Paul McGuire Grimes, the creator of Paul’s Trip to the Movies, sits down with the stars of In the Heights and gives us his review of the move. Plus, he tells us what he thinks of Loki, the new series on Disney+.
IN THE HEIGHTS (in theaters, HBO Max)
Lights up on In the Heights one of the best movie musicals in years. Before Lin-Manuel Miranda became a household name with Hamilton, he created the Broadway musical In the Heights. At the center of it is Usnavi, played by Anthony Ramos, who also appeared in Hamilton. He immigrated from the Dominican Republic and works at the corner bodega in the area of New York known as Washington Heights. He has big dreams of eventually moving back down to the Dominic Republic and re-opening his dad’s bar. We’re also introduced to other residents of Washington Heights who are working for the American dream. There’s Vanessa, played by Melissa Barrera, who has her eyes set on being a fashion designer. Then there’s Leslie Grace’s Nina, who is back from attending Stanford but afraid to tell everyone why she was forced to drop out.
In the Heights comes under the direction of Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians) and was written by Quiara Alegría Hudes who also penned the book for the Broadway musical.
I’ll be surprised if you’re not fully invested in In the Heights after the rousing opening number that introduces us to the daily life and routine in Washington Heights. Chu and cinematographer Alice Brooks know how to shoot large ensemble chorus numbers with everyone dancing and singing in the streets. The choreography is on full display all while keeping the streets and neighborhood feel like a vital character in the movie.
This is the kind of musical where everyone will burst into song and dance at any given time no matter if they’re at the beauty salon or the local pool. Chu’s not afraid of going full into the Esther Williams style for the song “96,000”.
You’ll instantly recognize Lin-Manuel Miranda’s beats that we’ve gotten to know through Hamilton. Keep an eye out as he has a small role in the film as well.
The movie adaptation excels at utilizing up and coming actors that are appropriately cast for their roles over the use of traditional A-list Hollywood talent often found in stage to screen adaptations.
As Usnavi, Anthony Ramos is electric. He lights up the screen every second we see him and hopefully this will make him the big star he deserves to be. Corey Hawkins is 100% charm and has a gorgeous singing voice. Melissa Barrera is effervescent and full of infectious spirit. You can’t mention this film without a callout to Olga Merediz who is the heart and soul of the film as Abuela Claudia. Her number “Paciencia y Fe” will sit with you and hit deep.
In the Heights is more than a frothy movie musical. It’s a beautiful love letter to culture, community, and family. The chemistry and hard work from the cast and creative team radiates on screen thanks to director Jon M. Chu. He always grounds the film back in the universal truths and fight to turn our dreams into reality. The film demands to be celebrated on the big screen. Don’t be surprised if you leave the theater tapping your foot or humming Lin-Manuel Miranda’s catchy music.
RATING: 4.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
Loki has been a Marvel fan-favorite villain since he made his appearance in Thor in 2011. Ten years later he’s starring in his own television series aptly named Loki. Tom Hiddleston returns as our title character, and the series picks up after the events of Avengers Endgame. We saw him grabbing the Tesseract in the time shift during Endgame and he’s transported to the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. There he’s taken into custody by the Time Variance Authority for screwing up the timeline we’ve grown familiar with in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While in custody, Agent Mobius, played by Owen Wilson has plans for our God of Mischief to find other Lokis or variants, as they’re referred to, who are disrupting the timeline.
Loki will be six episodes roughly 50-60 minutes per episode. Writer Michael Waldon will also pen the script of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The set up for the next Doctor Strange film is in full force throughout Loki as we learn how Loki and other dangerous variants could lead to the Multiverse.
Loki, the series, jumps all around various centuries and locations from Pompeii, Italy to Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 1985 and all sorts of places and times in between. There’s certainly a playful, no holds barred quality here and it seems like anything is fair game. Without getting too spoiler specific, the aesthetics of the show can pop whenever it lands in pop culture heavy time like the 1980s.
Tom Hiddleston has already played Loki six times prior throughout the various Thor and Avengers films. No need to rewatch them prior if you don’t have time as an interrogation scene between Loki and Mobius leads to a quick recap of Loki’s nefarious actions thus far.
He’s a unique character and the series certainly knows how to use him well taking him outside his comfort zone. He’s a character that’s no longer in control of every situation which puts him on edge. He’s forced to be treated like a human and not the god he thinks he is.
Owen Wilson’s character Mobius states, “We both know you like to talk.” Wilson can tap into what he does best delivering good banter between Mobius and Loki. There are existential conversations between the two of them on whether life is pre-determined and what role chaos plays into it.
I’ve seen the first two episodes so far and Loki should please Marvel fans. Tom Hiddleston is in prime form as our title character. These episodes have been more character and dialogue heavy and light on the Marvel action we saw in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. We shall see if he’s treated as pure villain, a villain turned hero, or something complicated in between and what this will mean for the rest of Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS