmy Smits, Gregory Diaz IV, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Stephanie Beatriz, Dascha Polanco, Noah Catala, and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
For Your Consideration:
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In Their Own League
Mashley at the Movies
Mike, Mike, and Oscar
Next Best Picture
The Movie Oracle
Untitled Cinema Gals Project