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.
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.
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.
If you were a kid in the 90s, there's a great chance that your parents did not let you anywhere near the "Mortal Kombat" video-game. The game alone, with its ultra-realistic graphics, excessive violence and its patented "fatalities" end-moves sparked a national debate on video-game violence and led to the creation of a video-game ratings system that is still in use today.
In other words, it was super bad-ass. "Mortal Kombat" was the bloody cousin of the neutered "Street Fighter" franchise, and it has since grown into one of the most massive, successful video-game properties of all-time, spawning more than 20 game versions, a 1995 film (and it's horrible 1997 sequel) and now this 2021 movie incarnation.
Like it's big-screen predecessor, the new "Mortal Kombat" knows its audience and in that vein, it delivers what's expected. If you were offended then, you'll most likely be offended now, and if you're new to the whole thing, you probably won't think that this is anything all that special at all, given that blood, gore and violence have become pretty mainstream across all mediums, since the "Mortal Kombat" video-game debuted back in 1992.
Those that choose to watch monster movies such as "Godzilla vs. Kong" do not have very high expectations. They're not looking for an intricate plot, Oscar-worthy performances or clever twists. They just want to watch these monsters wreak havoc, and beat the hell out of one another.
With that in mind, "Godzilla vs. Kong" checks all the boxes you'd expect it to: Intricate plot? Nah. Oscar-worthy performances or clever twists? Nope and nope. Havoc being wreaked, and lots of beatings? You betcha.
But sadly, while the ingredients are all there, the two heavyweights on the title card don't share the screen quite enough...a real letdown for a film called "Godzilla vs. Kong." And the "fun" spirit of "Kong: Skull Island" is discarded for the more serious overtone of the past two "Godzilla" movies, which makes this one clunker of a clash.
Near the end of the documentary, "Tina," the legendary, raspy-voiced superstar singer is escorted into a Broadway play based on her life, "Tina: The Tina Turner Story," with screaming, adoring fans mobbed all over the scene and surrounding her as she makes her way inside. On one arm is Tina's husband since 2013, Erwin Bach, and on her other arm is none other than her close friend, Oprah Winfrey.
It took me a few seconds to even realize that Oprah was there, and the fervorous fan-base chanting Tina's name also couldn't care less. Tina still has it...and is still such a force to be reckoned with that you don't even notice when she's standing next to Oprah Winfrey. Tina is larger than life, larger than Oprah...an icon and an inspiration to many. But arriving at that precise moment outside the theater, happy, content and in love, is really a tremendous testament to the endurance of Tina Turner. I'd say her rise was impossible, if only Tina hadn't in fact made it possible.
The tumultuous, incredible life of Tina Turner is on full display in the new HBO Max documentary film, simply titled "Tina." It takes what you may know about her and goes deeper than ever before, and is an emotional swan song for the now 81-year-old legend, who is deciding to slowly bow out of the limelight after all these years.
"Director's cuts" are not a new concept...as far back as Charlie Chaplin's "The Gold Rush," filmmakers and auteurs have tinkered and fiddled with previously released versions of films, trying to perfect their original visions, right wrongs of the past, or undo the meddling of those pesky movie studios who apparently are only in business to feverishly attempt to suppress creator's masterpieces.
In case you're not on Twitter, "Zack Snyder's Justice League" (coming Thursday, March 18th exclusively to HBO Max) is not your average "director's cut" of a film, and actually has quite the story behind it. It's not a vanity project. It is in fact, a labor of love and an example of unfinished business being made whole.
But let's not bury the lead, for those reading this in wild anticipation: This is a vastly improved film compared to the 2017 version. The new film - at over 4 hours!!! - is somehow a more focused and centered film than it's 2-hour-long predecessor. In other words, "Zack Snyder's Justice League" will be a direct smash hit with its target audience...but to the rest of the world, it will present itself as a mountain perhaps too steep to climb or worse, an effort in futility.
The classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters are given the live-action film treatment in the new "Tom and Jerry" (in theaters and streaming on HBO Max).
But fans of the overly-violent frenemies will be left shaking their heads at just how uninspired their new "big-screen" adventure is, and how some things are better off left alone.
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