Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of the movie IN THE HEIGHTS

In The Heights, rated PG-13
*** ½

In The Heights, the first film we have seen in the theatre since early March 2020, is the film version of the popular Broadway musical written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of Hamilton. It is about a block in the Washington Heights neighborhood in New York City. I really enjoyed this film, and especially the sense of community and the song and dance scenes.
The film was directed by Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians). The screenplay was written by Quiara Alegría Hudes, based on the Broadway musical by Oscar nominee Lin-Manuel Miranda (Moana). The choreography was by three-time Emmy nominee Christopher Scott (So You Think You Can Dance).
Although we meet a lot of characters from the neighborhood, the film primarily follows the stories of three characters and their dreams. Usnavi, played by Anthony Ramos, who plays the role Miranda did on Broadway, is the owner of a bodega, who dreams of going back to the Dominican Republic to run his father’s beachfront bar. He is close to his dear Abuela, a grandmother figure played by Olga Merediz (who also played the role in the Broadway musical, for which she received a Tony Award nomination). Usnavi employs and mentors Sonny, played by Gregory Diaz IV, who is a “Dreamer”, the son of illegal immigrant parents. Usnavi likes Vanessa, played by Melissa Barrera, who works in a hair and nail salon who dreams of moving downtown to fully pursue her dream of being a fashion designer. Continue reading


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My Review of HAMILTON

Hamilton, rated PG-13
****

Hamilton, showing exclusively on the Disney+ network (which paid $75 million for the worldwide rights to the film), is a live taping of the award-winning stage production (11 Tony Awards, Grammy Award and Pulitzer Prize for Drama). The musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton, one of our Founding Fathers, was written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who was inspired by Ron Chernow’s book Alexander Hamilton.
My wife and I saw the musical a few years ago in Chicago. The film version adds to that experience with excellent cinematography and sound quality. The film provides close ups that you couldn’t experience in the theatre, unless you had (very expensive) seats close to the stage.
Two things I highly recommend before watching the film are:

  1. Become familiar with Alexander Hamilton’s incredible life story. You can do that by reading my review of Chernow’s book here.
  2. Listen to the Original Broadway Cast recording of the musical. The story is told almost entirely in song. Miranda uses a variety of musical styles, mostly rap, and the lyrics come very fast. It will help you to enjoy the film if you are somewhat familiar with the songs.

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My Review of MARY POPPINS RETURNS

Mary Poppins Returns, rated PG
****

Mary Poppins Returns is a delightful live-action/animated film free of any content issues that the entire family can enjoy. It’s one of my favorite films of the year (and my wife’s favorite!) The film is released 54 years after 1964’s Mary Poppins, which won five Oscars. The new film is directed by Oscar nominated Rob Marshall (Chicago). The film is written by Marshall, two-time Oscar nominee David Magee (Life of Pi, Finding Neverland), and two-time Emmy winner John DeLuca (Tony Bennett: An American Classic), based upon Mary Poppins stories by P.L. Travers. The film’s cast includes two Oscar winners – Colin Firth and Meryl Streep – and three Oscar nominees – Angela Lansbury, Julie Walters and Lin-Manuel Miranda. The all-new music is by five-time Oscar nominee Marc Shaiman (Sleepless in Seattle, Patch Adams, The First Wives Club, The American President, Hairspray) and three-time Emmy nominee Scott Wittman (Smash, The 82nd Annual Academy Awards, Hairspray). Cinematography is by Oscar winner Dion Beebe (Memoirs of a Geisha). Marshall chose to use hand drawn animation in the film to go along with the live action sequences.  The film has received four Golden Globe nominations – best performance by an actress, best performance by an actor, best picture and best original score.  The film had an estimated budget of $130 million. Continue reading