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Summer Movies that are Hot (and Not!)

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Everyone is attempting to return to a sense of normalcy as vaccine rates slowly increase throughout the country. Part of that normalcy is just going for a casual night out to the movie theaters with your family and friends.

While some may not be ready to return, the allure of the big screen and theater popcorn is enough to entice movie fans back into their seats to see the summer blockbusters that are here and upcoming.

Most theaters do not require a mask, but you will certainly not be judged for wearing one and most screenings I have been to have not had full attendance. I felt comfortable going to the movies as someone who is vaccinated and going with people I knew were vaccinated as well.

I know many people have gotten used to watching films at home, but as a movie nerd, I missed going with my friends for the experience of the crowd, surround sound, and special effects on an enormous screen.

I’m happy to see life return to somewhat normal, even if it means I have to pay that overpriced fee for popcorn to experience that reality.

Black Widow:

Marvel has made its long-awaited return to the big screen with Black Widow, starring Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh. Black Widow takes place after the events of Captain America: Civil War and before Avengers: Infinity War as Natasha Romanoff is on the run after violating the Sokovia Accords and stumbles upon her tragic past. Many have wondered what significance this film would have, considering the events occur prior to the end of Marvel’s Phase 3. All in all, the film provides a glimpse into Romanoff’s past and lays the groundwork for future characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh, who plays Romanoff’s sister, have effortless chemistry and provide playful banter in which Marvel has made their name off of. David Harbour puts in a solid performance as the Red Guardian and interjects some memorable humor that provides a nice change of pace to an action-heavy film. The action sequences in the film were entertaining on the whole, but had some uncharacteristically flawed CGI. Despite the shortcomings with visuals, Black Widow was certainly a fun movie with an interesting story that might not be known to most casual Avengers fans. Overall Black Widow felt more like a Mission Impossible film than an Avengers film, but gave the audience a welcome back that will surely satisfy the hungriest of Marvel enthusiasts.

Rating: 8.5/10

Where to watch: In theaters, Disney+ (Premier Access)

In The Heights:

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s original stage musical comes to life on the big screen with the much anticipated, In The Heights. The film revolves around the predominantly Latinx community of Washington Heights, New York in which everyone is trying to navigate how best to pursue their dreams and find purpose in life. Anthony Ramos carries the film as Usnavi, a bodega owner trying to recreate his childhood by opening a bar in his native Dominican Republic. Ramos’ charisma and multi-talented ability allowed him to make an instant connection to the viewer while delivering flawless singing and dancing performances. Melissa Barrera and Leslie Grace were equally sensational in presenting two different paths for young Latina adults looking to make it in a country that has not always been so welcoming to this ethnic group. As a proud Dominican and someone who lived in Washington Heights for three years, I can say that the minor details in the film were spot on. From the men playing dominoes on the sidewalks to the apartments filled with religious candles, authenticity was never put into question with In The Heights. While I have never seen the original musical, In The Heights, was certainly a visual and artistic marvel and a film that provides a sense of pride for those that can relate to the sense of community, struggles, and triumphs of a minority population too often overlooked.

Rating: 9/10

Where to watch: In theaters

Raya and the Last Dragon

In what was an under-the-radar release for Disney, Raya and the Last Dragon was another solid addition to its ever-growing film catalog. Raya and the Last Dragon follows the story of Raya, who attempts to unite her country that has been torn apart by selfishness and the Druun, which are evil spirits that petrify everything in its wake. Raya attempts to find the mythical dragon, Sisu, who was responsible for stopping the Druun and beginning an era of prosperity in Kumandra many years ago. The two journey together, with the help of some friends, to unite the pieces of a powerful gem that were responsible for defeating the Druun originally. Awkwafina is perfect for her role as Sisu and Kelly Marie Tran delivers an exceptional performance as Raya, giving young girls another strong female character to model their personality after. The film is visually beautiful and is strongly rooted in Southeast Asian culture. The story itself provides an important message regarding trust and unity that is not often highlighted in the media realm. A lack of popular Disney sing-a-longs was the glaring difference in the film, but can also be looked at as a refreshing change of pace. Overall, Raya and the Last Dragon was a very good film and another compelling reason to sign up for Disney Plus.

Rating: 8/10

Where to watch: Disney+

A Quiet Place Part II:

Written and directed by The Office star, John Krasinski, A Quiet Place Part II follows the events of its predecessor as Evelyn, played by Emily Blunt, tries to lead her family through an apocalyptic world still ravaged by alien creatures attracted to sound. As they navigate a perilous landscape, Millicent, Evelyn’s daughter, finds clues that lead her to believe that other benevolent people still exist and that her family can find sanctuary. Despite her ambition, Evelyn is weary about her daughter putting herself in danger while also having to take care of a newborn. A Quiet Place Part II proves to still have a compelling storyline with more dialogue and action than the original. Cillian Murphy delivers an excellent performance as a lonely survivor who assists the Abbotts in their quest for some semblance of a normal life. The film succeeds in not belaboring stale plot points and creating a clear path for a progression in the storyline. It may not have the originality effect of the first installment, but it still proves to be a captivating film worth a watch for any suspense/thriller fans.

Rating: 8/10

Where to watch: Paramount+

Space Jam: A New Legacy

Starring Lebron James and Don Cheadle, Space Jam: A New Legacy is the sequel that no one really requested or needed. Director Malcolm D. Lee looks to capitalize on millennial nostalgia as the Looney Tunes are somehow teamed up with another NBA icon in an attempt to save the world through a game of basketball. While the acting is expectedly atrocious and the writing is cringey at times, there are enough solid jokes for basketball and pop culture fans that make the film entertaining. There are some important lessons in the movie that provide some valuable insight for children and parents alike, but that is sometimes lost in the ridiculousness of the plot. Lebron finishes second to Michael Jordan once again, but this time with his acting. The other NBA and WNBA stars don’t get much screen time or character development, which is mildly disappointing. Don Cheadle does his best to provide the movie with some acting legitimacy, but even his talents couldn’t overcome that obstacle. Despite its shortcomings, this is not a movie you should watch if you’re expecting Oscar buzz. This is a children’s movie with jokes for all ages and is a fun summer film to distract from what has been a stressful last year and a half. While it does not have the charm and originality of its predecessor, Space Jam: A New Legacy is entertaining enough to convince you to see it through to the end.

Rating: 5/10

Where to watch: In theaters, HBO Max

Jungle Cruise

Starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, Jungle Cruise proves to be a fun summer adventure film for any avid moviegoer. Based on the classic ride in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Jungle Cruise follows Dr. Lily Houghton as she searches for the legendary Tears of the Moon, a tree whose petals are thought to have extraordinary healing powers. She enlists the help of Frank Wolff, a river tour guide who seems to attract trouble wherever he goes. In what might be his best ever performance, Johnson fits this role perfectly with his comedic charm and flawless chemistry with Blunt. Blunt delivers another solid display as is expected from one of Hollywood’s elite actresses. While the originality of the film is questionable due to stark similarities to The Mummy and Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise delivers witty humor that reminds us all while the Disney ride is so iconic. It certainly runs a little long, but there is enough action to keep you thoroughly interested to the end. Overall, Jungle Cruise is certainly worth a watch for any Disney fan or anyone looking for a light summer film that keeps you engaged from start to finish.

Rating: 7.5/10

Where to watch: In theaters, Disney+ (Premier Access)

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