Review: 'How To Survive a Pandemic' a gripping new documentary streaming on HBO Max
The race to create a viable vaccine for COVID-19 takes center-stage in the new HBO documentary, "How To Survive A Pandemic," a film that champions science and those that champion it.
Fans are being asked to plug back into The Matrix franchise, nearly 20 years since the last two installments, "The Matrix Reloaded" and "The Matrix Revolutions" hit theaters just a few months apart back in 2003. The love story of Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) was at the heart of this ground-breaking film saga that mixed action with high-concept sci-fi and stunning visuals, returning over 1 billion (with a "b") at the box office for the trilogy.
Lana Wachowski returns to the franchise (sans her usual partner, sister Lilly) to give us a fourth chapter, "The Matrix Resurrections," a decidedly uneven but wildly ambitious return to the world of rogue programs, slow-motion bullets, steam-punk aesthetics, unabashed ass-kicking and endless sci-fi mumbo-jumbo. Its high-aiming philosophy works better than its action set pieces, but ultimately this is a mixed-bag reboot whose main themes get buried under a mountain of code.
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.
To quote Silvio Dante quoting Michael Corleone: "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back IN!!"
That's what it feels like to submerge back into the world of "The Sopranos," the ground-breaking HBO drama that is considered one of the best TV shows of all-time and certainly one of the most influential of its era. For me, it was the last "must see" TV show, something that would later be categorized as "appointment TV." I would watch nervously and breathlessly each week, hoping that my favorite characters would survive the hour. They often would, but many times wouldn't.
With "The Sopranos" prequel film, "The Many Saints of Newark," you are pulled back in to this modern world of gangsters, their families and their issues that exist both externally and internally. You'll be reminded that David Chase, the creator of "The Sopranos" and who co-wrote "The Many Saints of Newark," is an absolute force of nature...a writer unparalleled and like the show he created, in a league of his own. He makes "Many Saints" not only fit into the world that he created over 20 years ago, but adds to it.
"Many Saints," I'd argue, is going to become required-viewing for those wanting to experience the full tragic saga of Tony Soprano. It lives up to the hype, and for any fan of "The Sopranos," it will meet and surpass your already astronomical expectations.
It's not just a worthy Sopranos story, it's one of my favorite films of the year.
Review: 'The Suicide Squad,' finally, some bloody fun in the DC Cinematic Universe
The DC Comics Cinematic Universe (DCCU) is always playing catch-up to its way cooler, much more interesting big brother, The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Thus far, it's been a dark and dreary go: Films from "Man of Steel" all the way through the ludicrously loud and over-saturated "Wonder Woman 1984" have experimented with different tones and angles, and none have really worked all that well in crafting a cohesive universe.
So instead of re-inventing the wheel, writer/director James Gunn takes a previous formula and shakes it up a bit, and it's a pretty delicious concoction. While the new "The Suicide Squad" shares a name with the 2016 "Suicide Squad" film, it is actually a closer spiritual cousin to "The Guardians of the Galaxy" films...films that Gunn knows all too well, since he wrote and directed both of them.
In making "The Suicide Squad," its inhabitants and the universe they exist in way less serious than most every other DCCU movie to date, he basically creates a bloodier, more comically violent anti-version of "The Guardians of the Galaxy" films, and in doing so, he brings something to the DCCU that it has yet to experience: A sense of FUN.
For those that thought that the recent Fyre Festival was a sham, wait until your memory is jogged about the disastrous Woodstock '99. All of its ugliness is brought to light in the stunning and captivating new HBO Max documentary, "Woodstock 99: Peace, Love and Rage."
Shot entirely in Detroit, "No Sudden Move" is a fun, throwback crime caper. And it's not a gimmick or arbitrary that the movie takes place in the Motor City...in fact, this is one story that really couldn't have taken place anywhere else.
A play like "Hamilton" is a one-in-a-million sort of production. From the original cast to the costumes and choreography, to the unprecedented word-play and unforgettable lyrics from the mind of Lin-Manuel Miranda, to its cultural significance, "Hamilton" was lightning in a bottle...the stage play of our time and one of the few creations in the history of the stage or cinema that cannot be over-hyped regardless of how much praise is heaped upon it. It really is that good.
But before "Hamilton," there was "In the Heights," the debut production from Miranda that he originally wrote his sophomore year in college back in 1999. The play finally reached Broadway, from 2008 to 2011, scoring 13 Tony nominations (winning four, including Best Original Score for Miranda, the youngest recipient ever to win the category).
Now after a full year of postponements due to COVID-19, the big-screen adaptation of "In the Heights" reaches theaters (it is also available to stream on HBO Max). If you're familiar with "Hamilton," you know that "In the Heights" is a lesser overall production...how could it not be? But on its own it's a rich celebration of the immigrant experience in America, and one of the most joyous, unapologetic and optimistic films in quite some time.
"In the Heights" is no "Hamilton," but that is just fine.
Review: Riveting two-part documentary series, 'The Crime of the Century' a tough pill to swallow
Documentarian Alex Gibney has got his finger on the pulse of current issues facing Americans...and he also is clearly one of the fastest-moving filmmakers on the planet. It took him no time last year to kick out the pandemic-related "Totally Under Control" and his previous HBO documentary mini-series, "Agents of Chaos," took a deep-dive into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
His latest two-part effort - with Part One airing tonight on HBO with Part Two following on Tuesday, 5/11 - is called "The Crime of the Century" and is a stunning exploration of the Opioid Epidemic...and how it isn't just some accidental phenomenon, but yet another man-made disaster.
HBO Max Review: 'Lucy the Human Chimp' a fascinating story, a mediocre documentary
Although this new HBO Max Documentary (coming Thursday, April 29th to the platform) is called "Lucy the Human Chimp," a more appropriate title might have been "Janis the Chimp Human." That's because its story really isn't about Lucy, a chimpanzee that was raised as a human for the first years of her life as part of a scientific study in mid 60s. It's more about Janis Carter, a caretaker who became so attached to Lucy, that she dedicated the rest of her life to helping Lucy and chimps like her acclimate themselves back into their natural habitats.
It's a truly fascinating story, but relying heavily on dramatizations and the same few photos, it doesn't lend itself well as a full-length documentary film.
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