If Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda is capable of doing anything wrong, he's yet to prove it. His directorial debut, "tick, tick...BOOM!" is a gloriously energetic ode to the theater, and one of its greatest creative minds, Jonathan Larson, the one-of-a-kind talent who gave us "Rent."
Before you go off ready to hand this year's Oscar to Will Smith or Benedict Cumberbatch, don't sleep on Andrew Garfield. He is an absolute firecracker as Larson and a commanding screen presence who single-handedly energizes each frame he's in. This is a crackling performance in an equally impressive film...one of the best of 2021 for sure ("tick, tick...BOOM!" is streaming on Netflix starting 11/19/21).
The best and most unbelievable stories are often true. That is definitely the case when it comes to Richard Williams, a man who wrote out an 85-page plan detailing how not one, but two of his young daughters would take the world by storm and become the two greatest tennis champions the world has ever seen. That's a bit far-fetched, but what makes it miraculous is that he wrote this plan years before they were ever born.
His story is the story of his two daughters, Venus and Serena Williams, who did go on to become two of the greatest tennis champs and athletes ever produced. They weren't the first female African-American all-stars (look up Ora Washington, Althea Gibson or Zina Garrison), but they did open up the door for an entire generation of young girls as they absolutely dominated their sport for nearly two decades.
"King Richard" is funny, touching and inspiring. It has the make-up of a traditional underdog sports film (an over-saturated genre to be sure), yet it doesn't feel like any of the others that have come before it. It's all held together with what will surely be an award-worthy turn by Will Smith, who after a few misfires ("Bad Boys For Life," "Gemini Man," "Bright") fires on all cylinders as the man behind-the-scenes in the life of two iconic Americans.
Believe the hype: It's almost unimaginable to think that Kristen Stewart won't win an Oscar for her nuanced, powerful portrayal as Princess Diana, in Pablo Larrain's haunting fable, "Spencer."
What is the value of a human life? Almost everyone would most likely agree that it's absurd to place a dollar amount on the worth of a person's life, but that's exactly what D.C. attorney Ken Feinberg (Michael Keaton) was tasked with.
In the days and months following the horrendous terrorist attacks on 9/11, Feinberg stepped in trying to do the right thing: He was heading up the daunting job of coming up with financial compensation for the victims of 9/11 and their families. But how does one go about valuing the compensation one should receive for the loss of a parent, sibling or child? Again I ask: What is the value of a human life?
Meyer Lansky is one of the most enthralling mobsters in American history, and yet, he seems to always be represented as a supporting player. Finally, Lansky is given his due.
There is a lot to like about "Lansky," and if you're a fan of Mafia movies or crime dramas, you won't be disappointed that you checked this out. But you can't help but feel that there was a better version of his story to be told on-screen.
Is the five-time Grammy-nominated techno artist and animal rights activist, Moby, a self-absorbed asshole or one of the modern geniuses of music? Whichever side you fall on (and yes, when it comes to whether or not people like Moby, there usually is no in-between), everyone should be able to agree that "Moby Doc" is just polarizing as its subject.
I'm not exactly sure why, but the "horse movie" genre continues to thrive. It seems each and every year, we're given at least two (2021 will be no different, with the animated "Spirit Untamed" coming to Netflix this Summer as well).
The latest entry out of the gate is "Dream Horse," and here is the copy/paste description fitting of all horse movies: An unlikely horse, groomed by an unlikely person who is almost entirely out of their element, becomes a sensation after a lot of hard work, dedication and training montages...the evil businessmen of the "establishment" get in the way, but never so much as to knock the film from its PG-rating.
So if horse films are your bale of hay, then you'll probably love the familiar rhythms of "Dream Horse." For everyone else, you'll most likely want to avoid this for the manipulative, steaming pile of horse manure that it is.
Billie Eilish is about the biggest star on the planet at the moment, the singer/songwriter sensation who at age 15, uploaded a song to SoundCloud ("Ocean Eyes") and went on to become one of the most iconic and beloved stars of her generation. Her second album, 2019's "When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?" was one of the best-selling album of 2019, with her number-one hit "Bad Guy" going platinum ten-times-over.
She's won two American Music Awards, three MTV Video Music Awards and five Grammys...becoming the youngest and only the second-ever to sweep the four major Grammy categories - Best New Artist, Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Album of the Year - in a single year (if you're wondering who the first person to do this was, it was Christopher Cross in 1980).
Eilish did all this before turning 19...and the most fascinating part of her deeply-compelling, revealing new documentary, "Billie Eilish: The World's A Little Blurry" (debuting on Apple TV+ on Feb. 26th), is just how glaringly adolescent Eilish still is. Despite being responsible for lyrics and vocals far beyond her years, we see Billie having boy trouble, getting her driver's license, handling the tremendous physical and emotional pressures that come with fame and fortune, and obsessing about Justin Bieber.
In other words, she's just your average teenager, other than the fact that Billie Eilish's talents as an artist are anything but average.
The title: "The United States vs. Billie Holiday," implies a movie that will feature some sort of lawsuit against one of the greatest jazz singers of all-time. But this is no court-room drama. Instead, the title categorizes not only how Holiday fought against the norms of the time, but how the FBI tried desperately to silence her voice both literally and figuratively.
"Judas and the Black Messiah" will remind you of other "undercover" movies, like "Donnie Brasco" or "Serpico," but with a timely twist. It's story, directed with confidence and urgency by Shaka King, is a gripping drama that will not only enrage, but enlighten, featuring some bold performances from Daniel Kaluuya and LeKeith Stanfield.
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