Summer 2022 Movie Release Calendar

by Theo Sloan


May 28, 2022

The summer movie season is, in many ways, the most important time of the year for Hollywood. It’s the period of time when the majority of each year’s large, expensive blockbusters are released into theaters and, if all goes according to plan, is the time when movie theaters make enough money in order to stay afloat for the following year. While the summer movie season does not always have a lot to offer in terms of high quality cinema and smaller, artsier films, it does feature a lot of high-profile crowd-pleasers and plays a frustratingly important part in a movie theater’s economy. The summer movie season runs from the first blockbuster of the late spring to the last blockbuster of late summer. Usually, this means that it runs from May to September, although mileage certainly can vary depending on the year. In this article, I will give all of you what I have been giving myself for several years: a semi-comprehensive rundown of what this year’s summer season release calendar looks like, as well as some brief thoughts on which of these movies I am most excited for.

Author’s Note: This article was initially written in late April, and two of the predictions I made have already turned out to be incorrect. I have left them as is to prove that I am not infallible and am very capable of just straight up being wrong about whether a movie is good, but I will also add a brief paragraph pointing out whether my predictions were right or not for the movies that have already been released.

May 6—Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

In a shocking turn of events, this year’s summer season is being kicked off by yet another entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Multiverse of Madness is being billed as involving more horror elements than most Marvel movies do, and even has Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead, Spider-Man) signed on as its director. It is maintaining the PG-13 that Marvel is known for, however, so I wouldn’t exactly go in expecting something on the level of Raimi’s other work in the horror genre, and especially nothing as graphic as his NC-17-rated The Evil Dead.

Am I excited for the Multiverse of Madness? Not really. If a weekend rolls around in which I have nothing else to do, there’s a small chance I might go see it, but there’s nothing that I’ve seen in the marketing for this film that does anything to set it apart from your standard Marvel formula, which is a formula that I am more than tired of at this point. I’m sure Benedict Cumberbatch will be good in it, as will his co-stars, but unless I hear exceedingly good things about this one, I’ll probably just wait for its digital release.

As it turned out, I was dead wrong about this one. I saw it in IMAX and had a great time. It’s one of the best movies the MCU has seen in a long time, and even though that’s a field with some exceedingly flaccid competition, it’s also enough for me to recommend you see it on the biggest screen you can access. The visual spectacle is truly worth it for this one.

May 13—Firestarter

Firestarter is the latest Stephen King adaptation, and I have to admit that, despite my better judgment, I’m pretty excited for this one. Stephen King adaptations have been fairly hit or miss as of late, with some turning out fantastic (IT, Doctor Sleep), and some falling flat on their stupid faces (Pet Sematary (2019), It Chapter Two). What makes me excited for Firestarter is a combination of a premise that I really like—a dark twist on the concept of superpowers—and its trailer doing a really good job selling me on it.

The movie’s main star is Ryan Kierra Armstrong, who has been good in a variety of projects in the past, and it’s director Keith Thomas’ second feature film. While it’s certainly possible that the end project will be an enormous misfire, I’m a sucker for this kind of horror premise, and it’s very likely that I’ll check it out opening weekend.

Once again, I was dead wrong. This movie is currently sitting at a staggering 13% Critic Score on Rotten Tomatoes, with a 48% Audience Score. Pretty much everyone agrees that this movie sucks, and I will not be seeing it in theaters under any circumstances.

May 20—Men

Men is A24’s latest horror offering, and even before I did some basic research, seeing A24’s logo on the trailer in the movie theater was reason enough for me to be excited. The trailer also looked really interesting, and all of that will likely be enough to get me to see it. This movie is directed and written by Alex Garland, the brilliant film-maker behind Ex Machina and Annihilation, two of the best thrillers I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. He can do the introspective thinking and theme, he can do the thrills and the scares, and I am so very excited to see what he’ll bring to the table this time around.

Early critic reviews suggest that I’m probably right about this one. I’m really excited for it!

May 27—Top Gun: Maverick

Top Gun is a mediocre 1986 action flick starring Tom Cruise, so naturally it’s getting a sequel more than thirty-five years later. This movie will likely be terrible, and it will likely make an annoyingly large amount of money, thus perpetuating Hollywood’s endless cycle of pumping out soulless continuations and reboots of anything that existed more than ten years ago and was moderately profitable. As is the norm for these things, the director is a nobody with nothing successful or good to his name, as are the writers. I will certainly not be going to see this, and I would recommend that you all stay away from it too. If you want some mediocre Tom Cruise action, either watch the original or Mission Impossible 2.

June 3—Watcher

The weekend of the third of June is a pretty sleepy theatrical week, but of the few things coming out, Watcher is by far the most interesting-looking one. It appears to be some sort of psychological thriller about a woman who feels as though she’s being stalked by someone who lives in an apartment building adjacent to hers, and presumably thrilling situations ensue. I doubt I’ll go see it, but it looks moderately entertaining, and maybe I’ll check it out on digital once it leaves theaters. This film is Chloe Okuno’s directorial debut and stars nobody who’s a household name. Check it out if you have some spare time.

June 10—Jurassic World Dominion

On the tenth of June, whether we like it or not, we will once again return to the world of Jurassic Park. Colin Trevorrow is returning to the director’s chair and will attempt to bring the Jurassic World Trilogy to a conclusion. All the big stars are returning this time, including Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Neil, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum. Will this movie finally crack the formula for making a good Jurassic Park sequel, or will it take a further dump on the already mangled legacy of Spielberg’s original masterpiece? Either way, I will most definitely not be buying a ticket to find out, because as far as I’m concerned, the only way we can get the studio to stop pumping out these godforsaken sequels is to stop going to see them.

June 17—Lightyear

Pixar’s newest animated children’s film is hitting theaters on the seventeenth of June, and I’m moderately excited for it. Everything I’ve seen makes me think that it’ll be a fun, if unnecessary, science fiction romp, and I’m excited to see how Chris Evans holds up as a voice actor. With that being said, I doubt it will live up to the heights of Pixar’s all-time classics and am expecting a movie more on par with Monsters University and A Bug’s Life rather than another Soul or WALL-E. Still, I’ll probably take my younger brother to see it, and I’ll likely have a reasonably fun time with it.

June 24—The Black Phone and Elvis

There are two interesting-looking movies hitting theaters on the twenty-fourth of June, so I figured I’d just cover them both. The Black Phone is a horror film about child abduction starring Ethan Hawke. It looks pretty gritty and creepy, and it’s directed by Scott Derrickson (Sinister, Doctor Strange), so it’ll likely at the very least bring something to the table.

Elvis, on the other hand, is a biopic about Elvis Presley starring Tom Hanks. It’s about as far from The Black Phone as you can get in terms of tone, but it looks like it’ll be reasonably fun. It’s yet another offering from writer/director Baz Luhrmann, who has worked on a variety of interesting projects in the past, many of which have a fair bit of critical acclaim, so I’d say this has a reasonable chance of being good.

July 1—Minions: The Rise of Gru

Winning the 2022 most unnecessary film of the year award (barely beating out Jurassic World Dominion) is this Minions sequel! This movie will likely be terrible and will also probably make an ungodly amount of money if the first one is anything to go by. I will, of course, do everything in my power to protect my younger brother from this movie, as Minions is the rare movie that has the capacity to make anyone who views it a stupider and less critical person, and… I have nothing else to say. End my suffering now, please.

July 8—Thor: Love and Thunder

Thor: Love and Thunder is Marvel’s second blockbuster of the year, and I’m looking forward to it far more than Multiverse of Madness. Taika Waititi is back in the director’s chair, and from the looks of things, he will probably deliver another well-made action comedy. He gets to play with the Guardians of the Galaxy this time as well, and the result will probably be a fun romp in the Marvel Universe, directed by one of my favorite directors working today.

July 15—Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank and Bed Rest

In a week in which literally nothing interesting is coming to theaters, I’ve selected the two least uninteresting movies I could find to talk about. The first one is an animated flick created by Nickelodeon (among other animation studios) and it looks like hot garbage. They somehow got Samuel L. Jackson to sign on as a voice actor, among an ensemble cast of people I’ve never heard of (not that that’s necessarily a bad thing when it comes to voice talent), and everything about the movie leads me to believe that the end result will be nothing short of terrible.

Bed Rest, on the other hand, is an indie psychological thriller, created by first time writer/director Lori Evans Taylor. This movie probably won’t get a wide release, nor will it pick up all that much traction, but if it does come out in an area near you, it could be worth checking out. It will certainly be better than Paws of Fury.

July 22—Nope

Nope is Jordan Peele’s (Get Out, Us) next horror movie, and it’ll apparently have sci-fi elements incorporated into it. That is literally all I need to know to be sold on it, and that’s all you should need as well. Peele is a genius, and this movie will probably be spectacular.

July 29—Bullet Train

Bullet Train looks to be a fun action-thriller set aboard a train. It involves some sort of fight between five assassins, and it looks like it’ll be a fun romp. Will it be good? This is still a long way from release, but there are normally one or two low-profile action thrillers that come out each year which turn out to be secretly brilliant, and this could be one of them—who knows? It’ll be more entertaining than DC League of Super-Pets, that’s for sure.

Since first writing this, Bullet Train was delayed by a week. It will now be opening on August 5.

August 5—Secret Headquarters

Nothing much of note is coming out this week, but of the ones currently listed, the one that interests me most is Secret Headquarters. It’s apparently a sci-fi/adventure movie about a kid, and it has Owen Wilson in it, so maybe it’s a good movie?

Bullet Train’s release has been moved to this week also.

August 12—The Man from Toronto

The Man from Toronto appears to be an action/comedy/thriller about a deadly assassin and an idiot who are mistaken for each other at an Airbnb. It honestly doesn’t sound great, but it’s literally the only thing releasing on the weekend of August 12, so there it is.

August 19—Beast

Beast appears to be a thriller, starring Idris Elba, in which a man and his two kids go to a game reserve in South Africa and are hunted by bloodthirsty lions. There’s very little information out about the movie besides that, and just judging by the premise, it will probably be rather bad.

August 26—Samaritan

Samaritan looks to be a non-corporatized superhero flick starring Sylvester Stallone, and if his other recent movies are anything to go by, it will probably not be very good. I would advise not going to theaters to see this movie, unless the reviews roll in and it is secretly incredible, in which case I will apologize to both Stallone and to director Julius Avery.

September 2022

Not much worth talking about is coming out this September, but one notable theatrical event that will take place is the rerelease of James Cameron’s Avatar. It will hit theaters on the twenty-third of September, and it is presumably rereleasing to get people excited for the upcoming Avatar: The Way of Water, which will hit theaters this December. So keeping all of this in mind, this year’s Summer Season will run from May 6 to September 23.

My Most Anticipated Movies

A lot of my most anticipated movies of this summer fall in the earlier portion of the season. Firestarter and Men are both early contenders, and I bet Thor: Love and Thunder will be a ton of fun. I am also incredibly excited for Jordan Peele’s Nope, and I think Bullet Train has the potential to be a fine thriller. All in all, there have most definitely been summer seasons with more to look forward to, but this one isn’t too shabby either.

My Least Anticipated Movies

As you could probably tell from my commentary on some of these releases, there are some movies coming out this summer that I really don’t need to see. Minions: The Rise of Gru may very well end up being the worst animated movie of the year, and Jurassic World Dominion will likely be every bit as soulless and mediocre as the previous two movies in its trilogy. Beyond that, Top Gun: Maverick is another movie with no objective reason to exist, but I’m not as angry about that one because I have no prior investment in the original Top Gun.

I hope that you enjoyed this rundown on this summer’s theatrical release schedule as well as some of my thoughts on the big names, and if nothing else, that you have more potentially interesting movies on your radar than you did before. I hope you all have a fantastic summer, and I will be back with you next year with some more movie reviews.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Review

by Allie Vasserman


May 28, 2022

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022), directed by Sam Raimi, is the second Doctor Strange movie and the latest movie installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The movie stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Strange, Benedict Wong as Wong, Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez, Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, Rachel McAdams as Dr. Christine Palmer, and Jett Klyne and Julian Hilliard as Tommy and Billy Maximoff.

The movie opens up with a dream sequence of a teenage girl and a darker version of Dr. Strange running through a dimension toward a mystical artifact while fighting off a demon. As soon as the dream sequence ends, Dr. Strange wakes up and attends his ex-girlfriend Christine’s wedding. Dr. Strange leaves the wedding in order to fight a demon and quickly figures out that the demon is hunting the teenage girl from his dream. With help from Wong, the two sorcerers defeat the demon and learn that the teenage girl is America Chavez and that someone is trying to kill her for her interdimensional traveling superpowers. Dr. Strange and Wong agree to help America and protect her while also learning about the multiverse from her. After accidentally seeking help from the wrong person, Dr. Strange and America must navigate through the multiverse while Wong holds off a deadly enemy looking to kill America.   

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness takes place after the limited series WandaVision came out on Disney Plus, and the events of that show directly impact the plot of this movie. Wanda Maximoff (a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch) has now discovered additional powers and has grown darker in nature, which is reflected in her costume. Throughout the movie, Dr. Strange continually interacts with people who have dealt with other versions of himself and reveal to him that in other universes he is a villain instead of a hero. These revelations set up potential for his character to change from hero to villain in future MCU movies. The character deaths in this movie are darker compared to other MCU movies and have more of a horror feel to them.

As a huge fan of Marvel comics, I loved seeing the Easter eggs incorporated into this movie. I really enjoyed seeing the Illuminati for the first time on the big screen and as well as new characters who have been previously in Marvel-related projects but not in the MCU officially. Some of the jump scares definitely gave me horror movie vibes. At several points in the movie, I thought that the soundtrack matched the scene perfectly. America Chavez had a fairly predictable character arc, but I also enjoyed seeing it play out on the big screen. I found it interesting to watch Dr. Strange interact with other versions of his friends, enemies, and even himself, but I wish we got to see more versions of Dr. Strange or even other characters. It was nice to see more of the Christine Palmer character in this movie than in the first Doctor Strange movie and to get a better understanding of her relationship with Dr. Strange. Elizabeth Olsen does a fantastic job portraying an evolved version of the Scarlet Witch, and I really hope we see the return of the Scarlet Witch in future MCU projects. Benedict Cumberbatch does a great job portraying alternate versions of Dr. Strange, and I enjoyed watching his friendship with Wong on screen. Overall, I really enjoyed this movie and recommend it for fans of MCU movies, especially those who have seen WandaVision.

West Side Story: A Broadway Re-Adaptation That Is More Than Just a Rehash

by Theo Sloan


April 29, 2022

What is West Side Story?

West Side Story (2021) is a remake of the 1961 classic movie of the same name, which is itself an adaptation of the 1957 musical of the same name, which is an adaptation of the classic Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet. You might expect a movie that is so many levels of derivative to just be a rehash of other, better ideas, with nothing new to bring to the table, and in many cases you would probably be right. Modern remakes of classic films tend to fall flat, as do many Broadway-to-big screen adaptations (just look at the train-wreck that was Dear Evan Hansen), so it seems like this movie was doomed to failure from the beginning. However, in a shocking turn of events, not only is Steven Spielberg (Jaws, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List) the director of the movie, but it was apparently something of a passion project for him, and not just something studio executives conceptualized to turn a profit. So how is the final product? Does it live up to Steven Spielberg’s expert direction and fantastic record, or does it fall into the trash pile of vapid, garbage remakes that only exist to make a quick buck off of people’s nostalgia? That’s what I’m here to talk about today. But first, let me give a bit of context regarding my take on previous iterations of this story.

West Side Story: The Broadway Musical

West Side Story, for those who don’t know, is a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet set in the streets of New York City. It chronicles the story of Tony, the ex-leader of a gang of young white men called the Jets, and Maria, the younger sister of the leader of a gang of impoverished Puerto Rican American immigrants called the Sharks. The two meet at a dance and instantly hit it off, and when their connection is discovered, it sends the Jets and the Sharks on a direct path of war against one another. The rest of the show follows the attempts of Tony and Maria to pursue their budding romance, the conflict between the Jets and the Sharks, and, well, if you know the story of Romeo and Juliet, you probably have a decent idea how the story ends. While the musical is certainly not an exact translation of the play, the influence is particularly clear. Other important characters throughout include Riff, Tony’s best friend and the current leader of the Jets; Bernardo, Maria’s older brother and the leader of the Sharks; and Anita, Bernardo’s partner and something of a moral compass for Maria.

West Side Story is also notable for having a score composed by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics written by Steven Sondheim, two of the most famous, influential, and talented creatives to ever grace Broadway with their presence. Needless to say, the result is one of the strongest Broadway soundtracks of all time with impeccable orchestration, an often operatic aesthetic, and lyrics that do a perfect job integrating with the themes of the story, while providing the audience with insight into the story and characterizations that move throughout the show. Even for people as talented as Bernstein and Sondheim, the music in West Side Story stands out in both of their careers as some of the best music they have ever put together.

Although controversial for its grappling with racism and the depictions of the effects of poverty on US youth, West Side Story was a smash hit with both critics and audiences. It had an enormous influence on musical theater, especially in the way it made its spectacular choreography a central focus of the show, but it also had, as noted above, a simply incredible soundtrack and received lots of recognition for that.1 Since then, West Side Story has gone on to become a musical theater classic, and it is generally considered to be as influential as it is good. Many of the musical conventions that define musical theater in this day and age can be traced back to West Side Story, and it’s safe to say that this show has since paved the way for equally visionary and innovative productions that have come out in recent years, such as Hamilton and Hadestown. The original production won several Tony awards including Best Choreography, and every Broadway revival of the show since then has also been nominated for several Tony awards.

Now, full disclosure, I have not seen West Side Story on Broadway. I have listened to the soundtrack for the purposes of this review, and it’s excellent, but I’ve never had the opportunity to see the show live. However, it is undeniable that West Side Story is an influential piece of musical theater that shaped Broadway for decades to come. So how did it fare when adapted for the big screen?

West Side Story (1961)

While I will grudgingly admit that West Side Story’s first adaptation to the big screen is influential, I have a strong distaste for it. To put it simply, everything that is good about it was taken from the Broadway show, and everything that is bad about it is the result of the people making it, putting their feet in their collective mouths and gumming things up in the adaptation process. So, for instance, the songs are all excellent, because they’re all lifted from the show. Bernstein and Sondheim’s excellent respective composing and lyricism remain intact, so it’s no wonder that the songs resonated with movie-going audiences at the time. The singers all sound good, because they’re all talented people, and the story remains compelling, because the people who wrote the book for the Broadway show knew what they were doing. 

Unfortunately, although the singers are talented, I feel like pretty much everyone in this adaptation is miscast. Riff looks more like a preppy kid trying to “dress gangster” rather than an actual leader of a gang, Tony’s actor can’t pull off either side of his character, the sappy romantic or the vicious ex-leader of the Jets, and Maria is played by a white woman wearing skin darkening cosmetics to try and appear “Puerto Rican”—that was racist when the movie first came out, and has only gotten worse with age. And it’s not just Maria either; it’s every Puerto Rican character in the movie. To give an example, one of the actors who played Riff on Broadway was cast in the movie to play Bernardo. Are you kidding me? I shouldn’t have to explain why that’s problematic. Now to be fair, I am all for judging things in the context of their time period, but at the same time, it is my judgment that this was incredibly racist, even in the context of the early 1960s. It’s not even like the show had a particularly racially diverse cast, but that’s because characters often don’t play their race (or their gender) in live theater, and even though it didn’t look great at the time, Broadway these days has actors of color portraying white characters, white actors portraying a variety of different non-white characters, men playing women, and women playing men. So the casting of the musical just doesn’t stick out the way the casting of the movie does. It’s a different medium, and it plays by different rules, not to mention that the vast majority of the revival casts have had racially diverse casts, and the show was made in the 1950s, not the 1960s.

Another issue I have with the first West Side Story movie is that the cinematography is uninteresting, and I feel like the movie’s musical numbers don’t often integrate into the environments very well. In other words, I consider it to be a very overrated adaptation of a phenomenal musical. It is yet another movie that butchers its source material, the only difference this time being that the source material is so profoundly good and well-written that it sometimes overcomes the painful failure of the movie. I may very well write a full review of the 1961 West Side Story at some point, but that day is not today, because I am far more interested in talking about the 2021 movie, and I think I’ve provided enough context to dig into my thoughts on it. So, did West Side Story (2021) live up to the stage show? Or does it get to join the original in its place of honor right next to Cats (2019) and Into the Woods (2014) in the overrated trash-heap of history?

West Side Story (2021)

The first thing that I noticed when I began watching this film is that the cinematography is impeccable. This is a movie containing a lot of complex choreography, and not only does Justin Peck do a fantastic job adapting the original choreography to the big screen, but Spielberg also makes every single shot in this movie pop out of the screen. Even simple pans across the streets of New York are often exciting to look at, and this is all accomplished without sacrificing the grimy feeling that this movie is supposed to have. The juxtaposition of the dirty, drab streets with the colorful, vibrant choreography makes for a unique and entertaining visual canvas for the story to unfold onto. A few highlights in which the choreography and cinematography come together in particularly noteworthy ways include “Jet Song,” “The Dance at the Gym,” “America,” and “Gee, Officer Krupke,” but I truly cannot overstate how every sequence in this movie is impeccably crafted. Just from a technical standpoint, I think this movie manages to justify its existence better than the 1961 version ever did, and that’s before I get into all the stuff that actually matters from a storytelling standpoint.

The 2021 West Side Story has a cast that is diverse in both a racial sense and in the ratio of stars to newcomers. There are some fairly big names attached to this project, such as Ansel Elgort (Tony), Mike Faist (Riff, known for playing Connor Murphy in the original Broadway cast of Dear Evan Hansen), and Rita Moreno (Valentina, played Anita in the 1961 West Side Story), but one of its main stars, Rachel Zegler (Maria), is a complete Hollywood unknown, as is the case for several other major cast members. Speaking of Rachel Zegler, she is simply incredible, and I do not say that lightly. This was her first time ever appearing in a movie, and she out-competed over thirty thousand other applicants to get the role. After seeing her in the movie, I completely understand why she got the part. Not only can this woman sing like few others, but she gives what would be a career-defining performance for any A-list star while doing so. She has to pull off so many different emotional extremes throughout the film, and she moves between them with a nuance that brings a lot of resonance to her character. She and Elgort also have very good chemistry, and even though their romance has a couple story problems that I’ll touch on later, their dynamic does a great job selling me on them as a couple. Speaking of Ansel Elgort, I’ve seen him get a lot of flack on the internet for his performance, but I really don’t see the issue. He has a beautiful voice, he pulls off the incredibly demanding vocal part required of any actor who plays Tony, and he has the acting chops to pull off the wide range of emotions and character beats that Tony has to move through as well. Of the two, I think that Zegler’s performance is noticeably stronger, but that is in no way a condemnation of Elgort. I was sold on him the second he started singing “Maria,” and he only exceeded my expectations as time went on.

The next two important characters to go over are Riff and Bernardo, and both actors do a very good job in their respective roles. Mike Faist has a difficult job in that he needs to straddle the line between menacing and likable, and he knocks his portrayal of Riff out of the park. It is always obvious why he is a leader, both when he’s being the charismatic figure who the the Jets look up to in “Jet Song” and when he’s brutally beating the snot out of his enemies during “The Rumble.” He’s a tough character, because he’s in the wrong a lot of the time, yet I couldn’t help sympathize with his plight at the same time. Part of that is the chemistry he has with Elgort, which does a lot to bring Riff’s relationship with Tony to life, which in turn grounds Riff’s character and keeps him feeling complex and sympathetic. Bernardo is also good, but unfortunately, David Alvarez is given less to work with in the writing department, and this is evident in his performance. There’s never a moment when he does a bad job, and in fact he does an outstanding job during sequences such as “The Rumble,” but I also found his character a bit forgettable at times. This is in no way a critique of Alvarez’s work, but simply a byproduct of an unfortunate writing problem.

Finally, there’s Ariana DeBose and Rita Moreno. DeBose plays the character of Anita, who is Bernardo’s partner and acts as a foster mother for Maria. The ideological conflict between Anita and Maria makes up a decent portion of the finale of the movie, and a choice that Anita makes directly and intentionally brings about the ending. DeBose has an enormous job on her hands, as she has to convince the audience that she was driven into making the choice she did and that by the end she both stands by that decision and feels guilt over it. She’s also an incredible singer and is given an opportunity to really shine in “A Boy Like That / I Have a Love.” She recently won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in this movie, and she definitely deserved it. In the 1961 adaptation, DeBose’s character was played by Moreno, and the character Moreno plays here, Valentina, was invented for the 2021 adaptation specifically for her. Valentina, a Puerto Rican widow who owns a drugstore, grounds Tony in reality from the very beginning. There isn’t a ton to her character, but it’s a very sweet part, and I’m glad Spielberg added her in. If anything else, she adds a tad more depth to Tony’s character and gets a chance to sing a nice song near the end.

The music in the movie is still really good. The orchestration is beautiful, the singers sound fantastic together, and Spielberg absolutely succeeds in bringing together the beautiful composition, lyricism, and choreography onto the big screen. Really, my only complaint music-wise is the song “I Feel Pretty,” which is not only compositionally boring, but also does very little to advance the themes, plots, and character arcs in the movie, not to mention that it looks especially weak following “Tonight (Quintet)” and “The Rumble,” which are two of the best sequences in the movie. Unfortunately, this right here brings me to my biggest point of conflict in regard to this movie: the plot.

As I’ve mentioned, West Side Story was originally a modernized musical retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and it plays heavily into similar themes of destined tragedy and love at first sight. It executes these themes perfectly well, and the actors do a good job portraying their love for one another. My issue here is just that I don’t find that kind of story compelling. It feels as though the romance is driven by external factors, rather than the characters themselves, and I know that’s the point, but it’s just not really my cup of tea. If this kind of thing is what you enjoy, then it’s likely that you’ll resonate deeply with this movie, but for me, the closest I can get to that is recognizing that everything here is written very well, even if my personal taste prevents me from fully clicking with it.

At the end of the day, West Side Story is a movie that I thoroughly enjoyed. It preserves everything that’s great about the music in the stage show, every cast member does an absolutely incredible job, and the choreography and cinematography are both breathtaking. Unfortunately, I still find the narrative to be a bit weak, and the themes that it explores don’t resonate particularly well with me. Nevertheless, I think it is fair to say that this movie more than does justice to the original Broadway show, and that’s really great to see. I am beyond happy that so many quality musical adaptations were released in 2021, and I think that this version of West Side Story will go down in history as the definitive version for the majority of audiences. Most importantly of all, when combined with In the Heights and Tick, Tick…BOOM, West Side Story (2021) might just be good enough to allow myself and fellow musical theater fans to forgive 2021 for giving us the trash fire adaptation that was the Dear Evan Hansen movie.

West Side Story is well worth renting on Amazon, or streaming on HBOMax, if you prefer, and it’s an absolute must-watch if you’re a fan of musicals, modernized Shakespeare, Steven Spielberg movies, or any combination of the above.

1 “The Great ‘West Side Story’ Debate,” The New York Times, December 1, 2021,

Morbius Review

by Allie Vasserman


April 29, 2022

Morbius (2022) is the most recent superhero action movie that is part of the Marvel-Sony movie collaboration, featuring a lesser-known character. It is directed by Daniel Espinosa, and it stars Jared Leto as Dr. Michael Morbius, Matt Smith as Milo, Adria Arjona as Dr. Martine Bancroft, Jared Harris as Dr. Emil Nicholas, Tyrese Gibson as FBI agent Simon Stroud, and Al Madrigal as FBI agent Rodriguez.

The movie opens with Dr. Michael Morbius as he travels to a cave in a jungle in an effort to capture a species of bats, which he hopes to use to cure his rare blood disease. The movie then jumps to flashbacks where young Morbius is living in Greece while being cared for by Dr. Emil Nicholas. This is where Morbius meets his lifelong friend Lucien, whom he nicknames Milo. The movie then jumps back to the present day, where Dr. Morbius’ colleague, Dr. Martine Bancroft, finds out that he has been experimenting with the bats’ DNA. After Morbius uses the bats’ DNA to create a cure for his rare blood disease, he tests the cure on himself. The cure does work as expected, and he officially becomes Morbius, the living vampire. Morbius now has certain superhuman powers. With the help of Martine, Morbius has to fix the problem he created because now he needs to drink blood in order to survive. Some synthetic blood that he has created satisfies him for the present, but he does not know how long it will be until he needs human blood.

This movie is one hour and forty-five minutes long, but it still feels short and unfinished. The plot feels predictable. The phrase “we are the few against the many” is a key line that recurs from the beginning to the climax of the movie that establishes a theme of the movie but didn’t need to be repeated so many times for viewers to get the point. Morbius’ origami bats, which point to his new identity as a vampire, are another recurring symbol that feels overused. I especially dislike the ending of the movie; I feel like the movie was cut off just before it could have a proper and satisfying ending. The movie has one plot twist, but it’s so obvious that you see it coming. I also have some mixed feelings about Morbius’ vampire superpowers. The superpowers look cool, but they remind me of the animated film Hotel Transylvania. I think that the Marvel-Sony collaboration that brought us the latest Spider-Man trilogy and the two Venom movies could have done better. 

I did enjoy watching Morbius’ struggle between his morals as a doctor and his desire to feed on human blood to stay alive and maintain his enhanced physique. I also liked the relationship between Morbius and Martine. I think that the two characters have chemistry between them that will possibly be explored further in future sequels. I also liked the post-credit scenes because they seem to foreshadow a Sinister Six team-up against Spider-Man coming sometime in the future.

Out of all of the Marvel-Sony superhero movie collaborations we have had so far, I think this is the weakest one.  But I look forward to seeing future movies featuring more obscure characters in this new multiverse.

The Batman Review

by Allie Vasserman


March 31, 2022

The Batman (2022), directed by Matt Reeves, is the latest Batman reboot. It stars Robert Pattinson as Batman or Bruce Wayne, Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman or Selena Kyle, Paul Dano as the Riddler, Colin Ferral as the Penguin, Jeffery Wright as Lieutenant James “Jim” Gordon, John Tururio as Carmine Falcone, and Andy Serkis as Alfred Pennyworth.

Unlike Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, this version of Batman does not start with the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents, but rather with Wayne doing a monologue as criminals run away in fear and the Bat-Signal lights up in the sky. At the start of the movie, Batman has been fighting crime in Gotham City for two years. The plot kicks off when Lieutenant Jim Gordon brings on Batman to help the police solve the murder of Don Mitchell, the mayor of Gotham City. Bruce Wayne uses his home, Wayne Manor, as a base where he reviews the evidence of the mayor’s murder and determines, with the help of Alfred, that the villain is the Riddler. Batman ends up working with Catwoman, who has her own agenda, to help Jim Gordon and the police solve the mystery.

Robert Pattinson’s Batman is different from Christian Bale’s Batman; in this movie, Batman is more like The World’s Greatest Detective, which is one of his titles from the comics.  Also, this Bruce Wayne is a recluse, not a billionaire playboy. He does not care about how the world sees him and pours all of his time and energy into being Batman. Other characters appear differently in this movie as well. The Penguin, for example, does not look like a comic book character; the prosthetics on his face make him look more realistic. Unlike other Batman villains that have been on the big screen, Paul Dano’s Riddler does not instill fear in many of the citizens of Gotham; rather, he recruits them through social media by exposing and murdering the most corrupt of Gotham. The Riddler is actually portrayed as a sympathetic villain in this movie, compared to the “good” and “dutiful” government officials. Also, this version of the Riddler does not wear a bright green suit with purple tie, a cap with question mark, or carry a cane with a  question mark like his comic book counterpart, but instead has a more realistic appearance. Jeffery Wright’s Jim Gordon is shown to be one of the good men in Gotham, trying to root out corruption in the city even if it means putting himself in danger and tarnishing the Gotham City Police Department’s reputation. Zoe Kravitz and Andy Serkis do a good job portraying Catwoman and Alfred. Like in the previous Batman movies, this one has a memorable and intense chase scene with the Batmobile, although we don’t see a lot of “bat gadgets” that we see in other Batman movies. And in this movie, the music plays a key role, setting the tone and adding to the suspense. For instance, Batman’s footsteps sound heavy to show that he instills fear into others around him.

The Batman is three hours long, but to me, there was not a single slow moment. This may be my favorite live action version of Batman. I enjoyed watching Batman basically run around Gotham City trying to solve a murderous scavenger hunt set up by the Riddler. I also thought that the fight scenes were well coordinated. I could have done without the romance between Batman and Catwoman, but since Catwoman is a major love interest for Batman in the comics, I expected to see some sort of a romantic storyline between them. And I thought the monologues at the beginning and the end of the movie were unnecessary. But overall, I enjoyed The Batman, which is less of a traditional comic book adaptation and more of a murder mystery. I recommend it for fans of Batman and detective stories.

A Review of The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals

by Theo Sloan


February 25, 2022

The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals is a horror-comedy musical produced by Team Starkid. It was written and directed by Matt and Nick Lang, with music and lyrics by Jeff Blim, and it stars Jon Matteson, Lauren Lopez, Jeff Blim, Joey Richter, Jaime Lyn Beatty, Mariah Rose Faith, Corey Dorris, and Robert Manion. It’s also free to watch on YouTube and well worth the watch if you have a couple hours to spare. It’s set in the fictional town of Hatchetfield and follows a simple man named Paul as his worst nightmare comes to life: the world turns into a musical. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the most important part of a musical is its music, because that is almost always the thing that will stick with the audience the longest. You can have a fantastic story with interesting, well-developed characters, and it will still only work as a musical if the songs are good; on the flip side, it is very possible for a musical to have a bad or even problematic story, and for that to not really matter because the songs are good (e.g., Dear Evan Hansen). While I definitely don’t love every song in The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals, most of them range from good to fantastic, and the soundtrack as a whole is pretty listenable even outside the context of the show. A few of my personal favorites are the opening number and title track, “The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals,” as well as “Let It Out,” “Inevitable,” “Join Us (and Die),” “La Dee Dah Dah Day,” and “Show Stoppin Number.” The opening number serves as a great tone-setter, not only establishing the comedic chops of the cast, but also introducing the basic premise and main character. It’s super high-energy and has some really fun jokes sprinkled throughout. It also gives every cast member a chance to sing a line or two, so it introduces us to them all as performers and gives us a little idea as to what to expect going forward. “Let It Out” and “Inevitable” are the two songs that close out the show. “Let It Out” features some of the best acting in the show, and really showcases what Jon Matteson, who plays Paul, is capable of, both as an actor and a singer. I don’t want to get too much into what “Inevitable” is about, as it’s a fairly large spoiler, but suffice to say that it serves as a very good representation of this show at its very best, both as a comedy and a horror story, not to mention that it features an excellent medley of all the major songs sung in the show up until that point and is led by another fantastic vocal performance by Jon. “Join Us (and Die)” is the show’s first turn into full horror and also showcases Jaime Lyn Beatty’s stunning vocal range; “La Dee Dah Dah Day” is a fun, upbeat ensemble number in which the comedic side of the show is dialed up to eleven; and “Show Stoppin Number” is an acid trip of an interlude, led by Robert Manion, in which you question both your own sanity and the sanity of everyone involved in putting the number together. It’s also some of the best satire of musical theater as a genre to ever exist. Suffice to say, I really like a lot of the music in this show.

However, that’s not to say that every song in the show works for me on a musical level. “Tied Up My Heart” is a song with some fantastic choreography on Jeff Blim’s end, but it goes on for too long, and the singing is iffy at best and grating at worst. It still makes for an entertaining scene, but it would have been better if it were written in Blim’s natural range and went on for less time. The other song that I don’t really like is “Not Your Seed,” the song that kicks off the second act. My main problem here is that it cycles through musical ideas very quickly; as a result, it’s very difficult to ever properly get into the scene. Just when I’m vibing with one style, it completely switches up, and this creates a sense of whiplash when listening to it. But Mariah Rose Faith’s voice is absolutely incredible. Do not mistake this as me criticizing her performance, because she does the best she possibly can with the material she’s given.

Another element of this show that shines throughout is the choreography. From Blim’s dance that he does tied to a chair, to Manion’s insane dancing during “Show Stoppin Number,” to Matteson’s fight with himself in “Let It Out,” the choreography in the show never fails to build on the music in a creative, visually engaging way. It’s able to elevate songs that I don’t much care for, such as “Tied Up My Heart,” into scenes that I find fun to watch, and that alone speaks volumes about its quality.

Now besides the musical aspect, the other most important part of a musical is its writing, both in terms of overall story and screenplay. In terms of story, I think this show is simply brilliant. I love the idea of a musical apocalypse, and I think it’s executed very well. It’s sufficiently goofy when it needs to be, sufficiently terrifying when it needs to be, and it does a surprisingly good job blending the horror and the comedy together. The show is, in many ways, an homage to the over-the-top and campy horror films of the 1980s, and by embracing that tone, it’s able to get away with a lot that many modern horror stories would not be able to. The primary thing that comes to mind is the practical gore effects, which are somehow both excellent and patently ridiculous at the same time. All that is to say that the concept is excellent.

The script, on the other hand, is a bit tricky. Full disclosure, I absolutely adore it, I find the comedy in it to be absolutely fantastic, and I doubt I will ever get tired of watching it. However, I acknowledge that comedy is a very subjective medium, and it’s very likely that some people will watch the show and just not like the style it’s written in. While there are some jokes that I’m comfortable with describing as unambiguously excellent, such as the bit involving walking through the audience, the entirety of “Show Stoppin Number,” and some of the physical comedy in the coffee shop numbers, the comedy in the show is often quite R-rated, and depending on what type of humor you enjoy, your enjoyment of the show will likely vary.

Finally, I’d like to touch on the characters. This show has a fairly small cast, so pretty much everyone plays multiple characters in the show, with the exception of Matteson. A few personal favorites of mine are General John MacNamara, portrayed by Blim; Emma Perkins, portrayed by Lopez; and Paul, portrayed by Matteson. All three have the most distinct characterizations out of the larger ensemble, but that’s not to say that I dislike any of the characters in the show. Sure, there are one or two who feel a tad more like caricatures than fully fleshed out people, but I think that fits with the overall tone that The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals is going for. And importantly, Paul and Emma, the two main characters of the show, do go through compelling and nuanced character arcs.

Overall, I think The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals is a fantastic show. It has great songs, better choreography, and a very solid story that, tying it all together, often passes into greatness. Not to mention, I find the jokes to be really funny, although I understand that will vary a fair amount depending on the comedic style you enjoy. I personally really like the show, and I highly recommend checking it out. You have literally no excuse not to, because it’s free to watch on YouTube! 


Don’t Look Up Review

by Allie Vasserman


February 25, 2022

Don’t Look Up (2021) is a satirical comedy movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Dr. Randall Mindy, Jennifer Lawrence as Kate Dibiasky, Meryl Streep as United States President Janie Orlean, Jonah Hill as Jason Orlean, Cate Blanchet as Brie Evantee, Rob Morgan as Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe, and Ariana Grande as Riley Bina. It is directed, written, and produced by Adam Mckay.

The movie starts off with PhD candidate Kate Dibiasky discovering a comet about five to ten kilometers wide. She shows it to her professor, Dr. Randall Mindy, and they calculate that the comet will hit Earth in six months and fourteen days. Upon impact, it will wipe out all life on the planet. Kate and Dr. Mindy call Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe and request a meeting with President Orlean to discuss the situation. After talking to the president, who does not take their concerns seriously, Kate, Dr. Mindy, and Dr. Oglethorpe decide to leak the information about the comet to the media and the public themselves. 

Usually, end-of-the-world disaster action movies have a few incredibly likable main characters who face obstacles throughout the movie and save the world at the end. This movie, since it is more of a satirical comedy, does not necessarily have such a happy ending. Most of the characters are pretty unlikable and behave in selfish ways. Leonardo DiCaprio’s Dr. Mindy lets fame and power go to his head and makes poor decisions with his work and with his family. Meryl Streep, as the president of the United States, does not take the threat of the comet seriously and only takes action when she thinks she can make a profit from it. She cuts corners on every single plan and chance to save humanity, and it is revealed that her only real intention is to save her own life. Jonah Hill plays Jason, the President’s idiotic son who is incompetent and obnoxious and has power only because his mother is the president. I instantly disliked his character and President Orlean, which shows what good actors Jonah Hill and Meryl Streep are. This movie portrays most of the government officials as selfish people who only want to gain money and power and do not care about serving the public. I liked Jennifer Lawrence’s character the best, because to me, she was the most realistic of all the characters. Her reaction to the comet and the way in which she processed that she was going to die seemed very understandable to me. While watching this movie, I kept hoping that if such a world-ending disaster were to actually happen, governments would handle it better. 

Overall, I found this movie pretty entertaining and I definitely recommend watching it. One tip: if you want to see Meryl Streep interact with aliens, or Jonah Hill’s character get what he deserves after his despicable behavior throughout most of the movie, make sure to stick around for the post-credits scenes.

Spider-Man: No Way Home Review

by Christian Asdourian


January 27, 2022

How does one even begin to describe the experience that was Spider-Man: No Way Home? Do I call it the most anticipated movie of 2021? Or maybe I should just call it another chapter in the Marvel anthology. Perhaps talking about the records broken by the first trailer alone could make a decent starting point. Interestingly enough, this film first debuted over a month ago, and I’m still finding myself thinking about it every so often. I wonder if any of you who have seen it feel the same way. Regardless, I don’t think this review really needs a starting point. Instead, I’m opting for a less formal approach: focusing on the feelings of the film. After all, the best movies are always the ones that leave you feeling awestruck, astonished, and amazed. 

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) is directed by Jon Watts, who has grown as a filmmaker in each entry of our Web-head’s trilogy, a recurring theme you’ll come to notice. The main cast also returns to deliver some lively performances that keeps things light despite the film’s darker tone. I was very happy to see MJ (Zendaya), Ned (Jacob Batalon), and of course Peter (Tom Holland) share more scenes than they had in the previous films. Their great chemistry really made you feel like they were a team, but more importantly, friends. This helped ground the conflict for the young Avenger, which I felt was especially important, considering the premise of the film. This movie has a massive cast and an even larger scope. As much as I’d love to cover every character and scene, I’m going to blatantly prioritize the stellar selection of villains Peter had to face off against, along with a vague summary of the plot. We start right where we left off: Spidey’s identity has been revealed to the world! This irrevocable act of Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) pushes Peter’s life into a spiral of mishaps and mistakes—but hey, at least he dodged the murder charges! Things come to a head when Peter’s friend’s college acceptance is in question simply because they are associated with Spider-Man. Desperate to fix things, Peter seeks out the help of Dr. Steven Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to “reset things” and put his loved ones’ lives back on track. The spell is botched, however, and now the movie really begins. Villains from alternate realities flood into Peter’s world and immediately start causing chaos. The major antagonizing force comes from the returning wrongdoers Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Dr. Octopus (Alfred Molina), and Electro (Jamie Foxx). These three gave some amazing performances and quickly became my favorite parts of the film. You could immediately tell that they were happy to be back and really wanted to iron out any kinks from their original performances. Things quickly veer into spoiler territory here, so I’ll leave it up to you whether or not this synopsis interests you enough to go see Spider-Man: No Way Home.

I’m happy to report that I have very few complaints about this movie and that they’re really just nitpicks that I thought were worth mentioning. If I had to describe it, the pacing of this movie felt irregular. I mean it when I say that this movie is a journey. You cover a lot of ground in two and a half hours, and that leaves me feeling ambivalent. I’m grateful to have had a story so jam-packed with the best parts of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and Spidey, but some parts definitely needed more screen time while others felt extraneous. Perhaps the issue mostly stems from the fact that this movie doesn’t set up its payoffs as well as it could have. The first two films in this trilogy are joys to watch but fail to distill the core parts of Peter’s character. The supporting characters in his life were not nearly developed as much as they could have been in the first two movies, and that leaves the responsibility for this to Spider-Man: No Way Home. Despite being dealt a bad hand in having to pick up the slack of the first two films, the final entry of the trilogy does its best to make up for it and then some. Another minor thing is that I felt some villains weren’t really necessary to the plot of the film. They were only there to add a more intimidating presence to the roster of villains. Maybe one day, Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) and Lizard (Rhys Ifans) can get the development they deserve. Aside from these minor grievances, the movie rocks!

I could honestly sit here all day and gush about everything this movie did right. I remember seeing memes about how fan expectations were so demanding that the movie was bound to disappoint in one way or another. I’m going to get into major spoiler mode for this section, so be warned. First off, Peter’s arc was so incredibly satisfying to watch unfold. Of course, it would’ve been impossible to pull off without Holland’s incredible acting chops. The range of emotions he shows in this movie alone is outstanding. From grief and rage to acceptance and optimism, he really puts Peter through the wringer, and you can feel the toll it takes on him. Peter as a character has come a long way from StarkTech gadgets, and his development doesn’t feel forced at all in this film. I’m also happy that the major villains are given enough screen time that really develops them in a way we haven’t seen before. Electro particularly stands out here, since he has a more pronounced personality and motivation. Foxx definitely augments his character’s growth by using his great chemistry with the rest of the cast. 

However, it would be criminal to not give credit to the star of the villains: Green Goblin. Along with a cutting-edge redesign, Dafoe is somehow able to top the performance he gave in Spider-Man (2001) by letting loose. It was so refreshing to have a villain be evil just for the sake of it. No tragic backstory or relatable motivation is present, which sets Green Goblin apart. The nuance of Norman Osborn comes from his dual personalities. Peter sees a man trapped in his own body with a monster before he sees what the monster is truly capable of. It endears Norman not only to Peter, but to us as well. It really puts May’s (Marisa Tomei) lessons to Peter in a new perspective. Green Goblin poses such an overwhelming threat to Peter physically and, more importantly, emotionally. His cruel actions in this film alone cause Peter to question his own morals. Peter is faced with a dilemma of giving into his rage and avenging May, but at the same time he would be killing an innocent man not in control of his actions. How much better can a supervillain get? 

And don’t even get me started on the heroes. Even a month later, I still can’t believe that we got to see all three Spider-Men swinging around together! What really surprised me, though, was how much time we got with them outside of the action. Seeing Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield play older versions of Peter was an interesting concept that was executed well. All three of them have great chemistry. At times, it feels like they’re brothers who have known each other their whole lives. If anyone was the most excited to be back, it would have to be those two. Honestly, it feels like they were there for the whole movie, since they poured so much energy into their performances. Maguire plays the oldest brother so well, and I’m glad they left his time after Spider-Man 3 (2007) vague. And the catharsis Garfield was able to convey when he caught MJ was one of the most emotional moments of the movie, and it was in the middle of the final battle! All three variants of Peter somehow have the same set of core values, yet feel distinct from one another. I really hope this isn’t the last we see of them. All of these combined efforts really made this movie an enjoyable experience for me.

Wow! I wrote a lot and barely even scratched the surface! It really is a wonder to see a movie produced and released during a pandemic do so well for itself and for its audience. A movie about a guy in red and blue spandex who can swing from buildings has been the object of my attention and excitement for the past three months, and honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m glad all of us have our own little things like this to look forward to. Small escapes like superhero movies are part of what makes life so flavorful, and I genuinely hope I convinced you to give this film a shot. If you enjoy it half as much as I did, you’re bound to have a good time.

And to the regular Marvel crowd: we really ate good this year, with a near constant stream of some of the funnest content the MCU has ever produced. I’m excited to see the future of NYC’s resident Wall-Crawler, and hopefully we can catch up with his older brothers at one point or another. Dr. Strange is the next big fish to watch out for, and you already know I’m going to be covering it. Cheers to a spectacular year of comics come to life and to many more full of new faces and familiar fun.


tick, tick… BOOM! Movie Review

by Theo Sloan


January 27, 2022

Hello everyone, and a late happy new year to all of you! Since 2021 has now passed, and we’re all now facing a new calendar year of movies, I figured I’d take some time to review the best movie that came out in 2021 that I saw, tick, tick… BOOM! There are a few movies that have come out that I didn’t quite manage to see (e.g., CODA, Candyman, The Tragedy of Macbeth, King Richard, Annette), and one of those could very well displace this film, but until that time, this is the best movie of 2021. 

tick, tick… BOOM! is a film adaptation of the off-Broadway musical of the same name about aspiring composer Jonathan Larson. It was produced by Netflix, directed by first-time movie director Lin-Manuel Miranda, and stars, among others, Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp, Robin de Jesus, and Vanessa Hudgens. The music and lyrics were written by the late and great Jonathan Larson, who was the creator of the original stage show. 

I’ve always said that the most important thing about a musical is its music, and while the songs are vitally important to this movie, I actually think they’re slightly overshadowed by Andrew Garfield’s incredible lead performance as Jonathan Larson. Not only can he sing like an angel, but he delivers what is perhaps the best performance of his career. I think it’s fair to say that most people know Garfield as “that guy who was in those two crappy Spider-Man movies,” and if you think that, you just need to see him in this. He’s fantastic at communicating complex emotions with just facial expressions, he manages to never stop acting, even when he’s pouring his heart out into a song, and he effectively serves as the emotional core of the story as a result. He’s also very funny when he needs to be, and his wide range helps make the story and the characters within feel very human. The other actors are also all very good. Alexandra Shipp does a consistently good job as Susan. Her standout moment is definitely the song “Come to Your Senses,” which contributes to one of the most emotionally powerful scenes in the movie, and I think it was that moment that fully sold me on her performance. Robin de Jesus is also wonderful as Michael, Jonathan’s best friend. He and Andrew have really good platonic chemistry, something that’s really hard to pull off a lot of the time, and although his arc is less-developed than those of Garfield and Shipp, he makes the most of it and does a great job in his song, “Real Life,” near the end of the film. There really isn’t a single bad performance here. 

I also can’t talk about the actors without mentioning the diner scene, which is literal candy for any fan of musical theatre. It is filled to the brim with cameos from high-caliber Broadway stars, featuring everyone from director and Hamilton star Lin-Manuel Miranda (and his father Luis Miranda Jr.), to Phantom of the Opera star Howard McGillin, to Hadestown star André de Shields, to Reneé Elise Goldsbury and Philippa Soo, who are most known for playing Angelica and Eliza Schuyler in Hamilton. This is genuinely only the tip of a frankly enormous iceberg, and rewatching that scene to try and catch every single cameo hidden throughout is an absolute treat if you’re interested in musical theater.

But that’s enough about the actors, because the songs are so good! They don’t quite measure up to some of my all-time favorite musical soundtracks, such as Hadestown, Hamilton, or Six, but every song on the tick, tick… BOOM! soundtrack is memorable, engaging, and quite often heartbreaking, sometimes all at once. My personal favourites are “Therapy,” “30/90,” and “No More,” but they’re all great, and there are no wrong answers when picking favourites, although I’ll have some serious questions for you if you pick “Green Green Dress” or “Play Game.” As I already mentioned, these were all composed by the late Jonathan Larson, who was primarily known for creating the musical Rent, and that’s actually a great segue into the movie’s story.

tick, tick… BOOM! is a semi-autobiographical musical. Larson wrote it about himself and his attempt to get his first musical, Superbia, picked up by a Broadway producer and made into a reality. All of the characters are real people, and the events of the movie are more or less true. Now, events being true doesn’t make them any more or less impactful on their own, but when they’re backed by performances as strong as Andrew Garfield’s in this movie, the truth behind them absolutely gives the whole thing an extra punch. (This is the same thing I think about Just Mercy, by the way.) Anyway, the story takes place over the course of about a week, and it tells the story of Larson trying desperately to fight through his writer’s block to finish the last song of his musical before his first musical workshop takes place in front of a large group of Broadway producers. Meanwhile, his relationship with his girlfriend, Susan, is getting increasingly strained, his best friend grapples with being gay at the height of the AIDS epidemic, and Jonathan struggles with the idea of turning thirty years old without having released any sort of great work of art into the world. It’s not the most complex story ever told, but it is what actually happened, and the writing, performances, and musical numbers all enhance it beyond belief.

There’s also some really innovative cinematography in the movie. This is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first time behind the camera, and I was quite curious as to what he’d do with it. I didn’t expect anything too impressive, because I’ve always thought that Miranda’s greatest talent was his writing ability and wasn’t really sure how the director’s chair would suit him. I was honestly blown away. The most impressive sequence was the song “Swimming,” with the way he used the lines on the pool floor as a staff that notes appeared on, but every musical number was filmed in a very interesting way. A good example is how Miranda combined the flash-forwards to Garfield as Larson performing the stage musical tick, tick… BOOM! in front of a live audience with the rest of the main movie in the song “Therapy” and the scene in the marketing focus group.

Overall, tick, tick… BOOM! is an absolutely stellar movie musical. It’s funny, entertaining, and it has an incredibly moving and also kind of depressing third act. It’s an easy 10/10, it’s the best thing I’ve seen all year, and I cannot recommend this film enough, even if you think it’s not going to be your thing. It’s available for streaming on Netflix right now, so what are you waiting for? Go watch it!

Logan Lucky Review

by Allie Vasserman


January 27, 2022

Logan Lucky is a heist movie directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring Channing Tatum as Jimmy Logan, Adam Driver as Clyde Logan, Riley Keough as Mellie Logan, Daniel Craig as Joe Bang, Seth MacFarlane as Max Chilblain, and Sebastian Stan as Dayton White. It was released in 2017 and takes place in West Virginia. 

At the start of the movie, which could be described as an action-comedy, Jimmy Logan is laid off from his job as a construction worker due to budget cuts. After he talks to his hairstylist sister Mellie, visits his daughter Sadie, who lives with his ex-wife Bobbie, and talks to his brother Clyde, who is in need of a new arm after his time in Iraq, Jimmy comes up with an idea to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway on Memorial Day weekend, the same weekend that the track will be hosting the Coca-Cola 600 race. Jimmy explains to Clyde that since he used to work at the speedway, he knows how the money is moved throughout the speedway and therefore how to steal it. Jimmy and Clyde visit Joe Bang, an explosives expert who is currently serving time in prison and recruit him for their heist. Joe agrees to help the Logan siblings as long as they include his two brothers in the heist. Jimmy, Clyde, Mellie, and the rest of their team coordinate and work together to attempt to pull off the heist successfully.

One of the things that I really liked about this movie is its strong theme of family loyalty. The Logan siblings help each other out and stick together even though it seems like all hope is lost. When a rude customer makes fun of Clyde’s missing arm at the bar where Clyde works, Jimny stands up to the bully for insulting his brother. The Logan siblings are a lot more clever than one would think. During the movie, they’re repeatedly referred to as “stupid” and “idiotic,” yet they all have their own talents and intelligence that help them in planning and executing this great robbery. I found the father-daughter relationship between Jimmy and Sadie to be really sweet, and I liked how close they were to each other. I also loved how Jimmy’s sister Mellie supported Sadie when it came to Sadie’s passion for beauty pageants, showing a loving aunt-niece relationship. 

There are many comedic moments in this movie. The actors all do a great job of portraying their characters. Daniel Craig, whom most people know as the latest James Bond, does an especially great job playing a character who is very different from a British secret agent. The only part I didn’t like about Logan Lucky were the last couple of minutes. I felt that they were trying to make an excuse for a future sequel, which I think would be unnecessary.

Overall, I found Logan Lucky to be an enjoyable movie and perfect for a family movie night.