Opening this week at a screen near you:

In the Heights   (2021) PG-13

In the Heights

Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers

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Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) lives in the neighborhood of Washington Heights, just on the northern tip of Manhattan. Usnavi owns a bodega and dreams of winning the lottery and escaping to the shores of his native Dominican Republic. Nina (Leslie Grace) has come back home from college with some surprising news for her parents. Life is hard, but with help from friends in the Heights, you can survive.     In the Heights Website

What to Watch For: The film is based on the Tony award-winning musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who has been trying to make this film since 2008.

Word on the Street: The film is directed by Jon M. Chu, best known for directing the 2018 smash hit Crazy Rich Asians.

My Take: I hear that at one point in the film, if you listen very close, you will hear a tune from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s mega-hit musical Hamilton.

 

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway   (2021) PG

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway

Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Peter (voiced by James Corden) is bored by living with his rabbit family outside the home of Bea and Thomas (Rose Byrne, Domhnall Gleeson) and decides to venture to the big city. There he meets some shady characters and as only Peter can, gets into trouble that his whole family will have to deal with.     Peter Rabbit 2 Website

What to Watch For:  The voice cast includes Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki, Lennie James, Rupert Degas, Aimee Horne, Ewen Leslie, and Damon Herriman.

Word on the Street: Will Gluck, who co-wrote and directed the first Peter Rabbit, is back as director.

My Take: I have been a big fan of Rose Byrne since her role as Alex in the 2004 film Wicker Park.

 

Wish Dragon   (2021) PG

Wish Dragon

Photo courtesy of Netfilx

Din (voiced by Jimmy Wong) is a delivery boy who longs for a better life and to meet up with his long-lost childhood friend, Lina (voiced by Natasha Liu Bordizzo). Din finds a teapot that contains an all-powerful dragon named Long (John Cho), who has the ability to grant wishes. Can Long grant Din his wish to be reunited with his long-lost love Lina?     Wish Dragon Website

What to Watch For: The film was animated in China, and the film was recorded and voiced in both English and Mandarin.

Word on the Street: The film is written and directed by Chris Appelhans, who worked as an artist and designer on Coraline (2009), Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), Puss in Boots (2011), and The Angry Birds Movie (2016).

My Take: I kind of want to see the Mandarin version of the film as legendary actor Jackie Chan does the voice of Long the Wish Dragon.

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Queen Bees   (2021) PG-13

Queen Bees

Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures

After a fire at her home, Helen (Ellen Burstyn) is temporally moved into a senior’s home, where she encounters a group of mean-spirited women, led by Janet (Jane Curtin). Helen decides to make the best of a bad situation and meet the clique head-on while being romanced by a dashing new resident (James Cann).    Queen Bees Info

What to Watch For: The cast includes Ann-Margret, Loretta Devine, Christopher Lloyd, Elizabeth Mitchell, Alec Mapa, and French Stewart.

Word on the Street; The film is directed by Michael Lembeck, Emmy-award-winning director of over 20 episodes of the TV series Friends.

My Take: Ellen Burstyn won an Oscar for one of my favorite films of the 70s, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974).

 

Holler   (2020)

Holler

Photo courtesy of IFC Films

Ruth (Jessica Barden) has gotten a way out of her small, dying Southern Ohio town; she has been accepted to college. She joins a scrap metal crew with her brother, Hank (Austin Amelio), to pay her way to college. The two work the dangerous job of the scrap metal crew during the day and then break into abandoned factories at night to steal valuable metal. Ruth soon finds that the ultimate cost of an education may be more than she bargained for, and she will have to choose between that promising future and the family she will have to leave behind.     Holler Website

What to Watch For: Director Nicole Riegel won the Directors to Watch Award at the 2020 Palm Springs International Film Festival.

Word on the Street: Jessica Barden is best known for her role as Alyssa in the TV series The End of the F***ing World.

My Take: I am hearing great things about this film from other film critics.

 

Censor   (2021)

Censor

Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Enid (Niamh Algar) spends her days as a film censor, watching gore-filled movies and decided what should be taken out. Enid is assigned a film from the archive that echoes her hazy childhood, one where her sister disappeared so long ago.     Censor Website

What to Watch For: The film had its World Premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, where it opened up the Midnight Section.

Word on the Street: Niamh Algar made a big impact in her role as Olivia in the 2016 indie hit Without Name.

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My Take: Prano Bailey-Bond was named a 2021 ‘Director to Watch by Variety.