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Hamilton (2020) Review

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Hamilton

Time: 160 Minutes
Cast:
Daveed Diggs as Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson
Renée Elise Goldsberry as Angelica Schuyler
Jonathan Groff as King George III
Christopher Jackson as George Washington
Jasmine Cephas Jones as Peggy Schuyler and Maria Reynolds
Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton
Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr
Okieriete Onaodowan as Hercules Mulligan and James Madison
Anthony Ramos as John Laurens and Philip Hamilton
Phillipa Soo as Eliza Hamilton
Director: Thomas Kail

The original Broadway production of the award-winning musical that tells the story of Alexander Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda), first secretary of the treasury, blending hip-hop, jazz, R&B and Broadway styles, filmed from the Richard Rogers Theater in New York.

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I heard about the acclaimed musical Hamilton for some time. Outside of one song however, I really didn’t know much about it, aside from it being about the founding fathers and Lin-Manuel Miranda being the person who created it. With one of the showings being put on Disney+ however, I knew I should probably watch it and see for myself if it worked for me. I’m glad to say that it very much did work for me, and I had a great time with it.

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Reviewing Hamilton is a bit weird, I’m essentially reviewing a musical, and it’s not even a film adaptation. However, I’ll try my best. I’m not an American History expert, according to some people the musical is accurate in terms of what happens, but I won’t judge it on that level. Though I think the casting and the fact that it is a Broadway musical should automatically give an indication that this probably shouldn’t be taken as being 100% accurate, and shouldn’t be the prime source of education about the founding fathers of America. It is 2 hours and 40 minutes long and it is a long running story, a lot of things happen over the course of the musical, it even has some actors playing more than one character. As overwhelming as it was going into it blind, especially as someone who didn’t really know what to expect, I was pretty invested throughout. It’s entertaining, it’s funny, and it becomes surprisingly emotional at points. By the end I was quite satisfied with what I had watched.

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The whole cast of actors do very well in their part in both acting and when it came to singing. The creator of the musical, Lin-Manuel Miranda plays the lead of Alexander Hamilton and does well on his part. I knew about Miranda from other things, with Mary Poppins Returns and His Dark Materials, but I think he did a good job here. I will say that his singing wasn’t the best, especially when compared to the others in the cast, but more than makes it up for his acting, especially in the latter half of the film. There were a few actors who really stood out, Daveed Diggs and Leslie Odom were particularly outstanding in their parts of Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. Jonathan Groff was only in a few scenes but was fantastic as King George III, a hilarious and entertaining performance that was very memorable in his onscreen moments.

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A big part of the movie is the music, and I thought it was really good. It is one of those musicals where every line is singing, but they pulled it off. A musical about the founding fathers doesn’t sound particularly like it’s prime music material. However the songs are pretty great (there are so many of them too), well written, and there was a lot of genres mixed in including rap, hip hop, jazz and Broadway, and it made the music and overall musical stand out and very entertaining. I’ve only watched the movie/musical once, but with every song on this from this first viewing, I found all of them to be very solid. Production values are top notch too, the choreography was great, and I can imagine it would’ve been a blast watching it in the theatre. In terms of the filming for the movie on Disney+, the direction from Thomas Kail was handled well, and really captured the show as best as possible.

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I really had no idea if I would like Hamilton going in, but I found it enjoyable, entertaining, and I was engaged from beginning to end. For those who haven’t seen it yet, I think it’s worth seeing it for yourselves, and by experiencing it first on the Disney+ version, you won’t have to pay money to buy tickets to watch it in person. I will say that I’m not sure how I’d feel about it on a rewatch, this is just from the one viewing and it was a lot to take in as it was. However, I think it’s really good and I’m glad I saw it.

Velvet Buzzsaw (2019) Review

Time: 112 Minutes
Cast:
Jake Gyllenhaal as Morf Vandewalt
Rene Russo as Rhodora Haze
Toni Collette as Gretchen
Zawe Ashton as Josephina
Tom Sturridge as Jon Dondon
Natalia Dyer as Coco
Daveed Diggs as Damrish
Billy Magnussen as Bryson
John Malkovich as Piers
Director: Dan Gilroy

After a series of paintings by an unknown artist are discovered, a supernatural force enacts revenge on those who have allowed their greed to get in the way of art.

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Velvet Buzzsaw was one of my most anticipated movies of 2019. Nightcrawler was one of the best films of 2014, and writer/director Dan Gilroy and actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo are returning from that for Gilroy’s third film, which would be a horror movie in the art world. I was wondering how this movie was going to be. It has a great setup and premise and a good cast involved, however I heard that Gilroy’s second film (Roman J. Israel) wasn’t all that great, so I didn’t know what to expect. Velvet Buzzsaw wasn’t quite the homerun that Nightcrawler was, yet I still liked it, more than other people at least.

I should start by saying not to watch the trailer to Velvet Buzzsaw if you haven’t already. First of all, it shows too much, particularly some key scenes including some deaths. Second of all, it’s being marketed as a full on horror movie, and that’s not really what it is. The movie really is a mix between a satire on the world of art and a campy horror b-movie. Its strongest parts is whenever are satirises the world of art. The first half is pretty much the whole satire bit, even the dialogue that sounds off and flatly written seems oddly deliberate and is genuinely hilarious at points. However, even with some interesting ideas and potential, it barely scratches the surface of what it could’ve been, it doesn’t go much further than the setup. There are also some subplots and some characters that seem to lengthen the runtime and don’t fit into the movie entirely and don’t even get fully resolved. Like I don’t even remember why John Malkovich was in the movie. Despite being an hour and 50 minutes long, it can drag and feel dull at some points. I think a rewrite or two might’ve smoothed out parts of the script. Over time it leans more into the horror aspects and it’s really not effective at the horror parts. I don’t mean that as it didn’t scare me because most horror movies don’t scare me. I’m meaning that I never felt tense throughout the whole movie. By the end it felt like something was missing from the story, like there was a payoff that was supposed to happen but it doesn’t actually come.

There is a great cast involved in this movie, while all of them are good, only some of them stand out. Jake Gyllenhaal is basically the lead of the movie, playing the role of an art critic so pretentious that his name is literally Morf Vandelwalt. It’s not one of his all time best performances but it’s still a great performance very unlike any performance he’s given before and ranks among his strangest roles alongside his parts in Okja and Nightcrawler. Other standouts are Rene Russo, Toni Collette and Zawe Ashton, who are also great in their roles. The rest of the cast including Natalie Dyer, Daveed Diggs, Billy Magnussen and John Malkovich are good in their roles and play their parts, however are very much supporting roles and don’t get to shine like Gyllenhaal or Collette.

While I’m not sure yet whether Nightcrawler was just a fluke when it comes to writing for Dan Gilroy, Velvet Buzzsaw shows that he is a good director at the very least. With the movie being about the art world it’s got such a great look throughout and unsurprisingly the cinematography was done by Robert Elswitt, who shot Nightcrawler (which Dan Gilroy also directed). It is such a stunning looking movie, and really all the technical elements were handled greatly. It has some Final Destination like death scenes (some of which were unfortunately shown in the trailer). While they aren’t scary in the slightest, they are visually creative at the very least.

Velvet Buzzsaw isn’t going to work for everyone. It doesn’t really achieve what it sets out to do, it’s a little clunky and it falls flat at some of the aspects, especially the horror elements. However, I still think there are some good things here. The acting is good, it’s well directed, and some parts of the story worked and I really like the premise. If you’re the least bit interested in it and you have a Netflix account, I’d say give it a chance.

Blindspotting (2018) Review

Time: 95 Minutes
Cast:
Daveed Diggs as Collin Hoskins
Rafael Casal as Miles
Janina Gavankar as Val
Jasmine Cephas Jones as Ashley
Ethan Embry as Officer Molina
Tisha Campbell-Martin as Mama Liz
Utkarsh Ambudkar as Rin
Wayne Knight as Patrick
Director: Carlos López Estrada

Collin (Daveed Diggs) must make it through his final three days of probation for a chance at a new beginning in his Oakland, Calif., neighborhood. His bond with his volatile best friend (Rafael Casal) soon gets tested when Collin sees a police officer shoot a suspect in the back during a chase through the streets.

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Blindspotting was a film that was slowly getting attention recently. Not many people have seen it and it hasn’t really been getting any awards attention, but those who have seen it gave it a lot of acclaim and considered it to be one of the best films of 2018. Naturally I had to check it out and I’m definitely with the group of people who love it, Blindspotting is one of the best films of 2018 and must be seen as soon as possible.

The script was written by lead actors Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal in the mid 2000s, and knowing that fact while watching just elevated both the story and the lead performances significantly as the story feels really personal, and it definitely comes across on screen as well. This screenplay is fantastically written. Now this movie has some prevalent themes and topics like race and policy brutality and despite the heavy subject matter, I think it handles everything really well, as it feels like a movie on its own as well as sending some strong messages and says what it wants to say. There is some great comedy in the movie sprinkled throughout, especially during some of the conversations between the two leads, and its very fitting and makes it a genuinely entertaining movie to watch. On top of that, the characters all feel real and genuine and not just one dimensional vessels for ideas and symbolism or anything like that. At the same time the movie really hits hard with the heavy scenes when it needs to and it gets its messages across really effectively. The ending of this movie is particularly great. On paper it sounds really silly but the way it was directed, written, acted and overall executed was so incredibly powerful and worked extremely well. Definitely one of the stand out movie endings from 2018.

Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal are fantastic in the lead roles. Both actors are childhood friends in real life and that definitely translated to the on screen chemistry. All their interactions from them hanging out and talking about random things to having full on intense arguments feel completely genuine and real. A stand out scene is a particular argument later in the movie between the two of them.

This is director Carlos López Estrada’s first feature film and this is a really great directorial debut. Oakland really feels like a big presence here, with the cinematography, environment and music all adding a lot to it all. In terms of some stand out directed scenes, there are also some nightmarish scenes where lead character Collin is haunted by from him seeing a killing by a cop early in the movie, and the film did a great job at portraying the paranoia, fear and anxiety that he feels. I’m looking forward to seeing more of his directing work.

Blindspotting is one of the best films of 2018. It’s a great directorial debut, written excellently and is all around a very personal and intimate story. The performances by Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal are some of the best of the year and deserve more acclaim than they have been receiving. Blindspotting is not a movie to be missed.

Wonder (2017) Review

Time: 113 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Coarse Language
Cast
Julia Roberts as Isabel Pullman
Owen Wilson as Nate Pullman
Jacob Tremblay as August “Auggie” Pullman
Izabela Vidovic as Olivia “Via” Pullman
Noah Jupe as Jack Will
Mandy Patinkin as Mr. Tushman
Daveed Diggs as Mr. Browne
Director: Stephen Chbosky

Based on the New York Times bestseller, WONDER tells the incredibly inspiring and heartwarming story of August Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), a boy with facial differences who enters fifth grade, attending a mainstream elementary school for the first time.

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I was curious about this movie ever since I heard that it was going to be made. I actually studied the original novel Wonder in English class in school, so I was interested. With director Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) and a talented cast, it definitely looked like it had potential to be quite good. I have to say that this is a really good movie and a great adaptation of the book, definitely a movie that everyone should watch.

I admit it’s been years since I read the original novel of Wonder but from what I can tell the movie is very faithful to the book. The novel is split up into different sections focussing on different characters and the film is partially that as well. Despite the movie being one hour and 50 minutes long, it did feel a little long at times, but that’s maybe that’s because I remember many of the events of the movie and I was waiting for them to occur. To everyone else I don’t think the length or the pacing will be a problem at all for them. Wonder is also very effective at having emotional moments, you really get invested in this movie and these characters, which is helped by the main characters being quite likable. It also showed well how much Auggie’s appearance has an impact on other people, on his sister, on her sister’s friend, on a boy at school, etc, which is part of why this movie stands out so much, you aren’t just purely focussed on August and what he’s going through. The sweet moments that happen also doesn’t feel forced at all, they all actually felt genuine. On the whole I had no issues with Wonder, it was just a really good movie which also had some good messages to it.

The acting is really great from everyone overall. Jacob Tremblay was great in the lead role of August Pullman. Tremblay was great in Room and he was also good here too, proving himself once again to be a really good actor and one of the best child actors working today. He had a lot of make up on (which was by the way great and effective) and he manages to act very well through it. Also there was good acting from the mother, father and sister played by Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson and Izabela Vidovic respectively, the chemistry and dynamic between them all was quite strong and they really did feel like a family. The rest of the supporting actors, including the child actors were also good and were very believable in their roles.

This movie was directed by Stephen Chbosky who also directed the great Perks of Being of a Wallflower and he did a great job here too. As previously stated, the makeup on Tremblay was great and made him look ‘different’ enough, yet it wasn’t too over the top and allowed Jacob to act with it.

Wonder was a really good adaptation of the novel and was a good movie in itself as well. The story was just wonderful, the acting was really good and it’s a really good movie that people of all ages can watch. In fact really everyone should watch Wonder, it’s a really good movie that also has some good messages to it. So I definitely recommend everyone watching it, I guarantee that the vast majority of people will like this movie.