Five new Netflix movies to watch in November

As we enter into Novemberrrrr … with temps dipping into the 30s (Fahrenheit), I know I’m looking forward to staying in more until the rest of the year. Thankfully streaming services have a ton of new content… I know I’m anticipating WHEEL OF TIME series that’ll hit Amazon Prime on Nov. 19. Well, with Netflix, there’s never a shortage of content that sometimes it actually takes time to figure out just what to watch. So here are five movies I’m looking forward to this month (you’re welcome!) 😀

The Harder They Fall

Nov 3 (tonight!)

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When an outlaw discovers his enemy is being released from prison, he reunites his gang to seek revenge in this Western.

I’ve been wanting to blog about this but somehow I thought it’s coming out later this year. Well, it’s out tonight, and I can’t wait to watch! I’m not the biggest Western fan but with Idris Elba as a cowboy? Heck yeah!! He obviously can rock a Cowboy get-up, as he’s the only redeeming factor of The Dark Tower, ahah.

The ensemble cast here is amazing: Regina King, LaKeith Stanfield, Delroy Lindo, Zazie Beetz, Jonathan Majors, love it! The trailer promises something cool and stylish unconventional Western.

Passing

November 10

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“Passing” follows the unexpected reunion of two high school friends, whose renewed acquaintance ignites a mutual obsession that threatens both of their carefully constructed realities.

I’ve been wanting to see this Rebecca Hall‘s directorial debut for some time as I read that she was inspired by her own family history. The term “passing” refers to the practice of members of minority or oppressed races, religions, ethnic groups, etc., pretending to be white (or otherwise members of the majority culture) to escape prejudice. Hall’s own mother, opera singer Maria Ewing and grandfather who were both biracial and had ‘passed’ themselves off as white so she wanted to explore that history that she never really had access to. I LOVE this evocative trailer and anything with Tessa Thompson is great in my book!

Red Notice

November 12

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An Interpol agent tracks the world’s most wanted art thief.

Ok I have to admit there’s really not much to recommend this one other than to just ‘check one’s brain at the door’ and enjoy the ride! None of these actors are known for their dramatic acting skills but they are fun to watch. I read on IMDb Trivia that Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and Gal Gadot are each getting $20 million payday for their roles, dayum!! With a $200 million budget, it’s apparently Netflix’s biggest budget yet for a feature film. Man, frivolous fun sure is expensive, no wonder Reynolds can happily retire after this1

tick, tick…BOOM!

November 19

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On the cusp of his 30th birthday, a promising young theater composer navigates love, friendship and the pressures of life as an artist in New York City.

Lin Manuel Miranda is one busy guy and he continues to stretch his creative muscles. This amusingly-titled movie is his directorial debut which stars another Tony award winner, Andrew Garfield. I love that Garfield has grown to be even more of a versatile actor since I first saw him in Boy A in 2007. I remember seeing him up close at Comic-Con back in 2011 when he introduced himself as Spider-man, standing mere inches from me. He’s obviously SO much more than a pretty face. As for the subject matter, I wasn’t too fond of RENT when I saw it on stage years ago, so I’m mostly curious to see the film for Garfield’s performance.

Bruised

November 24

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A disgraced MMA fighter finds redemption in the cage and the courage to face her demons when the son she had given up as an infant unexpectedly reenters her life.

Speaking of Ryan Reynolds, well I read on IMDb that his wife Blake Lively was going to star in it under Nick Cassavetes’ direction. I haven’t seen anything with Halle Berry as the lead in ages, I think the last movie I saw her in was John Wick 3. This one is also happens to be her directorial debut. Apparently Berry is a huge UFC fan and two of the actors in this film are actually real MMA fighters!


What do you think of this Novemner lineup? Which one are you looking forward to the most?

FlixChatter Review: IN THE HEIGHTS (2021)

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I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie musical on the big screen, as somehow I missed the two recent musicals that I thoroughly enjoyed when they hit cinemas – The Greatest Showman and Mamma Mia 2. In the Heights was supposed to come out exactly a year ago, June 2020, but like a bunch of other movies, it got delayed because of the pandemic.

To be perfectly honest, I actually am not too familiar with the subject matter as I didn’t know much about the original 2005 stage musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda (who a decade later found massive success with Hamilton). The story is based on a book by Quiara Alegría Hudes who also wrote the screenplay. Since I haven’t seen the play, I’m not sure just how different this adaptation is, but I’m aware they’ve made some changes.

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The movie is set in Washington Heights, a neighborhood in the uppermost part Manhattan that’s predominantly Dominicans, Puerto Ricans and Cubans. The movie opens in a sunny morning where we get to see a day in the life of Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), a Dominican native who owns a small grocery store on a corner street that he runs with his cousin Sonny (Gregory Diaz IV). We soon find out that Usnavi has been longing to return home reopen the beachside bar his late father used to own that was destroyed by a hurricane, and he’s close to realizing his sueñito (as in little dream) from all the years of saving up.  

Dream is an overarching theme here as everyone in Usnavi’s circle has their own, as well as their own set of struggles. Usnavi’s love interest Vanessa (Melissa Barrera) longs to be a fashion designer, his good friend Benny (Corey Hawkins) wants to start his own business, and there’s Nina (Leslie Grace), the apple of the neighborhood who just returns from Stanford to almost a hero’s (well heroine in this case) welcome. Nina’s dad Kevin (Jimmy Smits) happens to be Benny’s boss who runs a taxi business, and he believes in her daughter’s education so much he’s willing to sacrifice his own company.  Let’s not forget the matriarch of this tight-knit community, Abuela Claudia (Olga Merediz), the matriarch of the neighborhood who helps raise Usnavi. Apparently Merediz also played the role on the Broadway version for which she earned a Tony nomination.

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There’s an infectious sense of joy that envelops you right from the start. Ramos is quite charismatic and instantly likable, which I think is as important as his ability to sing and dance. I’d say Usnavi is the heart of the movie, while Abuela is the soul, and I connect with their stories the most. Director Jon M. Chu has proven his robust visual flair and can deal with large sets and a bunch of cast members, as he displayed in the Step Up franchise and Crazy Rich Asians. He seems to up the ante even more here which made me go ‘how did they do that?!’ a few times while watching the scenes. The pool scene in the 96,000 musical number is one of those, which apparently took 600 extras and 3 days to film which he accomplished despite bad weather conditions that include thunder and lightning! That’s incredible as it looks as if that scene was supposed to depict one swelteringly-hot summer day!

One of my faves is actually the gravity-defying dancing scene on walls featuring Benny and Nina with the George Washington Bridge looming in the background during sunset. There are a bunch of amazing camera work by DP Alice Brooks, which captures the rapturous energy of the dance sequences with the large group of dancers, but also make it feel intimate and personal, such as when she zooms in to Usnavi’s face peering out of his window and you see the reflection of the dancers. The other standout, and perhaps the most emotionally-charged musical number to me is the one featuring Abuela as she reflects on her own past with her mama, coming to the States from Cuba.  The song Paciencia Y Fe (Patience and Faith) made me tear up and the sequence involving a subway is beautifully done. I heard an interview with Chu on MPR yesterday where he said each song had to ‘earn its way’ into the movie, and I’m glad THAT song made it. 

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Most of the songs are pretty fun though I honestly can’t remember any of them afterwards, but that’s more of my own personal taste in music. I think I remember the scenes more than the actual song depending on how much it resonates with me emotionally. Choreographer Christopher Scott sure has his work cut out for him creating ALL those riveting dance sequences, especially having to do some of the big ones on the streets of the Heights neighborhood itself where they had to close off from traffic. I appreciate the inventiveness of some of the numbers too, such as the awesome nail scene inside the hair salon.

Now, amidst the exuberant musical numbers and well-choreographed dance sequences, I have to admit it took me a bit of time to connect with most of the characters. As an immigrant myself, I do love that the movie is a celebration of Latinx culture and highlighting the uniquely-American experience through the eyes of immigrants. That said, I still expect a good, strong story I can hold on to. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that the story isn’t good mind you, it’s just that I find it hard to focus on one storyline before another one steals my attention. For one, Usnavi’s story and his tentative relationship with Vanessa seems a bit shortchanged and overshadowed by SO many subplots, some more interesting than others. 

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Though Chu said all the songs had to earn its way into the movie, I feel that it’s not always the case. For one, the sequences involving Miranda as the Piragua seller, whose appearance is already pretty distracting enough given how hugely famous he is now, seems a bit indulgent. In particular, the the rivalry scene of him with an ice cream truck owner could’ve easily been cut out as it does not add anything to the story at all. There are a few other scenes I feel could be trimmed or removed completely. At 2h 23min, it felt really long by the end of the second act. It also doesn’t help that the third act drags a bit as the movie is overstuffed with themes ranging from racial issues to gentrification.

I’m baffled by the choice of framing the story through Usnavi telling the story to some kids on what appears to be a beachside bar, which made me think initially that he’s already in Dominican Republic. Perhaps they’re trying to convey the idea of teaching the next generation, but when it’s revealed at the end who those kids really are, it doesn’t really make sense.

A few other issues also prevent me from truly falling for this movie. Despite the initial chemistry between Usnavi and Vanessa, their romance lacks the sparks I expect from a movie like this. There’s also a lack of real conflicts in the story, the strives between the characters are pretty much resolved quickly just after the next song is done. The father/daughter issue of Kevin and Nina is a prime example, with the topical issue of DACA somehow inserted to help with the swift resolution. No matter how topical/aspirational, it feels tacked on.

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Despite those narrative issues, I think it’s a well-crafted movie brimming with vibrancy and pulsing with sweet energy. I’m glad I saw the movie and given that I saw this during a prolonged heatwave, I was glad to be inside an air-conditioned theater! If you’re on the fence, I urge you to give this movie a shot on the big screen. Like Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians, it’s still a rarity to see movies starring actors of underrepresented groups, though of course it doesn’t mean this movie did everything right in terms of representation. As we walked to our cars after the movie, I commented to my friend who’s half Black Jamaican that most of the main actors have such fair skin, an issue that I see being raised on social media about the movie not being inclusive enough when it comes to dark-skinned Afro-Latinx. Chu recently also apologized for relegating darker-skinned South Asian people to background extras in Crazy Rich Asians.

So yeah, Hollywood still has a long way to go about proper representation, which is all the more reasons we need to see more films with diverse cast. In The Heights is definitely a fitting movie to celebrate Summer and welcome the movie-going experience after a pandemic.

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Have you seen IN THE HEIGHTS? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

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Directed by Rob Marshall | Screenplay by David Magee

Starring: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Julie Walters

There are few things I hold dear to my inner child’s heart, one of them being Disney’s Mary Poppins (1964) starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. Regarded as a classic, the 1964 film succeeded on so many levels. There was Julie Andrews’ groundbreaking performance as Mary Poppins and Dick Van Dyke’s Bert the chimney sweeper is equally lovable (despite his fake cockney accent). There was innovative special effects and animation. There was song and dance and my, oh my, was there! Richard and Robert Sherman’s memorable songs took the film into new heights for a musical and it had so much heart in the performances and execution (never mind P.L. Travers’ objection to the film).

So, when Disney announced a sequel, I was excited, cynical and partly in disbelief. After all, this was the tallest order of the highest magnitude. I came in with low expectations. But that changed a bit when Emily Blunt was cast as she looked ‘practically perfect’ (referencing the perfect nanny herself) in the title role. This time around, Poppins has returned to look after the Banks children 25 years after the events from the 1964 film. Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw), now an adult with 3 young children, is working at the Fidelity Fiduciary Bank like his late father before him.

Disillusioned by the loss of his wife a year prior and financial ruin and the threat of losing their family home literally knocking at their door, Michael, along with sister Jane (Emily Mortimer) search in vain to try and find a way to pay off Michael’s loan before the bank (Fidelity Fiduciary mind you) takes their house away. Whishaw is quite good in his early scenes singing A Conversation a touching lament to his late wife. Mortimer looks quite a likeness to the younger Jane Banks so that was a nice touch. However, we don’t see much of her throughout the film. She plays a labor activist, an homage to the elder Mrs. Banks who was a suffragette.

Lin-Manuel Miranda plays Jack the lamplighter in parallel to Van Dyke’s chimney sweeper. Like Bert in the first movie, he plays Mary’s counterpart on their adventures and performs the opening song and rudimentary lamplighter army sequence (Trip A Little Light Fantastic). Miranda is an accomplished performer and it shows especially with the opening (Underneath the) Lovely London Sky.

Emily Blunt is stunning as Mary Poppins. She holds her own in her rendition of the title character (even to unfair comparisons to Julie Andrews) and also does justice to the material in front of her. Her shining moment is the sweet The Place Where Lost Things Go. Blunt’s dance number with Miranda on A Cover Is Not a Book is exceptional as is the choreography and production. Her performance is noteworthy in this regard and is rewarding to watch.

Mary Poppins Returns is an entertaining, albeit a templated version of the original film down to the character and plot-lines. Its predictability isn’t a total downside as we all know things will turn out all right in the end. But it does feel a bit lacking I suspect from Disney’s too-cautious efforts to make it right. The film is well-crafted down to a T but that meticulousness and dare-I-say bombastic-ness of its musical approach may be its weakest points. Marc Shaiman’s music and Scott Wittman’s lyrics do all they can to match the vivaciousness and grandeur of Richard and Robert Sherman’s work on the first film. But they weren’t able to capture that heart and subtlety that so permeated the original Mary Poppins. There’s no heart wrenching performances like the younger Jane and Michael’s The Perfect Nanny”nor the touching nostalgia of Julie Andrew’s Feed The Birds. This may be an unfair assessment as I believe Mary Poppins Returns stands on its own. But the things that made the original a classic just isn’t quite there.

The filmmakers gathered a great cast but Meryl Streep’s turn as cousin Topsy probably should have been given to Julie Walters, another great actress who plays Ellen the Housekeeper, in a wasted tiny role. But perhaps that is due to too many greats on set. In effect, it’s a valiant effort by everyone involved from the writers, actors, and songwriters. Memorable were the performances but the songs not so much. It’s a great looking film but not the classic that it could have been.

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So what do you think of Mary Poppins Returns? Let us know what you think!

Weekend Roundup: Thoughts on STARZ series ‘The White Queen’ (2013)

It’s been quite a weekend, it’s so sad to hear what happened on Saturday night in Orlando, FL. My thoughts and prayers are with those affected in this horrific act.

The cast of Broadway darling Hamilton, led by Lin-Manuel Miranda paid tribute to the victims in a powerful gesture:


On a positive note, it’s wonderful to see many performers of color win Tonys this year, with Hamilton and The Color Purple with its diverse cast swept the awards.

Wish I had been able to see Hamilton whilst I was in NYC before Miranda left. Ah well, I’d love to see it one day!


As for my weekend, I spent most of my time outside as my good friend is in town. So I didn’t see a single movie but on Sunday night, I did watch three episodes of a 2013 series I’ve been wanting to see for some time.

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I’m such a sucker for period dramas as you already know, and British royal families are ripe for an engrossing drama filled with royal lust, love, seduction, deception betrayal and murder. I love that the series is female-centered. Told through the perspective of  three different, yet equally relentless women – Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort and Anne Neville.

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Hale, Ferguson & Marsay

Rebecca Ferguson plays the beautiful Lancastrian commoner Elizabeth, and Janet McTeer played her strong-willed mother Jacquetta. Apparently Tom Cruise chose Ferguson to be his co-star in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation after he saw her in this mini-series. She certainly is versatile, as she seems as fitting in 15th Century England as she does in a modern spy thriller. I’m not too fond of Amanda Hale‘s acting style as Margaret, but Faye Marsay as Anne is quite intriguing. So far though, my faves are Ferguson and McTeer. Those two actresses are the main draw for me to see this series and they certainly outshine the boys.

In the first episode, Elizabeth won the heart of the House of York ‘s young King, Edward IV (Max Irons, yep Jeremy’s hunky son). There’s a bit of a Romeo & Juliet factor here the fact that The House of York and The House of Lancaster are bitter enemies. Edward owed his throne to his cousin, master manipulator Lord Warwick (James Frain) who resented Edward’s choice as it spoiled his own plan for power. It’s a wonderfully-tragic tale of England’s earliest civil war.

The quality of this Starz production is top notch. Beautifully-shot and wonderfully-acted, it’s not as violent as the European series BORGIA, but still pretty gritty. Based on British historical novelist Philippa Gregory‘s novel, it’s definitely a must-see for fans of period dramas!


Out of all the men, Frain is the only one who made an impression to me as the scheming ‘Kingmaker.’ He’s a terrific character actor who’s been in so many different films/tv work. Irons is pretty good but he doesn’t quite have the same screen presence as his dad, but perhaps that’s unfair to expect that. David Oakes and Aneurin Barnard played Edward’s brothers George and Richard, respectively, both are easy on the eyes as well, and Barnard resembles my crush Sam Riley so much it’s uncanny!

I’ve only seen three episodes and boy am I hooked! Thankfully there’s only one season so far which I can’t wait to finish it. The sequel, The White Princess, has been green-lit by Starz and is currently in production (per Deadline).


So that’s my weekend recap folks. How about you? Seen anything good?